Wandering again....

Not all who wander are lost, they say.


Our Daily Walk

This morning Laurel burst into the daycare center clutching a large leaf that she had found while we were walking there (my pockets were already full of pebbles and maples leaves, other finds). She proudly took it around to show her teachers, and accurately identified it as an oak leaf.

One of the blessings of our neighborhood is the mile-long walk to Laurel's daycare. As we are shifting into a new season, the walk itself presents all kinds of lessons. The quality of the light changes as the days shorten. The same patch of woods looks entirely different from day to day. We know the neighbors and their dogs and shop owners and crossing guards.

There are lessons for me, too. Patience for one, because invariably, about halfway there I feel a bit tired of looking at yet another pebble/acorn/leaf and I'm feeling antsy to drop her off and trek back home so I can get some work done.

She has a new game she likes to play. At some point she will sit down on the sidewalk and say, "How about you leave me here and somebody else will get a Nugget?" And I make a big fuss and say, "No! You are my Nugget and you belong with our family." And she grins without looking at me and gets up and holds my hand and we go on with our walk.

It was pouring down rain the other day, and we got all suited up in rain coats and rain boots, and carried umbrellas and still arrived rather wet because there were a lot of puddles to jump through. And Laurel kept putting her umbrella away and pulling her hood back so she can feel the rain drops fall on her cheek. She especially liked the big fat ones that were coming off the trees.


Laurel and Her Best Buds


Fair. Share.

Have you ever stood in a room, feeling awkward because there's somebody going on and on about gay marriage or people on welfare or abortion or how ridiculous Christian Scientists are, and YOU know - but they don't - that someone else is in that very room falls into one of those categories? And can hear everything they're saying?

Yes, most of us have been there. Lots of us have been the ones to run their mouths, too. Ahem. Present company included. I'm wiser and more sober than I once was, but I have plenty of foot-in-the-mouth moments. And plenty of once-held opinions that I shed because I realized at some point that the world is not black and white. Lots of gray. Lots of stories to be told about navigating that gray. And now any time I feel a little too righteous about one of my beliefs I take that as a cue to go walk in somebody else's shoes for a bit.

Mitt Romney made some remarks at a private fundraiser that somebody recorded without his knowledge. Mother Jones wrote a story about it. If I had to wager a guess, he was simply trying to rally his supporters around who they should get the vote out to. Don't bother with the poor people. Or the old people. Or the people with disabilities. Or the people who are able to work in part because they can deduct childcare expenses.

You know, those Americans who don't take responsibility for our lives and expect a handout. Those 47% of Americans who don't pay income taxes.

Ok, I can feel a little anti-Romney righteousness coming on. Perhaps I should walk a mile in his shoes. What would it be like to live in a house where you can afford to make all the necessary repairs? What would it be like to "just" worry about the cancer your wife got, and not about how it could plunge you into financial ruin? What would it be like to have a private jet? To have enough spare income for a dressage horse?

Mitt - it would have been nicer to just say, "the Dems appeal to the poor and working classes. But we think our vision is good for the whole country. We're going to need to convince those who are a little better off to join our side, so we can show the whole country what we can do."

Of course, if that is indeed what Mitt Romney believes, which I am not convinced that he does.

If Mitt was my friend and I invited him to my party, I can imagine spending the whole time trying to steer him towards looking at my poster art collection or talking about recipes so he wouldn't offend my other guests by talking about anything of substance. And his apologies are just as bad.

I feel particularly prickly about this because I'm in that "5-10% in the center" that he is talking about recruiting votes from.  I paid my income taxes. But unlike people who bring in millions of dollars a year, I'm not obsessed with hanging on to every last penny of it. I can see the benefit of giving some of it away to others who don't have as much. My community works better when we all look out for each other and we don't try to measure each other's worth by how much income each of us generates. That means some people give a little more and some people get a little more.

The common sense reason that the top 2% of earners pay half the taxes is that they are the ones with the money. Ann Romney's horse is worth more than my house. "Fair share" is a bad phrase to use when talking about taxes. People think fair means, I pay what he pays. But the dictionary defines fair as meaning "free from injustice" or "legitimately done". Injustice is what happens when some of our neighbors don't have enough to eat, or safe housing, or access to health care. Share is what we do when we have a little more than we need. (Like a $100,000 horse for instance.) We give what we don't need to those who need it.

Fair. Share.


Dealing with Bedtime Fears

The school buses have just started to go by and it's still dark outside, with a single bright star framed in my window. I know my teacher friends are already at school, getting together for a cup of coffee before the bell rings, as they do every Friday. M and Laurel are still in bed, but I woke up early (tough habit to break). At the moment, we have only one bed, so we all pile in together. It's worked out well at this particular phase. As summer started, Laurel started to wake up at night. Nightmares or just not wanting to be alone in her room. I would end up sleeping in her room with her almost every night after she came and got me. When we sleep together, it's peaceful pretty much all night. (Thank goodness for a king size bed!)

I know a lot of parents would do some "sleep training" at this point, but as someone who has been afraid of the dark my entire life, I don't have the heart. Recently, she's had trouble falling asleep at night unless someone is with her.

I've noticed that kids come up with the most cockamainy stories to get their needs met. Teenagers construct elaborate dramas. Eight year olds flat out lie. And almost-three year olds convincingly spit out explanations that make you feel like you are in an existentialist essay.

