Monday, September 27, 2010

what i did over the summer (colorado springs)

as if our road trip out to colorado wasn't fun enough, we also got the added bonus of spending 2 solid weeks in the company of bob, rae, and adam's brother matt in colorado springs.

there used to be a day when we briggles would converge at bob and rae's and enjoy endless hours of basically doing nothing: reading (magazines, books, newspapers, cereal boxes, etc); napping (on the couch, in a chair, on the floor with the cat, etc); playing cards (only shanghai -- it's pretty much the only game we play, and we're okay with that cuz it pretty much rocks); and drinking (microbrews and wine, though occasionally a stinger or some scotch).

but now that we have a 2-year-old who demands constant entertainment and excitement, our lives have taken a different turn on vacation in colorado. gone are the days of wondering "what day is it again? what time is it? do we still need to eat dinner, or will these chips and salsa count?"

within a day or two of us arriving, we all got out our calendars and coordinated our schedules to make sure that we could do it all. (such an anti-briggle mindset!) we had soooo much to accomplish and experience while we were home, and inevitably something was going to get left out. but we were fortunate that we did get to most everything -- only missing the zoo and a trip to america the beautiful park, which, considering how much we had planned on doing, is pretty darn good.

we had several lovely moments of just playing at the house with oma and opa, and a wonderful playdate with gracie's betrothed, james. james is the grandson of rae's best friend, and is only a few months older than she is. each grandmother has pictures of both james and gracie in their offices (they work right next door to each other too), and the grandmas have basically decided that james and gracie are going to grow up and get married, so now that that's out of the way we can work on everything else: which college to choose, how much money to save for therapy and braces, which religion to raise them in, etc. you know, the less important stuff than who you will spend the rest of your life with :-)

and the weather! omg! we left on the first day of an obnoxious heat wave that hit texas -- at one point in our north texas town it was 114 degrees f (46 celsius!). but in colorado? the highest it ever got for those two weeks was 87 f (30 c)!!! NICE! and at the hottest part of the day, a nice big rainstorm would roll through and cool everything off by like 15 degrees. plus, bob and rae live about 1500 feet above the rest of the city, so it's even cooler up there than down below. i was so chilled, in fact, that i actually had to go to the store to buy warm clothes. it was amazing!

we had another playdate with some girlfriends who invited us to the pool at the elks lodge in colorado springs. since gracie is basically a fish when she's in the water, it was a very nice treat for us to bring her swimming. thankfully the rain held off until about an hour after we got home -- just in time for a much-earned nap!

of course, being that gracie comes from a hockey family, and being that colorado springs is the home of usa hockey, we absolutely had to bring her skating. this was actually entirely her idea! she remembered from back at christmas, when we brought her ice skating at the world arena -- and a few days into our trip, she asked us when she was going to go ice skating again! we had completely forgotten that we wanted to bring her skating, so we were of course so glad that she reminded us! within a day or two, we made our way over to sertich ice arena, renting skates and a helmet for gracie, and teaching her crossovers and turns. she's so good at it! next step: find out where in the great state of texas we can find some ice time in order to encourage this interest of hers...

we of course did very touristy things, being that colorado springs is, after all, a very cool place for tourists to come and play. we took the cog train up to the top of pikes peak and appreciated the views from the top of the "fourteener" (elevation: 14,100 feet = 4300 meters). the

hour-long trip up the side of the mountain brought us through forests, rock outcroppings, canyons, alpine tundra, and eventually up to the snack bar at the top of the mountain, where we all enjoyed the famous high-altitude donuts. it's very odd to be eating donuts and shopping for coffee mugs at the top of one of america's most famous mountains. but it is america, after all, so maybe i shouldn't be so shocked by it all...

we spent a whole afternoon at the north pole -- something gracie is still talking about all these months later. it was essentially all of us grown-ups totally in heaven watching little gracie take turn after turn after turn on all the rides: the boats, motorcycles, slides, cars, roller coasters, carousels, ferris wheels, rocket ships... we got to meet santa claus, too, but by that time gracie was pretty much wiped out from all the excitement, and she's never really been one to take to overly-excited or snuggly strangers (a good thing), so she pretty much clung to mom and dad until we left santa's house. then, as soon as we left, she was like "i wanna go see santa!" sigh. there were also, of course, toy shops for boys and girls -- we skipped the girl one since it was inevitably going to be princess crap and boring dollies. but the BOY one was awesome! trucks, dinosaurs, and airplanes EVERYWHERE! (there were plenty of toy guns too, which we explained to her were NOT cool, and were dangerous, and we don't play with guns. she's been reminding us of that on a pretty regular basis: "guns aren't cool, mom. but TRUCKS are cool! we can play with TRUCKS!" (glad to be teaching my daughter this important lesson since we live in texas and i'm pretty sure someday she'll be playing at a friend's house where there are guns on the property. i pray often that she will know how to stay safe in such a situation. guns are NOT toys, they are NOT cool, and they are dangerous. i think she's starting to get it.)

