Beware of the Leopard

“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’ “

-Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

A month ago, my neighbor had a heart attack on a run while out of town and died. It isn’t my tragedy, but, it is devastating. He died and left behind two young kids, a wife, everything. I don’t really even have empathy for her because I simply can’t imagine it. It still hasn’t registered. I am trying to be the good neighbor and village mom my best, brightest, toughest, and scattered-to-the-winds, mom-friends have taught me to be. That part is easy.Looking at my own life through the lens of impermanence is hard.So. Fill out the forms. Put the stuff in both your names. Grant power of attorney and make a living will. Fill out the DNR and make it okay to donate your organs. Or not.These things have been on our someday list for years, and specifically for me to do last September once the kids were in school. We have basic wills and a plan for the kids, but not all those other things adults are supposed to have.Did someone sit you down and tell you the things you need to seek out and take care of as an adult? Where is the media campaign for The Hassles of Probate? Well, consider this your sit-down.*****There’s only a week left in school, so it is time for me to tick off the to-dos that have been on the list since August anyway. But…..I forgot that schools want parents so involved now. Here’s a question. Did your mom, or anyone’s mom except Katrina Kohlmeyer’s mom, who came on Halloween to adjust Katrina’s stupid, elaborate, princess costume and sneer at your too-big blue tights and girl smurf costume, EVER show up at your elementary school?No. They did not. They left in the morning and you got up and ate cereal and got dressed and brushed your teeth or didn’t, and you tried to keep the dog from escaping, and you left and walked to school. By yourself.Parents didn’t come for sundae parties or rocket launches or tapping maple trees or to listen to you rap or pretend to be Abe Lincoln. Because we didn’t do any of that stuff, for one. And there was separation of church and state, home and school, for another.

Come June, I miss those days, every year. I need the long, quiet minutes to think clearly. I don’t want to be in your hot, germ-filled, stinky classroom. I don’t want to cry in an elementary gymnasium at how you turned into an amazing human when I wasn’t watching. I need exactly 117% of the instructional minutes they get to see the big picture. I think. I’ve never gotten either.

Next week, I have one day I can run to the state records office to file papers without taking children with me into the waitlist of bureaucracy. Like a pioneer. And write a check, like a frontiersman. As if computers are still the size of rooms and not, say, here in my hand.I used a program to create all the documents yesterday (eForms. Do it. So easy. Free week trial should be all the time you need to get your house in order), made an appointment with a Notary Public, and am apparently just a long line and a fee away from full adulthood.I filled out these things yesterday, at my dining room table as the day turned hot and summer arrived. Window, by window, I closed the house from the creeping heat wave and turned on the air conditioning. Every year, this is a day I dread. When the sound of outside gets shut out and flooded over by humming of fish tank filters and fans and appliances and forced air. It added to the sense of existential uncertainty filling out a healthcare power of attorney creates.********What I’m trying to say is that I got drunk last night.And snuck up and hug-attacked the kids, and put the tooth-fairy money under Yoda on the dining table instead of under a pillow, and laughed too hard at Brooklyn 99 and held hands with my husband and ran through the list in my head of our separation of duties. Electric bill? Water softener? Did I ever close that account? This is 40.And today I spilled all the coffee and limped in, drooped my hungover self over a cart and oozed my way through Target buying supplies to last us a summer/week, whatever comes first. That employee was sure the kid ibuprofen was in the baby aisle. The one with all the rockers and Bumbos and playmats that is exhausting to even look at, and it was not. And I wanted to hunt her down and revenge-fart in her aisle, but really was already dangerously close to needing a lie down in the patio area. This is apparently also 40.*****Hug your kids. File the papers. Do your best. Godspeed.

Time to be That Mom

There’s a literary device where a character is killed off once his usefulness has been tapped out. (Spoiler: Dumbledore). The less dramatic version is when they move to a new town or perhaps do a sabbatical year in Norway. And then the other characters have to figure it out, use what they learned and win the day on their own.

I lucked into two different “mom” groups as my kids have grown from itty-bitty to big, and now the moms who recruited me out of my hermitage in the first place have left.

I tried an official MOMS group, and found two of my tribe amongst them. The MOMS group was a dud, but the three us made our own group and bonded while our kids played next to each other in my dirt pile. When those two left, one for Canada and one for Puerto Rico, in the same month, I was bereft. From a distance, they are still teaching me about patience, presence and perseverance.

