Monday, April 30, 2007

Adventures of Several Kinds

This is the craziest time of the school year for me. This last weekend I took 50 kids up to Estes Park for a leadership conference. It was intense. We dealt with heavy issues like bullying, racism, discrimination, sexism, etc. The list goes on. In light of the events that have happened during the school year, i.e. a beloved teacher's suicide, two bomb threats and so on, these topics stirred up a lot for many kids. The goal had been to get to where we can talk about helping others with these issues, but we got hung up on them ourselves. We got through it and are better for it on the other end. The kids were amazing! It is times like these that reaffirm my commitment to teaching, especially teaching high school students.

Even though I was feeling a bit sleep deprived from the Leadership retreat, our family went hiking and adventuring on Sunday. Castlewood Canyon is simply beautiful. We hiked around the cliffs where my husband and his friends do rock climbing. It was an opportunityy for me to face my fears and growl at them. Actually, I really just wanted to stop and wait, instead of climbing on. At one point I did most of my climbing barefoot because I did not trust my shoes. It was good to feel brave, once I was on flat ground again. We also hiked a trail that meandered along the river. Due to recent heavy storms it was raging. It took a long time to find a place calm enough to play in the water. Reisha, our pooch, thought it was a wonderful, doggy filled, petting filled way to spend her birthday.

Last week's race on Wednesday was a wild one. We had a record amount of rainfall on Tuesday (2" in one day, previous record had been 1.29") resulted in a lot of water in unusual places. The road race course had to be shortened due to a river that now coursed over the road, instead of below it. Ethan became mesmerized and lost his sense of place when crossing it. As a result, he hit another cyclist, knocking them both down. The other man fell on top of Ethan. They became a human dam and then scrambled to get Ethan's bike before it went into the actual stream. The man was gracious and wonderful about it. Ethan was mortified, apologetic and sopping wet. He still raced, and I am proud of him for that. Though, he is lucky he did not become hypothermic. Ellie blazed along and come in third. This time there was less than one minutes difference between the 2nd, 3rd and 4th places.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Lessons in Learning To Trust

Is it possible that I am learning as much from my kids' cycling experiences as they are? Not in the same realm, for sure, but learning and growing none-the-less. I am an independent person, perhaps to a fault. I was the one in high school who did all of the work for every group I was in. I made my own wedding dress, most of the bride's maid's dresses, all of the food and the wedding cake. I tell you this not to impress you, but to show you how independent I am. I have a hard time trusting that others will do their part - on time - and to my standards. Yeah, that sounds a bit snooty, but it is not meant to be. So here are my kids having a blast in cycling. I know almost nothing about it, so I have to depend on others for help. When Ethan's gears would not shift during the last two races I was stymied. We asked the coaches for help, which they gladly offer. Once the bike was on the stand, lo and behold, we had not greased the chain and it turns out the chain needs to be oiled every second or third time you ride the bike. Yikes! I worry so much about not being able to reciprocate, of being seen as too needy or having too many questions. I am just going to have to get over it. Thankfully, the coaches are either unaware that I have this fight going on in my head, or they are exceedingly helpful and polite. Most likely, it is both. These are good lessons for me to learn. Even my husband says I don't let other people help. I guess I have been like this for so long that I just don't even notice it anymore.

How can I tell where not-trusting-others blends into Miss- My-Middle-Name-is-Overachiever? How many places in my life have I blocked myself because I did not realize that I could or should ask for help?

I hope to return to craft posting soon. I had never intended for this to be an adventures in Junior Cycling blog, but at times that is what it seems to be, sometimes.

Friday, April 20, 2007

The Good, The Bad, The Sad and the Ugly

The Good

The time trial cycling races went much better this week. Both of the kids were totally jazzed at the end of their races. Ethan told me he thinks he was going so fast that he is sure he broke the speed limit. He asks, "Mom, can I get arrested for breaking the speed limit on my bike during a race?" Ellie told heroic tales of riding in gale force winds that nearly blew her off sideways. She also thought that the local deer were happy to watch as she went by. They chattered happily all the way home. Ellie placed third and Ethan was 6th in their respective divisions.

Also good is the birthday card I made for my friend, Julie. It was simple to make, but well received. I cut the greeting out with my Cricut machine.

