Life Lessons from my 11-year-old Self

In my recent purging of things from my past and cleaning and reorganizing as I settle back into my parents’ house, I’ve definitely come across some interesting things. One of the boxes I had avoided before but had to deal with as I actually moved in was a box full of my yearbooks, from grade five all the way through my senior year at Elon. Twelve yearbooks.

I was most intrigued by the one from my final year of elementary school, and highly amused when a piece of looseleaf paper fell out of it.

At the top, I had written the following in my blossoming cursive (I am one of those rare people who still writes in cursive) handwriting:

Elmwood has prepared me for the future by…

I couldn’t wait to read what insights I had about how elementary school had taught me about how to deal with the “real world” at that time. I came to find out that some of it was still pretty true.

Now I bring to you the essay, with my commentary in italics.

Little Lindsay on… sportsmanship.

Elmwood has prepared me for the future in many ways. (Great introductory sentence. I learned paragraph structure, apparently.) I have learned that you have to play by the rules of a game and have good sportsmanship. (I always loved sports.) You also have to try your best at everything you do. (Word.) In a game of kickball (my freaking gospel in elementary school), I learned that when someone gets out, you should say, “Nice try. You’ll do it next time.” (Pretty sure I never actually said that. I was a competitive little bia.) In another kickball game, I learned not to laugh at people when they kick it foul.

Little Lindsay on… people and friendship.

I have learned that all people make mistakes. (Preach, little me.) I found out some important information the hard way. I had sprained my ankle and hurt it again at kickball. (I told you I was a walking disaster.) Everyone tried to help me. That’s when I learned that my friends would always stand by me and help me. Two of my best friends acted as crutches to get me to the nurse. (Shoutout to Julie, because I’m pretty sure you were one of them!)

Little Lindsay on… being a child genius?

Some other information was easier to learn. (God, I loved topic sentences.) Basic facts in math, spelling, language and other subjects. (Apparently I was a child genius in academics, but the other basic life skills were a little more difficult to grasp.)

Little Lindsay on… taking pity on others?

I also learned things just by working with other people. I learned to try to work with everybody and help them. (Because I was so superior…clearly.) I also learned that you have to be patient with others. (Because they’re imbeciles and are wasting my time.)

Little Lindsay on… the REALLY important issues.

You also learn things for the future in specials. (Get ready for these gems…) In physical education, you learn to be on the opposite team of your friends. (Profound, little Linds. Although I must say, it’s an important life skill to this day.) You also learn teamwork in physical education.

In art class you learn how to be creative with your work. (Heyyy, liberal arts education!) I’ve also learned to listen to the teacher and not my friends. (I have no idea what that one is about.)

In library you learn how to find books and you learn about the Dewey Decimal System. (Yes. Because I use the Dewey Decimal System daily. And I now use the Internetz to find my books. I did love library though…)

In music we have learned to breath from deep down instead of right at the top. (My musical career did not progress much further than this lesson. I suppose those breathing techniques are useful for other things like yoga, which I don’t practice…)

In computer lab we learned that the internet is very slow. (Ohhhh, 1998… if only I knew what wonders lay ahead!)

Sadly, page two is missing.

So, let’s recap here.

  1. I learned all my most important life lessons while playing kickball.
  2. I really grasped the concept of paragraph and essay structure fairly well.
  3. I was a little bit elitist and snobby.
  4. The Dewey Decimal System is fairly irrelevant.
  5. Deep breathing and the Internet were some of the things that helped me prepare for the future.

Really, I’m not sure what to make out of most of this. A couple of the things were fairly wise for an 11-year-old. About relationships with other people. Lessons that I continued to learn, and am still learning today. But I think I definitely forgot some of the most important lessons, such as…

...how to appropriately dress for a sock hop in your school gym.

...how to look supremely awesome hand jiving with your best friend.

...that wearing your pajamas, pigtails and a pacifier and carrying around a stuffed animal is about as creative on Halloween as the slutty nurse is now.

...that you never EVER take pictures while you're eating, because you look like a pig.

...and perhaps most importantly, that you do not wear cartoon characters on your shirt. Yes, that is Angelica from the Rugrats (and Julie's wearing Pooh and friends.)

Oh well, lessons learned!

What are some of the lessons you learned as a kid that have stuck with you?

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Saying goodbye to childhood

We all reach a point in our lives when we’re ready to say goodbye to some things, to move on from childhood and fully embrace our lives as adults. It’s a different time for everyone – very early for some, I am sure. But I finally hit that point for good recently.

