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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

won, two, three

Coming soon to your friendly Hmmm? blog...

1) My awesome new 29er single speed and how FAST it makes me go!
2) King of the Rockies report from Saturday: my first official "win", and second place for the series
3) Rock climbing = dirty hands + big smile

For now, dinner, then more sleep to completely shake my first illness of the school year (which spontaneously hit me five minutes after the race on Saturday).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Ooooh lah lah!!

Could there be a new steed in that them there kitchen stable?

Let's just say her name is Rhonda.

She is Monocog's hot new girlfriend.

She likes the number 29.

She's single.

And a bit rigid.

She also has an identical twin sister on our team. Rhonda, however, might look dashing in pink.

I've joined the revolution.

No turning back now.

p.s: Last night I went to the basement to find that I have a rock climbing Panda Bear too...

How's that for cryptic?
More tomorrow when there has been more sleep.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to reality

Last August I wrote a blog about my first day of school.  I toasted "me + one year" for surviving last year through all of the challenges and craziness.  That first day of school was rough, and the year only got progressively more bizarre as it wore on.  

Today, I graciously take the champagne flute from "me minus one year" and pass along yet another toast to "me + one year". 

Today's first day was a hundred times better than last year's first day.  

But it was still a first day.

And, as I always do, I came away questioning both how and why I teach these little ones.  1st grade was hard last year with my... let's say "challenges"... and my K/1 split was hard for its own reasons.  But today I remembered how hard, really really hard, it is to teach Kindergarten on the first day of school.  I taught a straight Kindergarten class my first year of teaching -- in fact then, I had two first days of schools with two different classes.  It was difficult, but it was my first year.

As one kid screeeeeeeeeeeamed out the hall door after her Grandmother, just as one other kid bolted out the back door after his mom, I took a deep breath and tried to remind myself that it gets better.  Several kids sobbed as the day went on.  I tried to read a book, but got through about two pages before their attention spans hit the fan and I spent the rest of the book stopping at each sentence to remind them how to sit.  One kid, who I have yet to hear speak a word (and that's after a half hour testing session on Monday with him), spit in my face.  A few absolutely cannot grasp the idea of walking in a line.

By the time I walked them through the lunch line and got them seated, I had eight minutes to walk the block and a half back to my classroom and eat lunch myseslf.  


After I gained eight minutes of perspective during lunch, I started to find the day amusing instead of stressful.  Read along as I show you just a few snippets from life with 25 five year olds...

As I tried to talk about our classroom rules, the discussion went a bit like this:

me:  Who can think of one thing we should always do when we have a question?
a few kids:  Raise your hands!
me:  Very good!  We should raise our hands!
most of the kids now raise their hands
me:  Well, not right now, just when you have something to say or a question to ask while I'm teaching
hands are still raised
me: Ok, put your hands down, let's write this on the chart.
one kid still has his hand raised
me:  Do you have a question?  
kid:  yes
me:  Ok, what's your question?
kid:  I like racoons.
me:  Cool.  But let's stick to talking about raising our hands.
most of the kids raise their hands again
me:  Ok, put your hands down...

And on, and on, and on it went.  

We played, had fun, went to recess, and things started to look up.  Then I had the genius idea to play Simon Says.  So... most of these kids are just now experiencing school, and even just a social setting with other kids.  So lots of them did not know how to play Simon Says.  Yeah, try to explain how to play that...

me: So, I'm Simon and when I say "Simon Says" you are supposed to do what I say.  But if I don't say Simon Says, you don't do what I say.  If you do something when you're not supposed to, you sit down.
the kids sit down
me: Ok, don't sit down now, we're going to play the game.  Stand up.
kids:  YAY!
me:  Simon says touch your head
they touch their heads
me:  Simon says jump up and down
they jump up and down
me:  Simon says touch your nose
they touch their noses
me:  Touch your shoes
they all touch their shoes
I laugh and say... "But Simon didn't say!"
they look at me like I'm crazy
we repeat
This time when I get to "But Simon didn't say!" one smarty kid says, "but you said you're Simon and you said it."  
The other kids nod like that was totally obvious and I'm the big idiot for not getting it.
me:  "Who knows the hokey pokey?"  

