Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Home

Last week, my hometown hovered near a fire burning on the mesa to the south. We could see the smoke an hour away at our house. My brother directed the incident commander around local pastures and road ways. Thankfully, the town still stands but the view is blackened on our favorite local landmark—Saddlerock. While I did create a little fire box list in my journal, I thought more about what it means to have a home.
Jeremiah 29:11 is oft quoted this time of year for graduating seniors or people hoping for a better future. The context of this verse recently struck me—the preceding verses speak of the 70 years in exile for God’s chosen people and how he will bring them home and fulfill His promises. In the verse after eleven God also promises to bring them home again.
Place had significance to Israel. God promised them a particular land and even today, they fight to defend this land. Their temple continues to be a place of worship and they enjoy the fortunes of this amazing land.
Reading back over Jeremiah 29:10-14 for scripture writing on prayer, I realized these verses really resonate with my life experiences. Though I would not consider my twenty years away an exile, I did see God bring me home again and restore my fortunes. For me, my treasure or fortune is not so much in the land, though the mesas and canyons hold unarguable beauty. The fortune forms in the people of my family. God led me home to give me a husband and then a family of our own. Meanwhile, he placed me just 50 miles from my hometown and my brother’s family. Then my own parents even joined in on the fun within two years.
While my years away from home brought education, growth in faith, friendships, travel, hikes, hobbies and career expansion—all of this acted like compost in a garden to enrich this current season of my life experience—the fruitful times of children. I cannot often believe my fortune in having two healthy children even in my forties. While I suppose some might fault me for being an old mom, selfishly I would direct them back to the God who allowed me to have children even at this late date. He knew I would be wiser, grateful and inspired to stay young myself in order to be a good steward of the task of child rearing.
What a blessing to do this too in my home! Monday we played on the playground with my parents and then visited the horses at my in-laws. These children have so many people close by to love them and influence them as they grow into godly young people. While I never imagined living in a small town with my family, I now cannot imagine another way to ensure that my children have every opportunity to experience the benefits of home.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Second Summer Week

At breakfast this morning, my boy asked if I had to go to school today. Even after two weeks, this routine is very ingrained in his mind. I assured him I am home for the summer. We have continued to have so many adventures together. Last week they attended their first summer branding at my grandma's house. Katy wanted in the middle of flanking. John David tolerated a photo opp. He mostly wanted to climb the fences. A couple days later, I took them to Raton for their first time swimming--we splashed and went down the slide and had only one accidental dunk. Katy makes fast friends, throwing a ball back and forth with every little swimmer her age.
We've also spent several days in the orange pick up Punkin with dad feeding down east, up west and even at Mitchell's, driving the lake road home. This usually ends up in a small nap for sister and a bored brother. I'm happy though to be with my love for the day, windows rolled down, hair whipping in the breeze and a sleepy girl in my lap.
Pretend play at our house mostly means Katy directs John David to be a kitty, puppy or even a baby. The other day she had him sitting in a little cardboard box sucking on a bottle crying "I don't want to play this Katy!" She insists. Last night they chased each other so much playing "Seek" that their hair plastered with sweat on foreheads. We eat a lot of Popsicles and watermelon. We water plants every morning and check on the frog who lives in the big maroon geranium. We dig in the dirt by the shop, check on the chickens and ducks, and go on adventures in the creek.
Today we walked up the road, Katy on my shoulders and John David on his trike. We made it half way up to the main road, stopping to throw rocks in the dried up pond down from the damn. Katy chased butterflies and he powered up the hill out of the canyon and controlled it even on the descent. Impressive! Back home we snacked then came out to the shop to play (they chased each other pretending to be snakes). I love that we have so many places to expand out imagination together. Oh--and I've read two books already while supervising my kids playing and napping. Such a great summer (even with the occasional tired tantrum!).

First Days of Summer Vacation

I made a list in my bullet journal for the summer.
Dig in the dirt
Swim 
Cuddle
Nap
Write
Read
The first days of summer did not disappoint. Maybe I should go backwards just from today. Tonight my kids are playing in the bathtub because they have had a very fun and dirty day. My son insists on wearing his plastic jockey hat from the Kentucky Derby on stick horses they had at my grandma’s 90th birthday party. This means his head has been sweating for approximately 48 hours. He stinks. He has ridden his trike all over the canyon “checking cattle” and hiking up the canyon walls on adventures with his Kiki (he cried when he woke up from his nap and she had gone home). My daughter has refused to put on clothes since we filled the wading pool on the porch. We have watered the porch pots of petunias and the roses outside the porch. We ate lunch which mostly included cubed watermelon. Breakfast begins whenever morning cuddles end. My girl has figured out how to go in the potty by being naked all this time. I set up the potty and gave her some panties I bought last summer and she has been delighted to show her skills at bathroom hygiene. Last summer my attempts to woo her were not met with agreement in that area.
Yesterday we spent the day celebrating my grandmother’s 90th birthday by eating southern food while wearing Kentucky Derby hats. The kids entertained us with a stick horse race (or when we didn’t have enough horses, a piggy back ride or two). We ate watermelon, ribs, salads and cake on card tables set up around the yard while the kids played on the nearly 70 year old slide and swing set.



Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Altruism and Motherhood

Today my students read an article about the natural phenomenon of altruism--that tendency to sacrifice oneself for the good of others. The article started with the heroic acts of those on 9/11 who risked their lives for others. It wisely continued into even the natural world where animals and insects know the benefits of cooperation for the good of the species. I found the "aunt" who contributes to her family as my favorite part of the essay.

Truly when I think of altruistic people, I think of my parents, especially my mom. While I could tell you about all the things she did for me in my childhood, I'm going to tell you about today. This morning, I dressed my kids, put on their hats, and dropped them off at my mom's house before school where I teach high school English. My daughter launched out of her car seat into my mother's arms. She turned to me and said "Sho! Sho!" In other words, "Mom, we're fine here with our grandparents! Go to work!"

I love that my kids are safely ensconced with my parents. I trust them absolutely with my kids. I can do my job every day because I know they are in good hands. She feeds them snacks, puts sunscreen on their little sweet faces, takes them to the playground to slide, feeds them a nutritious lunch, puts them down for naps, and organizes all sorts of crafts and activities for them from tent building to reading books.

This is a sacrifice for her. She retired early when I had my son, moving to the small town where she could be near me (and my brother's family). Some people retire to a large salary and a condo in Florida, but she chose family over fortune. She watches my kids three days every week so my husband and I can work without worrying about child care. She loves to garden, draw and read--none of which she can do while watching my spirited children. She takes no monetary compensation for this service she provides. True, she gets the gift of grandchildren who adore her and know her well. But I can't help but think that the sacrifice is greater than the reward. I am so thankful too for how she continues to mentor me as a mom. She gently makes suggestions about my kids and offers encouraging words as I navigate life as a working-outside-the-home mom. She supports me unconditionally, even though my path looks so different than hers (at my age, she had two kids in college!). Her wisdom and patience make her a perfect care-giver for my children. So as we near Mother's Day, I would like to say I love you mom and I am so thankful for all you do for me and my family!

