The House Built On L♡VE & Shenanigans

The In's and Out's of Family Life in Charlottesville, VA


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Take A Hike!

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When Rachael asked what I wanted to do for Fathers Day, I made it clear that whatever it would be, it would have to be done on Saturday – because on Sunday, my plan was to do nothing but lounge around all day while she took sole control of entertaining the kids.

Sunday was going to be the one day of the year that I sat in my drawers all day, fluffed up the pillows, remote in hand, and metaphorically got the big piece of chicken!

With my under-active Fathers Day plans laid out, Saturday, would be our day spent doing something lively together.  I wanted us to get some exercise out in the sun with the birds and trees, and pesky bugs, surrounded by nature.

We decided to go take a hike!

I have a newfound love for hiking, and lately it’s become one of our go-to family activities.  Along with the obvious cardiovascular benefits to hiking, Active.com listed 5 reasons why it can be valuable.

  • Helps you stay limber
  • Minimal equipment needed, just some comfortable shoes and a water bottle.
  • Gets the family together
  • You can set your own pace – go hard, or take it easy.
  • Get Your Zen on, while appreciating nature.

We’ve hiked Humpback Rock a couple of times before, so we chose to try someplace new. I Googled, “places to hike in Charlottesville” to find a spot that would be most suitable.

So on Saturday morning, we loaded the girls up in the van, and off we trekked to Crabtree Falls.

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Crabtree Falls is located in George Washington National Forest, located about 50 miles south of Charlottesville in Nelson County, VA.  It is said to be one of the tallest set of water falls east of the Mississippi.

Following our phone GPS, (which is sometimes a bad idea in Central Virginia) we were led up one road and down the next – until Siri, robotically announced “your destination is on the left!”

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The sign on the left read, “Crabtree Falls Campgrounds.” Believing we had arrived, we stopped and parked.  Oddly enough, I could hear the sound of rushing water, but I didn’t see any waterfalls. We hiked around the campgrounds for nearly an hour searching for access to the falls before the camp proprietor, a very cordial fellow by the name of Dave, informed us that we weren’t quite where we thought we were.

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After he pointed us in the right direction, and gave the girls free ice cream, (how bout that ol’ southern hospitality) we had to drive about a quarter mile up the winding, wooded road to get to the falls.

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We were all taken aback as we marveled at the beauty of this natural wonder! A true feast for the senses!

Crabtree Falls is divided into three sections, with a hiking trail that leads to the top.  The trail continues on for about 13 miles.

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After we tramped to the crown of the falls, I was forced to make the executive decision to call an end to the excursion.  That’s because my dang legs started shaking, quaking, and trembling so bad, that I would’ve had to have been emergency air lifted off that mountain on a stretcher had we gone any farther!

Journey being carried in a pack up Humpback Rock 2014.

Journey being carried in a pack up Humpback Rock 2014.

I was the only one who couldn’t continue – even Journey, was hanging tough, this being her first hike not being carried in a pack.

Other than my body failing me, it was a lovely way to spend the day.  And if you’re wondering, I did spend the next day in my boxers allowing the Netflix to wash over me as planned.

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A nice balanced Father’s Day weekend…the best gift I could have received!

MB

 


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Happy 5th Birthday To Our Journey!!

 

Journey's bday 2015

Five years ago, on a rainy day in June, the clouds temporarily parted to allow for your arrival!

Sound corny? Maybe, but that’s the way I remember the birth of my third little daughter.

As a parent caring for a willful, sometimes demanding child, it hasn’t always been easy. And I must say that you’ve certainly earned your name, because at times, you can be a “trip.” 🙂

But you are also so smart, funny, and very imaginative! You have without a doubt changed our lives for the better!

Happy Birthday to our little Journey…Thank you so much for coming to us!

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MB

 


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Marley’s Passion for “The Puppy Place”

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While perusing the rows and rows of children’s book titles during the annual spring book fair at school this year, Marley stumbled upon a cute little book that would quickly ignite a fabulous reading frenzy – one any parent would be proud of.

The cover featured a dog named Stella. Marley promptly devoured the book in little over a day, and hungered for more!

