Tuesday, June 16, 2015

7S: Stuart Ranch

After making plans several weeks in advance, we finally made it to Waurika, Oklahoma, to spend time with our friends!

Clay, a pledge brother of Jeff's, his wife Lindsey and their son Arlington live on Stuart Ranch along with Clay's mother Terry (the Ranch Manager) and Clay's brother Robert (the ranch's Head Horse Trainer).  Clay also works on the ranch as head of Stuart Ranch Outfitters.

Now you can see why plans were made so far ahead - this family is busy!

I felt a bit like a tourist, wandering around the barns with my camera, but I didn't want to miss any of Britton's reactions to all the animals - mares, foals, and ponies, cows and dogs!  She really got into practicing her animal noises too.

Robert and Terry were working out some horses in the arena, and they didn't mind us dropping by.  Terry sat little Arlington on the saddle with her as we watched a team roping exercise.  You can tell he's pretty comfortable up there.

Britton was more content on the rungs of the fence and enjoyed seeing the horses burst from the gates.

Jeff even got some roping practice in, and I had fun riding Batman for a few minutes.

When we weren't watching the horses, we were playing outside in the pool or looking for tiny frogs.

On our last day, Clay drove us to an area of land that will be the site of their new house.  I think Britton was a little confused about why we were sitting so high.  She actually did enjoy the ride!  And we all made sure to get a few more snuggles in with Arlington.

It so rejuvenating getting away for a weekend and being with good friends.  Before our visit, I would never have thought myself capable of living in a rural area.  But something about all that openness I felt while standing on their back porch with nothing but pasture, ponds, and a distant tree line... it would be hard to resist.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Creating Habits: Reading

I strive to create healthy habits for me and my family.  With a little one, sometimes it's hard to see the impact of all that effort.  One goal (of thousands?) I've had for Britton is to create a love of reading.  Part of our bedtime ritual since she was consistently sleeping through the night has been to read at least two books before turning off the light.  

Amidst her other toys was always a board book or a soft book she could get her hands on. 

She even started to act excited over particular books or even certain pages in books.  It was incredible to see this spark of recognition!  For a while, she loved Little Red Riding Hood and an illustrated book of poems.

Everyone enjoys reading to a baby!  

Books also became one of the easiest ways to distract her when we were in a new place.  Familiar books would put her at ease and keep her engaged.

I knew this activity was becoming a habit when she started seeking books out on her own.  She has also learned that we will drop just about anything we are doing if she brings us a book (versus just whining at us for attention).  

We have made frequent trips to the local library, though I think she likes pulling books off the shelves and the play area a little better than actually picking out books.

At around 14 months, she started to point out familiar pictures, and we used the books to familiarize her with items she wouldn't see otherwise (monkeys!).  Not only were books entertaining but she was also learning from them too!

As parents, our goals are constantly evolving.  I remember when I couldn't wait for the day she would learn to sit on her own. Or sign "all done" instead of throwing her food.  I wouldn't say I've achieved my goal of creating a habit of reading - it's not a skill but a passion that I will encourage every chance I get.  I think we are going in the right direction!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Long Hiatus

Whew.  Has it really almost been two years since my last post?  The whirlwind of moving back to the states while 7.5 months pregnant, welcoming our baby girl (Britton!) into our lives, and experiencing the first year of motherhood forced me to prioritize what I did in my free time and this blog was pushed to the proverbial back burner.  Also, I wasn't sure if anyone would really be interested in the goings-on of a stay-at-home mom that isn't traipsing around Europe or hiking along the fjords.

A few months ago, I read this poem.  I was listening to a random podcast interview of a poet I had never heard of (not because she isn't famous - I'm just not an avid reader of poetry).  This poem was read aloud during the podcast and has stuck with me.  Not just because it encourages mindfulness, stillness, and curiosity.  Looking at a grasshopper in the middle of a field isn't exciting or particularly noteworthy, but it was intentional.  I want to remember the small moments as well as the big.  So, whether mundane or adventurous, my goal is to document this one wild and precious life of ours.

