Wednesday, December 17, 2014

List #4: Christmas Sanity Savers for Young Moms

I originally wrote this list when I had four little children underfoot--maybe 15 or more years ago--and shared it with all my young mom friends.  I posted it first in my blog in 2011 but decided to revive it  (and update it) once again to help y'all who are young mamas now.  Remember to delight in your kiddos. They are only little for a short season of time.


Instead of sitting the kids in front of the TV to watch The Polar Express (again) while you finish up those holiday projects, check this list…and put your little “helpers” to work!

Have the kids…

1. Make Christmas cards for friends and family.

2. Make a paper chain out of construction paper to hang on the Christmas tree.

3. Make a garland of ribbon and pretzels to hang on the Christmas tree.

4. Play a board game with their siblings.

5. Play in the snow…or in our case, the grass!

6. Make Christmas cookies with play-dough.

7. Dance to Christmas music.

8. Do homework… “How many balls are on the tree?” How many cans are in the pantry?”

9. Have a tea party with water and animal crackers.

10. Pretend they’re a grown-up and plan their family’s Christmas or vacation.

11. Look at the Christmas catalog/store flyer and circle all the toys they like.

12. Make up actions to Christmas songs.

13. Color Christmas pictures and deliver them to elderly neighbors or to a nursing home.

14. Play in the bathtub in swimsuits.

15. Make stuff from boxes—a bus, a sleigh, a castle, a washer, a doll bed.

16. Make a fort under the card table.

17. Look at old photo albums or at photos on the computer.

18. Pretend it’s Easter and hide plastic eggs. Remember your basket!

19. Put on a Christmas puppet show.

20. Play Post Office with an old box, paper, stickers, and some envelopes.

21. Wash and dry dishes for your Mom.

22. Make up and perform a skit. Record it with a camcorder or phone if Mom says yes.

23. Watch and do an exercise video.

24. Play fix-it shop with an old clock or radio (ask Mom first).

25. String beads or macaroni to make a necklace for Mom for Christmas!

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction
   and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
They will be a garland to grace your head
   and a chain to adorn your neck.
Proverbs 1:8-9

Sunday, December 14, 2014

List #3: Lessons God Taught Me in 2014

God is constantly changing the way I think, and this year my Gentle Schoolmaster has taught me much.  Let me see if I can recall just a few of His lessons…

1.  Surrender
When I surrender my plans for my life and agree to live the life He has given me here and now, I am actually more content.  When I give up what I naturally desire, and deny my own willful ways, I find joy because I have escaped the bondage of myself.  I don’t have to do what I want because I am freed to do what is right.

2.  Identity
When I try to find my identity in anything other than Jesus, I am anxious and dissatisfied.  For a time, I was a mom of young children who needed me, but when those children grew and became independent, I became unsettled because my identity had been placed in motherhood, not in Christ alone.  Then I became a runner, and my identity was placed in how far and how fast I could run.  When my running stopped consuming me, I felt uneasy because if I wasn’t an athlete, what was I?  I then decided that I would be a writer since I was no longer a young mom or a successful runner, and this writing, it satisfied me…for a time.  But when I had less opportunity to write, I was constantly anxious because I was a writer but I wasn’t honing my craft.  If I thought of myself as a writer but never wrote, I felt bad and wrong since I was not doing what I was “made” for.  The fault with all of these methods of “finding myself” lies in the fact that I am made to bring God, not myself, glory. I am not here on earth to find myself.  I am here to acclaim the God who saved me.  I am here to make His name great.  My identity is to be found in Christ, not in what I do.

3.  Focus
The other night, I attended my son’s band concert, and before it began, while all the instruments were still warming up, chaos and disorganization reigned.  The clarinets practiced scales while the trombones belted low notes.  The drummers practiced paradiddles (yes, this is a real thing.  I am a former drummer), as the flutes trilled melody.  The din of all of them together assaulted my ears.  But then, as the conductor took his place on the podium and as all the eyes focused on him, the unorganized noises instantly became a beautiful song—with each instrument performing its appropriate role.  Isn’t this how it is with us?  We focus on a million things and our lives seem confusing and overwhelming.  But then, as we learn to keep our eyes on our Conductor, we begin to play our appropriate role in the Kingdom, and the very place that God has put us becomes a beautiful melody of praise to Him.

