Children’s literature: Mom and Daughter Relive Costa Rica via Scrapbook

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“Mom, we have to find a picture for Daddy to paint– somewhere cool that I’ve been to!” Sophia exclaimed, the next morning.

Sophia’s little brother was still sleeping, so mom and daughter sat on the couch to look at the family scrapbooks.

Sophia goes through her baby pictures. “Am I still that cute, Mama?” she asks. “You are even more beautiful now.” her mama says.

Sophia reads a caption on the page: “I never tried to squeeze my baby’s feet into shoes before– her feet get stronger without them. But now that she’s walking outdoors, I emptied the bag of hand- me- down baby shoes that Karla gave us, and found two pairs that fit her. Here’s Sophia in her first shoes!

“Wait, Mama!” Sophia said. Karla gave us used baby shoes?”

“Yes, what’s wrong with that?” asked Mama.

“Karla the airline stewardess?! I got my shoes from someone who had traveled all over the world? No wonder I’ve been to so many places already– I’m wearing someone else’s shoes! I bet her daughter traveled with her in these shoes, and now I am traveling! See Mama, shoes do take you places!”

Mama just smiled. “Let’s look at your pictures in Costa Rica. You were only 1 and 1/2 years old then. Your first trip overseas.”

Turning the page, Sophia saw that Mama had embellished it with detailed journal entries. Now that she was old enough to read, Sophia found herself delighted at what she was learning!

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Here’s Sophia at 4:00 a.m. ready and waiting to go to Chicago O’Hare airport. minus 13 degrees outside– January in Chicago! Hard to believe Central America is only four hours away by plane!  It’s winter here, but Costa Rica will still be having their summer. Wonder how hot it will be and how many bugs? Part of our time we’ll be up in the mountains, so we’ll keep some sweaters and rain jackets, but leave most of this winter clothing behind once we get to the airport. Hard to believe Central America is only four hours away by plane! Costa Rica, here we come!

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When we first arrived, the sky was clear but the wind was blustery. We were told that the wind gusts were unusual and had to to with Mount Turrialba volcano having erupted on January 5, 2010– one week earlier. Vocanoes can send ash far up into the stratosphere and this can continue affecting weather for quite a while. High winds and even rain and thunder in the sky can result from a volcanic eruption. No one was hurt in the volcano that year, but everyone felt the high winds were very unusual for such a mild climate.

Our trip started and ended with San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica. San Jose is packed with cars. Only ten years ago, people mostly took buses or rode bicycles. But then people started being able to afford cars. There are so many cars that the city of San Jose made a law that people can only drive their car one day a week, and on the weekend. Some people may drive on Mondays, other people on Tuesdays, etc! So people still have to take buses or share their car with someone else. It did take us incredibly long to get to our hotel!

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In Costa Rica, coffee beans grow. They have the best tasting coffee in the world! And guess what? Mommy never cared for coffee before– until she had to start chasing little Sophia around! Yep, we had to put you on a little harness sometimes!

You ran all over in those little sandals. We put them on you in San Jose and you wore them the entire trip, until we returned to San Jose, and you lost one of them at a concert and cried for two days. We never found the missing sandal. It seems that it wanted to stay in Costa Rica. Funny to think of it, we got those sandals and summer clothes from a friend who had taken her kids to Puerto Rico. Her little girl is only a little older than you and they are part Peurto Rican– like you and Daddy. I think that sandal wanted to stay near the Carribean. I can’t blame it– sandals don’t like Chicago winters!

Children’s Literature, Chapter 5: The Little French Shoes

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The last chapter ended with a description of the scrapbook with mother and daughter looking at it together. That will take more work as it is a visual post with captions. It will require a painting, and fewer words. Here I am jumping to the next “chapter” where Sophia remembers the little French shoes she owned when the family lived out West. She begins composing a story about a little French girl she met, or imagines meeting….

Mamma, Sophia and her little brother glided over the cobbles stones on the Woodstock Square. “Can we get some fresh blueberries from the Farmer’s Market?” Sophia asked. “After your karate lesson,” Mamma said.

A woman walked speedily past them towards an office building. Her high heels made a “clip clop” noise as she passed. “Are those the kind of shoes you want, Sophia?” Mamma teased, “fancy shoes that go clip clop like a horse? Ride a fine horse to Banburry Cross, Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, she shall have music wherever she goes..” Mamma sang the nursery rhyme and both children laughed.

“When I was in England,” said Mamma, ” I bought a pair of black shoes that were low cut with sturdy wide heels. They lasted a long time. The woman I bought them from said she had a pair. ‘I can even walk over cobblestones in them and not feel a thing!” Mamma did her best British accent to imitate the woman at the shoe store in England.

“Didn’t I have little boots that were sturdy and were different colors? Miss Kristine said they were made in France– she knew because she was a nanny there, remember? And we got them at a little town like this, where Daddy was showing his paintings.”

