Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I have a secret

I've been running. I started at the beginning of May, and I haven't really told anyone but M. A few people at work know about it just because they've seen me leaving the office in running clothes & coming back looking half-dead. Why the secret? Because I'm embarrassed by how unfit I am, and I was afraid it wouldn't really stick. See, I used to run fairly regularly, but since B was born, I've tried several times to get it going again, and have always failed.

But today I met my first personal goal, so I've decided I'm actually a runner again. What was the goal? To reach a total of 50 miles by the end of June. I just got back from a run, and my total so far is 51.6 miles. Plus my average pace for the month of June is half a minute faster than it was in May, and my average run is a quarter mile longer -- nice, even though those weren't actually goals I set, just progress I've observed. [I log my runs on runningahead.com -- I find that it really helps me to stay motivated when I can see my progress and my totals.]

I owe a lot to M for inspiring me to run and being supportive and encouraging as I've gotten going. About a year ago, M was certainly fit -- a devoted cyclist, but not a runner. I'm not sure why he started running, but he did, and then he ran more and more, and then he got really sick and started doing ultramarathons. It seemed like he was having a lot of fun, and seeing him go from non-runner to ultramarathoner in the span of a year is really what made me get off my butt and run.

I've got a long way to go before I could (as if I WOULD -- not!!) run a regular old (aka "easy" according to M) marathon, much less an ultramarathon, but I'm enjoying it, and am actually at a point where I feel like I *need* to run.

These are my new goals:
1. run 50 miles in the month of July
2. shave another 30 seconds off my average pace by the end of July
3. be able to run 10 miles by mid-September (without dying)

It will be harder than reaching my first goal was -- I'll have to both bump up the frequency of my runs (the most I've managed to pull off so far is three per week; four or five would be better, but you know how it goes with little ones in the house and two working parents!) and gradually add distance too, plus I'll be on the road for 11 days in July. I can pack my running shoes & my ipod though, so no excuses!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My gardens

Our rainy spring, combined with the magic compost, has made my gardens go crazy. Downright tropical, I tell you. I need to take some pictures of the vegetable garden. It's rocking too, although the hail has pre-shredded most of our greens.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mt. Evans from the other side of the lens

You remember the Mt. Evans trip, right? Here are the pictures Nia took:

Pictures of me on this blog are rare enough, but a picture of me actually behind the camera? Unheard of!

Did you know...

...that if you Google "locking pajamas," this little blog is the second hit? Makes you go hmmmmm....

What is he good for?


Lake City

We drove down to Lake City, Colorado for the weekend. M was running a sick, sick race: 50 miles, with 12,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. Just the fact that the race started at 5:00am was enough to put me off (as if I would, or even could, run 50 miles!). Who would voluntarily sign up for that?! M would. Here's M & our friend Jason, before & after the race:
Lake City:  Before & After
It was about a five-hour drive, and Miss Z zonked out pretty early on. Here she is going through the stages of out-cold, waking up, feeling grumpy, hamming it up, screaming with joy, and generally pleased with her own cuteness:
My creation
And here's M-the-driver, who looks grouchy here, but really wasn't. In fact, the drive up went amazingly well. The kids even behaved nicely! Don't ask about the drive home.

We stayed in this adorable cabin:

It was old and not exactly stylish (it was a CABIN, after all), but it was absolutely spotlessly clean. And the couple who ran the place was so friendly -- they stopped by several times over the weekend to chat, and even gave B & me a little ride in their Ranger when B asked for it.

The cabins had a playground that I thought was rather sad, but the kids found no fault with it whatsoever. B even insisted on eating his dinner up in this "treehouse" the first evening:

The race itself? Not so hot. Literally. Here's the view from town of the Continental Divide, where M was running at the time:

It looks foggy up there, and I guess it probably was, but it was also snowing and very very cold.
Here are the kids with our friend Jess, several hours after the previous photo was taken & the sun had come back out, waiting for M & Jason at the 40-mile aid station:

And here's an anthill B found a hundred yards up the trail from the aid station -- we're pretty sure it's the biggest one IN THE WORLD:

Z stole the show when one of the volunteers at the aid station decided the belly dancer coin skirt would look good on her. Here she is just after the woman put it on her, and after she figured out that it jingled if she shook it:
Lake City - Belly girlLake City - Belly girl shakes it
Last but not least, a couple images I just really like. One is my sweet B, of course, and the other is of the wonderfully wild and unique nursery in Lake City:

Lake City - Flower garden roof

Art by B

Sweet B drew this picture for his little sister at preschool last week:

Can you guess who it is? I'll give you a hint: it's somebody who's very familiar to the three-and-under set.

