Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Beautiful Surprises in a Small Suburban Yard

Have a seat. Enjoy the garden.

I have know Pam and Jeff for years now. We are neighborhood friends and honestly, don't see each other much these days. Our two sons and their two sons spent many hours playing together as boys, running back and forth from one house and yard to another. They played some Little League together and on occasion they still hang out together in between college classes and work.

While taking photos in the yard, I actually came
across this little remnant from
the boy's play from more than a few years ago.

As I've mentioned before, teen jobs at our house have included pet care for a few neighbors and recently my son pet sat for their cute little pug. Over the same weekend a nasty summer cold ran through our household and my son was unable to visit said poor lonely pug everyday as planned, so some of the the pug care fell to me. The pug herself is a delightful little companion and when I visited, I sat with her in their yard and enjoyed her company.

Enjoy the canine company.
Or relax over here.

I also enjoyed the amazing suburban oasis that Pam and Jeff have created in their small suburban yard. The suburb we live in is made up of small modest homes with predominately small yards. Not really the classic image of expansive lawns one thinks of when thinking of suburbia. Our suburb is much more like a city neighborhood. Filled with Little Cape Cod style houses, Chicago bungalows and multifamily dwellings the yards are small. My husband mowed for years with a human powered push mower, no gas or electric power needed until moving to a home with an extra side yard. Most of these little yards have the typical grass lawn in the front and back.

Kitchen herbs near the door.

However, Pam and Jeff have explored and pushed the limits on what a small yard can be. They have been landscaping with a diverse range of beautiful plants for years within the boundaries of a small lot and around the activities of their boys. But now the trampoline is gone (it's in our yard for my daughter now) young adult life dominates and their wonderful yard plan is coming into fruition. Around every little corner of their property is a flora and fauna surprise. Beautiful apple trees adorn one side of their house.

Producing fruit in a small space.
Apple trees pruned and trained to
grow along the wall of the house.
Creativity expresses itself in as many ways as there are artists. Planting and maintaining a garden is an ongoing creative process. It requires continual observation and the response of the gardener may be based in horticulture but the result can also be an amazing artistic expression.The mixed media of plant life provides a palette of garden delights complete with an occasional offering of a tasty treat.

I responded to the suburban haven with my camera and attempted some artistic photo captures of the lovely combinations of color and texture. While my little pug friend sniffed about, I enjoyed the beauty and abundance of summer skillfully arranged even in this small yard.

A happy home for gold fish is included.
Beautiful color against a brick backdrop.
Beautiful ornamental plantings.
Beauty, abundance and edible harvest, it is all possible, even in a small space.

Resources for doing the same in your own small space at amazon:

Monday, July 24, 2017

For My Local West Suburban & Chicago-land Friends

Saturday West African Dance Workshop with Ojo Olumuywa at Hinsdale Dance Academy

Experience the joy of  West African Dance
Hinsdale Dance Academy
West African Dance Workshop

Saturday, July 29th from 2pm - 4pm

All dancers.
All levels.
Age 8 and older welcome.

Taught by Master of West African Dance, Olumuyiwa Ojo. 

Olumuyiwa Ojo

Olumuyiwa was born in Nigeria where he first learned how to dance. Between 1981 and 1986, he studied with Ms. Inaicyra Dos Santos at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater Arts. Olumuyiwa went on to found his own dance company, the Youth Palace Dance Theater of Ibadan, performing and choreographing for the group. He also served as a lecturer in dance at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria and subsequently left for the United States to pursue a Masters degree in dance at Temple University where he studied modern dance with Edrie Ferdun, Ann Vachon, and Helmut Gottschild. He graduated with an M.F.A. in Dance Choreography and Performance in 1993. After graduation, he worked at the University of Illinois at Chicago as an adjunct faculty member and founded Langbodo Dance Theater of Chicago to teach and showcase Nigerian dance styles. Olumuyiwa is on the staff of the HSDC Education Department where he instructs teachers how to integrate dance with their classroom curriculum.

Live accompaniment on drums will be played by percussionist, Avo Randruut M.A., Director of DePaul University's African Drum Ensemble.

Shekere & Djembe
Learn more
Cost $20.00 per student.
Hope to see you there!

Hinsdale Dance Academy

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Djembe Drumming Course

My husband, Avo has been studying percussion for as long as I have know him. His degree in ethnomusicolgy was only the beginning. As a musician, he has continued to explore world music and specifically to study, in depth, African and Brazilian percussion styles. Living in Chicagoland has given him opportunities to learn more, perform and to teach the understanding of these styles he has acquired. He loves sharing and teaching those skills to others.

