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Arkansas Sunday Drive ~ Ponca

We love living on an Arkansas State Park. However, one thing we have to be diligent about is leaving it. Y’all come here for vacation, we leave for vacation. We do spend a lot of our weekends at our cabin in the woods. But then sometimes things like this happen that bring along an WOWZERS moment……

Isn’t it beautiful? In just over 24 hours, we received 4.1 inches of rain here at the park and the waterfall was ROARING. We all went to the overlook to check it out. Little Buckaroo sat in wonder and amazement. He did not want to leave. He looked up at me and said, “mom, Arkansas is so beautiful.”

That evening at the dinner table, Big Buckaroo asked us what we wanted to do on his day off. I mentioned a Sunday drive up toward Ponca to see the elk. The boys have not seen them, so off we went on a Sunday drive adventure.

First stop, the Ozark Burger Barn. In true Ozark hospitality, the gentleman told us we only needed two orders of fries (not four) or we would be wasting our money becasue they were plentiful and then said with squinty eyes “of courses we have sweet tea” (and it came in a HUGE cup compared to other drinks). The burgers were delicious.

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We drove the twisty, turny roads with beauty overwhelming us. I kept hearing the word AMAZING coming from the back seat.  Now friends, we live on a beautiful mountain, our property is in the Ozarks, the boys go with me all over the state for blogger/social media related work. This is not the first time they have experienced Arkansas.

Here is what was happening; kids live in the moment, truly look around and see with wonderment that which is front of them. A great lesson for us all.

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Then we came upon the Boxley Valley Mill Pond which is best known for its huge trumpeter swans that are visiting this time of year. They are beautiful from afar. Yes AFAR.

They are a little scary to me. Just ask my friend Mimi that works for P. Allen Smith. Allen’s swans have a vendetta against her and they will chase you down.

TRAVEL TIP: Just be sure you can run faster than the friends you go with and you will be fine.

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And, we found some elk! Rocky Mountain Elk were introduced here a few years ago to replace the somewhat smaller Eastern Elk that had been hunted into extinction. The Arkansas Game & Fish Commission exchanged smallmouth bass for elk with Colorado.  Today, the Buffalo National River has elk ranging throughout its length and a herd population of more than 700 animals.

Elk tend to feed in the fields that lie along the Buffalo National River between Ponca and Boxley, just after sunrise and then again in the late afternoon.  To find them, as we did, simply drive from Ponca down Hwy 43 to the south, keeping an eye on the fields on the east side of the road (watch for traffic, too!).  Elk can be anywhere from the Ponca access to the trailhead for the Buffalo River Trail on Hwy 21, about a 7-mile range.

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The Arkansas Game & Fish Elk Education Center is a must stop.  The exhibits are wonderful, they have amazing books in their bookstore (at 20% off the retail price), a knowledgeable staff and it is FREE! Just watch out for bears.

sunday-drive-5The exhibit room, complete with full-body mounts of elk in natural settings and an Arkansas black bear. There are hands-on displays of hides, skulls and other interesting artifacts, a geology display, interactive computer quizzes, as well as a birding window to view the many species of birds that frequent the feeders.

It was an amazing adventure, right in our own backyard. Get out and show your kids the world around us.

Nice to be the tourist every once in a while,
The Park Wife

Next Up: Eagle Watch
Go check out my post of where to see eagles in Arkansas on Onlyinark.com.

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Busyness from the Yeses

We had our first snow on the mountain last week. The boys were up EARLY ready to go out and play and of course, they wanted me to go out with them. My first thoughts were NOOOO….warm bed…more coffee. And, then I looked in the eyes of our baby who will be 9 years old in a few days and saw how fast it is going by.

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“And every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important! And this is important! You need to worry about this! And this! And this!” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important.” —IAIN THOMAS”

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My life is full of thousands of demands, the majority of them resulting from choices I have made. Sometimes I feel yanked this way and that way and this way again. I get totally off-balance. Of course, as I tip the scale to completely off balanced, I always wonder how it happened. I know, it is silly, as if it was not building with every time I said the word “YES” . Y-E-S, the three-letter word that I said one too many times that week  is the culprit.

