background img

Crested Butte: My family’s favorite mountain playground in Colorado

I wasn’t prepared for the full-circle moment I had when my family returned to Crested Butte, Colorado before my recently graduated daughter Hadley moved out. We have been visiting this mountain hamlet since she was 1 year old. We named my son as we watched “Bode” Miller bomb the Torino Olympic Winter Games while we were cozily holed up in our CB condo. The kids attended the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory’s Summer Camp in nearby Gothic, a dramatic, dreamlike valley where pure glacial waters cascade down the mountainside. It has been a couple of years since our last visit but everything was just as I remembered: The quirky, multi-hued National Historic District with burgeoning flowers spilling from the hanging baskets and the outer-world beauty of Red Lady (Mount Emmons).Crested Butte Sea Level Spa

Crested Butte is the ultimate year-round family vacation with world-class skiing, mountain biking, wildflowers, hikes, and tributes to the arts. We have so many traditions here. Stay at The Lodge at Mountaineer Square. Relish in Crested Butte Wildflower Festival’s 10-day festival and swoon to the Crested Butte Music Festival’s live music. Bomb down the slopes at Crested Butte Ski Resort. Glide across the 55 km of maintained Nordic ski track. Hike Snodgrass Mountain at sunrise.  Spy on the beavers at our special spot off Slate River Road. Explore Kebler Pass’s glorious aspen goodness in the fall.  Scroll to the bottom for even more family-friendly recommendations. 

Crested Butte has many roots and ours are planted deep. 

Crested Butte Family Vacation Tips

Mountain Biking

My family is hosting a Spanish exchange student, Pablo, for the 2022/23 school year. When he noted on his student exchange application that he enjoys mountain biking, we chuckled. He’s a city-dweller from Madrid; how much real mountain biking had he done? Unsurprisingly, exposing Pablo to Crested Butte’s Mountain Bike Mecca was a whole new ballgame (but he did great!) 

Crested Butte Lower Loop

(Crested Butte Lower Loop)

Eighty percent of the land surrounding Crested Butte Mountain Resort is open space and the Gunnison Valley is renowned as one of the birthplaces of mountain biking. Without a doubt, Crested Butte has the best mountain biking in Colorado–from Crested Butte Mountain’s epic downhill trails to the world-famous 401 (when you’re this good, you don’t need a real name) in Gothic Valley.

 If you’re looking for a challenge, Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s vast trail network has 30+ miles of singletrack to complement the more than 750 miles open to mountain biking in the Gunnison Valley. Not a biker? Hitch a ride from the Silver Queen Lift (an additional cost) where hikers can easily summit the iconic 12,162-foot Crested Butte Mountain in just a couple of hours. 

We planned two days on bikes: We would get Pablo initiated on the town’s trail system and then introduce him to the big guns: lift-serviced downhill at Crested Butte Mountain. 

Crested Butte’s Lower Loop

On Day 1, we took the free shuttle from the Lodge at Mountaineer Square four miles down the mountain into the town of Crested Butte to pick up our rental bikes from The Alpineer, a full-service outdoor equipment shop and local’s favorite.

We started out on the family-friendly terrain of the Lower Loop, a popular trail just outside of town that meanders along the Slate River while passing cobalt-blue Peanut Lake and the Gronk, a large cement structure from historic mining days. We followed it for a few miles with the Paradise Divide mountain range as the backdrop, our vision crowded with lupine, mule ears and dwarf larkspur.

 Just as we were about to turn onto Gunsight Pass Road and connect to the Upper Lower Loop, we remembered a staffer at The Alpineer told us we could take a detour to Oh-Be-Joyful Falls, one of the area’s hidden charms. Without the aid of a map, we found ourselves navigating extreme terrain with some technical steep switchbacks. There were a few freakout moments (from me, not Pablo) so we turned back to the Upper Lower Loop, stopped for a photo opp at Gunsight Bridge overlooking picnicking families playing in the Slate River and looped back into town to enjoy the Crested Butte Farmer’s Market–the best of all the worlds.  

Note: If you’d like longer explorations, start at the intermediate-level Lupine Trail in the Saddle Ridge subdivision which eventually connects to the Lower Loop trails. 

