Thursday, July 29, 2010

Glacier Day 1

Today was our introduction as Briz calls it, "Heaven".  The trail to Hidden Lake was mostly glacier packed and I hiked it in my Tevas.  Snow packed under my feet and it was QUITE refreshing.  The Rocky Mountain Sheep hung out above us on the cliffs, but the goats wandered around us while we hiked.  We collected their shedding fur from the pine trees.  Everywhere one looked a new vista amazed and enchanted.  Briz felt that if he sat for a week and meditated, he'd be translated.

Next on the Mary Falls trail, we encountered deer, the traditional frog catching, toads, tame mice, and a complete view of Juliette's backside.  We harvested Huckleberries as we hiked feeling hunter-gatherish.  The day ended at McKenzie River Steakhouse where Deonne and I tried to decode the amazing house dressing.  A swim at the hotel pool and we are ready for our pack packing adventures tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hiawatha Trail

The Hiawatha Bike trail is a bucket experience.  (One to experience before you kick the bucket.)  FIFTEEN miles of old train tracks turned bike heaven winds through soaring mountains, crosses suspended train tressles, burrows under dozens of tunnels and crosses state lines.  

There is magic in whizing past such landscape without a roof, on your own power.  

The first tunnel is 1 1/2 miles of 40 degree wet, pitch darkness.  Bike lights or headlamps are required.  Creeks run along either side of the tunnel, accidents are common (we watched 3), if you are downed, you could get hypothermia before the rangers could make it in for you.  

Although I had a headlamp, it barely provided enough light for a small circle in front of me.  I was stiff with uncomfort as I wobbled uncertainly through the tunnel.  We had not gone far when I heard a terrified whimper from Little Mother behind me.  "Mom!  my light's gone out!" 
"Come right behind me.  Stay with me."  I commanded.  She whimpered, I checked every minute, "Are you with me?"  After what seemed like forever, when we saw a light in the distance.  When we emerged, Ladybug and Little Mother clamored on my lap.  "That was horrible Mom.  I was frozen and so scared."  We did not dare tell them that when the shuttle brought us back, we would have to travel the tunnel again. 

Greg, Deonne, Alex, Josh, Cody, and Megan joined us on our adventure.  Deonne and I often rode side by side, talking, sharing the beauty, and enjoying each others company. 
Alex and Little mother have been inseperable.  She serves and looks up to him, while he takes excellent care of her, waits while she uses the bathroom, or picks her up when she falls.  

Briz and Sunshine were connected - literally.  And no one felt prouder of their pedaling and achievement than chorteling little Sunshine.  
The trail was complete with ice water at strategic locations, tame chipmunks, stalagtites from the tunnels, and a healthy dose of terror.  We stopped for lunch, drinks, and fun.  
When we arrived, tired yet pleased to the beginning tunnel, I took my tag along and ran for a head start.  I led the group into the pitch black.  Little Mother confidently stated, "I'm not afraid this time.  I've got my mom right here and Alex has my back."  Well, I WAS afraid.  The entire group was following my lead and I felt the responsibility. I longed to look ahead, but saw nothing but blackness that caused me to swerve.   I focused on the small spot of light just ahead of me for that second, trusting it would be enough.  Then as I moved forward, I had just enough light to get through that second.  When I finally emerged with my group safe into the light, my relief was echoed in the sign, "Congratulations!  You've made it to the end of the Hiawatha Trail."

Monday, July 26, 2010

Just what makes a family?

What makes a family?  I’ve pondered this question ever since we discovered we could not bear children of our own.  What is the mysterious essence that makes family?  Our culture tells us family is everything… that no other success will make up for its failure.  We spend hours researching family trees, telling stories, and reading books all to strengthen “the family”. 
 If shared eye color or a reoccurring crooked toe are all it takes to make a family, Briz and I were sentenced by nature to a family less existence.   We decided to take a gamble… a leap of sorts to see if we could create a family without tree lines, or a super close genetic pool.   We theorized that love would pull us together into a family unit.  I wanted to experiment on the idea that love didn’t automatically brew in the blood or womb, but was consciously decided in the brain. 
The five of us couldn’t be more different.  We like different things, we have different temperaments, and we don’t look alike, yet the decision to love binds us together strong enough to inspire sleepless nights, and exhausted days. 
We drove through God’s country to the secluded farmhouse late at night.  We let ourselves in and walked into the kitchen.  The men sat around the T.V.  and silently stared at us for an uncomfortably long time.  “Can you take us to our trailer?”  I ask.  The white haired gentleman in overalls rose and silently walked us outside.   On the way out, Jeni and Doreen met us at the door.  Ladybug, this is Jeni.  Recognition filled her face with a slow smile.  She offered a long hug.  After tucking the children, I sat awake and hoped we were doing the right thing joining in Ladybug’s birth family reunion.  How would the next 2 days go?  How could we spend 48 hours with people we’d never even met?  I remembered that family has thus far been a conscious decision for us.  It would be so again.  Where there is love there is no fear.
We woke to family… family… and more family.  11 children, spouses, grandchildren, many married with children of their own converged on the yard the next morning.   
A quick walk through the hay field and we were hiking in the national forest.  Conversations with the teen boys showed them to be bright, kind, and sensitive.  We found we all shared a love of fossil hunting.  Within the next few hours, each little girl was clustered into a group of “cousins” their age.  
Water games, crafts, cooking lessons, ping pong, bike rides, and the coveted raffles kept them busy without so much as a peep for 2 days.  
I dove into the family reunion reserving nothing of myself for safety.  I anxiously engaged each person who crossed my path.  Not surprisingly, I didn’t meet a soul I didn’t like.  I sorrowed for those with difficulties such as cancer or harder things; I celebrated with the newly engaged.   
I warmed at the sight of Grandpa Rex in his farmer’s hat as he smiled his slow sweet smile.   I learned the secrets of candy success from Grandma Doreen. We were inducted into the family secrets of 2 year old dried marshmallows. 
I not only allowed Ladybug contact with Jeni and her new husband, I tried to create opportunities for it.  “After all” I told myself, “I am in the parenting business for the good of these little ones, not for my own glorification.”  Ladybug had many questions, for me… and for her.  I warmed at the joy with which her blood “family” greeted her and all associated with her.  

