Friday is the first day of summer but it feels like we've been in full swing for at least a month! We've been cramming picnics, farm trips, shorts and tees, lemonade, butterfly catching, gardening and every bit of summer fun we can into every sunny day we've had so far. What have YOU been up these sunshiney days?
You guys, I'm super excited about this Herb Fairies Book Club I just signed up for, but I feel so bad because the sign up period has already closed! I found out about it just before it closed and only barely got in in time, otherwise I totally would've mentioned it on here earlier. But it will open up again next April, so bookmark it, or pin it, or whatever, because it looks awesome!
These sunny days have gotten me SO excited to be outside on a regular basis. Isn't it amazing how a little sunlight and fresh air can lift your spirits? I love the way the kids' hair smells after they've been playing outside, like sunshine and grass and leaves. I checked out a few books at the library about things to do with your kids outside. Of course, just being outside is usually enough. Kids will find plenty to do. But, I thought it would be nice for me to have some activities in mind to inspire ME to get out the door and into the green. Particularly because we live in an urban area I sometimes feel less than inspired to get outside, but after perusing these books I've got a whole list of fun ideas. The last book is my favorite:)
One morning I looked out my bedroom window to see a a robin flying back and forth, busily piling twigs, straw, and um, a paper straw wrapper(?) into the crook of a tree. We decided she might like some prettier, snuglier material to work with so we picked some various yarns from my stash and snipped little bits off to hang in a nearby tree. (I love this idea for a bird helper.)
It was amazing to watch her construct her nest, a little feathered engineer, carefully crafting this beautiful, sturdy bowl, so perfectly shaped. Isn't it awe-inspiring how an animal can know how to do something like that?
We've tried to give her her space, she gets very nervous even when I walk through the backyard to feed our chickens. Sam has been great about steering clear of the tree so as not to scare her. (The close up nest pictures were taken with my zoom lens.)
The thing that's most touched me is what a dedicated mama she is. We had an unusually rainy spring and whenever I'd dash outside in the drizzle to feed the chickens, there she would be, stoically fitted into her nest, keeping those eggs warm and dry. Look how her cute tail feathers stick up like that; I just love her!
Sam has found the whole thing quite magical and it's led to lots of wonderful discussions about birds, eggs, springtime, babies, animals etc. I love that we can peek out through the back window without disturbing her to watch the whole process unfold. As usual, seeing things through Sam's eyes has helped me remember just how magical springtime is.
Sam is still crazy about bugs. I love how enthusiastic he is about life in general, but the great outdoors in particular. I find myself being amazed anew as we look at things like dried rose hips on the neighbor's bushes or the beautiful striations on a grasshopper's legs.
I've been reading Last Child in the Woods , and looking forward to a day when Sam has much more wilderness to roam than the mere 1/10th acre we currently live on. However, there's also much to be said for finding and celebrating the wildness in your own backyard or neighborhood. Sam, being as small as he is, doesn't really need all that much of a yard, and given my slacking off in the gardening department, it's plenty wild!
I think more than where you are and how much land you have, the attitude with which you approach nature and exploration are more important in instilling a love of nature in your kids. We really try and encourage Sam to be hands on, inquisitive and respectful of nature. He really doesn't need much encouragement though; he's been in love with the outdoors since day one. What this looks like on a daily basis is picking up dried seed pods at the park, dissecting them and talking about how trees grow, pointing out hovering dragonflies and nesting birds, watching the ants in the sidewalk cracks, digging worms in the front yard, collecting leaves and sticks and reading books (he prefers grown up guide books with real photographs).
We've found that there's plenty of nature here in the city when you look for it, especially when you look with the wide and curious eyes of a two year old, that never miss anything!
This is a beautiful post from Jessica of Seed Pod Craft (I'm still waiting for a spare moment to make my Sweet Pod! It's next on my list after Vivian's blessing dress...). She also shares a sadder part of their trip on her own blog. That's one of the things about getting out in the thick of nature; it's wild and beautiful, but sometimes the wild parts can be sad as well. I wrote to Jessica about my own strong memories from childhood, both of watching our mother cat give birth and also of finding a little kitten that had frozen to death. Those were extremely powerful, formative experiences for me. I'm reading Last Child in the Woods right now and the author talks a lot about the importance of not experiencing only the sanitized version of nature and animals, but the whole circle, life and death. It's hard, but important, and beautiful in its own way.
