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Finding Time to Be Bored

21 July 2017

Since leaving my job, I thought I would have a big stack of memories and snapshots from a summer well spent. And I think I do, they're just a little less adventurous than I was expecting. It turns out, so far we've really enjoyed one of our biggest luxuries of our new life: time to be bored.

Have fort, paper towel rolls and picture books, will party.

I grew up (ages 4-8 years old) in a small city in Western Kentucky. The post office had a big, antique table to fill out forms and address mail on. In the summers, my sister and I ran errands with my Mom and parked ourselves under the table to wait while she queued up in line.

How long will you be, Mom? 

Oh, about thirty minutes.

How long is that? 

About the length of a TV show.

I set to work thinking of a cartoon I watched that morning, trying to recall every course of action and line of dialogue in succession. After I "rewatched" the entire show in my mind, I looked up with hope that it was time to leave. My mom was only half way through the line. Ok, maybe one more TV show that I make up on my own this time. After that, hand games with my sister and then pretending we were prisoners being held captive by the lions carved into the foot of the table legs that wanted to find a good reason to eat us if we didn't sit completely still and only communicate to each other via hand signals.

And so it went every time we joined Mom at the post office for four years. We made up about anything to pass the time and walk the line between feeling entertained and getting in trouble. 

This type of imaginative play brought on by boredom wasn't just something I grew up with. I love the stories of my husband and his brother passing time in the summers at their modest apartment in Richardson while their parents were at work. They had to stay inside or in the one courtyard by their apartment that had a wind vortex that came through in the afternoons. If the boys were tired of watching their small collection of VHS tapes (I dare you to a "Cool Runnings" quote off with Markus), they took a plastic grocery bag outside to the courtyard, throwing it into the wind and chasing it for a rousing game of "Capture the Bag."

I love these stories for being nostalgic and endearing, but the truth is being bored is an important part of growing up I often overlooked for my own daughter. This article was one of a few that reminded me that boredom is where we have space to contemplate life but also develop more creativity and an internal stimulus to explore how we like to fill our days. Not only have I not been bored myself in too long of a time, hence marching straight into a burnout, but my busyness was robbing my daughter of a special opportunity: discovering what happens when you're under stimulated and under resourced.

Getting to a place of true boredom seems so much harder these days for kids and adults alike.

We carry computer phones around with no end to the Internet no matter how long the wait is in line.

We have 'round the clock shows to stream and a specific, shiny toy for every interest and hobby.

Even my choice to live in a city with a myriad of cultural opportunities can get in the way of carving out time to just be at home and be.

When I realized I would have more time with Heidi to explore this summer, I started working on our Dallas Summer Bucket List. While I do have a summer adventure or two with her still up my sleeve, after four lines into our list I just saw a lot of sunscreen packing, driving, and begging for good behavior in front of me. I decided we were exempt of having to see the entirety of what the city has to offer us at three years old. We're not going anywhere and neither is most of Dallas. Thanks to Heidi getting a lot of social time at her day school, we're able to settle into the contentment of boredom at home. I've been so pleased with the adventures so far, including..

exploring ancient but entertaining ViewMaster technology

...and sharing the fun with friends. 

"Reading" out loud to anyone who will listen. 

Designing a highway, just like her Dad does at work. 
(Editor's note: no remarks on dirty carpets unless you're disgusted enough to send help.)

Mixing in a little of Mom's closet to the regular dress up antics. 

I've found creating an environment for summer boredom takes a little discipline on the parent's behalf these days, from consciously saying "no thank you" to daily field trips, having the initially tough conversations with kids that the screens are going on vacation (our TV packed up and moved to Grandma's! #holyshit) and stocking only a conscious amount of open ended toys. After the hump, life seems easier and more interesting than ever. 

Of all the new experiences we hoped to try this summer, I'm so glad we explored the fun of being bored first. It's now an important family value to me that I know is my job to protect and nurture.

Guest Post at Love Child

20 July 2017

It was such a positive to have my desire to write more met by invitations to guest blog on some really esteemed works by friends. Today, I am at Love Child discussing What I Learned About Motherhood Through Adoption.

Christina at Love Child is an in-demand stylist in Austin (if you've ogled a Kendra Scott catalog you've likely admired her work) and I crave this little piece of the Internet she's made as a love letter to her son and herself as a Mom. Real motherhood is not always stylish, but she finds the authentic intersection of the two so well. I hope you do stop by there and check out my article as well as others!

Also, here is a picture of Heidi feeding a goat. :)

Petit Jean State Park Family Guide

12 July 2017

Growing up, my favorite vacation and the one I still have the most memories from were two trips our family took to Petit Jean State Park. We lived in Western Kentucky and my extended family was in Dallas, so Arkansas was a great place to explore to break up a longer trip to Texas or find a meeting spot for family. I loved this recent article on how kids typically remember vacations more than anything else, and it's encouraged me to use this chapter of having more free time to take some more accessible and old fashioned fun adventures together. 

