Tag Archives: Family

Snow Day

On snowy nights as a child I would flick on the backyard light and judge the snow coming down, along with the amount that had accumulated on the deck. I would go to bed hoping with all my might that in the morning the radio would announce that our school was closed. Usually my hopes were dashed and I would trundle off to school, jealous of those who did not share my fate.

The days of children waiting with bated breathe by the radio to hear if their school is closed are gone. Now the phone rings shortly before six in the morning, or even the night before, and the cheery prerecorded voice of the superintendent comes on telling us that schools are closed due to inclement weather or the chance of inclement weather. A friend, and fellow stay-at-home-dad, who lives in Bozeman, Montana, asked recently what constituted a snow day in Vermont. As near as I can tell, I told him, it’s a crap shoot. Of course I am sure it is more than that, some complicated formula. I called the cheery-voiced superintendent to ask but I never heard back from her. In Montana, my friend told me, if the buses start and the roads are passable there is school. They’ve had a few 9am starts because it was twenty below, but other than that no one can seem to remember when the last full snow day was. Some time in the 90’s is the best guess.

From journal entries I know that I’ve met snow days as an adult with dread and anxiety because I had other plans for the day. That is parenthood in a nutshellmake a plan and watch it fall apart for any number of reasons. I always assume I will have more time to write on snow days because the boys will sleep in and there will be no rush to get them off to school, but the boys never seem to sleep in on snow days. It is as if they have a sixth sense and are up and out the door at first light or one of them is up and pacing waiting for the other to wake up so that they can go out and play. On school days I have to drive them out of bed with my bad singing.

Despite my anxiety the snow days always seem to turn out to be great funas days usually do when you toss out your preconceived ideas and let the day unfold organically. The backyard and surrounding acreage are a blank canvas and the day follows its own special rhythmoutside at first light,t then back inside to dry out and warm up. Outside again a few hours later, and if it all works out, perhaps a third time when Mom gets home. When you ride the coattails of your children’s joy and wonderment, you’ll be hard pressed to hang onto the dour feelings we conjure up so easily as adults.

A Moment of Despair

The waves come slowly but quickly gain strength and power. I know what is coming but I am powerless to move. When the largest crashes over me I am held down, gasping for air and wondering if I will survive.

Outward appearances and surface assumptions mask the dark ocean of despair and self-loathing that holds me under in the depths of depression. Instead, many see the blessed life I am fully aware that I have. A beautiful supportive wife and two healthy boys, I am in good health and doing what God has called me to do. It is my family that keeps me fighting for my life. I will not allow the boys to grow up fatherless. But can I survive once they are grown? Focus on the now, you just need to make it through today, I tell myself. Start again tomorrow. Tomorrow could be better. Each day could be better. My family needs me.

I’ve seen death from many angles, and know firsthand the hole and pain it leaves. I have come to understand why people choose suicide but I still feel it is selfish. But right now, I’m not sure how much more I can take. There is relief in the thought, of the torture finally ending, but also the terror of leaving my family. I break into sobs; an awkward sputtering sound escapes my lips. For even here, alone, I hold back. The tears stream down my face but the release is not a complete one.

I spend the rest of the day in a painful funk, doing my best to mask my turmoil from the world. This leaves me exhausted, but one step closer to the end of the day. Then I can escape into my book and then into sleep. With this, there is the promise that tomorrow just might be betterif only a little.

Grand ambitions & wayward dreams

This may not happen to all stay-at-home-parents, but for me, by the time August rolls around my goose is cooked. I have run out of ideas and the energy to get the kids out of the house for an adventure. The boys seem to think that bickering and fighting is a great way to pass the waning days of summer while I stare at the calendar like a kid waiting for his birthday, fantasizing about all that I am going to get done and be able to do once the boys are in school. I know this will be the case because during those long last weeks the days are never ending, just like when I was a kid in school staring out the window of a stuffy classroom.

Before the school year started I made a list of goals, like put the laundry away right away, keep up with the clutter that materializes on every flat surface, have dinner prepped before the boys get home, go paddle boarding, exercise every day. I saw myself doing yoga in a clutter-free house, because the kids were out of it all day and I had all the time in the world.

We are now three weeks into the school year, and my grand ambitions are mostly wayward dreams–even though I’ve been writing out a list of daily tasks each morning and I tell myself I am going to stay focused and get these things done. I do fairly well until high noon and then, due to what is clearly a time paradox which disrupts the space-time continuum, time speeds up and I turn around to see that I need to meet the kids at the bus stop soon. My list is only half finished. I just don’t know where I went wrong. But it is such a nice day outside maybe I’ll go out and lie in the hammock for a bit. I need to take some time for myself anyway. You can’t help others if you can’t help yourself; now, where did I hide those bonbons?

Slow Down and build a fort

This month I was going to write about the lack of civility and manners in our society and how we as parents need to step up our game when it comes to teaching our kids what is proper and what is not. Then, the kids had a snow day, and by the time I sat down to write my article, tackling such a serious topic was just not appealing.