The Bad

I was sick with a weird illness. I thought I just had a naggy headache and exhaustion from being on the constant go for about the last three weeks, but it turns out that I was sick. I slept for nearly two and a half days.

The Sad

My uncle died on Thursday. Lung Cancer made a quick job of it. Thankfully, we knew what he wanted and take comfort in knowing we can carry out his wishes as well as knowing he is no longer in pain. He has not had a quality of life since before Christmas. Still, it is hearkening to think that last July he was still playing professional senior tennis and placing in the top three consistently. Joe Martin was an incredible man. We were lucky to have him in our lives. We will remember him with smiles, giggles and fun.

The Ugly

The Virginia Tech situation sends ripples into all of our lives. I work at a school that had a bomb threat. My students, those who showed up on that day, were scarred. My ESL: students did not understand the letter the school send home or the phone message, or most of what was on the news. It was hard to figure out where the line is between informing them and adding fuel to the fire. Dealing with their reactions was also difficult. My students who moved here because their towns were being bombed had very strong reactions. How can I help them feel safe?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Penny's Gift for Operation Haremail

Art has a way of having a life of its own. You'd think that you were in charge, but often, you are not. The results take you in directions and places you never expected. Such is the case with this box that I made for Penny. I love how it came out, but it is not at all what I had planned. I had imagined something that was a lime green with a garden scene and some fun words, all done in very spring like, sherbert like colors. The green I created has a different hue and personality to it, so it was more fallish in tone. But, I still really like how it came out. On the front it says, "Inspire" using letters I cut out using my Cricut machine and the Printing Press cartridge. I also made her a hand carved rubber stamp of a jumping rabbit. This was inspired by some scrapbooking paper from a Japanese company. I also made a cover for a post-it note pad using paper that matches the box. My friend Peg sent one to me and I enjoy it, so I thought that Penny might like one, too. The other items were store bought goodies - little containers of glitter and confetti, bunny socks, a stuffed bunny, a card and a candy bar which did not make it into the photo because I picked it up on my way to the post office.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Growing Up a Little - An Update

Okay, I am a bit more composed and rested as I write this post (as opposed to the last post that I did at 3:00 a.m.). I have figured out that I have as much learning to do, or maybe even more, as Ellie has, especially when it comes to this letting-your-daughter-grow-up area in our lives.

After talking with friends who are serious cyclists, our coaches and getting an unprompted note from the race organizer, we both feel much better. I had been worried that my girl would say, "NO MORE!" and walk away from the bike. Silly me, it was not actually like that at all. She was much cooler about it than I was.

When Ellie got up the next morning she and I talked before I went to work. Here's what we figured out:
* That was the hardest race of the series because now she knows what to expect;
* She managed to get dehydrated because she did not drink before or during the race. My cycling friends tell me a 10.5 mile race to a ten year old is like a 70 miler to an adult - you gotta take in fluids. The coach is going to help her with this;
* Little clip on your body or bike flashing lights and a head lamp will make both of us feel better;
* The car that was following her with the flashers on was part of the race. It turns out that there are two cars that go through the course at the end to make sure EVERYONE is done. Since some people quit the race without finishing it, it is impossible to figure it out otherwise. The car that follows the last person is your friend, not a frustrated and angry motorist who wants to run you down;
* The organizer found an earlier spot for Ellie so that she should be finishing just as it is beginning to get really dark. I am so thankful for this. (I had resisted the urge to yank her out of the race or throw a quite but strong fit);
* A later twilight will also help;
* She will no longer be the last one on the course due to the new time slot;
* She was sixth in her catagory;
* And finally, and most importantly, you gotta trust your girl - she is stronger than you think. She still needs you, but she is also her own force to be reconded with. She is proud that she finished. She has a plan for next week's race;
* She was amazing at cycling practice Thursday evening. Perhaps Mom is more scared than she is.

Okay, soon as I have time to stop, breathe and download some photos, I will post more pictures again. While I began this blog as a way to share what I make with my distant friends, it has morphed into more. It is really a way for me to distill where I am and what is going on. Taking these things out of my head where they float around, unconnected, and put them down on "paper" make lots of things more clear.

On a side note, the person who received my Operation Haremail package was very happy. Now I can post photos of what I made for her.

