Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Merit Badges

I just looked at the weather app on my phone, and guess what ??

... summer's here !

While June 21st may officially be the first day of summer, the season has been in full swing here in Oregon for the past several weeks.

We drove past our local aquatic center a week ago, and despite the temperature (a breezy 65 degrees!) the place was packed with brave swimmers. My kids began a spontaneous chorus of "when-are-we-going-to-the-aquatic-center??" - if you've never heard a van-full of children unanimously declaring their passion for something ... well, you haven't lived. It's pretty persuasive. 

So on Thursday, when my weather app showed a bright ball of sun with no clouds peeking out behind it and a mommy-approved temperature of 79  -  we packed up sunscreen, towels and flip flops and headed to the beach.

Otter Beach, that is.

I wish I had a video to demonstrate for you what Otter Beach is to this girl. I am not kidding- if I didn't believe in reincarnation, and if I did believe in swearing and mermaids... I would swear to you that Lily was one in a previous life.

But as I don't believe in any of those things, I'll just tell you this: this girl loves to swim. I mean loves.

I'm talking, get her in the water as fast as you can, arms flailing and legs kicking and peels of laughter and DON'T HOLD HER HAND because she is a big girl, and she knows exaaaaactly what to do here, and do not even try to convince her that water and open mouthed smiles don't mix well, because you cannot even contain that level of happiness if you try. And yes, she wore a lifejacket the entire time, if you were wondering. (<< Grammi, that sentence was just for you.

We spent several happy hours at Otter Beach before we piled everything back up and headed home for dinner. I asked the kids on the way home what some of their happiest summer memories have been ... because I'm sappy like that. Ask my kids- just about every family trip, whether it's a three hour trek to the pool, or a three day vacation at the KOA - the drive home will involve a discussion of what our favorite moments were. Maybe because I love to view the world through my kids' version of it, and maybe because I'm just a big kid myself... this is my little drive-home ritual.

Or maybe it's the old Girl Scout in me, pinning new memories onto my vest like merit badges ... one that has a cabin and a pine tree on it for our camping trip to Fort Stevens, another one with big Mickey ears for a vacation at the happiest place on earth, still another one with a pool umbrella and bottle of sunscreen on it for all those relaxing hours spent at the aquatic center ... I like savoring the memories behind those badges just as much as experiencing the actual events themselves.

So yesterday we made another summer memory, and if there were a badge to score with this one, it would probably be embroidered with two tiny symbols representing the fruit of our labors : 

...helloooo, cherry pies. 

Mackenzie and I went for a morning walk yesterday, and just as we were about to walk in our front door, our neighbor called us over to their backyard... actually it was our neighbor's son's girlfriend, and she was house sitting. Two giant cherry trees were ripe for the picking, and she needed help in clearing them out before our neighbors got back ...would we be willing to come back with the kids and help her out ?

I told her we had important things to do first ...

... like run home and scream to the others that a Summer Merit Badge was waiting, so grab some shoes and buckets STAT !!

Behold, The Cherry Picking Party that ensued ...

They even had a maraschino cherry tree ! Shirley Temples, here we come ;)

(Five gold stars to whoever knows what a Shirley Temple is.) (And yes, I know maraschino cherries are made and not grown.)

Life is just a bowl of cherries... or miniature balls, if you're Hayden.

After picking several gallons of cherries, and eating about the same amount, the kids spent some time on the giant trampoline in the neighbor's backyard .

I nursed Hayden and chatted with the neighbor's sweet girlfriend... turns out she has a great aunt with Down syndrome, and get this - she's seventy-three ! She was born in an era when institutionalizing children with Down syndrome was common, but her mama said the words that would have been my words, had I lived back then : not my baby. She raised her daughter at home, the seventh child out of nine, and she lived a full and beautiful life. She now spends her days living with her two older sisters and enjoys telling everyone she meets the lineage of her family tree. That's no small task given the amount of nieces and nephews she has - 115.  And Vanessa (the neighbor's girlfriend) said her aunt can tell you exactly who belongs to who. 

