Words to live by...

"A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others." ~Author Unknown

"A good wife is her husband's biggest fan -- no matter how crazy he is." ~Me

"May God give you.. For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer." ~ Irish Blessing

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Great '08

Another year has come and gone on this blog. Last year I looked back on my previous year's goals to see what I'd met and what I hadn't. I enjoyed looking back on that, so I'll do it again.

Back from January 1, 2008:

As I head into 2008, I hope for much of the same. My goal is to challenge myself in the mountains on my bike and on my feet. Perhaps I will talk myself into more mountain bike racing outside of the Winter Park series I did race one of the Leadville winter series races -- super fun! (for sure a tour of the White Rim. Got that done! Yay! Kokopelli tour too? Did that too! Colorado trail on bikes or feet? Err, not this year, but I got to watch Chris smash the Colorado Trail Race!!!)... Maybe by 2009, or 14er count will be up to 20 -- is there a true winter climb coming in 2008? It didn't get up to 20, but we gave it a good college effort. We got to 16, which is pretty good considering we spent most of the summer away from home in one way or another. I TRIED a winter climb in early February involving snow shoes and Pikes Peak, but 3/4 of the way up, the wind and cold were too much for my timid bones. Oh well, I gave it a shot. I already know of a few changes coming to the Plesko house in 2008 and with these changes everything will be challenged; however, I'm sure that no matter what happens, we'll make it through (once again) with "grace and plenty of pictures!" The changes I had in mind when writing this never came to be, which is probably good. We had different challenges and changes, and those were adventures in themselves.

Before I set more goals for myself, I want to look back on what was a truly great 2008!

'08 brought so many great adventures. With Chris quitting his job in May, we had the whole summer to explore, play, relax, and hang out without the stress of work. We've truly lived it up this year and we consider ourselves very fortunate to be in a position to pull it off.

At times it felt as if we were hardly ever home. We would come home just long enough to do some laundry, pay the bills, and pack up for a new adventure. The best vacations of 08?

*Spring Break: Moab, UT --> Zion National Park --> Las Vegas, NV --> Solvang, CA --> Moab, UT --> Home. The best overall vacation I've taken with Chris. It was solely centered around having a good time and enjoying our two incomes while they lasted. I hope we get to do this trip again sometime... or at least something similar.

*Great Divide: Stays in Montana, Banff, and Idaho showed me some outstanding beauty on this continent that I didn't even know existed. Will we do this again? We'll have to see what summer holds...

*Mt. Elbert/Mt. Massive camping trip: Chris and I always wondered how we'd do on a two-day, two-mountain camping trip. This one was so fun that we will definitely do a similar trip, but perhaps upping the mountain count to three.

*Durango Or Bust! Colorado Trail Detox trip. To me, there was no better way to celebrate Chris's unbelievable race than to lounge around and eat good food in Durango for a few days.

*Christmas St. Louis trip: Always a great time. Always come back several pounds heavier.

Bike/Hike/Climb Adventures
In addition to nice vacations, we also squeezed in some extraordinary adventures.

*Good attempt at a winter summit of Pikes Peak on snowshoes. Once I couldn't feel my hands anymore, I wussed out :) I will absolutely try this again. Now I have huge expedition worthy down mitts. That should at least minimize the hand numbing problem.

*Kokopelli Trail self supported three day tour: Wow. Quite the trip. Overall a great experience, teaching me to push my boundaries and trust Chris's handy guiding skills. I'm sure we'll be back in some form at some point.

*White Rim self supported 1.5 day tour: A great trip, minus the knee problems that started at mile 8. I will be back for a 1.0 day self supported trip in the near future.

*Lots of 14ers!: I think we completed six 14er hikes this summer, which is pretty good considering we were hardly ever around. My favorite of the six this year? Mt. Massive.

*3rd and 1st Flatiron Climbing: Definitely something I never thought I'd do, but now that I've done it, I'm glad that I did and I'll be back. Very soon.

Racing Fun!
Chris had a breakthrough season on the bike. He surprised himself and confirmed what I've always known he could do. Also, I had a pre tty good season myself!

*I rode and won my first winter snow bike race in Leadville: Time to start training for this year's series. Last year I wanted to do the series but managed to be sick for all but one race. I'm excited for these to start back up. There's nothing like totally crashing over the bars, face first, flying downhill, and not feeling a thing.

*Raced, while sick, in the Frostbite Time Trial up near Wyoming in March... perhaps not the best idea. However, if I'm not sick and we're free, it'd be fun to do again this year.

*Set a new PR on the Cherry Creek Time Trial course, missing my big season goal by only a few seconds: No doubt I'm looking forward to CCTT this year. It's always fun.

*Got 2nd in the Sport class at Winter Park, won King of the Rockies in my class, had a blast racing my first official downhill race, and smashing all of my times from last year. 'Nuf said. I better get my butt in gear if I'm going to survive Expert though...

Life Adventures
Often times our adventures are planned, purposeful, and fun, but sometimes life has its own ideas. 2008 brought a few of those as well.

*Rolled Element leads to new Element during reeeeeeally bad weekend: This was the weekend that I got the worst flu of my life and threw up constantly for three days, had my uncle's funeral and almost passed out because of the flu, then locked myself out of my house and had to spend $150 on a locksmith to let me back in... all the while worrying about Chris after getting my most dreaded call that he and his friend had been in a bad accident in Arizona. In our car. And now we had to buy a new one. Baaaaaaaaaad weekend. Hope it never comes again like that one.

