My mom adventures in Fort Collins


Garden harvest: Zucchini

We are approaching the time of year when it is best to come up with a few recipes using the produce from the garden, lest your kitchen counter become overrun with an army of vegetables that scorn you for planting them and not eating them.

The challenge: Three large zucchinis

The challenge: Three large zucchinis

Zucchini is a funny vegetable in that it literally grows like a weed.  Where one moment it seems like a finger-sized zucchini is peeking out from under the enormous leaves, then you blink and you have a 4-pound behemoth that your child wants to rename Pinky and use as a doll. I eat so much zucchini in the late summer that I don’t ever want for it during the rest of the year. Typically, I do some zucchini bread, zucchini & onion foil packets on the grill, or I can sauté it with olive oil and other spices. Since I had very large zucchinis (where do those buggers hide?), my preference would be zucchini bread. However, I presently have a non-operational oven. So, the challenge was use up all of the zucchini without using the oven.

Here’s what I came up with: Zucchini noodles (or “zoodles”) & Zucchini fritters 

Both of these recipes are quite adaptable, and you can improvise with new spices or different ingredients. I’ve shared the basic recipes, and then I will include some other thoughts based on what worked and what didn’t for me. Both include prep time, though, so neither of these recipes could be categorized as “quick,” though the active time for the zoodles is less than 20 minutes.

Do you zoodle? Well, neither did I until recently. My sister-in-law had been telling me that you can turn zucchini into noodles, thereby rendering them “zoodles.” I am sure there is some very fancy way of doing this that you can read about on the internet, but here’s what I did.

General zoodle recipe:

  1. Julienne zucchini into long strips
  2. Place the zucchini strips in a salt water solution for about an hour so that they can get bendy-flexy like real noodles
  3. Drain thoroughly (leave them in a colander for at least 5 minutes)
  4. Stir fry them in a pan with a bit of oil
Here are my zucchini strips after they had soaked in salt-water, and then were drained: completely bendable

Here are my zucchini strips after they had soaked in salt-water, and then were drained: completely bendable

When you use the zucchini “noodles,” I was told that you could use whatever sauce you would normally put on noodles. A peanut sauce sounded really good to me, so I whipped up a truly simple one.

The ingredients for a basic peanut sauce: peanut butter, vinegar, garlic powder and red pepper (and water--not pictured)

The ingredients for a basic peanut sauce: peanut butter, vinegar, garlic powder and red pepper (and water–not pictured)

Since I only made “one serving” of zoodles, I didn’t need much peanut sauce. I used about 2 Tablespoons of peanut butter (I happened to have some peanut butter that I made from honey roasted peanuts), about 1-2 teaspoons of vinegar (I used Sherry vinegar), a pinch of garlic powder and a pinch of cayenne, and about 1/4 cup of water–added in increments.

On med-low heat, I started with 1/8 cup of water and the other ingedients, then I stirred. As the sauce comes together over the heat, you may need to add more water to thin it out.

On med-low heat, I started with 1/8 cup of water and the other ingredients, then I stirred. As the sauce comes together over the heat, you may need to add more water to thin it out. You’ll need to stir frequently.

I added some scallion greens, chopped cilantro and a bit of lime as garnish. I must say, I fell in love with zoodles cooked up in peanut sauce.

zoodles in peanut sauce, with cilantro & scallion garnish

zoodles in peanut sauce, with cilantro & scallion garnish

Zucchini fritters are a nice way of staying clear of any comparison to actual vegetables. If you like your zucchini barely recognizable, then these are for you. These fritters are adapted from a recipe I received years ago for veggie burgers using both zucchini and yellow squash. Here, I skipped the yellow squash and just used zucchini.