When my son was a few months old, a family friend asked me to welcome a new mom to town, so I crawled out of my cave and tried. And then she was the one who brought me to a Mom and Baby club before moving back east. I walked into this house up the street from me, called the mom who would become a personal safety net the wrong name, and I was in.

The moms and kiddos I met that day are still the backbone of my Madison community. Our kids have grown up together. The mom-est mom of that group is the one everyone counted on for emergency babysitting, fruit drop-offs, school snacks, play dates, beach parties, hot meals and everything else. She made my kids eat vegetables and go grocery shopping and be responsible and kind. She got me to join Facebook. Aaaand…She moved away this summer. Because this is a town of transients and jetsetters. It shouldn’t be a surprise any longer that people who come here often move on, but it still stings. I still almost let myself into her old house to use the bathroom or get some chocolate on a run. One of her many ‘jobs’ was spending quality time at the school and sending fresh snacks. I feel as though someone has to step up and do the things she did.

When my daughter went through her unsleeping phase, we bonded with the owls in the neighborhood. We’d be up and hear barred and Great Horned owls night after night. She wanted so badly to hold an owl chick. So I found that great class at Aldo Leopold and she imitated an owl horking up pellets for ages after and all was well.

Another great class at Aldo Leopold Nature Center was all about scat and tracking animals. With no preamble, the teacher sat down and read the greatest book I’ve ever come across, “The Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit” (Werner Holzwarth & Wolf Erlfrbruch). Poor mole comes out and something craps on his head. He wanders around with this turd hat asking WHO DID THIS?!? And each animal he comes across says “Not me. Mine looks like this…” I won’t give away the end, but Mole gets some help from a couple friends, solves the mystery and gets revenge. Sorry, I gave it away after all! Brilliant. And I look over to see four bored moms and one woman who is crying with laughter. She couldn’t even stand up straight, and I thought “AHA. A tribe member.”

the Story of the Little Mole Who Went in Search of Whodunit
You will never regret buying yourself and everyone you know a copy of this masterpiece.

This was another in a long line of moms, who made my life richer, easier and better. Amongst her many redeeming qualities, she would come over on cold, dark mornings and tell me it was time to go running. She’s a joiner and got me involved in official school activities. She too, brought in snacks and volunteered at school and made things better. She introduced me to people and made my circle bigger and better. Aaaaand…..she’s gone for the year doing quiet things with her kids and long runs in mountains.

Time to step up. Time for me to buy snacks and be there and do the things and make things better. It’s been a challenge. Truth be told, I’m still a homebody. I loathe field trips. My kids are weird about bringing in snacks. And I can’t do the PTA meetings. I just can’t. I went for years, not because it is the responsible, connected, involved thing to do, but because sometimes you just need to show up for a friend. Welp, that friend is out of the country and I’m done being talked over and down to and I can.not.do.a mock code red drill for parents. Hooray for Safety Night: A special PTA meeting wherein you get to have questions go unanswered, be told you’re concerns are invalid, AND find out precisely what your kids will be told in an active shooter situation. Hard pass.

But I can buy snacks and hassle my kids to bring them in. And I can sit on a bus with a horde of shrieking germ vectors. I can help with math and I can reshelve books. And I will. Because my mom friends taught me how.

On Endurance

There’s a new employee at the cat store. She doesn’t yet know that I’m there every three weeks to buy lots of food and even more litter. She stood there, a little slack-jawed when I scooped up two 50-pound bags and walked out. “You’re stronger than you look!”

Uh. Oh.

With the post-race blues I sometimes get, Tuesday I got run over with the twin semis of “Not Enough” and “TOO DAMN MUCH”. I don’t usually pay any heed to those messages, like it’s a weird radio station and I can just change the channel, but this time the words stuck.

I planned ahead this fall. I planned to be BUSY. On purpose. So, I had two sprint triathlons on the schedule in September and October. I scheduled all the dentist and check-up appointments and flu shots. I even got to add a mammogram to the mix! Hello 40! I volunteered to chaperone ALL the fall field trips. I made meal plans and stocked the cupboards. I made weekend plans of Ironman WI volunteering, Forced Family Fun time trips to the orchard and camping and mud runs. I signed up for a trial fitness sampler and tried out boxing (NOPE), a rave/cycling class (more NOPE), and yoga in a new studio (eh, if it’s not Ruthie, it’s not Ruthie.) I helped build the school playground and went kayaking and found the one Chinese bakery in town and actually bought moon cakes in time for the Harvest Moon festival.

