Monday, December 3, 2012

Genetics- Addendum

As this River season ended, I found myself even more busy than at the peak of the season... but that's another story... Now, it is simply an excuse for having neglected my blog for so long. Though an article I recently came across inspired the writers muse, and I finally found a moment long enough to breath deep, sit down and act upon the muses blessing.

In my last post "The Genetics of River Passion," I explored the idea of a Love for the River as potentially being a genetic trait, something that is in our blood. I sited instances of recent inheritance of this gene, passed from parent to child to grand child, even popping up in other branches of a family tree, but all within visible reach. I then left a big question wide open... "Where did this gene come from?" Speculating that it comes from a time when waterways were highways- a necessary way of life and survival, I left it at that. Then, I found said article...

I was browsing through some Scottish History (as I tend to do dorky things like that,) and was suddenly awe struck at one line in a simple little blip about my family history....  
"The beautiful but very dangerous, Loch Awe has been an inspiration to many of the MacArthur family and they were known to be experts at boating and seamanship." 
Well slap me silly and paint me red! There it is! Right there, on a Scottish cultural preservation web site! I should have know it all along! Rivers do flow in my veins! And not just any River either, the River Awe... the River where I wrapped my first and only (so far, knock on wood) raft. Wrapped 'er good too! I mean no pulleys or anything, but about four people hauling on one rope to get 'er off type wrapped good.
The Iconic view of Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe.
It was 2001, I was 19 years old and had made my way to Edinburgh with a fiddle and a backpack, following some sort of primal urge pulling my young seeking self home to the motherland. Caledonia, Alba, Scotland... cold, wet, mildewy, stuffy...  beautiful, magical, insatiable to my generations old homesick heart. After a month or so of hitch hiking around Scotland and exploring Edinburgh, my birthday rolled around. Always having spent my birthday on the River, I of course found myself on the door step of Splash White Water Rafting in Aberfeldy the eve before. Then the day I turned 20, rather than simply going boating as anticipated... I ended up working a trip and staying on at Splash for the rest of the season!

One of the Rivers commercially run in Scotland is the River Awe, a short 6 mile River which runs from the outlet of Loch Awe to the mouth of Loch Etive. A lovely little class II+ /III-  River, our TL (trip leader) Brian, asked me if I would like to run point (first boat) on my first Awe trip, as I Love reading & running, and he knew I was good at it. I enthusiastically agreed, and had already been eyeballing my line down the left side of the first little bony rapid called "The Graveyard." After the safety speech  however, my four customers implored me to please be gentle with them as they were "very nervous" and "not sure that they really wanted to do this." I pulled Brian aside and told him about my nervous customers, suggesting that he should run point after all.

Graveyard rapid on the River Awe

We all shoved off the beach, got a fun little surf in the weir wave from the Loch Awe dam outlet to practice our paddling and headed for "The Graveyard." I watched our boss (who was paddling along in an IK [Inflatable Kayak]) run that left line I had been eyeballing. Expecting Brian to do the same, I was a few boat lengths behind him setting up my line. To my surprise though, Brian did no such thing! No, rather he eddied out in the middle of the River and began briefing his customers on some kind of crazy rock star line he wanted to try. Calling a "back paddle," my poor nervous customers lightly lily dipped their paddles in the dark peaty water, effecting nothing but an every so slightly slower encroachment upon Brian's boat. Suddenly confused about what I thought was the correct line, and blinded by the big blue boat in front of me playing that obnoxious game of "hide the rock," when Brian finally peeled out in front of me, I realized that wherever the hell Brian was going, I wanted to go left! 45° to the current & "All Forward!" ...Nothing... not even lily dipping. Damn, that's a really big rock we're drifting at sideways... ok... "All Back!" ...Nothing... shit, ok "HIGHSIDE! I mean JUMP RIGHT!" And in that split second it took my brain to convert my instinctual highside command into the Scottish jump left/right command, we were wrapped well around that rock. My customers all made it safely up onto the rock, ropes were tossed to shore, and after much group effort tugging, she came free. We all piled on in from the back side of the rock, and low and behold, my customers were no longer nervous, had a great rest of the trip, and actually paddled!

McArthur Clan Crest "Faith & Work"
Ah River Awe... I was so attracted to that region, yet spent very little time there... Little did I know at that point that it was the ancestral seat of my Clan, or that my ancestors were notorious boatmen, perfecting their art upon the waters of that very Loch and River...

The McArthur Clan is an ancient Clan. So old that there is no longer an official Clan Seat. So old in fact, that it was sort of lost in the modern world of Clans. Only recently was an official clan society resurrected to honor all of the sects of "Arthur." There is a saying in the Highlands: "As old as the hills, the MacArthurs, and the Devil."

Them boatmen MacArthurs... even though sailing has never been my calling, I have enjoyed some in my day, and have a few relatives who are very into it, including my Uncle "Captain" Jack who has lived on a 22' sail boat for over 40 years. However, in the immortal words of Ratty from The Wind in the Willows- "There is nothing in this world my dear friend, nothing, quite so delightful as messing about in boats, simply messing about in boats!" Whether your heart floats amongst lake/loch currents, ocean waves, or flowing creeks and Rivers- we are all boatmen, and are all passionate about our boats and the waters they travel upon. It would seem that yes, this passion is indeed a genetic trait that flows in our blood.

Curious about the findings of my watery heritage, I did a quick google search for McArthur with various boat/river words and found- of course myself on the Kokopelli rafting guide bio page, but also, a Charlie MacArthur who is the founder of the Aspen Kayak Academy, and USA canoe/kayak Olympic team member Jared McArthur. Also, who could forget the young woman who broke the world record for the fastest solo circumnavigation of the globe in 2005- Ellen MacArthur. It would seem that my immediate family are not the only descendants to have carried on this boatman gene that the MacArthur clan was so renown for.

