The Family

The Family

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Something From the Farm

A few miles from our house is a wonderful farm that offers a community supported agriculture program (CSA). We participated in the program for the first time last fall and were amazed at how much produce we received every week.

Yesterday was the first pickup for the spring/summer CSA share.

It wasn’t much, but since the strawberries came in earlier than expected
because of the unseasonably warm weather, the CSA started a couple weeks early.

I love this program because all the fruit and vegetables are grown right there on the farm. It’s not organic, but the produce is grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals.

I buy all my ground beef from there because it comes from cows raised, as one of the farmer’s sons told me, “on nothing but grass and sunshine.” The beef has the deepest red hue and next to no grease. I occasionally purchase whole chicken that was raised there on the farm as well. They have a lot of lamb, but I haven’t tried it because I don’t know what I’m doing when it comes to cooking lamb. Turkeys were offered this past Thanksgiving. It was the first time I cooked a turkey, so I recruited my grandmother's assistance. We were able to pick it up the day before Thanksgiving so the bird was as fresh as they come.

The sweet family that live and work on the farm provide people in our community great options for fresh, local produce. Throughout the next few months I’ll post pictures of our goodies.

I even got the hubby and the little boy to build this compost bin so that we can recycle all the extra trimmings from our fruits and veggies!

Here’s to hoping I don’t walk out one day to find stray or wild animals grazing in our backyard.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


One of my favorite books to read my daughter is an anthology of fairy poems.

I read it to her for the first time when she was a few weeks old with tears welling in my eyes. I was so in love with her and with the idea that I would get to share moments like these with this, my daughter.

You might call it a healing moment.

I was afraid of having a daughter. I was afraid that she would see through me and not like what she found. After my son was born I erroneously believed that if I had more children they would be boys. I think that was mostly fear telling me that a boy could love me deeply, but not a girl.

It’s not that I didn’t want a girl; I was afraid, and deep down still am, that someday she won’t like me.

As I read that book to her the first time I was overwhelmed by how much I hoped that she would like to read as much as I do. This simple thought, that my daughter and I could snuggle together and read and share and laugh and cry and love, was so profound in that moment.

I still read this book to her several nights each week. One of my favorite lines comes from a poem titled “Bedtime Story.” The ending touches something deep inside of me each time I speak these words aloud.

“I’ll help you remember the wording.
It has to be told just right.
And then you can tell me it all again
Tomorrow – and every night!”

I can’t explain what moves me so about this passage other than it’s the idea that one day, when she is older, she might have a favorite story. She might want me to tell it to her in the way only I can. It will be our story, and in sharing this bedtime story together, we are creating part of our mother daughter story.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Scary Stuff

I could tell I scared him. I knew what I said was going to. I wasn't quite sure how to start, but I knew the time had come to talk about strangers.

During the past few weeks, an unknown man has been spotted sitting in his vehicle in parking lots at some local schools. It’s happened enough that people started noticing and then telling one another about it. Some schools sent notes home to parents. A news report revealed this man was questioned by police. While my child isn't in school, I know that doesn't mean he is exempt from dangers like this.

When I first read the e-mail a co-worker sent about this, I got that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Then she sent another e-mail a few days ago. Being questioned by the police didn’t scare him away as I, and I’m sure many others, hoped. It appears he was spotted again after that in a different vehicle in a local neighborhood.

As in many instances when things like this happen, it can sometimes be hard to separate fact from rumor. I heard from someone it might be more of a domestic situation. Then I heard that this had been happening off and on for about two years. I also heard that one of the local preschool heads had known about it for a while, but didn't report things to parents until someone posted something about it on Facebook.

While I don't know if any of those things are true, one thing I do know is this man is likely up to no good.

It scares me to type this. I can only imagine what my son was feeling hearing this through the mind of a four-year-old. It made me feel like the bad person delivering this message.

He understood what I was saying. He got his quiet, almost angry expression and wouldn’t talk for a few minutes.

Was it too much for four? Should I have said it in a different way? If not now, then when is the right time to talk about strangers and child molesters and the evil that exists in this world?

I didn’t want to have the conversation. I didn’t want to scare him. I didn’t want him to lose that innocence of thinking bad people exist only in the movies or scary stories.

Later that day, we came across this verse in Proverbs:
“Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.”

It was a much needed reminder to me of our Redeemer’s protection. I’ve prayed aloud with my son several times since then asking God to be his and his sister’s shield throughout their lives. We also prayed for God to act as a shield of protection for all the children in our town.

