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On sharing:

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Tuesday, June 3, 2014

I just read THIS ARTICLE about one mother's opinion on sharing. I'm not yelling at you, btw, I just wanted to make it clear that you could click on THIS ARTICLE if you want to read it.

If you dont' want to read THIS ARTICLE, that's okay, I'll tell you what it says. Basically, the mom writes that she doesn't expect her son to share in all situations. She claims that ownership is a valid point in all human interactions and that in the real world, we don't all have to share.

I know, at first I thought, "Not Share! What? Everyone child everywhere has been taught how to share."

But, I totally get her point and have to agree that sharing is not necessary in some circumstances. Certain toys are communal, like playgrounds. It's polite to swing awhile, then give someone else a turn. It's also okay to find something else to do if the swings are occupied. Should you share a drink? Nope. If you bring a jumprope do all the kids need a turn at it? Nope.

But, if a little person visits our house then my kids are expected to share. They aren't brats and they need some manners. Sharing is good manners within your own home.

In the case of siblings, my boys are expected to share to a point. If a brother wears your shirt or plays with your Spiderman that was laying on the floor, then that's fair game.

But, I have noticed as they get older that ownership cannot be overlooked. It's okay to have your own things. To stake claim to something and call it your own. To tell someone to get their grubby hands off your stuff. I do it myself. And, I'm okay with the boys drawing a territorial line across the entrance to their rooms. I actually encourage it and consider it a sign of respect and privacy, something everyone should be entitled to in their home.

But, the author stretched it just a bit when she said that sharing caused a sense of entitlement to kids. Hmmmm .... I don't know about that. I'd say the new generation's sense of entitlement comes more from what their parents have given them (everything) rather than what they're taking or giving other children on the playground.






In Search of a Giant Sequoia

By Randee Bergen
Friday, May 30, 2014

The Giant Sequoias were on the list for our Spring Break road trip, but I’ll tell you, it was the hardest part of the trip to plan. First, Sequoiadendron giganteum occurs naturally only in groves on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. This is a pretty out-of-the way spot for us Coloradoans and a difficult one to return home to from. After seeing sequoias, we would either have to go way far north to get up and around the Sierra Nevadas or all the way back down south again to get to the other side of the Sierras. This is because – I learned as I was planning the trip – there’s no crossing the Sierras during the winter months. And March is still winter when you’re talking mountain country.

But, I thought it’d be worth the extra driving if we could incorporate something interesting or unique while in the sequoia area. Like snowshoeing. Yeah, how about snowshoeing through the sequoias? That would a neat experience, especially after coming from the beach the day before. But, alas, when I called to inquire several months beforehand and make reservations for an activity like this, everyone told me that so far there wasn’t much snow and they couldn’t predict how much snow there would be in March and that therefore we couldn’t make reservations.

And as I researched further, I read in several places that we might not be able to get to any sequoias, due to road closures, if there did happen to be snow.

So, I scrapped the idea of going all the way north to Kings Canyon National Park or even Sequoia National Park and focused, instead, on Sequoia National Forest. Specifically, I Googled “most southern Sequoia groves.”

I felt armed and ready with my plans –though they concluded with “just ask the locals where to find a sequoia” — and, after leaving the beach, the girls and I drove northeast into central California. I hadn’t been to Bakersfield since I was a child and must say I thought it was lovely with its surrounding orchards and agriculture. From there, we went to Porterville and the much smaller, quaint and pastoral town of Springville (population 1,100), which would be our home base for finding a Sequoia tree.

We arrived in the late afternoon and decided to drive to Balch Park. My research indicated that this was a beautiful park with a lake, walking paths, and several of the giant trees. As we wound our way up into the mountains through several life zones, the late afternoon sunshine illuminated many plants and trees to which we were not accustomed. The forest grew thicker and taller, but the trees we saw were not sequoias. Balch Park is 26 miles from Springville. Around mile 20, we started seeing cabins, but they must have been summer homes because there were no other vehicles and no signs of human activity. Signs indicated that the road was open to local traffic only and that the road would be closed in two miles and then, after we’d gone the two miles, in 500 feet. But we were able to keep going. It was open. And then, suddenly, it wasn’t. I knew we were close to Balch Park. It had to be just beyond the closed and locked gate that blocked the road. But we couldn’t enter. Tulare County had the road closed for the season.

