Backyard Play is the Best

Some days, we make big plans and then bag ’em, just because it is so fun to stay home and dink around in the backyard. Nowhere to go, no timelines set, no instructions given, no guidelines provided. Direct your own adventure. Create your own fun. Just be here, right where we are, and enjoy.

We love days like these. (And now I am hearing “My Mama told me, there’d be days like this.” Just popped into my head.)

I just finished a big end-of-fiscal-year deadline for one of my clients so….Tomorrow, we’re headed out back.

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Catching Up

Sometimes I feel like I am always catching up! It is impossible to document every amazing moment we have with this small person but, rest assured, we do our best to enjoy all of it. And, for the sake of our loved ones around the world, I do try to capture a good part of it here.

I have been meaning to download pics from Aaron’s phone for ages now and I finally got around to it. So here are a few pics from his phone (including fancy widescreen/panoramic shots), some old and some new, plus a few from my various sources.

Happy, happy long summer days to all of you (at least all of you in the Northern Hemisphere)!

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Our Solstice Celebration

We celebrated the Summer Solstice with a hike in the Jemez Mountains, along the East Fork of the Jemez River. (The Summer Solstice was on June 21st, so this post is a wee bit tardy.)

This year, one of the American ‘holidays’ fell on the summer solstice. That holiday is called Father’s Day. Just for the record, we wouldn’t have done anything differently. Every single day of our lives is a day for Fathers and Mothers and Children, which is to say a day for every person in this amazing, precious, unique world. Cherish them all, every one of these days and every one of these people.

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The upside of slowing down

It takes some work to slow down. It takes practice, patience, letting go, an absence of deadlines and maybe — no, definitely — some deep breathing. Often it requires all of the above.

I am still learning to slow down. I am still learning to remember that there are fabulous things to come from allowing a 3.5-year old child to move at her own pace.

Perhaps more important than slowing down is just to not RUSH her. Especially on “school days”…and remember that we’re talking about preschool.

Hurry, eat your breakfast.

Ok, I am listening but now you need to put on your clothes.

Please put that down and help me brush your teeth.

Yes, I see the new flower and it is beautiful BUT please help me get into the Chariot/car so we can get to school on time. (Why does a 3.5-year old need to be to school on time? Besides that it allegedly allows Mama to work, it is really ridiculous to expect little ones to adhere to such arbitrary schedules.)

Yes, we’re at the park, hurry up and play because we have to leave at XYZ time. (OK, I never have actually said that but I think it more than I would like to admit. Until I remember to slow down. That is…If, and only if, we don’t have a schedule of places to be and things to do.)

Thankfully, summer has arrived and we have even more “non-school” days. So we get to do more of this:

Does this look familiar? You might remember these glorious cottonwoods from posts way back in the day, when “the Little Bean” was growing and we did our two-mile loop religiously….

It is lovely. Even when it hits 100 degrees, which is way too hot for here.

Look at what we found…and watched, while sitting in the shade and slowing down:

I’ve walked through this park for over 11 years and have always seen the evidence of these little creatures. But it wasn’t until this day, when I sat still, in the shade, watching my daughter play, when I saw this little gopher in action. Pocket gopher, we think.

Here’s a longer video (4 minutes!):  (Geez…I talk way too much! Listen to all those instructions! For what it is worth, this little gopher let us get so close to him and tolerated so much noise and movement that I was thinking he might be a bit ‘off’ and was a wee bit concerned that he might bite. Still, I think I need to chill out with the instructions! Yet another thing to work on.)

Here’s to some slow-down time for all of us.

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Mia’s Menu


She loved this red rose, a gift from one of our favorite restaurant proprietors. And she loves this dress, a gift from one of her favorite family members.

