Friday, May 22, 2009

My First Standing Ovation

By relating this experience, I will be divulging a source of inner power that I have hitherto left undisclosed.  For those of you who have previously left me in the dust on running/biking excursions,  it is only because I did not hazard to publicly unleash my proven effective methods of increased muscular voltage.  

In order to avoid the suppression of my stamina bursts due to the fact that it is not socially "normal" behavior, I habitually choose a jogging or biking course which will have the most minimal likelihood of publicity.  A very negligible number of passing strangers have warmly, patronizingly, mockingly caught me by surprise whilst in the act of secret performance enhancement.  Nothing too humiliating.  But today,  I was completely and utterly outed.  
MY SECRET:  When I am hitting an endorphin wall while running or biking up a particularly or not particularly steep hill, I can find elusive stashes of velocity by ........singing out loud.  Maybe everyone does this.  Maybe this post will cause all of you closeted exercise singers to come pouring out of the nooks and crannies of society and we can finally discard our shame and exer-harmonize together.  

This morning I was on a bike ride through the rolling Palouse farmland.  I turned up a road in which I was not familiar and found myself faced with a more challenging semi-vertical ascension.  I needed to call upon my booster.   I started singing along with the song that happened to be playing on my MP3 player at the moment, which was WAY OVER YONDER IN THE MINOR KEY, a duet by Billy Bragg and Natalie Merchant.  These are the words that I was belting, which I am sure was way over yonder in an OFF-KEY:

She said it's hard for me to see
how one little boy got so ugly
Yes, my little girly, that might be,
but there ain't nobody that can sing like me
Aint nobody that can sing like me 
Way over yonder in the minor key
way over yonder in the minor key
Aint nobody that can sing like me

I was concentrating on the few feet in front of me and failed to notice a rogue Immaculate Center of Retreat which was conducting a congregational social brunch or meeting of sorts.  Before I was able to stifle my expressive behavior, I saw a large group of people standing and clapping.   I become quite red while under physical exertion and hopefully this masked the scarlet burning of embarrassment.  I have never craved the limelight and have expended an exorbitant amount of energy avoiding the possibility of ever being the center of attention. 

One of the many reasons that I loved living in Portland was that I frequently crossed the path of carefree individuals singing merrily down the stream of people on the crowded sidewalks.  Regardless of whether or not they were of unwavering mental health, they seemed happy and it brought me joy to witness an act of absolute freedom from fear of scrutiny.  So I am taking the liberal assumption that today, I offered a moment of bliss into the lives of the inhabitants of the Immaculate Center of Retreat.  

And if you are ever running or biking with me and I start singing.......prepare to eat my dust.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


I know, I know.  Blah Blah Blah.  Another trip.   I am annoying myself because it seems as if many of my blog posts the past few months have been travelogues and due to my jealousy issues, I don't revel in hearing about the exotic or even road weary excursions of others.   In the midst of  euphorically intoxicating wanderlust moments, I have snorted at the idea of possibly forgetting any minute detail.  But alas, our family treks BB (Before Blogging) have indeed become a bit fuzzy. So, as irritating as it may be, I need to document our junkets due to the inconvenient truth that things are just not fitting quite as nicely as they once did in this aging brain of mine.

 It is almost impossible for me to turn down an opportunity to globe-trot and we have had quite a few of these opportunities lately.  This is absolutely the last trip I am taking for at least...... a month (except my daily guilt trips, of course).  Because while I am honing my escape artist skills, my day to day living credentials are growing a tad rusty.

Corey has to work in Seattle once every 6 months or so and he always invites us to cram ourselves in the hotel room along with him.  Working in a different environment with less than competent technical support, while we gleefully bounce from sight to sight, Corey handles the unfairness of it all in commendable fashion.   

In our many years living in Washington State, we have mistakenly neglected a well-known nugget of Bavarian charm nestled at the edge of the Cascades.  We happened to arrive in the center of the Maifest celebration and were thus merrily entertained by the many expressions of lederhosen, the beer steins hanging off of belt loops, the toe-tapping oompa music, and the gelato(I think that gelato is Italian, but anything goes with an accordion, right?)

Emmy lights up when there is anything remotely climbable 

Take a good look.  This is probably the first and last time that you will ever see Corey wielding a golf club. 

My one Mother's Day request was that we enjoy a hike of reasonable length without a single complaint

Ummm.  I guess I was asking too much

 It was still beautiful, even with the whining

The girls missed a week of school and I had to take a chunk of  fun from every activity by forcing them to read every fact plaque and then invoking joy-killing pop-quizzes to test their knowledge.  Our first field trip was the Seattle Zoo.

We have already forgotten much of what we read, but we won't soon forget having Australian Budgies perching on our wrists.

