Thursday, August 27, 2009

Love your TREE!

Almost 4 years ago I developed what my mom calls "a tree fetish". I've always loved trees, but after attending one of the most entertaining live shows I've ever been to I left with a new appreciation for trees.

Eve Ensler's show "The Good Body" was a collection of monologues she performed after traveling all over the world to find out if women outside of the US had such extreme issues with their bodies as we American's do. What is it with women...we all hate something about our bodies? I've always hated my stomach. It's never been flat but instead more rounded with rolls that fluctuate in size throughout the month. Eve hates her stomach too so when she spoke of this I laughed so hard I cried. If she ever came back to Scottsdale I know I could singlehandedly sell out one of her shows just through word of mouth!

My favorite part of the play is when she tells the story of walking with an African woman and asking her if she loved her body. The woman clearly thought it was a weird question, but when she asked it back to Ensler, Eve had an answer all ready, about how she hated her stomach pouch (just like me). After expressing to Eve how each of her body parts had a purpose...strong legs to wrap around a man while making love or to carry her to get water, breasts to give her children life, strong arms to work hard in the fields, etc. Then the woman pointed out two trees on the road and asked Eve to compare them. Was one prettier than the other? Of course they're both beautiful, they're trees... they're different, yes, but... She told Ensler, "I'm a tree. You're a tree. You've got to love your tree."

I had a profound reaction to this idea...that we're all trees, beautiful and unique. I've embraced this idea and even intend to get a tree tattoo on my back soon. I have the design all picked out. Extreme yes...but a good reminder I can live with for the rest of my life.

I took the tree photo above inside Arches National Park this summer. I love this beautiful tree. I turned the photo into a 16 x 20 canvas poster with the following quote: "I willingly confess to so great a partiality for trees as tempts me to respect a man in exact proportion to his respect for them." by James Russell Lowell. I guess that says it all!

Monday, August 24, 2009

10 Favorite Things about Camping at Canyon Point Last Weekend

Ok, I started to do a post about our camping trip and it was way too long to post. I've always known that I'm long winded, so I decided to try lists instead.

Camping at Canyon Point was amazing! There were highs and lows, but overall mostly highs.

Top Ten Things About Our Weekend at Canyon Point!
  1. Riding bikes around the campground. I followed Jack as he rode his bike through as many mud puddles as he could find. The muddy trail of droplets extending up his back and into his hair were adorable. It reinforced my desire to get the kids better bikes for their birthday/Christmas gifts this year and to get my own bike tuned up. The kids need gears and lighter weight bikes!

  2. Watching and listening to the kids explore the forest behind our campsite. They didn't fight but instead played imaginatively.

  3. Playing poker in the rain. Thank goodness I grabbed the plastic poker chips and cards as an afterthought. Thank goodness I also suggested that we bring the covered awning since there was a possibility of rain...that turned to 100% quite a few times during the weekend.

  4. Pushing the kids on the hammock only to have the cord break. The kids went flying and Sammy got hit in the head by the wooden part of the hammock. They were so stunned, but before anyone could cry we started laughing hysterically. A couple was walking by at the time and they couldn't help but laugh too. Too bad no one was video taping.

  5. Waking up before the sunrise and taking photos in the quiet of the morning.

  6. Having flushing toilets and a shower!!!

  7. The glorious cool mountain air and break from the Phoenix heat.

  8. Cooking steaks and corn on the cob on the grill. Food never tasted so good!

  9. Watching the kids whittle with their pocket knives. Grandpa taught them how to do it safely.

  10. Watching Daddy play catch with Sammy. This may seem minor, but he rarely does that at home.

A few low points:

  1. Friend's dog we're "dogsitting" pooped in my van TWICE! I learned that water and hand sanitizer does a pretty good clean up job...but how disgusting!

  2. Why does it always seem to rain when we go camping? We had to pack up a wet tent which meant we had to spread it out at home to dry off. We've got it down to a science since it happens often.