4.  Presence
When my oldest son Luke was just a little boy, he loved to set up armies of plastic green soldiers.  In fact, he spent so much time setting up his army men that he never played with them.  The process became so important that the fun of having a virtual, plastic battle was sacrificed.  Sometimes I am like this.  I get so caught up planning the details of my life, or trying to find a way to make a task more efficient that I forget to be present in the moment.  I forget to find joy in the process.  I often recall the quote by John Lennon that warns, “Life is what happens when you are making other plans.”  God wants me to live right now, in this moment.  I can plan, but I can’t ruminate and become anxious about my unknown future.  God’s got it.  THIS is the day that the Lord has made.  I WILL rejoice and be glad in it.

5.  Food
Each morning when I go out and feed the pets (a job I inherited from my new college freshman, Shay), I am reminded of the verse in Psalm 145, All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time.”  When the animals hear the garage door rise and see me descending down the hill, they know it is time to eat and that I will give them what they need for the day.  This daily reminder of their trust in, and total dependence on, me leads me towards my Savior every time.  I often want to grow faster and understand more deeply the truths of God NOW.  The painfully slow process of sanctification is discouraging to me.  But my Father knows what I need and when I need it.  If He revealed all of His will for me in a torrent, I might become overwhelmed.  And if He made me unable to comprehend any of His precepts, my spirit would be malnourished.  He feeds me what I need when I need it.  I must trust in that promise.  As always, my Father knows best.

He must become greater; I must become less.  
John 3:30

Friday, November 7, 2014

List #2: Things My Mama Taught Me

In honor of my Mama, and on her birthday today, I want to share with you '10 things I learned from my Mom'...

1.  Productive people get up early.
My Mom has always been an early riser.  During my teen years, this was just an annoyance since she would greet my night-owl self with her spunk and vigor when I arose.  But as I grew older, and especially when I had kids, I learned that there was great value in those wee hours.  The quiet and stillness of the early morning has helped me develop a habit of sitting with God or going out for a run when the sun is just rising.  And many days, I even have my supper started or planned before 8 in the morning—that’s like my mama too.

2.  Always be hungry for knowledge.
Education was important for my Mom.  Not only did she earn a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Education itself, she chose to read and study and mentally challenge herself so that she was well versed in a variety of subjects.  Because I observed her reading many different genres of books and taking classes when I was young, I am now drawn to “read myself to intelligence” like she has.  One time I remember asking her how she learned to sew; she said, “I read the pattern and figured it out.”  I have since “read the pattern” on lots of things in life and figured them out just like my mom.

3.  Don’t be afraid to invest in people unlike yourself.
My Mom and Dad were always really good about inviting people into our home.  Most of these people were struggling in some way and my parents would help them by fixing them meals, watching their children, offering to provide a service, or just loving them.  Many a family probably credits my parents with helping them turn their lives around.  My parents taught me to love the “untouchables” and not be afraid of them.  When I was 7, my Mom brought home one of the high school students that she taught, and Bruce became my foster brother.  I loved my long-haired, chain-smoking brother because my Mom showed me he belonged to us.

4.  Marriage is worth doing well.
Kids listen to and watch their parents all the time (believe it or not!), and one thing I remember hearing come from my mother’s mouth is, “I don’t just love your Dad, I really, really like him too.”  This had a great impact on me because I knew that my Dad sometimes hurt my mom’s feelings and that she often did things with him just because he wanted to do them (read “cutting wood in the Minnesota winters”). But she had chosen to admire and like my dad even if he wasn’t perfect.   That gave me great security.  I don’t recall my parents ever having any major arguments in front of us, and I remember that my Dad would never allow us to speak disrespectfully to our Mom.  These things made their marriage worth replicating in my eyes.  Thanks Mom and Dad.

5.  Don’t take life too seriously.
My mom was always, and still is, what I term a “fun Mom”.  We had delightful birthday parties and themed meals on special days.  We made candles from crayons one snow day and had an awesome Halloween party at our house with peeled grapes for eyeballs and cold spaghetti for brains.  We always had homemade velvet dresses at Christmas and sister-matching outfits at Easter too.  She liked to sew, and I liked it when she sewed because she let me play with the buttons.  Speaking of buttons, my mom sewed a button eye on one of my teddy bears when his original eye was missing, and when I said that it looked funny, she told me he was winking.  Humor was always present in my family with a bit of whimsy added in.  We laughed a lot. I liked that.  I still like it.

