Summertime Catch Up

Summertime has been a blast so far. The boy did his week of mountain bike camp and started doing some small jumps (and making my heart stop), my sister had a beautiful and fun wedding [for which there will be a separate dedicated detailed post, as my sister already called to complain about this], and then we went to Disneyland & the beach!

Obligatory castle pic

Obligatory castle pic

Driving already?! fyi, she was awful.

Driving already?! fyi, she was awful.

Arr matey! Treasure on Tom Sawyer's Island.

Arr matey! Treasure on Tom Sawyer’s Island.

beachy day of relaxation

beachy day of relaxation

Wedding Selfie with the lovely bride!

Wedding Selfie with the lovely bride!

Disney was so fun. It’s been interesting to me that when I told people we were going to Disneyland, the reaction was one of a polar pair. Either people looked at me with pity, and said something about how brave I was and how they could never do it, or their eyes gleamed with excitement and they started telling me about inside tips and how much they love it.  To the former, I was like, really? I’m going to DISNEYLAND, not having chemotherapy. I actually feel sorry for people who can’t have fun there or hate it. Quite a few, though, I suspect, say that because they think it would just be too commercial and anti-intellectual to say that they could possibly have fun there. My husband falls into this category.  To the latter, I say, you are my people. Let’s go ride.

There’s a gazillion blogs about ways to do Disneyland, and I read most of them, which meant that while I was somewhat maniacal about getting FastPasses and checking wait times on my phone, also meant that we waited in no line longer than 25 minutes and had so much fun.The best was the pin trading, which the kids got super into! The kids and I are looking forward to a trip to Orlando at some point in the future. Eric says that he’ll stay home and revel in being a curmudgeon instead.

After getting back, I was honestly depressed for a while. It was 8 total days of fun, and getting back to work and routine was hard. Especially when the rest of my family came back from vacation to…more summer vacation.

It was nice to get back to the garden this year. We’ve moved some things around, so that where we had had herbs in the central circle area we’ve now moved them back to be next to the bean screen. There’s less sun there so it’s a better fit for those plants and we have more room for vegetables. New this year: cabbage, cauliflower, leeks, different types of squash, and different types of tomatoes. I got new tomato cages on the recommendation of my neighbor, and while not cheap have been fantastic. For the first time the plants are happily supported and I’m not spending a bunch of time trying to make the flimsy little triangle cages stay upright by bolstering them with garden stakes.

 

June 5th. Little baby plants.

June 5th. Little baby plants.

July 1 garden

July 1 garden

 

July 10th garden

July 10th garden

 

My vision for the teepee in the middle was to have vines growing up it, and I left an opening to create a little hiding space for the kids.  Sadly, the beans just haven’t grown well there. Maybe it’s the variety I chose, maybe it’s because we’ve grown corn there for the past few years and the soil is depleted. I do fertilize with a natural fertilizer but, well, not everything grows well every year.

July 28 jungle

July 28 jungle

 

The other thing different this year is that I’ve been spraying with neem oil, a natural pesticide. According to the bottle, it doesn’t harm ladybugs but prevents bad bugs from eating or laying eggs on your plants. I will say that the aphid population has been near zero. The potato beetles don’t seem to care too much and nibble away, but don’t seem to be doing too much damage.

 

cabbage! No babies growing here.

cabbage! No babies growing here.

 

Another fun thing with all this rain has been all of the volunteer plants we’ve gotten! Two volunteer tomato plants, a bunch of dill, parsley, lettuce, cilantro. Some of these I just let go to seed so we keep getting more. The overall effect of this is somewhat jungle like given that there are plants popping up all over. I feel like if these plants are tough and determined enough to grow without actual irrigation, they deserve to live.

I have forgotten what kinds of squash I planted, unfortunately. I can’t remember if these are winter or summer squash. I have one that is giant, and am waiting to see if the shell hardens or not. This year again we have practically no squirrels chomping on the squash-two years of a late frost killing the blooms on my neighbors fruit trees has meant a large die off in the population. Thank you, Thomas Malthus.

unidentified squash object

unidentified squash object

We’ve already harvested our first tomato, kale, chard, basil, and of course plenty of other herbs. Should be a great rest of the growing year!

Skiing and Fear on the Mountain

Well, we’ve just gotten back from 2 days at Copper Mountain which were largely just great.  This has been the first winter break where I haven’t been absolutely counting down the seconds where the kids went back to school. Overall, we had 4 days of skiing, my sister came out for a whole week, the kids basically made the pierogies this year for our Christmas Eve dinner and Santa made it by the house. My schedule has somehow allowed me to be off for almost all of 2 weeks, and since Eric is home on winter break also, it’s just been a lot of good family time. Not that there haven’t been a few moments where I think we were all a little sick of each other, have separated the kids, have created spurious reasons for early bedtimes, or have had tantrums (both kids and myself). But for the most part it’s just been really, really fun.

