A Berry Picking Time

Another favorite outdoor activity I had growing up, besides camping? Berry picking.

Every late-spring my mom would take me berry picking at the local farms. We tried to do two trips a year: strawberries and some other local fruit (blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, or apples). Living in New England meant shorter picking seasons so we could miss a specific harvest by a week depending on how well the fruit developed.

This meant my mom would announce one morning that she’d be heading to the farm in a few days and ask if I’d be willing to help her. When I was younger, I had little choice in the matter but I loved it anyway; and when I was older it would depend on my work schedule for the week.

I found on the days I had to work or go to school and miss helping her were always disappointing. She’d try to adjust her schedule to accommodate me, but sometimes the weather and harvest wouldn’t cooperate.

Our Family Traditions

Strawberries were a must in our family.

If we could only do one picking a year it was strawberries. We had a rhubarb plant growing in our backyard so my dad always requested a strawberry rhubarb pie every summer. My mother never believed in doing anything half-measure so she would make sure to bake him a pie with only the freshest ingredients: rhubarb and strawberries she picked herself.

With the haul, she would preserve a batch of strawberries in syrup. My mom would freeze this mixture and thaw it for Christmas morning every year. Our favorite traditional Christmas meal, besides the evening feast, was homemade scones, clotted cream, and those syrupy strawberries picked earlier in the year.

There was something wonderful in knowing that I helped make Christmas breakfast a little more special by helping pick those berries. During the cold, dark New England months it brought a little bit of spring sunshine for the day.

Another fun tradition that started while strawberry picking was the story about a mouse visiting his relatives whenever we picked. No matter the farm and no matter the location (I happen to know he’s moved down South), my mom and I would create this elaborate story about his adventures over the past year and all the fun he was having while visiting.

It was one of those fun traditions that started one day when my mom spotted a mouse in the patch we were picking in. I think she started talking about it to make sure I wasn’t startled or to keep herself from being startled, so a story began about why he was there. Our stories grew over the years, though we’ve never physically seen him again.

berrypicking

Jai helping pick strawberries this year. Photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography

Like all my favorite traditions and childhood memories, I’ve wanted to share them with Jai in some small way. I didn’t even wait for him to be born before I took him berry picking: I was between 5 to 7 months pregnant when I went picking for strawberries, peaches, and blueberries.

Last year, we took him peach and blueberry picking while he was in my carrier. This year we’ve gone strawberry and peach picking so far (blueberries are around the corner). Because peaches are on a tree, it was easier for him to physically help this year, though he may have grabbed several under-ripe ones for Ash, who’s a fan.

Jai is a blueberry lover,  and the farm we go to has such tall bushes that he’ll be able to help me again, so I know most of the fruit he picks will be put straight into his mouth and squished into my shirt. I have accepted and plan to be prepared for it.

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Blogs to Check Out this Summer

As a blogger, it’s important to read and support other bloggers out there, especially those in your area of interest.

In the summer, sometimes I love sitting down and flipping through a good blog while sipping lemonade and appreciating the AC. I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite blogs that I follow relating to my areas of interest and beyond.

Please give these bloggers a read, they are worth adding to your “to read” list.

MS & Chronic Illness Blogs

Motherhood/Parenting Blogs

Inspiration Blogs

Fitness Blogs

Writing & Art Blogs

What are some of your favorite bloggers out there? I am always looking for more recommendations to add to my reading list. Leave a link to your blog (or someone else’s) in the comments.


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Featured photo credit: Canva

 


Exploring the Outdoors with Little Ones

I grew up in a rural area.

My house was in the middle of a small town, so you could make the argument that it was more suburban in nature, but it took us 15 minutes to get to the next major town. Coupled with living in New England, it meant that you stuck close to home, especially during the winter when roads were hazardous. There really wasnt much to do even if you went 15 mintues away, you had to travel farther to find any sort of quality entertainment.

As a kid, I had to learn to occupy my time with my surrounding environment. This was before the Internet and my parents didn’t have cable for most of my childhood. So I had two choices: inside or outside.

Being inside the house was nice, but that got boring and cramped, especially with a dog. So I spent most of my time outside, even in the rain or cold weather.  I would spend hours outside: building things, climbing trees, reading in the shade. When I was old enough, in summer I would split my time between biking to the library and the town pool.

Sunscreen or not, I built up a nice tan with all the time I spent outside each summer. 

As I mentioned before, I also hiked a bit and spent time at the local Audobon center helping out with wildlife rehabilitation and taking nature classes. When I moved away for college and later down South to a major urban center, I lost touch with how much I loved spending time outdoors. Picking up running within the last year and having a wooded area as the primary training location helped reconnect me with the outdoors.

Having a toddler in an urban setting meant that if I wanted Jai to have similar childhood experiences I did, I would need to work a little harder to make sure he engaged with nature. I would have to take him to parks, interact with our yard, and find opportunities to get him to engage with nature on a frequent basis.

 

Why Engage with Nature?

It’s not always easy to spend time outside. We get busy or we live someplace where the greenspace is limited. But taking the opportunity to spend a few minues a day outside can be so beneficial. It can reduce stress, promote short-term memory, and act as an anti-inflammatory: all wonderful things for someone with MS.

Likewise, there are also a lot of benefits for children outdoors. Spending time with a toddler outside is a great way for him to engage with the world around him, nurture a love for the environment, and help focus that energy and attention span. It’s also a wonderful bonding experience for the parent and child. A lot of the nature activities require one-on-one time between parent and child where the parent explains new concepts or engage the child in a line of questioning.