*Backed up plumbing with husband off riding the Divide: More annoying than anything else, but yeah. Bad timing.

*No baby yet! 'Nuf said. Another year has come and gone and now I'm finally biting the bullet and seeing a fertility specialist in the next month or two. That's a big step for me.


So, 2008 was truly great for me and Chris. As I look back at all of the fun, exciting, and interesting adventures that we had together, I wouldn't change a thing.

Looking forward to 2009? Well, I'm sure it'll hold many surprises just like this year. I hope to continue to build my climbing skills, as I've really enjoyed climbing both inside and outside this winter. At this point, it's still a Just For Fun hobby with an added bonus of a bit of cross-training for bike season. With no major climbing goals in mind, I simply hope to continue to enjoy it -- safely. I'm sure Chris and I will continue to work toward our 14ers goals together, hopefully including some multi-mountain-multi-day trips in this summer. I will climb Longs Peak this year, perhaps by the traditional Keyhole route, perhaps by a different one. Either way, I will do it... even though it scares me. Chris and I have our sights set on a tour of the Colorado Trail this summer -- probably by bikes, but we'll have to see. I'm not sure what our summer will look like, with Chris planning more big adventures, and me taking at least one masters class, but somehow we'll fit at least a few fun things in when we can. My biking goals for '09? Pretty similar to last year. I'd like to crush the 30 minute mark at Cherry Creek, in addition to trying to make the top 10 at one of the races. The 30 minute mark will be easy, top 10 probably not so easy. But I'll try. I want to survive Expert at Winter Park and if I can get top 3 on any race, I'll be super excited. I've kicked around the idea of the Leadville 100. I need to decide soon, as applications need to be in ASAP. It's so expensive though, and hard to commit that much money to 8 months out when I'm trying to get pregnant, but maybe. I feel like I can do it with some good training, and I'd like to do it, so who knows.

So there we have it. My goals for a very fine 2009. No doubt the year will be an adventure, just like 2008. I can only hope we savor the good times and push through the lows.

Happy 2009!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone out in bloggerland.  

Pictures of good loot to come!  Rhonda The Singlespeed will be much prettier after this holiday season!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

'Tis the season

I've abandoned the blog lately.

It seems that before vacation I was too busy and/or sick to do much of anything.

Now that I'm vacation, I'm enjoying not doing much of anything.

I caught one nasty cold from my students that cast a nice shadow over the usually exciting week before Christmas break (minus the fun afternoon of decorating cookies with the kids, Chris, and my parents... despite feeling terrible, it was a blast and may just become a holiday tradition in my classroom).  

Normally Chris has an immune system made of steal, but it seems this time the germs found a crack in his armor.  Poor guy has been sick and feeling bad since last Saturday when we drove 13 hours to St. Louis.  Since he wasn't feeling well, I drove about 2/3 of the trip.  Luckily we had great weather -- minus it being REALLY freaking cold and windy in Kansas.

Since then we have been lounging around in St. Louis, eating and generally doing a bunch of nothing.  Our bikes are here, but the frigid weather has kept me off of mine, and The Sickness has kept poor Chris off of his.  We climbed Monday night with an old friend of Chris's and his parents.  The gym was nice, but really makes me appreciate our climbing gyms in Denver.  There were only a few easy routes and it was pretty packed.  Mom2 and Dad2 did awesome for their first time climbing though!  Both muscled it up a 5.7 and learned that climbing isn't as scary as it seems.  

Yesterday we braved the mall for a few last minute gifts.  I realize that as I've gotten older, I've started to hate crowds.  They overwhelm me.  More and more, I see that I am much better adapted to the solitude of a climb, hike, or ride than I am to crowds.  Maybe it's also because I deal with a large crowd of children everyday and I need some "personal space bubble" rebuilding time on my time off?  Who knows.  Either way, I'm looking forward to using the other part of my Christmas gift from my parents and spend my gift card on some new boots in the post-Christmas sale frenzy! 

I absolutely cannot wait to give Chris his gift tomorrow.  The gift has been in the works for many many months and I'm very bad at delaying gratification.  A shipping snafu nearly killed the surprise, so things didn't work out as planned, but I'm still excited.  Perhaps he'll find the gift blog worthy tomorrow, otherwise I'll post pictures tomorrow for him.  

Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!!!!!

Merry Christmahannakwanzikah to everyone! (still one of the best holiday ads of all time)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

More to come...

But for now:

1)  It's freaking cold outside.  -10 right now.  Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

2)  I finally got sick, which sucks, but this time last year I'd almost used up all of my sick days.  I'm happy to have held off the beast this long.

3)  4 DAYS LEFT WITH KIDS!!!!  I just might survive.  But it's looking like an inside recess week.  Key word in previous sentence: might

4)  This snowman is awesome:

Even more awesome was this hillarious manic laugh that accompanied this..."My snowman has a long arm!! AHHHHAHHHAHHHAAAAAA!"  A bit creepy in fact.

5)  LOVE my new coat and blanket from my parents.  Can't wait to get out and use the coat so I can get a good picture!

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Need. More. Riding.

This week was snowy and I was very happy to see the snow.  Finally.  I didn't even mind the hour drive to work or the ice scraping when I got out.  There's something peaceful about the first few snows of the year.  Something festive.  It finally feels like Christmas might actually come this year.

But then again, it IS Colorado...

Today was 50 degrees and beautiful.  The only hint of this week's snow is the freshly packed, slightly wet gravel on the path.  The sun was shining brightly, the air smelled clean, and I could walk outside without putting on the down jacket.  After writing a long paper, and having a great lunch with my friends, I went for a little ride.  Finally.  It seems it has been too long.  