Skiing over the break was huge. The boy and the girl made huge leaps in their skiing this year-the girl went on her first lift and the boy is even skiing some blue runs!  One of the things we’ve been looking forward to is having them be able to ski with us and not have to be in lessons. Since I snowboard I can’t really help out with teaching them to ski, and Eric didn’t necessarily feel comfortable teaching them either. This last time, I agreed to pick up the boy early at 2pm to ski a run or two with him after lessons since he’d made so much progress.  So on Saturday, we picked him up at 2 and I went up a lift with him for a run.  Eric was going to wait at West Village for the girl to finish her lesson at 3pm, and the boy and I were going to ski over to Center village where our lodge was.

[A note: this is long. If you want the brief version, I couldn’t find the Boy and was panicky. Scroll down to the asterix break to find out what actually happened. Otherwise read on to share my two hours of terror.]

Now the boy likes to ski through the trees, which I find nerve wracking when I ride with him-one moment he’s there, then he’s not, then he pops out of some trees. So I’d asked him not to go through trees on our ride down. A note about the weather-it was cold. 15 degrees cold and dropping. We were both tired and getting chilled so agreed to just do the one run. We got off the lift and headed down the run to take us to Center Village, and then suddenly, he simply wasn’t there.  I thought he had maybe taken a little tree path, so followed it down, but didn’t see him at the end. I waited there, looked up and down the mountain and just…no child. At this point, I got worried that he had hit a tree or gotten stuck, so I unstrapped myself from my board and walked up the hill, but didn’t see anyone in the trees. I flagged down a ski instructor and told them what I was worried of-he skied the path and looked from below and assured me that there was no one in the trees.

This wasn’t really all that reassuring to me, as my big snowboarding fear is getting stuck in a tree well, low enough that rescuers can’t see you and getting hypothermic and suffocating to death. I hightailed it down the mountain to Center Village, looking for the boy the whole time and not seeing him. At this point, I was in almost full panic mode. I found someone who eventually directed me to Ski Patrol and I hoped that he was just sitting in the office, but he wasn’t there. I told the Patrol officers about what had happened, and expected them to say something like, “Oh we already have him,” but they didn’t. I was now in full panic mode.

As they called their units into action and reassured me that they had never lost anyone, I was frantically trying to call Eric, but cell service wasn’t working. I was able to text him and our friend, who was with him, about what was going on, and told him to wait there and have our friend take the girl back to the lodge. The Ski Patrol people asked me to walk around the base of Center Village, which is a large place if you’ve ever been to Copper Mountain. I walked around, into the restaurants that he’s been familiar with, and still no boy. I went back to the office and the Ski Patrol guy said we should re-ski the run we had been on, though part of me suspects that he did this to get me out of the office and feel like I was doing something. The temperature was dropping rapidly-someone in the ski patrol office commented that it was now 5 degrees outside. It was snowing and getting darker too, all of which made me more and more terrified.

At this point, Eric was over at West Village and waiting to hear something, but his phone had died. He called me from someone else’s phone, but I didn’t really have much to tell him. As we were taking the lift up to get back to the run, the ski patrol had the boy’s tag scanned-he had just gotten on the West Village lift at 3:17, which was now! Relief flooded over me, as at least he was alive. He must have taken a wrong turn, I reasoned, ended up at the wrong village, and gotten back on the lift to try again. As it turned out, the timing on the chip was off by an hour so my relief was unfounded, but I didn’t know it at the time. We hightailed it down to the top of the Union Creek lift and waited for him to get off, which he never did. Maybe we missed him again, the Ski Patrol guy reasoned, and we headed back down the original run. Somehow on the way down I lost the ski patrol person again.  By this point, my phone had died too. Usually I keep it in an interior pocket of my jacket but had just stuck it into a side pocket and it had frozen too cold to work. So now I had no way to reach Eric either.

I ran back into the office at Center Village near 4 pm, almost 2 hours since I saw the boy last. I started babbling how I’d lost my kid and now I’d lost the ski patrol person and honestly I don’t remember what else. The kind man there told me to hold on and said that the boy had been found-he was at our ski lodge and our friend had called it in. Sheer relief and happiness flooded over me. The man asked me what my name was, and it took me a full 10 seconds to remember my name. I’m not kidding here. He drove me back over to the lodge, where I found the boy calmly playing Plants vs. Zombies on a cell phone. He looked up at me and said, “Hi Mom!” and went back to playing.

