More Fun in the Sun

Well folks, the rest of our Camp Mom week was lovely. Parker and I had so much fun planning each day’s adventure and he was soaking up each and every moment of uninterrupted togetherness. What’s amazing is that it feels like he grew up right before my eyes. Within the solitude of our time together and with some gentle encouragement, he mastered a couple of skills that he’d been struggling with.

biking2First and foremost, he finally went more than 1/4 mile on his bike without stopping. He can ride without training wheels, but he has a very cautious personality so he’s easily spooked if his balance wavers or if he comes across other people at the park. The good news is that he’s motivated by competition so I challenged him to complete 10 laps around the park without stopping (combined with the 2 he had already done, that totaled 5 miles).

He nailed it! Not only did he complete it, he did it fast, too. I have a bike computer that tracks my speed and once Parker saw that I could tell how fast he was going, he kept asking me for updates. My big boy averaged 10 mph on his little bike. I couldn’t help but think that in about 5 years or so, he’d be able to hang in there with me on some big road rides. Let’s just hope that he still wants to hang out with me when he’s capable of it…and that he doesn’t drop me in his wake when he gets bigger and faster than me!

bikingBut, I’m getting ahead of myself. For now, I’m happy to ride along behind him being his cheerleader. Oh and on a related note, I probably need to get my hands on a mountain bike or a hybrid bike. As you can probably tell from the above picture, I have a road bike. A very serious road bike with very small road tires. I mentioned to Parker that I can’t ride on gravel, but I don’t think he realized that I meant it in a very technical way. I’m capable – my bike is not. He veered off of the pavement when he was a bit ahead of me and my yell of, “Parker, don’t go that way!” was lost on the wind. He was still on a safe path, but I didn’t want him to pull away from me entirely because the path intersected with a road to a school. I tried to hurry up to get him to stop, but literally the second that my front tire hit the wet gravel, my entire bike slid out from under me and I slammed into the ground on my right hip.

Thankfully, Parker heard my bike hit the ground followed by a very loud, “Oooof” as I connected with the gravel. As I stood up, he said three things. (1) Are you okay mom? (2) Are you mad at me? I’m sorry. (3) I didn’t think it was possible for you to get hurt.

All in all, it was a very minor crash (if you can even call it that) and trust me, I’ve been in much worse. But the good news is that Parker got a very literal lesson for making sure that he listens AND understands when I tell him not to do something. The fist size bruise on my hip and shin are worth that life lesson for him. I hid my pain, though I probably shouldn’t have, because I like the idea of him thinking that I’m invincible. I’m allowed to have super hero status for at least a few more years, right? He’s learn that I’m fallible and human soon enough.

A second major skill that he got better at was swimming. You all know my love/hate relationship with half a lifetime spent in the water, so I’m careful not to push Parker in the pool with regard to getting better at technical swimming. I am, however, adamant that he become a strong and competent swimmer for safety reasons. Both sets of grandparents have pools, we live in a town filled with lakes and streams and we vacation at the beach every summer. Being a strong swimmer is a life saving skill. I don’t want Parker to fear the water, but I do want him to master it.

pool01For the longest time, he hated going completely under the water. This past week (and with the help of an underwater camera) he finally got the hang of playing beneath the water’s surface. I’m going to try to get him to the pool during all four seasons this upcoming year because I don’t want him to have to relearn this confidence every year.

The one outing that I had high hopes for that didn’t exactly pan out was our paddle boarding adventure. The lake is a 30 minute drive and Lexi was only in school for 3 hours that day, so we were short on time at the lake. What that meant was that we spent all of the time paddling (we were trying to reach a waterfall that was a 4.4 mile round trip paddle) and didn’t have time to splash and goof around.

paddle boardingIt was a beautiful day on the lake – clear and flat – but Parker got bored. I underestimated the time it would take to find the waterfall (and we didn’t end up making it all the way there, but we did see a different one on the way back) and that meant that we didn’t have time to stop alone the shoreline so that Parker could go swimming. A chorus of “Mom, can I swim?” “My legs hurt.” “How much farther?” punctuated the calm morning. Combine that with Parker sticking his hands and feet in the water, which effectively stopped the board and made me have to paddle harder, and I realized that this was not the energy-burning outing – well, not for Parker – that biking and swimming were. Usually when we go to the lake, the Irishman and Lexi are there in the kayak so there is a lot more activity going on than just Parker having to sit still and me paddling my tail off.

It wasn’t a complete failure, but his complaints made me irritable and it affected the rest of our day – especially since I was tired after a 90 minute, 4 mile paddle. Lesson learned. The good news is that now I know where all of the waterfalls are so paddle boarding will be a great solitary activity for me in the fall when the kids are in school. By next summer, I’m sure that Parker will be big enough for his own paddle board and then things will be far more interesting for him when it’s just the two of us.

This week, we only have 2 days of Camp Mom before I head out on my road trip. I’m curious to see what adventures Parker will come up with….stay tuned!