My legs felt pretty terrible.  Like they were filled with stones.  But the great thing about riding? As bad as it feels, if you just keep riding, it generally gets better.  My goal for the ride was merely to get out, ride, and find a good place to capture a picture of Longs Peak for Chris. I ended up riding for around an hour, pleased with the day but not so pleased with the massive headwind and low tire pressure.  Luckily the single speed turns an ordinarily easy hour ride into a decent workout.

While I was out enjoying the beautiful weather here, Chris was out hiking Longs Peak (hence the picture for him).  A big cloud seemed to be hovering around the Longs area, so I am curious to see how his weather was.  My guess was it was pretty windy.  I've watched his SPOT closely when I've been home, and unfortunately it was inconclusive as to whether or not they reached the summit.  It didn't refresh very often at that point, and so I'm not sure whether they got close and turned around, or tagged it quickly and made it back down a bit before the SPOT refreshed.  12 hours in, he appears to be nearly back to the car, so I look forward to him coming home and telling me all about the adventure.  I'm jealous that he has now possibly stood on the summit Longs without me, but at the same time I am incredibly proud of him for taking on the challenge and diving right in.  

As a nice little surprise for him when he gets back, I made him some cookies.  And promptly royally screwed them up.  I've made the cookies a million times, but still they don't taste so good.  Luckily he's sweet enough that he'll probably eat them without complaint.  What a nice boy.

Tomorrow I am going to sit down and make a riding plan for the week.  I am going to slowly get myself back into a routine and then start actual training again in January.  It is time to get back into riding.  Climbing, though, has been an unexpectedly amazing diversion.  

Meanwhile, I will be eating yucky cookies.  So sad.  

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rock Moves

This Thanksgiving weekend started out with a wonderful climb on Wednesday. Chris convinced me, through my nervousness, to take advantage of the nearly 60 degree weather and get outside and climb.

When I first jumped into climbing the 3rd Flatiron a month or so ago, I wasn't nervous. I had only been climbing a few times, and while I knew the risks and knew the heights involved, I was pretty naive and not too nervous. Once I got on the rock, I flipped out once, but quickly got into a groove and climbed without too much hesitation. Having already done the 3rd and having climbed inside and outside several times since, I felt really nervous to climb the 1st Flatiron. I know that it's still considered a relatively "beginner" climb and small children do it, but I was still a little reluctant.

Chris reassured me, and convinced me that I'd feel better pigging out on turkey and pie if I'd done a big climb the day before, and we set out to do it. He also bribed me with delicious Starbucks hot chocolate if I could get up and commit to do it. When we got up to Boulder, we enjoyed the hike to the Flatiron and met up with another couple roping up to do the same route. We talked with them for a bit, and decided to climb first while they followed up behind. They were a nice couple from North Carolina and generally climbed at a similar pace. It was nice to have people to talk to at the belay points.

The first pitch of the climb is considered the crux. There aren't many good hand/foot holds, and you mostly have to rely on the friction from your shoes and some palming of the rock to stay on. I watched Chris fly up it to the first belay station and he made it look very easy. As I got started it wasn't too bad. The hardest part was that the rock was very cold which made for some uncomfortable hands, but other than that it was like crawling up a wall. Unfortunately I took a weird line toward the top and got a bit stuck a few times.
The view down from one of the belay stations. Those trees are FAR away!

The rest of the pitches were generally easier, although each had their own challenges. Overall the climbing was more difficult than the 3rd, and it required a lot more attention and friction moves. Overall, however, I enjoyed this climb more. There were lots of interesting little sections, including a slot where I had to climb under a rock (finally my shortness comes in handy climbing!) and a rocky, exposed ridge that we climbed as the sun was setting.
The slot is to the left of the middle of this shot. Taking a break on the wall. The climbing was more difficult on this flatiron, so we didn't get any actual climbing shots. In this picture, I am probably 700 ft off the ground.
Chris did an awesome job leading this climb! He was careful and precise when placing gear and climbing up ahead of me. He kept us moving, kept me positive, and kept us laughing. I couldn't ask for a better climbing partner.
After scaling the ridge in the beautiful sunset, we reached the summit of the 1st Flatiron! We still had a 100 ft rappel to complete before calling the climb a success. The other couple that we climbed with set up their rope and let us rappel from theirs. This allowed me to go down after them (so I knew the rope reached the ground and was properly anchored), but before Chris so he could double check my harness and remind me how to do the rappel. This one wasn't as long as the rappel on the 3rd, and it was only free hanging for the last 30 ft or so.

We all safely reached solid ground, packed up our gear, and hiked back to the car in the dark. Since we were rushing at the summit to beat the dark, we weren't able to get a proper summit picture. We did, however, get a really bad picture of us on the hike back down. Keep in mind it was very very dark and this picture blinded both of us for the next few minutes. Personally, I love my hair in this one ;)
When all was said and done, it took us about 7 hours from car to car to climb the 1st. It was not nearly as scary as I expected and when we were climbing, we moved pretty quickly. It was the perfect way to start the weekend and I'm glad we got to take advantage of the beautiful weather.

