Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Nurture Shock

A friend of mine recommended this book a while ago, and I finally read it. I thought it was really interesting, and wanted to pass the recommendation on to you if you haven't read it yet.

Things I found interesting:

-Stop telling kids not to tattle. What we really mean is "try to work it out amongst yourselves first," but for every 1 time a kid comes to us, he/she has tried to work it out 14 other times, so what the kid really hears is "don't come to me with your problems." Accordingly, your kids start withholding information from you.

-Teenagers lie a lot. The parents who got lied to the least were those with few but consistent rules that had reasons behind them. Also, if your teenager is arguing with you that is a good thing. That means he/she still believes you have authority to set rules. They are fighting over the rules, but not the authority of the parents to set the rules. To an adolescent, lying is the opposite of arguing. If your teenager is not arguing to you, they are lying to you a lot and sneaking around behind your back. (That's what I got, anyway). Also, teenagers are really bad at assessing risk but really afraid of being embarrassed. It seems that as a parent you could exploit that pretty easily...

-If we try to create a race-free, color-blind vacuum for our kids, they draw their own conclusions about race, many of which would be appalling to us. Racial segregation and bias is not just taught, but a natural tendency of human beings, so we need to talk openly about inter-racial friendships and such.

-The more educational media the children watched, the more relationally aggressive they were. Yes, Arthur is more dangerous for children than Power Rangers. I really have to stop judging some of the moms I know now. Did you know that 96% of all children's programming includes verbal insults and put-downs, averaging 7.7 put-downs per half-hour episode? Watching TV makes your kids more aggressive...that was an easy one, but there was a lot of info about kids and aggression that was very interesting.

-It's good for your kids to see you argue and resolve the argument. They need to see how to resolve conflict.

-How to teach your child to talk more. (Of special interest to me with an 18-month-old.) Basically, respond to their vocalizations more, but you really have to read the section.

-Gratitude journals make you feel happier, unless you're a kid.

-Cici's favorite way of sleeping in her crib, (not actually in the book).

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Our Finest Hour

After paying our camping fee and setting up our tent, Austin and I headed off into town to get some errands done. We returned late in the evening and wanted to get a little hike in before our big 16-miler the next day, so Austin walked down through the sagebrush to the sandy hollow where we had left our tarp and tent. I stayed behind at the car, trying to pick a suitably fashionable hiking ensemble: would it be the sky-blue tennis shoes and the black top with coordinating detail, or the faux leather sandals and deep navy gym shorts? Or possibly some daring combination of all four? While I was pondering these questions, Austin came back from around the sagebrush. "Don't bother going to the tent to change," he said with admirable sangfroid. "It isn't there."

The approximate scene of the crime

At first I reeled back, shocked and astonished, but drawing on my immeasurable reserves of pluck, I resolved to solve the Mystery of the Missing Tent. Actually, I thought it would be quite easy--Austin probably just overlooked our tent somehow, or maybe some freak wind in the dead heat of the desert had blown it a few sagebrush over. As Austin and I wandered in circles around our campsite searching for it, we found out later that we were both contemplating the same questions:  What do we do if we can't find our tent? Do we sleep on the tarp amidst the ants and next to the creepy holes in the ground, or squished in the back of the car? Who would want to steal our crappy little tent? What color is our tent anyway?

I seemed to recall that it was blue. I also started examining the tracks around the tent-site, (greatly missing my trusty magnifying glass, of course) and deduced quite easily that the culprits had dragged our tent down into the little gully next to our camp, quickly disassembled it, and then left the area. In possession of this vital information, we were kind of at a loss as to what to do next, so I went over to the campsite down the road to talk to the two ladies hanging out there. You know those conversation openers that sound better in your mind then when you actually say them? Like, "Hey, I'm from the next campsite over. We're missing our tent. Have you seen it anywhere?" However, instead of the blank stares I expected after that came out of my mouth, our camping neighbors practically ran each other over conversationally with their enthusiastic responses. "Oh, so you're the ones with the missing tent! Etc., etc." They were very nice, but I easily deduced what they were thinking: Poor young fools. Who loses their tent? Well, at least something interesting is finally happening around here. They pointed up the road to a campsite and said that some people had found a tent blowing around and were going to talk to a park ranger about it, so they may or may not still have our tent.

I think our kind but bored neighbors deliberately directed us to the wrong campsite, because we invaded some old man's privacy in his trailer, (Conversation opener: "Hey, we heard you have our tent!" Blank stare.) prowled around the deserted campsite next to him, (entertaining thoughts of looking in the lone tent to see if our tent was stashed in there) and had a nice conversation with an ex-Hippie, ("Sorry, man. I hope you find your tent.") before we walked past a campsite with a green tent pitched off to the side. I nudged Austin. "Hey, isn't that our tent?"  Austin:  "Nah. Besides you said our tent was blue, this one's green." We sidled closer to the tent, trying to look like friendly neighbors on a carefree walk to the loo, not creepy creepers trying to case out their campsite.