As a way to document some of those skills and to share them, Avo created an online intro to Djembe drumming class on the Course Craft platform. That online course is being offered to music camp students of his this month at a reduced fee. The wonderful thing is that because of how he set it up, it is also available to anyone for that price through July. Check it out and see if it's a summer learning option for you or anyone you know.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Dance Adah Dance

Dance has now become Adah's study pursuit of choice. 

Achieving and celebrating; together.
View the video of their group dance.
This year Adah began pursuing dance skills and techniques with a passion. All that she learned as a gymnast about consistent practice and hard work has paid off for her this year as she applied it all in the dance studio.                                                           The best part for me, as her mom, is seeing her happy. Despite her demonstrated commitment, she has a relaxed and joyful approach to her goals. Competence through daily practice does not have to be excruciatingly painful. The process of achieving excellence can be accompanied by gladness.

Adah was given the opportunity to perform in Hinsdale Dance Academy's productions of the Nutcracker, Midsummer Night's Dream and recital. 

Adah with Jennifer Grapes,
Founder and Director
Hinsdale Dance Academy
Adah with Shannon Hershman,
Choreographer, Director
Hinsdale Dance Academy's Junior Company

As a member of the Hinsdale Dance Academy's Junior Company, she participated in dance competitions in group dances and with solos, winning two 1st place awards at Showstoppers - Chicago. Additional acknowledgement secured her transition to dance: she was honored with a scholarship. Following the recital she was awarded her studio's annual scholarship. Presented by Hinsdale Dance Academy's founder and director, Jennifer Grapes, the scholarship was newly named for a beloved studio staff member and dance patron Janet Saxton-Croughan. 

Thank you, Ms Jenn!

"Each year, HDA offers a 50% tuition scholarship to one student who demonstrates strong work ethic, positive attitude, and an eagerness to learn. Beginning this year, the scholarship has been named the JANET SAXTON-CROUGHAN SCHOLARSHIP and a full scholarship to our Summer Intensive has been added in loving memory of Ms. Janet."

"We are extremely proud to announce this year's 2017-2018 recipient is ADAH RUNYAN-RANDRUUT!"
Hinsdale Dance Academy
Many thanks to all the staff at Hinsdale Dance Academy for nurturing, inspiring and teaching! Your commitment to creating and maintaining a supportive environment for learning is much appreciated! 

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May Celebrations

Whether you are a homeschool family, private or public school family, have babies, young children or grown children, late spring schedules are filled with ceremonies and celebrations of accomplishments and transitions. A few photos of some of ours are included here. Enjoy each and every season, they pass so quickly!


Senior Prom
Young men.
Kim and her lovely daughters.


A first dance competition. 
Celebrating a win.
Hamming it up.


Longtime baseball buddies.
The whole team.
Asher and Coach Till
Asher and Coach Ruge.


Avo's DePaul University African Ensemble rehearsals and performance added some rhythm to the mix.


And for the last weekend of May, a jammed packed schedule, a graduation and a final high school baseball game. After years of homeschooling, Asher made the choice to attend public high school beginning in his freshman year. He found his niche on the baseball team, improved his study skills and is ready to move on to the next chapter. I can't believe how fast those four years flew by!

Leadership and composure
under pressure. Useful skills for
any life situation.

Congratulations, Asher!
A job well done!

We wrap May up with Memorial Day, acknowledgement and appreciation, for the sacrifice made by others for our freedom! 

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Spring Means Baseball

For our family, organized sports participation began with our children when our oldest was seven. It was a late start by our local community standards, but it wasn't long before we were all in. My husband initially became more involved by "helping out" with team practices. His involvement grew year by year and a few springs later he was managing and coaching a Little League team. 

At the Little League World Series

Both of our sons have continued to play baseball most of their young lives. My husband continued to coach into our son's travel team participation. Family summer time activities were dictated by game schedules and team practices. As a homeschooling family, the baseball field is where we developed relationships with other parents in our suburban neighborhood. Family vacations even included trips to watch Little League championship games in Williamsport, PA. (A great family vacation destination, by the way.)

Many hours were spent at one field or another. Whether as parent spectator, coach or player we each enjoyed being outdoors through the spring and summer. As a family we have many wonderful baseball related memories from on and off the field.

I especially loved seeing my husband work with all of the young players. Our sons were observing his leadership first hand and up close in a context outside of our family. I am beyond proud of the integrity he demonstrated for them to emulate one day. Their relationship with each other has been enhanced because of their shared interest and participation. They will always cherish the memories of those extended moments practicing and developing skills together. 

Every family will determine their own level of involvement and their goals for "extra curricular" activities. We have seen many benefits of participating in non-academic pursuits, specifically sports. Each of our children has come away from sports participation with a realistic understanding of what it takes to excel in any endeavor.

