Barefoot-in-the-kitchen

Way back at Christmas time Rob’s dad gave us their hand-me-down canoe which they kept at the Grandparents’ house in Virginia. We finally picked it up and drove it home to our garage over Spring Break.

On an angsty day in the late spring I complained that I never get to do anything fun, not even take out our own canoe because I’m always home doing the day to day stuff. So I named the canoe Barefoot-in-the-kitchen, and got a babysitter for the day and Rob’s sister Molly and I took Barefoot-in-the-kitchen out for a ride down the Cuyahoga River. We had a leisurely day out exploring the strip of wilderness which runs between Kent and Waterworks Park. There were deer with their fawns, herons, geese and goslings and groundhogs. There was quiet and peace, and moderate adventure. It was completely worth the trouble of loading Barefoot up and taking it  back down.

I hadn’t had the chance to take the kids out yet, so I brought it to an end of the year picnic with some Redeemer families. The river was flooded over the banks so it wasn’t safe to take the kids out, but I just couldn’t resist. We pulled it over to a section of the parking lot which flooded and canoed around the puddle instead. It wasn’t exactly an adventure, but at least I knew all my kids, even Cressida were sea ready. They followed the rules and stayed in their seats.

So when we left to go on our annual Mom/kid-only camping trip with our friends the Penns (Colleen from Clever Nesting), I brought Barefoot with us. We spent three days in Hocking Hills State Park. On the second day we took Barefoot out on Lake Logan. Two moms and 5 kids.

This guy saw us unloading Barefoot and said, “Where are your men?” I chuckled, “Our men travel for a living so we have fun without them.” The man chuckled back and said, “Ah, revenge.” It’s not exactly revenge… more like not giving up and being boring just because it’s hard. When you’re a kid, challenging adventures are worth doing because a lot of the things you have to do are already challenging, you might as well put up with more challenges so you can have some fun. Once you become a grown-up you know how to avoid the challenges and walk the easier route. There’s so much to do, you don’t always have time for the challenge. But I’m finding that the stuff my kids enjoy doing as a family the most are the things that take the most effort and patience on my part. Also, I’d rather be out on Barefoot-in-the-kitchen than be at home, barefoot, in the kitchen.

The challenge is worth it.

And then when we come home and spend the whole next day on the couch playing Minecraft, I don’t feel so guilty.

Octopus’s Garden

Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love it even more than Christmas. I think the reason I like Halloween so much is that no matter how much consumer junk there is available to just buy and be done with it, there is really no reason to accidentally spend $1000 on Halloween like there is for Christmas. Also, no matter how easy it is to buy a Halloween costume, it doesn’t discourage a ton of people from getting down with their creative self (even if they think they aren’t creative) to make a costume out of clothes from the thrift store or cardboard or fabric.

This year I spent the two weeks leading up to our school’s “Trunk or Treat” making a family’s worth of under the sea themed costumes. The girls all decided to be mermaids, so that was easy. We went online and looked at Google Images of mermaid costumes until they picked the one they liked the best. They settled on the ones that were the easiest to make, thank goodness, and I got them all done in one weekend.

Everyone say Hi to our neighbor, the fairy.

My original plan was to make a Cat Bus hoodie for my costume, but the girls told me I needed to be in the theme, so I changed my mind to octopus. I used 2 yards of fleece fabric (because it’s OHIO and it’s cold on Halloween every year) and draped it over my mannequin to make the pattern. There was no measuring, just guessing, because that is what knit fabric is for.

Notice I am not the only crazy person in this family.

I used jewelry wire to hold the non-sleeve tentacles in shape, and hot glued minkie fleece to the underside of the tentacles for suction cups.

Then we made a giant sand castle out of cardboard boxes and sprayed it with glitter glue. And put the whole thing in front of a fabric ocean scene hanging from the gate of our trunk. And for the whole event I played Octopus’s Garden by the Beatles on the van’s speakers. Can’t you tell everyone loved it?

Oh yeah. I never got a picture of it, but Rob wore a golden crown and carried a trident I made out of a hiking stick. And we passed out Swedish Fish.

I may have gone a bit overboard.

Bigger and Better

While I ran errands today I drove through Highland Square, the little town center I’ve called home for the last 10 years. In that time, I have seen it change a little here, a bit more there. For example, the closing of Two Amigos. Or, the knocking down of the Star Market to build the shopping center with Chipotle and the new Highland Square branch of the Akron Library. The development that has happened has been controversial, but over all, I would have to say the Square is improving.

I moved to the West Hill/ Highland Square area with my pseudo-sister Sharon after we graduated from High School. We rented an apartment which we named “Spiritual Rehab,” and lived there for a year. After our lease was up, she got married and moved in with her husband to a two bedroom apartment in the Crescent Apartments right in the heart of the Square. When we’d visit together we’d sit on the grassy spot between the Crescent and her twin building the Von and drink coffee from Angel Falls. I always wished I had gotten an apartment in one of those buildings.

Instead, when I married Rob we moved into the second and third floor of a century home in West Hill. Sharon and my sister Brittany planned my bachelorette party. We met in Highland Square (can anyone remember where?! I am drawing a blank) first, and Sharon introduced our event for the evening. We divided into two groups and each group was given a penny. We were given a two hour time limit and told that we had to ask strangers to trade us the penny for something “bigger and better.” Then to trade the next thing for something else bigger and better. Hence, the name of the game: Bigger and Better.

One group took off in their cars. My group crossed the street and went into the Crescent apartments and started knocking on doors. In one apartment we traded the penny for a quarter. In the next a man in his underwear holding a cat traded us the quarter for a frisbee. We knocked on a few more doors only to get rejected, so we crossed the driveway over to the Von.

We were much more successful there. At the first door we tried we were invited into a home which was decorated with neon green walls and a spiral of microwaved CDs on the wall. Not only were the renters super nice, but they traded us the frisbee for a plastic 80s elementary school chair. We thanked them and tried another apartment on the third floor. Those renters traded us the school chair for an oak desk.

We carried the desk down three flights of stairs, just about out of time, and shoved it into the back seat of Brittany’s car. We ran out of room in the back seat for people, so my friend Eliza rode in the trunk. When we got to the restaurant we where we had agreed to meet up, the other group had traded their penny for another friend of mine who came along to the party. I decided that was cheating, so we won. Besides it was my bachelorette party, so I got to win no matter what. In the end we ended up giving the desk to the friend who the penny was traded for and it was a successful night for everyone.

So that’s my story of the Crescent and the Von. Today I watched a backhoe knock them down to rubble. I couldn’t help but wonder if what was going there in their place will be bigger and better. Or maybe it’s just more parking. Does anyone out there in Akronville know the story? What’s going to live in the footprint of the great twins of Highland Square?