General zucchini fritter recipe:

  1. Shred zucchini, carrots and onion
  2. Sauté the onions first in a non-stick skillet for about 5-7 minutes with a bit of olive oil, then add the carrots and zucchini and continue stirring for 5 additional minutes.
  3. Add salt and minced garlic, and sauté for a few more minutes.
  4. Turn off heat and drain any excess liquid from the pan (if necessary)
  5. Add egg, some grated cheddar cheese, whole oats, additional spices, and stir to combine
  6. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour
  7. Remove from fridge. Form the veggie-oat mixture into small balls, and coat in flour
  8. Place in a non-stick skillet with olive oil. Press down on the balls to flatten into patties, and fry on each side 5-7 minutes on medium heat

Now, I had a LOT of zucchini, so I’ll share how much of everything that I used, but keep in mind that this makes an enormous batch. Also, my zucchini were big, so I took out the seeds. If you use smaller zucchini, you don’t have to bother seeding them.

Seeded zucchinis--I used two large zucchinis for this recipe

Seeded zucchinis–I used two large zucchinis for this recipe

I am in love with my food processor, so I let that baby do all the hard work. Along with the two seeded zucchinis, I shredded one large onion and three carrots. Also, because I happened to have red pepper, I threw that in this recipe as well. If I ever shred red pepper in my food processor again, I’ll peel it first… that didn’t work so well.

After all the shredding is done, start by sauteing the onions for a few minutes, then add the remaining vegetables

After all the shredding is done, start by sauteing the onions for a few minutes, then add the remaining vegetables

Sauteing everything first does bring out a lot of the liquid. I added about 1 tsp. salt (though my original recipe called for soy sauce), and that may have pulled out some liquid as well. I also added 4 cloves of garlic (love the garlic, but that may be too garlicky for folks, especially if you feed it to kiddos). Before turning off the heat and adding the oats, I found that I needed to drain the liquid, and I just did that over the sink using my lid.

Can we pause here and I can show you my little wheely garlic mincer contraption that my brother got me?

Can we pause here and I can show you my little wheely garlic mincer contraption that my brother got me?

It's an interesting device. You basically load the thing with garlic cloves that are halved or quartered, then you roll it around and a blade inside gets the garlic all minced. Open the top, and presto--finely chopped garlic!

It’s an interesting device. You basically load the thing with garlic cloves that are halved or quartered, then you roll it around and a blade inside gets the garlic all minced. Open the top, and presto–finely chopped garlic!

After you cook everything, you will turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients. I added two eggs, two cups of rolled oats, and I happened to have green chile cheddar cheese (I used way more than I needed to, about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of shredded cheese). Since the cheese was a bit spicy already, for spices I added 1 tsp cumin and 2 tsp chilli powder. Then, you mix everything up and put it in a large bowl to chill for at least an hour.

Voila! Shredded veggie and oat goop!

Voila! Shredded veggie and oat goop!

So, an hour goes by, and you want to get your fritters going. I need to prepare you for this:

Once the patty-making begins, you will have very messy hands... VERY messy

Once the patty-making begins, you will have very messy hands… VERY messy

Using a tablespoon or two of oil in your pan, add the mounds of floured-veggie goop and press it down so that they form patties. You want these patties to be thoroughly cooked on the inside (not overly wet), so do about 5-7 minutes per side on medium heat.

Crispy on the outside--these are the zucchini fritters of your dreams!

Crispy on the outside–these are the zucchini fritters of your dreams!

I had already eaten dinner that night (see “Zoodles” above), but I had to have a little plate. The majority of the fritters have been eaten in the days since as lunch-time leftovers.

This big batch made a little more than a dozen zucchini fritters

This big batch made a little more than a dozen zucchini fritters

As far as reheating goes: If you microwave them, they are delicious but soggy. The best way to crisp them back up would be to stick them in the oven or back in the frying pan for a few minutes. However, I am a simple lady, with simple nourishment needs.

Zoodles & Fritters: I think I did okay for the self-imposed zucchini challenge. I’d love to hear from any readers on their thoughts for no-bake zucchini recipes, or really any use-up-the-garden-produce thoughts at all. Thanks for reading, everyone!