A childhood missed?

Throughout the years growing up, I was always told that I was much more mature than my peers and that I seemed so grown up in a lot of ways. I was often very serious and some people may have thought that, like Manny on Modern Family, I didn’t embrace my childhood the way I should have. But that’s not the case at all.

I was always playing, in some way. I was outside a lot: softball, playing catch with the kids who lived across the street, out on our swing set, swimming in our pool, riding bikes, tennis at the elementary school. You name it, we did it. I loved being outside and you could barely keep me indoors during the summer. And inside, I had my Barbies, my baby dolls, my Legos…I was always finding something new to get into in our basement.

Hanging on to the past

Over the course of my childhood, I gathered a lot of things that I wanted to keep as reminders of events and people in my life. I’ve always been the sentimental, nostalgic type, I guess. I had this massive box full of cards, presents, old flowers, certificates, report cards, postcards, school projects, invitations, super embarrassing diaries and journals…anything you can imagine.

I also held on to A LOT of my stuffed animals, porcelain dolls, figurines, tee shirts, etc. Because I just never knew when I would want to pull those things out again and look at them to be reminded of my past.

When I moved in December 2009, I went through some of the stuff, but didn’t get rid of very much. I could still keep it all at my parents’, so I didn’t care to go through it.

Executing the purge

In the past few weeks, there’s been a lot of purging of junk in my parents’ house. We started with my stuffed animals, dolls, and other decorations that were sitting on shelves in my old bedroom. Pretty much all of that got put into a pile for the yard sale, with the exception of two very important stuffed animals that I can’t get rid of. Everything else? I didn’t have the sentimental attachment anymore. I didn’t care who gave it to me or why they gave it to me. It was just stuff.

Right after that came a more visible sign of the end of childhood – the painting of the room. Since I was 14, my room in my parents’ house has been painted with clouds on the upper half of the walls and navy blue on the lower. And it was complete with glow-in-the-dark stars on the walls and ceilings.

In my 14-year-old mind, this was the coolest idea EVER. Now? PITA.

Surprisingly, the new paint covered up the navy wall, and it looks awesome with the new wood floors.

Mom asked me to remember how much work it was to get all that down when the time comes for me to decide if my son or daughter can do something similar…

But perhaps the most difficult part for me was going through my box(es) of mementos. There were things in those boxes literally from my birth right up until my senior year of college. I went through it all, piece by piece, and cut the cord on a lot of it. I started with three boxes, and got it down to just over one.

Cards from my baptism (I’m not even kidding)? GONE. My Sweet 16 birthday cards? RECYCLED. My certificates of achievement and report cards? ADIOS. My five letters congratulating me on my acceptance to Elon? PEACE OUT.

The things that really matter

I realized as I was going through all the papers and trinkets that those aren’t the things that matter. The only certificate of achievement I need now is my diploma. I don’t need any affirmation of how many people came to my Sweet 16 or my graduation parties. The people who matter are in my life now and I know they care.

Did some of it give me a little pang as I handed it to my nephew to throw out (hey, I need to keep him occupied!)? Yes, definitely. I even kept a few things I wasn’t ready to part with yet, like the composition book of letters my PopPop wrote to me.

But there will come another day and another time when I’m ready to part with those things. I won’t need them anymore just like I no longer need my rubber duck collection or every paper I wrote in college (although I still have those in digital form).

I’ve transitioned well into adulthood in every other way, but I was holding onto my past for a long time. In this time of change in my life, it was definitely what I needed. A little session to say goodbye to my past and help me move on. I’m not forgetting my past – I can’t. It’s made me who I am. I’m just embracing the future a little bit more now.

And the Bad Blogger Award goes to…

Me!