Mt. Crested Butte Mountain Bike Park

Crested Butte Mountain Resort offers an abundance of riding options from lift-serviced double black downhill-specific trails to meandering cross-country trails that can be ridden in both directions. Note: Trails can be ridden without purchasing a lift ticket, but be sure you only ride up trails that allow uphill traffic.

Hadley does not prefer downhill riding and instead chose to visit the fitness center at the Lodge. I opted for my own adventure. There is a paved recreational bike path that extends from the town of Crested Butte up up up 4 miles to the base of Mt. Crested Butte and keeps going another few miles to the base of Snodgrass Mountain which, in my opinion, has some of the best wildflower views and hiking/biking in town. That was my adventure.

(View from Snodgrass Mountain)

(View from Snodgrass Mountain)

That left the downhill warriors: My husband Jamie who thought he was 16 (but did not feel 16 the morning after his ride). Pablo, who was adjusting to his new life of adventure after journeying from sea level to 9,000 feet (and trying to adapt to our ridiculous non-metric system). And my son Bode who is on the high school’s mountain bike team and left them both in his dust. 

They picked up their bike rentals at the CBMR Rental & Demo Center at the base area. The friendly staffers not only outfitted them with their downhill bikes sized to their weight and height specifications but also all the padding, equipment and knowledge they would need for a successful ride.Crested Butte downhill biking

They rode up the Red Lady Express and started on beginner terrain (Hotdogger, Awakening and Downtime). After Jamie and Pablo called it quits, Bode kept exploring harder and harder terrain like Luge, Frequency and Teaser; the expert terrain like Captain Jack and Psycho Rocks are the most technical, sketchy rock gardens at the resort and best reserved for, well, the psychos. 

The stunning downhill rips were the boys’ favorite part of the whole trip and Bode, in particular, couldn’t get enough.  On his Strava app, he proudly boasted he had managed the art of going straight uphill. My snide comment, “Yes, it’s called a chairlift,” brought him downhill a few notches but guaranteed, the terrain at Crested Butte Mountain Resort is top notch.

Crested Butte Adventure Park and Mountaintop Adventure

Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s base area has evolved over the years. In the past, we raced across the zipline and skated on the outdoor rink in the summertime.  Currently, the main summer offerings include hiking, 3D Archery, disc golf, scenic chairlift rides and the Adventure Park’s rock climbing wall, a bungee trampoline and gem panning. Disc Golf Crested Butte

Crested Butte’s Extreme Disc Golf for Idiots

We like to try at least one new adventure when we visit Crested Butte and we targeted 10-3 @CB Disc Golf atop Red Lake Express Lift as our next conquest. I now realize I should have done my research prior to attempting it. I figured you start at a tee pad and throw the disc toward a target (the basket); how difficult could it be beyond that? Pro tip: If you’ve never played an organized game of disc golf, Crested Butte was recently named one of the top 25 courses in America and is not the place to start. 

The reason? This is a mountain course. Mountains are big. They have trees. They have rocky terrain. They have prickly things.  I assumed there would be some kind of a map or guidance at the summit where we started but we couldn’t find either so we ended up winging it. We later found out there are two courses–a shorter, more gentle course that loops back to the lift and a long 18-hole course that takes you all the way down to the base. We chose the latter. Note: there is a cost for the lift but the course is free; bring your own discs).

Disc Golf Expert

(The flying Spaniard)

We actually had a lot of fun in our naivety. The views were spectacular and sure, there was a lot of incompetence but there was also a lot of laughter. I even made par on one of the holes.  There is a trail between baskets with a small arrow pointing to the next hole but if you’re not adept at throwing the disc, expect to do a lot of bushwhacking. And lose a disc (or two). That’s what the Americans did. Bode lost his disc on the very first throw but fortunately, we found another in a wooded area we called the black hole. Pablo specialized in long, beautiful glides; apparently, his bull-fighting background makes him adept at this extreme sport.

Butte 66 Crested Butte

(Butte 66)

The longer disc golf course winds its way to the base area and after about an hour, we were only halfway through the 18-hole course so decided to just cut our (many) losses: we hiked the rest of the way down and drowned our America vs. Spain sorrows in Butte 66 Bar and Grill’s signature pulled pork and brisket. 

Losing never tasted so good.

=======================================================

Where to Eat in Crested Butte

Speaking of tasting good, here are a few of our favorite restaurants for dinner in Crested Butte. 

