Monday, December 21, 2009

Puye Cliff Dwellings

I never get tired of all the cool places to visit, that are only a few miles away from my house. Last weekend we were on our way home from stinkin' Wal-Mart in Espanola, and decided to check out the Puye Cliffs, near Santa Clara. We thought it would be fun to take a short walk, but as it turns out you have to be in a tour. We forgot the backpack, and the tour was an hour, so we decided to do it later.

Their website said, "from the late 1100s to 1580 – Puye Cliffs was home to 1500 Pueblo Indians who lived, farmed and hunted game there. In the late 1500s, Puye Cliffs’ inhabitants moved into the Rio Grande River valley, likely due to drought that caused springs to dry up and crops to fail. Puye Cliffs’ inhabitants are ancestors of the present-day Santa Clara people, who now live at Santa Clara Pueblo, ten miles east of Puye."

The tour guide was telling us about all the Indian dances that we can see on Christmas. He explained that the tribes used Christmas as a cover for the celebrations that they usually have this time of year. On Christmas in San Juan we can see a dance where they wear the costumes that Kachina dolls are based off of, and all the men in the village have to sing and dance, and the people in costumes dance with a whip, and whip wrongdoers.

What made us really want to pack up the gang and go was that, if there are any politicians or cops present, they get whipped. And if there are any men who aren't dancing, they get whipped. I wish that every culture had something like that.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Snowy Day

We had a big snow storm earlier this week and Calvin has been having a blast playing in the snow. Here he is with our neighbor Erica. Erica was jumping off the little brick wall in my front yard into the pile of snow. Calvin got to try it for himself (with some help) and we then buried him in the snow.




Saturday, October 17, 2009

Calvin's new cousin, Amelia



This is a picture from our weekend in Carlsbad. Kyle and Amelia, and Quinn and Calvin.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The moon and balloons

On Saturday we planned to wake up early to watch the balloon fiesta but Quinn was too tired, and so we drove to Santa Fe to buy Calvin a bed. We planned to drive down to the fiesta afterwards, but we were so wishy-washy about it that we bought coffee (to see if we would perk up), decided we were too tired and lazy, drove north to Los Alamos, and actually did a U-turn by the opera house.

When we got to Albuquerque and paid ten dollars to park, the take off was cancelled because it was so windy. But there was a splendid moonrise over Sandia Peak, some guys were carving tree trunks with chainsaws, and there were fireworks (but they freaked Calvin out and we had to watch them from the parked car).

Not a complete success, but at least we got the big boy bed and we got to eat at a tasty Iranian restaurant, Pars.





Sunday, September 27, 2009

Upsie-Down Baby!

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Slide Mountain

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Calvin's Monster ABC's

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Calvin being cute in his Daddy's sunglasses

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Boy, you've gotta carry that weight!

On Saturday we picked a "difficult" trail in the Kit Carson forest, just north of Taos, by the ski area. We loaded Calvin into his new backpack, and also stuffed the zippered area with water bottles, diapers and snacks (the whole shebang was probably close to 50 pounds). I carried the sandwiches.

The slope was steep, and as we wound our way up one switchback after another, Quinn started to huff and puff. "I'm going to have buns of steel after this," he declared.

On and on the trail went. The sandwiches I was carrying were starting to make me feel a little bit hungry. And I wanted to get at one of those water bottles that Quinn had. I suggested we take a break. "Great idea."

Was my athletic husband wheezing? After we ate, I said, "Here, I'll carry the backpack," and unzipped the backpack that was connected to the carrier.

"You knew that was detachable?"

"Yeah." I shrugged, and put on the little backpack.

"I'm gonna kill you."

Hummph. As if it's the first time I've heard that.


Bamboozled by the sunglass man!

On our trip to Taos Quinn needed some sunglasses and so we waited for the sunglass shop to open before we left for our hike. Walking in there were displays for designers sunglasses and I was curious how this would go, since Quinn isn't really a designer sunglasses kind of guy.

The sales guy started to talk about the features of some of the pairs and caught on that Quinn was looking for the cheapest thing. He has a rack of $50 sunglasses 30% off. He said the thirty percent made them the same price as "these sunglasses," he said pointing to another rack, "and these are just the cheap plastic ones made in China."

I found myself hiding my own purple plastic pair behind my back - he had successfully planted the seeds of sunglass snobbery - I was wondering how my life would be different if I had a fancy pair of sunglasses.

Quinn bought the pair, and bragged about how stylin' he was half way up the hill. "It's a good thing I didn't get those cheap sunglasses made in China," he said. Then he looked at his frames and guess what was written there? "Made in China."

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Picnic at the Monastery

On labor day we went with our church for a picnic at the Monastery in Abiqui. It was a beautiful day. We spent most of it outside walking the trails and listening to the liturgy. Then everyone went to eat a ton of tasty food while we listened to music. Later all the kids went to play in the creek.

St. Dimitri Orthodox Church 2nd Annual Ethnic Sampler Dinner. Sunday evening, September 20, 2009. 5-8pm. Graves Hall at the United Church of Los Alamos. Limited Seating. Reservations Required: Call 672-9679. Items being served: Appetizers: Dolmas, Greed Salad, Tabouli, Mushroom Caviar, Roast Beef & Kalamata. Entrees: Pastitsio, Spanakopita, Ham, Kielbasa, and Beets. Desserts: Baklava, Galecktoboureka (phyllo custard). Come join us for some ethnic food and fun.






