Friday, September 27, 2013

She Said: Camping + iphonography

Last weekend as Paul told you we went camping. It wasn't even his idea. I had to talk him into it. You see, we live our life a little like a person who has been given a diagnosis with only a certain about of days to live in a particular place. You get the idea. With only six weeks left in the States, there are place we want to get our fill of, but mostly people. 

Morgan and I have been planning play-dates like school-girls, packing in adventures and memories, like you can stock this kind of stuff up for a long winter, in India.

Until then Paul is treating me like a pubescent schoolgirl and he is humoring me, even when I say: "Hey! Guess what? I'll tell you what, Morgan and I are planning a camping trip!" because he knows my idea of camping is roasting s'mores in the fireplace of the lobby at the Ritz Carlton. 

I spent the week readying us for our big weekend, menu planning, outfit planning and such. The day we arrived was beautiful and cool and I'd have never once imagined myself a few hours later, within the pages of a Krakauer novel, even though I knew Morgan hadn't borrowed a heated Yurt for our slumber. 

Here we are just after we arrived to the campsite and had not yet discovered we had no firewood, or tent. I may or may not be dressed like we are going boating, it turns out I don't "do" camping apparel. The color is much to drab and moisture wicking fabrics just don't seem to flatter. I did however set my hair free to curl, thus prepping it for two days without a shower, so you can't say I wasn't prepared, in the beauty sense. I also only packed my 5 minute face of makeup, which I'll have you know I never used.

Thankfully the Loosli's arrived moments later with our tent and Phill's Boyscout fire-building knowledge. We ate and lounged by the fire watching the bugs and roasting s'mores. 

The rest of the night is a bit of a blur, er "burr". There were parts that I thought were a dream and parts I wished were a dream. The highlight of the night was peeking out of the tent to see if the lights were out in the minivan signaling that Clem was indeed asleep and seeing the entire galaxy laid out perfectly above our tent. It is something that I'd forgotten that made the whole ordeal worth while.

The minivan warm-up. FYI, 5 kids and a box of Kix will take several weeks or a professional car detail to clean-up and the Chrysler Town and Country should have an LL Bean edition, this beast is rugged.

After warming up we hit up this meadow. It was incredible. The boys climbed trees and frozen nights were forgotten...

Just not forgotten enough to stay a second night.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Talk

The time is rapidly approaching when I may need to have "The Talk" with Sam.

You know the one...

...the one where I try to explain to him why someone would walk into an office or school and shoot people or children he doesn't know.

After the recent mass shooting at the Navy Yard, Elise and I feared that someone in Sam's class, a parent, or teacher might say something about it. We were lucky. So far, no one has, but this was the first time one of these incidents was close enough where it may have worked into the school's collective psyche. Maybe one of the parents or one of the teachers knew someone at the Navy Yard that morning, or maybe the school decided to take some sort of precautions in light of the event.

If we had been posted to Nairobi, we would definitely have to be dealing with this kind of conversation. Thankfully, we are not. At least, for now.

Elise and I feel it is important that Sam (and probably, soon after, Peter and Clementine) learn about life from us. Though I don't look forward to having to talk to him about terrorism or mass shootings, I'd rather be the one to explain these things to him.

Living overseas, I don't believe we are more vulnerable or are closer to terrorism or violence, but I do believe we are closer to the side effects of living in a world where terrorism and violence are prevalent. For example, every day when we drove into work in Brazil we had to stop at the gate so the guards could check under our car and under the hood for bombs. I don't think most people have to have their car checked for bombs on the way to the office in the U.S. Elise and I had to field the inevitable questions of why the guards were checking our car, and we told Peter and Sam that the guards were nice enough to check everyone's car to make sure the engine was working.

I hope to keep them innocent for as long as possible. There is no need for them to be any more nervous about India or the future than they are already. This will prove to be increasingly difficult.