  3. We didn't catch any fish since we don't really know what we're doing when it comes to fishing. I'm ready to take lessons soon!

  4. Old woman who was working at Aspen Campground wouldn't let me drive through to see the campsites. Why do some people have to be so overly cautious about rediculous things like this? What did she think I was going to do...sneak in a stay there even though we were already paying for Canyon Point? I just wanted to see the site for future camping trips.

  5. Having to pay about $15 for supplies to make s'mores since I forgot all our supplies. One sleeve of crackers was $2.00! Insane but can we camp without s'mores?

  6. Sleeping in a tent with kids who insist on talking in their sleep. Jack said "Patches peed on my sleeping bag! Patches peed on my sleeping bag!" haha...she didn't.

  7. Dog's in tent kept moving around and licking themselves...this is a sickening sound in the dead silence.

  8. Why does my face break out every time I camp? Ok, it has to be the dirt...but why???

  9. Seeing garbage left all over the forest. What's wrong with people?

  10. Getting car sick on our drive home. Why didn't I drive like I always do?

Next camping trip...Labor Day Weekend in Sedona at Chavez Crossing. We've never been there so I hope all goes well.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I bought more bird seed...are you bored of this yet?

I wanted to share this photo of an interesting red bug that Jack spotted over Memorial Weekend while we were rock hopping at the Granite Dells in Prescott. He seems to have a real knack for spotting bugs and other small creatures that are at our feet while I seem to always be looking to the horizon for the perfect photo. Some day I'll learn from him and pay more attention to my immediate surroundings and appreciate "the little things".
Just a quick update on our wildlife habitat (ok, our front yard). The birds officially ate all the bird seed by this past weekend. We watched that huge ball of seed shrink each day and finally disappear by Friday. I think it took them less than 3 weeks to devour that $13 ball. For a minute I considered not buying anymore...but the moment passed quickly. While shopping at Target I grabbed a 20 lb. bag of loose wild bird seed for $8. We'll see how long it lasts (I bought it on Sunday, August 16th).

The bunny returns daily now and even if we don't leave any produce scraps out there for him he quietly trims the edges of our bushes. It's like having our own personal gardener visit each day.

As we watched the birds this morning we noticed a new addition; it was some sort of woodpecker. He clung to the side of the Saquaro watching the other birds but never joined in on the feast. I dug out my bird book and discovered they're actually more into insects. I think I knew that but forgot until I read it...that's why they drill away into trees, cacti, etc. A little bit ago he was drilling away at the side of my house; I hope that doesn't mean we've got termites. Just kidding (well not really). When I opened up the curtains to look out about 25 birds that had been perched on our rooftop flew away.

I keep thinking about buying birding binoculars someday. It would make a great Christmas gift for the kids. This year I've sworn off all toys for their birthdays and Christmas. This may sound heartless but I'm so sick of looking into their playroom at all they have and choose not to take care of or keep picked up off the floor. Even their video games end up out of their cases, laying around just waiting to be broken or scratched. Gift ideas this year will include nicer bicycles. Their current Walmart and Target versions weigh a ton, the seats and handlebars move all the time no matter how much I tighten everything and Sammy's chain keeps falling off.

I'm brainstorming on a unique outdoors/survivalist birthday party idea since the boys birthdays are 3 weeks apart in Nov/Dec. I usually try to have a combo party and while Jack keeps requesting Pump It Up each year I still refuse to rent out that indoor bouncy house place! I know it's fun, but we can have more fun outside...and that place costs a fortune. I think I'll rent a picnic ramada somewhere for the party (keep it outdoors obviously).

I found a link to a business in CA that hosts these kids' survivalist parties for a fee, but I know I could create the experience on my own. It sounded like so much fun and they stressed being "green" by using recyclable paper goods (instead of plastic) and incorporating educational activities into the fun. I'd love to address the bottled water issue with the kids to really get them to thinking about all the waste they're contributing to. Any other ideas? I'll keep brainstorming and keep you posted as to my party plans and the success.

