Celebrating My Grandparents’ Love


I have never liked the part of traditional wedding vows that say “Until death do us part”.  I’ve never really understood or agreed with that idea ~ Does it mean that once one spouse dies, the couple no longer love each other?  Certainly not. I like to think that a couple’s true love lasts for all eternity.  It surely doesn’t stop at the moment of death.  Surely after one’s passing, the living spouse continues to love the other with his/her whole heart?   I am thinking about this more than usual today because today – June 14, 2015 – would have been my grandparents 65th wedding anniversary and my Grandfather’s 89th birthday.

Sadly, my Grandpa passed away a little over a month ago.  But that doesn’t mean the love shared between him and my Grandma for all of those years no longer goes on.  I would like to believe that their love will always exist.  There’s no “until death do us part” in their marriage.

Although Grandpa isn’t here for the occasion, I still feel like 65 years of marriage is an amazing thing that needs to be recognized, celebrated, and cherished.  So this post is in honour of my Grandma and Grandpa – Ron and Esther Palmateer – and their many years of love and marriage.


One of my favourite memories of my Grandpa, I mentioned in my eulogy at his funeral last month.  At their 60th anniversary celebration, my Grandpa was asked about the secret to a successful marriage.  With his keen sense of humour, my Grandpa chuckled and answered, “She worked inside, I worked outside.  And every now and then we’d meet up for coffee.”  All of those who knew him, loved Grandpa for his wonderful sense of humour and he took every opportunity there was to make others laugh.

After Grandpa’s passing, Grandma mentioned to me about her and Grandpa “not making it” to their 65th wedding anniversary.  But, to me, when you make it a month shy of 65 years, you made it.  In this day and age, so many people give up on marriage.  They forget the vows they promised and the commitment they made, and they let the struggles and stresses of life split them apart.

But Grandma, you and Grandpa made it.  Through the ups and downs, the raising of eight children, the maintaining of a 700-acre farm and homestead, through health and sickness, the good times and bad – you made it.  Your love was strong, dedicated, and true from the day you got married -and as one of your many grandchildren, I am immensely proud of the family and commitment you and Grandpa built together.

Although you lost your beloved husband, dear Grandma, I want you to know that you made it.  You and Grandpa will forever have a life of trust, companionship, and love that lasts for all eternity.  I know today Grandpa is smiling down at his “little Esther” with love and longing in his heart.

So Grandma, while Grandpa may not be here in body with you today or the next, please remember that he is always with you.  He is by your side today, just like he was sixty-five years ago, and as he will be for all of your tomorrows.  Although he is gone physically, his spirit and his memory lies in the place you’ve always held him – your heart – where he shall forever remain.

And while you hold on to these memories please know how immensely blessed I am to have had wonderful grandparents like you and Grandpa.  Your commitment to one another and to your extended family is truly something I aspire to and hold so very dear.

With all my love,

Kelly xo




May Mayhem: Sad Endings and Happy Beginnings

I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve been able to just sit and write about what’s been on my mind lately.  May has been a whirlwind of a month and I feel like I’ve been on the go constantly.  I finally have some time to myself though and was itching to get back to my blog.  So here’s what I’ve been up to lately.

"She's Ready to Pop!" popcorn favour made by yours truly

“She’s Ready to Pop!” popcorn favour made by yours truly

At the end of April, Mariah (my step-daughter) and I helped my mom host a surprise baby shower for my sister-in-law Sarah.  I took the Friday off work and we headed out early for an hour-and-a-half mini road trip to my hometown where my parents still live.  Friday, we stopped in to see my Grandpa at the hospital and then spent the afternoon decorating and prepping things at the church basement where the shower was to be held.  We had fun getting creative, using Pinterest ideas, and setting things up.   Saturday, the fun began.  We headed over early again to put the final touches on the shower preparations as the guests streamed in.  Shortly after, Sarah arrived and was very surprised to see the room full of friends, family, and loved ones all there to celebrate her and her bump (which had grown exponentially since the last time I saw her!)  We had a lovely afternoon playing traditional shower games, feasting on treats, and visiting with a lovely group of ladies.  Sarah and the baby were spoiled with piles of beautiful gifts and the afternoon was a success overall!  As the few remaining guests prepared to go, a few of my aunts were nice enough to stick