I was so blessed to hear this family's story of courage and love and grace, while sitting under the cherry trees on a beautiful Oregon afternoon, watching my girl play happily with her siblings, without a care in the world.

How far we've come ...

Finally we packed up our blankets and buckets, said thank you to our gracious host, and headed home. Our hearts and tummies full, we silently added another precious badge to our vests, one that we'll treasure for years to come.

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”  ~Henry James

It's your turn now... share a summer memory in the comment section, just for fun?

Happy summer !!!


Mary said...

Such beautiful memories you are making. The story of the neighbor's aunt, her mother's determined choice and description of her happy her life is precious!

AiringMyLaundry said...

Nice pictures.

I want some cherries now!

Leah said...

Such a sweet story about the aunt. Love how your making memories. My favorite summer memory at least I can remember is how the Ice cream truck would come by in our neighborhood

Donna said...

Going to the library, getting a stack of books and reading each one, and a week later doing the same routine over and over.

Kathy McElhaney said...

Lots of fun summer memories - home made ice cream, hearing the ice cream truck coming, riding our bikes all over the neighborhood...

Growing up in hot/dry Fresno we always had a pool. Nothing fancy, just an above ground pool. I think I was about 5 when my favorite summer memory occurred. We four kids were swimming round and round making a whirlpool. We really had it going. We'd kick off at the same spot each time. Kick, swim, kick, swim. Just a few more kicks, then we were going to ride for a while. Kick, swim, kick, swim. Until the last kick when the pool blew apart and took all the water (and my brother!) into the yard! No one was hurt and we couldn't wait to get that pool back together for more fun!

There was one other - because my brother was hemophiliac he got to attend a day camp put on by Easter Seals, this included swimming at a large in-ground pool. We others were a little jealous, but happy he got to experience such a pool. I was also fascinated by the volunteers and especially the 2 blind brothers who conquered their fears and became swimmers!

Anonymous said...

Such a beautiful story, Patti - makes my heart sing hearing about the aunt with Down syndrome. Love your beautiful photos and what fun summer memories you are creating with your tribe. It's winter over here, so I don't have any summer stories to tell right now, but we are making the most of the chillier weather and at the end of this week, Sam will be on school holidays for two weeks, so I'm sure we'll create some fun winter memories xx

JEllen said...

It's been much too long since I last came to read your beatiful blog Patti. I can't get over how grown up your precious Lily is and my golly your littlest is already a year old. Wishing you all the best!

cara said...

Oh Patti I just LOVE everything about this post!!! First of all, Lily is once again TOO CUTE for words in that swimsuit picture! I cannot believe how she is growing and growing! And the cherry picking seems to be ordained by God. What a blessing!!! And how wonderful to hear encouragement like you did about the woman with Down Syndrome. Such a beautiful day for sure! ALL of your kids are growing. :)

I will tell of a summer memory from yesterday, ha. I didn't have to think too hard. We were in Malibu at the beach. Benji absolutely LOVES the water!!! He runs full force to the waves. But I cannot tell you how much it melts me when he sits there on the sand and anticipates the next wave that is coming. I even posted a pic of it today. He puts his arms in the air and gets SO overwhelmed with excitement. It was a beautiful way to begin summer. All the kids love the waves and beach. xoxo

cara said...

And that last pic of Lily and Hayden!!!!!!!

jody lynn said...

What a lovely post and boy what a surprising tear-jerker at the end about the neighbor's son's girlfriend's simply beautiful!!! Seek her out and do a little story on her...that would be so beautiful. Amazing how certain people are put in our paths so nicely....and that must've been a great moment for you and your little Lily.

nicole said...

What a great day God orchestrated for you.

Anonymous said...

Forgot any memory with that last photo. If that does not spell CUTE!!! LOVE that!

Anonymous said...

Forgot any memory with that last photo. If that does not spell CUTE!!! LOVE that!

Amy P. said...

I'm sappy too. Ha ha. I always ask my kids what their favorite part was when we do fun stuff together. I hate it when they say "all of it". I want DETAILS. Ha ha