When a child becomes an adult, does it mean I'm getting old?

I decided to add this post to my blog even though it's actually content from last weeks AZ Active Kids newsletter. I figure this is the best way for me to preserve it since I hope to some day take all these posts and copy them into a hard bound Heritage Makers book. Here's the post (sorry for those who have already seen it).

Today is my son Holden's 18th birthday...does that mean I'm getting old?

Everytime my kids have a birthday I tease them about "all the pain I was in around this time" the day before their birthday. With my oldest this rings the truest...not because I had a difficult delivery (I didn't) but because I was a single mom when I had him. Looking back, I realize that I had no idea what I was in for...and that was probably for the best.

The night before Holden was born I labored alone in my tiny 2 bedroom duplex, not wanting to call my mom too early. My contractions were 5 minutes apart and would send me doubling over into a ball on the carpet or in a chair...and then I would walk. The thought of this makes me weepy because I realize that I've always been a pretty brave person (and this is not to pat myself on the back). Why wasn't I terrified or why didn't I ask to stay at my parent's house for the night? I've always had an independent streak in me and I hate to ask for help. It's one of my many flaws.

I called my mom sometime around 6am and we were at the hospital an hour later, but Holden wasn't born until 5:01pm. I'll never forget that moment when he was placed in my arms. While he only weighed 6 lbs 14 ozs I could feel the weight of the world right there in my arms. This child would change my life in ways I never expected.

Holden has made parenting seem easy. While he looks like any other teenager, there's something quite special about him. He's caring, sensitive, respectful, considerate, honest, outgoing, confident and hard working. If I could clone him I would. I'm a lucky mom baby is turning 18 and I'm feeling a deep sense of gratitude and relief. Is he really an adult now? I know my job as a parent will never end, no matter how old he gets, but it's almost as if we hold our breath waiting for them to turn 18, mind you he still has to graduate from HS next year. Maybe then I'll be able to exhale.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nature and ADHD or Nature Deficit Disorder

I just spent a couple of hours this evening surfing through a variety of nature websites and blogs. I wrote down a web address when I was at REI this week called What a cool site! I read articles that reinforce my drive to expose my children to as many experiences in the outdoors as possible.

Every well written article seems to refer back to Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods. When I read this book a few years ago I knew I had to make some drastic changes in our lives in order to prevent my children from developing severe Nature Deficit Disorder. I honestly could already see the tell tale signs emerging and I refused to give in and give up.

Jack, my youngest son has always given me a run for my money. I knew right away when he was a toddler that there was something different about least different from my first two sons (even my mom noticed it). He was more aggressive, seemed to have less empathy, didn't listen well (actually seemed to tune me out) and he had boundless energy and talked incessantly. When he was 5 I grew concerned and visited the pediatrician to ask about ADHD. I was informed that he was too young to diagnose since they typically won't diagnose until around the 3rd grade. Not that I was eager to slap a label on him, but I also didn't want him to continually disrupt his class and be labeled as a troublemaker either.

The funny thing is that Jack is an extremely gifted child in so many ways. He's amazing at recognizing landmarks. We'll drive past an area and suddenly he'll say "This is by Jake's house." or "Are we going to the park?". He's been this way since he was a few years old. I always wondered how he could pay so much attention from the back seat.

He's also an amazing puzzle builder. When he picks up a puzzle piece he rotates it and seems to view it on a different plane than most. Personally, I hate building puzzles. Jack can also build amazing often perfectly symmetrical structures out of Lego's, K'Nex and other construction toys.

You're probably wondering why this is on my mind. Well, last year Jack's teacher had him tested and the tests came back showing Jack as "gifted" which once again is a label I'm not sure I agree with. I mean, what is "gifted"? What if he just has strengths that we need to encourage him to explore and engage hands on construction. Maybe he'll be an engineer someday like his father.

