Category Archives: Family time

Enjoy the Little Things

It’s that time again! No, not pumpkin spice everything time. Hummingbird migration time! I know I’m not alone in loving the little, buzzing birdies because there are photos everywhere on social media. Today I stood three feet away from the feeder and still ended up with sub-par pictures of the hungry horde. I just couldn’t get my phone camera to focus fast enough and my background is pretty terrible. Hello barn!  A real camera with a zoom would be nice. But it was still fun to stand so close and hear and see them. Here are a few of the better photos that I tried to enhance a bit to make them easier to see. Use your imagination! I love the ruby-throated ones, but we have more of the green ones. I also love hawks, painted buntings,  and water birds which we have in good supply.

Today has been a busy day. I ran 3 miles, my first run since my race and injury. I was slow and it still hurts a little,  but it felt good to move again. Then my kids and I spent a long time on our Bible study lesson because we had to look up tons of verses, actually big chunks of the Old Testament. After that I tried to refresh their math skills. Why do they seem to retain so little from last year ? And the last subject for today was Life Science. They are studying about ecosystems, which I find interesting. I know it sounds like we didn’t do much, but I like to ease into the school routine, for my sake and theirs!

I’m thankful for this day. I’m blessed to be a stay-home mom who can look at birds while drinking coffee and study the Bible with my kids after a nice run. I may not have a fancy car or clothes, but I appreciate the little things !

How was your day? Are you a birdwatcher? What kinds do you get excited about?

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Paddling on Lady Bird Lake with my kids in Austin

(NOTE: This actually happened last month, but I forgot to post it.)

 

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In front of the Bob Bullock Texas History Museum. My babies. ❤  

Kids grow up so fast. I have six children.  The older three have pretty much established their own lives, and my daughter is a perpetual child, due to her condition.   But my two youngest are quickly approaching the years when we will be seeing less of them because they’ll be driving and working. I want to fit in as much life with them as I can before it’s too late, doing stuff, learning, making memories, building relationships.

So yesterday we headed out for adventures unknown.  My sister was available to take care of my daughter and circumstances were fairly good for me to go away for one night. Our first stop in our destination city was to rent  some kayaks for the first time ever on the lake in the city of Austin. Not Lake Travis, which is a popular and large lake outside of the city. Lady Bird Lake, or as it was called when I was a student there, Town Lake, runs right through the city of Austin. It’s more like a river in that it’s long and cuts the city in half, north and south. The interstate and city streets cross over the lake. Here’s a map.

After a little trouble finding the place, we faced our anxiety, we are all a bit anxious, and actually left the van and went inside the kayak rental place.  Thankfully the people were easy-going and experienced with newbies . We rented single kayaks for each of us. I was determined to do this even though my kids were not making it easy on me. I tried to seem confident that this was going to be fun!  Inside I was praying that no one would drown! I decided to change clothes which turned out to be a good idea .

We were told to walk down path where we’d find a dock and boats. We did that and found two young guys hanging out. They helped us get into our boats and off we went! We took a little time to get used to paddling in a nearby cove, which was easier than expected since there was barely any current, then headed up to where the first bridge crosses. There was a guy fishing in a small boat under the bridge, some ducks and geese floating around, lots of turtles ducking under the water, and some people doing who knows what down there under the bridge in the little parking area. The kids and I  loved it. ( Wish I was there now!)

Six lanes of interstate traffic were slowly moving over our heads. We paddled a little past the bridge and encountered a slight wind pushing us back and lots of floating leaves and trash which we were surprised to see. After a little while longer I asked them if they wanted to go to the next bridge or  go back to the dock.  They were getting tired so we turned around. I noticed the time would be close to one hour by the time we returned and you pay by the hour, so, being the always money-conscious mom,  I decided to pick up my pace and try to beat the clock, thus saving a few bucks.  I let the boys go at their own pace. I glided up to the dock and the friendly and helpful young guys at the dock helped me out of my boat.   A couple of minutes later my kids made it to the dock and climbed out while I chatted with the dock guys.

Life is short. Try new things! I’m so glad we did. If you are in the area, I recommend Live Love Paddle on Riverside! Easy access and reasonable prices. The people in the rental office were super nice as well. My only regret is that I didn’t take my phone with me so I didn’t get any photos! Next time! A couple of suggestions. 1. Wear your bathing suit, a hat and sunglasses. 2. Bring one of those plastic things you wear around your neck that you can put your phone in . 3. Bring water and a snack if you want to stay out there over an hour. Happy paddling!

