Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fire, fire, smoke and fire

17,073 acres.  That's less.  That's a good thing.
They announced 25% contained last night.  I got a text alert that said 45% tonight at dinner.
346 homes gone.
2 dead.
For a while there was a banner rolling about the cost of fire containment at this point.  It's in the millions.
1,287 firefighters.
The president visited and recorded his weekly address.
Estimated containment is still July 16.
There is still a ton of smoke billowing up off of the mountain.  It's still too close for comfort, but at least it's not roaring down into neighborhoods.

Natural disaster.  This whole fire thing has prompted a whole unit of home-schooling.  Cough.  Hack.  I'm not a home schooler, but I do believe in capitalizing on teachable moments as they present themselves.  So the kids and I have had tons of 'talks' on natural disasters.  This week, we've covered wildfire, obviously.  We've also covered volcanic eruptions, since I likened Tuesday night's air quality to Mount St. Helens.  One of the kids said, "why do we live here if fire is such a risk?"  That prompted the obvious discussions that included, "if it's not wildfire, it might be hurricanes.  If it's not hurricanes, it's earthquakes.  If it's not earthquakes, it's floods.  If it's not floods, then it's tornados."  We talked about evacuation plans, things are are really important, 72 hour packs, as Homestead has dubbed them, and all kinds of worst case scenarios.  I'm most terrified of tornados, for sure.  Hands down.  Following tornados is hurricanes.  I'm not much of a water-girl, so the idea of a hurricane paralyzes me with fright.

And speaking of cough-hack, poor Little is having a rough go of breathing.  I refilled his usual-winter-time pharmaceutical cocktail for the low, low price of $96.99.  That's two weeks of meds.  Eee-gads.  I'm overjoyed to see the air quality improving.  We were able to be outside and not die of smoke inhalation the last two days . . . .

Here's to hoping and praying for continued containment, improving air quality and digging deep enough to rebuild  . . .

Friday, June 29, 2012

Daily Fire Report

18,500 acres gone
346 homes lost
1 person dead
1 person missing
1,200 firefighters working
15% contained

The whole community's head is hanging at the amount of loss.  I'm really stricken by how fickle fire is . . . . look at this aerial map.  I can't believe how some structures are totally gone and the next door neighbor's home is standing strong.  It's amazing.  And heartbreaking.  And devastating.   What I'm equally amazed by is that, given what I SAW, and heard . . . that there is ANYTHING standing up there at all.  I can't believe it's not totally leveled.  346 homes is a lot.  A LOT.  But, in all honestly, after what happened on Tuesday, I was totally expecting that number to be upwards of 1,000.

The news says this is the most devastating fire in Colorado's history.  I believe it.  Tuesday night is the single most frightening event I have lived through.  It was terrifying.  The President is visiting today.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Vacation Report - Day Four

On Day Four of The Grizwold's Family Trip to Orlando, we braved the beasts at Animal Kingdom.  Given that we didn't get home from The Magic Kingdom until close to midnight the night before (see previous post on mosh-pit exit while I take time to ice my still-swollen calves that were beaten to a pulp by the mystery man pushing his wife's wheelchair into me), I opted to axe the alarm clock.  The natives slept until they were done sleeping.  We had breakfast in the suite and packed it out to Animal Kingdom.  We got there mid-morning & had a really relaxed, chill day.  Our day at Animal Kingdom was still blazing hot, but we were much more pleasantly distracted by the animals, shady spots & mister fans.

Once again, that PassPorter I mentioned was worth it's weight in gold.  Seeing the map and getting a feel for the lay of the land before we stepped foot inside the gates was priceless for a visual learner like me.  If you visit Animal Kingdom, take note on these things:

a.  The park closes earlier than others, because of the animals
b.  You start to encounter animals on the tram ride in . . . .

Specifically, we rode the tram in with this lady and her grandchildren from California.  They were Animal Kingdom experts, or so they claimed to be.  They do Animal Kingdom more than most people go to the bathroom and they know ALL the in's and out's.  Insert eye-roll and whatev here.  That crazy, big-hat wearing bimbo actually gave me all kinds of pointers on how to cut the lines at Disney.  She instructed me to go to guest services and tell them that one of my kids has some ailment that prevents them from standing in line for long periods.  She told me she does it all the time and she showed me her "special needs" pass that indicated that one of the little darlings in her company had been diagnosed with "severe asthma" and was unable to stand in line.  I listened to her ramble and rant until we had almost arrived and I just couldn't be quiet anymore.  So I said, "What about the kids that REALLY have autism?  What about the make-a-wish kids that really are in need of a short-cut?  Don't you think lying about your kids' health takes terrible advantage of the good intentions of the park?"  My son actually does have asthma, but guess what . . . asthma doesn't prevent kids from standing in a line.  I'm thinking, if a generally healthy child is so sick that they can't stand in line, they shouldn't be in a theme park.  They should be in the comfort of their own air-conditioned home watching Jetson's re-runs and going to the pediatrician for a 2 o'clock checkup.

Anyway, I got off the tram a tid-bit hot and bothered.  I really try hard not to let my children see me go berserk on another mother, but I'm pretty sure they understood my position.   I'm actually pretty proud of myself for waiting until the tram ride was almost over, so I didn't start a riot with a long ride ahead.  People are crazy.  And if you think they're crazy where ever you live, multiply that my 100, add heat-induced insanity with a healthy dose of humidity-bitchy.  It's kind of like the lines to check out on Christmas Eve, but worse, and on a larger scale.   Suffice it to say, you meet your first animals well before you enter the park.

We were really impressed with Animal Kingdom.  We did the Kilimanjaro Safari, Everest (twice), lots of trail walking in the Pangani Forest and Jungle Trek, some train riding and Kali River Rapids.  We briefly did the Tree of Life, and we spent some time in Dino-Land, since it was very Mimi-friendly.  We saw the Lion King show, at the recommendation of, well, pretty much everyone.  