I have been atrociously remiss with blogging the past week or so, but life kind of got in the way. So what things have been taking up my blogging time? Well, here are just a few:

  • A breakfast date with my favorite Texans: Last Monday I met up with Mary and Drew for breakfast. They were in town for a family event and before Mary took Drew to the airport, we met at a nearby Denny’s for bacon flapjacks, breakfast burritos and skillets, as well as lots of laughter and catching up. Even if it was only for an hour, I’m so glad I got to see them.
  • Car problems: On Monday when I went out to my car to leave for breakfast, I was not-so-pleasantly surprised to find that someone had knocked my driver’s side mirror off. Soooo there’s been a lot of hoopla with that…calling the insurance company, duct taping the mirror on, searching for the part cheap online, trying to organize a friend of the family to install it for me, etc. Yayyy for ignorant people who live in my apartment building.
  • Childhood purging: On Wednesday last week, I went home to help my mom clean out my bedroom there. This meant getting rid of pretty much all signs of my childhood. Stuffed animals? Gone. Really embarrassing CD collection? Gone. (And yes, that is the Space Jam soundtrack.) Glow in the dark stars on the ceiling? Adios. These are things I wasn’t ready to part with when I moved out in December 2009, but it’s time to say goodbye now.
  • Writing, writing, writing: So I’ve been writing, just not here. I’ve been working on my travel writing course assignments, which have been…interesting. Not entirely thrilled with them so far, but hopefully I’ll be getting better. AND I’ve recently become a writer for Go! Girl Guides, which I am psyched about. My first post for them went up on Friday about how to conquer public transportation, so go check it out! I’m anxious to write more for them and see where this could lead!
  • Reading, reading, reading: They say you should read what you want to write, so I’ve been absorbing myself in travel magazines lately, reading them cover to cover and trying to pick up inspiration, tips and some goals to work toward.
  • Best burger ever: I spent Friday and Saturday with Kirsten. Much of that time was spent watching episodes of How I Met Your Mother, including the one where they are on the hunt for the best burger in NYC. This reminded me that I have been craving a burger for like a month now, so we set out on a mission. Destination? Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington. Time the establishment opens? Noon. Time we got there? 12:05. Number of tables available? 0. My burger of choice? The New Jack Zing. A cajun spiced burger, cooked PERFECTLY and OH so juicy, pepperjack cheese, grilled onions, charred jalapeños, lettuce, tomato and raw red onions. All on a fantastic bun. Number of paper towels I used? Five. Number of times I refilled my water? Three. Worth it? Absolutely. The best burger I’ve ever had, bar none. I can’t wait to go back.
  • Aussie Aussie Aussie!: (Oi Oi Oi!) Last night, I got to spend some time catching up with several of my friends from my semester abroad in Australia. One of the Australian girls is in the States this week to see her American boyfriend, who was part of my program. They decided to come to the DC area since Dustin, Will and I are all local and we could get a pretty big group together. Another one of our girl friends came down from Syracuse, so we had a decent sized group put together! I learned that I can revert back to my Australia partying style very easily, that Aussie accents sound a lot thicker after three years away from it, and that even after three years apart, some things never change and I still adore these people. It was a lovely night (that led to a not-so-lovely morning) and I am thrilled we all got together.
And of course today was Easter, so there was the requisite family time, which I always love. Hopefully I will be able to get back into the swing of blogging again this week. I do have a lot of things to be working on right now though, so we shall see! 
I hope everyone had a lovely weekend!

Traditions Old and New

I wrote this when I “blogged” (aka “livejournaled”) in high school and then later submitted it to our literary magazine. It was accepted and I later found out won a prize (I think third?) in the prose category. My parents surprised me by showing up at that ceremony and I got a framed copy of my piece when my name was announced. I just came across it again and thought it was appropriate to post this today. SO here it goes, a piece of my writing from when I was 17. (I’m not too embarrassed by this one…others should never resurface.)

“According to NORAD, Santa is in Philly right now. I remember taking that stuff seriously. I remember the good ol’ days…

Old Christmas Eve nights when Nana, Grandpop, Aunt Rie and Uncle Mike came over to celebrate. We’d eat cheese and cracked, cookies, chips and dip; we’d listen to 99.1’s all night Christmas music (which was often inappropriate for my sister’s and my virgin ears), and the DJs talking about where Santa was at that moment. Kristin and I would play Christmas music on the decrepit organ, and eventually, we’d exchange presents. Then Nana and Grandpop, Aunt Rie and Uncle Mike, and Mom and Dad would watch us play Nintendo…or sing and dance…or something, until we just couldn’t do anything else because we were so tired.

And then Grandpop would convince us to go to bed, because if we didn’t, Santa wouldn’t come. But, even if Santa didn’t come, it was OK, because we had just spent a fun night with our family. Before we did go to bed though, Kristin and I would change into the “cool” matching pajamas Mom got for us, and take the “before” picture: us lying on the floor looking sad because there were no presents under the tree. Then we would sit down, and Mom would read The Night Before Christmas to us, and when it was over, Kristin and I would go upstairs and go to bed, but often we didn’t sleep because of the excitement from that night. We didn’t want to leave our family, and we didn’t care if Santa didn’t come, we wanted to have more fun with our family.