*******

As he told us the story, what had happened was this, in his own words as much as possible: “So, I was skiing and then went into a little curve, but not in the trees, and then when I looked around Mom wasn’t there. So I skied down a little ways and waited, but didn’t see Mom. So I started to freak out a little, but then said to myself that I had to make a plan. I didn’t want to just stay on the mountain because of, well, strangers, and also because it was getting cold. So I made a plan to find anyone I knew. I skied down to Center Village, and followed the signs so I didn’t go to Union Creek. When I got to the bottom I still didn’t see Mom, so I looked at Center Village and saw Jack’s and the big snowpile that was next to our lodge and went there. I climbed the snowpile to get higher up and see if I could see anyone from higher up. I got into the lodge but didn’t have a card to get up to the room so waited for someone else to get in the elevator and then took it up to our floor and went to the room, but no one was there. So then I remembered that you had talked about going to use the hot tub at the fitness center, so I went outside and asked someone to show me where it was. I walked to the fitness center [note: this is about 1/4 mile away, across 2 streets, and he was still wearing ski boots] and asked them if they had seen you or our friends. They looked but didn’t find them. I told them my story and they said that if I couldn’t find my way home to come back. I walked back to the lodge and then remembered that there was a hot tub on the second floor, so took the elevator again and saw that it was still closed. As I was walking back to the elevator to just go back to our room and wait, I heard Sister’s voice downstairs. [Note: that floor is open to the ground floor below, so sound carries up] I said, ‘Sister?!’ and then Aunty said, “Boy, is that you?!” and they met me at the elevator and let me in!”

At this point, our friends called Ski Patrol to let them know he had been found, and our stories match up.

I cannot believe how composed the Boy was and how he was able to devise a plan for himself, find his way back to the lodge, walk 1/2 a mile around Copper looking for us, and really take care of himself. I was so impressed by his independence and resourcefulness, and am astonished that he didn’t simply start weeping at the side of the mountain. After it was all over I identified with the mom in “Home Alone,” where she was frantically trying to get to her son, who had it all under control. This experience made me feel like we are doing something right as parents. 🙂

I also cannot believe that he told the adults at the fitness center that he was a lost child and they simply sent him back out into the cold weather instead of calling Ski Patrol immediately. I am so grateful that my daughter never stops talking in the loudest voice possible so that the Boy heard her from a flight up and called back. Mostly I’m just so happy that the Boy is safe, alive, and back with us so we can all go on more skiing adventures.

But this time with a plan for what to do if we get separated.

Nebraska/askarbeN

This summer we spent 5 days in Nebraska. I’ve apparently been in Nebraska before, as Eric insists that we drove through and even stayed in the state on our drive out from Michigan, but I have no memory of it.

One of our friends, Chris, grew up in Nebraska and his mother lives on 5 acres out somewhere in the middle. His family goes every year to visit and also for his boys to run around in the woods and creek and make things out of found objects, like time from summers past.  So different from city summers which are spent, for us, with pools and parks and the occasional camp.  We don’t have sheets of corrugated aluminum and bricks lying around our woodshed for kids to create forts out of.

So we piled into our minivan and headed East.  My two kids, his two kids, Eric, Chris, and myself.  Chris’ wife was off on a retreat and couldn’t join us. I’ve driven across areas of the Midwest before, once when crossing the continent to go from San Diego to Michigan, and once again when we drove from Michigan to Denver ten years ago. I’d just returned from a month in Ecuador and had missed the last 10 or so episodes of “24,” and a friend had taped them for me.  Every night when we decamped to a hotel, I’d pull out the VCR and watch a few episodes. I can get a little obsessed like that.

The most amazing thing about driving across the midwest to me has and still is the big sky. No buildings, no mountains, just sky as far as you can see in a 180 degree horizon. For miles and miles and miles. And grasses, and some trees, and then more of those.  I don’t know how the early pioneers didn’t get bored at some time.  Maybe that’s why so many of them stopped in Kansas or Nebraska when they headed out.  It was like, enough is enough.

big sky nebraska

big sky nebraska

We arrived in Franklin, Nebraska in the evening, and the kids immediatlely set out to finding random things in the yard and shed and began trying to make a tractor out of them.  At some point we heard a loud clanging and figured we should remove the large hammers from the play space, but otherwise let them play unhindered.

