Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pioneering a Summer of Quality Time

Engage. Enjoy. Teach. Love. Build.

Those are the goals that I set for myself this summer. The time has come to step away from the computer- away from technology- and get back to the good stuff in life. Quality time outdoors with my kids (and Brock, when he is available) is my overall goal for the three warm months of June, July and August, and by golly, I mostly* reach my goals.

*I never did grow to 5'9"

Aside from a handful of projects, I have given myself a pass from most computer-related work until September 1. My boys are only 4 and 7 once and I intend to take full advantage of every day with them this summer. I am grateful for these ages, when they actually like me and still want to hang out with me.

In May, I adopted an almost childlike attitude of "I can't WAIT until summer break!" and thus far, it truly has been magical. Already one month into break, and our days have been filled with almost nonstop fun and learning. Sure, we have had some bumps and tears (and a nasty pony bite- thank goodness that was me), but the majority of our time has been wonderful. Not once have I heard, "I'm bored!" and I really doubt I will because I have shed my boring, winter self and morphed into a tanned, denim clad, mostly unwashed, great facilitator of AWESOME. I will not lie, the kids' ages make activities so much easier (and more enjoyable) than they have been in years past.

I am having more fun being a mom now than I ever have before.

Because... tiny cowboys on ponies.  I mean, seriously, this shit is ridiculously cute.

It also helps that I have my horses back and no longer feel as if I have a giant void in my chest where my heart once lived. So there's THAT.

Also, the fridge stocked with Omission beer is nice. I like the Pale Ale (blue label).

In all seriousness, one of the main goals for this summer was to build up Thing 1's confidence, which had been hacked away during the school year. I painfully watched him struggle in school with his peers as he navigated the choppy waters of playground conduct and social structure. So many days he came home from Kindergarten with stories of kids excluding him, taunting him, and even punching him. It was heart wrenching to watch my beautiful, sensitive, sweet boy feel tentative about socializing, even with kids that he called friends. While he was succeeding beautifully in the classroom, my bright-eyed child's light was fading a bit. We had many too-advanced conversations about not allowing others to victimize you, standing up for yourself and treating people as you want to be treated. I tried my best to listen and give him sound advice, but it is always hardest to coach someone when you are only getting one side of the story, and you happen to be the mother of that side. In short, I was ready to get him home and under my Mother Hen wing for a little rebooting and recharging and a lot of love and snuggles.

We had tried Karate for confidence, personal awareness and responsibility. While he seemed to enjoy Karate when he was there, he didn't really seem passionate about it. Half the time, he didn't even want to go. In all honesty, neither Brock or I have any connection to Karate, so we were ill-equipped to stir that fire. But there was something that I am passionate about that builds and develops all of those qualities: HORSES HORSES HORSES!

The arrival of Thing 1's pony, Clyde, brought the horse interest to the forefront of his mind. He seems to share my passion and the joy on his face when he is with that pony is unmatched. Every day, Thing 1 slips into his cowboy boots and heads out to the barn, where he halters both ponies and leads them out to the pen for the day. He has overcome many pony handling challenges (i.e. they are as stubborn and strong as donkeys) by implementing Posture, Position and Energy. His eager attitude, persistence and patience have made him successful. He is listening as I teach him proper horse handling and care, and even repeats things I have said about it to his little brother. He grooms Clyde, saddles him and mounts without assistance. And he LOVES to ride. The first time he cantered that pony, his smile was a big and bright as a full moon. It has been amazing to witness. His light is shining bright again. This mama's heart is full.

Thing 2 is having a wonderful summer as well. I've watched Thing 2 gain focus, determination and listening skills as he and his 27 year old pony, Duke, develop a wonderful partnership. Of course, he insists on keeping up with his big brother, which includes cleaning stalls, carrying his own pony saddle and a lot of very bumpy, fast trotting. So much trotting. So bumpy.

When the kids and I aren't in the barn or on the trail, we can be found doing one of the following: bike riding, playing baseball, making art, fishing, hiking with the dogs, gardening or reading through the Little House on the Prairie series in the almost completed Zen Den. Hot damn. Life is good.