Thursday, September 17, 2009

A balanced diet



Calvin's babysitter complained that she can't get him to eat fruits or vegetables, but only things like sweets and chips. I think she was trying to suggest that I should feed him more healthy stuff so that he will have a taste for it when he gets to her house. I thought, Hummph! I feed him healthy stuff.

But then I thought some more about it, and realized that he needs special choreography before he will eat healthy. For example, the other day he was running around the front yard and he said, "chocca' pudding!" and so I went to the refrigerator, but instead of getting him chocolate pudding I grabbed the prunes, and he bought it! But I had to feed him while chasing him down the sidewalk.

Then, for dinner we got him some fried rice with peas, carrots and onions in it. We went to the dinosaur park to eat it and he wouldn't have anything to do with it until he was on the swing. Then he liked it a lot.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

My New Best Friend

My mom used to always call women she just met "my new best friend," and I wondered how she could say that about someone she barely knew. Was she that full of shit, or what? But a few weeks ago I met Christine, who, within the course of a five minute conversation became my new best friend.

She went to my church, St. Dmitri's, and spent the entire service chasing her hyper toddler, Shawn, outside. Afterwards I told her that I was looking for friends who want to switch off babysitting so I could work. "Me too!" she said. She was trying to find time to be a substitute teacher. Then I said I wanted to go to Abiqui the next afternoon to interview Corinna Stoefl for my Art Field Trip blog. She wanted to go to Espanola the next morning to interview for a teaching position. So we set it up. The next day we met at McDonald's in Espanola where I watched the boys while she interviewed for her job, then we drove up to Abiqui and went to Ghost Ranch, had lunch, and then she watched Calvin while I did my interview.

It worked out perfectly. We met each other at the right time, and or lives and needs were so compatible. Plus, we had a really good time. How can I not get carried away and say, "You're my new best friend!"






Saturday, August 29, 2009

Oh no! Mom's trying to wean me!

This blog is supposed to be about mother-son togetherness, but lately I've been going to great lengths to put a buffer zone between myself and Calvin. That's right, after nearly twenty months of attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding, I'm finally trying to wean him.

"It ain't easy" seems to be Quinn and my parental mantra and this is no exception. But I'm starting to make some progress. I've been having a babysitter come as often as I can for a few hours a day, just so that he can have a good time away from me. I've kept out refrigerator stocked with treats like chocolate milk, chicken sticks and crackers. Now, when he starts to say "boobah," I say, don't you want chocolate milk, and he's started to become satisfied with the chocolate milk. Sometimes I bribe him with ice cream.

It's important, because when he's always hanging on me, and always wanting to drink breast milk, I get sick of it. It annoys me when I'm trying to cook dinner and he's hanging on my leg. I would like to just give him a snack (or have him wait until it's time to eat) and have him be happy with that. I just need to give him snacks at the right time, and get away from him when I can. Today I went for a run when the pizza was cooking, and when I got back, he had his slice and was no longer chasing me around.

Anyway, to wen your baby, all you need is ice cream, chocolate milk, and babysitters.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's too dang hot to hike in Houston!

We went to Houston a couple of weeks ago and it was so armpit hot, we just wanted to wallow in the airconditioning the whole time.

But we still needed to get exercise for ourselves and for Calvin. So we went to the Katy Mills Mall. That's where Margaret, Quinn's Mom, does her daily three mile walk. So naturally, when they babysat Calvin so that we could go out for an anniversary dinner, they did it at the mall. A couple of days later, Quinn and I took him there ourselves.

Quinn usually complains about how overstimulating the mall is, but this time he changed his tune. Between the train rides, the ice cream, the Rainforest Cafe (a restaurant that Bob and Quinn swore they would never enter - but couldn't wait to take Calvin to) and the play land, the mall is the perfect place to take Calvin.

Here are some pictures of us having fun at the mall.






Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Soaking wet, again

I stopped by the bank this morning, and Calvin went straight for the artistic fountain in the lobby. Which made me wonder....Why is it that whenever we go anywhere Calvin always ends up soaking wet?

Here he is at Twirl, in Taos.


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Thursday, July 16, 2009

I got a picture of the bear, but its terrible!

Last night I was ready for the bear. I had my camera sitting on the window sill of my bedroom. I didn't know if he would come back, but it was the night before garbage day, and I just cleaned out the area under Calvin's car seat, and threw away a half eaten bag of kettle corn, and various bags of goldfish and a half eaten package of baby green beans. P.U.

Sure enough, just after bed I heard the unmistakable snuffling, the crunch of paws in the rocks and the smack of the garbage can against the sidewalk. It was a brown bear. It looked bigger than yesterday. It looked up from the can, as if to say, "Very Tasty."

I was at the window clicking pictures as if I was some famous National Geographic nature photographer..But when I saw the pictures I realized that I'm totally not.

It's hard to take pictures of bears in the dark. This was the best one, and if you squint you might be able to make out the legs.

Mostly I just got the window screen.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bears in our yard

I was reading by lamplight last night and I thought I saw something out of the corner on my eye in the window. Something big walking by my window. It sounded like a bear or a werewolf (I was reading about werewolves) and so I was too scared to turn on the light and look out the window. I told my self that it was just my imagination.

