Outdoor Diary: How We Add Nature to Every Birthday Celebration

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One thing you may not know about Amy is that she hates birthday parties. Like, cannot stand them. In this outdoor diary, find out what the Bushatz family does instead and how they make heading outside part of every birthday!

Some of the good stuff:

[:27] Amy and Birthday parties

[:56] A Bushatz family tradition

[2:32] Ice fishing for Huck Day

[4:30] The PANTS!

[4:42] Back to running

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Here’s an edited transcript of this installment of Amy’s Outdoor Diary. Listen to the episode on iTunes, Google Podcasts, or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.

One of the first things I realized as a parent is how very much I hate hosting birthday parties. I love birthdays. I love seeing my kids have fun. I LOATH birthday parties. All the stress, the expectations, the people — maybe this is some introvert stuff, maybe this is me being still a little traumatized by my long history of personal birthday party fails, starting when I was 8. Whatever, I don’t like them.

So as my kids got an age where they wanted to have big parties, we had to come up with a compromise, and what we landed was this: each kid gets their own day. And on their own day they get to pick something they want to go do, like a movie or activity, a meal out, a specific food for a meal in and – most importantly in my eyes – an outdoor activity.

I’m not going to pretend that both of my kids would automatically do that on their own. Dave, my 11 year old, is a person who would rather play video games and sleep in a hotel any night of the year than go on an outdoor adventure. My youngest son, Huck, whose ninth birthday was this month is his opposite, with what is basically a radar for dirt and a good nature adventure. Dave is the person who recently asked me if there’s an elevator to the bottom of the grand canyon because it would be a technology marvel. Huck is the person who recently spent hours on end digging a hole in a snow berm. They have their individual personalities and interests — but sometimes inspiring them into nature takes some work.

And, yes, I hate birthday parties, but really this is bigger than this. We do this stuff for this reason: being outside is a core value of who we are as a family, as is doing things together or activities that we can all participate in and enjoy. We want to celebrate each other, and we want to do it together. And maybe someday I’ll have to give in and let them have birthday parties with friends, but for now, this is just a part of who we are as a family.

And so it was that last week we went ice fishing as a family for the first time. It was recently Huck day, and so he had an outdoor activity to pick. Last year, for example, we went sledding. But I wanted to push him a little this year, and so I strongly suggested he pick ice fishing as both our adventure or day activity and an outdoor thing at the same time, because it was something none of us had ever done before.

Another thing you need to know is that while Huck asks us constantly all summer long if we can take him fishing, he is afraid of going out on the ice in the winter. I’m not sure why — he’s never had a bad experience. He just doesn’t want to do it. So I knew it would be a little tricky to get him to be down with heading not just far onto the ice, but the cutting a hole in it and fishing there with a heater on in a tent. I knew that the best way to make it happen would be to hire a guide we could tell Huck to trust.

I got Huck on board with the idea as part of Huck day, and hit up the local veteran-owned fishing guide service, Drill Team 6 Fishing. We drove snowmachines out to the tent on a local lake — another first for me — and headed inside the heated tent. It was all even more Alaska since there was a dog race happening on the lake at the same time.

We headed into the heated ice fishing tent where Dan, our guide and the company’s co-owner, had already drilled out four fishing holes for us. As he used a line to show us how to drop into the water, he immediately got a bite and within moments had pulled out what he said was the largest trout he’d ever seen in that lake — and that’s no big fish tale — almost 2 feet long. And the fun kept going from there. All told we pulled out over 30 landlocked salmon and two large trout in two hours, and our freezer is now once again full of fish, with those joining our remaining halibut from a summer trip to Seward.

It was a spectacular first experience ice fishing, and we so appreciated the kindness and expertise Dan brought to the trip. We were cozy warm and comfortable because of the tent and, obviously, my favorite warm puffy pants aka the pants. Are you tired of hearing about them yet? I swear I do not sell these — I just love them. Link in the show notes.

I’m excited about this upcoming week because it’s going to include the first outdoor running event for me since the start of COVID. The kids are back to school and off spring break, the sun outside is brilliant and all is well. You can see many pictures of all of these things on our Instagram and Facebook accounts at Humans Outside, and I know you’re out doing stuff, too, so I hope you show me by posting photos and tagging it #humansoutside365. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.

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