Mia “wrote” this menu for her restaurant the other day:

  • Pancake with syrup
  • Fried salad
  • Chicken leg sandwich
  • Ice cream and vanilla bar
  • Chocolate bar
  • Salad and tacos
  • Asparagus

We’re looking forward to trying some of these tasty dishes sometimes soon. For now, you can enjoy these pics of my sous chef in deep concentration while peeling garlic:

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Sharp Dressed Man

Who is this sharp dressed man? DSC_0726

Hmmmm….Certainly a good looking chap! And he definitely looks familiar. But he is wearing funny clothes with a strange thing hanging from his neck. Oh, wait! It is Papa!

Aaron started a new job a couple weeks ago. He needed a head shot for his internal/company wide job announcement so I snapped a few shots at home. Mia thought it was pretty funny to see him dressed like this. (Although he has dressed like this for previous jobs, this attire was not at all common during the 3.5+ years of her life. There were, of course, special occasions — two weddings that I can think of and special events at the vineyard. Apparently, those rare moments failed to make a lasting impression on her 3.5-year old brain because she acted as though he were wearing a completely novel clown suit.)

We thought it was funny to see her reaction of someone else being the subject of my photos: she simply HAD TO join in the pics, which are adorable (of course!).

It makes me laugh to compare the huge differences between our present life and that of just over 1 year ago: Aaron’s jobs were just a little bit different! I’m pretty sure that gently relocating a boa is NOT part of his current job description.

Variety is the spice of life! Although we’d love to be living back in that environment (boas and all), it is quite difficult to make money there. Or perhaps it is more accurate to say that it is easier (for us) to make money here (in the US). So, for now, at least, we’ve returned to more conventional money-making endeavors, and the associated lifestyle, whilst we plot our next adventure. And we’re perfectly happy to be right where we are, with this perfect Papa.

Thanks, Mr. Sharp Dressed Man: for your flexibility and adaptability, for being such a hard worker where ever we are, and for helping us do great things! We love you!

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Slow exploration and rethinking things

Mia and I have had several more delightful trips to the Botanical Gardens; I photographed one of these outings. As much as possible, she is allowed to explore and play on her own time frame with as few rules or interventions from me as possible.

As with most parenting, this is much more of an exercise in restraint for me: Yes, it is perfectly OK for her to play with the push-button engines for 25+ minutes even though we had another destination in mind. No, you don’t need to interrupt her play (which is really the most important learning of all — it is only adult language which attempts to relegate it to the trivial notion of ‘play’) and direct her to the place that YOU want to go. Just chill out, provide a nurturing environment and answer her questions.

The Butterfly Pavilion is one of her favorite spots. Besides watching the adult butterflies emerging from their chrysalises, and observing them flit about, they have other fun insects here, too.

You won’t believe what this adventurous little girl wanted to hold! As we approached, these bugs made teenage boys scream like little girls (indeed that provoked our interest)! Mia was intensely curious about these things, completely unfazed and politely asked if she could hold one, not once, but TWICE. After getting a (partial) handle on my own revulsion (that is, once I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to gag or actually vomit), I realized I had to grab the camera (phone) and document this event. And so, with a mix of pleasure and good dose of mischeviousness, I present Mia holding a Madagascar Cockroach, also known as the Hissing Cockroach.

Now if you haven’t spit up your beverage or decided to report me to Child Services for being an incompetent parent, congratulations. Once you’ve settled down a little, you may be interested to know some of these interesting facts about cockroaches (Thank you, Mr. Entomologist at the Butterfly Pavillion for sharing this info and attempting to educate your guests!):