“My goodness,” exclaimed Mamma. “You remember that, and you were only 2 1/2? Those boots you wore when we went to Portland and you were feeding the ducks? Yes, we got them in Pullman, Washington, where Daddy used to work. There were some cute shops there, and we got you the boots at a children’s consignment store. Daddy displayed some paintings there at another store when Pullman had their art walk. And what did you do during the art walk, but try on more shoes while I was hanging paintings.”
“Yes,” said Sophia, “you have a picture of me trying on shoes in the scrapbook. And I’m pretty sure I met the little French girl at the art walk.”

“Really,” said Mamma, “I don’t remember that part.”

“It was fun looking at scrapbooks with you yesterday, Mamma! It helped me remember a lot!”

Fall Camping: Places to Go

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Take a deep breath and get ready to welcome fall! Less bugs, cooler evenings, changing colors– the perfect time for a camping trip! If your little ones are not in school yet, what a great time for a family trip. If they have started school, then take advantage of a long weekend, like Columbus Day, for family bonding.

Where to Go:

If you’ve had a busy summer, it might be nice to pick somewhere within three hours of home. Depending on whether you have children in school, this might make a difference too. It’s nice to slow down a little during the fall season, and pick peaceful places in which to enjoy the changing seasons. You may want to have some warmer clothes, rain gear, and hardier food choices, but I’ll go over what to bring in my next post.

Places to See:

Here is a list of the best places we’ve been camping in autumn:

  • Traverse City, Michigan: Beautiful colors, lakes, fishing, boats, vineyards, rolling hills, rustic scenery. Jim and I got up at dawn to photograph the sunrise over the lake filled with fishing boats.
  • Door County, Wisconsin: scenic lighthouses, and lots of activities to do here!
  • Galena, Illinois: a river town with historic sites such as Ulysses S. Grant’s home, and ghost tours of the city in late October
  • Cheekwood near Nashville, Tennessee: Leaves turn color later in October to November, so take advantage of the warmer weather! Cheekwood has a scarecrow contest, outdoor sculptures, historic buildings and beautiful gardens. Although you can’t camp at Cheekwood itself, there are many state parks and outdoor activities nearby.
  • Multnomah Falls, Oregon: cascading waterfalls, October still has the feel of summer, except that the salmon are running! (fascinating to watch these fish wrestle their way North into the hatcheries!) Scenic harbors, lots of hiking.
  • Leavenworth, Washington: Bavarian style renovated village in the mountains. We stayed in Wenatchee State Park and hiked in that area, then ejoyed the boutiques and restaurants, on authentic Oktoberfest weekend!
  • Amana Colonies, Iowa: historic German village built by settlers. Has art galleries, boating, cave tours, shops and authentic German food; really comes to life for Oktoberfest weekend!
  • Multnomah Falls, Oregon: beautiful all year and still warm in October, we camped nearby, hiked up above Multnomah Falls (shown in picture) and got to see the salmon running (when they return North to spawn in the fall.) Scenic waterways, hiking, good restaurants, and only two hours inland from the Oregon Coast.

Another thing we like to do in fall is to find Pioneer festivals and reenactments, to show the kids how people used to live. Some festivals can be quite elaborate and make a great learning experience. These tend to be hosted in or near state parks, and usually have camping and fishing opportunities nearby.

Catching Up, On the Road; Denver

Wow! Summer is flying by! I apologize for my “blog lag,” as I have just returned from a trip to Denver for my brother’s wedding reception! I am still catching up, and this short post is just meant to share what we’ve been doing as I catch up from our trip. Though I did some writing, it was nearly impossible to post anything on this trip due to the late hours we kept and the technical issues I continually had with my laptop. I was forced to slow down, but it was worth it for spending quality time with relatives… I will be sharing some pictures soon since they are so much more exciting.

We had a great time and got to do some sightseeing: The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo– built into a mountainside, is a beautiful hilly walk, with great experiences for the kids with animals in very natural habitats. The views over the city of Colorado Springs alone are worth the hike. I’ve never seen so many giraffes in one place, and we were there at the right time to see three new baby lion cubs! Coming from the Chicago area, we’ve had many zoo experiences, but I’d have to say this is the best one. I recommend bringing water, as this is all outdoors and they charge a steep price for water bottles.

The Denver Aquarium too, is amazing. I really marvel at the design of the exhibits, and the interactive kid friendly atmosphere. Not being a very urban type of person, I felt more comfortable in the more laid back Denver than in Chicago. The way the sea creatures are displayed is a work of art in itself. Everywhere, there is something to look, even above your head! Everything had a natural feel, and drew us in.

The Denver Art Museum was very exciting. Every floor had projects that gave kids a chance to create. At the entrance, kids could get one backpack per family and the backpacks contained projects and scavenger hunt activities corresponding a a floor of the museum. Each floor had a little reading room/ play area decorated with different types of art corresponding to the theme of that floor. It gave us a chance to relax and read the art books, and let the children play. I really admired the variety of exhibits in the museum, the interior design meant to feel homey, and the activities to keep children busy and let them learn.