Right now (aside from the screaming of Thing 2 from the backyard- I'm sure he'll be fine) I don't want summer to end. We are living in love and relishing the warm summer days. This is how life was meant to be lived and I intend to take full advantage of it.

Remind me of this post on August 22nd, when I have heard "I'm bored" 1,000 times, need to work again and am overly ready for the kids to go back to school.

Peace, Love and Summer Break,

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I found out what the Fox says.

Yesterday afternoon, Brock, the kids, and I drove up the mountains to head to our friend's cabins in Glen Haven. Mountains, fresh air, sunshine... it seemed like the right thing to do after I had experienced approximately four solid weeks of debilitating insomnia. In fact, I had been up since 3:30 a.m. that morning and was feeling about as sweet and cuddly as a rabid porcupine. As I loaded the cooler with the makings for ham sandwiches, I tried to focus on making it a nice evening and I thought to myself, I should grab my good camera. I love taking pictures in the mou... the Things disrupted my thoughts as they ran, screaming and hollering, through the room.

I yelled after them, "HEY! Go to the bathroom NOW because there is no water at the cabins, therefore no toilets!"

I got a, "I DON'T HAVE TO GO!" and a, "ME NEITHER!"

So I stuffed potato chips into a sack, grabbed everyone a sweatshirt in preparation for the cool Colorado night, and walked out the door... without my camera.

We intended to simply open up and clean two of the cabins, but we were in for a little something more memorable. We pulled the truck down the familiar dirt lane and crossed the bridge. There, at the Y-intersection on the left, was a beautiful red fox. She was sitting. Watching. She was calm, cool, and totally in control. After a minute, she stood up and slowly trotted up the lane we had just driven down.

As a family of animal lovers, we were all excited at this sighting. Somehow the moment seemed special, almost as if it were carved out for us to experience together, as a family. My mood started to lift.

We drove up the hill to the cabin, parked and headed into a cabin. Before we could even get into the swing of cleaning, Thing 1 proclaimed, "I have to go to the bathroom!"

I said, "We're in nature. Go pee on a tree!"

He replied, "No. I have GO."

Of course. Mr. Hankey was urgently knocking at his backdoor.

I looked up from the window sill I was scrubbing and said, "Well, you'll need to find a private spot, dig a pit, do your business, and then cover your deposit."

He blankly stared at me.

 Brock said, "Come on. I'll show you what to do."

He grabbed some toilet paper, a portable potty seat, and started on a expedition to find the perfect deuce dropping station. At this point, Thing 2 was also tagging along out of curiosity, so it was like a tiny poo parade.

The screen door had just slammed shut when I heard, "Well, look at that! There's another fox by the campfire ring!"

I quickly, but quietly ran outside. I didn't want to scare her!

I spotted her, a fluffy fox trotting up the mountain. I couldn't tell if it was the same one we had seen earlier or not. Then I saw a quick movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a kit! Then another one! And three more! They were yipping adorably and wrestling and playing chase at high speed! Mama positioned herself between my family and hers. In a way that only mothers can do, she calmly but firmly kept an eye on her kits and the blond human crew watching them. There was no scaring this fox. She was a mother of five. She'd already lived through more terror than most.

We all stood there staring with dumb smiles plastered on our faces. See my sleep-deprived one below. Dummy dumb dumb dumb. Apparently one eye gets squinty when I'm tired.


Ten or more minutes passed and I noticed Thing 1 making some awkward shapes with his body.

"Oh buddy! You really need to go, don't you?" I asked.

He nodded and Brock started to lead the poo crew once more. Then he said, "LOOK! A black fox!"

Sure enough, there was a sixth member of the litter and it was solid black! For a moment, I wondered if Smelly Cat stowed away in my truck and joined his tribe.

Smelly Cat: part black fox, part Ninja, part Pepe LePew, and part Toothless the Dragon.

Once more, we stood and stared like a group of gawking tourists. It was incredible! They were so beautiful... and hyper! And all I could say was, "Thank goodness Thing 1 had to go!" and, "WHY DIDN'T I BRING MY CAMERA???" and, "OMG, I actually know what the FOX SAYS!"