Update: Props to Raine, who got B's drawing right away -- it's Elmo. Or maybe props to B, for his obvious gift with a marker?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Mount Evans

My friend Nia is only here for about ten more days before she goes home to Indonesia. She has done some hiking while she's been here, but had never seen dramatic Rocky Mountain vistas. I thought a trip to the top of Mount Evans would take care of that.

On the drive up Squaw Pass, the views were still pretty stunning. Storms were moving in, but you could clearly see the ranges to the north and west of us. By the time we stopped at Summit Lake, it was snowing lightly and pretty misty. We hiked a little bit there, did a little bouldering (B) and saw some wildlife.

MtE - B at summit lake
I couldn't believe how close we got to this mountain goat! It was an accident -- he was behind a big pile of boulders, and we didn't even know he was there until we'd been a few feet away from him for several minutes. He didn't seem to mind our presence though -- he'd look up from his foraging every few seconds to study us, then went back to digging and eating.
MtE - Mountain goat

Then we headed up to the top. It's been years since I drove up Mt. Evans, and I didn't realize there would be so many people up there! We practically had to wait in line to get to the top. Nia was overwhelmed by the scenery, even with all the mist and clouds. She told B at one point that it was so beautiful she felt like she was going to cry. Both of us were amazed by how many cyclists there were up there, and awed by the bravery (or foolishness?) of the people hiking up then skiing down the boulder-strewn snowfields.

At the top, it was only 30 degrees and very windy. Plus it was snowing these weird little pellets of snow that were blowing horizontally. It felt like needles hitting our faces. We didn't even stay five minutes -- just long enough to take in the little bit of view that was visible and take a photo.

I am so lucky to live where I do. Colorado is a wild, beautiful place, even when you have to endure a traffic jam at 14,000 feet to see it. At the end of the day, I felt like climbing a fourteener again. It's been many many years since I did that, and back when I was doing it, I barfed off the side of quite a few of Colorado's most beautiful mountains. Yes, even though I've lived here for most of my life, I get horrible altitude sickness. Horrible. Debilitating. Seriously -- on Mount Massive, it was so bad that I laid down in the shelter of a boulder and dozed/barfed while my family went the last few hundred yards to the summit. But I'm willing to try again!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Family Fire Muster

B and I went to the Family Fire Muster on Saturday. It's hosted every year by our local fire protection district, and it's AWESOME. They bring out every fire truck and piece of rescue equipment they have, and let the kids go in all of them and climb all over it all. They have all sorts of games and activities, all intended to teach kids in a fun way how to be safe around water and on bikes, how to tell apart toys and tools, how to crawl under smoke, and my personal favorite, how to stop, drop and roll.

[Until very recently, B apparently thought it was the "Fire Mustard." How do I know this? Because a couple weeks ago, he asked me if there was a "Fire Ketchup" too.]

This year, we hiked over there from our neighborhood -- just a quick half-hour hike across a little section of our backyard mountain -- and met our friends Rachael and Jody. Here's B hiking over:
FM - Hiking there

First stop, the fire engines, of course:

Actually, B is a little jaded about fire engines. My brother is a firefighter, so B has had a few opportunities to hang out at the firehouse with him. I guess fire engines just aren't so cool after you spend that much time around them. I still think they're pretty cool...

Then there was water safety (will you look at those lashes?!):

Being silly with Rachael:

And Rachael looking pretty:

This is my favorite part of the Fire Muster. The kids dress up in "bunker gear" and then run a few yards, stop-drop-and-roll, and get up and run some more. It's hysterical to watch those little tiny kids all tricked out in that heavy gear, trying to run.
FM - bunker gear

Last stop of the day was shooting the fire hose:

The long walk home, after a full day in the hot sun:
FM - hiking home
That's my backyard mountain in the background. And B is stopping to get a closer look at a bug, probably a ladybug. There are a bazillion of them up there right now. I kept stopping to get a closer look at these:

They are all over the mountain (in fact, the whole mountain is just covered with wildflowers right now), but I'm not sure what they are because they're not in my field guide to the flowers of Colorado. I'm guessing some sort of wild orchid?