running girl

running girl

The next day we headed out to Red Cloud, Nebraska, to visit some of Chris’ other relatives.  His aunt used to be a teacher in a one-room school house and several years ago, her husband bought her an old one as a present and she had it refurbished and now gives tours.

one room schoolhouse

one room schoolhouse

Her first order of action was to gather all the kids around the flagpole and ask them, “Do you know the Pledge of Alllegiance?” in a tone that one would use to ask something like, “Do you know how to walk?”  All four children looked at her blankly. “Don’t you say it before class?” she tried again.  Crickets. Utterly horrified at the state of education these days, she instructed the kids to put their hands over their hearts (which also wasn’t really done that successfuly) and led them in the chant.

pledge

pledge

The siding is original and you can see the signatures and other writing on the  wall from times past.  I love seeing things like this when people try to say that kids used to be much better behaved-I mean, it’s just another version of graffiti, right?

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Inside was the communal cups and washbasin (aka dysentery transmission module) and then the little classroom itself. It was remarkable to see something completely from another era and get a piece of life back then.

washbasin & cups for washing and drinking

washbasin & cups for washing and drinking

Are you ready to recite?

Are you ready to recite?

We then went to the town center of Red Cloud  and did a tour given by the Willa Cather historical society, as it was her home and many of the characters in her books were based on real people and houses.  In preparation for the trip I had just read “My Antonia” and it was unbelievable to see places and houses that she described in the book.

We visited the old bank

door handle of bank

door handle of bank

inspection notices from the safe

inspection notices from the safe

and then her home. Eric commented that it’s a weird sort of hagiography to preserve living residences for people like authors, instead of knowing them through their work. I disagree-I think that seeing where someone lived and understanding their enviroment gives you a different perspective on their works, and helps you to picture who they were, where they came from, and what was happening in the books.

The day before and after this we actually just spent wandering around creeks and railroads and campfires and getting good and muddy, at least for the kids.

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backyard campfire

backyard campfire

Saturday we headed for Omaha, given that the real reason that Eric was even excited about this trip was to see the Flaming Lips in Omaha. Something I’ve been thinking about ever since this trip is the experience of being brown in rural America.  These were small, small towns we were in.  Everyone knows everyone and if aren’t from there, regardless of skin color, people stare at you, as even Eric can attest to.  Somehow, though, it felt different for me-more aggressive, unfriendly, and unwelcoming.  (This excludes, of course, all the people in Chris’ family who we met who were just lovely, wonderful people. I’m just talking about walking around.) In Denver, especially near where we live, I’m pretty used to going to restaurants and being the only non-white people there. Something I didn’t appreciate before this trip, though, is that Denver is cosmopolitan enough that I’m not unusual, or at least no one seems to stare at me. It was so uncomfortable in small town Nebraska to just be walking around. Maybe I’m making this up, but I don’t think so.

The other thing that struck me was the food. Whenever we ate at home the food was delicious-Chris’ mom is a wonderful cook and eats very healthy and largely vegetarian, which was great. Anytime we went out though, the options were entirely cheese/fried/meat. Even the salads all had meat or cheese dripping on top of them.  The healthiest place we could find to eat out was Subway. When we finally got near Omaha, we found a little Vietnamese place that was utterly delicious and fresh and wow! a green vegetable. How can people eat healthy if there isn’t any way to do so?

At any rate, I never thought I’d be saying this, but it was a relief to get to Omaha and not feel like we were in a small town anymore. There is a weird inclusivity in being ignored, or at least not feeling like you’re an exotic zoo creature. We stayed with Chris’ cousin, Travis and his family, who were all wonderful people. I hope we get to spend time with them all again!

That night we went to the Maha festival at the Askarben amphitheatre.  “What is ‘Askarben’?” asked Eric at one point.  It’s written on everything, much the way that everything here is named, “Mile High” something or other. Travis looked at us and said, “Well, it’s ‘Nebraska’ spelled backwards!” and then started laughing at the ridiculousness of it.  I mean, really? Let’s not make this a nationwide trend.

The festival was great! I’m usually not a music festival type of person, but this was awesome. It’s not commercial at all, it’s entirely run by volunteers, they had tons of community involvement and other tents and such with displays. First up was Bob Mould, who Eric was excited to see as he knew Husker Dü, who I don’t know at all. Then he started playing all these songs I knew by Sugar! Took me back to the early 90s and listening to “Helpless” over and over again in my dorm room my freshman year at college. Then came Matt and Kim who played very little actual music but were so entertaining and fun that I was smiling the entire time.

