Thursday, July 31, 2014

Sweet, Sweet Summer.

Oh, glorious summer.  It seems like while we were in Michigan summer finally arrived in Montana.  Of course there were some beautiful June days but real summer, 80-plus degree summer, didn’t hit until the middle of July.  I love this.  The heat doesn’t bother me.  I love sitting outside in the evening and not needing a sweatshirt.  I love sleeping all night with windows wide open.  I love waking early and only having to throw on a tank top and shorts for my morning run.  In the middle of December I often feel heavy after putting on three layers of clothes to brave the cold for a run.  And, speaking of running…I love that I don’t have to take the same route over and over because I know the snow will be plowed.  Instead I can venture further away, to the mountains and let this be my view…

Yes, I love everything about summer.  Often I get anxious as it begins to slip by.  Worried about all the things we still want to do and fitting it in.  This past year I’ve worked on staying in the present moment and I have to say this has helped tremendously with letting go of the anxiety of a fleeting summer and simply enjoying it.  We have gotten into a routine this summer.  A lovely blend of bike rides, cousin time, exploring parks, hiking mountains and swimming during the week sandwiched between weekends of camping and going to the river.  Spending the majority of the time outdoors…knowing when winter comes we will be stuck in.  No day camps or play dates for the kids.  We didn't even get around to signing them up for swim lessons this year.  Just good ole fashion playing outside is how we roll.  This is how we do summers and I'm all about it.  

Filling our time with things like paddle boarding and camping with friends-
Usually once a summer we get to camp with our best friends.  Right at the beginning we make it happen and then everyone gets busy and it doesn't happen again.  I was thrilled when we found another weekend we could all go and even more so when we decided to go to water so we could take our boards.  However, this weekend ended up being more a comedy of errors.  Alls well that ends well is what they say and we had a great time.  When I was telling my sister about our obstacles of the day...(major mosquito's, no campsites, wind storms sending tents flying like kites when we finally found a site and then calling quits to camping and heading to the river house to name a few)...she laughed and said it's those times when things don't go as planned that are the ones we talk about later.  It's all how you handle them and even though there was a point we were all getting testy as tents were flying, for the most part we laughed about it.  Laughing over adventures is something we all do well.  Especially while talking about it over beers by the fire...

The next weekend was a planned trip to the river.  This one because of a new toy for baby girl...

There's really nothing like playing in water on a hot summer day.  It's how I could spend all my days.  Apparently these girls could as well.

It's kind of a family thing....

I think the water and outdoors calls to me so much because it feels so freeing.  And calming.  The big sky above you.  The warm sun on your skin.  Everyone in happy moods.  

Besides the rivers and lakes there are only a few things we need in summer-
The Mountains...
If I can't be by the water I want to be in the mountains.  Taking these girls out every chance I get.  Hiking with them this summer has become my favorite thing.  Exploring and finding perfect picnic spots that are secluded because we had to hike a couple miles to get to them...
Talking and finding interesting things and seeing beautiful views.  Most of the months these mountains are full of snow.  A playground to the skiers.  But this time of year they are mine.  

Water...

It's not just lakes and rivers that get our love, sometimes you just need to jump in a pool. Or at least these girls do.  Whether it's the local city pool or the small one in our backyard.  My fish beg to swim on a weekly basis.  

Not just for jumping in, sometimes for splashing in...
I get it.  Water is fun.

S'mores...

Any camping or river trip entails s'mores.  Maybe this is why the girls love it so much.  They will forever associate camping with s'mores.  As they should.

Fresh food...

Oh, the cooking is getting good around here.  We are in the middle of summer growing and fresh veggies are popping up each day.  Days where I go to the garden, cut kale or peas that we will be eating within the hour.  You can't get much fresher than that.  It inspires me like nothing else does when it come to cooking.  And, as a mostly vegetarian family it doesn't get much better than fresh vegetables.  

Yes, summer is simple in the things we need.  No structure, no schedule.  Only play.  Catching bugs on trails and minnows in lakes...


This being enough to mean a successful day.  Putting tired girls to bed as the sun goes down.  Exhausted and smelling of sunscreen.  It's actually hard for me to describe how happy it makes me.  Today is the final day of July which means one month to go.  Usually this would put me in a bit of a panic.  Not this year.  It only makes me excited for what August will be filled with.  More of our favorites that's for sure, because if there is one thing we know how to do around here it's the business of summer.  
So, we'll just continue on with that.  

Happy day to ya.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Michigan.

We just got back from a long family vacation and it has been hard getting back into the real world.  I call this vacation hangover.  It's hard after a week of getting up to this every morning...

And after ending each day with this...