So, once again, here's to me one year from now, somehow you taught these kids something somewhere along the way.  

Or at least they eventually learned Simon Says.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Snow day!

Today our Winter Park race got postponed due to snow.

I did not feel like getting up early this morning since I am still adjusting to starting work back up this week. And it was cold so the nice warm bed felt awesome. But alas, I was pretty excited to race so I got up and showered. Chris was halfway through making us a delicious pre-race breakfast when I called the race hotline and realized that the race was indeed cancelled. Initially I got the excited snow day feeling, but as it sunk in I was really bummed. The bad weather only benefits me in my Sport crowd, and with a brand new super technical course, I will take any advantage I can get. Oh well. Now it is next week, making me have to ditch out on doing some course support for a ride that Chris is doing with friends. Fortunately, I'm currently tied for second place in the series standings... unfortunately, I can't afford to miss this coming race... therefore, I end up ditching Chris and racing alone again. We all know the racing alone thing didn't work so good two weeks ago. But this should be different, so that's good. I'm still excited and hopefully will get in some better training this week than I did last week (which was NOT good at all).

In other news...

Meet my brother's new dog Sydney:

She's super cute and staying with us for the week while they galavant around New York. She's a good girl and has been really fun to have around. Last night I went upstairs to go to bed and saw this:

Apparently the dogs decided that Chris and I were supposed to sleep on the floor!

Also, here's a cute picture of Turbo from our picnic on the Colorado Trail in Durango:

And I have my classroom all set up and ready for kids to start on Tuesday! The stress level is lower starting this year than it has been in the past, but we'll see how the kiddos are on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Chris has been playing house-husband and having a clean house and deluxe meals ready upon my arrival each night. He's amazing and I wish we could afford for him to never work again, so we're both enjoying it while it lasts!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hiking in the clouds

Yesterday Chris, Turbo, and I hiked Pikes Peak. In the clouds.

Waaaaaaay back this winter, Chris took me on my first ever snowshoeing adventure on Pikes Peak. I'd never even strapped the things on before we attempted to climb a 14er with them. I ended up turning us all around halfway up with numb hands and a fear of being blown off the mountain by crazy winter winds. Ever since then, every time I see Pikes off to the south when I'm driving to work, it would taunt me.

So, of course, we had to go back.

Only this time it is summer. And I got to use my actual feet to walk. And I didn't have to bring my since-Pikes-dilema-purchased-everest-quality-MontBell-down-mitts (although I thought about it just for good measure).

The best part about climbing Pikes?

We get to go down the night before and hang out with my sister and her family. Chris and I got worked in Wii Olympics by our 7 year old nephew, Trevor.

While my sister and niece pampered us by making dinner, cookies, and good conversation (ok, so Kylie kicked our butts at the Wii too...)
After a really fun night, Chris, Turbo, and I got up early and were on the road to the trailhead by 5 am. We parked the car and started our hike at 6:40.

Ok. So our hike started at 6:40.

Then we missed the turnoff into the campground where the trail starts, and walked an extra mile or so up and back down the road. So then we got back to the trailhead, and really started hiking around 7:10.

Then we hiked and hiked up this beautiful flatish trail, enjoying the meadows full of sun rays and spider webs. It was so beautiful.
And peaceful.
And Turbo found the meadow to be great fun and quite invigorating.
We were in extraordinary moods despite our wrong turn up the road to start the hike. Oh well. What could ruin such a perfect day?

Oh wait.

We kept hiking, all the while Chris was lagging a bit behind, always looking over to his right at some big rock structures. Something was clearly bothering him.

Oh well. Lalala, what a nice trail. It's so smooth and nice, let's hike really really fast and get to the top quickly! Lalala.

Oh look! We're already at 11,000 ft! We hiked really fast and covered a lot of ground! Wow!

"Um, I think we're supposed to be on the other side of those rocks," says Chris, pointing WAY over to the other side of a giant revene.

Oh, S***T.

So we pull out the trail directions and yep, we'd missed our turn that we were supposed to make waaaaaaaay back, a few hundred feet past where the trail started. We hiked all the way up to the Crags. Which is not where we wanted to go.

