Saturday, June 22, 2013

holly dolly banana tree

Happy Summer Solstice y'all!  Real quick here tonight....

Our household since the 10th of June.  I have waited a decade for this.  (I will never wait a decade for anything, ever, again.)    
We now have 20 more mouths to feed because, you know, our lives weren't crazy enough.  And yes, they were in our living room (and now the garage).
Juniper's hands are gentle enough to pick them up and return them to the box.  Hazel's fingers want to pull their downy feathers, poke their eyes and squish their little heads.  But they both love 'em.    
*I* have probably spent the most time, beer-in-hand, simply watching.  (Full disclosure: I am also looking for "pasty butt".  If you really want to know about pasty butt in newly-hatched chicks, google it.)  
From the moment we brought them home, I'd watch them collapse, beak-first, to the ground, their nubby little fuzz-wings all spread out.  I kept thinking they were falling down dead.  I would lightly brush their backs, checking for life.  Turns out, that's how newborn chicks fall asleep.  Who knew?  It's adorable in the same, awkward, way all newborn creatures are adorable.
To everyone who visits, Juniper says, "These are the Red Rangers and these are the hens.  We don't name the Red Rangers because we're going to eat them, but we name the hens."    (The other day my man said, "Kids are funny.  Everything you say gets bounced right back to you in squirrel-voice.")  And so it is.  Juniper has named 7 of the 10 hens and my husband and I have named one.  2 have yet to be named.
* 2 Black Australorps: Holly and Dolly (named after 2 stagecoach-pulling mules)
* 2 Buff Orphingtons: Juniper and Hazel (we're working on changing this...)
* 2 darker Araucanas: Tree and Funky Chicken
* 2 lighter Araucanas: one is My Little Friend, the other is unnamed
* 2 Light Brahmas: one is Banana, the other is unnamed
My Little Friend

We watch them drink and eat and scratch and peck.  They chirp and cheep and ruffle their feathers.  We watch them crawl on top of each other and snuggle-in, we watch them stretch.  Juniper says, "Why are they stretching?  Are they doing yoga?  I think maybe they're doing yoga."  And later, she says, "Mama, which ones are we going to eat?  The Red Rangers?  But Mama, I don't wanna eat them.  I just wanna hug 'em and kiss 'em!"

Sunday, June 16, 2013

rafting with toddlers

Whew.  Finally, it's here.
:: Rafting, in a shell (a big shell):
     *4 days floating the San Juan river in southern Utah (between Sand Island and Mexican Hat)
     *4 kids aged 4 and under (Owen 4, Juniper 3, Sam 2, Hazel 1)
     *4 parents
     *3 boats
     *2 grandparents
     *1 duck, Senior Pato (He's a Happy Meal toy from 20 years ago and is my dad's traveling partner.  Don't ask.)  
^We are in the blue raft: Juniper, Hazel, me, my man.  Also, see those Ancient Pueblo steps carved into the rock?^
^Grey raft with cowboy hats: My sister-in-law, Owen, Sam (not shown; probably asleep on the floor), my husband's brother.^
^Grey raft with sunhats: My step-mom and my dad.^
This was our first "backcountry" type experience with both kids (when Juniper was a baby we did a short backpacking trip).  I have three lists in my journal from this trip.  The first is titled "Juniperisms" (some of those coming soon), the last is "Creatures We Saw" and in between, "Things that Went Wrong."  It's the longest list.  

