Sunday, October 23, 2016

On being an adventure mom

We spent this weekend camping in Shawnee National Forest, at a campground we visited and liked two years ago. We set out early Saturday morning to repeat the previous trip's hike to a great natural bridge, found the stream crossing a little higher than we wanted to try, and decided to take a longer loop around to approach the bridge from the other side. By MB's apple watch, we hiked five miles. It took four hours. The kids KILLED IT. They were chipper and capable, walked the whole way with only a tiny episode of whining from each at the very end, and generally were enjoyable company. We had the entire trail to ourselves, with the exception of one couple we passed near the end. The landscape was fantastic, the weather was perfect. We were a little too early for fall colors, with the summer lingering so long this year. We had zero network coverage the entire time we were there, and it was great. I read a whole novel on Saturday afternoon. The boys played mostly well together at the campsite, creating a complicated pretend game with small branches standing in as spaceships, scooping hickory nuts and gravel with their toy construction vehicles.

I've been asked a few times for tips on being an adventure mom, so I thought about it some. With the caveat that all this probably depends on your particular brand of children, here's what I think you should consider if you're interested in taking small kids on outdoor adventures:

1. It takes practice. We took Nico camping for the first time when he was 20 months old. Elliott went on his first trip at eight months. My kids have literally been camping their whole lives.

2. If it's not easy at first, it's okay. For the first two years we camped with Nico, bedtimes were miserable. I'd lay in the tent with him for over an hour, missing nearly all the socializing with our grownup friends, waiting for him to stop thrashing and fall asleep. I was often not as patient as I should've been. The whole cycle repeated with Elliott, though I don't remember it lasting as long. This weekend at ages three and six, they fell asleep within ten and twenty minutes of being zipped into their sleeping bags and slept right through the night. If you have tried camping with your little kids and it was really hard, that is normal. Once you can think about it without wanting to drink / cry, try it again. Eventually you'll get there.

3. Have realistic expectations. Two years ago, we camped at this weekend's spot. We went out on a hike with the friends we were camping with, and after an hour and a half, we bailed and went back to the campsite to take naps while our friends kept hiking. This year, I still can't believe it, my little kids hiked five miles. And I had Elliott's carrier in my backpack the whole time in case he couldn't walk the whole way.

4. Take some stuff to keep them busy at the campsite - coloring books or dump trucks or sand pails...something. Let them get filthy if they want to - it's camping. We don't even take showers when we camp for a weekend. Everyone smells; no one cares.

Most of all, you know yourself and you know your kids and I do best when we are out, away, and gone for most of a day. We don't do well staying in the house for more than half a day. Adventure parenting is totally my jam, and adventure kid-ing is definitely theirs. So, that's what I've got. Maybe it's helpful? I hope so. If not, here are some cute kid photos to make up for it:

He climbed up to get a better look at the sandstone cliffs and whispered to himself, "This is so cool."

We got off-trail and ended up mountain-goating up this steep slope to get back on track. The kids rocked it.

We ended up on top of the natural bridge toward the end of our hike, which was pretty awesome.

My response to this method of descending from the top of the bridge was to blurt out, "Are you KIDDING ME?"
We did not attempt it. Maybe in two more years. Or ten.

Instead, we doubled back and eventually made it to the bottom. It was worth all the walking.

Here are some bonus pumpkin patch photos, also. We visited on the 16th and it was very nice.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Here we come to a turning of the season

I am annoyed that I let my unintentional hiatus result in an entire skipped month. I'm really tempted to backdate this post so I won't have a gap in my archives later, but I'm going to resist because it's just silly. Since we last met, I have hung out with my delightful baby nephew many times and played two rounds of Pandemic Legacy with his parents. My sister moved to Indianapolis for a new job. We took the kids on our annual amusement park trip, went to a few birthday parties, and planted a butterfly garden. Elliott went back to preschool and started attending the extended-day Lunch Bunch program on Wednesdays. I took on more responsibilities at work and also hired some new part-time staffers. I made hundreds of mini muffins for the kids and about a dozen bowls for the Empty Bowls project. I went on TV twice for work to promote the biggest event that I run every year, and then smashed the previous attendance record for that event last night. I led four Navigators meetings, reaffirming that starting our chapter was one of the best ideas I've ever had. We went camping, and even though it was hot I was glad we went. It feels like we are officially a Camping Family now. We are hoping to camp at least three more weekends before it gets too cold (actually, I'm hoping for four...we'll see). I read a book. I watched some football games and some episodes of Project Runway. I made felt apple slices for a felt food exchange. I made more headway into my decluttering effort. We have been SO busy, mostly with our everyday life stuff. So many muffins to bake and lunches to pack and laundry to wash and floors to sweep, and none of it is bad it's just SO BUSY. I miss writing here when I don't make time, so I'll keep trying to make time. Meanwhile, I expect there will be more of this...which is also fine.


