He Flies

I’ve kept this to myself for more than a year and at the risk of sounding completely delusional, I’ve decided to share my secret, I talk to flies.  Not so bad?  OK, it gets weirder…  I talk to my dad as a fly.  Yep, I warned you, now hold your judgement and let me explain.

I know a lot of people who see signs, symbols or animals and remember a loved one.  Most of the time I hear butterflies or cardinals, usually creatures with less filthy and annoying reputations.  My dad always wished he had the ability to fly and beginning with the day he passed it seemed he was communicating literally as a fly.  After battling a cancer that ate away at his bones, robbed his ability to move comfortably and provided a hellish amount of pain, he was finally free to fly.

The police arrived after his last breath before 4 AM, a fly flew in with them.  It was early spring and the first fly I had seen that year rested on the ceiling in his bedroom as I sat with my mom, numb from the previous year leading up to that moment.

fly-machu-picchuBreaking the empty silence,  “I still want to go on the family vacation we talked about,” Mom said.  We had been trying to keep my dad encouraged during his illness by talk of taking a big trip to Machu Picchu, a place he had always wanted to see.  We promised him we would all go when he regained his health, as we all believed he would.  The fly took off from the ceiling and circled around the room several times before landing again.  Half joking, I identified the fly as “Dad” and stated he was showing his support of us going.

Over the months that followed, I continued to have symbolic moments with flies.  Times when I was overwhelmed with sorrow, flies seemed to appear in the most unlikely or random places.  I didn’t associate all flies with my dad and there was some frustration within myself for even recognizing the connection an insect could have with someone I admired so much.  Generally, the disgust I had for flies and what they represented before, turned to comfort and humor when I needed it during the darkest moments of grief. An early fly memory was watching as the creature floundered in flight, wobbling like a drunk as if it were learning to fly brought a smile.  I lost my natural instinct to swat away flies and instead forced me to tune into the present in those moments they appeared.

Six months after his death, I dreaded my parent’s anniversary.  I knew it would be unbearable for my mom and I figured she wouldn’t want anyone around.  The hopelessness I felt during his illness returned with the hopelessness I had knowing there was nothing I could do to help my mom.  For the better half of the day I debated whether I should bring her the roses I knew my dad would have brought to her as he did every year.  I agonized, cried and could not turn my thoughts to anything else as I sat at my kitchen table confused.  Of course a fly appeared and circled around me, maybe out of anger he wasn’t physically present and my mom was suffering, I left for the opposite corner of the house to let my tears continue to flow.  The damn fly immediately followed and rested on the ceiling above my head.  For the first time in six months I spoke to the fly, to my dad.  “Do you want me to bring her roses,” I asked.  The fly left the ceiling and flew into my raw wet cheek.  “Fine Dad, I will go get them.”  I can’t imagine they helped Mom much that day, but Dad wanted her to have them.

Without hearing his words, the fly has been his form of communication to quiet my emotion, to remind me to breathe, at times to let me know his disapproval and more than anything to signal he is and always will be with me.  As strange as I know it is, I accept my bizarre connection to this six-legged, giant eyed buzzing creature.

This past summer my uncle also passed.  My cousin, sister and I all decided to get a tattoo for our dads, likely one of the last things they would have wanted us to do for them.  My uncle even told his daughters “tattoos are like putting a bumper sticker on a Cadillac.”  I guess I think of my body as more of a Volkswagen bus with a statement to make.  Of all the words or imagines I debated to use as a tribute to my dad, one thing seemed make the most sense.  The fly sits high on my left femur, the bone which broke on my dad’s way to being able to fly.

Happy Birthday Dad, the flies are not much of a substitute for being able to see you, talk to you and feel your hug.  I appreciate them either way.  You are free from pain and at peace now,  I miss you today and always.

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Alone and Full of Questions

I’m going to admit, I am struggling this week. It’s times like this, I really miss my dad. He and I would talk in ways I haven’t found anyone else I can speak openly with. It was easier to keep it between the two of us, basically only to avoid frustrating other people, facing their dismissal of our point of view or hearing their opinion of how we are crazy to have questions. But I still do have questions, I still am curious, I miss my confidant to share this perspective and so I struggle. I struggle with the hesitation to bring it up to anyone else but it’s a lonely place.
 
