Take Them Hiking

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Our family has always enjoyed hiking. Since the kids were toddlers, we took them exploring on trails and jumping in rivers, lakes, and streams all over Texas. As they’ve grown, the distances of our hikes have also grown. Over the last four years, we’ve chased popular trails all around the Western US, hiking through most of the National Parks. We even backpacked in the Sierra Nevadas for 3 nights, hiking about 8 miles each day.

There are so many benefits to hiking with your kids when they are small:

  1. Balance and coordination – Trails are not flat and predictable like sidewalks. While walking along trails is very natural for a kid, it’s not easy the first times if they’ve only walked on sidewalks. It takes another level of focus when hiking over roots, or *around* puddles or on rocks. I feel like it keeps both their minds and limbs sharp. Falling is never fun, but if they do, it’s best to just check their hands and scraped knees, compliment them, and send them on their way again. No biggie.
  2. Observation and appreciation – Kids naturally notice things. And nature affords countless opportunities to notice the intricacies and complexity of plants and animals. I loved it when our kids would pause to observe an insect or stop to listen for bird calls. It’s never a waste of time to take as long as a kid wants to really study something new on a trail.
  3. Inner Peace – I can’t say this without thinking of Kung Fu Panda! But get any hyperactive kid on a trail, and watch them gradually relax minute by minute. It’s fascinating for me to watch. The first few minutes are sometimes harried making sure you have everything you need for the hike and figuring out the way to go, but then……once everyone is in their groove, it’s like magic.You only have one task in front of you: walk. It makes everything in life simple. Your mind starts forgetting the silly distractions of regular life (for both adults and kids). And everyone just has to focus on each step in front of them, listening to the sounds of nature, and then, the best part, enjoying each other. There’s an inner peace that naturally occurs as you enter another world with trees and beauty and family/friends all around.

All that being said, hiking with tweens and teens is MUCH different! They have opinions. They have attitudes. They are unpredictable. They could have uber energy and want to blaze ahead independently or feel lazy and want to just lag behind moping. They have friends and other activities they’d usually prefer over a “boring walk” with family. They think they know what’s better.

But all those same benefits above are still why it’s just as important to take your older kids hiking, too!!! It’s just a little harder emotionally to make it all happen. But don’t let that stop you, parents! 😉

Our kids are now 15, 13, and 11. Over the last year, we hadn’t been pushing them as much to hike with us. Ultimately, we want them to choose it for themselves. They are always invited, but we’d rather not make it a “battle.” But yesterday was Mother’s Day, and I just wanted to do my favorite thing in the world (hike). Our kids were willing to oblige, so I took advantage of the gift.

While there was a slight bit of “hemming and hawing,” I just stayed upbeat and positive and patiently waited for them to just shed their subpar attitudes. One of my “tricks” is to make them go ahead of me. They get to lead and control the pace which always makes a difference. They get to notice things first like a beautiful waterfall or hoary marmot! We sometimes play games like “GOAT” or “I Spy” if they need it or I’ll mention something to look forward to at the end of the hike (like mochi ice cream from Whole Foods 🙂 ) Whatever works and helps them to embrace the hiking experience! Good snacks and plenty of water is always a must as well.

Yesterday, we hiked up about 1.4 miles to see Hanging Lake at the top of Glenwood Canyon. We walked up along a rushing stream which offered us countless waterfalls and photo opps. The evening sun was perfect for lighting and temperature. It really was gorgeous and serene.

And within 10-15 minutes I noticed that inner peace magic start to happen. We got lost in our thoughts and also appreciated the amazing scenery around us. We had great conversations about school and our summer ahead. And we just enjoyed each other, which is the best gift any parent could ask for. It will definitely be a memory to look back on as a family, and makes me so glad we made the effort to get them on trails with us!

 

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Seasons Change

As we near the end of our active winter season, I gave myself a treat and holed up in our snowglobe of a home to put together our family fall slideshow.

It evoked so many different emotions I wasn’t anticipating. This was the first year our boys went full-time to public school, and their absence hit me when scrolling through our fall hike photos and videos. They weren’t in them! It was just me and Jadyn! It made me appreciate those special hikes and memories with her, as it may well have been my last fall with Jadyn, too! She’ll be jumping into middle school next year herself.

This was also a big year for Isaac as he turned 13! I loved reliving his celebration week through the pics and thinking about how deeply he is loved. He’s grown so much this year, attacking his studies like a boss, and mostly just realizing for himself how much he has to offer the world with his ideas and strength. He is thoughtful and insightful and leads others well.

