Monthly Archives: September 2010

Musical Monday: fitting in


Did you feel outcast as a teen?
Part of the “in” crowd?
Or somewhere on the fringes?

Today isn’t all sad

Speaking of raising children to adulthood…

Encyclopedia Blue is many things:




He is eating a smoked scorpion. A friend from China sent us a jar full of them, but EB was the only one in the family who dared to try one.

Water lover


He was the only one of us who would ride the Hades roller coaster at Wisconsin Dells in 2006. I took this picture between his first and second rides.



For a boy who has had to share his birthday with a national tragedy for the past 9 years, I think he has turned out pretty well.

Happy 18th birthday, Encyclopedia Blue!

Raising our Children to Adulthood

Jenn recently wrote a post (and a follow-up post) based on her reading of the New York Times Magazine article What Is It About 20-Somethings?

I am especially intrigued by the questions raised on page 2 of the article, and later on by the question of whether or not the delay is the result of young people not ready for adulthood or parents unwilling to let go.   (I’m particularly aware of the letting go process right now, as I’ve just sent my first-born off to college. Letting go is difficult stuff!)

I married at age 22 (my husband was 24) and we lived below the poverty line for the first several years of marriage. We also lived within our means: Vacation was a backpacking trip in a local forest or a drive to visit family, groceries were severely budgeted (after one month of powdered milk –blech!– I did insist on the liquid version), and our furniture was all hand-me-downs or yard sale bargains.  We each worked while going to school.
College graduation and a decent paying job did not drastically change our lifestyle. While we did move to a better neighborhood (no more drug deals happening down the street), we still had “experienced” furniture.  I joyfully became a SAHM and willingly accepted hand-me-down clothing and furnishings for our babies.  We had been married for 10 years before we bought our first new sofa — and yes, we still have it.

I do confess that it has been a very long time since I followed a budget for groceries, clothing, or even “extras.” Yes, I know I am spoiled. This will probably be a difficult change next year when my husband retires.  However, my teens would tell you that we still live rather inexpensively. We rarely go out to the movies; instead, we wait for the dvd to come out and then we hope that the library buys a copy! They know how many gallons of milk they drink in a week.   I’d like to think we have taught them well… but I could be very wrong.

For years I have noticed the “entitlement” attitude of adults my age and younger. Many people think they should continue living at the socio-economic level of their parents when they themselves are just starting out their adult lives. They put themselves into unnecessary debt because they purchase (on credit, not cash) matching living room and bedroom sets right out of college. I see this as the beginning of an entitlement lifestyle that gets handed down to the next generation.  Is this because so many young adults today cannot recall their parents in economically leaner times? I do know that my husband and I both remember our parents struggling financially while raising a young family. We look around us now and see many who do not live this way. They don’t seem to say, “No, I’m sorry, we can’t afford that.”

Perhaps this is because many people truly can afford luxuries. But is it a good thing to give our kids everything they desire? I’m not suggesting that it is a bad thing to be financially secure. I’m rather fond of it myself! I do, however, believe that young people today need to understand where the money is coming from and how to manage finances without going into credit card debt.

Are we leading our children into a future of debt by letting them think that credit cards buy anything and everything? Is that the only example we show them on a daily basis? Do we discuss budgets, saving for big purchases, or even the cost of groceries?

Is there an acronym for STUFF?

I confess that I have a lot of STUFF. Some of it is pure clutter (hello, paperwork!) and some of it is tied up with memories.  I have 4 kids and they all present me with STUFF that at least one of us finds important  (okay, I am usually the only one who thinks it’s important) and that means space for storage. Like a typical American, I then trot off to purchase storage bins… or maybe I just use the packing boxes leftover from our last move.

What if there was another way?
Enter a new concept, which is actually more of a throwback to how people used to live: Tiny houses. Less space.

Here’s a picture of one (click on the picture for the link).

And yet I cry out, “But–what about my STUFF?!”

For example,  I have a couple of hobbies which I enjoy, including traditional scrapbooking.  I enjoy the creativity involved in putting together our family albums.  Some people would call that clutter.  Someday I might switch over to digital scrapbooking, but I have “invested” money in all these supplies on my shelves that need to be used first. Apparently I accumulate supplies exponentially faster than I actually use them, which may or may not be an illusion. Perhaps they simply multiply like mice when left alone together? Whatever the case, I’ve been noticing that my beading and card-making supplies are paying attention…

I was intrigued by this article about wants, needs, down-sizing and happiness. That quickly led to reading up on The Joy of Less. I am not a minimalist, but I admit there are many advantages to the lifestyle discussed in these articles. Conspicuous consumption may have a glossy exterior, but there is ugliness at its core. If you have never seen it, or if it has been a long time, please also click here to watch The Story of STUFF.

What makes you happy?
(Besides family and friends, of course. )
Your home? Your belongings? Your job? Your activities?
Do any of those things tie you down or hold you back from what you want to be?  What if you had to give some of it up?

I ♥ Marching Band

Cougar stadium

This –> wishes she could be there this weekend… and not just because they are performing a medley of the best of Boston.

First Day of School

SnakeMaster, 5th grade

Humorous-Juniorous, 9th grade

Encyclopedia Blue, 12th grade

And now yesterday’s song makes me feel a little weepy…

Musical Monday: Farewell to Summer

There was a cloudy streak across the starry sky last night, but it wasn’t clouds at all; it was the Milky Way. The neighbors were using their fire pit and I could hear the sounds of laughter from children and adults.

It was the final night of summer.

Vacation, day 5: After the storm

Sunrise on the Eastern Shore of Maryland

With daylight, we could see how well our camping structures had fared through the night.  Others were not so fortunate.

