Sunday, June 29, 2008

Boy Scouts of America -Big Horn Leadership Camp

As you work your way through Boy Scouts more and more cool oportunities become available to you. Ethan has been in Scouts since he was five years old. One fun opportunity that he got this year was to attend the Big Horn Leadership Camp that takes place for a week at the Tahosa Camp near Ward, Colorado. Each year only 2 boys from our troop get selected and invited to go.

We dropped him off after the race last Sunday and picked him up yesterday. He had an absolute blast. They were put into patrols. He was in the green patrol. They set up camp, did duties (such as meal prep. and clean up) and activities together. They had lessons about group behavior, leadership, personality management, conflict management, and so on. They got to go GeoCaching, go on Outpost (camping on their own without the adults hanging around), they got to build a ballistrate ( like a catapult) and many other things. Ethan says that he is glad that he learned so much. He is sure that it will help him be a better leader. When we arrived they were not yet ready so we waited in the wings while they cleaned up. Then we got to go through elements of their days. We had a flag ceremony complete with patrol yells and fob awards (these are like little, often silly, awards that they give each other.) Then we went up to the campfire site. Along the hike there were twelve posts, each one with an element of the Scout Law on it, "brave, trustworthy..." and the like. A boy was at each post doing a Scout salute. It was pretty neat. Then we got a small show. We saw silly skits and sang many songs. They they did a graduation ceremony. They said that some of them might receive an invitation to be on staff in the future. Ethan hopes that he gets to be part of that. His favorite staff member was a Matt. Matt will be on staff during the second week next year so that is the week Ethan would hope to be part of. He was not as tired or dirty as I expected him to be. We missed him but knew that he was having a grand time. It is really something to see my boy growing up.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yeti Factory Tour

Last Wednesday was Bike to Work day. Our friend Bill helped organize the event. One of the things he helped put together were breakfast stations where people could stop for a bike and a drink on their way to work. Over 30,000 people were registered and even more took part in the event. The grand prize was a Yeti bicycle. Thursday we got to visit where they are constructed. It was very cool to see how they make their bikes. I was expecting a more factory looking place but in fact it was all very simple stuff. Each bike is made by hand. The frames are constructed by Shaggy. They are then sent out to be powder coated and then sent back to be assembled. Shaggy can make 3-5 frames in a day, depending on which bike style he is working on. He says the order in which the items are welded together is very important. The molecules in metal are arranged in a sort of wood grain like fashion. When the metal is welded the molecules migrate to different sections of the metal. They move back as it cools. If you weld things in the wrong order they will more around once cooled and result in an ill fit. Once it is all together it is then "cooked" for at least 8 hours in something that looks like a pizza oven. This ages the metal and makes it strong. He says that cheap bikes are not aged, making the metal more brittle. We also got to meet Jason, a young man who is competing in the BMX Olympic trials. Some of the bikes shown in these photos were used by people who own other Olympic and World Cup races. Yeti is best known for their mountain bikes, but they make other excellent ones as well. They run about $4,800 or more, depending on what components you have on it. It was very interesting to see.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Kindness of Corporate Sponsors and Those Who Support Junior Athletes

After the last few long rides and races Ellie's knee began to hurt. The harder she rode, the more it hurt. In fact, it was so bad that she would be nearly in tears by the time the adrenaline from racing wore off. We needed to fix the problem. We started out with Bruce repositioning Ellie's cleat. Then we went to practice last Thursday and were luck enough to get new and wonderful cycling shoes from Pearl Izumi, a high quality sports company. They donated a lot of brand new shoes to support junior cycling. Some kids got some, some did not. It all had to do with shoe size. We had Bruce switch out the cleats to the new shoes and that did the trick. I was thankful that something as simple as bigger shoes and a different cleat position could fix this big problem. I will be writing them a thank you note to tell them how happy we are to have the new shoes. (Ethan got mountain biking shoes) I hear that they rarely get positive feedback and would be happy to know that they did good.

