So, listen. I’m totally not an outdoorsy girl. I really, really, really dislike insects, like all kinds. Camping is just a hard NO for me, the cooking and eating outside and the sleeping on the ground thing (plus all the bugs…yuck). I’ll take my real mattress and my indoor plumbing and my shower any day of the week. I used to hate hiking (I know, for a New Mexican girl that’s kind of shameful), but I feel like I’ve come around on that a bit, as long as there’s some worthwhile goal, like a huge waterfall or a creepy abandoned stone cabin at the summit or a beautiful secret glassy lake surrounded by evergreens. I can do that. When I was a kid (okay, teenager), I’d pretty much do ANYTHING to get out of being outside, like trading yard work with my sister for basically cleaning the entire house or doing the dishes every single night. I swear, the worst abuse my parents ever put me through was asking me to go harvest some tomatoes from their garden. You get the picture; I just did not do outside.
Our last home did not have a great outdoor living space. Not to say it didn’t have the potential, we just never put in the work to make it great. Our daughter had a playset out there, lovingly passed down from some sweet friends, but if I’m being honest, she only played on it if Daddy was home or the grandparents took her out there. There was no shade and nowhere for us to sit. We did some things outside as a family, though. We would go for walks and take her to the park, but I’d get antsy and be ready to go home pretty quickly. And the only reason I liked the zoo was because I usually got some mint chocolate Dippin’ Dots and saw cute fuzzy animals.
But, my husband loves the outside. I’m pretty sure he spent about 90% of his childhood outdoors, doing all the things I mentioned hating in that first paragraph up there. When we were choosing a lot for our new home, he deliberately picked one with a mostly flat backyard (our last yard had a weird kind of slope), we chose a floor plan with a covered patio out back, and we had the builder pour an extra slab of concrete extending from the patio area for seating.
Since we moved in on Halloween, it’s been too cold to spend much time outside, and the backyard was mostly being used as a potty for our dog. But, spring was just around the corner, so we bought a new play set, with the help of the grandparents and aunts and uncles (thanks, guys!). We spent weeks researching online and even visited a playground display lot before we chose one. My hubby is super handy and confident so he decided we would assemble it ourselves rather than pay someone to do it. So these two giant boxes showed up, full of lumber (clearly labeled, thank goodness), about 900,000 pieces of hardware (maybe, I didn’t count), and an instruction manual that detailed about 50 steps to completion. I’ll spare you the details, but it took about two full days and one evening after work until it was done. Now, we can’t get enough of the backyard.
Even I, the cranky hermit lady, have come to appreciate being outside. There is just something to feeling the sun on your face, soaking in that Vitamin D I think we are all profoundly lacking, looking out at our girl running and laughing and climbing, watching the baby splash around in his water table, seeing the two of them create a masterpiece with the sidewalk chalk together.
My new favorite daily routine, though, happens when baby boy takes his afternoon nap. Sister packs up her library bag FULL of books (this takes her a while, she is very deliberate in choosing what she will read for the day), grabs a snack and her water bottle, and we head outside. She climbs up in her tree house (quite the feat with a full book bag), settles in, and reads to herself, quietly flipping through pages and getting excited when she knows most of the words on a page. Our dog Coco joins us, sprawled out by my feet, tongue lagging, fur blowing in the breeze. And me? I sit. In one of those $5 fold out chairs with the cupholders, and this is when I read. Or I write. Or I read about writing, or write about reading. In the warm sunlight, ideas and inspiration come so much easier, the words flow, my imagination awakens.
Eventually I’ll look up; my girl has gone through her entire bag, so she comes down the ladder. She puts her belly on the swing and twists it up, whimsical, airy, reminding me of summer afternoons spent in my own backyard on my own swing set. Of being a second grader on the playground, twisting up the swings and spinning, spinning, spinning, watching the grass and the rolypolys. Of being a kid visiting family in Houston, running barefoot through the thick-bladed St. Augustine grass and mature oak trees, spinning on a tire swing. It occurs to me that my mind wouldn’t be flooded with these memories if we were inside.
Being outside has given me so much lately: a break from the dishes and the laundry and the disastrous playroom, a place to spend time as a family without cell phones or TV or silly plastic toys that just end up on the floor, space for my girl to run and burn her energy and for our baby boy to explore new things, a spot for connection with my husband at the end of a long day. The backyard is quickly becoming my favorite thing about our house, and I’m so grateful.
Currently Reading: Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. In this book, Brown shares her research on having the courage to be our true selves in a world that often discourages authenticity and vulnerability. I started this one before, but put it aside to read Gifts of Imperfection first, which I also loved. Wow, this book is profound, and it’s taking me a while to get through because I feel like everything she says is important and I want to make sure I will remember her words for years to come.
Also finished: The Baker’s Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan. This book was set in France, near Normandy Beach, with most of the action happening during the days leading up to D-Day. The main character was a strong independent woman who was doing her best to survive and to feed her neighbors. I found the story to be one full of kindness and compassion and ultimately, hope.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, This was a re-read for me, and I wasn’t surprised to find that I loved it just as much as my twelve-year-old self did, but this time I could really understand those big themes of love and self-sacrifice and the need for the light to fight through the darkness. I can’t wait to see the movie, even though I’ve heard that you need to go in without any expectations of it being true to the book, I know that L’Engle’s message will shine through.
Currently Baking (or not, really): No Bake Chocolate Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies- recipe here. The only thing I did differently was use old-fashioned oats instead of instant (3 1/4 cup) and then I put them in the fridge to set. THEY ARE DELICIOUS.
Thanks for reading and until next time, peace and love from my household to yours.