Moon cakes
It only took four years of poor planning to find moon cakes in town. Thank you Asian Sweet Bakery!

Yesterday was the day I ran out of stuff. My races are over, and I’ve slowed my half-marathon training to head off injury. So….that unsettling emptiness finally caught up to me. There’s nothing on the schedule but absorbing more of the news. The stuff we’re all inundated with that is all so disgusting and terrible and haunting and disappointing.

Honestly, my heart is still broken from the first day I dropped my son off at 4K. It never healed. Back-to-school open house was last night and we walked through his fifth-grade classroom, then caught his kindergarten teachers in the hall. And he got a hug from them. I didn’t know he still wanted hugs from Mrs. B and Ms. F. Oh, my heart.

Fifth grade sucks, guys. State capitals are okay, but learning division amidst a bunch of turd blossoms is exhausting. And, one of his classmates put another in a headlock in P.E. yesterday, and while I admire her spirit, more than one kid was scared to go to school today for fear they would be next. There were tears last night and this morning from my son, saying fifth grade has pushed him too far, and can we have a serious discussion about homeschooling.

There were tears at bedtime from my daughter wondering if she’s always going to be in pain, if she’s always going to be sick. That black hole in my heart is now so deep it’s no longer a separate entity.

This is our standard. I miss them terribly and they don’t want to go. The needle is still tipping to public school, but goddamn it for being so stressful.

And my old cat, my first true love, is getting, well, older. He’s getting thinner and pretty ratty looking. His face is shrinking away from his eyes and his fur has stopped growing in. In his heart, he is wild, and once he escapes the house, he’s in the wind. Two nights ago I made the half-hearted attempt to call him in at dark, knowing I’d either hear from him at three in the morning when he ‘sings the song of his people’ at the patio door, or two days from now. BUT he came. He slowly walked out the bushes and into the house. My son witnessed this and said solemnly, “Stuart has retired.” oh, Stuart.

Do you have a list of what you’re handling at the moment? And is some or most of that list things you can’t actually talk about? And it’s not the real thing, but the last thing that gets you?

For example, I could tell you that Infinity War broke me. I got into Marvel heros just two years ago, and mainlined them, and then curled up in a ball and sobbed in my theater lounger last spring. All seven of us who were in there sat, and sniffled and walked out, absolutely shattered. Screw you, Marvel. We’re done here.

Three times this week, someone has asked me what to do now. As if I know. I had to pull over and throw up while listening to Dr. Ford’s testimony. I meant to sign up for a Mindfulness in Motion class, but by the time I remembered AND found my password, I had lost my debit card. I was dressed like a teenage slob when I went to my mammogram last week. There was a piece of foam pipe insulation by the front door for a week before I realized it was actually cat shit.

But….

I have been reading books about endurance. It started with “Born to Run”, and then “Natural Born Heroes”(both by Christopher McDougall). Then a post by The Oatmeal that drove a sad, yet hopeful spike into my heart, then “Life’s Too Short to go so Fucking Slow,” (Susan Lacke), “RUN! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss” and “Ultramarthon Man” (both by Dean Karnazes) and finally, “Eat and Run” by Scott Jurek. I find it compelling to know not why people do amazing feats of endurance, but how.

Because I’d sure like to know.

There are lots of reasons I do sprint tris, most which I can’t even articulate, but the one I’ve been thinking about most lately is that it’s good practice for the everyday. And I need the practice. You work hard. You put one foot in front of the other. Sometimes you just do things. You wanted a challenge. No one said it would be easy…. You get the idea.

I don’t know what your list is right now, but I hope you’re enduring.

Me? I’m going to take a shower, go to a going-away party, collect my kids from the bus stop in the hopes that no one got put in a headlock or had their soul crushed or feels terrible, and keep going.

