Monthly Archives: February 2014

My Thoughts on Monkeys and Tests…

Years ago when our oldest son was not quite two I remember having a conversation while eating lunch. It went about like this:

Mom: “…so Daddy is a boy and Mommy is a girl.”

R: “Auntie M a girl?”

Mom: “Yep, and uncle A is a boy. Grandpa’s a boy, and Uncle J too. What do you think Grandma is?”

R: Gramma a girl. Auntie K a girl.”

Mom: “That’s right. What about you? Are you a girl?”

R: “Noooo!”

Mom: “A boy?”

R: “Noo.”

Mom: “Hmm. What are you then?”

R: “Mommy, I a monkey!”

Well, now that we have three kids it has been confirmed that either my husband or I does in fact carry the primate gene. ALL THREE of our boys have inherited it. For better or for worse, our youngest got a double dose of it. Here’s some evidence in case you’re skeptical…


So let’s be honest. A fair share of moms reading this are probably saying, “Who is this lady thinking she has the corner on the crazy-climber market?? MY kids could out-monkey hers any day!” And they just might be right. I think it’s fair to say that pretty much ALL kids have a bit of crazy in them. And it’s my opinion that its totally fine to allow a bit of the monkey to come out when appropriate. Like PE. Or recess. Or for a few hours in the back yard. In fact I’d argue a little imagination and pretend (even during class), a little climbing and running, even a few bruised knees are part of a healthy childhood. I feel so sad to see kids over-scheduled with no time to imagine and monkey around. Aren’t they kids?? Isn’t that how they learn and grow?

What really breaks my heart is seeing kids tested in school to DEATH. No time to learn through play. Even in kindergarten when that’s critical to their development. No time for recess, no time for an “imagination station,” no time for monkeys because we are too busy trying to make them into robots. Where they all learn the same thing at the same rate and can regurgitate the same facts on testing day. I hate that. I hated it as a kid, I hated it while studying elementary ed in college, and I hate it now as a mom. I want my kids to LOVE learning, but all they are learning is to think school is stressful, demanding, and no fun. You can’t really blame the teachers. They are so pressed to get results. Having student-taught and observed many teachers during college I know it isn’t the teachers. I’m convinced 99.9% of them are saints. Don’t get me wrong, not everything should be fun. And learning is not always games and running around. But kindergarten? Really?? I also don’t believe that learning is just about testing. Kids learn differently and at different speeds. But that deserves a post all to itself for another time.

I want to tell you about someone who I feel gets it. He knows that kids have a bit of monkey in them and it’s vital to their development for them to let that out. He’s a PE teacher at a local school who every few months does a ropes and climbing unit for the kids. Best of all, he opens it up to the public so that children all over town get the opportunity to experience his “Rope World.” My kids might as well be going to Disneyland when they get to go. Ropes everywhere, swings, bridges, a zip line, mats, bars, tubes to climb through… it’s heaven to little monkeys like my boys. What lucky kids that go to that school. Their PE teacher gets it. He understands that there’s more to learning than the tests. He’s even willing to give up his evenings for two weeks straight to give all kids in our area a chance to experience it. He’s a hero in my kids’ books, and I’m sure many others’. Boys and girls need that opportunity. To swing from some ropes. To get a little nervous being ten feet above the ground crossing a single-rope bridge. To climb to the top of the gym and ring a cow bell and hear everyone cheer. I really believe that is as much a part of learning as memorizing math facts or studying for spelling.


In this day and age where teachers are desperate for students to fill in those bubbles correctly it’s refreshing to know that there’s still people out there that believe there’s more to learning. In this changing educational world those people are critical to our children’s future. There’s so much more to education and development than tests, tests, and more tests. There’s imagination and play. There’s climbing on ropes, getting a little dirty, and exploring. Our kids are boys and girls that can do hard things. Boys and girls who can conquer fears, learn for themselves, and discover. They aren’t robots. And if on occasion they forget they’re boys and girls and think that they’re monkeys, I hope we can remember that it’s all part of learning, developing, and becoming the amazing people they will grow up to be.

Disclaimer: I LOVE my sons’ school, his teacher, and all the staff. They are wonderful, amazing people who do incredible things (as are all the teachers I know). I think all educators are limited and I just wish they could do what THEY felt was best for the kids. I believe that teachers are some of the most influential people and could better shape our future generations if they weren’t so pressed to teach to the tests.