"We will now return to our regularly scheduled program..." (said in television announcer's voice).. stay tuned for crafting again.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Accomplishment, Exhaustion and Growing Up a Little

Wednesday evening Ethan and Ellie had the time trial races. This is a series of races,one each week, on the same course. Points are awarded for your top six races. It was a 10.5 mile course around part of the beautiful Cherry Creek reservoir While it is a public road, there is almost no traffic. Riders are assigned a start time, with each of them staggered by twenty seconds. Our kids were racing at around 7:18. I was a little concerned with the time, since it was still getting dark by around 8:00. But I had to let go a little, let them grow up a bit and trust that they would be okay. And they are, but it was a bit scary. The course took them about45 minutes to complete. Ethan was recovering from a cold, having spent Tuesday at home sick. They both had a good start. Emily started a minute ahead of Ellie. Her dad, Paul, was riding beside her. It was Paul who made all the difference for both girls. His riding along side them kept them going strong. I am sure Emily had a very good racing time. She finished a few minutes ahead of Ellie. By the time that my kids were nearing the end of their race (about 8:10), it was extreme dusk. They were real troopers. By the time Ethan finished he was hoarse and cold. His experience was mixed. Being the nature boy that he is, he was cheered on by seeing a coyote, about 100 deer and too many ducks to count. As the pinky red part of the sunset was at its peak Ethan observed an endearing pair of mallards enjoying the evening. He said that kept him riding, following them for part of the way. By the time he had finished he was tired, had to go to the bathroom and his throat hurt so much that he could not speak for a while. He seemed happy enough, though a bit temporarily exhausted. Ellie's experience was not so good, or at least I am not sure that it was, based on how she reacted when she was finished. Most of the race was fine. She was the last kid to start the race, all those behind her were adults. They flew past her. For part of the time she could still see Ethan, Emily and Paul. But as the dusk settled in and it became darker and darker, the road also became more twisty, making it hard to see any of the other riders. For about 10 minutes of the ride she worried that she might be lost. She had cars behind her for a while and she has never ridden in the dark before. After Emily crossed the finish line Paul went back and found my kids, riding in with Ellie, cheering her on. She was the last rider in. There was a car with flashing lights on just behind her. I think it might have been with the race, to signal to the race organizers that she was the last rider. After the finish line she collapsed a little and cried for a while. When I asked why, she was not sure. I think some of it was exhaustion. I think some of it was the relief of tension from being done with something big and unknown. It might have been relief to find that she was indeed not lost. She recovered by the time we were home. I am proud of both of them. The coaches had said that the goal for the kids in this race was to finish, and they both did.

This leaves my husband and I with a dilemma. Or rather, I am the one with the dilemma. He would say to trust them and let them grow up a bit. They did just fine and next week will be better because they now know what they are doing. I say, THANK GOD FOR PAUL! He made a huge difference. How would Ellie had done without him going back and making sure she felt clear about where she was going? I think he will be at the next two races, then it is off to Hawaii for him and Emily. Maybe by then it will still be light when she finishes and she will have three races under her belt. Each week it will get dark a little later. Each night I am going to pay attention to when it starts to get really dark. The dilemma is, should I let them ride again next week, of should I wait until a few weeks have passed? Maybe I will have fewer strong feelings about this later today. I had so much going through my head that I could not sleep. So, at 3:00 in the morning I am writing this and wringing my hands a bit. Am I worrying too much? They both did fine. They were tired. Ellie was stretched to new limits - I know that it is a good thing. When I used to do sports I had those same feelings and came to appreciate that they represented that I had pushed myself in a positive way. Is it okay to allow my kids to be in situations where they feel such mixed emotions - pride, fear, accomplishment and exhaustion? I am not sure. I will begin to figure it out by getting a better night's sleep, by talking to the coaches and the parents of the other riders, and to my kids, of course.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bunnis ala Jennifer Murphy - WIPs

