Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fingers and Toes

A few years ago my sister-in-law and I went on a trip, when we returned, she mentioned how she missed her kids' fingers and toes.  Although I had noticed my own children's and knew them to be important in growth and development, I had not stopped to think of how I missed them.  I realized that in fact, this was the part of my children that I touched, soothed, held, and held me back.  This was our means of communication from birth.  Fingers and toes are parts of hands and feet.  These of my own children were beyond precious to me.

  When my children are sleeping, I often hold their hands, or stroke their feet.  I place those hands upon my own cheek as they once reached to touch as infants.  The feeling of their palms on my skin makes my heart beat faster, or skip a beat.  The tiny pulses of love that emanate between us are hidden and unspoken.

As a Montessori teacher, I am aware of the importance in the developmental process that the hand signifies.  We look for strength, dexterity, grip, etc to see the grown and development of a child.  We see feet as a path to independence, and know the value of stability for motor coordination, and overall balance and function. Curiosity and wonder are fulfilled by hands and feet.  Touch and sensation map the brain in comprehension and understanding of the world. And I'm sure anthropologists, poets, writers, artists, and musicians have all filled us with the poetic beauty that hands provide and create for our species.

 However, it is as a parent that I understand the love that is shared between me and my child.  Their hands and feet, their love and instability, their trust, desire, and will lay between those 10 fingers and 10 toes.  It is also a sadness that draws me to them in silence as I watch them become more independent, trusting their own steadiness to walk away, or ability and will to let me know they can do it on their own.  As they grow in confidence of their own hands and feet discovering the world, I sense the distance that could grow between us. And holding on to them just a little longer in my own hands gives me paramount strength to let them go, to be free, to do on their own, and to love them more deeply than the day before.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Colorado: The Green State

Crossing over to CO from Monument Valley was gorgeous. The drive out was through twisty and windy roads from red/rust colored earth to carpets of green and large mesas. 
The road out of Monument Valley

We met my in-laws at a phenomenal antique store that was truly like traveling in time. All items were beautifully organized by category or glassware by color ( of a certain period- depression era). 

We all then headed into Mesa Verde. Now, I will say I'm so glad we made it here but there are a few things we should have done better so here are my tips

* arrive early- the park is HUGE and the roads are windy
* stop at the visitors center to get tickets for the ranger led hikes. A lot o the park you cannot see on your own and you must go with a group. 
* if you have really little ones bring a carrier if you plan on going, some of the ladders are 100+ feet up and down. ( we didn't  do these)
* even the easy hike is strenuous if anyone has trouble getting around. 
* there is so much to see and it should be seen in ones lifetime

We were really short on time but hope to one day come back. Both girls made it to the Tree House where we climbed down a short ladder. They really enjoyed it and it helps them visualize different was of 
living including architecture and masonry

We spent the next two nights in a cabin at Vallecito just outside of Durango. The kids spent the day learning to fish in idyllic lakes set with snow dusted  mountain caps in the background. It was surreal. 

Durango is a very cool and popular little town. We wish we had more time to explore. There's a train ride up the mountain passes that takes you to the town of Silverton. There is also a bike race in which thousands of cyclists race the train up this treacherous elevation. This town had so much to see and do including beer tasting at Ska. 

The 160 from Pagosa Springs to Del Norte offers so many scenic stops and a gorgeous view as you climb in elevation to reach summit at Wolf's Pass at the Continental Divide. 

Getting to the Great Sand Dunes before sunset was a rush but also the perfect time. Unfortunately we were unable to
book a campsite inside the park and had to drive 40 min in and out. I do NOT recommend this site. There are campsites just outsete the park with a general store that looked a lot better. 

GSD is a park not to be missed. I loved it 10 years ago and I loved it this time.  The little creek that runs in front which you MUST cross to reach the dunes is definitely the highlight for kids. The dunes themselves are deceiving in height. Little legs did ok going up but had complaining once up the first peak. We didn't get very far. The worst part of this whole day were the mosquitoes. The older one gets huge golf ball like bites that took a few days to recover from. 

