We picked our Park!

As you might know, the husband and I are slowly training and planning for a big backpacking trip that is still a year and a half away. That may seem like ages to you, but we are planning to lots of smaller trips and training to make sure our first major backpacking trip is successful. As much as I enjoyed reading Wild, I’m not sure I want to prepare so little.

So we began to think through our limitations –

  1. Altitude Sickness: Guess who has the world’s most amazing case of altitude sickness and also enjoys using hyperbole? It’s me! I start..ahem…emptying the contents of my body around 6400ft so that limits where we can go. There are so many places that are very high up (I’m looking at you Glacier National Park) we would like to go, but it would require going to a lower altitude for a few days (i.e. Jackson Hole or something similar) to get acclimated, and then making the rest of the trek. We do not have that kind of time right now.
  2. Winter: Our anniversary is in the winter and we want to go in at least the same season as our anniversary. It turns out a lot of parks are not great in the winter or need skills we do not have time to acquire to navigate the park. Sigh.
  3. Backpacking: We don’t want to drive at all while we are there. We want to actually backpack the whole time. Who knew that could be difficult in some areas?!

 

So we finally chose a park! Let me show you some pictures and see if you can guess…

Yosemite National Park at sunrise, California, USA
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Can you guess?!!?

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Yosemite National Park!

 

So bring on your tips and tricks!

See You Outside!

Training for the Half

So last week I told the Facebook world that I did a crazy thing, and I did! I signed up for the Houston Half Marathon.

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This will technically be my third half, but only the second half where I have trained properly. The first half I ever did, my newlywed self and husband attempted to do it together. You may see a knight appear over my shoulder here and say, “You have chosen poorly.”

You see that year it rained a ton (and I just cannot seem to run more than two miles on a treadmill – treadmills are the devil’s workshop slash they are boring and hard on my knees). But also both the husb and I (mostly me) got sick a lot. Not to mention that the husb is a foot taller than me so can you guess how running together went down? If we ran at his pace, I was a goner after just a few miles because I had to run four steps to his every one. But, if he ran at my pace, he was almost walking and not at all tired when we were done.

Suddenly, it was race day and we had never run further than four miles. We managed 6.5 miles running before I had a case of the runs (TMI?). After a lengthy wait for a port-a-potty, we were back on the road, but the run was all gone from me (the runs and the running spirit). So, we walked. About mile nine, I hated everything and everyone. Some poor soul offered me an orange and all I offered her was my look of disdain. I wish I could go back and apologize. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT! I would tell the woman. I AM BEYOND TIRED! I ate a banana, drank some water, and made the husband take me home. I cannot believe I woke up before 6am for this.

So it was not a success.

The second half-marathon, I actually ran the entire thing. I had just given birth to my first kiddo and I needed motivation to get up and moving. So I printed out the Hal Higdon novice 1 schedule and got to it. I treated running like my part-time job and my husband promised me that if I ran the whole thing he would buy me one of those quarter zips I wanted so badly. I found an ancient jogging stroller someone was tossing out and I started bringing the tiny one along when she was finally old enough to sit up. The stroller was awful and one of the wheels always listed to the left which left me fighting it and my arms incredibly sore. But I kept going. I was determined. I began eating healthier, not crazy healthy, but more healthy so that I would have enough fuel for my new running schedule.

And guess what…I ran the whole thing. I did it.

But there are things that people who train for half-marathons tell you that are LIES and things that they do not tell you which I think you should know.

First off: They tell you that if you train for 10 miles, you will have enough adrenaline to take you the final three. Maybe this is the case for flat places, but I ran the Fort Worth Cowtown which may not be the most hills ever, but was more than Houston had trained me. So I made it exactly 11 miles and change before I wanted to give up and walk home. I still ran the final miles, but only by sheer stubbornness and perseverance. Also, there was no “Mile 13” sign, so I honestly did not know how close I was to the finish (maybe .2 miles) when someone says, “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!!” And I just barely held back a yell of, “SHUT UP!” I did not yell, I just did not acknowledge it at all. Clearly my kindness comes out when I am under exercise induced duress.

Second off: Your toe nails might fall off or turn black. Why did no one tell me this??? I started seeing some signs from the many people who come out to cheer and gawk at the runners and they said, “We love you even if your toenails fall off!” I was literally like, “WHAT?!?!?!?!” I’m looking around at the people running around me (and that older woman who is walk/running faster than I am running, ok wonder woman calm down) to see if anyone else is as confused and concerned as me, but everyone else is either just running or laughing. Now, I ran the whole race without headphones or any thing to distract me because I’m ridiculous, so I kept running while I stewed over this new information. After the race, my toenails were still in tact, but they were black/brown. The underside of my toenails was full of blood it turns out. I guess my shoes weren’t as awesome as I expected and maybe I should not have bought shoes just because they were on sale. They were hyper tender to the touch and I could not wear tennis shoes for a while. The upside, they never fell off. The downside, it took months of painting my toenails before my toes were back to normal.

So here we are at my third half-marathon, I have three kids, and I’m starting from almost scratch on running. I’ve been doing couch to 5k for a while and I am finally ready to start running for real.

It started so well too – I went running with the middle and the youngest in a jogging trailer (nicer than my last one, thank you Craigslist) while the oldest was at a church activity. But it turned that that two kids each over 30 pounds and a jogging trailer that is over 10 pounds is really heavy and if you combine that with high humidity as well as 95 degree heat, I cannot run quite so far. So I am hoping that the next run will be better and alone. But we will see. My stomach keeps not letting me exercise early in the morning which is what I really need. Say a prayer.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress as I go. Sweaty pictures and all.

See You Outside!