On Saturday I encountered Posie's (of Posie Gets Cozy blog) photo of the bunny she had made. She offered the link from Jennifer Murphy's site where there is a tutorial. When I saw this, I knew I had to make some. I was happy to use the handy little tools I have for making pompoms. I always finding it interesting how several people can use the same information and end up with very different products. My bunnies are a bit more chunky than hers, though I think they are all very cute. Her tutorial calls for a skirt made from cupcake papers. While it is cute, I found it hard to work with. Had I been new to crafting, I would have thought myself inept and possibly quit. However, being firm in my ability to craft, I decided to sew the skirts instead. I like the result much better. Ellie is having fun designing things for each bunny girl to hold. They are not yet finish and already we have plans for more. I will be taking part in a silent auction for a friend who has a baby boy with extreme birth defects. I will offer up some of these beauties to try and help fund two hearing aids for dear baby Sean.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Snowy, Yummy Easter

On Saturday Ellie and I had THE EASTER BUNNY discussion. It all came about because of the anticipation of the holiday (especially the egg hunt) and the snow. She was worried. I made the mistake of asking her if she
wanted the egg hunt inside or outside. That was when I made the mistake. "What do you mean? How can you tell the Easter Bunny what to do?" she shouted. She stomped off. A bit later, still stomping, she comes to me and demands to know if the Easter Bunny is real. "After all, Mom, I know you are the tooth fairy!" I asked her if she really wanted to know. How would she feel if he is real? How would she feel if it is me? It took a while, but we got through it. She wanted to know why we had lied to her for so long. that was a difficult one. She closed the conversation with a huff and a "I KNOW SANTA IS REAL!" I think she had actually figured it out, but did not want to let go of that part of her childhood. I also think that she worried that if she knew for sure that I am the Easter Bunny that we would not have the egg hunt. But of course we did. In an effort to reduce the sugar intake, our eggs contained coins, not candy. Ellie also got two stuff, ultra soft lambs. Ethan got duck figurines and tools.

Easter dinner was a little bittersweet. It had been tradition to go to Aunt Kathy's and Uncle Joe's house for Easter dinner each year. Uncle Joe would make these wonderful candy filled nests. The kids each got about 20 of them. The searching was sometimes the most fun. Kathy and Joe live in the foothills. Their backyard is sort of a baby deer coop nursery this time of year. Last year, as I put out the nests, a yearling followed me around. She was very funny she followed about 15 feet behind me and she tried to nibble the nests when I was not looking. There was also the issue of Franky the semitame squirrel with a sweet tooth. I was a little concerned that I would get accosted by the wildlife in search for chocolate. I came out of it just fine, the nests did get a bit picked over. Franky did not seem to realize that we could track him by his trail of candy wrappers he left as he munched. This year Joe is in hospice. We have not been able to see him since July. While we think of him everyday, Easter was an especially thinking-about-Joe kind of day.

Dinner was at the grandparent's house. Ethan made a wonderful strawberry soup and I made lemon souffle. Ethan had enjoyed a chilled strawberry soup when last we went to upstate New York. It was the last meal of the trip and Uncle Marty and Aunt Caroline took us to a five star restaurant by the lake. Making that soup caused Ethan to remember that thrill. His soup was wonderful. It is made of strawberries, heavy whipping cream, sugar and orange juice with no pulp. It was a hit. My souffles looked nice and were enjoyed, but the level of lemon flavor from ramakin to ramakin varied greatly.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Bunnies & Chocolate Swap and some Ducklings

Friday was a long day at the end of a long week. It was capped off with a great, unanticipated surprise. I had signed up for the Operation Haremail Swap a while ago. The mailing date was Friday, so I was not expecting to get my package until midweek next week. What I received kind of felt like a small birthday. My sender, Cynthia Witmer, had taken the time to wrap up most of the gifts. They were fun to unwrap. You can see pictures of the before and after here. Ellie was thrilled with the stack of bunnie figurine. She said she needed to have that. I am thrilled with the hot pad with the realistic rabbit on it. I tend the like that kind of thing. She also sent me a cute set of note cards and minicookie cutters. Another thing I will enjoy is the bunny post-it note pad magnet. One of my favorite parts was the silk flower petals covered with clear glycerin soap. I think they will be wonderful for special events, like when we have company. I want to make some myself. Of course she included chocolate as well - two different chocolate bunnies. Ethan was sure I needed help dealing with those. I fell very lucky to have received such a thoughtful gift. I hope the person who sent to Cynthia was also thoughtful towards her.