MacArthur Tartan

In conclusion, it didn't take much digging, rather only a scratch of the surface to discover some small but meaningful history connecting my passion to my lineage. Yes, this insatiable drive to float upon moving water is in deed a traceable genetic trait. I mean, I have always know that the McArthur Clan were notorious pipers, and knew that the music boiled in my veins, but it is almost comforting to know that the River too, boils in my veins in the same way. It is a part of me, deeply ingrained in my DNA, something I could never deny. It is my heritage, just as much as my music is.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Genetics of River Passion

     I have always said that Rivers run in my veins... In fact, it was during that delicate gestation period when my veins were being built, created, that my Dad, Thomas fell in Love with the River. Yup, my Mom, Richlyn was pregnant with me when my Dad got into boating. I sometimes wonder what, if any, effect that had upon my future life. My Dad introduced me to Rivers at the impressionable young age of not quite four years old, as well as my older Brother, Aaron. But he didn't get the bug, not like I did anyways. I mean, don't get me wrong, Aaron enjoys boating. The only time he ever goes is when I take him though. He can live without the River... I can not.
     My Dad came to visit recently and I had the pleasure of R2ing a lovely afternoon float through lower Browns Canyon with him. When we got home that evening and were looking at the days photos from the rapid Twin Falls, I was struck by the uncanny resemblance between my Dad and I's facial expressions, and their progression through the rapid. We had identical expressions on our faces throughout the entire series! My Daughter, Charlotte seated between us was not a far cry off in many of the photos as well.
     This photo series started my mulling over the idea of  Passion for the River as being a possible genetic trait. I have noticed before that the River seems to simply "flow in the blood" for many of us River rats...

   I mean, there is something undeniably genetic going on here. Yes, of course I am my Fathers Daughter, yes I look allot like him, I look allot like my Mom too. Sure my Mom and Brother enjoy boating... when I drag them out on the River & make them go! But there is something there that drives Thomas and I, compels us to the River, keeps us coming back for more... Whatever chemical balance/(imbalance?) it is that produces that exhilarating sense of Bliss and Joy at moving with flowing water, seems to reside in both of our cerebral cortex's.
     My best friend Jeremy is also a crusty old River guide, and Mom to two beautiful little River Girls. She once told me about driving cross country with her Mom years ago, on her way to California, to be a full time River guide. (As opposed to working as just a weekend warrior, as she had been doing for the previous few years in Pittsburgh, PA.) They were driving through Glenwood Springs, CO near the Colorado River, when her Mom suddenly volunteered a small but important piece of information, previously unknown to Jeremy: That her biological father (whom she hardly knew) had been a River guide on the Colorado there in Glenwood Springs. Suddenly Jeremy's deep need to run Rivers made more sense to her, as no one in her nuclear family was even the slightest bit interested in the River. In fact, her Mom is scared to death of whitewater, and out of three siblings, she has only managed to get the youngest brother out on a River. Jeremy though, has that deep compelling need to ride the waves, flow with the current, run the River... she too, can not live without the River.
Laurels 6th birthday present last summer, class III!
     Jeremy's husband Steve will go rafting, though it is really not his thing. Their girls though, Laurel (7) and Faith (4.5) Love rafting! Particularly Laurel, who's 6th birthday present last summer was her first class III, and whom worked very hard at swim lessons to meet her Dada's criteria for being aloud to run class III. Now, she is begging for IV's! Jeremy's girls seem to have inherited that River gene, that Love of flowing water, of flowing with water... The gene that came from the Father Jeremy never really knew, being passed down to her girls. Just as my Father passed it to me, and I in turn to my Daughter, who also seems to cary that Joy of the River.
     My boyfriend Alan also inherited his Love of the River from his Mom, Lee. They discovered it together  though... Alan spent his early childhood canoeing on lakes, as he and his Mom spent many a summer paddling on flat water. At the tender age of 6, Alan had figured out that if he turned the big metal lake canoe around and sat on the back seat, facing the stern, it made the boat much more wieldy for a single paddler to navigate. And so at 6 years old, Alan was proudly soloing his canoe around all the coves and inlets of the lake shores. When Alan was 12, his parents got divorced. Undeterred by diversity, Lee took the opportunity to further explore her desire to boat. She bought a couple of sit on top kayaks, which she and 12 year old Alan began paddling down the lazy class II San Marcos River in TX. A few years later, Lee met a man who also shared an insatiable curiosity for the River. Together, the three of them took a whitewater kayaking class, and so at the age of 14, Alan sat in his first decked boat, never to look back. Over the next few years they explored the world of whitewater kayaking, canoeing, and rafting together, running any River they could get to!
     In 1999, when Alan was 16, his Mom and her boyfriend took a rowing clinic with Far Flung Adventures. Alan paddled along in his kayak, but the Arkansas River at 3K was quite a step up for him! He sites that trip as having been one of the most important events in his early River life. (Ironically enough, that same summer I was about to turn 18, and was training my tail off with Far Flung Adventures on the Rio Grande in NM, and after my birthday at the end of July, began my career as a guide.) Afflicted by that same burning need, Alan is on the River most every day, and I am sure that Lee would be as well, were she still with us...
Multi shot collage of 16 year old Alan paddling Sidel's Suck Hole on the Arkansas River, CO at 3,000 cfs
Photos taken, cut and glued by his Mom.

     It is apparent that a Love of the River is somehow passed on through the generations, wether it incubates during a childhood on the River, or surfaces later as that undeniable urge, unquenchable need to flow with the current, roll with the waves, be one with the River. But where did this gene begin? Who passed it on to Thomas, to Jeremy's Father, to Lee? For that matter who gave it to Georgie Clark White, and Uncle Steve Harris? Is our parents urge to run Rivers just as deep a biological need as ours? I know that Rivers have been run for centuries, eons even. Rivers were the original trade routs, highways before there were highways. Is there a generational gap between the necessity of running Rivers and the recreation of running Rivers? A gene that was somehow repressed until it could resurface and flourish? Somehow I am reminded of an old folk song about a "raftsman" named Jack Haggerty...

      I wonder if there was a boater somewhere in the dim and distant history of my family tree, there is after all another boater in my family... I call him my Uncle Jim, though he's not really my Uncle. He's just far enough removed to make whatever the official title is ultra confusing. His Mom and my Grandma Charlotte were first cousins, but also best friends, so they raised Jim and Thomas as first cousins, and so I was raised as his niece. Jim lives here on the Arkansas River and guided it, as well as the Salmon River in ID for many many years. Whatever that gene is, wherever it came from... Uncle Jim got it too.
     Cursed or Blessed... either way- for better or for worse, I am personally grateful for my River affliction. Somehow, I plucked that piece of DNA out of my primordial soup... and I hope that this Love of the River stays alive for generations of my lineage to come. Rivers are after all the life blood of our planet, the veins that keep us all alive and functioning, how appropriate then is it that some of us feel the River within our own veins? I mean, someone has to Love Rivers enough to steward them for the rest...

Epilogue: A few months after writing this blog post, I came across some interesting information regarding that enigmatic question of "Where did this gene come from?" My musings of this concept continues here- Genetics- Addendum

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Epic Barbie Swim...