So after an hour or more of switch-backing up into the mountains, we turned back. We all agreed it was an incredibly beautiful drive and that though we didn’t reach our destination, it had still been an enjoyable time.

And then we saw it. A random Giant Sequoia. In the tall, tall forest that we were in, it rose high above the rest of the trees. Its color was magnificent in the late evening sun. And it was beautiful.

The girls were moved by this tree and Addy said, “Mom, I want to see more of these. Can’t we please drive north tomorrow and go see a bunch of them?”

We stopped in a charming café in the small town of Springville for dinner. There, we asked our waitress where the closest place to see the trees was. She wasn’t sure; she hadn’t lived there long. But, some fellow diners overheard us and explained that all we had to do was go up Camp Nelson Road to the Trail of 100 Giants. “It’s not that far, but it’ll take you nearly two hours to get there because the road’s so windy and it’s such a climb.”

“Will the road be open though?” I explained to her what had happened in our attempt to get to Balch Park.

“Oh yeah, the road’s open.” They seemed sure about it.

Back at the hotel room, I opened my laptop and did some research. Everything I read indicated that the road to the Trail of 100 Giants would not be open, even at the end of March. This is what I had read while researching at home before we left. There were two small communities up this same road though and I reasoned the road would have to be open to at least that point being that these were towns and people most likely lived there year-round. And near one of these communities was the world’s fifth largest tree, the Stagg Tree. It would require a short hike, but I had a feeling we could get to it.

I asked the girls if they wanted to get up early – 5:00 a.m. – and once again switch back into the mountains and attempt to find Stagg Tree. Surprisingly, they did.

The drive was steep and windy and slow. We climbed more than 4,000 feet in an hour and got a real sense of how high and vast the Sierras were. And it really was winter up there. It was cold and there was snow everywhere, even some snow on the road. Amy was feeling carsick but didn’t complain too much. After an hour and a half, we reached the small communities. I didn’t see much sign of activity and I knew I had lucked out that this road was open. I kept half an eye on my hastily written notes–according to my directions, I needed to turn onto a dirt road soon–and wished that I had written more detailed ones. What if we couldn’t find this tree, after a second attempt and all this driving?

Then, my notes made sense and I could see where we were supposed to turn. But it wasn’t a dirt road. It was a snowy road. And I couldn’t see much of it as it went off into the forest. “What do you think, girls? Should we go for it?” Of course, we had to. I put my Sequoia in 4LOW.

Now, I wasn’t about to do anything crazy. I wasn’t going anywhere where I might get stuck. I mean, we were an hour and a half into the mountains and as far as I knew, there wasn’t a soul around. And there surely wasn’t any cell service. Mostly, I put my vehicle in 4LOW to be on the safe side. And to make it seem more adventurous.

We only went about 100 yards until we came to a closed gate. But there were footprints in the snow beyond the gate and I had a feeling that was where we needed to go. Again, I asked the girls if they wanted to press on. They didn’t have the greatest hiking shoes. And we’d be hiking in snow.

After coming as far as we had, they wanted to find this tree.

It was a lovely day for a hike, about 35 degrees, sunny, and just a few inches of snow on a pretty road. And there were several stately Sequoias along the way.

The hike was about 3/4 of a mile, but then a sign showed that we should leave the road and go into the forest. The snow was deeper here, it was downhill, and we didn’t know how far we’d have to go on this new section of our journey. It was icy and we giggled as we slid and grabbed at the vegetation that lined the trail to help maintain our footing.

Then, just ahead, I saw a large sign and I knew it must be for Stagg Tree.

The “giant redwood” aspect of the sign perplexed me a bit. Were Giant Sequoias redwoods? I was pretty sure they were a different species than the Giant Redwoods in northern California and Oregon. When I got home, I looked it up and read that sequoias are one of three species of coniferous trees known as redwoods. The sign said that Stagg Tree was about 3,00 years old. 3,000! The oldest Sequoia is estimated to be about 3,500 years of age. The circumference of its trunk at the ground is 109 feet. We could not walk all the way around it due to the amount of snow on the backside.

We enjoyed the beauty and wonder of Stagg Tree and the idea of hiking in the snow in the Sierra Nevada with no one else around and then we walked back to our vehicle and began the long, slow drive into the valley. Amy drove; she didn’t want to deal with that carsick feeling again. Addy slept. And I smiled to myself the entire way.

