Week 43: Devils Thumb

***And we are all caught up to this weekend!***

Mountain weddings are the best! Joe and I spent the weekend near Winer Park at Devils Thumb for the nuptials of my close friend. While we didn’t get a hike in, we did take in the amazing views below for an entire day. It was crystal clear up there and everything looked so pristine. We started chatting or rather dreaming about owning our own cabin up in the area someday.

I am not sure if it was the wedding or the mountains that made me want to freeze time and stay there forever. But, I do know that we are definitely going back, and soon!

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Week 42: The beach

Mountains or the beach, mountains or the beach, that is the questions. The answer? Both are absolute treasures and to compare them be an absolute waste of time. This weekend we enjoyed a relaxing mini-vacation visiting my family in the Bay Area. We were there to welcome our newest family member (my sister just had her second precious baby boy). Our outdoor adventure was to Bodega Bay. My sister and I grew up on the beach in Pacifica, CA, so the beach is nothing novel to us, but experiencing the ocean through my kid’s eyes is certainly a novelty. I captured some of the highlights below.

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Week 41: All by myself

img_1189Call me crazy – this weekend I took my two little boys out for a hike all by myself. I had MJ on my back and AJ beside me. Joe went backpacking this weekend, that lucky dog, leaving me to muster up the motivation to tackle our 52WeeksOfNature challenge as a solo parent. It was empowering to say the least – to dig deep and get out there with my kids without backup.

The adventure started with the car ride as we were going somewhere new, and kind of far. Siri did not lead me astray and we got there without getting lost. Win! The hike itself was beautiful. We will definitely be returning soon. As we ventured toward the trail head a nice older women said to me “well you are certainly ambitious” to which I responded “it’s this or stay home and lose my mind.” The stranger recalled her early parenting days and agreed that outdoors is a better place for kids then inside. With a chuckle and a grin we parted ways not to cross paths again.

 

At the trailhead we came upon a map. AJ picked our route and we set off for our adventure. The trail was moderately traveled and we definitely happened upon portions of the trail were we were the sole hikers. It was nice to hike among others and alone with my kids all at the same time. MJ reminded me that he was there by playing with my hair and face. AJ had a great start and middle hike, but slowly unraveled toward the end.

We cut the hike short – at the abandoned ruins per AJ’s request. With the sun beating down on us and our lunch in the car I knew that AJ was right on about turning back. Sometimes three year olds no best. I really enjoyed getting outside with my kids. It was a confidence builder to pull off this experience on my own!

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Week 40: Majestic View

img_1177AJ started preschool this week. We have been building up to his transition to a new school for a while. Now that the day has finally arrived I am filled with emotion…For him (is he going to be okay), for me (my baby is growing up), for MJ (will he by okay without brother at school). The anticipation of change is typically much harder to grapple with than the change itself.  And that was the case in this instance. I am happy to report that everyone did great with AJ’s transition to preschool; even me!

A lot of energy was spent in anticipation of this change, so this weekend we kept our obligations to a minimum. Our main commitment was to connecting as a family, through food, play, books, music and just spending unstructured time together in our comfy little home.

For our outdoor adventure we went to Majestic View Park so the kids could play on the playground and so we could also have a picnic in the grassy area, amongst the trees and mountain views. I cooked up a rice stir fry dish that turned out surprising well (I am not a cook, though I am aspiring to master a few recipes). We brought some toys for the kids, a Frisbee for us.

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I say this a lot, but it was freeing to be outdoors, but this time without a set plan to accomplish something like a hike. This time we were outdoors to enjoy the views, fresh air and free play that the open fields of Majestic View Park offer.

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Week 39: Picnics and S’mores

***Since we are so behind on our posts the next several updates will include mostly pictures. This will help us get caught up!***

52WeeksOfNature saw its peak this summer with a lot of hikes and picnics in the mountains. On this particular weekend we hit up the foothills for a family hike before heading up to Estes Park to meet up with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We opted for a local hike that we have done a few times before. Along the way we were warned about the presence of a rattle snake. As much as I love hiking and the outdoors I don’t do well with wildlife, so I was in a state of high alert the rest of the way. It was exhausting!