There were some tears and a serious breakdown on my part, while Chris (as always) tried to put a good face on the *bonus* adventure.

Then we headed back.

This time the meadow was never ending and hideous. There was no Sound of Music lalala-ing. It was more like... well... let's just say it's not language a kindergarten teacher should be using.

So then we started our REAL hike at 8:45. Only two + hours past our intended start time. Nice.

Turbo led the way, bounding and happy to be hiking.

I grumbled up behind him, trying my best to change my mood around.
(don't worry, I'll spare you the cranky Marni pictures. No one needs to see that)

Chris pulled up the rear, clearly still very tired from the Colorado Trail. It's not very often that I can out-hike him. And I was out-hiking him. I asked a million times whether he was ok or not, but he had his mind set on making this mountain happen. He was tired, but not broken.
Wrong turn or not, we were still there, hiking up Pikes, in what seemed to be a beautiful morning. My mood turned around, and soon we were enjoying the climb again.

But always, in the back of both of our minds, was our start time. 8:40 is LATE for August in the Rockies. Especially late for an 11 mile round trip hike that takes most people 4 hours to ascend. If we were lucky, and hauled, we could make it to the top by 12:30 and our hard and fast rule is to be off the summit and back down to tree-line by the time noon rolls around. Much later than that and you are really pushing your luck with the weather.

I kept one eye on the trail, one eye on the skies, and my two teacher eyes in the back of my head on Chris to make sure he was feeling ok.

We made it up the steep part where we should reach a clearing near Devil's Playground (named that because of the way lightning likes to jump from rock to rock in a storm here) and be able to see the summit ahead of us.

Instead we saw this in front of us:

This beside us where a beautiful view of the surrounding hills should be:

So we stood around for a few minutes, examined our options and the sky, and continued up.
Parents (and particularly STLDad): Before you stop reading to pick up the phone and yell at us for continuing on, let me explain. There were absolutely no lightning flashes or thunder booms, and we continued on with the one condition being that one thunder boom would send us running back down. Also, it appeared we were simply in a cloud. No rain, no wind, no serious weather, just a low cloud. Any other mountain, I would've turned around. But, as you can see in the last picture, Pikes has a road that leads all the way up to the top. A very busy road. If the weather turned bad, it wouldn't have been any problem finding a car to hide out in. It was a very busy Sunday on Pikes despite the less-than-stellar view from the top because of the clouds.

So was it the smartest decision to continue on? Probably not. But it actually worked out fine and we had surprisingly good weather the whole time. We just missed some of the views on the way up because of the cloud.

We were cautious though, and wanted to get to the top quickly in case the weather turned on us. So we jogged part of it. Yes. Me. Jog. With a pack and poles. I'm sure it wasn't pretty, but it got us there.

We made it to the top in 3.5 hours. After having to turn around once on this peak because of the cold, then almost having to turn around again a few times on this peak this time because of route errors and weather, the last talus scrambling to the top was exciting and emotional. Then you come over the talus to the summit, and you realize just how anticlimactic Pikes really is. There's a parking lot and buildings on top for goodness sake.

And LOTS of tourists. Looking at us like we escaped from a freak show. A half a dozen people must've come up and said "you HIKED up this? Why? How long did it take?" and seemed shocked when our answer was 3.5 hours instead of 3.5 days. Children stared at us in wonder, people took pictures of us, most pointed and whispered.

Ok, it's a class 1 climb. Nothing extraordinary, hundreds of people probably do it each week.

We took the obligatory picture on the summit bench (why it has a building as the background, which I cropped out, is beyond me -- at least put it near a view):
Then we sat down, very quickly ate our lunch, and took a better summit picture:
Then we got off the summit by 12:30 and headed back down. Off in the distance the weather looked a little iffy, but where we were and the immediate future was actually really nice. We got to see some of the stuff that we missed on the way up!
This should've been our view near Devil's Playground where we debated whether or not to turn around. Pikes is the high bump in the back.
More people gawked at us on our way down from their cars. Some even took pictures. It's funny to me that someone out there has pictures of "crazy random hikers." Save your memory on your computer, it's really not that unusual or cool.

