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

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!

img_2328

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!

img_2090
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.