The Living is Easy

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Decoding the Camp Gramp welcome letter, with Feline Oversight.

As the sparks from the fire ran high to the trees, bathing my beloved and I in a warm glow, and the loons called mournfully from the lake, I declared, “I’m not sure life gets much better than this.”

I’ve felt that way a lot, lately. Thane is about to lose his two front teeth. He’s sweet and loving and full of the wonder of childhood (and fart jokes, since nothing can be too perfect without being sickly sweet). Grey is growing every day in the places I most yearn for him to grow, showing grit and determination and resilience I’d once despaired of ever seeing from him. My beloved husband is kind and funny and loving, and I’m going to get to spend 10 whole days with him alone, focused on him.

My parents have just arrived to kick off Camp Gramp. My evenings and weekends are filled with friends and adventures. I even have time to read.

All this happiness is bad for blogging, I tell you. I spent the time I should’ve spent writing this post this weekend reading fantasy novels in the back yard. It’s hard to regret! But no time needs more loving documentation than the happy times you will look back on when the road grows rougher.

So … I’m going to try to get a bunch of posts up in the next two weeks. Those of you who know Camp Gramp of old know I usually post my mom’s updates. She has quite a curriculum developed for the campers this year! I also have no fewer than three blog ideas lurking and ready to go. I’ll try to execute, instead of reading more novels, but… no promises.

Soon to be toothless

Oh brother, where art thou?

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Yesterday, after a few farewell bike laps around White Lake State Park, we crawled into the car and across the mighty Kankamangus (for the second day in a row). The fragrance of lots and lots of soap wafted up from the back seat from a soon-to-be-fourth-grader (can that really be true?) who was disappointed that we would not be at Camp Wilmot at the earliest possible hour for dropping off. He demonstrated considerable maturity by not whining – too much – about that.

We pulled up, and I waited for the faintest hint of uncertainty or doubt to creep in. Gone! For a week! From MEEEEEE!!!!

Here’s what he looked like when that time came last year:

Profoundly uncertain

This year, though, he was a pro. A returning camper. One in the know, as it were. He was excited about the BBQ chicken, the staying up late, the polar bear dances and did I mention the BBQ chicken? He bounded out of the car as soon as I put it in park and disappeared. Not only was he back on familiar turf, but he had the additional advantage of having no fewer than FOUR of his friends from school there to join him.

No uncertainty here! (Doesn't it look like Thane is big enough to go too? He's not.)

No uncertainty here! (Doesn’t it look like Thane is big enough to go too? He’s not.)

To my great consternation I dropped him off wearing the same t-shirt he wore EVERY DAY last year. I admit to great curiosity about whether he’ll change it at all this year.

Grey handily passed his deep end test, and practically pushed us out of the grounds. “BYE MOM!” No hugs – the guys are watching. He vibrated with enjoyment and independence. We headed back to camp ground one fewer than our accustomed four.

Thane is handling only childhood with aplomb, so far. We watched the Women’s World Cup awesomeness at a local establishment, and he watched the whole thing high up on a stool with us. (Which – aside – that was SO MUCH FUN!)

You can see pictures of our camping adventures here!

Laudato Si’ – His Holiness Pope Francis on Climate Change

bflynn:

I love these thoughts of my brother’s. I’ll add that he’s disappointed it wasn’t published in Latin, but it sounds like there’s plenty to think about in there anyway. One wonders if this is not, perhaps, the most important mission in a fortnight of great changes.

Originally posted on Found Gospel:

Laudato-si-Special-Edition-1200If you’ve been attending public worship here, then you know that the theme for this summer is “growth.” We are talking about spiritual growth, personal growth, about growth in the church, and about how things grow – what it means in our culture and society to grow.