The weather was perfectly overcast.  There were some ride closures for lightening in the afternoon, but it worked out okay for us.  We ended up riding Everest twice because the line was so puny when we got off.   Everest scared the tuna salad out of Little and Mimi, so, because I'm up for the mother-of-the-year award and I believe in immersion therapy, I made them get back in line with me and do it again.   Nobody actually cried and in retrospect, they both say they are glad I made them.  Neither one was expecting backwards movement or pitch dark.  I sort of withheld that information from them.  

The best things today were . . . . The Safari.  A rhino walked right in front of the truck and I found that to be breathtaking and amazing.  I loved seeing the animals in that environment.   I loved Everest.  I'm a coaster adrenaline junkie.  I loved the shady trails of walking and it was just what the doctor ordered for us.  On Kali River Rapids, this tidal wave of water came over and totally douched MOTH, which we all thought was hilarious.  The little kids came off the ride virtually dry while daddy had to cruise around for the rest of the day in wet drawers.  Tee hee hee.   Also, the Lion King show . . that was a great recommendation!

The worst thing today . . . was lightening closure.  It was just a wrench in the plan, but it ended up okay.

The funniest things were . . . . Little's face when we went backward on Everest, Mimi when she was watching the monkeys, finding Baby Handle.  That requires some explanation, doesn't it?  Mimi has this stuffed animal.  It's an elephant.  She has had it for years and she named it Handle.  Why?  Because she drags it around by it's trunk . . . ie:  the handle.  She was on a one-girl mission to find Baby Handle.  She looked high and low for a Baby Handle beginning at the restaurant in Denver.  In the spirit of the Toothfairy, Santa Claus and other mommy miracles, I was completely prepared to pick up a stuffy from the cheap-o row at Walgreens if the need arose, so I, too, was relieved to find a Baby Handle at Animal Kingdom.  She was pleased as punch for the remainder of the day.  

Money today:
lunch (which I was overjoyed with . . . healthy choices including fruit & cheese snacks, apples & vitamin water) + lemonade slushies + Baby Handle + dinner (which we did back at the hotel) + parking + stroller rental + caricature artwork (this was on MY want-list and I was really happy to find someone to do me with all the girls as princesses and one of MOTH and Little as a knight & archer).  Again, I was shocked at no souvenirs, for the most part.  Middle spent her own vacation money on a necklace that looks like Fruity Pebbles, but is really seashells.  Big bought a mini-handle for Mimi for a future gift and MOTH picked up a t-shirt.  All-in-all, a very affordable day considering all of the circumstances . . . .

And . . . . in closing,
Yes, I woud do Animal Kingdom again.  I'd trade in a day at Magic Kingdom for two in Animal Kingdom.  We all had a magical day . . . .

The Daily Fire Report

18,500 acres
1,200 firefighters on scene
"hundreds" of homes lost
"hundreds more damaged"
0 injuries
0 fatalities
5% contained

The area damaged map:

And an aerial photo . . .

The smoke has begun to clear at my house, just a tad.  Today, there is not a red flag warning in effect, so hopefully, cooler temperatures will make a recipe for a better fire-fighting day.  Hundreds of families are donating and shelters are open everywhere.  It is very awesome to see a community pull together to help those in need.  There are several organizations that are helping families not effected be matched with other families who might need a place to hang their hat . . . .

Side note:  There are a few speakers that address the viewing audience daily at 8 am and 4 pm.  The Major of the city, the IC for the Fire, the guy in charge of evacuations for the city.  Overall, it seems to be a really well put group of folks that are working well with each other (or putting up one heck of a front).  I'm amused by the idiotic questions that the press asks.  For example, they hold a news conference, and a limited number of questions are allowed afterwards.  You would assume that they would be questions with global intent that are aimed at helping the greater good.  But there's always one person who says, "Are you concerned that the fire is going to spread?"  Uh, "yeah, dummie, we are."  And right after the IC tells the public how many acres are involved and what percent containment, there's always one reporter that says, "do you have acreage for today?"  

All in all, it seems like things are settling down just a bit in this neck of the woods.  The fire is spreading and is only 5% contained, so there is still a ton of work to do.  The winds and weather are totally unpredictable, so it's not over, by any stretch.  Today, the city is supposedly contacting those people who have lost their homes  . . . . . Can you imagine getting that phone call?  Or watching continuing coverage and watching your home go up on live television?  There are spot fires cropping up everywhere . . . . on Air Force grounds today and one that jumped a reservoir up in the mountains.  That's just plain scary, so like I said, it ain't over . . . . but it does seem a little better today.  Better today, thank God.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

My Tiny Gymnast . . . .

Okay, the good thing (the really, really good) thing happening this week is Middle.  She 'got' a skill that she's been working, working, working on.


Note to gymnastics parents:  Along the gymnastics superhighway, there are stumbling blocks.  Here are a few that I recall.  As a wee one, being about to do cartwheels with straight legs is a biggie.  That back leg just wants to get to the floor really fast.  Back bend kick overs is another stumbling block.  It's because it takes arm strength to shift your weight and be able to kick over.  Then there's back-walk-overs.  That's a timing thing.  And a muscle memory thing.  Enter kips.  Kips are a timing trick on bars. And a muscle memory thing.  Once they get it, they have it forever, but GETTING it is tricky.

These stumbling blocks cause frustration.  Sometime tears.  They are a major hurdle.

At Middle's level, the stumbling block is giants.   Kids tend to peel off the bar when they learn this and they crash ALOT.  It can be kinda scary.  Not to mention, they have to have a good kip cast handstand to start.  That's a feat unto itself.  And, there's the grips.  They're just getting used to grips and it feels funny to have something between their palms and the bar.

I'm OVERJOYED to report . . . . Middle's got it.  She's got the timing, she's got the skill.  She just needs the muscle memory, that only repetition, repetition, repetition will bring.  In the spirit of a very proud mama, I'm posting a video (the first one) of her success.  And, as an illustration to our family mantra, "I get knocked down, but I get up again", another video (the second) of an awesome, almost-you-tube-worthy blooper.

Fire: Day Five

It's 2:06 pm.

I'll be honest.  I didn't post a fire update this morning because I was busy getting my firebox together.

