Adventures, Family culture, Parenting-thing

5 Lessons From Hiking With Kids

Looking ahead to summer there are a lot of trails I would like to see, especially during our two weeks in Colorado and Utah coming up in June.

Last week I nabbed a pair of Ahnu Sugarpine hiking shoes from REI (thank you dividend!) and when they got here today we all were so excited we decided to go try them out right away. I figured it would be good to get them all outside and on a “hike,” because while they’ll play for hours on a playground getting from Point A to Point B is a whole different thing.

The big girls pulled on their hiking boots as I put on mine, and we headed to Mitch Park with a backpack, 3 water bottles, and two types of snacks for a bit of an experiment.

All went fine at first. The girls scampered, giggled, climbed rocks, pointed out flowers blooming in the grass…

You only wished you were as cool as them. I can almost hear some theme music…

That was the first 5 minutes.

It was almost 90° outside, and despite the high winds their cheeks were getting flushed and they started begging for water like they were lost in the Sahara.

We stopped in the shade and everyone chugged from the big water bottle…impatiently waiting their turn.

When Tatum was done she squatted down so I took the opportunity to point out she was in a lightning position…

 

So we all crouched in the lightning position. Yay us. And the 834 lightning-related questions that followed from my curious 6-year-old.

We chose our next route and Kenna was fascinated with the sign…and chose to show it off in style. This kid has more ‘tude and style than she knows what to do with!

A few minutes later I got my first “Up?” from Bennett and I checked my phone to see our distance… .35 of a mile 🤦🏼‍♀️We made it another third of a mile and one more water bottle down before I gave in and got her up and into the back of my backpack (finally putting those WAFA skills to use!) and we kept on cruisin’.

We spotted birds, drank more water, ate a snack, drank more water.

Lesson #1   Assume my children are part dromedary and carry three times the amount of water I think we need. Let’s just say we’re going nowhere in the mountains without a LifeStraw.

I noticed a gully with a clear cut trail across that cut out a significant part of our path. Since Tatum was exclaiming she needed to go to the bathroom, a shortcut looked like a good idea.

We started downhill when Kenna–my often too-fearless kid decided to become terrified of going down a little trail. And of bugs…all of the sudden. Kenna, who often will pick up bugs to inspect them, squeal with delight over the cuteness, and I have to warn not to touch the quarter inch stinger on the cicada killer. But there she was, having a mini meltdown in a gully about all the bugs…that I couldn’t see.

Lesson #2 Assume your kids will do a 180° on their preferences and personalities at any time.

Once we reached the bottom of the gully it actually turned out to be one of the most interesting features I’ve seen in Mitch Park–ever! And we’ve been walking there for six years!

Once at the bottom it wasn’t quite so windy, and there were trees and bushes so I gave Tatum permission to relieve herself “like a hiker.” You’d have thought she hit the jackpot–ever since she first peed next to a tree while hiking in Colorado it’s the height of outdoorsy excitement for her.

Lesson #3 Always carry toilet paper/tissues/baby wipes and plastic bags with you. Thankfully I was prepared.

With 90% of our water gone we ate a few more snacks, Kenna calmed down about the bugs, Bennett was down from the backpack and exploring, and things were looking up. I even managed to find a rock to do a group photo…this was the only place where the wind wouldn’t knock the phone over and I could prop it up.

Lesson #4 Always carry one of those mini tripods for your phone. Memories are the big things and the everyday moments.

 

We hiked up the hill–Bennett insisting on doing it herself a lot and sometimes fully face-planting in the red Oklahoma dirt but keeping on. The girls spotted some trash we gathered and threw away (made my Leave No Trace heart so proud), and by the time we were just maybe one fifth of a mile away from the car they decided they were having way too much fun to go home.

Bennett became quite desperate to show me every flower in the grass. Kenna’s eyes became quite adept at finding all the bird houses and bird feeders in the area. Tatum spun in circles. When I realized it was almost 6:00 and we needed to get home to make dinner, Bennett became the noodle child, Kenna wanted to stop and admire everything, and Tatum became the task master trying to help me drive them forward. Which leads me to my last lesson.

Lesson #5 Give yourself three times the normal amount of time to do any hike. 

