Thursday, September 29, 2011

We tote guns.

I am going to ignore the big ugly fact that I NEVER keep up on this blog anymore. A whole summer has gone by...and it was a busy one. Wedding after wedding, working in the park (sooo fun) and a marriage that has been steadily rebuilding after surviving a near divorce. Very VERY close call and I am still not sure I want to discuss it. I think it may be too fragile still, but just know that we are invested, it is getting better, and progress, while slow, is evident. Sooo...enough of that. There HAD to have been something that prompted me to park myself at the computer and log onto after all this time, right? Wrong. Unless you count 3 glasses of wine and a Husband who tends to fall asleep EVERY time he puts Eldon to bed. I'm bored. Boredom prompted me to post a picture from our day on Facebook though, and it wasn't until I posted it that I realized how many people on my friends list might not understand or might even disapprove. Many of the people that I know on Facebook live in Seattle or neighboring areas. Not many of the graduating seniors from my 2005 class ventured out to live life in the slow lane. I doubt that most of them own least legally anyway.

This is the picture. My 3 year-old and I...both toting guns on our nature walk today.

At first, I thought it was adorable. Then-the me from three years ago came back to haunt my slightly altered (red wine...Cabernet Sauvignon to be exact) mind. You know the "me" I am talking about...that crazy girl who was a MUCH better Mom before she actually had kids. (I'm sure you know a few of those.) The "me" who was sticking to her guns about never letting her child actually play with a pretend one. As you can see from the picture, I lost that argument, and this doesn't happen often, but Nate was right. Shhhh...pretend like you didn't see that. Yes, it said that Nate was right. Ok, Ok. NATE WAS RIGHT. Kids can and SHOULD play with guns when they are growing up in households like ours, and most other Montana families.

Eldon is at this glorious age where he actually gets it. Ahhh...the neverending "whys" of a three year old. The good part? You answer the "Why" and he understands the answer and remembers. He proudly boasts at night time that the moon comes out at night because the earth is moving around the sun. All because one night, the "why" game continued....and continued...and continued...until I finally explained to him why it was actually getting dark out, resulting in bedtime. I knew it would give him something to ponder for a moment, and buy me some breath. Likewise, he is finally at an age where we can not only allow him to play with guns, but use them as a training tool. We are gun owners. We have been since he was born, and have taken necessary precautions to keep him safe, both from the guns and the dangers we use the guns to protect us from. We keep the majority of our guns unloaded and locked up. I keep a pistol by my bedside to protect from intruders and wear it when we hike or go a long distance into the woods to protect us from bears, wolves, mountain lions or other Montana neighbors. As a result of the loaded gun, Eldon has never been allowed in our room alone and the door is locked when nobody is in it. We are very carefully trying to encourage proper gun use, as well as instilling a respect and fear (for now) of guns into our son.

We have established rules. He is three, of course, and these rules get broken on occasion but each time they do, there is an opportunity for discussion opening up and we are jumping in there to take advantage of it. If Eldon points his gun at a person, his gun gets taken away. In keeping with his daily rythmn, he asks a question along the lines of "Why can't I point it at people?" and so our son has learned that guns hurt people and that they can go off on accident, which is why we don't touch them unless we absolutely need to. Along with this comes some tricky tip-toeing and lessons that are questionable for a three year old to be learning. Eldon, like Nate and I, has been witness to every hunting season. Last year he sat in the garage watching as we cut and packaged the deer and elk that Nate had killed. This year he learned that to get the deer into our freezer, it must be shot. He also learned that shooting a deer hurts it. I haven't quite venutred into the "killing" territory, partly because I don't have the words and partly because I don't think he would understand it even if I did. I think it can wait. For now, we are educating our son about the simple fact that guns are dangerous. So far, it's working. While on that walk today, Eldon was carrying his toy gun back to the truck when he accidentally hit the trigger. His gun makes a pretend noise that made him jump back and look to me with worry written all over his face. Good. It sounds tough and harsh, but good.