Mariah and Izzy playing shower games

Mariah and Izzy playing shower games

around and help us disassemble and clean up the party.  That evening, Mariah and I relaxed at my Mom & Dad’s content with the successful party we’d thrown and even more excited for my soon-to-be niece to make her arrival.The next day (Sunday) Mom, Dad, and I went back to the hospital to see Grandpa after receiving a call from the nurses saying he was having a hard day.  Grandpa (my Dad’s dad) had been hospitalized two weeks prior after those at home could no longer care for him due to his increasingly bad dementia (and a myriad of other illnesses and conditions). It was a particularly tough visit for me because for the first time ever, I saw my Grandpa cry. He hated being in the hospital, was lonely, and had a hard time understanding and accepting that it was the best choice for his care and well-being.  Not only that but his dementia left him confused, often not remembering when his loved ones had been in to visit him, and referring to my Grandma (his wife) as his Mom.

I left that day with a sadness that I was unsure could be cured.  Poor Grandpa, I kept thinking.  Eighty-eight years of a fulfilling, busy, happy life and now to be laying in a hospital, too deaf to communicate, and too sick to care for oneself.  I cried a good portion of the way home and desperately prayed that if all that was left of Grandpa’s life was suffering and sadness, that he’d soon pass and be able to rest peacefully.

Me with Grandpa and Grandma a few years ago at their farm house.

Me with Grandpa and Grandma a few years ago at their farm house.

Well, sadly, those prayers were answered about a week and a half later.  My Mom contacted me on the evening of Monday, May 4th to tell me that Grandpa had come down with pneumonia and one of his lungs had shut down completely.  The doctors had put him on a breathing machine but his heart was working in over-drive and once removed from the machine, they didn’t expect him to make it long.  I cried good and hard as this news hit home and I realized that we were going to lose Grandpa.  Although I knew that his’s quality of life had diminished greatly, it was still very sad to hear that he was at death’s door.  The family had decided to keep him on the machine until about 11 p.m. that night until some more of the family members arrived.  My Mom, Dad, and cousin Bonnie (who is a nurse) stayed by Grandpa’s side throughout the night as he miraculously continued to breath on his own and his heart beat wildly. By 9 a.m the next morning (Tuesday May 5th), my Grandpa took his last breath and his suffering ended as he passed peacefully with family members by his side.

That day after work, I hurried home (an hour commute), packed my bag, made arrangements for my step-kids to stay with their Mom, grabbed our dog, and headed for my parents house. Brad met me there the next day after he was able to get some time off work. We spent the next three days going back and forth between my Mom and Dad’s house and my Grandma’s house visiting with cousins, aunts and uncles, and other family members (some I hadn’t seen in months or years).   We  shared memories and stories of Grandpa’s life and looked at old pictures.  We remembered Grandpa’s wonderful sense of humour, his love of his huge family (eight children, 22 grandchildren, and many more great-grandchildren), and of course, his passion for his 700-acre cattle farm. As we visited and spent precious time together, countless neighbours and friends arrived with meat platters, fruit baskets, and fresh homemade buns which kept our tummies full while our minds were too busy to accomplish such mundane tasks.

My grandparents on their 60th - they would have celebrated 65 years of marriage next month.

My grandparents on their 60th – they would have celebrated 65 years of marriage next month.

That Friday we had Grandpa’s visitation at the funeral home  where I was actually able to keep my emotions in check until I saw my Grandma lean down and give Grandpa’s kiss a cheek.  I found solace in my sweet 3-year-old niece Isabella though who despite being too young to understand was appropriately solemn and well-behaved the entire time.  She gave me her sweet smile and let me hug her tight which helped immensely. Of course, being surrounded by family also helped too.