6.  Walk quickly.
My mama is a very fast walker.  I remember jogging beside her as a young child and thinking this was normal.  My children also jogged beside me because, guess what?  I walk fast.  When you walk quickly, you look confident…and you get places fast.  My Mom has always had a sense of purpose about her and if you don’t hurry up, she will probably beat you to the finish. 

7.  Make your home a haven.
Our home was a place of warmth and comfort; I was often lulled to sleep at night with the sounds of my mom working in the kitchen preparing something for the next day or cleaning up the dishes from supper.  She and my dad were present most of the time and available when we needed them. I knew that if I was scared in the night, I could run to their room and lay between them in their massive bed and feel like nothing bad would ever happen again.

8.  Make mealtime an important part of the day.
My mom was really great about having a family mealtime every day.  I thought it strange that some families would eat in front of the TV or individually.  Family meal time, for us, was probably the most important part of our day.  We talked and shared and learned table manners and listened to my Dad’s stories about his customers.  We sat around after the meal just to visit some more.  We could only do this because my Mom was a super-duper pre-planner and always thought out our menu beforehand (or grabbed something she had frozen earlier in the week )to feed us.  Mealtimes at the Haverkamps have also defined our family culture.  I think all of our kids would say that one of their favorite times with the family is eating a meal together.

9.  Retain your individuality.
Even when we were young, my mom didn’t just define herself by motherhood.  She had hobbies that she enjoyed and pursued; whether it was helping stroke victims learn to function again, crocheting jute plant holders, making fabric wreaths at Christmas, acting in Community Theater plays, or delivering meals to elderly folks, she was “all in” because she identified herself as Patty, and not just Mommy.  She worked part time when we were young and full time as we got older; teaching kids was important to her so she pursued her dream.  I have often been tempted to define myself as “just a mom”, and though that’s OK for a time, as my kids grow up and need me less and less, I am pleased I have found other interests outside of this role—these interests and skills I have developed have eased the transition into this new season of my life.

10.  Enjoy the Grace of God.
My Mom understands how very blessed she is.  She is grateful for the saving Grace that Jesus gives her.  She is awed by God’s provision for her everyday.  Her thankful attitude carries into just about everything she does because she knows that it is by the Grace of God that she is who she is: She is a child of the King.  She is dearly loved.  And I am the one who I truly rich because of her.

Happy Birthday Mom! 

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her…

Proverbs 31:28

Saturday, October 25, 2014

List #1 Things that Scare Me

I have been away from the blog-o-sphere for more than two months now, and that is the longest hiatus I have taken since starting my blog over five years ago.  I still often have the thought, “I need to write about that!”, but with life being uncomfortably busy lately, and with my tired self choosing to do easy things like read Hawthorne or pin high calorie recipes on Pinterest, I have chosen the easier path of not posting. However, I think my little vaca has been long enough, and I am going to attempt to get back in the saddle again.  I thought maybe it would be easiest to start with lists.  Lists don’t require an excess of brainpower and will help me ease back into this writing thing.  So here we go:

10 Things that Scare Me

1.  Shredding cheese.  I know that shredding my own cheese from a big ol’ hunk is cheaper than buying it pre-shredded, and that the pre-done stuff often has additives, but doggone it, the whole shredding thing scares me to death.  I am so afraid that I’m not going to notice that the cheese is down to the absolute nub and then I will shred my fingers to the bone.  Does this freak anyone else out?

2.  Getting stuck in an elevator.  I have actually experienced this once and lived to tell about it, but the whole time, I was saying to myself, “You’re a big girl.  You can do this. You probably won’t die in here.” The elevator, which I was temporarily detained in, was in the city of Rome and I was in the 5x5 metal box with 9 other people.  It stopped between floors two and three because we had overloaded it apparently, and it was 110 degrees Fahrenheit inside.  Not only was I sweating profusely and praying out loud, I was on the verge of fainting—no joke. After trying to pry the doors open to get some cool air, we again pushed the buttons like madmen and miraculously, the static metal box began rising.  I think it was a miracle.  But if it happened again, I’m pretty sure I would die.

