Child Adventures

Bucket List Adventures By Family Unit Children

Budweiser Might Be the King of Beers but Duke was King of the Clydesdales

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My favorite part of the whole New Year celebration thing is not ringing in the actual midnight hour, I am usually fast asleep long before that time arrives. No, my favorite way to celebrate the New Year is by anxiously awaiting the newest Budweiser Beer Clydesdale Super Bowl commercial. Seriously, I love these commercials and I can’t wait to see what they come up with every year.
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This fall we finally got the chance to go visit one of the few places you can actually see these magnificent animals up close and personal, Warm Springs Ranch in Missouri. The ranch is hard to get a tour at; in fact I tried for a fall weekend and was told in August that the weekend tours were already booked until the end of the year! Not one to be told no, I am glad to say I persevered and was able to score reservations for two for a beautiful non weekend day in September when my daughter had a day off from school. It was a perfect day for a ranch visit.

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It looks just like you imagine it would, 14 miles of white fence surrounding the pristine rolling hills and pasture of Warm Springs Ranch. The red barn sits high on the hill with ten separate pastures full of happy, contented and extremely well cared for Clydesdales. We stopped to say hi to several on the long winding road in,\ and were greeted with enthusiasm by these gentle giants, all of them anxious for some loving attention. I felt like a paparazzi as I ran from photo op to photo op while the celebrity horses pranced and patiently waited for me to get all the pictures my heart desired.

The barn had to be the cleanest barn I have ever seen, each section well marked showing all phases of horse care including where they are bred, exercised, trained and cared for by loving staff.

This grand experience was shared with my daughter and certainly makes the top ten things I’d recommend to anyone looking for a Missouri highlight.

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For me the high point of the tour was when we were introduced to Duke, a massive Clydesdale of 13 years who had retired from being a team hitch member and was promoted to official greeter. Duke was a towering example of the best of the Budweiser Clydesdales. Every inch of this 18-hand horse was groomed, every hair on this animal was clean and brushed. All I could think of when I first layed eyes on him whas how much my mother would have loved this place!

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Like the celebrity he was, Duke knew he looked good too! His eyes sparkled as he pranced around and I swear every time someone pointed a camera at him he held his head up high and turned his head to his good side! He was a good sport too, because he was patient and kind and let everyone from the oldest and frailest guest in a wheelchair down to the 10 month old little girl pet him and love on him. He even posed for a selfie with my daughter and I swear I saw him look longingly at the cold glasses of Budweiser the guests had in their hands, I am sure he was wondering where his beer was too!

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I am even more in love with these gorgeous animals now that I had a little chance to spend time with them. Three more months until the New Year and the next round of Budweiser Clydesdale commercials and I can hardly wait.

So glad this was on my bucket list and we made time for an afternoon of warm September sunshine and a little Budweiser!

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So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”
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I Left it All on China Wall

China Wall

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Being a Jeep lover and an adrenaline junkie it should come as no surprise my eyes lit up when I heard our Jeep dealership sponsored Jeep Trail Rides periodically throughout the year. They would pick the trail, send the invite and lead the rally to the 4 wheeling adventure of the day. The best part was they would then carefully lead you through the steps of breaking in your Jeep on a real deal jaw breaking 4-wheel drive trail Colorado Style. White knuckling was considered just part of the initiation process for me.

China Wall is one of those trails that if you are a newbie can seem fairly intimidating and depending on the amount of snow received in the previous winter or the power of the spring run offs, the rocky, rutted and steeply angled trail can leave the more faint at heart trembling. The day we tackled it was rougher than normal according to a few Jeep veterans, but by then we were committed because the trail is so narrow once you start you can’t really go back until you have done the scary stuff.

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There must have been 30 Jeeps that day all creeping along the trail like an army of ants dutifully following a leader. One by one we took a deep breath and putting the game for anything Wrangler in 4 wheel drive Low I excitedly pushed the gas pedal and took my turn. This was it, now I was committed, like it or not, now I had to push on no matter what came next.

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Anticipation can be a good thing and a bad thing. That day it was a bit of both for me! This was what I’d always wanted to do, and this was a perfect way to test the waters so to speak, but like anything else that you have never done before, I had a case of the nervous jitters anyway. I had recruited my youngest daughter as my adventure co-pilot that day, she was torn between admitting she was excited, maintaining her teenager life- is-so-boring stance, and a tad of fear that she was with her mother instead of her father for this particular adventure. When I took one last look at her before we started the steep assent up China Wall I thought I could see fear in her eyes, I grinned and faked a round of rousing confidence and said, “Here goes nothing!”

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I don’t think I convinced her I had things under control exactly. Nevertheless, onward we drove. Up, up, and up.

On the right the trail dropped very suddenly into a deep gully. The trail was only one vehicle wide, very rocky and with a Jeep Wrangler suspension we bounced up and down, right and left and everything in-between. Rowdy, the Golden Retriever hung out in the back and seemed to be enjoying the rib, rattling ride up more than anyone else, but then again, he’s a Golden Retriever and is game for anything!

The steeper it went the rougher it got. With no idea what to expect next and knowing I was totally committed to following through, if only because there was no earthly way to turn around and go back at this point, I was like a fighter pilot on full alert, half scared to death, and half excited like a kid waiting for Santa!

At the top of the first stretch things calmed down a bit, the trail wound around the Aspens and Ponderosa Pines, but at least here you could see more than the spare tire of the Jeep in front of you so you could get some perspective.