I’m trying not to harp on or re-visit that conversation. I want him to know that when he is scared, like we all are at times, that we have the best protector in our Lord above. He is the one that offers us refuge from the fears and realities of this world, especially, in the scariest of times.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


This little boy of mine has taught me so much these past four years.

One of the most important lessons has been learning to let the day unfold. I must constantly make a conscious effort not to compartmentalize so much of our day. On the days when I take his lead I learn so much more about who he is.

A whole lot of drawing and a late afternoon visit to Gran and Paw-Paw's house made this his kind of day!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mount Vernon

In 6th grade I took a class trip to Washington D.C. One of our stops was in Virginia at the home of George and Martha Washington. Mount Vernon is a place I would love to someday take the children, as well as to some of the other presidents' homes in Virginia like Monticello and Montpelier.

For now, I'm content reading about these places.

I finished a book about Martha Washington last week. I’m usually not into historical books. When it comes to reading I prefer novels and inspirational lit. I do like a good biography, but I don’t usually go for a book on a president's wife (other than Jackie Kennedy, of course).

We know so much about our past presidents, but their wives are often seen as just that: the wife of a past president. It’s understandable why textbooks focus so much on these men, but we can sometimes learn even more about them and our country’s history by knowing about the women
that shared, shaped and influenced them.

I picked up the book on Martha Washington at our local library. I have been waiting on two novels that are in high demand, and found this book while browsing the shelves. I thought I’d share some of the interesting things I learned about the nation’s first First Lady.

1. All four of her children died before she did. I can’t imagine losing one child, let alone all of my children. Earlier in the week I started a post with a quote from her. The circumstances I was referring to don’t even compare to what she most likely meant by those words. I had a dear friend lose her only child two years ago, and I still feel painfully raw from that experience. It’s unthinkable to fathom how Martha Washington, and many women of her day, dealt with this kind of grief time and again.
2. She and George Washington never had any children together. All four of her children were from her first marriage. After her first husband died (talk about a life of suffering and hardship), she went on to marry Washington. Her child that lived to adulthood did have four children before his death at the age of 27, and she and George practically raised two of those children. It seems a bit sad that the first president had no lineage.
3. She burned all the letters of correspondence between George Washington and herself expect for two. I kinda admire this. She knew that future generations would want to know about their private affairs, and she wanted to make sure her marriage belonged to the two of them only and not to the prying eyes of history.
4. She loathed Thomas Jefferson. It’s interesting how we often here of an age when politics was civil. I personally don’t believe that was ever the case. I think politics has always included much gossip, slander and backstabbing. We have this erroneous belief that the men of Washington and Jefferson’s day always behaved in some gentlemanly manner toward one another. Jefferson not only bad-mouthed Washington, but he wrote about him in newspapers as well. Like many women then and now, when it comes to someone hurting our husband or children, Martha Washington could hold a grudge. It seems she held that grudge against Jefferson until the day she died.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Getting Out the Door

“I am still determined to be cheerful and to be happy in
whatever situation I may be, for I have also learnt from experience that the
greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances; we carry the seeds of the one, or the other about with us, in our minds, wherever we go.” Martha Washington

I don’t want to be like this every time we leave to go on a trip.

As I shared before, I'm not the most patient person. My patience is tested daily, but none more so than when we are trying to leave the house. It's even worse on days we are leaving to go on a trip.

I tell myself to remain calm in the midst of the chaos. I know the morning will be hectic and frenzied, much like every other morning when you hit the ground running with two kids. I somehow convince myself the night before we leave that I can have that go-with-the-flow personality I long for.

Then the morning of the trip comes, and I feel my blood beginning to boil as the easiness I wish for turns into a three-hour attempt to just get into the car.

My husband gets all the blame and wrath for our slow progress. I know the man is doing as much as he can. I know he is willing to do anything I ask to make things move along smoothly.

That doesn’t seem to stop me, though.

“I don’t understand why you didn’t pack the car last night?” “I can’t believe you packed that in the car already when you should know we need to use it before we leave.” “Why aren’t his shoes on?” “You know her diaper has to be changed before we leave. Do I have to do everything?”

It’s not a pretty sight.

So much of the tone of a day, let alone a trip, is set by the mother. I know that I have the power to stop this negative cycle. So why do I always revert to the same frantic notions each time a trip begins?

I should avow to stop the nonsense. I should avow to stop criticizing my husband; this man who works so hard to help me stay calm and our children cared for. I should avow to stop fretting about getting out the door at the exact time I had planned. I should avow to help my children see how to be content in any and all situations. I should avow, like Martha Washington,
to be cheerful no matter what the circumstances and to refuse to make myself
and those I love miserable.

