family, Uncategorized, writing

To My Daughter on her Fifth Birthday

5th Birthday-1Dear Emily,

You turned five this week, as you happily told everyone we encountered the last few days.  You think turning five means you can run faster and reach taller things like your other five-year old friends.

We celebrated with a party with your Wee Pals friends, lunch with Daddy on the actual day, and a party with family a day late because of some crazy thunderstorms that hit Wyoming on your actual birthday.  What a lucky little girl you are to have so many people who love you and want to celebrate with you.  I made an Elena of Avalor cake, and the hit presents were an Elena of Avalor guitar and a Minnie Mouse watch.

You have grown so much in the last year.  You are definitely a big kid now, ready to tackle kindergarten in the fall and anything else that life might throw at you.  I love your sense of adventure and willingness to try new things.  School, soccer, ballet…you tried all of them with a zest and confidence I admire.  Today, you went off the diving board at swimming lessons and swam to the side.  You didn’t hesitate once.  Your fearlessness inspires me to step out of my own comfort zone and try new things with you.

Your friends are becoming more important to you.  At school, I was told you usually preferred to play with the boys.  You love to play chase and tag and monsters and bad guys.  You attended your first birthday parties this year.  You teachers described you as the kind of girl who is friends with and plays with everyone.  When your new friend Colby told you his horse died and he was sad, you came home and drew him a picture to help cheer him up.  I love that you are social and genuinely kind to everyone.

Our relationship is changing, too.  No longer do you accept everything I tell you as gospel.  You question me and test me.  Sometimes it infuriates me, but I also know that it means you are developing your own sense of self and independent thinking skills.  You are also developing your own opinion on everything.  It is hard to accept because I still want you to want and need me.  But you are growing up and that means sometimes we will disagree.

You are looking forward to kindergarten and being with your friends.  You’re sad that Colby, Brady and your other Wee Pals friends won’t be there with you.  You cried when we had to say goodbye to Mrs. Mareta, Mrs. Molly and Mr. Lance at the end of the school year.  But I know you will enjoy the coming years too.  You are very much like Daddy and I in that you love to learn and understand how things work.  You are reading simple books by yourself, adding small numbers and counting higher and higher each day.  This spring, you accurately explained to me what an eclipse was, even demonstrating it with your yogurt, cereal bowl and water glass at breakfast one morning.

You continue to be an animal lover and nature explorer.  We spent hours in the barns so you could see and hold the pheasant chicks.  You love to watch nature shows like Wild Kratts and Nature Cat and learn about animals.  At night, when we give you kisses and cuddles, you most often want to play the “Animal Game,”  where you describe an animal and we have to guess it.  You know where an animal lives, what it eats, what it looks like and other weird facts about it.  Lemurs, giraffes, turtles, panda bears, whale sharks, you love them all.  You are Ziggy’s best friend and Roxy’s best girl.  I love watching you play “dog trainer” and putting Ziggy through his paces.  You were so upset when Roxy got bit by a rattlesnake.  I don’t think you slept at all that night we had to leave her at the vet.  Thankfully, she recovered and the two of you were back to playing dress up in a few days.

It is no surprise that you want to be a veterinarian when you grow up.  But I can also envision you as a scientist, teacher or a wildlife biologist like Daddy.  With your sense of adventure, I can picture you tracking down snow leopards in the Himayalas for your own Youtube channel.  Or maybe you’ll be an artist.  We spend hours drawing, painting and doing crafts.  My office is rapidly filling up with all your artwork!

Your favorite song right now is “Dirt on My Boots.”  You love it when Daddy and I turn on the music after dinner and we dance in the kitchen.  Some of your other favorites are “Walk Like an Egyptian,” “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” and “Happy.”

You are one of the only 5-year olds I know with a summer job.  After dinner, you, me, Daddy and Ziggy head out to the bird pens to run the chicks into their houses.  Sometimes you like it, other times you’d prefer to stay inside where it’s cool.  But we’re it as an opportunity to teach you about chores and responsibility.  You’re learning that life isn’t all fun and games and that we can’t quit just because a job gets hard.  I hope that seeing him in action and being around him will help you develop a work ethic like Daddy’s.  And I hope that little glimpse into how hard he works for our family will stick with you for life, and you’ll appreciate the sacrifices he makes for our family.  Chance are good you’ll like this chore less and less as time passes.  Until the day, that is, that you realize it wasn’t about working but about family.

There are times I look forward to the fall when you will be in school and I will have more free time.  But most of the time, I just get sad thinking about it.  You’ve been my constant companion and partner in crime for the last five years.  Not having you with me all day will be a big change for both of us.  No more impromptu trips to Cheyenne for lunch with Nana or afternoon runs to AJs for a soda.  I will miss this time with you more than you’ll ever know.

We argue and get frustrated with each other.  We get mad.  You get sad.  But nothing is ever too bad that we can’t fix it with an “I’m sorry” and a good, long hug.  May that always be the case for our relationship.  We love you to pieces my dear, sweet, kind, beautiful girl.  Happy 5th birthday.

Love,

Mama

(This is the fifth in a series of letters I’ve written to my daughter each year on her birthday.  When she’s 18th, I’m going to give them to her and let her see herself through our eyes over the years.)

family, Kids, photography, Uncategorized

First Loves

rocky-fish-final-drwMeet Rocky. He’s Wyokiddo’s fish, bought to replace the gold fish she won at a 4-H carnival that died approximately 15 hours after we brought it home. Rocky is much more hearty, and photogenic. Thankfully.