  • Madagascar Cockroaches are not as afraid of light and movement as the related household pests. That, along with their size and hissing ability, makes them better suited for the movie industry.
  • Cockroaches are NOT inherently dirty creatures. They only get dirty by virtue of what they walk through and eat. Enough said.
  • They clean themselves a lot (he compared them to cats).
  • Irrational fear of cockroaches has been encouraged by none other than: the Pest Control Industry and Pesticide Manufacturers! Mr. Entomologist specifically cited the end of WWII and the dawn of Industrial Agriculture, as in (paraphrased by yours truly): “What do we do with all these chemical plants now? Ah-ha! We find new markets and develop fabulous marketing campaigns to convince people of the need for these things. Of course!”
  • Full on cockroach infestations (of a home) are definitely not good, but for the most part they are not a big deal. Certainly not as big of a deal as the Pesticide Manufacturers would have us believe. [Further speculation from me: Residual pesticides from over application might even be worse than a few cockroaches! This certainly was the case for DDT. I’ll find some facts and report back soon.]
  • Yes, they can transmit disease IF they have crawled through contaminated things (sewers and dog poo!) AND you ingest things they subsequently crawl on. However this is generally not a problem in a typical clean home & kitchen. (Note from me: This is clearly not a problem for us nor, I imagine, for almost all the people we know personally in the US & Mexico.)
  • Cockroaches (and all insects) are excellent sources of protein. Americans have a unique disdain for these apparently fabulous dietary options.

And here is some supplemental information provided by your dorky author scientist and Google:

  • Cockroaches are insects of the order Blattodea, sometimes called Blattaria, of which about 30 species out of 4,600 total are associated with human habitats. About four species are well known as pests. (Wikipedia)
  • Cockroaches first appeared in the Paleozoic era, about 400 Million years ago. They haven’t changed since then.
  • Many humans (especially Americans) have an irrational fear of cockroaches; these things usually stem from observation of our parents and caregivers. This article is long but insightful and hilarious:

This is all completely fascinating to me. One of the trivially great things about living in Colorado is that we didn’t see a single cockroach for the entire 1.5 years we were there. It is just too cold for the little buggers. As you might imagine, there were indeed cucarachas in Mexico, and we definitely had sightings but they really weren’t problematic in homes/kitchens that were kept clean (interestingly, the shared kitchen was the worst but I don’t even remember seeing a single cockroach in the private homes/kitchens).

And then we returned to our Albuquerque home, which is located in the inner valley of the Rio Grande and the historic Downtown neighborhoods. In our ‘hood, we say these things contribute to something called “charm”.

Ok, but what do these allegedly charming things have to do with cockroaches? Due to our proximity to the river, we have a shallow water table here; because of the soils in the inner valley, the subsurface materials hold more water than the generally better draining sands up in the Heights; because the houses are old (ours was built in 1928), the plumbing and public water & sewer lines are old. All of these things contribute to MORE cockroaches! (Not so charming, I know. So just imagine how charming the ‘hood must be if buyers can overlook this aspect.) And this year, we’ve had lots of cucarachas (perhaps the ample rainfall?). The whole neighborhood complains about it.

Thankfully, most of the little buggers are outside though a few find their way into the house (where we find them in the morning, dead or dying from the residual “green” pest control). It is hard to be really clean ALL THE TIME when you have a cooking, eating 3.5-year old and her friends.

So…despite my recently acquired knowledge about cockroaches, it will be difficult to reprogram a lifetime of ingrained reactions to the buggers. For Mia’s sake, I will work hard to do so. Wouldn’t want to her to develop Katsaridaphobia because I freak out at the sight of the things.

Now, lest you are stuck with images of Mia holding huge cockroaches in your head, here are some recent moments at home…

Happy summer!

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Her Chariot Awaits

Mia’s Chariot: much more fun than a car!

Checking out the river

Checking out the Rio Grande (May 27th, streamflow was about 2,800 cfs)

Really, it IS a Chariot. Check out the new ones here:

We found ours on Craig’s List about two years ago. It has had at least two previous owners, and it was in great condition when we bought it. We rolled all over Dolores, CO, with that set up. We mostly used it as a bike trailer but also used it as a stroller. Although we never tried it, Chariots can even be pulled behind a person on cross-country skis!

Then, we spent five months without a car living in the seaside, jungle village of Yelapa. There are no cars there, so we walked everywhere. Our only motorized transport during that period was by boat to and from the “big city” and then by bus or taxi once in Vallarta (no car seats!).