We’ll see how it goes our next trip.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Blue Sky

Last week when I compiled a list of all the places we visited since our son was born, I wanted to share a tip on how it's been possible for us to take these trips. I quickly realized it was a combination of things. If I was going to be honest with myself, and anyone that might read this, I would need to include all of these things instead of just my original thought for this post.

To start, we have been blessed with wonderful parents that keep our children on the few days each week I teach at our local university.
This truth is the reason we are able to afford to travel as much as we do.

Also, some of the trips on that list were taken with our extended families, and the hotel or some of the meals were paid for by them. It's nice to have family members that like to travel as we do and that are generous enough to help on expenses!

Most of the places on that list, though, were trips we took and had to pay for ourselves. Or, we would have had to pay for the entire trip if it wasn't for our Blue Sky card from American Express.

About six years ago a friend and mentor, knowing how much I liked to travel, offered some advice that, like most of everything he has taught me, proved true. He encouraged me to get a credit card that offered travel reward points. He used a Delta Sky Miles card through American Express for most of his trips. While we often fly Delta, I wasn’t sure I wanted a card that would limit us to one airline. After doing some research I came across the Blue Sky card.

I know there is a plethora of attitudes that exist about credit cards. Some people advise not to have any to avoid the pitfalls of debt. Some people have almost every card that exists and have most of those maxed out. We have found that when used in a fiscally responsible way, a credit card can be incredibly rewarding. That’s been the case for us with our Blue Sky card. (This is beginning to sound like a commercial for American Express. I can assure you this is only my opinion).

The beauty of the Blue Sky card is that it gives you points to redeem for not just flights, but for hotel and rental car bookings as well. Most of the trips I listed in that previous post were of little cost to us because we were able to redeem points to pay for the flight, hotel room or both. We use our card to pay for everything from groceries and gas to entertainment and bills (at least that’s how I pay the cable bill now). Anywhere and everywhere that takes American Express, we charge it. We actually have two Blue Sky cards - one for me and one for my husband.

The main reason it works so well is because we pay off the balance each month. Not only does that keep us from paying an outrageously high interest rate, but it’s also the only way to earn enough points to benefit us for traveling. You get the points based on what you pay, and when you pay it all, you rack up the points.

Did I mention there’s no annual fee with the Blue Sky card?

I know there are other cards that offer similar travel rewards. This is just the card we like and have been rewarded handsomely for using it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Bibles, Birdhouses & Benches

I enjoyed the Biblical wisdom and insight Linda and Tom had dispersed in the rooms throughout their lakeside cabin in Pine Mountain. I was especially drawn to a piece of literature titled "199 Treasures of Wisdom on Talking with God." It was a small book that contained shortly worded thoughts and insight on seeking God. I also found comfort each night looking at Tom's large, leather-bound light brown Bible. It was reassuring to think of how often that Bible had been used throughout the years and how often it has been a source of encouragement, comfort and guidance. While this trip was not planned as a spiritual retreat, I feel in many ways that's what it ended up being.

There were other wonderful things about the cabin as well. Birdhouses adorned every space, both inside and out. Here are some of the charming pieces that were on display.

I'm sure there are others I missed.
You can tell Tom is an avid bird watcher. Not only does he have The Peterson Guide to Birdwatching, which is, from what I’ve heard, the book for birdwatchers, but he also has these!

I knew as soon as I saw the case by the back door it was binoculars. I remember as a child my grandfather’s binoculars stored in a similar, if not the same, type of case.
There was also an array of seating! I love checking out furniture. Chairs and seating are some of the things I notice right away. There was always a bench, adirondack chair or swing to rest on while outside. Each bedroom had at least one chair to sit in for reading or rocking. My favorite piece was a bench placed on one side of the kitchen table, flanked by four chairs to round out the table.

The sitting area is a reader’s paradise.

A framed needlepoint on the back of this wall says it all:
It’s where we see the sunrise set
It’s where the children’s toes get wet
It’s where we go for peace and rest
It’s our little cabin on the lake that’s best

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Pine Mountain, GA

We didn’t go too far from home for this trip.

A few months ago I called my mother-in-law to tell her I was thinking about booking a cottage at Calloway Gardens. She later called back to tell me not to book anything because her wonderful neighbors, Linda and Tom, were willing to let us use their cabin a few minutes from Calloway.

We arrived on Saturday morning, and the weather was glorious - Mid-60s, with sunny skies!

This is what awaited us when we pulled up to the cabin, or lakeside cottage as the sign in the yard best describes it:

I love the light that comes through this space. It give the impression of being outdoors.