Later, when I was in bed we heard more noises. Quinn went to the window and said, "There. is. a. bear...outside."

I rant to the window. Our garbage can was down, and the bear had left. A police car drove by waving a flashlight, looking for the bear. We were hanging out our window, trying to get his attention by waving the curtains. He said, "Which way did they go?"

That way!

We went back to bed and heard, one by one, every dog on our street start to bark. We figured the bears must have gotten all the way to Diamond Drive. We fell asleep again. I dreamed that we had bears and wolves all in our back yard swimming in our pool and we were outside with them.

We woke up and they were back. This time we watched as the bear went after the huge smelly can of Ranch Beans that we had thrown away the day before. Another bear was walking down the middle of the street and a medium sized dog was running loose. The one in our cans looked like it was about 400 pounds.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Hermosa Creek Trail



We took a short hike on Hermosa Creek Trail, which is right next to a skii hill. On the way to the trailhead there were tons of dirtbikes, horses, and there was one of the tracks where you can ride down the side of the mountain.

The trailhead was in a secluded valley where people were camping. These people knew where to find the good camping spots.

Calvin started to sat "lovely" today, and I'm sure you can see why.





Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ranger Shhh!

Last weekend we took a tour of some of the oldest cave dwellings in the country at Mesa Verde. Spruce Tree House was built between 1211 and 1275 AD by the ancestors of the Pueblo people.

I took a seat on a rock to feed Calvin, and while I was there a ranger led a group of 9 Native American teenagers behind the rope barrier, and down into a Kiva. Quinn came back from whatever ladder he was exploring and started to talk in his booming voice, and the ranger SHHHHHed him and said, "These people are doing a real ritual in there. Quiet!"

Quinn left to look at something else, and an old white guy wearing shorts that showed off his psoriasis came by and scowled at the teenagers being led into the off limits part and grumbled, "What? Do they get special privileges?"

He got an even louder SHHHH. Then, when they were all in the kiva she said, "Yes. They're direct descendants and so, by law, they do get special privileges."

There were some soccer ball sized grinding stones on display and a father son duo started to kick them around and try to grind with them and the ranger pushed her way through the crowd and cried "Stop! You can't grind with those. They're ancient artifacts!"

The dad (a gown man who should know better) just had a dopey look on his face. He responded by saying, "Cool!"

I wonder if the ranger has to keep people in line like that every day.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Setting up camp



We got a really nice camping site by a lake. Calvin was really into our new tent and playing in the dirt. The only problem was that we had to spend a lot of time keeping Calvin away from the fire pit. He would go towards it, saying "No, No," and I would try to block him. He sat down on the edge (when there was no fire) and said, "Lap," but then he fell in and started to cry. I brushed him off and calmed him down. The experience didn't make him any less interested.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Rain Dance at Mesa Verde

When we visited Mesa Verde there was a special program where dancers from a Hopi tribe in Arizona came to do a Maiden Dance for rain.


Calvin loved it. He sat still the whole time, only saying a couple of things, like football (because he thought the gourd shakers looked like footballs.

We weren't supposed to publish pictures of them dancing, but I think it's OK to show the pictures of them posing with me afterward.



Anyway, they know what they're doing. Twenty minutes later, it rained.





Roughin' it



After delaying our trip one day, to get over our sluggishness and overall irresponsibility, we plowed ahead to Durango. We've never gone there, but Quinn has heard great things about the Steamworks Brewery, so we entered it into his TOM TOM and three hours later we were robotically led there. So we ate and drank beer for an hour, then I went to a coffeehouse and played with my new laptop for an hour, and finally I made our way to the campsite....without a reservation...in one of the most popular places to camp.....on fourth of July weekend.

(Insert excuses here)

The camp site was beautiful, and after circling it twice we realized that it was full.

I've known Quinn for over ten years. He is so laid back. He is not the type of person to freak out over not having a place to stay. If it were just the two of us he would just drive around till he found another camp site or a cheap hotel.

Calvin's birth has revealed a whole new side of Quinn. If he's worried that Calvin's safety might be in jeopardy, all that logic goes out the window. He panics. So it was getting dark, and Calvin was getting hungry and tired. Quinn started going through the hotels that the Tom Tom listed and calling them. Hotel after hotel said they had no rooms. Finally, he got to the Best Western. "I'll take anything!" he said, and they gave him something.

Calvin was screaming in the backseat, which makes it even harder to think clearly. We found the hotel and Quinn checked in while I waited in the car, feeding leftover pizza to Calvin. Quinn's jaw was clenched when he came out of the lobby. He didn't want to get into the car while I found a parking space. He wanted to just walk. He shifted his feet. I said, "C'mon, just get in!"

So he did, and said that our room (which was the only room in the hotel without a sweet balcony) was $200. I got Calvin in his bath and got him ready for bed while Quinn got our stuff and then threw himself on the other bed, fighting back manly tears. Not only was it really expensive, but he really wanted to camp, not stay in a lame hotel.

I thought it sucked too, but I wasn't as upset. I was really tired for some reason, and fell asleep really early in the bed. What made me upset was that in the morning we realized that there were cheaper hotels all over the place, two hotels per block, and tons of camping places.

