Patriotic Every Day

Okay, Independence Day was 25 days ago, BUT it's good to be patriotic every day of the year, right?  Right.

This Fourth of July was suspiciously perfect.  We showed up just as the parade was starting, and it seemed all of the good seats were taken, when we overheard that some people from a retirement home group were no-shows.  Not only did the organizer let us hedge in on their space, she gave us an extra chair, a few bottles of water, and patriotic COOKIES!  I mean, did we hit the jackpot or WHAT? 

I just love sweet people like that.  She totally made this boy's day.

It was all about the vehicles, for this kid.  He was like, "Why are these teenagers playing instruments in the street?  Make way for the FIRETRUCK!!!!"

Camden did not want the parade to end, and it took a good deal of bribery to get him back on his bike and headed up the hill to our parked car.  Eventually we made it to a fair, where kids under three are free!  We met his best buddy and his parents there.  {He thinks he's too cool for hugs, but he secretly loves it.}

Rowan's daddy was nice enough to get a wristband so he could take the kids around to do everything.  They got to decorate their own hats.  Camden slapped a few dinosaurs on the side and called it good.

The train!  I was worried I would never be able to get Camden off, he thought it was the coolest thing ever.  Rowan was a little skeptical… like, "Wait a minute… this isn't a real train…"

BAM!  I'm in a picture!

We ran into some firemen who let the boys take a peek in their truck.  Camden was so infatuated he couldn't turn to look at the camera.  Currently he says he wants to be a "fyah-fytah" when he grows up, so he was checking out the gig.

After tons of fun at the fair we headed home to see Grandma and Grandpa Buckmaster had arrived!  Then the Reeds brought over their little grill and we cooked up a feast fit for the occasion {Roy insisted it would not be appropriate to eat anything but hamburgers, hot dogs, and watermelon}.

{So I insisted on the chocolate cake from Costco}

Had to get creative to make everything fit the USA theme.

Side note: Kirsten's Mickey Mouse imitation is on par.  Mickey Mouse could convince Camden to do anything--eat vegetables, take a nap, anything!

We watched the boys jump on the trampoline until it got dark, and then we headed out to look for fireworks.  We didn't really know where they would be coming from, but when we saw a bunch of cars parked in the Walmart parking lot we hopped on the band wagon.  There were a few grassy areas nearby I could think of, but we decided to stay put and roll with it.

We backed in and popped the trunks of our cars so we could sit inside.  But toddlers don't sit for long.  We had a great time running around with our streamers before the fireworks started.

And when they did start they were tiny and far away.  But we decided that was probably perfect for this age--too close can be too loud and intimidating.  They thought the little bursts of color were absolute magic, and that was all we wanted.  Thanks Walmart.

Hope your 4th was equally magical!

The Missing Mama: The Struggle to Stay in the Picture

If you haven't noticed, I take a lot of pictures.  Mostly I take pictures of my handsome husband and adorable son because they are my life.  Here they are at the Bluegrass Festival, clapping for the live music and the sweet elderly couple that decided to get up and dance together at the base of the stage.

Even in simple moments I can't believe how cute he is, and I can't believe he's ours.  So taking pictures of this boy has become a major hobby for me.  

And the more little cuties the merrier!  Kirsten and I took Camden and his friend on a morning bike ride the other day, and a highlight was stopping at the mile markers to play on these antique train cars.

Although Cam rode his bike for the first little bit, the terrain proved to be too rough.  He joined Rowan in the bike trailer and Kirsten pulled them like a champ.

But unless I told you, you wouldn't know I was there.  I'm always the one behind the camera, and I like it that way.  These days I don't like seeing pictures of myself.

My hair is almost always thrown in a pony tail, my makeup is minimal, and my body isn't the same as it was pre-Mamahood.  I wear whatever clothes I don't mind getting finger paint and dirt on, and I often have play-doh under my nails.  It's not that I don't love getting dressed up; it's that it doesn't happen nearly as often as I pull a camera out.

Keep me behind the camera, I've got real cute subjects, we don't need to throw my not-as-cute self in there.  Right?

But this article from the Huffington Post last year made me realize that I still need to pop up in pictures every so often, despite however I'm feeling about my looks that day.  I want my family to know I was there, and that I was actively involved in every part of each day.  Like teaching Camden how to wink...

Or saying hi to Augustus at the Zoological Sanctuary.

Or going on raft rides with Kirsten at the lake by our house.

When Roy insists, "No, let me take the picture for once" I let him snatch the camera from me.  It's a conscious struggle, but in the end I don't pick the image that captures my best side.  I pick the one where Camden has the biggest smile.

The point is that these pictures will be Camden's proof that I was once young, and I was always right there in the middle of the action.  He doesn't care that I usually abandon all sense of fashion, or that my hair isn't perfectly coiffed.  I know this because of how I feel about my mom, who faces the same insecurities.