The first Rafting Barbie
     When my daughter was born I searched high & low for River dolls... you know, rafting & or kayaking dolls. Let me tell you, they are few & far between (basically non existent,) and what does exist is lame... more like wind surfing, or touring kayak, no whitewater dolls. None. So, I took matters into my own hands, and made a rafting doll! The first one I made was from one of those super cheep waxy plastic naked craft store type barbies that old ladies crochet ornate victorian dresses for. I made her a PFD out of a beer koozie, a few accessories, and stuck her in a mini Hyside raft! We soon discovered though, that those dolls really are made for old ladies & do not hold up to play... arm & legs regularly come off...

     I later found a surfer Barbie who had board shorts, a bikini top & get this... Flat Feet!!!! OMG! No high heels for this doll! And so the next rafting Barbie was born! Because the doll looked a little bit like me, (blonde with pink shorts & purple PFD anyways,) Charlotte & I decided to make her look more like me, so we chopped off the hair & painted some tattoos & voila! Rafting Mommy Barbie! Charlotte then decided that her friends Faith & Laurel needed a rafting Barbie of their awesome River Goddess Mamma, Jeremy. Hmmm... this one was going to be tougher... how do you give a Barbie doll dreadlocks? Bees wax! Also, the dolls started riding the bull through class III, so it was time to make helmets, and easter eggs proved the perfect fit!

Jeremy and Elisha Barbies riding the bull through Zoom Flume on the Arkansas River, CO

     So here is where it gets even funnier... our friend Carla came to visit this summer, and did a good bit of rafting with us. Of course the Barbies came along as well, and Carla's first question was "Where is the Alan doll?" So of course I had to buy a surfer Ken & make a rafting Alan Ken doll. Then Carla had to have a rafting Carla Barbie, and of course we were not compete without a rafting Charlotte Skipper. Charlotte likes the grown up rafting Barbies well enough, but she Loves the Charlotte doll! She happily plays with her Charlotte doll all over the raft and generally leaves Mommy doll to ride the bull.

The Crew:
Carla, Alan (complete with kilt,) Elisha,  & Jeremy

Happy Rafting Barbie Family!


A lovely family outing in Browns Canyon.
      One day recently we are all on a family outing in Browns Canyon. Alan was rowing, while Charlotte, the dogs, and myself bow flowered. It was a lovely day and I was thoroughly enjoying my position of bow flower, Charlie snuggler & beer getter. Charlotte had her dolly and was dancing her up and down on the side tube when she suddenly burst into tears! Realizing what had happened and seeing the Charlotte Skipper doll floating away down the entrance to the rapid raft ripper I instinctually yelled, (Despite the fact that he was rowing, not paddling, and that I was in no way in charge of the boat whatsoever...) "Alan! Paddle forwards!" while shoving my foot under the thwart and extending myself as far out over the bow as I could possibly stretch, reaching, reaching, just out of range... 
     Alan of course obliged, rallying to the absurdity of my command, having realized the dolls peril and an urgent need to make the crying stop. He rowed forward with all he had, but the doll eluded us, dropping over a small pourover and recircing for a moment. We eddied out just down stream watching for her to flush, then intercepted in mid current. She was ferrying across the current at remarkable speed and encroaching upon the swiftly approaching rapid. I grunted, I stretched, my foot twisted in the thwart, I touched the doll and closed my hand upon empty water as she disappeared under the boat. Uttering unintelligible noises I surged forward, loosing my foothold and only barely keeping my balance of torso upon tube, and blindly grab at guessed space under the boat. 
     Teetering back into the boat, my arm shoots triumphantly into the air holding the rescued swimmer aloft as I shout "Got it!" Charlottes sobbing tears instantly turn to squeals of joy as she jammers on about how "safety" her doll was by keeping her feet up and floating on her back, and how proud she was of her doll for knowing what to do.
Charlie happy to have her Charlie doll back,
below raft ripper after the dolls epic swim.
     Charlotte Skipper doll lost her helmet during the final dynamic grab, and we watched the current below raft ripper for a while looking for it, but to no avail. It's ok though, because when we got home that night she got a brand new pink helmet. Charlotte called her Grandma and told her all about the epic Barbie swim, and how "safety" she was in her whitewater swim position.
     As was the topic of my last blog post, I'm still freaked out about the idea of Charlotte taking a swim someday. This time though, I'm glad it was just the doll & not the girl.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Inevitability and Fear

     When asked if I have ever fallen out of a boat, my response is always, "We are all just in between swims." As any boater knows, this is solid truth. And, as any boating parent knows, our River children will someday take their first swim.
     I remember my first swim... I must have been about 7 years old, we were on day three of a Chama trip. My mom was rowing the cataraft. Our boat mates were Kelly (who was a year or two younger than me,) and her mom Linda. There was a kayaker surfing the hole at the bottom of a rapid. Oblivious to the raft barreling down on top of him, he didn't move. To avoid running him over, my mom made a last minute evasive maneuver, slamming a rock, which stuck us good. I had been sitting on a cooler, holding a loose strap end. The bump sent me head over heels backwards. I somehow managed to have hold of the boat, I don't remember if it was the loose strap tail still in my hand, or the frame, but I was holding on Tight! I remember thinking that I just needed to get myself back in the boat because Mommy & Linda were trying to get the boat unstuck and that was important! I remember being annoyed with Kelly when she started screaming "Mommy! Mommy! Lishy's in the water!" I was climbing in, I could do it myself & the moms were busy doing something important! Hurumph! Kelly's screams struck what I now know to be instant terror in the hearts of the moms & both came rushing over to the other side of the boat & pulled me in. The simple weight shift to the low side freed us from the rock they had been hauling on, and on we went down stream.
     I don't remember my dad pounding safety talks into my brain, I know I had a very good sense of River safety as a kid though, as well as a good understanding of currents, eddies, and swimming at a ferry angle. I do remember my dad making me swim allot of little rapids. I Loved it! I would swim a ripple, eddy out, hike back up, hop back in & do it over & over & over again! I think my parents prepared me well for my first swim, and consequently I handled it well. 
     I try my best to prepare my daughter for her inevitable first swim... I do pound safety talks into her brain, heck she hears my commercial speech often enough she'll probably have it memorized in another year or two! She helped me give the safety speech to her cousins today. It was their first time rafting. "Stay in the boat, hold on tight, hold on even if you fall out, swim to the boat, lay on your back with your feet out, don't stand up." She knows her stuff, if not all in practical application yet, at least in verbalization. We talk about currents, watch where it flows, point out eddies, talk about ferry angles. She swims great with her PFD, but it's a crutch. She starts swim lessons on monday morning, and not a moment too soon! 
       She swam her first rapid a few weeks ago, one of the little ripples I so often took training swims through on the Rio Grande as a kid. Back then it was called Ben & Jerry's hole. Due to alterations from a mudslide in '95 it's now called after five, but it's essentially still just a small hydraulic with nothing else around it.  We were stopped on the beach above it eating chocolate cake when we saw passengers on a commercial trip swim through it. I asked if she wanted to try swimming it, and she excitedly replied, "Yeah!" I ferried out into the tongue with her, so very proud and more than a bit nostalgic. She rocked the whitewater swim position & then took a face full of water like a champ! She said it was fun, except that she didn't like the part where the wave went over her head. Bubbles, we need to work more on blowing bubbles out the nose...