The next day we packed up early and got on the road by 7:30am. We had a long two-day journey to make it to Chicago. The drive along the Sangre de Cristo mountains is amazing, I'd love to check out some hikes one day. The portal town of Salida is very quaint and hip with art galleries,"coffe shops" and eateries along the water. 

We were giddy with excitement on the drive from Salida to Canon City. The Arkansas River winds next to the road with rafters all along. I would not take the kids at this age but I do intend on coming back to do this!!

The bridge at Royal Gorge is historic and stunning but the whole thing is a money making enterprise. You cannot walk over without paying a fee. The whole area is set up to be a theme park with zip lines and cable cars. It's unfortunate. 

After meeting with a friend in Colorado Springs for lunch we said Adieu to the mountains and locked in on some flat farm roads up to Nebraska. Staying on the local roads were scenic but you must pay attention for on coming traffic that passes head on to you. 

Seeing cattle graze on grass for acres and acres and a random cayote lurking was all romantic until you hit the interstate and from there on you get to see the Industrial Complex that produces America - Corn. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Monument Valley: Big Butes

Our first night in Monument Valley is one to remember.  We pulled into our campsite at Gouldings which was nestled between large butes of red rock.  The site had lots of trailers and a few tent sites which were close to each other.  The bathrooms were amazingly clean, lots of free showers, wifi, and and indoor pool.  What can we say?  Oh and the closest drive into the park.

Our night was so hot we decided to sleep without the rain fly.  Around 4 am I woke up to some large drops on my face and my husband rushed to get the rain fly on.  By then I noticed lightning.  It may not have been close, but at 4 am and in a tent, maternal instinct kicks in and you're ready to protect those babies.  I watched for an hour to see the lightning light up the sky and also make bolts that hit the ground at some distance.  By 5:15 and some light in the sky I was ready for a run.  Heading down the hill I felt I could have been like Forest Gump and keep running.  It was breathtaking and even at 5,000ft elevation, I was elated.

We spent the morning in the park exploring the butes, learning about rock formations, erosion, and also precious rocks.  The unpaved path in our Prius was doable.  We fretted about it and so we took our box and hitch off and left it in our tent.  It was a good thing since it was quite a bumpy ride but nothing the car could not handle.  I cannot imagine the kids putting up with the open and dusty jeep ride.  The park cost $20 and it was just amazing to drive by all those butes.  However, I will say that if you are strapped on time 163 heading S/ SW is the money shot.  You see a lot from there and this is the movie scene.  Hitting this stretch at sunset is the best.  The park is hot- very hot at this time but it was amazingly green on the valley floor.  I will say that as much as we enjoyed looking up, there was more to see down in the grasses.  The wildflowers were stunning and changed from one location to the next.  Not sure if we got lucky with some recent rains.

The other highlight of our campsite was that we discovered some trails into the rock right behind our tent.  This led to the most spectacular rock arch form which rivals some photos of Arches in Utah.  I'm sure they are amazing, but for a quick campsite hike this was a truly hidden gem.

The kids spent the afternoon cooling off in the pool followed by a fantastic pork massaman curry and coconut rice.  This was one of the pre-prepped packets of food I made before leaving (photo on FB).  Simple steps like this have really helped expedite meals and to also make them pretty great since I would not want to carry all these spices and veggies around for days.  Having it frozen and in the cooler has been a lot of help.  Hopefully I'll have a meal prep/ camping packing post ready by the time we're done with this trip.

If you like what you read, please check out FB for random and occasional photos.  Most everything is done from my phone, so service and spelling are spotty!

Thank you for visiting!

Oh and we stopped at an antique shop where I got an amber cake stand and a blue glass ball canning jar!
The View restaurant. Excellent view Nd break from the heat, ok on food. 
The 'mittens' left and center

An arch behind our campsite.

Dinner of pork massaman curry and coconut rice. Some awesome whiskey from San Fran. But that was a mistake considering our drive to CO. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Grand Canyon Star Party

We departed about an hour late, ate some Redneck BBQ and spent the night in Williams. 

