Racing Car Red

At midnight, the boys and I got our bags from a slow baggage claim while my husband went to get the car. When he texted that he was on his way, we went outside, and within seconds our thirteen year old shouted, “Here he comes!”

Faster than expected.

I looked into the darkness outside the garage but didn’t see him. “Are you sure?”

“It’s the only minivan in Colorado that goes 90 miles an hour.”

Family humming of Raiders of the Lost Ark commenced, as if we all knew what was called for.

Our Not-So-Normal Ski Day

On the first weekend of January in Colorado, thousands of city-dwelling kids head up the two-lane highway into the mountains for the first day of their ski programs. The desire to get up to the slopes is so great that many parents pull their kids out of class early to beat the traffic. Priorities, right?

While we do not advocate the “early Ski Friday pull”, we were definitely excited for the season to officially begin. But Friday night, temperatures dropped below negative 10 in the mountains, sending our planned ski day into a tailspin.

As we approached the car Saturday morning, we heard an explosion like fireworks. Turns out, it was the rear window of our car shattering into a million pieces. My husband had turned the car on to warm it up, and as it heated up, the contrast between the inside and outside was too much for the glass. Ker-pow!

No problem. We hopped in the car anyway and brought the boys to the mountain. I started calling potential repair shops, and my husband and I left for Walmart to buy plastic and duct tape. The Walmart is at least 20 minutes away from where we had dropped the kids, and the very nice gentleman who assisted us was quite concerned that the color of the duct tape match the color of our car. We were in no rush…

…until the cell phone rang.

Our oldest was calling from ski patrol, where they were tending to his younger brother, who had passed out at the base of the gondola. Dehydration. Altitude. not enough bacon for breakfast? It has happened before, which is the only reason, ski patrol said, they hadn’t called an ambulance. Please come quickly.

So, we threw the plastic and our matching duct tape into the car, and raced back to the mountain, where all was well, but….

….on the way, my sister, who was dog-sitting for us, called. Did we know tree trimmers were at the house trimming our favorite walnut?

Nope. So with the now balmy negative 2 degree air coming in the rear window and our child woozy at ski patrol, I had to tell the tree trimmer to please desist until we could supervise.

Now, the one family member who we had not heard from all day, was our nine year old, who was in ski school. We assumed that his day, at least, had been normal.

Not so. His ski instructor arrived back at the base early and angry, due to the bad behavior of the kids. And while our son was happily (and somewhat surprisingly) not the perpetrator, he is not ready for black diamonds and is being moved to a less adventurous group. He looked absolutely defeated, as I am sure, did we.

So, when I bought the big red Gatorade to rehydrate the woozy one, I also bought a lottery ticket. We’re due, right?

When the Governor Came to School

Recently, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper came to talk to the kids at my sons’ school. Parents were invited, so of course, I showed up to hear what he had to say to a gym filled with 4-12 year olds. The article I wrote about it was published on Yahoo.

http://voices.yahoo.com/when-governor-came-school-hickenlooper-offers-12128800.html

When Mom Takes the Kids to Ski School

I will never like skiing. I will never sign my kids up for those every-weekend programs. I will never drive them up to ski school by myself. I will never ski alone.

Never say never.

Life is constantly throwing us curve balls. Lost jobs. Untimely deaths. Unexpected illnesses. Kids with talents or weaknesses we don’t share. Surprise pregnancies. Undreamt of promotions. Big moves to places we’ve never been. Kids who like to ski.

I will never… until last weekend.

I woke up at 4:45 so that we could leave for Vail by 6:00 a.m. My sons are enrolled in a weekly ski program called High Rockies. There is a bus that brings the kids up and back, but I have a morbid fear that the day I put my kids on the bus, it will be buried by an avalanche. This year, with almost know snow on the cliffs overlooking I-70 that would be virtually impossible, but logic has nothing to do with it.

So this past weekend, even though my ski-loving husband could not come with us, I vowed to get the kids settled in their lessons and ski… all by myself. After only three weeks in the weekly ski program, my kids can already out-ski me. They go faster and higher and more dangerous. I figured I should practice.

I picked a slope I had skied with my husband, so that I could remind myself on the steep spots that I’d survived it before. Simba. On my fourth run, near the top, I skidded on ice, spun around and lost my ski. It is important to note that I have never stood up from a crash on my own before. I am cautious enough that I rarely fall. My arm muscles are non-existent. I am slightly uncoordinated. A second crash while trying to stand is certain to send me into panic.

Deep breath. I will never do this again. Just get me down the mountain. I will never like to ski…

…until I actually made it down in one piece with two skis attached… all by myself.

Still shaking, I grabbed my book out of the car, found a nice table in the sun with a view of the mountain, ordered a glass of chardonnay, and was quite pleased with myself.