The company that owns our corporate housing apartment building owns several other corporate housing apartment buildings throughout Northern Virginia. They are stocked from a small warehouse directly below our apartment, and the patio to our apartment is directly above the loading dock where once or twice a day, a truck backs up and is filled with sheets, pillows, side tables, plastic trees, and nondescript abstract wall art. Of course, the truck comes most frequently during naps so the sound of the back of the truck opening or of the lift going up and down can wake Clementine. Sometimes, the truck comes at other times of the day.

The children like hanging out on the balcony, and when the truck pulls up, they all say "Hi!" to the truck driver and wave. Sam and Peter will run a commentary over his actions loud enough so he can clearly hear. "Sam, here comes our no-hair guy!" "Look, Sam. He's got three trees today!" "Hey, look, Pete! He's smoking. He shouldn't be smoking, should he?"

A few weeks ago, when President Obama's calls to launch a strike against Syria for using chemical weapons were at their shrillest, the truck driver and another moving man were talking about it. As I said, the loading dock is right below our balcony, and the boys could clearly here the two talk. The truck driver said something like, "Them rebels...they always ask for our help...then when they win, they turn right around and bomb us!" Later, he added, "If there's war in Syria, this whole place is going to fill up! We'll be busy as shit!"

(What he meant to say was war in Syria would lead to evacuations from many overseas missions and even more residents in temporary corporate housing. Thankfully, war has been averted for now. I'm relieved for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the least of which is that Sam and Pete's no-hair truck driver won't have to work overtime.)

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Night at the Ballpark

Nanny came to visit us this week and was nice enough to buy us all tickets to the Nats vs. Marlins game.

We had great seats! As you can tell from this shot of the Presidents up close.

Here are the fans....!

And the first pitch....

After six scoreless innings, the Nats went on a tear and scored 7 runs in the sixth. The place was packed and going wild, and it was easy for Sam and Pete to get into the spirit...after they had been refueled with ice cream cones!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

First Camping Trip

Everyone was super excited for our first camping trip. Especially, Pete and Sam. Every afternoon, whenever we climbed into the car, Peter would ask if were we driving to camping, as though camping were one of those activities you could just run off and do with little to no preparation, like a trip to the park, a run to the grocery or to Starbucks.

Camping is not like that, as we found out. The hard way. Because, despite all our preparations, that's pretty much exactly what we did.

Friday afternoon, right after I got off from work and Clementine got up from her nap, we climbed into our minivan with all our supplies and drove an hour outside of town to Shenandoah National Park. We were meeting friends who were kind enough to offer to bring a tent for us to borrow. The rest of our meager camping supplies (we haven't had much need for them recently, as busy as were raising children still to tiny to camp) were on their way to India. I didn't think to pack my sleeping bag, and Elise doesn't even own one yet.

I had looked at the weather forecast and knew it was going to be cold. But it was colder than even I expected. Additionally, I had forgotten just how cold forty degrees feels like. In shorts with no jacket, no sleeping, and only a beach towel covering my legs.

We arrived at our campsite and, after realizing we didn't have firewood, jumped back in the car and drove the two short miles to the park store to buy some. We felt we had come well prepared otherwise. We had enough food to feed an army, beer, and S'mores fixins. Beforehand, Elise had joked about planning a menu. She was going 'glamping' or glamour camping.

As the sun set, we hastily pitched our tent while our friends prepared dinner. After dinner, Sam roasted marhsmallows in the campfire, while Peter, having skipped nap, decided to turn in. I laid down next to him in tent until he fell asleep. The flap on the tent was open, and Peter was looking out through the mosquito netting at the moon ducking behind the clouds. He said something sleepily about the clouds rushing through the sky--They looked like they may have done the same one evening over Sleepy Hollow--and soon he was asleep.