Galveston Island State Park

If you live with a zest for adventure, you probably are like me and you made a Summer Bucket List. This last weekend we checked off one of the things on our list, beach day.

The problem with bucket list items is that they are hyper exciting, but we have a large family and a highly limited budget. So when we say beach day many people we know chimed in with suggestions Cozumel, Hawaii, Myrtle Beach, Nantucket, Clearwater Beach, California, Martha’s Vineyard, and Key West. I took a deep breath and kindly let people know that those types of locations were not in the budget. So…we went to Galveston.

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You may be thinking, “Ew, Galveston.” But it is family friendly, budget conscious, and can I just tell you that kids do not care about the blue-ness or clearness of the water. They. Had. A. Blast.

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The kids were in suspense until we actually loaded the car, but were ecstatic when they found out we were going to the beach. And even though it was on my bucket list, can I just say that me and the ocean are not friends. I mean, hello, “Don’t go in the shark’s house!” (if you haven’t seen this YouTube video, you are missing out) But for real, there are just so many things in the ocean that can hurt you. Case and point, the husband and I both caught bit or snagged or something by some unknown substance (thank you, muddy water – maybe clearness does matter?) and ended up with a lovely red rash – me on my legs and him on his toes. Yay.

But I knew the kids would love it, so I persevered!

We left the house by 8am loaded up with all the food and beach toys that we could muster (thank you, Five Below). The kids did so so good on the drive which was a sheer miracle. We listened to kids’ music part of the time and…actually let me stop a minute to talk to you about kids’ music. Why is it so bad? Why is it that in order for the music to be kid-friendly it has to be sung by kids and played on a preschool xylophone? Bleh. We have one album that is made for kids, does not make me feel like my brain is dissolving, and has more than 3 songs on it (because for some reason the good music ones only have 3 songs on them, it’s all the artists could muster apparently). It’s a Doorposts album by Dave and Jess Ray. Check it out.

Anyway, we listened to music, we played with cars, and I read them the first chapter of the illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (because I win at being a mom). We change some of the words to make it more toddler-friendly, but they love it.

And a little bit we survived on sheer beach-driven adrenaline.

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This tent SAVED us. Some friends with older kids, like high school aged, have been cleaning out their garage and they gave us this amazing structure along with some other things. It bequeathed to us the most amazing of gifts on beach day – shade.

In fact, our youngest, who liked the waves only in tiny spurts when he was solidly clinging to my body but also laughing maniacally, camped out under this tent and played in the sand most of the day.

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The younger two were a little nervous and not at all sure if they even wanted to get into the water, but the oldest ran into it with abandon. What I wish I could show you is the sheer joy that each of their faces had as they ran into the waves and enjoyed the sensation, but it was a moment to be treasured rather than documented. The oldest spent almost an entire day in the water. She ran in it, jumped in it, swam, kicked, tossed it around in buckets, and begged her dad over and over to carry her out into the deep water. He, of course, obliged. I don’t think she could have made him more happy.

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The middle kiddo was cling wrap to my body all day, but for once I embraced it. I said to both my little clingers, let’s play. And we did. We built innumerable sand castle and domes, we played tag, we went on a walk to see what the rest of the beach looked like, and we saw what patterns we could make in the sand with the different shovels we brought. And they felt loved, so so loved.

I think I so often want them to grow up to be independent, think I’m doing what’s best for them, surviving, and trying to make space for myself that I don’t take enough time to let them cling. I don’t think this is a common philosophy because they do need to learn not to cling sometimes, and I do need to make space for myself (and my sanity) sometimes, but I also need to just enjoy where they are at sometimes. So they clung, and I loved them, and they loved it. Lesson learned, mommy.

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I will be honest that I wanted to tap out about 1pm because I’d had enough of the beach, but the husband convinced me to stick it out until 4. We then headed over to a great restaurant, Gypsy Joynt, and had some delicous, exhaustion food.

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So it sounds like the perfect day!? Well, there was one snag, and it wasn’t my rather intense fear of the ocean that I was perpetually telling to chill out. It was… drum roll please… sunscreen. We brought two tubes of sunscreen and while the first tube did its job with admiration, the second one turned out to be expired. So the youngest, who was in the shade all day, is fine and I only have a little on my legs, the husband is a lobster and the two other kiddos are rocking some redness as well. They look like the world’s saddest raccoons. And the oldest has the top of her hands to contend with. Not only does this make me feel extra extra intense about throwing out old sunscreen, but it makes me want to buy a different brand each year so that if someone were to come upon and old bottle, they would know it was not the current brand. Goodness.

The good news is that the littles didn’t burn badly and have been such good sports about aloe vera. We have done some potent aloe (no fragrance, no additives), and apple cider vinegar which has gone smashingly. No one was even complaining of pain by Monday. Beautiful! Thank you internet for the apple cider vinegar tip! We are usually so cautious that these sunburns really caught me off guard. Now I know way more about sunburns, but hope to never repeat this same mistake at least. Learn from me, oh internet reader!

Other than that snafu, it really was such a beautiful day and I hope to continue making equally wonderful memories with the rest of the summer.

Until later,

See You Outside!

Summer is Upon Us

So what I am realizing is that summer is busy. Very busy. Despite all my best intentions to have one of those summers where there is nothing to do, my kids are not really into that sort of thing. And it turns out neither is the world. So we are carving out spaces to relax, but we are also attending VBSs (yes that’s plural – we have 2 VBSs on the docket), having beach days, swim lessons, Bible studies, and guess what we homeschool year round right now so we still have some work we are doing. For the bored out there, I thought I might give you a little round up of what we’ve done and where we are headed!

