Monday, September 21, 2009

Hiking Jurassic Park

Geologic point of interest on the south side of I-70.

We have some amazing hiking trails right in our backyard here in the Denver area. Yesterday we went on three hikes: two short hikes and a longer hike. The two short hikes were along either side of Interstate 70, to step back in time and see the geologic formations that were unearthed when they blasted through a hill in order to connect the interstate highway system in 1971. The other hike was a 4.2 mile loop near Red Rocks amphitheater. All three hikes are literally minutes from our home.
Close-up view of the layering.
First we stopped at a geologic point of interest on the south side of I-70 as it enters the mountains west of Denver. The last time my husband and I had been there was about 15 years ago, before any of our young hiking companions were born. We were excited to show them the signboards which explained the different colors of layers of rock that had been uncovered when road crews blasted through this chunk of mountain when they were finishing building I-70.

We were amazed at the amount of erosion that had occurred since that time. All the sign boards were gone and large rocks had fallen into the paved path. The guard rail had warning signs about not getting too close and in many places the path was covered by sand, loose sandstone and shale. Nevertheless, we could see the cut-out on the north side of I-70 and that there were still signboards on that side. We decided to visit that side at the end of our hike. A rock on the trail.

White sand from erosion on the trail.

We kept a close eye on the weather because the beautiful blue sky of the morning was quickly filling with clouds as the afternoon came. Honestly, I didn't think we'd be able to complete our planned 4.2 mile loop with our youngest guy. He's not a really strong hiker and I wasn't about to carry a 7 year-old (no matter how small he might be!)
The Red Rocks trail head.

We found the trail head near a parking lot just before the amphitheater at Red Rocks. If you haven't heard about the natural amphitheater at Red Rocks, it is a world-famous concert venue. The Beatles played here. And the Fray played a sold-out concert here. Yesterday, another sold-out concert was preparing for an evening performance.
Side view of the amphitheater from the trail.
The scenery was gorgeous! Sometimes we get so busy with our lives that we forget to look up at the stars in the night sky, or simply look around us. This hike is so close to our home, but the landscape is so amazingly different and beautiful that I couldn't stop taking pictures and exclaiming, "Oh! Look at that rock!"

Dung beetle?

There were still wildflowers blooming, and what I think must be a dung beetle, though I haven't taken the time to look it up yet. But this little fella was crawling around a pile of poo and I couldn't resist taking his picture.

Looking down on our van.

Soon the path began to climb rather steeply. Our brave hikers kept up a good pace and once we got to the top of the ridge we knew we had to keep going. The sky was darkening and a brisk wind came up, but the view from the top was stunning.

Buckley AFB "golf balls" in the distance.

From the top of the trail we could see the cut-out on I-70.

The path down was called the Morrison Slide Trail, but fortunately we didn't encounter any rock slides. There were a few tricky bits that made us happy to have our walking sticks with us!

We made it down the mountain and to our van just as it began to sprinkle lightly, but we were enthusiastic about seeing the other side of I-70 because we felt very brave and strong for having finished such a hike with our three young companions (and dog).

Happy hikers!

The north side of I-70.
The drive to the other geologic point of interest was very short...probably less than 10 minutes. When we got out of the van we were met by very strong gusty winds, which made the boys giggle and squeal with delight! I held on tightly to small hands because I was a bit concerned that someone might be picked up and tossed onto the highway below. Fortunately, we were able to walk in the wind and we had rain jackets because it was now starting to rain rather steadily.

The signboards are still in place on the north side.

The signboards were in place, which described in great detail the both the age and the composition of the rocks we were looking at. These rocks were formed over a period of about 45 million years...they represented the time period from 140 million to 95 million years ago, which spans the end of the Jurassic period and the beginnings of the Cretaceous period.
The formations we saw are part of the Morrison Formation, which includes nearby Dinosaur Ridge, where you can see actual dinosaur footprints imbedded in the rock along the roadway.

Cold and tired but happy.

It's a good thing we went on our hike yesterday. Today, on the last day of summer, there is snow in the foothills!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Detachment Parenting: from birth to college

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was a naval officer in Naples, Italy. I was working at a communications station and mostly sat behind a desk. I was thrilled to be pregnant and I would sometimes think how wonderful it was that I could bring my unborn child with me where ever I went! I could feel her kicking me when I was writing reports or making official-sounding phone calls. She was safe and always close to me, under my heart.

I was terrified of the day when I would have to leave her in day care to return to work after her birth. How I wished I could keep her snug and close to me always.

By the time I was pregnant with our third child, I was near the end of my obligated service to the Navy, so I was looking forward to being able to stay at home with my three small children. I had not yet heard about the idea of attachment parenting, but once I became a stay-at-home mom, I had more time to read up on mothering topics and I gobbled up all I could on attachment parenting, co-sleeping and on-demand nursing. I had breast-fed all my babies, but early return to a demanding military job meant I couldn't nurse them as often as I would have liked and, as a result, it also meant an early return to fertility for me!

As I grew into my role as a mother of many, I became very comfortable with a more natural type of parenting, which included home births and only breast milk for the entire first year of life (and NO pacifiers). This meant I was always very close to my young children and never left them with a sitter for more than a few hours at a time. This also meant we slept with our new babies for about the first six to nine months until they began to sleep through the night. Breast milk is digested much more easily than formula, so breast-fed babies eat more frequently than formula-fed babies, meaning they don't often sleep through the night until they are several months old.

