Puddle Stompers: Bitten

I got in trouble again. We were packing for today’s adventure (per Ada’s request) and I went to load our bag, the baby carrier and the camera.

“But no camera today”
“How about we bring it and see how we feel when we get there?”
A skeptical “Okay”

She was asleep by the time we got there. We had driven so long that she must have given up, as I was about to. Then, like these adventures go, I spotted the perfect place. I tried waking her only to hear adamant statements that she’d rather stay in the car. I told her we could eat snack, but only if we got out and walked around (the usual food bribery methods we all use).

Seconds later she was happily hopping and chatting away as we took our time walking around the house. See, I realized that our adventures were too focused on what great photos they would make rather than actually observing the nature and the buildings. We took one lap with no photos and talked about who might have lived here.

“A family. With a dog”

And this is why I love the creativity of young minds. We rounded the back of the house, which you can see is bare rafters in parts.

“An aminal took a bite”
“An aminal bit the house”
“What kind of animal?”
“It was an aminal and it saw the house was scary inside and then it wasn’t scared anymore”

Sure enough, you can look at the photos and imagine some animal came along and bit holes in the house. So, we peeked in windows, looked down cellars, played in the yard and picked ‘adventure flowers’. And I took a few photos once we had our fill of our grand adventure.

I’m finding the best things that happen are when we’re not mind numbingly hitting ‘refresh’ on the computer or stuck behind the camera. It’s the things we see when we’re present to see them. The things we can talk about and discover when we let our minds wander.

Puddle Stompers: Bitten

Puddle Stompers: You Make Me Brave

We walk from the car holding hands and then she stops.
“I’m going to just stand right here. Okay?”

I don’t blame her. There’s a silent fire engine 10 feet in front of us. In her little mind, I’d expect it to jump to life at any instant, lights and siren blaring. We talk about how there are no people or keys in it to turn on the lights. I offer to hold her hand so we can squeeze beside it to explore the abandoned house next to it.

“I can do it myself.”

I’ve seen her bravery grow the more we’ve been out adventuring. To the point where a ginormous fire engine is nothing more than a curiosity instead of a roaring dragon threatening to jump to life. We pick berries, find photo op spots, and I carry both kids and camera through the jungle-like grass and weeds to the front porch.

You can see the jungle of weeds in these photos. And Ada adamantly walks through about half of it all by herself, stomping down brush twice her height. Then, after getting tangled in a vine, requests I carry her, in addition to her brother, the rest of the way. I’ll have to remember to take a photo of the ridiculousness we walk through and how we do it.

Where did this bravery come from? When we first started, we both stuck to the car like tipsy babies cling to the couch when learning how to walk. Now she’s letting go of my hand to explore on her own.

The unknown is a big source of fear that can cripple us from exploring and trying new things. I’m seeing myself that by taking even the smallest of baby steps, you overcome a lot. Try it and you’ll be wading through jungle-like weeds to reach the clearing in no time. And your adventures will take you to places you’d never imagine you’d be. In that clearing, I’m finding passion. Passion that becomes hard to contain. It’s an exciting adventure with a worthwhile discovery.

Puddle Stompers: You Make Me Brave

Puddle Stompers: A Little Rusty

It’s the middle of summer and I feel like I’ve come out of winter hibernation. Ada had a few temper tantrums during our previous adventures, and after creative questioning to discover the workings of a 2-year old mind, I unearthed the fact that she doesn’t want the big camera along on our adventures. At least for now.

So, yes, we’ve been out exploring our rural world and seeing how nature has overtaken the inorganic, but I haven’t been able to share with you. You see, I take my word seriously….at least with our kids (and I’m working on cycling it through the rest of life). Decision making must be something else that you lose when half your brain cells get squeezed out of existence during childbirth.

We visited this rusty, gutted truck in the woods earlier in the week. Ada gleefully exclaimed “We found the truck! Great job, Mommy. You found it!” and expressed a desire to adventure again there with Daddy.