I don’t understand when it became unintelligent to ask questions. It’s curious to me how it is disrespectful to seek the truth. It’s frustrating to me when their is no accountability and total acceptance for news reports changing or omitting facts and filling with hours of persuasive commentary rather than providing actual details.
 
What happened in Las Vegas this week is concerning and confusing to me. The narrative being given has no logic and does not match what witnesses at the concert reported immediately following the event. The “facts” of the story are not static, more answers only lead me to to more questions. This event has many more people than usual scratching their heads to make sense of why things are not adding up. And I, like many of them are not tin foil hat wearing, Alex Jones following, conspiracy theorists – all things my dad and I despised being identified with. We simply have questions.
 
Questions are not disrespectful to victims, in fact it’s the opposite. If my loved one were injured or worse, I would demand justice. And based on the state of media in the United States and the corporate ownership, it would be foolish not to question why they can’t clearly articulate details and stick to them. Mark Twain said it best, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.”
 
If you have read this far, I appreciate you. Please for one minute, drop your feelings of why my opinion is all wrong and sit in a place of being curious. What if I am right and there is more than we are being told.

Living History at Mahaffie

With the kid’s Kansas City Passport to Adventure, the adventure always started in the car with learning.  En route I handed them their own passport and gave them the name of the place we were going, making them sound out the words and finding the page in their book.  They competitively searched until they could find the page and look at the picture of where we were headed.  This also made it important for the kids to proudly reopen their book to the correct page to collect their stamp when we got there.

Looking at the books on the ride to an adventure always made the kids look ahead for where they wanted to travel to next.  One picture they always stopped on and couldn’t wait to check out was Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm.  This also became Parker’s favorite adventure of the summer and one my mom said she wants us to go again and bring her along.

On a near hundred degree day we decided it was finally the day to make the trip to Olathe and investigate what Mahaffie was all about.  Due to the heat, we were about the only guests on the property and received undivided and personal attention from the farm staff dressed in 18th century attire.  The farm itself was a landmark for stagecoach travelers headed west, where they could stop for a hot meal and restock supplies.  We toured the actual farmhouse and learned about the Mahaffie family.

04mahaffiefarmThe kids were intrigued by the kitchen set-up in the basement of the home.  I quizzed them on where traditional kitchen equipment was located to help them discover how they would wash dishes, keep food cold and cook.  The woman working in the kitchen was patient to show them the inside of the wood burning stove, how coffee was made, to answer their inquisitive minds and offer them cookies which were made in the kitchen.  I was alarmed at the thoughtfulness of the questions the kids were asking, considering how could they see with no electricity?  The hostess showed them lanterns and demonstrated how it took the place of lights.

We stepped out of the house and headed to the barn where another hostess met us outside to show the kids the horses.  She escorted us into the barn to talk about the stagecoaches and encouraged the kids to climb aboard the oldest one they had at the farm.  Once the06mahaffiefarm horses were harnessed up to another stagecoach we took a ride all to ourselves.  The kids bounced along looking out the windows with silent gleeful smiles until Parker interrupted with “This is the best day ever.”

We also checked out a smaller barn where the blacksmith allowed the kids to take turns helping him stoke the fire and then hammer an iron into a hook.  I felt humbled and grateful to have this man working the fire for our enjoyment on such a hot day.  He and the others on the farm all were gracious to give us the experience and attention to make this adventure amazing.

Before we could leave the farm, the kids also experienced how they would have been washing clothes if they were born centuries ago.  I don’t think they would have been so happy to be splashing rags into water if it were their job, they certainly enjoyed it at the Mahaffie Farm though.05mahaffiefarm

Before entering the farm, we were directed through a building to pay the entrance fee.  We ended our trip back in the building where there is a small museum with more to read about the farm and history of Olathe.  The kids tried on farm clothes and created mail to simulate how mail used to be delivered by stagecoach.

I was never a fan of learning about history in school, experiencing history is so much better.  We will definitely be back to another adventure at Mahaffie Stagecoach, next time on a cooler day and I will bring my mom along too.