And last but not least, here's B after I told him we needed to start hurrying in order to get home before the daily round of thunderstorms started:

That, my friends, is the face of a tired boy at the end of a long day who does NOT want to be told to hurry.

Tomorrow (assuming I can get my lazy self to do two blog posts in two days): Our big trip to the top of Mount Evans with my friend Nia. There was lots of wildlife, and believe it or not, a snow storm!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Whackjobs with guns

Old racist & anti-Semitic American who shot a black security guard at the Holocaust Museum yesterday. How did he even get a gun with his prison record?

Hateful hypocritical American who shot a doctor who provides lifesaving medical care to desperate women in horrifically sad situations. How many babies with severe birth defects do you think he adopted in order to save them from abortion? I've got a guess. Zero.

Ignorant, stupid, violent American who shot two soldiers at an Army recruitment center in Little Rock.

I guess Cheney was right. America is less safe with Obama as president. He just forgot to tell us that the people who were going to make us less safe were Americans with guns. How many cases can you remember during the eight years of the Bush administration of liberals taking up arms and executing vigilante justice? Hmmmm.....NONE! I wish Obama would take away their guns. But sadly, he is entirely too moderate on the issue of gun control. Do you know what I read in the Denver Post recently? There are certain types of ammunition that you can no longer get in Colorado because it's all sold out. What are these people so afraid of? And why do they think violence is the answer? They are unAmerican.

Ooops. I forgot to add one last whackjob with a gun:

Evil American who shot his friend in the face and then somehow got his friend to apologize to him. Uses fear and ignorance as the primary tools of his trade -- inciting hatred and violence among his fellow whackjobs.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


I'm loving Indie 101.5. I don't know how long they've been on the air -- maybe a year or so? -- and I can't figure out how I didn't know about them until last month (M found them). It's been a looooooong time since I've listened to anything but NPR on the radio, pretty much since Cle@r Ch@nnel bought the airwaves and made every radio station exactly the same. BOR-ing. But this station is awesome. I sometimes can't wait to hear what they'll play next. Sex Pistols, Silversun Pickups, Jesus & Mary Chain, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and so much other good stuff. I'm finding out about bands, some of them even local, that I've never heard of and love love love. I especially love it during fundraising week on NPR.

The down side? Now I don't get much news anymore, since I listen to NPR less. I still read the New York Times & the local paper online most days, but I kind of miss my NPR. Such a dilemma.

If you live in Denver, you should check them out. 101.5.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Is it the weekend yet?

This is the kind of week when an airplane could fall out of the sky and nobody would even know where it landed for 36 hours. When a preggo little sister would have to head for home five days early, missing her own baby shower, because of contractions that can't be stopped (she's only 27 weeks!). When both my job and M's might suddenly turn shaky within hours of each other. And it seems entirely appropriate that it has been cold, gray and rainy almost all week, a rarity for Colorado in June.

M's employer laid off 18 people on Tuesday. Luckily, he was not among the 18. But he still has to take a 10% pay cut (the up side of this is that he will not be working Fridays for the next few months), and there will be no more 401(k) match. The way they went about it was just awful. They'd been saying for a few months that there were going to be layoffs. Then for the past few weeks, they kept saying it was going to happen "next week." Every week, that's what they'd say. Then the managers had a meeting on Monday where they found out exactly who was going to get laid off. And they were told that if they spilled the beans before 9am the next day, they'd be fired. So they had to face the people they were going to lay off all afternoon, and couldn't tell. And everyone had to go home that night and try to sleep, then drag themselves into the office the next morning to find out if they were losing their jobs. Why???? Why not just do it right after that meeting on Monday? So we found out late Tuesday morning that M was not losing his job. Whew.

A mere three hours later, I received an all-staff email from our executive director, announcing that the retiree health plan had been canceled, nobody could carry over vacation accrued in FY2010, and there would be no raises this year. Plus, we'll have to do at least one of the following soon: layoffs, salary cuts, furloughs, or increased employee cost-sharing in the health plan. They are seeking our input on these options, and I assume the decision will be made next month when the executive committee meets. My pick is for some combination of salary cuts and furlough days -- that seems like the most equitable way of sharing the pain.

