Monday, April 1, 2013

Latham Family Adventures: An Introduction

     It was obvious to me, quite early on, that the little Latham children were going to be adventurers. There were five of them in all, and they were spaced closely in age so that they resembled stair steps when they stood in a line from youngest to oldest. I noticed sly glances and secret nods passing between the children while they were still quite young. As they grew, the plots and schemes began to take shape in the form of wonderful, imaginative games.
      I am only the mom, an outsider of sorts, but I wish to make record of the children’s exploits. I will not attempt to put them in chronological order, but rather, to write them down as they come forward in my memory (you know, the little Lathams are almost grown now!). My hope is that these stories will bring smiles and maybe even inspire other little children to create adventures of their own.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Latham Family Adventures: The Grapevine Kingdom

     The Latham children loved the woods. There, they found many things to inspire adventure. Wildlife was plentiful. They observed snakes, deer, snapping turtles, and even a stray armadillo! But the trees and other growing things were the most magical. There were oak, walnut, sassafras, and cedar trees. Many were old and gnarled and provided wonderful hiding places and climbing toys.
     One area of the woods was a favorite among the little Lathams. The Grapevine Kingdom. Here, was a patch of trees covered with grapevines. The vines seemed to rise unsupported from the ground. They curled and twisted their way to the lowest branches of the trees. Such a beautiful, tangled maze was woven as the vines intersected the branches and trunks. Where I saw a masterpiece of natural beauty, the Little Lathams saw the world’s best jungle gym.
     The vines, some of them three inches in diameter, were perfect for swinging. The children clamored over them searching for the ideal swing. Many of the vines weren’t secure enough or flexible enough. It took many tries and a quantity of bumps and bruises before finding the best vine swings. Then the rest of the afternoon was spent in Grapevine Kingdom. The children laughed and screamed. They took turns swinging till their hands were raw.
     A day at the park, filled with fancy play equipment, couldn’t compete with the fun they had in the woods. I know because I saw their faces when they came tearing down the path that first day. They were sweaty and covered with scratches. They were all talking at the same time.
     “Mom, you won’t believe the grapevines!”
     “We’re swinging on them!”
     “It’s a Grapevine Kingdom!!”

Monday, February 4, 2013

Latham Family Adventures: The Farm

     The Little Lathams loved running and playing all over our 20 acres of Ozark country. In the process, they found a few spots that were just so amazing! One of these places was quite a distance from our house. We came across it while on a family hike exploring the property.
      We were deep in the woods. It was dark and cool there, even in the heat of summer. The trees and vines were beautiful and mysterious. The kids scampered about hopping up on stumps and fallen trees. They called to each other pointing out forest treasures and  the occasional wild critter. Then suddenly, we stepped from one magical world into another. A small clearing opened up before us.
     We hadn’t noticed, but our hike had been taking us up a gentle slope so that we ended up on  the top of a hill. The children fell silent as they stepped into the sunshine and looked around. Then the spell was broken as they scattered to explore the place. It was a pretty meadow, circular in shape and sprinkled with wild flowers. The interesting part for the Little Lathams was the area around the edge of the clearing where the trees grew thin.  It looked as if giants had played a game of dodge ball and left rocks strewn about as evidence.  Some were as big as boulders, embedded in the ground and surrounded by smaller rocks forming little nooks and hiding places. The kids loved it and didn’t want to leave that afternoon.
     They went back the next day and many days after. They began calling their special place “The Farm”. Finally, one day, I was invited on a hike up to see what they had been doing. As we neared the clearing, I saw what looked like a miniature homestead. The children had built rock walls, a foot high, marking off different areas of the farm. There was the outline of a cottage, garden, and various out buildings. As they took me on a tour, I was amazed to see all the details the farm hands had included.  A stove in the kitchen, stacked fire wood, a chicken coop (complete with nesting boxes) and even garden tools were all there!

     Nestled in the dappled shade, it looked homey and inviting. Everything was fashioned from materials found there in the clearing. The colors and shapes blended naturally to make the Farm look as if it were part of the landscape. The children used sticks, branches, vines, dirt and so many of those amazing Ozark rocks.  

      Gardeners and farmers in our part of the world cursed the rocks each spring, as a new crop rose from the earth to be toted away before planting could take place. But on this day, I was grateful for those rocks and the little hands that used them to make something so beautiful.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Latham Family Adventures: Library Excursion

    Ah, a day at the library! And I do mean a day! After all, a 45 minute drive to the nearest library, with five children packed in the van, made for a pretty grand outing. As soon as the Little Lathams walked through the doors of the library, they scattered to different corners of the stacks. Some went straight to the fairy tales, another to the chapter books and yet another went in search of non-fiction. He was in need of instructions for something such as how to do magic tricks or how build a live animal trap. The possibilities were endless! There were new authors to look for, the next volume in a beloved series, or some new interest that needed exploring. We always had list in hand.

      Then there was the treasure-hunt aspect of the library trip. This entailed just wandering the rows, stopping to look at illustrations that caught the eye or an exciting title, all the while hoping to come across some new gem. The search was quite time-consuming, as the Little Lathams took the selection of their books very seriously. The children always left with arms full and spirits high in anticipation of what was waiting inside the covers of those beloved volumes.

      The ride home was silent, everyone busily flipping pages and trying to decide which book to read first. That is, unless we happened to find a CD of a wonderful book read aloud. When this was the case, the children sat listening, each with a stack of precious books on his lap, engrossed in a story which made the long drive home seem like seconds.