The next say, we had Grandpa’s funeral where we celebrated his long, wonderful life.  My brother and 7 of my cousins were the pall-bearers and I was honoured to say a eulogy in honour of Grandpa.  My Dad also spoke and thankfully his courage and ability to “keep it together” during his speech allowed me to remain calm and well-spoken during mine.  I was however, grateful that I got to stand behind a podium as my legs shook uncontrollably the entire time!  It was a very nice service and after, the family once again gathered to receive even more of Grandpa’s friends and family.  He truly was a much-loved man who will be so greatly missed by many!

The next day (Sunday), we enjoyed one last visit with some of our extended family before heading home.  It was fun to watch my young nieces play with some of their second cousins and to visit with several of my aunts, uncles, and cousins who live out of town.  Later that day, we packed up and after five long days, headed home to prepare to return to work on Monday.

Monday came, and despite being exhausted, was a pretty ordinary day until I got home and received yet some more news from my Mom: my sister-in-law Sarah was in labour!  This, of course, was news we had been waiting for (although she was eight days ahead of her due date).  I immediately began making plans for the coming weekend to go out of town again, knowing my newest niece was on her way!

Aubrey - five days old

Aubrey – five days old

At 6:10 am. on Tuesday, May 12, my beautiful niece Aubrey Noreen Palmateer was born weighing 7lbs and 12 oz.  All day, I checked social media constantly for pictures and updates!  Like the proud Auntie I am, I showed everyone I could (including my third-grade students!) her adorable picture.  The rest of the week passed in a blur as I counted down the hours until Friday when I could go and meet my new niece!

Friday arrived and since Brad and the kids had decided to stay home for this trip, I was able to hit the road straight after work and make it to Mom & Dad’s just in time for dinner (bonus!) After dinner, we headed over to Grandma’s where my brother Mike and his wife, Sarah, met us with their beautiful new bundle of joy.  I specifically remember the moment when Mike sat the car seat down and pulled back its cover – there she was!  So tiny, beautiful, and perfect!  My new, precious little niece only four days old.  I felt emotional so immediately that for a few seconds I thought I was going to cry.  It’s amazing what a new addition to the family can do to prove to you just how precious life is!

As most families do when a new baby is born, we played what my brother likes

Aubrey meets her Great-Grandma

Aubrey meets her Great-Grandma

to call “hot potato” with Aubrey that night.  We passed her around, from Auntie Kelly, to Grandma, to Great-Grandma, to Aunt Barb, and around again – all getting in our fair share of snuggles and cuddles with tiny little Aubrey.

On Saturday, Mom and I made a quick shopping trip to stock up on My Little Ponies and Play-dough before heading to Quebec to my brother’s in-law’s for Isabella’s birthday party!  We had fun watching the girls play, enjoying delicious appetizers, and of course, playing more “Hot Potato” with Aubrey.  This time, she was awake though and spent nearly an hour looking around with her beautiful, dark blue, almond-shaped eyes.  During this time, I cradled her in my arms and gently stroked her soft, silky hair and skin while whispering to her how much she is loved and how beautiful she is.  It was such a special time that it almost made me want my own baby!  Almost…

Izzy ready to blow out her birthday candle

Izzy ready to blow out her birthday candle

Finally it was time to watch Izzy open her birthday presents.  Three-year-olds are the best people to watch open gifts!  She literally squealed with delight as she pulled each item from it’s pretty, tissue-filled bag.  If only we had thought to video tape her!  So precious 🙂

After gifts, I volunteered to be the “favourite” Auntie and brought my two older nieces and their cousin to the park to play.  It was fun to push the girls on the swings, help Lea master the monkey bars, and watch the girls dig in the dirt and make up imaginary adventures.  After a good hour at the park, we walked back to the house, me holding one of Izzy’s tiny hands while she goofily sang “Mama had a baby and its head popped off” while popping the tops off of dandelions with the other.  Have I mentioned how much I love her?!

I spent that night at Mom and Dad’s, cuddled and relaxing on their couch, and watching the Blue Jays game with Dad.  There is something so relaxing and peaceful about my parents’ place.  It felt wonderful to be there, enjoying a quiet evening with just the two of them, after a busy, fun-filled day.