3.  Mean check-out people. When people are mean to me in stores, they make me want to cry and run away from them as fast as I can.

4.  Stepping on and off escalators. Is it just me or does it stress anyone else out when they have to get on or off an escalator?  What if I make the slightest misstep?  Will my pant leg get caught in the step that is disappearing?  And will people just trample on me as I lay on the floor?  Will my leg get shredded by the little teeth on the stair? I think my blood pressure rises about 50 points every time I am forced to ride on one of these contraptions.

5.  Revolving doors.  Is there really any need for these?  I always feel like I have to rush into the opening at just the right time—and when is that???—or I might get caught between the doors and become flat Tori.  And then school children will read a book about me and send me in an envelope to their friends and family telling them to take me with them on little journeys and take pictures of me.

6.  Cruise Control.  I know that I can press the brake and all if I feel like I am speeding along a little too speedily, but cruise control scares me because I think, in an emergency, I might forget which one is the gas and which one is the brake, ‘cause I’m not a real clear thinker in chaos.  So, when I do risk my life and choose to use the cruising’ control, I keep my foot right at the base of the brake pedal to increase the odds of my survival.

7.  Flying around in a fiberglass capsule in the sky.  My husband seems to think this is fun and so sometimes, just to be nice, or because I want to get somewhere fast, I acquiesce.  I have told myself just to relax during the flight and to see turbulence as just bumps in the “road”, but the road always looks really high up to me.  And, also, I am afraid of heights.

8.  My bald spot.  Seeing that I have only had like maybe 4 good hair days in my entire life, this one seems pretty reasonable.  I have a strange cowlick in the back of my hair that makes me appear to have a bald spot.  So, I spend inordinate amounts of time trying to make it appear that I am actually not bald and that I just have really bad hair.  This usually doesn’t work and I am always secretly hoping that I am too tall for you to see the top of my head with my bare scalp exposed. 

9.  Yeast.  Is this stuff truly alive?  And what happens if this live stuff gets into my live body as I put it into the bread I am baking?  Will it take over and make me look all muffin-toppy?

10. Numbers—but mostly ones with lots of zeros.  I have bad dreams of someone writing a really large number on the blackboard and asking me to tell everyone what it is.  I’m being completely serious.  My hands start to sweat when I have to figure out if something is in the thousands, or millions, or billions.  In my dreams, I usually say it wrong and everyone laughs at my stupidity.  Everyone, that is, except my cat, whom I hug while I am crying.  If you really love me, never ever ask me to read a large number out loud—especially if I have no animals nearby.

So that about covers it folks.  The only frightening thing that I neglected to include was going on roof tours on slanted roofs of cathedrals in Spain.  This situation is sure to send me into hysterics even if I have mentally prepared myself beforehand by saying, “You got this thing!” and “Ain’t nothing gonna bring me down”.  Even with my Rocky-like mental gymnastics, I would probably still hyperventilate near the gutter.  And as I am trying to be all like “I’m just taking in a bit of the scenery down here”, the tour guide might shout, “Are you OK, lady?” in Spanglish. And I might, while trembling, smile weakly and say “Yep. I’m fine” knowing full well that I am lying through my chattering teeth.  Of course, this is all hypothetical, but I think I would do well to avoid such things in the future. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

A Short Course in Letting Go

I dropped off my third child at college yesterday.  You would think I would get better at the whole emotional side of this event, but it’s always the same thing.  And it’s always sad for me. It goes something like this:

We arrive at the dorm with hundreds of other students and their parents; everyone trying to navigate strange surroundings, chaotic traffic, and wide-eyed freshman with way too much stuff—do you really need that 72” flat screen and those eight houseplants? We unload our car—helped by a too-peppy upperclassman move-in assistant—and make our way via ultra-full elevator to the floor of the room where my child will spend the next nine months of her life. We unpack the basics; sheets, clothes, lamp, snacks, and I visualize her in that room sleeping and laughing and being lonely and missing me.  I’m sure she is visualizing much different things, but I am sad about this new chapter so the bittersweet permeates my thinking. 

