Posted in family life, hikes

fall in arizona: see canyon spring trail

When we hiked part of the See Canyon trail this summer, I noticed a lot of maples along the trail – and maples mean red leaves in the fall, so I made a mental note to revisit the trail if possible. We went back on October 19, which was probably on the early end of the colorful season, but the trail was still absolutely beautiful and we were all excited to see the changing colors.

The maples weren’t the only color, either – the oaks were a stunning brilliant yellow, not yet turned to their more subdued brown.

I collected a handful of leaves as we hiked and brought them home to preserve. Do you have a favorite way to preserve leaves? My mom has a few that have lasted over twenty years, and when you hang them on the windows the light shines through them. They’ve been some of my favorite decorations my whole life – but none of us remember how exactly she preserved them! I dipped this set in beeswax, and while they definitely aren’t the same as my mom’s, they feel and look quite nice, I could easily use them in a wreath or centerpiece since there is no excess edging as there would be with something like contact paper, and the kids can touch and play with them if they want. It was really simple to do, as well – I just melted the beeswax in a double boiler, dipped the leaves in so both sides were coated, let them drip dry for a few seconds, then set them on wax paper to cool.

Since the trail didn’t change from our hike in August, all my thoughts (and directions!) from then still apply πŸ™‚ We did, however, go down the standard See Canyon Trail for a short while on this hike, instead of trekking all the way up to the spring, and that was a beautiful area of the forest as well. Aubade took another nap but at least this time we brought the hiking backpack, and Limerick got a bit cold but he was ok using my jacket. All in all, I still love this hike and would go back again in a heartbeat when the kids have the endurance to manage the whole canyon!

Posted in musings, sqt

{sqt} – spring will come again

As the seasons fall toward winter, my emotional center falls with them. Even in the midst of good, happy things; even when I feel genuine gratitude for the blessings in my life and joy for the beauty around me; even when I have hope for the future and time spent in prayer – even in all those things, guilt, insecurity, anxiety, and sadness well up within me in this season.

a single stalk of grass fluffy with seeds about to fly

I’m not sure why this is – it could be the drop in temperature, the slowly shortening days, or the impending holidays (which for me really start on Halloween – we don’t have a week without something extra from then through Epiphany, since four of our birthdays are added to the mix).

But at least this year I am aware. I remember the way the wave of depression carried me away last fall, how it caught me unawares and vulnerable, how much I struggled through the next few months as a result, and was unable to lift my head up to see the beauty and feel the wonder and share the joy of Christmas. (I’m really much more of an Advent person – the waiting, the longing, the expectation, the melancholy and sorrow at the brokenness of the world tempered only by the hope of the coming Savior – but I think Heaven is going to be more like Christmas, the fulfillment of hope, the fullness of joy, and I ought to be preparing my heart for that eternal home – )

Looking towards the sky through the changing leaves of the maples

And now – I am being intentional. I am taking time to pray (more than before, but still far short of what I ought, what I need.) I am making time to exercise. I am pacing my efforts with the kids, letting good be good enough instead of demanding perfection from any of us. I am growing green in my garden, the rich riot of life a balm for my soul (yes, our seasons are all different here). I am resting in the beauty and freedom of nature, bringing the kids where they can explore away from the structure and restraints of the city, where we can learn to love the earth we live on, where we can find the secret treasures of the untamed spaces.

Limerick walking along a mountainside trail with a walking stick, like a hobbit journeying through the Shire

These things do not make the struggle go away. They do not lessen the pull of the undertow. But they help give me the strength that I need to keep my head above the water. It is an interesting strength, that I find in these times, through this intentionality, not a strength of fire and sparks, of passion and heat, of bold courage and drawn swords. It is more the strength of the tree, that bends in the face of the wind so that it will not break, that learns to grow sideways to endure the forces against it.

Wild grass, golden in the autumn sunlight, seed heads full and ripe over green stalks

It is even, I hope, more the strength of the grass, that sends down its roots deep into the soil, and its runners far-spread around it, and its seeds to every corner on the wings of the wind: by every means ensuring that when the fire blackens the land it will rise again from the ashes, that when the snow cuts off the sun it can wait for spring to come again.