Not only is this preparing our beautifully fearless and naive child, but it is preparing me. As he grows, he will become less fearless and less naive. I want my son to stay innocent as long as he can, but he will start to fear. He will start to worry and grasp that there are dangers in the world. Is it a bad thing? I don't know...and I don't really think so. I watch the Mama deer tread carefully around here with their vulnerable spotted fawns and think of how helpless they must feel. Predators are everywhere, but their instincts are strong, both doe and fawn alike. The fawns jump and run away when they hear us crunching leaves and snapping twigs. They wait patiently for their Mama to catch up. They know. The same fawns we caught first glimpse of this last Spring and they already know. My son was brought into the world over three years ago and is just NOW grasping the fact that there are things in this world that can hurt him. Why? Because he asks. Because I answer somewhat truthfully. "A bear might think you are food, so stay close to Mom."

So now he knows...guns are dangerous. They require proper storage and careful carrying to work for us, instead of against us. Even his play guns require permission to use. Nate is waiting patiently to buy Eldon his first BB Gun and although he wanted to before he was even born, we know that this way-it will be special. An earned right of passage for an 8....or 10...or 15 year old Montana boy. Until then, we are basking in the magic that is three years old and working carefully to shape the responsible adolescent gun owner that is waiting for us in the future. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fishing made easy

So I am going to ignore the big obvious fact that I haven't blogged in about a month. Sorry. I suck. There will be a catch up post later but I am going to skip that now and dive right into this one.

I was blessed. lucky, spoiled, whatever you want to call it growing up spending my summers in Montana. My Grandma stocked coolers full of goodies, loaded us up almost every day and took us to the lake. My Grandpa dedicated the nicest days to pulling us on tubes behind the boat for endless hours, and teaching us how to fish. We ice fished, we trolled, we fished for perch, for rainbow, for salmon, and usually for cutthroat. My brothers and I were young when we learned how to cast, reel, and gut our own fish. We were young when we experienced both the thrill of watching that bobber sink under and the pride of eating the fish we caught for dinner, even though Grandma was the one who cooked it to perfection. (incase you were wondering, my favorite is still with butter, onion, and garlic salt wrapped in tin foil over the campfire.)

I knew before I even became pregnant that the picture perfect childhood was held in my own memories, and that that was the childhood I wanted to create for my own children. I can't describe the feeling of watching my son splash around on the same family beach I splashed around on, sit on the same Grandpa's lap I used to sit on and "drive" the boat with the same excitement I felt when I was the one steering.

So, taking my kid fishing is a big deal to me. I want him to have those memories and feel the same excitement that I did as a kid. I want him to remember the conversations he had with Nate while they sat there uninterrupted, feet and lines in the water.

At 3 years old, patience is not exactly an age appropriate skill. Fishing is a test of patience most places, but not where we took him the other day. On Monday, we took Eldon to PineGrove Pond to test it out, test out the casting skills he has been working on, and see how he liked fishing. If you haven't been there, GO. Especially if you have young ones. The land was very generously donated by a family to be utilized as a family fishing pond. The pond itself is beautifully landscaped, the entire area is quiet and beautiful and the fish are biting something fierce. We just kept reeling them in! We were catching small rainbow trout, but heard rumors swirling of an 11 pounder that came out of there a few weeks ago. (You know how fishing tales go, I can't exactly be quoted or quote anybody on that one.)

Eldon was so excited to reel in fish after fish and not so excited once he got them out of the water. Something about a slimy, floppy, live animal that made him uneasy....but even though he couldn't hide his nerves, he was absolutely fascinated. He would carefully inch toward the fish and try to help Nate get the hook out. He would stare without blinking after we threw it back and announce to us when it finally swam away. He counted out three salmon eggs and handed them to us one by one as we baited his hook. (Those fishing with worms were not having the same kind of luck-just a tip!)

The fact that we now have this lovely little gem of a fishing hole is a perfect excuse to take your kid fishing or even go sit alone for awhile! Watching the osprey plunge into the water and successfully fly away with dinner clenched in their talons is worth the trip alone. We saw alot of succesful birds while we were there too.

Anybody can fish there with the appropriate license, but it's catch and release. Kids 15 and under are allowed to keep one fish each.

To get there, turn on Rose Crossing and look for the new brown FWP signs, turn at that road and follow it down to the pond.

A HUGE thank you to the lovely family that found the benefits of taking your kids fishing great enough to donate such a generous portion of their own land. PLEASE be aware of that when you go. This is such a great opportunity for our kids, I would hate to see it lost because people can't clean up after themselves or behave responsibly.