We left at the crack of dawn with a 6 1/2 hour drive ahead of us. It was a rather uneventful drive. We started listening to the Oliver Twist audio book (we couldn’t survive road trips without audio books, I tell ya) and made several potty stops as we had an unfortunate stomach funk making the rounds through the family. Poor Logan was throwing up the night before and I was feeling pretty yucky as we drove. Colorado is a beautiful place though, and as we closed in on the San Juan mountains I couldn’t believe how jagged and beautiful they were. The towering clouds that formed over the mountains were amazing to me. I wish I had taken pictures, but I was waiting for my 24 hrs of queasiness to be over.
We camped that night in what Barry read was the most scenic campground in Colorado. It’s right on Molas Lake right outside of Silverton, CO. Scenic it was– and cold and rainy.
The next morning we got up early to pack our llama packs. With all of our stuff laid out on the tarp we could see, and hear, the wall of weather coming toward us. We hurriedly broke down tents and stowed everything in the van before the torrent began. We had to postpone our 8 o’clock meeting with the llama guys until the downpour let up.
At about 10 the rain let up to a drizzle. Barry used their garage to finish packing where it was dry and llama guy Mark showed me the ins and outs of llama saddling. I loved those llamas. I’m just an animal lover to the core. I remember watching my grandpa groom and saddle his horses as a little girl wanting so bad to be a part of the care taking, but too shy or self conscious to ask. It’s kind of silly, but strapping the saddles on the llamas was like living out that childhood wish. They were good boys, those llamas. Turk was the white one, Two Socks the dark one in the middle, and Tecate the big guy in the foreground.
The men hooked the trailer to the van, I put the llamas in the trailer and we were headed to the trail head.
The drizzle stopped when we got there. It stayed pretty cloudy as we hiked, but not another drop fell!
Llamas can carry up to 80 lbs. We didn’t have them loaded down that heavy and they were ready to walk as quickly as we’d let them. Unfortunately I had to be a pack animal too so that Hunter had a way to get up the trail. Truth be told, I was not nearly as cheerful a packer as the llamas were. I just couldn’t get comfortable and felt so off balance because with a kid in a hiking pack all of their weight is at the top of the pack so you feel it on your shoulders. No matter how I adjusted I couldn’t get all the weight down on my hips. I seriously think I may have been more comfortable with a SweetPod because the baby sits low and most of the weight is on the wearer’s hips. Anyway, enough of my whining. It was a beautiful hike, which I can say cheerfully now that I’m looking at the photos and not actually doing it.
It was really steep though. We gained about 1800 feet of elevation in a little over 2 miles. Switchback after switchback, one foot in front of the other.
The kids were great. Brenna tended to hang back with me, but Jonah can just motor on and keep up with whoever there is to keep up with. The llamas were great too. They were great followers no matter who was leading. We let the kids take turns leading all three, we separated them a few times so they could each have one, and Barry led them all on the really steep parts. They were definitely my favorite part of the hike.
After climbing up and up and up we got to this little basin and set up camp.
It really couldn’t have been more beautiful. We had a little meadow to stake the llamas out in and big logs to sit on surrounding our camp fire. Hunter loved just sitting in the dirt and scooping it up into his lap and wrapping little sticks with leaves.
He wrapped this stick in a leaf so intently he didn’t even notice me nearby with the camera. He’d get the stick covered and say, “Bup. Bup.” (which is how he says “wrap up”) over and over. He was incredibly dirty, but incredibly happy the whole time.
If I were to do it again I would definitely invest in some kind of packable toilet. Digging holes for 5 kids is a lot of work, pretty gross work when you’ve got a stomach thing working its way through the family. I’d probably just get one of these seat lids that fit on a bucket and several bags. The bucket could just have stuff packed in it and would fit in a llama pack no problem. We packed out plenty of poop as it was because our potty learning Ian just could not relax enough to go in a hole. Both he and Hunter were in disposable Pull-ups or diapers the whole time.
I’d also find a roll up table and pack some food in a cooler. I had no idea we could bring a cooler if we had wanted to, having been trained well by my parents to pack lightly for backpacking trips. The luxury of llamas is that you can bring stuff– even real food if you want. So, if you’re ever crazy enough to try this bring milk! Bring lettuce! Hey, you could even have ice cream!