Mom, me and Aubrey

Mom, me and Aubrey

Eventually Sunday rolled around and I could no longer neglect the long list of things I knew I needed to get done at home.  Since being out of town so much in the last few weeks, chores and spring jobs had piled up and been neglected.  Before heading out though, Mom and I swung by Mike’s place for one last visit with the baby!  An hour later, after being serenaded by Izzy on the piano, and snuggling Aubrey, my heart was full and it was time to make the trek home.

Finally, we come to today.  Thank goodness for holiday Mondays!  Life has been a bit of a blur lately (even had trouble focussing at work which is not usually an issue for me!)  As I mentioned, the list of chores had really backed up since we have barely been home lately.  Brad and I managed to get groceries done last evening which left today to finally tackle yard work, house cleaning, and laundry.  Thankfully the weather cooperated and we managed to get a significant part of our to-do list completed:  rake the lawn, muck out our flower beds, tune up the lawn mower, mow the lawn, burn up some old brush, tidy up the yard; do laundry, dust, scrub the kitchen, clean the bathroom, vacuum the floors, etc.   Despite completing all of that, we still had time to relax this afternoon and watch our Blue Jays finally win a game!

So now here I am – my house is clean, the yard is tidy, and most of the household “jobs” are done.  A freshly cleaned house and a checked-off to-do list are two of the best things I can think of!  We barbequed steaks for dinner, the kids helped clean up without complaining (amazing!) and now I’m sipping coffee and catching up on my blog!

Best of all, I feel like life is about to go back to normal for a little while. While I immensely enjoyed my time back home with family, it was definitely a whirlwind of a month and I am looking forward to getting back to routine and a semi-normal schedule!





Presents vs. Presence: My Family’s New Holiday Plan


Every time another holiday approaches, I start to think about what it means to me and my family, and how we are going to celebrate this year.  With Easter right around the corner, my husband and I have already decided that we are not going to go over-board on gifts this year.  We made this decision mostly based on our current efforts to tighten the purse strings and to pay off some debt.  But once it was made, I started thinking more about these holidays, what they have become, and what they mean to me.

My family celebrates all the traditional Christian holidays.  Growing up, the Easter Bunny hid eggs, Santa filled our stockings, and birthdays were made special with delicious cake and an assortment of gifts.  Brad and I did the same for our kids when they were younger.  But now the kids are growing up and I am starting to re-think things.  I am starting to realize and truly believe that holidays are over-commercialized and that for me, the real meaning of the holidays has been lost under a pile of meaningless gifts.

Every Christmas, for example, we are faced with the same task. What will we get [insert name here] this year? Sometimes there’s a particular gift that someone needs or has been wanting for a long time, but often enough we end up buying gifts just for the sake of buying gifts.  What is the meaning behind that?   A few weeks after Christmas, most kids I know can barely tell you what they received.  My own kids have had gifts they’ve gotten for Christmas that are still in the package months later.

We’ve all seen it – weeks, sometimes months, before the holiday actually arrives big box stores stock their shelves full of every holiday-related object imaginable.  People flock to these aisles to load their carts with decorations, gifts, and other items deemed “necessary” to properly celebrate the holiday.

Over the duration of the last few holidays, this process has sat uncomfortably with me.  And now that my husband and I are really cutting down on spending unnecessary money, even more so.  It all just seems so frivolous, and dare I say, wasteful.

So a few weeks ago, we announced to our kids that there won’t be heaps of candy for Easter this year.  Really, what child needs a small mountain of sugar anyway?  It hardly makes sense for us to harp on them about healthy eating, only to turn around and gift them with every sugar-laden treat available.  Does that mean we won’t get them anything?  Absolutely not.  But instead of the focus being on meaningless gifts (because, honestly, most kids these days already have everything they could need or want!), I want our family’s focus to be on the memories we make simply by being together.

Sleepover fun on Christmas Eve.

Sleepover fun on Christmas Eve.