Thanksgiving itself, despite being one of my favorite holidays, was a complete bust. An early exit from the family dinner left Chris and I dessert-less, but thankfully wonderful Chris saved the day. A quick detour to a closing Safeway resulted in a delicious end to the day. Frozen pizza, granny smith cider, and whipped cream with pumpkin pie made the perfect snacks to go with a movie and wild game of rummy. If you haven't seen Run Fat Boy, Run you should. It's a pretty great movie!
This is how we roll in this house. Is there pie under there? I think so.
Chris left yesterday afternoon to climb Mt. Elbert in the cold with some friends. Not surprisingly, I wasn't able to be coaxed into venturing out into the wind and snow to summit a peak that we already summited in beautiful weather. So, while he headed up to Leadville for the night, I stayed home and watched Turbo and my brother's dog, Sydney, play in the newly fallen snow! It is nearly December and this is the first actual snow in Denver this season. The dogs LOVED getting to go out and play in the snow.
Happy late Thanksgiving to everyone out in bloggerland!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Yay for Tuesdays that are Fridays!

Can't wait for Thanksgiving break!

I keep meaning to post this story, because it was funny...

Everyday I sit on the floor to do my reading groups. Everyday. The other day I sat on the floor to stretch with my kids (I make them stretch to "get their brains working" but in fact I just need the stretches and it gives me a good excuse to do it daily). One of my little girls looks at me funny and exclaims: "YOU sit on floors too!" too which I nodded "yeah" and she clarifies: "YOU sit on floors AND chairs?!!!!?!!!"

Happy Friday/Tuesday to all of those teachers out there!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A great weekend

As I sit here, soon to be heading to bed, I have to look back and think: This weekend was wonderful.

I'm not sure whether it was the fun activities that we did this weekend, or knowing that there's only a two day work week to look forward to.

Most likely it was a bit of both.

Our fun weekend started with a delicious dinner at Pei Wei (no Shaina and Karen, not pay raise). After an incredibly rough day at work on Friday, Chris humored me by letting me vent and rant about the children all dinner long. The best lesson for that dinner, that I need to repeat to myself throughout the day? "You need to remember, at the end of the day, they are still five." Chris is always wise beyond his experiences, and he always makes me feel better and put everything back into perspective. Following our dinner, we had a great night of playing hearts and drinking beers with Stephan, Sheryl, and baby Sebastian. It was fun to hang out with another couple who understands all of the crazy things that we do... a rare and wonderful experience.

Saturday was comprised of our Marshal Mesa adventure, while Saturday night was mostly me hobbling around on my sore knees. We watched "Forgetting Sarah Marshal" (hmmm, Marshal theme?) and I even squeezed in a bit of knitting... another rare and wonderful experience these days.

This morning we slept in pretty late and drove to Boulder for some bagels before climbing at The Amphitheater. I made it up my hardest route outside (5.7), only falling once in the process. In fact, it was my first "real" fall. Luckily, while rock climbing, you only fall a few inches before being caught by your partner on the rope. I was nervous to tackle this particular overhang, as it seemed very big and hard once I climbed up to it. As I pondered coming down before even trying, Chris yelled up "at least fall trying!" To which I burst into tears and stood on the side of the rock hyperventilating for a minute or two. He's a smart guy, and knows me all too well at this point, and he knew that this would be just the right amount of "tough love" to get me up and over the ledge. I got mad and made it over the ledge with shaking legs and cold-numb hands after one quick fall. It wasn't pretty, but I made it and I'm glad I did. I then got the privilege of watching Chris tackle his own personal hardest route outside. He climbed up a 5.10a pitch like it was nothing. He also had one "real" fall where I was able to catch him quickly on the rope. He was nervous, perhaps a little scared, but he persevered and did an awesome job. I'm so proud of him! He also has a great write-up on his blog!

Tonight we shoved ourselves full of homemade pizza, salad, and soon some peppermint ice cream. Ahhhhh, deliciousness.

I am glad there are only two days of teaching this week. I really really love my job, but I also really really need a bit of a break. 28 Kindergarteners is a lot. I have a great class, great kids, but lately their needs and struggles have been overwhelming. I know I can't help all of them, solve all of their problems, but that doesn't stop me from feeling like I must.

So here's to another week. A short week for all of us. My stomach is ready for whipped cream with a bit of pumpkin pie beneath.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Ride Marshal Mesa from home? Check!

This summer and fall have been full of checking activities off an unwritten list of things that I never thought I'd be able to do.

(Ok, well, never as in the last few years.)

Today, Chris and I took advantage of this continually warm weather and took care of one of those items. Fall is sticking around in these parts and seems unwilling to give way to actual winter-like weather. This week Denver hit 78 degrees. At the end of November. It's crazy.

One item on my list of things I've been wanting to accomplish, is riding the Marshal Mesa trail from home and back. Marshal Mesa is a pretty easy ride that we've been riding since back in our Boulder days with GhettoBike. Chris likes to make this relatively easy trail into a more substantial ride by riding from home. He makes the trip fairly often, but I've always thought it was too far away for me to ride and still enjoy the trail in the middle.

So we tried it.

In the end it turned out to be my farthest single speed ride yet... around 31 miles, 2000 ft of climbing, in about 4 hours.

