What is NORMAL, anyway?

March 31, 2013 at 6:31 pm

For the last month, I have been waiting for the clouds to part, the sun to come out and our lives to return to “normal.” But, instead of sunny rocks and climbing, each weekend seemed to bring a new illness and new snow.

Poor sick kiddo

Poor sick kiddo

Rather than adventures in the mountains, we’ve had adventures with sinus infections, stomach flu, trips to the emergency room and pink eye! Rather than starry desert nights in the trailer, we’ve been snuggled up on the couch watching movies while the snow blows deep drifts outside.

About 5 minutes after I took this picture, Mark started throwing up

About 5 minutes after I took this picture, Mark started throwing up

After the stress and seclusion created by the end of my degree, I was really hoping for a spring full of friends and fun. And we certainly have had some of each. I got out for an afternoon hike through the flatirons with a friend from work one day.

Mesa Trail behind NCAR

Mesa Trail behind NCAR

We visited friends with new babies, and friends with birthday parties. The Go-kid rode his strider around the neighborhood and played in the mud. We made the trip back to Fort Collins a few times this month, and it’s always worth the easy hour drive.

G loves playing in the mud!

G loves playing in the mud!

This morning, we all dressed up nicely for the fun of it, drove up to Fort Collins, and went to church with families and friends that we love. It felt kind of foreign to me, wearing nice shoes and putting a tiny tie on my son. On such a sunny, beautiful day, we might “normally” be out hiking, climbing or biking. But this year, we did what most people do on Easter, and it was wonderful.

My Boys in their Easter Best

My Boys in their Easter Best

After a month of “abnormal” for us, that looks so “normal” to the rest of the world, I have decided it is time to stop trying to categorize, label, and describe where we are. What is “normal”, anyway? In our lives, we have done some awesome things. Sometimes those are as big as climbing mountains, sometimes they are as small as sleeping through the night. What ever challenge we tackle, “normal” for us is to roll with the punches, make the best out of every situation, and enjoy the journey as we stumble along the paths of our lives.

For Axel

March 12, 2013 at 7:45 am

In the last few years, we’ve spent a lot of time talking about climbing, hiking and camping on this blog. So you might not realize from reading about it here, but we are big fans of bicycling as well. In the past, Mark and I had mountain bike vacations to Fruita, explored mountain bike trails up and down the front range, and even rode (and crashed) in a mountain bike race a few years ago. Since G came along, we’ve embraced biking as a slow-weekend family activity, riding the paved paths around Fort Collins with the kiddo in the trailer, or chasing Go-Kid as he tears it up on his strider bike around our neighborhood.

These are all reasons why I have long enjoyed reading Velo Mom’s Blog, about her family’s adventures in mountain biking, strider racing and traveling around the continent. Their family embraces a spirit of adventure and passion for outdoor sports that is awesome and inspirational. But last month, the unthinkable happened. While traveling in Mexico, their youngest son, Axel, was tragically murdered in drug-related violence. Even though we have never met the family, the news of this death hit Mark and I terribly hard. We surely can’t even scratch the surface of grief that Velo Mom’s family is going through right now, and all we can do is offer support and kind thoughts from a distance.

Photo of Axel from VeloMom.Com

Photo of Axel from VeloMom.Com

I really wanted to write something to try and make some sense of this loss. I thought about the risks we take in adventures as a family, and about how many things happen to us in life that we have no control over. If there is anything I have learned as a mother, it’s that we are in less control of our lives than we could imagine, and that many things that happen are out of our hands and beyond our responsibility. But, as you can read here, these thoughts are confused, jumbled and not really appropriate for this terrible loss.

Photo of Axel from VeloMom.Com

Photo of Axel from VeloMom.Com

What is appropriate is a celebration of Axel’s awesome, though brief little life. Full of bicycling, adventures, sunlight, laughter and love. He was lucky to be born into an incredible bicycling family, and he lived an incredible and very full life. Axel started riding his strider bike just after taking his first steps, and riding was one of his favorite things. In honor of Axel, the Velo family has set up a fund to help get kids more active and riding bikes. They have partnered with Strider to help get kids on bikes who would not otherwise have access. If you want to donate, you can you can send a check made out to the Axel Charrette Fund, c/o Alpine Bank, 119 Liddell Drive, Ridgway, CO 81432, or call 970-626-4100 and reference the Axel Charrette Fund.