I’m also going to refill the calendar with fuel for the perpetual motion machine of coping. Other ideas:

*Offer to do dishes or laundry for a new mom, but don’t be upset if she wants you to hold the baby instead,

*Walk your dog, or someone else’s,

*Get a kitten,

*Cut up and roast the damn vegetables already and eat like a grownup already,

*Go for a run,

*Volunteer at the polls, or for Meals on Wheels, or in your local school library, or at the next local event,

*Call my dad. Or your dad, but my dad is pretty great,

*Watch Trevor Noah, or The Good Place, or Superstore or The House,

*Drink something warm, or at least hold something warm in your hands, like a kitten. Or a baby.

*Sign up for ice skating or ukelele or bike maintenance lessons to fill November and December and beyond with,

*Hug your kids. Play their games, let them put up garbage decorations, read them the Winnie-the-Pooh story where Owl contemplates pushing Rabbit off a branch, put together puzzles, build a fort,

*and remember what Tom Hanks once said, about waking up each day and reminding yourself to breath in and out until you don’t have to remind yourself anymore.

You might just be stronger than you look.

Catching Ironman Finishers Makes Me A Better Person

I’ve watched dozens of Ironman races and I’ve volunteered at full and half IMs here in Madison five times now. Each time has been an incredible experience.

Sunday was Wisconsin IM 70.3 and instead of handing out water as I have in the past, I was convinced to work the finish line with some friends. We were trained in “catching” participants: You and another volunteer come from each side of the runner to physically help/escort him or her through the next 50 feet of the finish area, stopping for timing-chip removal, getting medal-ed, handing off water, and then checking with them one last time before releasing them back to the world. We learned how to make a two- and three-person “net” to catch and carry wilted athletes in, if necessary. We learned how to stop them if they were running too fast and how to shadow them if they didn’t want to be physically helped.

I love this sport so, so much. I find the mass swim nauseating to watch, but everything else about triathlon just awes me and makes me feel alive. Having done a handful of sprint triathlons and knowing friends who train for 70.3 and 140.6 mile races, I have a basic idea of how much planning and training and perseverance it takes to get to race day (i.e. lots and lots and lots.) The weather, as always, was a factor in the day and while rain delayed the start and made for slick bike conditions, I was happy for the cooler temperatures and cloudy skies. Cooler means safer, and cloudy also meant lots fewer sunglasses, and lots more eye contact with the athletes. It makes a difference to be able to see their eyes. You can see the triumph, the pain, the disbelief. Some are dazed. Some look like this is just a day in the park. It’s an incredible array of emotions at the finish line.

The first wave of finishers looked and felt great crossing the line, with only one person throwing up. To be honest, puke doesn’t phase me. I threw up from conception through delivery for all pregnancies, I have two kids and four cats. Vomit is a part of our lives. Two years ago at an aid station about ten miles into the run, a woman came up, grabbed some gels then gracefully turned and threw up, hard, in a garbage can. And then she apologized. Oh, honey. You have no idea how proud I am of you. Ironman, sure. Throwing up IN THE CAN?!? Way to go!

You get invested in these strangers, and it is thrilling to be so near, watching them work their hearts out. My favorite aid station at the full Ironman is on an out-and-back portion, and since they run the course twice, you can see someone four times. You mentally keep track of people as they come and go, silently praying for them, especially those who are struggling, while continuing to cheer the people in front of you, hawking your Gatorade or water, apologizing for being out of ice or chicken broth. Every year, we end up closing down the aid station, cheering the last person on the course through, then driving up to the finish to make sure “our” last people make it. Sometimes they don’t get there in time. Believe me, if I’ve seen you finish that race at 12:01, you’re still an Ironman to me.

This Sunday, I got to catch a friend after he finished his best HIM yet. His knees buckled a little, but he found his legs quickly and after passing him off to his brother, I rushed back to the twin lines of volunteers waiting for the next athletes.

Like all the races I’ve volunteered at, most of it is a blur that left me wired and tired, but there were a handful of finishers who had an impact. Some lean on you more than others. My last “catch” of the day before my shift was over was a young guy who started to hyperventilate. The station director gave him a good, long look, asked him if he was okay, and told us to keep walking and breathing. We did. At the finish area exit, the other volunteer raised his eyebrows at me, and I said I had it. Then, with arm still around my athlete, I asked him quietly if he was okay, and he cracked and started to cry. Oh buddy. Have you come to the right place. I happen to know someone who sobs at finish lines. She only does sprints, but she’s a real gem.