Here's a map of the evacuation area at this point:

I know that doesn't give you an idea of where I am and what I'm dealing with . . . . so at the northeast, part of this map, if you can find that big white squiggly line . . . I'm about  1/2 inch off of the map.   Yes, off of the map.  I'm not in a pre-evac area.  I'm not in an evacuation area.  But let me just say . . . . last night, this is what I was looking at:  

And this

Oooh, here's another good one of the Air Force Academy Chapel.  I can't see, but it's worth linking.  

Last night, MOTH was at Bingo, calling for the Booster Club and I was home with the munchkins when the red haze settled over the north end of the city, ash starting falling out of the sky and two phrases kept going through my mind: 

1.  Mount St. Helens 
2.  Apocalypse 

Have you seen The Percy Jackson movie?  It looks and smells like their portrayal of the underworld here.  It's terrifying.  Absolutely horrifying.   Last night, I was absolutely prepared to evacuate.  I was at the point of believing, 100%, that we would have to evacuate.  I don't think the flames and fire will get as far east as OUR house, but I was ready to evacuate for smoke inhalation and come home to smoke damage.  It's that bad.  It's amazing.   I packed the car, at least partially last night.  The kids were scared, but such troopers.  I asked each of them to pack a weekend bag and park it by the door, just in case we do fall under an evacuation order.  I put photo albums and a case of water in the car.  I put in the list of stuff.  Towels, batteries, meds.  I'll have to unplug the computer and grab the hard drive.  I'll go at the pre-evacuation stage.  Traffic is a nightmare out of those evacuation areas and people are acting like asses.  So, here's my two cents worth on evacuations.  

Dear People, 

There comes a time in everyone's life when you really must defer to an expert.  If that's a cancer diagnosis, you defer to your doctor's opinion.  If that's putting your money into a hedge fund, you defer to some financial planner.  When you house is threatened with fire, you trust the well trained men and women who are doing their jobs and you get the F*&^ out!!  Don't stay and put your life and theirs in further danger.  Don't drive on the sidewalks as you flee the scene.  Don't run red lights.  And for God's sake, don't stop in the middle of bumper to bumper traffic to take pictures.  For the love, People, use your heads.

And Opinionated Blogger

Here are the stats as of this morning: 
15,834 acres burned (recall 24 hours ago it was 4,500), so those 65 mph winds tripled the size of this fire.  Can we all say a collective, 'holy crap?'
32,500 evacuated people
Multiple. Bold.  Multiple.  Caps.  Multiple.  Italics. Multiple.  Underlined.  MULTIPLE structured lost.
1,000 firefighters working . . . . as well as all of the local authorities running evacuations and working alongside
5% contained 
0 accidents
0 injuries
0 fatalities

So in these situations, everyone becomes an expert, since we are all watching 24/7 news feeds.  Here's the thing worth repeating from the IC's report this morning.  And I quote:   We expect today to have trouble  today, with this fire challenging all established lines around the entire perimeter of this fire.  Late afternoon weather in the form of outflow winds and storms will likely drive the fire into populated areas.  I think it's time for another collective, 'oh, crap'.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fire . . . night of day 4

Things are not looking so good here . . . .

This is today, at about 4:30, taken out of Little's bedroom window.  No zoom.  I can see flames with the naked eye.  The wind has shifted and is blowing everything, including the fire directly into the city.

More mandatory evacuations are in place for areas that I never imagined would actually be evacuated.  The roads are completely clogged.  Ash is falling in my backyard the size of quarters or dimes.  The wind is blowing ash into the yard and it looks like snow.   The news is estimating 20,085 homes threatened.  This morning, there were 4,000 people displaced as authorities had lifted evacuation orders in some areas.  Tonight, after the wind shift and the shit-storm that had me packing emergency bags, there are 32,000 people out of their homes.  The news is unclear.  They'll only say that 'mutliple' homes have been lost and 'numerous' structures are burning.

Fire Day Number 4

4,500 acres burned
600 personnel working on the fire
0 structures destroyed
0 lives lost
0 injuries to firefighting personnel
5% contained
4,825 people evacuated
2,599 homes evacuated
estimated containment date:  7/16
Type I team says this the "most number of aircraft" working a single fire that is available.

Really?  Can you publish an estimated containment date?  That seems so not safe to me.  Maybe I just live on the 'no expectations no disappoinment' theory.

Also, on aircraft.  It is really cool to see those C130's fly over.  And the helicopter sucker-uppers are super cool.

On a side note, we have ANOTHER wildfire burning only 37 miles from my house.  In perspective, the Waldo Canyon fire is about . . . um, 10 miles as the crow flies OR 15 road miles from my front door.  That's all happening to the west of me.  Then, the OTHER fire is currently 600 acres and 37 miles from me to the east.  There is a 83,000 acre fire burning north of here and two smaller fires burning south of here.   No matter which direction the wind shifts or what I do, there is smoke in the air and it smells like burnt chicken.

Ba.  Boo.

Prayers for firefighters, please.  Prayers, prayers, prayers.

Vacation Report: Day Three

The fire has been consuming my thoughts, but I'm back in vacation report mode, at least for the next several minutes.   On day three, we  had Magic Kingdom on our to-do list.  I have a tiny stack of sticky notes and a Pass Porter in front of me.  That's how I'm generating my report, and of course, my memories.  I'll import photos, too, but I can't jack with iPhoto right now . . . I'm working on my dad's stuff & Big is mid-way through the Level 5 Aerials book.  No. More. Photos.  Until those projects are complete.

We were up late the night before and feeling zapped by heat and humidity, so I opted to axe the alarm clock.  At the risk of "running late", I figured, "ah, screw it" and I let the natives sleep until they were done sleeping.  After coffee, breakfast in the suite and packing, we headed out to have a magical day.

I'm glad I remembered to take:  the squirtee water-fan bottle, plenty of icy water in our camelbacks, a sharpie, a lanyard, the confirmation number for will call tickets, lots of sets of 51 cents for quarter press machines, extra socks, camera, cash, credit & sunscreen.  