Breadery Crested Butte. 209 Elk Ave., Crested Butte | 970-319-5118. Peace. Love. Gluten. A sourdough and vegetable-forward eatery, bar, and bakehouse, featuring handmade pizzas, artisan cocktails, and all the bread you could ever want.  This place is a carb-lover’s dream (with several other options like their seasonal salads).  This new-to-me eaterie replaced my favorite restaurant in town and though nothing will ever live up to Django’s crispy Brusells sprouts, the Breadery is a welcomed addition.breaderycb.com

(The Slogar)

(The Slogar)

The Secret Stash: 303 Elk Ave.| Crested Butte| 970-349-6245. Known for its infamous specialty pizzas and unique atmosphere, The Secret Stash is legend.  Try the Notorious Fig (the winner of the World Champion Piza Challenge) of my family’s favorite, Asher’s Pie, with a BBQ and chipotle base, Canadian bacon and grilled chicken. Oh, and the Crack Fries tossed in parmesan, green onions, and white truffle oil and endlessly epic as well.  secretstashpizza

The Slogar. 517, 2nd Street, Crested Butte | 970-349-5765.  Cajun & southern eatery famous for its fried chicken, this restaurant is a Crested Butte staple. Meals are served family style and guests have the choice of fried chicken or grilled steak (though sources told us it was a travesty if we order anything other than the chicken). Prices were expensive but we also had two meals worth of leftovers the next day. 

Our evening at The Slogar gave us one of the most memorable moments of the trip when we tried to introduce Pablo to The Slogar’s delicious coleslaw. He is a very polite boy (in addition to being a disc golf expert), so when he turned us down by saying, “No thank you. I don’t like garbage,” we thought that was a bit harsh. Until we realize he meant “cabbage,” not “garbage” but you’d better believe that’s what we’ll call it from now on. www.slogarcb.com

(Lodge at Mountaineer Square)

(Lodge at Mountaineer Square)

Lodge at Mountaineer Square

We have stayed in many different condos and VRBOs in Crested Butte but we always come back to the convenience and luxury of The Lodge at Mountaineer Square. The property offers everything from king rooms to four-bedroom accommodations(with full kitchens and washer/dryer) in the heart of the base area, just steps from the lift. They have a free shuttle to town, great staff, an indoor/outdoor swimming pool, hot tub, sauna, fitness center and underground parking. The Lodge at Mountaineer Square has everything you’d ever want in your Colorado family vacation. 

Fall in Crested Butte

Crested Butte is open daily through Labor Day, and after that they are open Friday-Sunday through Sept. 25. The Silver Queen Express will close following Labor Day, but all other operations will continue through the extended season (Adventure Park, Butte 66, disc golf, archery course, and bike haul & scenic lift rides on the Red Lady Express). Fall is arguably the most beautiful time in the Valley so don’t miss the chance to experience the changing colors and falling leaves later into the season! Also, don’t miss the Chili & Beer Festival on Sept. 10 for locally made Chili and Colorado-brewed beer that draws both locals and visitors to the base area for a music and chili-filled afternoon.
 
Follow CBMR’s new blog for updates on the resort’s latest happenings! 

Other Crested Butte Family Travel Recommendations

Crested Butte Family Vacation: Where to Stay & Play

Best family-friendly trails near Crested Butte 
 
A local’s guide to Gunnison’s Magical Summers Part 1from mountain and road biking to hiking to water fun. 
 
A Local’s Guide to Gunnison’s Magical Summers Part II–including family activities like the rodeo, history museum, and where to find the best restaurants and drinks in Gunnison. 

Pacified: Breaking the binky habit before it breaks you

Call it what you want. Binky. Pacifer. Paci. Soother. I call it a little cut of hell. 

Sure, I loved Hadley’s pacifier when it quelled her cries but it was so traumatic breaking her of her habit that I wouldn’t let a binky go anywhere near Bode’s mouth when he was born. 

And it was a 12-step program to make her quit. 

Day 1: Jamie did the “snip-snip.” No, this is not in reference to the procedure he underwent when our child-bearing years passed. But rather, he snipped the end off of Binky. We then left it out in an obvious place and waited with baited breath as she approached. Predictably, she jumped right on it, as she often does when she makes a non-sleepytime Binky discovery. But after a few sucks, she took it out to observe, and then tried to put it in her mouth in a few different positions (sideways, backwards, etc.) She then made the proclamation “Broke” and threw it on the ground. We thought that was the end of it. We were wrong.