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matt & kim

Last, but most for Eric, was the Flaming Lips, who did their usual megalomaniac Flaming Lips show. Eric insists that plebians like myself “Just don’t get them,” and dear readers, I have to say that I’m fine with that. Just fine.

lips, doing their lippy thing

lips, doing their lippy thing

The next day was a long 7 hours home, listening to books in the car, playing games, giving into ipads, and finally getting back to Denver, where we were all happy to be home.

NYC 2013

NYC this year was a blast.  The boy is almost 8, which meant that we could really be tourists and DO things, which was so much fun. Also, he can read, which makes travel time that much easier too. Instead of worrying about what to do on the plane or trains or anything, we could both spend our time reading peacefully as an option, especially when our flight was delayed by an hour. (Don’t you worry, I came armed with an iPad, iPhone, and plenty of downloaded videos too.  I’m not THAT virtuous. But battery life is limited, right?) The plane flight was actually easy.  Those of you with younger kids who have flown with them-there is hope, light at the end of that long, dark tunnel.

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We got to Brooklyn late and headed straight for dinner: Ethiopian food, which was very tasty.

Breakfast: Konditori, every day.

breakfast

breakfast

Then we headed to Central Park and rented bicycles.  I tried to rent from a local bike shop but they don’t rent to kids because of insurance issues.  Luckily, the central park boathouse has no such qualms and gladly gave us 2 wheezy bikes. This was one of those things I’d always wanted to do and we enjoyed every minute.  Future reference–get a bike from one of the real tourist places because then you get a lock and can stop and explore.  We would have loved to stop at the north side nature center but couldn’t because we couldn’t lock up the bikes. (side note for facebook friends, you may have seen some of these pics already but I find it’s easier to find them again if they’re here. Besides, I just love some of these)

by the lake

by the lake

After the bike ride we strolled up to Belvedere Castle-which was less of a castle then expected but did have cool views.  There was a school group there and it became a bit like “Where’s Waldo” trying to find the boy, since they all wore orange shirts too!

can you spot him?

can you spot him?

After this it was off to the Met!

yikes!

yikes!

The boy loved the Egyptian section and we spent a lot of time in Arms&Armor too.  We then wandered and came across American section and the period rooms where they have recreations of different rooms from different eras in America’s history.  I just loved this and didn’t even know they had such things! We pretended that that was where Claudia and James Kincaid would have slept had they come to the Met now, since their original bed has been taken off display. After this you might imagine we were getting tired-I wanted to head to the painting galleries before we left, but we just didn’t have the heart to enjoy them.  Hopped the subway to Ippudo where we got in without any wait (which I’ve heard is tantamount to magic in New York), though it might have helped that we were eating at 6.  Dinner: Ramen noodle bowl, delish.

We took a little tourist break the next day and went up to New Jersey to visit Kara and her adorable little toddler, who was just enamored of the boy. Kara and I studied abroad in Ghana many many moons ago, and it was so fun to see her and meet her little one.  Then it was back to the city for the MOMA.  I love the MOMA in NYC.  Busy and crowded, but who cares? I downloaded the free MoMA app so we didn’t have to wait in line for the audio tour (tip!) and set out.  I just love that feeling of turning the corner and oh holy moly there’s Starry Night! I mean, Starry Night! Even though it’s so famous and we’ve seen it a million times, it is just mesmerizing in person and even more beautiful.  Some of the other highlights for me were Sleeping Gypsy (didn’t realize it was so big!) and the Picassos. They had a exhibition celebrating modern design from video games to minesweeping that was so, so cool to see. Here’s a link to his website-check it out. Then to dinner: Sushi and off to see Matilda on Broadway!

matilda set

matilda set

Times Square is one of those insane tourist traps that I love to visit.  I know all real New Yorkers turn their nose up at it, and the lines at ridiculous places like the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. are bizarre-I mean, I don’t understand why anyone would eat there when there is actual good food not too far away, but there is just no place like it that I know of and it’s something to behold.  For a half hour or so anyway.

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clearly staged as the boy is staring in a different direction than the point

Next day off to Westchester to spend time with my friend Rebecca from med school, which was wonderful.  Dinner: delicious home cooked salmon.

And then, off to Long Island for my sister’s Engagement Ceremony!

Something funny on the way to the mandap

Mawashee and the boy

Mawashee and the boy

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Sapana and her fiance Sachin

Sachin’s parents threw such a great party! Everyone had so much fun and it was great to meet so many people on his side of the family. Dinner: well, duh, Indian food.  New to me: Tikka Paneer and Gobi Manchurian, which I will order any chance I get.

The next day, back to the city for us to spend time with cousins and Lady Liberty.

standing guard over the harbor

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cousins!