Since Markus and I started dating, I've brought up Petit Jean as something I wanted to do with my new family. I can't even consider how many times I've pulled up their website in the past 10 years. It seemed so magical and preserved in time! The stars finally aligned and we took our family family vacation there this past week. 

There was a small sense of reserve that my childhood memories might have made it more grand in my mind or that the time may have taken some of the beauty from the park and facilities. I was so happy to see Petit Jean State Park thriving, and the scenery was more awe-inducing to this city dweller than ever. It was truly a trip that changed our family for the better! 

Petit Jean State Park

The best part of a Petit Jean trip, is it is all so easy! It's a very manageable six hour drive from Dallas, making it long weekend material and a breeze compared to some of our other favorites like Telluride or Seaside. There's a ton of different options for accommodations, from very nice campgrounds and RV spots to multiple cabin types (ours, Number 13, had a hot tub in the back and was down in a creek bottom for great privacy!) and even yurts on their beautiful lake! 

Such special moments seeing deer and foxes from our cabin windows. 

petit jean state park yurt
Yurts on the water!

Another great asset to all park goers and where we would stay growing up is Mather Lodge. The big lodge was built by the CCC during the Depression and has been updated to keep it nice for visiting families. It's all of the comforts of a small hotel - housekeeping, nice common areas and even hearty meals in the lodge dining room. Some of the best trails start right behind the lodge. 

Mather Lodge Petit Jean State Park

This common room at Mather Lodge is where I learned to play Uno growing up and first watched my favorite childhood show - Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman! #nerdstatus

Another thing that comes easily at Petit Jean are the incredible views. Before my childhood trip, my mom bought my sister and I art kits and we "mastered" sunset renditions of two mountains coming together with lines of bold color in the clouds. It was so nice to take in the last moments of the day in the same spot with my daughter and see there really is something unique about a Petit Jean sunset! The best part is this is right behind the beautifully maintained Mather Lodge. We look so outdoorsy but we had just finished big plates of French fries! #aboutthatlife

We did do some amazing hiking on this trip! Two and a half days really allowed us the chance to try all of the trails. They range from extremely easy .25 miles to a pretty strenuous 4.5 miles. It was a perfect fit for us, with a toddler who wants chances to walk on her own and adults that like to feel challenged.

Cedar Falls Trail Petit Jean State Park
Proud moment at the falls of Cedar Falls Trail!

I love that the scenery is different with each hike, but even some of the easiest hikes offer the most interesting views! Bear Cave trail is really just walking around the eye of the needle rock formations close to the lodge, and something Heidi really enjoyed doing without needing to hitch a ride with us. Rock House Cave Trail is very short and features Native American cave paintings!

bear cave trail petit jean state park
A stroll through Bear Cave Trail. 

Even on the longest hike, Seven Hollows Trail, there were good spots for Heidi to get out of her backpack and take on the trail. We were amazed that she conquered more than 1.5 miles! She loved splashing through the creek waters to cool off as we went.

Seven Hollows Trail Petit Jean State Park
If you look closely, that's Heidi's Frozen backpack filled with provisions attached to the backpack she rides in! Dad life.

One thing I remembered from childhood trips that I was excited was still around is the Park Ranger events program. There's a few fun demonstrations or experiences led by park rangers every day, and we worked a few into our stay. The Owl Prowl evening owl calling was really fun, and we went with a park ranger to Bear Cave Trail and found a few more interesting parts of the trail we hadn't seen on our own. Like I was when I was little, Heidi was so drawn in by the rangers' friendliness and expertise. She liked to check and make sure her mom and dad were staying on the trail and following good park goer etiquette from everything she learned from the rangers. :)

petit jean state park
Serious little Heids in the blue dress! 

A few more things are not actually inside the park but worth knowing about. First is Stout's Point. This overlook is above the Arkansas River and really beautiful!

Also, The Outpost came into my mind on the second half of most of our hikes. :) Great homemade fudge, ice cream, classic cane sugar sodas and a nice front porch to enjoy it all on! 

The only thing we needed to bring with us besides a few basic clothing changes was our hiking shoes*! Soapbox moment, but it made me so nervous to see adults and kiddos scaling wet surfaces and taking rocky descents in their sneakers. Hiking shoes are an investment but better money spent than an ER visit and really allowed Heidi to explore her surroundings more easily and comfortably! Better still, though, was packing the car knowing the only things we were bringing home were hearts full of memories and a bug bite or two. :) This simple trip was the best! 

Have you enjoyed a no-fuss getaway lately? I'm on the hunt for more!

*Here's the links to each of our favorite hiking shoes and our backpack if you're planning an outdoor trip soon. Affiliate links here, but they're all available for purchase through most outdoor retailers! :)
Men's - Markus says he would wear these as his every day shoes if he could! (He cannot.)
Women's - Love the look of them, but actually went for these after Merrell was too heavy for me. These are like a good suit - you can hardly tell you're wearing them.
Kids' - Prefer an open style for her since we are fair weather hikers and she can experience more from splashing and river walking in these.

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