The weather was killer hot and brutally humid.  Humidity, I've found, sucks the very life out of my children.  I was very impressed with the little city that DisneyWorld IS.  From traffic control to parking order and monorails, ferry boats and buses, I was absolutely wow-ed at the pure system and the magnitude of what goes on there.  I saw and heard dollar signs everywhere I turned.  Talk about a profit.  Wowie-wow-wow.  And jobs.  Wow.  I was very amazed that with the American economy like it is that there were that many people willing to spend that much money on . . . nothing, really.

The nitty gritty  . . . . .  wait, I have to interject this important note.  One of my girlfriends let me borrow this book.  It was so, so, so good that I went and bought my own.  If you are a mom-type planning Disney, don't do it without this book.  It was worth its weight in gold!

Okay, back to the nitty gritty.  So, at the PassPorter's recommendation, I found the attractions and miscellaneous things that I thought were "must-do" things.  I married that list with a few recommendations from Disney World Veterans who are also mom-friends.  With that, we were off.  It helped me out a TON, a TON, a TON to have access to the map and see where things were before we really got there.

Actually setting foot inside the park takes about an hour from when you actually depart, so be ready for that.  You can't just pull up to the gates, park and hop out.  If I could give anyone a significant piece of advice, it would be to that effect.  We folk from small towns that are used to being able to pull up to the second parking place at Target struggle with that.  We feel lost in the mosh-pit of just getting there and we feel completely insecure and out of control . . . . that tends to start the day off on the wrong foot.  So, if you are planning Disney, be ready to move in packs of hundreds.  It feels like a mass cattle migration.  You are all going the same direction and you'll get there . . . eventually, so be patient and don't be an asshole to the people who are waiting around you in lines.

Okay, so we officially entered the park.  We have our First Time Visitor buttons.  Incidentally, that didn't DO anything for us or GET anything for us.  It's just a free souvenir.  Free is good.   We did or set foot in all of the "lands" that make up the Magic Kingdom.   We did Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Dumbo, The Carousel, Magic Carpets, Swiss Family, The Riverboat, Pirates of the Caribbean and The Railroad.   We didn't REALLY hit our groove until about 5:30 at night, so that was kind of a bummer, but we did end up getting a long day out of the Magic Kingdom.  We ate at some little joint in Frontierland where we paid way too much theme park food, but we were ready for that, so it's no biggie.  We had dinner at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland, where everyone had a really good dinner & a much needed rest.   Like I've mentioned a hundred times, it was hotter than hell, so we spent money on cherry slushies and sipped them under a tree during the Dreams Parade.  By the way, I had a personal Magical Moment when Belle waved AT ME.  At ME . . . Only me during that parade.  Unfortunately, the Magic Kingdom isn't swelling with shady spots for sipping, so our family of six huddled under the same tree as the rest of the population of North America (and half of Europe) to sip our $20 slushies.

Overall impressions:
The best things today were:  The whole concept of Fast Passes, a tiny patch of shade, the threat of an afternoon thundershower and the water-squirtee fan bottle.  Big Thunder -- we rode three times because it was Middle's favorite.  Little was the only one brave enough to do Splash Mountain with me, so his chest was swollen with pride and he really loves his 51 cent smashed penny that is his badge of courage for Splash Mountain.  Big loved the Swiss Family Treehouse (and I did, too).  Mimi loved Aladdin's magic carpets, the spitting camels and the carousel.  We let her drive the carpets and she had us rolling with laughter.  MOTH loved the fireworks at the end, over Cinderella's castle.  I did, too, however, it was both the best and worst part of the day for me.  Because . . .
The worst things today were:  . . . the crowd at the end for fireworks & Cinderella's castle.  The scheduling is kinda wonky.  Folks from the 9 pm Light Parade are trying to get out at the same time that fireworks people are trying to move through and people who want to see the 11 pm Light Parade are trying to find a spot.  It's a bottleneck of bodies, and in my opinion, the only thing that was poorly planned, on the part of Disney.  On the flip side, I'm not sure what could be done about it.   The crowd was absolutely insane.  I could feel parental anxiety over losing a kid in that kind of crowd.  All in all, the kids (mine and everyone else's) were fabulous.   But, I was really disappointed in the other adults.  There was lots of pushing and shoving, too much foul language from adults, especially considering the number of young-ins about.   I have bruises on the backs of my ankles from this jack-whacker that was shoving his wife's wheelchair into me.  Splash Mountain was closed for a huge chunk of the day, and there was an all-ride closure in the afternoon for weather.  That kinda stunk, but the thundershower that came with it was so, very needed that we were willing to risk not riding fun things.
The funniest things today were:  Little laughing, Mimi driving the carpets, me scaring the heck out of Little on Big Thunder.
Today we tried:  Roller coasters and the result was AWESOME!! We love Fast Passes.
The most magical moment was:  when Belle waved at me, fireworks, Splash Mountain, penny machines, the little lizards & Big Thunder.

Money today: 
Park passes (which I had purchased online beforehand.  Do that.  Don't wait in the ticket line!) + lunch + dinner + slurpees under the shady tree + a Christmas Ornament + parking + a stroller rental

The kids were not interested, nor was I, in any souvenir shopping in The Magic Kingdom.  I could not have paid one of my kids to wear sequined Mickey ears.  We bought no shirts, no buttons, no keychains . . nothing.  I was mildly surprised by that, because we did look for souvenirs.  Big and Middle both were looking for a bumper sticker (they collect them and put them on their laundry baskets) -- but we couldn't find a single one.

I was  . . . .
impressed with the systems that Disney has in place.  I was impressed with the cleanliness.  I was impressed with the caliber of the experience and by that I mean the costumes, the lights, the staff, the decor and the details.  I WOULD do DisneyWorld again.  I would do it again with kids, but they all need to be at least 48 inches tall.  It was a bummer for a small fry.  I would NEVER to Disney World again in June.  I would NEVER to Disney World with a toddler or infant.  I would NEVER do Disney World if I didn't have kids.  For me, it was one of the many selfless acts of parenting and I had a great time BECAUSE the kids were with me and BECAUSE they had a great time.  It would be a different ball game without the kids and I would opt for a day at the pool or something else entirely.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Broken Bones . . .