Giving the gift of forgiveness

I have so many spiritual struggles. Don’t we all? My prayer life is practically non-existent, I have failed to find a meaningful way to connect with the service-oriented side of me for years, and lately “charity” has meant giving a teenager $5 when he comes to my door trying to sell coupons for the football team. I haven’t been the prayerful, loving, charitable person that I want to be in a long time. Or at least it feels like it. I need a soul-nourishing overhaul.

But that is not what this post is about. (Well, it is a little bit.)

What this post is really about is love. The love of a sweet, spiritual girl, and the gifts she gives me all the time.

This week, my oldest had her first day of kindergarten. I have been struggling with what to write about this momentous occasion. As far as I can tell, I’m supposed to think this is a bittersweet moment: my baby is all grown up and ready to set the world on fire. Me, as momma, I’m supposed to feel happy for her and proud of her, but also feel a bit of my heart break because there is no more denying that her babyhood is a thing of the past. This girl is growing up.

Insert obligatory smiley-faced photo here

Insert obligatory smiley-faced photo here

What can I say? I have to be different. That’s not the way it went down for me.

I do agree that it was bittersweet, but not for the reasons that you might think. Let’s start with sweet, because that’s easy. I felt sweet because I know that she’ll do well. She’s grown into such a kind and capable girl, with an amazing creative side and a truly grand ability to simply observe and soak it all in. I felt sweet because I personally love new adventures, and I’ve been hearing so many amazing things about our neighborhood school since we moved into our house three years ago. I felt sweet because my mornings can become purposeful again, and I will actually have some time to myself. But mostly I’m overcome with the bitter.

I’m bitter because this is the official end of our summer, and this is the beginning of a new schedule for us.  Where some families appear to feel rejuvenated by the beginning of a new school year and the routine that it provides, I feel the dark, suffocating choke-hold of this time of transition. Hmm, what’s a polite way to say this? “My sweet kindergartener finds adapting to a new routine rather challenging. ” She was a bucket of nerves before school started, and she told me more than a dozen times that she didn’t want to go. Though by all accounts she’s liking school now that the first-day jitters are behind her, she is not exactly a lovely person to be around. School is wearing her out, and she is constantly exhausted and hungry. She complained that school doesn’t offer nap-time, and she has not willingly taken a nap since infancy. Yesterday, she ate a hot-dog… for her third afternoon snack. Our house has become a roller-coaster of emotion, ranging from excitement to nerves to aggression to apologies.

There can be no amount of “The Kissing Hand” to diminish these struggles. As the saying goes, “You can’t go over it. You can’t go under it. You can’t go around it. You gotta go through it.” And excuse me if I just don’t like going through it.

I’m not delusional. I know that the world has bigger problems than adapting to a kindergarten routine, and I realize that I’m not the first mom to have this struggle. The logical piece of me is aware that we’ll get through it, but it’s just such a difficult time for me. My heart is breaking, but it has nothing to do with her babyhood ending. My heart is breaking because my child has such strong emotions and she’s still learning how to process them. Though by her own admissions she’s “tired,” or she want to “lie down,” she balks at the suggestion that we take some quiet time. She is awash in the feeling of what my friend calls “hangry”–hungry and angry. She acts difficult and aggressive, and then realizing she has hurt me or her sister, she quickly backpedals and apologizes.

“Momma, I’m so sorry.”

“What are you sorry for, honey?”

“Well, I’m sorry that I was acting so mean and being so crabby. I’m a bad kid.”

After the third exchange like this yesterday, I had to do something. My heart was so achy and breaky, that even Billy Ray wouldn’t be able to shake his mullet enough to do away with that kind of heartache.

I explained that she is not a bad kid. She is NEVER EVER a bad kid in my mind, because I KNOW that she is really truly a kind, loving kid. I explained that this was a hard time, and that her body is adjusting to this new schedule. I explained that her mind was working so hard to take in all of the new friends and experiences that it made her extra-tired. I explained that sometimes when we start something new, we don’t always sleep right and that makes us super-tired, too. And when we’re extra-super-tired, it’s so difficult to act our best.