By the time Sam had eaten almost entire bag of marshmallows, it was time for everyone to turn in. The stars had yet to come out, and stargazing would have to wait until the second night. We had forgotten to pack Sam's pajamas, but he remained nonplussed. In the spirit of things, he didn't balk at having to sleep in his clothes, and climbed into his sleeping bag in his socks, pants, and hooded sweatshirt. He, too, was soon asleep.

Elise and I climbed onto the air mattress we had brought with Clementine between, but she was not happy. Too out of sorts, she had a hard time settling down. It was late, and maybe she was overtired. It was dark, and maybe she, too, was cold. Or maybe there was just too much unfamiliar around her. She wouldn't sleep and started to cry, a sound which split the night in the near-silent middle-of-nowhere.

Elise gave her her cellphone, and after playing a game for a few minutes, eventually calmed down to go to sleep (for an hour, maybe two).

Then, the snoring started. Rumbling from the adjacent campsite, came the noise that sounded like a bear growling. It might have been preferable if the sound had been a bear, because then he would have eventually become disinterested and wandered off. No such luck. The growling was coming from inside the neighboring tent and didn't stop until the sun came up.

An hour or so later, Clementine woke up and started crying again. We couldn't calm her down. She kept pointing outside the tent. I didn't know what she wanted. To go back to the camp fire? To go home? Not knowing what else to do, I acquiesced and took her out into the night.

The stars had come out and the sky was beautiful. The one thing I had wanted to see most on this trip was the stars that I had not seen in several years. For that reason alone, perhaps the midnight interruption was welcome, but the welcome didn't last long.

I was intercepted by Elise's friend who offered to drug our baby. Kidding. She had baby tylenol in a tiny plastic dropper, but I couldn't get Clem to take it in the dark. Elise's friend told me that if I was hoping to hold out until morning I would have a long time to wait. It was only 12:30.

Clementine was still crying, despite all the stars in the heavens above us, so I decided to put her in her car seat. I knew this was a risk, but I didn't know what else to do. I figured that, at least in the car, her cries would be muffled. Fortunately, she fell asleep a few minutes later. I sat behind the steering wheel and tried to go to sleep, but the warmth I thought I had eventually felt when I got into the car, quickly vanished and cold crept in. Before the dashboard light winked out, I saw that it was fifty degrees out. By the time Clementine woke for the second time and I had to turn the car back on to calm her again, it was 3:40 and the temperature had dropped another five degrees.

I wrapped a beach towel around my legs (I still had shorts on) and pulled Clementine out of her car seat and into the front seat with me. Again fortune interceded, and she passed out in my arms and stayed like that for the next three hours.

I tried to close my eyes, but sleep would not come. By this time, my butt was asleep and my legs were cramping, but I did not envy Elise either. I knew she was having it no easier in the cold tent. Come to find out, maybe the air mattress wasn't such a good idea in the cold, because as the air insteas the mattress became colder and colder, Elise felt like she was sleeping on a layer of ice cubes.

I sat in the pitch darkness staring out the front window for six hours. I quickly came to understand how one can think they see things moving in the dark. It was the complete blackness one gets when they close their eyes and see black blobs and dots moving against a background of blackness. I couldn't believe how long it took for dawn to come, and then when it did come, I couldn't believe how long it took for the sky to lighten and morning to come. Every few minutes I would try and close my eyes and when I opened them, I couldn't tell if it had grown lighter or darker around me.

Clementine woke around 6:30 no worse for wear. She actually smiled and giggled. We extricated ourselves from the cold car and climbed into the tent. I couldn't stop shivering. I felt like a character in a Krakuer book. If the night had gone on any longer, I'm sure I would have reverted to cannibalism.

Soon, we were all awake. It was still freezing outside, and Peter---poor Petey who has the body mass index of a beanpole--was miserable, so I offered to let everyone climb into the minivan to warm up and watch cartoons. I know a camping purist would think I was copping out, but at the time I felt like it was something I needed to do. Isn't that what camping is really about? Using the paucity of resources at your disposal in new and creative ways?