The songs I chose for this slideshow were mostly for him. The first one reminds him so much of our first year of Freejourner travel, as he’d replay it often, “Far from home…but we’re so happy.” And the second song, Something Wild by Lindsey Stirling was more of a hope and wish for him, and one we listened to hundreds of times this fall:

You’ve got a big heart
The way you see the world
It got you this far
You might have some bruises
And a few of scars
But you know you’re gonna be okay
And even though you’re scared
You’re stronger than you know
If you’re lost out where the lights are blinding
Caught in all, the stars are hiding
That’s when something wild calls you home, home
If you face the fear that keeps you frozen
Chase the sky into the ocean
That’s when something wild calls you home, home
I think the outdoors will always be “home” to our family. We can always hit a trail to find that peace and clarity. It’s familiar and comforting. It’s a gift we intentionally wanted to give our kids. Ironically, there’s a security in the unknown and the wild that will be a constant for them.

Fall is one of my favorite seasons because of the colors. Here in Colorado, the Aspen yellow is the brightest. The golden leaves just sparkle and shine in the sunlight. It’s magical.

Fall also represents change, and I guess it’s just hitting me more strongly these days as a parent. Our kids are big now. I’m not spending as much time in the daily grind of academics with them, and I miss our down-time hours together playing games or watching movies as a family. We cherish car rides now and meal hours to catch up and connect.

When I was in high school, I memorized a poem by Robert Frost, “Nothing Gold Can Stay.” It’s about change, and it’s a bit pessimistic, honestly, but I loved how one of the main characters in the movie, The Outsiders turned it positively and told Ponyboy, “Stay Gold, Stay Gold.”

That message was a great way to end our slideshow, as a neat reminder to our family to hold onto those experiences and memories that are treasures that shape us, even as we push ahead to new seasons and adventures that await.

Staying Flexible

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If you asked me on Monday morning what I was doing on Wednesday, I would not have known. By mid-afternoon, I had plans to play tennis with my friend, Amy. By Tuesday morning, our plans had changed, and we were going to snowboard/ski together instead at Keystone!

And then Tuesday afternoon, I got a text from the marketing director at Keystone Resort asking if we’d like to join for a powder day photo/video shoot the next morning!! That sent all other plans out the window and me into a barrage of texts to coordinate the special opportunity. I was inviting other kids to join us and asking our friend Vickie who lived at Keystone if we could spend the night at her house so we could easily get to the mountain the next morning.

I’m so grateful for these friends, Amy and Vickie. Vickie was most hospitable (as always!) letting me and three kiddos crash at her place within a few hours notice. And I told Amy that I wouldn’t be able to snowboard with her after all, and she said it was fine! “You can always cancel on me because I totally understand,” she said.

And that’s why we’re friends! We love living in this beautiful place with a boatload of amazing adventures and options EVERY SINGLE DAY, so I think everyone is generally loose about plans because new things pop up each day. I also think it’s unique living here in this area, because we inherently know that things can change at any moment…the weather forces us to live that reality of life. It can change here within the hour. A bus delay, or getting stuck in the snow, or just even taking the wrong turn down a ski run and ending up at the wrong lift can quickly alter plans. And we learn that that’s totally ok. We learn to roll with it, to look for the good in it all, to be patient and understanding. All the time.

Staying flexible this week allowed us to coordinate an amazing photo/video shoot with a fun crew of these awesome young snowboarders and friends. Here are a couple photos that we’ve seen published to Instagram so far, and we can’t wait to see what else Keystone puts together with some of the video footage they captured!

I realize that people who really are naturally flexible don’t necessarily need to talk about it (or write about it! ;)) They just live it, without even thinking about it.

So, the fact that it is something notable may say something about me! Ha! I feel like I’ve been on a long journey of becoming more flexible in life. And so, if there are any others out there on this similar journey, here are my best two cents to embrace it:

  1. Life is more fun when you are flexible. Plain and simple. You don’t get disappointed as much because you don’t hold on as tightly to expectations of plans or people.
  2. You live life more “eyes wide open” looking for the surprises and opportunities instead of trying to control the fun and plan everything out.
  3. You learn to be more patient and gracious with others and with yourself. And relationships are just more meaningful and long-lasting with patience and grace.

And I’ll just end with some favorite quotes I found on flexibility:

Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. -Michael McGriffy, MD

Flexibility is the key to stability. – John Wooden

Problems disappear when we become willing to be flexible. – Roxana Jones

A Reward

fullsizerender-2Today we got a little treat. It felt like a reward for 13 hard-earned years of parenting a very passionate child.

I had planned to take this middle son of ours out to dinner for his monumental 13th birthday, some special time with just Don and me. We had gifts to shower on him.

But I didn’t expect to get a few gifts myself. Before dinner, we went to his school for parent-teacher conferences. He was so happy and eager to introduce us to all his teachers. He has told us how much he loves them all. But I was still unsure of what he was like in class and how exactly was this school experience panning out for him.