What a great way to enjoy a warm day in January! Ski until you fall. Drink wine in the sun with ski boots off. If I hadn’t taken the kids to their weekly ski program on my own, I would be back in Denver worrying that an avalanche was going to hit their return bus and doing laundry. Did I say I would never like to ski? Silly.

Then, half-way through the glass of wine, the phone rang. “Are you still in Vail?”

Uh-oh.

“Can you come to the top of the gondola? Your son has a fever.”

Did I mention that gondolas give me vertigo?

I will never, never, never… until next weekend.

Santa’s Workshop: The Perfect Day

Since Daylight Savings turned the clocks back two weeks ago, my boys have struggled. They are whining more than usual. They are picking on each other like never before. They cry at the drop of a hat.

Yesterday, with the sun coming up, I realized I couldn’t take it anymore. I had to turn them back into the kids they were before Daylight Savings. The remedy? We were going to spend the entire day outside.

I had heard that Santa’s Workshop in Colorado Springs was fun. It’s a small amusement park with rides for little kids. (http://santas-colo.com). Open for 50 years on the slopes of Pike’s Peak, it was constructed with a child’s image of the North Pole as its inspiration. Denver-ites can get there in an hour.

Now, this adventure was a big risk.

I don’t usually enjoy amusement parks – the crowds stress me out and the rides terrify me. At most parks, wither my five year old is crying because he isn’t allowed to ride anything his brothers can, or the older boys are mad because I’m making them spend time in the kiddie section.

So Santa’s Workshop was a wonderful surprise. It wasn’t crowded even though it was 60 degrees in November. The people were all families with young kids. I think my ten year old was close to the oldest child there.

The rides were set up so that a five year old could ride what he wanted, while his older brothers rode something slightly faster, and I could see them all the entire time.

We stayed for almost four hours.

I did yell at my five year old once for making me ride in the first car of the Space Shuttle, and while he had his hands up and screamed “this is awesome”, I wouldn’t let go of his leg. Not sure who I was protecting from flying out of the car – me or him.

Other than that, no one whined. No one ran ahead. No one bickered or bothered each other. No one even threw a fit when I told them they could not buy a toy in Santa’s Shop for Boys. (There is a separate Shop for Girls.)

We rode everything, sometimes twice. And the only thing the five year old couldn’t do was the haunted house (not recommended for children under six). He didn’t mind. There were flying jets with guns right next to it.

“That was the best day ever!”

“Can we come back again and bring friends?”

“I loved today, mom!”

Best $20 a kid I’ve ever spent.

Now, let’s hope the Daylight Savings curse has passed.

Fun Fall Family Things to Do in Denver

Mourning the closing of the pool and feeling the cooler breezes of fall, our family has been looking for fun ways to spend the weekend before ski season starts here in Colorado. My article on some of the things we’ve done – or are planning to do in the next few weeks – was published on Yahoo Voices. Please check it out, and if you are in Colorado, we’d love some more ideas for the kids. Thanks!

http://voices.yahoo.com/fun-fall-activities-families-denver-11787716.html?cat=25

Colorado 2012: Quiet on the Fourth of July

Until yesterday, the Fourth of July, those of us in Denver have watched the Colorado wildfires like most of the country, on the television and through photos posted on youtube. But as Independence Day approached, our fireworks events were getting cancelled one by one. We heard every night on the news that a new country club or township had voted to forego in deference to those losing their homes — or wondering if they’d lost them — across the State. The decisions were also safety precautions due to a very dry, hot summer here.

And then early in the afternoon of the 4th, an eerie haze blanketed our city. You could tell the sun was shining above it. Cell phones started ringing. Neighbors started stopping each other. “Is there a storm coming?” “Is there a new fire? Is it close?”

It turned out to be smoke from wildfires in Wyoming, pushed down by a change in the atmosphere as it blew across Colorado. There were weather advisories, warnings not to exercise outside – a tough recommendation for the thousands who planned to spend the day on a long run, a day hike or a bike ride with the family.

Our annual neighborhood bike parade, where a band plays patriotic music, moms sell popsicles, and too many kids circle up and down a single street with their bikes decorated in red, white and blue. But the firetruck that hoses them all down at the end arrived late after many of us had departed due to the heat. We still had fun. It just reminded us that all was not quite normal.

American flags were out. Our family read the Declaration of Independence and research facts about it on the Internet, with the most memorable fact being the reason that John Hancock signed his name in such large letters – he didn’t want the King to have to wear his spectacles to read it.

Our pool threw a big party with face painting, a bouncy castle, free cotton candy and snow cones, and an inflatable slide into the deep end. Again, we had fun.

But when the sun set, it was quiet. No neighborhood kids racing up and down the block with sparklers. No bottlecaps going off in the alley. And when we went to sleep at our usual time, the skies were silent too. No distant fireworks seen or heard. A strange peace… until morning when the birds were singing, the sprinkler systems were turning on one by one, firemen around the State had turned the tide against most of the wildfires, and the sky was blue again.