Eventually, the say warmed and became beautiful. We drove an hour to a meadow where we saw deer and a lodge where we had a tailgate picnic. Elise had brought artisan meats and cheeses. I succumbed to my weakness for potato chips, and we shared a Fat Tire. It was unarguebaly the highlight of the trip. We played at a playground and went on a short hike before driving home.

Early that morning, Elise and I had decided there was no way we could survive another night like that one. It was to be even colder Saturday night than it was Friday night. So, sadly, we had to abandon our camping friends and drive back to civilization.

We learned a lot from our inaugural camping trip, and I know no one regrets having gone. Sam and Pete were perfect campers and are ready for even bigger, grander adventures.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Preschool: Day 1

Sweet Pete, came to me in the midst of something much different and yet very much the same as what Paul described. I was in, what felt like, the launch of my career. I would only find out later, that that was not what I was meant for and the calling to the foreign service was one that was carefully laid out for all of us. 

I worked at my computer, day and night, with tiny Pete curled up on his tummy on my bed, by my side, editing weddings. Weddings I had shot when I was eight and a half months pregnant on Palm Beach. There was a lot of stress in our lives during my pregnancy with Pete and despite our constant attempts to keep things zen, I prayed that the stress wouldn't have an affect on the sweet baby growing in my belly. 

Peter's entry into this world was, I now realize, a test. Something given to me by a God to say "Go ahead make an outline for the way you want your story to read, but you don't write the book." I planned on having an epidural, I planned on having him before New Years, I didn't plan on having him so fast that I missed out on the epidural. He entered this world in a room so bright and filled with so many people that I missed the very calm and serenity that we both deserved for the first time in a long time. But, I was given the gift to know what I am/was capable of and at a time that I'd need that confidence to move forward, the peace and serenity would wait.

I know without a doubt now, that my stressful pregnancy and delivery didn't have a negative effect on Pete.  But, there was a whole sleepless year with my boy who wanted to eat constantly, there was doubt about our decision to uproot our whole lives, our whole family and to leave our home. There was doubt about leaving my business and doubt about leaving the country. There were adjustments to living in the city, to having two children, to having Paul working 9-5 and to me staying at home. There were still weddings to shoot in Florida and there were clients to find in DC.  There was post-partum depression. 

I will always be honest with my boys and have no shame in telling you that while Pete saved Paul's life,  Paul was saving mine. Paul also kept Pete alive during the midnight hours, the two and three and four times a night that he got up to eat. I kept us all alive during the week, just barely. 

It wasn't until Peter was about eight months old that I fled for the open wheat fields of my parents house for a break from the constant noise of the city, that I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. 

It was Pete. 

I spent all day with he and Sam, in the fresh air. We picnicked and discovered parks, much the same as we did this summer. I woke up with him each night and I was exhausted, but it was different.  I finally connected with those big green-grey eyes and I fell in love. I have not stopped falling love since then, but we got off to a rough start and there is a lot to blame, none of which is important now. Pete showed me what I'm made of, he continues to every day. Pete doesn't do easy and he doesn't do fast. He takes his time in the world, his feet move more slowly than molasses, but only to make up for the fact that his brain moves faster than a jet.

He is the smartest, sweetest, fieriest boy I know. He is the first one to clap his hands when he hears "If your happy and you know it..." and he has a voice like a little songbird.  

Yesterday was his first day of pre-school and he won the hearts of his teachers, too. 

We are asked not to ask how the kids did at school at pick-up, which is silly, but perhaps necessary. As I waited and spied on him through his classroom window before pickup, the office lady stopped to tell me how well he did, she'd been in and out of the room all day and "He is so polite." 

Then his teacher appeared to write the things they did for the day on the white-board outside his classroom and made it a point to tell me how wonderful he was. 

He had told her his "Granddad flew jets and landed them on the runway of aircraft carriers." Which is partially true, but that isn't important either. They bonded over their naval pasts. 