We have been inspired by Axel and his family to ride more, and getting G a strider bike was one of the best purchases we have made for him. I want to encourage everybody reading this to get out and ride this summer, for Axel.

There are a series of thoughtful reflections on fellow outdoor adventure family blogs today in honor of the memorial for Axel being held in Ridgway, Colorado, today. To read other parent’s thoughts on this tragedy, check out these links.

What I learned from Little G this year

November 10, 2012 at 10:56 am

It’s hard to believe, but each time I do the math I come up with the same answer. It has been just over two years since the Great G-bini joined our team. Wow, time really does fly when you’re having fun!

We have a friend and neighbor who used to stop every time she saw me laying out on the lawn with G and ask “What have you learned from him lately?” I thought this was a lovely way to shift the baby dynamic. So often we are in awe of all the amazing things that our children have learned, but we rarely stop to think about what we have learned from them.

G is growing like a weed and learning new things every day. Last night he caught a ball for the first time and sang “Twinkle, twinkle little star” while looking up at the night sky. He loves being outside, and playing cars or blocks or snuggling with Mom while watching Cars.

I am still astounded by how quickly he can learn and grow, and how much I am capable of loving him, even in the midst of “terrible twos”!

Last year, I wrote a post describing the top 10 things I learned from Little G in his first year. I thought I should do the same this year for his second. So, here we go!

Let’s hit it!

The top 10 things I learned from G this year:

10. Always buy the good insurance for your expensive electronic devices. And sturdy covers.
9. Sunshine makes everybody feel better.
8. Dirt is still awesome.

Totally awesome

7. Food is more than a simple source of energy. It is also a toy, an art project, a conversation starter, a power struggle, a remedy for crankiness, a way to express our individuality, and a dangerous projectile.
6. You don’t have to dance well to really enjoy it.
5. Saturday is the best day of the week.

Life is pretty awesome

4. The healing power of touch is amazing, and we never outgrow it. Hugs are important, as are kisses for boo-boos, a supportive back rub, being held by strong arms to chase away night-time anxieties and tickles to make us smile when we haven’t in a while.
3. Everybody loves swings.
2. Clothes matter less than I could have imagined. If it makes you feel awesome, wear it. “Appropriate dress” is best judged by the person doing the wearing, and nobody else.
1. The most ridiculously good-looking person in our house is the one with the biggest smile!

Where else can you find true joy?

Great Hikes for Kids in Northern Colorado

September 14, 2012 at 8:30 am

Hi Everybody! I’m doing my very first guest post today as part of an awesome hiking with kids series on Bring The Kids!

Our kiddo enjoying the Bent Rock Loop in Northern Colorado

Check out my post on the Best Hikes With Kids in Northern Colorado!

If They Can Do It…

July 24, 2012 at 5:38 am

One of my greatest fears before becoming a parent was that MY life would be over the minute our progeny exited my womb. I was sure that we’d never be able to get outside, adventuring, climbing, camping or hiking like we had before. I have heard so many stories from parents over the years that started with “I used to climb all the time, but then we had kids and…” and you know how that sentence ends, right?

Well, it turns out that sentence ends in a lot of different ways for different people. And while we have slowed down a bit over the last year and half, we have still made it outside, been climbing and had lots and lots of adventures since our kiddo arrived.

Mark, G and Liv the doggie hiking back down to tree-line

And there are plenty of other families out there with surprising endings to that sentence. I have found immense inspiration and tons of helpful information from the blogs and websites of other outdoor-loving families. This is why I built an entire Resources Page into the newest version of this blog. And today, many of these bloggers are listing out their favorite sites for stories, stoke and info on adventuring with kiddos in tow, so I thought I’d do the same.

If you’re wishing you could finish that sentence a little differently than you have been, check out all of these awesome parents who have done it too!