But live and learn. We got a camp site the next morning and began our first camping trip with a baby.

Friday, July 3, 2009

We're still in Los Alamos!

We're not very good at planning. Yesterday we tried to leave town to go on a sweet camping trip near Durango, but we were both moving so sluggish, and Quinn had to work, and we had to stop at Wal-Mart to get a bigger tent. Then, when we were in Wal-Mart we realized that we forgot to pay rent! It was already 6:30. We decided to just eat dinner in Espanola and go home to pay rent and leave today. So as soon as Quinn wakes up we'll be on the road. I swear.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

He's got four big shoes to fill.



We're packing up to go on our first camping trip with Calvin in the four corners area, and at Middle Mountain Campground, by Durango, CO. It occurs to us that Calvin's got some big shoes to fill...Shoes that belong to Snickers.

We've gone on several trips with Snickers, and having him there makes every trip more interesting. Now, I realize that traveling with a baby are completely different things, but we're looking forward to finding out what kind of wackiness Calvin brings to our trips.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hike to the top of Mitchel Trail

Last Sunday we took an awesome hike that began at our own front door. The Mitchel Trail starts a block from our house, and ends at the top of a mountain overlooking Los Alamos, where you can see all the way to Taos, Albuquerque and you could, if you wanted, hike all the way to the ski hill.

When we opened our front door at 9 in the morning, seven deer were staring at us from the vacant lot across the street. Some had the peach fuzz beginnings of horns, and they all watched us closely as we went down the sidewalk to the trail head.

We're just happy to have a hike like this that starts at our front door. It goes through the area burned in the Cerro Grande fire. We started out walking through what looked like a field of fallen telephone poles. The burned pines cleared a space for aspens, brush oak and lots of flowers to grow.

We shared the trail with other families, dogs, and (as we gained altitude) runners. I couldn't believe those people running up the hill. (of course they had less to carry) But later we realized that the trail is the route for an annual race.

Now that Calvin can walk we like to give him a chance to walk on the trail as much as we can. When we reached the first ridge we took Calvin out of his pack and had some snacks. He enjoyed digging in the dirt and drinking out of the water bottle. We were sitting on a log, and he was learning the difference between a log and a stick.

Along the way we saw a multitude of blue beetles with black spots copulating on logs and sticks. There were so many of them, and soon there will be many more.

I wanted to collect some interesting logs to use for a messy art project that I am planning. I put a few twisted branches into my backpack, and later realized that they were slightly infested with spiders. I saw a couple of spiders crawl out of my backpack. I swatted them off. They weren't black widows, so I wasn't too hysterical.

By the time we got back we were starving, and had a big lunch at the Haagen Daaz (they serve sandwiches too).

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Three cavemen



Here's a picture from our hike in Ruidoso, NM last summer.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cougar safety in Last Chance Canyon


Before beginning our trek into Last Chance Canyon, the park sign had a sign about what to do if you see a cougar on the trail:

1)Pick up your children and calm them down.
2)Do not run (cougars will catch you)
3)Use your jacket and your arms to make yourself look bigger.
4)If the cougar comes closer, throw rocks.
5)If it attacks - fight back!

Yikes! Margaret was in the back of the group, but she planned to give the cougars a whap with her walking stick if they try to pick her off.

Sitting Bulls Falls


Sitting Bulls Falls is just a five minute walk from the parking lot, through fragrant trees that grow between the crevice of two cliffs. Though the walk doesn't seems life threatening, vultures are circling us. Calvin is delighted to be in the "pack pack". He's also learning to saw "cliff" "bath" and "down" (as in, let me down so I can practice my new walking skills on these slippery rocks that the ranger warned us about).

Bob explains that water that is cascading down the side of the mountain comes from springs at the top that form pools, like personal Jacuzzi's, at the top. You can actually sit in a pool that has water pouring over the edge.

The waterfall is covered with Tufa, a coating of calcium carbonate that is formed by dead plant materials. The informational placard on the fence says that in a million years the whole waterfall will be covered in the stuff. I can't tell if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Anywat, it is rare for everyone in Quinn's family to get together, and so it was good that we got to all go on a hike together.

It was just like Josph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

We were driving through the desert to get to Lincoln National Forest on Sunday, when we saw three huge cows walking along the road. Their bellies swished back and forth like overfilled water balloons.

It was pastureland, and cows were all along the road. The first three were the only ones that seemed to be eating well. The rest were all ribs and hipbones. We couldn't help but wonder (out loud in the parking lot) why there were so many cows on the side of the road. A man in a fluorescent orange windbreaker, who was hiking with his daughter (?) had the answer. There are oil pipelines all along the road and water flows by the pipe lines. The cows go to the water, and there are plants there too, so that's where the cows like to graze. Then the cows poop and fertilize the soil, and so even more plants grow until the cows just spend all their time on the side of the highway.

At least they don't jump out in front of the car like deer.

Calvin's walking!

Over the weekend Calvin started walking all over the place. He's a late walker, and has been cruising and holding on to things for months. We went down to Carlsbad to see family, and as soon as he was surrounded by his grandma, Papa Bob (or Bob Bob as he calls him) and his uncles he started walking between us.

He's pretty pleased with himself.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I am a total moron


I can't believe how bad I am with small electronic devices. I put my cell phone through the wash and now I can't get a hold of my babysitter, and every time I go to Minnesota I lose a digital camera.