Tonight at curriculum night his teacher informed me that he had been "exiled" this week. What is exiled in a first grade classroom you ask...well, he was separated from the other children because he was being disruptive (or something like that...he didn't really ellaborate). I wasn't at all surprised. I told the teacher that I had him tested for ADHD and they said it was too early and his response was "He is. I'm really good at spotting it and I can just tell...he is." Great, this is the first week of school and he's already being labeled as the ADHD kid.

So, ADHD or not I'll continue to get my kids out of the house as much as possible to experience all that nature has to offer. When we're out camping, hiking and exploring I see very little signs of ADHD in Jack (except for the fact that he talks non-stop which I actually adore). He can run and jump and burn up all that pent up energy without worrying about the consequences. He won't be exiled here. Remember, this is the same child that told me the Northern Cardinal we saw was "the most beautiful thing on this earth." We must be doing something right.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Our Story Featured on

Ok, I just have to say how cool it is to have our story shared on! I found out about this awesome site through and immediately signed up to receive her posts. I'm thrilled to learn that my passion for immersing my children in the great outdoors is shared with so many other parents.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Why am I posting at 1:40 in the morning?

Ok, it occured to me that I hadn't posted in a few days and even though I'm getting tired I felt like at least getting something up on my blog. I've been having fun keeping this up!

I cleaned house all day long today (and part of yesterday). We had company arrive tonight but I was already gone by the time they arrived. I had a digi-crop for Heritage Makers so I had to pick up the pizza's at Costco and arrived at the crop shortly after 6pm. I got very little done, but did enjoy looking through all my vacation photos for the hundreth time. I can't seem to get enough of them which isn't a bad thing.

I had a discussion with my husband today about unnecessary expenses and how hard it is to be on a strict budget. I slip once in a while. Funny thing is that he said "for instance, that block of birdseed out front that you paid $13 for...that wasn't really necessary." I was like "oh yeah, that's one purchase I have no regrets about, I'll tell you that!" I think it's great because we've been having so much fun watching the birds each's really priceless in my mind. He's too practical. It's not like we're going without dinner so the birds can eat. I mean I do get what he's saying, but on the other hand...I simply don't agree.

I have gotten into the habit now of tossing out my old bread for the birds now. I also put out the old cauliflower with hopes of brings "Mr. Rabbit" back for a visit. We haven't seen him in a few days. I'm sure he'll be back eventually.

Ok, since it's late I'm kind of all over the place. Phoenix was amazingly cool today for barely over 100 or it may not have cracked 100 today. When I got home at midnight it was actually cool outside. I went out back to drop off some pizza boxes and it felt cooler outside than inside (which is quite unusual for right now). I felt so tempted to sleep outside because I loved the sound of the crickets and the chilly breeze. I can't wait to go camping in a few weeks! We're going somewhere we've never been, so it should be fun to try out a new place. I plan to bring the kids bikes along.

Ok, seriously I'm getting sleepy so I'll catch up more later. I'm adding a photo of the adorable quail that we found in our backyard at the end of May. We raised them for a few days and they were doing awesome, but since we were leaving town we dropped them off with "the bird lady". They were the cutest things and noisy! Hopefully we'll find more in the future and then they can eat out front.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Hey Mom, there's a bat by our front door. Can we keep him, pllleeeaaassseee?

Ok, I was in the shower and in comes my son informing me that we have a baby bat by our front door. Of course this is followed with "can we pleeeeaaaseee keep him?" Of course I say "no" and follow it with "leave it alone and don't touch it...but I want to get some pictures of it." I'm always a sucker for a good photo opportunity.

So, I quickly finish my shower and throw on my robe and proceed downstairs to check out our new friend. He's literally hanging on our stucco wall so I lean in with my zoom lens (maybe 3 feet away) and start snapping photos. Of course he then takes flight and rather than flying away he zooms back over our heads (we all ducked) and he re-lands on the wall. We were dying laughing and was quite funny actually. He's tiny, like a little mouse with wings. He proceeded to take flight a number of times until I finally insisted that everyone come inside and leave him alone.