That’s why my husband and I have already discussed our plans for Christmas this year.  Rather than over-load are kids with gifts as we’ve done in the past, our plan is to book a family trip where we can experience new things, have a great time, and make memories together.  I strongly believe in gifting children the gift of memories as opposed to material things.  After all, ten years from now, will they remember the new video game they got, or will they have lasting memories of our fun, family vacay?


It all goes back to my belief that spending time with your kids is far more important and meaningful than buying them gifts.  So many kids nowadays have every gadget going.  I know parents who have ran out of ideas as to what to get their kids for Christmas, because their kids already have everything.  I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of financial predicament these parents are putting themselves in, for such little result.  Yet, when I invite my stepson to play a simple game of Jenga with me, he is so excited he is literally vibrating.

So, this holiday, whatever it is, I challenge you to let go of some of the gifts and focus on the activities surrounding the holiday.  What memories is your family making?  How much quality time did you spend with your children, and most importantly, years from now, what precious memories will they have?


Check out some of my family’s special memories of holidays past!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.





To Brandon & Mariah, with all my love

Like many little girls, when I was younger I loved to daydream about what my life would be like some day. Who will I marry?  Where will I live?  How many children will I have and what will their names be?  Like other type-A, highly organized people, I had my path set out before me: graduate university in my early twenties, get married by my mid-twenties, and start having babies

The kids and I at the pumpkin patch - 2013.

The kids and I at the pumpkin patch – 2013.

(probably 2-3) by my late twenties.  Now that I am older, I have learned that life certainly doesn’t always work out the way we plan.  But sometimes, the unexpected can be just as good, or dare I say, even better.

When I met my husband about eight years ago, I had never dated a guy with children before.  Many women were hesitant to do so, but never having had the experience, and having a particular love for children, I found the fact that Brad was a father endearing and sweet.  I eagerly accepted Brandon, 3, and Mariah, 7, and spent many of our first weekends together playing rounds of Disney Monopoly and other kids’ games.

Our family, early days.

Our family, early days.

For the first few years, being a “stepmom” was easy.  At the time, Brad only had the kids every second weekend.  I stepped back when it came to discipline and let Brad and his ex, Julie, take care of that.  I didn’t have the day-to-day responsibility of helping with homework (although I loved to help Mariah learn how to read), carting them around to various activities, and making sure their household chores were done.

But all that changed about three years into my relationship with Brad.  The kids’ mom had a career change and asked us if we were interested in splitting custody of the kids (we’d have them one week, she’d have them the next).  I was reluctant for such a sudden change, but Brad saw it as an opportunity for what he really wanted – far more time with his kids, and so we agreed.

Suddenly, our fun-filled weekends of games, play time, and activities, with the kids turned into a much larger responsibility.  I was no longer just the “fun” stepmom with an endless supply of craft ideas; I was now a real parent with rules, a hand in discipline, and my very own set of expectations.

Toronto trip

Toronto trip 2009

That first year, as a new “mom” was rough.  As all new parents know, having kids is a life-changing, huge sacrifice.  It seems like your whole world is turned upside down.  You no longer operate under your own schedule and your own priorities are never, ever first anymore.  I was the primary breadwinner at the time too, so that meant spending a lot of my hard-earned money on things the kids needed (until this point in my life, all my extra cash went to shopping for clothes and beauty products!)  Most parents have at least nine months (or longer while they plan pregnancies) to wrap their heads around this idea – for me, it was different.  It seemed, I was thrown into motherhood overnight – and to make things even tougher, I was raising someone else’s kids.

Camp Kipawa

Camp Kipawa

There was definitely a lengthy period of adjustment for both me and the kids as we got used to living and being with each other in an entirely new way.  I vividly remember the day we hit the breaking point.  The kids, as kids sometimes do, had been fighting non-stop and just generally acting miserable.  I was filled with resentment and feeling unappreciated for all the sacrifices I had made to have them living with us.  I was at my wit’s end and as tears of frustration streamed down my face, my husband (boyfriend at the time), looked at me and gently said, “You know, Kel, there are guys just like me out there with no kids, you could go and find one.”   While I perfectly respected and loved him for the option of “setting me free”, the thought of leaving him tore my heart into a hundred pieces.  It was in that moment, that I had a major, life-changing realization:  if I was going to love Brad and have a future with him, then I had to 100% accept his kids and love them and treat them as if they were my own.