And the backyard was even more cozy than the inside.

My son loved the kid’s room!

Yes, those are Holly Hobbie bedspreads. The original Holly Hobbie!

We spent the day enjoying the beautiful outdoors, reading
and napping (well, the baby napped).

The next two days were more fun spent outside.

We went to the Wild Animal Safari on Sunday. To be honest, this was not fun for me. I’ve heard wonderful things about this place and know many people enjoy it, but it was not my thing. Take me to a zoo any day, but a dirty van with open windows where large animals with horns come right up to you - um, no.

The trauma of that experience was soon alleviated by some retail therapy. Much to my delight, Pine Mountain has wonderful antique shops. I found the perfect bench for our backyard. I’d been searching for a bench for three years, so this was definitely not an impulse purchase. I also bought a lovely corner cabinet for the baby’s room. I’d been looking since before she was born for a corner piece and knew this was the one the instant I saw it.

We spent most of Monday at Calloway Gardens. The good thing about off season is that there is no crowd. The flip side is that there is not much to do besides visiting the butterfly gardens.

All in all, we had a wonderful time at the lakeside cabin/cottage in Pine Mountain. Thanks Linda and Tom for the memories!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Oh, The Places We've Been

As we get ready to leave for a trip tomorrow, I've been thinking about all the places we've traveled since our first child was born. My husband and I did plenty of traveling before that, but because this is a blog about traveling with children, I thought I'd share some of these wonderful kid-friendly places.

As I compiled this list, I once again realized how fortunate we have been to be able to do all this. Next week I'll share our not-so-secret tip on affording these trips.

One of our all-time favorite places is Maine. We took the trip about two years ago in mid-August, and the breezy New England climate was a huge relief from the humidity here in the south. We flew into Portland and drove up the coast to Bar Harbor the next day. We took our time along the way. Our favorite stop included eating lobster rolls in Wiscasset at a stand called Red's Eats. It's so famous that there is ALWAYS a line, but it's worth the wait. I strolled our son around the square and browsed through a quaint antique shop while the hubby waited in line. If we had planned for a few extra days, the hubby and I both agreed that we would have stayed in one or two of those small towns along the coast as well.

Bar Harbor was fantastic. We stayed in a lovely inn on the water, visited Acadia National Park and ate a fabulous breakfast one morning that had the best blueberry pancakes I've ever tasted. The bed and breakfast restaurant was called Two Cats, and my son remembers it to this day because there were construction toys lying around for kids to play with. It's always a plus to eat great food in a kid-friendly environment!!!

Asheville, NC
This was one of our more recent trips. It was actually our first long-distance trip after our daughter was born. While it did take us about double the time to get there and back because of all the stopping for baby girl, it was nice to see all the fall foliage. We went because waterfalls are one of our son's many obsessions, and there are plenty of them near Asheville. We were able to walk to about 5 or 6 falls that were easily accessible to kids and a mama toting a baby the whole way.

If you have kids, it's likely you have been or will go to Disney World one day. My guess is that many of you were able to visit as a child yourself. There's not much to say other than it truly is magical to watch the look on your child's face! We probably shouldn't have started out on the Snow White ride (it scared me a bit!).

New Orleans
Who in the world takes their 3-year-old son to New Orleans? Well, we do. I can assure you that hanging out on Bourbon Street was not on our itinerary for this trip. We went for the wonderful aquarium because sharks are another of the obsessions. We also visited the zoo. I can say without hesitation that it is the best zoo I have visited!

My husband would disagree with me on the last comment. He would say the Memphis zoo is the best. We were in Memphis for a conference for my work, so I didn't actually make it to the zoo. Instead, the hubby and his mom took our son there and to Graceland (not something he could really appreciate). There's also a great kid's park called Mud Island. It's not as dirty as it sounds, but you can expect your child to get a bit wet as you travel along the carved out, mini-versions of the Mississippi River.

San Francisco
This was our son's first flight when he was a year old. I was so afraid that he might cry the whole flight that I was seriously considering apologizing to everyone beforehand. To my relief and amazement he only cried one time, and that was because I dropped one of his toy cars on his head. This trip proved to me that it was possible to travel with small children. It wasn't always easy, especially making it through airport security, but it showed me that my trepidation about traveling while my children were small was mostly unfounded.

New York
This was a spur-of-the moment trip. I literally mean spur-of-the-moment. At 2:00 on a Friday afternoon I decided I wanted to go to New York for the weekend. By 3:30 we had a flight. By 8 p.m. we were on a plane. By 10 p.m. we were in New York. We only stayed for two days, but it was worth every penny that last-minute flight cost. We strolled through Central Park, visted FAO Schwartz and just enjoyed the feel of the city. I wish I had thought to check out the local children's theater to see what was playing.