The statue just opened on July 1st, and it was packed.  We couldn’t get tickets for crown access, but visiting the pedestal was just great and I loved learning more about the history of the statue and the building of it. Dinner: pizza.

Almost done! You might think that we’d take a break at this point, but you’d be wrong.

Next day was Empire State Building-this is one of those tourist things I could personally skip, though the view is spectacular.  I also used it to teach the boy about what he now calls, “Art Gecko” style architecture. I’ve never been at night, though, so maybe that’s something for next time.

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And then off to the Intrepid Air&Space Museum. This place was awesome.  I could take or leave all the fighter jets on the aircraft carrier-I’m not really a plane person, though I did like the stealth plane. And then inside was a SPACE SHUTTLE.  As someone who grew up in the 80s, I have a mythical love of the space shuttle-we all watched as they took off, we all watched the Challenger disaster.  To go into a hangar and have one there was incredible.

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We also took a tour of the nuclear era submarine which was cool and entirely claustrophobia inducing. To imagine the hundred + men living in that space, filling it with cigarette smoke, deep underwater-I was happy to get to fresh air.

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Porthole crawling.

Dinner: Pho.

Last day we just wandered around Brooklyn, did a little shopping and had our last NYC meal: Veggie burgers at BareBurger.

My beautiful little boy.

My beautiful little boy.

Coming home was bittersweet-we did so, so much and had such a great time.  It’s also going to be the last time we stay in Brooklyn since by the time we have our trip next year, my sister will be married and probably living on the UES. I’m going to miss Park Slope-I know all the stores and restaurants in my sister’s near vicinity and it feels familiar now when we go, so knowing we’re not going back there makes me just a little sad. Of course, it’s New York so there’s a new adventure out there just waiting for next year.

Camp & Stitches

(This trip actually happened the last week of June…)

The title of this post sounds like a hipster housewares store in Brooklyn. Anyway.

This summer we went up to the Estes Park YMCA for a week and stayed in one of their cabins.  If you live in Colorado (or even if you don’t) it’s a great place to stay for a visit. We’ve never stayed in the lodges, the reviews aren’t so great on those, but the cabins are simple and spartan and just great for a little time away without feeling like you’re really roughing it. Every time we drive in and pass the yurts  and tepees Eric says something like, “Wouldn’t it be so great to stay in those one time?” Personally, I prefer to be closer to warm running water and doors between me and the bears.  (Side note-according to the rangers, there are only about 35 bears in all of RMNP! They say that they have names for them all and know their behavior.)

The first night we camped so it’d be easier to get the kids to their daycamp in the morning.

snacking by the fire

snacking by the fire

It was so pretty I thought we could get a nice picture of us and the girl.

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so much for that

And look! Eric singlehandedly increased the bear population to 36!

The kids were in camp all week, which left Eric and I time to do fun grownup things like hiking, and road biking, and mountain biking, and drinking beer at lunchtime.

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So many beautiful wildflowers (and some invasives) along the path

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Wednesday evening, I was sitting outside the cabin reading a book and had just gone in to start dinner when I heard the girl yell “Brother hurt himself!” I went outside and found the boy at the bottom of a tree, with blood streaming down his shirt and face.  He was screaming, too, which immediately calmed me down.  My general feeling is if my kids are screaming in pain, well, they’re not a) dead or b)unconscious, so whatever it is is probably fixable.  He was able to get up and walk over to the cabin (ruled out broken legs, arms, good).  His chin was split open and he was complaining of not being able to open his jaw. A branch had broken in a tree he’d been climbing and he’d tumbled 7 feet or so to the ground.

As a medical person, it’s surreal when it’s your own kids or family that gets hurt.  I mean, you’re supposed to know what the right thing to do is, but it’s impossible to really be objective.  Most medical people I know downplay any injury their kid has-I’ve known parents that thought their kid was fine when they had a broken nose, or even a broken arm or something.  Part of it is that so many parents freak out when their kid has something minor that you get somewhat immune to it.  So he’s screaming, I murmur something about maybe needing stitches, which only made him scream louder ” NO STITCHES!! NO STITCHES!! CALL 911!! CALL 911!!”  Eric stared at me and said, “You’re the doctor! What do we do?”

I hesitated to have us take him to the ER, but what turned my mind was that he’d fallen into dirt and the wound needed to be cleaned. In hindsight, this was completely idiotic and he clearly needed care, but that’s what did it at the time.  On the way over he kept screaming and whimpering. The folks at the Estes Park Med Center were just wonderful-they got us in quickly and most gratefully, gave the boy some Versed.  This was fun as he kept asking what was wrong with his chin every 5 minutes. Because he couldn’t open his jaw, they did a CT of his face and found that he had a nondisplaced jaw  fracture. He ended up with eight stitches in his chin and a liquid diet.