When it came nap-time, that is where the true levels of her addiction were revealed. Not only did she lay hysterically in my arms for almost two hours, she was just like a heroin addict going into withdrawals. Her entire body shaking, she screeched, “Binky, binky, binky” over and over again. It took everything that was in me to not give in as I kept picturing them mocking her at her High School Graduation ceremonies if she was still sucking on that thing.

Day 2: Nightmarish Nap-time Part II. Haddie makes her first suicide attempt. I put her in her crib after a half hour of snuggles and comforting her, with the resolve to let her cry it out. This seemed to be working. Until I heard the loud BAM! in the next room. I rushed in there and yep, she had launched out of her crib for the first time with a big ol’ goose egg to show for it. She claimed in no uncertain terms that life was not worth living if she couldn’t have Binky. There were no naps that day, either.

Day 3: Same pattern: snuggles, cry it out (with the prayer she would not launch out of her crib), only this time she went to sleep. Well, for only 15 minutes mind you. She started crying and though I was tempted to let her fuss it out, maternal instinct took over and I went in. She was covered from head-to-toe in her own vomit. Possibly part of the withdrawal program as she puked up 18 month’s worth of plastic inhalation? I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening cleaning up her incessant puke and diarrhea fest. Seven loads of laundry later, I passed out at the end of the night.

Day 4: Grandma Day. THANKFULLY. I was a nervous wreck and after going for a hike (a.k.a. Pregnant Lady Waddle) to relieve my stress, I spent the afternoon sleeping.

Day 5: Went down with little fuss and only asked for Binky periodically throughout the day.

Day 6: Finally only spoke fondly of Binky, like he was a dear, dear friend from her distant past.

A friend once shared the story of taking the paci away from her toddler. After a week, I asked her how it was going? “Bad,” she moaned. Two weeks later: “Worse,” she commiserated. By three weeks of crying and sleepless nights, she gave the pacifier back but with one caveat: she tied it on a string to the crib so her daughter could only use it to self-sooth during naptime.

At least that was the intention until she spotted her daughter sneaking in and out of her bedroom all day long so she followed her in. And watched. She went straight for the binky, took a few urgent, frenzied sucks and then walked away after she got her “hit.”

That, my friends is addiction. 15

Crested Butte Family Vacation: Where to Stay & Play in Colorado’s Playground

Crested Butte has long been my family’s favorite outdoor playground in Colorado. Sure, it’s a 4.5-hour drive from Denver but that’s part of the charm of this historic town that was originally settled in the 1880s as a mining supply camp.  Nestled in the Gunnison National Forest in southwest Colorado, there are no I-70 traffic jams here, only unlimited adventures. And there’s so much charm oozing from this quirky, multi-hued National Historic District with burgeoning flowers spilling from the hanging baskets and the outer-world beauty of Red Lady (Mount Emmons).

Heralded as the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” Crested Butte’s Wildflower Festival July 8-17, 2022 showcases not only the dramatic scenery of the Paradise Divide but over 200 workshops–from garden tours to birding and butterflies to photography to culinary and medicinal classes.  

 

Snodgrass Mountain

View from Snodgrass Mountain

Crested Butte Mountain Resort is open daily from June 11-September 5; Friday-Sunday September 6-25, 2022. Here is where to stay and play in Crested Butte for your 2022 Colorado summer vacation

Play

Hiking and Biking

Gothic Valley

(Gothic Valley)

Eighty percent of the land surrounding Crested Butte Mountain Resort is open space. Snodgrass Mountain boasts stunning views of Mount Crested Butte with a few different trails for all levels.  One of the nation’s most renowned high-altitude field stations, Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory, is in Gothic, just 4 miles from Crested Butte.  During a previous visit, my kids spent a morning at their Nature Camp with a curriculum that delves deep into the surrounding ecosystems. Gothic Valley’s backcountry is not to be missed and mountain bikers populate Gothic Road in their pilgrimage to their famous Mecca: Trail 401. The main drag connects to Aspen via Schofield Pass, a precarious four-wheel-drive road.

If you’re looking for a challenge, Crested Butte Mountain Resort’s vast trail network has 30+ miles of singletrack to complement the more than 750 miles open to mountain biking in the Gunnison Valley. Hitch a ride from the Silver Queen Lift (at additional cost) where hikers can easily summit the iconic 12,162-foot Crested Butte Mountain in just a couple of hours. 

If you feel the need for speed, the Crested Butte Mountain Bike Park has a diverse network of trails for both lift-served downhill and cross-country rides that connects to some of Crested Butte’s most epic riding. Does anyone else need to brush up on their skills? The pump track at the base area includes flowy rollers and small berms to get riders comfortable on varied terrain. A second Skills Zone is at the top of the Red Lady Express with slightly bigger features for riders. 

New this year, CBMR is partnering with the Crested Butte Development Team (CB Devo) for all upper-level youth mountain bike team programming. CB Devo has a proven record of providing excellent coaching and programs for youth riders so be sure to check it out! Also, if you love to adventure a bit later, the resort’s popular Twilight Rides are back from 5-7 p.m. on select holidays and weekends.Crested Butte Adventure Park

The Adventure Park

In the olden days (a.k.a. when I was a wee one), ski resorts were just for skiing and I am endlessly thrilled many base areas have transformed into summer fun zones. CBMR’s Adventure Park offers rock climbing, panning for gems, bungee trampolines and a climbing wall that features a 28-foot-tall tower with auto-belay. And, of course, the adjacent Scenic Chairlift rides on the Red Lady or Silver Queen Express lifts that whisk you to the top of the Gunnison Valley.Crested Butte 3D Archery

3D Archery Course

 CBMR offers a 20-target archery course at the top of the Red Lady Express for archers to practice their skills all summer long. Lifelike 3-D targets of mule deer,  whitetail deer, black bear, fox, coyote and elk are set amongst the beautiful mountain landscape in a format that appeals to all ability levels. The loop from the lift covers approximately 1.5 miles and returns archers to the top of the chairlift, where they can download back to the base area. Archers are required to bring their own equipment and sign a waiver at the bottom of the Red Lady Express or at the top of the sight-in range. Guests can hike or ride the Red Lady Express to the sight-in range.  The archery course is free with a lift ticket or a $5 dollar donation if guests hike in. 

Disc Golf Courses

CBMR’s disc golf course, 10-3 @ CB, is named after the course’s high-alpine elevation of 10,300 feet. It’s 18 holes of pure fun for beginners and seasoned players alike. Named one of the top 25 courses in America, the course begins at the top of the Red Lady Express Lift and meanders to within easy strolling distance of the base area. In addition, CBMR offers a short course accessed from the top of the Red Lady Express with amazing views of Mt. Crested Butte. The course loops back to the Red Lady Express once you have completed your round. Rental discs are available at the Adventure Center.

Mount Crested Butte Summer Concert Series

One of the things I missed most during the early days of the pandemic was live music and there is no place more magical (or with a more beautiful backdrop) than the Mt. Crested Butte Summer Concert Series. Guests are welcome to join on Wednesday evenings for free music at the base of the resort. The 2022 lineup is set to begin on June 29 and finishes on August 17.

Summer Concert circa 2009

Adaptive Sports Center

Accessibility in the outdoors is so important and I love seeing people of all ability levels (and their families) at Crested Butte thanks to their Adaptive Sports Center. The resort offers one of the only downhill mountain biking programs in the world for people with disabilities. Their extensive summer program also includes boating, cycling, rock climbing and horseback riding. 

Stay

Lodge at Mountaineer Square

We have stayed in a number of places in Crested Butte and hands down, the Lodge at Mountaineer Square is our FAVORITE base camp, just steps from the ski lifts. Families can choose from one-, two-, or three-bedroom condos, studio rooms or hotel rooms. The Lodge even has a four-bedroom penthouse suite with breathtaking, aerial views of the valley. Amenities include enclosed heated parking, a business center, a fitness center, a sauna, hot tub, and a heated indoor/outdoor pool with adjacent restaurants and shopping.Lodge at Mountaineer Square

The Grand Lodge

The Grand Lodge Hotel and Suites is only 200 yards from the slopes and offers exceptional amenities including the Wildflower Spa, an indoor/outdoor heated pool, a hot tub, steam room, and a business center. The Grand Lodge and Lodge at Mountaineer Square offer easy access to the main Transit Center, which provides free shuttle service to the town of Crested Butte. This full-service hotel features 228 spacious rooms and suites, most with
resort kitchenettes, and 5,000 square feet of meeting space.