The first time was over fourth of July when we went pontooning on Leech Lake with Dad. I left my camera in the car at the Albuquerque Sunport where it got fried in our car in the parking lot. I bought a new one, which I lost when I was visiting Dad when he had cancer. We had just taken a great picture with him holding Calvin, and all of his brothers were there and we were eating pizza at a restaurant and having a good time. Then I lost it. Dumb. Dumb dumb dumb.

I wish I would have gotten a new one right away. There are so many things to take pictures of. I should have taken a million pictures of Dad while I was in MN last month. But I just didn't. I don't even think I can express my true feelings of anxiety over this. Luckily other people took good pictures. But time goes by fast.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tent Rocks

We took a Mother's Day hike at the Tent Rocks in Cochiti Pueblo on Sunday. This is one of the most amazing hikes I've been on. All those weird pointed rocks with layers of sediment that looked just like Dr. Seuss art. If God was a potter, this would be his stash of experiments. There were toadstool rocks halfway up the canyon wall. The canyon was so narrow that we could only see a sliver of the blue sky. Grooves in the wall; a racetrack for the wind. The rosy glow of the sun off the rocks and Quinn trying to explain how awesome everything looked through the lenses of his new sunglasses.

Calvin wouldn't wear a hat, even though it was 95 degrees outside and there was nothing between us and the sun. I slathered sunscreen on him so his hair stuck up like a crazy professor.

Toward the top the tent rocks looked like a gnomish village. We reached the top and could see every mountain within 100 miles (which is a lot). Calvin showed his appreciation by making a chorus of farting noises and saying "down", as if we'd just let him crawl off the edge of the cliff...I was a little tense, because of the sun I guess. My worry over Calvin's skin.

We headed down. There was one spot where there was a three foot drop that would be unsafe to do with the baby backpack. Quinn took off the pack, with Calvin inside, and I held it while Quinn got down. Then He just put the backpack on again when he was on the lower level.

We saw a man on the path who had a mustache, glasses and gray hair. Yeah, he looked like my dad, but he was a little less macho. Calvin saw him and said his famous, "JJJAck!" I don't know how I'm going to get used to this. I told the man that he looks like my dad and that's why the baby is calling him Jack. Quinn though the might be bothered by having a young lady tell him he looked like her dad. Tough shit, I say. I can't help it if (if) he is self conscious about his age. At least I didn't tell him he looked like someone who just died. I think that would give him a strange feeling all day.

When we got back to the canyon, in the shade and with the sandy bottom, we fed Calvin some carrots and ran out of water. Then we let him walk until he got fussy, and strapped him into the backpack so we could get going. It was getting late and there weren't any more hikers with us on the path. That seems like a bad sign. Even though Calvin was getting tired we calmed him down by singing "Are you sleeping?" and "Row, Row, Row your boat."

Monday, May 4, 2009

Wolves in the Valles Caldera National Preserve

Every time we hike in the Valles Caldera National Preserve we see some critter that's at least as high as we are on the food chain. Yesterday we strapped Calvin, who was sound asleep, to the backpack and followed the trail that Quinn took last week to where there was an elk carcass.

We could see the white bones jutting out of the grass, but we could also see a wolf tip-toeing around the edge of the clearing. "Cool carcass," I said, "Let's get out of here."

If there was one wolf, there was sure to be more. I was there a couple of months ago with his parents and saw five of them. We turned around and headed back for another trail that would take us to the river.

Last fall we saw a baby cub in a tree near this trail, and thought we heard it's mother, and so we hurried out. We agreed, though, that the scariest thing to see in the woods would be a mountain lion, because that's the only animal that has actually attacked people in town (that we've heard of). We've heard stories of a mountain lion jumping on the back of a biker, or picking of a toddler who strayed behind. So hopefully we won't see one of them.

Monday, April 20, 2009

False alarm in Chipewa National Forest

Quinn flew up to Minnesota for the weekend to visit us for the weekend and he brought the baby backpack. After spending the whole first day visiting Dad in the nursing home and cleaning his house, the second day I knew we needed to do something fun. We pulled off the highway where it said we were entering Chippewa National Forest and swtarted our hike.

The trail was blanketed in rotting leaves and circled a small lake. We followed the little wooden bridges over the swampy parts. It was so full of life, it was like a Northern Brazos Bend. I was kicking myself because every time I come to Minnesota I lose my camera, and this was no exception. I would love to take a picture of the beaver lodge on the edge of the lake, covered in ice that was turning grey and melting on the edges. There in the water under a bridge was a branch with teeth marks made by a beaver. I love beavers!

We gazed across the lake, enjoying ourselves, when we saw a truck pull into the parking lot alongside our car...it was a tow truck!

We didn't notice any signs saying that we needed a permit or needed to pay to be there. They couldn't just tow our car and leave us in the middle of the freaking forest, could they? Quinn unbuckled the backpack and handed Calvin to me and sprinted back to the car as fast as he could. I followed, much slower.

Luckily the tow truck drivers had just pulled in to look at a map and it had nothing to do with us at all. I wonder whether people react to tow truck drivers like that all the time.