The hope is to provide children with options by spending time outside. There are times when power goes out or you have to visit a remote location with limited internet access. By getting children to engage with nature before these scenarios, it will hopefully be easier to get them to go outside until the situation changes.

Things to Do

There are a lot of simple things parents can do to get their children outside, most need parental involvement at first, which will be great for bonding and your own health:

  • Take them on nature walks
    • In your yard, neighborhood, or local park/preserve
    • Ask questions when you see something interesting and get your child to critically think through answers
    • Bring a container for collecting items. See if you can start a leaf, twig, or rock collection for each walk
  • Build a fairy house
    • As a child, I always built one with natural materials (no glue or wire) as a means to see if I could create a stable house in all sorts of weather
    • Set up the house outside and have small dolls or toys to play in the house
    • Write down stories your child creates surrounding the house owners
  • Set up a blanket and read outside
    • Find some shade, grab some snacks and spend time reading outside. Books/stories about nature would be perfect for the surroundings.
  • Set up a bird feeder and do bird watching from a slight distance
    • Make sure you have a bird ID book so you can learn the different birds that visit the feeder
    • Set up the feeder near a window so you can watch birds on rainy/snowy days as well
    • Note: if you have a neighborhood bird of prey, this may be a learning opportunity of life cycle for smaller birds and creatures. You may need to explain what happens if a hawk swoops in
  • If you can do so safely, teach your little one to climb a tree
    • Only do this if you feel comfortable spotting your child and they start with short heights

While you are spending time outside with your little one, make sure to ask them a lot of questions. Not just about their surroundings and what you are doing with them, but also see how they are feeling.

If they start to get antsy, bored, or seem unhappy, make sure to honor those feelings. Spending time outside should be a fun experience and forcing it will make it harder to encourage another excusion. Some days they will be ready to spend hours outside and other days only five minutes. There’s always later in the day or tomorrow, so try to be flexible in your plans until your child gets used to being outside.

As they get older, include them in the plans by asking them what they would like to do. Their answers may surprise you and lead you down the path for a fun adventure that you’ll talk about into their adulthood.

What are some of the things you do with your little ones to get them to spend more time outside? What did you do as a kid when it came to the outdoors? Leave your comments and stories below.


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Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton Photography


Guest Post: Being a Grandfather

Being a father means that someday you will potentially become a grandfather. I asked my dad to give some of his thoughts on what it was like to become a grandfather. He very graciously gave some of his time to provide me with these wonderful, thoughtful, and sweet answers.

Read his thoughts on being a grandfather below.


On Fatherhood

Before I was a father, I was anxious about whether my child would be healthy and whole. Another big concern I had was if I would be a good Dad. I knew I was going to make mistakes, but I didn’t want to make so many that my child would be scarred for life. To deal with this concern, I resolved to apologize to my daughter for failing her no matter the cost to my pride and no matter how old she was at the time.

From an early age, even before she could remember, I apologized to my daughter. It was important to me to model behavior that showed respect for her person because that was something that was missing from my own childhood. I suppose I wanted to be able to guide her as best as I could, and when I made a mistake, I would admit to it so that she knew she could trust me.

Another important rule for me was to be truthful. I determined to not lie to my children, no matter what. It was disgraceful to hear parents lie to their kids. So I saw fatherhood as a huge responsibility but also one of great joy.

For me, fatherhood has been both one of the most rewarding joys as well of the most heartbreaking in my life. Heartbreaking not because my child failed me, but looking back with 60+ years of maturity, I see where I could have done better. Unfortunately, a rewind button doesn’t exist because I wish we could replay all the fun times and get better guidance to watch out for in the pitfalls of life.

I think I had more fun playing with my daughter as she was growing up because I got to watch her discover new things as the world opened up to her!

Some of my favorite experiences ranged from having tea with her while talking about Ms. Bissy (an imaginary character she created) to feeding fish with our feet in the water so they could nibble our toes. I loved making her laugh so hard she would have a coughing fit and her Mom would yell at me for it. She got me back because I got so terrified when teaching her to drive that I would plead, quietly, “get over, get OVER, GET OVER!”  as she inched closer to the shoulder. She would laugh at me in those moments and be proud of the extra gray hairs she added to my head on those days.

I enjoyed sharing my twisted, quirky sense of humor with her and her to encouraging her to laugh but she turned it against me on countless occasions. She bought herself an Xbox and asked me to play co-op in Halo. Not knowing the game, controls, concept, etc., I couldn’t understand why I kept dying. There weren’t any enemies visible. No rifle fire, no grenade, nobody around…and yet I was dying – blood on the screen. My daughter, who was playing the game behind me, kept beating me to death! My wife finally said, “It’s your daughter doing it!” I turned around and she busted out laughing. Score one for the kid!

I have regrets, but through the great joy of having her and entering her world through play,  I’m grateful for the privilege to be a part of her life.

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Guest Post: Thoughts on Fatherhood

I sat down with Ash and asked him to write about fatherhood. Questions ranged from his thoughts on fatherhood before we considered starting a family to how much they changed after Jai was born.

Read his perspective below.


I didn’t really have any idea of what fatherhood would look like.

I was more afraid of the amount of responsibility that being a parent entailed and I was concerned with what I could mess up than with any real ideas about being a parent. So before I talked with my partner, I hadn’t really been thinking about fatherhood.

After some conversations, once the idea of being a father cemented itself and I started really talking to other people about it, I really only had the expectation that everything would change once I saw my child.

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