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The husband gave me some new gardening tools for Mother’s Day and I finally got to use them! I had already planted potatoes, carrots, and cantaloupe in the backyard, but once it was clear some of our plants were not going to rebound after the winter they had, it was time to pull them up and plant new things! I went for beans and tomatoes. Down side – when I pulled up the plants it turned out that they had tiny shoots of green on the bottom that just had not broken the surface yet, but the plant was past saving after I pulled it out. I was really sad because I hate the idea of killing anything off. Not my thing. But I did plant some seeds and I even got a new sprinkler head (mostly for the kids, but who doesn’t like something that serves more than one purpose) that I used to water them!

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The older two kids have gotten really into games lately, especially during the afternoons where 100 degrees and climbing is just two much for them. The oldest prefers Catchphrase and Taboo while the middle prefers Guess Who!? Above was my attempt to teach them Scrabble which, it turns out, is not a good game for kids their age. Especially for the one who can’t read very well yet. C’est la vie!

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We looove spicy food! It had been ages since we cooked Indian food and we were jonesing. Who cares if the temperature says, “add ice not spice!” We went all in and boy was it worth it. Now I’m wondering if there is a way to make Indian food while we are camping. It would be amazing. Maybe I could bring little balls of dough and make fresh naan over the fire. Yes, yes, yes. Granted nothing I cook will be as amazing as the real deal, but for now (when the funds are too low to eat out at the best Indian restaurants) we will have to just delve deeper into our Indian cookbook and enjoy the results.

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The husband had a birthday! The oldest and I made him a delicious apple cake – I should really say that the oldest made it more than I did as she is determined to become an excellent baker like her mom. I also sent three dozen cupcakes to his work (1 dozen butter cake, 1 dozen french vanilla, and 1 dozen white chocolate) and they were all demolished in one day. You know what’s better than apple cake? Apple cake, sitting outside, with a big ‘ole dollop of vanilla ice cream. (I opt for Nada Moo because I’m dairy free)

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We finally broke down and bought a pool! Can I just tell you that if you’re living where summer is near unbearable, this is a life saver. Not only do the kids play in it almost daily, during nap time I take a camp chair out there and put it directly in the pool. I sit up to my shins in water, reading a book, and finally reaching the perfect temperature. A little shade, a little heat, and a little cool water. This is my nap time heaven.

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The husband and I went to the OneTribe Gala, People Building Peace. This beautiful non-profit works in areas like South Sudan to empower locals to build peace from grassroots up. We got all dressed up and really enjoyed celebrating the work God has done through this group. Afterwards, it had cooled off just enough that we got to walk around the area and grab an ice tea (passion fruit specifically) before heading home.

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I got to hear this excellent band play while some girl-friends and I sat outside enjoying an evening of raucous laughter. I mean we were loud! But what’s better than getting together with the best people, eating some good food, and listening to amazing music? Answer, almost nothing. The only regret I have is that I could not find anyone to dance with me! I’ll be back.

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Okay friends, this is not a drill. I hate kombucha, it is too too vinegary. But, my gut is messed up and I need something that is slightly less sweet to drink while I am hanging out outside in this crazy heat. How is a woman supposed to survive 100+ degrees without a cold beverage. So, I was at Central Market to grab a sandwich during my break at work (because there are no cheap places near my work), and decided to give this a try. I got one for then and one for later. It turns out that Strawberry Serenity is my favorite! I so encourage you to go try this. It will not taste like juice so don’t expect that, but it will also not taste like a swig of vinegar. You’re welcome. You’re gut is welcome too.

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We frequent the local Korean grocery store and a good friend introduced us to these ice cream bars. Now, I can’t have them because me and dairy have a long standing hatred for each other, but my friends loves them so I bought them for the kids. The kids went NUTS. They’re little hands were covered in sticky green happiness from the melting of this popsicle all over their mouths and hands. My friend also told me they are lower sugar than the normal stuff we buy (turns out, I looked and she’s right). Win!

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My beans are growing! We got a good rainstorm and they exploded! Officially all my plants are growing although only about 1/3 of my carrots grew. I’ll have to figure more out about that later. I also have been in contact with a neighbor who is going to let me garden their backyard and I will pay them in produce! Get ready for more plant pictures. Those tools I got are going to have their work cut out for them.

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Solo premier! Not only did we got together, we went with another couple and got to ride in their Shelby Mustang. The husband was a very happy man. The sounds that car made, I’m convinced, are the sounds of his heartbeat. We even all went to get tacos from a truck afterward. Boom.

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I have baked my brains out. I have made cakes, donuts, cupcakes, scones, biscuits, etc. I don’t know why summer makes me crave sweets, but it so does. Here are just two of my creations. That ruffle cake for the sweetest couple’s baby shower and it was such an honor to make the cake. A sick kiddo prevented me from going, but getting to bless them was still worth every minute spent icing that cake.

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The oldest and I officially have a spot we love to go together. We love the iced chamomile tea with just a dash of honey and the pastries available here are the bestest. Plus, they have this amazing relationship with farmers in Rwanda. If you are shopping mostly chains, consider supporting your community and other communities around the world with your dollars. Don’t hear me saying that you can’t shop at Target because I cannot survive without Target, but I can do my best to shop local and to shop small whenever possible. They’re even starting to recognize us and that makes the oldest just insanely happy. So we sip our tea and share our turnover while we chat about life and answer all the questions. All of them.

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Ok the picture is crazy grainy, but swim lessons are upon us! We have some kiddos who have water fear and one with not enough, so here we are learning water safety and swimming. There have been happy smiles, but also tears as they navigate the water. I think overall it is creating confidence in my littles. Have you ever heard the theory that children need a little calculated danger in their lives? There’s this idea that if they do something that they perceive as dangerous (riding a rollercoaster, learning to swim in the deep end, learning to cut up vegetables with a real knife, etc), they grow in confidence and courage. They step up to the challenge, meet it head on, and stand up a little straighter. Of course these things have to be done with appropriate supervision, and safety protocols, but a little danger stretches them and helps them gain maturity.