Epic Pass

My family has purchased the Epic Season Pass for the past few years and membership has its privileges! Did you know if you buy your 2022-23 Epic Pass now, you’ll get discounts on many of their summer activities? The Epic Local Pass is available for $626 for the 2022/23 season, and the Epic Pass is available for $841, providing unlimited, unrestricted skiing and riding at all of Vail Resorts’ owned and operated resorts.

Crested Butte/Gunnison Insider Tips

Best family-friendly trails near Crested Butte 
 
A local’s guide to Gunnison’s Magical Summers Part 1from mountain and road biking to hiking to water fun. 
 
A Local’s Guide to Gunnison’s Magical Summers Part II–including family activities like the rodeo, history museum, and where to find the best restaurants and drinks in Gunnison. 

The tale of my worst haircut ever in middle school (pun intended)

I’ve had big, curly hair most of my life. During my early years, my hair was more frizzy than curly and I endured many nights of going to bed in those awful pink sponge rollers (if you were a child of the 1980s, you know). If I was extra lucky, I would forget I was wearing a turtleneck and my mom wouldn’t let me remove it so I got to sleep in a 1980s turtleneck AND those pink rollers.

Those were memorable nights.

I started getting perms like all the other cool kids in the 1980s and my puberty hormones must have kicked in around that time because my hair stayed curly for the rest of my life. When you have a head of bouffant curls, your styling options are pretty limited. My variations were big bangs and even bigger bows.  Sometimes my curls cascaded down to the middle of my back; other times, it was shoulder-length.

And then there was middle school. 

My mom loved glamor on a budget. Well, she hate the budget but loved the glamor so that was her only choice when you’re on a tight budget. To save a few bucks, she took us to the local high school’s beauty school where a very glamorous Ms. Munoz oversaw all cuts and styling. She was a Farah Fawcett look-a-like who was always up on the latest trends.

I was a pretty solid kid: Great athlete, good student and I had lots of friends but I was in the middle of my awesomely-awkward (ugly) middle school years. So, in seventh grade, I decided it was time for a change: The Hair had to go.

The beauty school girls gathered around as I told them I wanted my mane chopped into a very 1980s asymmetrical do.

“No way, do you know what you should do?” they gushed.

“What?” I asked. I was very impressionable to the older, glamorous beauty school girls.

“Since we’re going from long to short, you should keep some wisps in the back. It’s all the rage and very apropos.”

I was a lot of things during my dork stage but apropos was not one of them and so I let them chop my hair, leaving these “wisps” all over my head. 

When the deed was done, they all gathered around, oohing and awing at my transformation. It was every bit as good as those before-and-after specials on Oprah and I was loving it.

Until I got home, and looked, really looked in the mirror.

To my horror, those were not whimsical wisps but rather, TAILS ALL OVER MY HEAD. 

I was a furry well before they existed.

My furry existence was short-lived because we chopped off those tails STAT. Sadly, we did not commemorate the occasion by taking a picture (or should I say thankfully that these were the days before social media?)

But I had to live with crazy-short hair for several months until my hair grew out long enough for an asymmetrical cut. 

And then my mom loved it so much that she got the same cut as me.

Just in case you’re taking notes about how to be the coolest kid in middle school. 

A Sordid Tale of When One Loses More Than Just One’s Mind

When my son Bode was little (33-pounds to be exact) I loved going for bike rides with him in his bike trailer.

It was one of those delightful early summer days and we started strong. Translation: we went downhill. My house is perched atop a hill that takes me about two minutes to ascend on my bike, 20 minutes when pulling Bode and about 2 hours with my then-40-pound daughter Hadley added to the mix.

There was a good reason I chose to do the ride when she was still in preschool.

Bode and I have a regular route through a nearby Open Space park. We often pass “Swiper” the Fox by a footbridge, “Daffy” Duck paddling in the pond and if we’re lucky, we’ll spot “Wile E.” Coyote perched under his favorite shade tree.

Our animal nomenclature is commercialization at its best.