Eight stitches!

Eight stitches!

The next morning, we bought a bunch of smoothies for him, gave him a couple ibuprofen and sent him back to day camp. I mean, he was walking around, clearly not feeling bad, and Eric and I had massages scheduled for our anniversary. The best part of this story is I ran his case by a maxillofacial surgeon at work who casually said something like, “Well, he’s 7 so it’s fine for now, but it could have damaged the growth plate. So when he starts going through puberty, watch and see if his face starts growing asymmetrically and then he might need a corrective procedure.” Fantastic.  So I’m going to start staring at his face obsessively when he turns about 11 or so and won’t stop for the next 10 years.

The last day we all went for a short hike before packing up and heading home.

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 The boy’s chin has healed up fine, as has his jaw after a few weeks of soft food.  One of saddest things was watching him use his lower teeth to scrape a carrot to eat, saying, “I just miss carrots so much.”

Overall, a great trip that I think we’ll do every year as far as we’re able! Without the ER trip this time, I hope.

Snow Mountain Ranch

What a fabulous Memorial Day weekend we had.  My high school friend Geoff and his lovely wife Karen and their twins came out to visit and we went up to Snow Mountain Ranch for the weekend.

I love that place-if you live in Colorado and haven’t been, you are missing out.  Here’s the view from our cabin:

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ah, mountains!

Not too shabby, eh?

Later that afternoon some of us went for a hike.  There’s been a lot of snow and a lot of snowmelt so it was a bit muddy, and someone slipped and got a muddy butt, which didn’t bother our intrepid explorer one bit.

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just keep hiking, just keep hiking

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what’s in the water?

The next day we rented mountain bikes and tagalongs and went for a ride!

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badass mountain biker

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actually having fun

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mountain biking with a trailer, not for the faint of heart

It just couldn’t have been better. Nights were filled with good food, good drink, and a few rounds of Cards Against Humanity. I wish I could post some of the funnier game responses, but then this wouldn’t be a family blog, now, would it? The other thing that was great was that all the kids were old enough to explore on their own.  There were many hours where they would simply head off into the woods next to the cabin and create their own secret games and just play while the adults would relax in the cabin. If it sounds too idyllic to be true, well, I can’t help that.

The next morning we went for one last hike

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The whole crew

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Walking stick in hand

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Hiking children

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Running to catch up

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Careful apple slicing

And then the trail got super super muddy (as the girl would say) and some of the hikers took off their shoes to squelch through the mud.  One of the hikers simply squelched through with her shoes on.  I’ll let you guess which one that is.

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muddy paws

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barefoot snow survival

When the trail got snowy, the barefoot hiking came to a quick end and we headed back.  By this time I had started to recite the poem, “Mud, Mud, glorius mud! Nothing quite like it for cooling the blood! So follow me, follow me, down to the hollow, where we will wallow in glorious mud!” which is from a children’s book of poems we have at home.

The girl, of course, began to sing this over and over again and then began to take it quite literally.

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mud bath

Sadly, vacation was over after this.  Our friends had to head south and I had to head back to work a night shift at the hospital, which was even less fun than usual given what I’d just been doing.

I know I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again–there is something that is so wonderful about seeing your kids become friends with your old friends’ kids. It makes me feel hopeful and gives me a sense of generations and seeing the future being created now, and it’s good.

San Francisco or Bust

A few weeks ago I went to San Francisco.  Or I should say that I undertook a journey of Homeric proportions to get to San Francisco.  Okay, okay, that’s overstating it a bit. But not by much.

I had a late flight out on what would be the first big snowstorm of the season, and DIA was, I would later find out, woefully unprepared.  It felt like a blizzard as I drove to the airport, though native Coloradoans would probably have termed it “snow driving.” Growing up in California, I have never quite mastered the art of driving in the snow. As I do it I usually evaluate my life and try to see if there is anything I’d like to do differently should I survive.

I got to the airport, made it through security easily and got to the gate.  I had a little extra time (and here I wish I’d had an inkling of the near future) and went to the bar to have a pre-flight cocktail.  The waitress asked if I’d like another after I’d finished, and I replied, “pshaw, no,” thinking that I’d be getting on the plane soon. Once on board,  the captain makes some announcement about getting going to de-ice, some planes have been waiting for 3 hours to de-ice but he didn’t think that would happen to us.