  • Active Kids Club – Our mission is simple… We love to have fun outside with our kids, regardless if it is swimming with manatees in Florida, exploring Central Park in New York or just simply being outdoors PLAYING in your own backyard. We try our best to provide you with the best information about simple outdoor ideas, Fresh Air Living (lifestyle) and Cooking with Nature.
  • Adventure Tykes: Little Feet, Big Adventures – Here you will find motivation and inspiration along with hard won experience to help you engage in outdoor activities with your tykes, such as camping, hiking, rock climbing, biking, picnic dinners and outdoor play. Gear reviews on the latest and greatest gear along with giveaways are featured. We hope you find the information beneficial and inspiring, and that you and your tykes get out and explore the great outdoors together.
  • AKontheGO – Our blog was designed to encourage and promote family travel in Alaska. We are, at this time anyway, the only blog/website with a decided emphasis on family travel in Alaska.
  • Backcountry With The Kids – A blog about our family’s attempt to live an active outdoor lifestyle in order to reap the benefits of fresh air, exercise, a close relationship with nature and time with each other. While our trips tend to take us into the backcountry by canoe, we also love hiking, cross-country skiing, climbing, cycling and any other adventures that come our way. Follow along for inspiration, tips, tricks and ideas!
  • Awesome photo from Backcountrywiththekids.com!

  • The Brave Ski Mom – Family skiing tips, unbiased resort and mountain reviews, off-season biking and hiking. We’re a western Colorado family that has seen it all and done a lot. I don’t just share our adventures. I provide information to help you fuel your own adventure — from skiing to parenting.
  • Bring the Kids – A blog that proves that you can still have adventures after you have kids. We love to camp, raft, ski, hike, and climb and love bringing our kids along so they can enjoy these things too!
  • Climb Run Lift Mom – This is a blog about my ongoing journey to be healthier and fitter and sharing that healthy lifestyle with my children as well. It also chronicles my adventures in the great outdoors and how I share the experiences with my children.
  • Cragmama – An online resource for fellow nature enthusiasts that believe starting a family doesn’t mean the end to outdoor adventures!
  • Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies – Have toddler and have not slowed down! This blog seeks to chronicle the joys and challenges of taking kids hiking, camping, backpacking, skiing and all-out exploring in the Canadian Rockies.
  • Love this photo from Family Adventures in the Canadian Rockies!

  • Go Explore Nature – All about connecting kids & families with nature, in your own backyard and beyond. You’ll find everything from tips on bird watching and backyard camping to ideas for backyard nature play. Happy exploring!
  • The Kid Project – This blog is ultimately the product of an ongoing love story and journey. As a family, we want to live an adventure together. We want to play together. We want to live life and grow together. And we are willing to fail most of the time for the times of sweet sweet success. Our goal is to inspire families to get outdoors together, to provide gear reviews [for better or worse], family-friendly locations, posts/interviews from kindred spirits we’ve met along the way and encouragement on the road of parenting.
  • A Little Campy – The Campy Mom’s Guide to Family Camping. From pitching tents to pitching fits. We share camping tips, camping recipes, gear reviews and a lot of laughs. Join us there anytime- around the campfire.
  • Nature For Kids – At the core, we provide encouragement and ideas concerning wholesome outdoor recreation for kids and their parents. But when you break it apart you’ll see lots of photos and a lot of our first hand experiences in the outdoors with our 4 kids, from water and snow sports to biking, hiking, rock climbing and camping. You’ll also see outdoor gear spotlights and giveaways. We like to throw in some outdoor cooking recipes too.
  • A sweet moment from NatureForKids.net!

  • Outsidemom.com – The internet already had “design mom”, “cooking mom”, “coupon mom”, even “tanning mom”. What it needed was “outside mom”. Outsidemom.com is a blog of tips, stories, pictures, activities and random tidbits of information for parents who also love spending time in the outdoors with their families.
  • Skedaddle – Getting the family outside, no matter the weather. Tips on gear, playground reviews in Alaska and articles about making outdoor play accessible to everyone!
  • Tales of a Mountain Mama (Family) – We aim to help inspire families to get outdoors and adventure, even with young children. We share our stories from out on the trails and in the mountains, provide tips and tricks, and welcome feedback from our readers! We also happen to be big believers in the fact that sometimes an investment in great gear is a worthwhile step in helping getting the entire family out. Watch for a diverse make-up of honest gear reviews and giveaways. Finally, we love to feature weekly guest bloggers and experts to round out our own knowledge and experience.
  • Velo Mom – This is the place I share our family bike adventures, highlight inspirational families and kids on bikes, discuss exceptional products, great rides and the latest news.
  • Walk Simply – Our goal is to inspire others to get outside and walk and view the world up close. Topics include: walking and hiking with and without the kids, and is mostly centered in southern California.
  • Kids and Love at WalkSimply.com!