But I had good news! The good news is: You can forgive yourself and start all over! You can do better next time. Isn’t that fantastic?

We talked a lot about forgiveness, and how God always forgives us. I told her that with God, you have a second chance, a third chance, a fourth chance… even forever chances!

Forever chances. I love that. (I learned that from my I-wish-I-knew-you-in-real-life soul sister, Glennon Doyle Melton, because I’m reading her book Carry On, Warrior right now.) And I told my sweet girl again that I know that she’s kind, and she is NEVER EVER a bad kid. And God knows that, too. God knows that better than even I do. And my sweet girl, who found prayer to be so soothing last year in moments of anxiety, remembered that she could talk to Jesus and ask him for help.

And after this whole conversation, I was thinking, “You are brilliant, my dear!” Does this ever happen to you? My child reminded me that the advice that I was giving her is truly the advice that I need to be following myself. You know who wants to help me become a more patient mother? Jesus does. And all I have to do is ask. Maybe tomorrow, I will do better than today. Maybe the next day, I will do better than tomorrow. But each day, if I get angry or I get crabby (which I always do), and if I am hard on the people I love the most (which I always am), I can pray. I can ask for help. I just have to stop and forgive myself, and try again because I have forever chances.

So, here’s to love and prayer and forgiveness. And here’s to the bittersweet, because often the most worthwhile experiences do have a fair amount of growing pains. We’ll get there… I’ll keep praying.



Special Edition of Library Book Hoarder: Children’s Books that deal with Pet Loss

In my writing, I try to tell stories with a sense of humor. Parenting small children does lend itself to some hilarious situations. Given the light-tone of the blog, it seems awkward to write such a downer of a post, but I would really love to share the information that I learned recently when we lost our dog.

Beamer (2000-2013)

Beamer (2000-2013)

To say we “lost” Beamer is not entirely accurate. We had the very profound experience of helping our dear dog pass peacefully. It was an uncomfortable but necessary decision, as euthanasia for an animal nearly always is. He was 13 1/2 and his quality of life had deteriorated; he was blind, nearly deaf, partially immobile and occasionally incontinent. But despite his age and all of his obvious health concerns, this was still a very difficult decision.

In many ways, I felt fortunate that we had the time to say goodbye to our dear pal. After my husband and I made the decision, we had a week to enjoy our dog and treat him to one last camping trip and lots of table-scraps. When the time came, the folks at Raintree Animal Hospital made the process as nice as they could. The staff was exceptional and the exam room was prepared with dim lighting to lend itself to a calm and comfortable atmosphere. Yet, it was awful. Both of us grown-ups were devastated. It’s heart-breaking to lose a beloved member of your family.

Despite our own grief, we were deeply nervous about our girls, ages 6 and 3. My heart sank for them. How will the kids do? What will this loss do to them? There are some helpful ideas on how to deal with grief and loss in an age-appropriate way. The Argus Institute at Colorado State offers some great resources here, and the essence is use accurate and literal language (like “die” as opposed to “put to sleep”) and honor the significance of the loss.

My kids enjoy a good book, and that can be a great way to introduce a topic. Here are six books that I read with my kids to initiate a dialogue about the loss of our dog.

1. The Berenstain Bears Lose a Friend by Stan & Jan Berenstain–This is a story of the loss of their goldfish, and it’s a very sweet way of approaching the whole topic of pet loss.

loseafriend

2. Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant–This book is a lovely account of the life that awaits dogs after they die; they run, eat well, have fun and God treasures them. I will issue a warning, though: If Heaven and God are not topics you’ve already introduced to your children, this book might be a bit complicated.

dogheaven

3. Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley–This book is definitely more about death and grief than pet-specific loss, but it’s such a well-told story. Badger is growing old and he knows he’ll soon go down the Long Tunnel. His friends learn of his death and spend time reflecting on many happy memories of Badger.

