Saturday, July 26, 2014

Adventures in Cheyenne, Wyoming

Everyone in Fort Collins can thank me for the precipitation yesterday. I hung some laundry on the clothes line then drove out of town, clearly causing it to rain. It's all part of my Life Plan, the one I call "Making Good Choices."

I took the boys to Cheyenne, Wyoming to spend the morning with my parents. They had made a trip from Iowa to attend Cheyenne Frontier Days. The town of Cheyenne is at its prime during the annual Frontier Days. With a parade, daily rodeos, and nightly concerts, it was hopping with cowboy activity. It was also crawling with transients, but that is another story that I probably won't tell.



My parents are what some might call Western Enthusiasts. They not only live on a horse ranch where they raise Quarter Horses and operate a horse camp, they also are avid collectors of anything vintage western. Some would say it's their passion; others might call it their illness. Whatever it is, I compare it to my inherent love of all things shoes. So naturally, ma and pa had selected touring a cowboy museum as part of their time with me and the boys. We stepped into the Nelson Museum of the West and were met with a burst of air conditioning and a friendly lady behind the desk. Well, Dad, the boys, and I stepped into the museum. Mom was outside taking a phone call.

The lady at the desk walked to the counter to greet us and my dad said, "Three adults and two brats."

I watched her visually scan our group and a perplexed look appeared on her face when she only counted two adults.

To save her the concern for my father's ability to do simple math, I said, "Mom is outside."

Then I smiled in a helpful way.

The woman frowned for a split second, tilted her head and asked, "How old is your mother?"

I saw my dad smirking. It's no secret where I got my love of mocking people. Then I did a quick rundown of our apparent scenario and realized that this woman was assuming two things that were not correct. One- she thought that I was married to my father and the "brats" were our spawn. And two- she believed that we left some apparently elderly woman alone out on the streets of Cheyenne to fend off the massive homeless population and heave open the heavy wooden doors. In both situations, I am a loser.

There was a long moment of silence where the only thing I could hear were the sarcastic remarks that my dad was thinking.

I corrected her, "No. THIS is my FATHER." Then I pointed at Chief Tall Hat, just to make it clear that I was referring to the big guy buying the tickets.

Just then, my youthful mother burst through the giant wooden doors with the ease of a veteran door opener. She didn't even break a sweat... or her hip. Because I'm not an asshole that leaves an old lady alone on the street. "Hurry up and get across that intersection, GRANDMA! I should hear your cane a-clacking!"

Immediately I suffered a shock of PTSD and I was right back in that moment in Vegas, where I was accused of being my OLDER sister's MOTHER. Then I felt that familiar twinge of mild rage toward the general public. I briefly considered shaming the woman, but judging by the high color in her cheeks, she felt plenty uncomfortable.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the museum. But then again, don't most old people love museums?  My particular favorite was the part where the giant bear tried to eat my children.


Walking through museums sure can work up an appetite, particularly when you are hungry before you walk into the museum. So we sidled on over The Capitol Grill, were I accidentally ordered enough salad for the Duggar Family and my dad taught my children proper restaurant etiquette, which apparently includes entering into a coloring contest and mocking your seven-year old opponent, then throwing french fries. The food was delicious and they maybe had the best french fries on the planet (for eating, not throwing).


After that we walked across the street and stopped into Cheyenne's legendary western store, The Wrangler. It was bustling; packed full of people and merchandise- the kind of store that you could lose yourself, or your child, in. Mom and I found Dad a belt and I discovered that the only jeans I like are over $88. Shocker.

The final stop in downtown Cheyenne was to visit The Big Boy Train, number 4004. The boys were dwarfed by this steam engine, which is over 132 feet long. Only 25 were built for a short period in the 1940's and only eight remain on display. I would say that we stopped for the boys, but in all honesty, I love trains, too.



We headed back to Little America. Because the boys were well-mannered, I had to make good on my promise; so I reluctantly donned my swimming suit and took my very excited boys to the pool. I thought to myself, This is fine. We're in Wyoming, which is not exactly the landmark for physical fitness. When I entered the pool area, I noticed that all around me where tanned, toned, gorgeous people in their twenties. I cannot explain it, the only thing I can fathom is that a bus of models from Miami must have broken down on the interstate. I spent about 20 minutes getting water kicked in my face and responding to "WATCH THIS!" and "LOOK AT ME!" 146 times- all of which included a random little girl who joined us. I tried not to shout for glee when the storm rolled in with big, fat raindrops and lightening.

"Oh darn it! We have to get out of the pool now!"