Saturday, August 27, 2016


I spend lots of idle moments wondering what my boys will remember from their childhoods. While I realize it's unlikely they'll remember all the cool things we endeavor to provide the opportunity for them to do, I know from my own memories of childhood that it's not easy to predict what the brain will decide to hold in its archives. I also hope that even if they can't recall specifics, they'll remember the general feeling of their growing up as a mostly-good one. I wonder, too, what they'll remember about me. I'm sure they'll remember that I yell sometimes (and honestly, I'm okay with that...I want them to know that I'm a real person with real and sometimes big feelings, so that they know it's okay to be real people with real, big feelings themselves). They'll probably remember that I'm a little bit fat and a little bit loud and that I like to listen to music in the car and that I swear and I'm not a good cook. I hope they'll remember that I bake them muffins to eat for breakfast almost every day. That I track down shirts I think they'll like. I hope they recall being asked to clean up their own messes, to use their manners, to try new things and work as a team. I hope, too, that they remember me as a mom who worked and was good at it, and who also volunteered at their schools and didn't forget about crazy sock day.

When they think about me as adults, maybe with their own kids, I'd like it if they remembered how often I loaded up the car with snacks and a change of clothes for everyone, with water shoes and sand pails and tadpole nets, how many times I smeared sunscreen on their little faces and filled up their water bottles and took them out on an adventure. I hope when I'm an old lady I can remember this, too. The smell of their hair in the sun. The freckles on Nico's nose and Elliott's farmer's tan. Rinsing sand off their legs and mud off their shoes. Changing clothes behind bushes and in the back of the car because there was a creek to jump in or a fountain to play in and I didn't say no. How proud I feel when one of them comes running to show me some cool bug or bone or rock that he has found. The two of them whooping with joy on a tire swing or on a boat out on the river. Tumbling home hungry and smelly and thoroughly happy from a long day out and gone. I can't think of any better partners for this journey of a life, no matter what they remember of it later.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


1. While the choices of what NBC shows and when are definitely questionable, I'm grateful that MB stopped on his way home last weekend and bought a digital antenna so I can watch the Olympics. It's nuts that in 2016 there isn't an online purchase option for people who don't have cable. I get that NBC is bound by contracts but it's being shown on broadcast channels. The whole thing is so dumb. They could make SO MUCH MONEY by offering an online access pass for purchase. Because we don't have cable and I only watch after the kids are in bed, I've mostly only seen swimming, beach volleyball, and gymnastics, which are my favorite events anyway. I am SO pleased about the women's gymnastic team. How amazing must it feel for little girls with diverse faces to see ladies who look like them kicking ass and showing class?

2. I was initially super excited to look at the new Cat & Jack stuff at Target, after seeing people enthusing over it on facebook and Twitter. But all the best shirts are only available in the girls' section. Really? I am THRILLED that there are science shirts for girls. I think it's awesome and about time. But I am NOT happy that these great science shirts are only being made for girls. Boys mostly have to make do with dinosaurs (fine), sports (blah), and skateboarding (meh). The line even has a unisex shirt section, which is really nice. Why not put the science shirts in that group? When the "Yay, Science" one comes back in stock online, I'm going to order it for Nico anyway. Damn the man.

3. Nico started first grade on Wednesday. He had been begging to start for several weeks, mostly due to excitement over his new backpack. So far they've only gone over school rules and practiced some coloring and writing of numbers. He's very stoked about having a locker and really wants to go pick out some magnets. It's adorable. His hair was VERY LARGE on the first day...not his best hair moment, but he is still happy with all of it, so I'm going along. When it's all ringlets instead of floof, it is really fabulous. Okay, even when he looks like a tiny mad scientist, it's pretty fabulous.

4. I just finished a book about redwood trees, and it's made me yearn to go back to visit Olympic National Park. It's been ten years since our Seattle trip. I was already feeling wistful about taking another trip there, and reading about the amazing temperate rainforests just strengthened the wanting. I really hope we can take the boys to see the coast redwoods and the Hoh stand under those trees again and share the awe and the joy with my two little woods wanderers.