Upon our return to Albuquerque, Mia was even more disenchanted with car travel than she was before our departure. (She wishes we could travel by boat more often. We’re not sure how well that would work for NM.) Lucky for her, we had carefully selected the location of our home in relation to her new school/parks/markets/museums/rivers, etc. As often as possible, we try to make sure that the Chariot is how we roll.

Alas, Mia will soon be too big for her Chariot so we will sell it again (on Craig’s List, of course!) and then we’ll have to find another mode of transportation. Any suggestions?

p.s. How did I know how much water was in the Rio Grande on May 27th? I found it here: and you can find out how much water is in your rivers (past and present) here: USGS Streamflow Conditions for the US. Real-time data and historical measurements. Science is sooooooo cool!

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Learning to Love Cooking

Every once in awhile, I come across someone who says, “I don’t know how to cook”. Usually, I can’t resist saying something like, “You mean, you’ve chosen NOT to learn how to cook.”

I must confess that I am wary of people who chose NOT to learn how to cook. It is completely beyond my comprehension. Perhaps they don’t care about food? (That also escapes my understanding!) Maybe they have someone cook for them: a family member, paid staff or restaurants? ANYONE can learn to cook and I believe everyone SHOULD learn to cook.

We’re doing our best not only to teach Mia how to cook, but to encourage a love of cooking. She  likes to help with real work, it is a fun way to spend time together, and, in the process, she learns so many things besides “just” how to cook.

Recently we made Swiss chard and ricotta stuffed crepes. And Mia helped with both the crepes (making the batter) and the stuffing.  Here are some photos of that process…

  • First five pics are mixing up the crepe batter
  • Last two pics are mixing up the stuffing (ricotta, eggs, Parmesan, swiss chard, yellow onion, and mushrooms)
  • Mia is holding and pouring large containers of liquid all by herself
  • Mia is multitasking with adding the flour and mixing it in
  • She takes this work very seriously
  • This little girl is three and already knows more about cooking than half the population

Alas, I can’t find the photo of the finished product but will add those when I do.

Here’s to your cooking!

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Moving Up Day

At the end of the school year, Mia’s Montessori school has a “Moving Up” Ceremony. This is the day to celebrate the end of the school year and to celebrate those moving up to the next level.

In Montessori schools, children are in multi-aged classrooms. At Mia’s school, there are four levels: Toddler (18 months to 3 years), Primary (3 to 6 years), Junior Elementary (7 to 9 years), and Senior Elementary (9 to 11 years). The idea is to encourage learning by observation and interaction with older children, provide leadership opportunities, and encourage collaborative work.

Our recent Moving Up Ceremony was a delightful affair, with all students in attendance along with many of the parents. The children sat in four separate circles for each level, with a string around each circle (representing the “ties that unite us”). For those that were “moving up” from one level to another, they individually crossed over wooden bridges from one circle to the next, where they were greeted by their new/future classmates. In preparation for moving up, all those students have been visiting and interacting with the next level classes throughout the past semester, so they already know the teachers and the students.

It was a lovely ceremony, complete with songs by all the children, and the weather cooperated marvelously. Afterwards, all the families, teachers and staff enjoyed a picnic lunch on the campus.

The picnic was in the Junior/Senior Elementary yard, so not only did we get to picnic with all of our friends from all the Primary classrooms, we got to play on and observe the older kids climbing abilities. It was such an exciting day, Mia didn’t want to leave.

As a refresher on Mia, she didn’t do the Toddler program at all since she was home with Mama and/or Papa for the first three years of her life (lucky, lucky us!!!), not to mention we were out of state and/or country for most of her first three years. She began this fall in the Primary program, as the youngest (and smallest) person in her class. She was in a class with two fully trained Montessori guides (“guide” is preferred over “teacher”, that is the subject of another post altogether) and 24 students, aged 3-6 years old (3-7 by the end of the year). So next year will be her second year in the Primary level (she won’t be the youngest anymore), and although she did not “move up” to a new level this year, all the students participated in the Ceremony. In these pics, she was sitting right next to the bridge between the Primary and Junior El circles.

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