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Becoming a Country Girl

Last week a friend asked me, “Do you just love living out here?” I have to admit that I hesitated. After she left I felt ashamed. We really do live in a beautiful place. A stream running in the front, a pond with a bridge across, red rocks and a butte behind, a pretty house nestled into the hill. So why on earth could I not answer with a firm YES when my friend posed this question?

It started out innocent enough. I was just looking “for fun.” You know, maybe 10 years down the road. It was a year ago this month that I found the listing and fell in love. When my husband walked in from work that night I had it printed and stretched out for him to take a look. He gave it one glance and said something along the lines of, “That’s great! Make a file and write down what you like about it. Maybe here in 10 years we can find another similar to it.” A few weeks later an incident that made us a little nervous brought me back to the ad. An open house the very next day, what do you know! So we decided, just for fun, to check it out. That was it. The entire drive home we brainstormed ways that we could make it happen. It all hinged on whether or not we could sell our house fast enough. The next week it was up for sale, and within 24 hours we had three offers all over asking price. It was amazing how it all fell together. We were moving to the country!

The next month we spent thinking about the changes this would mean for our little family. My husband spent his summers growing up on his grandparents’ ranch, so this wouldn’t be a big change for him. For me on the other hand, little did I know what a city girl I really was. Looking back I guess I didn’t quite realize just what becoming a country girl would mean. Seriously, how hard could it be? I grew up in a small town, didn’t go shopping for new clothes hardly ever, didn’t mind a little hard work. I already was making some pretty darn good country breakfast fixin’s like pancakes and eggs, and most importantly John Denver was my all time FAVORITE singer. I was meant to be a country girl, right??

Well, I’ll be honest. I didn’t bet on coming across rattlesnakes in our back yard while my husband was at work. Or worrying about my kids being out of my sight for two minutes because we’d seen mountain lion and bear scat by the pond. Or having to talk to my sister in a little corner next to the window and not move because we had really bad cell service.Image

I often think about our sweet neighbors in town. I miss stopping by on the way to the park to say hello and hearing about their grandkids. The boys talk about their super-cool tree house that Dad built for them in our “Doctor Seuss Spruce” and the sand box underneath. It almost makes me ache for those days that I could watch them out the window while I washed the dishes as they played pirates. We would walk or run everywhere. To the grocery store, the hardware store, the park, our friends’ houses, the car shop… I kinda miss that. I kinda miss a lot of things about our old life in town.


Then I think about those pretty awesome moments we’ve experienced here and I remember why we tried so hard to make this country life happen. Like when the boys and I spent a half-hour watching elk walk across the mountain in back of our house. When we spent our afternoons for a week picking chokecherries by the stream to make our own chokecherry syrup. The countless days spent fishing in our front yard, playing in the paddle boat, reading books under the big tree by the pond waiting for the muskrat to surface, or pretending pirates or mountain lions in the long grass below the butte. I’m definitely reminded on the nights we spend sitting and looking at the stars. Out in the country there are millions spread like a blanket across the sky. And best of all, I now have a pretty good excuse to only make it to the grocery store once, maybe even every-other week. 😉







Over the last year I’ve had a mix of emotions. But in all the mix of emotions, I’ve decided that it’s ok. I’m glad we lived in the house in town, but I’m glad I stumbled across the listing for our house here in the country. I’m glad that we were able to make the friends we made in town. We still see them when we get a chance. I miss our tree house, but because we built one there we know how do build an even better one here. Our old house will always hold so many great memories in my mind. But over the last year we’ve made so many more wonderful memories here in the country. What’s so great is that there’s a lifetime more to make no matter where we are. And as long as we’re here in the country, I just might really become that country girl after all.

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Nightmare at the Grocery Store

I like to think that I’m not alone in having a horror story like this. The grocery store can take on a feel of a house of terror when you have little “helpers,” and this trip wasn’t any different from others. I’d put off grocery shopping as long as I possibly could, and once the milk and butter had run completely out I couldn’t hold off the foreboding trip any longer. Did I mention that my husband was out of town and had been for over a week? I had no choice. Couldn’t even wait to go until 10:00 that night when I could shop in peace.