I would remember card games. Doh!
Another thing– I’d check the weather better. We were in much higher mountains than I had backpacked in when I was a kid living in Idaho. Idaho is pretty dry and gets warm during the day. Colorado is cooler and wetter up in the mountains. We were fine (you don’t go through too many clothes when you don’t ever take off enough clothes to change your underwear, which was the case with all of the males I did not personally have to diaper and clothe I found out as I went through things to do laundry when we got home. Gross.), but an extra sweatshirt and maybe even long johns for everyone would have been nice.
So, that’s the first half of our trip. I honestly didn’t like lugging a baby up a mountain, but it sure felt good to take him off my back in the heart of pristine wilderness, set up camp, watch the llamas chomp to their hearts’ content, and see how happy my children felt about doing something so hard and being somewhere so beautiful.
This is a fun post from Rachel at A Closet of Her Own. It reminded me of this post I did quite some time ago (I can't believe what a baby Sam is in that picture!). SimpleMom also did a great post about why you might want to actually let your kids get dirty. I'm all for it, as you can see in this photo (that's me several decades ago!)
“I want to touch the earth, I want to break it in my hands, I want to grow something wild and unruly,” croon the women of one of my favorite singing groups, The Dixie Chicks. I hum this song to myself often as I watch my young kids scooping up piles of dark earth, just for the fun of it.
One of my kids’ favorite activities is playing in the
dirt. They love it so much that we have
yet to actually landscape the section of our front yard specifically meant for
landscaping – that little island of dirt nestled between the driveway, the
sidewalk leading to the front door, and the house. We meant to fill it with bushes and flowers a
few years ago, but our little ones just had so much fun playing in it as we
landscaped the opposite side of the front yard that we just decided to leave
the dirt alone for the rest of that year.
And then the next. And then we got an awesome 8x8 feet, one-foot-deep sand-box in the back yard, with the intent of landscaping the remainder of the front yard once the kids had a nice replacement digging area. But although they do love the sandbox and play in it regularly, they still love to play in the front dirt-area even more. And so it remains.
Some days they haul the trucks out from the sandbox and do all sorts of construction projects and road building in the dirt. Other days, they mess around with the small pile of leftover bricks, stacking them or arranging them. Other times they pretend to plant gardens or put in landscaping.
But most days, they just prefer to dig in the dirt. We used to have a few kid-sized metal
garden-shovels but only one is still in working order, so my two kids take
turns with that and alternatively a snow shovel, which they like for smoothing
out the dirt. They also have some
smaller shovels and tools for digging, too.
They simply love making – and then moving – piles of dirt. And sometimes they just prefer to take turns
diving into the dirt – full body flops designed to make mom exclaim “You are
filthy from head to toe!”
For whatever reason, they love to connect with the dirt. I think that a large part of it is the chance to use their muscles. It is nice, hard work to dig down and scoop up and move around that dirt. I’ve noticed that in the winter months when we are more cooped up indoors, they love to simply move around furniture or toys. Just continuously move it around – they seem to need to keep their muscles in motion.
I also think that it feels genuine to them. They see their parents and other adults working in the yard, in the garden, in the dirt. When they dig in the dirt, they are participating in those activities, too.
And I think they just plain also like the feel of dirt. They like to break it in their hands and feel
the wild and unruly energy of the earth course into them. And so, I share their love of dirt with all
of you, in the hopes that you will be inspired to help your own little ones
find a plot of dirt (either at home or somewhere else) that they can dig their
hands into. It’s so much fun!
Well, thank goodness Abbey sent me that beautiful baby quilt because as happy as I am with this one, it certainly wouldn't pass for a baby quilt! I was feeling bad that I hadn't made Vivi her own quilt so I said to myself, "Well, this quilt will be in honor of Vivian and I'll make it extra girly." But, in the end, it was still a big grownup quilt with pretty flowers on it. And that's okay too. I'm sure she'll enjoy plenty of afternoons in the sun and picnics and tea parties on it some day.
I wanted something light colored and lightweight for summer, but still rugged enough to haul up the canyon for picnics. The solutions was large patches (+12" square) of pretty vintage sheets, tied onto an old cotton blanket with no batting. It's just the right thickness and I don't have to worry about the pretty fabric on top getting yucky because the back is a heavy woven, tan material, perfect for putting down on dew damp grass, sandy beaches or the backyard.