Sometimes, then, as we did yesterday, we go to Wal-Mart and buy her a pillow because she forgot hers, or we eat in the dining hall with her and help decipher all of the multiple edible options.  And while we are eating, I purposely prolong the meal and find several topics of conversation to discuss just so I can spend a little more time with my baby girl.  And I visualize her here, in the dining hall, eating every meal without me.  And the pangs start; the pangs of longing to keep her with me for always, the pangs of the knowledge of the end of an era, the pangs of wanting to stop time from moving so sickeningly fast.  And then, finally, we finish, and I desperately want to hold her hand as we walk back to the room but I don’t because I know it would embarrass her.  As we walk up the stairs to her new home, I make a joke and we laugh—really to buoy myself-- because I know what is coming and I am dreading it.  I know I will soon have to let her go for real. 

In the room, I hug her and kiss her cheek and she says, now embarrassed and looking at her roommate, “Mom, don’t cry here”.  So I don’t.  And I make my way down the stairwell, stoic and strong, and I see a dad kissing his new freshman daughter goodbye and I wonder if he is feeling as nearly-out-of-control as I.  Walking toward my car, where I can officially fall apart, I have to fight down the urge—the same urge that I had when dropping off my other two at college—the urge to turn around and climb back up those steps and rescue them.  It seems so instinctual and primal but I fight it off because I know it is not what they need.  They need freedom, not mothering; wings, not tethers. 

Finally, I reach the car and the tears flow, the sobs begin, and I rehearse all the years in my head, wanting to rock her in the rocking chair to make everything all right again but fully knowing that it is me who needs the rocking—not her. 

The two hour drive home is sober and part way through, we stop and buy me a Diet Coke because this is what I do to medicate my pain, though it doesn’t really help because I am all slobbery and sniffly and it’s hard to taste anything at all.  But I think it might numb something, and I suck on the straw and let my mind ruminate on all the changes that are happening and how terrible I am at adjustments and I feel sorry for myself. 

This is how I deal with this unwelcome event.  I CRY LIKE A BABY EVERY TIME.  I haven’t yet figured out how to be more grown up about the whole thing, but I think that’s OK because after I go home and mope for awhile and sit with the cats, and after my fragility wears off and I quit breaking down every time someone mentions her name, then I’m good (although, today, my first day with only three at the supper table, I did go and look in her room several times and got weepy, so I went and found a cat and held it tight, against it’s will, until I could function again). 

That’s the story, folks, and I wish I could say I am getting stronger and better at this letting go thing, but I’m not (see how pathetic I was with Luke and Tess).  And I still have one more left.  I’m sure that one—the last one--will be a doozy as well. 

This mothering thing is hard because I will never stop being their mother. But now, ‘tis the season for releasing, not rocking.  It’s time for stretching and pulling and creating a new life independent of one another.

And eventually, I will be OK with that too. 

Just give me a little time. 

And a few cats. 

And maybe a Diet Coke with good ice. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Pilgrim's Progress # 7: For (preferably non-Spanish speaking) Women Only!

Hello ladies.  Can I talk to about something that happened to me while traveling in a foreign country recently?

Ok.  Thanks.

With all the hype regarding tampon commercials on Facebook these days, (If you haven’t seen them, watch this oneYou will laugh out loud), I thought I could safely put this out there (and be pretty sure that the guys would have stopped reading by now).

Imagine that you are hiking in Spain and your ‘monthly visitor’ arrives a bit early.  This is not an emergency as you do have a few days' supply of feminine products in your pack.  But as those items run out, you find yourself needing to do a little shopping at the dollar-store-like tienda across the street from your pension.  And because you don’t know the language, you go to the section with items that are obviously for this purpose and quickly pick out a cushy pink package that seems to have some type of absorbency scale on the side.  And after you carry this package (luckily, it was in a bag—which I had to buy—I think—or maybe they just provided it because they were embarrassed for me—I couldn’t really understand the question asked.  I just answered “si” and they stuck it in a sack) back to the room you are sharing with the REST OF YOUR FAMILY, you nonchalantly pull out one cutely wrapped tri-folded item and find it to be especially large; in fact, not only are these things literally MAXI pads, they are shaped like little boats—think ‘small canoe’. Nothing was getting through those babies. 