 
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I am realizing that I have many limitations when it comes to being outdoors and in nature. I often worry about predators (i.e. mountain lions) praying on my kids. I try not to let my imagination go to wild with these thoughts. I also don’t let my kids stray too far when we are on some of the less populated trails. In that past when my absolute fear of wildlife has sprung up like an aggressive weed I have yielded to its powers. With our 52WeeksOfNature project I am working through fear with each footprint that we leave in our wake. After all, life is about moving forward in body, mind and spirit. Paralysis by fear is a stunted life, and I don’t want to model that for my kids.

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All that aside, we had a very nice hike after which we headed into the mountains for a picnic. Joe’s family has a spot in RMNP that we frequently picnic at. AJ and MJ ran around with their older cousins, ate delicious food made by their ingenious uncles and the best part – made s’mores over the fire with bumpa. In between eating, talking and running after our kids, a handful of us managed to take a little nature walk. RMNP is such a calming wonderland of mountains, aspen groves, pines, rivers and rocks.

See for yourself in the pictures below.

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Week 38: Pictures tell the story

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This weekend we went up to an awesome outdoor spot in Boulder to meet up with Joe’s cousins. They were in town from Seattle for Erica’s Iron Man event. We picnicked, the kids played on the playground and by the river. Joe and I had some opportunities to engage, but not many because this outdoor haven was very exciting for the kids. AJ and MJ were all over the place. The one time they were still was when we were eating. Even then they seemed too engaged by the nature that surrounded us to focus on eating. They were much more interested in playing.

Joe and I took turns monitoring the kids by the river and on the massive play structure. We dabbled in adult conversation here and there, but were mostly involved in our kid’s safety. Thus my preference for hiking. When we are hiking there is less concern for safety, and so we can let our kids truly explore (although I have developed a recent phobia of mountain lions).

As the result of spending most of my time trying to find a balance between two worlds (the adult world and the adult world with children world), I have little insight to share, so I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

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Week 37: Set free

IMG_1158I am a 7 on the Enneagram. The 7 is the enthusiast and one of our struggles is the fear of being trapped. And let me tell you, I struggle constantly, and I mean constantly with the fear of being trapped. Trapped by people, circumstances, a job. Within the last 11 years I have moved, voluntarily, 10 times. And I have a hunch that I would have moved a lot more had I not fallen in love with my husband. Wanderlust has also lead me to take on a new job every two years. I also tend to spend a lot of time living in the future where I rearrange and change things like were we will live, what school the kids will go to, what path my career will take, what adventures lie ahead. It is mentally exhausting. I am always juggling possibilities and keeping everything on the table because I don’t want to miss an opportunity for something better.

I am learning that each time I slip into the future I must tune into the cause of my desire to escape the present. Often times I am escaping from the fear of being in the same place forever. I dislike permanency because it’s boring. I know shallow, right? But being outdoors weather it be hiking, boating or gardening is one of the few times that I feel free from the limits I place on myself. When I am outside everything is possible, and the box that society tries to put us in is broken away and I am free to just me.

The sense of freedom that accompanies me into the great outdoors is addicting. When I’m not outside, I’m looking at amazing outdoor photography  and fantasizing about being in that picture. My mind wanders to outdoor places where time doesn’t exist and I am free to be a full time mother, partner and adventurer. Thank heaven and earth for my husband. Sometimes my ideas for our future can shake the ground a little and make him feel unstable. My “what if scenarios” make his head spin, but he hangs in there with me and will often suggest a walk with the kids or a trip to the playground because he knows that the best way to help me focus on the present is to get outside.

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So, what does this have to do with this weekends hike? Everything! The hike almost didn’t happen because I was so tired. On Saturday, we started a garden with the kids. We went to the gardening store with the intention of growing a cucumber vine, but ended up with an assortment of wild flowers and three trees from the pine family. It was an absolute joy to watch the kids get dirty! MJ, fell knee deep into a puddle of mud that I created by digging out a hole for a bed of flowers. He didn’t seem to mind, so I didn’t either.
Starting the garden and being outside energized the whole family to gear up for a hike. With the busyness of summer and the beginning of the school year I really wasn’t sure that we would get out on a hike this weekend. I’m so glad that we did. We went to a nearby trail with grand views of the mountains. The trail was busy and everyone was kind for the most part. The area that we hiked offered several lookouts to both the mountains and Denver.
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We opted to hike away from the city views and toward the mountain views. The trail was shaded by tall pine trees. With each step we felt the craziness of our western culture melt away. There was so much beauty to take in and some challenges to overcome as well. AJ navigated his way through two boulder fields with Joe and I close by. He did an amazing job balancing his little body and making decisions about where to step next. I was carrying MJ who was chatting in my ear and playing with my hair nearly the entire hike. I loved it!
When we got back to the car it was clear that MJ needed some time on his feet. He was so upset when I put him in his car seat. The moment I set him free the screams turned to laughter and the tears dried up. He just needed about 5 minutes to explore the earth and ground beneath him. MJ squatted low to explore the dirt with his hands. He then took off running, but soon looked back to make sure we were still there. This short stint where MJ was free from the carrier and car seat settled him down enough so that we could have a peaceful ride home.
Until next weekend!
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Week 36: Back in the habit

