Feathered Aspen


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Dear Lu 8/24

Dear Lu,

You’re nearly 14 months old, 26 inches tall, and probably about 19 pounds.  Your hair is starting to get a little bit longer, and like your sister, you often sport a fuzzy nest of tangles in the back from sleeping.

I love this age.  You are generous with your smiles, and you have this special little nose scrunch face that just gets me every time.  You LOVE being laughed at, and it seems that you’re already finding ways to be a little comedienne.  You are quite affectionate, and though you are still a momma’s girl through and through, you’re more loving with your daddy these days.  You give him hugs, reach for him, smile for him often.  (At long last!)

You are soooooo easy going.  I know I always said that, and a lot of people didn’t really believe me because you weren’t much for me leaving you or not holding you, but these days, people agree.  You are a fantastic independent player.  You especially love playing with small objects, and you examine them so carefully and intently.  Whenever music comes on, you start to dance, and you’ll even sing along.

These days, you’re cruising along furniture and legs, walking with our hands in yours, and evening climbing up on the couch or on top of rubbermaids (God help us.).  You adore stairs.  You still scoot, and everyone is amazed by how quick you are.  You’re also quite good at dragging over-large objects along with you as you scoot.  I’d imagine that walking is about a month away.

As for talking, you have a few words:  mama, dada, and hi.  There have been others, but these are the only ones that come up with consistency.  You also shake your head no (partially because we think it’s funny) and nod yes.  You can point to your nose, raise your hands over your head for “so big!” and blow raspberries on me or Lily when asked.  You also know how to hug, let go, dance, and peek-a-boo when prompted.  It’s so crazy to think that in two short years you’ll be having full conversations with me!  But for now, we’re light on words and heavy on flirts.

You like:  music, dancing, following your sister all around the house and doing whatever she is doing, pulling yourself up, GRAPES, water, laid-back nursing, swimming (as long as there isn’t sand and it’s warm enough), taking baths, and exploring.

You dislike:  sandy hands, grass on your legs, when Lily doesn’t share, getting your diaper changed, getting changed in general.

Quirks/Traits:  scrunch face, you give fabulous hugs and snuggles, you love wearing necklaces, and you are fascinated by small objects (a tangled piece of sewing thread could entertain you for 15 minutes and has).

Oh Lu.  You are such a bug.  I love you so much.  It’ll be fun to have some one on one time this year (though I hope you also nap!).  I cherish your sunny little disposition, and I love watching you grow.

Love,

Mom


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Dear Lily 8/24

Dear Lily,

You are three years and four months old.  You are exactly three feet tall, weigh 34 pounds, and have a head of wispy, tangle-prone blonde hair.  It is the end of the summer, and your skin is tan.  Your knees are dark from play, and you have just a couple of freckles across the bridge of your nose.

Today is your first day of ECE 3 pre-school.  I dropped you off at 1230, and your daddy and I will pick you up at 330.  You are so excited.  This morning your eyes popped open when you woke up, and you said, “oh!  I have to get dressed for school!”  You chose your outfit with care, executing your favorite combo – a dress and a skirt – yet again.  You wore your new cowgirl boots, and I gave you a necklace to wear.  It has a bear pendant, and I told you that you could wear it so that “momma bear is always close to your heart.”

Three is a wonderful and fearful age.  You are at once clever, funny, sweet, and intense.  You are capable of the most surprising conversations and observations, as well as the most remarkable tantrums.  You often drive me completely batty from whining.  I love you ferociously.  I cried to see you there, sitting in a circle with your back straight and your gaze fixed on the teacher.  You nodded your head and scrambled to answer questions, just thrilled to be there.  The other kids wandered from the circle and struggled to answer the questions posed to them, but you were eager from the start.  You patted a spot next you, working in tandem with the teacher to cajole another little girl into the circle.  You bravely answered the very first question, and you did not hesitate to correct those who botched your name.