Mission accomplished – together we three Bergen women had conquered our need to find and touch and marvel at a Giant Sequoia tree.


Crossing things off my list

By Robin Dearing
Thursday, May 29, 2014

Yesterday was the day I was going to finally cross a three-year-old item off of my “I’m going to …” list. Today, I crossed off another. Two things in two days, go me.

It’s been over three years since we moved out of downtown and out to the Redlands. One of my favorite things about living downtown was being able to ride my 3-speed cruiser all over including to the grocery store and to work. One summer I went 22 days without even riding in a car. I took my bike everywhere.

Now, we live over five miles from downtown. I had always planned on going back to riding my bike everywhere, but I was scared. I was scared of the roads I’d have to ride on and of crossing the Colorado River. I was scared I’d get downtown and not be able to get back.

Since I spent several months on the grim reaper’s to-do list last year, my fears have changed dramatically.

Even though I’m in terrible shape, I didn’t really worry about not being able to get home yesterday. I was more concerned with not trying. The fear of not taking advantage of what I have now is my biggest concern.

So, it was with much unfounded confidence that I set out with bill on the mountain bikes to ride the five-plus miles along the river to our little downtown. The ride was no problem. I’m not a fan of the leaned-over position of the mountain bike, but I was able to make the ride without being swallowed by the river or run over by a sanitation truck.

The ride back was just as good … except for the steep hill that comes out by our house. I had to stop a couple times, but I rode the whole way. I can’t wait to do it again.

Sore from yesterday’s ride, I was still happy to cross another item off my list. Today, Margaret and I met our friends for a hike to the see the Ute petroglyphs along the Palisade Rim Trail.

The rocky, upward winding trail took us through some amazing landscape topped by centuries old pictographs created probably by the ancient Ute Indians. Seeing ancient artifacts of early civilizations is absolutely one of my favorite things.

It wasn’t an easy hike for me and I sweated and panted more than I would have like to, but I did it.

I just hope that this is the beginning of the end of my “I’m going to …”

Rock formation along the Palisade Rim Trail.

View of the orchards of beautiful Palisade.

Elk and deer petroglyphs.



Wordless Wednesday: An early start

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, May 28, 2014


Goodbye middle school

By Robin Dearing
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Today marks Margaret’s last day of middle school. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier.

Yes, I’m happy because I no longer have to get up early in the morning and make breakfasts and lunches for Mar and Bill (and myself). But there’s a more to it. Middle school is a trial … for everyone involved.

Margaret went to a great school academically, but the social aspect of the past three years has really taken a toll. She’s has so many successes and was supported by many, really great teachers. But, she also let herself be dragged down by the comments and treatment of her peers.

It was painful to watch. Of course, as we lived through the past three years, I was reminded over and over again about my middle-school years. I kept telling Margaret that at least she’s super cute and doesn't have stupid hair and clothes (I made some really poor choices about hair and fashion for … oh, pretty much my whole life …).

But, the fact remains that teenage girls (and many women) feel good about themselves by dragging others down. It’s like a sport from which many would have won gold medals.

I’m not one of those parents who thinks their child is perfect and everyone else is terrible. I am intimately aware of the harsher side of my daughter’s personality. But, it was so hard to watch her get mired in the mud of negativity and hateful games.

I watched her close herself off and become resentful of pretty much everyone. I kept trying to tell her that the drama associated with middle school would go on to have very little impact on the rest of her life. But what good consolation is that when she’s being pummeled by the slings and arrows of her peers?

The most disappointing element of Mar’s middle school experience was the browbeating she suffered due to her beliefs. She was told numerous times that she was going to hell because she’s not a Christian; she was told she was stupid for being a vegetarian and not a fan of hunting; she was even derided because I drive a hybrid instead of a pick-up truck (what does my car matter to a bunch of young teens anyway? Sheesh).

I kept thinking that if she would just kept those things to herself, she would have been better off. But those other kids who wear their religion and meat-eating like a battering ram are never expected to keep quiet, are they?

Part of me wished we had not moved three years ago and Margaret would have continued going to school with kids whose parents picked them up from school in pajamas every day and she was often praised by her teachers for being clean, well-prepared and ready to learn. Very few would have given a shit if she were eating lintel soup for lunch instead of bologna sandwiches.