The beauty of hiking without a baby

After hiking all the time carrying a 25 pound baby, it can be incredibly refreshing to get out by mysef. It was especially true a few weeks ago when I went to my running club one last time before going on a trip to Minnesota to see my dad.

The club is made up of four of five stay at home parents who get together to take turns taking care of the kids so that we can run.

When it was my turn I ran along a trail that went through the canyon along North Mesa. It was so good to just enjoy the feel of my arms swinging free and my legs pounding along the dirt trail, and running up the cliff without worying about another person.

I had enough on my mind. I was seeing my dad because he has terminal lung cancer. I wasn't sure what to expect or when I would come home. My emotions had been wound up as tight, and the run at least loosened things up.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Woodpecker Heaven

The burned pines along the Mitchell Trail may look dead – more of them are lying down than standing up and the bark is charred and peeling – but they are actually full of life. Full of wood boring beetles and grubs, these trees are the perfect habitat for several species of woodpeckers.

The species of woodpeckers that have made their home on Mitchell trail include Hairy, Downy, Three-Toed and Williamson’s, and it’s clear they’ve been busy. The bare trunks are covered with perfectly round holes that look like they could have been made with thick nails, but instead were made by hundreds of strong beaks.

Over the crunch of dry gravel we could hear one knocking. Without the cover of pine needles it was possible to see three or four birds at one time as they flew from tree to tree. It’s a great place to go bird watching.

The Hairy Woodpecker is the most widespread woodpecker in North America, and has over 17 subspecies. Males have a red patch on their head and their plumage is black and white. They are 7-10 inches long with a wingspan of 13-16 inches. They spend most of their time foraging on the trunks.

Usually found alongside the Hairy Woodpecker, the Downy woodpecker is smaller and prefers to spend time on smaller branches.

Most woodpeckers have four toes, but the Three-Toed has one less. The lack of a fourth toe may improve their pecking abilities but makes it harder to climb. They are black and white and the males have a yellow cap. They breed farther north than any other woodpecker, and New Mexico is at the southern tip of their range.

Because the adult male and female Williamson’s Sapsuckers look so different, for a time they were assumed to be males of two separate species, and the young were assumed to be females of those species. He wrote, “A nest was at length discovered, excavated in the trunk of a live aspen, and both the parent birds were secured as they flew from the hole, having just entered with food for the newly hatched young.”

Woodpeckers are still nesting in June, so it may be possible to see a woodpecker family leave its nest. The Mitchell trailhead is located on the corner of 45th Street and Arizona Avenue.

Snake Safety

What do you do when you’re working in your garden and you see a six foot snake coiled in the bushes, shaking its tail? Most people freak out and hack it to death with a shovel only to find out that it was a bull snake, and not a rattlesnake.

Instead of putting yourself or an animal in danger, the best thing to do is call the police dispatcher at 662-8222. They have a list of several Wildlife Center volunteers who will come to your house to remove snakes. The safe capture and release program has been going on for over 15 years. Volunteers are trained by Tom Wyant, who has been handling rattlers for nearly thirty years.

People’s unrealistic fear of snakes is what motivated Wyant to get involved in the safe capture and release program.

The only way most non-venomous snakes can defend themselves is to act like they’re venomous. They can make their heads look more triangular, they can coil up, and they can puff up their bodies to look like a rattlesnake. They even shake their tails, which can sound like a rattlesnake if they’re in leaves or dry grass.

“A bull snake will do anything he can to make you think he’s a rattlesnake,” said Jim Finley, a volunteer who specializes in relocating snakes. Too often, this self-defense mechanism is what gets them killed by humans.

The only poisonous snakes in Los Alamos are rattlesnakes. There are diamondback rattlesnakes and prairie rattlesnakes. Because a prairie rattlesnake has a blotchy pattern on their back, they look like bull snakes. The best way to tell the difference between a rattlesnake and a bull snake is to look at the tail. Bull snakes have pointy tails while rattlesnake tails are blunt.

Another way to tell if a snake has venom is if its pupils are elliptical instead of round…not that you’d want to get close enough to find out.

If you do see a rattlesnake up close, freeze. They react to movement and can see heat radiating off exposed limbs. “You can’t move faster than a snake,” warns Finley. “But you can scream bloody murder and it won’t hurt anything, because they can’t hear.”

Before trying to get away, it’s crucial to divert the snake’s attention. If you’re with someone, get them to distract the snake and then move. If you’re alone, a hat might do the trick. Drop it by the snake and then move.

Venomous snakes are more likely to bite if they’re cornered or threatened. There are volunteers in Los Alamos and White Rock who specialize in relocating snakes without causing injury to the snake or to anyone in your family. If you see a snake in your yard, call them at 662-8222.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Write About Your Most Memorable Baby Hike and Win $100!

If you’ve ever taken a baby or a small child on a hike, you’re bound to have a story to tell, whether it be about the animals you saw, what the kids said or the funny thing that happened.

Write it out and submit it to the Baby Hikes Writing Contest. It’s absolutely free to enter. The winner will receive $100 in cash and be published online at http://babyhikes.blogspot.com/. Entries must be 1,000 words or less. Photos are not required, but they are welcomed. Email the entries to email@mandymarksteiner.com.
The deadline is June 15th.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

How moving helped us breastfeed

This year my husband Quinn and I packed in enough change to turn our lives completely upside down. He finished his PhD and got a job in New Mexico, so we were in the throes of an incredibly disorganized move across the country when our son Calvin was born. A week and a half before Quinn was supposed to start his job we had yet to buy plane tickets, choose a mover, or even pack. We were getting used to life with a newborn, and it wasn’t going smoothly.