This morning we headed to Grand Canyon to set up camp, ride the bus, and walk to the rim in mid-day heat and a whining 4 year old. With the promise of a "cool treat" we managed to hobble a few paces. 

Let me tell you that if you plan on visiting these big parks just plan on buying your food here and save yourself the headache of pre-packing food. Before coming here I stopped at Safeway to get bread, and some other items. After spending $80 on 2 plastic bags I am baffled that people shop in such places when faced with choices. I spend about that much on our weekly groceries from Whole Foods but that included 3-5 lbs of organic meats or fish, organic milk, fruits, veggies, and stuff I don't need. Safeway I got $9 of grapes, fermented cantaloupe, and some fake organic deli meat. 

My point is the general store in Grand Canyon has far better choices which I should have gone with. 

Things never go as planned. We are not getting hikes or grand views, but the kids are loving looking at butterflies, birds, and other wild life. Setting up the tent and just playing around alone is enough for them. 

Don't get me wrong there's a lot of whining and 'I'm hot," " I don't want to walk" so on and on and on.  It has been hot but stopping at the general store for a cool treat helps us all.  We packed up our burgers and headed back to the rim for sunset dinner. Ended up not going as planned but we went to the visitors center for the Star Party. Let me tell you this was AMAZING!  We saw Saturn 3 times. I saw 3 of its moons, the rings and all. We saw Jupiter, the lines across it, some of its moons, a very bright Venus, and the red giant whose name I cannot recall. We had a whole lesson on constellations from a Bostonian and at the end of it all my 6 year old was so happy she don't want to get to bed. 

All in all Grand Canyon was educational in so many ways. We spent a good part of today exploring the park as well but the drive out to Monument Vally was just stunning. Setting up camp in dusk and watching the stars (and planets) come out is stellar. Can't wait to see the park tomorrow. 

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Family cross country road trip

Two adults, two kids, a Prius an a hitch!

This is us for the next 5 weeks driving from the west coast to the east coast making it our first cross county road trip with kids. I did a very similar trip 10 years ago with a friend when this same Prius was new. Now 10 years later, two children, and family to visit we are hitting the road in 5 days. 

That's right in 5 days we take off. Currently I'm on a delayed flight from Chicago heading home to finish the last week of school and to pack like a maniac. 5 days to get our act together.  To say the least, making lists has mainly  kept us feeling sane for this journey. 

It's a bit odd to write this but I was encouraged to do so by many friends who also felt that I should document our no-media way of travel. I guess these days portable media is normal and I have refused to give into it with the kids . My stance on this is, generations have traveled without being plugged in, so can we. In the past 7 years we have not turned anything on for the kids while traveling so I'm not ready to start now. If you start it you can't take it away so don't do it to begin with. It's just not a choice and when faced as such we make do. I'll go into detail as we travel and as I begin to post more. 

For the next 5 weeks we have to make do with the same limited clothes, meal preparations, and lots and lots of looking out the window and checking out maps. Yup that's right. We went to AAA and got ourselves half a dozen maps of states, regions, and the entire US. I hope to get these kids aquatinted with reading maps and working on their geography.  Yes we will have a GPS that's part of our phones but the main source are maps. 

As someone who stresses over healthy home-cooked meals on a daily basis, making sure we maintain this is very important to me for these 5 weeks. Yes there will be a road stop for some local fare, fruit/produce stands, local brew, and ice cream, but there will be zero stops at fast food. Again the no choice method. I hope to meal plan and prep when staying with family in major cities. We will have a smaller cooler, dry food bins, produce bags, clothing and camping gear. All this needs to fit so being organized will be key. 

Photos and smaller entries will be updated when possible on Facebook. Hope our experience will inspire you to travel some with your family this summer!!

Looking forward to sharing this with you and would love to hear from you as well!

The orange line is from my trip 10 years ago, green our current and changing route. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Travel- Montessori Style

As most of you will be traveling during Spring break, I thought I'd offer some suggestions on how to travel with children- Montessori style.

- First, talk to your children about where you are going.  Show them a map or photos and get them involved in the process.  Montessori kids are well acquainted with maps.

