The Third Day of Third Grade

I watch you.  I watch you watch them.  The pair labeled your “best friends”and the other one.  They laugh and touch and a little girl gravitational force pulls them together as it repels you.

I watch you.  I watch the jealousy and anger coil up inside you and I hope that it finds release before you snap inappropriately.  You stare unblinkingly with your ice blue eyes and the look is pure hurt because you are left out.

I watch you.  I watch as your new friend, “Well maybe friend,” you’ve said, “but not yet” walks up to you and you don’t even acknowledge her presence.  I talk to her and compliment her sweatshirt and make pleasantries, which you should be doing, but you don’t because you can’t stop staring across the blacktop as your best friends and the other laugh at something.  They are too far away, so we cannot hear what they laugh at, but we can see they are having fun without you.

I watch you.  I watch as the second maybe new friend walks up and you ignore her too.  Opportunities surround you but you can’t see them because you want to be over there with them in their class.  You want the comfort of last year.  You want familiar.  You want to be inside the threesome again and not stuck outside looking in.  The two maybe new friends stand silently ignored and you continue fester until you turn and say, “I told you I’m not popular anymore.”

I want to hurl idiotic phrases at you.  You catch more flies with honey.  Life isn’t fair.  Make new friends, but keep the old.  I want to stop your stare and refocus it on the sweet kids around you.  I want to plaster over your hurt and wounded heart and tell you it will be okay, but I don’t do any of that.  It might not be okay.  You might lash out at your old friends and miss the opportunity for new friends.  You might lose them all.  I wish for a tree to sprout between your class’s line and the other class’s line so that you don’t have to see them having fun without you.  I know it might be a long and lonely year.

I think of Rachel and Stacy 34 years ago on my playground.  I remember wishing for what they had: for the heads close together and the whispers and hand games and true friendship and wondering, “How do they do that?”  I remember longing for what they had, but never finding it.  I watch you and hope the hurt of my third grade isn’t repeated in the next generation with a different pain of loss instead of longing.

I watch you and feel the agony of a mother’s anguish.  I watch you and hope it will be okay.

The bell rings and the pain of everything makes reach for a hug and kiss, needing to be loved too much to remember I’m embarrassing.  I pour my heart into you, because you are loved and you are amazing and you can do this, and then we part.  I watch you.  I watch you walk away alone.

 

 

Kiddo Travel Hacks – Kid Phase

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Now that my daughter is a rational, reasonable, logical human being (mostly) I love traveling with her.  Her bodily fluids stay inside of her (mostly.)  She’s helpful at the airport (mostly.)  Her eyes see wonders that a solo traveling adult would miss.  We wait to watch the airplane drive under us on the walkway to the terminal.  (Yes, airplanes drive under walkways sometimes.)  She notices a friend at a neighboring gate, and we have a lovely conversation that I would have missed with my head down in my electronic device. I’m an observant traveler, but she really makes me be present.

My absolute favorite trick to traveling with kids is a game I made up on the spur of the moment.  It works for any kid who can count to at least 20.  The day the game was invented we checked our bags and headed toward the security line (cue ominous music).  In one of the mysteries-of-TSA moments the line was long.  So long.  Longer than the line had any business being.  All around me adults were “F-ing security!” and “F- you, why didn’t we leave sooner?” and “F- I’m going to miss my flight!”  In response to my rising panic that my kiddo would hear these angry adults, inspiration hit and I said, “Kiddo, how many big steps do you think it will take to get through this line?”

We started counting big steps.  “Mom, how many do you have?  12?  I have 23.”  I watched as she took an extra big step and stood too close to the person in front of us.  She nodded and said, “24.”  We made it through one wiggle – a phrase coined during the game development which means one length of the barricade wrapped line – and after she tallied our steps she proudly announced, “I’m winning!”  Of course because she has smaller legs it took her more big steps to travel a wiggle so she won.  Silly grown-up me had assumed we were trying to get the least number of steps in per wiggle.  Any game my daughter always wins is a great one, especially in an aggravation filled place like the airport.

Now we play the giant steps game through security.  We play it down the jet way.  We play it wherever there is a line where adults are acting like children who need to have their mouths washed out with soap.  She always wins.  It’s worked for five years, this giant step game.  This year, at 8, she was a bit more shy and afraid of what people would think of our game so we played, but quietly, and she still won.