We (as in I) started out pretty bundled up, but quickly stripped off layers. The high today was in the upper 50s and it was almost too warm for knee warmers. We enjoyed the cruise down The Wall over to the Colton trail and rode that up to the regular Marshal Mesa parking area. I was surprised at how quickly this part of the ride went, it really wasn't that far to get to the trail! Zooming down the Colton trail was fun and I even went fast enough to get some air off of some little jumps. Once we reached the lot where we normally park our car, we crossed highway 93 and rode the Dowdy Draw trail. The views of the Flatirons and Eldorado Canyon were spectacular. The trail itself was really fun and in great shape. In the past we have ridden up this trail, but this time we got to go down it. Much more fun that way! We stopped for a few snacks and hit the normal Marshal Mesa trail on our way back to the road behind Superior where we turned back toward home. As seems the norm for big rides around here lately, we had to cruise up The Wall before getting to spin home. I was nervous about climbing The Wall on my single speed with giant heavy wheels when I know I usually suffer up it on my speedy little road bike. At this point my knees were really bothering me as well (URGH!!!!!) but I made it up.

A few random thoughts from the ride:
1) Chris is a badass. 30 miles on the single speed really is hard. Harder than I expected. And he does that on his rest days. Dang.
2) Prairie Dogs right now are really fat. And apparently suicidal.
3) Having not really ridden except for once in the past month, and not that often for the month prior, I don't feel that I've lost a lot of fitness in my legs and muscles. I do, however, feel like I have lost lung/heart fitness. I had to stop for too many breaks. That was annoying.
4) I need to fix my knees. The foam roller of pain is helping, but not enough. I need some serious strength exercises to make them better. Any suggestions for IT Band exercises?
5) It does not feel like the end of November. I hear it may snow over Thanksgiving. I hate driving in the snow, but really, it's about time.

We had a great time, on a great day, on a great ride.

Now I'm sore and tired. As usual.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Teachers make the best...








An awesome weekend has come to an end, but the stories and memories will last a lifetime.

I love my friends.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Super slacking

I haven't ridden my bike in a long time.

Since Fruita I think.


I haven't gotten into cold/windy/darkness riding mode yet. I'm seriously itching to take my single speed out on a fun spin though, but I haven't been able to actually make it happen. I have a date with the kitchen tonight to make some "Muddy Buddies" (yeah, you know, the delicious chex/peanutbutter/chocolate/powdered sugar miracle...mmmmmm), but when I'm done I am going to make a serious effort to get on the trainer.

I haven't been totally slacking though.

My parents, hubby and I recovered our couch. That was no small undertaking. When I get the pictures from mom, I will make a post all about it. It truly was a learning experience, and fun to see my parents a bunch, but not an activity that I'm looking forward to repeating any day soon.

We've been climbing in the gym a few times lately, and it's surprisingly fun. This week I made it up a 5.9 with an overhang which was really hard and basically toast me for the next two days. I'm sure it'll get easier as I gain some upper body strength, but at the moment it's an incredible workout. As I type, Chris is climbing again with some friends while I work on homework.

Boooooo, homework.

One day the masters will be worth it.


In fun news, I'm heading up to Breckenridge with my best teacher friends from college for the weekend. We are going to be living it up, relaxing, and drowning our mid-November sorrows in snacks and "beverages." We never fail to have a great time when we're together, and two uninterrupted days of laughing is totally needed right now. I'm so excited that I can hardly stand it.

Off to the kitchen for my date with deliciousness.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Happy Propose-aversary!

I wanted to wish my sweet hubby a happy 5th propose-aversary!  

Five years ago from Friday, Chris took advantage of my one major clueless day and proposed.  

In celebration, we are currently drinking our second-to-last bottle of propose-night-wine.  

Want to read the story from back in the day?

Happy proposeaversary wonderful husband.  Five years ago, I never could've imagined a future as wonderful as this.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Happy Vote Day!

Yes, I voted.  

I rushed home from a busy day at work and walked to the high school to vote.  It went quickly, I put in my vote for prez.  

We'll see what happens with the night.

I have my opinions.

Luckily for me, I don't talk politics.  

Ever, really.

So instead, just assume I voted for cake.

*In other news, we went to the zoo today for a field trip!  Chris came to help, as he's quickly becoming accustomed to doing, and we had a great time.  The weather was warm, most of the animals were out, and I got to spend some good quality time with four of my kids that I am most concerned about for one reason or another.  I liked the donkeys. 

Chris is the best help in the world.  He is so patient and sweet and great at teaching the kids stuff that I would never think to do.  He knows the most random information about everything and that really came in handy at the zoo.  In fact, the two of us have plans to return on our own personal field trip just so we can spend quality time at each animal so I can learn more.  Working with kids comes naturally to him and the kids adore him.  This particular group needs as many positive male role models as possible and I can't think of anyone better to do that.  I know that one day he'll go back to work and not be able to help me out in the classroom as much, but I am taking advantage of him while he's available!

*We've also started recovering our couch with my parents.  It is a really tough project but we're getting through it!  It'll look great when it's done!  

*Chris kicked my butt in fantasy football this week.  

'Tis all for now.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

I vote for...

I keep meaning to post this, because it truly is a great Kindergarten moment...

We were studying the letter 'v' and the speech teacher (who does a weekly phonics lesson with my class) used the word "vote" as an example.  She explained to the kids what "vote" means and said something to this extent:

Teacher:  "Voting is what grown-ups are going to do on Tuesday.  They will pick who will be the next president of the United States.  It will either be Barack Obama or John McCain."

Then one girl shoots her hand in the air: "I vote for Barack Obama!"

One other girl: "I vote for John McCain!"

Then, one of my more innocent babies shot his hand up:  "I vote for cake!"

You know what honey, I vote for cake too.

Go vote...

Go cake!!!!


Yesterday, Chris and I took advantage of the beautiful summer-like weather and hiked another 14er. After some contemplation and planning, number sixteen ended up being La Plata Peak. We tried to wrangle some friends into coming along, but no one took the bait and we ended up enjoying the PERFECT weather all by ourselves.

