Kemper Outdoor Adventure

One hot afternoon at the end of June, we found ourselves set off for another adventure to fulfill out Kansas City Passport to Adventure book.  This time we stepped into the scenic landscape near Lake Jocomo in Blue Springs, Missouri at the Kemper Outdoor Education Center.  It was clear they had amazing day camps where kids were canoeing on a pond andkemper-outdoor friendly camp counselors aimed us on path to hike.  The path took us over a marshy area with a long wooden boardwalk and lead to prairie and forest areas.  With the heat and hungry irritability, we decided we had seen enough and retreated to the cabin to collect our passport stamp.  Inside the kids not only got a stamp, they got to select a small nature figurine.  Parker got a turtle while Jones picked up a plastic ant to take home and fool Mom when she walked in the door.

We were also instructed to not miss the hoofed animal enclosure just a short ride around the lake.  There Jones fed an antelope through the fence with some other patrons who brought carrots.  Since Parker’s mood reflected the heat of the day, I required her to ride with her eyes closed home from Kemper (in hopes she would nod off and get some much-needed rest.)  Jones softly sang a lullaby about stop lights to the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle” to her the whole way home.

Kemper Outdoor and the hoofed enclosure were two unique finds for outdoor fun in Kansas City.  I would take advantage of participating in the activities they offer, enjoying another hike or returning to check on the antelope up close – this time I will know to bring some carrots.kemper-outdoor3

Thundersnow

02This is what I get for doubting the forecasts.

There is so much anticipation of big storms in Kansas City. Local meteorologists generate the energy of elementary students in their excitement for the possibility of snow. The warning of, “it’s coming, it’s going to be a lot, every county in Kansas has issued a state of emergency” all before a flake had even hit the ground seemed humorous to me. On more than one occasion there has been various other doomsday-like-conditions forecasted resulting in no precipitation at all. Needless to say, late last night after all the hype and not a flurry in sight I imagined this might just be another big weather disappointment.

01Peering out the window this morning I was alarmed to see how wrong I had been to doubt. Soft fluffy white covered the ground across the yard making it indistinguishable from the street and the yard across the street. Snow continued to come down hard with extra falling from the trees and rooftops when the wind blew. And to make this mini blizzard extra unique, the snow was accompanied by a little thunder and lightning.
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Unsure of the snowfall totals from this morning, it has stopped currently and it is forecasted to begin again around 6PM – we shall see…..

If My Dogs Attended School, They’d Be In Special Ed.

I love our dogs, they are a part of our family.  And they are oh so special.  Macy is a mid-sized terrier, loyal, agile, anxious and stubborn x10.  Harper is nearly 90 pounds and although he just turned 3 he seems all puppy, also extremely loyal.  This week’s walk in the park is a prime example of the nut bag behavior I deal with for these lovable clowns.

In lue of getting a work out in at home, pilates with a toddler on the hip is impossible, I figured an escape to nature would serve the same purpose and be fun for all.  I loaded up baby and pups for a ride to our favorite dog park – Shawnee Mission Park.  The parking lot was rather empty on this Tuesday morning, which worked out fine for me I was able to open the back and let the dogs run straight to the gate without leashes.

The dog park area is large in comparison to other parks we have gone to, there is a long wide path down the middle flanked with grassy areas on either side and wooded areas beyond that.  Although there are paths down towards the wooded areas, we have always seemed to stay in the middle as it is the quickest way to the water.  My dogs love to be social with other dogs, although they lack social etiquette and don’t quite get it when other dogs are annoyed with their jovial nosiness.  My husband and I haven’t dedicated adequate time to training our dogs, although, we are pretty proud of them coming when we call (eventually).  On our last trip to the dog park another dog accidentally knocked Parker to the ground, the shock made her cry and our dogs immediately retreated from their playful fun to lay down in front of their baby to protect her.