we briggles don't have a ton of traditions, but something that we DO do just about every year is take a trip out to the flying W ranch -- a real, working ranch in the foothills of colorado springs, with the most amazing singing cowboys your ears will ever be blessed to hear. every summer (and sometimes the occasional christmas) we head up to the flying W and wander the grounds, which are set up like an old-west village, complete with tipi, chapel, trading post, and blacksmith (where you can watch a horse get new shoes just about every night). afterwards, we are called to supper by the clanging of a big ol' bell, and gather to hear a ranchhand tell bad jokes while each section is dismissed to get their grub: homemade biscuits, applesauce, baked potatoes, beans, barbecue, and spice cake. nom nom nom! after everyone's eaten and gotten seconds, the cowboys come onstage (the same cowboys who worked the ranch by day and also just served us dinner) and sing old country-and-western songs: gene autry, hank williams, roy rogers, sons of the pioneers... gooooood stuff.
add to that a trip to the renaissance festival and camping in a yurt with auntie shelby, a birthday party at a splash park with auntie valerie, formal family photos at a park in colorado springs, and a few trips to usa hockey to visit all of oma's friends and colleagues... we were busy busy busy!

originally we thought we'd only make the drive once a year, just in the summertime, to see everyone back home in the mountains -- but thinking about all the time that will pass between now and then -- A WHOLE YEAR! -- that seems WAY too long. plus, the drive is so darn pretty, and the city has so much to offer, and bob and rae are just so amazing and generous and fun. so, plan on hearing a report sometime after the winter holidays about our christmas adventures back in CO!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

what i did over the summer (road trip!)

i know, i know... i promised more updates on my summer vacation like MONTHS ago, and still haven't filled you all in. my bad! you know what i've realized, though? now that we have netflix, i'm totally busy watching things online instead of using my computer at night to update my blog. so, blame it all on netflix. it's totally their fault.

so, back to our summer vacation: the other awesome thing we did, besides going to san antonio, was our trip to colorado. we hadn't been back "home" since last summer, when we breezed through during our big move from holland -- we had spent just a couple of days there before driving to teresa and nick's wedding in omaha, then onward to our little north texas town to buy a house and settle in. so this was really our first vacation there in a couple of years, and we were really looking forward to it!

it was also our first road trip in about a year -- other than the trip to san antonio, we've pretty much stayed still this past year. and i LOVE a good road trip, so i was crazy excited. i got out the maps, googled sites to see, cross-referenced everything on AAA, and made the appropriate reservations at hotels.

we left at the end of july, and took 2 days to drive the 12 hours back to colorado springs. there used to be a time in our lives when we'd just go go go and not have any fun until we got there. but now that we have a 2-year-old, just about EVERYTHING is fun, so we decided to honor our new lives and take our sweet time getting there.

our first scheduled stop was in childress, TX -- we had a couple of choices of what to see, but we chose the old steam engine at the edge of downtown. it was actually a functioning steam engine sometime in the early 20th century, but has obviously been retired and now stands across from the firehouse and near the train tracks. when we arrived, there was a freight train passing by (the same freight train we kept passing along the highway for most of our trip), so we stood and waved as the engineer blew the horn and styck his arm out the window and waved back at us. that in and of itself was VERY cool, but then to add to the treat we actually got to climb up on top of the old steam engine and play with all the buttons and knobs and levers inside. we were dumbfounded at just how dangerous that job must have been a hundred or more years ago: there must have been terrible burns, awful asthma, and broken bones. just playing in the parked engine seemed dangerous enough, but to have it barreling down the american countryside with a load full of coal and fire and steam and freight? yikes!

a little while later we headed back to the car and continued the rest of the way to amarillo, which was where we planned to spend the night. but before checking in to our hotel, we stopped by the palo duro canyon ("texas' best kept secret") for a hike and some more adventure. gracie was so excited to see the canyon, she kept saying "let's go to the candy-yon" or "the candy-land" -- she couldn't quite say it the right way, and plus we made it sound so exciting, it must certainly be made of candy, and it sounds like it has the word "candy" in it, so surely we must want to go there!

we bought our parks pass and headed to a trail that was supposed to be very family-friendly 1.5 mile loop. but we only made it about a quarter mile in before we found a creek and decided to stay and splash a while. adam taught gracie how to skip rocks and find caddisfly larvae underneath the stones, and gracie taught me how to make mud pies out of the red clay along the banks. we stayed and played for probably over an hour, and could have stayed the rest of the day had it not been so hot. poor adam's flip flops broke (both of them!) on the way back to the car, and he got blisters on the bottoms of his feet and eaten alive by horseflies as he ran as fast as he could, barefoot on the baking red earth, carrying our enormous daughter the whole way. i thought it was hilarious -- adam's still mad at me for laughing at him (even though it really WAS funny!).