I asked, “How about we bring the camera next time?”

So, here’s our recent adventure that I can finally show you. Photographing in the woods is tricky with the mottled light coming through the leaves. I just blame it on the fact that I’m a little rusty (ha ha…oh, I’m so funny) from adventuring sans camera. It’s kind of like where I feel right now. Rusty. Stuck in one spot. Some days I just want to sit on the couch and wish the cacophony of little people would drown into the background. There’s no energy to get up, pack up, and take the chance that we can make it out of the house and back in one, sane piece.

I guess you need to oil the joints regularly and keep moving so you don’t rust and sink into the ground like this truck. Oil the joints regularly? Morning coffee and some time reading to get my head on straight. It’s a bonus if I can drink the entire cup hot and make it through reading in one sitting. Keep moving. Some days I have to tell myself not to stop. To go ahead and brush my teeth, get out of the house, empty the dishwasher yet again, and go through the perpetual motions. Because some days, going through the motions at least will help me not get stuck. And sometimes that momentum picks up and I actually accomplish things I need to. And that’s when I feel like I can rest.

We’re learning to rest at our home. To quiet ourselves, to be present. In that rest some of the most amazing ideas are born. Ideas for things of meaning that I want to do with you and show you. I guess not all the good brain cells ran for the hills in that labor and delivery room (just the ones that remember things and do math). We learn to rest or we’ll inevitably rust.

Puddle Stompers: A Little Rusty

Puddle Stompers: Your Own Backyard

Some days I get to the end of myself. She melts on the trail in a pile of hungry, tired tears. I tell her we’ll just go home, but selfishly I want to stay. Instead, I yell at our sweet two-year old. We then hug, I ashamedly say “I’m sorry”, take a bathroom break in the woods (to which said two-year old requests to also participate) and we wind up having a grand ol’ time.

Most of our adventures find us miles out into the country, but there are things to explore right here. Close to home. Today was that sort of adventure. We crashed a day camp full of elementary aged kids that ran circles around us, but we managed to find some quiet spots to explore at our own pace. And I must say, Ada is quite an accomplished technical trail walker, jumping off roots and rocks as good as any little fox running through the woods.

It was such a neat location (we even found an abandoned building! and I hear there are caves around too) that Ada suggested we come back again with Daddy to explore some more. All fine with me, dear. We desperately needed some space to run around today, and from here on, I’ll take a minute to check myself before I yell at you for just being you.

Puddle Stompers: Your Own Backyard

Puddle Stompers: German

“What’s your favorite smell?”
“Soap. Fences.”

– conversations with a Puddle Stomper

I’m one of those strange people who enjoys the smell of gasoline, rubber cement and books. I found a new favorite smell today too: old homes. It’s the smell you get when you visit your grandparents and the house today had it. Strangely, the house was merely remains of stripped walls, an exposed wooden framework, ceilings open to the sky and plants growing out of the floor. But if I inhaled, it smelled like Grandma’s house along Alum Creek.

Maybe the more years we live, the more we start to take on the earth around us. Like the Volkswagen growing out of the ground on the side of the garage in these photos. Steamy windows, a broken headlight, and a license plate of a design that faintly calls from my childhood. Although I almost expect that if you fill the tank and give the engine a crank, the old car would roar to life. That’s the thing about those German (and Swedish) cars. My husband’s family all drove Volvo’s into the ground. I wonder if it’s because their Germanness found solace in the great engineering of those European vehicles.

If you know anyone of German heritage, you’ll most likely see a great mathematical mind and a black-and-white approach to life. It’s something I’m appreciating more and more. Steve has this amazing way he can discern certain situations and come to decisions. I guess you could say our marriage is becoming like these abandoned homes. Straight-lined structures and strong architecture with winding plants for floors and wall coverings. The vines growing on the strongest of the structure. I’m obviously the organic, beautiful plant with roots that hopefully are growing deeper by the day, and Steve? Well, he has a firm foundation that won’t ever be shaken. And I hope together it’s beautiful.

