falling for fall

You may remember our family goal set earlier this year of 52 hikes or bikes for 2008.  Here’s a follow-up.  Nearly every Saturday and many weekdays were spent in outdoor adventures: exploring mountain trails (including a frightening face-to-face with a rattler—we let him have the right-of-way), taking walks, biking here, there, and everywhere, kids in tow.  Though I’ve stopped counting, we’ve essentially met our goal—which was really just to get out—and how my cheeks glow from it.
(A forgotten pumpkin pod on a withered vine)
I am experiencing fall for the first time in three years, and I’m shocked by how much I have missed this.  Right around September 1 my body yearns for a change, and when it’s not forthcoming, I long for it.  Living in Utah then Arizona and now Colorado has taught me that I am unnecessarily wimpy, and I have allowed something as simple as “the weather” to dictate my mood, my activities—even to dominate my life.  Growing up in Utah, I dreaded the bone-chilling cold—groaning as soon as weather in early fall demanded a jacket and sturdy shoes—and would resignedly hole up indoors until mid-April.  In Arizona,  it was the opposite fear: the exasperating heat.  But now, back in the throes of a seasonal climate, it would be way too easy to revert to old habits, shutting myself up and shutting out opportunity for soul renewal—even before it’s even all that cold.  
But no more.  No longer do I want the dread of extremes to rob me of the pleasure and bliss that can be now.  And when the dread is stripped away, every day is lovely.  I realize now how much I really do love this time of year and what comes with it:
-A ripe harvest moon
-Curried butternut squash bisque
-The first bite into a crisp hand-picked apple
-Comfort spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves 
-Plump pumpkins transforming into spooky jack-o-lanterns or creamy pie
-Shedding your old self and assuming an alter ego on Halloween
-Leaves of every rustic hue—even scarlet and gold on the selfsame branch
-Cooler air which invites the novelty of the first cozying down under the covers.  And snuggles
-A season of thanks—remembering God for His goodness, the bounties of the harvest and abundance of our beautiful earth
-And the subtle stirrings I feel within myself.  How it coincides with the earth’s own mysterious reversal inward: we descend and turn together. 
One night, kids tucked in and safe with their dad, I snuck out, even though the nippy air required the donning of several layers.  I roamed, aimless, willing my mind to still.  The streets were deserted, the only unnatural sound an occasional car roaring by.  A slight wind whistled and swirled the crunchy leaves under my feet and crickets chirped a rhythmic refrain.  The cool air felt startlingly good, and at length I gazed up at the sky, eyes affixed on the north star.  My pace quickened, purposeful.  I drank it all in like a thirsty sailor, unaware of how much my own inner sea had ebbed.  I spoke with God that  night.  To any of the faceless forms in houses I passed hypnotized by the dull blue tv glow, certainly there was nothing particularly spectacular about this night.  Not to them.  But to me, to me.  A sliver of me longed to share the loveliness of it, but it could not be squandered.
I shudder to know now that I have let falls slip by.  
So I am going to make good on this.  I’m right now going to take the boys for a walk in the rain.


the biggest surprise of my life

I got the biggest surprise of my life this past weekend!  Seriously.  I have only had one surprise birthday party, when I was 16, and I had a tiny suspicion about that one.  But this completely blew me away!
Jed left a week ago Monday for a research trip to Utah, and I was to be home alone with the boys for 10 days--without a car.  It's not like I drive the car all that much anyway, and I have my trusty bike which can take us nearly everywhere important we need to go.  But there is something about knowing you don't have a car that makes you a bit stir crazy.  I was feeling it big-time when I was only Wednesday into his trip.  That night I complained as such to my sister Michelle who lives in Utah.
Well, the next night we got a knock at the door.  Isaac ran to answer it, and I was a few steps behind him.  He stood with the door ajar, a screen door between him and a very curious creature indeed.  As I approached, I noted that it looked an awful lot like my niece Avery, but then the common-sense part of brain snapped me back to reality--that she lives over 500 miles away in a different state.  But as I came closer and pushed the screen door open, a knowing part recognized that--oh my gosh--it WAS AVERY!!!  Then my sisters Michelle and Rachel hopped out from behind a tree and the house, hollering their arrival.  
I freaked!  I was in total shock.  After hearing of my loneliness the night before, Michelle made an impetuous decision to drive out the next day and spend the whole weekend, and she invited Rachel along for the adventure.  I screamed so loud as I embraced my sisters, the neighbors probably wondered.  I was SO excited!
We had a hilarious time this weekend, but of course it went WAY too fast.  We stayed up super late with sister chit-chat, talking about everything from politics to parenting to growing up in our crazy 10-kids family.  Michelle has recently returned from a trip to Malaysia to visit my parents on their mission, so we enjoyed looking at pictures and hearing about her adventures.  We shopped, rented movies, gorged on popcorn and chocolate, visited the Denver Aquarium with the kids, made jewelry, and dropped to the floor laughing over past SNL clips, particularly one called "The Lawrence Welk Show."  It's about sisters, so it was particularly fitting.  Michelle and Rachel were even good sports to sing a special musical number for the lesson I taught in Relief Society.  Rachel's birthday was the day they left so we sang to her happy 23rd and ate cake and pumpkin ice cream.  Avery and Lincoln and Isaac had a blast together, too.  Our only regret was not having a camera to document the weekend, but at least we know we will never forget this.
Knowing that my sisters care that much for me to do that, well, it made me pretty darned happy and thankful for them.  They rock! Their visit made me even more excited for my sister Lisa's and her kids Suzy and Ani's trip out in January, and the possibility of more visits from family next month.  We LOVE having visitors!  All are welcome.
Here are a few pics of us over the years:
Michelle, me Rachel
Gotta love the mullets!  Yep, that's me top right.
Rach and Lincoln
Avery and Lincoln
Michelle, me, Lisa, and Rach