5. I'm feeling antsy for fall and for camping. I try to never wish time away, but fall weather can get here any day.

Reading:  Hamilton: the Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter

Playing:  Led Zeppelin IV, per Elliott's near-daily requests for Black Dog, played really really loud

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Adulting is a bitch lately, right? The violence in the world, the continued murder of black men in the streets with no apparent consequence, this goddamn slog of an election cycle. All of it is just getting to me. It was piling up so badly the week of 4th of July that I actually cried. I don't cry, generally. But I was at my old Girl Scout camp, one of the most sacred places in my life, and I walked down into the hollow to see the waterfalls and started tearing up. Later I climbed up into the cave to have a quiet moment, and just lost it for a minute. Full-on ugly cry. I guess I needed it. The weekend following, I took the boys on a one-night camping trip with a few families from my Navigators group. It was the first time I've ever taken both kids camping without MB, but it went great. I wasn't stressed (other than by the aforementioned adulty life crap, which I did my best to ignore all weekend), the kids were well-behaved and had a ton of fun. A+++ would do again, basically. It was pretty much exactly what I needed to get my brain right. I'm still low-level cranky and probably would do well to just unplug completely, but I don't feel like I'm close to cracking like I did before we went out there.

What else is up? I finished up my last week of half-day camp at work and got a kickass review on facebook from one of the parents. Nico is SUPER excited about school starting. I'm pretty sad about the summer ending, because I feel like I blinked and missed it, way worse than last year. There are so many things I wanted to do that we didn't have time for. Getting Nico's supplies and new backpack and new shoes is kind of exciting just like it was when I was a kid, and I am glad he's happy about going back. I had more fun than I ever expected narrowing down backpacks for Nico to choose from (he really wanted a pack with two big zipper pockets. I required one with water bottle pockets.) and ordering new shoes for both kids. (backpack and shoes if anyone else likes to peek at other people's school stuff like I do)

The local UU church did a Hogwarts-themed evening camp last week, and I volunteered to teach Care of Magical Creatures two nights. It was SO much fun. Both boys got to go, and even though they know zero about Harry Potter (I know, but Nico is way too sensitive.) they had a good time. Elliott especially seemed really thrilled to be running with the big kids. We have two weeks left until Nico starts school, so if the days could go by slowly, that would be nice.

Reading (just finished):  The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten

Playing:  Hamilton

Tuesday, July 05, 2016


A thing I never knew I'd need to know

One of my coworkers mentioned a few days ago that her four-year-old daughter had been smelling really bad lately, for no apparent reason. My coworker had tried brushing the kid's teeth more often, she was bathing her regularly, but nothing helped. As she was telling me about it, I remembered that my music teacher had told the class a story in seventh grade about her daughter putting a bean up her nose, and how no one knew until the kid's breath started to stink and no one could figure out why. My coworker took her daughter to the doctor and sure enough, she had a piece of grow capsule sponge in her nose. The more you know! So maybe now someone can google "why does my kid smell bad" and find out that said kid might have something up the nose.

A thing I finally got around to

I finally started listening to Hamilton, about forty years after everyone else. And holy shit, it's just as good as everyone says. I didn't even actively resist it, I just never got around to it and didn't know where to look for it (I don't have Prime). Then I saw this carpool karaoke video and decided I wanted to hear the rest, and I finally realized, duh, the library surely has a copy. And they do, and now I've listened to Act I three times all the way through. I need to move on to Act II, but I just keep replaying my favorites.

A thing that has been great

I've taught two of my three weeks of half-day nature camp at work for the summer and they've been so much fun. I'm so lucky that this is my job. I had a brainwave the other day, and next summer I think we're going to offer a day camp for grownups. (probably just one full day or two evenings, not a full week) My coworkers and I are already making lists of the things we want to do.

A thing that has been satisfying

We spent Saturday taking every single toy out of the kids' playroom, sorting it all, and then moving their old train table and all their Legos (previously mostly stored in Nico's room and scattered across various other surfaces in the house) in for them to share. So far this has been a huge hit - Nico popped out of bed at 6:30 a.m. Sunday and Monday and woke me up (thanks, kid) to ask if he could go downstairs to play with the Legos. I said sure, but you're not allowed to ask me for help with any of it until 8:30. Elliott asks to go in the "Lego playroom" all the time (we put up a baby gate to keep the dog out, and E can't open it on his own). They spent hours of the long weekend playing cooperatively and imaginatively in there, and it is fantastic. THIS. THIS IS WHY WE HAD TWO KIDS. I've also done a satisfying amount of decluttering, which snowballed from the outgrown toys to a leftover stash of outgrown clothes to a bunch of unused stationery to a huge box of VHS movies. I have learned that when I get on a decluttering kick I should just ride the wave as long as I can, just to see how much I can get done.