Everything she considered imperfect, I love about her because she's my mom.  And besides, women are too hard on themselves.  My mom has always been beautiful, but she's never seems to believe it.  It's a weird cultural burden we place on ourselves, to continually scrutinize our looks.  Starting now, I'm going to quit.

There's nothing more beautiful than capturing sweet moments of a mama doing what she does best: loving her child.  I see it in my friends and I see it in my own mom…

And sometimes I even catch a glimpse in myself, in the way I look at Camden.  
See?!  I was there, Cam!

I was there and as we paddled we sang "Row Row Row Your Boat" together.  You thought it was so funny when I splashed the paddle in the water and got myself wet.  You wanted to go "that way" so I obliged, even though it was against the wind and I'm sort of a weakling.  All the while I loved you more and more with each moment.

I was there.

Montezuma's Castle and Stuff

How to Be the Favorite Aunt

Step one: FaceTime nephews/nieces a minimum of once a week, or up to once a day.

Step two: When you are finally able to visit, be sure to stay for long stretches of time so said nephews/nieces incorporate you into their daily routine.

Step three: Be ridiculous and completely inappropriate, and willing to jump on the trampoline 300 times a day.

Step four: Sneak nephews/nieces soda and sweets.

Step five: Repeat step four as often as possible.

Kirsten is somewhat of a celebrity in this house.  Most likely as Camden grows he will go through phases and stages where he likes a particular aunt/uncle/cousin the most, but right now it's Kirsten all the way.  We loved having her stay with us for almost two weeks.

When Kirsten comes I often find myself pulling my adventure shoes from their cobwebbed home in the back of my closet.  She reminds me that there's so much to see and do right around where you live, no matter where you live!  And she should know… during the school year she lives in the middle of nowhere in a teeny tiny town with no paved roads.  Even in Port Heiden there is adventure to be had.

Our adventure shoes walked the paths that the Sinagua people walked over 600 years ago.  Montezuma's Castle {so terribly named, by the way} was among the first four sites to be declared a National Monument back in 1906.  Thanks Roosevelt.  It was amazing to see, I'm glad it's still there.

Also, self-timer for the win! ^^^

The cliff dwellings weren't all that awe-inspiring to this two-year-old, who couldn't seem to stop sprinting for long enough to notice them.  But we did manage to complete a scavenger hunt and receive a Jr. Ranger certificate and plastic badge.  He wore that little badge the rest of the day and thought he was legit.  The Mickey Mouse ears really add credibility, of course.

Nearby was Montezuma's Well.  This is a desert miracle, right here.  Over one million gallons of fresh water flows continuously into the Well every day, fed by two underground springs.  If I had lived back in the day, I'm pretty sure I would have set up camp here.

I spy cliff dwellings!

Have you ever been to a museum where artifacts are armed with little alarms when someone gets too close?  Yeah, those were invented for me and the crazy people like me.  I have this uncontrollable need to touch history, like it somehow brings be closer to the people from the past who might have brushed against that same spot.  The cool thing about the Well is that there weren't any alarms, and hardly any barriers at all!  Geek out!

More than anything, Camden enjoyed hiking.  Of course the historical significance was lost on him, but he was still having the time of his life scrambling over rocks and throwing leaves and pebbles into the water.  Recently he discovered echoes, and he tests out the acoustics on anything resembling a tunnel or cave.  We saw a few bats hanging back there, but luckily Cam's "hellooooo! Echoooo!" didn't wake them up.

We all agreed that our favorite part of the Well was the trail along the base of the outside of the natural basin.  As you walk down these stone steps and beneath the shade of lush trees, a cool breeze meets you and you suddenly feel like you've walked out of the desert and into a forest.  This is where the water from the Well leaks out through a "swallet" in the limestone.  The water gushes into an irrigation ditch which runs for I don't know how long.  Sections of this ditch date back over 1,000 years, and it's still being used today by many in the population of Rimrock!

The Sinagua people were pretty awesome.

Each time we loaded Camden into the car, he protested.  "Hike!  Hike!"
So we headed on over to V Bar V Ranch to check out some petroglyphs.

There were more than 1,000 petroglyphs spread across these very large cliffs.

The Sinagua even used this cliff face to keep a solar calendar.  A shaft of sunlight and two shadow lines are produced by two boulders wedged in the bluff, which falls upon the cliff face and told the people when to plant, when to harvest, when the monsoons would come, etc.  Smart!

Also, they were a matriarchal society and lineage was derived from the mother.  Smart!

Roy is extra handsome in this picture for some reason ^^^

After a day filled with hiking and exploring, we decided it was time to "re-yax."

We found a little river to cool off in while we picnicked.  We certainly weren't the only ones with that idea, but we had a lot of fun despite the crowds.  There couldn't have been a more perfect way to end the day.

And so I've resolved to keep my adventure shoes in the front of my closet.