But then I look at the opportunities she has had and hope the trade off was enough. She was challenged academically in a way that will be good for her as she heads off to high school and then college. That alone is huge (I cannot thank her teachers enough). She flourished under her wonderful choir instructor and developed a love and talent for music that sends me spinning in delight. She got to go to Europe. Those things should make it all worth it, shouldn’t it?

I hope so.

So, if you see me running around flipping off the middle school, it’s not directed at the hard-working, undervalued, underpaid education professionals who dedicate their careers to helping these young teens on their path to adulthood. No, instead I’m sending my dislike to the institution that forces young teens together into daily situations that allows them to torture each other with their only-partially-formed ideas and thoughts on how they and everyone else should see and act in this world of ours.

Oh, middle school, I’m so glad we’re done with you.


Wordless Wednesday: Waiting for his pitch

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Wednesday, May 21, 2014


It Takes a Village

By Randee Bergen
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It was Amy’s idea to make the hats.

“I was at Wal-Mart getting poster board, mom, and I saw some plain white hats. I thought it’d be fun to get a bunch and write TEAM ADDY on them.”

Not only would it be fun to attend graduation in matching white caps, but the slogan—TEAM ADDY—was perfect.

So, using fabric markers and puffy paint, we made enough hats for Amy, me, a few friends, and the others that would be coming over from Denver—Addy’s dad, his girlfriend, and his mother.

I wasn’t sure if the Denver group would sit with us at the ceremony, or with me, I should say, as I would encourage Amy to sit with them since she doesn’t see them as often. I couldn’t predict if they’d like the hat idea and agree to wear them. To be honest, I was surprised that Addy’s dad was taking the time off work and making the trip to attend her graduation at all. It’s not that he wasn’t proud of her, and supportive, it’s just that he’s never had any use for ceremonies.

It’s been more than six years now since the separation and almost five since the divorce became final. It was a contentious affair. In the middle of the process, the girls’ dad quit his job and moved across the state, taking a new woman/old high school girlfriend with him. And shortly after that he announced that he wanted the girls to come live with them.

I won’t get into the particulars, but the girls did live with their father for a few years. One wanted to–to give him a chance–more than the other, but they had to stick together. They’ve always stuck together. Their relationship is the heart and soul of TEAM ADDY.

Eventually, the girls made their way back to me. Their father was busy working most of the time; he always had been and that did not change once he took custody of the girls. It was his girlfriend who ended up caring for them.

Initially, I was angry. Hurt. Incredulous that the court said she would be the one to raise my daughters instead of me. But rather quickly that anger turned to gratitude and appreciation. For if she was not there, not in that household and not available all day, every day, as she was, then I’m not sure what would have become of my daughters.

She transitioned them into a new home, new schools, and through some tough teenage years. She didn’t parent exactly how I would, but she did parent. She parented my children.

It was the beginning of the teamwork. The village. On the first Mother’s Day that rolled around, I sent her a card, thanking her for all that she did for my girls, thanking her for being a good mother, explaining how grateful I was for the village.
She called me immediately upon receiving it and thanked me profusely. The team became stronger.

We became friends.

Not being their real mother, Addy didn’t feel that pressure from her to be like mom, to go through childhood and high school the way mom did it, the way mom would want you to do it. I credit her presence, and the lack of mine on a daily basis, for Addy discovering her true self—her free spirit; her hippie style; her creativity with music, writing, and art; her brash humor; the eschewal of the high school experience that I had in mind for her. The girl knows herself better than I have ever known myself. And she’s only 17.

The power of the village.

There were tough times in that household, as there are in most. There were several occasions when she was on the verge of leaving him. I prayed she would. Get out. Get a better life for yourself. She was a friend, a fellow woman. I cared about her. But I prayed harder that she would stay. Oh, please stay. Find the strength to stay. And she did. She stayed. Addy–in her honesty and boldness and love for her–told her to leave. Go to a happier place. She explained to Addy why she couldn’t leave; she loved them both and she did not think their dad could handle raising them on his own.

She stuck it out for the team.

I’ll never understand Addy’s father’s style of parenting, of loving. But I will say that he is a critical player on the team. He works hard, he earns good money, he pays his child support. He teaches different sorts of lessons. He does what needs to be done, in a business sense. He has been cordial and cooperative.

Eventually—slowly but eventually—he and I became friendly again, too.

The strength of the village.

And then there is Jim. My Jim. My Jim who is patient and understanding and embraces that I am first and foremost a mom. He loves my girls and has always been there for the three of us. Another pillar in the village.