Any there any other parents out there that have this thought running around in your head, "hmm, I wonder if this will be the summer of the broken bone?"

Knock on wood, I know . . .

At this point, our children have had minimal injuries.  In twelve years, we've had:

Big:  hospitalized as a baby for RSV
Middle:  hospitalized as a baby for RSV
Little:  ER trip to glue his head back together when he tripped on thin air and crashed his melon into the dog bowl
Middle:  ER trip to stitch her chin back together after she fell in the back yard

So, considering 19 hours of gymnastics (yea, I think that's a high-risk sport) per week and 10 hours of volleyball per week, plus tae kwon do and various activities that include ziplines, trampolines & tree climbing, we have a pretty stellar record for safety.  Given all of that,  I think our (a) first REAL gymnastics injury and (b) first family broken bone are post-able.

Brace yourself:

Middle broke her baby toe.  Almost laughable, isn't it?

Crazy and Stupid

Stolen from one of the smartest men that I know . . .

Fire: Day #3

Day #3
13,500 people evacuated
3,446 acres burned
0% contained

Today's Weather:  100 degrees, less than 10% humidity, no cloud cover & winds out of the south @ 25-30 mph.

Can you say, "CRAP!!"

From Jillian Michaels:  

A little challenge for you to start the week off on the right foot: Schedule 4 immovable workouts. Do a fitness activity you've never done before that intimidates you like fight class, yoga, dance etc. Cook 3 new meals at home for dinner. While it doesn't really seem like a challenge on paper isn't it amazing how hard it is to take care of ourselves in these simple ways? So - your true challenge here is prioritizing yourself and expanding your horizons a bit. I'm doing it with you as I too am finding it hard these days. Tonights dinner: Heirloom tomato salad with goat cheese and balsamic. Grilled grassed cheeseburger on whole grain bun. Let me know what you are gonna cook and what workouts you are planning!

Okay, I'm not reporting back to Jillian, but I'll be accountable via blogger. 

Immovable workout #1:  Today -- this am, before I take Middle to the gym.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fire . . .

. . . . after all of today is ZERO percent contained and estimated at 2500 ++ acres.  A more accurate estimate will come tonight when an infra-red flight is done.  1,800 homes have been evacuated and 3,000 people. I've been listening or watching on and off all day today.  I'm struck by the image of those homes right at the top of the ridge.  I'm SO afraid that I'll be watching the TV and see flames suck those houses up and all of it will go  up in smoke.  Also, I'm so afraid that I WON'T be watching and won't see those houses go up in smoke.  It's kind-of like on-going coverage from September 11th or the Columbine shootings.  I can't watch it . . . and I can't stop watching it.

Today, we could see flames in new hot areas from Little's bedroom window.   One of the spokespeople said that flame lengths today (I learned a new word) are over 100 feet.  I don't care if you are a flame or a tree or a jumping bug . . . . 100 feet is stinkin' tall.


The weather today was terrible.  Dreadful . . . it was 100 degrees today and our weather-station said 16% humidity.  The perfect storm for a wildfire to rage out of control, right?   The really grim news is this week's forecast.  Yikes.  I think we are looking at a week of fire.  The air smells horrid and there is ash falling from the sky like snow.  You can see where cars have driven on the roadways and the whole city smells like a giant weenie roast.  My eyes are killing me, I have a smoke headache and Little is starting to wheeze.  Crap.  Poor air quality plus asthma . . . . bring on the inhalers.  Bummer.

Grey is my new favorite color . . .

The truth is . . . a friend recommended reading this series to me.  She blushed so big when she was talking about these books that I moved quickly on her recommendation.  Uh, wow.   I know plenty of folks who picked up the first one and quit after that.  I say, if you're going to dive headlong into a world you don't get . . . read the whole trilogy.   And I did.  I'm glad I did.  

I hear there is gonna be a movie.  I'm having a hard time imagining that kind of film being in a theatre that isn't located in some back alley with a some sort of "show-your-photo-ID" entry system, but I'll roll with it . . . . . 

Fire . . . Really Scary, Close Fire.


Since we got back from Florida, the weather here has been scorching hot.  Especially hot for us with no water relief anywhere.  We've been under these Red Flag warnings where no outdoor burning is allowed.  No campfires.  No fireworks.  No fire pits.  Nothing that can spark.  The end.   There are advisories running non-stop about fire preparedness and having your Firebox ready to go at a moment's notice.    As of yesterday, we have two OTHER garhugic wildfires burning in our state . . . one that is close to being contained near Estes Park, but efforts are being hampered by, (get this), tourists hanging around watching the fire crews.  There is a second fire burning west of Fort Collins that has been burning for over a week.  It had last taken 81,000 acres and almost 200 homes, and is 45% contained.

Yesterday, we were playing doubles volleyball in the park and left about noon.  And we noticed this giant plume of smoke that appeared to be alarmingly close to us.  It really looks like it's RIGHT on THIS  side of the mountain.  Yep, within an hour . . . news coverage was starting.  And, yes, it IS in our backyard.  This is a picture from my driveway:

This fire is in one of my favorite Colorado hiking canyons.  By about 1:30 or 2:00, mandatory evacuations had already been set in place . . . .

 Holy Criz-ap!! Would you look at how close this fire is to all of those houses?

By evening time, just about the entire west side of the city was under voluntary evacuations as the wind has shifted.  We have a gymnastics team family who fell under mandatory evacuation.  Hundreds of families are displaced right now.

Here's a picture taken at about 6:30 last night:

I stayed up to watch late news last night.  The report was at 2,500 acres and 0% contained last night at almost midnight.  Through the night, this thing kept going, switched directions a couple of times and is ravaging the west side and the mountains west of us.   Oh my gosh.  Why are things so much more scary at night?  Seriously . . . look at this beast!