Looking back, I miss Grandpop. I miss getting together, eating cheese and cracked, singing, listening to Christmas music, listening to the radio guys tracking Santa, and having fun with the family. I miss the concept of Santa – someone who would come and make dreams come true, but even if he didn’t come, it didn’t matter that much. I miss those hideously cheesy matching pajamas featured in the “before” and “after” pictures, and I miss reading The Night Before Christmas.

I miss the innocence and the excitement of those days – the days when all that mattered was having fun. It wasn’t about buying someone the right present, worrying about whether he’d exchange it for something better. It wasn’t about work. It wasn’t about diets, and whether or not a cookie was going to send it all to hell. No…it was about family. It was about fun. It was about childhood. It was about love and life and laughter. It was about Christmas. As I sit here today, barely aware of the fact that it’s Christmas Eve, I realize how much I miss my childhood. Right now, I’m in my basement, listening to 99.1, and they’re not playing Christmas music. They’re playing a song by Hoobastank.

My mom and dad are upstairs watching television, and my sister is out somewhere with her boyfriend. Grandpop is no longer with us. Nana, Aunt Rie and Uncle Mike are at their houses.

I’m not going to be wearing cheesy pajamas, posing for cheesy pictures. I’m not going to ask when Santa’s coming, play Nintendo, or play music on the organ. I’m going to sit here on the Internet, until midnight or later. And I’m not going to read The Night Before Christmas before I go to bed. I’ll probably be reading a book for school. Because I’m seventeen now. Those things don’t exist anymore, and there are more important things to worry about – I just don’t know who decided what’s important. Because, to me, what we used to have was important. But I know, I just know that one day, my childhood will be relived. When I have kids in the future, I want them to have what I had. What I want to have again: To know the real meaning of Christmas. The family, the love, the innocence, the childhood, and the fun. I know that tomorrow will be a great day, filled with family and fun, but I’ll always long for those Christmas Eve nights, when nothing mattered.

It was just Christmas.”

An update from 23-year-old me:

I was either really emo or really deep for a 17-year-old. Regardless, this makes me cry every time I read it.

My Uncle Mike passed away in March 2007, way way too young, after battling with cancer. I shared this with him, I think when he was in the hospital once, because I wanted him to know what those nights had always meant, and will always mean, to me. Now every Christmas Eve, I miss my Grandpop and my Uncle Mike tremendously thinking of those nights from my childhood.

My sister kind of stole my thunder on this part in her comment on the last entry, but starting last Christmas Eve, the tradition was resurrected. We now go to my sister’s house on Christmas Eve, and have dinner and snacks and cookies and open presents. My nephew now has those Christmas Eve nights with his Mommy and Daddy and Nonna and Pop and Aunt Linny (yes, he calls me Aunt Linny and I am 100% OK with it if it sticks forever). He gets to entertain us and open presents. And this year, he understands the concept of Santa, and I am so excited for him to grow up and for us to continue this tradition when he understands it more and more and can appreciate it.

I don’t think 99.1 has started its Twisted Christmas tradition again; I don’t listen to Hoobastank anymore (progress). And we don’t have an old school Nintendo system anymore, nor do we have Great Grandmom’s organ (although my sister apparently remembers the keys for “Jolly Old St. Nicholas”). But we do have the Wii and we played Guitar Hero last year. When Cody eventually gets a little brother or sister (no pressure, sis), I think I’ll have to convince her to get them matching PJs and do the “before” and “after” photos. But the rest is about the same.

I’ve got those Christmas Eve nights back now, just from the other side. And I love it.

Merry Christmas, everyone. Enjoy your traditions and your family.

No place like home… #1: The Perfect Childhood Home (Part Two)

I got the idea for these posts a while ago from Doniree’s blog and loved the idea of reliving my different “homes” from the first 23 years of my life. This is the continuation of a post about my first home. The first part was all about the backyard, which you can read here. And now, onto number two, the basement:

The Perfect Childhood Home (Part Two)

The Basement

Obviously our backyard was pretty badass, but the basement was pretty sweet too. (By the way, you may wanna click on some of these photos to see them bigger…some of the details are pretty hilarious spectacular.)