Some teenage girl looked over at us eyeing their campsite. "Are you guys looking for your tent?" We established that the green tent was in fact ours and her dad came over. "Yeah, we found it blowing around in a gully over there. You must have used those flimsy metal stakes, they come out real easy." We nodded, not wanting to tell him that we hadn't actually staked our tent down at all. (The ground was as hard as adobe brick! There was no wind when we left! There was no wind when we came back! In fact, I'm inclined to think that this so-called "wind" and subsequent "blown away tent" was merely a cruel practical joke on the part of the entire campground!)  He went on. "We put a few rocks in your tent so it wouldn't blow away." We glanced around us at the stone-still desert air then into the tent containing three huge, dirty boulders, a host of flies and gnats, and a grubby three-year-old child. "Thank you!" we said.

After ejecting as many unwelcome tenants as we could, we walked the Walk of Shame back to our campsite bearing our tent upon our shoulders. It's a little embarrassing to lose your vital shelter due to your own incompetence, and we didn't really want to talk about it with anyone.We took the back way to avoid meeting all the people we had met earlier, but we did have to pass the ex-Hippie. "You found your tent! That's awesome, man." He showed an inclination to chat about the whole debacle, but we fake smiled with him then quickly slunk away. (As much as one can slink with a two man tent hoisted above one's head.) I was glad that my earlier deductions were wrong, and our campground didn't contain a tent thief, but that being said, it was not our finest hour.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

"This is so much fun, it shouldn't even be called a hike!"

Yesterday, Austin and I hiked the Narrows in Zion National Park. Basically, the trip involves hiking through a river as it makes its way through massive towering cliffs. Pretty cool. There are several different ways to hike the Narrows, but since we don't like backtracking, we went with the 16 mile through hike, billed as a 12-hour-long day trip. It's a hike I've wanted to do ever since I worked in Northern Arizona back in college, and with the help of Austin's sister watching our kids, we finally made it happen.

Part 1: A fracas at the outfitter's shop

Other than finding someone to watch our two little angels, our problem with figuring out this hike has been that it's logistically tricky and expensive. (We don't like to pay for outdoor activities.) First you have to reserve a pass for the Narrows and drive to Southern Utah and spend the night there before your hike starts early in the morning. Once you get there, you need a shuttle to take you to the beginning of the one-way trail/top of the river. (If you don't pay for a shuttle, you have to drive 3 hours after your 12 hour hike to retrieve one of your two vehicles.) In early May, if you don't want to get hypothermia you have to buy or rent expensive gear. So we got to Southern Utah, got a campsite, got a pass, paid for our shuttle, then rented gear.

Now, in my experience, employees at outdoor shops are usually very laid back. Not so much at the place we went. One lady pulled out dry pants for Austin and I, and then another employee came by and told us that we would definitely want full dry suits. *See picture of Austin above. Now, this seemed like overkill to me. When I used to live near all the national parks down in Utah/Arizona, me and my buddies would just throw on a t-shirt and tennis shoes and bust out some grueling hikes, all the while laughing at the invariably German tourists with their expensive gear and two ski poles. I wanted to hike the Narrows in a swimsuit originally, so a whole suit to keep you from getting wet on a super hot day seemed a bit ridiculous. Plus it looked really nerdy. And hard to use the bathroom in.

The dueling started. I was clear and firm that I just wanted dry pants, I would be claustrophobic in a full suit, etc. The guy that told us we needed suits was obviously some alpha male that was taken aback that anyone would argue with him. He told me the river was 4 1/2 feet deep in a few spots and freezing cold. Well, I'm not a German tourist, buddy. I don't fear the river. I politely asked for a smaller size of dry pants and he informed me that I'd already been sized by an employee and I had the right size, and went on trying to get me to get the suit. I was getting pretty annoyed, especially since the pants I was given went up to my armpits. "Will you just get me the smaller pants?" He called for reenforcements and some pregnant employee came over and tried to get me to get a suit too.

When I remained firm, she told me they wouldn't be responsible for the consequences if I just went in pants, but she would give me some tips to keep me safe. "Cinch the waist tightly," she said, "Otherwise they could fill with water and drag you under the river and you could drown." Me: "And how many people has that happened to?" Her: "Uh..." I didn't appreciate that her "safety tips" involved threatening me with death if I wore pants on my hike. And really, I just don't like overly aggressive people. Each dramatic thing they said to me made me want my pants more and more. The suit was only 6 bucks more than the pants, so it wasn't a money thing, it was the way they didn't care about me, they cared about me doing what they told me to. Epilogue: I wore pants.