So, we hiked down. Kinda slowly. We were both pretty sore and tired at this point. Since, by the time we reached the top, we'd already hiked nearly 13 miles... and this trip was supposed to be only 11 total.

A collapsing pole resulting in a rolled ankle made me think I'd broken it, as the next 10 steps or so caused excrutiatingly sharp pains, but it now appears that it is merely a sprain or something. That was oh so fun.

When we were near the bottom we got our first rain of the trip. The rain sprinkled through the trees and brought the bright greens, pinks, and yellows in the rocks to life. It was absolutely beautiful... only I didn't take a picture because I knew it would never do the colors justice.

9 hours and 19.5 miles after starting, we both collapsed on the tailgate of the car and had a good laugh.

It was an unintentionally epic day on Pikes.

After driving through booms and rain, we had a delicious dinner with my sister before heading home. A billboard on the highway said "Reward Yourself: Starbucks." So we did. With extra whipped cream. And it was delicious.

Today? Naps. Food. Olympics.


Saturday, August 09, 2008

A week of fun

Today is Saturday.

For real.

Unfortunately, our summer of perpetual Saturdays is quickly coming to a close.  This year I feel more prepared to go back to school, having soaked up every moment of this awesome summer. In fact, even just the past week has brought plenty of adventures and fun.

Saturday:  I raced the Crankworx Winter Park race -- #5 maybe?  It was fun.  I felt good.  My bike, with its new bars, grips, seat post, and rear tire felt awesome.  Everything was in the cards for a great race, I was climbing well and descending even better for once.  I raced hard for the first half.  I passed a lot of girls and was in a pretty good position to kick some butt.  Then, at some point, the thought creeped into my brain that Chris wouldn't be at the end to congratulate me and see me finish and I wouldn't be at the end of his race to see him finish either.  Everything felt a bit pointless and I stupidly let up.  My legs were in Winter Park but my heart was somewhere between Silverton and Durango on the Colorado Trail.  My goal was to finish, jump in the car, and then drive the 7 hours down to Durango to see Chris.  And that's about what I did.  Turns out I got 4th place -- 5 minutes off of 3rd.  Dang. Oh well, another day.  I got to Matt's house in Durango around 9:30 and got to see my Chris.  He was dirty, stinky, swollen, and exhausted -- but he never looked better to me.  

Sunday:  Lots of lounging around on the couch in Durango.  We also ate... a lot.  Bagels, Starbucks, lunch, dinner.  Yum.  We went for a walk that night with Turbo around the neighborhood, and after only a half of a block, Chris asked if we could head back.  He was tired! Poor guy.  I've never seen him so tired.

Monday:  More eating and resting with hubby.  Sooooooo relaxing.  We even shopped a bit, got some new books and a toy for puppy, and had some great hot chocolate and treats at a bakery.  Yum.  

Tuesday:  Yet more eating and resting with hubby.  We had awesome french toast at a french restaurant for breakfast.  Then we had a wonderful picnic lunch out on the Colorado Trail -- fried chicken and sandwiches -- YUM!  Then an unbelievably awesome anniversary dinner at an Italian restaurant.  We got an appetizer, bottle of wine, bread/butter, entrees, and two desserts.  We relaxed, talked, and got to reflect on the last four years since we got married.  A lot has changed in four years, but luckily we still love each other just as much -- if not more -- than we did on that rainy Friday at Red Rocks four years ago.

Wednesday:  Our actual anniversary was spent driving home from Durango.  Fairly uneventful, but we still managed to have a good time together.  

Thursday:  Doctor appointment in the morning for me (nothing new or exciting going on) and then a really fun road ride with Chris in the afternoon.  He's still tired, which makes riding with him all that much better.  For once I can keep up with him :)

Friday:  Our last Starbucks date of the summer, errand running, tasty food eating, and opening ceremony watching.  Chris is regaining his appetite as he easily downed several pieces of yellow cake with chocolate icing, ice cream, all dipped in chocolate sauce.  

Today:  Chris is out riding and exploring with Stefan.  Meanwhile I am here preparing for yet another adventure.  Tonight we will go down to Colorado Springs to spend a fun evening with my sister, brother-in-law, niece, and nephew.  Tomorrow morning we will be getting up verrrrrry early to climb Pikes Peak.  