This morning, mandatory evacuations have been extended to include all of Manitou Springs, Chipeta Park & Green Mountain Falls.  (Hey, Disney . .  weren't you wanting to cabin-vacation in that area?)  The News stations are alive with information this morning and tons of viewer pictures.  All the wildlife, of course, is down in town so there are animals EVERYWHERE.  One viewer sent in a picture of a HUGE bear walking across the street where my kids go to school!!

Pray, folks, pray.  These firefighters need your words.  These families need everyone that can to send some words up.  A whole bunch of rain would be awesome.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Speaking of legacies . . .

I'm also blogging family recipes and kitchen stuff here:

It was getting overwhelming and, like the Mom's Story Blog, I just wanted all of THIS in ONE place.  Maybe in a hundred years, I'll bind this one, too . . . .

Leaving a Legacy . . . .

This isn't well written, so I might revise it with time, but bear with me whilst I purge this valuable information.

I'm working, working, working, toiling, toiling, sweating over building my dad's memorial service.

Right after he died, everyone questioned me putting off the memorial service for six months.  I had my reasons then.  As in:  I needed the time, I needed the time, I needed the time.  My kids needed the time.  They had been without me, as in, without me being ENGAGED in their lives for a full month, two holidays and two birthdays, and I left like I needed to focus on them.  Also, I really didn't want his sisters to travel in winter Colorado weather.  And, my brother couldn't be here then.  So, I delayed it.  It's scheduled for July 16th.  I am learning on the fly about putting together a Buddhist memorial.  I don't really know the parts of the service, what is appropriate, what isn't and/or HOW to do it.  This, thank the Gods, is my very first rodeo.

In all honestly, I'm hustling and busting my back to get through his very large photographic footprint and create a DVD with photos and some appropriate things for the service.  I'm sorting, sorting, sorting every day.   He left quite a photographic legacy.

He also left some other things for me, which is where the purpose lies . . .

Like this:

This is a little spiral bound book that I gave my dad as a father's day gift many, many, many years ago.  He wasn't ever much of a talker and I was always hungry for more information and more stories about his childhood.  I always wanted to weave a history through words, like old Native American storytellers.  I wanted something to pass along to my children.  And my children's children.  He unwrapped it and put it aside and neither one of us ever mentioned it again.

But, in one of the boxes of treasures that I've been sifting through, here is the book.  And guess what?

He wrote in it.  He filled in almost every page.  He wasn't verbose.  He didn't have my gift of gab.  But he did write.  And he did tell me.  And I have spent long, long hours reading and re-reading it.  And Big and Middle have both said (already), "mom, will you do this for US?"

So, I'm launching a new blog.  The intent is to record stories and prompts and miscellaneous tidbits of information.  I'll also blog pictures and whatever the urge strikes.  I'm using the book that dad filled in and another similar one and starting points and journaling prompts.  When it's finished, my intent is to publish it through blog-to-print and gift it to my children . . . someday.   I'm considering blogging his stories, too . . . so that I can easily rebind and publish it.

The books that I am working with are, generally speaking,  templates for one prompt per day for one year.   I want to be realistic, so I'm shooting to complete the whole thing in 2-years time.  Who wants to come with me?  Who wants to write their own history and leave a beautiful memoir for their children?  I admit, it's SUCH a mom-thing to do, but I would LOVE the company . . .


P.S. I'm not starting until after the summer.  I really, really need to get through the hundred million things I have on my to-do list first.  Plus, it takes time to assimilate an idea.  So you have time to think about it.

Getting home . . . .

Getting home is exhausting!

The pile of mail is as tall as I am.  I don't think my paper karma app is working very well.  I still get a boat load of junk mail.  Sad face.  Giant bummer.

The laundry pile is easily as tall as I am, too.  I could lose a small child or large dog in it.  I don't want to do laundry today.

It's high fire danger weather here.  That stinks.  And there is a massive wildfire burning only 40 miles west of here that has claimed a ga-zillion acres and is ZERO percent contained.  Awesome.  The smoke in the air is KILLING me.   And the temperatures are insane.  IN-sane.  It was 98 yesterday.  Okay, I'm complaining about history.  Today, it's a glorious 63 with a nice breeze, but the last three days have been hellishly hot and it's supposed to rocket back up into the 90's for the rest of the week.

I'm a hot weather weenie.  We've discussed that a million times.  I'm a cold weather girl from top to bottom.  I like my shirts with sleeves and my pants with legs.  I enjoy maximum skin coverage.  I like hoodies.  I don't really love a sweaty craw or puddles of heat-evidence in between by boobs or trickling down my butt crack.  I'm most comfortable when temperatures are between 50 and 75 degrees.

I'm not sure where I was going with that.  I'm ranting and typing in stream of consciousness.  I have several posts cooking.  Vacation updates, funny things.  Random things.  Lots, lots, lots more to come.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Disney Vacation Report: Day Two

Monday, June 11th

We got up at the butt-crack of dawn to catch the shuttle to the airport.  Check-in, security, boarding & the whole getting-there-scene was flawless.  The kids packed smart.  I had great carry-on activities and Big remembered the PSI bands (bless her heart!) since Mimi had a short lived case of the "mommy, my tummy hurts."  All the kids did GREAT on the plane . . . piece of cake.  Big listened to her iPod and took a nap, Middle did a puzzle book for a while, then curled up and looked out the window.  She may have dozed off for a short bit.  Mimi colored with me.  Side-note:  I love coloring.  Air travel gives me the perfect opportunity to practice coloring left-handed and to give Mimi uninterrupted mommy-time.  Mimi also took a nice siesta and woke just in time for landing.  She didn't make a peep most of the journey.  Little played on the iPad and worked in a sticker book.  He was quiet the whole trip.

Upon arrival, our luggage wasn't lost or damaged, everyone was a wee-bit more rested and, heck, it was only 10:30 local time.  Bonus.

Rental car pick up was buttery smooth.  The kids loved having a mini-van.  I didn't.  MOTH didn't, but it was easier to park, I will admit.