He was a ball of sunshine with a huge smile when he sprang from his class to greet us. He had painted rice blue, painted his hand white and painted the school red. 

The highlight of his day was seeing Sam in his class on his was to the playground and the highlight of Sam's was seeing Pete on his way back from the playground.

Pete has two boys from India in his class, one is from Chennai. He also only speaks Tamil.  

Once you realize hindsight is 20/20, it becomes so much easier to press on.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

All Grown Up

Before Sam was born, Elise encouraged me to write a letter to our unborn son. The letter to Sam was filled with hope and excitement and all the wonders I was looking forward to sharing with him.

I did the same for Peter, but Peter's letter was different. It was full of unknowns and, frankly, fear, as at the time I didn't know what was going to happen to us. I was out of work and cashing in every asset I had just to keep our heads above water and food on the table. It was impossible to keep that sense of unknowing and dread out of the letter. But at the same time, that sense of unknown created context to help explain our love for Peter...I wrote then that amidst the fear and dark tides lapping at our shores, Peter would always be treasured and loved.

I still feel that way about him. I had always felt that during what was arguably the hardest, most difficult time of my life, both personally and economically, I was given this little bundle that glowed and warmed. He helped remind me of what is really important in life. He distracted me from financial worries. He made me focus on his daily needs, instead of staring blankly at a computer screen, wondering or imagining where the next paycheck would come from, and he accompanied us on the all-important, do-or-die move to Washington, D.C....when he was only a few months old.

I wrote Peter a letter before he was born, but I should have waited until now to write that letter, because I can better tell him now what he really means to me.

Peter has never been any easy child. It goes all the way back to his entre into the world three and a half years ago--quick, yet painful. But, in those early years, he was like a lighthouse. He was always smiling and happy. Maybe my memory of the time is selective, but I felt that no matter how many months behind I was in paying the bills, Pete still smiled. He helped me realize my worth went beyond dollars.

I see commercials now for dolls with night lights built inside them. You squeeze the doll and the night light comes on and your child can fall asleep without a worry in the world. Glow Pets, their called, I think.

That's Peter.

The first summer we were in Washington, D.C., we treated ourselves to a few nights away to celebrate the Fourth of July. We didn't travel far and stayed at the Gaylord Resort at National Harbor. The picture Elise took of me and the boys there is how I always remember Peter:

That's Peter!

Even now, when he is a moody toddler, equal parts Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, with a heart full of both sunshine and thunder and lightening, I can hold him close to me and feel healed. He growls sometimes and he screams sometimes, but we are working on controlling the weather, to make rainclouds dissipate. He is Cheetah Man, after all.

I feel in many ways he saved us all. Everyone says there children are "gifts". Peter was a life buoy, thrown to someone who most needed to be pulled to shore.

Sometimes, yes, it does feel like Peter is trying to drown us, and he is a complex individual, even at...or especially because he is....three. But to me Peter will always be that boy hanging his head out the window, ready for the world to smack him in the face. That boy, hair streaming in the wind, toothless grin unabashedly shining, yearning for adventure and excitement. When rays of sunshine do shoot from his heart, when he does bring Clementine a book, hold her hand, or stick up for her on the playground, it is because of the thunder and lightening we have grown to know too well that he is all the more impressive.

Peter started school today, and I could not have been more proud of him. We knew he was ready. "Too ready," I said. He's been bored with us for over a year. Is he ready to stick his head out of the window and his face into the world and share with it his sunshine and rain?

Oh, yes. Most definitely.

The better question would be, is the world ready for Peter??

Hold on and find out.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Kindergarten: Day 1

In a previously mentioned attempt to thwart the morning madness, I gifted the boys these fancy morning chore charts. Is it just me? Are mornings really this insane for anyone else? Apparently the boys are visual learners, like me, because day one was a success and everyone had everything checked off with 45 minutes to spare. Proving the validity of the popular threat, "Do you want me to draw you a picture?" really works. Sam chose "stars" to fill in his completed tasks, Peter chose "church toppers." I chose wine. I joke, I chose sanity and coffee.