So GO! Take your kids fishing!!! Take pics and send them to :) I would love to start fun posts featuring your adventure photos!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dear Mom,

Dear Mom,

When you told me that justice would be served only in the event that I had a little girl who behaved in the same independent, confident, opinionated, sassy way I did as a child, I shuddered. I thought I was safe when the Doctor pointed at an obvious "boy part" on the ultrasound screen. Turns out, there is no safe and don't you worry, justice has been served.
Becoming a Mother, especially to a wild, strong-willed, independent, stubborn child of my own, has upped the level of gratitude and love I have for you significantly...and it was alot to begin with.

I have always known I had a special kind of Mom. Among other things that made your awesomeness obvious, were the grown ups coming up to me and making sure I knew how lucky I was to have you. It happened all the time, family members and strangers just wanting to make sure I knew how amazing you were. Then as I got older, those people were no longer random adults, they were my friends. At 10, the kids wished they had the same cool homemade Halloween costumes we had. They talked about how fun and funny you were. In high school, I heard alot about how hot you are. Flattering for you, disturbing for me. Aside from the hormonal boys who thought they were men though, I still heard alot about what amazing parents I had. Our friends jumped at a dinner invitation because they knew that sitting around the dinner table with the Walter/Downing family was a glimpse into something that was rare, genuine, and seemingly entertaining. There was no "How was school?" "Fine." There was laughter, love, and real conversation that flowed naturally. A seat at our dinner table was a preview for them, but we knew the real story. The full picture of the family that was shaped by a woman who is everything I hope to be.

I now know that you probably see our childhood differently than I do. I have this memory of being SO excited that I got to go to school with you. I pretended like I was older, and actually comprehending what the professor was teaching as I sat next to you doodling on a notepad (a yellow one, I knew those meant business.) I didn't know then that as a 20-something single mother to 3 children, a babysitter probably backed out and you had no choice but to drag me along to one of the college courses you were taking in addition to the job you held. Being a Mom can be hard. It can be even harder when you are faced with the challenges that you have overcome. Thank you, Mom, for never making me feel like a burden. For never letting on how broke we were and making us feel like we had it all. In all reality, we did.  

I was given the rare gift of a flawless childhood, and as an adult I am reminded how lucky I am to have you as my Mom. We were custom made for eachother and our relationship is one that I know is also a rare gift. I can't articulate the overwhelming gratitude that I feel for you when I think back to just this last year alone. You going crazy in the kitchen on my wedding day. You shaving my legs while I was on bedrest in the hospital. You holding my hand as I gave birth to a child that I had already lost. You just being there. All the time. Always when I need you most. Always knowing the right things to say, always knowing when to say nothing at all.

I am so thankful for you. For the sacrifices you made, and continue to make and the beautiful woman and role model you are. To be told that I am like my mom is the highest compliment I could ever recieve. I love you, Mom.


Monday, May 2, 2011

The death of Bin Laden- a poem

I am seldom at a loss for words. Usually, the problem is that I have too MUCH to say, not too little. I have alot to say tonight, as we learn of the death of a man who never should have walked this earth in the first place. This is not a tribute, sometimes my thoughts just flow better through poetry.

Nobody cried on the day that you died.
There will be no coping or healing.
For any of the few, that stood behind you,
are not capable, themselves, of feeling.

A celebration of death? A strange feeling,
though you know it all too well.
You leave nothing behind but a trail of blood,
and now you follow that trail to hell.

Sacrifice, you know nothing of,
for you'll never step in dignified shoes,
We hope that in the moments before you died,
you felt what it's like to lose.

In the grand scheme of it all, you are but small.
Insignificant as a grain of sand.
Given far too much credit, yet far too weak,
at the mercy of a soldier's hands.

Some say it's too late? Your evil, your hate,
has already been sowed and seeded.
It spreads through your land, in your follower's hands
but they too, will soon be defeated.

Oh but you, not worthy of a soul,
not worthy of a name or this poem.
How you died in vain, finally slain,
your life a waste of it's own.

With your death comes celebration,
we hail your end, your fall
With renewed faith in our Nation.
With liberty and justice for all.

****To those who fight for our freedom: Thank you.****

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Quit Bitchin'

So I have been kind of a debbie downer lately. I think it is a mix of cool new things being so close yet still out of reach. I need some patience and probably some more wine in my life. While I wait for this long-stemmed glass to perform the always faithful magic trick of picking me up, here is a list of things that make me smile recently...

1. Today while in line at the store, Eldon proudly proclaimed to the cashier "I farted!"

2. Race season starts tomorrow. (Technically next weekend.) There is something about the smell of burnt rubber mixed with cheap beer that just feels like summer.

