Monday, March 31, 2008

On the Road - Our Vacation in Utah

On the Road - Our Vacation to Utah Recap

Sunday, March 23 (Easter)
We had grand plans for throwing a few last things into the van and heading off on our road trip even before the sun came up. We have the same plan and wish, but it rarely (if ever) goes the way we planned it. This time we had most of the stuff packed. The new Thule rocket shaped box was packed with camping gear. The food boxes and cooler were in the back of the van. We had lights, chairs, some clothes, biking gear and climbing gear packed. The morning started off well enough, until we found that we could not find the cotter pin for the bike rack. That posed a problem. We scoured the house and garage looking for it. Larr sped off on his bike and retraced how we had gone to Grandma Gay’s house for the Easter party yesterday. It was not found. The hardware store were closed, so we improvised. We used a bolt from another part of the rack. It would have to do, for now.
Once we were on the road the kids were happy. We had wrapped the seats and handlebars of the bikes in preparation for a winter storm as we went over the mountain passes. Instead we were greeted with clear, bright indigo skies. The roads were clear of snow and traffic. We had hoped to stop in Grand Junction to see friends but the schedules did not mix so that did not happen. We pulled into Green River at around 2:00, way before we had expected to arrive. We could see the amazing Utah geology calling to us from the south so we passed by where we were going to camp and went straight to Goblin Valley State Park instead.
To our amazement, we found that all of the camp sites were taken. That seemed amazing to us as we saw so many fifth wheels and campers headed for the highway. The park ranger said that it is usually their busiest weekend of the year. Figures. It is lovely and warm enough to offer respite from the cold we have been experiencing. We decided to camp on BLM land. From the road we could see that people had nestled in the crevices of the rock. We found a large, nice area to set up camp in, until we saw the dead cow. We could not stomach that, so we moved on. We ended up near another group of people with a place where we could enjoy the sunset. Ethan said this was like a dream come true. Ellie thought this place was heavenly. We set up camp and then explored a bit on foot, as well as on bike, as the last bits of sunshine glittered on the rock. I think all or most of us had hoped to stay up and admire the stars, but we were soon fast asleep. The stars would have to wait.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Preparing for Journeys - One Sad, ONe Glad

Where have I been all week? I have been so busy with things good and sad...

...Sunday evening I received a call that had been activated through the school phone tree. This has never been good news. This time we had an early meeting before school started to talk about a student who had unexpectedly died over the weekend. She was a special ed. student who had very limited exposure so most teachers did not know her. Tori was my student for two years. Even though she was no longer in any of my classes she still stopped by on a regular basis to chat. I was very upset once I found out that Tori had died. Tori was a sweet girl. If she could help you, she would. She was also very vulnerable. I worried what would happen to her in life. I worried that people would take advantage of her, hurt her. I had already seen it happen too many times in her short life. Dealing with the death of a student is hard in many ways. It is sort of doubly sad. You have your own private reaction. Mine was to cry and feel much sadness at her passing. Sadness for the things Tori will never experience. My sadness is both from a teacher point of view and from the "I am a parent,too" stand. I can't even imagine what it would be like to find your child dead. You also have a professional reaction which is really about helping the kids work through their grief. I help them remember and focus on the joys of who Tori was. I help them remember her generosity and kindness. I help them try to find peace with her death. Last week was a good week for her. She was making great strides in her academics and she had a boyfriend (something she was ALWAYS longing and searching for). She was happy. I help them find solice in the fact that she must have passed away quickly. We hope it was painless. You listen to their stories and share them with others. In some ways it helps me deal with my pain. In other ways it keeps the pain alive.

...I have also been preparing for spring break. We will be going on a road trip to Utah next week. We will be making a big loop. We will change locations each day so that we can hike and bike, taking in the beauty of it all. I have finished Ellie's lime green and polka dot jacket. I am nearly finished with Ethan's brown and red jacket. I have a good idea of what we will eat some of the time. I am nearly ready to be ready, but not there, just yet.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Inspiration - Elsa Mora & Her Blank Book Project

I am finding great inspiration from a project going on over at Elsa Mora's blog. Her mother is in town visiting her and her family. Elsa, her mother and her daughter are creating a story in a blank book each day. Today is day 5. They seem to be based around the discussions they have each morning. The picture here is from the Day 5 entry where they wrote about a dream. The little girl dreams of being different kinds of animals. I will have to find some time to do this kind of thing.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A RunAway Wheel and a Small Miracle

Biking season is upon us and we are EXCITED. Ellie has mixed feelings as she has outgrown her beloved little blue cross bike by Redline. It has been wonderful for her, but it is simply too small now. I think she equates her improvement, her success and her speed with the bike, and not herself. Her friend has also outgrown her Fuji cross bike. It has seen a lot of races, but it is still in great shape and has had some nice upgrades, like Salsa handlebars and great brake levers added. We need to sell her little blue bike and buy the Fuji. To help her ease into this transition we took the Fuji down to Uno Bicycle Studio (I included the link here - it is fun to see his site. The shop is even more fun in person. It is full of high end bikes and original artwork.) which is owned by our friend Bruce. Bruce is this amazing and wonderful guy who also happens to be one of our coaches, in addition to a bike wizard. He helped fit the bike for Ellie. He also helped her see that the power she has is in HER, not the bike. Bruce also mentioned that a full size bike will make her get more power out of her pedal stroke, which means that she will go faster. He also help Ethan be more sure that his bike is still a good fit for him. (Ethan is just a bit envious that Ellie is getting an upgrade and he is not.) They also put on a better fitting seat and changed out the handlebar tape. Ethan is now pretty jazzed about making his bike look a bit more custom. We went away a happier group than when we had arrived. Tonight Ellie will ride the Fuji for the first time. I am excited for her. I think it will be good.