Not pictured in this round up is the VBS we already attended and the numerous play dates we have been on. Summer is a time for friends! We still have one more VBS, beach day, learning to ride a bike, more swim lessons, and so many more fun things coming.

You might think to yourself, “but you haven’t gone camping at all.” Yes, the summer has been much less campy than the spring, but I think you will notice something they both have in common. They are unplugged.

We are intentional to put our phones, screens, and worries aside to focus on each other, to commune with Creation, to do something fun, to learn something new, to create beauty, to foster relationships. We are walking forward and creating intentional spaces where we don’t need Facebook to fill us up, we don’t need Instagram to tell us that our lives have meaning. By all means enjoy those things, but also take time to just “be”. To just enjoy where you are, and what you’re doing.

Until later,

See You Outside!

Sabbath

One thing I have been learning a lot about recently, but have always done very poorly, is Sabbath or rest. You can ask the husband, but I am consistently running myself to the end. I have routinely been caught saying that sleep is a waste of time.

And, as Westerners, we often glorify the busy. If you’re not busy, you must be lazy. But that’s just not true.

When God created the world, He didn’t rest on the 7th day because He was exhausted. He was still creating. On the 7th day, He created rest.

He started this pattern so that we would follow it, working hard and resting well. In fact, He’s so serious about it that He talks over and over about how He will punish the people and cast them out of they will not rest (as well as letting their laborers, land, and animals rest). It’s not a suggestion.

So this past Saturday, we took Him at His Word.

The down side is that I do not have pictures to show you because it was a purely unplugged day. No cameras, nothing. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but it was the best day I have had in ages.

Here was our checklist to prepare for Sabbath Saturday:

  1. Clean all the dishes and unload the dishwasher
  2. Have enough clothes washed, folded, and put away so there is no hustle to find clothes for everyone
  3. Pre-plan and prepare all foods in advance so the microwave is the only cooking implement allowed
  4. Buy paper goods so that you do not make any dishes
  5. Look through all of your reminders, phone calls, etc to make sure their are no chores, no business, and no “to dos” to attend to on Saturday.

And then came Friday. The day that we shall not speak of because it was so so terrible. One of my kids literally threw a tantrum every few minutes. Please do not think I am exaggerating here because, sadly, I am not. I was at my wits end when I got prepared to go to work that night and there were still so many chores left to do that I felt Sabbath was already ruined. I started feeling like, “What’s even the point in trying?”

My husband was home while I was working and planning to get a lot done, but the kids, again, had other plans. You see when there are three kids, if one is not crying, don’t worry because there is another that is happy to fill that void for you. The days can be magical fun times, but they can also be so frustrating you literally lock yourself in the bathroom for 2 minutes to just take a few deep breaths before rejoining the chaos.

After I got home about 11:45, we set to work together. I finished a cake I was working on while the husband did dishes and swept the floor (he’d done the laundry while I was at work, bless him). We did not get all the food made in advance despite our efforts because it was 1am by the time we got everything else ready and in place. We went to bed and I was still not at all sure if all this effort was worth it.

You see, I think sometimes when we are intentional to plug back into something God intended for our good, someone else gets scared. That other power that’s fighting for control of you, me, and this whole world is out there pushing back. He wants to tell you those lies that this is not worth the effort, he wants to frustrate you to a breaking point, he wants you to check out instead of plugging in, and he wants you to be so busy that life never stands still. But we have to say no to those lies.

Saturday morning came and our people slept until 8am. Yep. You read that right. I began the day thinking, “Oh look at my little angels who sleep late!” I think God stepped in there and gave me a win to start the day. Let me tell you the rules for our actual day:

  1. No phones – phones must be left in the bedroom on silent so that even the vibration of it cannot distract you from the present
  2. Together time – we will eat all together for ever meal, we will play altogether during awake time
  3. Calm – we will attempt to slow down the speed of our activities and choose calm activities over chaos (reading, swinging, walking, talking, coloring, drawing, play dough, kinetic sand, etc)
  4. Battles – this is a day you pick as few battles as possible, you do not want to let your kid run crazy but this is not the day we worry about matching clothes, wearing socks, combing hair, and even *gasp* brushing teeth, battles will only be picked over larger issues (hitting, kindness, etc)
  5. Bible – we are going to start the day focused on God

So we walked downstairs that moment and I calmly asked my older two kids if they wanted to help me make breakfast (we had at least planned all the meals even if we did not get them cooked – next time). The youngest wanted to stay upstairs and talk with his daddy. Look at that, we already broke a rule of togetherness, but it was in the name of peace and bonding, so we went with it. Also, waiting for breakfast is one of the hardest moments of the day for the youngest and in the name of picking battles, distraction was welcome. My older two were so excited that they both got to help, they didn’t even care what we were having. All five of us sat down for breakfast and talked about what we were thankful for, and what God has given us.

Can I just tell you what a breath of fresh air it was to throw my dishes away after breakfast? This is not our normal thing because we are working hard on getting rid of disposable things on the whole, but for once or twice a month this is going to be how we do it. We did have the pans from cooking, but I gave us a pass and just put them in the sink.

We took everyone upstairs to get dressed, but ended up staying in pajamas for a little while because they wanted to read. So we read and read and read. So many books! All five of us in one room, reading books. It was so calm and so fun, I cannot even describe it. Life for us is usually loud and high chaos, but not on this day. We read books for probably an hour before deciding it was time to get dressed. For lunch we had something fun planned…food trucks!