Friday, May 4, 2018

HIking Season



                Wednesday evening I laid out my backpack and essentials for the hike: hiking boots, wool socks, jeans, non-cotton t-shirt, long sleeved quarter zip shirt, soft shell jacket and hat. Into my backpack I stuffed my down jacket in case of adverse weather, an apple, cashews and raisins for snacks and a small travel tube of sunscreen. I located a spare water bottle and planned to fill the bladder of my Camelback in the morning. This would be my first hike in more than six years: a school hike with our seventh and eighth graders up a local shield volcano which loomed to the south of the town providing beauty and a weather pattern all its own.
                Being single until my late thirties, I had many opportunities for hiking adventures. I climbed my first mountain with my cousin, his wife and my uncle. We couldn’t find the trail up the West Spanish Peak, so I spent most of the ascent worrying about falling down the mountain. The views from the top revived me and then I hauled down the mountain with my uncle’s walking stick and discovered a love for hiking. Soon I befriended people with a love for hiking Colorado’s fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation). We hiked Princeton near Buena Vista, Colorado, running down in a hail storm. Quandry with my aunt and cousin gave me abundant flower photos near the town of Breckenridge. Sherman, the highest and by far the windiest, helped us celebrate a friend’s birthday. Elbert made for a perfect fourth of July hike. We backpacked in and camped to summit Missouri. Another overnight sent us up Democrat. And then there was the 13 mile trail up Pikes Peak only to be greeted by tourists who rode the train to the top of the mountain.
                Fourteeners were not the only hikes we loved. Little trails all around Colorado Springs and up the nearby mountains made for wonderful escapes into the purple mountain majesties of the state. We had hiked the incline multiple times (an old railroad incline of a mile in length straight up into the clouds it seemed). The trails around Cheyenne Canyon offered days of easy trails and even Garden of the God, if you could avoid the high tourist season, had wonderful trails in the shadows of the looming red rocks of the site. One of my favorite hikes, Waldo Canyon, burned the summer I married and moved to New Mexico.
                Moving to New Mexico opened up a whole new season of life for me: marriage and family. My husband and I spent our free time driving around the ranch, picnicking in pastures beside still creeks, and attending family events. Soon, we welcomed our first baby and my life became consumed with feeding and caring for him instead of getting out in nature to relax. When his sister joined us two years later, our greatest adventures consisted in stroller walks up out of our little canyon or in finding tadpoles in the creek next to our house.
                Thursday truly marked a revisiting of a season past for me. I got out all my old hiking gear and trusted my legs to remember the treasures of the trails I had enjoyed in the previous decade of my life. We headed out a road up from the Mandala Center, following our leader through the ranch lands and state land up the side of the mountain. We scrambled up rocks, walked through meadows, and ducked under tree branches on elk trails up through the forests near the top. I found myself taking shorter steps and focusing more on my feet than the views. Six years wears on a body—my once strong legs and lungs now used for singing children to sleep and carrying them from house to car no longer knew the exertion of hiking. My brain coaxed them into submission on the six hour hike, but they never regained their groves of previous years hiking. I inhaled the deep pine of the forest, looking up through the canopy of branches with a smile. But all the beauty of the forest now just made me miss my family. I let myself dream into the future ten years when my own son would hike this trail with me on a school field trip. I smiled thankful for my students who carefully watched me jump down rocks and pick my way through the descent. They didn’t want their only English teacher injured on the way down.
I sent texts to my husband every hour, updating him on our elevation and steps (we made it to 8300 feet—about 400 away from the top and exerted 23,000 steps on our 9.3 round trip). I missed him and realized hiking was what I did while waiting well for him; it was not what I wanted to do without my family. Although I would love to hike with my kids and my nephews, I can’t imagine embracing the hiking season of my life again in these ranching season days.
                I wonder why I feel the need to list to myself the hikes I did in the past? Why does my weak finish of the hike Thursday bring out the boaster in me? Why can’t my current hiking also include the shadows of my former hikes? I can love the beauty of a mountain today without wishing for the previous beauty I imbibed in the past. Today, I am a mom and wife who hikes less and kid chases more. Now instead of coming home to an apartment to cuddle my kitties, I have leg hugs from little ones and an air kiss from a handsome man. My muscles may have diminished in my legs and lungs, but the strength of my baby-carrying arms and my children loving heart have grown. I may not smell the piney forest, but the sweet clean baby hair after a bath as I rock her to sleep has beauty too. My adventures may orbit within a mile of my house these day, but my steps are even more important as I have two wee ones following in them these days.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Skunk Tales

Friday morning I spent with my kids before taking off for the weekend. We eventually put on coats and shoes to head out into the March sunshine for a few minutes. We headed out the front porch and rounded the side of the house to a stinky smell: skunk. I quickly herded the kids in the mud room door and insisted we couldn’t be outside with a skunk in the area. A few hours later when my Love returned, he assured me the dog simply smelled from an encountered with the skunk.

I left for a weekend with friends while Damon put the kids down for naps. When I called him later in the evening, he reported a skunk sighting. While my son rode his trike all around the loop in the canyon, my Love pushed my daughter in the stroller when they spotted the skunk across the creek looking for water. Well, that made for an exciting evening.

While I did my shopping and attended a baby shower the next day, the kids played, napped, and visited with their grandma. On my way to an orchestra performance of West Side Story, I called the Love of my life to check in our kids. Another skunk encounter! In fact, I could hear the kids stomping in the background. Apparently, the skunk came back and entered the cellar looking for food. The trusty dog Dok accosted him and ended up retreating to the mud room. Stink followed him. The kids wanted to help get the skunk by grabbing my ski boots and clumping them around on the kitchen floor outside the mud room.

And I thought leaving him for the weekend in a blizzard to wean our daughter was bad...I think he may never let me go on a trip again!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

FOUR!

Four years of adventure with this sweet guy! He still loves all things truck, train, tool, and tractor. We celebrated with family, opening gifts and eating cake and ice cream. He continues to amaze us with his ever growing vocabulary and his inventive imagination. Every cuddle and every kind word reminds me I must cherish the short time I have him so close under our roof. Stretching up every day, he can ride his bike with training wheels, shoot a basket, hit a baseball, and climb up any obstacle. His delighted giggle when playing with cousins would let you know that he adores them (both the boys on my side and the girls on dad's). Going along with dad to feed cows means an extra helper at the wheel. Books fascinate him from the details of trains to the power of volcanoes. Every morning he wakes up asking, "Who are we going to see today?" and he does love a social outing, even if it is as simple as visiting grandparents which he does most every day. Little sister obliges to chase him around the house squealing when they should be getting ready for bed. She continues to be his best play companion. Their sweet morning hugs still make my day. He sings along in the car these days, knowing most of the words for all the kids CDs I play. We just couldn't be any more delighted in our sweet son.