Next up are some of the little hand sewn ducklings Ellie and I made while on the road trip. It was a nice project to work on while driving in the vast lands of New Mexico. The pattern was from a blog, though the link is on my other computer so I can't attach the link - sorry about that. They are all of about 2 1/2" tall. Ellie made the pink one. I had fun making the others. Some of them are sitting in a little egg cart. That came from my favorite store in Taos, "Paper Day" on Bent Street. I went there three times in two days. The woman working the store was so much fun to talk with. If I lived in Taos, I am sure we would be fast friends. She and I like so many of the same things. The store is definitely worth your time. The other picture has more of the ducklings I made, along with a tiny rabbit that is made of tea stained muslin. They were a lot of fun. I have also finished the things I made for the person I sent to in the swap, but I will post those once she has received them.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Flower Buds and El Santuario de Chimayo

Some of the most wonderful things happening today do not show up well in photographs. Spring is beginning to make an appearance in our yard. My beloved hostas are poking out tightly spiraled greens that will unfurl soon into a leafy splendor. The violets are primping for Easter. The freckle violets are the most active. The Ethan Andrew violets (yep - named after my very own son, created and named on the day he was born) are not far behind. The bleeding hearts that have been hiding for the last two years are popping up, too. The veggies are off to a promising start. The lettuce, carrots and beets have sweet, small true leaf shoots coloring the soil. The pea, however, seem to be lacking. We are beginning to wonder if the squirrels went for an early treasure hunt. Two weeks and no sign of growth - its a little weird. We might have to replant those this weekend.

Vacation Recap - Last Tuesday we were cruising through the country side in New Mexico. One of the most notable stops was at the El Santuario de Chimayo. It is an adobe church built in 1816. It has a small room where people go to get holy dirt that is supposed to bring about miracle healings. The room near that spot is filled with pictures and letters asking, praying, for help, hoping for peace and resolution. It was a beautiful, historical spot. In the sanctuary it feels like you have gone back in time. After taking the long route there, we arrived in Santa Fe. The kids were thrilled with the indoor pool and the not-too-hot hot tub.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Last Monday- To Taos, New Mexico

Last Monday we woke up at a leisurely hour and had breakfast at a wonderful bakery in Salida. The bakers make fresh, handmade bagels and schmere each day. They also make great quiche. If you are lucky to get there early you might even get to have a handmade, giant croissant - who can beat that? It may be a good thing that I don't live in Salida. I might have to have their baked goods all too often. This way it is a real treat. Then we were off to Taos. The kids had silly fun walking from Colorado to New Mexico - in their pajamas even. Actaully, they walked from one sign to the other that announced each state. Early on we stopped by a mining site and got an impromptu tour. There was only room for three in the truck, so I made felt ducks, which I will show later. The boys loved that stop! My favorite stop of the day was at an Earthship community. This picture featured here is of the visitor's center. These homes are off the grid. The wall are made of old tires, bottles, dirt and concrete. The water is gathered from the atmosphere and the electricity is generated by the wind. The houses were funky and fun. Each one was so individual. They were very cool. After that we spent time at the Rio Grande Gore before heading into Taos. A great place to eat in that town in Michael's kitchen.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

We're Back! and Already Rolling! (Racing, that is...)

I thought I would recap our vacation for you day by day, this week:
Last Sunday we left town after my husband got done rock climbing. We headed for Salida. We have friends who own a small, historic home there. When the oil economy fell out in Colorado many of the small mountain towns all but died. Salida was one of them. My friend happened upon this house just at this time. She bought the 1910 house (about 900 sq.ft) for about $12,000. Can you imagine? Each time we stay we leave something to improve the house. This time we left insulated travel cups with cocoa mixes. We spent Monday just haning out. The main attraction is a river that is usually full of river rafters. We play on the banks at a calm part. The kids built mud & sand creations. I worked on Ethan's fingerless loves and Larr read.

This Sunday our kids did the first bike race of the road racing season. It was a challenging course. Here you can see Ellie with her friend, Emily. They are such friends. THis was Ellie's first race and Emily told her how to handle the gravelly hill. When Emily crashed, Ellie stopped and waited for her. We are not worried about big time competition, so I was proud of how caring these girls are for each other.