From that day forward, that realization has helped me to become a better, more loving and accepting stepmom.  It’s a unique kind of love when you’re raising

Family game night

Family game night

kids that are not biologically yours.  I don’t have the inner, maternal “bond” that many mothers develop while their babies are still in the womb, but I do love these kids the same as if they had my own flesh and blood.  I have the same expectations for them and want to teach them all the things I would teach my own babies (although sometimes it’s easier said than done, considering they bounce back and forth between two, very different households). And while I never held them in my arms while rocking them to sleep, changed their diapers, or experienced many of their “firsts”, we do have a very special history together chalked full of precious memories.


Dancing with Brandon

Don’t get me wrong – there are still days when it is extremely tough – especially now that one is a teenager and the other thinks he is a teenager.  I still have extremely high expectations of how I think they should behave but am learning that kids will be kids, and for some things at least, I have to let it go.  I am learning to deal with the fact that I have to do excessive, endless loads of laundry, that I’m practically a personal taxi service, and that no matter how many times I tell them, they will never remember not to leave their shoes in the middle of the entranceway beside the front door.

For Brandon and I particularly, it’s been a challenging road at times.  For the longest time, I couldn’t understand why he insisted so much on pushing my buttons, and why I just couldn’t control my temper with him.  So many times, I ended up screaming and yelling at him (and he back at me), and then crying my heart out with pure frustration and guilt.  After much work, and advice from our family counsellor, I am learning how to be a better stepmom to Brandon. One thing I have realized just recently is one of the reasons Brandon and I have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye: we are actually a lot alike.  We are both tirelessly stubborn and like to have things done our own way.  We like to control every situation and aren’t very good at listening to others when we are fired up about a topic.  But while this has its obvious challenges, I have to admit, there’s a small part of me that’s proud he’s a little bit like me.

I was honoured to have Mariah as one of my bridesmaids.

I was honoured to have Mariah as one of my bridesmaids.

It’s funny now when I look back at pictures of the kids from that time when Bradley and I first met.  They are so little in those pictures – the amount they’ve grown and have changed, absolutely floors me. Then it hits me ~ I have been around for half of Mariah’s life, and Brandon probably remembers very little about life without me.  It makes me immensely happy to realize this, immensely happy to know that I am truly a real part of their life, and them of mine.  Not only that, but it makes me incredibly proud – I think of how much

Canada's Wonderland

Canada’s Wonderland

Brandon has progressed on the ice, from a little Timbit, who couldn’t even stand on skates, to a kid who dreams of playing in the NHL.  I think of Mariah’s smile as she lights up the stage at her dance recitals and dances so beautifully it makes me cry.

It’s true, I may not haven given birth to these kids, and it may not be at all what I thought I wanted out of life, but now, looking back, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  From two, adorable little faces who smiled shyly at me the first time we met, I have learned so much.  I have learned that it doesn’t take flesh and blood to be a parent.  I have learned that parenting is by far the most challenging job in the world.  I have learned that there will be ups and downs, and some days you will feel like you just can’t go on, but that other days, your heart will spill over with love and pride, for two small beings that you can’t imagine your life without.  And most of all, I have learned that they are mine – my son, my daughter, who I love very much and who forever will hold a very dear place in the depths of my heart.