Kemper Outdoor Adventure

One hot afternoon at the end of June, we found ourselves set off for another adventure to fulfill out Kansas City Passport to Adventure book.  This time we stepped into the scenic landscape near Lake Jocomo in Blue Springs, Missouri at the Kemper Outdoor Education Center.  It was clear they had amazing day camps where kids were canoeing on a pond andkemper-outdoor friendly camp counselors aimed us on path to hike.  The path took us over a marshy area with a long wooden boardwalk and lead to prairie and forest areas.  With the heat and hungry irritability, we decided we had seen enough and retreated to the cabin to collect our passport stamp.  Inside the kids not only got a stamp, they got to select a small nature figurine.  Parker got a turtle while Jones picked up a plastic ant to take home and fool Mom when she walked in the door.

We were also instructed to not miss the hoofed animal enclosure just a short ride around the lake.  There Jones fed an antelope through the fence with some other patrons who brought carrots.  Since Parker’s mood reflected the heat of the day, I required her to ride with her eyes closed home from Kemper (in hopes she would nod off and get some much-needed rest.)  Jones softly sang a lullaby about stop lights to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle” to her the whole way home.

Kemper Outdoor and the hoofed enclosure were two unique finds for outdoor fun in Kansas City.  I would take advantage of participating in the activities they offer, enjoying another hike or returning to check on the antelope up close – this time I will know to bring some carrots.kemper-outdoor3

Kindergarten Tears

My daughter started kindergarten and the immediate response from people I have encountered since has been “Were there tears?”  The short answer is no not that morning anyway, we all went to school smiling and prepared for this new experience.  We did have a tearful exchange long after bedtime the night before the first day, Parker stated she could not sleep and was full of anxiety.

“My friends won’t be there, what if I won’t have any friends?” she muttered out in between sobbing.  After her body and mind finally relaxed she woke up excited and ready to put on her new outfit declaring “I look fresh.”

The tears I may or may not have been shedding were related to the stress of delaying and then choosing a kindergarten.  I felt my daughter was kindergarten ready last year, therefore 1st grade ready now…  Unfortunately birth date restrictions prohibit or mandate kids start according to a standardized system of laws out of my control.  So I waited, continuing her education through Montessori school and at home.  There were so many things I loved about her school, it

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The Montessori school also offered ballet lessons, which Parker’s teacher Ms. Deja taught.  This is after the recital in June 2016.

made the search for kindergarten all the more emotional.  Parker had the same adoring teachers for three years, ones who I faithfully trusted and appreciated.  She had home cooked, healthy lunches and I knew she was eating better than what I would have been scrambling together at home for her noon meal.  Her classroom was autonomous, she got to engage in activities she was interested in and learned at her own level.  Over the course of three years I watched Parker thrive, put creative effort and pride in her work and challenge herself to learn more.  Her school does offer kindergarten and it was a consideration to stay.  However, I knew our attachment was already so strong after three years, if we stayed a fourth I would be desperate to keep her in the pre-school setting until college.

 

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An example of the type of work Parker was doing in Montessori school.  She individually punched out states, labeled, puzzled, glued and painted her own maps of the United States, Australia, North America and South America.

With so much to love about Parker’s Montessori school, I may have been hyper critical of other schools when checking out kindergartens.  I researched online last fall, had information packets sent and began touring.  I walked the halls of not one, not two but eight different elementary schools.  Some tours were more out of curiosity or comparison purposes, I wanted to really see the variety.  I toured public schools, a charter Montessori school, private schools, religious schools and a language immersion school.  I asked a lot of questions and I kept a lot of my observations and judgements to myself.  There were things I liked about each school individually and equally unfavorable items everywhere too.  I’ll admit to being personally critical of common core curriculum and an advocate for increasing teacher’s salaries due to their inadequate financial appreciation.  I examined the diversity of the students and staff, the quality of work hanging on the walls, the cleanliness and organization of the buildings, and the menu of food served in the cafeteria in each elementary school.

 

Ultimately I came down to two favorites.  The first happens to be the closest private school to our home and one which I was surprised to enjoy so much.  It was a small school with one classroom per grade level and went up to grade twelve.  Their quality of work, academic achievement, atmosphere and friendliness of the students (all grade levels) far exceeded any other school I toured.  Their art teacher and classroom were impressive and since Parker toured with me, she continued to talk about it for months.  I was also ecstatic about their lunch menu as it was another school with daily cooked, healthy farm-fresh ingredients.  As if this weren’t enough – no common core.  The curriculum is structured as Classical Christian and would require memorization of bible versus.  While there is a lot to admire about Classical Christian, including the cursive handwriting she would be practicing this year and the focus on grammar, logic and rhetoric, I am not Christian and know little about the bible.