That day, we were delighted to encounter many of our favorite animals as we cruised along the undulating landscape and marveled at the profusion of wildflowers starting to explode. All was going well–blissful, even–until our ascent up The Great Hill.

My Little Butterfly Murderer: Coming Soon to Dateline

My daughter Hadley’s butterfly obsession began last summer when my parents bought her a butterfly net and book.

She was not quick enough to capture even one.

That’s why I wasn’t too surprised when she announced she wanted a butterfly kit for Christmas. It seemed like a brilliant strategy: if you can’t catch ‘em, why not grow your own?

My younger brother used to capture butterflies and watch them die, sending my sensitive heart into a tailspin at the thought of God’s beautiful creatures succumbing to my brother’s demonic Collection of Doom.

It is a long process to grow your own butterflies. The day after Christmas, we sent out our request for caterpillars and were promised they would be delivered in 2-6 weeks.

Then we waited…and waited…and waited.

When our larvae finally arrived in a plastic case it took them another 10 days to evolve into chrysalides. Add two weeks more to that formula as we waited for them to emerge.

Hadley was wonderfully patient. Every day, she would report on their progress. We read books, watched YouTube videos and she prophesied what colors they would be.

The night before we were supposed to leave for a ski trip, It happened: the first butterfly started its metamorphosis.

You know. Because they couldn’t have had worse timing.

We called in reinforcements: our 8-year-old neighbor Sadie became our cat-turned-butterfly-sitter. When we arrived home three days later, nine more butterflies had emerged. Hadley was ecstatic and became a fantastic caregiver.

Until she announced 48 hours later when that she wanted to release them.

Outside.

I patiently explained it was still winter and they would not survive the chilly temperatures. Our mother-daughter game of begging and refusing lasted all day. Exasperated, she finally blurted out,

“Mommy, you don’t understand!”
“What?”

And in that moment, something changed in her countenance.

“I’ve had my butterflies long enough. THEY MUST DIE TODAY.”

Remind me to always stay on her good side.

-From the archives

Mom Blog: On Being a Good (and Bad) Mother

For the past several years, we have run this article on Being a Good (and Bad) Mother on our mommy blog for Mother’s Day. It is a good reminder of why we’re in this together and you are enough.

Every year, mothers are celebrated on that one special May day (which is not to be confused with “mayday,” another word with which mamas are familiar).

And every year growing up, I remember my mother was consumed with guilt and inadequacy, the very antithesis of what Mother’s Day is supposed to be about. Was she the perfect mom? Of course not. None of us are. But she loved, sacrificed and cared for her children as best she could.

A few years ago, I was at a resale children’s clothing store. As I poked around, the shopkeeper asked the age of my son and she confided she had a boy his same age. At check-out, I grabbed both of my children a free sucker to reward them for their good behavior. She looked at me and distastefully commented,

“I just can’t imagine giving my 21-month-old child a sucker.”

My daughter’s high school graduation and thoughts on raising a ‘late-bloomer’

My daughter Hadley recently got her driver’s license nearly two years “late.”
 
It has been a long time coming.  She was in Driver’s Ed when COVID shut down the world and she has been verrrry anxious about driving so we let her take it slowly.
 
Though she is bright, she has some learning challenges and has always hated traditional academia (see my post about Raising Topsy-Turvy Kids). It has taken a herculean effort to get her through school with a reasonably strong GPA (it takes a village and lots of math tutors). She is a gifted artist and toured a number of colleges last year and even got offered a few scholarships. In the end, she has decided to seek additional training to become a Master Medical Aesthetician…and we think it’s the perfect fit!
 
She’s obsessed with plants like her dad and is thrilled to have landed a full-time job at our darling local garden center this summer.
 
She graduates in a couple of weeks and my inbox has been flooded with notes from her teachers (the good kinds that don’t involve late/missing assignments!!)
 
Her longtime art teacher raved she’s in the top 1% of drawing students at the school. Her America at War teacher featured Hadley’s ‘Europe of Extremes & Rise of Nazi Germany’ assignment on her teacher page…a stunningly creative gummy bear diorama (apparently her representation of gummy Hitler was spot-on). And last night, she delighted us with an in-depth (and somewhat disturbing) discussion from her Psychology class about psychopaths vs. sociopaths. Raising this girl has been a roller-coaster that is never, ever boring. 😂
 
I’m obsessed with lilacs and many of the old homesteads in our area have the most beautiful lilac bushes on full display for a couple of glorious weeks every spring. I thoroughly enjoyed last season as I always do but when I was on a bike ride a couple of months later, I was stopped in my tracks when I saw an iridescent lilac tree in full bloom.
 