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I relaxed and took it all in including a deep breath of fresh mountain air. Feeling instantly more confident, it was about at this point in the adventure I started feeling pretty proud of myself for jumping into something I’d always wanted to do, but had never gotten around to actually doing! Even more pleased with myself because I was doing this one on my own with out having the comfort of my very capable husband by my side. Under normal circumstances, he’d be here and he’d be driving, which would allow me to just sit back and enjoy the ride and not worry about all those pesky details like not leaving the bottom of the Wrangler on the trail or God forbid roll the thing and crush the life out of my child and myself! But reality was wicked and he was out of state working a new job and if I was going to do this I was going to have to pull out those dusty big girl panties and just do it myself. With confidence oozing out of every pore by now, I felt good! “Life was good! Would you just look at me and what I am doing,” I thought.

About then things took a dramatic turn for real. Suddenly, the cute little caravan of Jeep Wranglers came to a quick stop. There were big boulders on all sides of us and the trail had been snaking up and around for quite awhile. I waited. Soon curiosity got the better of me and I jumped out and snapped a few cool pictures to prove I really did this badass trail. As the curiosity started to take over I wandered up the trail, passing a half dozen or more Jeeps all waiting patiently for whatever came next.

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Then I saw it. Right there in front of me the trail took a sharp ninety-degree turn to the right and then just dropped. Before my wondering eyes I could see a dozen of the Jeep dealership staff all standing around on various sides of the trail helping guide and direct the poor sap whose turn it was, as he tried to navigate the simultaneous turn and drop of the trail. To complicate matters, there had been a lot of run off that spring and the trail was deeply washed away and rutted, leaving huge rocks exposed right in the middle of the road.

Each driver had to carefully position their vehicle at the start in just the right spot so that when they inched forward the vehicle could both clear the nasty rock below them and still be in a spot so that when the Jeep rocked forward it did not fall into the next series of rocks. The men on the side would squat down and watch the Jeep as it inched it forward bit by bit until it finally cleared one hurdle and pushed on to make it past the next one.

“Holy crap!” I apologize for the language but that is honestly all I could think at this point. Suddenly, my big idea to go 4-wheeling in the mountains seemed about the stupidest thing I had ever come up with. Desperately I looked around for a way out.

There was none. Jeeps were lined up before mine as far as I could see and as far behind as I could see. I scanned the crowd for a sympathetic face. Maybe someone would do this for me? Mostly I saw my own fear reflected back at me in the other drivers, but a couple of the more seasoned drivers just grinned an ornery grin back at me and one even laughed and told me everything would be just fine, ya right!

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I watched in horror as the six Jeeps before me all inched their way past the obstacle. Some did better than others, many of them sounded like they were leaving thousands of dollars of variously important Jeep parts behind as they scraped along the rock. I swear one even looked like it was going to roll over because the driver got too far to the right side.

The moment came, I had no choice to but to assume my position in the drivers seat and pull forward. My daughter was speechless as reality set in for her, hell even the dog layed down, as if he couldn’t bear to see what was coming next.

When my beautiful black Wrangler with only 25,000 miles on it took the lead spot I was pretty sure there would be nothing left of it by the time this day ended. Motherhood responsibilities took over and I kicked my daughter out and made her stand on the sidelines, presumably to take the pictures, but honestly, I viewed it as my last show of love for a child who would soon be motherless! At least I would save my baby!

I stuck my head out the window and did a hasty confession to the Jeep staffer charged with motivating me to push the accelerator and launch my own death fall.

“Um, hi, I um, have no idea what the HELL I am doing! Are you sure I have to go this way? “ I uttered as fast as I could.

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“You will be just fine. Just follow my signals and only watch me,” he answered. I looked around. I could suddenly see a potential problem. A dozen men stood all around me ready to offer helpful advice. “Just watch him,” I repeated to my self.

Deep breath, ok, I tentatively pushed the gas. Nothing happened because the tires were up against rocks and I had not given the vehicle enough juice to go up and get on the first rock. I tried again, still very fearful to give it too much gas and launch myself like a rocket to a surefire death.

It took about a half dozen tries with my eyes locked into whomever he was standing beside me waving me on. Finally, the Jeep lurched up and forward and I instantly hit the breaks.

“Turn the wheels all the way this way,” he said. I complied.

“Now go forward until I say stop” he said. I complied.

Then my stomach hit the floor, I think Rowdy passed out, and I threw up a little in my mouth, because all of a sudden the Jeep rocked forward and to the right. My right wheel had dropped into the vast hole between the big boulders. As this happened, my back rear tire went airborne. I was certain this was it. My husband was going to kill me once he found out what I was doing. Then it dawned on me it wouldn’t matter because I was already going to be dead!

“It’s ok,” mister whoever he was said from behind me.

I am sure the look on my face was priceless about now because I could not figure out how in the HELL things were ok right now! Eyes as wide as saucers I stared at him, ready to bolt like a scared deer, if I could only figure out what way to go.

“You just need to give it gas now. You might here a scraping sound, but I will tell you if you need to stop. OK?” Mystery man directed me.

With no other option in sight I complied, but to say I might hear a scraping sound is putting it mildly. I heard only ear shattering, this must be expensive as hell scrapping sounds for what seemed like hours as my Jeep crept forward.

Finally after what seemed a lifetime I heard what’s his name say enthusiastically “You did it!”

“I did? Really? Are you sure? Did I mess anything up on my Jeep?” I asked.

“No you are good, I swear!” He grinned back at me!