How?  How are you this old?  I’ve been demanding lots of kisses and snuggles, and I tell you I’m storing them up because I’m going to miss you so much.  Last night, you were crabby and tired, and I asked if I could brush your hair and give you a back rub with some special oils.  You agreed (you love getting back rubs), and we sat there on the couch, your gaze softening as you relaxed.

You like:  kombucha, playing “doctor,” holding baby Bierstadt, playing in the back yard, the zipline at the Children’s Museum, the playground, hunting for fairy treasure, ice cream, peaches, going for short walks around the neighborhood, swinging in the hammock, and spending time with your family.  You are most content on “family days.”  You like hotels and selecting a stuffed play toy whenever we go to a thrift store.  You love swimming, and you’ve gotten so brave over the summer, putting your face in the water and pushing off with your feet in the shallow area.

You dislike:  waking up.  You absolutely detest waking up from naps.  You also detest going down for naps.  You don’t like going to the real doctor, and you hate having to wait for food.  I think 7/10 of your tantrums start because of wanting a certain snack or wanting it now or not wanting what I’ve offered you.  You’re not a big fan of sharing, but I’d actually say that we’ve made a lot of progress since the beginning of the summer, and I trust you a lot more now around the younger kids.  Now I give you a look and you’ll give back a toy you’ve surreptitiously yanked out of a younger child’s hand.  You also are much, much better at finding toys to give to the little ones, making fair trades, and waiting your turn.  Thank god for progress.

Quirks/Traits:  I already mentioned the dress/skirt combo (every.single.day).  You refuse to have your hair put up.  You want it “wild and free.”  You’re attached to little stuffed toys, but the honored toy changes from day to day.  You are funny and love to make people laugh.  You are a great little dancer.  You are fabulous at asking questions and showing an interest in those around you.  You have an incredible memory and love showing it off.  Whenever I don’t remember something you remember, you get mad.  When we’re in groups, you are quite persistent in demanding the attention of pretty much anyone other than your parents.  I think I’ve mentioned it before, but your needs grow to the meet the capacity of those around you to meet them.  AKA more peeps to wait on you = many, many more demands.

I love you so, so much my dear.  I’ve had an incredible summer with you, and though I’m already missing afternoons spent having lazy lunches or getting back late from our adventures, I’m excited to establish a new routine.  Maybe some earlier mornings, more snacks for the road, and hopefully lots of conversations about the things that you are learning and the friends you are making.

Love,

Mom

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Welcome to the Jungle

We are legit in the jungle.

There are lots and lots of mosquitos.  We’ve seen a few snakes, one of which may or may not have been a coral snake.  There is a lizard living in our shower.  Oh, and it is wicked hot and humid.

We love it.  The girls are loving it too.

Ellie is putting the two lovely little ladies down for bed, so I have the honors of writing our post for today.  I’ll attempt to keep it short. As the one who does little writing, I always struggle to think of the best way to write about our experiences.  Ellie casts such a shadow, I often feel intimidated to try.  I could never recreate her pithy, humorous yet heart wrenching narrative.  So instead, I’ll tell you a bit about how I am feeling and then give you a snapshot of our day.

Its amazing how traveling changes my focus on life.  Getting on a plane and immigrating to another country does something to me.  Crossing a border tears down some mental and emotional walls.  Immediately, I feel more laid back and at peace with life. I haven’t yet been able to put my finger on it exactly yet, but I feel freer, less stressed, and happier.  I am less distracted and more in tune with my family.  Its odd, because I don’t feel this same way when we vacation in the US.  I enjoy those trips, but they’re not the same.  I remember this same feelings when Ellie and I last traveled.  Back then I attributed it to escaping my first, very hard, two years of teaching.  Now, life is much different.  For the most part, I am happy with my job and my life as a teacher.  I like our home and our life in Colorado.  Yet traveling does something to my soul.  Being in a foreign place really boils life down to the basics.  Eat, move, and connect with people.  Its been great in the past 24 hours to share this experience with Lily and Lu.  They too seem to feel it.  I’m hoping I can figure out exactly what this feeling is and find a way to bring it back home.

So, here’s what we’ve been up to.