Got that image in your head? Let me tell you, girlfriend, the whole experience was like wearing diapers all over again…with the crinkle, crinkle sound thrown in just to make it fun.

Only later, as one of my Spanish speaking daughters (who may or may not have needed to steal some of my mucho maxis) commented that I had not actually purchased feminine pads. My self-stick wearable schooners were, in reality, bladder control pads (you must understand, pad in Spanish is compresa and I assumed all compresas were for the big M—my bad—or my pad—whichever you like better). I was, however, grateful that I was successful in identifying and purchasing my other necessary items, as tampon in Spanish means inkpad (according to one disputable internet site. Hey, it's probably totally wrong, but let's go with it because it's funny). Talk about making it obvious that it’s your time of the month.

So there you go. More than you wanted to know about the flow of events that cycled through our time on the Spanish Camino—did you see what I did there?

Moral of the story:  When Aunt Flo visits you in Spain and you have to buy items to appease her, steer clear of the compresas and go straight for the inkpads.

And that’s the end.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Pilgrim's Progress #6: Our Camino in a (very large) Nutshell!

Hey Y’all!  We’re back and it was AWESOME.  Super awesome…which I guess is a word only Americans use since people identified us as such when we spoke it.  Anyway, how does one capture such an incredible trip in one blog post?  Umm, I’m not really sure, but I’ll give it the old college try.

I had hoped to update you more frequently when we were actually on the Camino but found proper Internet connections lacking.  The one time I did find a reliable and available computer, I deposited my Euros in the coin slot in exchange for 20 minutes of it's time and spent 18 ½ of those minutes trying to translate blogger into English (not an easy task) since I can’t actually speak Spanish.  I also found it rather tedious to type on my phone’s tiny little keyboard and felt rather conspicuous speaking into Google voice to record a blog.  The one time I did record my blog via voice, I was on the steps of our Albergue while an elderly French couple simultaneously smoked cigarettes and hung out their freshly washed underwear on the outdoor clothesline (and probably discussed my strange behavior in a foreign tongue).  So here’s a little really long snapshot of our recent European Adventure:

After our first five days in Rome, where Brent and I celebrated our 25th anniversary and where I learned to drink cappuccino (I have never before drunk coffee and now I feel like a real grown-up!) and eat pistachio pastries, we headed to Madrid, Spain.

This could transform my life!

From Madrid, we took a train and then a taxi (think “worst carnival ride of my life” to envision the latter) to St. Jean Pied de Port, France (I know, confusing) so we could begin our Camino pilgrimage at the traditional starting point. After stopping at the Pilgrim’s Office and getting our very first sello, or stamp, on our Pilgrim’s Credencial , we each picked a scallop shell from the box (the traditional sign of the Camino Pilgrim) at the sign-in table and followed the directions given us to find our very first Albergue.  After finding our lodging and eating our first “Pilgrim’s Meal”(which always included  wine, naturally), we went shopping at the little village shops for the next day’s breakfast which we would eat early in the morning in the Albergue’s communal kitchen.  

My completed Credencial del Peregrino showing stamps from all the albergues

The path on the first day started immediately climbing through the Pyrenees Mountains, and we passed hundreds of wooly mountain goats, bleating sheep, and big horses roaming in the adjoining countryside.  Most of this livestock wore large cowbells that dangled under their chins and made a lazy lolling sound as they walked.  It was like being in a really long hot race with animals cheering you on.

Shay, the horse whisperer, entices the animals to come toward her

The trail was very easy to follow because of frequent yellow arrows painted on the roads and trees and markers that looked like this:

After leaving at 6:30 am that first day, we stopped to rest after about two hours and ordered Café con Leche (coffee with milk) and chocolate pastries at a little bar (coffee shop) along the way (this became our very anticipated pattern everyday thereafter). We then put our packs on again and trekked until lunchtime where we munched on bread, cheese, and fruit (this too became our habit).  After lunch, we hiked a couple more hours and finally reached Roncesvalles, Spain, our stopping point for the day.  In Roncesvalles (which we called Rocky Village because we couldn’t pronounce it correctly), we stayed in the public Albergue and got our first taste of the scantily clad French men which would characterize the clientele in many of our future abodes.

Days 2-20 are really just some version of Day 1, so I will just give you a general overview of our very simple and predictable days:

5:30 am—get up, pack up belongings, eat a meager breakfast of bread and fruit and maybe Nutella if you are lucky, brush your teeth if you are Mom and Dad (I’m pretty sure the kids skipped this).

How do I love thee?  Let me count the ways
6:00 am—on the trail.  Most pilgrims were up and at 'em by this time so they could be done by early afternoon and beat the heat.

We got to see the Spanish moon on many mornings

8:30 am—walk through a tiny little sleepy village and find the only bar that is open at this early (for Spain) hour.  Order cinco Café con Leche, dos or tres chocolate croissants, and dos Spanish tortillas (a kind of quiche type item with eggs and potatoes—often served cold)

We often walked through livestock

and through vineyards

One of our many morning coffee stops

9:00 am—begin walking again, pass through rural Spanish villages every two hours or so.  All the villages had a church of some kind and a public fountain where we could fill our water bottles.  This meant a fresh water supply was readily available most of the time.

Crossing over a medieval bridge
See our scallop shells?
We passed through the large city of Pamplona where Shay became a fierce bullfighter

11:30 am—walk through Spanish village and find a supermercado in which we could buy simple provisions for lunch.  Often we would have to go to the fruta store to buy fruits and vegetables, the panderia to buy bread, and another shop to buy queso, yogur, and chorizo.  We found that fruits, vegetables, bread and cheese were cheap, while meat was expensive, so we ate many cheese and vegetable sandwiches on our lunch stops in parks or along rivers.  We also fell in love with Prince cookies and orange Aquarious, neither of which you can buy in America.

Notice Brent's handy bread carrying pocket
forest lunch (not Forest Gump) stop

1:00-2:00 pm—arrive at destination for the day.  We usually walked somewhere between 22-38 km (14-22 miles) each day.  This took us between 5-9 hours daily with frequent stops for resting, refueling, or for Shay and Cole, playing on anything that looked remotely like a teeter-totter.  For the first several days, my feet ached and I felt each footfall. But, by day 6 or 7, I seem to have gotten over the hump and was neither achy nor in pain, (#winning), although I did spend a decent amount of time in the afternoons sitting against the wall with my legs at a 90 degree angle to drain the swelling which had accumulated there.


3:00-5:00 pm—shower (I got a hot shower all but one time!), snack, NAP!

sisters sharing a pre-nap snack
5:00-7:00 pm—read, play cards, visit nearby bar and drink sidra or Estrella con Limon and plan the next day’s journey.

...or a little wine
Even Shay got into the action.  She's legal in Spain :)

7:00 pm—find local café serving the Menu Peregrino and eat, or cook supper of pasta, vegetables and cheese with doubtfully clean dishes found in the Albergue’s communal kitchen.

Our very first Pilgrim's Meal
Our first Albergue cooking experience

8:00 pm—play cards or read and try desperately to stay awake until at least 8:30.
...or lounge on your rubber sheets and play games on your phone

8:30 pm—lay on your assigned bunk and hope you don’t have three nearly-naked old French guys on the beds surrounding you.  Make sure to put your earplugs in to block out the massive amount of snoring that will occur—especially from that one pilgrim in your own group ( I won’t say whom, but he might look something like the character below).

Brent models Shay's Buff headband

Next Day: REPEAT

(Although we started at the beginning of the Camino and ended at the official stopping point, we didn’t have time to actually complete the entire pilgrimage, which is around 500 miles.  We did, however, complete approximately 260 miles of it.  Yea us!  We took a train for a portion of the middle section but hiked the last 62 miles so we could end up in Santiago, receive our compostela, and have our sins absolved.  And for all of you just getting in on the conversation, we are well aware that this absolution is not possible but have been long entertained by the absurdity of the idea.)

There you have it, a very long synopsis of our daily routine as we hiked the Camino.  We had exceptionally beautiful weather, gorgeous scenery, and perfect health.  And apparently Cole didn’t eat nearly enough to fuel his fiery furnace as he lost more than a dozen pounds on the journey and returned looking more emaciated than usual.  We also learned much about Spanish culture and each family member's personal idiosyncrasies in our extended time together.  But those posts are for another day after I recover from jet lag and actually do some real work. 

Bet you can’t wait! 

Buen Camino!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Pilgrims' Progress # 5: Europe Living and Camino Beginnings!

That's the only word I can think of to describe our last week and a half in Europe! We arrived in Rome on Monday, June 2 and Brent and I celebrated our 25th anniversary there on the 3rd. We stayed in this ancient Italian city that is bustling with old ruins, amazing relics, and tiny little Smart cars on it's brick-lined  and crooked roadways. I fell in love with the slow-paced lifestyle and the fresh food we bought at the little markets and ate  each evening . And I learned to drink 'cappuccini' at the 'bar' (coffee shop) across the street from our rented apartment. 
On Friday of that same week, we left Rome early in the morning and flew to Madrid, Spain, where we stayed in a downtown hotel. From Madrid,  we rode two buses and then a taxi on very curvy mountain road to get to France. On our first night in France,  we stayed in a little hostel in an old house. The next morning we started our Camino adventure.The first day we walked from France into Spain, and in those previous 24 hours we had visited 3 different countries.  It was hard to remember what language we were supposed to be speaking!
Now, it is Tuesday, I think, and we have stayed in 4 hostels ('albergues'), eaten three pilgrim meals provided by cafes, gone to a Spanish Pilgrims' mass at a very old church, and walked through the famous town of Pamplona (no bulls were present). We have walked 84 kilometers (52 miles--nearly 20 of those today!) in 3 days.
I would love to tell you more but typing on my phone is hard so I will be brief. All in all, our adventure has been incredible and gorgeous! I will try to check in again when the internet is available. But now I need to sleep!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Pilgrims’ Progress #4: The Genesis of My Camino

For this entry, I interviewed Brent to find out how the idea of the Camino became a reality.  In his words...

For years I have been fascinated by long distance hikes.  In the past several years, the family had completed several shorter backpacking adventures, traveling to places like Minnesota (Superior Hiking Trail), Colorado (Colorado Hiking Trail, Continental Divide Trail), Alaska (Denali), Arizona (Superstition Mountains), Michigan (Isle Royale), Texas (Big Bend), and Tennessee (Appalachian Trail) to do parts of those trails, but I always wondered how far I could push myself physically and mentally.  So, a couple of years ago, I became interested in the John Muir trail in California, and as I was sitting in Jethro’s BBQ in Ankeny explaining my plans to hike it in the fall of 2013 (I did it! My first mega-hike!  We covered 200 miles in less than two weeks –finishing our hike by climbing to the top of Mount Whitney!), my friend Todd asked me if I had ever heard of the Camino de Santiago.  I told him that I hadn’t heard of this 500 mile long “ancient pilgrimage” but that I thought it sounded exciting. 

As my friend elaborated, I became fascinated with this romantic-sounding hike and its appealing location in rural Northern Spain.  Seeing my interest, Todd suggested I watch the movie, The Way, which is a film directed, produced and written by Emilio Estevez, starring his father Martin Sheen, that tells the story of a son who attempts the Camino de Santiago and a father who finishes it for him.  That night, I went home and did numerous Internet searches on the Camino de Santiago and was instantly intrigued with the challenge and the uniqueness of such a hike.  Then, I gathered the family together in front of the large screen TV and we watched the movie. I was hooked.  The family was hooked.  That is the whole family, minus Luke.

Later that weekend, as we were eating supper on the screened porch, Luke’s friend, Greg, stopped over to join us.  We filled him in our new fascination with the Camino, and I told him, half in jest, that we were planning to take a month next summer to spend it in Europe on a big adventure.  In general, the idea was gaining momentum with most of the family.  Luke wasn’t quite sure he wanted to go, thinking he might rather lead a mission trip to China next summer instead.  When Greg heard this, he was appalled and said, “If Luke’s crazy enough not to go, take me instead!”  As it ended up, the rest of the family eventually embraced the Camino idea, and Luke still decided NOT to go, much to his mother’s dismay.  He is in China now as I speak.  And we aren’t taking a replacement.  Sorry Greg!

And though Luke’s heart was captured by China and God’s work there (and really, what parent can chide their child for that?), the rest of the Haverkamps have chosen to fall in love with the Camino de Santiago in this the summer of 2014.

And that’s where it all began.

Buen Camino!