The dogs and Parker were so happy to be out free to run, Parker calling out to her dogs and laughing when they would coming running back towards her.  She alternated between running after them and breaking to be carried.  Needless to say the toddler toddling was not moving fast enough for the dogs.  There were not many other park goers when we first arrived, the dogs greeted fellow pedestrians and pets who passed then happily continued down the path.  Long down the path reaches a wooded area and the trail forks, both sides leading circling to a beach area.  The dogs had been racing forward and back to us until we neared the fork, at this point Macy couldn’t contain her excitement and ran straight out of view towards the water.

Slightly annoyed at her irregular disappearance, I figured no need to worry we would catch up to her.  The beach time was the real purpose of going all the way to Shawnee Mission Park anyway, bringing the dogs out in the heat I knew they would need some time to cool off.  Harper stayed near us, whether to look after the baby or because he is a baby himself – he stayed close.  We took our time and descended the hill down the path I thought was the shortest towards the water.  My memory served me wrong, though the twists and turns eventually got us in sight of the beach to which my daughter exclaimed “Wa wa!”  And finally I was back in sight of my little white terrier sprinting along the shore after a boxer.  A couple more turns and we were at the beach with no sign of Macy.  I called and whistled, no Macy, no boxer and no people.

I knew my anxious mutt probably followed the other park goer and his pooch back up the opposite path when she realized she would be abandoned alone on the beach.  I pleaded with Harper, as if he could suddenly exhibit Lassie’s intelligence, “Go get Macy.”  to no response…  Lugging extra 30lbs on my hip, and a good for nothing beast at my side we began to climb the opposite path, where Macy had apparently gone to join another family.  By the time I reached the spot back where the fork rejoins at the top my cell phone was ringing and I knew someone was calling from the tag on my dog.

A girl with a rottweiler had Macy leashed and was waiting for me up the path, when she realized Macy didn’t belong to the people she was following she stopped to help.  THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU to the stranger who interviened.  She even said Macy was looking around nervously, of course I knew this was between the mindless bounding over the other dogs…  Want to play with me, where’s my mom, I’m so excited, I’m so scared.  

With our group finally reunited we headed back to the water and Macy dove right in.

Parker was dressed in a swimsuit, I assumed it would be wet and messy on the beach even though I didn’t intend on us actually getting deep in the water.  Therefore, I came without a swim suit and felt comfortable in light summer clothes until Harper made me think I might actually have to dive in for him.

Shawnee Mission Park

Despite being half golden retriever sometimes I wonder if he really has any of that blood in him, he doesn’t retrieve and he is scared to swim.  Harper will run along the water and take advantage of the splashes to cool is black furry body, he doesn’t generally go deep enough to even let the water touch his chest.  On this morning he stood in the water facing the shore when some seaweed must have brushed up against his leg.  Panic set in for my giant and he scooted his body back further into the water.  At this point fear increased more because not only was he feeling something on his leg, now he was getting into deeper water.  I called sympathetic and encouraging calls for him to come to me.  I knew if he continued his backward motion I would have to forego my plan of not getting wet in order to save him.  Yet, back further he went until the water was over his back and he appeared petrified putting his head underwater as if to bite at the lake creature pulling him out.

Just before I could leap forward and make the 10 soaked steps it would have taken to reach him, Macy swam out in front of me and snapped Harper to attention.  It was as if in a split second she taught him how to doggy paddle and he could finally make a forward motion in the water again.  She lead him to the shore and as soon as he could reach he practically leapt over her to get to dry ground again.  Macy suddenly made up for her earlier run off and became the Lassie for the day to save Harper from drowning.  Yea, like I said – they are “special” dogs.

Harper refereed a game of Tug-A-War and stayed close to the shore after his terrifying ordeal.

Tornado, hurricane, earthquake? No, just my yard.

(sigh) This is my backyard.Despite what the picture depicts there has been no natural disasters here.  Just four years of bare minimum yard work taking place in this pathetic outdoor space.  No passerby would even suspect there were two nature loving fools living within these walls, unfortunately, we enjoy the nature in parks rather than cultivating a park in our own backyard.

The desire to have a usable backyard has been present since moving into the home almost four years ago.  In fact we even discussed how magnificent the yard could be as outdoor entertainment when deciding to make an offer.  Since then our aspirations never met our skills, nor did our motivation meet our pocketbook.