I go back to school on Wednesday, and kids start coming next Monday.  I look forward to meeting my class, but nervous as always.  I also got officially "accepted" into grad school at CU-Denver.  I've been taking grad classes through my school district and UCD, but now I will officially be taking the *extra* classes needed to complete my masters in Linguistically Diverse Education.  So... after a summer of perpetual Saturdays I will soon be thrown back into my full time job and taking two masters classes this semester.  

I loved this summer more than any other summer that I've ever had.  Hopefully I will be able to say the same about the school year.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Good ride cowboy, good ride

(so, blogger stopped wanting to upload pictures part way, so there will be more pictures later)

Since Monday I had been glued to my computer watching Chris's progress on the Colorado Trail Race via his SPOT tracker. 

While the race started on Monday, Chris has been training, tinkering, and planning for this race, and others like it, for a year or two now.  He's pushed his body and his cheapo bike past any perceived limits on his way to trying to the Grand Loop, the Divide, the Arizona Trail Race, and now the Colorado Trail.

When I met Chris in the spring of 2001 he was a strong, lean, college triathlete; however college, me, and other life stresses took up the time required to train for triathlons.  He struggled in the Sport category at Winter Park, sometimes even finishing long after the race director had packed up the finish line and tent.  After we returned from our honeymoon in the summer of 2004, Chris was 180 pounds and heavily into his car projects and motorcycles.  We had a lot of fun, and I harbor no regrets for that period of our lives, but I could always tell that a little something was missing from Chris. 

In  the summer of 2005, our friend Scott encouraged Chris to try to the Leadville Trail 100.  He hadn't competed on a bike in a few years, and just a summer or two prior, someone had stolen his Canondale mountain bike from outside his work at CU.  Without a bike, or training, he of course agreed to do it... on my bike.  Haha.  I remember, very well, encouraging Chris to go out and just ride a bike before Leadville.  He decided he didn't need to... he'd be fine.  So, 76 miles into the 100 mile mountain bike race, while riding my bike, our friend Scott strongly encouraged Chris to stop.  He was weaving, slurring his words, and seeing stars.  That night I thought he'd die in his sleep as I lie awake listening to his heart race and his breathing shallow. 

He was super upset that he was unable to finish Leadville.

His life took on a new purpose.  

Actually buy and ride a bike, and get revenge on the course.

He started riding.  A lot.  He got faster.  He got stronger.   He podiumed in Park City in his first solo 12 hour... on a single speed.  He was cramping, in pain, and seriously dehydrated by the time he was done. 

In the summer of 2006, he got his revenge and finished Leadville in 9 hours and change.  He looked relieved.  

I hoped he was finished.

In October 2006, he started the 24 hours of Moab and was doing well.  Then it was cancelled because of rain.  He was really bummed.

I was tired, and I hoped he was finished.

Only something happened to him along the way.  

Chris found that riding, and riding hard stuff, for long distances, appealed to him.  

He tried the 24 hours of Old Pueblo, solo, in February 2007.  His stomach stopped working and he had to quit.  He hated quitting and he was pretty bummed.

I hoped he was finished.

The training ramped up.  The big rides came.  He completed the Rim Ride in March of 2007. This ride proved to him that he could ride a hard course, for a long time, and succeed.  He liked that.  I liked watching him succeed but I missed seeing him at home.  It seemed he was hardly ever around, and when he was, I was cooking for him or putting him to bed. 

I hoped he was finished.

He kicked butt at Trans Iowa in April of 2007 on his single speed.  I worried about him constantly and hardly got any sleep.  He did really well, but had an epic journey just to get home.

I hoped he was finished

Then he completed the Kokopelli Trail in 15-some hours in May of 2007.  He was exhausted, but happy.  His confidence was growing.  He could do this.  And do it well.

I hoped he was finished.