When it rains, it pours. I'm ready for this week of rain, both literal and figurative, to be over. At least we're both still employed, right?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Just call me Julie

Because I am the neighborhood cruise director.

There are things that we love about where we live -- great house with lots of light and good house karma, wonderful view, hiking on our doorstep, easy access to the mountains. Then there are the things we don't love so much -- the big city suburban traffic and crime, distance from my parents, and most of all, the lack of a "center." Our neighborhood was built in the 1960s and 1970s, and is typical suburban sprawl. It lacks a heart. There is a neighborhood strip mall -- that doesn't count. There's a neighborhood elementary school, but nobody we know is sending their kids there because it's a terrible school. There's a neighborhood park, but it was built when the neighborhood was new, and it's never been improved (that's supposed to happen this summer, but I'll believe it when I see it, given the state of the economy), so it's awful.

We have friends who live in an eastern suburb of the city, where everything is shiny and new. Their schools and libraries are beautiful, and the parks are plentiful. Their neighborhood is chock-full of families with young kids, and they have a pool and community center. There's always something social going on. We've always been a tiny bit jealous of all that, but not jealous enough to move. We'd rather have all that right here (or move out of the city entirely, to a small town, but that's another blog post).

So in an effort to create a sense of community right here at home, we sponsored a neighborhood family happy hour last Saturday. We made up some flyers, and dropped them off with all the people we've met who have kids near the ages of ours. Lots of these kids also happen to go to the same preschool our kids go to, but they're all going to different schools for kindergarten, so we'll lose even that tenuous connection soon. My hope was that it would be easy for everyone -- for us, because all we have to do is tidy up a little for company, and for everyone else because all they have to do is bring a snack or a drink, then take home tired kids who are ready for bed. That part was a great success. It was laid-back and fun, and just about everyone said they were missing that sense of community in this neighborhood too, and were glad someone had taken a step to do something about it. The second part of my plan was that someone else would host another one in a few weeks, and again, success -- there's already a volunteer. Last but not least, I put out a sign-up sheet, so everyone who came could put down their address, phone, email, and the names and ages of their kids. My hope was that I could circulate the list, and we'd all have ready access to people who are up for playdates or carpooling, and maybe we could even set up a babysitting exchange. We'll have to see how that last part goes.

We're here for awhile, since we just refinanced the mortgage. It would be GREAT if we could have a community of friends both for M and me and for the kids, dontcha think?

Sebastian, who is one month older than B and lives about three blocks north (and did NOT want his picture taken):

B & Sebastian being sillly:

Sebastian's little brother Orlando, who is a few months younger than Z, and his dad:

Orlando, looking soulful as he strolls through my garden with a guitar:

Arthur, who has been in the same class as B at preschool all year, and just moved a few blocks east of us:

Our own Miss Z, looking cute as a button:

Rachael and Jody -- they actually live in the next neighborhood north of here, but it's still on our backyard mountain, so I thought it counted. Plus, we've known them for nearly three years now. I saw them at the neighborhood Mexican joint that we eat at once a week, and struck up a conversation. This was when we were still waiting for Z. Rachael goes to preschool with B, but is about a year younger than him. She and Z are both from Jiangxi Province in China.

Grace, who is about two months younger than B and lives two blocks north of us:

Grace's little sister, Maggie, who is about the same age as Z:

Quinn, who is a year younger than B, goes to preschool with him, and lives two blocks north of us:

Helen, Quinn's little sister, who is just a few months younger than Z:

B and Quinn have a fiery relationship. Their problem is that they are exactly alike! They are the best of friends and the worst of friends. I think they'll work it out as they get older though, and have the potential to be just the best of friends with not so much of the worst.

So B, Grace, and Sebastian are all about the same age, and will be in the same year in school. Same for Z, Helen, Orlando, and Maggie. Arthur, Rachael, and Quinn are in between the ages of our two kids, but close enough that they can play together. And all the parents are nice and fun. Friends for everyone!

PS - yes, names for the friends. I keep our names private, since I'd rather not have strangers connect our family dots and figure out who we are, where we live, etc. There are some sickos out there, you know (none of you, my dear friends & regular readers, of course!). But I doubt anyone is going to connect our initials (which in some cases don't even correspond to actual names) and the first names of kids in the neighborhood and put it all together. If you see your own kid's name on here and would rather I remove it, just let me know and I'll be glad to.