- Have them pick out their clothes and pack them in their suitcase.  Help them by telling them how many of a certain item they need to put in. Ex: 3 short sleeve shirts, 5 underpants, 2 skirts, 5 pairs of socks, etc.

- Have them help you buys snacks specific for the trip.  This will help them be excited and also have something to look forward to.

- Set an expectation of limited media (at least to start with).  You can have it as a back up but don't start your trip this way.  If you really need this, then have it hidden and do not discuss the option of it. Once it's presented they will only be looking forward to that as an option.

- Start collecting travel games, puzzles, books, magnetic toys, travel board games, crayons, drawing pads, etc, that they can pack in their own back packs.  Keep these hidden during the rest of the year and pull them out only when you travel.  Keep your eyes on the look out when traveling for new items to add to the rotation.  Airports have some fun items, World Market has vintage style things, and museum gift shops have unique finds. 

-Backpacks: buy children their own travel backpacks, we have both "urban" style ones and hiking style ones.  This allows them to take what they want and be responsible for their own items.  Water, snacks, a small box of crayons, light books, paper, small toys, etc. can fit in here and they carry it around.  It helps them feel independent and yet contributing to the family. 

-For car rides, you can play I spy, or some other conversation style games.  There are also lots and lots of podcasts that have children's stories that you can play.  Also, consider silence.  Allow your child to be "bored" this allows for their imaginations to grow and expand.  They do not need to be occupied, talked to, or entertained the entire time.  Children need some quiet time to be in their own head space.

For air travel, similar to car travel, have things to talk to them, read with them, or play tic tac toe, or other games.  Usborn books have some fun travel doodle books.  Again, keep travel items for travel time alone.  For media use, if you need it keep it hidden and pull out only when necessary.  This varies from person to person, but you'd be surprised you may never need it.  We've never had that as an option, and people think we are crazy, but after 6 years and two kids, it's not something to even consider anymore.  Maybe the older ones 9+ could handle something, but if so, keep it to 1 show, or a specific time limit.

-Most importantly have fun.  Traveling with children is not easy or "relaxing" but as I read in an article years ago, it's just a different way of discovering travel.  Once you accept this, it helps to deal with things accordingly.  Nothing like seeing entire families staring into their own "personal devices" when traveling.  This is the time to connect with each other rather than disconnect.

-Finally, limit their sugar intake in confined spaces.  If you want your children to behave well and to be in control, then sugary teats are a way of confusing their bodies on the input and output.  We have control of what they eat.  Giving them the option of "once we get there" is a possible alternative, or just being strict and saying "no" is also a very good choice.  More on saying "no" to your children in a future post!

Bon Voyage!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Low Tech Fail!

Yesterday was a crazy day.  I was so busy from morning to night posting and writing about no technology and how to limit the use of it in your child's home, bla bla, etc. My day in the classroom was crazy and thinking of talking to parents, expressing my concerns, figuring out what's best for each child and how to communicate those needs with each parent, writing up my newsletter which was like a dissertation- I was burnt out!

When we got home I was so tired and exhausted I needed to rest.  I had my husband and oldest daughter get dinner ready.  I was told to come out for a surprise as she had set the table and helped to cook some of the food.  She was so happy and proud and we had a lovely meal together.  After which I promised I would put her to bed and read.

At the point where she came to bed, my phone exploded with text messages asking about a fundraising event for this Sunday.  In my haste to communicate and email, and update on Facebook I kept her by my side telling her I'm almost done.  She'd lay there patiently and asked, "can you read to me?"  I kept telling her I'm almost done, while continuing.  After about the 3rd time, I noticed a deep breathing and then realized she had fallen asleep.  I dropped my ipod and cried.

I had let my own child down.  My whole day that had been about limiting the use of technology for children somehow hadn't applied to me.  I had been consumed with communicating with others that I forgot to communicate with my own dear sweet child who had cooked and cleaned and helped me relax, and had only wanted to spend some time with me, her mother before we put our heads down for the night.

I apologized to a sleeping body and held her as much as I could, but the moment had passed.  The day was done, it will never return again.  For this, I am deeply ashamed, sad, and forlorn.
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