The other favorite school I considered is one modeled from Waldorf education. A short YouTube explanation of Waldorf can be viewed by clicking here.  The belief is music, theater, literature and writing need to not just be learned but experienced.  They aim to cultivate a desire to learn within each individual child and eliminate the need for competitive testing.  My artistically inclined five year old would be encouraged to dance, perform and learn about her world by exploring on their seven acre rural property.  Students in the school had cubbies containing slickers, hats and rain boots because they spent a lot of time out in the gardens no matter the weather.  When we viewed the school it was for a May Pole Celebration, I observed teachers redirecting students by singing them back into attention.  Parker participated in a treasure hunt in the sandbox to find shells, rocks and feathers which she got to add to a fairy house she made out of clay.  While students hung upside down from trees, swung on tire swings and picnicked with their patchouli smelling dreadlocked parents, I knew this would be the school to encourage her creativity.  About half-way through the Native American story puppet show, when the scent of the burning sage had worn off, I realized it may be unrealistic to plan to attend a school so far from home.

Based on so many variables, cost and distance to my preferred schools, it seemed like I would be having issues no matter where she attended.  Ultimately we chose the free public school option with the hope she would be assigned to the kindergarten teacher with the most experience as we indicated to the principal.  Unfortunately our request was not respected and she was added to the classroom with a first year teacher with the principals statement “Don’t worry, it will be great.”  And every day since the teacher comments “Parker did great.”  I understand the teacher is commenting on her behavior, which compared to peers in her class, I’m sure the teacher feels she hit the jackpot with my daughter.  Except the quality of work Parker brings home has declined from

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Quality public education.

what I know she is capable of, not great.  The countless worksheets she brings home on a daily basis is equivalent to introductory work she is too advanced for, not great.  And the post-it notes I found in her backpack this morning with words Parker said her teacher wrote for her to copy: “speggitti” and “basktball,” really not great.  The excitement she had for school and learning is transitioning to becoming a chore and while this happens for many students, it definitely shouldn’t happen in kindergarten.

 

More tears may be shed over kindergarten, it may be me or it may be her teacher and principal – and we haven’t even gotten to the common core math shenanigans yet.  I think the worst part is knowing my daughter has parents who will advocate for her and ensure she gets what she needs, while there are a lot of other kids who have to settle for what they get and will not meet their full potential.  I will be speaking with her teacher and without improvement, the principal.  Choosing a kindergarten took more effort and thoughtfulness than I took in choosing a college, however, just like in college – there is always an option to transfer.

How would you recommend speaking to the teacher in a way that will promote change without making her offended?  Or would you abandon the school?

 

Gorman Passport Adventure

Our next trip for the Kansas City’s Passport to Adventure was to the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center.  I was most surprised and slightly embarrassed to find this little eight acre gem nestled into the city near the Country Club Plaza.  There is no telling how many17anitabgordonILKC times I’ve driven right by it and never paid attention.  This discovery center has both indoor and outdoor adventures to explore.  Inside there were classrooms (I imagine were for scout meetings, field trips and summer camps) filled with nature experimentation and live animals.  On a separate wing of the building we could hear the high energy fun of a group of day campers.  A gift shop and information counter are to the right at the entrance for anyone looking for information on wildlife, plants and conservation.  The person at the information desk was excited to greet the kids and patiently answered their four and five year old questions, she also offered each kid an animal temporary tattoo.  The building had a formal presentation area facing a wall of windows where my two adventurers found entertainment in performing dances and songs to an audience of one after our hike outdoors.  The building also is an example for sustainable features like geothermal and water waste systems.   18anitabgordonILKC

The eight acres outside provides nature trails lines with native plants to demonstrate how beautiful nature can be in an urban setting.  The kids enjoyed picking the paths and alternating between the wood chip trails through the foliage and the paved walkway.  We hopped over a creek, watched water bugs on the ponds, identified details on flowers and plants, and climbed logs in the outdoor classroom.  Now that I am aware of the Anita B. Gorman Discovery Center, I look forward to checking out more events there.  Next month alone they will have several story times, a presentation on Missouri Bats and Monarch Mania.19anitabgordonILKC

Following our outing to the Discovery Center, we cooled off at Loose Park’s splash pad.  One thing I love about Kansas City is the many free splash park areas were kids, and parents alike, can go to play during the summer time.  We made a quick wardrobe change in the car, brought in our water bottles and some water toys and smiled through the rest of the afternoon.