Oh yes, so back to the title of the blog entry - We had to go on the highway during rush hour to get to Uno. We were talking, listening to loud music, and so on. I had my turn signal on. Two people went by me and started pointing. At first I thought they meant that I needed to move over behind them. Then I looked in the rear view mirror (this is where I still gasp when thinking about it) and I noticed that the bikes were bouncing, that Ellie's bike seemed to be missing something. I pull over to find that her back tire had come off her bike. Ellie shrieked, Ethan lept from the car and started to run, looking for the lost wheel. This was such a freak thing to have happen! Amazingly, he found the tire leaning against a fence, unharmed. (What's the likelyhood of that ever happening again?!) He returned like the triumphant warrior with the tire tucked under his arm. Ellie, who was crying all this time as her brother bravely jogs out of sight, starts to jump and holler. She vowed that he was the best brother ever and that she would do his chores on Friday. We were amazed that no one was hurt. That is where the miracle comes in. I am astounded that it did not fall off and cause a crash, or bang into a person's windshield, or at minimum get crushed by cars on the road. We were thankful on so many levels for how this little story ended.

The man who runs the store where we parked came out to help. He was so sweet. He immediately offered to get his mechanic. He says, "My mechanic could help you. If you can't get your wheel he could probably get one for you. He rebuilds bikes for fun and has a ton of those sitting around." The sweetness of strangers - you gotta love that, too. Who knew it would be such a dramatic day. That little incident showed Ellie that maybe she could grow to love that bike, too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cheeseburger Soup Recipe

I found and made a fun recipe that I thought would be worth sharing. It is old Southern comfort food that is made with stuff you might already have around the kitchen. I made it the other night when I was in the mood for soup. It is called Cheeseburger Soup. It can be garnished with homemade or store bought shoestring potatoes or croutons. My kids seemed to like having both added to their soup:

Cheeseburger Soup

1 tea. Butter
1 pound Ground Sirloin or Hamburger
1 cup Onion, diced
3/4 cup Celery, diced
1/2 cup Carrots, diced
1 tea. Garlic, minced
Saute until the meat is done and the veggies are tender. If the meat you use is fatty you may need to strain out the extra fat.

Stir in:
3 cups Chicken Broth
2 cups Russet Potatoes, peeled & diced
1 tea. Basil.

3 TBL. Butter
1/4 cup Flour
1 1/2 cup Milk
Stir to combine then whisk into the soup mixture.

2 cup Cheddar, shredded
1/4 cup Ketcup
2 TBL. Yellow Mustard
Salt & Pepper to taste
Stir into soup and serve. Top each bowl with a little extra cheese. It can be fun to also top with shoestring potatoes and/or croutons.

Shoestring Potatoes - Homemade
Cut russet potatoes into long strips that thin (approx. 1/2" wide or less). Fry quickly in veg. oil that is heated to 350 degrees. Drain on a paper towel and add salt.


Thursday, March 06, 2008

A Different Kind of Easter Outfit - A Sneak Peak

This year we are breaking with tradition. We will be on the first day of our Utah road trip Easter morn. Thus, the Easter clothes I make for the kids will be a bit different. They will be cycling clothes, instead of church clothes.
A friend of ours won the Sheila Moon jacket featured in this blog entry, but she was not there to pick it up so it lived at our house of a few days. Ellie loved this jacket and wished it was hers. It is a very lovely jacket. The photo does not do it justice one bit. It is made of a special wool and microfleece fabric. I put my self to the test by making a pattern from the jacket itself and creating one for Ellie. The colors I am using are a bit different. The main microfleece color is a lovely lime green, Ellie's favorite color (at least for now). I have added a layer of the fun "Black Party Dots" fabric from Michael Miller Fabrics on top of some sections of the microfleece. I have also made binding tape from the party dots fabric. I can't wait to show you the finished jacket. The Micheal Miller company has such fun stuff. I may have to find another excuse to make something else with their fabrics. We could be pretty stylin'. Ethan wants a jacket, too. His will be much more plain. It will be brown with red accent stitching and a few lime green bits of bias to enliven it a bit. I will post photos of that one once it is done. It is nothing more than a hand colored drawing right now.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Baby Bug Ball - Time for a New Kit

I have found a lot of reasons why I am ready for my next cross stitch project, so I went and picked one up on Saturday. I am very nearly finished with "My Earth," I will be protoring a standardized test for six solid days and we will be going on a road trip in three weeks. Iwent to Fanci Mats and More in Littleton to have a look, but I knew that I would likely go with the kit that I had been admiring for the last two years. It is called "Baby Bug Ball" and it is put out by Shepard's Bush, my favorite cross stitch company. I have been doing their charts for over 15 years now. I have so many of their garden and Christmas patterns done, but I have not yet gotten tired of the. I have done some from other companies, but those are usually done for others. If you haven't seen their patterns you can look at their website, Their kits are really lovely. I am especially fond of th handpainted silk threads. So time soon I will post photos of the chart when I have completed it.