And to read more poetry by Mary Oliver.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Vårlivarden and Skomakarnibbå

We've had quite a few things going on this spring (more on that later!) but we managed to fit a few hikes in when the weather permitted.  After our visit home in March, we took advantage of the long Easter weekend by hiking Vårlivarden.

Of course we brought Pistol with us and the usual provisions - Kvik Lunsj bars (aka Kit Kat bars), PBJs, and apples.  Hiking this early in the season meant that we had to cross over some ice and the air was brisk, but it was a beautiful day for a hike!

We had another long weekend in May (Norway has a TON of national holidays in the spring!) so we took some advice from a fellow expat and drove to Hagalid to hike Skomakarnibbå.  A legend of a shoemaker (the hike's namesake) and his death by falling off of the ledge while watching a wedding procession claims that the outcrop will fall into the fjord if seven sisters marry on the same day.  

The hike starts at a farm, and so many sheep greeted us at the beginning - Pistol wasn't sure what to make of them! We made sure not to get too close because a watchful border collie never let us out of his sight.

This hike goes through woodland, bog, and up cliffs along the 7km trail.  

This hike was fun, but tiring!  I was happy to see those sheep again (Pistol... no so much).

Friday, August 9, 2013

A Boy and His Bike

We both had high hopes for cycling while in Norway. We even bought two bikes and had them shipped with our other goods.  In hindsight, they were not good bikes. Terrible, in fact, compared to the professional ones that everyone seems to have here.  Nonetheless, we gave it a good try and cycled from work one day and even cycled to a monument to a sunken ship call The Broken Chain on the coast near Tasta.

Jeffrey usually has more energy than I do and this was no exception.  Good thing he doesn't mind when we take breaks!   

I shared our experience with Leif Christian, laughing at our naivete regarding all things bicycle related and he saw an opportunity.  There is a major cycling even in June of every year in this part of Norway - the North Sea Race - and he offered to help Jeffrey train for it.  He even offered his second bike for Jeffrey to ride (thank goodness - the move was rough on Jeff's bike and cut the brake line to the back tires... it also looked like a 12-year old's bike...).  Jeffrey is never one to pass up on a new experience and agreed before Leif Christian could even deliver the full proposal.  I was also in full support, mainly because there was not a third bike and I could just cheer him on!

What Jeff didn't realize is that this race is 91 kilometers long!  That's 56.5 miles and about 10x longer than any bike ride he'd ever been on before!  Leif Christian began the training sessions in April and graciously lent Jeff gloves, jackets, and water bottles (Jeffrey did buy his one cycling shorts).  I loved hearing the stories when Jeff would return home of how Leif Christian would reach the top of a grueling hill only to turn around and tell Jeff that he still had a ways to go before cycling to the top again.  He prepared Jeff well, though, and last June Jeffrey participated in a the North Sea Race along with thousands of other cyclists!

I used a map of the route to strategically place myself in spots where Jeff could see me cheer - it was so fun!

Most of the track is on surface roads and hundreds of volunteers shut down the streets, pass out food and water, and attend to injuries.  There are a few places with gravel, though, and with over 10,000 participants there is some danger of losing your balance in crowded areas. Jeffrey actually slid on some gravel, scuffing up his knee.  I didn't even notice until he was done - it didn't slow him down at all.

The picture below was taken at the start of the biggest hill ever.  Since I was there, he took this as a good opportunity to hop off and I walked with him to the top.  I was definitely not a part of the race, but with all the spectators, life music, and fellow racers giving high-fives and encouragement, it was easy to see why the participants enjoy this race so much.

And he finished with a great time too! 4 hours and 17 minutes!

It was over a year ago, but I am still so impressed.  He was happy with his accomplishment and said he couldn't have done it without his biggest fan (and Leif Christian, obviously).