I walked him out of the mud pit and found him a spot to sit a ways away in the grass. He’s from Chicago. He doesn’t have anyone here except a friend who’s still out on the course. He’s had too much sugar and caffeine. He didn’t expect to cry. He doesn’t have to drive back tonight and plans to have a Spotted Cow or two. I listen and sit next to him and agree that RedBull is the worst, and when I notice he’s stopped shaking I get him up and ask if he wants a hug and tell him how truly proud I am of him. I leave him in the food line, in better shape than I found him.

I tell my leader I’m leaving, then head home on my bike.

Here’s the secret: Volunteering is good for me. My well had run dry. I had almost nothing left for my family. And yet giving and being present at that finish line was easy. You need someone to lean on and get you a soda? You got it. You’re still shaking and you need an escort to the med tent? I’m here. I’ll walk with an arm around you the whole way and won’t leave until I know you’re being taken care of. It’s simple, easy, necessary help that I can give. And then I wipe my hands off and I go help someone else.

Perhaps I haven’t felt useful in quite some time. Perhaps it’s nice to be needed? I’m needed all the time. All. The. Time. The seven-year old has pneumonia for the third time in three months. She felt good for a week? A few days? There is no respite. There is no cavalry. I left the kids home watching videos to pick up her antibiotic, and despite the urgency, I found myself stalled out in front of a magazine rack, in the middle of an interview of …Anna Faris?I don’t know how long I had been standing there.

But… I left that finish area restored. I helped. I did my best. I reminded people to stop their watches and congratulated them on their hard work and achievement. I gave hugs and high-fives and sodas and foil blankets and, it was enough. I can’t explain why helping strangers makes it easier to continue to help my own child, but I don’t need to. I’ll just see you at the finish line at WI IM, this September.

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Wrist band given to IM athletes to give to volunteers. Also, a reminder of my best self. She’s not that far away.

A few glorious days in Glacier National Park

Last summer, we camped just west of Yellowstone National Park, and a sore throat led me to the sweet nectar of ramen from the KOA camp store. I also bought an emergency “hand stitched” fleece blanket. Last week, another sore throat led to more cheap ramen and recuperating on the sofa under that bear blanket and I got to thinking of our latest camping trip, to Glacier National Park.

Recovery on the sofa means lots of assistants

We drove the kids out to Glacier in August and lucked out, getting a campsite at Two Medicine and stayed for three nights. Most of the camp sites in the park can’t be reserved ahead of time, and the park has gotten so popular in the last two summers that you have to troll the campsites, waiting for others to pack up. We’re not the only ones who want to see the glaciers while they last, I suppose.

Campsite backyard
On the path to the Apistoki Falls, which we never found

91-year-old wooden boat, Sinopah, ferried us across Two Medicine lake for a chance to torture the kids with a “miserable” hike to Twin Falls

I took a ridiculous amount of pictures, but truly, if you can go, you should to experience it yourself. The thing that stays with me is how quiet it was, and how dark the night was. We went to sleep the second night to very strong winds rattling the tent. (Don’t worry, the bear fleece was keeping us warm.) I woke in the night once the wind had died and there was no sound, anywhere. No crickets or peepers or even the owls from earlier or wind or distant car traffic or generators or any other human noise. It was the kind of silence that had a weight to it on my ears. I was unsettled by it then, but miss it now.

Winter kill from sap rising fast in warm Chinook winds, then expanding in a sudden refreeze.

We checked out the Two Medicine area, St. Mary and Many Glacier before driving through the park on Going-to-the-Sun highway as we left. Two Medicine lake and a spot on the far side of Swiftcurrent Lake (that edges on the Many Glacier Lodge) were my absolute favorite parts of the park, although we really only saw a fraction of it. We did see some bears ahead of us on the road, twice, from the car, just the way I like. The open-range cattle were more shocking, though, just hanging out in the road, right after any sharp bend.

Recent fire scars remain
One of the old park tour vehicles ahead on the road to St. Mary
Wildfire scars and recovery

Some of us were there for the lichen, some of us were there for the geology

When we were there, wildfires in the park had been burning for about 10 days. No new back-country permits were being issued, and no campfires were allowed anywhere in thepark (camp stoves were still okay at campsites only) but that didn’t affect our plans at all, and we just dealt with hazy skies.