I read in James 1:8  where is says “A doubleminded man (or woman) is unstable in all he does.”

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There are women who always say yes to the Lord and no to the world. I am always in awe of them. Others say yes to the world, but no to the Lord. But the doubleminded woman says yes to everything. Yep, this is me.

Consequently, I am off-balance like a high wire artist that has not had enough sleep and loaded up on coffee teetering dangerously on the wire, leaning one way, then the other. Her arms flailing, yelling out for help,  a cataclysmic fall waiting to happen. Oh, just a hot mess.

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I do not want to be doubleminded, and I bet most of you do not either. But, how do we know when to say yes and when to say no. Oh, the question of my life sistahs. How do I say NO when it is the better answer? Should I spend more time using Evernote so I am more organized, I know that Rescuetime has highlighted my time online in a way that is not pretty. I know without a shadow of a doubt that I am not disciplined enough.

What I am learning as a people pleaser: If I’m always trying to meet other people’s expectations,  I’m not living life for God’s priorities, but for other people’s priorities. All of my yeses are, by default, forcing me to say nos to better things.

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So, I have been weeding them out.

Choosing the things that I want to do, businesses I want to work with who are morally sound, focused on people, not fame and money. Surrounding myself with people that are fountains and not drains. It is a daily battle. But, one that I am actively fighting now rather than waiting until I am so bombarded that I can not take a swing.

As we launch ourselves into holiday season hoopla, I am striving to be conscious of the things fighting for my attention. And, as I snuggle every morning with our boys and hug my husband before he leaves for work, I send up a praise for my life, place my hand over my heart and remember, this is what is important.

Staying off Pinterest until next year,
The Park Wife

Pee Wee Football ~The First Year

My hand shook a little, I hesitated, and then signed the paperwork for Littlest Buckaroo to play pee wee tackle football.

Fear, a companion of mine, came for a long visit. I feared for his safety, feared that my baby would be scared out on the field with those big, tough 8, 9, and 10-year-olds that are twice his weight running after him, but most of all, I was worried that I’d cry and charge the field the first time he got knocked over (with my husband rushing to pull me back).

Which was exactly why I needed to let him do it.

The little boy that carries a football around with him all the time, learned to read on Tim Tebow’s Through My Eyes, and spends Sunday afternoons spouting off NFL stats was getting his chance to play the game.

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The first day of practice I hovered nervously, Big Buckaroo kept giving me “the look”,  y’all know the one ladies, let him go and grow up, yea, that one. So, I parked my chair on the sidelines and watched helplessly as most of the boys were turned into little men before my very eyes. They worked those boys hard.  The coaches sounded a lot like my college soccer coach; they yelled, they growled, they pushed, they barked—they got results.  I have been amazed at the quality of coaching in the town of less than 1500, and the fact that these men who give so freely of their time to coach these boys, also truly care about them.

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Then, the equipment came in. The first time he suited up in his bulging shoulder pads and helmet, a lump formed in my throat. It was precious and terrifying all at the same time.  Only identifiable by his practice jersey number,  all of them had little chicken legs coming out of those bulky football pants,  my little boy instantly transformed into a fun-size NFL running back. He took to the practice field with a determined trot and within moments the first crack of a tackle resonated around the sidelines, sending chills up my spine.

Littlest Buckaroo was in hog heaven. This is what he dreams about, trains for, and talks about all. the. time.

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The first game day arrived, it was a “football jamboree” with all the teams in our region coming together to play some mini-games. We traveled the 1  1/2 hours to the host town and realized we had left Littlest Buckaroo’s pads and helmet at home. Sigh… The head coach was prepared, it was evidently not his first time to deal with this type of thing. Thank goodness.