Testing Airplane Travel Advice with an ACTUAL Toddler

June 8, 2012 at 5:25 am

Watching planes while waiting to take off!

Even though G is only a year and a half old, he’s already been on 8 airplane flights, and we’ve got another trip scheduled for the beginning of next month! It’s not that we’re so desperate for travel that we’re dragging our baby back and forth across the country; this is simply the result of a spread-out 21st century family and a lot of work-related frequent flier miles.

I’d love to say that after all of his time in the air, we’ve gotten a system down and things run smoothly. This is absolutely NOT the case. Every time we travel, I work hard on preparing for the task ahead. I look up advice and shop for products on the internet. I carefully consider ways to make travel easier on G and the other airplane passengers. I remember seeing all of those other happy, quiet families on the plane and try to figure out what they did and I did not do. I usually come up with a beautiful plan that should work great – only to be smashed to pieces by the reality of toddlerhood.

So, for all of you parents who have traveled with babies or are considering it in the future, here’s my breakdown of how all that travel advice works with a REAL kid!

Advice: Time the flight to your child’s nap or sleep schedule.

What happens for other people: When those big jet engines roar up, the baby drifts off to sleep and spends a quiet two hours napping in Mom’s lap.
What happened for us: The plane arrives late, and boarding happens a full hour after his usual nap time. Toddler is exhausted and running on adrenaline, causing tantrums and screaming in the airport. Once the plane takes off, he cries for another half hour while we work to get him to sleep. He takes half a nap and wakes up cranky and confused. This results in him throwing goldfish crackers at the people in the row in front of us.

Advice: Try bringing a car seat if your baby sleeps well in one.

What happens for other people: Parents buckle child into seat for a safe and secure flight. Sometimes they jiggle a toy in front of the baby and she laughs playfully. After a few happy minutes of flight, baby drifts off to dreamland for the remainder of the trip.
What happened for us: Baby is so excited about getting on the plane that he refuses to get into his car seat. After some wrestling, we strap him in and he commences howling. Then he discovers that he can reach the seat in front of him with his foot and starts repeatedly kicking the back of the poor woman in front of us. Every time I grab his foot and tell him to stop, he starts screaming. We discuss if it’s better to have one unhappy person getting kicked and a quiet baby, or nobody getting kicked but an entire plane annoyed by the screaming baby. We still haven’t found an answer to that question.

"Ooooo! Plane!!"

Advice: Make sure babies drink during take-off and landing to help clear their ears.

What happens for other people: Mom happily nurses baby during takeoff or a toddler sits and sips on her little pink cup of water. Child is happy and pain free, yey!
What happened for us: This has been an important part of our airplane flights, but rarely goes smoothly. If my baby is tired or sees us putting together the bottle of milk before take-off, he will cry and cry for it. This usually happens as the plane is sitting 12th in line for take-off, and I have passengers giving me dirty looks for denying my baby what he clearly desperately wants. I actually had a woman ask me once “Why don’t you just give him the bottle?” Well, honey, when you can’t take more than 3 oz containers through security, this milk is precious stuff! And I’m going to save it for when he really needs it… 20 minutes from now when we finally get to take off! Also, just a note, if you let your kiddo drink and eat as much as he wants during the flight, getting him to choke down more for landing is NOT easy. Yes, this is the voice of experience speaking.

Advice: Bring lots of healthy snacks.

What happens for other people: After take-off, Mom unveils a reusable container full of organic apple slices! Child squeals with joy and sits happily watching her DVD and munching away.
What happened for us: Well, once we got to the airport two hours early, flew through security, and then had a ton of time to fill before getting on the plane. I revealed the location of the snacks early, and my baby ate them all before the flight. Then there was the previously mentioned trip where he woke up angry and confused from a too-short nap and decided to entertain himself by throwing his snacks at everybody around us. Warning: even organic apple slices can be a dangerous projectile! On our last trip, I was sure I brought enough (soft, not pointy) food for all possibilities, but this time my husband declared all of the snacks to be “for the baby” and refused to eat them. This left HIM cranky and unhappy. Sigh.

Advice: Airplane entertainment options abound!