This morning we slept in a bit.  The girls were tuckered out from our journey into Cancún.   Last night after settling into our hotel and taking a quick swim, we walked around Cancún for a while trying to find a specific restaurant.  The Lonely Planet, states that Checandolé is the place you should go if you only have time for one meal in Ciudad Cancún. Seeing as we only had time for one meal, we religiously followed their advice.  Unfortunately, the restaurant was off the LP map, so we had to explore for a bit. After getting lost for a spell, we ask a few locals if they knew the restaurant, and low and behold, we had wandered right past it!  The food. . . was truly divine.  Throughout the meal Lily kept groaning, “mmmmm…mmmmmm…mmmm…”  She was a huge fan of the bean chalupas with the cilantro salsa.  Ellie ordered the staple of Yucatecan cuisine, sopa de lima.  Its soup of slow marinated and cooked chicken, or pork, then soaked in lime juice.  Very good.  Lily kept trying to steal it out from under Ellie.  I had what was called the SUPERchecondolé.  I’m still not exactly sure what it was.  I asked the waiter what he recommended and without blinking advised the superchecondolé.  It was a lot of beef, onions and cheese which I mopped up with the tastiest corn tortillas!  Yum

Once back to the hotel Lily kept trying to to trick her way into going swimming again.  My favorite line was “daddy-o, can we just go look at the pool?”

Once the girls were up this morning, we had breakfast at 100% Natural.  They specialized in whole food vegetarian dishes and speciality juices.  We had two fantastic juices which mixed papaya, guava, pineapple and orange.  We also had a bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit and as well as a cactus omelet.  The coffee was another story.  So smooth.  Lily and Lu were as happy as Ellie and me with the food.  I think our two little loves are going to be traveling foodies like us.

After breakfast, we packed up and slogged our way back the bus terminal where we caught the local Playa Express to Playa del Carmen.  From there we walked a few blocks to catch the local colectivo which runs the highway from Playa del Carmen to Tulum.  All in all we spent about $15 for the days trips.

Riding on the local buses with the girls is actually quite fun.  We get lots of looks of admiration and bemusement.  I think the locals aren’t sure what to make of a family of American gringos shoestringing their way down the Mayan Rivera.  The vast majority of all tourists stick to the spendier more glamorous liner buses and taxis.  We are a site to see carrying the girls on our chests in the ergos and our packs on our backs. Additionally, most of the folks on the bus are the locals who staff the mega hotels and tourist industry along the coast.  The taxi drivers hounding us seem just dumbfounded that we’d rather walk and ride.  It makes Ellie and I feel proud :)  Lily and Lu seem to enjoy it too.  They laughed an giggled their way through both rides.

Unfortunately, we miss communicated with our colectivo driver and got dropped off at the wrong spot on the highway.  After some scouting by Ellie, we hopped back on another colectivo and got off in the right spot.  We have to walk a little less than a mile from the highway to our ecohotel.  The place we’re staying is called Organic Yoga.  Yup.  It was our top choice from airbnb.  The owner Leon is great.  We have a little house in the Jungle, called the Shiva house.  Lily seems to think it is a fairy castle.  It’s pretty magical.

After a shower and a rest, we hoofed our way back to the highway and caught another colectivo to Akumal beach.  Sadly, it was a bit more developed and touristy than we had hoped for.  Lily loved it though.  She ran around splashing in the water and throwing seaweed.  Lu on the other hand was not sure what to make of the whole experience and just wanted to stay clinged to us.  Ellie was lucky enough to see some sea turtles in the water using our borrowed snorkel gear.  I freaked out a bit, and didn’t manage to swim out far enough to see the turtles.  I did see a rad school of silver fish though.  Our first beach day was short lived due to our late arrival.  On the way back to the ecolodge, we stopped in Akumal pueblo for some food to make dinner.  We had a good conversation with the lady at the fruit stand.

This evening, I cooked up some mole beans and we ate them over rice.  Apparently, mole is more like a seasoning than a sauce.  While savory, the beans were a bit intense.