Two weeks later, at the end of May 2007, Chris started the Grand Loop.  He carried WAY too much food.  He called me from the store in Bedrock, sounding terrible, ready to come home. His body seized to be able to process any food.  He couldn't eat.  He couldn't go on.  I drove for hours, in the middle of the night, trying to find stupid Bedrock.  By the time I got there at dawn, having left home just past dusk the previous night, I was happy to see him alive on the porch of the store.  He was upset.  He was disappointed.  The weeks that followed were really hard on both of us.  

I really hoped he was finished.

He wanted to try the Colorado Trail Race at the end of July 2007, but in the post-GLR disappointment, he couldn't bring himself to try it.  While it was going on, he watched the internet for race updates and stories, and it threw him even deeper into a pile of self-doubt.  He wanted to be out there doing the Colorado Trail, but he didn't think he could succeed.  He was doing awesome in the shorter distance Winter Park cross country series, but it wasn't the same.  He could podium, on a single speed, racing experts, and it didn't hold the satisfaction that he was after.  Something was still missing.  

I really hoped he wasn't finished.  

He had something to prove to himself, and I wanted to see that happen. 

We worked together to work out a good training schedule for Chris.  One that would allow him to get his training in, but still be around when I needed him.  Somehow his training stepped up, he was riding more, but somehow I was also seeing him more.  

In October of 2007 he completed the 24 hours of Moab... solo.  All 24 hours.  He did awesome, I didn't think I could be more proud.  He was excited.  He spent the rest of the winter racing a small winter racing series in Leadville, often winning the overall placing on his Pugsley.

I hoped he wasn't finished.

In 2008, he has completed the Rim Ride (again), Kokopelli (again), and lots of shorter races. He was packed, psyched, and ready for the Arizona Trail in April, but due to the car accident wasn't able to participate.  In June he started an individual time trial of the Great Divide route from Banff, despite the fact that doing this would mean he wouldn't have a chance to get his much needed revenge on the Grand Loop course.  

Despite pulling the plug early, when I picked him up from the bottom of Montana, he was surprisingly upbeat.  His body held up great.  His gear was good.  He just had too much downtime to think.  He wasn't racing it hard enough to make himself happy.  I remember mentioning to him on the way home, something to this extent:  "The good thing about stopping now, is you should be in good shape to do the Colorado Trail at the end of July."  His eyes lit up.  "Really?  Hmmm.  We'll see" was the response.  

A spark was lit.

Soon after we got home, the planning, plotting, scheming, and packing began.  

He still had unfinished business with himself, and the Colorado Trail has intrigued him for a few years.  

I hoped he would finish.

Before we knew it, we were at the starting line, rushing around, barely getting in one last kiss before go-time.  As I watched him pull away, he shouted from the front "See you in Durango!"

I knew he'd finish.

5 days and 6 hours later, I got the call that made me cry like a little girl while I drove over Wolf Creek Pass in the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen.

He was done.  

Even over the phone I could hear the relief.  A contentment that I haven't heard in his voice in many years.  

He gave it a try.  Gave his best.  Raced hard.  Finished 3rd!  On his rigid single speed.  He pushed through hard times, and despite his awesome time, there were many.  He had physical, mechanical, and emotional road blocks that he had to push through on his way to finishing this.  
But pushed he did. 

He's worked hard for this.  He's had success in his biking career.  Not to diminish the accomplishments that he's had on a bike...in fact he's finished (really well) some of the hardest bike races in the country... but this one was different. 

I've never been so proud of him, and I think he feels the same way.

We both worked hard for this one.  It's been years in the making.  And now that it's done, we are soaking in every relaxing minute of his recovery.  

He's a different guy than I left at the Waterton Canyon trail head.  Sure, he's puffed up, swollen, and skinnier than before.  But something is there that has been missing from his confidence. He'll never be the first to brag about his accomplishment, in fact I had to force him to make his own 'I'm finished' blog.  

But I have no shame.  I've bragged about him to every stranger I've met along the way this past week.  Workers at Starbucks, gas stations, Qdoba... are all now aware of who I am married to.

I'm so proud of him.

I hope, and happily know, he's not finished.  

As Garth Brooks aptly said in one of his songs:  
We sang Life's a Highway
There's only one way you're gonna get through it
When she starts to twist, be more like Chris...
Good ride cowboy, good ride