The yard itself is pretty sizable, with large shady trees and an old 1940’s style stone/cement fire pit.  The untamed limbs of the trees provide plenty of kindling should we ever be able to utilize the fire-pit.  There is a chain-link fence separating the yard from the street parallel to our house.  The positioning of our property on the street allows all of our neighbors walking and driving by to take notice of the ugliness that is our yard.  It’s difficult to tell what covers most of the ground whether it be grass, weeds or mostly ivy.  And our muppet-like furry dogs have taken the liberty of running a path along the fence line to greet other dogs and pedestrians.

At times it feels like we are maintaining more of a snake habitat than anything else since it’s near impossible to be out there for any length of time without encountering at least one slithery friend.  My neighbor Lucy, who has lived in her home since the ’50s, told me she believes the snake population in the area is so high due to a teen releasing his pets years ago.  I’m not sure whether the story is true, or if it could even be the reason for the radical number of snakes.  Sometimes I look closely at the snakes to try to recognize if it’s a pet store breed, that is right before I run in the opposite direction.

Two ideas come to mind when thinking about the recent urgency I have had to fix this outdoor space.  Of course my busy toddler is topping off that list.  I want her to be able to develop memories of playing outdoors, swinging,  running through the sprinker, riding a tricycle around a paved path, and laying out a blanket for an impromptu picnic when the weather calls for it.  I dream of being able to host her second birthday this fall at our own house and to be able to have our friends and family all together to celebrate with a backyard BBQ.  I’ve imagined cozying up to my hubby and the baby monitor with a backyard fire, escaping the nonsense of a days work with an evening camping experience.  I’d have flowers and vegetables grown instead of bought.  I’d have neighbors admiring the space instead of wondering what lazy individuals must live here.  I’d even try my hand at composting and if my husband would allow it I’d maintain a chicken coop for fresh eggs (that last dream I won’t ever get approved though).

My daughter and I surveying the amount of work that needs to be done.

The second idea that comes to mind regarding the necessity which has inspired me to fix this area is a lecture I had the priviledge to see several years back given by Peter Walsh.  He is the organization guru most known by the TLC show Clean Sweep.  He challenges people to clear the clutter and live happier lives.  I distinctly remember one of the simple exercises he presented with a fill in the blank statement.  “My house is _____.”

Before you continue reading consider what your statement might be…

Since hearing this exercise several years ago, I often think of describing my house.  Sometimes I can say my house feels happy, sometimes it’s my house is a mess, or my house is colorful.  Recently I reflected on the statement and came up with – My house is better on the inside then the outside.  This idea was an honest response to the feeling of doing more work on the interior of my house and the obvious lack of effort on the exterior (mainly the backyard).  I spend a lot of time cleaning, decorating for the holidays and I have painted nearly every wall in the house since we have moved in.

The significance of the statement, according to Peter Walsh, is to change “my house” to “my life” and understand how our home is a reflection of how we are living and who we are.  It’s been accurate for me in the past of feeling happy, colorful and even when my life was a mess.  This time My life is better on the inside then the outside, also seems true to me on many platforms.  To me, it applies to feeling confident and happy with who I am on the inside and it not projecting to my outward appearance.  I don’t put much effort into taking care of myself on the outside with exercise, haircuts or dressing myself.  More importantly the creative thoughts and ideas which I am consistently brainstorming inside my head are not being acted on outside of my mind.  I wonder what the “outside” in my life could begin to resemble if I put forth the effort of the ideas I have on the inside.

This is my dream yard space complete with patio, garden areas, grassy pad, fire-pit seating, play area and path. Now I’ll just need the powers of the internet for support and accountability.

This takes me back to the backyard.  I’m focusing on the outside of my house, as a metaphor for working on releasing the creativity in my mind.  I believe that when I have a yard space I can be proud of, I will also have measurable output for my ideas, and my hope is this will expand to more than just my yard.  As for the outward appearance – yard work is exercise and no one will care if my hair is done or dirt is on my clothes when they walk past and compliment my yard.   Please consider these the before pictures and stay tuned for updates on progress!