After showering, I wondered over to the gift shop, where I found a $198 Tasha Polizzi sweater that made me salivate and a wonderful photo-on-canvas of two flea bitten grey horses drinking from a stream. My dad bought me the picture, because he's truly a generous, big-hearted guy. Don't tell him that I said that.

I drove my little cowboys home and they both fell asleep immediately. Looking into the backseat and seeing their little heads resting on their shoulders filled me with joy. They are such good, sweet boys. And they are particularly precious when they're sleeping. Because... silence.

When we arrived back at our homestead, I pulled the wet laundry from the line just in time for the clouds to break up, leaving us with a beautiful evening. The boys begged to ride (after they begged for food), so ride we did. I was too lazy to heft my giant saddle onto Gus, so I went bareback.


It was a pretty good day.

Maybe, after all, my choices are just fine.


Peace, Love and Summatime,
Johi

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pioneering a Summer of Quality Time

Engage. Enjoy. Teach. Love. Build.

Those are the goals that I set for myself this summer. The time has come to step away from the computer- away from technology- and get back to the good stuff in life. Quality time outdoors with my kids (and Brock, when he is available) is my overall goal for the three warm months of June, July and August, and by golly, I mostly* reach my goals.

*I never did grow to 5'9"

Aside from a handful of projects, I have given myself a pass from most computer-related work until September 1. My boys are only 4 and 7 once and I intend to take full advantage of every day with them this summer. I am grateful for these ages, when they actually like me and still want to hang out with me.

In May, I adopted an almost childlike attitude of "I can't WAIT until summer break!" and thus far, it truly has been magical. Already one month into break, and our days have been filled with almost nonstop fun and learning. Sure, we have had some bumps and tears (and a nasty pony bite- thank goodness that was me), but the majority of our time has been wonderful. Not once have I heard, "I'm bored!" and I really doubt I will because I have shed my boring, winter self and morphed into a tanned, denim clad, mostly unwashed, great facilitator of AWESOME. I will not lie, the kids' ages make activities so much easier (and more enjoyable) than they have been in years past.

I am having more fun being a mom now than I ever have before.


Because... tiny cowboys on ponies.  I mean, seriously, this shit is ridiculously cute.

It also helps that I have my horses back and no longer feel as if I have a giant void in my chest where my heart once lived. So there's THAT.

Also, the fridge stocked with Omission beer is nice. I like the Pale Ale (blue label).



In all seriousness, one of the main goals for this summer was to build up Thing 1's confidence, which had been hacked away during the school year. I painfully watched him struggle in school with his peers as he navigated the choppy waters of playground conduct and social structure. So many days he came home from Kindergarten with stories of kids excluding him, taunting him, and even punching him. It was heart wrenching to watch my beautiful, sensitive, sweet boy feel tentative about socializing, even with kids that he called friends. While he was succeeding beautifully in the classroom, my bright-eyed child's light was fading a bit. We had many too-advanced conversations about not allowing others to victimize you, standing up for yourself and treating people as you want to be treated. I tried my best to listen and give him sound advice, but it is always hardest to coach someone when you are only getting one side of the story, and you happen to be the mother of that side. In short, I was ready to get him home and under my Mother Hen wing for a little rebooting and recharging and a lot of love and snuggles.

We had tried Karate for confidence, personal awareness and responsibility. While he seemed to enjoy Karate when he was there, he didn't really seem passionate about it. Half the time, he didn't even want to go. In all honesty, neither Brock or I have any connection to Karate, so we were ill-equipped to stir that fire. But there was something that I am passionate about that builds and develops all of those qualities: HORSES HORSES HORSES!



The arrival of Thing 1's pony, Clyde, brought the horse interest to the forefront of his mind. He seems to share my passion and the joy on his face when he is with that pony is unmatched. Every day, Thing 1 slips into his cowboy boots and heads out to the barn, where he halters both ponies and leads them out to the pen for the day. He has overcome many pony handling challenges (i.e. they are as stubborn and strong as donkeys) by implementing Posture, Position and Energy. His eager attitude, persistence and patience have made him successful. He is listening as I teach him proper horse handling and care, and even repeats things I have said about it to his little brother. He grooms Clyde, saddles him and mounts without assistance. And he LOVES to ride. The first time he cantered that pony, his smile was a big and bright as a full moon. It has been amazing to witness. His light is shining bright again. This mama's heart is full.




Thing 2 is having a wonderful summer as well. I've watched Thing 2 gain focus, determination and listening skills as he and his 27 year old pony, Duke, develop a wonderful partnership. Of course, he insists on keeping up with his big brother, which includes cleaning stalls, carrying his own pony saddle and a lot of very bumpy, fast trotting. So much trotting. So bumpy.