I’m joining the SQT linkup today even though I don’t actually have seven things, but hey, Kelly is bending the rules too and it’s her blog party so I think it’s ok πŸ™‚ Head over to This Ain’t the Lyceum to join in!

Posted in sqt

{sqt} – a very random list of things

I’m linking up with Kelly again today and I have no theme at all! Proceed for seven very random facts about myself and our week, some of which (say, 1 and 3 maybe) may explain my relatively low posting volume this week.

  1. Slightly embarrassing confession: I really like reading Harry Potter fan fiction (especially about the Marauders)… some if it is quite well done, and it’s basically like reading short stories about characters I kind of know in a world I’m already familiar with and it’s so good to be back in that world exploring it more.
  2. Another confession: I love reading books that make me cry. And nothing makes me cry more than the fumbling attempts of imperfect human love and compassion to console and heal people broken by the world. Like, a story where someone is finally finding a place where they belong and are accepted after years of feeling alone and inadequate and unlovable? I’ll be sobbing all over the place and I’ll reread it at least three times.
  3. We have been doing so many fall things that we almost burned out this month – multiple hikes up north, two different local pumpkin farms, picture books, pumpkin faces, pumpkin painting, fall-themed finger-painting, fall-themed play dough… it’s getting a bit excessive. I suppose we are simultaneously relishing the colder weather that makes it feel like fall and making up for the lack of traditional autumnal colors πŸ™‚
  4. I’ve been avoiding Facebook because it’s been making me angry, and I’ve been hanging out on Pinterest instead. But then today Pinterest made me angry too 😦 I’m going to try to write about it this week (update – here’s the link) because I think it is an important point and not an irrational emotional response. Short version? Don’t act like you are victimized by your kids. There’s a difference between having a hard time as a parent and throwing your kids to the Internet wolves like it’s their fault for existing and having struggles.
  5. Rondel found a kangaroo Halloween costume he loved back in August… and he’s already outgrown it! He requested butterfly wings instead (because he glanced at my Pinterest and saw them) and chose a species called the Royal Assyrian from our Eyewitness book on butterflies. Neither of us felt comfortable just making up a butterfly; we both felt much happier looking up a real one. It wasn’t his first choice but it was his first choice that didn’t have black on it, since I have yards of felt in about 10 different colors but for some reason have no black felt. It is brown and purple, so it isn’t especially vibrant or bold – but he does want to add purple glitter so that should brighten it up. And it just makes me really happy that he can have all the fun of bright sparkly colors without someone telling him that purple glitter is for girls.
  6. For anyone else wanting to make butterfly wings or similar crafts with felt, I strongly recommend using a glue gun and I strongly recommend not using ModgePodge. I mean, unless you want your felt to become stiff and hard and not reliably stick together…
  7. And finally: it is not safe to let me into a craft store without a defined list and a spending limit. I went to buy a glue gun and pom-poms today and came out with pipecleaners, googly eyes, and a coloring book as well. (And the 300 pack of pom-poms instead of the 6 pack which is really all I needed, because they’re just so cute and fluffy and the kids will love them and pom-poms will be everywhere!!! My husband is horrified.)

I hope you all had a great week! Are you excited for Halloween? Are your costumes ready or are you in the midst of last-minute creations like we are?

 

Posted in hikes

hiking with littles: rim lake vista trail

In an attempt to catch some fall colors up north (I think they are delayed because of our warm, moist summer this year), we drove up to the Mogollon Rim this weekend, just northeast of Payson to the Rim Lake Vista trail specifically. I chose this trail because it was recommended for fall colors in October, because it should have gorgeous views off the edge of the rim even if we were too early for colors, and because it is mostly paved and there was rain in the forecast. In other words, I wanted something with no flash flood risk, where we wouldn’t be stepping in mud puddles and getting our feet soaked in the cold.

While we did end up being too early for fall colors, the trail was undeniably beautiful and – totally unexpectedly – we got caught in a snow flurry! There isn’t much else to say about this trail except that it is ideal for new walkers and could even be navigated by a stroller if necessary; likewise, it would be good for older out-of-state family who want to hike and sightsee but who aren’t up for something challenging.