New York is one of my favorite places on earth. While walking those marvelous city streets, I mentioned to my husband that it is a place where I feel like I can actually breathe. Needless to say, he thought that was a bit odd considering all the smog in New York. If you love New York, you know exactly what I mean. There's this wonderful smell to the city, and no, it's not the street vendors. I can't explain it other than it's the smell of New York.

Can't wait to go back!!!

Washington, D.C.
This was another of our spur-of-the-moment trips. Not quite as rushed as the N.Y. trip. It was decided a few days in advance. If you want a quiet flight to D.C., I suggest you travel on New Year's Day. It was a spacious, short flight. We spent the few days hitting all the historic highlights. I had been to D.C. twice before, but this was the first time my husband had been to our nation's capitol. I wanted to make sure he saw all the things I could remember were so great about the city: The Smithsonian museums, the Vietnam Memorial Wall, Ford's Theater, The White House (though you can't actually tour it like I was able to in the 6th grade), the Washington Monument, etc., etc. etc. It's an easy city to navigate with kids because you can ride the subway or walk to most places. The museums are also free!

Gulf Coast
We live close to the Gulf Coast, and we try to visit at least once a year. The oil spill hasn't changed that for us. I was a bit concerned about eating the seafood at first, but after doing a bit of research, I felt more comfortable. Like most kids, our son loves to dig and play in the sand. He's not much for going in the ocean, though. It might have something to do with all the shark videos?

I almost didn't put this on the list because our reason for going didn't have anything to do with a family-type trip, and it wouldn't make a Best Trip Top 10 List except for one reason. We went to Arizona to see our beloved football team play for, AND WIN, the BCS National Championship game. If it hadn't of been for the win, it would have been the worst trip ever. I was a few weeks pregnant with our daughter. Both my son and I ended up being too sick (me from a nasty cold and pregnancy sickness, him from a 103 fever) to actually go to the game. My husband went and was able to sell our two tickets. The next day, we ended up not being able to get on our flight. This meant we had to drive home. From Arizona. Did I mention we live in the south? Deep South! This was obviously not in the plan. However, we were so euphoric from the win, that it made the loooooong drive somewhat bearable.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Both Perspectives

Our adventures today took us to the movies and to our local forest preserve. When I decided last night that today would be a good day for both, I had no idea the connection they would have.

I love a movie with a good moral story, and The Lorax has a fantastic message that I think us grown-ups can appreciate more than young children. It is a cautionary story about living in an entirely manufactured and man-made world with no sign of nature. Danny DeVito, Zac Efron, Taylor Swift and THE it-girl, who else other than Betty White, lend their voices to this moving and much-needed environmental tale. Pride, greed and a basic disregard for the world around us are core themes addressed.

While The Lorax paints a bleak picture of a world without real trees because the almighty dollar rules and all decisions are justified based on "stimulating the economy" (sound familiar anyone?), our local ecology preserve tells the story of what happens if man does not make an effort to eliminate some trees. As we walked the trails, the preserve director explained how chopping down dying trees and using controlled burning methods is a way to actually help our forests thrive. Without these measures, many healthy trees and plant species would be "choked out" by a forest that runs too wild for anything to prosper.

Both the movie and the preserve pose this question to us: UNLESS?

It's not just a question about trees. It's a question about everything in this world that is noble and true and right.

I'll end the same way the movie did with this quote from Dr. Seuss.
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
nothing is going to get better.
It's not."

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Adventures All Her Own

I watch this sweet baby girl of mine and I see how ready she is to go. In the past week she has begun to pull herself up to her knees in both her pack-n-play and crib. She wants to pull all the way up, but hasn't managed to plant her feet firmly beneath her. While on her stomach she is pulling her knees beneath her in an effort to crawl.

It's all happening so fast. Too fast this second time around!

I've heard people talk about the differences in their children. Right now I'm in the midst of discovering this for myself. Her brother didn't do these things as fast, or so it seems to me now four years later. The time with him has gone by fast, but now that she is here, her time seems to be going even faster. She's ready to move, ready to stand and soon it will be ready to walk and explore the world in her own ways. I don't want to jump too far ahead, but it makes me think of all the things she will one day do on her own. There's both a joy and a sense of sadness to that. I know that one day she will be ready to do most things on her own and her feet will carry her away from me. For now, I love how all her movements bring her toward to me.