I am told they drew self portraits, read a book about a snail and went for a tour of the school where Sam saw "a man in a room the size of a building playing a piano that's sound came from pipes" and was the most beautiful sound he'd ever heard.

Everyone was happy to see each other again after being apart for our first four whole hours after a fun, yet super intense "One mom on three kids in a 2 bedroom apartment *slash* full time Washington, DC toddler tour group director," cozy kind of summer. 

Peter starts preschool on Thursday....

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tomorrow is the big day!

To celebrate back-to-school, I gave them each a chore chart of small tasks to complete in the morning in order to make themselves ready for morning cartoons school without me having to ask a snazillion times. Nanny sent them a care package, complete with the sweetest homemade banner, cookies and a few things to help them unwind and play after school. I'm going to go out on a limb and say they liked Nanny's back-to-school gift better.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Summer [End Scene]

Life has a way of readying us for things we think we'll never be ready for, like back-to-school for instance. Just for instance.

I am weird I guess, I love my kids. I am excited for them to be out of school, maybe I'm just new at this. I love these kids, this is what I was born to do, with a maid of course and two short mornings a week for professional development. I love making snacks and lunches and showing them how to explore the world in our own backyard or in India's backyard, you know whatever the case may be.

This is what I dreamed of all my life. These kids aren't mile markers of success or a one way ticket to a minivan, although they sort of are, they are the little people I always wanted running around my house, licking my face, telling me that I look like a princess and that look like I'm having another baby in the same dress. Telling me that I "smell like sleep" when I've not even unglued my "eye-bulbs" at 5:50am. I love them, but it isn't always easy.

I was totally pumped when school was out because I got to relive the awesome summers of my childhood. While my dad worked nights to complete his dissertation when the sun came up; my mom, a school teacher, packed us up along with our lunches and we explored a new playground each day.

So that is what we set out to do this summer.

With perfect timing we were here in DC, which is a giant, free playground.

We hit up a different spray-ground each day in the early summer. Armed with lunches in tiny colored sandwich shaped boxes: Peanut butter for Sam, peanut butter and "jam" (not jelly mind you) for Peter and fruits, nuts, beans and berries for little Miss Clementine.

We played until we dropped, we met our BFFs in and out of town at parks, museums and in sprinklered yards. We drank coffee, shared water and snacks and might have been kicked out of a fountain or two that were not for swimming. Apparently we aren't in Brazil anymore.

After a trip to Washington I began to feel like we were in the home stretch of summer. I wasn't ready for it to end, lucky for me it didn't, and the boys school is the latest school in North America to start.

With just one week left to go this Monday, summer has continued to be fun and filled with picnics, tree-climbing, long walks and leaf collecting, in all honesty it has also been filled with me about to lose my mind. A special recipe of summer's final weeks, falls first days, a looming deadline in which we pack up and move to the other side of the world and a lot of awesome projects that I'm eager to work on and have cultivated in my business this year.

The boys have all but given up their naps. Sam still naps sporadically and Peter, forever stubborn, romances me with any from the following list of excuses or any that he comes up with new, on a daily basis:

"I'm not old enough to nap."

"I am too old to nap."

"Sleep makes me sweaty."

"I am not tired."

"I am too tired."

"I have to poop."

"I can't poop."

"The sun is still up."

"Sleeping makes me tired."

"Sleeping makes me hungry."

"Sleeping is boring."

You get the idea. When I release him from the torture that is being confined to his bed he drives planes on my head while I do yoga and whispers things to his planes like, "look out the big lady plane is in our way," while I'm in Shavasana.