Yeah, that has to be the slowest seven-tenths of a mile EVER.

BUT, it’s a starting point.

Everyone ate a BIG dinner (which isn’t always the norm).

Bennett crashed as soon as we put her in her crib.

I hardly had a moment to realize my new hiking shoes were amazingly comfortable…even carrying a 10 pound backpack and a 30 pound kid.

And the girls want to “hike” again. Tomorrow.

I’d call that a success…but glad of my lessons learned!

Adventures, Family culture

The Wind in the Pines

I’ve had a number people asking me what’s going on with our traveling plans and the truth is… It changes almost weekly.

We’ve had some family stuff going on that has put a delay in plans, and we are still hoping that when we move my parents and grandma can move with us (and maybe eventually Matt’s parents too–eh? Eh? 😉). As it is, everything is in limbo for the moment.

And in the meantime we keep moving forward with fixing the house up, replacing the porch light, fixing the toilet, and those little things we’ve been meaning to do for a while and are finally getting around to.

Thank GOODNESS Spring is finally here and the gray is giving way to GREEN again! Looking at pictures on Facebook from “On this day” years ago I can see lots of foliage in the background of pics…for some reason everything decided to leaf out late this year and honestly that got to me almost as much as the winter darkness in Seattle. This girl needs SUNSHINE and GREEN THINGS (I’m lookin’ at you evergreen forests…).

So these are a bit late but here are some pics from our quick little trip to Robbers Cave State Park.

At Van’s Pig Stand in Shawnee…Matt’s BBQ blows this out of the water…
No one makes her squeal with laughter quite like her daddy
Everything is brown and gray…
Since it was just one night, we opted to stay in a cabin instead of do the whole tent thing. The girls were VERY excited about our home for the night!
We headed down by Lake Carlton to explore a bit–we had the place to ourselves!

Honestly as soon as we got into our cabin and all was quiet for a minute I felt so relaxed. There’s something about the sound of wind through the pines. If you live by it you take it for granted most of the time. Even in Southern California where I grew up, the center loop of our neighborhood was ringed in pines, and in Seattle we definitely had no shortage of evergreens. But living where most of the trees are deciduous, during winter when the leaves are gone it’s a different sound. So too, is the sound of the wind through broad leaf trees. Call me crazy, but there’s just something relaxing about the sound of the wind through pine trees. And I drank it all in.

These girls are pretty fearless and were more than eager to set off exploring!

After a LOT of attempts with damp wood and a smokey fireplace we finally got enough flames to roast some marshmallows

Tatum is a bit of a stickler for the rules…
They were excited for cinnamon rolls for breakfast!
Even if it was just a tiny bit, bouldering was so fun and felt so good!

At the Visitors Center there were fish, snakes, and lots of hands on things for littles to explore–and we had the whole place to ourselves!
Bennett loved the snake and wanted it out…ummm…nope…

It’s a little odd to me that state parks have playgrounds, mini golf, Frisbee golf, and snow cones…but when you’ve kinda done all there is to do and have some time to kill why not?
This baby handled hiking in the carrier like a champ! Except when were were a on a high lookout and she suddenly wanted down…not happening…

It may have only been a small oasis of mountain-y wilderness surrounded by Oklahoma plains, but we drank it in!
On the way home we stopped at a couple of state parks so the girls could get their state park passport stamps…

It may have not been the most scenic place but the girls had fun and it was a good stretch of the legs.
Adventures, Family culture

Brown Days of Waiting

So much has gone back and forth. When to put the house on the market, my brother and his wife moving back in with my parents, can we travel before we sell our house? It seems like every week there’s a new factor in all of the decision-making and for right now it’s just an aggravating state of waiting. And listening–seeing where the Lord wants us to be. That’s the hardest part, not just picking up and hightailing it to the mountains but really listening to see where we are to go. We know it’s somewhere, just not sure where.

In Oklahoma the grass is all brown and most of the trees have lost their leaves. Winter here makes me actually miss the Pacific Northwest and it’s evergreens!  Everything is brown, dry, and the dry winter air makes the sunlight appear sharp and harsh. Thankfully these girls still love being outside–no matter the weather!