badgersparting

4. The Forever Dog by Bill Cochran–This book deals with the loss of a beloved pet from the perspective of the child as caretaker. For Mike, Corky is his dog, and he spends a great deal of his time training and caring for Corky. The two make a plan to be friends forever, but then Corky gets sick and dies. Mike’s mom is able to help him through his sadness.

foreverdog

5. Saying Goodbye to Lulu by Corinne Demas–This story is a tear-jerker, and I loved it. A little girl copes with the deteriorating health of her sweet dog Lulu, and is filled with sorrow upon her death. Ultimately, she mourns the loss, time passes and her wounds grow less painful but she will always have a special place in her heart for Lulu.

goodbyelulu

6. Jasper’s Day by Marjorie Blain Parker–Of all the books that we read together, this one was my own favorite. Perhaps it was a bit long and more appropriate for older kids, but it was the only one that we read that spoke about euthanasia. This book is entirely about the last day that a family has with their beloved Golden Retriever before the dad takes the dog to the vet.

jasper

To be honest, the kids are doing quite well, though the loss still comes up everyday in different ways. The other day, my older daughter struck up a conversation with a dogowner at the park and shared that we had recently lost our dog. I was really glad that she was able to express herself and share this news in a way that was honest and open. In time, I’ve no doubt we’ll adopt another dog, but for now we’re just living life and remembering the love we shared with this kind sweet dog.

All of the book jacket photos were copied from amazon.com. Please find any of these books at your local library.

If you have other suggested reading related to pet loss and children, I’d love to hear from you.



Video inspiration: Brave

This week is back to school week around here. I know lots of folks who will be starting their journey, like us. We launch our kindergartener into the very big public school world on Tuesday, and I need some inspiration.

P.S. I’m not sure if this is for my kiddo or more for me, but either way I love this song and the video is fun too!

Sara Bareilles–Brave



Thoughts on Yellowstone with kids

A little over a year ago, we purchased a camper. In a kill-two-birds-type of move, we hoped to take vacations and build happy family memories. Let me give you the background in case you missed it here and here:  I never went camping as a kid and am a nature-lover-in-training, while my husband grew up camping as a kid and backpacking and hiking are two of his favorite hobbies. Last year was a bit of a learning curve for us, and with modest success under our belts we did attempt something ambitious and wonderful this year–a trip to Yellowstone National Park.

Yellowstone National Park was the first national park in the United States and the world. Most famous for its unique geothermal features, it is also home to majestic waterfalls, canyons, alpine meadows, mountain lakes and streams. This is not to diminish the many creatures that call Yellowstone home: pelicans, swans, moose, elk, deer, bison, bear, and the famous Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, to name a few.

Old Faithful geyser, one of Yellowtone's great attractions

Old Faithful geyser, one of Yellowtone’s great attractions

Based on my experience at Yellowstone earlier this summer, I have a few thoughts on planning a trip to Yellowstone with young children. If you have time, get your hands on the DVD featured in this Youtube clip (we found it at the local library)–it’s a great, interactive introduction to the park for kids.

There are a million different ways to take a vacation at YNP, but if you had your druthers, you’d…

  1. Stay inside the park
  2. Make your car as comfortable as possible (with snacks, activities, etc.)
  3. Anticipate crowds and plan around them if possible
  4. Equip kids with camera and binoculars if age-appropriate
  5. Plan bathroom breaks around flush toilets (luckily, there are many!)

Contrary to a popular myth out there, camping at Yellowstone is not limited to hard-sided campers. There are plenty of options for tents or pop-up campers, although there are a few campsites within the park that are limited to hard-sided trailers due to bear activity. Furthermore, there are lodging  and food options that include high-quality hotels, restaurants and general stores. Despite a fair amount of first-come/first-serve options, we made reservations 6 months in advance to camp at Bridge Bay. Our particular site was set back in the woods in the most idyllic site with a distant view of Yellowstone Lake, but there were many other sites within this campground that were equally breathtaking and still others fully void of shade (those were mainly tent-only sites) . Learn more about the campgrounds here.