I dreaded it every week (or every other week if I could help it). I took a deep breath as we pulled into the parking lot next the cart exchange. “Here we go, you two,” I sighed to my two “helpers.” The trip started out well enough. We made it through the produce without any incident, and on to the meat isles. It really wasn’t until trying to decide on peanut butter that all Hades broke loose. One arm hanging out of the car cart… an arm and a leg… a head…a boy on top of the car… a boy upside down in my arms… another sprinting to the penny horse… then the screaming. That’s the part that sends panic into a mom’s mind. The screaming announcing to the King Soopers world that their mom is a monster. Good thing I only had a couple things left to grab. We raced down the frozen isles to find the final items while the entire store looked on. If you’ve never been there as a mom, it’s a humiliating, humbling experience. By this time I had two screaming children held like two sacks of potatoes pushing the cart with one foot (you have to admit that takes some skill!). Ok, so it maybe wasn’t that bad, but when you’re in the midst of a meltdown in the middle of King Soopers, it can feel a bit like that. Of course when your children decide to fall apart in public, the checkout lines are longer than Splash Mountain at Disneyland. the thoughts of leaving right then crossed my mind, but the idea of all that work (and nothing to eat at home) was too much to sacrifice. So I took my place and tried to avoid the glares of “what a horrible mother you are! Can’t you control your children?” and tried to do just that.

Hard to believe that this adorable face could cause such mayhem, huh? Don't be fooled! But most of the time he's pretty darn cute. :)

Hard to believe that this adorable face could cause such mayhem, huh? Don’t be fooled! It’s a good thing most of the time he’s pretty darn cute. 🙂

Just then a sweet lady in front of me said something I hope that all moms in a nightmare like this can hear at least once. “Oh, honey. Why don’t you just go ahead of me? What sweet boys you have. I remember those days. You go right ahead!” I could have hugged that darling woman a hundred times. “Thank you so much! That is so nice of you!” I smiled and pushed my loaded cart past hers. That simple act would have been enough to impress upon my mind the importance of not being so judgemental and being kind. But she went on. “You know what? Here’s $20. Why don’t you take those two kids out for lunch? I have grandchildren that are about that age. I love to take them to lunch, and they love it too.” I tried to decline, but she was persistent. I thanked her again and again as she helped me push my cart and I carried my exhausted, hungry, grumpy 1-year-old to the car.

I did just what that grandma told me to do: I took my kids out to eat with the $20 she so graciously gave me, just not that very day. While so many others looked on with disgust, that sweet lady came to my rescue. On the drive home I vowed to be that person who doesn’t look on with abhorrence or even pity, but to take action and help. It’s not easy to do, and certainly not my personality. And I know I can still try much, much harder. But I want my boys to know the importance of taking action, helping others, and not being judgemental.

I’m so glad that there are wonderful people out there that don’t treat you like a second-class citizen because your otherwise darling son decides to test your parenting at a very inconvenient moment. And in case you’re wondering, we still have yet to make it through the frozen foods without havoc, but we’re getting better.

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Making the World A Better Place

A few mornings ago while I was at King Soopers getting groceries with my two young children, I was reminded of a valuable life lesson. It was around 8 a.m., and I was just pulling my two boys out of their car seats when a car pulled up and out came a familiar face. Not familiar because I know him personally, but familiar because for the past three years that I’ve shopped at Target in our town I, and probably every other shopper and employee, have been treated by him as if an old friend. I can’t think of a kinder person I’ve ever met.

That morning he jumped out of his car and began pulling two carts out of his old Subaru. When he saw me close by, he smiled and said, “Hi there! Can you believe that I found this cart all the way by the GMC dealership? And this Safeway one was down by McDonald’s.” As he pushed the cart to the holder, I responded, “Well it’s sure good of you to bring them all the way back!” In all sincerity he said, “Just trying to do my part to make our world a better place.” Then referring to the Safeway cart, “Better get this one home.” With that he drove away.

No other witnesses to this simple act of kindness but my two sons and me. Next thing I knew I was pushing my way through the busy aisles of the grocery store. I couldn’t believe the contrast I felt from my exchange with the gentleman in the parking lot as I looked at the other shoppers. Most were completely consumed with themselves pushing their way down the aisle. Not a glance up from their own lives, let alone a friendly good morning.

What was most ironic to me was in many of the carts were reusable bags, organic foods and “green” products, all to “make our world a better place.” I couldn’t help but wonder who was making a bigger difference and doing their part. While “going green” and buying organic are wonderful things to do, is it not just as important to share a smile, help out our neighbors or treat others with kindness and respect?

As I teach my own children about our world and how we can take care of it, I hope I can help them to understand that being kind and considerate of others, even when there’s no recognition, is one of the most wonderful secrets to “doing our part to make our world a better place.”

A few years ago I wrote this story and submitted it to our local paper. Here’s a link:

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