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Thankfully yesterday and today we’ve had a wintry mix, and sitting in my comfy chair by the fire with a frozen world outside feels nice and snug. The girls thoroughly enjoyed playing outside–I really enjoy that the big girls are old enough to play outside by themselves without constant supervision. I can see them through the windows as they imagine their own little worlds, taking refuge in their playhouse when the sleet got too heavy, mowing the snow (because that needs to be done), and trying to sled in their bilibos down our slight incline.

In talking, Matt and I decided that since we’re not making our big trips quite yet (and aren’t sure when and how that will play out exactly…just that it will!), we are going to start exploring local and semi-local locations while we’re still here.

First up is a place called Robbers Cave State Park. With hillier and rockier landscape than here plus pine trees, we’re looking forward to the change of scenery–even if it’s just for a couple of days! We rented a cabin so we don’t have to worry about setting up camp for one night, and this time the Bennie girl will be joining us!

When we took the big girls camping last fall it made a huge impact on Kenna–she still asks weekly to go camping. Last week in the car she rattled off to me EVERY DETAIL of our camping trip, from when she wore her floater to when she didn’t, what we ate, what she played–that kid remembers it all!

So-does anyone have any suggestions within 5ish hours of OKC? We’re looking at the Great Salt Plains State Park, the Chickasaw Cultural Center, a trip to Dallas, maybe a trip to Austin, Kansas City, maybe Eureka Springs in Arkansas…any other places not to miss while we’re here?

Writing

Pre-Kid Kait

At the beginning of this month I, like millions of others, set about making some resolutions. As I wrote down things I wanted to do more in general (or less in general) a picture started taking shape.

  • Write more often. Privately. Publicly. Getting it down on paper or screen.
  • Play the guitar more often (and learn to play the ukelele better).
  • Do yoga everyday (so far I’ve only had a few days where I did absolutely nothing…most days I at least do a few things to wake up or with the kids).
  • Continue to get my body into better shape (hey, 20 pounds lighter than last year–this is one resolution I’m just continuing to keep!) so I can keep up with these munchkins. And climb mountains. And rock climb. And kayak. And snorkel. And maybe try surfing again when we get to a beach this year.
  • Have more adventures. More camping. More exploring. More time outside.

The things I was wanting to do more of weren’t new things, per say. They were things I did more of before the advent of those smallish people in my life.

I love personality quizzes. Florence Littauer, Gary Smalley, Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, colors, gems…I love ’em all! What I like is when there’s a question you’re having a hard time deciding between, is that many of them suggest to think about what you were like as a child. (Hopefully) before you had to make any hard life choices or have any do-what-you-have-to-do-to-survive experiences.

As a kid I was down for adventures. Somehow I managed to talk my parents into letting me go to Florida and Venezuela as a 12 year old (had my 13th birthday there) for 5 weeks!

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This is the morning I left for Florida/Venezuela…my dad was thrilled

When I was 6 or 7 I read in a kids magazine that leopards were being hunted for their fur, so naturally I made a sign and sat in my driveway protesting the killing of leopards to whoever drove by…our cul-de-sac. I always had some new idea, some place I wanted to go…I read Into Thin Air when I was eleven and fantasized about climbing Everest. I realize now my childhood dream to be a missionary was really more about getting to travel than anything more noble.

I wrote. A lot. Stories, poems, thoughts, lists…before the commonplace of the computer screen I wrote on lined paper and stapled it together to make books. Getting something typed up was a laborious effort and I treasured the printed results–with wite-out and ball point pen markups over the type.

In high school and college I really got the travel bug with repeat trips to Romania, all over the UK, Ireland, Italy, and lots of US trips thrown in there. Throw in a week-long backpacking trek in the Grand Canyon, kayaking in Mexico, and learning to rock climb and subsequently practice yoga and there was no turning back.