Wave after wave of relief washed over me! I searched the crowd for my daughter and found her riveted to the sidelines. I am pretty sure she will never admit it but I hope secretly she was even just a tiny bit impressed at what she witnessed me do that day because I was scared to death and I did it anyway!

Another bucket list adventure for the books for me, but the lesson learned is that no great thing ever came from my comfort zone. I was the only female that day driving and I realized just how scary life could be when you can’t see what’s ahead in life, but maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be. When I think back on this day, if I had known what I had to do to get past that part of the trail, I know darn well I would have chickened out. Because the trail and life don’t work that way though, once I made the commitment and get on the trail in the drivers seat, I had to keep going even through the unknown parts where I had butterflies in my stomach and even when I could finally see the biggest fear I had to face. Just commit and do it.

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So my friend, what’s next on your list?

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One Long Wheeeeeee

One long Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeee: A Bucketlistblogger Adventure

Bucketlistblogger.com Adventure

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This is just an observation, a personal opinion by this author, but I want to pose a simple question to you today.

Don’t you think life is too full up uphill battles and not enough downhill coasts?

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What am I talking about? Think about this for just a second. How many things in life are you “working on” during your lifetime? Maybe this sounds a bit familiar, “I’m working on getting through high school. I’m working on getting into a good college. I’m working on my undergraduate degree. I’m working on getting a good job. I’m working for a big promotion. I’m working on saving money to buy a used car. I’m working on paying off my car. I’m working on getting my credit rating up. I’m working on buying a new car. I’m working on paying off my student loans. I’m working on my retirement savings. I’m working to buy a business. I’m working on saving for my kid’s college education. I’m working on saving for a vacation. I’m working on investing in my future. I’m working on getting into shape. I’m working on losing weight. I’m working on fixing up my house. I’m working on my marriage. I’m working on raising my children. I’m working on” ….

See what I mean? The list of things we spend our time and energy “working on” during our lifetime can be a bit daunting.

When was the last time you heard someone say I’m coasting today?

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Coasting, what do you mean coasting? Are you talking about the word we used to use as kids when we’d ride our bike, “ Wheeeeeeeeeee” Do you mean when we’d hop on our skateboard, push off a few times, and then firmly plant our other foot on the board and just ride, the wind whipping through our hair? Could it possibly mean when we would get the hose out in the summer, wet down an old tarp, run as fast as we could until we hit the wet, slippery surface, and then we’d just slide?

I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of one single adult that I have heard utter any of these words –ever. They are all so darn busy “working on” things that they have forgotten how to coast and enjoy the ride every now and then.

Now that I have you thinking a bit, which was more fun? Of course, all of our childhood work and coast experiences were more fun. Heck, we were just kids playing. The work never really felt like work, but we sure do remember how good the coasting part felt.

As kids we had it all figured out. Sometimes, adults need to take a lesson from the little ones.

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Dylan Scott, owner of Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours in Colorado Springs has actually figured out a way to help you remember what it was like to be a kid. His company of expert guides will take care of all the adult issues like having the right equipment, getting a bike that fits you, remembering to bring heavy layers of clothing and wraps for your pant legs so they don’t get caught in the bike chain, they remember the healthy breakfast and full water cooler so everyone can stay hydrated. They have the helmets and make sure they fit properly. They get the park pass, remember to fill up the van with gas, they know the way and they drive you to the top of Pikes Peak.

All you have to do is sit back and let them handle all the details while you enjoy the view up one of America’s most beautiful and majestic mountains. But what happens next is magical. At the summit the guides with Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours get everyone organized, explain all the safety rules etc. and before you know it the tour starts.

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You settle into the unfamiliar seat of a bicycle, stretch out over the handle bars and push off on the pedals a couple times thinking, like a typical adult that you have to do all the work. Like magic the bike takes off, no pedaling required, you are just riding at a nice brisk pace and you realize you don’t have anything to do except enjoy the surroundings and. …coast. What???

It took me, a seasoned mom and worrier, all of about 60 seconds of this exercise to be totally overcome by a rush of pleasant childhood memories. Oh my gosh, this was fun! This was exhilarating and the view-oh my gosh, the view was spectacular!

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My only concern was not getting too over-confident and going too fast to handle the corners safely, but my responsible guide up front took care of that, and set a safe and reasonable pace, and all I had to do was just follow along in line, gently squeezing my brakes every once in awhile and then coast.

What a mind blowing, simple and wonderful concept. Why had it been so very long since I did something like this?

We rolled gently down the mountain, a light and cool breeze rolling past, the highway winding its way down like a slow and friendly serpent laid out before us.

At first I was noticeably uncomfortable with the foreign notion of coasting and relaxing. My natural instinct was to find things to worry about. Were we going too fast, was there a car behind us trying to pass. How sharp was the turn up ahead, should we slow down. What if there was gravel on the road somewhere, would that be dangerous. Were we getting too close to the edge, etc. but rather quickly these irrational thoughts disappeared and I realized my guides had it all under control. We were going exactly the right pace; we had a guide in front of us showing us the way and a van with a guide behind us protecting us from traffic and other hazards.

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I really could just relax and enjoy the ride. As this fascinating transformation took place and I looked over at my hardworking 21 year old college son, I saw the pure joy in his eyes as he rolled up next to me and said, “wow mom this is really cool and lots of fun.” I could see that as hard as he has been working to become a responsible adult he could still relish the pure joy of just being a kid again for a few hours. He had vivid memories of the joy of coasting. At that moment all I wanted to do was throw my hands in the air and yell “Wheeeeeeeeeeeeee” all the way down the mountain.

Hard work and responsible decisions are the mainstay of adulthood, but don’t forget that it’s perfectly healthy to sit back and coast every now and then, and just enjoy the ride and the view.

To book your Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tour visit www.bikepikespeak .com, ask for Dylan and tell him your friend Jackie The Bucketlistblogger sent you! I promise you, he’ll know who you are talking about!

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So my friend , I ask you “what’s next on your bucket list?”

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Paint Mines and Dirt Clods

Paint Mines and Dirt Clods

Sam summer 2013

My son is not coming home this summer for the first time in his life. He is staying at college so he can attend summer classes and get a step or two closer to his college degree. I blinked and somehow he is already a senior in college with career dreams and big ideas of changing the world. He’s done just what I hoped and prayed he’d do. He’s studied hard, worked hard, and done well. He did well in high school and he’s done well in college. It makes me happy and sad all at once.

I knew this day was coming but it just seemed to arrive so much faster than I really thought it would. He had just a few free days this summer and came home to spend some time with us and hang out with his sisters, especially his baby sister who is growing up on him while he is away starting his new life.

As mom, I’ve worked hard to prepare him, so has his dad. We tried to give him a good foundation, tons of love, a healthy dose of discipline when needed and as much character, principles and values as we could in the 19 years we had him around.

We just wrapped up a nice couple of days, managed to pull off a couple of mother son bucket list adventures, several middle school end of year ceremonies and a couple of his favorite family meals and then just as fast as it began, it’s over. Time for him to load up his truck and head back out into the world.

As an emotional female type this is the hard part for me. I’m proud of him, he’s no longer a boy, he is now a man and he will well on his way to making his own life and dreams come true. He’s made a couple mis-steps along the way but he’s gained much maturity and is well past the worry stage for a parent. I can see he is taking care of himself, managing his life and that he is happy. In the end that was my goal from the very beginning.

While he was around in my world for a few days we managed to sneak away from life and took the top off the Jeep on a sunny May day and headed out for a mini-adventure to the Painted Mines for a hike. We let the wind blow our hair around, listened to his kind of music, and enjoyed a hike in a pasture that reminded us both of where my mom grew up in the sand hills of Nebraska.

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We climbed up a few of the sandstone formations and sat together looking out at the rolling hills of east Colorado prairie, we even tossed a few dirt clods just because we could. As we sat in silence that afternoon just enjoying the day I knew it was time to let him go a little bit more. It seems that every year my job of letting go a little bit more gets more and more difficult and I could see it was time again.

Love you my son.

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Fight Like a Girl

Girls are known for their cute smiles, their tender hearts and their bubbly personalities. Boys are known for their rough and tumble energy, rocks in their pockets, and roll around in the mud kind of spirit.

The old saying “you fight like a girl” is less than a compliment in most situations, but I can proudly say that I wish I could fight like a girl, specifically, my daughter and her friend Sarah, because they are beyond amazing. They are champions in their field of sport, Taekwondo, and they are at the Red Executive Belt level at the age of 11 years old. In case you don’t know about the sport of Taekwondo a Red Executive Belt means you are working on your Black Executive Belt and are within six months of competing for your Black Belt. Let that one sink in for just a minute. How many 11-year-old little girls do you know that are almost Black Belts? Hmmm. Not many.

Saturday I watched Maggie and Sarah do some serious competing at their school’s annual Poomse Competition. These girls were impressive. They were strong, they were tough and they were focused on their goals. Sarah impressively won first place for her age group in sparring. Sparring is not for wimps. These kids get geared up in protective pads, they respect their competitors but they want to win. They get into the sparring ring and start throwing punches and launching focused kicks. Competitors earn points based on where they land the punches. It sounds a but nasty but actually it is a disciplined and focused sport and it teaches these kids a ton about setting a challenging goal and then working long and hard hours to accomplish their goals. Maggie won first place in her forms with a near perfect performance. It was fun to watch these two young ladies s they competed with spirit but with respect and compassion for their opponents.

My bucketlist is about getting out of my comfort zone and growing as a person. My bucketlist is also about helping and encouraging my children making their goals and dreams come true. I am honored to be watching my youngest daughter as she challenges herself in a way that leaves me speechless. Almost.

When Maggie discovered Taekwondo almost 4 years ago she discovered a natural talent and she started growing up. At the tender age of 7 ½ years old she found something that she wanted to work for and she found discipline and the courage to go for it. She set a goal to earn her Black Belt before she became a teenager. My husband and I were impressed and we decided to support her in any way we could. For years now we have been making sure she got to class, practiced her forms, washed her uniform and managed to keep the tuition paid so she could follow her dream. We viewed it as an investment in her future and an investment in her character.

Master Han Lee teaches goal setting, hard work, focus and discipline. He expects a ton from his students. In fact, what impresses me the most about Master Han Lee is that he treats even his youngest students like people not young children. He tells them that he expects them to be on time, be prepared, be focused and be respectful. It is impressive when he gets a room of four and five year olds to stand still and “focus their mind and focus their body” and they do it. I guess the big lesson for all the adults in the room watching is that if you don’t set the expectation of excellence for your children they certainly will not surprise you. When you respect them as people, not just little kids you talk down to, it is impressive what they can and will do in return.

For the past four years I have been watching my daughter grow before my eyes. Saturday I watched her compete like a talented young athlete. I watched her and I was impressed. From now on, I think everyone should want to “fight like a girl” because Sarah and Maggie are girls and they are impressive.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Where Do The Years Go?

Where do the years go? It wasn’t that long ago I held her in my arms for the first time and stared down in wonder at the 6 pound bundle of pink in my arms and felt my heart swell with a deep love I had never known before.

I remember staring at her while she slept wondering why I was blessed with this little miracle.

Motherhood changed me in so many ways. Suddenly, what I wanted didn’t matter, what she needed did. I had dreams for her and I had fears too.

All I wanted to do was keep her safe and let her feel unconditional love.

I wanted her to be well educated, well read and cultured, but I also wanted her to know where she came from and who she was on a spiritual level.

I wanted her to know God and to always have His Love in her heart. I prayed she’d always feel accepted, just as she was, and that she would somehow know I would always be there for her, just as a mom should be.

I wanted her to take risks and not to fear the world, but I wanted to keep her safe at the same time.

I dreamt I could get this tiny fragile baby to a state of adulthood where she would feel my love everyday and where she would know I would always be her anchor.

I wanted her to challenge herself and dig deep when life got tough, and yet I wanted to spare her some of the pain of a constantly changing world.

I prayed she would someday earn her college degree, for I knew, if she could focus and stay committed to her education, she would have many career opportunities.

I also knew earning a college degree would be a long hard journey. The work is challenging and sometimes feels overwhelming and impossible. I prayed she would somehow overcome these challenges and persevere enough to get the job done. I knew once she earned her college degree she would always have it, no one could ever take it away from her. She would know that she, and she alone, earned this degree and made this happen.

I knew in the end she would feel proud of herself, she would walk away from her school an empowered, stronger young woman ready to start her career and deal with life’s many challenges.

Where do the years go? I don’t really know, but I do know she did it. My baby girl graduated from college! She really did it!

What I didn’t expect was to be hit with a wave of melancholy during the graduation ceremony. I thought I’d be so happy and excited. Yes, she was finally graduating, soon she will be moving on and starting her career. It hit me then, I wasn’t really happy tonight watching her walk for her degree. I was sad, because I knew my job was mostly done. She was now a grown woman. She would soon be moving away to start her own life. A life that I would be a part of- but of her history not so much her future.

This must be what a mother Robin feels like as her babies start to flap their wings and attempt their first take-off. The mother wants the baby to learn, it is important, it is a skill that will help the baby all their life, but…. As soon as the baby does, in fact, flap their wings, they will take off and fly. They will soar. They will soar away.

Daughters will go out into the world and do great things. They will start careers and be successful; they will learn to handle what is thrown at them in life. Someday they might marry and have children of their own and when this happens they too will do everything they can to help their children achieve their goals and make their dreams happen. So their children can fly away. I guess this is what a mother does.

It was on my bucket list to help my child celebrate her college graduation. I knew I had my part to do and I also understood that for this to work for me, she would have to have made it her dream also.

I could help in many ways, ranging from encouragement, to care packages timely sent, some financial help along the way, and even a few simple postcards just so she knew I was thinking about her. But she did all the work. She followed the plan and got the job done in 4 years-a real challenges these days. While she did all this work she make something on my bucket list come true. I watched my baby girl shake the hand of the Dean and walk away a college graduate!


So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Confession Time

Confession Time

My name is Jackie, and I am addicted to chocolate. Really. Actually to be more specific, chocolate chips. I wouldn’t confess this to my blogging friends if it were not true. I am just not that kind of gal.

Honestly, I could survive on a deserted island forever with just a few things…. chocolate chips, coffee, diet coke, and a swimsuit. That’s really all it would take for me to get by and actually be in my version of heaven.

It is hard for me to come clean about these things. I would rather pretend I am eating tofu, high fiber bran and other such healthy things but usually I am not.

History of it all…

It all began a long time ago…. in a nice little house….. with a nice little family……. You see it actually began quite innocently enough. As a kid I was really sick a lot of the time. I won’t go into all the boring details but let’s just say I had a childhood disease which I have thankfully fully outgrown but while I was between the ages of 2 -15 an awful lot of the time I was sick with a kidney infection. When this would happen my mom would have to give me a fairly strong dosage of Prednisone. I don’t know if this is still true or not but back in my day the Pharmaceutical Industry had not come up with a good tasting syrupy version of Prednisone for kids. I had to swallow or chew up to 21 of theses little gems for several weeks while the doctor tapered me off them.

What was this like? Horrible, miserable, it was like chewing on a railroad tie. Can you imagine how hard it was for my mom to get me to do this starting at the age of 2! Good gracious, I really can’t imagine and I have vivid memories of me trying to get a dropper full of baby flavored Tylenol into my own toddler’s mouth and that is really no comparison. If I say I HATED taking my medicine that would be the gross understatement of 2011!

Bless my Mom

But thankfully I was blessed with an amazing mother, resourceful and kindhearted. As she tells the story, she could not figure out why I would make such a terrible fuss about taking my medicine until she finally took a little taste herself. After that it did not take her long to develop an ingenious system. A system that if I were in her shoes I would do to my own kids in a HEARTBEAT!

Every morning she would line up my pills and we would count out one chocolate chip for each little pill. The deal was beautiful in its simplicity; it was so clear that even at three years old I could get it. If I took a pill, chewed it up and actually swallowed it without a huge fuss I could have one chocolate chip to wash it down with. Problem solved.

The Unfortunate Result

Flash forward to the grown up version of Jackie, the one who no longer has to take nasty tasting medicine that she can’t swallow. The version who whenever she has a stressful moment desperately wants to reach for just a few reassuring friendly little chocolate chips to help make it all better. You just found me.

It all makes perfect sense once you really think about it. Honestly it took me many years to figure out why I always felt safe when there was a package of chocolate chips in my pantry.

If you think I am making all this up you can call my sister. She’ll tell you the truth. A few years back when I was going through some rough stress she even sent me a care package and in it was a package of Nestle Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips!

The Answer?

Now that my eyes are wide open and I am on this kick of trying to accomplish my life or bucket list I think it is time to put on my big girl panties and go for a hard challenge. I am going to try to kick a bad habit this year. My bad habit is chocolate chips. Oh dear Lord I am scared.

How am I going to do this you ask? I have a plan. I found a workshop here in town through the Colorado Free University called “Don’t Weight Any Longer! Hypnotherapy for Weight Loss” the class starts next Wednesday and I was afraid I would chicken out and not go as the date drew near so I had to write this little story and post it for everyone to see so you can hold me accountable.

The class is actually taught by the Official Olympic Team Hypnotherapist and supposedly he has been doing this to Olympic caliber athletes for over 30 years. I am going to see him for my little chocolate problem. If I lose 10 pounds that will just be the icing on the cake. My plan is to have him hypnotize me and make me not ever want to eat chocolate chips again! I hope he is up to the challenge!

Stay Tuned…

Wish me luck my friends.  So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Letter from Another Mother

My bucket list includes writing a letter to everyone I love.  This one is about a special young man.

I have a son and a son from “another mother” like the kids say these days.  In other words, I am blessed to have two sons.

My son Sam bears a strong family resemblance to my husband and his late father.  Sam looks like his dad but has lighter brown hair and is not quite as tall.  He resembles his late grandfather from his profile and stature.  He acts a LOT like his dad, in fact, the older he gets the more he takes on his dad’s mannerisms.

My “other” son, does not really bear a family resemblance, especially in the height department.  At barely 5 feet tall it would seem almost impossible for me to have given birth to this son- he is currently 6’5 and still growing like a weed.  I did not give birth to Connor, I actually only met him when he was in 4th grade and I was still quite a bit taller than he was, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling like he is my son.  I love him and worry about him as if he were my own.

The boys met in 4th grade and I have never seen two boys as much alike, they were both smart but ornery, they were both athletic but still struggled to control their young boy bodies.  In fact, Connor tells the story like this: “I walked into the classroom the new kid and looked around for my newest best friend.  There was this squirty boy in the back row that kept falling out of his chair and I thought to myself there he is, my new best friend!”  I am pretty sure that is about how it went too.

Connor lived just a short distance from our house and the boys were soon inseparable.  Their lives revolved around video games, snakes, bikes, Pokemon cards, dirt piles, food and each other.  It stayed this way for years.

In 7th grade Connor’s family moved away and my young sons were heart broken but resilient.  Even though they were now several states away the boys stayed close and spent time together over the summers.

About a year after Connor moved away our family purchased a boat and invited Connor to join us for a week or two at the lake for his visit.  Thankfully his parents were supportive and worked together to make it happen.  It amazed me to see how these two boys could be apart for the entire year but the minute they got together it was as if they had never been separated.  As the years passed their friendship became a bond so tight you’d have thought they were brothers.

It is now an official family ritual that young Connor arrives in the summer and stays as long as he possibly can.  The minute he walks through the kitchen door I feel as if my son has come home.  I am always greeted with a huge hug and an even bigger grin.  As we all catch up over the kitchen island I am treated to a speed version of his life, we cover topics ranging from grades,  grandparents, girlfriends, broken hearts, college visits, and family vacations.

This past summer young Connor came and stayed for 6 weeks.  This was by far the longest visit and I set a few house rules down just in case.  As a mom to two 18 year old boys you can imagine all the trouble they could get into……

The rules were simple.  When you are at my house you are my son and will be treated accordingly.  You will be asked to help clean up, do dishes, take out trash, scoop dog poop, mow yards, babysit the younger sister, walk the dog etc, etc.  Because the visit was for most of the summer the deal also included formal work time.  Both boys would spend their days working at various houses doing everything from weed pulling, painting, planting, tree trimming, deck staining etc.  Work days would start at 7 and go until 5, after that they could hang out with friends, play guitars etc.  When the family played, they got to play and we play hard around these parts.  The first weekend he was here we headed to the mountains for some camping and dirt biking.

It had rained recently and the trails were covered with mud, within minutes both boys were filthy and I have never seen them happier

The second week he was here we headed to the lake for the first of 2 weeks at the lake.  We skied from 10 -5 daily for 11 days straight and they loved it.

While I had son Connor with me this summer I tried to cram as much “mothering” in as I could.  We discussed his grades, expectations for his first semester at college, and his grandparents health.  No topic was off limits.  I figure the only way to teach them is to dive right in and deal with what they are dealing with.

The only rule I had was if they boys did not work hard they did not get to play hard.  If any bad decisions were made by either boy the visit was over and Connor would be placed on the next plane home.  Thankfully they believed me and were just happy to work and play together.  They had an awesome summer and did not cause one bit of trouble.

I cried when I finally had to put Connor on a plane and send him home to his mom.  I did stay in touch this fall with the aid of Facebook and instant messaging.  I even reminded him to get his immunizations finished up over his break.

I know that I actually only gave birth to one boy but it doesn’t matter to my heart.  Connor is part of this family and always will be.  Sometimes I think he wishes I wasn’t so motherly and he is the one who coined the phrase often used in my house that mom was the “funsucker” followed by a loud slurping sound, but none of that matters.  He is in my heart and will always be there.

I am so blessed…

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Memories Revisited

As a kid my family first went snow skiing in Colorado when I was about 13 years old. We’d usually venture out in mid April for some late season skiing or use our Christmas break for some Colorado fun. Always an adventure, our trips to the Rockies in winter seemed magical to me and the fun and excitement of learning how to control my skis and make my way down the mountain on first green slopes and later blue always brings a happy smile to my face. If we were lucky my parents would manage one long weekend a year for our Colorado Winter vacation. If my foggy memory is correct I think the last time I hit the slopes was about 24 years ago.

Now 24 years of non-skiing is a long time, and certainly most women “of my age,” see how I delicately put that, would be content to occasionally take a trip down memory lane and remember the crisp mountain air of a long distant ski trip. Most intelligent women would be content to let their children serve as the next generation of once annual skiers. I consider myself fairly intelligent but apparently not as much as I would like to think. I just had to know the answer to the question: Could I still ski? In a very daring move I put go snow skiing on my bucket list so I could see if I still had it in me.

When I shared this with Dan he promptly stated he would not be joining me on this quest. He was content to let memories remain memories. Ever practical he also did not want to blow out a knee after months of training for his next Ironman. Not to be deterred I simply went about recruiting other quest-mates.

Ever ready for another adventure cousin Sara signed up, her husband Dave basically got drug along. Sam is always game for an excuse to put his snowboarding skills to the test so he was in also. My excuse was Maggie, as a 5th Grader in Colorado you qualify for a Passport to ski for free. What a deal! I signed her up and started plotting possible dates.

We headed to Winter Park this past week and I gamely gave it a go. Guess what? Technically I can still ski! Ya! It was a bit like riding a bike and once I got the skis on I pretty much remembered what to do and not do. Well, pretty much.

I got Maggie set up in all day ski school but I rolled the dice like a true middle-aged rebel and just put on the skis and headed for the nearest lift. I figured “no time like the present” to see if I could still do it. Why mess with a lesson when you could just slide up to the lift and sit down. I remembered enough to know that was the easy part-the hard part was getting off the lift without a wipeout and thus the massive embarrassment of stopping the entire lift while some teenage ski pro lifted your floppy butt up and tried to get you on your feet before the chair hit you in the head.

Sara must have drawn the short straw when I was not looking because she was the one stuck with me for the big gamble. Sam and Dave had managed to disappear into the masses, I am sure praying like mad to get far enough away before the embarrassment began so no one would think we were all together!

Ever the good sport, Sara helped me successfully maneuver the lift line and suddenly I was wrapped in the quiet of the crisp mountain air as we rode to the midway point up the mountain. The smell of the trees, the crisp air biting at my nose and the quiet sway of the gondola instantly opened the door to my memories. Oh my gosh, this was so cool! Suddenly I was 22 years old again racing to the bottom of the mountain so I could ride up and do it again. My memories were crisp and clear, just like the gorgeous December day I was enjoying.

Panic soon pushed these warm fuzzy memories right out the door as I realized the current gondola ride was about to come to an end and I was going to have to make a graceful, skilled and athletic exit off the ramp. “Dear God, please let me do this with just a little bit of dignity,” I begged. One, two, three “keep your tips up” read the sign. “Oh Lord, pleeeeeeasssseeeee…..”

I did it! I managed a rather dignified exit and smoothly entered the first green run of the day. I think Sara was a little bit surprised and maybe a tiny bit impressed.

Carefully I made my way down the mountain in nice easy S curves. As long as I did not get too cocky and get going too fast I actually felt reasonably competent. I must have looked almost like a skier because at one point I heard my name yelled out from above. Apparently, Sam and Dave were on the gondola above me as I deftly skied down the run! I waved a ski pole their direction. I had it going on! Sam was going to be so proud of me!

Flash-forward another hour, all of us were skiing down the mountain together after meeting at the top for a sack lunch. Sara and Sam were a couple hundred yards ahead of me. Dave was gamely skiing and filming me on the video camera but ended up way ahead of me also. Not nearly as cool as I was thinking I was, my ski tip suddenly caught on my ski pole and I went down. Not hard, not in any spectacular wipeout, just down.

“Ok, no big deal” I calmly told myself. “It was bound to happen. Just use your poles and climb up just like you used to” I coached myself.

I did. I used my poles like I thought I was supposed to. It did not work. I got my rear up off the ground but only at knee level and then my skies started sliding downhill. Now I sort of resembled a squatting midget racing down the hill. I tried to pull myself up. My legs quivered and shook but no deal. I tried and tried and tried. Then I sat down. I scanned the trail before me and way in the distance saw Sara, Sam and Dave waiting for me. Oh Lord, this was embarrassing.

I must have tried a dozen times. People kept skiing past me. Little kids roared by me like little bat out of hells. I was stuck. Now what was I going to do?

Just when the tears of embarrassment were starting to well up I looked up and saw Sam carrying his snowboard and running UP THE MOUNTAIN. Thoughts of “what a great son he is” mixed with “OH my gosh this is embarrassing, I can’t believe he is having to come rescue me –again.” Raced through my foggy brain.

In the end, Sam helped me up and I gathered my much-wounded pride and started back down the mountain. Sara, Dave and Sam all agreed that I could no longer go last in case I couldn’t get up again. “Great-now I am the booby prize,” I thought!

Another couple hours later I tried once again to regain my pride. When we were at the top of the mountain I asked Dave to take a posed picture of me. I remembered the last time I had gone skiing a professional photographer took a cool picture of me with one ski in the air. I wanted to recreate the pose today! Dave agreed and I stopped in front of him and quickly raised my right leg and ski- and promptly fell in a tangled heap at his feet. This was not the desired pose at all.

Dave snapped the picture and I had to officially give up the notion that I was 22 years old again. Yes, I could still ski but boy I sure did not look the same as I did so many years ago. I am glad I went I am pleased I can still do it and I am humbled to realize I am not the same girl I was back then. As I thought about it I realized I was just fine with that. Today I was here with my son and my baby girl. I could not have even imagined that 24 years ago.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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Letter to An Angel

Angel Time

When you were born I called you my little angel. Your Dad called you his little angel too.

We had no idea what we were having, so when the doctor held you up and grinned as he said, “Meet your little girl” your dad and I instantly fell in love with you. We fell in love with a small, sticky, little bundle that we didn’t even know yet; all we knew was that you were the rest of us, the family we’d always dreamed we’d someday become.

The moment I found out I was pregnant with you I immediately felt like a real grown up. I felt different, somehow more important, and special in a strange way. Suddenly, I wasn’t just me, I was us. From the moment I knew I was pregnant I knew that everything I was, everything I did, and everything I ate or drank was going to become part of you. It was exciting, scary and terrifying all at the same time. Some days it felt very real, like my body was no longer my own, other days it felt like a dream.

Your strong sense of independence was apparent from the moment I became pregnant. Really, I am not making this up. Before I even knew I was pregnant you made your tiny presence known. Actually, it is funny now, 21 years later, but at the time I was mad. Really, really mad-at your dad.

Ok, here is how it went. We’d been married a year, had just bought our first house, a 900 square foot brick 1940’s bungalow for the staggering price of $42,000. We couldn’t imagine ever being able to pay it off, but it was home. About this time I came to your dad and suggested we start “tying” to have a baby. Scared at first, he seemed hesitant. Yes, we were married, yes, we were both college graduates, yes we both had jobs, and yes we owned a house but…. We were all of 23 years old, for all intents and purposes we were broke and we were clueless as to what being parents involved. We were in love and I guess we thought that was all we needed. He finally agreed.

Anyway, flash forward and wham bam thank you ma’am  after assuring your dad it would take at least 6 months to get pregnant after being on the pill I defied all odds and apparently got pregnant the month I went off the pill. I should have bought a lottery ticket.

Not knowing I was actually pregnant, I found myself in bed one night, trying to cuddle up to my husband but being plagued with a strange and unexpected case of the burps. Yes, the burps. For the first and only time in my life I could not stop burping, belching, whatever you want to call it, it was not normal, it was not lady like and I could not stop. I tried a drink of water, I tried a Tums, but nothing worked. Finally, very disgusted with me, my young husband rolled over away from me and said the fateful words “why don’t you go fix yourself!”

“What? What did you say?’ I replied, my voice getting higher by the minute.

“Go fix yourself!” he muttered to the wall.

“Well, I never!” I thought to myself.

“How could he say something like that to me?” raced through my mind. Completely irate I threw back the covers and flew out of bed, marching purposely toward the extra bedroom. I tossed a blanket and pillow on the floor and flopped down, my feelings seriously hurt.

“How could he say that to me?” I whined to myself.

Now, it is important to note that although we did technically did have an extra bedroom we could not afford an actual extra bed. I found myself lying on the floor, burping and mad.

“I am sure he will quickly realize how mean he was when he said that and he will come in and apologize to me, “ I logically thought. Guess what? I was wrong. He managed to sleep, warm and comfortable and very sound in our waterbed while I burped and belched the night away on the floor of our extra bedroom. This was our first real “disagreement” of our young marriage.

In an attempt at full disclosure I must add a note about his side of the story.  He claims, whenever I tell this story, that I was not just belching and burping, I was belching and burping in his face. Now that is his side of the story.  I claim complete innocence in that.  But anyway the rest of the story….

The next morning my young husband gave me a hug and asked me if I was feeling better. I went and bought a pregnancy kit at Wal-Mart. Guess what? I was pregnant. Now it all made sense, no wonder I could not stop belching, burping or whatever you want to call it.

When I told Dan he smiled, laughed and gave me a big hug. Hormonal and all, I celebrated too. I forgot all about how mad I was last night.

Even barely pregnant you made me burp, you made me belch, and you made your presence very well known. Soon you had me suffering from morning sickness, which could have been called all day sickness. Later, you and I fought over whom was the boss as you pushed your long legs deep up into my ribs or on my sciatic nerves.

I laugh, because I actually prayed for your long legs. Can you believe that? I know you know that I have very short legs, in fact, I am only 5 feet tall, so when I found out I was pregnant I prayed every day for a healthy baby but I did add that if she was a girl I hoped it would be God’s will that she also had long legs. Guess what? You had very long legs and they did not fit very well in my 5-foot frame so for moths we argued and fussed. You usually won.

The morning you were born I was so amazed at the beautiful baby girl with the long legs that your Dad and I had somehow managed to create.

When you were still tiny it was apparent that I had no clue what I was doing as a mother, but I loved you with all my heart and soul.

I learned much about motherhood and babies during those first 12 months. I learned that a large part of motherhood was on the job training, I learned that you could tell a lot about the personality of a baby very early on if you just can interpret the signs correctly and I learned what it was to love someone else with my whole heart and soul.

I became a mother. One of the greatest gifts of my life.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list?”

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