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Life on Purpose

As a mother and wife, it has been an extreme importance to provide a healthy life to those I love.  Until recently I believed I was doing a great job by being mindful of nutrition, being aware of toxic products and making conscious decisions about medical interventions.  It seemed simple because it was the lifestyle I was fortunate to grow up with, though something changed to make me understand there is more I can do to improve the environment I am raising my child in.

When my dad was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in September 2015, I watched his condition deteriorate and felt the confusion, frustration and fear involved with cancer.  He was the only person in our family to ever receive a cancer diagnosis and I thought he was doing everything “right” to avoid getting cancer.  He was one who rarely got sick, religiously took vitamins, stayed active, maintained a healthy weight, often ate a vegetarian diet and stopped using the microwave because it zapped nutrients from foods.  Dad had never been hospitalized for anything ever, I wrongly assumed he would be safe from this type of disease.  Like most cancers, myeloma doesn’t have a direct cause provided with the diagnosis.  My dad received a double major in chemistry and biology, then made his professional career working in the chemical industry.  Despite the doctor’s hesitation to name a cause, it’s easy to see some correlation in how his cancer likely developed.

About the same time of the diagnosis, a friend contacted me about Norwex and emphasized how important this product could be in his home.  I declined hosting a party or learning more about the products as we were all engrossed in treatments, symptom management and appeasing his appetite.  At the end of March 2016, my dad passed and was finally at peace from the pain.

In the cycle of grief, I consider what we could have done different, how I could have helped more or what might have changed his outcome.  There are many things I wish could have been different for my dad and because I can’t change what happened with him, I am propelled to try to reduce the chances of anyone else suffering in the same way.

In every home there are known cancer causing agents; environmental toxins we clean with, put on our body, ingest and breathe on a regular basis.  Because they have commercials and are available to buy in stores, it’s normal to believe they are safe.  Alarmingly, of the 80,000 new chemicals which have been introduced to our market in the last fifty years, less than 200 have actually been tested for safety.  Many we use on a regular basis in the United States have been banned across Europe.  The statistics are shocking and really show consumers are not protected.  Norwex can provide the same or better standards of clean and can do so with only water and a lot less time.  Don’t believe me?  I’d be happy to prove it and help you create a safe, chemical free environment in your home.  While I cannot change the past, I am confident in my choice to live life on purpose now and share the microfiber magic with those I love.

The very best way to experience this safe clean and do it for free is by hosting a party.  Norwex is an extremely generous company by spoiling a hostess with free gifts just for bringing friends together to learn about the products.  Please check out my website, contact me about hosting a party and share with those you love and wish to protect.Norwex life on purpose

KC Passport Stamp #2

Our second stop with the Kansas City Passport to Adventure took us to the Beanstalk Children’s Garden.  It is a small community garden we have passed nearby dozens of times, with it’s close proximity to the Kansas City Zoo, though we never knew it existed.  Thankfully our Passport to Adventure book brought us in search of the welcoming plot filled with raised gardens, cheery volunteers and a small water feature.  We were encouraged to explore the plants and invited to pick ripe raspberries to eat fresh.  15jonesIL

I quizzed the kids with age appropriate questions about where fruits and vegetables grow, we looked at the shapes of leaves and memorized the names of some of the grain plants – a necessity for earning a stamp at the Beanstalk Children’s Garden.  Unfortunately due to the outside temperature the day we visited, we did not stay for long and the kids seemed to enjoy their hands in the fountain the most while requesting that I feed them raspberries.

It was a unique spot in Kansas City I was happy to get to see and may be some place to return in the future for another adventure.

