31 July 2013

#everydayonabike in June/July

The past two months have zoomed past. In less than a month, school will be back in session and summer will be over.

I've been riding everyday - or almost everyday, as usual. It's been more challenging in the summertime due to travel around the Midwest and western Colorado. And I've been forgetting to take pictures. But a bunch of awesome people have been filling in the holes! It's been so much fun to see everyone's biking pictures over the past seven months. In fact, the #everdayonabike tag now has 415 photos of people on bikes. That's right, we've collected far over 365 photos in a far less than a year. Now I'm wondering if we can collect 800 photos by December this year?!?

I didn't include all of the photos from the past two months. But I did include the highlights:

Making my first Target run by bike (7 miles one way) // Benny's last day of school
Getting prepped for a wedding weekend // Riding in Calgary
A hot, sweaty ride in 100-degree weather // Our first picnic in the park
Jazz in the park on a stormy evening // Riding with a friend in Iowa
Enjoying a kid-free few days // Noticing a fountain for the first time // Making my first grocery run
Enjoying an evening ride // Getting my riding buddy back // Our first visit to the Little Free Library
Benny's birthday extravaganza // Running important errands

Looking at all these pictures is a reminder of how great summer has been! Here are the impressive two-month stats:

115 photos posted // 15 contributors // 35 posted by me // 198 miles (recorded - I think there were more)

And thanks so much to everyone who played along!

@simplybike // @jentown // @bemorelocal // @elissabrodt // @shaggybrownie
amaksymo // @murawski21 // @runbobbierun // @cathope // @ashleynicoleaddison
@thepiripilexicon // @bicyclesinnewcastle // @obc_benson // @timaides // katiesnider

28 July 2013

Celebrating Six

As I've written before, we aren't a family that throws big birthday parties. Mostly because I'm not the greatest at organizing them. But positive outcomes come with hosting small parties including less money spent on the actual party, being able to talk with all the guests, less gifts to deal with and happier kids (especially my kids who don't like a lot of crazy activity).

For Benny's party this year, I wanted to something small but big, if that makes sense. A small party with fun, inexpensive activities. I also wanted to incorporate a bike ride since most of Benny's friends ride now. Here's what we came up with - a Progressive Birthday Party Extravaganza by Bike.
  1. The four of us rode to the local park with all the fixings for a party - sandwiches, juice boxes, cupcakes and balloons.
  2. Four of Benny's friends and their parents met us there. They all rode their bikes.
  3. The kids played and participated in a quick scavenger hunt (they had to find things in the park - like a rock, squirrel, sand, etc., but the kicker was that they had to read the words).
  4. After eating and singing "Happy Birthday," we rode in a big group back to our house.
  5. The kids enjoyed a movie in the yard (Hotel Frankenstein) while the adults enjoyed some conversation time on the deck.
  6. The adults went home after the movie and the kids stuck around for a sleepover.
  7. When the kids woke up (early!) they dined on chocolate chip pancakes.
  8. Benny and I rode everyone home  after breakfast, carting their sleeping bags and clothes home in the Burley.
The party was just what I wanted - small but big. What's more, when I posted to the neighborhood Facebook page that I was planning a movie party for my six-year-old, but didn't have the necessary accessories for such a party, a handful of neighbors responded. One loaned me his 10-ft. outdoor movie screen and another had her husband bring home a projector from work.

When I asked Benny what his favorite parts of the party were, he answered: 1) scavenger hunt, 2) movie and 3) having a sleepover. And the most expensive thing about the whole party: Seven helium balloons.

Happy sixth birthday, Mr. Bear!

18 July 2013

Learning to Parent, One Day at a Time

I have two kids and have been at this parenting thing for nearly six years. And I still have no idea what I'm doing. When I was pregnant with Benny, I had all sorts of expectations of myself: breastfeed for at least a year, use cloth diapers exclusively, feed him only organic homemade food, engage him with age-appropriate activities, write a dissertation, run a marathon....

The reality of having a baby, however, hit almost immediately. The adjustment period was long (and still ongoing) and a tough dose of reality. I only breastfed for three months. I mostly cloth diapered, but used a healthy dose of disposables. I relaxed on food a bit. Benny was nearly two when I finally finished my dissertation. And I haven't run a marathon since he was conceived (but I have run a handful of half-marathons).