Sunday was the Colorado Junior Road Racing Championship. It was a hot day and a tough course. It began at the CSU Hughes stadium, when up around Horsetooth Reservoir and back down. While it was only about 14+ miles, it was hard worn with three steep hill climbs on the course. When we drove the course there were two times when my accelerator was all the way to the floor and we were still going slow. The kids did GREAT! Ethan came in around the middlish of the pack, which was great for him. Ellie finished third place and was thrilled. She must have nearly flown up those hills.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Nursery Rhyme Remix in Photoshop

In my Photoshop class today we were placed into groups and asked to do a nursery rhyme remix/mash-up. Between five of us we had prepared for three different stories. My self and one other person chose "The Owl & The Pussy Cat" (not actually a nursery rhyme - but that's okay.) Two more had "Hey Diddle, Diddle" and Sean wanted,. "Pocket Full of Six Pence." We were asked to rewrite the story and illustrate it. The clincher was that we only had about two hours in which to get it all done. Here's what we came up with:

Pea Green Boat & The Animals Unite

The Owl and the Pussy Cat wanted to get to the sea
In a beautiful pea green boat.

The Cat played the fiddle
To keep the King in the middle
And the Owl flew away with the fee.

The cow did his part
With all of his heart
To make a scene
To distract the Queen.

So the Spoon could make a start
While the Dog made his way towards the Tart.

The Orr Brothers & Other Miscellaneous Days

So, where did I leave off? Oh, yes, the races in Glenwood Springs. After much reflection during Saturday evening and not such great biking results both of the kids made plans on how to improve.

Sunday morning was as beautiful as the last and the kids had a bit of time since they did not race until the afternoon. Ellie and Anna putz around and left a bit early so that could go into town before hand. Ethan and Ari decided that they MUST rent a boat. We discussed the day's schedule and off they went. They were supposed to be gone for only 45 minutes. An hour flew by. They did not return so I went to the dock to wait for them. An other hour later and they were sill not back. By this time I was MAD, madder than I can remember being in YEARS! I could not understand why they had not returned. "Okay," I thought to myself, "the boys could have lost track of time or they might have misgauged how long it takes to row back. " At that point I was anxious. If we did not leave right then Ethan would not make it to the race in time and I would not be there to support Ellie in her race. Where they blowing me off? I was also sad and conflicted. How long do I wait? What if they are hurt? What should I do? I was thankful that Ellie had the foresight to go to town with Anna and Davis. She would race, even if I was not there to cheer her on. It got to the point where I could not wait any longer. I had the awards and duties to attend to. I walked backwards off of the dock, hoping to see them come around the bend.

It may have in fact be best that Ethan was not with me for that ride into town - it would have been a BIG fight. I was fuming! When I got to the race Ellie's group was already lined up and ready to go. I made it with two minutes to spare. She started out slow and then pulled out her big attack. Each lap of the crit. showed her in a better position. When there was just one lap to go she put on her jet pack and sprinted the remaining 1/4 mile, flying happily into 3rd place. We stopped in for ice cream to celebrate her great results.

By the time we were headed home I had decided what some of the consequences would be. Since the camp is in the remote wilderness I still did not know what made them late. The coach was going to have him clean bikes at the next practice. He also suggested that I make him pay for the gas for the entire trip, or at least the extra gas I would use up going back up to camp again. However, once we arrived I learned that I had not been blown off. The boys had run into problems when their oar lock broke. They had to use the paddle and spin their way (against a head wind) to shore. They tried to get help but no one on the lake had a boat big enough to help them. Laura said it took them three hours to paddle back and that they looked like a teacup ride at an amusement park as they made their way to shore. I was relieve to find out that they were okay and that they had not been thoughtless.

This last Saturday we did not have a bike race so we took the opportunity to sleep in. After a leisurely start we headed to the farmer's market in Cherry Creek. I was hoping for some nice veggies and maybe a bit of fresh basil. The kids and I had a grand time, as always. There was a man playing the pan flute, the smell of freshly made tortillas and tamales. There were the flower vendors, the Hawaiian Shaved Ice and the folks that sell hand made goods. We sampled flavored whipped cream (AMAZINGLY GOOD!) and had some baklava. Later we had grilled sausages. We were enticed by the handmade soap lady and when home with several bars. Ellie picked out "Freckle Face" a nice blue bar of spearmint and peppermint. She also selected "Lemonade" which is made of lemon essence and chamomile. Ethan elected to by a Tea Tree Clay bar that smelled like motor oil to me. It is for deep cleaning. My boy when for that manly odor - no spicey or fruit undertones for him. He loves it. I selected "Peppermint Pumice." We are very happy with what we have. We were having all of the grand parents over for dinner so we picked out some lovely veggies and in the end I succumbed to the cut flower temptation when I purchased a big punch of Canterbury Bells. As we sat by the river before we headed home Ethan remarked how fun it had been. He says, "Mom, do you think this is what farmer's markets are like in France?"