The kids have checked on him periodically and he's still by the front door but he's hanging from the lowest overhang which is just above the patio floor. It's in a corner and I suppose it's the darkest place he can find. The kids are finally losing interest and I'm keeping them away. I figure he should be gone by tonight, back from his adventure.
We enjoyed our tiny visitor and I'm happy no one got rabies. I realize that's a possiblity, but honestly I felt quite safe. I'm if his family misses him and wonders where he went...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

PBS to air National Parks Special in Sept.

Last summer my love of the National Parks system emerged. After purchasing an America the Beautiful pass I took my boys on our first summer adventure, not really sure what to expect. The only National Park I'd visited prior to this was Rocky Mountain National Park in CO and honestly, at the time I don't think it even occured to me that it was a National Park. Sad but true, but it meant very little to me at the time.

During our weeklong adventure we camped at the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce and Capitol Reef (pictured at left) and it was truly the most incredible experience I'd ever had with my boys. We hiked, we played, we watched sunsets, we took photos, we sat by campfires, we slept in tents, we ate s'mores, we played in rivers, we explored and more importantly...we bonded. I knew I just had to continue introducing them to these breathtaking parks that our forefathers worked so hard to protect. People like John Muir, Galen Clark and John Wesley Powell spent their lives exploring these lands and helped establish the conservation and preservation systems that are still in place today. Where would we be without their hard work?

I've made it my mission to expose my boys to as many of these parks as possible. Sammy even suggested that we try to visit them all by the time he graduates from high school. It's a rather lofty goal, but it won't hurt to try (there are over 400 parks and monuments). This summer we visited Yosemite, Sequoia, Arches and Canyonlands. Next summer I hope to head north to Yellowstone, Glacier, Wind Caves and Badlands. Maybe we'll visit a fefw in between too.

I'm excited because there's a special PBS program scheduled to air in Sept. called The National Parks: America's Best Idea. Here's the link if you'd like to bookmark it and be sure to sign up for their updates...I figure at least then they'll remind me when it gets closer so I can TiVo it. I'm sure it'll be amazing and educational. I think I'll have the kids watch it with me.

I'm going to close with a cool quote I found today...I wish I had such an eloquent way with words.

One day I undertook a tour through the country, and the diversity and beauties of nature I met with in this charming season, expelled every gloomy and vexatious thought.

I've got a raging headache

Today's going to be an expensive day. Maybe that's why my head hurts. I had to have my van towed to the auto shop this morning after discovering a very significant oil leak yesterday. Based on the amount of oil leakage, the guy at Tobias' Automotive recommended I not drive there. That's plain scary to me. My car's not even 3 years old yet...and it's a Nissan...they run forever, right?

When the tow truck driver arrived he told me that he rarely tows a Nissan unless they're at least 10 years old. I guess that's supposed to be comforting, except my car was towed. He also wondered why I was having it towed all the way to Cave Creek and Tobias'. I told him that my kids go to school in Cave Creek, we used to live in Tatum Ranch, and I felt safe with the honest guys at Tobias'.

Last month my teenage son started having major issues with his A/C and he called me in Kansas very stressed out. He always stresses when he has to spend ANY money on his car, which I remind him does have to be maintained and will need work occasionally. I recommended that he find a AAA approved repair shop and go to them...what do I know about the A/C. He ended up going to Tobias' because it was close to his work (and then he noticed the AAA sign in their window). The manager there spoke with him and told him that there was something that commonly breaks on the Ford Escorts' A/C unit around 150,000 miles so he might try that first. He told him the part he needed and how he could actually install it himself. Fortunately, he was bang on and my son fixed his car for under $25. He was thrilled!

After speaking with the manager and making arrangements to have my car brought in, I shared with him my son's experience. He remembered him and said he was glad it worked out. I decided that I need to write them a letter or maybe write in to AAA with this story. It's not everyday that you find a good, honest repairshop. Now, let's just hope that my car doesn't cost an arm and a leg to repair. I'm adding a photo of my van in front of Half Dome at Yosemite. I love that photo of our road tripping van!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Checking out Dead Horse Ranch State Park

Yesterday I felt a strong urge to get out of the house after staying home for days on end. I stay home becasue it seems that all I do is spend money as soon as I leave the house.