Riding the tongue into "After Five" on the Rio Grande!
Taking a huge face full of water on her first whitewater swim!
     I really do try to prepare her and emphasize safety, but the thought of her taking a swim scares me... and she almost did today. In fact, I almost sent her and all three of her cousins (ages 6, 8, & 10) for a swim, not to mention myself and the other two adults on board. The water is low, it's really low. I am no stranger to low water, and actually have quite the Love affair with technical boating. With the water this low there are plenty of rocks out, and it is on your toes technical!
     Browns Canyon of the Arkansas River, stare case rapid, stair step #5, has a huge rock in the center. It is a left run, and as the water drops, little bugger rocks begin popping out at the top left, making it a swoop kind of maneuver. Rowing today (as opposed to paddle boating) I set up to pull it, in my normal oar boat line; pull nose just past big rock, ass behind bugger rocks, big left oar back stroke & swoop-whoosh! 
     I still am unsure as to whether it was simply visual error, or the left to right upstream wind, but I thought I had my bow around that rock, right where I wanted it. When I gave that good solid left back stroke though, my insta swoop-whoosh glory line suddenly turned nightmarish. My right tube rode up on the big rock & I yelled the first "HIGHSIDE" I have commanded in a long time. I handed my vertical & useless left oar to Charlotte's Uncle Andy, to simply keep it from falling out of the oarlock, and commence to climb out onto the rock, barking commands at the girls (who were sitting in water on the low side) to hold on tight, and at Charlotte's dad to get the girls up on the high side & hold on to Them tight! The boys, the two older kids, seemed to have a pretty good idea of staying high & holding on. Along with all the commands, my normal silent prayer to the River was uttered audibly... "River Be With Us." Andy handed my oar right back to me saying he wanted to get out on the rock, for some reason I let him. Gingerly, him pushing and I pulling, thinking to myself the last thing I ever want to do is flip a boat load of small kids, holding small consolation in the bottom of my gut, of my friend eddied out below us, ready to nab kids out of the water. We ease the boat off the rock and Andy flying leapt into the freed and racing boat. Relief flooding my every cell like a drug...
     I felt like I had been standing on the left tube, though I know I wasn't. My friend in the eddy below consoled me that my boat actually looked pretty flat, and that he didn't think we were in danger of flipping. It felt vertical to me though. There was a moment when I thought we Were flipping, and the ease off the rock was very touchy. I was scared. I didn't feel scared in the moment, I was in complete crisis management - get 'er done - head on shoulders mode. Once we were off and ok though, I realized I had been scared, very scared. As the day has ended and the evening worn on, I have allowed myself to realize just how scared I really was. I scared myself damn good today, and feel incredibly humbled, as the only the River can do. As much as I try to prepare Charlotte for her first swim, she is still only four years old. As many times as she has run browns canyon, and other class III rivers, there is still always that chance... that fluke move, that gust of wind, that whim of the River Gods.
     Had I been in that predicament with a commercial trip (as I have a time or two in my career,) I would have come out of it laughing, whooping and hollering, "Adventure and Excitement!" Exciting runs are not a normal part of my daily commercial grind, so when they happen I get a real kick out of it, and the customers seem to as well. Today though, I came out of it shaking and pale, thanking Andy for his help, and the River for its kindness. Four small children. My daughter. Inevitability lurks in Charlotte's future, not necessarily her cousins futures though. I am just grateful that all stayed in the boat, and that the grey side stayed down today. 
     As I carried my sleepy Charlotte from the car seat into pajamas and bed tonight, she told me, "Mamma, my favorite part of rafting is when the boat gets stuck and all the water rushes in the floor and I get soaking wet & we have to get unstuck and then I dry out." She seems to have enjoyed herself today. Thank you River for not scarring Her too much too fast. Thank you River for showing me the difference between being a River Mamma and being a raft guide, and Thank you for postponing Charlotte's appointment with the Arkansas River swim team. 
Charlotte and her cousins Loving the ride through Zoom Flume.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

River Dreams Sweet Baby

While organizing my desk this morning & going through old paper work, (a harrowing task indeed,) I came across a poem I wrote while pregnant, and finally put it to a photo I had been threatening to meld it with for quite some time now. The photo is of nursing two year old Charlotte, sitting on our raft, floating in an eddy, watching the evening clothe it's glowing inky dusk upon the softly gurgling Chama River...
River Dreams, Sweet Baby...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

On the Subject of Challenge

          noun /'CHalenj/
                1. A call to take part in a contest or competition
                     - he accepted the challenge
                2. A task or situation that tests someone's abilities 
                     - the ridge is a challenge for experienced climbers

     Challenge is a funny thing, what may be simple daily tasks to one person, could be the most momentous challenge to another. For example, running class III-IV whitewater is a delightful daily task to me, and is often a huge hurdling and frightening challenge to my customers. On the flip side of that coin though, what challenges me the most, would likely surprise many of my rafting customers. I often find simple things challenging, like organizing my desk, keeping track of important paperwork, returning phone calls, putting away the folded laundry, getting my oil changed... simple things. Simple things that I suck at. Backing trailers down long narrow crowded ramps or round cramped corners... easy! Cooking for a hungry crowd of 16 on a beach in the wilderness... easy! Standing up in front of large crowds singing the innermost vulnerability of my soul and fiddling until my finger tips blister... easy! 