If you’re thinking that taking kids to a food truck park is super stressful, you are missing out! Most food truck parks have a playground and shade! Plus, each kid can literally pick from dozens of foods to get something they love without complaining. The kids had pizza, the husband had Mediterranean, and I had a craft burger. Win. We played on the swings, we walked around and looked at some vendors they had, and got plenty hot and sweaty. We broke another rule! We were not entirely calm during this bit in that we let them run a bit and dig in the dirt and climb on tires they had submerged in the ground, but we were together and we were having fun. Plus, I think after sitting for so long, it was good for them to burn some energy. Maybe we will adjust that rule.

We headed home and all three of my kids took a nap. Plus, the husband. He took a nap too. We attempted to read together, but we stayed up so late the night before and he does not do well on little sleep that Catch-22 just could not hold his focus. He fell asleep. I read Percy Jackson and The Olympians: Titan’s Curse and finished the book while he was sleeping.

Everyone slept so long that by the time they all woke up, we needed to start making dinner! I had my helpers in the kitchen with me again while the youngest sat nearby building with the husband. We sat together for dinner and had a lot of fun talking to each other. I love talking to my kids. It is in these un-rushed moments that they say some of the most hilarious things, ask the most serious questions, and tell me what is really on their hearts/minds. This slow down frees them up to think.

We did a little more playing with legos and reading books, but before you know it, it was sleep time.

We had one tantrum at bed time because the day had just been so good our middle one did not want it to end, but everyone slept in the end. The husband and I hung out for a little while talking before we decided to call it an early night too.

I went to bed Saturday feeling refreshed and thinking that, if this is how my family could be, this is how I always wanted it to work. Peaceful, loving, and together.

See You Outside.

The Quietest Day

So recently I had a birthday! And while I had an amazing party and so much fun having dinner with my husband, what I wanted more than anything (and my husband totally gave me) was one day all all alone. Camping all alone.

So I did it! I went out to Lake Livingston all by myself and camped. My friends thought I was legitimately crazy for going alone, but it was the best weekend I have had in ages.

For starters, I packed up all my stuff.

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Not only did I bring a water bottle, backpack, ground pad, etc but I also brought my laptop (fully charged – just enough for 1 movie), a ton of CD’s for the drive (early 2000’s alternative rock anyone??), a coloring book, and a TON of books to read. Who knows what I would be in the mood to read?

Now the one super un-campy thing that I did this weekend was…I didn’t cook at all. In fact, I didn’t even light a fire. My least favorite chore at home, that I consequently do every day multiple times a day, is dishes. I was feeling like if I had to do one more dish or prepare one more meal, I might EXPLODE. So, I didn’t. I bought a bag of egg rolls for dinner that first night – side note, cold and slightly limp egg rolls are not the best meal, but I digress. I had cereal, pop tarts, popcorn, granola bars, pouches (the baby vegetable and fruit ones), peanut butter filled pretzels, dairy-free chocolate chips, and some other snacks. No cooking for me. I WIN AT LIFE.

I did bring a tiny backpacking stove, matches, and a pot just in case I was in some sort of emergent situation where hot water was necessary. Or if an apocalypse happened and I would need to hunt for my own food as I walked the several days journey back toward home, hoping to find my family….I may read too many dystopian novels. Anyway.

Here is my beautiful campsite!

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Picture A from when I got there, picture B from after I went to the bathroom and had a snack. It’s crazy how fast the sun setting was changing the light thanks to all of those trees.

I got out my tent and set to work. I was a bit nervous that after all the times I have pitched a tent alone, but had someone nearby in case I had problems with wind or something, that doing this solo would somehow be a disaster. I’m not sure where this smidgen of nerves came from, but it was there. I was all prepared to write here and tell you how it was super hard, but hahaha let’s all laugh together at my expense because this is a funny anecdote. Good news, it was easy. No laughing required.

The only difficult came from Dante’s ninth circle of hell – mosquitoes. (Although realistically they would probably be from the fourth circle since they are so greedy.) The mosquitoes were so thick it was hard to see what I was doing. I was covered in bug spray thankfully, but quickly realized that I had not sprayed my entire back and they were biting me all over that section through my t-shirt. That just should not be a thing. Biting through my clothes feels over the line.

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Ta da! Look at that beautiful tent. I even managed to get inside with only one mosquito that promptly met its maker.

That night the only thing I did all night, and I mean all night, was read. I read the most thought provoking literature that only the highest minds would ever dare to attempt. Just kidding, I read Divergent. I really like that book and the second book, but I will not read the third book again. Spoilers: You just do not kill off your best character at the end! You just don’t! Injustice! #justicefortris should be trending on the same level as #justiceforbarb and #bobdeservedbetter. After I read the third book, my husband came home to find me lying on the floor with the book nearby. When he asked me what was wrong I was just like, “I hate everything right now!” I felt betrayed.

So I frequently reread the first book because it was so good, but will not go on because I do not want to relive the story line that led to that awful moment. I can’t even read the second book because it’s not complete enough for my brain to feel like it got closure!

So I read. First by light, then by lantern, and eventually by headlamp. Then, I promptly went to bed by 11. Did I mention I don’t usually get enough sleep? Yay, me.

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Okay I did read The Hobbit for a tiny bit, but Divergent was just calling my name.  Don’t worry though because I am reading The Hobbit now alongside the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series so all was not lost.

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Good news! Directly outside my tent, I had the most amazing view of the moon! Bad news, neither my phone camera nor my fancy new camera captured it well. I’m still super new to the fancy camera so I just could not get the adjustments quite right to capture it. You’ll have to settle for a phone pic. In fact, this entire blog is the phone pictures because I have not yet figured out how to get pictures from my fancy new camera onto my computer. I’m sure it’s not difficult, I’m just lacking motivation at the present. So…more pictures soon!