DSCN1001Since moving to Colorado in 2010, we have camped all of zero times. This is in stark contrast to our time in Flagstaff, where we camped often, at least 5-10 times a year. Well, we have now gone camping all of one time and it was a success despite the immense weariness that we felt because of the lack of sleep.

We broke ourselves back into camping with a one night stay at a local park. We arrived around 4pm and the excitement started right out of the gate. I was struggling to put up our new 4 person tent, when I heard a scream that indicated a murder was imminent. I turned and Kaitlin was pointing at MJ’s head screaming. My body went into auto-reaction zone and I ran over to MJ at lightning speed to discover a huge bumblebee attached to his hair. I swung my arm as fast as possible and detached the bumblebee from MJ’s hair sending it thirty feet away.

Looking back it was amazing that I didn’t hit MJ with my arm, in fact, I don’t think MJ even knew what happened. The bumblebee did not die from the hit, but was without flight ability. It was a couple of feet from our tent milling around harmlessly. Momma bear, Kaitlin, was extremely bothered by the presence of the injured bumble bee and was continually checking on the bee, asking me to make it disappear. Eventually, the bumblebee turned over on its back and appeared to be dead. End of story? Not so fast. Kaitlin, thinking the bumblebee was dead, went over and flipped it over on its feet and the bumblebee instantly started to move and flutter its wings. Kaitlin, backed into a corner and fearing for her life, desperately grabbed a toy bucket and smothered the bee into the ground before it could ignite its weaponry.

DSCN1005 We did finally get the tent up and enjoyed some burritos for dinner. We were forced to eat in the back of the van to avoid the rainstorm that had moved over the campsite. It was a dry rain and passed over quickly enough for us to enjoy the outdoors before bedtime. We spent time at the playground, playing on a walking bridge and just generally walking around the campground. It was a great night and gave no indication of the trouble we were about to encounter.

We should of known that trouble was ahead when MJ woke up with a fever Saturday morning. The fever was about 101, and maybe we should of called off camping, but it was something that we had planned for a long time. In hindsight, MJ ended up having strep throat and developed scarlet fever later in the week…..Oopps! Despite that he did okay, considering, and slept off and on throughout the night. AJ on the other hand was amped up and sleep was hard to find. We tried to ignore him and prayed he would fall asleep, but his giggling soon turned into tears and a meltdown. So on one side we have a sick, uncomfortable kid falling in and out of sleep and on the other we have a tear-filled, kid in the middle of a melt-down……not good. This was pretty much the the rest of night as we nurtured our boys throughout the night. To make things worse, we also had to deal with uncomfortable sleeping pads. I think we ended up getting two hours of sleep, total.
I was actually happy to feel the sun on the tent. It meant we no longer had to try and sleep and could face the day…..all we needed was a little coffee. We heated up some water to make some hard earned instant coffee. We ate breakfast and packed up our camping gear to head out for a morning at the beach.
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Week 35: The benefits of being wild

IMG_1148I’ve started calling 52 Weeks of Nature “Parenting on the Trails;” and let me tell you that the joys of parenting on the trails are as limitless as the sky. Watching my kids overcome the challenges of being outdoors and hiking reminds me of how capable the human spirit is to experience pure joy and happiness. Happiness comes from finding small pleasure in the rocks and the trees. It means discovering tunnels and caves whether or not there really are tunnels and caves. Happiness is living as one with the nature that surrounds us.