Organization skills or how to
take care of your own equipment
has been a sports participation benefit.
  • Discipline
  • Work Ethic
  • Commitment
  • Self awareness
  • Compassion
  • Team work 

As parents, we all have high hopes for our offspring. We have seen more then our fair share of extreme commitment from parents in the hope of great lifetime success in a sport. We want to provide opportunities that weren't available to us. We are all susceptible to attempts at living unrealized dreams of our own through our children. There is a fine balance between recognizing the talents of our children and our expectations for them of utilizing those talents. Being realistic without trampling on their dreams, it is important as parents to be realistic about the possibilities of sports greatness.

Learning to play by the rules.
And respect for authority.

At every level of sports participation the numbers decrease dramatically. Many community team players never have a chance to play in high school. According to www.scholarshipstats.com, only 7% of high school athletes (all sports) play in college and from there to professional sports the numbers are reduced even more dramatically.

Our oldest ended his participation on a team as an 18 year old, after a knee injury. College academics took precedence over an athletic come back. Our second son is still playing. As a high school senior, this is his last season as a high school player. As parents, we have made an effort to keep all of the sports participation in perspective. We are glad to have developed connections to community members that are rooted in the mutual goal of supporting our children and teaching them the values of hard work and being a team player. We have wonderful family memories of cheering and winning and losing. Our children have an appreciation and respect for competition. They also have personal understanding of the benefits of health and physical fitness. All things that they will utilize in all areas of their lives.

All gains - no matter our son's future in baseball. For the moment - we are enjoying the game!

After four years of developing team spirit and comradery,
our son's days of  high school baseball are coming to a close.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!

It is a precious gift, this job of mothering. There is no work, in thought or deed, that connects a woman more to all the creatures in the world, all the other women or to God than the work of mothering. Enjoy your babies, no matter how grown, how near or far away. Thank you for all the mothering. Enjoy the day!

Happy Mother's Day!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

A Big Decision

Our beautiful daughter, Adah, has always loved to dance. She is also a talented and accomplished athlete.

She has been surrounding by the athletic prowess of her older brothers and has done an amazing job of keeping up with them in their activities. In physical activities like running, skating, volleyball and skateboarding with them, she has consistently held her own. She drew the line at participating in any organized way on a baseball diamond and left the hitting and pitching to the boys.

Her individual athleticism expressed itself through gymnastics. Gymnastics gave her a significant physical challenge with a bit of artistic expression thrown in. It also offered her some girl time with teammates who were likewise driven. With high achievement goals, the expectations she placed on herself and the demands of gymnastics practice, she was forced to leave formal dance training in the wings while she pursued her sport at a competitive level.

                          Gymnastics at Virginia Beach. USAG Eastern Nationals 2016.

Regional and national competition participation is an achievement. Adah accomplished both for several years. We traveled, we cheered. Her performances at meets were excellent. We were proud and we were all (athlete and parents) stretched in many ways. Then we began to be stretched, too thin.

Participating in competitive gymnastics is exceptionally demanding and as a family we began to reconsider the path our daughter was on. During that process, I wrote about those demands in this blog. After years of daily intensive practice and seasonal competitions, we began to re-evaluate her participation in such an intense sport. We enrolled her in a once a week dance class to determine if her love of the art remained and we watched, and we waited, and when we began to discuss the possibility of making changes, the tears began to flow. She admitted to the chronic physical pain that many gymnasts experience. She shared her questions and her fears of injury and uncertainty of being offered a college scholarship on one hand and of leaving so much accomplishment behind on the other. She also revealed her desire to have an opportunity to pursue training in dance.

At the age of 14, our daughter was making a long term life decision. She had already invested a lifetime into one endeavor. She had acquired skills and techniques reserved for the talented and dedicated. Fortunately, acquiring those skills and competing them had only resulted in one "minor" injury (a broken thumb) for her during years of participation. Unfortunately, it was taking its toll in many other ways. After years of investment, we pulled the plug on our daughter's pursuit of gymnastics.

Learning and moving in a whole new setting.

Hinsdale Dance Academy

Like many important decisions in life, the way was not crystal clear in advance. The decision to change directions was difficult and sad, as well as exciting and hope filled. This spring we are coming to the close of one full competitive season following this momentous choice and so far, so good. This season, Adah is dancing. It is an art that suits her. When asked, she has not shared any misgivings about moving on from gymnastics, not even in the midst of hearing of the competitive accomplishments of former teammates.

Adah is a beautiful dancer. There is joy in what she is doing and it shows. Of course, as her mother, I will always think that she is an amazing dancer, was an amazing gymnast and most importantly is becoming a most amazing woman.

So far she says she has no regrets. For that, we as parents, are grateful.