It was rather cold for much of the week.  We spent a few bone chilling minutes at Golden Gate Park.  On the positive side, it made for more elbow room.  On the negative side, even with all my recent traveling experience, I still manage to pack only one appropriate outfit for each of us.  I did a lot of hotel laundry.  

Top of the Space Needle
The main thing the kids remembered from this field trip was that it was not a good idea to broadcast the fake toppling of the Space Needle, even on April Fool's Day.  People FREAKED OUT.

We have now been to the Pacific Science Center 4 entire days and still haven't seen it all.  The highlight today was witnessing a butterfly emerge from it's cocoon.  Emmy lovingly purchased/adopted a Venus Fly Trap in the gift shop.  Since it eats flies and crickets, I am totally counting it as a pet.  

We got to the Aquarium just as it opened and were safe from the stampeding crowds of school children for about 26 minutes.  I could have watched Olive the Octopus all day, but I would certainly have been trampled.

I could only manage to watch Under the Sea 3D for about 2.6 minutes before the cheek tickling sensation that I was going to lose my lunch.   The kids loved it.  I removed my glasses and got a kick out of watching the audience members repeatedly attempting to pet the air.  

Nothing was more educational than the gum wall, located below the famous Fish Booth at Pike's Market.  I made sure it was a tactile experience by purchasing some orange Japanese gum, and for the first and last time in my life, telling my kids to chew their gum and stick it on the wall.

We spent our last morning at the Science Fiction and Music Experience Museum.  I tried to find something of remote interest in the Science Fiction Museum.  It was just not my thing.  And for the record, Emmy was bored out of her mind as well.  The Music Experience was impressive, although not all that kid friendly.  I think our main problem was that it was a beautiful day and we were ready to be outside.

We found an out of the way, less frequented, amazing beach park and made the most of our last afternoon. Unfortunately, Corey finished work a few hours early and we were too "out of the way" to pick him up in a timely manner.  He got to make the most out of his last afternoon waiting on the street corner.  

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bedtime Stories

Ansel is 5 and still seems to wake up in our bed many a morning.  Sometimes I know he is there because he fell asleep in the exact location the night before while Corey was reading to him and we were both too lazy to carry his sleeping body up the 16 stairs (I swear the 16 multiply to 166 after dark) to his room.  Other nights that he falls asleep in his own bed, I may, sometime before dawn, hear the slapping of his feet on the hardwood floor and brace myself for the inevitable hurlment of his body onto the bed.  And there are frequent occasions when I am wrestling with daybreak, unsealing my eyelids enough to discover that Ansel has inconspicuously inserted himself under our covers.  

Corey and I have both, more times than can be counted, cursed this seemingly unbreakable habit.  It is usually the one of us that wakes up with little (getting bigger) toes in his or her nostril that does the most cursing.  Some day it will have to end.  I suspect that Ansel will eventually figure out that it is not "cool" to get in bed with one's parents.  And he will most likely curse us one day for not having the parental guts to metaphorically tie him in his own bed.   

But I am quite the perfectionist when it comes to rationalization and have found many irresistible reasons to procrastinate the spearheading of our "No Child Left Behind, On, or Under our Bed" policy. 

 Excuse #1:  Ansel is prone to somnial giggling and occasionally I am awakened by these auditory responses to his REM sitcoms.  I can't help but be utterly amused by these musings.

Excuse #2:  On the mornings when I awake without the immediate need to rush, I have inestimable moments of deference when the culmination of all of the worry, stress, sadness, guilt, fear and anxiety about this whole mothering thing is washed away by the single act of witnessing the morning sun backlight the workings of the circulatory system in Ansel's portruding ear.  And sometimes while I am watching him, he lifts those enviable curvy eyelashes and smiles.   I am a mother.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Spring In Colorado Springs

Thanks to family members who have been willing to sacrifice their sanity in order to keep my kids alive in our absence, Corey and I have been able to take an annual trip alone together.    Unfortunately for Corey, this trip included an all inclusive breast imaging seminar during work hours and therefore wasn't saturated with leisure and romance.  Alas, Corey can't seem to swallow big chunks of leisure without choking on irritable bones of non-productivity anyway.  This year, our sucker family member was my sister, Carrie, and her 2 year old son Asher.  I know it wasn't all fun and games for her and am looking forward to the day when I can return the humongous favor.

I was born in Leadville, Colorado at 10,000 feet in altitude.  Every time I revisit the state, it is a returning home of sorts.    There is something about being at a higher elevation that makes me feel clean and healthy.   I want to run and eat right and not watch television.  I suppose it would be nice if I could blame the flimsiness of my character on the fact that I live below 5000 ft.   So I will.  If I lived in a loftier place, I would be strong enough to accept responsibility for my sometimes irresolute constitution.