The problem with expectations is that when they aren't achieved, it can be disappointing.

My experience with parenting a second child is that there aren't as many expectations. I have goals, but I'm not too hard on myself if I can't achieve them. This has impacted how I parent my first-born child as well.

With Benny, I worried about everything. I worried about when he was walking and when he was talking and how he was socializing. I worried about it so much that it made me nervous and apologetic about things that were completely normal. I wish I had read this a long time ago. With Lila, I've taken a more CTFD approach to parenting. And it's made the whole process more enjoyable - for all of us.

I believe that kids should be kids. They should learn to play by themselves and given the chance to play with each other without intervention (not always the easiest thing). They should be praised, but also disciplined. They should be given opportunities to learn new skills, but they shouldn't be pushed to be the best at something. Above success, I want my kids to be happy. I want them to choose their path, with appropriate guidance from their parents.

I want my kids to have empathy. I want them to play musical instruments. I want them to be healthy and enjoy good food and learn the value (beyond appearance) of exercise (like contemplation and peace). I could care less if they play competitive sports. I would like them to experience and enjoy performance as a productive outlet and important lifelong skill.

In the end, I want them to have healthy self-esteems and good friends. I want them to have a good life. And I think I can give them that without stressing about what school they go to and what extra-activities they are involved in. But I'm going to have to do it one day at a time because I'm learning all of these things as I go.

16 July 2013

My Free Week

Last week I was kid-free, husband-free and car-free. For seven days. In my own house. It was such a strange break from reality. But a welcome one. The Volvo is on the fritz again and Nate had the other car all week. I could have had the Volvo fixed, but figured I could make it the week without it. I was right.

I kept myself busy - seeing friends, working, prepping my summer class, reading and running. On some level, I'm sure I remember the lazy days of not having kids. No wonder I could train for marathons and half-marathons and go backpacking and travel. No wonder I don't ever remember cleaning as much as I do now. Because it wasn't necessary.

Seven days is the longest I've been away from either kid. The thought of being away from them for so long was daunting at first. I even cried when we drove away from Nate's dad's house. But, Nate and I got to spend two kid-free nights together, which was a treat in and of itself.

This week was a nice reminder of the importance of balance in life. It's never good to focus too much energy on one thing because another thing will get forgotten. By the end of the week, I was more than ready to have my family back. But having time to myself was wonderful experience too.

13 July 2013

Into the Wild

Don't worry, this story doesn't start with us selling our car, disappearing from home and eventually dying of starvation in the Alaskan wilderness. Lucky for you, this is a happy story of my return to backpacking - after a seven-year hiatus!

I never intended to take a break from backpacking. I bought a backpack when I started dating Nate, knowing that he was an outdoorsy kind of fella. From 2001-2006 (or thereabouts), we went on one backpacking trip a year. We would have gone on more, but we were living in Iowa and Austin at the time and there weren't many backpacking options in those areas. Often, we would save our summer vacations to drive to Colorado to hike in the Rockies (what a extreme stroke of genius to move here).

Nate has continued to backpack yearly with a group of his friends from college. But we haven't made it a priority to go out together because I've either been pregnant or we didn't have anyone to watch the kids. Now that Lila is older and Nate's dad lives in western Colorado, we had no excuse to leave my pack in the basement closet for the summer.

We drove to an area outside of Ouray and started our ascent immediately. We hiked up a mountain for two miles, crested a pass, and then walked one mile straight down. I wanted to abandon the trip several times, wondering if it was worth all of the trouble. But I talked myself out of it and realized that I needed to get back into fighting shape. As soon as we reached the pass, though, it was all worth it. We looked down on the most picturesque grouping of lakes I'd ever seen - surrounded on all sides by rough and jagged mountains. To say it was breathtaking is a gross understatement.

Hiking down the pass was a bit challenging with a pack on because it was incredibly steep and rocky. But, we made it and set up our tent right before a rainstorm moved in. We ended up eating in the tent because the rainstorm stuck around. As soon as we were about to give up on going outside and enjoying the view, the rain let up. So we explored the area a bit. It was like a scene from The Lord of the Rings, with knobby hills of green and jutting rocks. It's hard not to love life in those situations. And that Nate and I were spending some alone time together just made it better.