 

 

 

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Camp Mom

In about 10 days, I’m leaving for a road trip clear across the country. I’m heading to Grand Teton National Park and then driving through Native American lands to take pictures for a project I’m working on. One of the perks of my day job is that I get to go on excursions and trips for work. You all know my love of travel and it meets a deep-seeded need of mine to just go. In all honesty, if I don’t travel, I get angst ridden and restless. It’s like I have to fill a wandering well to be able to make it through the next stretch of stability before I wander again.

The downside of my work-related wanderlust is that I often leave the children behind. There will come a time when they’re capable of sitting in a car for 12 hours a day for several days on end, but now is not that time. Knowing that I’m going to miss Parker’s last 2 out of 3 weeks of summer, I decided to keep him home from camp for the 2 weeks before my trip so that we would get some much needed one-on-one time. Since Lexi’s arrival, she has been my shadow. My very cute, high maintenance shadow. As a result, Parker has more often than not gotten less than his fair share of attention. I’m not sure if that’s just mommy guilt talking or reality, but either way, we needed to spend some time together without Miss Lexi.

He took this opportunity of uninterrupted mommy time very seriously. He created a very ambitious list of everything we would accomplish in 10 days and put it on the fridge. Knowing how much he was looking forward to it, I decided that I wouldn’t do any work during our time together. That complicated things since I have a number of deadlines looming, but to make it work, I’ve been waking up at 4am to get a solid 3 hours of work in before the rest of the house gets up. I’ll tell you all about that experiment in a separate post, but it’s been working marvelously thanks to the automatic brew function of my coffee maker. For some reason, knowing that hot coffee is sitting in the pot just waiting to be consumed makes it easier to roll myself out of bed.

So, with my work dilemma somewhat taken care of, we were ready to embark on Day 1 of “Camp Mom.” We started off with breakfast at Hooper’s, a local diner. Our service was super slow, but we didn’t mind – we had all the time in the world.

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Parker told me to close my eyes so that he could draw me a picture on a napkin. This is what I saw when I opened my eyes. Sweetest kid in the world.

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After our hearty breakfast, we decided to head over to the new trails that were built by campus. They’re 6+ miles through our beloved mountains and I knew that Parker was old enough to hang in there with the climbs.

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After picking our trail (we decided on the yellow path, which would be about 4 miles)…

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Off we went!

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That’s actually no camera trick – the trail really does start off that steep. It leveled off for a bit and then would get steep again as we wound our way up, up, up.

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Parker started noticing a vast array of mushrooms on the ground.

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camp16We decided that before our next hike, we’re going to get a book on which mushrooms are poisonous and which are edible. Parker loves watched the survivor shows (his favorite is Man, Woman, Wild) so we had some great discussions about what we would do if we got lost or were stranded. Parker identified a water source (which is easy here with creeks every 50 feet) and he thought that mushrooms would make a great food source if only we were more knowledgeable about them. I promised to help him put together a survival backpack with a lighter, water purification tablets and a First Aid kit. In fact, that’s probably a good backpack to take with me to the Tetons.

We also found some beautiful flowers and plants.

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The foliage in this part of the world is very dense. Our climate has been described as sub-tropical and you can see why here. It does rain a lot, but we have this glorious green cover to be thankful for.

This is looking down the mountain.

camp08And this is looking up the mountain.

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After Parker fussed at me for taking so many pictures (I can’t help myself), we made quick work of the rest of the trail and found our way back on level ground. On our way back to the car, Parker spotted a small man-made lake where we have gone before to feed turtles. We didn’t have any bread with us, but he wanted to see the turtles anyways.

camp19We watched the turtles for about 10 minutes, but we decided to leave because dozens upon dozens of fish and turtles came to greet us and expected some food. We didn’t want to tease them with our presence, so we started walking back to the car. About halfway there, a maintenance worker pulled up in a golf cart. He said that he saw up on the dock and wanted to bring some bread out to us so that Parker could feed the fish and turtles. I have never seen a sweeter and more surprised look on Parker’s face. It was like he won the lottery! He thanked the maintenance worker profusely and off we went back to the lake with renewed purpose.

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We spent about 30 minutes feeding the fish. We even named a few. Parker named a huge orange carp “Zach” and I named a blonde-ish one “Goldilocks.” The large turtle was very originally named “Bread Eater.”

We left the lake and still had about an hour before we had to pick up Lexi so we picked up a snack and went to the river for a picnic.

camp23It was such a delightful day and set a great tone for the rest of our time together. Parker is such great company and game for anything. He declared it the best day ever and while I wouldn’t argue with him about that, Parker thinks every day is the best day ever.

camp24Yours truly,

The Eternal Optimists

Carpet One Review…and a Giveaway – Yippee!

There are so many things that I love about our new house, including the easy to clean hardwood floors and tile. With a quick swipe of the vacuum and mop, they gleam. What I don’t love about all of our hard floor surfaces is that without rugs of all sizes scattered around, they have a tendency to make a room feel cold. Rugs and floor mats add color and cheer and that’s particularly important when you pick neutral wall colors like we did.