The weather was (insert expletive) HOT!!!  And humid.  I was expecting that.  The kids were not expecting humid.  Come to think of it, I'm not sure any of them have ever really experienced humidity, so we wilted.  All of us.  We all slumped sideways in an I'm-too-hot-to-move-stupor.  That was quickly compounded by a secondary stupor fueled by I'm-so-hungry-I-can't-think-straight.  That was further complicated for all of us by it's-too-friggin'-hot-to-eat!  Who can eat soup or french fries in that heat?  Holy crap.  Just bring me a head of lettuce and let me eat it like an apple.  Thank you very much.

We checked in at the resort/hotel . . which was FABULOUS.  I highly recommend Marriott.  I love camping at Marriott.  We stayed at Harbour Lake.  The room was great, the amenities are great, the pools were great.  It was all above expectation.   We ate on site, slipped on suits and hit the pool and were much relieved to finally experience some coolness.  After swimming, we piddled around exploring the hotel and getting our bearings and I braved the grocery store for a week's worth of fresh veggies, breakfast food, one dinner, two lunches & snack stuff.

Overall impression and the kids' report:

The weather was awesome in Colorado and hot and humid in Florida.
The best thing(s) about today were the airplane and the pool.
The worst thing(s) about today were waiting, getting up in the  middle of the night, feeling tired & having to go to the grocery store.
The funniest thing(s) today were the lizards at the hotel and the black snake.  (Side-note: Didn't I post something about how  my kids would find a snail under a bush and find that to be so fascinating?  See, one day one in sunny Florida, they discovered these adorable little lizards darting about in the bushes.  In the evening and throughout the week, we spent lots of hotel time on bonafide lizard hunts.)
Today, we tried to . . . unplug.  No phones.  The result was . . . we are addicts.

Total cost today:  lunch @ the hotel + much-needed smoothies + a week of groceries.  I'm super proud of myself for packing security-friendly breakfast & snacks so we didn't have that cost.

I should have:  gone with a better grocery list.  I got distracted and was hit with low blood sugar in the grocery store.  That's a recipe for disaster even if you are in your home-market.  In a strange place where you spend 2/3 of your time backtracking because you don't know where anything is . . . that's a death-set-up.  I also should have encouraged of forced stronger snacking on the plane where it was cooler and before the landing, exit, car pickup stuff happened.

Disney Vacation Report; Day One

I was posting from afar and keeping on top of everything . . . so imagine my surprise when I got home and there were no new entries!  Ee-gads.

Yeah, I will need this information for future vacations, so just bear with me.  Plus, I'll just convince myself that somewhere out there is a mom planning a Disney Vacation with her munckins and will really drink in the play-by-play nature of my daily vacation report.

Officially, day one for us was Sunday, June 10th.   We drove to Denver and spent the night at a hotel really close to the airport.  Yes, it's only a 90 minute drive from us.  But our flight left at 6:39 am.  That looks really good on paper and you think only of "oh, we will get there in time to check out the hotel and take a dip in the pool on our first day!  We won't lose a WHOLE day to travel."  Until you start making that really work.  With your family.  And the dogs.  And the bird.  So, I took care of the furry creatures on Saturday, left the bulk of departure cleaning for Sunday, didn't bitch when MOTH was on call of Sunday, finished packing & we hauled off in late afternoon.  Bonus:  The hotel offers one week of complimentary on-site parking AND a free shuttle to and from the airport.  The dollars-and-sense side of me was all over that, given the cost of parking and the emotional cost of staring a week-long vacation with a smiley-happy no-really-it-will-be-fun-to-get-up-at-two-in-the-morning-attitude.   Yeah, NOT!!  Staying overnight in Denver meant we could get up at four am.  Am I already psycho since that actually sounds GOOD?!?!

There was a light and airy sense of relief when we finally shoved off.  The kids were happy, singing in the car.  I made  a new playlist and synced everyone's iPod before we left, so they were busy blaring Hakuna Matata most of the way there.  It was wonderful to hear their tiny, carefree voices.  We stopped for dinner.  Insert first cha-ching here.  $75 to feed our family.  

We proceeded to the hotel, checked in, donned swimsuits and paddled about until it was officially past bedtime.  It IS vacation, right!

Overall impression:

The weather was Colorado perfect.
The best thing(s) about today were finally getting going & the kids singing in the car.
The worst thing(s) about today were packing & waiting to leave.
The funniest thing said/done today was . . . . Little belting Hakuna Matata in Alvin the Chipmunk voice from the backseat while the girls sang in rounds and played backup chipette.   We also laughed and laughed when I told the story of Disney Vacation guides saying, "Have a magical day!"  It's like "my pleasure" at chick-fil-a.  We also laughed at Middle singing, "This is a nice hotel!"

Total cost today:  Dinner plus hotel

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Friday Night Fireworks . . .

Are worth every penny . . . . . 

Even if that means that the kids stay up late and fall asleep in your arms on the long trek back to the car, which is undoubtedly parking in BFE.  Friday night fireworks at the ball park define summer.  Add fireworks to the hilarious antics of Sox the Fox, which get my kids rolling every time, especially his very PG-13 booty waggle and hip motion.  

 Last night, we sprung $5 for fireworks glasses . . . which were SO cool and worth their $1 fee.  Only Mimi would think to take pictures THROUGH the glasses.  She took 240 pictures on my phone last night  along with a couple of videos.  Ah, ball games. 

Rally towels?  Yes, please . . . we'll need four.  And they're good for during-the-game entertainment, too.  It's too bad I was so close . . you can see Middle making bunny ears in the background.  Will that EVER get old? 

The Sox got beat last night.  Kind-of bad . . . . but even a bad night at the ball park is still a darn good night.  I'm not even sure who they played.  Uh, the guys in the red shirts.  See, still DARN good. 


Thursday, June 07, 2012

I've been crafty . . .

I'm anal.

It's me.  I like order.  I groove on organization.  I put things away all day long, and usually before I really realize I'm doing it.  It pisses MOTH off something fierce, especially where his glass of water is concerned.  (Or whatever cup he is drinking out of.)   In the summer, it gets about ten-fold worse because everyone is home, everyone is taking pulls from the faucet, getting cups out over and over and I'm in a perpetual cycle of "who's glass is this?"  or "Who took my water bottle?"

So I made this . . .