All the while being surrounded by family and friends I haven't seen for years.  Constant chatter and laughter and kids who were meeting for the first time becoming instant friends...

As with any of my posts written after a vacation, it is just for me.  A time to soak up the last bits of vacation by reliving it as I write.  A place to come back to later and smile with the memories.  And, it's my version.  This trip was filled with many people and each probably took away something different and had their own experience.  What I took is even after a decade away and things changing, with family and good friends, you can slip right back to where you left off.  

It's pretty crazy that our girls are 9 and 7 and this was their first time to Matt's hometown.  Life gets in the way and for whatever reason we had not had the opportunity to go.  Matt has continued to make trips back, but for me it had been ten years.  I will always feel grateful for the short amount of time we lived in Michigan in our early married years.  I remember when Matt suggested moving back and I was not into the idea at all.  But, being the loving supportive wife I am (a little pat on my back thank you very much), I packed up our belongings and the poor cat who hadn't recovered from the move to Portland and headed east.  I was sad and anxious to go to this new world that I wasn't really into.  However I was pleasantly surprised by our time there.  It goes to show it doesn't matter where you live it's who you are around and we were surrounded by good people and it was a great experience.  I didn't realize how much I missed everyone there until we arrived and seeing our girls meet everyone who means so much to us was amazing.  This was the highlight, but it was also a time for the girls to see where their dad grew up.  Take in a bit of Detroit.  Things like taking them to their first baseball game, things we can't do here...



I have only gone to a couple professional games and never baseball so it was a first for me as well.  I do believe it may be my favorite.  Mainly because it's warm, you're outside and the energy is contagious.  It feels so American to watch baseball while drinking over-priced beer and eating hot dogs.  I did have the 8-dollar beers but refrained from the hot dog.  It's been many years since I had a hot dog and didn't want to be sick the rest of the trip.  After the game we saw a little more of downtown Detroit and then headed out.  

The rest of the week was spent on Lake Huron.  The Great Lakes are most certainly great. I have a mad love infatuation with the ocean, but the Great Lakes now run a very close second.  There are sandy beaches, clear blue water that goes on and on and best of all no sharks or jelly fish.  I dig this fact.  

Our week at the lake went something like this-

Kids swinging and swinging on swing sets...


Kayaking, splashing and swimming in the chilly, beautiful lake...


Bonfires each night with s'mores, fireworks and late nights...


Sparklers, sending wishes off in lanterns in the sky and catching fireflies...


Let me tell you something about fireflies.  They are awesome.  We don't have them in Montana and I have never seen them before.  As far as I was concerned they were something made up in movies and books.  Each night as the sun went down the distance was lit with little flashing lights.  Coolest bug ever.  I was so excited for the girls to experience this, catch some and hold them in our hands.  A moment I hold dear to my heart...standing in the sand with a huge moon above us and the girls letting a firefly crawl over their hands with looks of awe in their eyes.  

Playing in the sand and burying giggling girls...
 And big smiles after burying Matt...

Even the rainy, cool days were fun.  Filled with hot tubs and turning a bedroom into a glitter tattoo parlor...


And, that little guy in the middle of each of those photos...I pretty much wanted to put him in my suitcase to bring back home.  

And the girls getting to meet these two ladies...the women who along with his mother helped make Matt the amazing guy/husband/dad he is today...

We have been in Montana for so long I sometimes forget that Matt isn't from here.  His history lies someplace else and getting to see him so happy back in that world makes me smile.  

Yesterday the girls were anxious to go see their cousins here after being away.  As they ran around and played with those they've grown up with it made me sad that they haven't gotten that with all their cousins.  There is a whole world of family thousands of miles away.  I can't imagine them meeting my sisters kids for the first time at 9 & 7.  It really sucks that this is how it has to be.  Ava leaned over to me on the plane ride home and told me "I wish all of your family and all of daddy's family could live in the same town, that would be perfect."  Very true baby girl.  But, it was nice to see that even though it took years for this moment to happen, family is family and miles and years don't matter...

I do know it will not be ten more years before we go back.  Bonds were made and now I realize how important this is.  I was apprehensive about going back, it's been so long and we're settled in our world here.  However, there is a whole other part of these girls family that they need to know.  It may not ever be the same as it is with my sisters and their cousins here, but that's simply geography.  They get to see them more because they are all within ten minutes of us.  This means every year or every other year we need to rent a big ol' lake house on the beach and fill it with family and friends.  Spend day and night together for a week solid.  Eating, laughing, catching up.  Making up for lost time.  And next time, I simply must find a way to sneak this kid back to Montana...

Thanks sweet Michigan and everyone there.  It was a lovely time indeed.  