The other upside of this game is that we almost always attract the attention of someone else who is just trying to make the best of a crappy situation.  We’ll get a smile or a nod, and it makes me happy being goofy with my kid and making others a little happier with our silly game.  The downside of this game?  I abhor long lines at airports when I’m not with her.  It’s all I can do to keep from challenging the angry “F-ing” guy next to me – “Hey, jerk-o, which one of us do you think can take more giant steps through this line?”  Wonder how that would turn out?


The final in a series of Kiddo Travel Hacks where I share my best advice for not just surviving, but enjoying travels with kids.  Also check out the infant phase and toddler phase posts for other tips and tricks.

Kiddo Travel Hacks – Toddler Phase

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Traveling with an infant is uncertain and scary, and traveling with a toddler is just like that, but louder and more mobile.  There’s less screaming for no reason and more, “Want down now!  Now!  Now!” followed by the toddler death screech.  These are the children holding their parents hands walking up and down and up and down the aisle whenever the fasten seat belt light is off.  In my opinion, toddlers are the hardest travel companions.

Melissa, from Parenthood and Passports echoed my thoughts in her comments on my infant post, “The infant days were much easier than the toddler days, I have come to realize.”  She’s so right! (Check out her site if you travel with kids or travel at all!  It’s a fun read.)

How do you travel with a toddler and keep your sanity?  Let’s start with the no/low-cost suggestions:

Talk about the airport ahead of time

Make your toddler aware of the whole flying process.  Talk about the security lines and sending the suitcase off when you check it.  Explain where all their stuff is going, so you can remind them as you go through the process.  “Now remember, this is when blankie goes in your bag and through the x-ray.  Then we’ll go under the bridge.  First you, then Mommy next.”

Make flying an adventure

If you grouch and gripe it doesn’t help, but the airport is filled with amazing things. Notice them with your toddler.  “Don’t the security policemen have cool blue uniforms?”  “You are so special!  You don’t have to take your shoes off!”  “Do you see our bags going on the plane yet?”

Make others like your kid before they become obnoxious

Teach your kid the three rules of flying before you go, repeating them over and over.

  1. You MUST stay in your seat when the seatbelt light is on.
  2. You MUST NOT kick the seat in front of you.
  3. You CANNOT smoke when the no-smoking light is on.

Have your kid repeat these rules as soon as you get on the plane.   Point the lights out.  Explain what the seatbelt rule is and that it is not your rule, it is the plane’s rule.  It won’t end the “I WANT TO GET UP!” tantrum, but it will provide a way to explain without it being your fault.  Also, fellow passengers will appreciate hearing that if their seat starts being kicked endlessly by little feet you are their ally.  The smoking thing is just funny.  Trust me, a three-year old saying the third rule is “No smoking!” is hysterical.

Finally, teach your kid that take-off is called “blast-off.”  Nothing is cuter than a tiny voice shouting, “Mommy?!?!  Is this the blast off?!?!”  Your kid is adorable.  All toddlers are.  (If kids came out at 18 months old and potty trained I’d have a dozen.)  Let their cuteness shine through before it gets tarnished by hours in the plane.

Bring familiar foods and treats

You love the chance to try exotic foods prepared in local styles when you travel.  Your toddler does not.  On the plane bring their favorite cup, and fill it with their favorite drink after you get through security.  Bring bags of their favorite foods.  Slip in a treat or two that they don’t often get to eat.  My kiddo was a pacifier blankie loving toddler, so she got her pacifier and blanket the entire flight.  She also had a sippy cup of juice, sliced apples, and goldfish.  When she wanted a treat she got a ring pop: the pacifier in lollipop form.  Throw away your rotting teeth and nutritious food worries for the duration of the flight.  Make it a comfortable, special smorgasbord.

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Now, if you are lucky enough to have a little extra money to spend there are some higher cost things you can do to make your trip more enjoyable.

Devices and television are your friend

Sure, if you are lucky, your toddler will fall asleep when the plane takes off, but if you aren’t lucky it’s okay to ruin their brains with TV on a phone or tablet while they rot their teeth with treats.  It’s a vacation!  Fun fun!  Also, sometimes there are built-in televisions on a plane that cost a bit to purchase.  Trust me, if you only buy one TV, it’s better to get Disney and Nickelodeon for your kid than HGTV for yourself. Invest in some over the head folding headphones for your toddler.  They won’t be able to keep the earbuds in their ears, and you risk a “I CAN’T HEAR!” tantrum.

