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Last week to VOTE for Working Moms Meet Up at SXSW 2018

As I’m getting last minute preparations ready to start the Big Kid in Kindergarten, I realized how my working mom role is about to change. Before this new phase of schooling, we could drop kids off whenever for daycare and plan vacations/doctor’s appointments around our convenience. Starting tomorrow, we’re going to have to be on the kid’s school schedule. On-time drop-offs. On-time pick-ups. Working around school holidays and packing any extra items for class activities. I don’t even want to think about what to do with my kid when he’s off next summer!

I’ve survived so far raising my infants into toddlers, but K-12 schooling is a whole other level of parenting. And I need all the mamas in my life to provide guidance. I’ve always heard that as your kids get older, they are less physically demanding (nursing, feeding, playing toys with them) but become more mentally and emotionally demanding (talking them through social problems, homework, school/friend drama). As a working mom who can often feel depleted in all aspects, I’ll be looking to others in similar situations to lean on.

For this and many other reasons, I am proposing the Working Moms Meet Up for SXSW programming in 2018. I’ve hosted this meet up the past 3 years, and every year has been different and exciting. Voting is open until August 25th, so this is my final push to get my idea in front of the SXSW Community and their Board. Please vote for Working Moms Meet Up and help get me back to SXSW in the spring! If you voted in the past, you can use your same SXSW login. Otherwise, creating a login takes just a few seconds.

Thank you for supporting me in all my endeavors!

Road Trip 2017: Arkansas Day 3

They don’t call Scenic Byways “scenic” for no reason. From Hot Springs, the drive through Ouchita National Forest was spectacular. The road would wind around sharp turns or long swooping curves. We experienced some really steep inclines for miles at a time. Maybe it would’ve been more fun to drive in my old GTI, but my family-friendly Outback was still a smooth ride.

We booked a night at the Lodge atop Mount Magazine. As we approached the state park, we could already see sweeping views of the Petit Jean Valley below. There are signs everywhere, warning about the high cliff drops. I’m not usually scared of heights, but I kept a safe distance from the edge.

When you go to visit the highest point in a state, you are obligated to hike to that exact point. So we walked the moderate trail up Signal Hill to where they have the point marked. Along the way, we noted the tiny spring flowers that were blooming, interesting fungi growing on fallen logs and (ack!) tons of poison ivy.

So here’s where I get to brag on my planning skills. Staying at the Lodge was the best idea. Not only did we have hiking opportunities, but the rooms were spacious AND there’s an indoor pool AND the restaurant is tasty as well as affordable. To cool down from our afternoon hike, we got the kids in their swimwear to take a dip.

After we got cleaned up, we had dinner on-site, and those were probably our favorite meals of the trip. The menu had plenty of healthy side options (why is it so hard to find fresh veggies elsewhere in Arkansas?), which our kids devoured. Our last adventure of the day was blowing bubbles on the great lawn as the evening began to chill.

The next morning (after a very filling breakfast at the restaurant), we attempted a moderate hike along the mountain. My kids are getting better at hikes, but they need more elevation change to keep their attention than a moderate hike offered. They lasted about 90 minutes before begging to go back to the Lodge. Guess it was too quiet for them up there.

One last meal for lunch at the restaurant (I’m telling you; it was really good food and not that expensive!), a few silly jumping pics, an easy hike with the Big Kid, and then we bid farewell to Mount Magazine.

Next stop: Eureka Springs.

Road Trip 2017: Arkansas (Days 1 & 2)

Last year, we headed west to New Mexico and Colorado for our first family road trip. So this year, we decided to head northeast to Arkansas and see what The Natural State had to offer. Even though we didn’t have to drive through desolate parts of Texas to get there, it still took us quite a bit of time to get out of the state.

The best laid plans can be foiled by Mother Nature. She dropped 8 inches of rainfall the night before our trip and continued to pour down as we left early in the morning. It was coming down so hard that part of I-35 was closed due to flooding. We sat in a parking lot trying to get out of Austin metro to wait for blinding rain to ease up before we even had the chance to sit in the massive backup from the flood. It took us over 5 hours to get up to Dallas, where the rain seemed to clear.

Of course, the delay in getting out of Dallas meant we had to change our initial plans of digging for diamonds in Southwest Arkansas. Instead, we headed straight to Hot Springs after a lunch stop at Monkey King Noodle Company in Dallas’s Deep Ellum.