Some views looking off the rim down towards Payson (approximately 7700ft up, looking down at mountains around 5000ft in elevation – Payson is not objectively low):

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The clouds were draped so low over the mountains – at some points on the trail we were walking through small wispy clouds, and the large heavy clouds looked ready to break open at any moment.

It wasn’t raining when we parked (it had been for most of the drive from Payson up to the rim!), so the kids were excited to get out of the car and start off down the trail.

While there weren’t many changing leaves yet, the small ground plants and flowers bearing their glassy beads of water were calling all of us to stop and pay attention to their subtle beauty:

Before the rain started up again, Aubade meandered along immersing herself in the wildflowers – she was so excited about every new plant, so eager to touch each new flower.

Towards the end of our hike, however, it started to sprinkle – and then it began to pour – and then I noticed that snowflakes were sticking to the fuzzy hood of Limerick’s jacket, and – and then suddenly the air was full of fat white flakes! It was the first time any of the kids have seen snow; Rondel was excited, Limerick was chill, and Aubade (who was already really bothered by the cold wind) completely lost it and cried the rest of the way to the car. So it ended up being a shorter hike than usual because we were just so cold!

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However, along the way we discovered a plant I’d never encountered before, with bright red stems and a sharp smell that remind me of mint and fir together. From a brief search online IΒ think it is a fetid goosefoot, which is quite an unpleasant name for a plant that I found both visually and aromatically attractive – do any of you know for sure?

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How to get there from the East Valley: take the 87 up to Payson; turn right at the McDonald’s on to the 260-E and continue for 30 miles until FR300. Turn left onto FR300 (the Rim Visitors Center is on the right) and park at the lot on the left between mile markers 39 and 40.

Posted in family life

Vertuccio Farms Fall Festival

Our little family’s affection for pumpkins started early, with our pregnancy announcement for Rondel:178610_10151079181450496_178895070_o

However, it took us a year or so to find our favorite place to take the kids each fall! After this year, though, I will say that Vertuccio Farms is our official pumpkin patch of choice. We typically take advantage of their Toddler Tuesday offer and get in for half-price and the guarantee of avoiding school groups and field trips πŸ™‚

The biggest draw is probably the giant air-powered jump cushion, thankfully (but somewhat inadequately) shaded, on which endless jumping and flopping and bouncing can take place. Even Aubade, already almost ready for her morning nap, got up on her knees and bounced up and down with a grin of pure delight on her face! Rondel loves it but has a tendency to get too aggressive and over-excited (this year, that looked like pretending to a be a scary cheetah and trying to tackle people – mostly Limerick, growl at people – all kids smaller than himself, and eat them – also mostly Limerick), which is our cue to move on.

We milked a model cow, slid down massive tunnel slides made from pipe segments, clambered over a spiderweb made of ropes, collected rocks, ate snacks, and chose pumpkins to bring home to carve. We also lost Limerick for a while but discovered him twenty feet up in the air ascending to the tallest tunnel slide, so all’s well that ends well – and I also learned that apparently orange isn’t a good color to choose if you want your child to stand out at a fall festival as half the kids there were wearing orange in some form or fashion.

In addition, this year there was a new activity: a hand-pumping station where kids could push plastic ducks down half-pipes from one horse trough to another by pumping up water. Both boys were fascinated by it, and I had to tear them away so we could make it home in time for me to get to work.

In fact, there were so many things to do that we came back a second time to do more, and to hit up our old favorites a second time!

All three kids were having blast climbing up the tire tower until I told them I wanted them to keep their shoes on unless we were on the air cushion (I’d found a piece of broken glass), and even let me get a rare picture of all of them simultaneously.

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My three crazy hooligans!

We got to see piglets running around trying to persuade the adult pigs to play with them, and I even found spare change in my purse to buy some goat food. Rondel let the goats eat out of his hand. I was so amazed. He stood perfectly still and held the food out for them without flinching as they licked it gently off his fingers (and it’s a different sort of sensation – I had expected much more of a reaction from him). I think that was his highlight from our second trip; I know it was mine, and I wish I had been able to get a picture of it.

I was able to get pictures of the boys doing the giant tube roll, though! It’s somewhat self-explanatory (although what isn’t obvious at first glance is that those tubes areΒ heavy. I had to push the boys from the outside and it was hard work!)