At least I had my camera on my cell phone. 

And for your information, the fox does say, "YIP YIP YIP YIPYIPYIP YIP."

Peace, Love and Fox Kits,

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fun in the Sun: Outdoor Activities for your Kids this Spring (Summer)

Since I have been super busy cleaning horse poop, planting my own garden, repeating myself, mowing the yard, pulling a filthy amount of weeds from my flower beds and experiencing debilitating insomnia, I am offering up this lovely post full of wonderful ideas to get you started on the magical journey of summer vacation. It is written by ghost writer, Emma Crosby. Enjoy!

Fun in the Sun: Outdoor Activities for your Kids this Spring

So Spring has finally sprung! The days are getting longer, the temperatures are creeping up, flowers are blooming, birds are singing and air is filled with the sweet sounds of 'Mommmmm I'm bored!' After a long winter of being cooped up indoors you can hardly blame our kids for wanting to run free in the great outdoors but lots of enticing activities for the warmer weather such as zoos and theme parks come with a far-from-sunny price tag. There are lots of weird and wonderful ways to occupy the kids in your own garden this Spring that are fun, educational and cheap too. Here are just a few to inspire your family.

Plant a vegetable patch
Spring is a fruitful time of year so make the most of it with your green fingered little ones and encourage them to grow their own crops. Studies show that kids who are involved in the growing process of produce are generally more likely to have an interest in healthy eating and consequently have better diets and general health. Giving them the responsibility of planning, digging and maintaining their own vegetable patch will make their sense of accomplishment even bigger when they finally see the fruits of their labor and present you with their harvest. Herbs, salads and root vegetables such as carrots and onions are all great starter plants but it may also be worth including a few 'fast flowering' crops such as tomatoes so that they see results quickly before losing interest in their project. Fun and educational, this is a popular Spring past time that will save you money and provide the entire family with fresh, organic food.

Bird watching
Here in Colorado we are blessed to have a number of migrating birds in our skies during Spring. Hawks, warblers, hummingbirds and buntings are just a few of the birds that you might be able to spy from your garden so invest in a pair of binoculars and get the kids interested in bird watching. If you want to make this a really educational activity then have them read up on said birds beforehand so that they can try and identify anything that they see and add a little healthy competition by allocating points for the child who can correctly spot and identify the most birds. For rainy days you could also help them to create their own bird feeders using everything from hollowed out fruits and pine cones to plastic bottles.

Camping out
While you may view camping out in your back yard as a cold, uncomfortable and unnecessary way to spend an evening, the kids will see it as an exciting adventure. It really is crazy just how much fun sleeping 50 yards away from your own house is to them so now the temperatures are creeping up indulge them and try and get into the camping spirit. Songs before bedtime, dinner cooked over a camp fire and the threat of 'going indoors' to quell any bad behavior will ensure that everyone has a great night. And if the heavens open you are only a few steps away from your cozy beds.'

Getting crafty in the garden
Nature is beautiful and so the garden is a wonderful place for your little ones to get creative and bring the outdoors indoors with their own works of art. From sketching garden critters to creating collages from leaves and grass, the possibilities are endless. One of my kids favorite crafts is flower coloring. This involves picking flowers in the garden (pale or white flowers such as daisies work best) and adding them to jars or vases that have a small amount of food coloring in, ensuring that the stems are cut at the bottom. As the flowers drink up the water their white petals will take on the color of the dye and become flecked with bright colors. Not only will this amaze the kids but it teaches them about plants and brightens up the house too.

Build mud pies
Some things never get old and making mud pies in the garden is certainly on that list. However old your child is you can bet that they'll love digging, mushing, sploshing, spooning and stirring their mud pies. A designated area of dirt, a wooden spoon and a few pots and pans is all they'll need for hours of fun. And far from being a pointless and filthy activity, handling mud and water encourages sensory development and encourages your kids to use their imagination. With leaves and twigs as entrees, you can even let them bring their favorite toys into the garden for dinner.   
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