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Some Days the Racing Is Rough

Last Saturday we left our idyllic camp and headed to the frontage road for the road race.
Ethan has recently started working for a landscaping company and eating, as well as not drinking enough, caught up with him at the road race. His race was 25 miles long and he had a headache (most likely from not being hydrated enough for the altitude they were racing at) even before he started. I was proud of him for working through it and racing anyhow. It had to be a bit of a pain - literally. His outcome was not a great one, but it does seemed to have provided one of those important life lessons. He saw what that lifestyle nets, now he is going to focus on eating better food, more fruit and drinking a whole lot more - just like he used to do.
Ellie's race went better than her brothers, but not as well as she usually does. She came in 6th place. Her main problem was knee pain. She has mentioned it in the last few weeks. It gets worse when she does hill climbs. At the end of this race it hurt so much that she was nearly in tears. I was concerned so we talked to her coach about it. He says that it is a common problem, especially for young ladies. It could be that she rides toed in (kind of like walking pigeon toed) or that with the near onset on puberty she may be developing hips can changing how she sits on the saddle. These issues can be taken care of, usually with ease. Sometimes it is as simple as changing the cleat position on her shoe or adding a special wedge to her cleat. If that does not work you can see a sports medicine specialist who can look at it from a medical/skeletal way. Luckily we have an Olympic Bike Fitter as one of our coaches. Another parent runs a sports medicine clinic so I was feeling like that would solve the problem. On Thursday we had Bruce adjust her cleats. That seemed to help. Then at practice she got new shoes. Pearl Izumi ( a top end company with lovely gear) donated shoes to junior cyclist and both of the kids got a pair. We transferred the cleats and she was looking like she was back to her old, fast self again.
After all of the awards were given out we went back to camp and resumed life as if we had not left. We broke out the fun cookies and Hanson's soda after a bit of romping around. Life was good again. Ethan was already planning how he would change his ways and regain the power he lost recently.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fun on The Water & Camp Food Recipe - Cream Cheese Chicken

Friday was a postcard perfect day. We awoke to the sun peaking through the top of the tent. The birds sang a harmonious chorus of song. The kids did the usual camp activities. They played with the intertubes, they went out in the blow up row boat, biked and hiked. I had a nice time visiting with my friends and cooking. I also enjoyed petting the dogs. Her dogs are small, song, wonderful and willing to sit with me. Our dog is wonderful and willing, but too big to sit on my lap. I usually precook my meals so that I have very little trash or clean up and the flexibility to spend my time playing. One of our favorite recipes is Cream Cheese Chicken served over noodles. I precook the noodle (to semi al dente), drain them, put them in a big freezer bag with a little bit of olive oil. I then heat them up by warming about 2" of water in the pan. I use a slotted spoon to remove them. It works like a charm. This recipe is very satisfying and smells good. If I am at a camp ground and want to make friends, this is a good people magnet:

Cream Cheese Chicken

1 Pk. Italian Dressing Mix (generic works nicely)
3-4 Chicken Breasts, cubed
1 Stick Butter
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup
8 oz. Cream Cheese

Saute the chicken in the butter. Next, add the dressing and stir. Then add the soup and the cream cheese. Let simmer until well blended. Serve over noodles of rice.

You can also make this in a crock pot.

Perhaps you would enjoy this, too.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Where Have We Been? Sweetwater Camp!

Last weekend we had an omnium set of races in Glenwood Springs, a fun touristy town about four hours from where we live. We knew we wanted to spend the weekend there, but that the hotels would be way out of our price range. A small college outside of town offered dorm rooms with sheetless beds for $60 a night, kids sleeping on the floor were an extra $10 a piece - I don't think so, are you kidding? My good friend, Laura, and her husband, Davis, offered a chance to camp with them. We thought this sounded like the best idea. It was one we could get excited about. Laura found it on the net and Davis scouted it out one weekend.

Davis went up Wednesday so that their family could make a small vacation of it. It also helped secure 3 great sites. It seemed as if those spots had been designed with us in mind. The largest camp was perched at the side of the hill. It fit their trailer, dog pens, shade awning and enough chairs for all of us to visit together. It even sported a giant picnic table. The view from this spot was magnificent. From there you could look over the lake, enjoy the sunset and see the surrounding hills. The other two sites were tent sites (perfect for us) that were very private. They were perched just above the trailer spot. All three shared a common chunk of parking space. Just down the hill you could launch a small boat or intertubes. You could easily walk to the bath room, but were not close enough to hear the door slam. It made us happy.