At his one week checkup we realized that he had lost over two pounds! I had been breastfeeding him, so it was impossible not to take it personally when the pediatrician pinched his skin where baby fat should have been and said he looked terrible. She told us to give him as much formula as he would take for the next twenty four hours, and not to breastfeed. “Pump if you want,” she said, as if my breastfeeding was already a failed enterprise, “but he needs calories right now.”

My confidence was shattered when I saw how grateful he was for the bottle. Worse, when I tried to pump I only got a few measly drops. No wonder he was dehydrated and starving. How were we going to fly him to Houston and then drive across the desert if I couldn’t even keep him fed when we were at home?

People I knew said things like “It’s OK if it doesn’t work out,” but I wasn’t ready to give up yet. We called a lactation consultant who said that I could increase my supply by pumping for five minutes every waking hour for the next day. During that time I could also breastfeed Calvin, but I would have to give him a bottle of formula or pumped milk afterward to make sure that he got enough.

It was exhausting. Between feeding him, pumping my breasts, preparing and washing bottles, then burping him, I was feeding him around the clock. But I could tell it was working. He was gaining weight and each time I pumped I got more milk.

When our flight was only two days away I was convinced that I was producing enough milk that I could stop supplementing and just feed him, but Quinn didn’t want to take any chances. It scared him when Calvin lost two pounds, and he didn’t want to let it happen again. He insisted that I keep giving him extra milk and formula after each feeding. Reluctantly, I agreed.

Our move was so ill-planned that we still hadn’t packed, so we frantically started throwing our belongings into boxes that we pilfered from the corner grocery store. Who would have thought that we had so much stuff jammed into our Manhattan studio apartment? We started in the morning, stayed up all night and into the next day. As the time came closer for the movers to arrive we started throwing away our things and I was constantly tripping over bottles and breast pump accessories. I realized what a terrible job we had done packing when we were at the JFK airport, tired, sore, and surrounded by ten suitcases. Our flight was cancelled because of snow. We had already handed in our apartment keys so we had to get all this stuff and a baby to a hotel.

Feeling miserable, I sat on the linoleum floor while Quinn stood in line to get us on a new flight, and put Calvin to my breast. As he ate I realized something – I hadn’t given him a bottle in over twelve hours. Without even realizing it, in the chaos of moving I had transitioned to exclusively breastfeeding my baby and he seemed perfectly content. Even though our move to New Mexico was stressful and awkward, breastfeeding was simple and elegant. I could do it anywhere, didn’t need any equipment, and gave me a chance to sit still and relax with my baby.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


"Cave" and "bat" are totally sayable for a baby. Stalactite and Stalagmites were fun to see and to hear about. We could tell that Calvin was having a wonderful time, clicking his tongue while he saw the sunlight for the last time before going underground.

There are lots of things to capture a baby's imagination in the cave. The rock foramtions looked like piles of ice cream, a whale's mouth, an iceberg and a city of gnomes, the sound of water dripping. Older kids can learn about chemical reactions.

We were all living vicariously through Calvin, who completely ignored rule #3- "keep your voice to a whisper because it echos." He spendt most of the time singing, grunting, clicking and talking. Enjoying the sound of his voice bounce off the walls and through the tunnels.

Warning: Hiking down from the natural entrance may be too hard for some kids because it's steep. If your kids are small or haven't hiked that far, you can take an elevator down and from there see the cool parts.

Entering the mouth of Carlsbad Caverns


I can't think of a better place to take kids than Carlsbad Caverns, in Carlsbad, NM. The caves are huge and gorgeous, and it's an amazing place to go at any age. It's free to get in until you're 15. There are tons of things to learn and talk about.

We entered the cave through the natural entrance, the gaping mouth of the cave. During certain times of the year hundreds of thousands of bats are in the cave, and they fly out at dusk and dawn, blackening the sky with their wings. They're in Peru (or some other country in South America) right now and so we just had to smell the bat guano as we went down the winding trail deep into the cave.

Calvin talking to us in Carlsbad Caverns

video

Calvin Broke Rule #3 at Carlsbad Caverns

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Cave Wailing 1

video

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Calvin's Birthday Video

Calvin's birthday is January 21st. Check out this cute birthday video of Calvin.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I want Calvin to teach me to talk

I disagree with parents who say that you shouldn't talk baby talk with your baby. You know the type. They brag about how they always talked to their babies as if they were adults and by the time they were two they were reading aloud from Proust.

Pish posh, I say. Language is made up of little sounds put together and baby talk is a baby's way of experimenting and practicing making those sounds. I can talk to my baby like he's an adult all day, but the first time I got a reaction was when I started making fart noises while changing his diaper. He likes fart noises, and bee noises, and barks and whistles. He likes kazoo sounds and drum sounds.

And the noises that he makes to express joy make me wish that I was a baby with a chance to start all over with language. When he's pleasantly occupied, with a toy or an electrical chord, he makes a buzzing noise with his tongue. When he see's something that he thinks is neat, like a ceiling fan or an altar full of candles he says ha-Tah! and when he sees something that he's really impressed by, say, a Christmas tree or a carnival ride he lets out the heartiest Dang! I've ever heard.