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Did you know that cameras do not like to take pictures through tent mesh? I did, but I took this one anyway. Good morning, world! I woke up around 8am (count those beautiful hours of sleep) on my own. As in my body decided it did not need more sleep and woke me up. No alarms, no children, no screaming, no car horns, no trash truck. Just me and the sounds of pleasant birds.

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Here is my book stack that I was staring at when I woke up. I was tempted to change books, but decided I wanted to finish the one I started. So I laid in my sleeping bag, read Divergent, and ate Pop Tarts and Oat Squares. Friends, I never buy Pop Tarts. I love them too much. I will eat them all and make myself sick. But this was vacation! Strawberry Pop Tarts with icing. Who even buys the ones without icing? If strawberry with icing is not your favorite, don’t even start with me. Those are fighting words. I don’t care how passionately you feel about brown sugar and cinnamon, I know the truth.

I literally read the entire book before thinking about what I should do for the day. It was amazing. I read a whole book in two sittings. Now I frequently read a whole book in a day or two, but it’s always in a thousand sittings. This was so awesome and kind of cathartic to take the book from beginning to end with almost no interruption. I had not done that since the Harry Potter books were coming out and I would read the new book all at once without sleep. Worth it.

After the book, I still was not ready to face the day. I had done a little walking around the day before just to get my steps in and I knew I wanted to explore today, but not yet. So what does a girl do?

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If you’re me, you watch Harry Potter. But, then again, if you’re me you are always thinking about Harry Potter. Things like, “What would you say if you got to meet Professor McGonagall?” and “How would you feel if you got sorted into Ravenclaw vs. Gryffindor?” or “How is it that some wizards seem to be able to do magic without their wand?”

So I got out my coloring book and watched Harry Potter. It’s my jam. Now I would like to tell you that I watched the whole thing and it was amazing blah blah blah, but, in fact, it got too hot in my tent for even my little fan to keep me cool. I stepped outside my tent and realized, it was cooler outside than inside my tent.

I went straight to the camp store because, in the frenzy of the night before, I had used all of my bug spray. I may have panicked a bit from all the mosquitoes and sprayed myself more than once. I grabbed some bug spray and a Sprite! It was cold too! Exactly what I needed after sweating in my tent. The day was gorgeous. People were swimming in the lake. There were kayaks, paddle boards, canoes, and rafts serenely drifting across the water as many families picnicked all around the perimeter. I walked around the lake with my nice camera taking photos, but in lots of places just enjoying it – no phone, no picture, no record. Just taking it all in. I am the only one that has a copy of that memory. It felt special. It also felt nice not to be recording every moment, but to just be enjoying it. It turns out that flowers are more beautiful when looking with your eyes and not through a lens. Who knew? Too many of us do not. I “hiked” through several trails and just enjoyed nature to its fullest.

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When I got tired of hiking and walking (my fitbit was so proud of me for getting in all my steps before 2 in the afternoon), I head back to camp and took everything down. You have to “check out” of your camp site by 2pm, but you are allowed to stay in the park until 10pm. It was just in time too because my loop that had been empty except for me had many occupants setting up for the day and it was feeling a bit crowded for my solo weekend.

I parked my car full of stuff at a day use area and put up my hammock. Guys, I love my hammock so much and I cannot believe I haven’t given it a name yet. I mean so many of my favorite things have names at this point, how has my trusty hammock gone without? I will be taking suggestions. So, I put up my hammock in a nice spot and finished watching my movie! The battery made it right to the end and then my computer shut off at the end of the movie, it felt almost poetic that it was timed so well.

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I read The Hobbit right up until it was time to head back. I was sad to leave, but I had stayed until the last possible moment. I was surprising the husband with a babysitter and plans to see Avengers: Infinity War that night after him watching the kiddos all weekend, letting me have such a special time. I got home in time to tuck everyone in, and have a fun date with the husband at Alamo Drafthouse.

It’s crazy how fast life returns to normal after a weekend like this. I spent the whole weekend feeling quiet, serene, and whole. Getting outside, getting closer to Creation, always makes me feel connected and complete. I prayed, I read, I watched a movie, I walked, I hiked, I sat. It was deeply peaceful. Getting back into the day to day felt…exhausting after such a relaxed pace.

But why does it have to feel this way? I don’t think it does. So, I have started getting up before the kids, exercising a bit, reading outside alone, listening to music, and just starting my day peacefully. It really changes the pace and feel of the whole day. I hope you find ways to slow down and be intentional about rest. Until later,

See You Outside!

Healthy Transitions

So recently I have been thinking about how I can make some healthier transitions in my life. I mean eating healthy or whatever has become incredibly subjective and I am very poorly doing my best, but I have been trying to find other ways I can make changes. I started buying free range eggs (someone help me convince the husband that I need chickens), hormone free meat, and two weeks ago I bought…healthy deodorant!

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It smells delightfully of Vanilla and Lemon, a combination I was not sure I would like, but has proved to be really lovely. I will say that the smell is not that pervasive which you could love or you could hate. I was hoping it would be a little more intense actually, but if you wear perfume or something, this would not be strong enough to overpower it.

It is not the most intense part of the summer yet, so I will be excited to see how it handles the Houston heat. So far, 80-90 degree heat and some humidity, and it is holding up really well! My two older kids actually told me I smelled nice the other day when we were at the park. I’m a little nervous that I may have smelled less amazing before this moment, but since you can’t make a case from silence…we will just assume that I smelled like magic rainbows and that they just enjoy the change in scent. That’s what I’m going to assume. Magic. Rainbows.

