Dear moms, We cannot protect them.

It’s a harsh statement, isn’t it? We cannot protect them.

There’s something so primal about giving birth. As we grunt, groan, scream and curse our bodies into releasing new life into the world, something else triggers too. We become animal. We become overwhelmed by an uncontrollable desire to protect the tiny human that just came out of our bodies. We may even literally snarl at anybody who comes too close. You know the saying, “I would die for you?” We moms know that isn’t a dramatic expression. It is the truth.

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Seem familiar, mama?

This isn’t going to be another mommy blogger post about how the Internet-of-moms should band together and support a mother who is being criticized because something tragic happened to her child. My goal here is to simply bring attention to the truth.

We cannot protect them.

Mother nature/God/The Devil/Whatever you believe in is stronger than us. Our babies can be taken away from us in an instant.

Truth is, it is insanely easy to forget how fragile our lives are. It takes a freak event, like a toddler getting killed by the jaws of a gator at the Happiest Place on Earth, for us to realize that the one thing we love with every fiber of our being can be suddenly ripped away from us. (I do apologize for the cliches, but its the truth.)

Here’s the thing though: We can’t let it dictate our lives.

Yes, last week an alligator killed a child at Disney World. But I live in Florida and we will still canoe, kayak, and swim in the waters.

Yes, last month a child slipped into the gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. But my son enjoys animals and we will still visit the zoo.

Yes, last month four young sisters were killed on their mother’s birthday when the SUV they were riding in crashed on the way home from a trip to the beach. But I like to drive and we will still travel together as a family.

Yes, last week 49 people were killed by a gunman at an Orlando nightclub. But I enjoy a good drink and I will still stop at a bar to socialize and have a beverage.

These tragedies become “news events” because they are rare. We cannot let our own quality of life suffer out of fear. Have fun and do your best to keep them safe,  but in the back of your mind know even the strongest mamabear is no match for mother nature. We cannot protect them. That’s why we must love, teach, and cherish our children every single day.

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To my son: You are already changing the world.

Here you are, 9-months-old, happily jumping in our bedroom doorway. You are so sweet, so innocent, so unaware of the circumstances of today. 20160612_125802

Today a gunman opened fire at a gay nightclub and killed at least 50 people. The FBI is calling it terrorism. It is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and it happened in the town we call home. I have been to that nightclub before, celebrating a friend’s birthday years ago. I can picture what it looks like inside. There are a bunch of white couches and mirrors and two bars where people dance and party. Everybody I met there was kind and fun. We danced. We laughed. We had fun.

Last night that fun abruptly stopped. A man full of hate came in with a gun. He tore apart dozens of families. I’m assuming at this point (because so much has yet to be determined about the shooter or the motive) that he did it because the people inside were different from him. They have a different lifestyle. They have different religious beliefs. Some of them, perhaps, live by a different moral code than the majority of society. So, he killed them.

What I want you to know, my sweet boy, is that there are terrible people in this world. At some point, someone will hurt you. Your job is to be one of the good guys. You don’t have to love everyone. You don’t have to agree with everyone.  But you do have to respect them. Let your voice be heard. But speak with only your mouth and mind, never with violence.

That said, you do have the right to protect yourself. Always protect yourself and those whom you love. Only then is it acceptable to resort to violence. Understand that I am talking about true, physical danger: a threat to your life, not to your lifestyle.

I could be cliché and say I’m scared of the world you will be raised in, but I am not afraid. You are already changing the world, my sweet boy. I see it in your eyes. They are full of kindness. It is my job as a Mother to make sure that kindness never goes away. And there are thousands of babies born every day to parents who feel the same way.

Yes, we live in a time of terror. But I believe this is only a hiccup in history. I have faith that your generation can fix the world. But I am sorry it falls into your hands. You are amazing, my sweet boy.

Love,
Mama

Forest Bathing? People are paying money to do something that’s totally free.

I read an article in the Washington Post this week about a new health trend called “forest bathing.” The article is talking about an ancient Japanese practice called Shinrin-Yoku. From what I can tell “forest bathing” and “Shinrin-Yoku” are just fancy, hipster names for “taking a walk in the woods.” The article claims this is different from hiking because a hike requires a destination. And it is different from walking on a nature trail because those require you to read signs. And walking in the city would not result in the same health benefits since cities are stressful. Experts in the field of Shinrin-Yoku claim it provides the same results as yoga or meditation.

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Kevin & I apparently “forest bathing” on the trail to Paintbrush Divide, Grand Teton Natl’l Park, Aug. 2014

People often think I’m crazy for enjoying a good hike. (I’m just going to call it hiking. I don’t do “forest bathing.”) But I agree with the concept of nature as therapy. Even if my body is physically exhausted from elevation change or distance, I feel relaxed in the woods. Hiking is about slowing down both physically and mentally, being forced to breathe deeply, forced to think about something other than the stresses of work and life at home. Hiking is still much better than, say, a day laying out by the pool with a frozen daiquiri in my hand (those days are great too) because hiking still provides a challenge. The day at the pool provides no stimulation and I find that at the end of that day I am even more stressed than I was before the relaxation because I feel like I didn’t accomplish anything. The day at the pool also leaves me sitting, stuck with my own thoughts. I’ll tend to reflect on the negative items that cause my stress instead of creating a new, positive memory. Hiking gives me that positive memory while providing opportunities for growth and education.

