A Veritable Quandary

Last weekend we hiked in Arches National Park. It is one of the most breath-taking, beautiful places I’ve ever seen. When Jennika was just a little baby, and still content to be carried in the front pack, we hiked through Devil’s Garden. This 7 mile hike is listed in the brochure as difficult. I think mainly because there are high, narrow fins to walk across and a few places where scrambling (using hands and feet) are required. We decided to try it again this year, though we just did the basic trail without the side trips, making it just a little over 5 miles. We carried Korban and had a pack for Jennika just in case she got tired of walking. She was amazing, walking almost the whole way. We hiked with our friends, who also have kids, and I think having company for Jennika helped her hike further. There were a few times I carried her because I was nervous about letting her walk and a few times that she wanted to rest and ride for a bit. Overall, I’d guess that she hiked close to four miles.

The next day we decided to hike into the Fiery Furnance. This area of winding canyons and high fins is closed to general hiking and it is recommneded that hikers take the ranger guided tour. There are several reasons for this, primarily to preserve the pristine landscape, protect the cryptobiotic soil, and protect the hikers. There is no marked trail in the Fiery Furnace and hikers have gotten lost. The next available guided tour, however, wasn’t for three days. So we decided to apply for a permit to go into the Fiery Furnace by ourselves. Yes, it sounds scary and at that time I was feeling a little bit scared.

In order to obtain a permit for this hike, we had to watch a short video about where to and not to step and how to conduct ourselves. It was pretty basic, no shouting, be respectful of others and the environment, but good for the kids to hear. After the video a ranger came in and told us they would issue the permit but with hesitation because, “this is not an appropriate place for toddlers.” By now I’m really nervous about taking our four kids into this area and almost wishing the ranger would just say, “You can’t take those babies in there!” The guys persuaded us to just give it a try and promised that if our kids were out of control and ruining the area we would head back to the car.

Again, all of our kids did fantastic. They stayed on the trail, I don’t think the cryptobioic soil even knew we were there! They were quiet, whispering or talking quietly, and again I think they hiked at least two miles. This hike did require a bit more scrambling and balanced walking. There were several times when I’d tell Jennika to be careful or ask her to please hold my hand. There were several times when I would ask her if I could carry her, not because she needed a rest, just for my peace of mind. And there where times when I didn’t ask her, I just scooped her up to keep her safe over a slippery or dangerous section.

One section was particularly steep and the hard red sandstone was covered with loose sand and pea rocks. On one side was a little drop off, so I asked Jennika, “Do you want Mama to carry you?”

“No.” She said confidently

I nervously watched as she inched her way down, little step by little step. Again I said, “Jennika please let me carry you. I don’t want you to fall.”

Her response, “I’m being careful.”

As I resisted the urge to grab her anyway, I thought about her answer and our exchange. She is adventuring, taking risks, enjoying her freedom and ability to do something big. I know that feeling. I, too enjoy knowing I’ve done something difficult. As her mama, I am proud of her for trying things that are hard. I rejoice with her when she turns to me and says, “I did it, Mama!” But I also see the risks that she may not see or fully understand. I can see the drop off or the slippery rocks that she ignores and I can visualize her slipping and skinning her elbow, or worse. I want to protect her from getting hurt, but I also want her to try these things and to experience the thrill of pushing herself.

It’s a quandary that I really never knew until I became a mother. It’s a quandary that I think I may wrestle with for the rest of my life. When do I let my children live out the risks they wish to take and when do I interfere and scoop them up? I do not want my kids to life a cautious life. I do not want my kids to live in fear of what might happen. I want my kids to live big, to experience new things, and to push themselves to try the things they dream of. I know that means they will get hurt, skinned knees, hurt feelings, and maybe even broken bones or a broken heart.

It’s hard for me to think about my kids experiencing pain of any type, but it gives me comfort to think of my daughter’s response, “I’m being careful.” She may not see the dangers I see, but  she has been listening to my warnings and is following my instruction. I have to trust her and the teachings I’ve given her. I have to let her try. And I will be there to comfort and cry with her when the hurts come.

Spring is Here!

I haven’t posted anything in a long time.

Sorry.

The reason? Spring is here! In Utah that means beautiful, sunny, 70 degree days (followed by hail and snowstorms), green grass, flowers blooming, gardens wanting to be planted, and LOTS to do outside.

Last week we drove (yes, drove) to Oregon for a surprise birthday party. This weekend, we are driving to Moab to do some good hiking, suntanning, and relaxing in one of the most beautiful places in Utah. Oops, I meant ugly. One of the most boring and ugly places in Utah. Don’t go there, there’s nothing to see.

So, I have thought a lot about writing, but not done it much. In apology, here’s what I can offer, a wonderful new favorite recipe that’s perfect for this time of year. Get Me To the Top Granola Bars.  We love these bars on hikes. They are the perfect amount of sweet and are easy to pack in the backpack. And if they do get crumbled, you’ve got granola! They are also very versatile so you can add whatever nuts or candy you’ve got in your cupboard.

I hope you enjoy these. And I’ll try harder to write.

Get Me To the Top Granola Bars
4 1/2 cups oats (old fashioned)
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups chocolate chips, nuts, crasins, rasins, or a mixture
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until throughly combined. Press into a Pam-sprayed 9×13 pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 17-22 minutes. Let cool five minutes, then cut into squares.  Let cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Its My Birthday Present to Me…I’m so Happy!

Today, I am 31 years old. The only time that seems way old and kinda makes me panic is when I see it printed or on the computer. I don’t feel old, but 31 of anything (except maybe dollars) is a lot! I have a lot of years!

I feel like this year my theme is doing things that scare/excite me that I’ve procrastinated doing. For example, in October (so  not technically this year, but just go with the flow with me on this) our good friends moved in with us. Now we all live in the same house community style. We’ve had people live with us before but this was different and exciting and really scary to me. I loved the IDEA of living with others, sharing our lives…joys, burdens and all. But the actual reality of it scared me. What if we got in fights and on each others’ nerves? What if we ended up not being friends anymore? That was my greatest fear. However up to this point, living together has been fantastic…better than I could have imagined. And yes, we are all still friends.
Another example, I got my wisdom teeth pulled last month. For some of you that really isn’t that big of a deal, and after it was said and done, you’re right it wasn’t that big of a deal. But I was terrified to get my teeth pulled. I have been putting it off for FIVE years! Now that it’s done I can see how silly that was.

So for your edification and my accountability, here’s a partial list of other things I’ve had on my mind that I want to make sure I do this year:

-Get my Utah driver’s license. I still have my Oregon licence  and we’ve lived here in Utah for two years. Again it’s silly but I get myself scared thinking, what if I don’t pass?! Then I won’t be able to drive at all. I won’t be able to drive home from the test! Silly, but that’s what’s kept me from taking the test for the past two years.

-Run, run, run. No, not from something, for something. Before kids Kris and I ran three times a week, in Oregon (read: in the constant drizzle). When we did this I always felt more fit and my back and legs never ached like they do now. So I am making myself get up and run in the mornings or after the kids go to bed. For added motivation I’ve signed up to run with a team in the Wasatch Back relay race in June. Nothing motivates me better than the thought that I could let my other team mates down if I don’t push myself.

-Get lasik eye surgery. I don’t really have a fear issue here. It’s more a continual state of being pregnant or nursing that’s kept me from this goal. But, God willing, come June Korban will be one and weaned. Then I will be able to actually see further than my hand held up in front of my face in the middle of the night. Sigh, that thought makes me happy. 🙂

-Skydive. Well, this goal will kind of be met soon. I can’t acutally sky dive yet. I don’t think it’s a good idea to jump out an airplane while my kids are still so little. If something happened to me they’d be too young to remember what an awesome mom I was. BUT nearby there’s an indoor skydiving place that looks really cool. So this weekend, for my birthday present, I’m going indoor skydiving. I’ll let you know how it goes.

-Make a will. The idea of talking about when I’m dead just isn’t very appealing to me. Can anybody else relate to that? However, because of activities I’d like to do someday (see above) and because I have children, I feel it’s important to get as much nailed down as possible.

-Snowboard again. This one is done! I LOVED snowboarding when I was younger but hadn’t done it for several years. Last weekend, for our date night, Kris and I went night skiing. I was nervous that maybe I would have to relearn how to glide upon the snow, but it all came back to me. The snow, oh the snow, was like super soft cotton that’d gone through a food processor. Even when I did fall it didn’t hurt a bit, thus giving me more courage to try little jumps and maneuvers. I’ve just added another reason why I love Utah to my already long list. Now…whose going to buy my season lift ticket next year? 😉

-Play the violin…more. This one is also already happening. The main reason I started learning to play was so that I could one day play as worship. In my mind that meant years of lessons and practice, including a complete understanding of music theory. Well, that latter part hasn’t happened but the worship part has. I’ve been gently pushed to play with our church’s worship team by my housemates. It has been super scary and my bow still shakes like a feather when I do play in church. I don’t sound very good but the worship team has been so encouraging and supportive that I’m not quitting. Each time I play I’m a little less nervous, a little bit bolder, and enjoy it more.

I’ll try to let you know how these goals go. Be sure to ask me about them if you’re curious.

What have you been putting off that you know you need/want/should do?

Five Things I Love Friday: Simple Things

I got this idea from my cousin’s blog. I love the idea of sharing things ( big and small) that are blessing us.

1. Waking up and seeing fluffy snow covering all the tree branches outside our bedroom window.

2. Good coffee and conversation with a good friend.

3. Ice cream in a coffee cup (it’s better that way).

4. Watching my son crawl to me, with a huge grin on his face.

5. Warm vanilla custard on a berry pie. Mmmm, thanks Heather.

What are your five things for today?

Graciousness

This last weekend our family had a dinner/planning meeting to attend. We had a lot of business to discuss but our hosts wanted to serve a meal and also asked us to bring our children so we wouldn’t have to make arrangements for a sitter. They wouldn’t let me help with the meal by bringing anything either.
Due to a series of uncontrollable events we got out of our house much later than we planned and were running very late for this meeting. I HATE being late. All through our marriage if we’re running even 5-10 minutes late I insist that we call our hosts and notify them that we are on our way and apologize. This was no exception. I made Kris do it this time. On the phone our host told Kris it was no problem and made sure we knew how to get to their house.
The whole (45 minute) drive there I grumbled verbally and in my mind about being late and stressed about how we would face our hosts. I feared they would be irritated with us, feel pressed for time to cover all the material we needed, and think poorly of us.
As we arrived at their house they came out to the car to greet us. My first thought was that they weren’t even going to let us get out of the car. I feared they were going to say, “You’re too late. There’s no point in meeting, just go home!” I quickly pushed this fear out of my mind as I saw their smiling faces. I jumped out of the car and began apologizing. I thrust a home made loaf of bread in my host’s arms as a peace offering. Imagine my shock when our hosts responded to my pathetic apologies by saying, “Oh, thank you for being late. I was able to take a shower!”
After my very ungracious thoughts and words in the car I was quite surprised to be thanked for being late! All through the evening our hosts demonstrated the upmost grace and love towards us. They served us a wonderful meal, offered repeatedly to help with the kids, commended us on our parenting and ambitions, hauled toys out of the garage for our daughter to play with while we talked and spoke words of encouragement to us.
As they walked us out to the car to leave, our arms full of left over food and a dozen fresh home farmed eggs, I was feeling a little bit confused. Normal people don’t act like this. They didn’t need or want anything from us and yet I felt the way I feel when somebody is trying to butter me up, before the other shoe drops. These friends of our had every reason to be irritated with us and yet they seemed truly thrilled to spend time with us.  “They’re so…nice!” I said quietly to Kris as we drove off. I realized that they were genuine. They were not manufacturing an emotion or pretending not to be irritated with us. They were going with the flow, relaxed, at ease and able to enjoy the evening. Their graciousness towards us was a wonderful surprise and also something that I long to have in my relationships. I can quickly get my feathers ruffled if things don’t go my way or follow my schedule. Usually I can cover up my frustrations but then my actions aren’t genuine and I think some can see through my guise. What I saw this weekend, because of the way I felt when I left their house, is something I want to learn.

Sisters Payback

When I was younger I would regularly and loudly bemoan the difficult life I had as an oldest sister. I have MANY stories of how I suffered due to the actions of my younger sisters. Oh, what? You’d like to hear a few? Okay. 🙂

-I was given several beautiful fancy hats, the kind that make little girls feel like twirling and curtsying in. I had one that was my particular favorite. When my little sister and I played dress up I would always let her wear a hat, but never my favorite one. One day she played dress up by herself and chose to wear my favorite hat. Then she decided to go outside and show nature and all our farm animals her elegance. Being a very small child with a very small attention span she quickly forgot about her elegance, dropped the hat on the ground and proceeded to find something else to play with. Our hat was found by our fox terrier puppy who did not appreciate its elegance, just the delightful taste of fake plastic grapes and old fabric. Goodbye hat.

-I was a teenager when my littlest sister and brother were born. Being from a large family in a small town was not always something I saw as a good thing. Many people asked me, “Are you mormon?”
“No”, I would respond.
“Oh then you must be Catholic” they would conclude. I wasn’t this either but usually I would just roll my eyes and walk off instead of trying to explain what we were that would provide an adequate justification, in their eyes, for our large family. I don’t know that there was a right explanation.

-Being the oldest girl I often was the primary babysitter for my younger siblings. Most of the time I loved it and and now I can see the great value in the childcare training I received. But there were times that I wanted to go do things with my friends but had to stay and babysit instead.

-I decided to change the way that I wrote so that my handwriting was distinct and recognizable. It took me many hours of erasing and re-writing my a’s, y’s, and j’s to create a habit of writing them differently. I wrote my a’s just like they look in this current font and my j’s and y’s were curvy at the bottom. About a year after penning my new style I noticed a paper written by my sister….with a’s and j’s JUST LIKE MINE! I was furious. It didn’t calm me in the least when my mom explained the imitation was the sincerest form of flattery. I didn’t want an imitator when I was trying to be unique!

-Clothing and jewelry often disappeared from my room and then later my own house at the hands of my sneaky littlest sister. She was always only “just borrowing” them but sometimes they were “borrowed” for months at a time.

-Once when my sister and I shared a room and a bed we sneaked out of bed after bedtime and at some of our Christmas candy. I ate my piece of candy and then fell asleep. My sister, however did not bother to finish her candy and we were caught in the morning when my mom found a cherry lifesaver stuck in my sister’s hair. We both got spanked because Jillian said I told her to eat candy with me. Yeah, like I had to command her to eat candy. 🙂

Now I laugh at these little antidotes but at the time I felt they were the most sincere forms of torture a girl could suffer and I did not suffer silently but made sure my sisters and parents were well aware of this burden I carried.

This weekend when we went back home for a visit I realized that over the past couple years I’ve gotten payback for all…well, okay most of the wrongs I suffered.

Each time we go home for a visit my youngest sister has bags full of clothes that she is giving away. I feel bad taking her adorable clothes and I know they don’t look as good on me as they look on her but I love getting the “new” clothes. My other sister practically swoops my kids out of my arms when we arrive and would take them the whole of our visit if she didn’t have to share with others. Several times during the weekend I left my kids upstairs and went downstairs to take naps.

So now I feel like the tables have turned and I am the one that is getting all the good from having little sisters. Not to say that I didn’t get lots of great experiences out of them when we were younger, but I think I am more able to appreciate them now.
Thanks Jilly and Liv. 🙂

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dirt?

I’ve been thinking a lot about germs and dirt recently. Maybe it’s because every where I go there’s disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer available. Perhaps it’s because the H1N1 virus has been headline news for months. Maybe it’s because I have a two year old who touches EVERYTHING and a mobile seven month old who wants to taste everything he touches. Maybe it’s also because there are eight people living in one house and I get to thinking about how we are exposing each other to a myriad of germs from all the places each individual has been.

Kris gets pretty bad allergies each year. Though they are nothing like what he experienced in Oregon (reinforcing his theory that he’s allergic to rain) they are frustrating to him. He was recently reading up on why allergies are becoming so common place in 1st world countries. One interesting theory he read said that that our bodies are made to fight off germs and illnesses. However in our ultra clean environment there is less for our bodies to legitimately fight. So it goes looking for a fight and becomes ultra sensitive to silly things like pollen and grass. The article argued that allergies such as hay fever show up  significantly less in second and third world countries, where there are real germs to fight. Interesting.

A couple months ago I made the mistake of letting one of those vacuum cleaner salespeople into my home. She said she would clean one of my carpets for free…which is how they get in the door. What she didn’t tell me, while standing on the door step, that she had a two hour presentation and a $2500 vacuum! Yikes! Anyway, her main sales tactic was to try and scare that $2500 out of my pocket by showing me all the dirt that’s in my house, even after I use my cheap vacuum cleaner. She would lay out these black squares of fabric with piles of icky dust and fiber on the coffee table for me to stare at while she demonstrated all the amazing elements of this vacuum. The worst part was when she vacuumed a mattress and showed us what was picked up…what we sleep on every night. ICK! And then came the punchline, “Your vacuum is not picking this dirt up. Isn’t your goal to have a clean house and have a vacuum cleaner that picks up all the dirt, not just some of it?” I didn’t say this, but in my mind I thought, no, not really. If I really was trying to get all the dirt off of everything in our house I would never stop cleaning because there is dirt and germs everywhere.  We live with them and it really doesn’t bother me that much.

We do a lot of hiking and living out of doors when the weather allows. I am sure that on our hikes we inhale LOTS of dust and that when we stop to eat our lunch our hand are dirty and sweaty. If we drop some of our food on the ground we usually just pick it up and eat it. Yet I’ve never gotten sick after a day hiking. I think our cultural fear of dirt has been taken a little bit too far.

Have you ever noticed that the families who slather on the hand sanitizer, eat only food from the health food store and avoid places (like the library, zoo, and playground) because of the germs are the ones that seem to be always getting sick or getting over something? Hmmm.

Life to the Fullest

I’ve written about this before but I think I just need to get this out for my own good.

I recently was in Texas visiting my grandparents. They are in their late 80s and had never met my son, thus our visit. As I puttered around their house, removing porcelain figurines and the 100th pair of reading glasses from my daughter’s mischievous hands I was struck with bittersweet emotions. I have so many memories in this house and of these two people. I am sad that they will soon be leaving this house, with the address I have memorized, for an easier living situation. But I’m also relieved for them.

They are old. My gramma forgets things. So far it’s been little things, like whether I’ve met my cousin or if she’s already told me about the birthday party they are going to on Saturday. But soon it may be big things, like why she turned the oven on and if she turned it off. Or when she last took her medication. My grandpa’s mind is still sharp as a tack but his physical health is declining. He weighs less than me and there were several times that he lost his balance and nearly fell. It makes me sad to see them like this and I find myself thinking, is this what I have to look forward to?

There is silverware (real silver) under my gramma’s bed that hasn’t been used in 20 years. There are Get Well Soon cards from a surgery my grandpa had nearly three years ago. There is stuff, just stuff everywhere. And as my grandparents begin to mentally and physically process this move they will be making, this stuff weighs heavily on their minds. My gramma had piles of things she wanted to know if I wanted to take home with me. Some things are family heirlooms, some things are trivial, like a sample package of paper towels. She opened a bag packed full of crocheted doilies, made by my great grandmother and great aunt. Gramma was going to make something out of them but never got around to it.

I can relate to that. I have many little knick knacks in my guest room closet. Things that I’m saving for a project that I haven’t gotten around to yet. This trip was a wake up call for me. Because I don’t want 80 years of stuff that I’ve saved because I’ve not gotten around to doing them. I don’t want to save the good china for special events anymore. I don’t want to save the pretty cards for special notes. I don’t want my kids to out grow their nice shoes before they get to wear them. I guess I  just want to be generous with my stuff and adventurous with my daily plans. I hope that when I’m 80+ years old I will have few things and lots of good memories.