In 73 days, this family will make its annual pilgrimage back up to the holy land – known to others as Keuka Lake.
I hear all of the Finger Lakes are spectacular, but Keuka is the one where I’ve perched for two solid weeks of relaxation each of the past three years. My hott husband has been there almost every summer of his life. And last summer, it’s where we celebrated the 50th year of Maga’s Lake House and we were married on the dock in a perfect little gathering.
His family home there is warm and welcoming, its hosts are laid back and gracefully hospitable, the lake is cool and clear, and the people are friendly. But even if these things were not true, there’s something else extraordinary about this place…
They have a time-travel portal.
If you count their horses, the Amish might outnumber televisions, and they definitely outnumber air conditioners. You might find some of what you need at the little grocery store, but you still need to stop at the butcher’s, the Amish market, and the fruit stand. The summer days are long, the tables are large, and the windows are open.
But here’s my favorite part of the time travel there: kids get to be kids – without instructions or a plan or an itinerary or supervision, all day, all the while learning more than we could ever teach them. Our kids and the neighbor’s kids run all day – All. Day. – up and down from the lake to the woods and around again. They fish, build forts, make up games, swim, kayak, sail, paddle, run, run, run, did I mention they run? everywhere? When they’re hungry, they figure out how to eat while running. When someone gets hurt, they clean each other’s wounds. They celebrate the big catch together. They come up with creative things to make out of trash from the gully. At dinner, plates get clean, stories get relived, brothers don’t fight, and a good hard sleep comes easy. They strategize plans to most efficiently accomplish the assigned daily chores. You can’t make this stuff up! But they can. And they do. For four weeks straight. They learn more there without adult supervision than in all the time and money we adults (collectively) try to “invest” in their development. NOTHING is as important at their age as learning things for yourself. That is hard to find in the suburbs, my friends.
It seems like these days, if your kid turns out to be a self-sustaining adult, it almost has to be in spite of us, not because of us. My father-in-law dropped this wisdom on us a couple of years ago – “Don’t handicap your kids by making their lives easy.” But we do it every day.
My adult daughter is a walking reminder of this. It is abundantly apparent what aspects of her life I kept out of and gave her independence, and which aspects I stunted her growth by treating her like she couldn’t do it on her own (well, right, enough, etc.)
Challenge/Reminder: I am going to stop doing for the kids what they can do for themselves. Obviously, there are time constraints and bedtimes, but their ability-level is way higher than we give them credit for…and there’s a lot of things they should know how to do by this age, but they don’t – simply because we’ve never taught them.
So I might be the bad guy around here for a while, but in this whole step-parenting adventure, I’ve learned that my role is sometimes different than the parent – but just as important.
(Pretty sure it would be a big help if we do what we keep saying we’re going to do and cut off the cable…So many of these challenges are actually going to save us money – I’ve saved money on eating out, not drinking, not picking grout ((oops))…Feelin’ Pre-tee Good 🙂 )
The Thanksgiving tradition for my family was set in stone, until us grandkids started getting married and having kids (and various renditions of those two things), which brings the inherent conflicts in schedules. This also means that there started to be years without the sausage balls (sacrilege!), and then there were years with no kids’ table – which meant I had to be an adult…which hopefully didn’t mean I had to do dishes. Yikes! Hurry and take a nap on Grandma’s bed until the after-meal chores were done! Nevertheless, holding to the “tradition” had become something unrecognizable and slightly less Thanksgivingy.
My hott husband was a Navy brat, and, with much of his family scattered around the planet, hasn’t spent any of his adult years living near the rest of his family. So holidays are simply opportunities to get away – ski, surf, camp, etc. The blended family that we are means our kids have other families who DO have traditions, so our take has been “pressure’s off…you don’t have to pick or split your Thanksgiving between family obligations…y’all go and have a good time with the ones who are tradition-oriented, and we’ll take advantage of the freedom to do/go wherever.” One condition is required of our doing/going wherever: Whataburger feast for Thanksgiving meal on two wheels. This new tradition began simply because, unlike most places, Whataburger is actually OPEN on Thanksgiving! Like most Texans, we love our Whataburger. We eat there maybe monthly throughout the year, but Thanksgiving at Whataburger means Whata-sizing, extra everything, soda, milkshake (chocolate…duh!), AND fried apple pie. We’re pretty sure we still come in WAY under the average American caloric intake.
Do my parents love this new tradition of ours? Doubt it. Do our kids care? Doubt it. Do we enjoy the opportunity to free ourselves of holiday obligations and chill in a camper, scooter parked outside at the ready? Absolutely. Do we spend a great deal of our time here expressing how thankful we are for this dream we get to live and the happiness we find in these simple things? You betcha.
We love our families, we adore our children, but we hope and pray that they know that our happiness together is a testament to the long legacies of families who appreciate the simpler things – we’re just taking out the pressure of cooking, traveling, tryptophan comas, while using our time to relax and recharge so that we can be thankful EVERY day for this crazy/busy/wonderful life we live the other 364 days of the year.
Our way is not for everyone, but it is for us, and we hope the legacy we leave our children is to take this time of year to do what makes you thankful, whether that is celebrating a centuries-old tradition, starting a brand new one, or just taking the opportunity to rest and relax. If you can’t be grateful everyday wherever you are, you’re probably not thankful at this time of year that is designated for giving thanks. When you’re living the dream (even if it’s your own dream), appointed days don’t seem so necessary.
