Over the years, my husband and I have found that both of us and both of our children find great serenity while immersed in nature.  It is the thing that centers us and renews us.  And, to that end, we decided that it is of greatest importance that we spend some time in nature every weekend.  The daily stresses and sensory overload that we encounter during the school/work week dissolve as we step into nature.

Last weekend, we used our nature escape to say goodbye to summer and to welcome autumn. It was a very warm day for the end of September, but the breeze was delicious and the morning sun was beautiful filtering through the treetops.

 

Our plan was to hike all morning and stop at 10:49am to say goodbye to summer and to welcome autumn.  This wasn’t my idea.  This wasn’t my husband’s idea.  The two kids.  It was all them.

But as we hiked, we encountered some very cool wildlife and sights.  The first was an eastern box turtle, quickly identified by my fabulous husband.  He loves all things reptilian.

 

When we stopped hiking at 10:47am to say goodbye to summer, we were in a dried creek bed, exploring what might be found in such a spot.  Here we came upon a little frog.  If you look closely at the back end of the frog (is it a pickerel frog?), there is a small orange-red protrusion.  We assumed it was an egg sac, but as we were unsure, please feel free to comment the correct answer, if you know!  WE would love to know.  Another amazing hiking find.

At this moment, our children each took a turn saying a tearful goodbye to summer, one blowing a kiss and one giving an air-hug.  It’s always said that we can learn so much from our children.  Living in the moment is one of the greatest of these lessons.  And there it was again as they cheered a welcome to fall.

And we continued on our hike.  My favorite nature find that day, although kind of gross, was this owl pellet.  For anyone who doesn’t already know, when an owl eats, it digests what it can of the creature it has eaten and then throws up the bones, fur and whatever else it cannot digest.  These are known as owl pellets.  We had never discovered one on our own, so this was pretty exciting for us!

 

It was an amazing day.  One I won’t soon forget.  We hiked for TWO HOURS with a nine-year old and a six-year old!!  I witnessed my children’s intense sentimentality, and we all came away from it centered, contented and ready to face the week.  What an amazing escape.

 

Here we are.  Summer is over and school has begun.

But I am not happy about it.  Sure, the cooler weather is refreshing and I love those crisply blue autumn skies that greet us most days.  And who can’t deny the joy of crunching toasty brown leaves beneath her feet?  You would think I’d be ecstatic.

The truth of the matter is that I’m devastated.  We sent our youngest daughter to kindergarten this year.  Yes, I know it’s “only a half-day” and I hear those who echo “think of all you’ll get done”.  But all of that is irrelevant to me.  This is the year that begins the hurtling through childhood.  Because, one day my house will be spotless.  Everything done in a timely manner.  But those relaxed, laid-back days of early childhood are saying goodbye, never to return.  Those days of picking up and heading to a playground at our leisure…gone.  Or picking strawberries or apples mid-week to avoid the weekend rush…gone.  Upon us are the days of rushing here and there….to school to drop off….to school to pick up….to ballet….to the dentist.  And I hate that.

But the one thing of it all is that I am grateful that I stayed home with both of my children through this early part of their childhood.  Grateful that I didn’t miss all of their firsts.  Grateful that mine were the arms that picked them up when they fell and hugged them tightly.  Grateful that I was the one who sat with them to enjoy breakfast and lunch.  Grateful that my husband and I have always shared the same vision of our children growing up with a parent at home.  Grateful to that same amazing husband who made it happen.  It was a tough road for many years but well worth the struggles.

And so as we send our daughters off to the same school for the first time ever, my heart alternatively aches and soars.  Aches for the end of one era and soars for the littlest, as she finds her way to the next.

I’m a little late writing this post, as Memorial Day was a little over a week ago, yet my thoughts on it keep stirring…and I cannot make peace with them.

It seems a time in history that our American society focuses more on our own happiness and self-gratification than on making contributions to improve humanity.  It seems a time that we focus more on the celebration aspect of holidays than on the true meaning.

Every Memorial Day, my husband and I take our two daughters (who are currently 4 and 7 years old) to our local Memorial Day parade.  And every year we explain exactly what Memorial Day means.  Memorial Day is a time to remember those who have sacrificed all that they have for our country, for the values we hold dear.  In a word, freedom.  For us, it isn’t about trips to the beach or barbecues, it really is about the sacrifice.  Although neither of us has served, we come from families that have and know those who do.

So as we watch the parade make its way up the hill in our little town, we teach our children to stand as the first American flag of the parade approaches, right hand upon heart….to stand as the veterans pass us in historic cars or Jeeps….to clap and cheer for the World War II veterans who may or may not make it to the next Memorial Day parade….to wave and thank all veterans who pass us, solemnly aware of why they are in fact in the parade.  And we hope that we remind them of the cost of all that we have today.