Thursday, September 25, 2014

A New Season, and Doing Things our Way.

It's officially fall.  I'm on board now.  Especially because mother nature has brought 80+ degree weather along with its arrival.  This week we've been getting the beautiful changing colors of leaves as well as hot, sunny days.  This is a win-win in my book.  Getting outside to take advantage of this unseasonably warm (two of my favorite words) weather every chance we get...

We are also one month into the school year.  Settling into new routines and the world of 2nd and 4th graders.  This will be our fifth year doing the school thing and every year I find myself questioning my parenting when the year begins.  Throughout the summer months I feel very confident with the decisions I make as the mom.  I'm comfortable with our lack of participating in summer camps and don't have to hear others talking all about the activities their children are in.  I feel happy with a summer full of playing, hiking, camping and the only play dates being with cousins.  I never question that these memories we create throughout the summer months will stick with them long into adulthood and shape in a positive way who they become.  

And then school begins.  The inevitable questions of "what sports are your girls playing...oh, none?  They must be doing dance or gymnastics then?"  This year it actually began earlier when we ran into some friends one week before school started and she mentioned her kids had already started soccer practice.  I felt the familiar feeling of...are we doing this all wrong?  Are we holding them back by not getting them into all the various activities that are available?  At that point it still felt very much like summer and I was planning a final camping trip, not thinking about the fact we already missed soccer sign ups.  

I do think five years in I'm getting better at feeling secure in our parenting of school age kids.  I remind myself if either girl expressed a desire to do an extra curricular activity we would be the first ones to encourage it.  But, I can't find a reason to push it on them when after a full day at school they just want to play.  Of course, many kids version of play is going to basketball practice and that is great.  I just have to remember each year that it is okay to go against the grain and not participate in everything.  To know it's okay that our weekends aren't filled with soccer games.  We tried that once and now no one is interested.  Our weekends are instead free for us.  To decide as we go and if that means three hikes in three days then so be it.  Instead of games we get this-
Friday night, after dinner sunset stroll...
  
Saturday afternoon hike to a waterfall...

Soccer games are fun and all, but this is beautiful...


Sunday spent on another hike because why not?  The mountains will be full of snow soon so now is the time for us...

I say all this with no judgment.  No one is making me feel this conflict, it's all on me.  My own insecurities of we only have one go at this with these kids and I don't want to screw it up.  Hearing after school chatter of how other parents do things brings these questions up.  Most often I feel so confident in our parenting style.  I'm getting better about knowing we may not do it like everyone else when it comes to the school year and this is okay.  I have to do what feels right in my heart.  And these moments together doing family things feel right.  And that is all that should matter.  They may not be athletes or gymnasts or future ballerinas but they are happy.  They have imaginations and each other and to me this is priceless.  Every school year these questioning voices may start in my head again.  I simply need to politely tell those voices to be quiet.  I'm doing it my way and it's all good.

Happy kids.  That's all any parent really wants, so we do the best we can.  And try to be gentle with ourselves that this is enough.  

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Holding on til the Bitter End.

I see you Fall.  Trying to encroach in on our last couple of weeks of summer.  I feel the crispness in the air, the subtle change in the colors of the leaves and the freakin' pumpkin lattes popping up at Starbucks.  You even had the nerve to sprinkle snowflakes down last week.  Snow flakes!  That was a bold move to let them flutter down on a what should have been a perfectly nice summer day.  You almost got me going...falling for your moves...got me thinking about wearing cozy scarves and making veggie chili.  But then you went and took it too far with an early freeze and we had to take up our garden while it was still summer.  Well.  That just ticked me off.  Our summer bounty was half what it was last year because you just couldn't wait until it was officially your season.

This is NOT okay.  Do you see how GREEN those tomatoes are??  It quickly reminded me that I refuse to get caught up in the early fall nonsense even if baking pumpkin bread sounds perfectly delightful.  I refuse to make anything with our pumpkins until after September 23rd...the official arrival of Autumn.  The family keeps requesting some of my soup recipes...I quickly filled them...my refusal of baking with pumpkins extends to cooking any sort of soup, casserole or other such comfort food.  They can wait.  It was bad enough we had to pick everything.  We should have had a couple more weeks.

Fortunately after that cold snap things turned around.  Snow melted off the mountain tops and warm temperatures returned.  We got back to summer like things with weekend hikes and outdoor shenanigans...


Tonight we ventured to one of the last Farmer's Markets of the season.  It felt good.  Buying fresh veggies from people who didn't lose everything in the early freeze.  Knowing I could prolong buying vegetables at the grocery store a little longer.  Enjoying the market in a more peaceful way now that tourist season is over.  Soaking up every last minute we have of this final week of my favorite season. 