a pumpkin patch at last

Not having experienced a real "fall" for three years now, I have been really itching to take the kids to a pumpkin patch: in July I was eagerly looking up places to go!  We found the perfect little family farm up north near Boulder.  Admission was free; the only charge was for the pumpkins.
Isaac loved each and every pumpkin with his equitable child's eye.  Green, orange, yellow, multi, black ones; round, angular, chubby ones; grandpa and baby ones; perfectly symmetrical down to lopsidedly tipping over--he loved them the same. Lincoln just loved being outside. Isaac ran full tilt, helter skelter through the patch. Decisions, decisions. The boys enjoyed a child-sized hay bale maze.  Jed and I enjoyed watching the top of Isaac's yellow head bobbing up and down through the rows. There was also an adult-sized corn maze that the whole family enjoyed.  Isaac made the perfect scouter-outer. Lincoln's favorite part was the animals.  Donkey! Goat!  I want a goat of my own someday. We finally settled on a large green one for carving, a less-than-perfect orange one to make "dinner-in-a-pumpkin," (a family tradition favorite), and a birdhouse gourd.  Not sure if we're going to eat it or let it dry out to actually make a birdhouse gourd.  Any suggestions?


autumn delights

Jed's boss graciously let us pick some crisp scrumptious apples from his yard--red and golden delicious and jonathan--and white grapes draped from huge vines on the fence.  We have been in apple-desserts-heaven (namely crisp) ever since, and the boys and I indulged in making homemade grape juice.  Yums.
For a great recipe (when you plan on just guzzling it all fresh within a few weeks), check out http://www.elise.com/recipes/archives/000107making_grape_juice.php


a date with nature

The Lookout Nature Center, located near Buffalo Bill's grave and museum at the top of Lookout Mountain, has some really cool activities for kids.  We enjoyed a nice hike and learned about fall and changing leaves and nature's hues.  At the end we ironed crayon shavings inside wax paper, hole-punched them, ready to hang on the window. Isaac spotted these little yellow flowers and wanted to pick one for me.  After my gentle admonition about why it's a sweet sentiment but not allowed, he insisted on the next best thing--taking this photo of me next to them. Isn't this the cutest little backpack/leash?  Lincoln even loves to tote it around and snuggle with it. On our hike I did allow Isaac to gather beautiful dried stalks that had already fallen on the trail (since we weren't technically picking them, I okayed it) and we arranged them in a vase at home to remind us of our wonderful day.  At one point we even came within a few feet of a mule deer.  I was so gratified that my boys, instead of yelling or frightening her, remained motionless and mute, reverencing her rare presence.   Lincoln thought it was hilarious to stick his finger in my ear from his strategic position in the backpack!  


music in his bones

Isaac has been obsessed with music and "guitar" playing (on his badminton racket). His latest craze has been early Beatles music, especially George Harrison's songs. He'll beg to listen to a CD and will sing and "play" along. In fact, I think he would be hard put to remain still during the song. What do you think?

music in his bones, part II

link loves shoes

The first thing he asks for in the morning: "eesh" (his word for "shoe" and a lot of other things). He couldn't care less if he has clothes. . . he just wants shoes!


cute cousins

I had a great weekend in Utah with my sisters! We went up to Park City and Midway for a girl's night out, while the kids stayed home with their daddys. As always, we love seeing cousins! Ani, Suzy, and Avery

fun at heritage square amusement park

The boys loved the carousel! Lincoln got to go on a few rides and especially liked the banana airplanes. (note Jed's legs!)

kangaroo kids preschool

Along with three other families, we have set up a new preschool for our kids. Each of the moms takes turns twice a week for two hours each time, and so far it's going great! This way I can just take a turn once a month and send Isaac off the other three weeks, plus we've worked out a play group for the younger siblings, too, so Lincoln can be involved.