We took it out for a test drive for Clay's Father's Day picnic and mini-hike and it made the whole affair seem much more festive to be eating on such a pretty "table." I'm envisioning plenty more backyard picnics.
The other morning Sam and I met up with the rest of the learning co-op at Red Butte Garden for a field trip, wrapping up our month of nature lessons. I was surprised at how long we were able to spend meandering through the paths with a gaggle of little ones. They LOVED exploring the paths and plants. At the end we spent some time in the children's garden where they were able to get thoroughly soaked in the fountain, climb on enormous lizard statues and crawl inside vine-covered houses. It is a really magical place- for kids and grownups. Then, as if the day weren't lovely enough already, I dropped Sam off at his aunt's house and went and had the most blissful prenatal massage of my life! Ooh, just thinking about it makes me go all squishy and relaxed again... I had a few massages when I was pregnant with Sam, and they were good. I mean, it's hard to go wrong with a massage, especially when you're pregnant and achy. But this was in a whole separate category of its own. Rebecca Overson (remember her beautiful birth story?) has a peaceful little office just around the corner from my house where she works muscle magic. The thing that made her massage different is that I could just tell that she had been pregnant before. She just knew exactly where the sore spots were and how to work them out. Oh, and the coolest thing? I got to lay on my stomach! That alone was practically worth it. I havn't laid on my stomach for months, and it's one of those random things you miss. But she has these special adjustable pillows so you can lay all supported and face down.
I'm such a believer in taking time for Mom. I was so sweet to Sam and Clay after having a little pampering myself. And it doesn't always have to be something like going out and getting a massage (but sometimes, it does!), a quiet walk, half an hour with a book or in a bubble bath, these go a long way to restoring balanace and sanity and making me feel human again. But, if you're preggie right now, a few massages from someone who knows about pregnancy aches and pains, are just what the doctor ordered! And seriously, if you have a pregnant friend, forget the cute baby clothes, toys etc. Just get her a certificate for a prenatal massage. You will be her best friend! I think Rebecca even has a few specials going on right now, including a new client special. You can also get credit toward your own massage if you refer friends (doesn't everyone know at least have a dozen pregnant ladies?).
The editor of Simple Mom has a new addition to her family, so a bunch of the Simple Media contributors (Simple Organic, Simple Homeschool, Simple Bites etc.) have pitched in to do some guest posts and give her a little break. That's who I stole the idea from:) Today I have a post up about making family camping more manageable, so you'll want to do it more often. Check it out and start planning some trips!
Last weekend we went up to some friends' cabin for the day. It was only about an hour and half outside the city, and we just spent the day there, but I felt so rejuvenated after being out in so much green, away from the traffic and background noise of the city. It was so lovely to just slip away briefly and enjoy the companionship of good friends and beautiful scenery.
Sam is practically a little wild animal himself; he'd gladly live outside if I let him. He was in his glory; throwing rocks, poking sticks down animal holes, collecting pine cones, spotting animals, and just being in his element. Every time I get out for a hike, I'm reminded of how much I love it and how important it is for our emotional and physical well-being. And each time I recommit to going more often. I recently picked up a book with a bunch of kid-friendly hikes in Utah. I hereby commit to use it regularly this summer!
After some serious rock-into-river throwing, marshmallow roasting and a partial hike, Sam was pretty tuckered out, and decided to take a little snooze atop Dad's shoulders. Luckily he woke up in time to see the snake!
I didn't even know that regular snakes swim in the water, but here was this little guy taking a splash through the algae. Both dads made valiant efforts to catch him, even braving stinging nettles. They were eventually successful, much to Sam's excitement.
How much richer can life get than touching your very first snake in the great outdoors? Sam is so in love with anything that creeps or crawls. Later, looking at these pictures, I asked him, "How did that snake feel?" His response was so sweet. "It was sad, Mom." When I asked him why it was sad he said, "Because it missed its mom." Talk about a heart squeeze!
I'm already looking forward to our next outdoor adventure!