It seemed fitting to me, then, that as I was crafting sermons and messages on issues of growth, the publishing offices of the Vatican should release Laudato Si’, a Papal Encyclical letter addressed to the whole of the human community. His Holiness writes that “We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.” These letters, often written merely for the Catholic Community, speak to the critical moments and concerns of our time. In this case, the letter reaches beyond Catholicism, beyond even Christianity and into our common human…

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Follow Ups

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So my last three blog posts (that were more than “Sorry. Busy.”) were on:
1) Bicycles
2) Not having pockets and the smartphone problems therein
3) Camping on Memorial Day

You all had amazing advice, particularly on the phone thing. I have updates to all of these topics (and the one blog post I have an idea about writing requires insane things like “research” and “work” and “advanced planning” and this is my to do list for this weekend):

Not listed: birthday party, soccer party, dinner with friends, church, Thane haircut, watching that tear-jerker new Pixar movie.

Not listed: birthday party, soccer party, dinner with friends, church, Thane haircut, watching that tear-jerker new Pixar movie.

You will note “pictures for blog post” remains suspiciously unchecked. So updates it is.

1) Bicycles
When last updated you, I was on the verge of taking Grey (and myself, for that matter) on our very first actual bike trail. We were graduating from parking lots.

It was awesome!!!

Breakheart has a two mile paved loop trail, with no vehicles. Perfect, I thought. And it was perfect. Grey and I got on our bikes and got going! He did his first downhill, his first uphill. He discovered why we have gears. But Breakheart was wicked hilly and neither one of us could make it up most of them without walking the bikes – which we did. The downhills scared the pants off me, because I have crashed. (I wasn’t 100% convinced that he really understood that he could get hurt doing this.) But we did the loop TWICE and he LOVED it!

The whole week he kept asking to go bikeriding again, and talked non-stop about it. Thane, who had become rather skeptical of this whole bi-cyclical method of transportation, was given a motivation to improve. And improve he did. He really got it! So the next step was clearly to do a whole family bike ride.

Two problems:
1) Adam didn’t have a bike
2) There was no way Thane could do Breakheart Reservation

So…. it was just about Father’s Day. And every dad wants a bike for his celebration, right? Right? That Saturday we kitted out Adam to get ready to riiiiide. And then I went looking for a really nice safe offroad trail and found the Independence Greenway (which is very similar to what our Greenway will be, with a 50″ clearance and 10″ paved section). We figured out how to (kind of) load our bikes into a vehicle and went for a Father’s Day ride.

The family that rides together learns first aid together.

It was super perfect. The trail was exactly the right level of difficulty for beginning riders. (eg. none) We had an amazingly awesome hour together. As we were coming back, Grey was getting fancier with his moves and finally found the limit of the turning radius of the bike. He came down hard. I got to him fast (we’d had the forethought to bring an extensive first aid kit). His elbow looked pretty bad – a fun color of purple, bleeding significantly from three separate scrapes. I figured out it wasn’t broken, but I knew it would still hurt. I bandaged him up, heart in my throat. Once he’d gotten his breath back, I leveled with him.

“Grey, I’m so sorry you got hurt. I know that has to feel badly. The truth of the matter is that sometimes when you ride your bike, you fall off and it hurts a lot. It’s kind of part of being a bike rider.”

“Mom,” he turned his teary face to me, “I have no regrets about being a bike rider. I’m going to get back up and keep riding, even if I get injured.”

My son has not always been an exemplar of resilience in the face of pain or challenge. It might be the thing in life he’ll need to work hardest on. But this day he got back on his bike, arm sticking out awkwardly wrapped in layers of tape, and rode to the end of the trail. He told his father later, “Dad, every time my arm hurts, I feel proud of myself.” Me too, kiddo. Me too.

So bike riding. It seems like it might be a thing for us now.

2) First World Problems
I wrote a really whiny post about how I don’t have pooooooockets in my dresssssses and how am I supposed to carry my phooooooone?!!? You guys gave me very excellent advice. (This might also be the #1 post in several years for having people stop me personally to talk it through with me.)

I ordered about 6 different solutions, and finally settled on an adequate two part strategy:

Case solved

Case solved

The easiest and most efficacious was a simple case with a lanyard. (Lanyard sold separately.) I’ve never used a case before because they’ve been bulky, but this one is very slim and attractive and allows me to carry the phone on my wrist. Problem largely solved.

For no pocket days...

For no pocket days…

I went to Etsy to help me solve the problem with no pocket days and returned almost exactly what I was looking for. Phone holder with clear pocket for ID and lanyard connections. (Lanyard – again – sold separately.) This is more or less what I was trying to articulate. I had thought I could hook it up to the zippy thingy that clips to your clothes, but the phone is too heavy and pulls it out. Other than that, it works fine.

Problem solved.

Well, mostly. I’m due for a new phone upgrade. I really wanted the Galaxy S5 mini for reasons of size and battery life. But Verizon (curse you!) doesn’t carry it. So now I don’t know what I want.

3) Camping on Memorial Day
You’ll be pleased to hear that my update on this is not novella length. Instead I offer you pictures of the occasion! We’re headed out again soon for more adventures!

Thor’s Day

Now that I’m settling into my new work schedule, it’s becoming clear that Thursday is not an optimal blogging day for me. On Sunday (aka the day I might have time to write) I think “It’s four days until blog day! I have plenty of time!” Then wooooosh! The week is gone.

So I think I’m going to try switching the blog post day to Mondays. Let’s see if that leads to fresher and more content!

I want to ride my bicycle

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New bike

New bike

I rode my bike a lot as a kid. This was back in another era, where a 2nd grader’s primary form of transportation was not “mom” but “myself”. I had the most beautiful wine-red Schwinn – with gears! I loved that thing dearly. I remember registering it with the police, somberly. (I mean, who wouldn’t want to steal that glorious machine?!)

That bike and I went all over town – to the roller rink, the swimming pool (often), Bonanza 88 (home to things I could actually afford on my allowance). We went to friends houses and parks. All this while I was younger than Grey is now. I remember once when Heidi and I went to the Tri-Cities for a ride on a bike path. There was a key issue which resurfaced several times in my childhood regarding my sister’s complete lack of navigational skills. (Ask me about the time we went to Tumwater when we were attempting to go to Tukwila.) The upshot was that 9 year old Brenda and 11 year old Heidi were massively lost miles and miles from home on our bikes in a pre-cellphone era. I remember being very thirsty and hot. You’ll be glad to hear that we did finally reconnect with our parents at some point.

It got harder when we moved to Mineral. NOTHING was a block away from our first house – it was over a mile to Dick’s store. And once you did that mile there was… Dick’s Store. It’s more like 6 – on steep hills with no shoulders and logging trucks – to the next interesting thing to do. Which was Elbe – not high on the list of interesting. My interest in my wine-red Schwinn waned as my interest in the dark, loamy forest paths waxed.

When I was maybe 13 my sister got in a near-fatal bike accident. I failed to understand the gravity, and made fun of her mummy-like bandages. She would likely have died without a helmet. As it was, I permanently lost my “stitches” competition with her, as she had scars across her face. (Happily, they are not -much- there now.) And that was pretty much the last time I rode a bike. I didn’t really realize it. There wasn’t a moment where I looked at my bike and thought “I’m never getting on THAT death-trap again!” I just didn’t have cause to ride. And so I didn’t.

At my college graduation, my parents offered to buy me an espresso machine. This was a brilliant idea, as I’ve never met a more caffeinated person than myself. Being eminently practical, I asked for a bike instead. I had two months that summer at the college with no transport, working on the college website. And summer at college is entirely different than college at college. I did ride my bike to get groceries, but uneasily. Nervously. Since that summer, it has sat unused in a variety of basements. (I actually got it all tuned and ready to go days before I busted my knee!)

Practice circles

Practice circles

But now my sons are nine and six. Next spring they break ground on the bikeway. Grey already has a small measure of independence but longs for more. In 15 months he’ll be going to middle school – and I have no intention of driving him there. On a bike, a kid from Stoneham can get to a pool, a forest, parks galore, a lake, the soccer fields, golf courses … the world within 5 miles of our house is wide and varied and wondrous. Even if they never take advantage of that liberty, I can’t quite imagine sending a young adult into the world who doesn’t know how to ride a bike, even if they don’t choose to do so. So the last few weeks I’ve been sneaking into parking lots with the kids, attempting to teach them.

Thane doesn’t have training wheels, and is still crashing and burning all the time. (Which is not fun.) Therefore I am spending a lot of time running behind him holding on to him. (Also not fun.) He’s gone two or three pedal strokes, but is not there yet.

But Grey… this last week Grey got it. He’s been able to kind of go 20 feet without falling down for a year or so. But he couldn’t get himself started, or turn, or you know… ride. But this weekend, he figured out how to start from a stop. He’s gone in circles and circles around the buildings. He can stop gracefully. My heart sang at the pride in his face, and enjoyment. “Mom, can we go bike riding tonight?”

On Saturday, Grey and I will go to the Breakheart Reservation and try out the bike trails there. I’m not sure who I’m more nervous for – him or me. But I am sure it’s going to be awesome!

Meme teaching Thane

Meme teaching Thane

The Problems that Plague Us

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My friends, I am tormented by a problem that plagues my days and haunts my nights! My mincing steps resound through hallowed halls in terror. I turn to Amazon for aid, but it turns its face against me – leaving me cold and solutionless in the dark night of the soul.

Stop reading now, if you be easily frightened, or squeamish.

It’s annoying to carry my phone around at work when I wear a dress/skirt

THE HORRORS!

OK, so this is actually the world’s most plebian problem. But I’ve been surprised that no enterprising entrepreneur has arisen in the vast realms of Amazon (or even Etsy!) to help me solve it. Let me explain to you, and then you can go start a vastly successful business to solve my problem, or point me in the direction of a person who has already done so.

Scene 1: Brenda’s office
(Yes, I have an actual office with an actual door now. Rumor has it we’re moving soon, so I’m not getting too attached.)
Office mate: Whither goest thou, Brenda? Dost the zephyrous breeze beckon thee to a meeting wherein thou may be’est a shadow on the wall, gleaning learnings from the sages of our new industry?
Brenda: Verily, I go first to that blessed information experience. From thence I shall proceed to the land of milk and honey, which is our cafeteria. Let me only gather those things to me which are needed! Fist, I shall take my badge, both sides of which must show at all times, which is clipped hereon to my skirt/dress. For lo, I must use my badge no fewer than four times to get from this, our workful repose, to thence where succor can be found. In all those places, this copy of my visage must be clearly visible to those around me. Then also I shall take this, my cell phone. Forsooth, I must carry it lest my steps not be tracked and I fail to meet my goal. Also, I would be foresworn if I left it in my office and it kept sounding and annoyed you and the school principal might fail to reach me to inform me of minor behavioral issues regarding my sons which in my own day wouldn’t even have made it to the principal’s office.
Office mate: Indeed, I am glad that you bring your phone of slightly annoying ringtones with you. But hark! How can you carry it! For your dress has no pockets! And it is well known that the cafeteria requires both hands for the full loading of your plate!
Brenda: Alas, alack and welladay! You speak truth! Thus are the skirts of women most annoying, in their pocketlessness. Whatever shall I do?! Woe to me, the pocketless. Watch the burden I must carry in my hands wherever I may go!

(/end scene)

The solution, of course, would be to have a little pouch that is clear so you can see my ID (and I can use it on the door) but has a little extra space for my phone. I carry the Galaxy S4 mini*, so it’s both light and small. The clip which performs so admirably for my badge would carry the extra load no problem.

I swear I’ve read every possible listing in Amazon with every key word combination. I went to Staples. I went to the Paper Store with that line of incredibly garish cloth bags of all sizes. I combed Etsy. I’ve considered alternatives. For example, a phone case that has a clear sleeve for putting my ID in (all the sleeves are opaque and colored). A case that connects to a lanyard at the top would be pretty great (maybe that you could snap in and out. I’ve ordered a bunch of stuff that isn’t quite right. My current plan is to buy a new back to the phone, attach velcro to it and the back of a badge lanyard and see if that will do the trick. (Prediction: disaster.) You can get a waterproof bag that has all the features… and comes in bright orange and screams “I’m going white water river rafting but can’t live without my cell phone.”

I have to think this is not an uncommon problem. Many women wear skirts**. Many women own phones. Surely I’m not the only one in the world who would like to be able to carry things with TWO HANDS while wearing a skirt?

So advise me, sages of the internet. How may my days of torment be ceased? Am I doomed to don trousers until the end of my days, solely for the pocketage? Is there a product out there that is ideal for my needs? How do you solve this problem, if you’ve encountered it? (Do you carry a purse with you ALL THE TIME?)

*I am able to get a new phone but just discovered to my horror that Verizon doesn’t carry the Galaxy S5 mini, which was absolutely my plan. Now I have no idea whether they’ll eventually come out with it, or if I need to get a phablet-size phone which just compounds my problem because when womens’ clothes have pockets, they’re often small.
**I would say men too, but kilts have sporans and utilikilts have pockets. Because men are smart that way.

Infinity to one

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I wrote this in front of the fire while camping, and went into the week smug that I’d already done my blogly duty. Then I forgot to schedule it for publication. In the immortal words of Homer, d’oh!

There was less cursing than usual Friday morning. Part of that was because we’d done a good job of prep late into Thursday night. Part of that is because we have it down to a science – and a Google doc. “Did you remember the dish detergent?” “I don’t think we need a full complement of beach towels this time, do you?” “Which outfit do you want pemrethrin impregnated?” By 11 we were on the road. By the time we’d gotten to Miss Wakefield’s for lunch, I’d stopped paying attention to time.

We were camping.

Many of my friends humorously (right – that was a joke?) mentioned that they’d be sure to plan for rain this weekend. It’s true that it has been historically soggy on our camping trips. The second year we went, it rained every day, every trip. Last year we were “blessed” with snow in the Memorial Day trip and extreme thunderstorms on the 4th of July (to the point where a friend of mine, watching the radar, kept texting to see if we were still alive).

But this weekend, no rain on the forecast! It’s incredibly novel! We have no tarps strung!! We are sitting OUTSIDE. (In 40 degree weather, with 30 mph winds. I mean, I wouldn’t want it to get boring!)

Last night was very cold – down near freezing. We were prepared for it. I put the kids to bed in layers and wrapped up like caterpillars in cocoons. Adam and I have found a two layer approach to be the best, since our sleeping bags are rated for a warm day with a light breeze. (It’s possible we could do better in the sleeping bag department – the kids’ are better. We lay in bed and listened to the loons and I thought “This is the life I want.”

This morning is even better. My husband made breakfast while I stayed warm and cozy in the sheets. (In retrospect, it was a good idea to set that precedent while a newly wed, that I’m completely useless until someone hands me a cup of coffee.) Right now, Adam is playing with sticks (“I’m doing useful work in the kindling department! – he objects”), Thane is reading in the tent and Grey has disappeared to go play with a newly minted friend. I’m sitting by the fire drinking coffee and blogging. This is the moment I’ve fantasized about for years – the fulfillment of my dreams.

Other than the cold wind, which manner of misfortune is the spice in the chili-pot of life, I can’t honestly think of anything that would make this better.


Last night, as we sat around the fire and told tales, I asked my boys if they thought they would bring their children camping. “The probability” quoth the eldest, “Is infinity to one.” “Yeah,” chimed in the youngest, “Infinity to negative infinity.” Since their numeracy is still nascent, I verified, “So you’d bring your kids camping.” Grey sighed a deeply contented sigh over his hot cocoa. “Oh yeah. I can’t wait.”

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