So, if you are looking for some small victories in the health department, this is a great investment! Next stop, reusable bags. I have reusable grocery bags, I just bought some reusable cotton rounds instead of using disposable cotton rounds, and am hoping to buy reusable bags for produce as my next stop.

I’ll let you know when the cotton rounds come in and I will let you know how it goes!

Until then…

See You Outside!

The Worst Granola Ever

So today I decided to make a big batch of granola for the next few days of breakfast. I’ve been sick this week and have wanted to do absolutely nothing. Nooothing. The sunshine outside has just been mocking me, begging me to go on a jog or hang in the hammock, but instead I was lying on the couch, wrapped in blankets, wishing someone would bring me some broth. Or DayQuil.

But today I was feeling a touch better, still exhausted and drooping, but at least I am walking around. So, I made a big batch of granola. And I changed it up. And guess what!?

It was bad.

I mean it. It was not good. It was not sweet enough and it was too dry.

So I tried to fix it. I sauteed it with faux butter. This made it less dry for sure, but it actually diluted the sweetness even more. Ew. I mean, no one would eat this. No person or child. I can already imagine my kids literally spitting this out, partially chewed, onto the floor.

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So I added more honey. And now it’s…. PERFECT. It’s sweeter than usual, but I still like it (it’s not overly sweet) and since I added the honey afterward, it was much more clumpy which I love!

So for now it’s solved, but I think what we learned is that my recipe is not fool proof. Also, maybe I should not do projects when my brain is still super fuzzy from sickness and cold medicine. I kept accidentally typing the wrong thing yesterday when I was trying to finish some emails – maybe pregnancy brain and cold brain are related? I’m not pregnant, but my brain felt similarly fuzzy.

Anyway.

Now I at least do not have to make breakfast for the next few days! Let’s just hope my taste buds are not also compromised and I find out tomorrow that the granola is actually disgusting. Here’s hoping!

Hopefully I’ll get better soon and then I will See You Outside!

Give Up Your Gear

So I follow this excellent company called Wylder Goods and this month they are doing something that I love. Love. They are partnering with The Greening Youth Foundation to collect new or used (in good condition) gear for their 2018 programs. This drive will go on from April 5th – May 5th and I hope you will participate!

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c/o wyldergoods.com

About The Greening Youth Foundation:

“This Spring, we’re running a special campaign in partnership with The Greening Youth Foundation and Patagonia. GYF is the leading youth service organization in the United States focused on natural resource management careers for diverse young people that has been historically underrepresented and underserved in these spaces. Every year they manage over five hundred interns and service crew members in paid positions throughout our public land agencies in 48 states and US territories. They’re actively changing the demographic in the field of conservation, and providing career paths in environmental stewardship for disadvantaged youth.

Great, right? Well the problem is, their crews are often stretched thin when it comes to having the most appropriate gear and equipment for life in the field. So here’s what we’re going to do: during the month of April, we’re doing a gear drive on behalf of GYF, and will be collecting donations for new or used gear (in good condition) for their programs in 2018. If you have any of the following going unused in your gear shed, garage, or closet, make an impact in a young outdoor stewards life, and donate it to GYF!”

And all kinds of gear is needed! Check out this list:

 

  • Water bottles
  • Back Packs
  • Work / Climbing Helmets
  • Safety Glasses
  • Gloves
  • Carabiners
  • Jackets (Technical, Snow, Rain, Workwear, etc.)
  • Pants
  • Vests
  • Work Boots
  • Hiking Boots
  • Fire Boots
  • Waterproof Shoes
  • Hats (caps, bucket, etc.)
  • Tents
  • Hiking Backpacks
  • Bookbags
  • Water bottles
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pads

 

Condition: Please make sure your gear donation is clean and in good condition.

So, where do you send it?

Please send all donations to the Wylder Headquarters at the following address. Include a note with your email / instagram handle so they can properly say thanks, and share the story of your gear throughout the season! The bonus? They’ll give $10 towards your next Wylder order.

WYLDER
Attn: Gear Drive
150 W Commonwealth Ave
Salt Lake City, UT 84115

Don’t have any used gear laying around, but still want to help? You can make a donation to GYF here.
Thank you for outfitting our future land stewards! #livewylder

Worried about shipping costs? Why don’t you get some people together and you can all chip in to send one flat rate package or something with the gear you gather. If you’re in the Houston area, you’re welcome to include your purchases with mine!

For more information, check out their page: https://www.wyldergoods.com/pages/greening-youth-gear-drive

See you Outside!

Palo Duro Canyon

Last weekend we finally went on “Spring Break”, taking the whole family on a road trip to meet my brother-in-law, Daniel, and his wife, Sarah, at Palo Duro Canyon!

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We originally planned for this trip to be grown-ups only, but some changes happened and we ended up taking all the kids. We were a little daunted by the task at first, but made the best of it. What’s better than sharing your love for hiking and camping with your children? Almost nothing.

We also realized that our littles have grown up quite a lot! Guess what? No one screamed the whole way there or back! I was honestly worried because we did not have much room in the car for the normal toy bag and snack bag. Usually we load up with toys and snacks to try and make the drive doable. But this time the car was just too full of all the necessities. So we had just a little bit snack-wise, and the world’s smallest toy bag…like under 10 toys/books. It could have all fit in a shoe box. Upside: we had three toys that they had not gotten to use in about a month so the kids were really excited to have those. (They each had a ziploc type bag that had little felt shapes where you can sew around the edges. I feel like this is a horrible explanation haha!)

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We had some amazing barbecue at Leeper Creek BBQ outside Decatur, TX. It was such a great place because it has this back patio where you can sit, your kids can run around (praise the Lord for fenced in patios), and there’s a waterfall with some beautiful nature around it for everyone to enjoy! This was a much needed break from all the driving.