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Summer Lovin'

After a rainy and cool June it feels as if summer is finally settling in for the long run.  Finding an opportunity to sit down and write gets harder.  In summer life does slow down.  The usual routine gives way to lazy mornings, afternoon trips to the park and later bedtimes.  But at the same time it slows down, it also feels busy with the panic of squeezing everything in.  You see, when summer is your favorite time in a place where it only makes a brief appearance, you can't help but feel you must squeeze so much into it.  From last day of school to first day back we only have 12 weekends.  One dozen to fit in many camping trips, river trips, hiking adventures and simple weekends to stay home.  I try to calm these thoughts.  Keep with the slower pace and ignore the feelings of panic and enjoy these months I love so dearly.  

My summer favorites...

Camping-

I'm not sure why I love camping so much.  It's a lot of work to get ready but it always feels worth it.  Any tension I feel melts as we leave society and get on the bumpy road to nowhere.  

One reason I'm sure of is because we are away from everything.  There are no chores to be done when in the mountains, only fort building...

There is no distraction of television and electronics, only adventuring in enchanted forests...

There is no slaving over fancy meals, only cooking in tin foil over the fire while enjoying a beer and a book...

It is calm.  It is breathing fresh air and knowing how small you are in the grand scheme of things when tucked into the middle of a huge forest.  It centers me and I love how my girls love it.  The cycle continues.  Camping with my family as a young girl hold some of my fondest memories.  This particular camping trip we went to one of our old spots we frequented in my childhood.  My parents popped up to say hello and I was able to confirm where we were was a place we had camped many times.  As I commented on the girls running through the woods searching for moss and sticks, my mom said "it's exactly what you guys used to do."  This made me smile.  Wherever they may end up in life, this will be a part of them.  I like to think it helps strenghten the goodness in them.  

More summer favorites.

Hiking...

When camping is not an option I still feel the pull to the mountains.  Fortunately we live in a place where in a short thirty minute drive we go from the busy street our house in on to this...

Sounds of the firetruck sirens and traffic are replaced with pine trees blowing in the wind.  These girls are becoming quite the hikers and it is now easy to jump in the car and head to the nearest hiking trail.  When they were babes, these hiking adventures only happened on weekends when Matt was home to share the load.  Now it is so easy.  Water bottles and dog in the car and we can get lost in the mountains.  Pushing on to harder hikes without complaint.  Chatting carelessly about serious things and not so serious.  Such as...my most recent hike with the girls consisted of at least 2 miles of chatter about a magical backpack you could carry hiking.  With said backpack you could push buttons and get everything you wish for.  Anything from a candy bar to a back massage.  Oh, their little imaginations.  

I love hiking with my girls, but when we do get the opportunity for Matt to join us on a weekend, if feels complete.

He is my original hiking friend.  After dabbling in it in high school with my friends, Matt moved to Montana and changed my whole perspective on it.  Yes, I liked getting out there and hiking but didn't realize the beauty that had surrounded me my whole life.  I needed someone like him to come here and open my eyes to the wonder of where we live.  I needed someone to push me out of my comfort zone and up harder mountains.  And do it with a heavy pack on my back.  Yes, it always feels complete when hiking with him and our girls.  

Definitely up on my summer favorites, extra cousin time...

The school year is so busy and with everyone in different schools and various activities, hanging out with cousins they used to spend every day with gets harder.  With summer we can't think of anyone better to adventure with than cousins.  Taking nature walks just us is a good time, but throw in a few cousins add singing Frozen songs obnoxiously loud and it bumps it up to an awesome time...

And, probably my all time favorite summer activity, playing on the water.  Any water...


One of the main reasons thoughts of leaving this beautiful place we call home is to get closer to water.  I have grown up surrounded by mountains and they are a very close second place, possibly even a tie, to my love of the ocean.  The sound of the waves, the smell of the salt water, the feel of the sand...it makes me so happy.  Because of this, I love being on any body of water...lakes, rivers, swimming pools.  I was determined this past weekend to get our paddle board out for the first time this summer.  The weather has not, and didn't really cooperate, but we still got it on the lake.  I cannot describe the feeling I get while on the board in the middle of the water.  It is a perfect blend of happiness, calmness and contentedness.  The warm sun on my shoulders and cool water slapping on my bare feet.  It may not be an ocean right now, but water with the beauty of the mountains that surround it is not too bad at all.  

Oh sweet summer, I love you so.  

I found this in a book I've been reading and want to document it here as to not forget it...

Success can be defined in so many different ways and is individual to each person.  To me success is the simple things.  Be kind, be true.  And squeeze in as much camping, hiking, playing and swimming as you can.  This marks a successful summer.  And of course, plenty of ice cream.