It didn’t care that it was much later than the other flowers. It was just doing its thing and blatantly ignored the prescribed “season” that the other bushes followed.
 
I’ve always hated the phrase late-bloomer because it denotes something is wrong or delayed.
 
Maybe that stunning lilac bush, like this girl of mine and the rest of us, is blooming exactly when it is supposed to in its own unique, beautiful way.

‘Do you know something?’ Funny things kids say!

When my son was about five, he went through an extremely annoying phase. Everything he said had to be prefaced by, “Do you know something?”

And I mean everything

My responses are varied but usually, I said, “Yes, I know everything.” Undaunted, he blabbered on.  One day, he and his BFF Seanie had an entire conversation that had to be prefaced with “do you know something” each time they spoke.

It was the longest playdate ever.

My husband hit his limit when Bode tried to get his attention.

Bode: “You know something?”

Jamie: “Stop saying that! Just say ‘Hey Daddy.'”

Bode: “OK. Hey Daddy, do you know something?”

Bribery and uncovering the truth about the Easter bunny

I’ve always believed it’s important to instill magic in my kids’ childhood and my husband and I have played along with the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa et. al. We’ve been careful to never put too much credence into them but my kids’ overactive imaginations have taken care of that.

For Christmas, we’ve kept the Santa presents to a minimum and he only brings them a couple of their requested gifts and stuffs their stockings. Mostly because I want the credit to go to me, not some plump dude sporting fur.

When my daughter was 8, she started building a leprechaun trap and I had forgotten about it until I heard her setting it up the night before St. Patrick’s Day. My first thought: Crap, now I have to do something so made up a few mischievous leprechaun tricks.

When she was in second grade, her teacher introduced the class Elf on the Shelf (likely to ensure they behaved) and the children were delighted when, each day, their elf dreamed up a new caper.

“Mom, Are You the Easter Bunny?”

Then, there was The Easter Reveal. We were at the airport on Easter waiting for our flight home from Utah when my daughter, while eating her stash of candy she’d collected earlier that day, asked,

“Mom, are you the Easter Bunny?”

“What do you think?”
“I think you are. No, wait, I think he’s real. Oh, I don’t know.”
“Do you want to know?”
“Maybe, I’m not sure. OK, yes I want to know.”
My husband had previously agreed we wanted to tell her everything this summer so the timing was perfect.
“Mommy and Daddy are the Easter Bunny.”

Disappointment, then relief flooded her face. She grabbed another handful of candy as she contemplated this new revelation. After a minute, she handed me a Reese’s chocolate egg (sharing is something she never does) and asked:

“What about Santa?”
“Do you really want to know?”
“Yes, no, maybe not.”

Learning the truth about Santa was exponentially tougher because there’s a lot more build-up and excitement surrounding him. Ultimately, she confessed,

“Yes, I want to know.”
“It’s Mommy and Daddy.”

There was a flash of sadness but then an appreciative look as she reflected back upon all the gifts we’ve bought her that have been attributed to Kris Kringle.

She grabbed another stash of candy, shoved it in my hand and queried.

“So, the Tooth Fairy and leprechauns. Not real, either?”

By now, my mouth was busting with her bribery chocolate and I merely nodded.

Once she had digested the new information, she got a twinkle in her eye and started calling me out.

“So, when the Tooth Fairy came when we were evacuated for Hurricane Earl, that was you?”
“Yep, and it was really tough one because we didn’t have any cash and had to borrow from Grandma and Grandpa.”

“And when I leave out those cookies and milk for Santa?”
“Daddy devoured them.”

“What about all those pistachios Elphina ate?” (Elphina was her Elf on the Shelf and one morning, my daughter found her bent over in a drunken-like stupor surrounded by shells).
“Daddy and I ate them.”

“But what about when we found her in the kitchen with all those sugar cookie crumbs? WERE YOU AND DADDY RESPONSIBLE FOR EATING THEM ALL?”
“Yep.”

Apparently, our imaginary friends have an eating problem we’ll need to come up with another scapegoat.