We arrived on Thursday, set up our camp and then got serious about having fun. They boys went on a hike to a Ute cave up on the side of one of the mountains. At the entrance you signed your name and emergency contact information in a book. Then you got to explore. When you came out you crossed off the emergency information. That way they knew you had safely exited. It was a bit of splunking and they loved it. When the boys returned, in all their dirt and mud glory, they had tales to tell of tight spots, sharp corners and cave dwelling creatures. They boughtback "treasures" that included an oily rag someone used as a torch and a bottle cap.

The girls had a different idea of fun. They pumped up the intertubes and went for a bit of floating on the small lake. They found that they could like the tubes with a small device on the side of each tube. The water was cool and sparkly. It was just the ticket for a lazy bit of afternoon fun.

The rest of us enjoyed each other's company. They brought their dogs, so I got a good bit of petting in. They are Havanese. They are small, soft and a bit more compliant than a cat. Myra was happy to have me pet her for over an hour. She even gave me hugs and kisses from time to time.

As the evening encroached we began to prepare dinner.The troops returned from their various adventures. Laura and I cooked. We sat down together and enjoy the meal. Once the night had taken hold we had a small fire along with the roasting of marshmallows and making of smorses. (These are sandwiches made by placing a hot, roasted marshmallow between two bits of graham crackers and a chunk of chocolate - YUM!)

It was late by the time we were done. We all went to bed happy and excited to see what the next day would bring.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

IPOD Drama

Ellie got an IPOD Nano from Grandma and Grandpa last Christmas. She was thrilled. Her dad admired it. She saw this and hatched a plan to earn money to buy one for her dad. Little did he know that was the reason she was asking so many people for odd jobs for pay that she could do. IPOD dropped the price for a shuffle from nearly $70 to around $50 in late April. Ellie saw this and intensified her efforts. Then she had me take her to Sam's Club where she bought a blue shuffle for her dad. She knew he wanted a big one with a screen, but this was her only viable option. She proudly purchased her item and gave it to her daddy who was waiting for us in the cafe. He was THRILLED. They had such a good time picking out music. Ellie especially loved showing him how to use it. She beamed each time he would clip it on (although she forbade him from using it when riding his bike). She had found the perfect non-Ellie-made present. We tried to get her to understand how important being Ellie-Made is, but I think she thought we were just trying to make her feel better about non-purchased presents. We also learned, after a while, because she could not keep a secret, that Ethan was going to buy one for me.

Then the bottom fell out in a BIG, TERRIBLE way. Larr found that he could get an IPOD Classic for both he and I with "thank you" points from our credit card. He was gleeful, Ellie was crushed. When Ellie found this out she was inconsolable. She took it from her coloring table in her room where they had shared it and threw it in the trash. Then she took it out and tried to see if she could make it so that it could be returned. She felt crushed and spurned. It broke my heart. She would not let either of us touch her. She would not talk with us. Nothing seemed to help. She wept, no, sobbed, for a few hours. She went to bed alone, without a little reading together, without a kiss, etc. I wondered how we would solve or get through this problem.

The IPODs arrived yesterday. Ellie was upset, again. She cried, again, but not so hard this time. She tried to throw away the shuffle, again. Larr got it out of the trash and tried to explain to her how he STILL loved it and how it still made him feel special that she would buy it for him. In the end we had to go to mountain bike practice. We wanted her to go with us, she did not want to go. He picked up Ellie and the IPODs and put them in the car. Once we had a picnic dinner she got out my IPOD and began to examine it. Apparently it is okay that I have one. I am not sure if she is at peace with her daddy having one. Only time will tell...

Monday, June 09, 2008

Hammering, Riding and Getting Dizzy

(photos are coming soon - I promise)

Right after school was out on Friday Ethan and I headed out to Loveland for the Hammer In. He was so excited because he had his first paycheck from his first paying job and he was ready to get some blacksmithing gear. When we arrived we found that our usual spot for the van and the tent were left open for us and the truck next to us had a few items, including a forge, for sale. Ethan looked it over a bit, unpacked a bit, looked it over again, helped me put up the tent, talked to a few blacksmithing friends, looked it over again and by the end of the night he negotiated a good deal on a complete, handmade forge. The man who made it, Levi, is an electrician by trade and an man who builds things to last so the forge is heavy duty and comes with a little extras, like three ways to control the blower motor. Ethan was pleased as punch.!