 

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Snowbank snow fort

The boys were outside just after six in the morning and really only came in for short spurts the rest of the day. Their first order of business was to task me with building a fort in the snowbank left by the plow. Now, when it comes to projects like these I tend to go a bit Tim Taylor and they usually end up taking me twice as long as I thought they would. This snow fort was no exception. Why, I thought, should I make a fort that you have to crawl on your belly through when I can use some of that old plywood we have as a roof? I laid the boards on top of the snowbank and began to dig. Unfortunately, I got a bit over zealous and dug too much snow out, causing the plywood to be unstable. Not wanting to let down the boys or admit defeat, I scrounged around for more scrap wood and moved onto plan B, then to plan C, then to plan D. I eventually remembered some long poles I had lying near the scrap pile so I kicked around in the snow until I found them. A little sawing here and there and we had a winner with plan E. The boys then spent the rest of the day playing in what is arguably the best snow fort I’ve ever built.

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The “Snow Hut”

Thanks to the internet you can spend a lot of time looking at all the different kinds of forts people build to get ideas for your own. Then you can go out and build one for yourself. That is what the boys and I did. It was a good reason to get outside and get some exercise in what has previously been a nearly snowless winter.  It is a nice escape from the stress of life and when it’s done you always have a place to get away to. Building our fort has developed a new type of creativity in the boys. They now notice their surroundings in a different way and are always on the lookout for a good fort locations. It also gives them a sense of accomplishment, even if as the adult, I’m doing a majority of the work.

The whole time I was building the fort in the snow bank I was thinking how lucky I was to get to do this. I would have been perfectly happy sitting by the fire reading or writing my article on civility.  Once again it’s a lesson learned from our boys. Slow down and seize the moment. For soon the snow will melt, the boys will move on and I’ll be left with only my memories. But I certainly won’t have the regret of the time I didn’t build them a snow fort after the biggest snow storm in two years.

 

 

 

 

 

Planning your Microadventure

 

The best way to have a microadventure is to plan one, not just in your mind—you need to write it down on the calendar.  This is imperative because if you are anything like our family, if you don’t plan it, then it usually doesn’t happen. Here are a few ideas to help you get your planning started.

1-3 Hour Adventures:

The Co-Housing section of the Town Link Trail: A crushed gravel path that winds its way through forest and fields. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed. This is a great path for riding your bike or even pushing a jogging stroller. Keep your eyes out for the otter and the nesting Canadian geese that call the pond along the trail their home.

Williams Woods Natural Area: A one-mile loop through what may be the best remaining mature clay-plain forest in the Champlain Valley. The trail starts out on a boardwalk and then transitions to an uneven surfaced trail with large clusters of tree roots that twist together over the damp ground. Stop for a snack at the far end of the loop where you can look out over the open area of Throp Brook. Dogs are not allowed and bug spray is a must.

Plouffe Lane: Don’t let the red gate deter you; it is simply a formality. Open it up and drive into the small parking area. Just below the parking area at the bottom of the hill there is a picnic table, a great place for families to have a picnic and let the children run around. The meadow trails fork here, one going up the hill and passing a bench that is a good resting spot and affords a nice view of the Green Mountains. The trail continues into a back field and loops back onto itself. As the trail starts to curve back around, you have the opportunity to slip into the woods and follow a nice path down to the lower field trail.

More information about these trails and others, including directions to the trailheads, can be found at Trailfinder.info.

 

Day Adventures:

Split Rock Mountain: A ferry ride across the lake and short drive brings you to the Split Rock Mountain Wild Forest and it’s approximately 11.5 miles of trails that provide access to many locations including the shores of Lake Champlain. The trails travel through a variety of terrain and forest types and offer a unique opportunity to experience the “wild side” of the Lake Champlain Valley. Views of Vermont, Lake Champlain, and the High Peaks of the Adirondacks are available from several overlooks along the trail system.

More information at http://tinyurl.com/7xuy6o2

Moosalamoo National Recreation Area: With more than 70 miles of trials, lakes, rivers and waterfalls, it is a magical place to explore. Visit moosalamoo.org for more information.

Swimming Holes: I grew up swimming in crystal clear rivers that tumbled out of the mountains of my home town of Danby. There were rock slides and large boulders to warm yourself on a lazy summer afternoon. To this day, a river is my favorite place to swim. A Google search will point you in the general direction of a hot summer day adventure.

Overnight Adventures: There is no shortage of campgrounds in Vermont or New York. Nor is there a shortage of cabins if the thought of sleeping in a tent with your two-year-old makes you want to curl up in the corner and cry. If you would like to step out of your comfort zone or don’t want to pay for a camp site, then you can venture into the Green Mountain National Forest where visitors can camp anywhere (unless the area is posted as closed to camping,) while staying the recommended 200 feet from roads, trails, and bodies of water to disperse impact.

With a little research there is a microadventure that can fit your schedule, budget and comfort level (though it is good to step outside of your comfort zone.). The following tips may help in your planning.

  1. Perfect isn’t fun. The point is that you get outside, unplug and spend time together as a family.
  2. Be flexible. You may want to get to the top of the mountain, but the kids may want to throw leaves into the stream.
  3. Let the kids lead.
  4. A packed backpack that weighs equal to or less than a quarter of the hiker’s body weight is ideal.
  5. Travel distance rule of thumb: a half mile per day multiplied by the youngest child’s age.
  6. Make sure you have something to spark curiosity (a bug net, field guide, magnifying glass, or binoculars).
  7. I always carry a first aid kit, bug spray, a space blanket, headlamp, matches, warm clothes & wind rain protection and duct tape.
  8. Carry snacks and water for every adventure no matter how short.