We got to Palo Duro around 5pm and set about making camp. Good news, it was much hotter than it was supposed to be and it was incredibly windy! Perfect conditions for pitching a tent. We ended up really needing our little people because they stood on the corners of our footprint while we staked it down. Even after that, the tent kept trying to fly away as we put it together – our smaller tent actually did fly away after we got all the poles attached, but had yet to put on the rain fly/stakes. It’s a good thing Daniel and Sarah were there because they helped catch the tent as it was flying away. How many adults does it take to stake down a two person, backpacking tent? Apparently it takes 4… and 3 small children. Ha. Goodness, it was so windy.

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That one in the middle – that’s the one that had an escape plan.

When we got up the next morning, can I tell you how excited I was to realize the kids had slept passed 7am? Even with the sun out! Day one was all about climbing and caves. It turns out Sarah has a deep love for caves, so we could not miss an opportunity to climb up to the one nearby.

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Again, the life saving power of an aunt and uncle. Who wants to hike with mommy and daddy when you could have your aunt and uncle? No judgment, they are some of my favorite people too.

We also hiked some smaller paths, and hike/climbed up and down the area near our campsite. The hike up was a little challenging, but really pleasant. The hike down was… let’s just say the husband received some well earned jabs for choosing the most difficult path down the canyon. Louis and Clark (the names of my Chacos) felt right at home as they navigated a new path through the brush and rocks.

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Look at that attractive couple. Wow. We are killin’ it at this point. This is also before we started the descent so…

One of the best parts of all the climbing was discovering that our youngest is a natural Spiderman! We knew he loved to climb, much like every child we have ever met, but he had such a natural gift for climbing up the rocks. He was rarely scared, he took risks, and he found footholds naturally. He may have earned himself a new nickname.

At night we put the kids down to bed in the tents and played games. We brought a ton of games, but one of our favorites is Bang! Although we all played several rounds of Guess Who? with the oldest because she got to stay up a little later. She felt so grown up!

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Alas, this is the only picture we got of the two ginormous bags of trail mix we made to bring because we are awesome. Or possibly because we accidentally left the cooler unlocked one night and left our food box out (which we thought was secured shut) the next night and special critters enjoyed our trail mix even more than we did. The night we did get to eat our trail mix, all the dark chocolate covered almonds had melted during the day in my backpack creating huge clumps of trail mix that were connected by the, now cooled, chocolate. This was my best life now.

This was also the squirrels’ best life now.

Trail Mix Recipe: Pretzels (we used the sticks, but they were actually too big to get a good handful of things so I would recommend either the grid shape or the braided circle shape), Dark Chocolate Covered Almonds, Raisins, Dried Cranberries, Dried Strawberries (the husband did not appreciate this addition, but I did), Peanuts, Cashews

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The next morning, we had chorizo, potatoes, and scrambled eggs for breakfast. When there are 7 people to cook for and two tiny burners, you have to get creative. We have wanted this cast iron griddle/grill for years, years and we finally had a reason to buy it! Thank you, Palo Duro!

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I’m not sponsored by Lodge or anything, but I can tell you that they are the only brand we buy. I have tried other brands, but none of them hold up to Lodge. This thing is not a short term purchase, it is a life purchase. All of our Lodge products look as good as the day we bought them.

A little steel wool, season with oil, and you’re done. It will change your life. But for real this time.

 

 

The next day we took on the mother lode of hikes. One of our party decided that we should shoot for the moon and head to the lighthouse. When getting ready for this trip, we were told over and over that a trip to Palo Duro Canyon was almost not worth it if you do not go see the Lighthouse, and, in truth, pictures of it were everywhere. It was about three miles there and three miles back. So, we loaded up a backpack of water and all the snacks any small human could ever desire, put the youngest in the Tula, and set off.

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There is a thermometer at the entrance to the trail telling you that if it is 90 degrees or higher, jogging/running is not allowed on the trail. It was already 85 degrees with no shade to be found, this was our warning. A warning we did not take.

On the way there, was one of the more excruciating hikes of my lifetime. It was incredibly hot, sunny, dusty, and rather uninteresting for most of the hike. The first long portion is rather flat too. The kids were not impressed. Nor did they think this hiking thing, which was so fun the day before, was very fun today. All they wanted to do was stop, be carried, and eat snacks. I felt like everyone walking past us looked at us with a little sympathy, but also were secretly thinking YOU WERE WARNED.

We finally made it to the end of the trail and were expecting the magnificence that is the Lighthouse, but guess what…the trail ends BEFORE YOU GET TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. We were warned! Well not about this, but we should have just taken the heat as a warning that everything could and might go wrong.

The youngest was asleep in Tula at this point, so the husband just turned around and walked back to the car. Sarah and Daniel felt good about the trail and mercifully took the middle one back because the oldest and I wanted to summit this rock. We were determined.

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It was a difficult hike up, but we really enjoyed it. The oldest said that climbing the rock was the best part! We were coated in red dirt, and we haaated the walk back, but we survived! We have so much character because of this hike.

We were all pretty much done for the day after this hike so we just hung out and tried to rest that afternoon. I found out during this weekend that I love hammocks. It was deeply relaxing to hang out each afternoon and read in the world’s most amazing swatch of blue.

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Excuse my legs and the dirt, but I was in a good place here. The breeze was just right and the book was awesome. I read Artemis by Andy Weir and Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham – both excellent. Find me on Goodreads if you want my thoughts on those! (I have since read another book and just started The Golden Compass, the verdict is still out.)

Monday morning we made the long trip home, but not before heading to the look out at the top of the canyon and enjoying the view. We hope we will come back to Palo Duro in the future because there is so much we did not get to do. Until then…

See you Outside!

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