I didn't sleep well in the tent, but it seems that I never do any more. And my legs were super sore in the morning. But I was energized and had no problem hiking out of the wilderness. Nate and I are committed to backpacking yearly again. And one day, we'll start backpacking with the kids. Damn, I love this state!

12 July 2013

Epic Summer Vacation, Part 2

The kids and I returned to Denver and rested for about 24 hours before packing the car back up for a trip to western Colorado to see Nate's dad and step mom for the Fourth of July. We left after work on Tuesday and stopped about halfway at what has become our favorite campground in Colorado. The kids are becoming expert campers. They both turn "on" when they're outside.

We took a short hike to a nearby stream and Benny was convinced that we could build a dam. When we deterred him from that activity, he decided that he could re-route the stream by creating some channels. Lila has gotten old enough to understand that getting in the water is a bad idea. So she putzed alongside her brother and collected rocks.

We've settled into a nice schedule when we visit western Colorado: swimming in the hot springs and dining and drinking on a rooftop patio. This year we also checked out the Montrose Fourth of July parade. The kids collected a handful of candy, which made it a success for everyone - despite the heat. Benny entered a rock painting competition and won first-prize for his masterpiece (a flag, of course).

Then Nate and I took a night off to backpack near Ouray. I haven't been backpacking in seven years (!). I'll write a separate post about it, but I'll preview the trip by saying WOW! I can't believe I waited so long to strap a pack to my back and explore.

The kids are staying with their grandparents for a week, so Nate and I got to drive home alone. It was a surprising treat to have the time to talk and snooze. Nate left for his annual boys' backpacking trip yesterday, so I have the rest of the week to myself, which a little like an extended vacation - to spend time in the house by myself.

09 July 2013

Epic Summer Vacation, Part 1

Two weeks ago, the kids and I embarked on a mini-Midwest tour. We picked my mom up on the way. And then we all stayed with my sister and her family in eastern Nebraska. I left the kids and my mom in eastern Nebraska and drove Highway 20 straight into central Iowa for my annual girls' spring break weekend.

Before the festivities began, I got to catch up with S. from Simply Bike and Bobbie from Run Bobbie Run. While I met these ladies through their respective blogs, I am so glad I was able to spend time with them in person. Both ladies are active, healthy moms with lovely personalities. It was also a treat to visit with S. about academia and motherhood and what it all means. There aren't many women in my life who can relate to that. I even got to take a short bike ride with S.

dinner with S. and Bobbie // an #everydayonabike ride with S.
Katie and Jayne in downtown Des Moines // only missing one spring breaker this year

Then off to Des Moines for our wild girls' weekend. Every year, I meet up with three old, dear friends from Iowa State. We used to attach it to spring break vacation because for the longest time, at least one of us was still in school. Between the four of us, we have four bachelor's degrees, two PhDs, one JD, three husbands and five kids! Two of us own our small businesses. One lives in Minneapolis, one lives in San Francisco, one lives in SINGAPORE and I live in Denver (obviously). The fact that we still make it a priority to go on these girls' weekends is impressive and important. This year, we did miss one friend who had just had a baby the week before the trip. It wasn't the same without her there.

When we were younger - before kids and jobs and middle age - we used to party like we were on spring break. Dance and drink and dance. Stay up late, sleep in late. Over the years, our activities have changed a bit. This year, we got massages and pedicures, went out for a nice dinner and then had a drink or two back at the hotel. We still stayed up late, but we mostly just talked. And enjoyed each other and our vastly different lives. We spent Saturday doing just about the same thing, and also included a one-year-old birthday party in the festivities.

I woke up early on Sunday to head back to Nebraska to pick up the kids and my mom. The kids were happy and exhausted from a long weekend of playing with their cousins, swimming nearly everyday and generally enjoying not having a schedule. We made it back to Denver with a full 24 hours to spare before our next big road trip.

02 July 2013

On the Road

I have just returned from vacation. A lovely little road trip with the kids to see friends and family. Last night we unpacked, washed clothes and re-packed to set out on another road trip today to see more family in the opposite direction. It's a lot of driving and traveling, but it will be a good two weeks of relaxing, playing, swimming and doing all the things that make summer, well, summer.

I'll review June's #everydayonabike when I get home. I was able to ride with some great people while on vacation. Until next week...