In the crush of people outside Buckingham Palace during the Changing of the Guard

And if you followed along in 2008, I wrote Your Morning Cup. Little happenings to keep connected to family and friends, but also a journal in some sorts…sort of like this 😉

So in the past few years, I’ve found my primary personality trait–the red, choleric, lion, ruby, ENTP-A, however you want to classify it–has stayed the same. But removed from the things I love doing, that I feel are what make me ME, my secondary traits shifted from sanguine (blue, fun, otter, sapphire) to melancholy (green, planner, beaver, emerald). I had three kids in five years–I was/am in survival mode. We moved across the country, bought a house, started new jobs, started other new jobs, lost a job, started another new job. I’ve been homeschooling for two years full-time (4 years part-time). I run a business with a whole new group of lifelong friends. We started a Life Group. To say we’re busy is an understatement!

But as the months tick by…you know, where I’m not nursing every few hours, only one is in diapers full-time, Matt’s job is secure, and my business is beginning to take on a life of it’s own…I’m finding I might have some breathing room for the things I love. Littles now will get their own ukuleles if I pull out my guitar (rather than insist on playing mine). I can leave my laptop on the counter and write in spurts between snacks and potty help and playtime. They enjoy doing yoga with me, and we unroll 3 yoga mats on a regular basis to wake our bodies up or quiet them down before bed. They all really enjoy the child watch at our YMCA so I get to exercise AND shower (how awesome is that?). And now that we’re on the precipice of leaving bottles and cribs behind and naps are a bit more flexible, it’s getting that much easier to load up Big Brutus (as the girls have dubbed him) and explore.

There’s hope! Not that these little years have been bad by any means! Don’t misread that! They’ve just been hard. It’s hard to feel like the shower you take at 2 in the morning counts as “me time.” It’s maddening to hear the words “itsy bitsy spidah?!” repeated 11, 837 times. There’s a lot of estrogen in this house, and to a tomboy like me it’s a lot to process (there’s no crying in baseball!). Trying to find time to connect with my soulmate while not doing the some of the things that originally connected us (being in the great outdoors…love you Oklahoma but we’ve been incredibly spoiled by California and Washington…) has been a challenge (thank God we’re both foodies!). These have been beautiful, sweet, stretching years. But now we’re able to come up for a little air and reevaluate things.

And so I sat back and looked at my New Years Resolutions, and realized that–for a lot of it–I was aiming to get back to Pre-Kid Kait. Just modified. Pre-Kid Kait 2.0, or Post-Kid Kait who’s going to be more awesome than ever. Lately I’ve been re-taking a few personality tests and that sanguine, fun, otter trait is once again secondary. And I hope that whatever passions my kids exhibit now and in the near future–that I nurture those passions like my parents did with me. I still have the Life Magazine book titled “The Greatest Adventures of All Time” that my parents put in my stocking for Christmas in 2000, because to me it was validation that those instincts in me–to adventure, explore, seek out–were good. Were worth pursuing.

And so, in a roundabout way I guess this really is about my kids (isn’t everything?). That me reconnecting with the things that resonate with my core will help me encourage those passions I see budding in my kids. That they, like me, will be able to grow up secure in the knowledge that God placed certain desires in them, and I’m there to help them in any way I can. And because they will emulate what they see, I want them to see a woman who does what she loves–and (surprise!) she can do it as a mama if she wants. Those are New Years Resolutions worth pursuing.

My mom used to tell me, “If you want to be a ditch digger, I’ll buy you the best shovel.”

Here’s to using my shovel.

Adventures, Family culture

Zoo Day(s)

It’s times like this weekend I’m reminded how very blessed I am to be a mama to three such unique and wonderful girls.

Tatum is becoming more independent and adventurous. She used to worry about running to the mailbox while I stood at the open door watching her. Yesterday I asked her to grab the picnic blanket from the stroller while we were sitting in the elephant presentation area (I could see her the whole time and it wasn’t more than 25 feet away), but whereas before it would have taken a lot of reassurance that I could see her the whole time and it was ok, she chirped, “Sure!” and hopped down, ran to grab it, and came back waving at the zoo employee who was showing people to their seats. Sometimes I have to remind her I don’t need an additional parent, but then she’s a great help to me at the same time. She and Tatum play together a LOT, and she has a special place for Bennett–helping her out and trying to carry her around (she’s 30 pounds!) She’s learning so fast–reading things we haven’t even touched in phonics! She is THE big sister, and enjoys that role.