Last night Paul and I attended the boy's school's Parent Orientation night. We met each of their teachers, assistants and walked through their days. I finally feel ready to set them free to make new friends and learn some cool new stuff in our final few months before we leave, but only because we blew summer out of the water. Just as I had intended.

When I saw Pete's tiny name scrawled on an apple on the door above the place he would sit and play, I was as filled with pride as I was the day he was born. I knew then and more confidently now that he will be such a wonderful asset to the world. He has so much hilarity and wise insight to share. I can't wait and am yet equally terrified to see how it will be received.

The boys are off to school next week. Clem and I are off to figure out what to do with ourselves in a world that we love that we've built surrounded by boys. Stay tuned for our first all girls week, next week.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Where the Not So Wild Things Will Be

Sadly, the Hanna family has become too good at the staycation. We have seen our share of thin times. A townhouse that is literally sucking the life out of me and is the weight of a gorilla on my back reared up its ugly head once again to the tune of $900...a new compressor for the air conditioner.

What does this all mean?

Nothing, really.

We have our health and our happiness and still enough money to go out to dinner now and then and buy Starbucks coffees. Though....seriously....who am I kidding? I would be one of those people on food stamps still going to Starbucks.

The good news is because we have become so well versed at the staycation it sometimes is more fun than if we had actually gone anywhere. As I sit in class on Tuesday morning, the only Tamil manavar that dared show up, staring straight into the face of five solo hours of Tamil after a long, long three day weekend, I reflect on our staycation Labor Day weekend.

Fortunately, our children are inexpensively and easily entertained (except when it comes to Legos, of course). Tacos at a new favorite Mexican restaurant (crab quesadilla for Elise, grilled salmon tacos with mango salsa for me....Yum! And who knew that they had just tapped an ice cold keg of Sierra Nevada IPA? I felt like I won the lottery), riding bikes without training wheels, swimming in the pool, a trip to Burke Lake Park to ride the carousel and toy train (really, less like a toy train and more like a roller coast one might find at Six Flags), and a hike along the Potomac, what more could a little boy (or girl) ask for??

The Labor Day weekend ended with a hike at Caderock Recreational Area on the Maryland side of the Potomac. I am happy that my boys like to a warm, contented way like I have chocolate chip cookies baking inside my heart. I wasn't prone to much hiking as a youngster, but once I moved to Colorado I was hooked. I quickly took to the idea that certain travels were all about the journey itself and not at all about the destination. Sadly, I do not feel the same way about car trips. I need to feel my feet against the ground. Furthermore, they need to hurt. A recent flare up of nasty plantar fasciitus took care of that.

It made me happy in a life-shifting way to watch Sam and Pete take to the trail. They forged ahead quickly and with gusto. Accompanied by their best friend, the boys plowed ahead, quickly devouring the trail without a single thought or care that every step they took took them a little further from the car and made an eventual return trip just a little bit longer. Clementine happily followed, bouncing in the backpack I wore until after we turned around and headed back, at which point she was determined to take to the trail herself. She has Elise's fortitude combined with her own brand of steely determination.

Sam insisted on leading. Elise often comments that she had a lot of her older brother in him, a worthy and appropriate complement. Pete was happy to long as he had a stick in his hand and even stood atop a tree trunk with one, alternatively brandishing like he was in the film Gladiator and waving it in the air like Harry Potter casting a spell.

We stopped and watched the rock climbers scale the granite rock faces, Elise and I looking on and conspiratorially plotting our own ascents and me secretly justifying the purchase of a $300 top rope. All my life, I have been soley dedicated to aerobic pursuits, how fast can I go for how long. Rock climbing presents a completely different, anaerobic challenge that I find fascinating. I love the marriage of a physical challenge with a mental conundrum and I'm trying to sell Elise on the pursuit, as well. I think she's game. Moreover, I know she would be awesome.

I feel the need to keep the kids on trails, in tents, and rock faces for as long as I can. Fortunately, I don't think this will be hard.