A week or two ago, Clay and Sam started building a bug box one day after work. It only got about halfway finished before it was time to come inside, so Clay ended up finishing (and redesigning) it as a birthday present. Of course, he can never make anything ordinary, so this one has more of a Gothic shaped peak on the ends and a little door set into rails that slides up. It's pretty rad. But, for those of us with less ambition, it would be so easy to just cut two "U" shaped pieces (or house shapes) and nail them onto the ends of a rectangle. You'd want to cut out a round hole in one first and you could just cut out another round piece of wood, slightly bigger than the hole, and nail it over the hole such that it could be swung in either direction to open the door. Then staple screen around the top. Ta-da! A bug box! I like it because Sam loves it, but also because it keeps the bugs a little safer from his eager fingers, although he is getting much better and being gentle and not squishing now.
We took the bug box (and the new wagon) out for a test run Sunday morning before church. We kept our eyes peeled for bugs and Sam looked fearlessly in all places, including reaching elbow deep into a hollow tree.
We found two Box Elder Beetles, his favorite, and saw some flying bugs that were too quick to catch. We even saw a bird's nest! After admiring them for awhile we let them go; Sam thought the shaking them out of the box part was quite exciting as well.
I love sharing and exploring with Sam. He's at an age where he teaches us just as much as we teach him. This hike he taught us not to be in a hurry:) We travel significantly slower when accompanied by a toddler on foot, but you know, I probably would've missed the bird's nest if I'd been cruising along at my regular pace.
Every winter I worry in the back of my mind, "Maybe this is the year spring won't come!" Okay, logically I know that's pretty unlikely, but sometimes the arrival of spring seems like such a miraculous thing and winter just seems to dig in its heels so hard, and I do wonder if spring will ever come. But finally, I've been seeing some signs!
Bare feet in the warm soil is a sure sign of changing seasons!The firewood Clay laboriously chopped at the cabin, brought home, and stacked on the patio has been steadily dwindling; I made my last fire the other day. Thankfully the mornings have been warm enough now that I haven't missed the daily fires burning in the stove. And the final harvest of last year's crops means it's time to make room for new ones! We let some of our carrots winter over, hoping to get some of the "candy carrots" that Elliot Coleman talks about. They are definitely sweet and crisp. And it was so fun to have something edible to dig up when the urge to be out rooting around in the soil struck.
We even had some volunteer New Zealand Spinach up and ready! Love those optimistic little guys. And, of course, the classic sign of spring: the freak snowstorm! This happened only a couple of days after the barefot-in-the-garden day. Luckily it was just a minor setback, turning to rain and puddles by the afternoon, and spring has continued to plug along, bringing us warmer and warmer, bright and sunny days.
And yes, green things are finally beginning to tentatively and bravely poke their pointy green hats out of the soil! The brave bulbs, always the first to test the air, are the surest sign that spring is, indeed, on its way.
Skiing nearly every day had me feeling so very alive! Tingling with the cold on my face, the blood pumping as we glided silently through the fields and trees. Something about the air up there just cures what ails you!
On one trip we headed up a trail and then came down the other side of the mountain, in untouched, powdery snow, dodging sage bushes peeking up through the drifts. As our skis rolled over the bushes, the leaves released the most delicious, fresh, herb-y scent; it was heaven.
Several times when I got back to the cabin, I noticed Jack Frost had done a little number on my hair...
His artistry was everywhere; the glittering snow, the feathered crystals covering each stalk of grass peeking above the snow, and the fanciful curlicues decorating the steamy kitchen windows each morning.
Back in the city, the memory of those wide open spaces and fresh, clear air is still bright in my mind. Whatever medicine is in that air is certainly still doing me good!
There are these berry bushes that grow all over the peninsula. In the winter their bare branches and bright, red berries provide welcome splashes of cheery color along the roadside. With the house getting its fresh coat of white paint, it seemed a little holiday color was in order. Clay picked up some wire and hot glue and Dan, Sam and I headed out to hunt berry branches.
There's an especially thick patch on the side of the road behind my parents' house. So we bundled Sam into a wheelbarrow and set out to gather the branches for wreaths.
We clipped a huge pile and carried them home in the wheelbarrow.
We also gathered a few fallen sticks from a tree in the front yard to make frames. I decided to make a square wreath, both because I thought it would look cool and because it seemed like a pretty easy shape for an amateur to start with.
I wired the corners together and then started covering them with the bright red berry branches.
It was pretty straight forward; I just kept laying down more branches until I got the bushiness I wanted and then kept moving around the frame.