Restaurants: We had dinner at the Irish Snug on Colfax Street and heard Irish singer Brian Clancy, who is there almost every Saturday. Luckily we had a baby sitter that night, as a we celebrated with my bro and his wife, to the tune of good old Irish drinking, fighting and love songs amidst the chorus of audience participants. Brian Clancy is a great singer, and a lively local legend.

Another fun, eclectic place we tried was Buenos Aires Pizzeria on 1319 22nd St, Denver 80205. Surprisingly great pizza and Italian food, sandwiches and Argentinian food with many choices. The bread and pesto sauce were amazing! And real, freshly made gelato ice cream for desert!

Camping with Baby, Under Tree Tops…

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Baby sleeps soundly, loving rain drops…

I mentioned in earlier in my blog how we took our daughter camping for the first time when she was four months old.  (I have a picture from this adventure– will post it when I find it!) Why do you think they like the song “Rock-a-bye Baby in a Treetop”? There’s nothing like going to sleep to the sound of rustling trees! Labor Day weekend held a steady downpour that year. But our baby fell asleep early, and slept through the night (such a thing was not heard of at home!) Mommy awoke well-rested, and that made for a peaceful, enjoyable weekend with friends.

There is nothing out of the ordinary being out in nature with a little one. Trees and rain are more comforting than night lights,  electrical things running, parents downstairs washing dishes and talking.

I grew up camping, (although not starting till we were older). So it was not new for me. But it was a fun challenge taking a baby, and made me look at life and duties as a mom differently. It was so peaceful.

Is camping only for “outdoorsy” people?

No, it doesn’t have to be. Our family likes hiking and canoeing, but that is not a complete picture of who we are. We like cultural events, festivals, quaint towns, and new places– as long as there is something worth seeing. We camp nearby to save money, and to have a connection with nature.

KOA campgrounds are nice for children because of their community feel, breakfast, mini-golf, swimming pools, and nice bathrooms. They are a good starting point if you’ve never camped, and its easy to find them. But there is nothing wrong with state parks and other campgrounds.

Why go camping?

If the above mentioned reasons are not enough, here are some more to think about.

  • It’s a good bonding experience for the family. When a baby is born, both parents are usually very exhausted. Home routines become rushed and perfunctory. Mommy and Daddy both have very different roles for those first few months, and Daddies even tend to feel excluded.
  • Since camping traditionally is more of a man’s role, it gives Daddy not only some relaxation, but a place of honor. He’d probably rather start a campfire and set up a tent than cook meals and make the beds at home. Its a great way for family to come together and put aside all the distractions.
  • Camping saves money, and if you don’t care for outdoorsy activity, you can camp near a festival, near a town where you’d like to do sightseeing.
  • You can make it a social event. It’s a lot less work than hosting a dinner party, and you can spend time telling stories and experiencing nature. It makes you feel freer!

Children’s Literature, Picture Book Chapter 3: Scrapbook of Travel Adventures

Sophia and her Momma spent the next morning looking at their scrapbooks while Sophia’s little brother is slept.

“So this was my baby shower!” Sophia exclaimed. I thought you had baby showers before the baby came out?”

“All through my pregnancy, we were trying to sell our home,” said Momma. “It was very important, and very stressful on me. So we waited till you came into the world. That way all our friends and family would get to meet you!”

“How old was I then?” Sophia asked.

“You were only a month old in those pictures,” Momma said.

“What was my favorite present?” Sophia asked.”Did I get any shoes?”

“Well, yes. As a matter of fact, our friend gave you the little pair of white bunny slippers.”

“I remember those,” Sophia said. “I wore them in Idaho.”

“Yes,” Momma said. “You cried every time you lost the ‘girl bunny’ or the ‘boy bunny! I’m not sure how you told them apart,” Momma smiled, “but when you asked where they were, I always told you ‘they went down the rabbit hole’ and then you’d find them under your sheets. But one time, you dropped the ‘girl bunny’ outside in the snow after preschool, and cried for three days till we found it! It was good that the snow in Idaho doesn’t stay all winter like it does here in Chicago!”

Sophia laughed. “I sure loved those bunny slippers. We still have them, right?”

(Painting of Momma and Sophia sitting together holding the scrapbook. Next to them are the tattered pair of bunny slippers.)

Did I get any other shoes?” asked Sophia.

Momma said, ” you did get a bag of shoes from Karla, the airline stewardess. They were her daughter’s old shoes.”

“Really,” Sophia said excitedly. “That means that those shoes came from someone who traveled! Karla traveled to different countries, right?”

“Yes,” Momma said, “She worked for an international company and went all over the world.”

“Wow!” exclaimed Sophia. “Are there any pictures of me in those shoes?”

“Those were the first shoes you wore outside. Here’s a picture of you in them at grandma and grandpa’s house.”

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“That must have been fun. But what about travel pictures, Mom?”

“Well, here is your first big trip. We went to Costa Rica with our friends.

(Art: next two pages show scrapbook up close with pictures of Costa Rica and captions of what was happening, ending with a little notation about how Sophia lost her sandal there at a church and cried.)