The trees suddenly got taller as we crossed from Texas to Arkansas. The flat plains of north Texas also started to show more ups and downs and curves.

With the delay from the storms, it was already getting dark by the time we arrived in Hot Springs. I forget how early places close down in smaller towns, and it took a bit of walking along the main strip of Bathhouse Row to find a restaurant that was open and kid-friendly.

Day 2: Hot Springs, AR

With our National Parks Passports in hand, we went to explore Hot Springs Mountain and Bathhouse Row. We opted to drive up the winding mountain road to get to the views. The air was crisp, and (again) the trees were so tall. There’s a picnic area, little gift shop and a tower up top. We also saw a few hikers who made the whole trek up.

Our normal family pic seemed lacking. Goofy is more our personality.

After driving back down, the Big Kid and I tackled a small portion of the hiking trails before he got bored. We met the husband and Bear Shark at the main attractions – the hot springs. There were a few right at the base of the mountain. It was incredible to see them steaming and bubbling. The Promenade Walk also led us to some smaller hidden ones.

Some of the bathhouses are still operational, while others were converted into a visitor center, gift shop and a cultural center. We did the self-guided tour at the visitor center, which has multiple floors for exploring how people enjoyed the baths and all the different types of therapies used.

From here, we took the scenic byway to the tallest point in Arkansas, Mount Magazine. We LOVED our visit there. More in the next post!

Lost in Transition

I am struggling so hard with this parenting thing right now. Bear Shark is fully in his 3’s, and other parents who have gone through the 3’s know that every day is a battle that tries to destroy our will to live.

We went through some tough 3’s with the Big Kid. The range of emotions that happens within a 2-minute time span is extreme. The highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I remember there being so many tears (mine out of exhaustion and frustration, his out of… I dunno… his sandwich was cut wrong???). But I also remember how my husband took on a bigger role in parenting because I was tending to Bear Shark as a baby. He took the hard blows while I cuddled and nursed. I was able to hide from the 3’s.

There’s no hiding now. And Bear Shark is a completely different person than his brother in personality, energy level and demeanor. He is brash and explosive, expressive and experimental, loud and so very physical. He’s a climber and a smasher, a screamer and a stubborn head. I have a feeling he gets this more from me than my husband (although I like to think I was not nearly as destructive as a kid). And this is perhaps why I’m struggling. We are cut from the same cloth and butting heads repeatedly.

Logically, I know the 3’s are a phase, as is pretty much everything in every stage of a child’s life. He’s learning to push boundaries – or buttons, depending on how you look at it. He’s learning how to express his wants and needs – through screaming. He’s easily distracted – shiny! But observing a 3-year-old and understanding these developmental changes is not the same as trying to feed, dress and transport one in any timely manner to get on with your day.

As I was contemplating how to run away from being a parent, I got stuck on the word transition. Life is always in transition, and we need to accept that everything is impermanent. Yoga asks us to be fully awake and present, to not attach ourselves to the past or to the future. My brain kept going down the rabbit hole to all the times I have been vividly awake to life transitions – moving to California, being diagnosed with thyroid disease, losing my father – and underneath those events and more was the uncertainty and discomfort of being in transition.

Thinking about Bear Shark’s natural birth, I remember being in the throes of transition, which are the last few centimeters of dilation during labor. The contractions had gotten stronger and longer as I labored down on hands and knees. While the first 7 centimeters are the hardest and the slowest, the last few in transition are fast and ferocious. All the birthing books were right. You feel like you can’t take anymore physical exertion. You think, “I can’t do this anymore.” You freak out mentally. And then you remember that this is transition and know that the end is near.

Big changes in life do not come painlessly or easily. Perhaps this is what the 3’s are. 3-year-olds are shedding the last of babyhood and becoming people who have complete thoughts. I remember how huge of a leap it felt like when the Big Kid emerged in his mid-4’s without struggling every minute of the day. The tearful moments came less frequently. The ability to put on shoes and get himself dressed and eat his meals without constant fighting was such a relief to him and to us.

While this next year will not come nearly as fast or as furiously as transition in birth, I am trying to just stay grounded in the present. This is painful and uncomfortable and makes me question why we even had kids in the first place. But I see big brother at 5 going on 6, and he’s this amazing little person who’s my hiking buddy and great conversation at dinner, and I know Bear Shark will be amazing in his own way when he comes out on the other side.