Kenna has become very much a mama’s girl the past couple of weeks. Maybe it’s a phase, because my once “jump first, think later” wild one now has a meltdown if I leave her sight. Heaven forbid I run an errand without her. That’s ok, I think this phase might be fleeting so I’ll take it. She is learning to play with Bennett, and it’s becoming more common to hear them squealing with laughter together. She is very much about HER space, though. HER shelves. HER bed. HER toys. I get it, it’s got to be hard to have a big sister who gets a loft bed and shelf far above the reaches of the baby, and here you have to put up with the meddling on the ground floor. She is ridiculously adorable. When I took her hair down from these buns she looked in the mirror and giggled, “Mama, my hair is wiggly!” It’s a good thing she’s so cute, so that when she calls from her bed at 11 pm that she has to go potty, and afterwards pipes “Pank you!” as she skips to bed your heart skips with her.

My Bennett Rae–Bennie Boo at the moment (her nicknames change a lot).  She is also going through an attached-to-mama-at-the-hip phase. This morning when Matt asked if she wanted eggs she said yes so he cooked them up, but when it came time to leave my lap to eat she wouldn’t have any of it. She loves to be sung “Bye-o Bye-o Baby” and if I don’t sing it she will–and pat me with her chubby little hands. She is obsessed with Roy and Peek (the cat) and pretty much any animal. She fell in love with a full page picture of a bison in a Backpacker magazine, and I accidentally said “buffalo” first and then corrected it to “bison.” Well, BUFF-a-whoa it is and she loves them. Today we got to see them up close and personal at the zoo, and I bought a hat with the outline of a bison on it…it’s now an ongoing war between me saying “bison” and Matt saying “buffalo” and so far he’s winning. Bennie is fiercely independent, want to do everything her sissies do, and is a world of toddler contradictions wrapped up in ridiculous cheeks and cuteness.

These girls, they are more challenging and stretching than I could have ever imagined. More exhausting and repeating (oh my gosh, the repeating) than I could have anticipated. But more fun and adorable than I know what to do with.

We headed to the zoo on the first warmer day all week–I’m all about there being no bad weather only bad clothing, but when it feels like it’s below zero we just don’t have the gear to play outside long in that. So all week we were only outside in short spurts and then headed inside to warm ourselves by the fire. So walking around outside for hours felt glorious.
We finally saw the elephant presentation, too! We’ve been coming to the zoo since Tatum was a baby and have never made it to one! I love elephants, and so do the girls…so imagine my surprise when they were far more interested in snack time and asking when we could walk through the big cat forest than actually watching the elephants 10 feet in front of them. After asking repeatedly “Anyone want to get a picture with the elephants?” I gave up and got one of myself, because I could have sat there and watched them all day!The Oklahoma Zoo (and Edmond in general) have a ton of bronze statues throughout, and the girls always love climbing on them if they’re not too hot. Tatum hopped right up on the goose but Kenna…well…she was a little fearful after I put her up there.

My middle girl also seems to be a bit sensitive to smells–note the nose holding? Yeah, she did that a lot. Here we’re just looking at a caracal–a type of cat–not exactly stinky monkeys.

Last stop was the children’s area petting zoo. Fun fact–the goats are all named after towns in Oklahoma! This is Dewey, and we learned he is a glory hog, like to be up on the bench, and if you sit down he thinks he’s a lap goat and will snuggle right on up to you! I didn’t quite catch it, but he and Tatum were definitely having a snuggle fest!

And of course my animal-lover Bennie was in heaven. She thinks every animal is like her Roy and she can just get in their face and love on them, lay on their side, and basically OWN them. Even our outside cat, Peek, lets her treat him like this…yeah we might have to work on that. Thankfully these goats and sheep were pretty used to crazy toddlers and took it in stride.

Matt got home that afternoon from a trip to Portland, and brought the girls a board game book–with dice attached! They played a few rounds together for a fun family night.

The next day we wanted to get outside as a family and debated where to go…but sorry for the newsflash but Oklahoma in January is…brown. Every park or lake we talked about going to just didn’t seem worth the trip…so we headed back to the zoo! I have to say, watching your kids get really excited about an animal is pretty darn fun. Bennett loved the owls, the house mouse, the weasel that was running around like he had a touch of OCD, and of course the bison (BUFF-a-whoa!).