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Summer Passport

I am grateful for the time I get this summer to spend with my five-year-old daughter and my friend’s four-year-old son.  The two have grown up together and lovingly refer to each other as “Brother” and “Sister.”  They do behave a lot like siblings when spending any volume of time together; they truly adore each other though the laughter can easily turn to bickering and arguments – especially when not properly fed, hydrated and entertained.  At the start of the summer, the plan was some weeks I would have the two together three days during the week.  I knew this would require some thrifty creativity.

In the first week we had already gone to some of our favorite and free spots; Matt Ross Community Center (for their indoor play gym), Kaleidoscope (the art activity center at Hallmark), and Crown Center (The Adventures of Mr. Potato Head Exhibit).  I knew the air conditioned play would not last and we would have to be finding some unique outdoor activities too.  After the first few days of making it up as I went along, I stumbled upon an idea which would help guide our summer experiences.  I found Kansas City’s Passport to Adventure created by The Interpretive Site Coalition; “a not-for-profit organization comprised of historical sites, museums, nature centers and like agencies in the Kansas City region.”

I picked up two passports and have each child bring their own on each adventure we attend now.  The passport contains nineteen different locations to visit around the city, information about each location including address, hours of operation and admission fees (though most are free).  At each location there is a question for the kids to answer about what they see or learn on the visit and they provide their answer to an employee to earn a stamp.

While the kids are excited about earning stamps and playing, I am interested in checking out places in Kansas City I have never visited and avoiding fussing between the two by keeping our adventures fresh and new each day.

Our first adventure was to Burr Oak Woods, or as Jones called it, “Broke.”  This park contains 1,071 acres of forest and prairie, with hiking trails, picnic areas and a discovery nature center.  Upon entering the park I encouraged the kids to look for wildlife and to my surprise, the four year old voice in the back seat quickly responded with “There’s a deer.”  I put the car in reverse and we sat to watch a deer in the prairie for a few minutes before continuing on our path.  We started with a short hike on the trail so I packed chemical free bug07jonesIL spray and bottles of water to stay comfortable in the heat.  Because of the tree coverage and small breeze the June temperature didn’t feel as bad as I dreaded.  We listened to the sounds of nature, climbed on logs and held hands until their little legs were tired and then we went to explore the nature center.08jonesIL

Inside the nature center there was a 3,000 gallon aquarium with Missouri fish, smaller tanks for snakes, frogs and turtles and a long wall of windows for wildlife viewing out back.  Along with hummingbirds, squirrels and finches there also happened to be a gang of wild turkeys wondering through.  The kids turned every knob, flipped every switch and pulled every lever to explore all of what the exhibit offered.  They had the children’s play area all to themselves where they put on a puppet show from a hole in a log they could crawl into.  The kids had a blast sliding down the slide and using their imaginations to learn and grow.

Burr Oak Woods is definitely worth the trip to Blue Springs to enjoy the hiking and the nature center.  You can also pick up a passport there to begin your own summer adventures.

Strawberry Adventure

My family loves an adventure, sometimes just a ride in the car with no destination in mind will lead us to creating fantastic memories.  On this particular day, we did have a plan to try something we hadn’t done together before.  We found ourselves near Edgerton, KS on a family farm for strawberry picking.  The fields at The Gieringer’s Orchard wafted with the 01strawberrysweet fruity fragrance I had engraved in my childhood memory bank from the back corner of our yard in Minnesota.  It was refreshing to crouch down and search deep into the leaves to find the most perfectly ripe fruit others had passed by.  I had forgotten completely about the little white flowers on the plants and the method to plucking with the stem.  Like some new adventures, Parker was hesitant at first and then enthusiastically joined in the hunt.  When I noticed she had a tendency to choose tiny berries which were far from ripe, as she has an undeniable preference for tiny things…  I asked her to nibble on one and tell me if she would like to eat more.  Her pre-prepared it tastes good mom nodding smile turned to a bitter tongue out frown and her strawberry picking greatly improved instantly.

It was a chilly morning for May, though the temperature didn’t impede on the dozens of other strawberry pickers present there.  Thankfully we were able to fill our tray before the skies opened up to a cold shower.

As we love to eat strawberries: plain, covered in chocolate or juiced with spinach.  I know we will be back again soon because picking up a carton in the grocery store just won’t taste as good now.00strawberry