Stella, is one in a series of chapter books entitled The Puppy Place, written by prolific author Ellen Miles. Once Marley discovered that more of these books were available at the library, she began grabbing as many as she could each week.

In the beginning she’d attempt to check out so many, that I had to limit her to five books at a time.  Of the (at least) 38 books currently available in the set, Marley has read 20 of them so far.  Sometimes completing up to three in one week!

On our spring break trip to the Outerbanks in April, Marley asked if she could bring all five of the books she had checked out from the library, assuring me that she’d read them.  I suggested that she only bring two – I figured that she wouldn’t be able to read them all while we where on vacation at the beach. I found out later that she had smuggled all five of her books anyway.

And in ONE week, she succeeded in reading them all!

“See daddy, I told you I could read them all, and you said I wouldn’t.  I was right and you were wrong,” she triumphantly announced.

I gave her a huge hug and big high five, admitting that I had underestimated her will to read!

Can I really be upset with a child who sneaks books to the beach?

Journey with her library selections.

Journey with her library selections.

Delaney prefers the real deal.  Seen here with a neighbors dog.

Delaney prefers the real deal. Seen here with a neighbors dog.

Even Journey has been bitten by the doggie book bug, stating recently that, “I only want doggie books Dada!” Delaney, on the other hand, though she loves to read, prefers the real thing.

Marley’s reading is so remarkable that I sat down with her to ask about her love for this series.

Me – So how’s it going Marley?

Marley – Umm good! Can I go now?

Me – Not yet Marley, I want to ask you some questions about The Puppy Place.

Marley – Ooooh booooy, seriously Dada?

Me – Seriously Marley.  So how many Puppy Place books have you read?

Marley – Oh, I don’t know, I’ll have to make a list.

So she took out a sheet of paper and wrote down a complete list of the books she’s read on one side, and the ones she hasn’t on the other.

Marley – 20 read, 18 unread.

Me – Why do you like Puppy Place so much?

Marley – Cause its about puppies and I love puppies!

Me – Which one of these books is your favorite?

Marley – Mocha!

Me – Why is Mocha your favorite?

Marley – Cause Mocha is a cute little puppy and she’s adventurous.

Me – If you had to pick just one of the puppies in the book series to have as a pet, which would it be?

Marley – Hmmm, let me see…I think it would be Bella.  Yeah Bella!

Me – Why?

Marley – Cause she’s a new born puppy and I think it would be exciting to raise a new born puppy from birth.

Me – Are these your most favorite books ever?

Marley – Yes, these are my most favorite chapter books I’ve ever read.

Me – Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Marley – Ummm, no, I think that’s it.

Me – Ok, thank you Marley for this exclusive interview.

Marley – You’re welcome…Wooo, BYE!!

I’m thrilled that she’s found books that she enjoys this much.  My hope is that her love of reading is something that she’ll carry with her…Fur-ever!

MB


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Bedtime Just Got Real – Death and Bereavement in Children’s Books

IMG_3268“When I came home from school the next day, Mommy told me Lulu was dead.  She took me on her lap and we both cried.  ‘Do you want to see her and say goodbye?’ Mommy asked.  I wanted to say goodbye, but I was afraid, too.  Mommy held me close.  It was Lulu’s body, but so still, still as the floor or the walls or the chair.  Mommy reached out and ran her hand along Lulu’s back.  She held my hand so I could touch Lulu’s fur.  It was soft and fuzzy.  I wanted to say goodbye to Lulu, but all I could do was cry.”

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This is an except from Corinne Demas’ sincerely written book entitled, Saying Goodbye to Lulu.  It’s the touching story of a young girl who is coming to terms with the death of her dog Lulu, her once energetic, and spunky little companion.  Told with deep compassion, and beautifully illustrated by Ard Hoyt, this book tenderly deals with a topic that can at once be viewed as both shocking and scary, but it’s conveyed in a very eloquent and tactful manner.

When we discovered this book on a recent trip to the library, I hadn’t a clue what it would be about until I cracked it open for our evening story time.  As you might guess, we checked out the book in the first place because there is a dog on the cover.  I must say that once I began reading, I was instantly taken aback the profound subject matter.

