Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Thursday, July 20, 2023

Nature Sounds in Real Life

My new electric car beeps and peeps constantly to warn me about close cars, veering out of the lane, not following the car ahead of me with alacrity. For a few weeks I was annoyed by the car's chatter, but we've made it through the initial phase of our relationship and now we couldn't be parted. I discover new bells and whistles daily, including the ability to play nature sounds on the stereo. The digital console offers "wild forest," "waking up in the city," and some water medley that I haven't yet tried. Wild forest sounds appealed instantly, and I spent a happy commute listening to unbridled birdsong and crickets. I can't warble along, but I plunged into a happy memory of our recent immersion into a real forest with living creatures and their music.

On Saturday, Aden led William and I on a punishing but beautiful hike along the skyline peaks of Boulder. She did the Boulder Skyline Traverse with a friend once before, when she was in 2020 pandemic shape (i.e. fabulous due to daily hiking or biking) and felt that I needed to try it, despite the fact that I am not currently in pandemic shape. William came along to set the early pace and (after some grumbling in the middle) finish off with fabulous cheerleading as I faltered. I ended the hike mid-way up our fifth and final peak, when the air temperature reached 80 degrees and my body emphatically concluded that 18 miles and 5200 feet of elevation gain was enough. William continued to the finish line and ended his day with 20 miles and 600 feet more of elevation.

I review the hike not to laud our accomplishments (well, maybe a little) but to reflect on the good fortune that allows us to immerse ourselves in actual forest. A 45-minute drive to the kids' apartments in Boulder and a 15-minute drive to the trailhead brought us to the precipice of adventure. When we left the trailhead at 4:50am the birds were up and in full voice, sending us floating along the trail on their happy sound waves. Warblers, chickadees, finches, sparrows all gossiped and chattered at high volume and we stopped talking to appreciate nature's surround sounds. 

In the faint light before dawn we couldn't appreciate the wildflowers where the birds were sheltering, but we found ourselves in daylight soon enough. After a tough upward scramble over the first two rocky peaks, we began to stride along the Green Mountain trail, where Queen Anne's Lace grew as high as young trees and all manners of pink, purple, white, gold and orange wildflowers met us at every turn. The sleepy birds gave way to happy humming crickets and circling butterflies and our nature bath was only interrupted by herds of trail runners passing on our left.

I realize that not everybody has the chance to step off the beaten sidewalk, get out of their car and find the real natural soundscape, and I'm so grateful that my car is not the only place I can hear birdsong. Now I just need to get back my ability to walk, and it will be time to plan the next one.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

Parenting Roller Coaster

 On the rare occasions that I ride a roller coaster, my stomach clenches tight and then flies out of my mouth as I go down the steep hills, forcing me to scream it out so I don't spontaneously combust. The past month encompassed a series of metaphorical roller coasters that turned my stomach in knots, but screaming it out did not help - nor did clenching my teeth and holding my breath or swearing that I didn't care and trying to look away.

Parenting can feel like an amusement park ride, sometimes a fun diversion, a source of joy and thrills, and sometimes a source of dread and horror. A good friend asked me for parenting advice this week, because I am older / my kids are older, and I've seen a few things. I passed along one choice tidbit that has served me well: when you are grappling with a tough situation, don't start playing the movie forward, don't envision your child's future life based on their current actions.  "That's good advice," she said, "because the movie in my head right now is rated R."

What to do when your child flouts your wishes at every turn, runs afoul of the curfew police and cares not for their parent's rules, heartfelt conversation, carefully written behavior contract?  I obviously don't know, because none of the prior methods has been effective this summer.  We hope for peace, for general compliance, but every time hope surges and our metaphoric party balloons inflate, something else happens to burst our balloons and send us back to the drawing board.

Yesterday I woke up happy, pleased that our kiddo was on a church mission trip about 90 minutes away, texting good news. The space between us felt restorative and a few days of peace glimmered. Yet only three hours later my phone rang with news of a precipitate stomach bug and the request for me to drive down and pick up my young missionary. No matter that I had hours more of work, that driving close to three hours would blow up my day. I vented to tears of frustration for a few minutes and then did what I had to do. The youngster and I didn't speak for the whole ride home; I didn't trust myself to open my mouth.

Hopefully the amusement-park antics of our offspring will subside soon, hopefully peace is on the horizon, but I can't play even that happy movie forward since I have to deal with what happens today. One day at a time, I keep thinking. To parents everywhere, I feel your anguish and your trials as you strap yourself once again into the roller coaster. Hold on tight and scream if you have to.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

The Month of Problem-Solving

June was a month of problem-solving. After celebrating Aden's college graduation with beloved visitors and a family trip in May, we crashed to earth in the first month of summer. From stains and smells to flooded basement bedrooms to a not-so-sneaky teenager leaving the house at all hours, parents' heads spun 'round and exhaustion crept in at the cellular level.

We try to teach the children how to solve problems, how to grit teeth and shoulder in, taking deep breaths and pushing through rather than sitting on the couch and giving in to a good wail. The boys helped us move furniture, rip out wet carpet and carpet pads, and carry everything away so fans could dry the bare concrete. Their involvement helped me keep a stiff upper lip when I wanted to tantrum, buoyed me through a trip to Target for fans and donating trunk loads of stuff we moved and found we didn't need. 

This blog won't go into the teenage craziness, suffice it to say that certain behaviors cannot be repeated or someone will be out on their ear. The tension of parenting older children wears on the nerves as we try to let them go and distance ourselves from their choices (and resulting consequences) while still recognizing when a firm voice and rules are required for minors. We are older and wiser now then when we started this parenting journey, but also way more tired. 

With the solstice in our rearview mirror and Colorado drying out from its wettest June ever, my hope is that the road ahead stays mainly smooth for the near-term. We had to replace our air conditioner last month, as well, so we're ready for the high temps that certainly lie in store. I doubt the path will be smooth for long, as life is mainly about confronting challenges, but a few days of laid-back rest and refraining from obstacles wouldn't go amiss. Wishing our readers a happy Fourth!