I remember, five years ago, hoping that we would all get to the point where we could come together for graduations, weddings, births, all the important things that might come up in our daughters’ lives. I imagined us in the same room, being cordial, the anger long gone, the hurting all healed. I wondered if that could ever be a reality.

We are at that point now. And it feels good. It feels healthy.

Recently, Addy was diagnosed with depression. We’ve all been supportive and tried our best to learn more and understand better what she is going through. We’ve teamed up to figure out how to parent a teen with depression, as it is no easy task, perhaps harder even than parenting a teen without depression.

And I cannot leave out the extended family members—grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—who are also on TEAM ADDY, as well as friends, teachers, coaches, bosses. The village extends beyond all understanding.

Though we split apart years ago and live in separate cities, we’re one village.

So the TEAM ADDY hats mean a lot to me. I know mine will be around for years to come.


For Robin — because everyday is not earth-shattering

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Thursday, May 15, 2014

I saw Robin a while ago and I started apologizing for being such a bad blogess.

My excuse it that our family has fallen into this really comfortable routine. There's breakfast, school, lunch, after-school, homework and some kind of sport a few days a week. Not much is new. The boys are either doing swimming or baseball. The school is the same and there aren't any surprises in the way of homework or disipline or even what's packed in the lunch. And thats' fine. We're busy living and growing some kids who need lots and lots of practice at attaining life skills.

Robin said she didn't care. Everything doesn't have to be new to be interesting. "I want to see pictures of Kip and Cletus and the kids."

Okay then ...

Here's Kip: He's 2 1/2 now. He's all trained up and doesn't kill chickens. He can roll over, play dead, and listens pretty well most of the time. His job is to take the kids to school. He's spoiled and gets spooned nightly. He also smiles.


And here's Cletus. Cletus and Kip are best friends. He likes to cuddle. He's getting older and grumpy. Soren has been trying very hard to make friends with him, but he mostly prefers adults and Kip.

And, here's Soren and Jonas: award recipients as they exit kindergarten and second grade.

So, there ya go, Robin. I'm going to take your advice and just keep posting pics of life as it passes us by and hope that's good enough for our readers.



Throwback Thursday

By Robin Dearing
Thursday, May 15, 2014


Boochanman and Truman meatloaf

By Richie Ann Ashcraft
Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Better late than never has been the theme of our presidential birthday celebrations lately. Last night we finally got around to celebrating James Buchanan and Harry Truman.

Buchanan wasn’t that interesting either in food or politics according the Ashcrafts. I guess the most interesting things about him was that he was the only bachelor president. He appointed his niece as the First Lady. I didn’t know you could “appoint” someone to that position.
Soren didn’t like him that much because no matter how many times I told him, he could not say the name Buchanan. He called him Boochanman. As we sat down to dinner he read the one sentence he had written about Buchanan in his notebook out loud. “Boochanman was in the Civil War and people called him ‘Doughface’.” That cracked his brothers up. Marty was like “What? Who’s Boochanman? What president are we on?”
Despite his best efforts, Marty could not get Soren interested in Buchanan.

Then it came my turn to explain the food. According to the Food Timeline, Buchanan liked to eat “Calf's Head Dressed as Terrapin,” Apees & Muscadine (grape) Pie, and “Confederate Pudding.”

I told the family that I thought calf’s head sounded pretty good. It probably tastes like chicken nuggets. They disagreed wholeheartedly. I don’t have a clue what an Apees is, and Confederate pudding is too politically incorrect for my dinner table. There is a recipe HERE though if you’re interested.

We moved on to Harry Truman. I explained that Martha Truman’s recipe cards have been uploaded to the Natioanal Archives website. I chose this one:

I tried my best to stick to the recipe. I'm not sure if Chili Sauce is the kind of ketchup-type condiment I had in my fridge, but that's what I used. I also don't know what Kitchen Bouquet is so I used Italian Seasoning. Eh — whatevs. I love how she used to use a layer of bacon, then scratched it out. Why would you ever scratch out bacon?

Soren liked Truman's picture. "He looked like a good guy." And, he liked that he got to read more about WWI and WWII.

And the conversation at the dinner table turned into the swapping of war stories from there.

Soren asked for Mrs. Truman's leftover meatloaf for lunch this morning ... nice work Mrs. Truman.

Page 9 of 172


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