View of Saint Mary Lake, August 12, 2017, hazy from wildfire smoke

I had been hoping to see the Perseid meteor shower from our camp site, but even if the skies hadn’t been smoky, it was cloudy those nights. We were all exhausted from hiking and playing in the river to be too disappointed about this. The kids made sure to have their “special ramen” and made sure our neighbors knew that “ramen makes you toot.” They were from Seattle and before leaving, they gave us a bag of Peet’s ground coffee (because we’d very sadly left ours at home) and I’m still grateful. (I love you, Lisa!) What an amazing place in the world. Number ten on our list of National Parks visited, and number one in our hearts.

Hiding from the wind at Rising Sun along St. Mary Lake
View from the lodge at Many Glacier
The hike begins in good spirits that last a whole quarter mile.
Hiking around Swiftcurrent Lake
Close to the best and “worst” spot in the entire park, a beautiful wooden bride over the river into Swifcurrent Lake. This is where a hot, 2 1/2 mile hike through stupid, gnarled trees and a failed attempt at a trail-side pee (mom’s stupid idea) came together. No amount of Skittles could fix it. Still pretty, though.
Ramen for mood-restoration
Back on the road, near to stop #3 for carsickness
Just after Logan’s Pass on Going-To-The-Sun Road. Don’t worry, Wolverine poop jokes are still alive and well in this family.
Goodbye, Glacier NP. We’re grateful for your spacious, awesome beauty.

A Week in the Life, Take II

Do you keep seeing black and white photos of people’s lives? It is easy to see the appeal of this particular challenge; The beauty of it lies in its simplicity. Everyone can find the gorgeous in the everyday with the help of a monochrome filter. It’s satisfying to see these spaces we inhabit be lifted to a higher plane, stark and barren without people. I like to see the world that way.

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I would like social media to be a link for me to those friends of mine who’ve spread across the city, state, country and world, and yet that isn’t what it is for me. I’m not sure it ever was, but it certainly isn’t that now. I don’t want to spend my time there feeling more and more alienated rather than closer to people. I took a couple weeks away from all media (except Spider Solitaire), and I felt different, and better and more hopeful and I need that to continue. I don’t have the energy to invest in visiting social media everyday to post pictures as there are a dozen things I “can’t even” about right now and, as always….

Winter is coming. Here’s what I’ll be doing this cycle around the sun: Running. If you’ve never felt the lifting of your heart from the simple act of running, I wish you do someday. I’m leaving my bootcamp for a while, doing my PT, resting all five injuries, and running. And walking. In the cold. In the dark. In the snow. I welcome the fresh air to clear out the many cobwebs. And April 7th, I’ll be finishing a half marathon because the fifth time is the charm. I welcome the early dark as a blanket of calm to mute the sparkle of the holidays. I sort and store and prepare.

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….And I’m an impatient story-teller. So, here’s another seven days condensed into seven pictures to stand without explanation. You don’t even have to check in every day.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

4

5

6

Nearly full Sharps container

7

One night and a hike in Sedona

We spent just enough time in the charming Sedona last week to make me wish we lived there.  We started the morning in Phoenix and drove north to visit Montezuma Castle National Monument, or rather two of us did and the one with pneumonia and I drooped our way back to the car and drank juice and coughed until it was time to go.  I got just enough of a look to be amazed, and realize any pictures I took made it look like a doll house in the rocks. Guy overheard a teenager lie to his sister that this was Montezuma’s summer home.  *snort*  

We drove on through Jerome (more on that coming soon) and finally made it to Sedona just in time to be crushed to realize The Red Planet Diner is no longer.  We mourned the loss of Space Junk, the entree, then found a worthy replacement at MoonDog’s Pizza.  Granted, we were starving, but I’m still pretty sure the pizza and ancho chicken sandwich and spaghetti were great.  I wanted to ask the owner if he was Moondog, expecting some old hippie, and was grateful I didn’t….because we heard a pack of coyotes singing and chattering three times that night and I put it together.  Aha.  Moondogs are coyotes.  See, here, we hear a couple coyotes do a low howl now and then, but the moondogs in Sedona have a LOT to say.  Especially at the full moon.