     Yesterday though, I found myself facing one of my greatest challenges, trusting western medicine. I have come to learn over the years, that western medicine has it's place, particularly in the realm of surgery. I mean, I'm one of those crazy hippies that gathers herbs in the fall to make tinctures and salves for the year. I run to the health food store for homeopathics instead of the Dr.'s office for antibiotics. I used to loath western medicine... until it saved my life, and the life of my daughter. At this point, I would like to insert a passage from my birth story...

(Day three of labor.)  We arrived at the hospital around 7:30 and Joanna soon thereafter. I remember standing and swiveling in the entryway with Alex and Alycia, still holding the hot water bottle on my back, not really believing where I was, while my Mom parked the car. The nurses were nice, though a bit taken aback when I refused any kind of IV or anything without seeing the doctor first. I wouldn’t lay down either, I wanted to swivel. 

    When the doctor came in and checked me, he said that I was only two cm dilated. I muttered “sphincter law” and rolled my eyes, not surprised in the least by the doctors finding. Walking into that hospital was so scary, my body reacted about as drastically as it could, closing off, fear of danger, keep baby safe inside... The doctor did an ultrasound, and said that there was no amniotic fluid left, and that baby was posterior.

     Then… he said something that made me angry, he said “This baby is just simply too big for your pelvis.” I spat “Bull Sh*t!” at him vemenously , and pointed at Alycia, “You see that woman there! She pushed out a ten pound posterior baby and has half the pelvis I do!” “Congratulations” he nodded at her dryly, and gave me a look that said “OK, my reason may have been BS, but you still need a c-section, no if’s and’s or but’s. Do I really have to explain it to you?” I asked for a minute, and he obliged.

     At that point my mom got in my face and yammered ceaselessly, I had to yell at her to stop so I could hear what Alycia and Joanna had to say. Alycia didn’t have to say anything, the look on her face said it all. Joanna patiently explained to me about the absence of amniotic fluid and the cervical regression, no time to re-dialate... and said in simple words that, No, at that point I did not have a choice. Alex mentioned his grandmothers dry birth, which had left her brain damaged. I think it came as a surprise to me, I was still so set on having a vaginal birth, that I hadn’t even let the thought of c-section cross my mind. 

     The next moment was the single most difficult moment of my entire life. Everything that had come before was insignificant to the momentous challenge of finding acceptance, to consent to having my belly cut open. The long labor, the Olympic pushing, crazy class V+ rapids, being deported from the UK… every challenge my life had seen up until that point, all paled in comparison to that one small moment. I burst into screaming sobbing tears, I collapsed into someone’s arms, I don’t know whose, and cried and screamed and sobbed and cried and cried and cried.

     To this day, that one moment, that split second of acceptance, is still the greatest challenge I have ever faced. In a world where women schedule c-sections by choice, (finding it less frightening than the prospect of labor?) I found out at that moment, that it was my greatest fear. The three day labor was the easy part. Accepting that I needed a c-section? The most difficult thing I have ever done. 
my bionic ankle
     A year and a half later, I got to face the fear of surgery again, this time I accomplished it with much more grace. I broke my ankle, broke it good, dislocated and shattered it actually. I was under anesthesia for a full four hours while my ankle was jigsaw puzzled back together with titanium. That time though, my fear going into surgery was subdued by gratitude, gratitude to be alive in todays day and age, when what once would have been an amputee limb, is now so simply bionic. Western medicine may lack in whole care, prevention, and addressing base line issues, but I came to the realization through experience, that they have got the surgery thing down pat, they are damn good at it. It still scares the crap out of me though. 
     So yesterday... yesterday was challenging. Yesterday my daughter had surgery. Nothing invasive, it was dental surgery actually, but she was under full anesthesia, and I was scared. I was sick to my stomach all day. I had been wringing my hands over this for weeks. I think I'm finally over it today now that she is %100 back to her normal bubbly self. But wow, it definitely "tested my ability..." my ability to be calm and confidant in front of her, to be her steadfast support, my ability to have faith. Faith in the anesthesiologist, the dentist, the RN, Charlottes constitution, the anesthesiologist... she's so little, it has to be such a minor margin for error anesthetizing a 33 lb toddler! Gaaah!
Waiting to go into the OR
      Tempering my fear, in flesh & blood, my ever present & patient life partner Alan is himself a miracle of modern medicine. He survived (and thrived!) open heart surgery at 13 months old, in 1983. His simple presence brought me much needed perspective. Oral surgery is (unfortunately) a common event for toddlers today, and the emotions I experienced during Charlottes anesthetization could never even begin to hold a candle to what his mother went though, I can't imagine what that must have been like. I don't mean to invalidate my feelings, that thought just helped me to keep them in check, a tool of perspective to help me meet my challenge.
     We succeeded! Everyone was very impressed with Charlotte, she never cried or fussed, and was very brave! They even told me I did great while holding her hand and talking to her while she fell asleep (!?) Do most parents freak out about this? Not act calm & collected? The last thing I wanted to do was let on to Charlotte that I was scared! Apparently I'm decent at maintaining a facade anyways. One way or another, we did it.
     When Charlotte woke up, she said "I was having a really silly dream." Then she guzzled apple juice like there was no tomorrow. There was no puking on the (normally pukey) drive back up stream through the windy canyon. (Just once in the parking lot before we even left.) She slept allot, was groggy & wobbly when up, (couldn't understand why she had no balance to run along the river side cobbles when we stopped for lunch in the canyon,) but ate & drank like the hunger of the world was upon her, & woke up this morning right as rain. Whew! Heavy unburdening sigh of relief! 
    OK, so challenge, having harangued about my personal challenge with trusting western medicine and confronting surgery, I feel it's time to move on to other challenges. Parenting! Ah ha! The ever constant challenge of parenting!
     So, monday night, we went to roll session, it had been a couple of weeks since we had last been. First Charlotte was sick, then I was sick... bleh, missed two of the last four sessions of the season! Anyways, yeah, it had been a while, & Charlotte was distracted. So here is where Charlottes challenges come into play. Paddling is not a challenge for her, she is a great little paddler, an absolute natural! Focusing however, is a Huge challenge for her (at times.) When focused, she accomplishes Amazing things! Sometimes though, focus is as far a reach as Jupiter. Now here is where my parenting challenge enters... cognitively I am aware of the fact that she is merely four years old, but being a non normal four year old, it is easy to forget this. She surprises me so often that my expectations of her have grown to meet this raised bar of hers. Then, when she acts like a perfectly normal toddler, I am at a loss as to how to act. 
A happy stoked & focused little paddler!
     I'm not trying to talk her up or be an overly proud parent or anything, I am simply confessing some of my bigger parenting challenges. Roll session, like skiing, is so amazingly fun for both of us when she is focused (and she often is.) We giggle and cheer, she blows me away with and revels in her progress. This is the Charlotte that I have learned to interact positively with. Now you would think that I could adapt to spacey hyper toddler interactions, but here is where I fail hardcore. Why can't I just let her splash around and goof off? What's the big deal? So what if she needs to run around and scream?
     We took a parenting class last fall, I know that sounds weird, but it really was incredible. (We were super bummed when the class ended mid-winter.) It's called Love & Logic, and it makes so much sense! What a simple, functional model... yet so hard to remember to do. We are all programed to our specific defaults, and even though I can hear myself speaking the wrong choice of words to her and am aware of my full on Love & Logic fail, the default miscommunication still comes right on out full force. Ouch. 
     Boundaries, I'm terrible about setting boundaries, and she knows it. Age four has brought on an immense amount of willfulness, she wants to know where her boundaries are... I never defined them for her. We are all struggling with this current challenge. Some aspects of parenting I find easy, cooing and cuddling away tears of any kind, (interestingly enough, coping with tears is Alan's biggest  parenting challenge,) creative play, reading stories, arts & crafts. I have no problem taking Rapunzel or Snow White with me to the grocery store, but splashing and day dreaming during rolls session? Blasphemy! Ug, of course it's fine. It's perfectly normal and acceptable. Henceforth, I hereby challenge myself to effectively, positively, and lovingly parent even in the most hyper, defiant, and down right challenging temper tantrum toddler moments my daughter can produce! 