This is how I intent to spend these last few days.  Pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween decorations can patiently wait their turn.  Summer often gets a late start around here because winter always overstays his welcome...fall can't just be showing up early.  That's just not cool.  There's a time and a place and right now it's still time for shorts, flip-flops and warm sun kissing our cheeks.



Thursday, September 4, 2014

Goodbye Summer Vacation.

Things are a changin' round here.  You can feel it all around.  The days are getting shorter...my beloved sunshine not popping out from behind the Bridgers until much later in the morning and then making an early exit in the evening.  The air no longer feels of summer warmth but more of fall chill.  
And a big one...school began this week.

We knew it was coming yet it still seemed to sneak up on us.  I'm never quite ready for another school year to start...it makes it so evident that they are growing up.  Ava is in fourth grade this year, I mean come on!  This is ridiculous.  I can remember like it was yesterday standing in line with her for kindergarten...her a bundle of nerves with a brave face, me hiding my tears behind my sunglasses...talking about the matching hearts I drew on our hands with markers to remember each other throughout the day...
And now she walks in like she owns the school.  No tears or apparent nervousness from either of them.  I love this...their confidence and ability to do these things bravely on their own.  It just breaks my heart a bit as I am needed less and less.  I suppose these steps are all to prepare us for one day when they actually, gulp, leave the nest for good.  These little day flights are simply practice.  They return at the end of each day with chatter of their adventures away but are tucked back into the safety of our home by evening.  These flights will get longer and longer over the years, preparing us for the day they pack up and leave for real.  Oh, Lord...I need to stop before I become a sappy mess.  

Needless to say our back to school routine went the same as usual.  The girls were sad to see vacation end but happy to see their friends again.  I was sad to see them go but knew it was time for new routines.  Change it up.  But first we had a few things to cross off our last week of summer bucket list.  

Things like going to the splash park one more time...

Pool party with cousins...
This ended up not only being the last pool party of the season but also the last of the pool.  Five big kids in there was apparently too much as it popped mid-play.  At least it held out until the end of summer.

On my end of summer bucket list was one more hike and picnic with my girls and we sure found the perfect picnic spot...

Hiking in the fall is actually pretty awesome around here so there will be more hikes in our future.  In fact I really want to try some snow hiking this winter.  I think part of the reason I get in such a winter slump is because I need to be in the mountains.  The girls are older now so I plan on bundling everyone up and at least giving it a try.  I know I can convince this family with the promise of hot cocoa.  

That last week of summer vacation we crammed a lot in.  Wanting to soak up every last morsel.  We said no to nothing.  When neighbors called with a last minute invite for a dinner picnic up Hyalite, we didn't even hesitate...thoughts of summer is ending, do it.  The very next night we did the same thing but with different friends and at a different location.  Same type of thoughts...it may be work, but we gotta, summer is ending.  Doing so much there was a small part of me that began to look forward to the calm down of the fall months.  I do believe each season has its purpose and fall for me is slowing down.  Taking a breath.  But I will miss these carefree, no bedtime, fun with friends evenings...

Usually Labor Day is our final farewell to summer, however this one felt more like a welcoming of fall.  The air was chilly and there was plenty of rain.  As much as I wanted to we decided against camping.  As I felt the chill each night I was very happy with this decision.  We still tried to do summer things.  All ended with us soaking wet.  A hike and picnic Saturday was going beautifully and suddenly the clouds changed and opened up and dumped on us.  By the time we reached the car all of us were soaked to the bone.  Yes, I was very thankful we weren't returning to a tent that night but to the warmth of my parents river house.  The next day, as if we didn't get enough the prior day, we went for a float on the river only to be poured on again.  Not much you can do sitting in a raft on a slow moving river with the wind and rain going against you.  Just laugh.  That's what you can do.  Laugh at the situation and know you would dry and warm up soon.  

It wasn't the ideal way to kiss our summer goodbye, but what can you do.  You remember the little moments of the weekend when the sun poked out and blessed you with its warm rays.
You stick your feet in the cold creek and feel happy to be out in nature...
You watch little girls, imaginations flurrying with the sandy beach we played on...
And, you sit back with your favorite book you're reading for the hundredth time and enjoy...
Yes, that is how you say goodbye to summer vacation.  You just do it, despite the weather because it deserves a proper send off.  After all it was so very good to us.  

I know it doesn't officially end for a few more weeks so I won't start mourning the end of summer quite yet.  There's a bit more to soak in and I intend to do so.