I appreciate his sounds, and there are new ones every day. When he hears us copy him, even if he's doing something babyish, he feels good about his sounds and we let him know that we're listening.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Snake Safety

What do you do when you’re working in your garden and you see a six foot snake coiled in the bushes, shaking its tail? Most people freak out and hack it to death with a shovel only to find out that it was a bull snake, and not a rattlesnake.

Instead of putting yourself or an animal in danger, the best thing to do is call the police dispatcher at 662-8222. They have a list of several Wildlife Center volunteers who will come to your house to remove snakes. The safe capture and release program has been going on for over 15 years. Volunteers are trained by Tom Wyant, who has been handling rattlers for nearly thirty years.

People’s unrealistic fear of snakes is what motivated Wyant to get involved in the safe capture and release program.

The only way most non-venomous snakes can defend themselves is to act like they’re venomous. They can make their heads look more triangular, they can coil up, and they can puff up their bodies to look like a rattlesnake. They even shake their tails, which can sound like a rattlesnake if they’re in leaves or dry grass.

“A bull snake will do anything he can to make you think he’s a rattlesnake,” said Jim Finley, a volunteer who specializes in relocating snakes. Too often, this self-defense mechanism is what gets them killed by humans.

The only poisonous snakes in Los Alamos are rattlesnakes. There are diamondback rattlesnakes and prairie rattlesnakes. Because a prairie rattlesnake has a blotchy pattern on their back, they look like bull snakes. The best way to tell the difference between a rattlesnake and a bull snake is to look at the tail. Bull snakes have pointy tails while rattlesnake tails are blunt.

Another way to tell if a snake has venom is if its pupils are elliptical instead of round…not that you’d want to get close enough to find out.

If you do see a rattlesnake up close, freeze. They react to movement and can see heat radiating off exposed limbs. “You can’t move faster than a snake,” warns Finley. “But you can scream bloody murder and it won’t hurt anything, because they can’t hear.”

Before trying to get away, it’s crucial to divert the snake’s attention. If you’re with someone, get them to distract the snake and then move. If you’re alone, a hat might do the trick. Drop it by the snake and then move.

Venomous snakes are more likely to bite if they’re cornered or threatened. There are volunteers in Los Alamos and White Rock who specialize in relocating snakes without causing injury to the snake or to anyone in your family. If you see a snake in your yard, call them at 662-8222.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Teach kids about history and Geology at Bandelier

The trails at Bandelier National Monument are an ideal place to teach kids. The trails feature Ancestral Pueblo dwellings that have been carved out out Tuff formed by two volcanic eruptions 1.6 and 1.2 million years ago. Ladders lead up to these caves. The main loop trail is only one and a half miles, and the first section is paved and flat, so you can bring a stroller.

Park Rangers offer class tours designed for specific grade levels. CAll 505-672-3862.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

He feels safer on the trail than in his own crib


Hiking with Calvin has completely changed my idea of what makes babies feel relaxed and safe. He goes crazy if he's cooped up too much. Maybe he's bored.

When he was about a month old we took him on the Blue Dot, a hike that cuts down the side of a rocky cliff, through a Juniper forest to the bank of the Rio Grand. He rode in the carrier chattering, giggling and sleeping. We carried a bunch of water bottles, and I breastfed him when we got to the river and changed his diaper on smooth rocks. When we got back to the car we realized that we had been gone for five hours, and he didn't cry the entire time.

After the hike we thought we would relax by going to a warm comfortable restaurant. As soon as we sat down in the booth he started freaking out, and we spent the entire meal trying to calm him down. He was more comfortable in the desert than inside with mashed sweet potatoes.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Following ancient footprints on the Tsankawi Trail

Yesterday we checked out the Tsankawi Trail, part of Bandelier National Park, but 12 miles away just outside of White Rock, NM. Calvin is officially too big to fit in the Bjorn, so we had to use the backpack, which he loves.

This trail has been used by people for so long that a perfect groove about a foot deep has been worn into the side of the mesa. Part of the trail you can see footprints worn into the volcanic rock. The people liked to live there because it was easy to build houses in the caves, formed from the volcanic tuff. There are still petroglyphs in the side of the rock. We had to climb a narrow stairway that cut through the rock. Calvin reached to the side smacking the rocks.

When we got to the top of the mesa, Calvin conked out. When he falls asleep he leans so far to the right that you think he might fall out. There was a couple of inches of snow on the ground and it was kind of slippery. After walking the length of the cliff, we realized that we had to go down a narrow groove of rocks and scale a 20 foot ladder to get down. Quinn had Calvin, who was still asleep and leaning out of the backpack. We thought about turning around, but then Quinn went for it.

I could barely watch as he went down the ladder, it looked so dangerous. Calvin must feel safe as long as he's near a parent, regardless of what they happen to be doing. But they got down, and it was my turn to go down. After the ladder we followed ancient foot trails. Ice had formed in the grooves, making them as slippery as bobsled runs.

The trail guide had a comment, something along the lines of "imagine doing this trail every day with a young baby like the women who lived here." It was very easy to imagine.


http://www.bandelier.national-park.com/hike.htm