The view from our campsite--see the lake in the distance?

The view from our campsite–see the lake in the distance?

The Bridge Bay campground was a great fit for us. I enjoyed the following aspects:

  • Beautiful scenery
  • Clean campsites (maintained by Xanterra)
  • Well-maintained facilities, including flush-toilets and dishwashing sinks
  • Few major attractions close by, allowing for low-traffic and less noise
  • Close proximity to the Bridge Bay marina (boat rides) and the Natural Bridge trailhead (easy hike with little elevation gain, perfect for kids)

Staying inside the park is advantageous for many reasons, but mainly because it allows for better use of your time. Yellowstone is 2.2 million acres, and there is so much to see. The roads are slow-going due to a 45 mph speed limit, construction closures, wildlife sightings, and occasional curves and elevation gain/loss. Many wildlife sightings occur in the early morning hours or late in the day; staying in the park allows for more flexible use of the sun up and sundown hours. Weather can be an issue and temperatures can fluctuate. We found it nice to escape from the heat during the day, and we chose to visit many of the geothermal attractions in the evening hours when it was cooler. Since many tourist buses come through the park from “nearby” Jackson or elsewhere, it is preferable to avoid major attractions at the peak times when walkways and parking lots are considerably more congested.

Which brings me to four other thoughts:

  • Don’t underestimate the time you will spend driving. The number one way to travel through Yellowstone is via vehicle. There is so much driving involved to traverse the vast expanse that you do need to prepare the kiddos for how much travel time is involved. I am not ashamed to say that we used the portable DVD at times, because apparently my kids don’t think looking out the window is quite as fun as some of us grown-ups do.
  • Prepare the kids for the many wooden walkways. Kids will want to wander off the pathways. Prepare them in advance for the fact that you must remain on the wooden walkways, since the geothermal features are sensitive and walking disturbs the landscape. By the end of our four-day-stay, my daughter was policing the grown-ups who didn’t stay on the wooden walkway.
  • It was suprisingly warm. We had read the weather predictions ahead of time, and I thought I was appropriately prepared. Sadly, I should have considered two other factors 1) elevation and 2) the heat released by the geothermal features. As I heard one dad put it, “Geez, what do you expect, you’re standing on top of a supervolcano!” My kids were whiny and hot, and this makes me have a considerably less enjoyable time. During our four days in the park, we figured out a way to mitigate this issue (we saw more in the evenings, when it was cooler).
  • I’m sure this is a no-brainer and you will see signs in abundance warning you of exactly this, but remind kids that wildlife can be dangerous. YNP is most definitely not a petting zoo, although you will see many a crazy tourist acting as if it is just that.

And, last but not least, a few photos to give you the highlights for the kiddos.

Scout really enjoyed seeing the waterfalls--this is the Lower Falls at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Scout really enjoyed seeing the waterfalls–this is the Lower Falls at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Both kids really enjoyed seeing the mud pots

Both kids really enjoyed seeing the mud pots

All of us enjoyed seeing the grizzlies! (Can you see them???)

All of us enjoyed seeing the grizzlies! (Can you see them???)

There is so much to do in Yellowstone National Park. I hereby declare that it is downright impossible to be bored.  For kids, there is a Junior Ranger program that I’ve heard great things about but we didn’t use. In addition to the famous geysers and look-out points, we really enjoyed taking the boat ride on Yellowstone Lake and spending time at the lakeshore behind the Fishing Bridge Visitor’s Center. With any luck, we’ll be back at Yellowstone another day to do it all again!



I wanna be a dinker, at least as I define it

“I’m back,” I say to no one in particular.