I don't know if it's a human tendency to manipulate and lie to get our needs met, or something that has just evolved in our culture, but I'm trying to break the cycle here. It's simply more efficient and less confusing if everybody says exactly what they need and then you go from there to see whether or not it can be provided in the moment. (Hint: Usually it can.)

Don't tell me that you can't stay in your room with the gate up because, as Laurel put it last night, "I won't be where I am at."

M went up to address that particular concern and asked her what she really needed, which was a grown up to snuggle with. He laid down with her and she was asleep in 10 minutes.

The question is are we dealing with bedtime fears or just ignoring them? Are we validating our child's feelings as legitimate, or helping to reinforce her fear of the many scary things in life?

Is she going to want to sleep with us until she's 18?


Finding Your Katahdin

Happy Katahdin Day! It's the 5 year anniversary of M&K's summit of the final mountain in our Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike. It took us 6 months and 6 days to walk 2,174 miles from Georgia to Maine. And even though 10,000 other people have done it, I'm still pretty darn proud of myself for this accomplishment. We started this blog around the time we made the decision to hike the AT. At the time I would have expected to stop writing here long ago, but here we are, 837 posts later.

Ok, so five years later. Life is a bit different. We have a kid. Different careers.  A mortgage. A few more gray hairs. But what has stuck with us is the belief in ourselves that we can do anything we set our minds to. (That both simplifies and complicates life.)

M & K Thru-hike the Appalachian Trail

Back in the day, M & K were not outdoors-y people. Sure we did our fair share of drinking around a bonfire at the River House, but we didn't know how to read topo maps or what kinds of nasty critters need to be filtered out of water. When we took off from Springer Mountain in March of 2006, we had spent  about 3 nights backpacking. Ever. Like many wanna-be AT thru-hikers, we had no idea what we were getting into. In the first picture, our tentative smiles and clean hiking gear tell this story. And boy, you can almost see us straining under the weight of our too-heavy packs.

M & K Thru-hike the Appalachian Trail

Six months later, the smiles have an air of confidence in them that didn't just come from climbing that last peak. We know who we are and what we can do. We know what our limitations are and to give due respect to Mother Nature.


And now what? Same wild beard on M that seems to come and go regardless of whether we are living in the city or woods. And I have some crazy, fuzzy dreads going on these days, no job and a baby on the way. But ever since we climbed up that last peak on the AT, we've been looking for our next Katahdin.

We haven't found it. And it drives us nuts. You can see it in our eyes in the last photo. It's a wanderlust we thought we were supposed to outgrow, but haven't.

Where to next? That's the question that haunts us now. We play around with it at the breakfast table. On weekend camping trips. At the end of the month when we pay our bills and wonder what all this earning and spending is really for. I just googled "window treatments" - my next project. And we're not even sure we want windows.

The problem with learning that you can do anything that you set your mind to, is that it makes it hard to narrow down your options. Everything seems possible. And nothing gets done. Or lots gets done, but you never get where you thought you were going.


So let her eat cake....

With our entire upstairs in upheaval, M is still working out of a disaster of a home office. Hopefully this will be cleared up somewhat by the end of the week. He had to get some stuff done today, so I took Laurel to the zoo. (One thing we are discovering about being self-employed....no paid holidays. Ever.)

Laurel noticed right away that I did not take a stroller to the zoo. "Dang it," she said. She noticed that most of the under 3 crowd were sitting in strollers munching on snacks she coveted. Cheez-its. Honey Grahams. Juice boxes.

We had water bottles and leftover french toast bits from breakfast and a Lara bar. Definitely less appealing. By the way, I didn't "forget" the stroller. I wanted her to get some good exercise so she would take an afternoon nap. (Which she did. Two hours!) We saw giraffes, bears, painted dogs, and the sea lions. Her favorite animals were these goldfish, who live in the canal by the elephant exhibit. If you take your kid to see exotic animals and all they want to do is look at some goldfish, well, I think you should just roll with it. We sat there a long time and she pointed them out to everyone who approached the fence. They mostly looked confused by what she was saying because they came to see the baby elephant.

Ask Moxie, one of my favorite mom bloggers, wrote about food rules and kids today. We don't have much in the way of food rules in our house, and I'm not sure how it's working out. We don't have fights about food or dinner time or anything, so I think that makes it a little more peaceful. We generally have healthy food on hand, so that's mostly what she eats. I've been eating meat recently, but she won't touch it. She's a little picky about everything but will devour lentil soup by the bowlful, serves herself a tiny little salad whenever we have it for dinner, and is game enough to try most everything we give her, although she often spits the first bite out.

I recently heard about a mom whose two year old had never eaten refined sugar. Can you sense the waves of guilt that wash over moms everywhere when they hear things like that? We sense that it's something we ought to have been doing and it's too late now and our kids are now destined to have cavities and problems with obesity and it will be All. Our. Fault.

Hold on a second, rewind. The guilt washed over me and then receded immediately.

But seriously, M and I have certainly struggled to find a happy balance of food choice in our home over the last year with adjusting to my dietary concerns and our desire to avoid food that's laced with chemicals or hormones or trucked long distances. No matter what research I read, I always go back to Michael Pollan's "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

Right now, I feel like I have a good handle on what to cook and serve and eat. I know what makes my body feel good and bad and how much I need. My only hope is that modeling eating this way would teach Laurel to do the same.

However, I think there's another food rule I need to work on, which is food waste. How can we look deeper into this issue without just a "clean your plate" motto? I just read this interesting piece on food waste and I think this is the next big thing my household has to tackle.