When the kids and I aren't in the barn or on the trail, we can be found doing one of the following: bike riding, playing baseball, making art, fishing, hiking with the dogs, gardening or reading through the Little House on the Prairie series in the almost completed Zen Den. Hot damn. Life is good.







Right now (aside from the screaming of Thing 2 from the backyard- I'm sure he'll be fine) I don't want summer to end. We are living in love and relishing the warm summer days. This is how life was meant to be lived and I intend to take full advantage of it.

Remind me of this post on August 22nd, when I have heard "I'm bored" 1,000 times, need to work again and am overly ready for the kids to go back to school.

Peace, Love and Summer Break,
Johi








Saturday, June 14, 2014

I found out what the Fox says.

Yesterday afternoon, Brock, the kids, and I drove up the mountains to head to our friend's cabins in Glen Haven. Mountains, fresh air, sunshine... it seemed like the right thing to do after I had experienced approximately four solid weeks of debilitating insomnia. In fact, I had been up since 3:30 a.m. that morning and was feeling about as sweet and cuddly as a rabid porcupine. As I loaded the cooler with the makings for ham sandwiches, I tried to focus on making it a nice evening and I thought to myself, I should grab my good camera. I love taking pictures in the mou... the Things disrupted my thoughts as they ran, screaming and hollering, through the room.

I yelled after them, "HEY! Go to the bathroom NOW because there is no water at the cabins, therefore no toilets!"

I got a, "I DON'T HAVE TO GO!" and a, "ME NEITHER!"

So I stuffed potato chips into a sack, grabbed everyone a sweatshirt in preparation for the cool Colorado night, and walked out the door... without my camera.

We intended to simply open up and clean two of the cabins, but we were in for a little something more memorable. We pulled the truck down the familiar dirt lane and crossed the bridge. There, at the Y-intersection on the left, was a beautiful red fox. She was sitting. Watching. She was calm, cool, and totally in control. After a minute, she stood up and slowly trotted up the lane we had just driven down.





As a family of animal lovers, we were all excited at this sighting. Somehow the moment seemed special, almost as if it were carved out for us to experience together, as a family. My mood started to lift.

We drove up the hill to the cabin, parked and headed into a cabin. Before we could even get into the swing of cleaning, Thing 1 proclaimed, "I have to go to the bathroom!"

I said, "We're in nature. Go pee on a tree!"

He replied, "No. I have GO."

Of course. Mr. Hankey was urgently knocking at his backdoor.

I looked up from the window sill I was scrubbing and said, "Well, you'll need to find a private spot, dig a pit, do your business, and then cover your deposit."

He blankly stared at me.

 Brock said, "Come on. I'll show you what to do."

He grabbed some toilet paper, a portable potty seat, and started on a expedition to find the perfect deuce dropping station. At this point, Thing 2 was also tagging along out of curiosity, so it was like a tiny poo parade.

The screen door had just slammed shut when I heard, "Well, look at that! There's another fox by the campfire ring!"

I quickly, but quietly ran outside. I didn't want to scare her!

I spotted her, a fluffy fox trotting up the mountain. I couldn't tell if it was the same one we had seen earlier or not. Then I saw a quick movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a kit! Then another one! And three more! They were yipping adorably and wrestling and playing chase at high speed! Mama positioned herself between my family and hers. In a way that only mothers can do, she calmly but firmly kept an eye on her kits and the blond human crew watching them. There was no scaring this fox. She was a mother of five. She'd already lived through more terror than most.



We all stood there staring with dumb smiles plastered on our faces. See my sleep-deprived one below. Dummy dumb dumb dumb. Apparently one eye gets squinty when I'm tired.

 


Ten or more minutes passed and I noticed Thing 1 making some awkward shapes with his body.

"Oh buddy! You really need to go, don't you?" I asked.

He nodded and Brock started to lead the poo crew once more. Then he said, "LOOK! A black fox!"

Sure enough, there was a sixth member of the litter and it was solid black! For a moment, I wondered if Smelly Cat stowed away in my truck and joined his tribe.

Smelly Cat: part black fox, part Ninja, part Pepe LePew, and part Toothless the Dragon.

Once more, we stood and stared like a group of gawking tourists. It was incredible! They were so beautiful... and hyper! And all I could say was, "Thank goodness Thing 1 had to go!" and, "WHY DIDN'T I BRING MY CAMERA???" and, "OMG, I actually know what the FOX SAYS!"





At least I had my camera on my cell phone. 

And for your information, the fox does say, "YIP YIP YIP YIPYIPYIP YIP."

Peace, Love and Fox Kits,
Johi