What happens for other people: Parents buy little baby earphones, and little baby airplane sticker sets, and drawing boards with markers attached, and DVD players, and many other wonderful toys and bags. Kids are so happy to have new things to play with on the plane that they don’t even notice what’s going on around them!
What happened for us: On a normal day at home, my kiddo spends most of his waking hours running around. He loves to “go for walk” which means we go outside and play in the grass or walk over to the playground or throw rocks in puddles. We don’t let him watch TV (he’s less than 2 years old, and our Dr said to avoid it). So, plopping our kid down in front of a DVD player just does NOT work on an airplane. I say “Ooo, G, look, let’s watch Cars!” and he looks at me like I’m bat-@#*~ insane and clearly do not understand how much greater his life would be if I just let him stand on the armrest of his seat again. We can get him to play with toy trucks if he’s allowed to stand on the floor and push them across the seats. MegaBlocks actually worked pretty well on the last flight, until they all got tossed too far away to reach while the seatbelt light was on. Sometimes we can read books with him and sometimes we can play with his squishy-light-up squid thing. But if people really wanted my kid (and every other one on the plane) to be entertained, they’d let us open a window and chuck organic apple slices into the engines!

Entertained by MegaBlocks for a little while

Advice: If all else fails – Benadryl.

What happens for other people: Total baby zonkage.
What happened for us: A low dose resulted in a pretty calm happy kid for two hours of a flight home once. He still crawled all over the floor and generally annoyed the nice man sitting next to us, but there was a lot less screaming. So I tried it on the next flight with a full dose. He conked out nicely and slept for the first hour, and then woke up yowling like a wounded puppy. Ever see David after dentist? We had something very similar for the rest of our three hour flight to Cleveland.

My Advice: Just relax and go with it

You can bring all of the snacks and toys in the world, but the only thing that will really make a difference is your attitude. If you’re freaking out, more than likely, your kids are going to freak out. Though, sometimes, they just freak out anyway. But if you’re happy regardless, at least the people around you can soak in your positive energy.

One thing I refuse to do is apologize for my kid. In an age of high childhood obesity rates and zombified kids playing video games all the time, I’m actually proud of the fact that my child is curious about the plane and people around him, and that he does not like to sit still for three hours. Seriously, who actually enjoys being sedentary for that long? Not me, or my baby.

So, if you’re ever on a flight and you see me running down the aisle after a half-naked and soaking wet toddler with apple slices in his hair, maybe you can smile and laugh with me! Some baby noise during a few short hours of travel isn’t going to kill anybody, and if you get up and play with us, you might actually have a more fun flight!

Happy flying!

My Life in Nine Months at a Time

May 13, 2012 at 7:34 am

G turned 18 months old last month! The transition from 1 year old to 2 year old has been amazing to behold for this guy. He’s talking up a storm, running me in circles, and eating all the food he can get his little hands on.

18 months is a milestone for Mark and I as well. We’ve now been parents for exactly twice as long as the pregnancy. It’s amazing how fast life can change. Based on the lovely post from my friend Anna, here’s a look at how far we’ve come in slightly more than two years!

27 Months Ago

Pregnant in Thailand and I didn't know it yet

18 Months Ago

New Baby G heading home from the hospital

9 Months Ago

Drooly baby hanging out at the crag

And Now!

Now a toddler playing in Vedauwoo!

Happy Mother’s Day to all the awesome Mom’s out there!!

Adorable Climbing Babies

May 1, 2012 at 8:13 am

There is very little in this world that I like more than seeing photos of babies born into adventure. Images of little ones enjoying beautiful wilderness, or rock climbing fun, make me giggly and happy and hopeful for all of our futures. In the last few weeks, I’ve run across some really great ones, and I just had to share!

Our good friends recently welcomed their first daughter into the world, and their amazing newborn photographer Raven Banning got creative with their climbing gear. How awesome is this!

Newborn Climber Baby

Newborn Climber Baby

This is my favorite shot of our little G-man playing with our gear last summer. I was sorting out the Vedauwoo rack (aka WIDE GEAR) before our first trip of the year. Yeah, that cam is as big as he is, and he loves it!

Babies and Big Cams - Love!

Babies and Big Cams - Love!

This little beauty is the daughter of some friends who camped with us in Vedauwoo the summer I was pregnant. She had never seen climbers before. As Mark started getting racked up for the first climb of the morning, she walked right over, grabbed herself some slings, and started getting ready too! Ohmygosh it was so cute!

Climber Baby Ready For Trad!

Climber Baby Ready For Trad!

Do you have any favorite shots of kiddos climbing or enjoying nature? Share in the comments!