Childhood Adventures

While chatting in the lunchroom today, some of my colleagues and I got to talking about childrens’ toys and memories of things we played with when we were small.  I shared with them how my 2-year-old niece loves to imagine that she’s cooking and will play for hours with her plastic food.  My colleague commented that her 3-year-old loves nothing more than stirring an empty pot with a wooden spoon, envisioning whatever concoction is on the “menu” that day.  As we sat there sharing and discussing, it got me thinking about my own childhood, especially all the imaginative play I used to do and before I knew it, I was flooded with such wonderful, heart-warming memories, I just had to share.

girl on swingWhen I was a kid, my parents owned a home that was close to 100-years-old.  Just off the living room at the front of the house, there was a very small, old porch that never got used.  The porch was probably only 3 ft. by 4ft. but as a child it felt like my very own palace since my parents had taken the time and effort to transform it into a little “house” for me. Inside, I remember a tiny, wooden table with a homemade tablecloth, that my Mom had sewn, draped over it.  There was a small cupboard ( made by my Dad?) stocked full of white plastic dishes with tiny pink roses decorating the edges.  Due to the house’s age, the windows were old – cracked white paint on the ledges with an endless supply of houseflies always meeting their fate there on hot, summer days.  My Mom had also sewn some tiny curtains and hung them on the windows, making the place feel like a real home.  I can picture my little doll’s high chair sitting next to the table and the steep wooden steps that led outside, with a screen door that slammed shut as I raced out of my playhouse into the wonders of our enormous backyard.

Outside my tiny palace, our yard was safely protected by a tall hedge that my parents meticulously trimmed each summer.  I can vividly remember the smell of the leaves on that hedge and how easy it was to find wee ladybugs crawling amongst them. We’d carefully pluck the insect from the leaf and turn our hands gently as it crawled around our fingers. In one corner of our yard, stood a massive ever green tree (so huge, it must have been well over 100-years old itself!)  The trees’ sharp needles smelled of pine and reached to the ground creating a tent-like space underneath it to play in the shade.  Further along, was our swing set –  the one I’d spend hours on, pumping my legs to go as high as I could, and shamelessly singing at the top of my lungs.  Next to sandboxme, my brother dug for hours in his sandbox (again, built my Dad) that came with it’s very own lid to protect it when it rained.  Past the sandbox, was my parents’ garden.  It was huge and when we were kids it bloomed with all kinds of vegetables – green and yellow beans, peas, carrots, potatoes, even pumpkins, and along the back our very own set of brambling raspberry bushes.  Oh, how those raspberries smelled during picking season! Next to the garden, was my “Dad’s” little shed, neatly painted brown and white, stocked full of his tools and other supplies, and always smelling like gasoline and old things.  Then there was our patio deck.  It raspberrieswrapped around our house which made it huge enough for me to imagine it was my very own stage.  I’d take my little boom-box out to the deck and spend hours dancing and singing, imagining my very own audience in lawn chairs spread across the grass cheering me on.  Even now when I think about it, I can smell burgers on the BBQ and hear Madonna and the New Kids on the Block blasting from those tiny speakers.

As if our wonderful yard wasn’t fun enough, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house situated at one end of a dead-end street.  This meant that all the neighborhood kids could safely play out there, with very little worry of any traffic.  In the summer, we rode our bikes, up and down, up and down, up and down that street, sometimes venturing a few blocks  away to the park to play on the tire swing or to take a turn down the slide, so hot that the metal would burn the skin on your thighs.  Other times, we’d spend hours collecting sticks, old 2x4s, and whatever else we could get our hands on, to build our own forts in the ravine at the end of the street.  In the spring, when the ditches were full of water and the air smelled like mud, we’d tromp along in our rubber boots rubber bootsimagining some kind adventure only a child can imagine.  In winter, we’d invite all of our friends and play such rowdy games of “road hockey” that even some of the adults on the street would come out to play. It wouldn’t be until well past dark and we were completely exhausted that our mothers would finally call us in.

Thinking back to this time as a care-free, imaginative child, I feel so very lucky that I had the childhood I had.  These playful and heartwarming memories only lead to remembering more joyous times in my youth – my beautiful, lavender bedroom stocked full of toys and books, my tap-dancing space in the basement, laying on the couch on days home sick from school, watching cartoons and eating chicken noodle soup made by Grandma.  I am so very blessed for each and every one of these memories, and now it brings such happiness to my heart when I watch my own nieces spend hours playing games they’ve made up, and going on adventures only a child can imagine.