1) There was my aunt's bad dream, "Involving Hazel and water".  Which, though appreciated, sent me spinning into a vortex of anxiety and internal arguments pin-balling back and forth between protecting our kids and living life, for god's sake.  (In the end, we decided on life with a life-vest and six sets of watchful, adult eyes.)
2) My dad's camper-trailer got a flat as we pulled in to the launch campground.  His spare also had a flat.  Next day, my dad drove to Durango to pick up the rental raft and get his tires fixed.
3) His truck died in Durango.
4) On launch-day, we were late to catch our shuttle.
5) On launch-day, after all vehicles and extra camp gear were gone (shuttled down the road) and I was left alone to tend the children and boats while we waited, Juniper crapped her pants in the only appropriate swimwear we brought.  I couldn't clean her up for half an hour as I was keeping the other kids out of the water and the road and other people's boats.  And by the time I could clean her up, it was the worst poop-mess I've dealt with as a parent (partly due to circumstances: there was an outhouse and a waterpump and a BLM volunteer pacing around who would be none-to-thrilled to see me wash down my poopy kid where everyone else was filling their potable water jugs).
6) My kids had picked up a tiny sniffle the day we left home.  The night before we launched, Hazel turned that "tiny sniffle" into a 100 degree fever and coughed until she puked.
7) In the end, all of us in the blue boat were sick in one form or another.  
8) The first day, my husband's back locked-up.  He was good to row, hold Hazel, and cook.
9) The first day, Juniper crapped her pants two more times while hiking to some ruins.  When we asked her what was going on she said, "I fink I have a spooky ghost in my belly."
10) I barely slept.  Hazel coughed and puked 2 out of 3 nights.  Typically, we were in the boat at naptime and she hated that.  She would cry and cry until she fell asleep in my arms.  On the worst day, she cried until she puked.  That was also the day we couldn't get her to eat or drink.  She was nursing, but puking-up every ounce of milk she drank.
11) Hazel was walking a fine line of hydration which, in the dry, hot, windy, moisture-sucking desert, can turn from okay to emergency in no time.
By the close of the second day, we realized my aunt's bad dream "involving Hazel and water" had nothing to do with that full, muddy river, but the water in her own body.  We took it seriously, watched her carefully, and judged how fast we could get out of there if needed.  By the third day, her puking slowed, she cheered up, and over the course of a morning, my husband got a good handful of blueberries down her gullet and some juice too.
As for Juniper's "spooky ghost": Hazel was going through so few diapers that I was able to put one on Juniper to help keep that spooky ghost under wraps.  (Funny side-note: Juniper is a very imaginative kid and Owen is very literal.  So every time Juniper talked about the spooky ghost in her belly, it would incite an argument from Owen who insisted there was absolutely not a ghost in her belly.  I never knew a bout of diarrhea could be so entertaining.)

:: And yet!  Despite my husband's back, and Juniper's bum and Hazel's body-water, and my sore throat...we had a good time.  It was *great* to be dirty and tent-camping, no roads or vehicles within the radius of our senses.
:: The canyon is littered with the ruins of Ancient Pueblos.  We didn't pack books, so bedtimes were filled with made-up stories about two sisters from ancient times who lived upstream from their cousins in the red-rock cliffs above a great river....
^River House Ruin^
:: We floated.  When the river rounded a bend in the tight canyon Juniper announced, "We're in a hula hoop!"
^Early on my step-mom, who has spent most of her life afraid of water, relaxed enough to sketch from her perch.^

:: We found the perfect place to duck out of a rainstorm.  
The third day we had several sections of small rapids.  The first one we hit hard, Juniper was at the bow and got drenched.  That was the second time I'd ever seen June Bug shiver.   She said, "Mama, my teeth are loose."  
:: We camped.  
^Best campsite EVER with early evening shade and an awesome beach.^

Sand play was endless.
There was beach yoga.
Our girl started feeling better.  
To limit use, the San Juan is a permitted river with a lottery draw.  Thanks to this system, we saw only two other groups of rafters with whom we leap-frogged throughout our trip.  I took note of the cafe umbrella for our next rafting vacation.

We ate well, drank well, and ended evenings with smores.  

I slept sandwiched between these two lovely (albeit dirty) creatures...
:: From lunchsites and campsites, we explored.  
On this evening, we bumped into a herd of wild burros on the Navajo side of the river. We watched them for a while and when they finally all lined up and headed out of the clearing Juniper said, "They're going to preschool!"  Which is what she says about anything that lines up.  
:: On the river, we saw wild turkeys, Canada geese and their fluffy yellow goslings, great blue herons, and the rare desert big horn sheep.
:: The last day, floating toward the aptly-named "Mexican Hat".  
:: Two more nights of trailer-camping and two days of driving and we were home.  We still haven't completely unpacked.
And, Happy Father's Day y'all!  I'm sure lucky to have a dad who goes raft-camping with his grandchildren, not to mention the amazing man with whom I share my life and kids.  Cheers to the dads.  

P.S. To 6512 and Growing Rachel: Yes, you have to crap in a weird device-thing.  (Unless you have a spooky ghost in your belly, in which case I would suggest diapers and doggie bags.)  What to bring: don't bring too much; remember you have to unload and load it all back up everyday.  (We had a gazillion camp chairs we probably didn't need.)  Pack somewhere between car-camping and backpacking, erring on the side of backpacking.  Fill your extra space with beer and fresh fruit and veggies instead.  If you're cooking at all (even with a camp stove) you're required to carry a fire-pan, so you may as well use it!  My in-laws roasted chicken-apple brats over the fire, served with slaw and beans.  But don't *count* on the fire, in the event of a really windy camp (our first night we could hardly stand up straight).  Oh, the volunteer BLM rangers really do check that you have all the required items, so double check that list otherwise you can't launch.  Have fun!  I'm curious to see how much lower the river will be when you go.