     PS. A bit of a funny foot note here, ironically enough, this particular blog article has been exceptionally challenging to post! Between two of us and two days, we have finally managed to mitigate the bizarre text and color issues occurring (we think,) from having copied and pasted certain parts of the article, such as the challenge definition and birth story excerpt. Weird. On the subject of (ever present) challenge!  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Seasons Ebb and Flow...

Spring skiing conditions
     As the winter ebbs, spring begins to flow... slushy mashed potato snow & glacial patches dotted with rocks & (heaven forbid) entire fields of brown, melting to puddles under her swishing pink skis, and beging to trickle, trickle. Absorbing into mud, saturated, rushing tiny streamlets, down, down into the earth, down, down the mountain... still weeks away from its destination of the River. We hang up our skis, as the churning chair lift engines prime for hibernation, eek & slow to a seasons stop. And though the valleys blooming fruit trees and incessant sun shine suggest spring has long been underway, the River sings a different tune... Crystal green, its narrowed banks are flowing low, low. The runoff is running, what little there is to run this year, but not yet reaching River flows...
A Lovely float on the Verde River, AZ
Feb. 22 Arkansas River Float!
   This purgatorial time of interface, so dualistic in nature, brings the boats out right alongside the skis. Or this year, had the boats forgetting the skis... Low water schmo water, it's all boating to me! And the confused nature of current weather patterns seems to also confuse the human brain wave patterns in our little nuclear family. We pulled out the raft one sunny afternoon in late February and had a lovely wee float through town! Ensued by more such delightful floats in the following weeks. Then after a jaunt to Arizona where some beautiful Verde and Salt days were had in early March, we returned home to more sunny sky's and unseasonably warm temps. So, the skis commenced to gathering dust in the shed while the boats continued getting wet.
Maytag rapid- Salt River, AZ
     Yes, the water is officially 'stupid low.' Yes, we get our '14 raft stuck... allot, but we have fun! Browns  Canyon of the Arkansas River is not very conducive to rafting at 240 cfs, but it can be done! This I know from last saturdays escapades. It just takes allot of lowsiding and getting out on rocks to feed the raft through slots narrower than the boat is wide. During all of this early season low water boating we have been doing though, the ski hill remained open, in spite of our obliviousness... Ski? But it's River season, right? No, actually, it's not really.
     Our poor skis, after a full month of neglect, were gallantly rescued by a friend from New Mexico who came to visit and motivated us to go ski! It's a good thing too, because we caught the very tail end of it all. Ginger rallied us to ski on Friday, and inspired by hot pink '80's stretch pants, I managed to rally again on sunday, closing day... also know as Gaper day!

Last day- dressed to impress!

Ginger & Charlotte sporting spring skirts!
     This ski season was not about me though, in fact, I only free skied two days this winter! (One of which was [a rather serendipitous powder day] date, the other was our Valentines Day date.)  This season was about Charlotte. I did something very selfish, I took the winter off from my normal guise as ski instructor, and opted out of putting Charlotte in preschool, just so we could ski. Yup, we skied. She & I, just the two of us. Well, OK, Alan did a fair amount of skiing with us, but I encouraged him to go ski at his own pace, and he did so gladly. Alan is a remarkably patient man, Charlotte is not his child, and he is not one of those naturally awesome kid type people... in fact he is straight up not a kid person. He tries so hard though, and generally does a much better job of parenting her than he gives himself credit for. Anyways, tangent aside, yes Alan skied with us a good bit, but mostly it was Charlie and I, and she tore it up!
     Charlotte grew up in ski school. My daycare option was to bring her to ski school, and because she was such a little go getter, was aloud to ski in the 3-4 year old class instead of staying in the daycare. Charlotte first donned a pair of skis at 21 months old. I expected her to fall down, get upset, and get over it... but no. She went bombing straight down the hill screaming "Weeeeeeee!" Got to the bottom and said "Again again! More more!" And a little shredder was born. As mentioned, her ability on skis won her entrance to the 'little chips' ski class at one and a half. And so, she skied. Occasionally she asked to play in the daycare room, but more often than not she wanted to ski!
Charlottes first day of skiing, 21 months old.
     Her second year as a 'little chip' (then 2 1/2, still younger than the class age,) saw her excel beyond the kids ski school hill to greens up on the big mountain, and easy blues by the end of the year. Ending the season with a bang, she skied her first few bumps, after weeks of begging "Mommy, how do you ski bumps? Can you show me how to ski bumps Mommy? Mommy, how do you ski bumps?" I kept telling her "Next year sweetie, next year." But she persevered & won, tackling a few easy bumps on the last run of the last day. She fell down twice, got right back up, skied those darn bumps & was super proud of herself!
Tuck! Faster!
Bumps baby!
     This year, with Mommy & a whole season all to herself, she accomplished amazing things! It seemed like every day she got something new, even up until the last day, when she learned to tuck. This year Charlotte tackled many bumps; large ones, steep ones. Fell in love with trees, tore up deep powder, and faced some remarkably steep slopes. (Not always with dignity, but always with her own ability.) She learned an amazing amount of technical skills this year too; carving, railroad tracks, skid turns, hockey stops, skating, tucking, etc... Charlotte has never had a power wedge, she skis parallel. The ski school I worked at preaches direct to parallel & is super conservative with their use of the wedge. She also never had one of those harness/leash things, she just always had to tag along in the gaggle of a class. This year though, this year was big for her, and she hit milestones.
      Here is where I find myself feeling guilty of neglect... what happened to the last month!? Gone... gone in a splash of blissful spring time boating! Not waisted, no no, but gone. Two more days, that was all I got her up skiing for, and now it's done for the season. I feel like somehow I cut her short... Charlotte wants life and she goes after it! This is the child who began walking on her 8 month birthday and has not slowed down since... and I, I am simply a tool for bringing opportunity to her, while watching Blissfully as she eats it up. I am reminded of one beautiful powder day this winter, we were skiing some of her favorite trees, straight off behind the patrol shack at the top of the lift, when she suddenly stopped and said "Wow, this is steep! Hey! Do steep and deep rhyme!?" Both of us giggling, she took off again... shredding those steep and deep trees, at her three and a half year old pace, not fast, but efficient.
Loving life on a powder day! 
     So ski season ebbed it's final tidal withdraw, as we three were already fulling riding the trickling, but growing flow into River season... at least we weren't too far down stream... we did get those last two days, and I am grateful.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Stories