I cannot and should not wish this time away, as painful as it is. Instead, I’m trying to look at the 3’s as life’s way of demanding I be a witness to Bear Shark’s transition. This is also probably life’s way of requiring that I transition as a parent myself, one that can soften to discomfort and be more compassionate toward myself, my children and other parents.

Inks Lake State Park

We visited Inks Lake State Park at the peak of wildflower and bluebonnet season. With our State Parks Pass in hand, we wanted to find a park that was within a short drive (in case there was a freak-out moment) so the boys could have their first camping experience. Inks Lake has waterfront cabins in addition to tent camping, and that worked out perfectly for our family.

Heads up that Central Texas campsites at many state parks fill up FAST in the spring. We booked this trip a month ahead to get a Friday night spot. It only got more crowded by Saturday. Checking other parks’ availability nearby, many were booked up on weekends almost 2 months ahead.

Besides our Parks Pass, the best investment we made was picking up a Chillax Hammock from Costco. They normally retail for $70, and Costco was selling them for $35. The Big Kid spent the entire afternoon and early evening, lounging in the hammock. If the night hadn’t gotten chilly, he probably would’ve slept in it too.

Thankfully, my husband is an experienced camper and got a fire going for us, grilled, set up the lantern and cleaned up any cooking messes. It was nice to be pampered, enjoying the lake, the breeze and the hammock. We even had a goose visit us, and the kids braved the chilly water to take a quick dip. They stayed up WELL past bedtime, playing with flashlights and making shadow puppets inside of the cabin.

The next morning, we were up bright and early. The husband got the camping stove up and running to make coffee and breakfast tacos. After we cleaned up and packed out, we took full advantage of our visit with hiking.

The Big Kid has really impressed me with his hiking skills. He especially loves any opportunity to climb on top of rocks, so we took some scenic detours to peak down at the little waterfalls below. People were sunbathing and swimming. We were trying to keep our kids from getting a little too close to the edges of cliffs!

It probably doesn’t help that they see me planking in precarious places. 😉 It’s all My Peak Challenge‘s fault.

Bluebonnets were everywhere at the park (we went in mid-March) and even along the road leading into the park. There were numerous photo opp spots, and we couldn’t help but take as many pictures as our kids would allow.

We weren’t sure after our long hike whether the kids could handle any more adventures, but after a re-energizing lunch, the Big Kid insisted on renting a canoe. You can’t really tell in the pic, but Bear Shark was nodding off in the back. The gentle rocking of the boat and the warm sun made it perfect napping conditions. We took the canoe out to Devil’s Hole, where crazy teens were cliff jumping, and then back to the dock. A little ice cream snack before we hit the road, and we had two sleeping kids on the drive home.

A successful first “camping” trip under our belt! We have more State Park visits planned this year. I hope I can stay on top of blogging about them without getting too far behind. We really enjoyed our visit and plan to go back, even just to lounge in a hammock the whole time.

Inks Lake State Park
3630 Park Road 4 West
Burnet, TX 78611

Pedernales Falls State Park

The last time my husband and I went out to Pedernales Falls State Park, we had our old dog Boo Boo with us. To get to the falls, you have to scale some pretty large boulders, and I kind of forgot how much effort it took, especially when you’re trying to get a 65-lb dog who isn’t a jumper up and over.

Eight years later, no dog but two kids… same huge boulders. It took some effort between my husband and I to pass kids over crevices to make sure no one fell into holes or moving water. It also took quite a bit of effort to keep Bear Shark from trying to jump off of boulders that were taller than him!

On our way to Twin Falls, we accidentally took a more scenic trail down the hill to the river that’s part of Trammell’s Crossing Trail. It was a fun little detour, climbing over rocks and following the natural “stairs” that led downhill, but it also meant we needed to make the hike back up to connect back to the trail with blue markers.

With recent rain, the falls were more impressive than our last visit. The Big Kid hiked with me to go check out bigger waterfalls and showed us his bouldering skills.

Bear Shark, on the other hand, mostly walked around bare chested and jumped off rocks as if he were a Power Ranger. He also collected a lot of shells in his tiny pant pockets. We counted 42 hiding in his pants.

The Big Kid announced on the way home, “This is the best day ever!” He proceeded to crash in his car seat and napped for most of the hour and a half drive home. I love taking my family to parks, hiking along trails, discussing geological formations and the importance of conservation. I always feel grounded when I’m connected with nature, and these weekend getaways have both immediate and lasting effects.

Pedernales Falls State Park
2585 Park Road 6026
Johnson City, TX 78636

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