Thank you, Pin-spiration.   Yes, I made it.  These are coasters that I NEVER use.  I glued them to chunks of our flooring that were in the woodpile.  I glued the flooring together and put duct tape on the back.

And then I dedicated this counter, where the bulk of the glasses & cups collect, to the family coaster row.  And, it's TOTALLY working.  I'm so stoked!!   Yea!! Can I get a whoop-whoop for simple solutions?!?!

Hail, hail, hail . . . .

Nothin' says early summer in Colorado like late evening hail storms and tornado warnings.   Tonight is the second night this week we have listened to medium sized hail pelt the heck out of the side of our house.  The creeks are flash flooding, landscaping is washing away and whole trees and completely stripped of all their leaves.  Middle's veggie garden is shrapnel.  The hosta leaves have holes in them . . . . mass destruction!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Middle's Summer Date

Summer dates in our house are a tradition, I guess.  About three years ago, MOTH and I saw the importance and beauty of having a little one-on-one time with the kids.  It started as a dinner and a movie kind of date, but has recently morphed into more specific dreams and desires that are kid-specific.  No matter what, it's something about them . . . and for them.  It's fun. 

Well, last year, Middle's summer date was cut short and she got the crap end of the stick.  So she got the first date this summer.  She picked me.  Usually, the girls pick me and Little picks MOTH.  She gave me free reign to plan the date. 

I chose to do a Lantern Tour in Manitou Grand Caverns.  It's about a 90-minute walking tour through a semi-fixed-up cave system that is about 30 minutes from our house.  Of course, there'e no electrical and there are some very low tunnels and narrow passageways.  The tour guide tells ghost stories the whole time and gives you the history of the folks that discovered this cave system.  It's pretty cool and it was worth every penny.  

BUT . . . 

The really fun part was this . . . . 

This is The Wind Walker Aerial Challenge Course.   Check it out here.  When I showed it to her hours before the date, she was gung ho, as was I.  We were so brave in the safety of the office just viewing pictures.  When we got there, it was a bit of a different story.  Suddenly, we were chickens.  Big chickens with fluffy feet that wanted to hide in the hen house and incubate eggs.  See below.  Part of the course hangs out OVER the rim of the gorge, so when you are out on that little brown platform, you are, um, I don't know exactly, but really FRICKIN" high in the sky.   See that person out there? 

We took our tour and decided we'd give it a go.  I figured if we did the obstacles on the lower level, of which there were 10, it would be worth the month.   There were beams and jagged little sticks to walk on, different configurations of cargo nets . . . all kinds of Survivor-slash-Fear Factor obstacles.  Before I go on, YES, you wear a harness.  You're clipped it and it's safe.  It's a fear-of-heights thing.  Even IF you fall . . . and you can . . . you only fall a few feet . . . however much slack is in your line.

Middle and I were the ONLY ones on the course that night . . . so  . . . our 20 minutes of time turned into an hour and we both mustered the 20 seconds of insane courage to go up to the upper course.  It started with, "I'm just gonna stand up there."  And then it turned into, "I think I'll do this one."  Which led to, "Ok, I'll follow you, I'm feeling brave."

Then suddenly, we were on the edge of the canyon and I looked at her and said, "Want to?"  And she said, in a moment of wisdom far beyond her 10 years, "I think if we get down at this point, we'll be full of regret and will be back tomorrow to prove to ourselves that we can do it."  Side note:  HELLO!  Winner's attitude!!  I became a tad verclempt up on that precarious, treacherous scaffold overlooking 500 vertical feet of gorge.   I'm so proud of that kid & I love her so much!  Seemed like icing on the cake to take the first step out on that single wobbling rope and work my way over to that little brown platform.

We did it!!
We both did it!!

We both had bravery beyond words and insane courage and we not ONLY went out to that tiny little platform overlooking the world, but we did ALL of the obstacles on the overhang.  One, I will admit, was damn frightening.  The reach was pretty stinkin' far and it was windy as heck up there.  The wind was blowing fiercely from the south and, for the obstacles with just a dangling rope, they were really swinging in the breeze . . .

The most unfortunate part is that you can't take a snapshot while you are up there. Phones  and anything that could fall out of your pocket stay on the ground, for good reason.   Today, I'd even endure the hell of a BAD cell phone picture of myself just to have the physical evidence that I did it.  I'd pin it up in my office and make it the wallpaper on my computer.  But, it's one of those things that I'll remember forever . . . It was so fun!

We spent an hour on the course, came down with rumbling tummies & adrenaline coursing through our veins.  We had a great dinner at Texas Roadhouse & came home with great stories to pass along to the family!

Middle's 2012 Summer Date at Cave of the Winds.  We tackled a bear-of-an-obstacle course. 

UPDATE: Un-Bummer Summer Lists

We're cruisin'!!

Big's Picks
- see Aunt K
- Chick-fil-A
- Fargo's
- pool
- Orlando
- Garden
- Watch The Sound of Music
- Have nachos with Julia

Middle's Picks
- Aunt K
- Florida
- Breck
- have a birthday party -- ** now scheduled for 6/30!!
- water park
- Rockies
- Sky Sox
- water war in the backyard
- mini golf
- see Brookie
- explore Cottonwood Trail

Little's Picks
- swim
- bike
- hike
- go to the park
- get a Hawkeye bow & arrow
- go to the Lego store
- play in the creek
- birthday party -- ** now scheduled for 6/30

Mimi's Picks 
- see Grandma Donna
- Breck
- Florida
- feed the ducks
- ride the lightrail
- play kickball
- pool

Daddy Picks
- Breck
- Rockies
- Orlando
- fishing
- Star Wars Sky Sox game -- ** tickets purchased for 6/23

Mommy picks 
- Aunt K
- fire pit
- play hide the monkey
- zoo
- Rockies & Sky Sox
- Sand Dunes
- hike
- flea market
- farmer's market
- grill
- finish the lanterns
- run a 5K
- sleep in the tent
- see Belle
- flashlight tour
- summer dates - ** one down, three to go
- make the table
- Aunt K
- bowling
- fireworks