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Of the countless books that they’ve read themselves, and that I’ve read to them, this is the first (that I can remember) which deals with such a somber subject.  For a moment, I wasn’t sure if I should continue reading, but I chose to press on – carefully judging their reactions.  They seemed to be taking the story in stride, and by the end, gave me the impression that they were rather unfazed by the solemn experience of Lulu’s passing. They seemed to possess a quiet “knowing” that death is just a fact of life.  Maybe this stems from the five goldfish, one hamster, and one rabbit, we once called family, that have since passed on to the great beyond.

My concerns over reading this story to my girls left me with this question:  When is the right age to expose children to the inevitable fate that ultimately awaits us all?

As I sought to answer this question for myself, I remembered that there have been many children’s books that have focused on death and bereavement in the past, but had forgotten about.  Stories like, Charlotte’s WebGoodnight Mister Tom, and The Giving Tree!  And I find it encouraging to see that there are books that attempt to address other moral issues as well as social concerns.  For example, my book The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff, touches on the issues surrounding materialism and over-consumption.

IMG_3272I suppose that these books that wrestle with stronger subject matter such as death and dying are important and valid – and in an essential way, help us remember our loved ones with a tremendous amount of love.

MB


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We Are In The Production Phase

Cover-The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff copy

I am excited to announce that we have reached the production stage for The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff! 

Charlottesville area book designer Josef Beery, and I have joined forces in an effort to bring you a beautiful and visually stimulating book!

We are gearing up for our September 2015 publishing date!

I will keep you posted as things continue to progress.

MB

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Fun At The Farmstead

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The afternoon sun was beating down heavily on top of my freshly shaved, uncovered dome.  The decision to leave my hat in the car was a bad move, I thought, as prickly beads of sweat begin to slowly creep down the back of my neck.  And there was not a tree in sight large enough to shield this weary body of mine.  Yet the constant happy chatter and the sound of spontaneous laughter indicated that my kids were somehow immune to this fiery inferno.

We were back in the Kansas City area recently for my brothers wedding, so we found ourselves at one of our kids’ favorite destinations – Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead.

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Deanna Rose is a charming petting zoo in Overland Park, KS that’s set up to feel like a family farm.  According to their website, it is a 12-acre “children’s farmstead” where little ones can bottle feed goats, milk cows, take horsey rides, and take a ride on a horse drawn wagon.  Plus, it’s FREE during the week!

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Of course we did all of these things and more.  And after I retrieved my hat from the car, we strolled down to the pond to try our hand at fishing with an old school cane pole.  There were plenty of fish swimming around because we could see them, but unfortunately for us, we couldn’t seem to snag not a one!  Either they didn’t like the worms we were using for bait, or we really need to brush up on our fishing skills, but one things for certain, they were not fooling with us!

The girls where mighty disappointed, especially since there were other kids around who were actually catching fish and shouting with glee each time they pulled one flapping outta the water.  I think it was just my imagination, or maybe my ego was getting the better of me at this point, but it seemed like one little boy actually looked at me as if to say “Na-nana-naa-nah!”

“Oh no he didn’t,” I thought! Oh, he’s lucky I didn’t just reach out and snatch his pole – but I didn’t wanna start nothing up in the family farmstead.

One little girl was catching so many that we tried to ease on down to her spot hoping that some of her magic would rub off onto us! This tactic proved to be ineffective as she STILL caught two more while we stood right there next to her!  There we where, on the soggy bank of the pond, looking dazed and confused with no fish, just a big ol’ useless slimy bucket of worms.  This was around the time that the girls conveniently began to complain about being bored, so we decided it was a good time to hang up our pole.

 

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Aside from the heat, and being bested by those wily fish, we had a blast as usual.  It’s times like these that remind us how much fun it can be when we place our focus on creating joyful experiences for ourselves vs. concentrating on buying too much stuff, in an effort to find fulfillment.  Simply enjoying time together as a family was the order of the day.

Mission accomplished!

MB