I’m not sure exactly how many steps forward I’ve made this week (a lot), and I’m even less sure how to quantify the steps backward I’ve made, but I’m hoping through all of the efforts and disasters that I’m at LEAST one step ahead of where I started.
Much like in football, it’s difficult to measure and celebrate your successes when other things – in completely different areas – have gone so, so wrong. Let’s start with the positives:
I’M PUBLISHING MY BOOK!!!! Hallelujah, Praise Jesus, I’m doing something with this story after 10 years. I don’t know why I have these blocks up in front of some of the things that mean the most to me, but it’s been like the birth of a baby after a long, long pregnancy (I guess). I “purchased” a publishing team with a great reputation, particularly with the subject matter that I’m touching.
I FINISHED THE CAMPER BATHROOM! Not nearly as gratifying as the book, but it sure makes going to the bathroom fun. For me. It’s probably a little girly for the three males in my house, but I think camping is pretty masculine itself, and I get dirty and smelly like boys, so at least my bathroom will be pretty 🙂 And I’m pretty much the only one who doesn’t pee on trees anyway.
MY PIANO LESSON SERVICES ARE ON CRAIGSLIST! Again, not really worthy of ALL CAPS, but I’m sticking with a theme here. I realize that if I pick up four or five more students with this I will be a little busier than I like, but I can’t quit my job until I have everything ready to go in other areas so I can just slip the job out from underneath and it’ll be like, “whoa, girl, you’ve got so much going on, you really had to quit that job thing.”
It’s much more difficult to acknowledge the negative things that have happened (duh). (1) I think I’ve lost two of the piano students that I had just started the summer. Their schedule was funky, and mine’s been too funky to be that flexible…They haven’t said they’ve quit, but I know the signs. (2) I’ve gained a solid three-four pounds. You may laugh, but if you’re laughing you’re probably not 5’2. And I know exactly why – I haven’t woken up early enough to do much exercise, and I’ve been eating more carbs than a carbivore…I blame the Astros and allergies. (3) There is dust on most of the surfaces in my house, there is [folded] laundry on everything with legs in my living room, and the dishes in the sink might be from more than just last night.
Those things may not sound bad to some people, I realize that. But these are three things that I obsess about. Yes, I obsess. Compared to my hot husband, I obsess about everything. But compared to most, I think I am among the “normal”. I obsess about people I feel like I’ve let down – one of the biggest drag-you-down feelings I can think of. I obsess about my weight – I’ve been overweight before, and I don’t care what doctors say about the number on the scale…one pound quickly turns to two which quickly turns to thirteen, and thirteen is to a short person what fifty is to the rest of you. I obsess about my house because, well, I like it clean and picked up and I don’t like it dirty and messy. They say that the organization of your house/office is an outward display of the state of your mind (chaos vs. structure). But while I know my mind is waaaaay more scattered and disorganized than most, I find peace and sanity in a clean, organized house. [Cue Jack Motley’s folksong “Who the Hell are ‘They’?]
After further review, I’ve realized that my body feels too tired and carbed out to show how freakin’ happy I am about the book, the camper bathroom, the piano ad, and my hot husband. But just so you know, I’m stoked. The call on the field has been confirmed.
I was born in the 70s, but I consider myself having “grown up” in the 80s. However, I’ve come to realize that growing up in the 80s in a small town is a lot like growing up in the 70s.
For a family who said they didn’t watch much tv, I remember a lot of tv shows. My dad’s lunch breaks in the summers taught me to love Andy Griffith and the Monkees, I loved Rob and Laura Petrie and Bob and Emily Hartley like they were family, and my primetime viewing consisted of Hart to Hart, Moonlighting, and the Barbara Mandrell Show.
But I watched all of those with my parents. The one show that I considered MINE was LIttle House on the Prairie. I thought Laura was the coolest kid ever, Mary was the prettiest, and I’m pretty sure Michael Landon was my first crush. I learned about mean feelings and how to deal with them thanks to Nellie Oleson. I thought it was amazing that a family of five could live in a one-room house and still like each other.
But now we have a camper. And I’d like to live in it. All five of us. And make dolls and tell stories and hear the kids’ tired breath as they sleep after a long day of hard work and hard play.
Our second trip out with the camper was the first trip out with kids (only two staying the whole time…eldest came for dinner.) My parents camped in the spot next to us – thank goodness because we’re still learning what to pack for these trips. Now the camper is parked [illegally] in our street because we booked a spot for this next weekend – just me and my hot husband this time.
I think it’s the yin and yang of things…I’ve definitely found myself seeking balance through this weird time. And I think I’ve unknowingly sought peace and simplicity in a way that eerily resembles the way I learned about it as a child…Ingalls-style.
Update on my Dreams in Development: no new piano students added, no orders for paintings, but I did finish Phase One of the camper reno, and I finished writing my book! And my hot husband has encouraged me to go all in and try to publish it fo’real instead of self-publishing or going to Kinko’s…he’s amazing. Now I just need a GoFundMe account or to rob a Starbucks. And I probably need to stop buying things. Like groceries.