It turned out sweet and rustic looking, kind of like the old farmhouse. We made one for my uncle down the road and dropped it off, hanging it on his doorknob; a bright spot of cheer to welcome him home as he turns down his long driveway. As we were walking through the woods I started looking at all sorts of things as potential wreath material; tall golden grasses, moss and old man's beard lichen, red dogwood branches. Look around your own yard, I bet you'll find something just perfect for a holiday wreath too!
Sam and I went on a beautiful fall hike with my friend Rachel and her dog Samson. I used to hike Stuarts Falls all the time when I was in college, but it's been quite a few years since I've ventured that way. It was just as beautiful and refreshing as I remembered.
This hike was extra special because I had the world's sweetest hiking companion. This was Sam's very first hike and he proved to be a natural. If this picture had sound you would hear him singing, "(h)iking, 'iking, 'iking..."
The leaves were just beginning to turn and you could smell that distinct, rich, woodsy dry leaf smell. I love that smell!
It had been so long since I'd been out hiking and I just felt joy at being outside in the elements. It was as if all my senses were heightened; the smells were richer, the colors brighter, the air fresher. I feel so lucky to live in such a beautiful area!
90% of this hike is perfect for toddlers. The path meanders through the woods, through aspen groves, up and down gentle hills and across fields scattered with boulders. Sam insisted on walking as much as possible. We did put him in the backpack for the beginning and end where it's steep. But otherwise he marched along, happy as can be.
He had his fair share of spills, but handled it like a regular tough guy. I barely had time to kiss the boo-boo before he was off again.
It has got to be so nourishing for the body and soul to be out of doors, feeling the dirt and the wind on your skin, discovering things great and small. Sam spotted birds, trees, rocks, flowers, dogs, horses, leaves, and bugs. Most of these things were touched, investigated and oftentimes tasted.
It's amazing what you notice when aided by a pair of fresh little eyes. I would've missed the mountain blue bird, the ancient whorls and knots in the trees and the intricate geometry of this flower if not for Sam and his enthusiastic exclamations. Thank goodness for eager hikers and an infinitely explorable world.
I was just tickled to find this little stand. It reminded me so much of a place we used to get milk growing up. You just walk in and help yourself to the cooler and place your money and a piece of paper telling what you bought, in a cash box.
It was heartwarming to engage in such a simple, trust-based transaction. And I love supporting this local farm. It's right in the middle of the city, not downtown, but definitely in a part of town that you'd still call a city. Driving down a four lane road you make a turn onto a little dirt road that's easy to miss. All of a sudden you're driving under arching trees and leaving a plume of dust behind you. The city feels miles away as you round the corner and see ramshackle sheds, frolicking goats and men in tall boots tossing hay.
Drake's slogan is "Where every goat has a name." And I believe it, look how friendly these goats are! They just seemed like the happiest, most loved critters.
Sam was in heaven and when these two goats started dancing around trying to eat the leaves off the tree he just dissolved into a fit of giggles.
We got a gallon of raw milk and a little container of yogurt with live enzymes so we can try making our own!
To our little family, Memory Park is aptly named indeed. It's where Clayton proposed and where we gathered as a family for a pre-wedding breakfast picnic. When we lived in Salt Lake a couple years ago (before we moved to Maine for a year), we lived within walking distance of the park and hardly a day went by that we didn't stroll through it.
It's nestled in a ravine with the mountains rising up on both sides. The "formal" area of the park is immaculately kept with a beautiful rotunda, pond and charming footbridge. But what I love is that you can follow the stone path to the edge of the woods where it turns into a dirt foot path that accompanies the river up into the hills.
In some places the path forks, only to rejoin the main path a bit farther down. There are stone steps, old ruins, and stone foundations of pioneer houses. It was sitting on the edge of some of these stones, in a little cluster of trees that Clay proposed. And I said yes, of course I said yes.
We found some wild plums, which Sam loved. He got pretty good at spitting out the pits; I think he only swallowed two...
One of Sam's favorite things is gathering and throwing rocks. Anywhere we go he's sure to spot a rock and pick it up. He was in heaven tromping through the rock-riddled woods. Along the path there's a rock foot that's been there as long as I can remember, several years at least. I'm sure the toes come loose now and again and it pleases me that people always replace them. I love spontaneous, quirky things like this.