     We are getting ready for tomorrow, it's the last day of the ski season, oh & it's also Easter. Easter often seems to take me by surprise. We already celebrated the Spring Equinox, right? Right... well, sure! Lets keep celebrating spring & rebirth! Yay Spring! Rebirth of the world, & Rivers flowing!
      I'm often on the Salt River during Easter, living in the guide slums of 2nd camp, halfway down the day stretch, on a bumpy dusty dirt road known as Apache Highway One. Easter there is noted by the sudden appearance of dozens of Apache families picnicking and fishing on the beaches of 2nd camp, and by the colored egg shell confetti decorating the beach the next day. Generally just another beautiful work day in paradise, noted by slightly awkward beach landing at lunch, and next day trash mitigation.
Zip Line! Easter 2011
     It's been a couple years since I've worked the Salt though... lets see, last year we went to an awesome Easter party comprised mostly of River parents & little shredders (all dolled up in their Easter Dresses!) The egg hunt was fun & all, but the zip line seemed to be the main attraction! The year before that... um... oh yeah! Shist Camp in the Grand! One lovely lady on our trip had the wherewithal to bring plastic eggs & place them all around the dark cliff behind the kitchen before anyone else was up! (Again, I was totally out of the loop & didn't even know it was Easter!) What was important to me was that I had talked to Charlotte on the phone at Phantom Ranch the day before, & we all aced Crystal beautifully that day.
The Crystal Hole, Easter 2010
     This year, well. Like I said, pretty big day tomorrow, end of ski season. And I am excited to sport my original '80's hot pink Obermyer jacket & stretch pant gaper outfit! Easter though, right. So we dyed eggs after supper, and once Charlotte was in bed & the dishes done, I commenced to do what any parent does the night before Easter. I pulled out the package of cheep plastic, made in China toxic BPA (& who know what else) laden plastic eggs, and filled them with all natural nothing artificial bunny gummies, jelly beans and chocolates. As I piled the filled plastic eggs into Charlottes little white felt bunny shaped basket... I was suddenly overwhelmed with memories of Charlottes first Easter.
     I bought that basket in Sholo, AZ on Easter Sunday 2009. Charlotte was 12 months old & we were down on the Salt River together, Mommy getting back to work & back on her feet. It was a low water year on the Salt & business was slow. Three of us actually had that sunday off, so we all four piled into a car & made a run to town... the Sholo eddy. I was desperate to do Something for her for Easter, but the shelves were shopped pretty bare by that point, that little felt bunny basket was pretty much my choice of baskets.
Egg hunt! Salt River Canyon 2009
     A town run from the Salt (be it the Globe or Sholo eddy) always takes a whole day. There is nothing in the Canyon except what we bring with us, so shopping, laundry, showers, filling gas, water & propane... it's a long day. Our errands were not heavy & we made it back to camp by dusk, but dusk it was. We got right to work as soon as we got there though! Mommy hid eggs all over our little tent site & Charlotte went egg hunting by headlamp! I don't think I have ever seen such a happy Easter egg hunter! No other kids to compete with, just her, her little felt bunny basket, her head lamp, & a whole package of prize filled eggs all over our camp! Even after the hunt was over, she kept looking for treasure, & found fun little things like wild flowers & a tent stake. Watching her that evening was like watching pure Joy in motion.
No more eggs? I found a tent stake! Easter 2009 
     Easter may sneak up on me more often than not... but it is almost always profoundly blissful! And ridiculous as it may seem... I love that silly little felt basket, and I love that Charlottes first ever easter egg hunt was in the bottom of the Salt River Canyon, by head lamp light.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Multitasking - San Juan River Mud

In light of how totally un-supermomish & lame I feel right now, having caught whatever soar throat & headachy thing it is that Charlotte had the other day. I though it might be nice to post a little reminder of the supermom multitasking skills that we all seem to be magically blessed with upon induction into motherhood... This is a brief video from two summers ago. R1ing on the Chama, singing a recently composed song - San Juan River Mud, while nursing a tired & cranky toddler! Yay multitasking!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Do Rivers Flow in Confluence With Motherhood?