After dinner, I tried to catch the lizard in our shower.  Lily is absolutely terrified of the thing.  During her shower she shook and was paralyzed with fear.  The little lizard is a fast little bugger though, and I couldn’t catch him.  Instead, he wiggled his way through the palapas roof and made his way into our sleeping quarters.  Lily thinks he went outside.  Lord god, please keep that little guy from finding Lily’s bed tonight!

Enough for now.  So much more to write about, but this is long enough.

And now for some pictures!

20 min later… Nevermind.  Pictures are taking too long to upload.  Pictures to come tomorrow or the next day.

Much love from Akumal!


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How We Roll

Oh my goodness.  The past month and a half has been crazy!  On May 9, the girls and I flew to Minnesota.  It was a nice long trip, and we crammed a lot in, including a trip to Des Moines to see Hannah graduate, a trip up to the North Shore to enjoy the sights, and visiting friends and family.  We managed to see Papa and Granny, Grumpy Dave, Ashlee, and Brittany and her boys, as well as Hannah, Eamon, Boobah, Zeydah, Boobah Ruth, and Mr. Paul all under one roof.

For a second before we left, I contemplated just how long 17 days is, especially without Joshua.  And while the trepidation was totally natural, I just decided that I was going to be grateful and appreciate this trip.  When I bought the tickets back in March, I was feeling a little lonely just hanging with the girls every day and missing my family.  We hadn’t seen them since Thanksgiving!

So once I decided to just appreciate and enjoy the trip, it was more than easy to do just that.  I’m blessed to come from a family of conversationalists, so you can guarantee there was plenty of that, and since I’m someone who really covers intellectual ground and unpacks lessons and opinions out loud, I felt like it was such a great opportunity to take stock.  Plus, there are always running companions at the Kuhne house, although I will ask where I got what seems to be a bit of a reputation?  Where even my running roots are all like, ‘well, yes, of course, I’d love to run with you, but please just know it will be slow.’  And I’m all like, ‘ummm… yeah.  I’ve had two babies in the last three years, and I’m pushing a double jogger, sooo…  You’re gonna have to run like hell to keep up with my 12 minute miles.’

It was so nice to see Brittany and Ashlee too.  Four years ago when I first started spending time with Brittany, I never could have predicted that we would become good friends.  From the outset, we seemed so different, but Britt has taught me that when you have empathy and good conversation in spades, the rest is just details.  It was great to see her and the boys, but I was sad to have missed out on seeing Brian.  Next time!

As for Ashlee, she treated us to a girls night (as in, the two of us and both of my girls).  She let me buy the wine, but that’s not saying much, because apparently wine from Trader Joe’s is like, $2?!  I’m so thankful for our friendship; after fourteen years, Ashlee is definitely one of my most enduring friends.

So, it was a wonderful trip.  There were so many highlights, and really only one low:  Lu had a fever for five days that hovered around 102.  On the fifth day, her fever broke and she developed that telltale roseola rash :(  While I would prefer a fever to the flu or the whooping cough (no seriously) any day, it’s a little scary to not know what’s going on….  So we went to Urgent Care twice (and once in Des Moines).  Not so fun.

We flew back to Minnesota on May 26.  Stacy and Ellison were there to pick us up, and it probably pretty entertaining to watch the two of us wrangle two carseats, two suitcases, three kiddos under three and a pregnant belly back to the truck, but somehow we managed to pull it off.

We had to wait until the end of the work day to see Joshua, but when he got home, we were all pretty happy to see him.  I was especially happy to see Billie go to him.  My easy going baby had not been particularly easy going on our trip, and I had ended up holding her the majority of the time.

So this is where my story get’s interesting, but I’m never going to get it up here on the blog if I include all the details…

On Wednesday, we signed a lease (our second lease signing for the same house, but that’s one of the details that’s just going to have to lie down).  On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, we packed and snuck over to our old house to paint.  On Sunday, we moved to our old house in Edgewater.  On Monday, Joshua cleaned our Osceola home like a maniac and handed over the keys.  For the rest of the week, we moved in, painted, and tried to mow our lawn.