Saturday I cooked and he blacksmithed he made himself a fire poker, a fire race and a forge mop. There were also a few new people there, including Brian Brazeal, a master blacksmith who recently returned from his blacksmithing tour of Europe and Australia. All of the smiths were thrilled to sit, watch, listen and learn. Brian makes wonderful, unusual things, like a two space hanger with a dragon head, chess pieces and so on. Much of what he sells is done on Ebay.

The other cooks and I were busy all day we served: smoked pork ribs, cumin & sugar crusted pork loin, chicken fried steak, meat calizones, white chili with pheasant, brandied chicken, wild rice with leeks and bison, quail pie, olive & onion pie, Colorado coleslaw, mashed potatoes with gravy, buttermilk pie, blueberries & banana pice, strawberry rhubarb pie, caramel apple pie, spice cake with rhubarb topping, spice cake with apple topping (called "bear in t he orchard"), strawberry fritters, sopipia cheese cake (Ethan's favorite) and chocolate cake. We threw good eating habits to the wind and really enjoyed the meal. Ethan ate 3 plates of food! He ate so much that he was not hungry until late afternoon on Sunday.

Ellie, on the other hand, spend time with dad on Friday. They colored, took the dog for a walk and enjoyed having time together. Saturday Ellie went racing she placed 5th in the John Stenner Memorial 2008 Colorado Junior Time Trial Championship. She said there was a terrible headwind and she was not at all pleased with how her time/ place came out. She missed 4th place by about 28 seconds and 1st place by less than two minutes. I asked her if she had a good time. She said she did. I told her that was the most important part. Later that day she spent the night at Emily's house and had fun. One thing she thought was funny was when one of the chickens jumped up on her when she was in the hammock and began pecking at the design on her shirt. She said it felt funny.

Sunday came and Ethan was sad to go home, but not too bummed because we went to Elitche's (an amusement park) with the extended family - all 12 of us. Ellie & Daddy, along with an extra cousin or two, did the roller coasters. By the afternoon his head was spinning. He was still spinning this morning and has decided that one or two roller coaster rides should do it for him in the future. Ethan, a few more cousins and I took the more spinning, twirling route and had a good time. My favorite part was not the rides, but the shows. I loved the Hot Diggity Dog show with agility dogs. The Crique show was really fun as well.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Mountian Bike Practice, Photoshop & Blacksmithing

Mountain Bike practice took place for the first time on Tuesday. Ethan was excited to go. It takes place at the Aldefer Three Sisters Open Space Park in Evergreen. It is an amazingly beautiful place. As Ethan rode his bike Reisha (our Golden Retervier) and I walked. We both loved the variety of wild flowers to be found. The wild iris were so different from the ones I grow in my own garden. The other plant above was a real find, though I don't know what it is called. We had a nice 2 hour stroll. She slept like a baby when we got home.
Wednesday I began my Photoshop class. It is something I have wanted to do for a few years. I am really enjoying it, but it is already kicking my butt as it pushes me to think in a way my brain is not used to. I want to be good at it and be able to know how to do stuff automatically by the end of the class. We talked about file formats and then fixed CameraRaw images as well as some from a stock photo site. Very Cool!
This evening Ethan and I are off to Hammer In, a blacksmithing camp we do each year. I will have cools pic.s on Monday.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A Penny For Your Thoughts - My Son as Begins to Give Back

There are moments in your life that you want to remember. Things said or done that tug at your heart, confirn your belief that your child is a good person and that you are being a successful parent. Last night was one of those nights. It really touched me and I thought it was worth sharing. It seems important now, but I also know how easy it is to forget the little things, too.

Last night Ethan and I were at the grocery story getting some food for the week. On Friday he got his first ever pay check and was feeling like he could take over his expenses. He pondered what he would buy for himself. When we were checking out he glanced over at the galloping horse ride that seem to be in every King Soopers/City Market grocery store. He fondly remembered the times when he would walk over as a young lad and find a penny (or three, as happened one time) on the box where the changes goes into the machine. He always felt so lucky to find the money are go for a free ride. As he shared those memories with me he was fishing around in his pocket and came up with a penny. I also found one in my purse. He said that he wanted other kids to have the same thrill and has vowed to leave pennies on the horse ride every time he thinks of it. Even before we were done a little girl with a spring in her step and swishing dark hair found the penny Ethan had laid there. Just has he had hoped, she was thrilled by the magic of finding the good luck he left for her. She rode the horse with joy and giggles. Ethan enjoyed watching her. He said he was glad it was her. He says he will make sure to do this same act every time he can. My heart warmed. My son, almost 15 and nearing adulthood, has seen the value of selfless giving and wants to begin giving back. It makes me proud.