It’s where my sister and I had slumber parties with our friends, including the one slumber party I will never forget where my dad, from upstairs, turned on the speakers for the basement and blared the beginning of Pink Floyd’s “Time,” which sent us all running up the stairs into the kitchen screaming.

It’s where we played “school” and “grocery store” – my sister being the teacher and the shopper, me being the student and the cashier. It’s where we had a gigantic beanbag that had to be restuffed and repatched a million times. It’s where we had our Nintendo console, and thus where we spent hours upon hours playing Paperboy, Super Mario Bros., Wheel of Fortune and Family Feud…and blowing on those damn cartridges when they didn’t work.

It’s where we played with Barbies for more hours than I can even begin to count, with the dreamhouse with the working elevator, the Corvette, the topless Jeep and the outfits our Mom-Mom made for our Barbies and Kens.

It’s where we had our computer, from that first DOS computer with the super old school Jeopardy game to the first one that had Internet where I spent hours talking to strangers in AOL chat rooms with the screennames “Frogrkween” or “Bball98Dgrz” because Frogger, basketball (um…what?! who was I??) and boy bands were all I cared about at that point in my life.

It’s where we were convinced my Great Grandmom Farace was haunting us because we tried to throw out her heinous George & Martha Washington statuettes.

But most memorably and most importantly to me, it’s where we did Christmas.

All of the cousins on my mom's side (at the time...we have one more!) in our basement for Christmas. Note that my sister and I are wearing matching outfits. This becomes a theme.

It’s where we decorated our Christmas tree with precision as we listened to Christmas carols. It’s where we cleaned up after the tree fell in the middle of the night one year, cleaning up shards of irreplaceable ornaments. It’s where my sister and I opened our matching pajamas on Christmas Eve, changed into them and took the sad “before” picture under the presentless tree.

The first evidence I could find of these "before" pictures. Matching PJs? Check. Sad faces? We tried...

I can't get over my sister's haircut and eye makeup in this. Or the fact that I've never been able to successfully take "sad" pictures.

WHAT?! NO MATCHING PAJAMAS?! Come on, Mom...

It’s where my Nana and Grandpop and Aunt Rie and Uncle Mike came every Christmas Eve, where we ate cheese and crackers and cookies and chips and dip. It’s where my dad and grandfather would share some beers at the bar while Kristin and I played Nintendo and listened to HFS’s Christmas music.

Playing Nintendo on Christmas Eve while Nana, Grandpop and Dad look on. And having to have our eyes forcefully removed from what I'm guessing was a rousing game of Paperboy.

The main purpose of this is to show the toys we had down there. Washer and dryer; stove; kitchen sink; Barbie dreamhouse; white board; dancing flower (YES!); ironing board. Very domesticated. Clearly.

Nana and Grandpop investigating a gift of some sort, while Uncle Mike peruses the food on our cleverly disguised pool table.

It’s where we played “Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” on Great Grandmom Farace’s organ. It’s where we opened presents with our grandparents and then delayed going to bed until Grandpop told us Santa wouldn’t come. It’s where our parents read “The Night Before Christmas” to us and where we put the milk and cookies for Santa before retreating upstairs.

It’s where we barreled down the stairs in the morning to eat cinnamon rolls and drink hot chocolate and take the coveted “after” picture of us rolling in our presents, still in our matching pajamas.

The coveted "after" shot. This one's not as epic as the others, but the pajamas and my pose are pretty ridiculous.

Thaaaaat's better. Also, check out my sister's hair. Snookie anyone?!

The best of the faces, I think. So ridiculous.

It’s where my Christmas traditions were born, where I learned the importance of family, the simplicity of being together on a holiday that means so much. It’s one of the places I retreat to in my mind when I’m having issues remembering my late Grandpop and my late Uncle Mike. It’s where I remember joy and laughter and love. It’s a place I hope I can someday recreate for my kids in my own home.

So much to check out...my dad's 'fro, my mom's hideous holiday outfit, my sister's and my matching outfits, the Troll dolls we're clutching, my Barney doll. And the tights...ohhhh, the tights.

Ohhh, Mom decided to match us this year! And Dad's 'fro is still out of control.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, Nana and Grandpop, Aunt Rie and Uncle Mike, for making those Christmases so perfect.