For once I'll shut up (sorta) and I'll let the pictures tell the story (sorta).

Chris signing into the register. Good thing I left my hang glider at home!
The view of the Sawatch Range was breathtaking the entire day.
The main snack for the day? Homemade banana-nut bread. YUM!
This high meadow was unbelievable. 360 degree views, different in every direction. As close to heaven-on-earth as it gets. Chris and Turbo, being training partners lately while I earn the bacon, seriously kicked my butt all day in the stamina and speed department.
I heart banana bread.
"Did someone say banana bread? I guess I'll wait for you slow humans since you are the keepers of the banana bread."
Chris and pup scrambling up the talus field leading to the part that finally leads to the summit. Most of the rocks were stable, which made it easy. Some were not, which made it interesting.
My boys waiting patiently while I found my way up the talus. Just above this point I felt dumb and clumsy from the altitude. That's the first time I've ever had an issue with altitude, although it wasn't tooooo bad. I felt fine, just felt clumsy. I started quizzing myself on math problems to keep my mind off the scree-slog and took way too long to figure out what 12x12 is. I had even convinced myself, for several hundred yards, that 10x10 was 1000. When I mentioned this to Chris he continued to talk to me and ask me questions. Had it stayed bad or got worse, he would've immediately taken me down. Luckily for both of us, it didn't get worse, and even seemed to improve with some conversation. Perhaps I was not breathing well and talking made me take in more oxygen? Who knows. It was very strange. 10x10 is NOT 1000 and 12x12=144 :D
Summit at last! For being November 1st, it was surprisingly beautiful, windless, and warmish. We met two guys at the top, enjoyed a snack, and then headed back down.
"Where's the banana bread? I'll give you my cutest face if you give me your banana bread!"
As we sat around, we both put on our puffy jackets and stood by the summit stick. Turbo tried to eat it.

Perhaps the greatest part of the hike was Turbo rediscovering the glorious white stuff that falls from the sky. When he saw it all around, he could hardly contain his excitement and rubbed in it every chance he got. Every season it is the same innocent joy: "Hey guys! Remember this stuff? I didn't think it would come back! It's great! Let's roll in it!" We got a video of him flopping around in it like a puppy but it the camera apparently went hay-wire at 14,000 ft and it didn't save. Sad. Another time though. It's classically cute.
More view. I love the view from a mountain when they are dusted with snow. Unfortunately, I didn't snap many more pictures on the way down. My knees hurt to the point of tears some of the time. I really need to find out what is wrong with them and how to fix them. I am very tired of my fun adventures being ruined by pain. That's so not okay.
If you know an Element, it certainly is a far cry from a "high clearance vehicle" as it is basically based off of a car chassis. We made it most of the way down this road though, before pulling off before a big stream crossing. Chris is an unbelievable driver. One day we will get a proper vehicle for these roads. But until then, the E + Chris at the wheel never seems to disappoint.
As I got out to snap the above picture, Turbo decided to get his extremely muddy self onto my seat. As I returned and yelled at him for getting my seat so muddy, he simply looked forward like this like nothing happened, I didn't exist, he was ready to drive home with daddy. Silly, naughty little puppy.

So there you have it. Our sixteenth 14er as a couple, and Turbo's 14th 14er. The day was awesome, the views spectacular, and the company unrivaled.

La Plata in Spanish means silver, but to me, this hike up the 5th highest mountain in Colorado was pure gold.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Time To Soar

It is fall break.


I LOVE fall break!

After a week and a half of conferences after school causing me to be home stupidly late (including two nights of getting home at 8:30 -- ewwwwww), I have a five day weekend. Five days with nothing to do but enjoy the beautiful 70 degree weather with RetiredHubby. We contemplated a few different big trips, but ended up settling on a weekend at home, hanging with the dog and playing in the area.

Wednesday was one of the most pleasant "here" days in recent history. We slept in, ate some pancakes, then ventured to Boulder for a big adventure. Climbing the 3rd flatiron.

For those of you not from Colorado, Boulder is known (among other, less pleasant things) for this view:

Those rocks jutting up out of the mountain are called "The Flatirons." They are numbered from right to left -- the far right being the first flatiron, the middle is the second, and the next tall one is the third flatiron and so on.

I've always looked at the Flatirons, been awed by their beauty, and amazed that people even think about climbing them.

So Wednesday, I found myself at the base of the third flatiron, harness on, uncomfortable rock shoes laced up, looking up at what I always thought to be an impossibility. Only those "crazy" people climb such things.

Hello crazy.

We were climbing to get to the top so we could see some friends and lend them a rope to get back down. Chris led us up the climb, placing gear along the way, and stopping at the first belay point to allow me to start climbing and catch up. The first five feet were frustrating and I couldn't find a way to get up.

Keep in mind this is the FOURTH time I've climbed. Ever. Inside or out.

Needless to say, I was a bit rusty, nervous, and generally unpracticed. But I found a way up the first little part and then the climbing got a bit easier. I made my way up to Chris, who happened to be up over a little ledge that took some finagling to get over. He tied me into an anchor, made sure I was secure in belaying him up the next pitch, then started to climb. And so I cried. I looked out over the view, and the long way I'd fall if something went wrong, and I freaked out a little. But I'm happy to say that this was my only freak-out of the entire climb. Chris calmed me down, offered that we could turn back, and kept me positive.