The people who were camping here had left more than an hour before the arrival of the storm. They came back to loss and destruction. I’m not sure how 3 people slept in that tent last night, or if they gave up like others and got a motel room.

Beautiful green pavilion in background -- destroyed

I credit my husband’s wisdom and skill that we still have a canopy, tent and a “screen house.”  I also must credit my oldest son, who spent the entire storm inside the empty, dark tent. He held the sides up, pushing back against the wind.  It wasn’t a fun experience for him. In fact, he was (understandably) angry that we were laughing while he was inside the tent not knowing what was happening outside.  All he could hear was the booming of the wind and our shouts and laughter while he was doing his best to keep the tent from collapsing.

By 7am, we were breaking camp and loading up the vehicles. Everything wet and sandy went into the rig with the bikes and boogie boards. (The canopy, tent, and “screen house” would be set up to dry at home.) Everything dry-ish and clean-ish went into the van.
We said goodbye to the ponies…

click on any picture to enlarge

And then we drove to Ocean City, MD, to find a hot breakfast.  “Bambi” –our GPS– told us to turn left onto Boardwalk. We were driving at the time.

We aren’t boardwalk kind of people, and there really wasn’t any decent place to take a grubby family for breakfast there anyway.  (And by decent I mean inexpensive good food.) But look what we found a few blocks away!

They didn’t just serve donuts and coffee… we were able to get a good, hot breakfast (eggs! toast! bacon! pancakes!) before tackling the long drive home.

It almost made the grouchy ones forgive us for making them ride through the storm at the campsite instead of safely in a building.

And then we drove across  the Bay Bridge.

*Bridge photos taken by the front seat passenger, NOT the driver!

It was scarier driving the other direction on Monday.

Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

Vacation, day 4: A Fine and Pleasant Misery

We drove to the coast again, but this time we went north:

Time for camping!

and we FINALLY got to see the wild ponies up close!

The herd here at the northern end of Assateague is separate from the one down at the southern part of the island, where the ponies are owned by the Volunteer Fire Department of Chincoteague and are known as the Chincoteague ponies. The southern ponies get veterinary care and some dietary supplement, plus the annual pony swim keeps their numbers steady. In contrast, the ponies of Assateague are  given a birth control vaccine (each mare is allowed to foal one time) to keep the population from growing too large and destroying the ecosystem. They are perhaps more wild, since they do not receive regular veterinary care or supplements, but they are not fenced off from visitors. Instead, we are told to steer clear of the ponies. They do bite, just like any wild animal.

There is a fence dividing the island and keeping the 2 herds separate.

This foal is 5 months old

We’ll see more horses later. Time to find our reserved walk-in tent camping site. We unloaded the vehicles and set up our shade and bug shelters first. The wind was blowing, but the sun was hot. A fly drew blood on my shin within 90 seconds of leaving the car.

It was Patrick McManus who coined the term “A Fine and Pleasant Misery” to describe camping. We’ve had a lot of experience camping and therefore have claimed many fine and pleasant miseries.  But for now, it’s time to hit the beach!

my water boys

Did you notice that the blue skies seem to have disappeared?

According to one website, “Seashore camping can be a memory to treasure—or a bad experience for the unprepared. There is no shade and mosquitoes can be abundant from mid-May to October. High winds can pull short tent pegs out of sand.”

High winds can also be the vehicle that bring in a severe thunderstorm. When a ranger drove through the parking lot announcing, via loudspeaker, the impending arrival of a severe storm, we figured it was time to get the tent set up and staked down.  Being married to a seasoned camper-of-all-seasons (who is also a former infantryman) has its benefits… and so does having almost-grown sons. They set up the tent in almost record time. Me? I took pictures and video of them working. Sometimes it’s nice to be the only female surrounded by males.

Shelters were already up; now it's time to get the tent pitched.

*Note that green pavilion in the far background. It’s really nice. You won’t be seeing it again.

The storm is a-comin’. It’s a doozie. Here’s a sample:

A Fine and Pleasant Misery, Part 3: the worst of the storm

You can see more storm videos (a series of 7) here

or you can cut and past this link:

After the storm, we lit the charcoal in the grill to put some hot food in our bellies.

The wind made the tent boom until 1am.

Next time, the final leg of the trip…

Vacation, Day 3

One of the great things about the area we were staying (besides the really wonderful house) is the close proximity to Jane’s Island State Park. We stopped at the grocery store and picked up portable, non-perishable lunch items and headed on over to rent 3 tandem kayaks. At first, I wanted to be in a canoe because I have experience with them, but the water was really choppy where we were putting in and I was quickly convinced that a kayak was the way to go! Thanks to Jenn, I was eager to try one out — and I have increased respect for her summer workout routine. Kayaking is fun exercise! 😀

We paddled on the waterway (much further than we had thought it was going to be) to an island with a private dock owned by the park system. My arms, legs, and core muscles were very happy for a rest while we had lunch! And then we paddled our way back to the main dock. All in all, it was a 3-hour tour. We felt blessed that the threatening storm went around us, or we might have become a modern version of Swiss Family Robinson on Gilligan’s Island… complete with saltwater marsh and mosquitoes. 

After showers and a bit of rest, we indulged in a family vacation tradition: seeing a movie at a movie theater. With 6 of us, it’s a splurge to buy tickets and see a film on the big screen. We usually wait to rent the video (or better yet, borrow it from the library).  It seemed apropos to see Toy Story 3, since MM was heading off to college soon. And yes, I cried at the end.

By the time we returned to the house, everyone pretty much fell into bed.