16 month old Charlotte rowing along with Mommy. Salida float stretch - Arkansas River, CO 
     DO Rivers Flow in Confluence with Motherhood? This is a question I found myself facing rather seriously about three years ago...
     I was raised on the River, my parents were private boaters. In fact, maybe it began in gestation... my Dad started really getting into boating while my Mom was pregnant with me. However it started for me, it never stopped. We would do at least one trip on the Main Salmon, San Juan or Chama ever summer, and got as many day floats in as possible in between. We skied, hiked, climbed, mountain biked too, but none of it touched me the way the River did. The River flowed through my heart, pulsed in my every vein, pulled at my life...
    Due to divorce, my parents quit boating the year I was supposed to get my own kayak, and run my first Grand trip. I was about to turn 12. The River seemed to easily fall to the wayside for everyone else in the family. I however, could not live without it. By the time I was 13 I had found my way back onto the River! At 15 I began training to guide, and at 18 my career as a River Guide began.
     Fast forward eight years... My daughter was conceived on the banks of the Arkansas River in Salida, CO in early June of 2007. I worked the season, puking off the back of my raft every day. Futile beer fines for cleaning up rookies carnage eluded all but one crusty old guide who graciously brought me jugs of apple juice. My PFD pockets housed a constant stash of trail mix and crystalized ginger. "Morning sickness" was a joke, it was 24/7 sickness, and I did my best to not puke in front of guests. Often times that meant holding it until we were in a rapid so they wouldn't notice me hurling over the side of my boat, sometimes that last "paddle forwards!" was a little touch & go...
     Charlotte was born durning early Salt Season the next spring, my home birth didn't work out like I had planned, but somehow I think she wanted to be born on the banks of the Rio Grande, at a hospital three blocks from the Rio, in Alamosa, CO. We visited the Salt River seven weeks later, and her tiny toes were first baptized in the cold clear water of Cibique Creek at it's confluence with the Salt. I got on the water a handful of times that season, but took the year off to just be a full time stay at home mom.
     Fast forward one more year... My marriage had been failing for quite some time, and finally the PBR won him over & Charlotte won me over. So off we went, my one year old daughter and I... to Salt season. I didn't know where else to go, it's where I go every spring. There happened to be a family down there that season with a little girl about Charlottes age. Bella Rio's mom watched both the girls during the day so her Dad & I could guide. She & Charlotte had a blast together! It was a short season, but liberating.
Charlottes first boat ride! Salt River, AZ  (13 months old)

      Upon ascending from the bottom of that magical canyon though, I was faced with the reality of being an instant add water single Mom. We had to do what so many in my position have grudgingly done. We moved in with my Mom.
     Santa Fe, New Mexico was the last place I wanted to be. It was also the only place I could be. So, I printed up my resume, and with Charlotte in a backpack & my dog Alaska on a leash, walked down town to the Kokopelli Rafting Adventures office. There are only two rafting companies in Santa Fe, & knowing the Northern New Mexico Rio Grande commercial industry as intimately as I do, I knew I did not want to work for the other one.
     It was an Amazing season! The Taos Box ran through the second week of July (almost unheard of,) and the company that hired my bedraggled looking, baby toting self... treated me like gold, and still does. I was as high as the River! Life was beautiful!
     I found myself facing much self doubt though... here I was, a single mom, living with my mom, still guiding full time. Something nagged at me, like it wasn't OK to be a single mom raft guide. I didn't know any other single mom raft guides... had never even heard of one! But who was I? A preschool teacher? No. A waitress? No. I am a raft guide.
     This is when I found myself facing that heavy question that haunted me so... "Do Rivers Flow in Confluence with Motherhood?" I justified myself to myself, as I seemed to be the only one judging me. "She was a planned pregnancy." "I'm just trying to get back on my feet." "It's the career I invested in." I felt like somehow society wanted me to get a job at a daycare or something, be responsible, be normal. I tortured myself.
     Then my first overnight trip of the season arrived.  It was my first night away from Charlotte ever, she was safe at home with grandma & a bottle of expressed breast milk. I was excited to be working an overnight, but stressed at being away from my baby girl. I was TL, & had the delight of only other girl guides on the trip. They were both rookies & tried very hard, but I found my hands extra full. The distraction was good, but once the guests were fed & contentedly sat around the fire, dishes done & kitchen put away, I found myself in desperate need of relieving pressure in my breasts! I wandered upstream with my breast pump and sat on a raft, pumping milk, listening to the bubbling gurgle of the Rio Grande, and watching the moon rise over the canyon rim. Emptying a full bottle of breast milk into the lazy eddy, watching the milky water mingling in the moonlight, I suddenly realized that it was perfect. That I AM a River Mamma, and I can not be anything but. I returned to the fire relieved of pain in my breasts as well as my heart, where I sang and fiddled, professing (secretly through subtle song & emotion) my undying Love to the Rio Grande... my first True Love.
     Throughout the rest of the season I plagued myself less, suddenly proud of washing wetsuits with one arm while balancing a nursing Charlotte on my other hip, rather than self conscious. I came to realize that by being true to myself, as (radical as that self may be,) I was being the best possible Mother that I could be. To deny my nature would be cheating Charlotte of the woman she chose to be her Mother.
     Charlotte and I spent two years in the grace of my Moms home, supported, encouraged, Loved. Charlotte ran her first (out of utero) river float trip at 12 months old & her first class III run at 2 1/2 years old. As mentioned in my first post, her incessant begging for a kayak from the age of 2, produced one shortly before the age of 4. She now has well over 200 River miles under her young belt, & is a remarkably proficient paddler for the tender age of 4! She often tells me how much she Loves the River & regularly begs to go rafting, (as well as skiing, but that is a story for a different day...)
    Yes, Rivers DO Flow in Confluence with Motherhood, and I am Proud to be a Happy River Mamma, to a Happy River Baby.
Class III River Baby! 2 1/2 year old Charlotte in "Souse Hole" on the Rio Grande, held by Grandpa. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kayak practice or Dora?

It's monday evening... we missed the roll session at the local pool last monday due to wall bouncing overstimulated adhd type behavior. Charlotte (barely 4 years old,) participated in a super fun circus camp all last week, but trying to rally to practice our kayaking after day one of circus camp was just not going to happen! When she concentrates, she accomplishes amazing things! The week before, she learned how to paddle backwards in a straight line, and to stop her momentum when paddling forward. Awesome! When she's not focused though... bleh... it's just frustrating for both of us!
     Charlotte began begging for a kayak when she was two years old. She is now the proud owner of a bright pink Fluid Vaya (kids sit on top) kayak. It was her big fourth birthday present, though we gave it to her a few months early so that she could have as much experience in the pool as possible before river season hit.
     And tonight... we were both so excited to go paddle! It's April, there are only four more roll sessions left before the pool kicks us out & we have only the cold & swift river, (or cold & still ponds) to paddle on. We were gonna make the best of every roll session left! Yet this afternoon met us with the challenge of a runny nose & a sore throat... Poo. So, instead of loading up the boats & the swimsuits, we are curled up under fuzzy blankets, dosed on vitamin C and echinacea, drinking a warm cup of hot lime & honey, and spending the evening with our favorite digital friend, Dora the Explorer. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow, and sometimes the flow just circles in a Dora eddy for a little while...