Then he headed up to the next belay station. I was kinda awkwardly stationed so I looked up at Chris climbing when I could wrench my neck around, but otherwise I read the tension on the rope and fed it through to him as he flew up the rock like a tiny dancer. More often than not, throughout the entire climb, Chris could climb faster than I could feed the rope through to him. He was careful, as leading up a climb requires some caution, but he moved gracefully. Soon he was setting up the next anchor and calling to me to unhook and start climbing.

So I did.

Each pitch got a little easier and a little quicker. In general I'm a slow climber. I'm happy to admit to that. I would stop, analyze the next few feet, find places to put my feet and hands and plan a route up to Chris. Each time I'd stop to belay Chris, I'd feel a bit more secure. The cool thing about climbing is that after you get used to the initial shock of the exposure, it really doesn't get worse the higher you go. At least in this case.

So I got used to the view -- looking down on the small, hippy town that I spent four years growing myself in. I looked out at the brown haze that crowded the horizon and engulfed Denver. I admired the geographic features and bumps that make up the foothills around us.

At some point we had to cross over a big crack in the surface of the flatiron, which was a little interesting. As I climbed down into the crack and climbed back up the other side, I thought about how amazing it is that any of this even exists.

The climbing on the other side of the crack was my favorite of the day. I'd gotten into a groove and was able to move quicker and more securely. Think of it as you will, but I found that climbing can be an extremely spiritual experience. I got to a point where I had to let go of my own inhibitions and worries. I had to trust that someone out there was looking after me, pushing me a little so that I wouldn't fall. I moved with purpose, moved to places that I knew were secure and would hold my feet, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have a little conversation with the man upstairs as I got nervous. It also helped, dramatically, to know that I had Chris up ahead of me, placing secure gear, able to catch me if I happened to get bad footing. He cheered me on, encouraged me, and gave me enough confidence to keep moving.

Eventually we made it to the last ledge, the last rest, before the final grunt to the top. Chris sprung up ahead, warning me of a few sections that didn't have good holds, where I'd have to rely more on the friction from my hands and shoes. I was nervous, as I'd heard that the last 20 feet is the true crux of the entire route.

He made it to the top, bribed me with delicious sandwich, chips, and Butterfinger. Food never fails to motivate me. So I headed up the pitch. I followed a few chalk marks from previous climbers and ended up finding a pretty good route up to the top. It wasn't nearly as bad as I imagined. I joined Chris on the summit, we admired the views, and high fived our accomplishment of getting each other up it.

We were soon joined by some new friends, who helped us set up the rappel for the way down. There were two different options -- go one way that required three short rappels, or go the other way which was one big free-hanging rappel to the ground. I wanted to go the three short rappel way, as I've never done a solo rappel outside the rafters in my garage. I was worried about controlling my own speed and somehow falling 60 feet to the ground SOUNDS better than 200 feet. Either way it's not good, obviously, but it sounded better.

I seriously give into peer pressure. There were three guys on top and me. Three Chris's and a Marni -- three who thought I should just do the big rappel and then me who didn't. One Chris was my hubby who I trust my life to. One of the other Chris's happens to be a certified rock instructor. They told me how one Chris could wait at the bottom and be a backup for my rappel, the instructor Chris could be at the top reassuring me that I was doing it right. HubbyChris could rappel down next to me on a different rope and encourage me mid-air. So I gave in. Without freaking out, might I add.

Before I knew it InstructorChris was telling me to step back off the rock. Hubby Chris was a little below me on his own rope. I inched my way off, very much not prettily or gracefully, but there I was, suspended 200 feet off the ground hanging from a rope, controlling my own speed with which I slid down to the ground. Hubby helped me keep going without freaking out. Overall it wasn't that bad. I went pretty slow. I didn't look down until I was within 20 feet of the ground. The scariest part was when the rope twists and I'm no longer facing the rock, but instead facing out at the world. I was high above the trees. That was weird. At some point, after hubby had zoomed to the ground, that the two Chris's at the bottom yelled up: "Are your eyes even open???" Yes, they were open, I was just not going to look down. No matter what.

Eventually, probably the slowest in history, I made it to the ground. I was very happy to touch solid ground again. And very proud of my accomplishment. We hiked around for a bit to find the other Chris making his way down a different way, and then as it turned dark we made our way back to the car.

Dinner afterwards with new and old friends was delicious and fun. These guys can climb that Flatiron in MINUTES while it took me a few hours.

It may have been slow, but I made it.

I stood atop Boulder.

I soared (slowly) to the ground.

I was scared but I found a way to work through it.

I'm now very sore.

But happy.

Monday, October 20, 2008

White Rim Take 2

What is one to do when life gets a bit overwhelming, the world around getting a bit small, and the weather a lot blah?

Run off for an adventure in the desert -- that's what.

We tried this solution last Thanksgiving, and I ended up stranded on a snowy cliff in Canyonlands, lulled by the thawk-thawk of the emergency blinkers while Chris slugged himself up the hill in search of help. Ah, sweet sweet memories.


Anyway, we've been itching to return to White Rim together ever since. Only this time, even that 20% chance of precipitation kept us away... as that seems to mean 80% chance of feet of snow or flooding rain in the desert. But this weekend, the weather looked PERFECT and perfect it ended up being.

Chris crammed in some last minute packing on Friday (as we only made the final decision to go while sitting at our weekly Starbucks date that morning) while I taught the children. He picked me up from work and we drove the I-70 slog before camping super cozily in the Hotelement.