I’ll spare you all some time here and note that I got through a few episodes of “Damages” (1st season good, 2nd not so much) before we hit the de-icing pad 3 hours later.  The captain announces that we’ve got half an hour before FAA regulations say we’ve got to go back to the gate.  The flight attendants come by with water and pretzels.  This doesn’t really mollify me.  AS THEY ARE DE-ICING THE PLANE, the captain says that it’s taking too long and we’ll have to head back to the gate.  It is now 1 AM.

We deplane and mill about, unsure of what to do.  Some other passenger who sounds Canadian but is far too loud to be Canadian (I don’t know, are Canadians extraordinarily loud at 1 AM?) is irritating everyone.  We all find a plug to recharge our electronic devices and they announce that they’re getting us all back ON the plane to try and leave, and now it should be okay.  Fine. My dad calls to ask me how my flight was and if I made it to my hotel safely.  I cheerfully announce that my flight landed safely in Denver.

We get back on the plane, and this time it’s different.  This time we spend only 2 hours on the plane and don’t make it to the de-icing pad before they turn the plane around and cancel the flight.

It’s now 3:30 and I’m really wishing I took up that waitress on her offer of a 2nd cocktail. Everyone gets off the plane and gets on the phone to the airline trying to rebook.  I can’t get through after 5 minutes so pull out my Ipad, see that there’s a flight leaving a 8:00 AM and get a ticket on that. It’s too little time to go home, and it’s still snowing anyway so I don’t want to drive (see aforementioned note about driving in snow) so I find a gate and try to sleep.

Now, in the 1990s, all airports homeless-proofed themselves.  Before that there were seats without armrests where people could take a nap, but too many vagrants were taking advantage of that.  After 9.11 when only passengers could come through to the gate area, this wasn’t needed but no airport has reverted to the nicer seats.  So I really couldn’t sleep because of the seats, and because it’s damn creepy to be a single woman sleeping in the airport and did I mention I was watching a series about sneaky people murdering each other? So I wander the airport and see this really ugly piece of airport “art.” Did they forget to install something? What is the point of this:

Around 6:30 the airport wakes up, and I wander to find food. At this point, this is the end of a very very long NIGHT for me and I think it’d be nice to have that 2nd drink I never got.  I then realize that for everyone else it’s 6:30 in the morning and chances would be that I’d run into a patient and be reported to some state medical board for looking like an alcoholic. I decide to wait for a more socially acceptable hour to have that bloody mary and instead get breakfast.

At 7:30 they announce overhead that the flight has been delayed due to fog in San Fran. Fog? San Fran? Who knew? Ok, no big deal.

At 8:30 they announce that the flight will now leave at 11 AM.  I have been in the airport for about 13 hours at this point and am not thinking very clearly, but do realize  that if I have to sit through one more flight delay I just may end up hurting someone.  I look at the board and see that there is a flight to fog-less San Jose leaving at 10 AM, and run through the terminal to see if they can book me on that.  Thankfully, they can, and I head to the bar to get what I feel is a well deserved drink before actually boarding a plane to get to California. (Note how I get to show off my super cool Ipad cover, too.)

As I walk down the jetway, these yahoos flank the walls.  I feel they are mocking me and I wish I could hurt them. This is, I think, the WORST thing about flying Southwest.

I land in San Jose, my parents pick me up, hand me a bag with lunch, and I then get on a BART train to ride for ANOTHER 45 minutes to get to San Francisco.

I finally get to the hotel, 19 hours after I left home. I am so, so grateful for the box of delicious Indian food that my mom has lovingly packed in tiffin and eat every single bite.

You may wonder why I didn’t just give up and go home at any given point. Truthfully, I look forward to this trip too much to give it up-it’s my one trip away every year that isn’t work-related.  And in some ways, it was kind of fun.  I mean, I was there by myself so didn’t have anyone (kids) to take care of and had plenty of entertainment.  It felt like I was younger and single and on one of my more adventurous trips where I was sharing a truck with chickens for 12 hours for a ride that should take 2, but without the chickens and all. Had I been going almost anywhere else I probably would have just gone back home, but I can’t pass up a trip to San Francisco, even if it means spending a night in the airport.

The trip itself was great, I spent time with some old friends and randomly ran into an old college friend I hadn’t seen in near 15 years, ate delicious food and got to go to an amazing yarn store to get a new project since 12 hours in the airport had eaten up all the yarn I’d initially brought with me. That’ll have to be another post. Oh, and I did manage to go to that medical conference and learn some, you know, stuff.

When I wasn’t out enjoying this, of course: