Slip-Sliding Away

Summertime memories are particularly poignant when you realize how fast your kids are growing.

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It happens so fast. One moment they’re wobbly headed toddlers with an insatiable need to touch every object in a room, and the next they’re heading for Middle School. A few years ago, when our children were tiny, my husband and I tried to avoid amusement parks as much as possible. They were too crowded, we’d argue. The lines to all the rides were too long, and the food was crappy and overpriced. But soon enough, there we were, visiting Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, with my sister and her family. My kids, then 1 and 4, were in the Mini Monster Playhouse with their cousins, attempting to climb a steep, cone-shapped slide. My son, who had just started walking a few months prior, tried his best to make it to the top, but each time he got halfway up he slid right back down. At one point my daughter offered him a hand, but the weight of him only caused the two of them to slip and fall. As they struggled, they began laughing, and before you know it Steve and I were cracking up too. The kids both looked so cute in their bathing suits, sliding down a blue vinyl mountain, limbs spread out like one of those Garfield stuffies people used to suction onto their car windows, that we couldn’t take their eyes off them. When they finally made it to the top, all four of us were cheering. And we decided that maybe amusement parks weren’t so bad after all.

Never-ending Story

For one mom, a serene moment captured digitally never grows old.

Photo by INGA LIM.
Photo by INGA LIM.

This photo was taken three years ago on a beautiful November morning in Skyline Chestnut Farm in La Honda, California. At the time, it felt like just another weekend spent with family and friends—lively, happy, but nothing out of the ordinary. The sun was shining, the air was crisp, the leaves were golden brown and rustling under our feet. My younger son, 4 at the time, was stumbling over the roots of 150-year-old chestnut trees as he ran to show off his bucket full of bounty. And my oldest, then 8, had found in the midst of it all a quiet nook in which to read a book: an abandoned car, probably left there many years ago, so rusty that it blended with the natural background. I watched my boy, shoulders relaxed and a look of concentration on his face, as he leaned back on the roof of the car and quietly flipped the pages. And just like that, a feeling of overwhelming happiness crept over me, as it does every time I look at this picture.

Tickled Pink

April showers make way for cheerful cherry blossoms.

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Every season has its hue. Summer comes in shades of blue, from those periwinkle vacation skies to the deepest turquoise waters. Autumn’s treasure is its gold, red and orange harvest. And those “hazy shades of winter” range from cobalt gray to snow white. But what about spring? Yes, grass green and yellow sunshine and purple tulips come to mind. But in blessed places around the world, this season also brings an abundance of pink—in the stunning form of the cherry blossom.

These pale-pink beauties are part of the Prunas tree family, particularly Prunus serrulata, the Japanese Cherry tree, or sakura. In Japan, cherry blossoms symbolize clouds, probably because they tend to bloom en masse, and are also used as a metaphor for the ephemeral nature of life. Every year as spring approaches, the Japanese Meteorological Agency tracks the sakura zensen (cherry blossom front) as it moves northward up the archipelago. Since Japan’s fiscal and school year both begin in April, the first day //READ MORE

Fantasy Island

For one frugal traveler, a magazine dream comes to life.

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You know the feeling. You open a travel magazine and there’s that photo: white sand beach, peacock-blue water, clear sky and coconut trees swaying (so you imagine) in the background. You close your eyes and envision stepping right into that warm blue water, as shoals of fish begin to gather around and nibble at your feet. As you wade deeper in, a large sea turtle swims past. You wonder if places like this really do exist, and then you read that this is some island off some remote country where only jetsetters ever go, and you are certainly unlikely to find your way there.

Until one day, you do! The island was Gili Trawangan, a tiny coral island barely an hour’s journey from Jakarta, Indonesia, where I once worked. When I realized that I was only an inexpensive boat ride away from my fantasy location, I jumped at the chance. When my feet finally touched the island, it felt like I had stepped into the pages of that very holiday magazine I had so often sighed over. As I waded out into the sea, I noticed //READ MORE

Home is Where the Art Is

A visit to an African orphanage reaps buckets of heartfelt fun.

Photo by GIA DUKE.
Photo by GIA DUKE.

I love this image of a heart with wings. It’s a beautiful symbol of love, hope and dreams. And to me, it’s also a reminder of a special day I spent painting murals with children outside the Kondwa Day Centre for Orphans in Lusaka, Zambia, during a three-week journey in Africa with a girlfriend of mine.

Kondwa means “be happy,” and on this day several delighted little faces peeked out from behind a brick wall to see what my friend and I were up to. We had begun to paint the first mural, and we could tell the children really wanted to join us. They looked so cute and curious, so how could we say no? So we waved them in and handed out paintbrushes. They eagerly began to fill in the pink of the heart, and as you might imagine paint began dripping and flying everywhere! Pretty soon it was all over their heads, eyebrows, arms, clothes and feet (most of the children didn’t have shoes), but they continued //READ MORE