Parents filled the stands wearing their team colors, some with their sons’ jersey number (I was not that fancy, I am learning the pee wee game day style), hot dogs were roasting at the concession stand and play-by-plays were announced over the loud-speaker amid music (very loud music, I am getting old) to rile up an already excited crowd. As the new gal in town and a homeschooler, I did not know any of the other moms, so I found our team color and just plopped down by them. Some of them immediately took me in, welcomed me, and yelled for our little guy as if he were their own. (Shout out to Buffy, Kelly, Ashley, Rhonda, Jennifer)

Our boys solemnly took the field, they were focused, chanting COLTS with puffed up chests as they went through their stretching ritual. There was anxiety, a little fear, and a lot of energy. The first game, Littlest Buckaroo went out and rocked it.

And then, it happened. Littlest Buckaroo was running the ball and got slammed. He was on the ground for way too long, I was panicked. He got up, ran off the field, one of the coaches helped get his helmet off and I saw it: fear, panic, and pain on my babies face.

This marks the day that Littlest Buckaroo had his first major life challenge. Things have always come easy to him, and now he had to conquer something he felt he couldn’t, the thing I struggle with and did not want him to have to wrestle with …fear. He has had some good games and some not so good. One game he ran over 60 yards and then the next he ran out-of-bounds as soon as he was given the ball so he would not be hit. It has been a struggle, but through it all, the one thing that has prevailed is that he loves the game, he gives 100 % , and is actively working to overcome his fear.

He truly has become a warrior.

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He has bonded with some of his teammates in a manner that is only achievable by going through the rigors of conditioning together, and he adores his coaches—the ones who have pushed, guided and supported him through this tough time. It has been an amazing first year experience for us.

It’s not for every kid and it’s not for every parent, but our son is a football player.

Go COLTS!
The Park Wife

I Was Taught to Dream by Chasing Fireflies

Chasing fireflies in the evening is one of my favorite childhood memories. Growing up, my mom was raising  four kids (three of them boys, have mercy) pretty much alone, yet, she always made sure that our childhoods were full of happiness and good times.

When my mom, aka the world’s best grandma, came to visit recently for a few weeks, she asked the boys if they had been out to catch fireflies this summer. She was appalled that I had not taken them out yet. Plans were made, jars were acquired.

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We ventured outside, suspended at our ankles was a beautiful twinkling jeweled carpet. They seemed to multiply as the darkness took over.

We launched forward with our hands cupped trying to capture Tinkerbell. We laughed. We took the time to be in awe of the amazing creation that is the firefly.

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I am thankful the boys have a grandmother that teaches them to go out and chase the shining fire, to revel amongst the clouds of living stars twinkling at their feet, but most of all, that she is teaching them, as she did me, to be like the firefly and shine from within.

Firefly1I see your light, my brave and courageous firefly.

fireflies You shine from within.

Always believe in the power,
The Park Wife

Peyton Manning Speaks About Faith

In my previous post Faith, Family, Football and Home ~ House Design and “The Book of Manning, I talk about football’s first family and the amazing documentary The Book of Manning.  Now, following the greatest statistical regular season at the quarterback position in the 94-year history of the NFL,Peyton is leading his team to the Superbowl.

I have read and seen many stories about Peyton, how he is a consummate professional, treats fans, media, teammates and even his opponents with respect.  But, he never flaunts his Christian faith, he chooses to let his life speak for him.

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In Peyton’s book Manning, which he co-wrote with his father, the legendary Archie Manning, in 2001, the record-setting quarterback describes his faith and its importance to him.

For me generally it had always been the big four: faith, family, friends, and football. . . . as important as football is to me, it can never be higher than fourth. My faith has been number one since I was thirteen years old . . .

Some players get more vocal about it . . . and some point to Heaven after scoring a touchdown and praise God after games. I have no problem with that. But I don’t do it, and don’t think it makes me any less a Christian. I just want my actions to speak louder, and I don’t want to be more of a target for criticism . . .

My faith doesn’t make me perfect, it makes me forgiven, and provides me the assurance I looked for half my life ago. . .