Get them their own seat

I know travel can be expensive but if you are traveling solo with your toddler it helps to have an extra seat and an extra under the seat.  I used to travel with my daughter’s carseat because her seat was a familiar space for her.  Also, she was a great car sleeper, and often that translated to a plane sleeper if she was in her own seat.  From a safety perspective, it was easier to ensure she was belted in if she was in her carseat.  That said, try hauling your gear, your kid’s gear, your kid and a carseat sometime.  I had wheels I could put on my carseat, but I have vivid memories of me wearing a backpack, pulling my roller bag – with her bag strapped to it – and carseat on wheels while balancing my daughter on my shoulders walking out of baggage claim.  I swear, I must have grown two extra arms to pull that off.

One thing to know, if you do travel with a carseat make sure it is approved for flight by the FAA and that you put the seat in a window seat.  Those two steps will save you embarrassment and the attention of angry flight attendants.

Pay for stretch seating

If you don’t splurge for the extra seat, try splurging for extra legroom.  My daughter spent many hours on the floor of the plane playing between my feet.  Yes, it is filthy.  Yes, you risk the little one eating some random dropped food.  Yes, it’s amazing to get your child off your lap and get a little space during a long flight.

There is one thing you must do if you are traveling with a toddler, and it will cost you nothing.

Rely on the kindness of strangers

People will be jerks and mutter nasty things under their breath.  People will recline their seats so your kid can’t see the TV.  You can get yourself all bent out of shape, or you can look for the kind smile from the lady across the aisle who has been in your seat.  You can marvel over the car rental person who, when you were returning your car, noticed the toddler in the back and says, “Get in the passenger seat, I’ll drive you to departures.”  There will be an uppity business man who talks Dinosaur Train with your kiddo the third time she launches Buddy at his head.  Turns out he’s a dad under that suit.  I remember the awful flight to Orlando in generalities, but six years later I remember the specifics of the people who were wonderful to me and my challenging, adorable, loud toddler.


The second in a series of Kiddo Travel Hacks where I share my best advice for not just surviving, but enjoying travels with kids.

Kiddo Travel Hacks – Infant Phase

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I love traveling with my daughter.  She’s at an age where she understands that the pain of the drive, the airport, and the lines is more than worth the adventure at the other end.  That said, I remember preparing for infant trips with a pit in my stomach.

She took her first flight when she was a few days shy of six months old.  My husband’s dear aunt was supposed to come visit us, but instead of flying she was doing another round of chemo.  Her cancer was back, but I desperately wanted her to meet her grand-niece.  “No problem,” I said, “We’ll come to you.”  Brave words, but the idea of flying with an infant was terrifying.  On the plane there is so much stuff to bring and so little control over her.  Who hasn’t wanted to rip their ears off because of an infant screaming during an entire plane ride?  Did I want to be that mom with that kid?  While I knew most problems could be solved by baring my breast and feeding her I was not confident nursing in public, so I came up with a backup plan.

My brother-in-law was traveling with us.  Rather than sit with our family, I asked if he would sit in the row in front of us.  Then I made my request.  “If she starts screaming, will you please stand up and start berating me?  Loudly?”  He looked at me with surprise and I justified, “See, I can’t handle some stranger going off on me, but if you preempt it and just start telling me to ‘shut your damn kid up’ and that I’m ‘a terrible mother’ you might circumvent others yelling at me.”

All of my in-laws think I’m crazy, and I did nothing to change my brother-in-law’s mind that day, but he agreed.  I boarded the plane confident that the worst I would have to endure was a baby crying and my brother-in-law acting like a maniac.  I could handle that.  I was armed with bottles, pacifier, diapers, changes of clothes, toys, and digital devices to keep her happy, but if those didn’t work I was also armed with a plan to keep the meanies away.  As usual, when you’ve planned every contingency, the flight was easy.  My daughter fell asleep drinking her bottle as we took off and woke up as we were landing.

When traveling with an infant, figure out what scares you the most, and make a plan to deal with that.  Puke?  Pack two changes of clothes.  Poop?  Do the same.  Germs?  Bring a bag full of 3 oz bottles of hand sanitizer.  Mean people?  Bring your own meaner person.  Travel with an infant is a total wildcard, so do what you can to address your own fears.  If you are calm, you’ll be able to better deal with whatever surprises come your way.