Somewhere in the mix, Lily and Joshua got some sort of GI bug and pooped themselves silly, vomiting here and there when they got bored.  The lawn mower broke no less than five times, and it rained, like, A LOT.  Joshua finished up his job as an administrator and transitioned back into a role teaching, and Stacy, K, and Ellison also moved into their home in Edgewater.  And then their basement flooded.  And everything they owned was in the basement.  And Stacy’s pregnant.

We hosted pizza night twice, and we also pulled off a church dinner club?  Oh and my brother and his girlfriend are living in our basement and my mom is in the shed and they signed a lease too.

On Thursday, we’re driving to Sheridan, Wyoming (6 hours) so Joshua can pace Will in a 100 miler, and then on Monday, we’re flying to Mexico.

Cuz that’s how we roll.  At break-neck speed, it seems.  What day is it again?

Anywho.  A few things to note:

1) I’m starting a non-profit.  You can quote me on that.  I will have all the paperwork filed by August 30.  That’s my goal folks, you gotta hold me to it.

2) I love Edgewater.  I love our old/first home.  I feel like my authentic self here.  My grass is too long and I never wear shoes, and my porch is just the best when it comes to listening to afternoon thunderstorms.

3) I’m feeling surrounded by community and it feels so good.  The Ps are back, pizza nights are on, and I’ve got my brother and my mom nearby.  I’m so thankful.

4) Lu is almost one?!!  HOW DID THAT HAPPEN?! She’s looking and acting more and more like a one year old too.  She’s clapping her hands, saying mama, playing peekaboo, scooting like a champ and also doing some impressive hands and feet only acrobatics.

5) Lily is a mostly lovely but also emotionally charged threenager.  In the span of five minutes I often find myself thinking, oh my god, she’s so wonderful/has an incredible memory/cute/funny and then, oh my god, an emotional bomb just went off.

6) I love this little family of mine to pieces, and man, am I ready for a vacation.

Kisses! XOXO

(And if you couldn’t already tell this was Ellie writing, not Joshua ;))

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A Challenge from Joshua

Its been a while since my last post.  (Hi, I’m the husband.)  In fact its been almost 18 months.  I’ve considered that my first post back should be some contemplative ramble that reveals I’ve learned deep truths about the world during my absence. Unfortunately, this is not the case.  I’ve just been busy trying to be a husband, dad, educator and runner–all of which take a lot of work.  No-CarsIn lieu of the musings, I thought I’d give a simple update on my side of the family life.

My December Challenge

Inspired by my wife, I have set a challenge of my own:  commute to work under my own power.  To begin, I will be exclusively biking and running to work for the next month.  December is a bit cheating.  It is a short month for me, only three weeks until winter break. Nonetheless, I am hereby committing myself to 15 days of commute under my own power.

Since Lily was born its been difficult to balance running with family and work. That spring, I ran my first trail race in Fort Collins and fell in love.  Since then I’ve developed a passion for running long distances in the mountains. Its grown to mean a lot to me.  The dedication and grit it takes to train for and run long distances makes me a healthier and more joyful person.  When I run and train I feel motivated.  I feel successful.  I feel more confident at my job.  I feel more present with my family.  Running makes me better, but sadly it eats into family time.

With two daughters, a wife in school and a more stressful position at work, I want and need to keep running.  In fact, I want to run more.  I want to run 100 miles in a single day.  Yet, I also want to be a more attentive and engaged father.  To balance the two, I need to sacrifice and compromise.  I need to find time and space to run with minimum impact on the family.  What better way then commuting?

I’m hopeful that I can find a groove and routine over the next few weeks that will carry me into the new year.  Ellie and the girls are ever gracious and supportive of me and my running, yet I acknowledge that I ask too much of them.  I’m hopeful that committing to commuting will provide some of the much needed balance.  I may loose a bit of sleep in the process, but its worth it to be able to run and spend as much time as possible with my girls.

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