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Despite the heat and the crowds (much better on the 31st than on the 24th, by the way), we had a great experience at Vertuccio and will definitely plan on going back next year. Just remember to bring lots of water, and be ready to get tired and dirty! In a place where the cultural trappings of fall are mostly absent from our natural environment, this makes for an awesome way to mark the change of seasons before the holidays begin.

 

Posted in family life

at the pumpkin farm

This post is a bit out-dated already, since we went to the pumpkin farm in time to get our Halloween pumpkins πŸ™‚ but since we were all hit by the stomach flu starting the evening of our visit, we’ve been a bit distracted by laundry, bathroom-cleaning, and attempting to carry on normal life with lingering fatigue and nausea. I think we’re all better now – but the boys are starting in with sniffles and hoarse voices so I guess we’re in for a round of something new. Ah, fall with toddlers πŸ™‚

The pumpkin farm we visited has a huge variety of attractions and activities available, but we honestly only made it to a few of them; I wanted the boys to be able to just enjoy themselves on their schedule instead of having to rush from thing to thing to thing just to say we did it all. Rondel especially takes some time to acclimate himself to a new place, and I wanted to give him that time so he could enjoy the morning as much as possible.

Unsurprisingly, the first thing they wanted to do was snack πŸ˜› so we spent some time eating, taking in all the sights and sounds and smells around us, and deciding what we should do next. Also unsurprisingly, they both ran to the bounce pad first of all, and since we were there on Tuesday for the farm’s toddler discount day, we didn’t have to worry about a bunch of older kids bouncing around and making it dangerous or intimidating for the little ones. I even got on and jumped around for a bit, regardless of how silly Β must have looked with this huge pregnant belly! It was so much fun πŸ™‚

As is typical for each of them, Limerick instantly ran out into the middle of the bounce pad, while Rondel sat with me on the edge for the first five minutes or so watching everyone else, talking to me about life, and occasionally snuggling up to me.

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Look at those beautiful eyes! He’s probably thinking, “Stop taking pictures and pay attention to me, Mom! I’m talking to you!”

But after that, Rondel joined in as well and had an amazing time jumping, running, rolling, and more; the boys are at an age where their sheer physical energy astounds me, and I’m always looking for fun ways to burn it off – this was definitely a good one.

We spent most of our time here, but did walk around a bit more of the farm and took a little train tour around it as well.

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Limerick investigating some straw from a hay bale πŸ™‚

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Some unripe grapes growing along the fence – Rondel and I tried a few anyways πŸ™‚ I’ve enjoyed the dry-sour tang of unripe grapes since childhood.

Finally, on our way out, we stopped to choose a pumpkin for each of the boys. While they each picked one just slightly too large for them to lift independently, Rondel simply asked me to put his in the stroller for him, while Limerick struggled for a long time to lift his off the ground and onto the hay bale. I eventually had to take it away from him because he was falling apart in tears of frustration and we needed to head home for nap time – I felt so bad for him 😦

Overall, though, it was a good experience (though cooler weather would have been nice), andΒ a special part of fall in a place that doesn’t get most of the traditional autumnal highlights.

 

Posted in family life

water balloons in october…

So after our beautiful 2-3 weeks of cool relatively autumnal weather, summer decided to visit again and we’ve had highs in the 90s for a week or so straight. Sigh.

The boys have enjoyed pulling out the water play again for one last hurrah, though, and we took advantage of the chance to use up the last of our water balloons before the dry winter could render them useless.

You can tell from the long sleeves that it had been cooler in the early morning, at least πŸ™‚

Both boys’ main objective seemed to be popping the water balloons as quickly as possible, so they mostly just threw them into the rocks as the most reliable way to get the pop to happen – they didn’t always throw hard enough to get them to pop on the concrete. Limerick also enjoyed stomping on them as an effective way of making them pop, and Rondel humored me enough to play catch a few times and throw the balloons at me instead of the rocks.

Limerick also kept calling them bubbles, for some reason (maybe because bubbles also pop?), which Rondel found absolutely hilarious πŸ™‚

It may not be much of a fall here in the desert, but we’re finding fun things to do with what we have, and enjoying our colored leaves and pumpkin vicariously through our picture books. Maybe next year we’ll make it up north to see the changing colors in person!