The first in a series of Kiddo Travel Hacks where I share my best advice for not just surviving, but enjoying travels with kids.

Help Me Pick my Yarn – Phase 2

Four months ago I posted an exciting knitting contest, and finally, I can announce the results.  Just in case you haven’t been holding your breath for three months awaiting the results of this knitting contest, here is a reminder.  I’m making the Purl Soho stitch block cowl.  I need three colors of yarn and was deciding between these three options:

The voting from March was close, but the Hobbit Cowl emerged as a narrow favorite:

Option 1 – Hobbit Cowl – 4 votes

Option 2 – Sunset Cowl – 3 votes

Option 3 – Scottish Cowl – 2 votes

After getting distracted by my sweet daughter batting her super long eyelashes at me and asking for a new blankie, I finally wrapped up the first panel of the cowl.


Isn’t it pretty, and cool and texture-y?  Now it’s time to add in color two and three!  I have to make a decision.  This is a pricey project both from a supply and time perspective, so I really want to get it right.  I decided that the only thing to do was to start knitting swatches to see what I really like best.

The world’s longest most ridiculous swatch.  (No, I didn’t check gauge with it.  Why do you ask?)

Eleven swatches later I’ve decided I really do like the colors selected by the blogosphere.  If only I were a more trusting person I could have saved myself a few hours.  (You readers are SO smart!)  Except…the decision isn’t done!  One section has two colors and the other has three colors.  I need to decide which color is in the two-color section.  Readers,  I turn to you for guidance again.  Which option should I choose?

Is the left version with Shire as the second color better, or is the Moody Green, on the right, better?  Please help me decide before I leave on vacation, so I know which color to pack, because I know I won’t get through all 20 inches in a week.  Thank you!

Legitimate Acupuncture Concern

Last week I hurt myself in an embarrassing manner.  I knocked my hips askew while sleeping.  The next day it hurt to walk and the day after I tried a trail run.  After that misguided experiment I was really broken.

Thankfully I have a good relationship with a reputable chiropractor, who is helping me get well.  I was discussing my injury and treatment with a friend, and he mentioned he was having back issues and trying acupuncture.  

I told him, “I don’t do acupuncture.”

“Yeah,” he said, “The needles bothered me too at first…”

“It’s not just the needles,” I interruputed, “It’s, well, what happens if there is a fire drill?  I mean if you are getting a massage or something you just grab a sheet and wrap up, but you know, you are all full of needles.  What do you do?”

Surprisingly, my friend had never considered this scenario, but it’s a legitimate concern.  I’m sticking with treatments that have a clearly defined escape plan.

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Ouray Beauty

Damp and smelling of hot springs we made our way to the concert in the park.  Music and a sno-cone tent had lured us away from the warm pool.  My daughter and I were both overdressed for the weather in our jackets, but underdressed in our lack of underwear and shirts.  We had decided that wearing our swim suits under our clothes would just be “too soggy” for the rapidly cooling evening.  My husband’s damp swim trunks looked enough like shorts that he blended in. The band we didn’t know played music we did know.  We swayed to the music at the edge of the crowd while my daughter attacked her bright blue dessert.

Ouray is a mountain town, and there were distinct groupings of tourists in their “Ouray” and “Colorado” souvenir clothing and locals in their Patagonia, Mountain Hardware, and skinny jeans.  Tourists were not wearing skinny jeans, because no fabric is flexible enough to allow for anything beyond breathing in those jeans: completely impractical for anything but standing and looking cool.  Sprinkled between the tourists and locals were the traditional concert-in-the-park attendees.  The requisite braless old lady, somewhere between 45 and 95, hula hooped in the front row.  She briefly attracted attention of many wondering if her breasts would be exposed during her gyrations, even though no one really wanted to see them.

My daughter was marveling, “Why doesn’t everyone give straws and spoons with snow cones?” when I noticed a woman weaving her way through the crowd.  Well, I actually noticed her coat.  I am a coat aficionado and this was a spectacular specimen.  It hit her mid-thigh and was made out of some chamois colored leather or perhaps waxed canvas.  The material had a slight sheen and accentuated her ordinary movements as she nodded at this person and hugged that one.  In the fading sunset her coat glowed and looked so soft that I longed to touch it.  Laughing, she tossed her head and her long earrings sparkled beneath her asymmetrical black pixie hair.  It wasn’t a haircut in response to aging or motherhood, but just the haircut she should have.  When she bent to swoop up her son I noticed her jeans – not skinny like the cool people – but soft, medium blue, body skimming, practical and perfect.  They just brushed the top of her bare feet as she stood, cradling her boy on her hip.

She was beautiful.  It wasn’t that she was thin.  It wasn’t that she was well dressed.  She was both of those, but what made her beautiful was that she was impeccably herself and she was fully and completely present in the space she occupied.  I wasn’t the only person who noticed her, although I may have been the most intent observer.  As she would stop to talk to a group you could see the people nearby pausing in anticipation of her arrival.  When she left a group they would watch her go before resuming their conversations.  It was as if a spotlight followed her and the crowed brightened where she was.  She was magnetic.  I could spot her in an instant either due to her personality or the ebbs and flows of the crowd dynamics moving around her.

Never close enough to make eye contact or to be graced with a smile, I left without meeting this woman.  As I closed my eyes to sleep that night I imagined a life for her.  She owned a little boutique shop in Telluride.  She lived in Ouray in a house she inherited from her grandmother, and she loved the quaint mountain town.  However, as a savvy businesswoman, she knew the real money stayed in Telluride, the richer of the sister towns.  Every year women traveled from all over the world to spend thousands in a single shopping trip so they could look “just like her.”  She catered to them, fawned over them, impeccably dressed them, and under her attention they became beautiful.  Huge packages would arrive at their homes containing entire new wardrobes selected by her hand.  The rich women would take out each item and lovingly remember how they felt that day in Telluride.  Unfortunately, none of them could capture the same confidence they felt in the shop, because the shop owner didn’t come with the clothes she sold.  The memory of beauty didn’t wane so those wealthy women would return year after year to rekindle the feeling, and every year they found it under her gaze.  

I fell asleep wishing I could travel to Telluride and wondering what coat she would select for me.

Explaining Irony to Writer’s Digest

Remember a bit ago when I told you how I explained irony to my daughter?  (Reminder: pain relief spray crashed down on her head.)  Well, my writing friends, here’s one for you that just arrived in my inbox.  Enjoy!

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Update – 6/28/2016

I must stop trying to be overly clever.

Perhaps Writer’s Digest University should contemplate taking their “Introduction to Copyediting” course that begins June 30th.  They could apply their new found knowledge to e-mail subjects.

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Thanks Kathy for letting me know that my “joke” fell flat.

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Mommy, Make Me a Blankie?

When my baby girl was still in my tummy I nested with crafting projects.  I made her a huge Amy Butler flower pillow that she could do tummy time on, as a baby, and sleep on, as a kid.  I made curtains to match.  After she was born my mom and I made her a crib skirt that matched them both.  I also bought machine washable Encore yarn to crochet her a huge granny square blanket and then soft organic cotton Sprout to knit her a blankie.  I have books of Baby Cashmerio patterns and the yarn needed to make a tiny striped cardigan and beret.

It was a surprise to me that new motherhood did not leave much time for knitting.  Even when the baby was asleep, she was often in my arms, or my hands were busy with laundry, dishes, or pumps.  Once I went back to work my hands were on my computer when they weren’t with my baby.  The infant years were not for knitting.

Fast forward eight years.  During the crap-moving part of our basement remodel my daughter found the two bins of yarn I’d purchased before her birth. When I told her what my plans had been she said, “Mommy, will you make me a blankie now?”  Without a second thought I put aside my knitting in progress and started planning her blankie.  When your eight-year-old asks for a handknit you knit.

We dove into the bins. I had hoped she’d pick the Sprout, but the anti-itchy girl decided the Encore was better.  At one point I had a whole rainbow of colors, but somehow only a three-quarter rainbow was in the bin.  No matter, she loved it.

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Then we searched patterns.  One look in my Ravelry library and she picked the Chevron Baby Blanket, not even caring that it said “baby”.  It looked easy and fun, so away I knit.  Between the zigzags, the yarn overs, and the color switches the blanket flew on my needles.  I was smart and wove in ends as I went.  Little Afthead is learning how to knit and even took a few stitches in the last green stripe and helped with the bind off.  A few snips of loose yarn bits and it was ready to block.  I showed it to my kiddo and she hugged it and drug it off to bed.  Who can argue with this kind of instant love?