They totally loved him! I could tell they just genuinely enjoyed him. One teacher said he’s the best gentleman. His art teacher made sure that we knew he had a very special talent and eye. He earned the MVP in PE for the whole 7th grade class, for both his character and performance. His Language Arts teachers said they can always count on him for great questions and responses and are impressed with his writing.His grades are fantastic. They all said he’s a wonderful role model and leader in class and just needs to keep up the great work he’s doing.

I really was blown away and very proud of this crazy kid.

Parenting is not easy. There are many days when it feels like we lose, and it’s hard to see if the effort pays off. But on days like today, the reward is sweet.

The one-on-one time with him was icing on the cake, hearing all of his stories and reflections. I blinked back tears when he told us what he wrote in warm-ups today when asked what he was thankful for: My parents. They love me and want the best for me.

He gets it! That’s what we always wanted – for him to know that he is loved.

That love sure goes deep! And that’s what I celebrate today.

Work is Good

Several years ago, I thought of a mantra to share with my middle child:

Work Is Hard.

Work Is Good.

Work Takes Time

He would repeatedly get frustrated when his schoolwork or chores were more challenging or time-consuming. I felt like it was because he had wrong expectations and beliefs. Most of our frustrations in life come from missed expectations.

Therefore, if he believed that work is inherently good (not bad), hard (not easy), and that it takes time (not always completed immediately and that there are trade-offs), he would be able to embrace life for what it really is. He could tackle the task at hand without adding the burden of an extra emotional layer of frustration.

Today, I ran up against this same myth with my youngest and was able to share this mantra. I heard her repeat it a few times and could really see a shift in her mindset throughout the day.

And then I knew it really sunk in when she wrote it out on her own as I was reading Little Women to her.

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Ironically, this applies to the hard work of parenting as much as it does to our kids! It sure isn’t easy, but it is so good, and such a treat to see the reward of the commitment, love, leadership, and patience that was hard-fought and learned through it all!

First Impressions and the Long Haul

Ever notice that in some friendships, when you really get to know someone, you tend to stop paying attention to or caring about those minor outward traits like what they are wearing or how they styled their hair? When you might have seen someone who was “sloppy” or “nerdy” or “loose,” or even “polished” or “trendy” or “classy” – all you now see and care about is that they are a real person to you, your friend.

In my own friendships, I try to get there are quickly as I can, to dig beneath the surface, asking good questions to really get to know them. And I try to discard all the properness or formality to visits or dinners, in order to diminish any friction that would keep us from just being able to get together at a moment’s notice.

It’s interesting that I have a similar attitude online. I know that people tend to show their “good side” online as much as they can – because they can, and because in many ways if they are in business, they should. But I also really try to get to know the person behind the brand, the story that explains the reasons why, the words that others share about the difference they’ve made. I appreciate sites that make it easy for me to do that.

And so in creating website systems for others, that’s how I try to steer people as well. Be real. Be clear. Make a great first impression. But know that you are in it for the long haul. Continue reading “First Impressions and the Long Haul”

Be a Memory Maker

When we were married, we asked a special mentor couple of ours to share some words of wisdom and encouragement to us during our wedding ceremony. Brenda shared many wise words with me, but what I remember most was her saying to “Be a Memory Maker.”

To me, that meant setting up the scene for wonderful experiences as a family and capturing them in pictures or words so that we can relive them and reflect upon them.

Now for me, as a photo/scrapbook lover and a “precious moments” kind of gal, it seemed like an easy and enjoyable charge.

But as the years pass, our family grows, bills pile, calendars fill, and work demands. “Memory making” has definitely become more of a challenge.

However, it is still so worth the effort. It’s one of the more fun priorities in life, for sure!

Family Culture and Traditions

There are so many ways to be a “memory maker,” set some fun traditions and create a general atmosphere of joy and fun in our home.

I have friends who have weekly family movie nights or who throw huge themed birthday parties for their kids. Other families escape to the “farm” where they go 4wheeling and skeet shooting. Some people go all out with holiday decorations, and others just put up a few things but relish the traditions of setting them out.

As part of our “family culture,” we like to always be ready for a hike or for a spontaneous visit to friends.

It really doesn’t matter what we do, I’ve learned – what matters most is our attitude when doing it. A cheerful fun attitude is what counts . . . and what is remembered.

Living out these times together can be incredible, but I’ve also seen that it is almost just as enjoyable to RE-live them through photos and videos. Our kids could reply a fun video hundreds of times without getting tired of it!

I’m not that different. Looking at the past offers us a privileged lens of perspective. What a gift! Continue reading “Be a Memory Maker”