I see my kids wondrously looking around as if everything they see is new and interesting. They are engaged in the moment and movement of our journey. Achieving happiness in this way seems so simple, right? It seems simple, and yet it is so hard at the same time – for adults that it is. With the weight and worry of responsibility it’s hard to get out of our own way to see the world with the wondrous eyes of a child. And so we hike. We hike and we hike and we get outside as much as we can to provide our children with opportunities to explore nature and to experience the incredible benefits of being wild. Hiking is natures remedy for stress, worry and anxiety. That is as long as you hike with open eyes and an open heart.

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On this occasion we were hiking 12 deep. Half of the crew was 8 and under and the other half 30 and over. Much of what gets me outside of my own head while hiking is the constant prompting itDSCN1270 takes to keep the kids moving along. The specifics of the prompting changes with the day, so it is unpredictable. Sometimes a song is required, or a game such as “I Spy” or “Fortunately, Unfortunately”. Other times prompting comes in the form of stopping at every shady spot along the trail for a quick sit and sip of water. Whatever the need is we accommodate it because hiking is supposed to be fun! One of its great beauties is that hiking is not a competition….unless of course competition is the motivator for the day!

Estes Park is a beautiful mountain town and the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. My in-laws all have very personal relationships with the town and the surrounding mountains. They are passing down their love for this place and all that it represents to their kids who are also developing their very own relationship with Colorado. During the summer we travel from the foothills up to Estes frequently to reunite with various family members to experience the Rockies through their eyes. We hike, we picnic, we go to Kind Coffee and sit by the river, and we watch the rain from Grammy and Bumpas house. After the rain passes we go outside in search of a double rainbow. This trip was no different. We hiked Gem Lake and picnicked at Beaver Meadows. We also spend a day a Fun City taking the kids down slides, on water boats and go-cart rides. Sometimes it’s fun to stay in town.

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The hike to Gem Lake was stunning with spectacular mountain views and thick stone steps. Our kids were entertained most of the way up. AJ and his 2 year old cousin even discovered a tunnel made by three large rocks. They took a detour in the tunnel and posed for perhaps the cutest picture I’ve ever taken.

The way up was extended by several such detours, but when AJ and ER decided to hitch a ride we were able to quicken the pace the remainder of the trail. We arrived at the lake in time for lunch. The kids played in the leach infested lake until we discovered that there really were leaches. Eek! The 12 of us spent sometime taking in the views and the beachy sand. It was fun! On the way down the four kids who were 3 and under snoozed on the backs of their moms and dads. What a way to catch some zzzz.

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Week 34: What to do with $10

DSCN0913We decided to take our hike to new heights and head to Evergreen. We chose Elk Meadow Park as our destination and ended up on a little trail called Painters Pause. As a quick side – Kaitlin is about two months in her new job and is loving it. The people are all super friendly and the work culture is amazing. She still does not get enough time with the kids, but at least she is happier.

The trail is 2.5 mile loop with vast open views and lots of people. LOTS OF PEOPLE. There are runners, bikers, dog walkers and hikers all merging on the trail. That can be a little challenging with two little toddlers bumbling along the trail. AJ has learned to spot incoming people and bikes and is good about moving to the side. Almost too good, as he will spot a hiker .25 away and pull off to the side of the trail. “Good job AJ, but we can still hike for a little bit.” MJ on the other hand is pinball and is hardly aware of his next step let alone his surroundings, so we keep a close eye on him and slide him over or pick him up when needed.

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A consistent strain we come across in parenting is our/my needs versus the kids needs. This plays out when we are out on a hike in a couple of different ways. We want to teach our kids to appreciate nature and have them experience their feet on the ground, but that means lots of detours into the grass or forest and a consistent stop and go pace. Not the end of the world, but there is something nice about going out for a hike and getting in a good groove. We have created a little compromise in that we have both kids start and end the hike on their feet. MJ’s foot time is pretty short at this point, and we usually end up putting him in a carrier fairly quickly. We try to keep AJ going as long as possible before carrier access. We get them out and on the hike, but we also get to enjoy our rhythm hiking when needed.

Trail Highlights:

  • We ran into a female runner that asked if we had found $10. She dropped it at some point during her run and she needed it to get into a festival. At that point we had not seen any money floating around, but about 30 minutes later we stumbled across the $10. We never found the runner again, but have put the $10 on our fridge to wait for the right reason to use it, donate it or share it with somebody.
  • The wind was blowing the perfect speed to cool us off in the hot sun. DSCN0936DSCN0940IMG_1081
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