Wednesday, October 28, 2009

From One Extreme to Another

We just got back from two hours in the snowy park, sledding and watching teenagers build a ski ramp. I had to remind myself that it is only October. When I uploaded the photos from today onto Flickr, I took a quick look at my album titled "Late October" from last year in Studio City. I was remembering how I used to worry about Evie getting heat stroke during her soccer games in October. Life is a little different in Colorado!

Evie and Lucy at Griffith Park in October. Note the shorts.

Today - and it's still snowing!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Finding Nederland

Ever since moving to Boulder, I've been wanting to get deeper into the mountains. We have done several hikes out of our front door and into the foothills, a couple of hikes up around the Flat Irons, and some biking with snowy mountain views, but because of unpacking and other weekend plans, haven't explored further than that. This weekend, with my dad in town, we finally made the twenty minute drive up the road (and I mean seriously up, about 3,000 feet) to Nederland for some hiking and dinner.

Nederland is only a short drive from Boulder but it feels like a different world. When we left Boulder, it was sixty degrees and sunny, but when we pulled into Nederland twenty minutes later we were under a dark snow cloud. Named for "The Netherlands" by a Dutch mining company, Nederland was originally just a mill down for the silver mines of nearby town of Caribou, which is now a ghost town. Unlike Boulder, Nederland still maintains a gritty, old western vibe, although these days that's mixed with a hippy vibe as well, with the small downtown hosting both a crystal and a hemp store. [A side note: Nederland is also home to one of the most bizarre festivals I've ever heard of: The Frozen Dead Guys festival]

Despite the ominous gray cloud, we passed through the town for a hike around Mud lake. The hike was beautiful, though the girls lost interest when the winds and snow picked up. At one point, we looked into the valley and the snow was blowing horizontally across the tree line. We made our way back to the car, cold, but refreshed by the mountain air.

Since it was still a bit early for dinner, we decided to swing by Eldora, Boulder's nearest ski area, for a quick tour. The lodge is more similar to a West Virginia lodge than a lodge at Vail, but the trails are pure Colorado and I love that we have a great ski area that close to our house.

Then we drove back into town and ate dinner at Kathmandu Restaurant, which is basically a taste of Nepal right in the Colorado mountains. Run by a Nepalese family, the food is served (Nepalese style) on stainless steal plates and cups, and we enjoyed garlic naan and saag and other delicious food. The best part was that it felt wonderfully warm inside as we looked out the windows at the mountains and blowing snow.

As we found from our trip to Nederland, the season for hiking in the mountains to our west is coming to a close. If we want to continue to explore over the winter, we'll have to break out the snow shoes and the skis. Just so long as we have a warm restaurant to enjoy at the end of the day, that works for me.

An old bus at the end of the trail

Eldora map

How can you not love a town with a town hall like this?

Full family photo, if you can spot Noni's foot

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


This weekend, four of my college friends and I met up to spend the weekend together. It's something we've tried to do at least once a year for the past thirteen years. In the beginning, it was easy and we got together far more than just once a year. Several of my friends lived in NYC and it was a great excuse to head up there for a fun weekend. In the past few years though, pregnancies, kids, living further apart (in places as diverse as Iraq and Nicaragua), finances and other obligations have made finding a weekend to get together more challenging. I've missed the last two get togethers because we were about to move and then because of the logistics of getting to Miami from Los Angeles for two days. This past weekend made me realize how much I've really missed my friends and how important it is to figure out a way to get together more often, no matter how challenging that is.

On Saturday morning, I left Toby in the girls in the newly transformed winter wonderland of Boulder, picked up a car through a local car share and headed to the airport to pick up Diana and Karima, flying in from Miami and Brooklyn. From there, we drove another half an hour south to meet up with Annie, who travelled from Maine, and Jen, who sent her husband and older kids to her brother's and hosted us for the weekend. When I picked Karima and Diana up at the airport, we commented on how long it had been, but within about two minutes it felt as though no time had passed at all. We had a lot to catch up on, but the laughter and the easy flow of conversation was unchanged. When we arrived at Jen's house, we all sat down for lunch together and found ourselves laughing until we were crying time and time again.

We spent most of the weekend sitting by the fire, drinking wine, eating good food (without having to get up during meals), shopping (without having to worry about a little one escaping from the dressing room), looking at old photographs, passing Jen's new baby Larson from lap to lap, talking, laughing and relaxing. We turned the tv on once to watch Project Runway, which somehow all of us had missed that week and which Jen fortunately taped, and it was so nice to be sitting on the couch, making comments about the show together. I felt like I was back in college again, minus a terrible hangover and minus some of the juicy gossip we used to enjoy in those days (though fortunately Annie brought $35 worth of gossip magazines to fill the void.)

Need I even say that the weekend was absolutely wonderful? It is always fun to catch up with good friends, but something about the weekend was more than just fun. It was therapeautic. I love my family and my life with them, but there are days when I feel defined by my role as a mother of three children. It's hard to be fun and interesting when you are mopping the bathroom floor or struggling to get three people out the door with lunches made and mittens on. Spending the weekend with my college friends, I realized they don't see me that way at all. They have known me since we were all hanging out on our dorm couch in flannels, Doc Martens and patched jeans, with husbands and children and careers a distant thing in the future. Of course, seventeen years changes people. I am different and so are they. We've all grown up and, given some of the memories we discussed over the weekend, that's a really good thing. But our ability to talk to each other about our lives and enjoy each others' company and perspectives has remained the same.