Part 2: The Mystery of the Missing Tent

What do you do when you get back to your campsite and your tent is missing? This is not a hypothetical question and will be blogged about shortly.

Part 3: We hike

Being confident in our skills, we figured we could do 16 miles in 8 or 9 hours no problem. We had to return our gear by 7:00 and we were driving 4 hours home that night, so time was of the essence. We got up at 5 to break camp, and got to the trailhead via shuttle at 7:30 a.m. After we passed the two Texans that beat us out of the shuttle, it started out all fun and games:

The part of the hike where we spar with walking sticks.

 The part of the hike where we make comments about how the hike is so much fun and makes us feel like little kids playing in the river.

The part of the hike where we play in the river--Austin flaunts his dry suit.

  The part of the hike where we realize that we'll be hiking in the river for 12 more miles and we're already kind of tired of it.
 (Last picture taken)

Takeaways: I don't think walking sticks are for nerds and Germans any more--they saved our lives in the river. Our rented neoprene socks and shoes were also great. Also, swallowing my pride here, I should have gotten a full drysuit. I know it was a river hike, (ergo, it's lame not to want to get wet) and Austin was roasting in his suit for a couple hours, but when it came down to it, I really didn't want to get that wet, especially since it was quite cool in the canyons. The only reason I never got wet past my dry pants was because Austin carried me and I hiked over boulders and small mountains to avoid long swims. It would have been less work just to stay in the water.

Also, I feel like we were misled by the words, "day hike." A day hike is frolicking through flower-filled meadows, clambering up a mountain or two, and feeling worn out but satisfied at the end of it all. The Narrows hike, on the other hand, is the only hike I've ever been on that I wanted to literally cry from hurting so bad.

The park's estimate of 12 hours for the hike was correct, and we were booking it most of the way, with a 10 minute stop for lunch being one of a handful and the longest of the day. Through some miracle, we managed to catch an employee locking up the gear shop an hour and a half after return time--we had no idea what we were going to do with our gear, since we were leaving town that night. We drove home and fell into bed around 2 a.m.

Part 3: Bragging rights vs. pain

I wanted to post a picture of my pale wrinkly feet with sausage toes and blisters, but I resisted. Let's just say that miles and miles of river rocks and boulders are really, really tough on your feet, no matter how great your footwear. We are both hobbling around like old people today, and I think that between us Austin and I will lose a few toenails. The scenery was amazing. The rushing river, the sheer cliffs blotting out the sun, the bright green clumps of forest and wildflowers, all amazing. We saw one other hiker in about 10 hours of hiking, so it was mostly just us and nature. (Although Austin did manage to end up in some Indian tourists' picture right at the end.) But the question is, did we really need 12 hours of amazing? We were hiking so fast and trying so hard not to drown or fall off a cliff that we stopped noticing the awesomeness after an hour or two. I think that next time we would do the bottom-up day hike, which is more of an "I feel satisfied and worn out" day hike than a "I feel like I've been dragged through hell" day hike. All-in-all, we have both agreed that the Narrows through hike was a cool hike but a once-in-a-lifetime deal.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Magical Boise

Who would have thought that Boise, Idaho could have so much to offer? I haven't traveled with Austin for a while--I don't like to be stuck in a hotel room all day with two kids and up all night trying to get them to sleep. With the warmer weather though, we decided to venture to Boise all together, with the plan being that I would spend as much time during the day doing activities as possible outside, so that the kids would go right to sleep at night inside.

We stayed downtown, which means we could easily stroll around to so many fun places: historic downtown and many cool restaurants, Basque museum and district, glassblowers, parks galore, zoo, pioneer village, nature center, library, etc.

No idea why this huge Abraham Lincoln is in Boise...but it was cool.

At the Zoo


 Geese were everywhere! (Plus poop) Ugh.

I thought it would be fun one morning to go feed the ducks. We must have gotten to the duck pond a little early, because the ducks were still sleeping. This didn't stop us from throwing bread at them, but I don't think they were too happy about having to wake up to homemade bread-chucking tourists. They all started waddling rapidly towards us, were quickly joined by two huge geese hissing violently at us, the seagulls started circling, and well--it was starting to feel like The Birds. I tried to throw the bread really far away from us, but it wasn't working too well. The geese actually seemed more interested in eating my small children and Sammy started freaking out, whereupon we made a rapid exit.

Our last animal encounter of the journey: the nerdiest alpaca I have ever seen at a gas station in the middle of nowhere:

All in all an awesome trip!