Clay and his dad spent hours on the lake together. They'd get up early in the morning and sometimes be back before Sam and I were even awake. I think it was a real treat for them to spend some one-on-one time together. They caught so many fish (five or six altogether, I think) that the whole lot of us were able to have a fish feast one night! The next day we mixed up the leftovers with mayo and dill and ate it on toast triangles.
Sam and I joined them on an afternoon trip. I cast out a line a few
times, but (thankfully!) didn’t get a bite. Most of the time I was trying to keep Sam in the boat! Eventually he fell asleep with the help of a little milk and the gentle rocking of the boat.
I really appreciated the opportunity to see the whole cycle of dinner
from the source to the plate.
The whole thing made me think about people who settled the west and who had to go through this whole process every time they wanted fish for dinner. It must have been a much more precious commodity! Instead of just a quick trip to Whole Foods, it would have meant time in a boat or by the river, cleaning and preparing the fish, several hours of work altogether, plus the emotional element of having to kill it yourself. When you think about that, it seems like meat ought to be a lot more expensive than it is. And if we were all responsible for procuring our own meat, we’d likely eat it much less often, and appreciate it much more.
We spent a glorious week at Clay's family's cabin in West Yellowstone. What I love about their cabin is that everything is designed around family togetherness; it's not fancy by any means, but the kitchen is huge with plenty of mismatched dishes and huge bowls for tossing salads for fifteen. The couches are old and saggy, but perfect for little ones to jump on or for watching old movies on. The walls are covered with family pictures, handmade crafts, grandma-made cross stitches and a framed list of cabin rules by Sam's great grandpa. The whole place is just saturated with memories and comfortableness. We all took a deep breath of clean mountain air as soon as we stepped out of the car and just kept on breathing deeply the whole week long.
Some favorite memories:
:: Swimming in the Fire Hole River
:: Lazing about with plenty of time to read
:: Watching Sam devour his latest favorite food
:: Rousing games of speed Scrabble
:: Taking in a show while Grandma and Grandpa watched the little ones.
:: Plenty of walks through the wildflower-strewn fields
:: And sunset rides with my arms wrapped tight around sweet Clay
I've mentioned our little natural history museum before, so I thought it was about time to explain it a bit more and show you what we've got in there.
Before we bought our house, probably at least fifty years ago, someone added two rooms onto the back. So, what was once the back door, is now a doorway between the kitchen and the den. However, the back door must have had one of those rectangular windows on the side, because they left an awkward rectangular hole next to the doorway. For Valentine's Day this year Clay surprised me by turning it into a little glass cabinet designed to display all the treasures we find.
Sam and I found these pretty robin's egg shells this spring while out on a walk. And for Clayton's last birthday I ordered several of these bugs for him. This was before we had the museum. They came all the way from China in a paper-wrapped box, tied with twine and covered with stamps.
Sam and I brought home tons of treasures from the ocean in Maine. He loved collecting handfuls of 'nai' (snails) and Clayton requested I bring back a lobster claw. My dad found a box of old shells at an auction for us, that's where the big conch is from.
Sam already thinks the museum is rad. He'll often ask to be picked up and point to what he wants to look at or hold; bu' (bug), 'nai,' rah (rock). I think treating these things as something special will help Sam to have an appreciation for the natural world and to maintain his keen eye for little details, that we so often lose as we get older. It helps me remember to look and appreciate things more when we're outside hiking. I even look at rocks and branches and "normal" things differently, considering that perhaps I might uncover something perfect for the museum. Clayton brought home four round, flat stones that look so lovely stacked on top of each other, and Sam and I collected some prickly seed pods from the library lawn that have the most interesting texture. I love the feeling that natural elements brings into our home. I hope we have a natural history museum in every house we live in.
Food definitely tastes better outside, maybe there's something about fresh air that heightens the sensitivity of our taste buds or maybe it's all the unavoidable running around and playing that builds up such a voracious appetite that even ash sprinkled hot dogs taste amazing... Whatever it is, Clay's pancakes tasted great cooked up on the griddle outside.
This past weekend Clay took a bunch of boy scouts camping up in the canyon. He wanted to do a practice pancake run ahead of time. I was game, especially as it meant I didn't have to plan anything for dinner. We went over to Clay's brother and sister-in-law's house who lent us their fire pit and company.