 

 

What do you do all day? A job description

  • Walk the dogs!
  • Take care of Grace’s needs
  • Go for a run to stay healthy, happy and sane
  • Supervise, instruct, guide, lead teenage sons in school and chores
  • Plan, shop for and cook meals, do dishes and clean kitchen
  • Laundry, endless laundry
  • Pay bills, juggle bills, plan budget, file papers
  • Plan for holidays, birthdays, trips
  • Plan for homeschooling, organize books, buy and sell curriculum
  • Schedule and go to doctor appointments
  • Get multiple types of vehicles inspected and registered and titled
  • Sell things on ebay and other sites, like books and eggs and misc. stuff
  • Send and receive Messages, texts, emails, faxes and phone calls .
  • Listen to everyone’s stories, concerns, complaints and offer sympathy and advice as needed
  • Pray for constant help and wisdom from God to accomplish the goals of being a good mom and wife and friend and human
  • READ everything I can to help me do this job!

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How a Texas flatlander climbed a Colorado mountain.

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My sister called me up one evening and said, Can you meet me in Colorado and go hiking? My heart started pounding a little faster and I dared to get my hopes up a little. This was the call I’d subconsciously been waiting for all summer. I knew about her plans of traveling, camping and hiking through beautiful places with her little teardrop camper and I wanted to be a part of it, but wasn’t sure how or when things would come together .  She had literally just finished hiking the trail seen above in the guidebook and was excited and inspired to call me. She gave me one month’s notice to get there. We chatted a few minutes and I was non-committal but told her I’d ask my husband. He was already in bed, but I couldn’t stop myself from heading to the bedroom to ask him if I could go. Not sure why , he was probably half-asleep, but he said yes without asking questions! My spirit soared! Yes! I am going hiking in the mountains of Colorado! Segment 10 of the Colorado Trail to be exact.

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I’d been training for a hilly trail running race for the past few months, gradually increasing my hill repeats and time on feet, but I still immediately began to wonder if I could handle something like this. I’d never backpacked overnight before or even put on a pack heavier than just a full 2 liter hydration bladder. I may look strong but my upper body could use some attention, so I knew I had some work ahead of me.  My first step was to go to Ebay and look at backpacking packs. My sister said I could rent one at REI in Denver but I wanted to train with a pack. God blessed me with a super nice vintage Gregory pack in my size for only $75.00 plus shipping! I ended up using this pack on the hike. When it arrived, I immediately put some stuff in it, including some hand weights and various random blankets and put it on. Yikes! It felt heavy. I was nervous. IMG_2712

So I started taking walks with the pack. The first time I only had about 10 pounds in the pack and it felt so awkward and different than my running vest. I was walking sooo slowly! I tried to go faster and tried various postures.  The pack is supposed to sit on your hips, which means you have to get used to that weight on your hips as opposed to your back.  I started to worry that I’d not be able to keep up with my sister. Later, I discovered that 2 miles per hour was considered perfectly normal so I stopped worrying so much. I kept adding time to my hikes with the pack and adding weight. I even went out in the rain one day. Finally I did a 3 hour hike with 25 pounds in my pack and used my trekking poles and tried climbing hills. It went so well that I finally felt ready. My only fear was the altitude.

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I live at 300 feet, basically sea level. I would soon be traveling to a high point of over 14,000 feet . I posted in a Facebook Texas hiking group about my plans and the replies were that I was probably going to get very sick in the altitude. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, etc.. Great! I became very concerned . My sister thought I’d be fine because I had been okay at 10,000 feet in the past, but this was higher, said my Facebook friends. So I did some research about how to survive and this is how it worked out. IMG_2727

The first day I flew into Colorado Springs and my sister picked me up and we drove out to where she was camping.  Mueller State Park is at around 9,500 elevation. All we did there is sleep and then get up and pack up and leave to drive to the next place. That was one night at elevation. The main thing, as far as adapting to altitude, that I did the first day was to drink a lot of water. I woke up needing to pee so bad it hurt,  but I was afraid of bears! I finally couldn’t hold it and I got out of the camper and just went right there in the grass. My bear fears abated a little over the next week.

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We set up our next camp at Twin Lakes campground, a very scenic park with a lovely lake surrounded by tall mountains. Gorgeous! This was about 9,200 feet elevations, the second night. We got our gear all sorted and packed and ready, discussed morning plans with her friend who was going to shuttle us,  and went to bed.  Her little camper is very comfy. The temperatures there were much cooler and dryer than Texas, by about 30-40 degrees at night and 20 degrees in the daytime, and I was loving that! Day two I also drank water constantly and also took some salt tablets. I was peeing constantly, as fast as I drank, the faster I peed it out. This is normal as the body adjusts, so you need to add salt to your drinks or food, or you’ll get dehydrated from so much water. Avoid caffeine and alcohol. IMG_2783

The next day we loaded up in two cars, dropped my sister’s car off at the place where we planned to end the hike, and then rode in her friend’s car to the trail head. All of this driving took awhile and we didn’t actually start the hike until 10:00 A.M.  The hiking went pretty well as far as how I was able to handle the backpack and poles and trail, but I had one problem, gas! In other words, my intestines were bloated up with air and it really hurt. I found out later after suffering for a long time that  my sister had some Gas-X tablets which I took and they helped a lot. After that I just farted as often as necessary to relieve the pressure. Turns out gas is common when adjusting to altitude. Bring Gas medicine!

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The first day I was super happy, almost giddy, to finally be hiking in the mountain, something I’d been dreaming of doing for awhile. Instagram has a way of inspiring me to try newer and more exciting adventures , especially when I know there’s a real possibility of making it happen, thanks to my amazing , retired, adventurous  big sister. So far, thanks to her and with her, I’ve been to Hawaii, climbed up to the Delicate Arch in Utah, hiked Negro Bills Canyon in Moab, went running on Mid Mountain in Park City, went snowshoeing and alpine skiing, and did lots of camping and other fun things when she still lived in Texas. We also went to see the late, great  Stevie Ray Vaughan live in Houston. Once we went canoeing and our boat capsized in some rapids and I was left stranded in the middle of a river. Another time we got caught in a huge rainstorm and near-flash flood while camping and had to abandon our tent. Oh, and I got lost on that mountain that  I climbed in Park City and thought I might die.  But things always work out!  I’m very thankful for my sister and her willingness to teach me how to adapt and learn and have fun. IMG_2787
Back to hiking. On the first night on the Colorado trail, we set up camp at 11,000 feet. I was feeling good, no issues with headaches or anything, except for the previously mentioned intestinal gas. This was my third night at altitude. The next day was going to be the real test. We were going to attempt to climb the trail to Mount Massive, up to 14, 421 feet. Could I do it? Could she do it? Neither of us were really sure. It took me a long time to fall asleep.

We woke up at sunrise as usual. It was gloriously cold and beautiful weather, but there was  smoke in the air from a wildfire burning. It wasn’t close to us, but the wind carried the smell. We retrieved our food bag from the tree, took some sunrise photos, packed up our sleeping bags and tents and got our packs sorted, then hiked about a mile down to the Mt. Massive trail intersection. Before we headed out we had to refill our hydration packs from the stream (after filtering), figure out what food and supplies and clothes we were going to wear and set up a tent to leave the rest of our stuff in while we were gone. This was a tip we got from some fellow hikers that we became friends with, leaving our stuff in a tent instead of just leaving it out by a tree or something. We finally hit the trail to climb the mountain at around 8:30 or so. Not as early as we should have started , but it worked out.

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The first mile or so was still in the trees, mostly pines. It was fairly steep going, about 1000 feet in one mile. Then it got really steep! About 2500 feet in a little over 2 miles. The trail was well built but rocky and got slightly technical in some places. We took a lot of breaks to take photos, rest, catch our breath, eat snacks(protein bars, jerky, cheese, and Clif bloks), and my sister made one phone call, so it was slow going . The closer to the top we went, the steeper it felt and the slower we climbed,  and the windier and cooler it got. My sister said she had never moved that slow in her life, and we were having a little trouble with the lack of oxygen, but no headaches or dizziness, so we were thrilled when  made it to a flat spot about 13,900 feet up where we stopped for a short break. We took some photos, shooed away an overly brazen marmot who wanted snacks and  waited on our friend who we saw descending the trail which was pretty technical past that point. She was without her husband and she told us that she had decided to stop short of the summit because it was very difficult and included some rock scrambling in place with steep drop-offs.  Her husband had gone on to the top. After hearing this information, we decided to push forward as far as we could , knowing that we would probably not make the summit as we both have a fear of heights when we can see the bottom. As long as there was no visible drop-off , I was okay, but the minute I had that in my peripheral vision, I knew I would get scared and could freeze. I also knew that even if we made it up , we’d have to come back down which is even more frightening.  We made it up the increasingly technical and hard to see trail to approximately 14, 153 feet, based on my Garmin and were both okay with stopping there. Next time I may make it to the summit, but this time I am happy with climbing over 14,000 feet . We could see a mountain goat on the summit, we were so close. Of course, there was  a boy about 10 years old scampering back down from the summit with no poles and no fear and  that did make feel a little like a big chicken for not going all the way.

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After that, we carefully, but fairly quickly descended the mountain and made it back to our tent.  We were tired and hungry so we took time to refuel before  we packed the tent and hiked another 4 miles mostly downhill to her car.  Our total mileage for the two days was about 20 miles.  The next few days were spent camping,  kayaking relaxing, and reliving the hike and feeling very good about it. I can’t wait to do it again and I plan to use the same methods of sleeping at gradually higher altitudes for several nights, drinking tons of water, and taking salt, to adjust to the the altitude. It worked and I’m so thankful!

 

SSDD? Facebook memories tell the story.

Same shit, different day. It was a saying when I was younger,  I’m not sure if it is still being used. It means that you had a typical , boring day. But in my case, I think SSDD is not a negative thing. One thing I’ve noticed through the magic of social media, especially Facebook memories, is that my life has been pretty routine, repetitive and predictable over the years, at least since the internet has been keeping track for me.  At first I was bothered by that . I thought, Wow, I am a boring person! I did the exact same thing last year on this day! But then I realized that there is a good reason for the sameness.  I know what I like!

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A memory from two years ago. Sadly I won’t be repeating it this year, but it was a great race!

 

I do what I like, travel, running, hiking , over and over, based on the season, and based on what is offered at various times of year.  I would do those things even more often if had the chance, but I think God made seasons to force us to mix it up. In fact, I’m so bad about falling in love with something and wanting to do it ALL THE TIME, that I get sad when I can’t. So it is actually helpful for me to see these memories and remember that I have had a lot of fun times in my life and I will probably have more fun times, even if this day, week , or month is kinda boring.

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I posted this photo two years ago. I ate the same thing yesterday. I like it! I love avocados in season. I try to eat a whole one every day.

 

Another good thing about these social media reminders is that I tend to live in the moment and I also have a very bad memory. These two things can tend to make me forget the good times and the happy times when I am having a bad day. I love it that other people can remember things better and they tell stories that include me or my kids having fun, good times I’ve forgotten. It helps me say, oh, I DO have a good life! Oh, my kids DO have a good childhood! Oh, I am SO blessed! Because some days I feel sorry for myself or that I’m a terrible mom or that God doesn’t care about me. But based on these Facebook memories, I can see that I’m a pretty good mom and I have done a lot of cool stuff and gone on some great trips.

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Here’s one of my two youngest sons that my husband posted two years ago. They have both changed a lot since then!

 

Of course , one bad thing about looking back on the Timeline is I can see some of the dumb and negative stuff I’ve posted in the past on a bad day or just a thoughtless (or drunk) moment, and that makes me feel like an idiot and embarrassed at my stupidity. It does make me try harder to think before I click POST! And thankfully we can delete those posts, but the damage may have been done. People can take your posts way more seriously than you meant them, or vice versa. Or they can misunderstand completely what thoughts and ideas you are trying to convey if you don’t state them clearly.  If I am talking to someone face to face, we will have an actual conversation , back and forth, with facial expressions, body language, and voice changes, getting to the real meaning and hopefully coming to understand each other’s point of view. But let’s face it, most of us do the same thing if we use social media regularly. We post things we later regret or have to clarify. We have to forgive ourselves, learn, and try to do better at communicating, being compassionate, and putting ourselves in other’s shoes.

That is why I think Facebook can be a good thing for people like me who have poor social skills.  Part of having ADHD is not thinking about the other person before you act of speak. It’s not that you don’t care, you just get in a rush. Facebook has given me good feedback and enough shame, if you will, to make me slow down and think. But I still slip up and I am thankful for the friends who are forgiving towards me. I think they see my real self, the person who really does care about people.

What about you? Do you look at your Facebook memories? Does it make you feel good or bad ?

Three words that thrill a homeschool mom

As we count down the last few weeks , two and a half actually, until we will declare our school year to be completed, I’ve been trying hard to stay in the race and not just walk it in . It’s not easy when you are in control and can decide to call it good basically at any point after May 1 since we all know the public schools are not teaching anything new in the last month. The focus is on end of year testing and graduation and survival until the last day when the kids go home and the teachers rejoice. But in my house we are still learning . I’m thankful to live in a state where home schools are considered equal to private schools and there are no testing requirements. I’m the mom/teacher and I know what they’ve learned.

And that brings me to the title of this post. Yesterday I was teaching the boys a Spanish lesson where they had to conjugate verbs and make sentences using the model provided. We were doing this activity orally and one of my sons was taking too long to answer when my other son said those magic words, “Come on! This is easy!” . I didn’t react outwardly, but I was grinning on the inside! Easy! He thinks conjugating verbs is easy! He actually learned something that he actively resisted learning because he thinks he’ll never need to know it. I think that means we’ve had a pretty good year.

And I’m happy to say that many other things were learned as well.

How about you? Do you homeschool? How was your year?

Happy Mother’s Day (to those with human children)

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What?!! You consider your pets, animals, furbabies to be your children? You are not alone in your confusion.  On the eve  of the American Mother’s Day holiday which is tomorrow,  I would like to honor those women who have raised  actual human children and also explain to the childless why animals are not the same as children, no matter how much you want them to be.

I guess you could say that I find the trend of adopting animals and considering them children to be very sad and disturbing. Don’t get me wrong, I love animals! We have lots of them. They are a wonderful addition to our family and we treat them well and enjoy their company and even , yes, talk to them and treat them like humans sometimes. But we also have six human children, all of which I gave birth to. I’m not leaving out adoptive moms, though. Raising human children doesn’t require going through the birth process, however I think whether you carried them for 9 months or not possibly could lead to slightly different parenting of your children, but I don’t know for sure. I have great respect and even awe for adoptive moms of whom I know quite a few.

Back to honoring mothers, it truly is the hardest job in the world. Nothing  prepares you for it. I wanted to be a mommy since I was a little girl. I started babysitting for neighbors when I was eleven years old, then worked in child care centers for several years during college and also cared for my siblings’ children before I had my own. I had many ideas/fantasies of what I thought it would be like to have my own children. Like most human relationships, mothering turned out to be much more complicated than I expected! I am not the first woman to secretly think they may not be up to the task when holding a screaming , colicky baby for weeks on end. Even if you are really into child development and read all the best books and have a fairly easy baby , you still have to stay awake way past your bedtime, get up during the night, do things you never wanted to do and dig deep for the energy, patience and creativity that parenting humans requires. And then there are the ‘stages’. Terrible Twos, pre-teens, teens, young adults, etc.  And even when they grow up and get married , most of them still expect a lot from their parents.

My children are now 13 years old to 26 years old. One of them is totally disabled. She is the easy one! Every day they give me reasons to pray for help and guidance and wisdom because they are people! People with complicated emotions and needs, unlike pets. They are born with personalities and genetic tendencies that are not easy to change , just like you and I . Sometimes they are easy when they’re little and then they hit puberty and they become like different people. Thankfully it is normal to have a  some good months mixed in with the difficult ones. One heartbreaking , yet common pattern, is for children to repeat their parents’ worst teenage and young adult behaviors. Whether this is learned or genetic is not always easy to pinpoint. Nothing hurts more than to know that your child is hurting the way you hurt when you were their age and not be able to fix it even though you try. I’m always thankful for the times when my children seem relaxed and content. It’s tough growing up!

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My mom and I . She’s the world’s best mom! I may be biased. 

To keep this from getting too long I will just list some of the differences between human children and animals.

  1. Babies require constant attention and supervision unlike animals.
  2. You cannot put a baby in a cage when you need to go somewhere, like to your job.
  3. Humans live much longer and cannot be ‘put down’ when someone decides they are in pain or sick.
  4. Humans babies become human toddlers and begin to rebel against your every instruction and test their boundaries . This goes on for the next 21 years at least.
  5. Puppies require a lot of attention but are usually pretty well behaved by the time they are 1 1/2 to 2 years old. That is just when children are revving up to make you think you are the worst parent ever.
  6. Oh, never mind, everyone knows that dogs, cats, donkeys, monkeys, or whatever pet you have are not the same as humans.
  7. There are just so many ways human children can cause you extreme anxiety, grief, anger, frustration, and also bring you joy , love, and hope that animals cannot begin to replicate. 

    Why would anyone have children in this screwed up world and knowing that they are so complex and can ruin your life just as easily as they can make you proud? Because that’s what humans do! We carry on the human race . It’s built into us to reproduce and nurture. We have hope. We fall in love. We want to raise a family. However those things seem to be in jeopardy. So many young, 20-30 somethings are getting married but not having children. They may be too selfish or maybe they’re scared or maybe they have bought the lie that the earth is overpopulated or humans are less valuable than the earth itself,  or they may think it’s too expensive.  Be brave! Be thrifty! Read books! Make babies and put your whole heart into for caring your family.  Give up buying more stuff and doing more stuff and form real, human relationships with your offspring. Or adopt some of the many orphans that need loving families. Or do both! Even if it’s difficult at times, it’s still worth it.

Happy Mother’s Day !