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Moonrise over Sedona

Even after a night filled with coyotes, snoring, and two coughing kids, we were sufficiently reenergized by breakfast at Nick’s to go on a short hike before the day heated up.  We headed to Boynton Canyon in a designated Red Rock Secret Wilderness of the Coconino National Forest to hike the Vista trail for the supposed vortex at the end.  We’ll take all the good mojo we can get for the Peanut. Perfect for us.  Gorgeous and restorative, and only one of us needed a piggy-back ride back to the trail head. We’ll go back again and hike some more of those beautiful red rocks for sure.

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After a roadside picnic, we piled back in the car for a drive along Oak Creek Canyon, a thirteen-mile stretch I remember well from the first time my husband and I drove it; I was pregnant and the curves and the dizzyingly close canyon walls were intense and nauseating.  This was a much easier drive.  We stopped at the canyon rim and got a chance to get out and look back….and promise to come back again soon.  Thanks, Sedona!

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Dinosaurs of Arizona

The other main reason we went to Arizona last week was to see dinosaurs.  The dino-philes amongst us had heard there were some fine Triassic fossils, models and murals spread throughout Arizona.  Some of us researched how and where to see every last dinosaur and dinosaur-like creature in the state.  We also brought some of our own and showed them around.

Now, my kids were beyond bored with the amazing facts about the Grand Canyon, including the that the top layer of earth there is Kaibab limestone, rock older than the dinosaurs.  As you proceed down the canyon, the rock gets even older, with the deepest part of the canyon being 1.5 Billion, with a “B” years old!! (Vishnu and Zoroaster formations. Geonerds, check out this awesome geologic map of Arizona. )

Of more interest was the rock formations left from the early and late Triassic periods (Moenkopi and Chinle) for the Postosuchus and the Coelophysis fossils they contain.  (That’s “crocodile from past” and a 10-foot-long bipedal, carnivorous early dinosaur.)

We looked high and low and this is what we found…

In Flagstaff’s Museum of Northern Arizona

In Petrified Forest National Park and the park’s Rainbow Forest Museum, Arizona

 

At the Museum of Natural History of Mesa

*What a gem of a museum.  The Dinosaur Mountain exhibit is several stories high and combines geologic layers of rock with animatronic dinosaurs, animal, and plant life from the corresponding age.  The flight exhibit was also a bit jumbled, but worth visiting.  Not pictured is the Dino Zone, a room for kids to touch, climb and explore around life-size models of  a stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, and triceratops set in front of realistic background murals where my children spent more time than the rest of the museum combined, crawling in and out of a tube.  Because they were raised by animals.*

And then there was The Good, The Bad and The Ugly:

 

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Some of us see dinosaurs everywhere 

May you too find dinosaurs wherever you look.

We’re Not in Arizona Anymore

Later, I’ll post a fraction of the dinosaurs and dinosaur-like things we saw on vacation, but right now, I’m going to bitch and moan for a few minutes.  Feel free to skip if you’ve had enough already, but I’m going to sit here with my greasy fingers, eating my cold latkes and list off my most pressing worries:

  1. She’s sick. Of course. She was better, almost, and then she finished her antibiotics, came home and she coughed her disgusting, croupy, pneumonia cough all night long.  Again.  Don’t worry, though—her tummy and head still hurt too.
  2. She’s stressed and went to school in tears. (Although, her brother got up early, got ready early and walked himself to the bus stop with absolutely no cattle-driving done by me.  Miráculo!)
  3. Her new doctor says “let’s give a few more days.”  Sure.  What’s a few more days of misery when it has been years.  Sure.

She started coughing last night and I went out to find something, anything, for her, and instead ate two brioche buns with “butter” and raspberry jam in about a minute as buffer against another sleepless night.

And now we wait.  We wait for school to call to say she’s miserable, her tummy hurts, her head hurts, she coughed up something.  We wait for another couple days to call her doctor back and say “Nope, she’s not better.”  And we wait for summer and better times.

Let’s think about vacation and how easy everything was, even if she was miserable, and then replace all water intake with coffee and/or cheese.  Say “We’re just fine” to people who ask, go for the shortest of runs, cancel acupuncture appointments because we’re too stressed to be still with our thoughts, inspect the blinds and find mold all up the back of them and contemplate burning it all down.

*deep breath*

That’s all for today, folks.  Another edition of “Mom’s Thoughts” at another panicked moment in the future.