We stayed at the Broadmoor, a 5 star hotel at the base of  Cheyenne Cañon (yes,  canyon is spelled Cañon in Colorado).  It was a little too hoity toity  for me and it gave me the creeps when the employees all offered identical robotic cheery greetings and turned down our covers for us at night.  With all the restaurants, shops, spas, golf courses, and fake lakes, we wouldn't have to leave the hotel campus and apparently many guests never do.  I, personally, couldn't wait to leave the 'Emerald City' every morning.  
My first stop:  Seven Falls
I love waterfalls, but I don't love waterfalls that you have to pay $8 to walk through a gift shop to see.  I love walking up steep flights of stairs, but I don't love it when they are built right next to the waterfall.  I also don't love that they artificially illuminated each of the Seven Falls to correspond with each color of the rainbow.  If I wanted tacky lighting, I would have lingered in the hotel.  I did love that I had the entire place to myself.

Second Stop:  Garden of the Gods
This place I didn't have to myself, but to have elevation plus red rock sandstone was like eating a huge geological hot fudge sundae. 

Next stop:  Big Brother
My brother and his family live just 2 hours north of Colorado Springs.  I am embarrassed to admit that in the 12 years they have lived here, I have never been to see them.  But in all immature fairness, they have never come to see me either.  It has always been more convenient to meet in the family epicenter...Utah.  My brother had seven little sisters and ran away from home when the last one was born because it lacked a Y chromosome.  He adores his three daughters, but it was fun to see him finally holding a baby boy. 

Corey felt rebellious and played hooky the next afternoon.  We drove southwest to explore Cañon City.  The area's main attraction is the Royal Gorge Bridge, which is truly a bridge to nowhere.  Some guy with obviously not enough to do in the 1880's decided he wanted to build the highest suspension bridge in the world.  It is fairly impressive, albeit impractical and useless.  

I am insatiably drawn to abandoned old buildings and these historical structural offspring were almost as plentiful as the yucca plant.  Spotting a cluster off the side of the highway, we pulled over and spent a good part of the afternoon taking liberal liberties in imagining what sort of incarcerated drama might have once here unfolded.

Corey was so smitten with the activity that he dedicated a major portion of his evening to uncovering the mysteries of our casework via google.  It turns out that our wild imaginations weren't flung that far.  Our Warden Roy Best actually starred himself in a 1947 film recreating an actual break-out attempt before being indicted for embezzlement only to die prematurely while en route to reclaim his job after time suspended.  I could go on, but am a little skeptical as to the likelihood that my readers are even at a low level of enthrallment. 

My next morning of solitary sightseeing, I found myself at some Anasazi ruins amazingly preserved for over a millennium.   I was hoping for some peaceful wanderings accompanied by the cedar flute music conspicuously floating up from between the Indian Tea and Juniper plants. Instead, I unsuccessfully attempted to weave a path between school groups while simultaneously extinguishing my protests at the lack of respect I thought these 10 years old should have.  Parents don't let their kids jump on couches, but it is perfectly acceptable to let them climb on the ceremonial kivas of an ancient civilization?  Am I expecting too much? 

A few miles west was the Cave of the Winds.  Confronted by another line of school buses, I recoiled quickly back to the car.  I love love love kids, but I was taking a little break.

Looking for a secluded, field trip free place to spend my afternoon, I found an old railroad bed not located on any tourist map.  It is most likely never wise to enter a dark tunnel without a light or accompaniment.  Even more terrifying than the non-respecters of personal space hotel employees, was the deer that confronted me in the middle of the cave (I didn't know it was a deer until I had exited and saw it running uphill).  My heart was racing for the remainder of the hike, especially when I saw a sign that said mountain lions had been spotted in the area.  I found a few more blasted tunnels.  Did I have the common sense to stay out of them?  No.  Can anyone else resist a tunnel?  I can't.  I next stumbled into some non-tourists enjoying their "Northern Lights" in the dark tunnel.  Harmless.
Also harmless and adorable

Those of you who have traveled with me in the past and are still reeling from disparagement at my lack of passion for taking time to eat anything but french bread and apples, you will be happy to learn that I am completely transformed and now consider an unforgettable meal as an integral part of an excursion.  Memories of our dinner at the Adam's Mountain Cafe in Manitou Springs will be forever carved into my palate.  

Our final afternoon was spent driving as far as we could to the summit of  the 14,110 ft Pikes Peak.  Only about 14 of the 19 miles were open.  I could barely summon the courage to face the wind and take this photo.  Ok, so maybe I am not the embodiment of fortitude at high altitudes after all. 

One of my favorite vacation activities is folkscoping.  This guy is a glorious contradiction with his bowie knife and gun adorning his skirt walking his non-threatening canine.  I really wish he would invite me to dinner so I could make fun of him in person rather than behind his back.  

That was fun.  Where are we going next year?