Friday, September 30, 2011

The great outdoors

We bought a tent about 4 years ago.  Camping with the family sounded like so much fun.  Our first camping trip, though, was not exactly the fun we were hoping for, disastrous is probably a better word…..

We went to Orlando and decided to “rough” it at Disney’s Fort Wilderness “resort”.   We are not that adventurous and, e-a-s-i-n-g into the whole nature thing seemed like a good idea.  We arrived in the late afternoon.  After, pitching our tent and carefully arranging our air mattress, sleeping bags and pillows, we headed out to explore the campgrounds.  We checked out the huge pool, the horse corral, the restaurants, and the “general store”.  It was all so nice and clean and so Disney.  We heard there was a nightly campfire with Chip and Dale the chipmunks.  Along with a  beautiful big campfire there would be s’mores and campfire songs.  It sounded great to us!  So that evening, we anxiously arrived at the campfire ring a little early, excited for the festivities to begin.  But before Chip and Dale arrived, the rain did.  Lots and lots of torrential rain, pouring down in sheets, as we sat under a shelter by the pool.  Chip and Dale would not be coming-- instead we got a little old lady dressed in plaid with a guitar, who would lead us in camping songs.  Unfortunately, she was having a bad day.  She informed us that it was the anniversary of her brother’s death in Vietnam and she could not help but dwell on it.  I’m pretty sure if Walt Disney would have known what a breath of fresh air she was that day, he would have made sure to have given her the day off.  With all the rain hammering down around us, we were stuck.  So we listened to her sad story and watched the rain come down, down, down for about two hours.  Finally, the rain slowed, then stopped.  Finally, in the darkness, we gathered up the kids and set off for our campsite, catching drips from the trees but trying to make the best of things.  On the way back we got turned around and lost.   Hopelessly lost.  We wandered in the cool, wet night with our (then) four young, tired children wondering if we would ever find our way back.  We did, eventually.   Not surprisingly, the tent was soaked.  Everything in the tent was soaked.  Our sleeping bags, our pillows, our p.j.’s --dripping , sopping, wet.  Puddles collected in the corners of the tent.  After a quick snack of raw s’mores (from our own supplies) we put on the soggy sleep clothes, climbed under the soggy covers and laid our heads on the soggy pillows.   We lay shivering in our tent wondering what else could go wrong, when the frogs started.   It sounded like thousands of frogs, all surrounding our tent, singing and croaking loudly all night.  As we shivered and listened to our amphibious serenade we also sunk, deeper and deeper.  No, not in the various tent puddles exactly, but into the slowly deflating air mattress.  After a few hours, Tim decided we’d be better off just deflating the thing ourselves so he pulled the plug.  The rest of that long, cold, loud night we spent on the hard, gravelly ground.   It was a long night to say the least, but we survived, and amazingly, with our sense of humor in tact.  We all agreed that though pretty much everything that could go wrong did, we still had a good time.

On our second camping trip we were practically blown away by blustery winds, and just missed another rain storm, that hit full force in the morning, as we were pulling out of the campgrounds.

On our third, I was recovering from a bout of stomach flu so we cut things short and headed home to sleep.

Our fourth was cancelled at the last minute because of my grandfather’s death, and I spent that weekend at a funeral instead of in a tent.

We did have one successful, uneventful camp-out last February.  Two nights of family fun and games and lots of great memories.

This weekend we will attempt another trip to the woods for s’mores, scary stories, and sleeping among the wild animals. 

I guess, as it turns out, our family does have a spirit of adventure, or maybe we are just crazy…either way, we are ready for more.  Bring on the adventure!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Just a reminder

    My sacrifice beads hang on a peg in my kitchen.  They have been there since I made them with my Little Flowers group last winter.  I planned the craft for that meeting, so many months ago, as much for me as for "my" girls.  I knew having the beads would remind me to offer up little sacrifices throughout the day.  I knew, as soon as I finished stringing them all together and tying on the medal of St. Therese, right where I’d put them.  The visual of that humble little string of dark brown beads hanging by the light switch in the kitchen would be the perfect inspiration to do all things for Christ.  I could easily slide a bead up each time I washed a sink full of crusty dishes that had sat a little longer than they should have, or cleaned out a sippy cup of sour chunky milk, that had been found behind the couch after a few days.  After wiping up another spill or wiping the little one’s sticky hands for the fifth time or finally finding a few minutes to pick up the cheerios we’d all been crunching under foot for hours, it would just take a fraction of a second to add another bead to the side of sacrifices and remember why I do the things I do.

    It worked so nicely for a while.  For a few days, I was very conscious of sliding beads and offering sacrifices and serving God in the big and little ways each day.  But then, the string of sacrifice beads seemed to fade into the background of the kitchen, like the inevitable piles of papers and the overflowing junk drawer and the numerous colorful refrigerator magnets all over.  The beads hung there, quietly, unnoticed.  Now, of course, I did not forget to wipe off sticky hands or wash the dishes or clean up the scattered cheerios but some days, lots of days, I forgot to offer those little things up to God.  I lost sight of the value of my little acts of kindness, my little ways of serving God each day.  Today, somehow I remembered those beads.  I looked behind the set of keys that got hung in front of them and there they still were.

Sitting quietly, just waiting.

So, I moved the keys aside, and then slid a bead for pulling myself out of bed at 7:30am when I wanted nothing more than to sleep in a little while longer.  It was not a big thing but it counted, because I did it for God.  It was a exercise in discipline, a little sacrifice of rest, a little chance to grow closer to Him.  I did it because I knew it was what He wanted me to do.  I have since slid a few more beads, made a few more tiny, little sacrifices.  I don’t know how long I will remember the beauty of those little beads this time around, but at least today, I am remembering to serve God in all I do.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

My favorite books

I have been invited to take part in a blog "meme" on my favorite fiction books.  Books, being one of my very favorite things in the whole world, are something I am always thrilled to share.  :)  I did discover, however, as I looked at each of the categories, that as an adult I have spent a whole lot more time reading non-fiction than fiction, and many of the fiction books I do read are my children’s books that I just happen to pick up or that I am “previewing” for them.   I've discovered that even in adulthood though, I actually really love reading books intended for children.  Oftentimes, they have a lot of depth and meaning and are usually innocent and inoffensive, something many secular fiction books I've read that are more "age appropriate" for me, are not.  As a fellow book lover once told me, children's books often have more "heart."  Of course, there have been a few more grown-up selections I have loved, as well.  So, without further ado, here is my list:

Favorite books from my childhood:

We Love Kindergarten by Clara Cassidy
All the “Ramona” books by Beverly Cleary
Daphne’s Book by Mary Downing Hahn
Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Cheaper by the Dozen by Ernestine Carey and Frank B. Gilbreth
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg

My favorite books to read to my children:

Yertle the Turtle and The Sneetches and pretty much everything else by Dr. Seuss
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Goodnight Opus by Berkeley Breathed
All the “Ramona” books by Beverly Cleary
Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by AA Milne
Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss
The “Little House” books (especially On The Banks of Plum Creek and Farmer Boy) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia  MacLachlan
The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
So, so many more……

Current read-alouds:

String, Straight Edge, and Shadow by Julia E. Diggins
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Clown of God by Tomie De Paola

My Favorite Novels:

The Genesis Code by John Case
Three by Ted Dekker
The Little Prince by Antoine De Saint Exupery (a novella?)
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
The Witch at Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

Novels I’ve enjoyed recently:

The Bicycle Man by David L. Dudley
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Flowers for Algernon (a novella?) by Daniel Keyes
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Year Money Grew on Trees by Aaron Hawkins

Novels I am currently reading:

Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore

Novels I’d Like to read:

anything by GK Chesterton
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
The Jeweler’s Shop by Karol Wojtyla (aka Pope John Paul the Great)

For more wonderful books, be sure to check out all the meme participants over at Sue Elvis' blog "Stories of an Unschooling Family"  and feel free to join in with us as well!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

To school or not to school?

    In my son’s first grade math book he is working on measurements.  His book shows little pictures of scales with weights on one side and assorted objects- fruits, school supplies, and the like, on the other.  I’ve explained to him how the scale is supposed to balance.  It was a meaningful lesson, though not so much for him.  He did well filling out the little blanks with the correct weights of each of the various items and then we closed the book, and I am sure he moved on in his little mind.  I, however, have been thinking a whole lot about balance lately and so the lesson has stayed with me, lingering in the back of my mind as I grade the children’s math work, and encourage them to keep up with their writing, and pull out their science text to read another chapter with them.  
    I have thought and thought and thought about natural curiosity and learning through experiences and self-directed discovery.  I am fascinated with unschooling and the idea of being less of a teacher to my children and more of a facilitator and fellow student in this world of new and exciting things.  But I worry about balance.  I worry about lack of discipline, on their part and on mine.  But what I really, really worry about most, is giving my children the wrong idea about what life is really like and really about.  As Catholics, we know the value of obedience, the value of suffering, and the value of sacrifice.  I worry unschooling takes the focus off things like that and puts it on self-centeredness, and the pursuit of pleasure.  “You don’t want to do math?  Don’t worry about it.”  “You think spelling is a waste of time?  That’s okay.”  It's not the academics I worry about in unschooling though.   I really do trust that my children would learn what they needed to know academically through living a life of discovery and curiosity.  What I fear, these days, is whether or not they would learn to live a life of virtue.  Would they understand that obedience will lead us closer to Christ, keep us authentically Catholic, make us holy?   Would they experience the beauty of offering things up for the good of those less fortunate than us?  Or would they wake up each day thinking only of themselves and what they feel like doing? 
    I have read opinions on both sides of the argument.  I have heard it said that unschooling is not actually teaching, and therefore not exactly educating, and therefore not living up to the responsibility of parents as the first educators of their children.  I have heard it said that, as Catholics, our tradition is to be rigorous in our pursuit of knowledge and unschooling is not acceptable because it is too laid back.   But, I have also read beautiful accounts of very successful people who learned about the world through their own discoveries and initiation.  I have seen my own children produce the most amazing projects all on their own. 
    So, how do I make learning a beautiful experience?  How do I instill a love of it and encourage my children to find their passions and talents while still being a responsible parent?  How do I raise my children to put God first and be willing to trust in Him for all things and be obedient to whatever He asks of them?   How do I teach them that life is not always fun and easy and enjoyable but that the difficult moments, the challenges we face, are what stretch us to be better people.  Learning is sometimes difficult but the lessons we glean through the challenges and struggles are often the most valuable.  Where is the balance I so desperately seek?!?!?!!?!?!?
    Ironically, though I constantly worry and question, our school year is going well, so far.  The children are obediently doing the work I require of them and are still finding time for the “fun” stuff they are interested in.  We spend our school time on the traditional subjects of math, science, history, grammar, religion etc… but with some input from the children on what they want to learn within those subjects and how they want to learn them.  They have some assignments they must do and expectations they must meet but also free time to explore extras and create their own projects.  They have unit studies they have chosen to do, that I have given directions, suggestions, and, yes, some requirements for.  
    So, have I already found the balance I seek?  I do not know.  I still worry and fret about it often.  But, the atmosphere of our home seems to be more peaceful and more relaxed and the children, despite my mistakes over the years, always seem to be learning one way or another.  Maybe I am teaching them, through my constant re-evaluations, that learning never ends and sometimes trying new things is the best way to figure things out.   At least, I hope….

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The next adventure begins....

    Thirteen years ago, as I looked into the beautiful face of my newborn daughter I could not picture her with hair and teeth.  That she could someday be a tall, lanky teenager seemed as unbelievable as time travel.  Now, somehow, it seems both have come true.  Somehow, time has traveled a million times faster than I ever thought possible and my newborn is 13 years old (and almost taller than me).  I lived through those first few months when we got no sleep and she cried for no reason, and the toddler years with their unreasonable emotions and loud violent temper tantrums, and the experience of potty training, when life was measured by how long it had been since the last accident.  I’ve helped her through loose teeth, and learning to ride a bicycle, and memorizing times tables.  I’ve been through her first sleep over at a friend’s house, and watching her get braces put on her teeth and then taken off again.  I survived her pre-school years when she was away from me for hours doing all sorts of new and exciting things that I was not a part of, and a few years later, her first days of home schooling when she no longer went anywhere without me and, all of the sudden, I was responsible for whether or not she was properly educated. 

And now, I stand on the edge of parenting through the teenage years. 

I’ve been told that this is the time when formerly agreeable, pleasant children become moody and sullen, when obedient little angels become disrespectful know-it-alls, when emerging independence collides with an attitude of self-importance and life becomes a battle of the wills like no other time before.  I’ve been told the teenage years are God’s way of preparing us to let our children go out into the world and make their own way.  That the battles, and struggles, and difficulties of growing up all come to a head and after all of it, we are ready to see them off and wait with baited breath to see who they will become.  Right now, the vision of that beautiful little newborn is still so vivid in my mind, I cannot imagine ever getting to that day… but I guess this is where it starts.... 

Today, my baby is a teenager. 

I don’t know if I am ready for this, or if she is for that matter, but here we are.  She is still very sweet, still very innocent, still willing to hang out with her mom and share a laugh or talk with me in her room at bedtime as I tuck her in or listen to my advice on what she should wear or how she should fix her hair or what she and her friends should do for fun.  I wish I could freeze time and keep her little just a little while longer, but time doesn’t freeze.  It travels.  Quickly.  So quickly. 

It may not be easy, but I hope and pray I will enjoy her teenage years and cherish the time as I get to witness her transition from a beautiful little girl to an even more beautiful young woman.  Like her childhood so far, it is sure to be an adventure, with ups and downs and twists and turns.   And, I hope, a million more moments worth savoring and delighting in.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Always watching over me

    At about 10:30 last night, as we were finally heading to bed, I smiled at my husband and asked, “So, should I blog about today?”  He shrugged and sort of smiled back. We had been doing anything but smiling earlier in the day but sometimes, when life is at its most unbelievably craziest, you get to a point when all you can do is step back in ironic appreciation of how things sometimes end up....
    When I started my blog, almost three years ago, I wanted to write about the times in my life where I could see God at work.  The ordinary moments and extraordinary moments when I see God’s hand on me and my family.  Now, I believe, without a doubt, that God is always at work in my life and always with me.  So I guess every story is valid.  If my criteria for what makes the cut on this blog is just that God is working through the events and happenings I write about, than everything potentially makes the cut.
    Anyway, yesterday was not one of those days I was feeling very blessed, at least not at first but maybe it was one of those days that God really blessed me most……..
    The day started with the air conditioning repair man coming.  It was a long stressful morning that resulted in a hefty bill to fix the a/c for the 4th or 5th year in a row.  Both the manager and the technician admitted it was a bit unusual to have so much trouble with a 6 year old system and that something seemed not quite right about it.  Neither one would take any responsibility for it though, nor would they offer to do anything to assist us in solving the bigger problem of why things keep breaking.  They were “kind” enough to give us a 10% discount off the current repairs, bringing the final bill to $530.  Tim was at work, virtually unavailable, and I was trying to juggle school work with the kids in between phone calls to the a/c company, conversations with technician, and freaking out about yet another repair bill that was not in the budget.  In the end, I just put it on the credit card, offered my worries and frustrations up to God, and then quickly proceeded to get the kids ready for their home school P.E. class.
    Once the kids were all signed up and settled in at their class, I took the little one and headed off to do some birthday shopping.  My oldest is going to turn 13 next week and I’ve found one of the greatest challenges of home schooling is finding opportunities to shop for Christmas and birthdays.  It may seem silly but I really do have to be creative about it because the kids are always with me.  This seemed the perfect opportunity though.  I went quickly, visiting three stores, and making various purchases.  It was fun to be out with just the 2 year old, chatting with her about all the things she saw- “mama, doggy,”  “mama, shirt”, “mama, baby!” 
    We rushed back to P.E. with 10 minutes to spare and I was met at the door by a friend.  She informed me that my 8 year old had fallen during class and hurt herself.  They were getting her ice and she was pretty upset.  I went to her quickly and looked at the scrape and bruise on her right eye.  She would not tell me anything but seemed to be okay.  I snuggled her a little while, trying to cheer her up.  Then I gathered her and her siblings up and we headed to park day with our home school group.  We were not there long when my poor little bruised and battered girl started throwing up unexpectedly.  “Uh-oh, she must have hit her head harder than I realized,” I thought to myself.  I called the pediatrician right away and was told to take her right to the ER.  So, in the car again with the 5 kids and off to the hospital, calling Tim along the way.  He promised to leave work and meet me there to pick up the 4 healthy children.  Of course, he works about 45 minutes away. 
    In the end, all was fine.  My daughter got a CT scan and was checked out by the doctor.  She was diagnosed with a concussion but was discharged and we headed home for a late dinner.  We watched her closely all evening and I got up twice in the night to check on her.  By this morning, she was back to her old self with barely a headache to remind her of her adventures.  The bruise will be around for a while but that will just remind me that, though it was an insanely crazy (not to mention expensive) day, it could have been much, much worse.  I am so grateful she got away with just a concussion and not a more serious head injury.  I am so grateful for all our home school friends who were praying for us at the park while we were in the ER and who later called to check on how my daughter was doing.   And, I’m so, so grateful that even after the most chaotic, unpredictable days I get a little quiet time to pray and thank God for being with me through it all, even when I am too crazed to even notice Him in the midst of it.  Though the day was a roller coaster of stress, worry and fear, I ended it feeling grateful for the blessing of my (overall very) healthy children all snug in their beds, and the amazing perspective that only the craziest day can give...

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Our Little House, and theirs

    Years ago, I started reading the “Little House” books with my oldest daughter.  We read a couple together but then, she was so enthralled with them, and I was too busy to read them fast enough for her, she finished the rest of the books on her own.  I, too, enjoyed them thoroughly and so finished reading them on my own as well.  As I read the true stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s life,  I could not believe all the hardships her poor family endured.   They built a life for themselves in Kansas with a nice little house and a beautiful piece of land only to be kicked out after a  year of back-breaking work, because the land belonged to the Indians.  They went north and settled again, starting over to build everything they had left behind in Kansas.  They built another house, planted more crops, and made a new home for themselves.  Then grasshoppers came and ate their crops.  All their hard work was undone and they had no choice but to start over again.  They dealt with fires, blizzards, illness, loss, more blizzards, and more blizzards.  They did not ever have a truly successful year of farming.  They never got to really enjoy the fruits of all their labors.  There was always something to take away their rewards, or ruin their work, or destroy their plans.  Always.  Yet they never gave up, they never lost heart, they never felt sorry for themselves.  It was pretty amazing really.  They walked around feeling blessed despite the hardships and difficulties of pioneer life. 
    Tim and I are not farmers.  We have never built anything with our own hands or moved with our family to a whole new place.  But today, I find myself thinking about the Ingalls family and feeling a lot like I can relate to them.
      Our house has been a challenge since the day we moved in ten years ago.  We have had problems with the air conditioning, plumbing, air conditioning, electrical system, and air conditioning.  We have replaced doors, carpeting, duct work, windows, the roof, and the air conditioning.  Every time we make a list of things we’d like to do in our house- things like re-paint the family room, buy a new kitchen table, upgrade the cabinets, get a new fence in the backyard, etc…   something else goes wrong and we pour more money into the house without ever really getting ahead.  The maintenance is killing us.  We can barely keep up, and yet things keep going wrong.  Last weekend, Tim spent his Labor Day working on the house.  Tuesday evening, I put our dinner into the microwave expecting it to be hot and delicious in just 25 minutes.  40 minutes later, our potatoes were still crunchy.  They hadn't cooked at all.  The microwave was clearly broken.  This morning, I noticed the air conditioner did not seem to be kicking on.  I checked the thermostat, and went outside to check the unit.  Everything seemed to be fine but there was no air coming through the vents.  None at all.  This is the fourth or fifth year we have had problems with the air conditioner that we just replaced 6 years ago.  As I held my hand in front of the vent that no cool air was shooting from this morning, I felt my spirits sink into a state of deep depression and self-pity over the whole thing.  But then, (maybe it's message from God?) the old Little House stories popped into my head.  I feel like the Ingalls, trying so hard to get ahead, trying so hard to do the right things for our family and make a nice safe home for our children, only to be hit with bad luck at every turn.  The Ingalls learned to persevere despite their struggles.  They appreciated the gifts of family and friends and the opportunity to start over when things went wrong.  Like the ideas of embracing my suffering, praising God in all things, and finding joy in even my challenges, I am just not there yet.  But God sure does keep giving me opportunities to try to get there…..

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Following joyfully?

    My children and I have been talking a lot about virtues lately.  I’ve decided we will focus on learning more about virtues in school this year.  We even read about the four cardinal virtues in the Catechism the other day.  I decided to focus on virtues with my children not because I observed a lack of virtue on their part but because I desire so much to grow in virtue in my own life.  My hope is that my children and I will learn together how to be more virtuous and more holy.  
    There are many virtues I struggle with.  But, perhaps the one I struggle most with is joy.  Over the last year, a good friend and I have discussed the importance of joy in following Christ.  She has reminded me that we are called to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church and to try to imitate Christ in all things and to do so with joy.  I am not naturally a joyful person.  I am relatively happy, I am mostly content with my life, but I am not filled with joy.  Instead I am often filled with anxiety, worry, fear, and insecurity.  I try really hard to do as Christ wants me to but I do so with a heavy heart at times.  I walk around overwhelmed and bogged down with the stresses in my life. 
    In my spiritual reading and my prayer time, it has come up lately that I should try to embrace my suffering.  Now, I really do understand that in life we must suffer.  I see that it is unavoidable, and even that it is redemptive to suffer.  Suffering unites us with Christ.  I know that, I believe that, but still I have not figured out quite how to embrace it.   When life gets difficult, when I am suffering, I cannot seem to rise above it.  I endure it surely, but not with joy.  I have been told that, in addition to embracing our suffering, we should praise God in everything.  In everything!!?!?!?  I praise God often when life is going my way.  I thank Him for the blessings in my life and for the good things and good times.  When life is  not much fun though, the last thing I feel capable of doing is praising.  I turn to God in my struggles but usually to complain to Him or simply to beg Him to take away the difficulties and make life easy.   I never turn to Him in praise when life has gotten me down.
    I do really want to grow in virtue.  I want to exude Christian joy and peace but it is so hard to do at times.  Maybe I should go back to the Catechism and those 4 cardinal virtues…. maybe if I can master grow in fortitude, justice, temperance, and prudence the other virtues will someday follow…..and, of course, I'll keep praying, praying, praying….

Thursday, September 1, 2011

More special memories...

    My last post was about my oldest child’s 1st memories and how (pleasantly) surprised I was at what stood out in her mind from her younger days.  After her special treat of staying up late with just Mommy and Daddy, her ten year old brother wanted a turn too.  So, last night, he had his “stay up late” night.  We talked about other things for a while, but then I posed the same question to him as I had to his sister.  “What is your earliest memory?”  I asked.  His answer?  The time a lost puppy dog found its way to our backyard.  He and I sat by the window watching the confused pup for a while wondering what to do when finally, all on its own, the dog re-discovered the hole in the fence that had facilitated its coming and it left.  At most, this took 5-10 minutes but it was the closest we ever came (or ever will come) to having a dog.  My son was probably not even 3 years old at the time but he remembers  watching the little dog wander our backyard.  He remembers going to the neighbor’s house afterward to borrow some dog food just in case the dog came back. 
    Like his sister he remembered an ordinary day at home with Mommy.  He did not remember his little sister’s birth when he was 1 ½ years old or his little brother’s birth two years later.  Going on long car trips to visit his grandparents and cousins in St. Louis did not come to mind.  Instead he remembers a regular day when something, a very little something, special and unusual happened.
    We have had so many significant moments in our life, so many life changing events, but it is really the little things that just happen in our everyday moments that make life something special.
    Incidentally, I was curious so I asked my 6 and 8 year old’s the question this morning.  Their answers were just as surprising, but only because they were so different than the older two.  My 6 year old son said, watching his dad, brother and sister canoeing down a little stream while camping at Disney World. My 8 year old daughter said, a surprise weekend at a resort with friends.  It is quite ironic to me that they would remember the big exciting moments we had saved and prepared for, while their siblings remember such mundane things.  Maybe it is because the younger children have had so many fewer vacations and trips, so they mean so much more to them.  Whatever the reason, I guess it is good to have a balance in life.  Those rare excursions to fun, exciting places are worth saving up for and enjoying when you can, but real life at home is just as important and special.  As for the little one’s 1st memories-- I am pretty sure if she could truly understand the question, her answer would be the time she got a bug on her arm at Wal-Mart.  It happened a few months ago but she still tells us quite often, “bug, arm” and points out the spot where he was.   


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