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Life with Liz: Getting back to the basics

Published August 03. 2018 07:40PM

Just like that, we are back to our fall activities and school is just around the corner.

Even though it’s barely August, we have jammed so much stuff into this summer, I’m already feeling like summer is over.

So, what made this summer special and unique?

This was the summer that my kids really got back to basics.

They’ve spent so much time outside and running wild, and it has been a change for the better.

We’ve been spending a ton of time at the farmhouse where I grew up, and the kids have investigated every nook and cranny.

They’ve spent time puttering in the basement and uncovering my long-lost books and toys, sleeping in the tent every night they can, catching fireflies, and finding snake skins.

We’ve been falling asleep to the sounds of the katydids and whippoorwill and waking up with the sun and the birds.

The kids have become adept stargazers, anxious to be the first one to call out seeing Venus in the early evening sky.

Of course, they’ve downloaded and used apps to help them determine what celestial bodies they’re looking at, but they’ve already got the dippers and some of the more major constellations memorized.

This is the summer that G truly came into his own as a fisherman.

I think he has been on a mission to try to fish every single day this summer.

He’s just as happy to throw them back as he is to bring them home and fry them up.

Lakes, creeks, rivers, doesn’t matter. I think he’d fish in a big puddle in the driveway if it was his only option.

A recent gift of a pink fishing pole has also helped pique E’s interest in getting out on the water as well. Although she isn’t quite as proficient as G is, she’s well on her way.

A has determined that fishing is not his thing, although he is looking forward to cooler weather and hunting season.

Most of this summer has found him holed up in a shady spot plowing through book after book after book. Having spent many a summer in this very pursuit, I leave him to his books and am just a tiny bit jealous that I can’t join him as much as I’d like.

The other day, I mentioned to the Wonderful Husband that I’ve noticed a change in our kids over the past few months.

Sure, we are still running to many activities and keeping busy with house projects, but the three of them have really learned how to relax and unwind without a television or a video game by their side. Sure, they are still territorial, and it doesn’t take much to incite some sort of sibling battle, but with more room to spread out in and with their interests diverging, they’re each content in their little corner of the world.

The other night, as we drove into town, G made a disapproving noise. “There’s just too much light pollution here,” he observed.

Although I chuckled as I wondered how many other 10-year-olds have this complaint, he did have a point. Later that night, as we watched a near full moon rise over our neighbors’ rooftops, he wistfully said how much better it would look if we were out in the woods. Again, I agreed.

Although our corner of town has been unusually quiet this year, thanks to some construction and a detour, there are still plenty of unnatural nighttime noises.

The other night as we listened to some late-night revelers wander home, the kids observed that they didn’t sound all that different from the yipping coyotes that we hear when we’re at the farm.

I can’t say we’ve gone full on Thoreau. We are anything but deliberate in our lives in the woods. There certainly have been some unpleasant moments, like when the wasp nest fell off some corner of the roof and landed smack in the middle of our outdoor dining area.

The kids are perpetually bringing home snakes, worms, toads and who knows what else. The answer is always “no, you can’t keep it.”

It’s a never-ending battle to get them to wipe their feet and remove their shoes before they track mud and leaves through the entire house. As they’ve switched to flip-flops and Crocs for easy on and off, I’ve noticed that their feet are probably never going to be clean again. They’re going to need a chain saw to cut their toenails before they can fit them back into their school shoes.

The other day as I listened to the rain falling heavily, and I took a minute to sit down with my own book and a cup of tea, I gradually became aware of some full-on belly laughter in the distance.

Looking out the window, I caught the kids bouncing on the trampoline, soaking wet and loving life. Thoreau went to the woods to find the “essential facts of life.” This has been the summer of finding those essentials for my kids, as well.

Well, essentials and a trampoline.

Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.

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