I got my first Carpet One rug just about a year ago. It’s a 5’x7′ neutral rug that softens the dark stain on our hardwood floors upstairs. Hands down, this rug has held up the best of all of the various rugs we have around the house. The kids play on it and the cats claw it, but it looks good as new. See for yourself!

carpet1When the folks at Carpet One sent me one of their pink ribbon mats to review, I knew I was going to love it and I wasn’t wrong. Their pink ribbon collection of floor mats are made in the U.S.A, machine washable, stain and water resistant and best of all, 25% of the proceeds of each purchase goes to the Breast Cancer Research Fund. You’ve gotta love that.

Another thing I love about these mats is that they have seasonal designs (I’ll share that link in just a second). While I’m not one of those ambitious Pinterest moms that change all of their decor for each holiday (although I’m ridiculously envious of the results of their efforts), I do like to change some things around the house to make it feel season appropriate. This is the particular mat that I picked out:

carpet2So stinkin’ cute, right? Lexi is obsessed with ladybugs and it feels so summery that it was a clear choice. While this is both an indoor/outdoor rug, I’ve had this rug outside of our front door for a month and with all the rain we’ve been having (to say nothing of the dogs running in and out), I’m seriously impressed that it doesn’t look any worse for wear. Plus, it’s super soft under my feet when I run out barefoot to yell at the dogs to come back inside.

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As I mentioned, the other designs are adorable as well. Check out all of their designs here (make sure to click on the ‘Order Now’ button to see which two designs they currently have in stock):

Carpet One Floor Mat Designs

Now, here’s the fun part. You can win one of these adorable rugs! You can earn up to a maximum of 7 entries per person and make sure you add a comment with each of your entires (for example, once you ‘like’ Carpet One on Facebook, let me know that you did so by leaving a comment below).

The winner will be randomly drawn on Friday, July 26. Here’s how you enter (you’ll get one entry for each thing you do):

1. Visit the Carpet One link above and leave a comment on the blog sharing your favorite design.

2. Like Daily Cynema on Facebook

3. Follow Daily Cynema on Twitter

4. Like Carpet One on Facebook

5. Follow Carpet One on Twitter

6. Share the giveaway on your Facebook page

7. Tweet about the giveaway

Good luck!

Summertime and the living’s easy…

Ah, summer. Here you are. I don’t mind teaching in the summer (the extra paycheck is quite nice), but it doesn’t officially feel like summer until teaching is over for the academic year. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – one of the best parts of my job is that I get this nice change in schedule once a year. Don’t get me wrong – my workload doesn’t decrease by one stitch, but at least I can work from home or the library; from the deck or from the coffee shop.

One of the great things about living in the mountains is that we don’t get the oppressive heat that a lot of the country experiences as we head into the dog days of summer so we aren’t forced to spend all of our time indoors. As a result, the kids and I spend most evenings on the deck. Lexi loves the sand and water table (which is currently just operating as a water table since she was making mud pies) and Parker is game for helping amuse his sister before she goes into tyrant mode (translation: when she’s bored).

Earlier this week, we headed out on the deck with a new bottle of bubbles. Ah, bubbles. It’s amazing how something so small provides so much entertainmentbubbles04bubbles01Invariably, we only get one use out of each bottle because Lexi dumps the contents onto the floor when she insists on trying to blow them herself, but no worries there – we buy them in bulk from the Dollar Store. Usually, I give each kid their own – Parker gets one for the making of actual bubbles and Lexi gets one to fling around and spill. It’s a win-win, really.

bubbles03Oh, and someone should let Lexi know that putting the bubble wand in her mouth is counterproductive if she actually wants to produce bubbles. I’ve tried, but the child just won’t listen to me and one can only say, “No, just blow on it!” so many times before the neighbors think that you’ve lost your marbles.

bubbles02Parker, on the other hand, is old enough to know exactly how bubble making works. He has it down to a science. Now this right here is a classic Parker face. The concentration as he tries to get it just right is his entire personality in a nutshell.

bubbles06Speaking of personalities, for the first time, Parker is starting to get a bit jealous of how much time Lexi and I spend together. You see, she’s only in school until noon while his summer camp runs until 5pm. To compensate, and assuage some of my parental guilt, I’m not putting him in camp for the last two weeks of July. Instead, which Lexi is in school, Parker and I will have our own mini field trips. He’s started compiling a list of things he wants us to do – go paddle boarding, go to the pool, get ice cream – and I’m really looking forward to it. However, what that means is that I have to bust my rear over the next two weeks to get work done so that I can have uninterrupted play with him during our time together.

With that in mind, I’ve decided that I’m going to start waking up at 4am. It sounds nuts, but I get so much more done in the wee hours of the morning than I do once everyone is awake and my phone is ringing. I’ve been staying up way past my usual time (and not going to bed until 10 or 11), so all I have to do to compensate is to start going to bed by 8:30 or 9 again like I used to. It’s like a self-enforced time change. I know I’ll feel better after two weeks of 4am wake ups, so I just need to tough it out until then and then it will be smooth sailing. At least let’s hope!