Our two days ended too soon.  “You’re just a part of the family.” Doreen told us.  “Please come to our next one,” said some teen aged girls, “You’re one of us now.”  Many E-mails and phone numbers were exchanged along with promises to meet for lunch.  We drove off amid tears and hugs. 
Family seems to be more than chance.  Added to the shared experience and similarities is an acceptance, a stretching and growing that stresses inclusion.  I can’t help but notice…in permitting Ladybug’s family circle to grow, we expanded our own.  Love is always the right choice.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


When I was young, our cousins were our closest and most long lived friends.  Each Sunday was spent at Grandma's or Nana's and the cousins would gather often.  We grew up together.  The only girl cousin my age lived in Texas.  With eager anticipation, I awaited for news of their annual summer visit.  Besides countless family parties, we always got at least one sleep over where secrets were shared, trouble was caused and bonds were made.  The Texas cousins always seemed so much more worldly wise than us little country bumpkins.  I held them in a bit of admiration.  The only flaw that marred their visit was that in their presence we were relegated into second class grand kids, and nieces.  We were certain that they were the favored ones, because we all, grandparents and uncles, doted on them. 

Memories flooded back as this week, Little Mother's special cousin, Seena came to stay.  As a mother, I am frustrated with my little one's late night giggling, constant requests for special favors and activities, and desires to impress her California cousin with her worldliness.   However, I do remember.  Every moment.  They prepared for the visit with several hour long phone calls in which they discussed everything from what they wanted to be when they grew up to the current temperament of their siblings.  Seena is gone now, but I am certain, that like my cousins, she will remain an indelible part of Little Mother's childhood.

I saw and spoke with my special Texas cousin at a reunion this last weekend.  I don't know her life struggles or successes.  We lost contact a few years after she married.  I hug her.  I still see her in there.  My heart is warm with shared years, with my anticipation and my admiration. 

We exchange information and a hope that we can reconnect.  I wonder if something similar will happen to my two little cousins who swear they are twins separated at birth.     I hope their relationship will carry them through the tough things ahead.  I hope that even when they realize that they are really different that they still love each other...Cousins. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Perfect Day

It was going to be the kind of day that made the strong, weak in the knees.  So much to be accomplished, the list alone was enough to pop my head back under the covers in defeat. 

I needed help.  My 9 year old and 5 year old struggled to accomplish their own chores.  How would they respond to my request for extra.  It's also summer.  They need adventures.  So I made a simple list... on one side, the work that needed to be accomplished, on the other, 3 simple adventures I could incorporate into my own requirements. 

1.  Go to the $ store to pick up matching flip flops to decorate with her favorite cousin. (I needed to go to the salon next door for eyebrow waxing)
2.  Pick up a movie at Redbox (by where I pick up my Rx and few groceries we need), watch it with popcorn (while I iron and they fold socks)
3.  Take a bike ride to get a special treat. (To all of the above places).

The two not at girl's camp, marked off their lists one by one till it was time for our first adventure.

As we faced the mostly uphill ride for our errands, little Sunshine's feet pedaled faster and faster, 20 times to my one as she worked her miniature bike without gears.  "I can do it mom.  I ran the mile.  Emily can do it.  I can too."  She wobbled in and out, crashed once on grass, once on a light pole, and once on the sidewalk.   The sergeant's voice that sometimes escapes my throat, barks, "On the right! On the right!  Look up!  Look Up!  Stop!  Hey.  That's a car!  No more tricks.  Keep your feet on the pedals, not the handlebars or you'll never ride with me again!"  Now I know I parents bark from fear.  Well, take a look at my demonic dare devil who has only been riding 1 month.  I'm scared.

After our errands are complete, we pick our favorite treats and stop at the town fountain to munch.  We are hot so we cool off a bit.  Their heads rest on my shoulders.  We coast all the way home, our backpacks filled with groceries.

We work.

We watch Hatchi and cry over our folded socks and crisp colors.  They eat popcorn in cute containers.

We work.

We go out to eat at Chic Fill A  Kid's eat Free night.

"This is the luckiest day we've ever had." says Sunshine.

"You mean this summer?"  I query.

"No.  Ever."

We work till 9:00 p.m. I'm exhausted.

The disastrous basement that has been staring at us for 6 months is walkable.  The laundry is all done and pressed.  More wheat bread is made and delivered.  The girl's chores are complete.  Little Mother winds the cord around the vacuum.  "I feel awesome!  Don't you feel awsome Mom?" 

The day after was a complete party.  Swimming, one friend after another, special treats.... Sunshine declared it was a lucky day.  "But not as lucky as yesterday."

Why was yesterday so special I wonder?    I had a major "ah ha".  We protect our children too much...from hard work, from responsibility, from tasks that encourage independence.  1.The joy of biking, feeling the wind in your hair, zooming along from your own power coupled with the knowledge that YOU are capable of getting important places, that you need not be dependent on parents is heady stuff.  It must have been like riding your horse to town when they did that kind of thing. 2."It was a girl day."  said Sunshine.  They loved being with me all day.  Even when I got bossy and sharp.  3.  They felt the pleasure of completeing a ginormous task and witnessing the efforts of our labor.  

Accomplishment.  Joy.  Burgeoning Independence.