Obligatory holiday kid photo:

Reading:  (just finished) The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater and Free to Fall by Lauren Miller / (just started) Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Playing:  Hamilton, of course.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hello! Goodbye!

In nearly a month since my last stop here, I have worked 22 out of 25 days. I am tired, but school season is OVER, HALLELUJAH.

I drove my long-term rental car for over a month. I never really loved it, though it had a few pleasing qualities (very peppy, very smooth ride, USB port to plug in my phone). Now I have my CR-V back, and I'm glad. Though I just remembered that my registration sticker came in the mail while I had my rental, which means I've been driving around with expired tags since Tuesday night. Let's go ahead and put a reminder in my phone to fix that tomorrow.

I stepped on a Lego in the dark in Nico's room last night and cut a chunk out of my foot. I am both embarrassed and outraged by this injury. It hurt to walk on it all day. I keep bright-siding myself and thinking, well, at least I didn't cut it before last weekend, but still. LEGO INJURY.

Last weekend we went down to Mammoth Cave National Park. MB and the boys and I went down on Friday night, and Laura Danger met us there Saturday morning. On Saturday we went on a two hour cave tour, had lunch, and then hiked 2 1/2 miles. It was tiring but awesome to be outdoors with some of my favorite people. On Sunday, LD and I went on the wild cave crawl and it was fantastic. We were in the cave 9 a.m. to almost 3 p.m., and they claimed we covered about six miles down there. There wasn't as much crawling as I expected, but there was more climbing and more funky obstacle / bouldering type stuff. I got stuck like a cork in one spot, due to my huge boobs. If I'd had any traction for my feet or handholds to grab, I could've made it through, and I never got scared because I could feel that they would compress enough for me to fit if I could just get myself moving, but I wasn't going anywhere until I got a little assistance. Toward the end of the tour there was a another spot as tight as that but with more wiggle room. One of the guides was sure I could make it, so I screwed up my courage and tried it. I'm so glad I did, because just having the room to wiggle-crawl my arms and legs let me shimmy through it. I hadn't been caving since high school and Laura Danger had never been, so it was a good adventure for us. Something about it was so focusing and freeing - there was no sense of time, no sense of direction, no sense of depth. I didn't think about work or my to-do list or even much about what my kids were up to...I just focused on the next obstacle and appreciated the wonder of what we were seeing and was just in the moment for a whole day of moments. It was really refreshing.

It turned out the kids were feeding kangaroos at Kentucky Down Under while I was caving, and MB actually took a few pictures. The children were reportedly VERY EXCITED, especially Nico, which is fantastic. This is a child who usually refuses to feed the giraffes at the zoo that we visit once or more every month, so feeding newly-met kangaroos is pretty huge.

Last week on Tuesday my best friend since we were five years old, the bibliophile, had a baby. I got to meet him on Saturday and then have lunch with them on Monday. He is perfect and smells delicious and I love him immensely already. I find myself wishing I could squeeze in one more visit to see him before we leave for a week away. I'm not sure I'll be able to and it's making me feel a bit bereft.

I am taking my Navigator scouts (and their parents) on a one-night camping trip tomorrow. A lot of the kids have never camped before and we are all stoked. With work eating my life lately, I haven't had a chance to make a single to-do list or pack a single bag, so tomorrow will be a bit of a mad scramble. But it's a one-night trip in a city park campground, so I'm not too worried about it.

On Sunday we leave to drive to Chicago, where we'll stay one night and a morning before driving on to St Paul. I am attending a conference Tuesday through Friday that I'm really excited about, and MB and the boys are coming along to make a vacation of it. After the conference we will probably spend the weekend in Chicago and then come back home.

Yesterday was Nico's last day of kindergarten and Elliott's last day of his first year of preschool. It went by so fast! I couldn't attend any of Nico's last day things, and I was okay with it until I saw his friend's moms posting photos of them with their wonderful teacher yesterday evening and realized I didn't get a single picture of her with Nico this year. She has been truly wonderful and I will be pretty crushed if Elliott doesn't get to be in her class in a few years.