I didn't mind sleeping with my baby because it meant more rest for me! No more getting up in the middle of the night to stumble around in the darkness and find a crying baby in his crib. In fact, co-sleeping babies don't even need to cry. Mom and baby are so attuned to one another that I'd know when my baby woke and needed to nurse. I'd roll over and nurse and we'd both soon fall asleep.

Homeschooling was a natural continuation of attachment parenting. We were bonded to our children; we loved being around them and we felt it would be better for all involved if we continued that close relationship through homeschooling our kids.

Now we come to the other end of the parental spectrum as we are beginning to see our children grow up and move away. Sometimes I feel like the mother bird who has to give her fledglings a little nudge to get them to try out their new wings. Sometimes I feel like I barely turned around and they've flown away. Now is the time to learn detachment parenting.

We decided when our children were small that they'd have to pay their own way to college. That was a flippant response to nosey folks who demanded to know, "How are you going to PAY for all those kids to go to college?"

Yet so far it seems to be working. We had some rough spots we had to work out in the beginning, but I'm so glad we did. We're so proud of our college kids because they've all worked very hard to earn money and scholarships and have had to take out student loans to pay for their education. As a result, I think they appreciate the value of their education and understand how important it is to pay back the money they've borrowed to finance their education.

Three of the four kids currently in college don't drive. They don't drive because they don't want to pay the insurance and upkeep on a car because they are paying for their education. The one who does drive no longer has a car because it died and she can't afford a new one right now.

I was in the grocery store recently and one of the baggers was telling the checker why she wasn't going to college: she had to make her new car payments and she couldn't afford to both pay for her new car and pay for college. Unfortunately, no one told that young lady that a car will depreciate in value, whereas a college education appreciates in value over time.

I've been thinking a lot about the virtue of detachment. It is a most difficult virtue to practice. Oh, I can tell you how my neighbors could develop that virtue in their own lives, but it's not so easy for me to see how I need to improve. I can point to the numerous "McMansions" in the subdivisions near my house and make snide comments about how they "must have a dozen children with a house that large," but fail to see the McMansion in my own eye.

Having fledglings leave the nest and me having to sort through (and store) what they've left behind has got me to thinking about how much stuff do we really need? (The answer: not much).

Perhaps we don't need most of this stuff we have: a lifetime's supply of wonderful homeschooling books, enough clothes so we don't have to do laundry for weeks, enough toys so that we forget what we have and have no place to put the rest!

Over the next six months I'm going to declutter my house. Yes, that is my noble goal. The kids have been notified. We're going to reduce, reuse and recycle...because it's good for our souls. We're going to get better at this thing called detachment. We're going to learn to love people and use things. And not the other way around. It's more than cleaning up messes. It's a change of heart.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Book review: Our Lady of Kibeho

Our Lady of Kibeho: Messages from the Mother of God in the Heart of Africa Our Lady of Kibeho: Messages from the Mother of God in the Heart of Africa by Immaculee Ilibagiza

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Immaculée Ilibagiza has done it again. She has captured hearts and minds with her truly amazing book. I was so entranced by its story and the author's deep and trusting love for the Blessed Mother that I still find myself thinking about it several days since I've finished reading it. And I pray that I will take its lessons to heart.

Our Lady of Kibeho is an approved Marian apparition site in a tiny, obscure village on the edge of Rwanda. The Virgin Mary appeared to 3 school girls in Kibeho, one by one. Later, Mary and her son, Jesus, would appear to at least 4 others, including an illiterate pagan to whom Jesus himself taught scripture, prayers and basic doctrine. The nuns at the school, the village priest, and all their classmates were at first unbelieving and taunted the visionaries, calling them liars and devils. When the girls would fall into a trance-like state of ecstasy when being visited by the Blessed Mother, their classmates would pinch, poke and burn the visionaries to try to illicit some response but they only kept their blissful smiles and radiant faces turned toward the sky and were totally unaware of any harm being done to them.

As a natural skeptic myself, I appreciated the thorough tests and interviews the Vatican put the visionaries through. After 20 years of investigations, the Vatican approved Kibeho as an authentic Marian apparition site in 2001. This means it is worthy of belief, yet the Church never requires belief in any Marian apparition.

Our Lady came to Kibeho in 1981, it would seem, with a message of urgency for Rwanda and all the world: to repent from our sins and believe. She revealed to the visionaries the terrible violence that would befall Rwanda during the genocide of 1994. The prophecies were horrifically accurate. One million Tutsis were mercilessly slaughtered to death. They were pulled from their homes and chopped to pieces by machete by their own friends and neighbors. How could this evil have happened? Our Lady's message to her children was that we are all capable of such evil if we hide it in our hearts.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, September 11, 2009

Never Forget

Images from that horrible day always make me cry. My little boys were hugging me today and asking me why I was so sad, as I was watching the video below. I tried to explain to them about all the thousands of innocent people who died the day that evil men attacked them. I share it with you, despite its horror, so that we will never forget.

But if you want to read something to make your heart swell with pride, read Peggy Noonan's column about the heroism of the New York City firefighters.