Hubby has an excellent write-up to recap the adventure, so I'll just throw in my own random memories:

1) The Shafer switchbacks were fun, and by no means would I ever want to ride up them. That seems painful. We saw some really cute mountain goats, which we took to be a good sign since the only other time Chris saw them was on his own first time around the Rim. It was very strange to start a ride by dropping down into something first. Colorado always starts with a big climb -- never a big descent (unless a chair-lift is involved)

2) My knee started to hurt at mile 8... a bad sign because my previous big ride two weeks ago (my first road century) left me unable to stand up straight that night from the knee pain. Despite having knee problems since I was 12, I've never really had bad knee problems biking; however, these last two big rides have been genuinely excruciating. Luckily I learned from the century that the pain doesn't stick around forever, and turning around wasn't an option to me, so we kept going. Both would bother me the rest of the trip and keep me from being able to sleep for the last two nights, but the overall experience was well worth it. There's no doubt that turning around then would've ultimately been more painful than continuing.

3) Our plan was to ride 70ish miles the first day and then the last 30 the second day. Essentially we did all of the hard stuff in one day, minus the last climb and road section.

4) I got extremely overwhelmed around mile 30. The canyon was SO BIG and I knew I wasn't even halfway through the day. I knew I couldn't turn back, didn't want to keep going forward, and generally felt emotionally trumped. Luckily, as he always does, Chris pulled me through it, got me back on my bike, and made me feel better. I'd have lots of peaks and valleys both days, but hubby was the ultimate friend and stayed sweet through all of it.

5) Murphy's Hogback is a heck of a grunt. Luckily there was the promise of lunch carrying me to the top. And Chris helped push my bike up part of it -- that's how sweet he really is.

6) Everywhere we go, no matter where it is, we run into someone Chris knows. It has become the standing joke "who will you see today?" but honestly, it's no joke, it really happens. Just prior to reaching Murphy's, we ride past a guy who says "Hey Chris!" Haha... it's always so funny.

7) The last climb of the first day -- Hardscrabble (i.e. "not-easy-or-fun-scrabble") was hard. I was hot and tired. Sick of pushing my bike up sandy pitches. But I knew that on the other side there lay a piece of ground with our tent's name on it. That kept me going up it. Plus Chris said that once you reach the top, it's all downhill to the campsite. Ok, so there are little uphills, and I sure let Chris know about each one of them. Haha.

8) Camping was great. I've never seen so many stars in my entire life. We even saw the Milky Way clear as could be. Unbelievable sight and perhaps my favorite part of the whole trip. My sleep that night was terrible and quite frustrating, but frankly, how bad can spending the night in a warm canyon really be?

9) Getting up was hard, as I hate getting up in the morning, but I was looking forward to an easier day and then returning home to my pup. Sitting on the bike seat was a horrible horrible experience. It quickly brought back Kokopelli memories and I squeeled in butt-pain as Chris tried to remind me that it does go away after a few minutes. Yowsers. The knees were not happy and pedaling was not pleasant. The view, on the other hand, was stunning down by the river and the terrain refreshingly flat.

Once we reached the Mineral Bottom Switchbacks, climbing actually made my knees feel a little better. As long as I could get into a textbook smooth pedal stroke up the hill, the pain virtually went away. Because of this, the climb was remarkably great. We even saw an airplane flying around inside the canyon -- sketchy for sure.

10) We got to pass the spot where we got the black E stuck last year. Even dry it looked a bit gnarly. Glad we made it out of that one in one piece. In the end, the broken taillight was nothing and our laziness in not fixing it ended up to be a wise decision as that car is now probably a paper-weight somewhere. It was good to revisit the spot and lay those bad memories to rest.

11) The last slog of the trip was a bit irritating. The dirt road that leads to the final paved road was, eh, as I expected. I'd already ridden part of it in March and knew it was fairly boring and generally uphill. Together, Chris and I had some good conversations, snacks, and laughs and it made the time pass relatively quickly. The last paved section was a slog that I don't particularly want to revisit. Sure, there's a big climb and then it's generally down to the car -- but generally means that there are freaking hills thrown in there to make you hate the world. I didn't think we'd ever make it to the car. But eventually we did.

12) I couldn't wait to eat the cheese danish awaiting me in the car. After shoving half of it feverishly in my mouth in my post-ride starvation, I looked down and noticed that the next bite would've been full of mold. Oh ew. Makes my stomach churn even now. Pringles were a good substitute once I saw that nastiness.

The trip, overall, was awesome. The scenery, company, and weather were unbeatable. The vastness of the canyon quickly put life and troubles into perspective, and after initially being quite overwhelming, ended up being just the therapy needed. I have, once again, pushed myself far far beyond my boundaries. The road through your own perceived limitations is one full of ups and downs, tears and joy, pain, exhaustion, and pride. The key is traveling the road with someone who can put up with you through all of it. Someone who will lift you up when you're down, high-five you when you're excited, and distract you through the pain with thoughts of Golden Shepherd puppies. While I probably would never do these types of adventures without Chris, I can't imagine not doing them.

Who would I be if I didn't have the opportunity to see myself totally broken down?

It is all too easy to get wrapped up in life, believing that "here" is all there is out there. Sometimes my world gets consumed by my 26 kids, their problems, their futures, my inability to fix the unfair world that they will grow up in. Now and then, even if it's painful, I just need to drop into a canyon, stare into the Milky Way, be with the love of my life, and Monday morning I return a better teacher, friend, and wife.

Thank you again, Chris, for taking me through canyon and bringing me back up to the mountains.