 3. I am actually making significant progress with my two charity projects I am working on and was recently inspired to take a leap and start my own foundation. Wish me luck!

4. I just shopped Easter clearance and got the goodie bags filled for Eldon's "upcoming" (July) Birthday Party for next to nothing. Best find? Mini magic 8-balls...a pack of 4 for 50 CENTS! The price is not only exciting because it is two quarters. Every time I get a crazy deal on something, I make Nate guess how much I got it for. Even if it was a new car, he would guess "50 cents" just so I HAD to say "higher." Not this time, sucker!

5. I also got myself a pack of Reese's eggs...and ate two already.

6. Tomorrow is date night...oh the possibilities.

7. May is just a month of goodness for us (me). Mother's Day, my Birthday, and the first camping trip of the year always come around in May. This year is extra special, as May 12 is also Emerson's due date. While we are still and forever will be missing him, I am looking forward to setting his ashes free to rest among one of our favorite places.

8. Watching Nate and Eldon play. Enough said.

9. This wine now.

10. The big goofy hats worn at the royal wedding. Oh jeez I love the hats. Why is that NOT American custom?

11. Cleared clutter and took a carload of old stuff over to Grandma's house for the garage sale. I can almost breathe in this house again!

12. Starbucks double shot on ice with  no classic and 2 scoops of vanilla bean.

13. Our new toaster oven. It's totally rockin' my recipe world.

14. Garage Sale season! Farmer's Market! (Including the new one that is going to be at the old drive in movie theatre in Columbia Falls!)

15. A Husband waiting for me to come to bed...Good Night!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My House-Where a kid can be a kid.

Welcome to my house. In my bathroom, there is lipstick on the mirror. There are toys in the bathtub and a potty seat on the toilet for my *gasp* almost 3 year old who is just beginning to potty train, regardless of all of the people who feel the need to mention how he has been old enough for a year now. Make-up sits demolished on the counter because it doubles as facepaint when Eldon decides he wants to be a cat. I am steadily tripping over the stool that was strategically purchased so Eldon could "see mine mouth" while he brushed his teeth. This all takes place without a single rule being broken. Yes, we allow it. Fair warning to all guests: I will clean the bathroom before you arrive but there is a child who lives in this house...and we allow him to be a child.

This warning is also issued to all people who may come into contact with us in public. I don't "shhh" my son when he sings loudly in the shopping cart. I ignore the eyeroll of the waitress when when she has to spend an extra 5 seconds at our table so Eldon can order for himself. I let Eldon open the door by himself even when there is an impatient shopper waiting behind us to get in/out of the store. He is 2, I guess I just sorta expect people to understand.

In the era of "Your Baby Can Read," it seems that parents are forgetting what a treasure childhood truly is. The whole idea of pushing your child out of diapers and into adulthood at the earliest possible age is not an idea that I share. The other day at the library, we sat next to a woman who told me that they were also in the potty training process. Her daughter is 1. ONE. Since when do we require our infants to conduct themselves as adults?

I find myself a bit conflicted. Should we make sure that our children are learning to their full potential? How do I separate that from pushing them out of their current stage before they are ready? I was consumed with pride the day Eldon started walking. The day he learned his ABC's. I would have been just as excited and proud to see those first steps, though, if they had taken place a few months later and that's where I think parents lose themselves. It's a race to beat the "average" and an overall effort to make our kids grow up faster when it already goes by so quick. Whatever happened to the appeal of Neverneverland?

As we sprint neck in neck for the smartest, strongest child, we are forgetting that they're children. Children were made to explore and express themselves in ways that we could and should be learning from. Instead I witness parents squashing imagination rather than nurturing it. How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! They hush their kids and expect them to behave in a manner that is usually reserved for the stiff I-own-all-white-furniture-and-wear-big-hats-type-people.
We teach them to ask nicely, yet we yank forbidden toys right from their tiny little fingers. (This SO bugs me.) We teach them not to hit, yet we spank them when they break rules. I understand that children need to be respectful of adults. I also understand, though, that respect is earned and often confused with obedience. Just because a child responds with robot-like obedience to everything a parent says, does not mean that the child respects their parent. Respecting children is just as important. The whole "Children should be seen and not heard" mentality can suck it. Children should be heard, and if you listen, you might actually learn something. I admire Eldon's ability to challenge Nate and I when he thinks we are being unfair. I know that if we can teach him to do so respectfully, it will be one of his strong suits in the future.