The stories that could be told from what went on in the rooms of the house. The reasons why it stands as it is today. Oh, the things that intrigue us! I know there are couples like these places. You can see it in the way they interact together and it is captivating. Worth exploring and worth adventuring to find more like it. So, thanks to German cars and the smells of Grandma’s house to remind me that life examples are everywhere.

Puddle Stompers: German

Puddle Stompers: Betty

“Ada Elizabeth went to town
Dressed in her mother’s wedding gown…”

So begins the limerick Ada’s grandmother made up for her when she was fresh out of the oven. We put a lot of thought into naming our firstborn. “Ada” after Ada Lovelace, touted as the first female computer programmer and an amazing mathematician. “Elizabeth” after my great-grandmother, known by everyone as “Betty”.

Betty was a tough one from what I can remember of the stories. Sent to a sanitarium because of tuberculosis. Her three children taken into foster care, not to be reunited until my grandmother was 14 years of age. I saw none of that. I saw a sweet, old lady who made a plethora of plastic canvas goodies from Christmas stars we still hang each year on our Charlie Brown-esque artificial tree to little pouches for rain bonnets. I loved visiting her. And even as a small child, I remember attending her graveside funeral. My mom wrote something my mind recalls as “blah blah blah blah” as she read, but I remember the emotion she put into writing it and I remember the last line, “But most of all, I remember Grandma” (an homage to the play “I Remember Mama”).

While the kids and I adventured today, I found us driving by a cemetery that felt familiar. As if my mom’s voice was still softly floating over the aged gravestones from near past to the 1800’s. “I remember Grandma”. There happened to be an abandoned building across the street. Not my style. You know me by now. I love the places where people once lived and are now savagely consumed by nature. This appeared to be a business or apartment complex out in the middle of nowhere, across the street from an ancient cemetery.

We parked conveniently on the cemetery drive to walk across the street, but I felt the urge to see if this was where Great-Grandma was buried. I tried to explain what a cemetery was to Ada, but alas, 2 year-old minds have a hard time grasping things they haven’t experienced. We passed gravestones of those who fought in World Wars, an infant nestled in among the giant family pillar, and other markers from a time when Ada Lovelace herself was alive.

Then we found it. A neatly kempt, but rarely visited site. “Elizabeth”. I told Ada this was in memory of my own Great-Granny and after whom Ada’s middle name was taken. We touched the letters.

“This is Great-Granny’s home”, Ada said.

I think she gets it after all. Life has come full circle, from a history of our own family passed through to our kids to a history of Ada Lovelace carried through in the years on the worn gravestones hugging the worn edges of my great-grandmother’s cemetery. And we, with young life in our kids, seek out once again to explore the ancient, abandoned history of our rural state.

Puddle Stompers: Betty

Puddle Stompers: Family Outing

A quaint little brown house has been calling my name. Quaint, as in run-down, holes in the ceiling and the exterior taken over by climbing vegetation. When my husband said he would go with us, I was thrilled. We drove and drove without finding a place. Then we suddenly found ourselves passing the little brown house. Feeling extra courageous because we were all together, we stopped.

We ventured around the lot and discovered an open door. I suggested Steve have the joy of being the very first to explore the inside (no hidden motives for that, no sir). He did a quick scout while I hung with the kids so they wouldn’t run into the cornfield, then we swapped.

I have to say, like anything, it bodes well to trust your gut. I feel like the more we adventure, the more I get a good or bad feeling of a place. Steve asked what intrigues me about adventuring? I’ve been thinking about that question ever since. I like thinking about why these places have been forgotten. Thinking about what they were like in their glory days. I like seeing nature reclaim her own. To be deeply honest, I like confronting fear in a controlled way. I like that the kids will have something different to experience. I like to explore. To investigate.

Puddle Stompers: Family Outing