as we left the canyon, i asked gracie if she was ready to go to the hotel, and we got the most emphatic "YES!" that we've ever heard spoken by a 2-year-old. she still remembers the fun hotel we stayed at in san antonio, and the pool, and the elevators, and the big beds; and alllll day long we had been telling her about our trip to amarillo (which she forgot the name of and kept calling "jalapeno" instead), so by the time we left the canyon she was VERY ready to get there. and when we got to the hotel (the very same chain that we stayed at in san antonio only a few weeks earlier), gracie kept asking to see oma and opa at the pool (since oma and opa had stayed with us at our san antonio hotel too). we had to explain to her that oma and opa were at their house, and not at the hotel, but that we were going to see them tomorrow. though she was disappointed, she quickly got over it once she discovered the soda machine and the swimming pool.

the next morning we got back on the road to finish up the second half of our journey. our first stop this day was at the capulin volcano national monument -- according to gracie, the most exciting stop of our whole road trip! ever since the big weird-sounding volcano exploded in iceland earlier this year, gracie has been really interested in all things lava. so she got really fired up when i told her we were going to see an extinct volcano on the way to oma and opa's house -- pretty much everything in that sentence sounds awesome to her!

northern new mexico is BEAUTIFUL. really, absolutely, stunningly breathtaking. so we were ALL very excited to get out of the car and enjoy the scenery.

gracie got out of her carseat and rode on my lap up to the top of the volcano -- a short, 2-mile paved road to the top of the crater. once to the top, we all got out of the car along with our little picnic and sunscreen and hiked the rim of the crater. gracie did great: it was a 1-mile loop, and she practically hiked the entire thing by herself! she loved finding the signs along the way, telling her about the vegetation and vistas. then she'd pretend the sign was a drum and play us a tune or two before continuing on our way.

even after two weeks in colorado, all three of us were really looking forward to our stop at capulin on the drive back home. the views were amazing and the trails were well maintained. if i lived in the town of capulin, i would hike that trail every freaking day. it was soooo beautiful. (and in fact, we did visit this park one more time on our way home, but that time we hiked to the bottom of the crater to see the lava rocks instead of along the rim -- an interesting detour, but not nearly as pretty as hiking the rim of the volcano because we couldn't see the incredible scenery from the bottom, obviously.)

our final stop of the trip was a trolley ride in trinidad, CO: a surprisingly beautiful little town in the southern foothills of the rockies. we had no idea it was such a lovely city, and someday i'd love to spend a weekend in one of their cute little b&b's. fortunately, we were able to discover the charm of the city despite the mind-numbingly boring, way-drawn-out, and VERY hot trolley ride we endured for over an hour. yikes! so here's the problem: the man giving the tour on the trolley (which, thankfully was FREE) really loves to talk about the architecture of trinidad. and though the architecture is really something beautiful and historic, it is nearly impossible to see when you're riding in a trolley car. oh, and only half the windows open, and only a little ways. so it was a sauna in there! we'd park in front of old houses and he'd tell us all about how many italians it took to build that particular building, over so many years, and all the fancy woodwork inside, and how the swimming pool in the basement is wider than the street we're parked on, etc etc etc. (adam and i still joke about that: if there's a whole pile of dishes to be done, for example, one of us will say something like "i bet it will take 7 italians 14 hours to finish all those dishes." just like the man on the trolley! everything in that city was measured by the number of italians and how long it took them to build something. hilarious!) i even saw a silver-haired lady look at her watch more than once during the tour -- so that really tells you something! ha! and at the very end of the tour, we passed by an abandoned hotel and the driver said something like "this is where kit carson and billy the kid used to live back in 18-something-or-another". or something like that. i would have LOVED to have heard that story! let's hear about the history of trinidad, not the architecture which i can't even see from my seat! argh!

but, as i said, it was free. so i can't complain TOO much.

a few weeks later, we were in manitou springs, on our way back from a trip to the top of pikes peak. gracie saw a big green (or was it red?) bus, that in a way looked similar to the trolley that we rode on in trinidad -- and she said, "that looks like fun, but it's really not." ha! does that give you an idea of what we all thought of the tour? as you can see by the picture, both adam and gracie were NOT enjoying themselves. but on the plus side, we now know what NOT to do on our next roadtrip home, and we loved the pretty streets of trinidad so maybe we might stop there at least for an ice cream cone and a stroll through their downtown...

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

adam in the paper!

he's in the paper! adam wrote a fabulous article on college as a "consumer" item and how inappropriate it is to call it as such. it's caused quite a stir, and someone in his department has apparently been forwarded on to the provost and the dean at UNT. professors and others across the country have already read this article and written to adam and/or me to discuss his points. the neighbors dropped off a copy yesterday around dinner time and stayed to talk about it. i'm soooooo proud of him!