So, I informed my husband and boys that we were going for a picnic and suprise exploration. I didn't tell them where we were headed, just that we were going "north". After packing some food, drinking water and a bit of gear, we took off sometime around 2pm (after grabbing some gas, diet cokes and worms for fishing). We headed north...
My goal was to check out a few group campgrounds that have been on my radar. I love organizing group campouts but the websites don't always offer detailed or clear photos of the sites (some don't offer any photos). So, being a perfectionistic people pleaser I hate to choose something and risk disappointing anyone. So, I figured we could visit a few so I could check them out and take photos that I can share in my newsletter.

We drove an hour north of our home to Camp Verde and headed East to Clear Creek campsite. It wasn't especially impressive although I'm sure the kids would easily be entertained by the narrow, somewhat dirty creek that ran through the area. We parked the car and hiked around a bit. The area was quite busy, including a small swimming hole we discovered. We decided to move on to the next campsite without taking any pictures.
We left Clear Creek and headed North towards Cottonwood and Dead Horse Ranch State Park. I actually had the group site booked there last year but I cancelled at the last minute due to inclement weather. It sounded wonderful on the website so I thought it'd be a fun daytrip destination.

We obviously weren't far enough north to enjoy cooler temps since the gauge still read 106 degrees. We entered the park (for free since I recently bought a State Parks Pass when we visited Slide Rock State Park) and immediately found the group campsite. It was actually quite nice and would be a perfect place for a large gathering when the weather cools down more. The major plus is the hot showers and indoor plumbing (instead of pit toilets like most). Now I remember why I booked it before! We walked through the site and I took photos to share and convince others to join us. We noticed a jack rabbit in the bushes. His huge ears were adorable.
After leaving the group site we headed for the marsh where we parked and unloaded. Jack took off on his bike while Sammy excitedly grabbed his fishing pole and the worms. Stephane and I ate lunch while the kids went about their business. Although it was hot, we were in the shade and there was a slight breeze blowing through the cottonwood trees. The scene was beautiful with the trees and mountains reflecting off the water, cattails lining the marsh and dragonflys fluttering about.
After we finished our food Stephane and I convinced Sammy to find a shady spot to fish from. When it comes to the kids fishing it's not really "fishing". It's more casting and reeling than anything...and that's truly the most fun part anyway (except for the catching). I'm not even sure how much time passed, but eventually he grew tired of it all and took a break, leaving daddy to watch the pole. This wasn't a good idea since Steph doesn't have a fishing license, so I sent Sammy back to collect his things. Then it happened, he caught a tiny sunfish. He was so proud. Now we could leave because at least he'd caught something. There's nothing worse than going fishing and not catching anything. I snapped a few pictures and then we headed for the car. While we loaded the car, the kids rode around on their bikes for a bit...I even raced Sammy around the entire parking lot (riding Jack's little bike), then they found a sprinkler to run through. What a wonderful afternoon.
After leaving Dead Horse Ranch we decided to drive to Jerome since we were only 9 miles from the town and Stephane had never been before. I remembered that they were having their first Saturday Art Walk so I knew the town would be full of activity. We walked around for a bit and played at the city park and then drove to McDonald's for some ice cream before hitting the road for the hour drive home. Jack fell asleep in the car as usual.
It was wonderful spending the afternoon with the family out in nature. We got away from the computers, TV's and cell phones and breathed fresh air, appreciated God's creations and spent quality time together. You can't beat that with a stick as my dad always says.

Just a few of our front yard friends. The rabbit has been returning frequently since we started leaving lettuce, celery and other snacks for him. I have to admit I'll need to spray down our front porch and walkway occasionally since there's a lot of bird droppings now. I guess it's all a trade off.