I cuddle Eldon every time he drinks one of his two daily sippy cups of milk. I lay in bed with him rubbing his back until he is asleep. I kiss his owies. I bought him a doll. I am not making him a "Mama's Boy." I am not MAKING him anything. He will do that on his own. I am simply responding to the needs he has at this stage in his life, as I will continue to do for many more stages. So far, it seems to be working. I am so proud of the adorable, sweet, and smart little guy I get to call mine. He opens doors, says please and thank you, and asks people if they are O.K. when they appear hurt. Not because it's a rule but because he sees Nate and I do it and just assumes it's what you do.

This is rather long, but the idea was brought up at last week's "Wild Women Wednesday" and I have been thinking about it alot lately. Where to find the balance. I have come to the conclusion that we are just going to continue on our same path and parenting style, although I am now much more aware of whether I am simply encouraging, or pushing too hard in certain situations. I am so grateful for the wonderful women I know and am getting to know who ignited this discussion. Lots of thoughts, probably some rambling. Sorry. Go spoil your babies!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


We have just not been doing much these last few days. The weather has been so unpredictable that I pack sunscreen on the way to the park and end up needing to bundle Eldon up with a winter coat when we get there. I know, this is nothing new. Welcome to "Spring" in Montana which is really just a half winter/half summer instead of a season all it's own. Eldon has been parading around the house in his new rain boots, which is very convenient for when that small burst of sunshine peeks through and we need to run outside and soak it all up before it's gone again and we die from vitamin D deficiency.
We have been killing the time by going craft-crazy and spring cleaning. Eldon is an art fanatic like his Mama. At least once a day he requests his "art stuff" and I am a sucker for holiday crafts. Call it what you want, I am the person everybody loves to hate that fully participates in every "Hallmark Holiday" as well as contributing to the commercialization of the real ones. I have a cookie cutter in every shape known to man and I actually use them. A lot. This last week we have made cookies shaped like eggs, bunnies, dragonflies, butterflies, and flowers in the hopes that Mother Nature might pick up on a not-so-subtle hint for once. (It didn't work, I am pretty sure that more snow is in the forecast for tonight.)

So if anybody is looking for some projects other than coloring eggs this weekend, here are a few that have both suppressed the boredom and served as adorable Spring decor all over our house. The best part? These are all insanely cheap to make.

1. Painted Pots. I grabbed a few of these pots on sale for $1.00 each this winter. I needed a project that would keep Eldon busy while I was busy building in the garage. I just flipped it over on some newspaper, gave him some paints and a brush and let him go to town. I plan on using them for herbs this summer, but for right now we are sporting the ever so classy dollar-store carnations.

2. Handprint Wreath. We have done this for numerous holidays including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Even though I do most of the work, Eldon proudly points any and all visitors in the direction of the finished product so he can show it off.

Here's how we made it...
1. Trace your child's hand onto a piece of card stock to use as a stencil. Cut it out. Stack some construction paper in your desired colors and cut out roughly 20 hands. This works best if you only use all left hand or all right hand.
2. Glue the hands together alternating the colors however you like. It helps to lay them out first.
3. Embellish with whatever you have on hand. We have used buttons, rhinestones, bells, etc. This year we made little eggs by gluing tissue paper pieces to construction paper and then cutting out the egg shape after it dried. Like this:
You will notice that whether you carefully glue every little piece into place (me) or smash fistfulls onto paper (Eldon) it turns out pretty much the same. One reason this is an all age craft.

Last year, I just had Eldon fingerpaint Easter colors all over a piece of paper and I cut out eggs from that. I just happened to have some extra tissue paper this year so we gave this way a try and I like it way better.

3. Frames. We got this kit from the dollar store. It makes three frames. Pretty self explanatory. Eldon glued all of the pieces together while I watched and helped him decide where to put them. And what kid doesn't LOVE glue?

4. Handprints. Easy and as holiday-adaptable as a sugar cookie. I catch Eldon trying to make handprints on his own while he is painting so it is never a struggle to get him to cooperate. If it is a struggle for your kids, do feet instead.

5. Sugar cookies! I didn't take a picture of our finished project but I use this recipe with success.

That's all, I will try to share crafty ideas more often as I learn about them and/or make them up.

Happy Easter Flathead!