On Monday, we all headed back home to our lives and families. It was wonderful to see Toby and the girls again and I jumped back into the chaos of life with three kids again carrying the memories of a very relaxing weekend with me. It is sad living so far apart, but Diana has an apartment in Miami and I'm already looking forward to our next gathering, where we'll leave the fireplace behind and catch up with sand between our toes.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Where the wild things are

When your town cozies right up to the Rockies and miles and miles of wilderness, you get some wildlife wandering through your neighborhood from time to time. I noticed the deer as soon as we moved in. They were hard to miss, eating grass out in our front yard. They aren't the Bambi-esque deer of back east, but are a bit hardier looking, with sturdier legs and shaggier fur and I found them completely exotic. We continued to see them and then, when I counted eleven of them on the way to the girls' school one day, it occurred to me that they really aren't exotic at all. Given how often we see them, they are pretty much the neighborhood squirrels. I still like passing them by on the way to school (and probably appreciate them more than most since I'm not a gardener) but I no longer stop to stare or take pictures.

We also discovered pretty quickly that another type of animal frequently makes its way down the mountain. We naively left our trash can out the first week of living here and soon found it knocked over, with a giant crap sitting next to it. We looked at the size of the scat and, after ruling out wandering, trash-digging elephants, realized that a bear had been eating our leftover pizza. We now keep the trash can safely in the garage, but I think about the bear every time I go for a trail run and pass by the "Bear Activity In This Area!" sign.

Then of course, there's another animal. One that recently seems to be, like the deer, as common as squirrels. Only it's not really a good comparison unless you imagine big, meat-eating squirrels with sharp claws and fangs. I'm talking about our friendly neighborhood mountain lions. Like the bears, they come into the neighborhoods feeling a little bit hungry. A week ago, a woman a few blocks away watched in horror as a lion attacked, killed and then ran away with her pet cat. On Friday night, just three blocks away from us, a man saw a lion in his garden at midnight and again at 6:30 AM. And then on Saturday night, just two blocks from us, a family couldn't find their cat in their house before going to bed. The next morning, they found his fur and blood on the sidewalk in front of their house.

I feel terrible about our neighbors losing their cats, but I have to admit that part of me loves that we have bears and mountain lions wandering by our house at night. They should stay in the mountains of course. It's safer for us and for them, as repeat offenders end up shot. But I think it's just that I love the reminder that humans haven't taken over everything, that beautiful wild animals still exist. I often think of Kingsolver's Prodigal Summer, where the main character, a park ranger, describes a wild coyote as the "beating heart" of the forest. The mountain lions seem to me to be the beating heart of the mountains behind us.

Don't worry, just because I like the mountain lions doesn't mean I'm not taking precautions. We keep Mouse in at night, the girls aren't allowed to play outside without adult supervision anytime near dusk, and, while I'd like to see a mountain lion, I hope that it would be from my car or living room window. Also, I have to admit feeling a little bit concerned about Halloween. It's probably not rational, but I'm not sure that I should let Noni be a cat. Halloween is for scary costumes anyway. If she really wants to scare people walking down the street, I'm thinking maybe she should dress up as a mountain lion.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Leapin' Lizards: The brief story of Bindi

As I mentioned before, two weeks ago, Evie got a lizard for her birthday. She had been asking, begging really, for a lizard for at least a month before that, claiming that she wanted one more than anything. She was willing to help pay for it with her allowance. She would clean the cage, feed it, play with it daily. She just really, really wanted one. She needed a lizard. Please, please, pleeeeeaaassse. And so, Bindi the lizard came to live with us.

Then, the next day, Evie decided that she actually didn't want a pet lizard.

To be fair, it was probably partly my fault. I let her hold Bindi on the way home from picking her up. Evie was so excited about her new pet and the lizard actually even looked a little bit sweet lying there on Evie's shirt, so I decided that it sounded like a good idea for her to bond with her on the ride home. It wasn't until we were driving down the highway, with the girls squished together in one seat to make room for the lizard cage, and with the lizard UNDER THE BRAKE that i realized that, um, it was really a bad, bad, bad idea. Evie started screaming, then I started screaming and pretty soon you could no longer hear Michael Jackon singing Beat It for the 50th time that day. After an initial moment of freaking out, I fortunately came to my senses, put on the hazards, pulled the car over and pulled the emergency brake, avoiding the choice between a car crash or squashing Bindi.

While all safely walked away from the Bindi brake incident, Evie's relationship with her was forever altered. After Evie put her in the cage for the rest of the ride home, she decided that she pretty much never wanted to have her out of the cage again. She was scared Bindi would run away. I apologized for my mistake of letting her hold her in the car, explained that escaping in the house wouldn't be such a big deal, and watched as Toby worked with her on feeling comfortable about holding Bindi again. Still, she said she didn't want to play with her out of the cage anymore. And so, as we drove to the pet store to buy more crickets, I started wondering exactly what was the point of having a lizard.

But you know what? Sometimes life just has a way of working itself out. The next day at the gym, I ran into a friend who told me that she was just thinking of us because the night before she'd been looking for bearded dragons on Craig's List. I'm not sure if a thought bubble and lightbulb actually appeared over my head, but suddenly I found myself telling her to wait a few days before buying a lizard. When I told my idea to Evie at home, she became teary, explaining that she really loved Bindi, but then decided on her own that giving her away would be the right choice for everyone.

Today, we brought Bindi to her new home. Her new owner was a lizard last year for Halloween. (Actually a robot lizard, but that's being technical.) He took Bindi out and held her as soon as we brought her over. His mom, who is not squeamish at all about lizards, is taking her to the vet tomorrow for a check up. I can confidently say she is in a better place.

And so, we are back to being a family of two parents, three kids, and a cat. We're less exotic than we were this morning, but I have to say, I kind of like us that way.