No place like home… #1: The Perfect Childhood Home (Part One)

I saw this on Doniree’s blog quite a while ago and loved the idea of reliving my different “homes” from the first 23 years of my life. I haven’t lived nearly as many places as she has, but each one of them has a very special place in my heart and I will always remember them each fondly.

And because each of them were each such significant periods of my life (12 years in my first home, then in my second until I left for college), I think they’re each worthy of their own posts. So I bring to you now the first installment…or part one of it, because it got lengthy:

The Perfect Childhood Home (Part One)

I cannot imagine having grown up anywhere other than in Overlea, Md., just over the Baltimore City/County line. My parents and sister moved to the spacious rancher with the huge backyard in 1986. Legend (as legendary as my family stories can be) has it that very soon after they moved in, the next door neighbor told my parents, “Well, you know what this means…new house, new baby!” My parents said, “Noooooooo, definitely not.”

Cue my arrival on March 31, 1987. Yep, that’s right, folks…I was an accident. (A happy one, I’ve been told. I’ve also seen video footage of the drunken July 4 party that may or may not have led to my conception. And had nightmares for a week afterward.)

So ANYWAY… the house I spent the first 12 years of my life in was a dream come true for a kid. Most of my favorite memories from my childhood take me back to one of two places: the backyard or the basement.

I was raised in that backyard from the time I was about 3 weeks old as my sister used to push me in my stroller around the pool.

Our backyard was seriously a fantasy land. From our dining room, you entered our screened-in back porch. Beyond that was the yard, complete with a pretty baller swingset. Once you got to the white picket fence (no joke), you could enter the pool area, greeted by the in-ground pool, the brick barbecue pit and the horseshoe pit. Every memory of summer for me as a child takes place in that back yard.

If you can get past my father's afro, you can see the screened porch, the backyard and the pool area. Dreamland.

I remember the pool opening parties we had, where we took the cover off the pool and spread it out in the yard to scrub it clean, wearing sponges on our feet and wielding hoses and soap, having water wars before we folded it up to be put in the shed, which my Grandpop built, for the season.

 

My stud of a grandfather building our new shed. And shockingly, my father is in the shed using a power tool!

I remember the time we drained and repainted the pool, with family and friends over to help out (and earn their fair share of booze and food).

My dad assuming his usual position - alone, beer in hand, reflective sunglasses on - between shifts at the brick barbecue pit.

I remember the 4th of July parties (not unlike that first one) with loud music, lots of booze, more friends and family than I even knew existed, a karaoke machine and a constant stream of food going between the pit and the porch.

My super-dark Grandpop at one of our epic pool parties.

I remember picking honeysuckle with my sister and friends. I remember playing Barbie pool hotel with my best friend Julie for hours on end, with breaks to play on the swingset.

I am not in this picture, but it was the only one I could find of our swingset. This is my sister and my cousin Lauren. I was somewhere in a stroller, I'm sure.

I remember playing “Uncle Sharkbait” with my cousins and my Uncle Mike, where we were all sharks and we would attack him in the pool. For years, he signed every birthday and Christmas card as Uncle Sharkbait. (I’m really sad I couldn’t find any photographic evidence of this.)

I remember my dad’s 40th birthday party, where he jumped in the pool wearing a blazer, tie, swim trunks and tube socks after singing karaoke. (The only photographic evidence of this is in a frame in my parents’ basement.)

And in August 1997, I remember my Grandpop’s wake, which was absolutely a celebration of his life rather than mourning his death. Our entire extended family was there. The food and booze were plentiful as always. There was karaoke. There was dancing. There was love and laughter.

My grandmother with her sisters and brother.

My grandmother and her sisters singing karaoke, a staple at our parties.

I remember when my Dad ran over the bunny hole with the lawnmower and fur went flying everywhere. (Or at least I remember the story about it happening.)

And aside from the backyard was the dead end on the side of our house, where we rode our bikes, raked giant leaf piles that we would cannonball into, and built snowmen.

One of our epic leaf piles in the dead end next to our house.

So much of my childhood was spent outside in our backyard, in the dead end, on that screened-in porch (and of course on the softball field, sledding on the hills at the elementary school and playing in the woods). These days, that’s not the case for SO many kids and it makes me unbelievably sad. My outdoor experiences and ultimately, my outdoor education, definitely formed a significant part of my childhood and I will never forget it. Luckily, my nephew LOVES being outside (and has a pretty good backyard to run around in too!) and I’m going to make sure my kids (WAY down the road) do too.

Wish I could do this again!