There are other activities that accomplish the same objective for me: canoeing or kayaking, horseback riding, snorkeling, car camping, traveling to a new destination. Notice almost my entire list involves the outdoors.

There’s a place in California that charges $30 for a three-and-a-half hour guided “forest therapy” walk. They move slowly. According to their website, they go a maximum of ¾ of a mile during that duration. That sounds like a great option for people who have money and are afraid to venture into the outdoors alone, but I recommend something else. Don’t be afraid to lace up some hiking boots and go on an adventure. Taking a “hike” doesn’t’ have to be something epic. You don’t have to traverse the entire AT or the PCT. In fact, ¾ of a mile is sometimes just the right distance. Better yet, don’t set a distance. Get out there and see how you feel. Maybe you’ll feel refreshed after ¾ of a mile. Maybe you’ll want to keep moving until it gets dark. I’m no expert, but I think many people in the hiking community would agree that “hiking” can mean many things. It can mean Shinrin-Yoku or “forest bathing” or it can mean bagging as many +10k-foot peeks as possible in one trip. Regardless, if it makes you feel healthier and happier, do it.

Though, perhaps at the end of your “forest bathing” adventure you may be ready for a real bath.

 

Backpacking with Baby

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The hardest part of backpacking with an 8-month-old is getting him to stop eating dirt!

 

blI  dreamt of taking Konnor backpacking since the day he was born, but life kept getting in the way. Last week we finally had the opportunity to live with him in the woods for a few days. It was a fantastic experience. I carried the baby while my husband carried most of our gear. Both of our packs ended up heavier than we anticipated, but we ended up using almost everything we brought with us. item004

Day 1: The first part of our trip included an 6.5 hour drive to F.D. Roosevelt State Park in Pine Mountain, GA. We chose this location because of the variety of trail options. We could hike as little or as much as we wanted to on any given day. We knew we wanted to keep our days short since our Florida legs haven’t hiked in the hills in over a year and we also had never backpacked with our baby. We opted for the Big Poplar Loop on the Pine Mountain Trail. The Park does require hikers to register their campsites. We arrived late the first night, about 6:00pm, which meant we only had a couple of hours to hike to camp and get set up before dark. The Park ranger recommended we stay in the Turtle Bluff campsite the first night since it was less than 2 miles from the trailhead.

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The trail itself is gorgeous. It’s nicely shaded and an easy hike with just a few hairy places. I’ll admit to getting nervous in the short sections of trail where there is a rock wall to the right and a rocky drop-off to the left with a narrow trail in the middle. Konnor likes to “dance” in his carrier, which makes my load uneven and my steps unsteady.

Day two was our biggest day of hiking. We hiked about 5.5 miles from Turtle Bluff to the Whiskey Still campsite. Whiskey Still is by far my favorite of the two sites. It is big (enough room for 3 tents), shaded, has a gorgeous stone firepit, and very private (we never saw or heard another soul while camping in this spot.) There is also a freshwater spring only 1/4 mile away. The water there was much tastier than the stream water we filtered at the Turtle Bluff site. Turtle Bluff is also less private. We, unfortunately, had a Boy Scout Troop as neighbors. They were respectful, but we could still see and hear them from Turtle Bluff.

Day three consisted of finishing the Poplar Loop and getting on the road again to part 2 of our adventure. The final part of the Poplar Loop is beautiful. The trail slopes up and down, across a beautiful stream that features a small waterfall. I spotted wildflowers and butterflies on my hike back to the car. It was the perfect ending to the “adventure” stage of our vacation.

What about the baby?
Konnor did great! I’m glad I never listened to all of the people who told me while I was pregnant, “Just you wait. Life will never be the same. You won’t be able to do that stuff once the baby arrives.” Lies! All lies! You can do anything with a baby that you can do without a baby, it just takes more work and becomes a different type of experience. For one, we had to carry more gear. In addition to our basic tent, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, food, cooking gear and clothing; we had to carry diapers, bottles, formula, baby clothes, bibs, and a baby first aid kit (because I would hate for something to happen to him and not be prepared.) The extra gear added extra strain on our bodies. Secondly, the danger factor becomes more severe. Before baby, if I got lost or fell it would’ve sucked but it probably wouldn’t have been the end of the world. I was incredibly nervous about slipping on the rocks or mud while carrying Konnor on my back. However, the biggest, and most important, thing that changed this trip is that baby takes a lot of the relaxation out of the vacation. Before baby, I’d look forward to arriving in camp and resting for a few minutes. Afterall, hiking the hills is hard work. I’d enjoy waking up in the morning and listening to the birds chirp while sipping tea. Instead, those moments are replaced with feedings, bottle cleanings, breast pumping and fussy time. This is no different than life at home. I really don’t know what I expected.

Overall, the trip was successful. We had a lot of fun and grew stronger as a family. I fell in love with small moments, like when Konnor would reach his hand out to my shoulder. My heart melted each time I felt those little fingers touching my back on the trail. I love his fascination with everything in nature, the way he cooed and squealed when I pointed out different types of plants, colors and shapes along the trail; the way he stared at his daddy when we could hike side-by-side. He’s an amazing little boy and I can’t help but believe we are already instilling in him a love of nature.

I’m going to get into specifics of our gear and our hikes later on in another post, but this is a start. Stay tuned for more.