I love to write, but sometimes it is simply inertia. This object was in motion, and stayed in motion. (Alternatively, one could argue perhaps that this object was at rest and remained at rest.) This summer has been a bounty of pool time, camping trips, late bedtimes and lazy mornings. All this time, I have not given any voice to the many blog posts that occurred to me while I was watching my six-year-old blossom from a life-preserver-wearing-floater to a full-fledged-swimmer, while I witnessed my three-and-a-half-year-old start writing a semi-legible name, or while I spent time trying to manifest the moose that would make my wildlife sighting all-time-best list.

Yes, it is August.

Fortunately, something happened and I was inspired to write again—not in my head this time, but here at the keyboard. My evening was simple enough: I attended a small-group gathering at church, and then came home and read this fantastic essay online. The perfect storm of thought-provoking content, a moment to reflect, and the power to read. (Sorry, I had a SuperWhy moment.)

The church group was pondering the wisdom of the “Wow” of Anne Lamott’s book Help, Thanks, Wow, a book on what Lamott describes as the three essential prayers, and the essay (if you don’t have time to click over) is about the immense gratitude that a mother feels once she sees her daughter’s tendency to move slowly through life as a gift not a burden. What a blessing this wisdom is to me at this particular juncture in my life.

You see, I too have a daughter who goes through life at her own pace. To be fair, I do not always feel grateful for this characteristic, but I think that tonight was trying to tell me something.

In the past, I have called my daughter “a dinker.” Not at all nice, right? I mutter under my breath that she’s always “dinking.” I looked up the definition of “dink” in the dictionary, and it actually doesn’t reflect what I think the definition is, so I would like to one-up Mr. Webster, and offer this: Dink (v.) to move slowly, to putter around, to lose track of time while trying to complete a task, and this also: Dinker (n.) one who dinks. Example: “Kiddo, could you quit dinking around and come here and brush your teeth already?”

My Wow moment, one that I realized recently, was that this child has indeed given me the joy of seeing life in a new way. Countless times, in fact. In the past, I have found it cliché when people wax philosophical about the insight gained by “seeing things through a child’s eye.” Well, as they say, one person’s cliché is another person’s wisdom. I’m switching sides.

The specific story that came to mind was of a series of events that happened two summers ago. At the time, Scout had just turned four. Cory created a garden box for her in the back yard, approximately four feet by four feet. She was thrilled. This was her garden, and she was growing things in her garden. She planted the seeds and even occasionally weeded. (The sprinkler system could be trusted to handle the watering.) Among her precious crops were a few stalks of corn. As time went on, the corn grew and so did her love of gardening. This rather reserved four-year-old would happily engage in conversations about her garden. She shared details about the types of plants she was growing, what she did to take care of the garden, information on how gardens grow, and she boasted that this was her own garden built for her by her dad. But the best part of all of these garden-related conversations was the corn cook-off that she envisioned in the future. She invited everyone to enjoy her corn with her at the end of the summer. She anticipated a mighty crop, and it would be delicious.

As it turned out, the bugs got the corn and we never did have any magnificent harvest, but we did have a girl who lovingly turned a plot of earth with run-of-the-mill vegetable seedlings into the opportunity to feast on the simple pleasures of life and revel in the wonders of nature.

Wow, kiddo. Simply wow.

I try to be intentional with my time, and I imagine myself to be someone who slows down to take it all in, but it appears I am not a natural dinker. Maybe there is still time for this precious girl and others like her to teach me how to dink around. I think I need more practice, but she can help me. I want to be a dinker.

When I think about all of the things that I have missed because I don’t slow down, it makes me feel a twinge of guilt. But I have today, and I have been given this opportunity to pause and reflect. Whether it’s the garden harvest fantasies, the dandelion bouquets, or the way that she can find an anthill like a heat-seeking missile, my girl is the wholly (holy) joyful dinker. Let’s embrace that term and reinvision a world of sweet dinkers.

The sweetest dinker

The sweetest dinker

What about you? Are you a dinker? Do you have a dinker in your life? Or, as I suspect, have you learned something special from a small child?