      Many  pieces of clean laundry remained unfolded and many projects were unfinished during the first few days following a trip to the library. The books had to be explored and at least one of the stories we planned to read aloud together had to be started. And the adventures which resulted from the reading of the books … let’s just say life at our house wouldn’t have been the same without those trips to the library.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Lesson from God

I have trouble sometimes understanding spiritual matters. I pray and read and attend church, but I struggle to grasp some of the loftier ideas. Then once in a while, God shows me something so simple that I smack my head. Of course it would be wonderful to understand the many layers of Christ’s teachings, but perhaps the basics are enough for me to handle right now. And what better way to get something through my thick skull than to use parenting as the example. After all, that’s what I do. That’s what I am… a parent. I can identify.

 My latest lesson came about during the current stage of my life. If you have older kids, you know the stage I mean. Some of the hands-on part of parenting is tapering off and I’m watching our five children begin to live their lives as young adults.  Three are college-age living in different towns and two are still in high school. This year, everyone was home for Thanksgiving, Christmas and several other weekend breaks. We’ve always had great family time. We love the holiday rituals which have been in place since the kids were young. We enjoy talking, eating, and laughing together.  But, for the last year or so I have been anxiously watching my offspring. Specifically, I’m watching their relationships with each other.
I’m wondering about those days and months between the festivities. I can’t help but notice the siblings are moving in very different directions. Will they stay in touch? Will they go out of their way to be interested in each others’ lives? Will they call on one another for help? Will they offer help without being called? I hope…I pray they do all these things. I see them beginning to and it makes me feel so much love for them. It makes me feel happy and proud and so blessed. My husband and I have loved and cherished them, now they are following our example with each other.

Then, it dawned on me. As God’s children, this is exactly what we must do. Love one another. Look out for our brothers and sisters. God has loved us and taught us how to love. He has protected us and blessed us and now it’s our turn to reflect those things by loving one another. As strongly as I want my children to care for each other, how much more does our Father in heaven want His children to do the same?
So let’s collectively smack our heads and start living in a manner that is pleasing to God, our Father. Let’s be good sons and daughters. By staying in touch, being interested in one another, helping out when needed even when our lives take us in different directions. It is so simple and so right.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Latham Family Adventures: The Giant Bride

     The dress-up box started out small. The Little Lathams were young when they began collecting various items to use for costumes. It didn’t take long before the box spilled over with hats, capes, gloves, shoes; just about anything that could be used to transform a kid into someone or something else.

     Many times, the wearing of a costume was impromptu, spur of the moment. Somebody needed to wear wings while he jumped from the top of the swing set, for example. But other times, a very detailed scenario was being acted out. When this was the case, the costume was of upmost importance. A big part of the fun was in the preparation. And many times, the dressing up took longer than the game itself.

     One day, a fancy bridal gown made its way to the dress-up box. Thus began a string of weddings at our house. Whenever the little Latham girls could beg, coax, or bribe their brothers to participate, there would be a wedding. Usually, festivities would include music, flower petals strew all over the living room floor, and a beautiful little bride, her ornate gown trailing six feet behind her. The boys donned their gentleman coats and suffered through a very short wedding.

     Then came a period of time when the bridal gown didn’t show up for a while. I’m guessing the boys had their fill of nuptial fun and were interested in more manly activities. That is why I was slightly surprised one afternoon when I heard that there was to be a wedding. The announcement was preceded by a good 45 minute session of giggling and snorting coming from behind a closed bedroom door. I stepped back to watch the flower girls throw some fluffy white stuff around on the carpet, then turned to see what would happen next. My mouth dropped open when I saw the bride! Coming through the door in the beautiful white dress was the littlest Latham boy! And he was six feet tall! And he was acting a little drunk, stumbling and bumping into things! The entire wedding party was laughing hysterically when the bride crumpled to the floor. The crash revealed another little Latham, under the silk and lace who had been walking blindly with his brother on his shoulders!

     Luckily, I had a camera handy. I was able to snap a photo. I have it to this day. It's tucked away from the hands of anyone who may want to rid the world of evidence of that very funny, giant, boy bride!




Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Latham Family Adventures: Poor People

     The Little Lathams were fascinated by the idea of being “poor”. Being too young to realize the heartbreak of true poverty, they based their ideas on the stories we read together. Many folk and fairy tales feature clever characters that must rely solely on wit and ingenuity to survive. These characters not only seemed to have a multitude of adventures, but many times they turned out to be the heroes of the stories.

     So was the mind-set when the children set out to play a game they called “Poor People”. Barefoot and dressed in raggedy clothes, the only thing they took was a basket or bag for gathering. They left me with some advice, “Be careful what you leave outside…there might be poor people around who would take things from your yard.” “Yeah, like lemonade!”  

    Off they went to fend for themselves. It was a scraggly group sneaking around in the garden. They gathered green beans from the vine, onions and anything else that looked ripe enough to eat! (They consumed more vegetables as poor people than they did at the dinner table!). Sooner or later the poor people ended up at the huge patch of wild blackberries at the edge of the property. There, they feasted until their fingers were stained purple.

     Next, they decided it was getting dark. The poor people would have to bed down for the night. They chose a spot under the trees and curled up, five in a row.  They pretended to sleep through a long night (about 10 minutes).  

    At some point in the day, I rambled outside with a jug of lemonade and some cups. I settled at the picnic table for a while, and then suddenly realized that I had left something in the house. I ran back in completely forgetting about my lemonade! It didn’t take long before five dirty faces peered around the tree trunks along the edge of the woods. Two of the motley figures dashed into the yard.  They made off with the goods and disappeared back into the trees with the others cheering them on.

      Hansel and Gretel would be proud!