Tatum and Kenna got an up close view of a rattlesnake who was checking them out….

He followed their fingers and they played a game to see who he would follow the most.

Note Kenna’s nose holding…

And we got to look at the fur of a black bear up close as he hibernated. Bennett refuses to look at the camera…

It was so nice to be outside in the warm sunshine and cool wind, and even though there was a toddler meltdown on the way home it was totally worth it.

We may not be traveling just yet, but we have made it a priority to have more family adventures… Even if that’s just a trip to the local zoo.

Wellness

Staying Well This Winter

I can’t take it y’all. Seeing so many people go down for the count this winter! It is brutal out there, but thankfully we’ve got this beautiful thing called the immune system that can help defend us from all the yuck!

I’ve spent the last 10 years on a journey trying to figure out my personal health, and find the healthiest ways to live for my family and I…and I thought I’d share a few of the main things with you over on my public Cultivating Abundant Life Facebook page. Click here to access the event–the main portion is the video but I’ve included some links, graphics, and my outline as well.

Here’s to a Winter of Wellness!

Adventures, Family culture

A Quiet Morning

My mom and grandma took all three girls to play today…and I’m sitting in a perfectly quiet house drinking a cup of coffee that is actually hot. Pinch me.

What do I start with?

Devotions which should normally take 15 minutes but usually stretch into 2 hours with all the interruptions and tears and “Mama–look-s” and three kids who suddenly act like they’re in the middle of the Sahara and if they don’t get a drink of water right NOW they’re liable to faint? Or do I tackle my desk–a standing desk I built and one of two places in the main living area Bennett can’t reach (yet) so everything gets dumped there? Or get some oily work done–sending samples to people I love, getting my January newsletter written (oops), or setting up a Boot Camp for people ready to make an income? Fold the 2 loads of laundry waiting? Shower?

The choices are overwhelming, so I read a chapter of The More of Less by Joshua Becker.

It’s a book on minimalism, but before you scoff at the idea of 3 kids having 3 toys and Matt and I pared down to a toothbrush and yoga mat, listen to his definition:

Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.

I like that. I can do that. My definition of minimalism will differ from yours.

As I start this process of going through our home, I am figuring out what to get rid of now, what to get rid of once we sell our home (adios couch), what to put in storage, what to move to my parent’s house, and what to take on the road. That’s a lot of lists! And what feels like not a lot of time! The good news is, these are all self-imposed deadlines.

So I guess I’ll stop my rambling here and start where Becker suggests. Making a list of why I want to minimize our possessions, and what goals I want to accomplish. Drink a fresh cup of coffee. And tackle this desk. And probably shower. Good plan.

Do you practice a minimalist lifestyle? What resources have you found helpful?

Adventures, Family culture

Meet Brutus

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We would like to introduce you to the newest member of our family – Brutus. He’s a big guy who is key to our 2018 adventures – Road-tripping, trailer-hauling, off-roading… We are prepared for anything!

To get more specific, he’s a 2012 Ford Expedition EL 4WD with the Heavy Duty Tow Package…and we lucked out and it has a brand new engine in it with a warranty–woot woot! Honestly, I’m crushin’ on this car. If you knew me between 2003-2015 you knew I had a ’97 4Runner named Max that I loved. This feels like Max grew up…and doubled his cylinders! I’m not sure I can ever go back…

This month SOON we are planning on putting our house up for sale, moving in temporarily with my parents, and traveling the country teaching people how to live healthier lives with essential oils and looking for the next place for our Palmer Pack. Yep, 3 kids ages 6, 3, and at the moment 22 months old. Driving, working, homeschooling…I’m sure it’ll be a breeze, right? *insert heavy sarcasm*

After taking our camping trip in October, it was like Kenna came to the realization that all of the pictures and videos she sees of other places…are REAL places. A common phrase I hear is, “Mama, we go there?” Yep, baby, we’re going. This is her current bathroom reading material…

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So… Who wants us to visit their hometown?! (and yes we know we are crazy… We are OK with that 🤪)#PalmerPackAdventures