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Today while she was at camp I snuck it out of her bed so I could take a few pictures of the still unblocked and unwashed finished product.

Here are the knitting details for the knitters.  

  • Yarn – Worsted Encore in 5 colors (I used half a skein for the two colors with 4 rows and about a third for the other three)
  • Pattern – Chevron Baby Blanket
  • Pattern modifications – used a different color repeat than listed and didn’t purl the yarn overs through the back loop.  (Do any of my knitting readers know how to do that?)
  • Needles – Addi Turbo Click Lace, size 9
  • Ravelry Link – http://ravel.me/afthead/cbb 

Now, I’m back to my previous project.  Remember that gorgeous cowl I had color elections for awhile back?  Well, I’ve just started knitting it again.  I’m still in the boring neutral section (because of a request from my daughter, see above blog words) but soon though I’ll be able for the big reveal on what colorway won!  Just pretend you still care even though it is months later…

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Hiatus and Compromise

Oh my dear blogging friends, I have missed you.  The insanity of May flowed into the craziness of June and my poor blog suffered.  In hindsight I should have told you all I was going to be missing from this space, but alas, I just went and left no forwarding address.  Now refreshed and full of stories from a week’s vacation I return ready to blog again.

For starters, let me just say I have finally figured out this “vacationing with a child” thing.  Now, 8+ years of parenting has taught me that the second I utter such words that hubris will destroy me leaving me in the land of horrid vacations for years to come. I shall not be daunted!  I believe this knowledge will endure!  The key to successfully vacationing with a kid is… duh duh duuuuhhhhh…. compromise!  Let’s look at some pictorial evidence from my recent Tour de Soutwest Colorado, shall we?

In order for child(ren) to enjoy the seven mile hike to Lizard Lake, you must first incentivize them with a gnome home contest.  Then, when the whining and complaining part of the hike begins you may be lucky enough to notice a bonanza of snail shells (What?!?  In Colorado in the mountains???  It’s like Mother Nature was on the parent’s side) which will lead to the creation of a snail-shell-walkway which will result in a champion gnome home.  Everyone is happy, especially the gnomes.  Tune in, because I am certain this home will be featured on gnome HGTV for years to come.

Oh, not more hiking.  We adults love hiking, and somehow we think if there is a waterfall at the end the children will like hiking too.  That may work for you, especially if the hike is short and the waterfall is amazing like this one is, but maybe, just maybe, giant inflatable pool toys are more amazing?  Try coupling the success of passing a swim test with an hour of “Water Ninja Warrior” competition – where your child legitimately crushes you on 6 of 6 obstacle runs. (She’s over a foot smaller than me, how was I supposed to fit?  And don’t get me started on her strength to weight ratio….)  The whole way up to that waterfall there will be nothing but joy, especially if you couple the hike with really great rocks in the path.

Oh dear God. You are not done hiking yet?  You want to hike to a cave?  A dark creepy cave?  Well parents, just stick a horseback ride on the front of that cave hike and let Yuma the horse do the majority of the hiking for you. Sure, you won’t be able to walk for a couple days while you develop real understanding of the term “saddle-sore” but your kid will love every minute of the ride there, and then might even surprise you by being the only family member willing to follow the guide “just a little farther into the cave.”  Try not to hang your head in shame while you let your kid go spelunking into the depths of a cave with some guide you met less than an hour before.  She’ll probably be fine and besides, your butt hurts too much to crouch.

EVEN MORE HIKING?!?!  What are you insane?  Is this a death march or a vacation, I ask you?  Well, if you can hike in a creek and, I don’t know, pick up even more cool rocks then maybe you can squeeze one more hike in.   Note: we may have failed on the rock portion of “take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints” goal of hiking, but that’s okay, because you are done hiking now, right.  RIGHT???

Let me tell you, at some point you have to put your butt down.  Sure the top of the sand dunes are very tempting, but that sand is hard to walk on and after awhile there is so much of it in your ears you can’t hear the pleading, “Can’t we just go a little farther?”  Fine, go a little farther, but me and your backpacks of water and snacks are staying here, far away from the sand ledge of death – which somehow didn’t claim my family (or any other lives) during our trip.  You go on to the top.  I’ll wait for you, even without any rocks to gather.