Someday, we’ll tell Wyokiddo stories about her first pet. Stories like how for the first three weeks after his arrival, she’d wake up in the morning, run to his bowl and breathlessly exclaim “Oh thank goodness! Mama, Mama, Rocky didn’t die last night!”

Her enthusiasm for Rocky has waned a little bit with the arrival of Ziggy the puppy.  But I will still catch Wyokiddo standing at Rocky’s bowl, her finger tracing a path for Rocky to follow.  She chatters at him, telling the fish stories of her day, her friends and her life.

It warms my heart.  Somewhere in the heavens, there’s a chestnut mare with spots and an attitude that has all my childhood secrets woven through her thin, black mane.

Now Rocky will have Wyokiddo’s secrets, and she’ll always have a photo of this beautiful little guy.

Teresa

country life, Uncategorized, writing

Soul Food

Life can be so complicated, so crazy, that we often get caught up in the elaborate.  But there is joy in the simple things.

Tonight, our family opted for a simple dinner of ham-and-cheese omelettes, potatoes from our garden, peppers and peaches with cream.  While I prepared the omelettes, Outdoor Guy joined me in the kitchen to slice and fry the potatoes.  I could hear Wyokiddo happily playing in the living room as we worked and chatted.  We couldn’t help but run into each other in the tiny kitchen, and each time, Outdoor Guy would take the opportunity to steal a kiss.

I enjoy the challenge of  cooking a complex meal, or dinner on the town with my handsome husband on my arm.  But nothing beats the quiet camaraderie of my beautiful family, homegrown food and a Wyoming sunset.  The preperation and the meal were both food for my soul.

Teresa

family, nature, Uncategorized, writing

First Fish

Emily First Fish (1)Yesterday was a big day for the curly-haired dynamo.  She hauled in her very first fish, a small large-mouth bass caught at a reservoir just south of our house.  She was all smiles and high-fives for the rest of the morning.  She wouldn’t even take her eyes off the fish for a photo.

We’ve been fishing several times this summer as a family.  It is one of my favorite ways to spend a morning together.  The three of us, a quiet spot by the lake and fishing poles is a recipe for pure bliss.

Of course, our spot doesn’t stay quiet for long when Wyokiddo is in tow.  Armed with her red Mickey Mouse fishing pole and 1,000 questions, she’ll fish and chat her way through an entire morning.

“What kind of bird is that?”

“Do seagulls eat bananas?”

“Mama, I’m going to tell you a story.  One time, I took Uncle Bill fishing.  He had a blue fishing pole and I had a pink fishing pole.  And we caught a WHALE!”

We don’t catch a lot of fish.  This summer our total haul that we’ve kept has been a handful of crappie and two walleye.  But I wouldn’t trade these moments by the water for a freezer of fish.  I love that we are teaching Wyokiddo a skill and sharing this piece of our souls with her.  I enjoy watching Outdoor Guy patiently helping our daughter cast or bait her hook.  My heart overflows with love and emotion as Wyokiddo sits in my lap, chattering non-stop as we watch the red-and-white bobber rise and fall with the swell of the waves.  It feels good to be outside, together, released from electronic tethers and expectations.

The fact that Wyokiddo finally caught her a fish…well that’s just gravy.

Teresa

nature, photography, Uncategorized, weather, writing

And Mother Nature Taketh Away

Goshen County Light Show CRThis summer, we’ve been enjoying the bounty from the garden we planted.  All that came to a crashing halt last night as our area was hit with a massive storm that included winds, hail, heavy rains, more hail and lightning.

Our garden is almost a total loss and my flowers I keep along the house are no more.   Our yard was littered with dead birds, toads and even some rabbits. Fortunately, we didn’t sustain any real property damage.  Our friends and neighbors weren’t so lucky.  Just a half-mile down the road, one neighbor had his corn destroyed.  Another lost all the north facing windows in his house.  The talk all over the county fair today was about crop loss, broken windows and praying today’s storms give us a break.

About 45 miles due south of here, weather completely devastated the town of Pine Bluffs with a massive hail storm.  Golf ball-sized hail destroyed almost every window in every house and car in town.  On the level, 36 inches of collected hail was recorded.  It looked like Christmas in July, the stuff was so thick.

After the storm rolled over us, I tried my hand at some lightning photography.  Even seeing the storm from a distance was awe-inspiring.  The raw, unrelenting power of nature left me gobsmacked.  Lightning popped and crackleded in the distance, thunder rumbled into the void and I was left feeling how truly very infinitesimally small I am in this amazing universe we call home.

Wyokiddo was pretty bummed today as we surveyed the damage to our garden.  “No more vegetables?  But we worked so hard!” she wailed as we picked up tree limbs.

I was heartsick about our garden, too.  But it is just a garden.  It was not us, or our home or our livelihood that was destroyed.  I tried to use the opportunity to teach my little girl about toughness and gratitude.  So we talked about how we can be sad we lost our lovely garden, but we should also be thankful that we are safe and so are our friends and neighbors.

“But why did the storm want to wreck our garden and flowers?  That’s not nice!” she told me, stomping her foot in frustration.  It was all I could do not to laugh at her outrage.

“That’s just how life works.  Bad things happen like storms.  And we can be sad when our things get wrecked.  But good things happen, too,” I told her.  “It makes the good times just that much more fun!”

“Like the carnival.  That’s fun!  I can’t wait to go tomorrow!”

And with that, she was all smiles and giggles thinking about our upcoming trip to the carnival tomorrow.

Mother Nature giveth, and she taketh away.  All we can really do is enjoy the former, weather the latter and remember better times at the carnival are just around the corner.

Teresa