I’ve been blessed—having so little go wrong in my life, and being given so much. I pray every night, sometimes long prayers about a lot of things and a lot of people, but I don’t talk about it or brag about it because that’s between God and me, and I’m no better than anybody else in God’s sight.

But I consider myself fortunate to be able to go to Him for guidance, and I hope (and pray) I don’t do too many things that displease Him. . . . I believe, too, that life is much better and freer when you’re committed to God in that way.

Future Saints playerI know many of you do not give a hoot about the Superbowl, I myself look forward to the food and fellowship. But, I am always encouraged as the mother of two boys that there are the Manning boys and Tim Tebow out there playing their hearts out, and that their hearts are first and foremost focused on above.

Go Broncos! And hot wings, and spinach dip!
The Park Wife

My Stint on MomLife TV

I was recently invited to be interviewed for MomLife TV. It was a great experience and Tracey Eyster (the incredible lady who I have made my new mentor mom, she does not know that yet) was gracious, kind, and so wise.

I have been blessed with some wonderful women in my life to guide me as a mother. They have all left me with nuggets of wisdom in the biggest, most important job I have been handed.

We talked about a lot of things, this part of the interview has to do with over-scheduling our kiddos. We talk soccer, my sport of choice, and how I handle it when it really is not my kids bent. Now, I talk about my oldest and soccer, let me make this clear as it did not make the video. He is an average soccer player, by no means the worst in his league. However, I know this is not his bent, I allow him to play, to work hard at something that does not come easy to him because academics and music  does.

I am no expert, but I am a mom that has had a teachable heart. That is the key, so many women ask for my mom advice (which I giggle about), but if you are not open and willing to do the hard stuff, the results will not come and you will just be flustered and frustrated.

Thanks for watching, and yes, I have a Mississippi accent!
The Park Wife

Advice for New Mama Kate

I have seen so many articles today giving Kate and William parenting advice.

I am not qualified to tell her what to do, I struggle along this path of motherhood daily. It is the hardest, yet most fulfilling job I have ever had. Some days I want to quit. Some days I look at our little miracles and my stomach flutters with pure joy.

But, if Kate and I were hanging out, sipping a spot of tea. Here is what I would tell her:

I know your sons life is planned out for him, but if at some point he wants to run away and join the circus, buy the face paint. This phase will pass, but he will know that he is able to soar high above on a wire, or explode out of a cannon all the while risking greatly and overcoming that which he did not think he was capable of.

 Life needs a man to be fierce—and fiercely devoted, to God, to his family, and of course for your little prince, to your country.

Continually pray that he will wage war against against principalities, powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places and come out victorious…….

that he will blaze trails,

be a warrior,

and live a life full of adventure!

If she asked me the top two things that she must do from my experiences as a mom, that would be so easy to answer.

Love his daddy….completely,

and give him a brother.

His forever best friend.

Kate, I pray that your new angel, as I do for our little princes, will not be afraid to live courageously among his peers and will walk humbly with God.

Embrace it all, it goes so fast.

The Park Wife

Littlest Buckaroo Learning to Tebow

Littlest Buckaroo has decided that he is 50/50 on his future career choice these days, he has been struggling with it, but I told him he has a while to choose, he is 7.

Force Recon Marine or NFL player?

These days you do not see him without a football in his hand. He wants to throw and catch all day.

While at the library the other day he wanted football books, so we went to that section and found some good ones. In the past few months, his reading has really taken off  so I love finding books about things he is interested in to keep the momentum going.  He asked if there is a book with Tim Tebow in it.  Yes, he is now reading “Through my Eyes”.

He was introduced to the name Tim Tebow earlier this year as our state was debating HB1789, what we call the Tim Tebow Act. YEA, it passed. We take homeschooling year by year, but if we still are when he is in high school, I am thankful he will have the option to play. This week, he can not decide if he wants to play at the Naval  Academy or LSU. I am good with either.

 

There has been much in the media about Tebow’s successes and failures, he has become part of the culture wars.

Here is what I think….Tebow  is the real deal. His faith is real, it is a part of him that doesn’t get sidelined when he steps on the football field. His love for God isn’t an add on.

His greatest strength is not his throwing arm, but his love. He truly loves his family and is an encourager to all;  his fans, sick kids that benefit from his charity, and his teammates, even when they are stabbing him in the back. Oh, he is even nice about the ESPN commentators who have eye rolling down to an art when his name comes up.

He walks humbly and with integrity. Isn’t that the kind of boy we want to raise, ummm. YES!

Seriously, trying to find an appropriate (meaning with a shirt on) picture of Tebow is hard. So, one with his mom, precious!

We are in a time that it is hard for kids to find real sports heroes to look up to, so, I am good with Littleset Buckaroo wanting to be like Tim Tebow when he grows up. I might even buy him a poster to put up beside the Force Recon Marine one in his room.

Gives us all hope,
The Park Wife

A Mardi Gras Flashback ~Throw Me Somthing Mister

The parades are in full swing, people are getting all decked out for the balls, and I am not in New Orleans.

So, to make myself feel better, I am going to make us some gumbo and a King Cake today and throw beads at the boys.

In honor of Carnival Season, a look back at a post from Mardi Gras three years ago.

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Happy Mardi Gras!

I grew up in Mississippi and went to college only a hour and a half from New Orleans. Needless to say, it was way too close sometimes (when it came to studying for Statistics and I wanted to run away) and now it is way too far.
Our boys have never been there. All they know of the city is that my college roommate Olga lives there, the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and of course, the triumph of the SAINTS (whew, you can tell this is an old post, our poor Saints). It was high time they “saw” some of New Orleans that I have experienced. So, last week the boys and I focused our homeschool work on everything New Orleans.

Hold on, don’t go there, I did not share the irreverence or debauchery that many associate with the city or in actuality with Mardi Gras, but all the things I think of when I think of NOLA -its rich history, the music, the food, the culture, the architecture. Oh, how I love the plantations and the garden district.

We planned our meals around our studies, with red beans and rice, shrimp po-boys and of course, King Cake. When I went to NOLA for my first Mardi Gras with Olga, her mom sent us to the bakery to pick up a King Cake. I was real confused, why in the world would her mom want a cake with Elvis on it? It was not until we got to the bakery and Olga explained it to me, that I understood it. That is a true story. Plenty of Southern culture, just not any NOLA culture. That was remedied.
We finished our week of studying New Orleans with a Superbowl party at some of our friends home. We had wonderful food, kids had a blast with two great friends and we cheered the Saints to victory.

Four precious boys yelling “throw me something mister!” Yes, they had WhoDat and a Fleur De Lis painted on their faces. So much FUN!

I love the charm of New Orleans. It is a laid back atmosphere where you can just sit back and enjoy, letting your surroundings filter through all your senses. One day I will sit with my boys in Uptown watching the streetcars while eating some crawfish etouffee and listening to some Louis Armstrong or Harry Connick Jr. so they can experience the New Orleans I love.

Laissez les bon temps rouler (Let the good times roll),

The Park Wife

Memories Need Documenting

One of my brothers, Andrew, (yep, I have 5) told his wife Andrea when they first met that he never had a birthday cake growing up. Now, this could not be further from the truth. He always had a birthday cake from a wonderful little family owned bakery in our Mississippi town, Pollman’s Bakery.

My sweet sister-in-law has seen photos to debunk this myth of his poor, deprived childhood, but, she makes sure that he has a homemade, delicious cake every year on his birthday. She has gotten so good at cakes, she ends up making all of her friends and their kids awesome cakes (somebody buy that girl a Kitchen-Aid mixer already).

The story of my pastry deprived brother’s fictional account is stuck in my mind and always makes me think…… “I need to take a picture of this so the boys will know that they had a cool childhood, I do not want them to look back and not remember eating cake!”

So, Buckaroos, do you remember on rainy days how your cool mom built you forts in the living room? Oh, and on top of that you got to do your school work in the forts? Oh, you don’t remember?

Take that memory maker.

Now I need cake,
The Park Wife