My mom adventures in Fort Collins

My kids are forcing me to face my fears

It’s true, my daughter Scout is forcing me to face my fears. Well, one fear exactly. And it’s not noble or based on some circumstance that would conjure up sympathy from nearly everyone. Nope. It’s silly. Really.

I have a fear of horses.

It started a long time ago, when I was in college. I travelled to a few different cities in Europe, and from what I remember the cobblestone streets were narrow and filled with tourist-trap carriage rides. In my mind, the horses that carried these replica wagons were behemoths. So, I guess I’m not truly afraid of horses per se. I’m afraid of  Clydesdales on steroids with hoofs the size and girth of cast iron frying pans. With each whinny of the horse, I feel a compelling urge to turn my head to avoid the horseshoe imprint bound to land with a “Pow!” akin to the Nintendo game Mike Tyson’s Punch Out.

So here I am, of course, with a daughter who responds to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with the ever-popular “Cowgirl.” She’s got the hat and the boots, but the rocking horse and the stick-horse just aren’t cutting it. She needs the real deal. We are taking pony riding lessons at The Farm, a local rec center.

The prospective cowgirl, prior to her first lesson

I am not sure why exactly I thought that I would be the appropriate party to accompany my wide-eyed Dale Evans-wannabe on this journey. But here I am, leading a horse named Scout on a dirt track while my daughter named Scout has the time of her life.

Scout and Scout take on the world!

Please take your pick of my most awkward moments:

  • Given that our pony was my height, but other ponies were barely taller than the preschoolers, the lesson in grooming the horses was lost on Scout since she could barely reach. So I had to do the grooming. I don’t even groom myself most days, and the dread I cut out of Ruby’s hair a few weeks ago should tell you how stealthily I exercise grooming regimens around here. I think Scout (the pony) recognized my uneasiness with the curry comb.
  • Given that our pony was older and experiencing something called ‘swayback’, she had two saddle pads and one very huge saddle (comparatively large since, as I said, many of the other ponies were barely 3 1/2 feet tall). My kid naturally hasn’t birthed any children of her own yet and thus isn’t a card-carrying member of the sherpa club, so I had to schlepp all this stuff over to the horse and saddle the horse. By myself.
  • Given that our horse was apparently cantankerous or hungry (or both), the old beast was off munching on creeping Jenny and leading me all about the dirt track whilst all the other ponies were quietly waiting to be mounted by the 35-pound equestrians-in-training.
  • Given that my Scout (the human Scout, not the pony Scout) had insisted on wearing her red cowboy hat and then later was required to wear a helmet while riding, I got the thrill of trying to hold a hat in one hand while leading the crabby weed-eating pony against her better judgement to leave me in the figurative and literal dust. I will submit my application to the University of Wyoming’s rodeo team as soon as I can find my chaps.

Giddy-up… Wait, stay out of the weeds!

Add to any of this the fact that my daughter’s name is Scout and her pony’s name was Scout. Well, that’s just a coincidence, right? But there was an auburn-haired mare named Ruby as well. So, The Farm and I obviously have the same taste in names. Mine human, theirs equine.

One thing’s for sure: My discomfort did not affect my daughter’s enjoyment. She can’t wait to go to her next lesson. She tells me she’d like to pick either the pony named Fritz or the pony named Rosie.

Hmm. Fritz? Rosie? Those would make such a cute names!

The cowgirl emerges victorious!


It’s Fort Collins and the summer is (unintentionally) hot

Near and dear to Fort Collins are the foothills. People build beautiful dream homes  in these foothills, within spitting distance of Long’s Peak and Rocky Mountain National Park. And these hills are on fire.

This is the second major fire of the year, and it’s awful. I’d complain about the air quality except that people are losing their homes and firefighters are working their butts off. Seems a bit self-indulgent to talk about how our home smells like a campfire when people are putting their lives on the line.

Near the intersection of Mulberry and Timberline in Fort Collins, Colorado around 7:20 pm on June 10

It’s a sad tale, no doubt made worse by the high winds and the ongoing drought-like conditions. I cannot–for the life of me–stop thinking about these evacuees, possibly sheltering in a local elementary school. 18 homes damaged or destroyed. An estimated 20,000 acres. Worst of all, one person is missing.

The sheriff has basically said that nothing is contained at this point. There is, in fact, no hope of containment when Mother Nature is nothing short of hostile.

So sad. Pray for rain. Pray for the wind to calm  down. Pray for the people that most certainly never thought that they’d have to forsake their little slice of heaven in the canyon. This fire has been described as the fire that the sheriff’s department always feared might happen. And here it is.

Thoughts on kids’ birthday parties

Up until this past weekend, I had never hosted a birthday party for either of my children that included anyone other than our family and extended family. Once, three years ago, I offered cupcakes to the playgroup that Scout and I attended (back then, it was just four mommies and four kids) since her birthday fell on the day of the week that we all got together.

The birthday girl

That’s it. Once upon a time, I thought, “What’s with all the hullaballoo? Why the need to create a three-ring circus when all kids want is to hang out and play?” Furthermore, the expense involved with some of these shenanigans seemed simply ridiculous. In the past, I’ve attended a birthday party for a one-year-old with more than 100 attendees, a birthday party at the birthday girl’s home that included a quasi-build-a-bear workshop, a few cutesy game-playing homespun deals, and a couple that took place at Chuck E Cheese or equally kid-oriented locations.

So, imagine my surprise when I suggested months ago that we have Scout’s fifth birthday party at Pump It Up, an indoor playplace filled with bounce-house-type inflatables. Immediately, Scout loved the idea. With Cory’s hesitant approval, I decided to proceed.

My number one reason for having a party for our girl outside of the house? Well, it’s her turn. You see, my father-in-law has hideous allergies and truly shouldn’t step into our home due to our dog (we had a colorful Thanksgiving a few years ago that nearly resulted in a 911 call due to a severe asthma attack).  Since Scout has a June birthday, we’ve always gotten away with a simple outside bbq. However, Ruby has a November birthday, so we’ve opted to have hers at a local rec center the past two years. In the interest of equality, I thought we should offer Scout the same opportunity.

I called a few months ago to secure the date with a $50 deposit. A few weeks before the party, I sent out online invitations.  I invited the entire pre-school class, several siblings of the pre-school class, our extended family, and several other family friends. I think the guest list was nearly 31 kids (not including the adults I specifically invited and others who would likely accompany many of the kids). Have I mentioned that we had 11 guests at our wedding? No, seriously, I have no idea what I was thinking with that guest list.

As the RSVPs started to roll in, I got panicky. The place has a policy of not allowing more than 45 people at the party (I got wind of this AFTER I’d invited all these people). Thank the Lord that it was summertime and many people had other plans. Sweet Mary, how awkward would it be to rescind invitations to your five-year-old’s birthday party?

In the end, this was how it worked: I had a little list of items not to forget which included the cake, a knife, candles and a ton of extra socks for kids who might forget them (it is apparently a huge hygiene or safety concern not to wear socks on the inflatables). When we walked into Pump It Up on Saturday morning, I handed them my stuff and they took it from there. Each one of the staff members introduced herself to me, and those women worked hard. Ten minutes before we transitioned from the play area to the “party room,” one of the staff members showed me how she set up the room, seeking my approval. I didn’t have to set up a cup or hand out one napkin. The entire party was taken care of for us, and we were able to enjoy our time instead of running around like a pekingnese on ritalin (as I am apt to do). At the end of the party, a staff member handed me a list of gifts and gift-givers and stack of thank you cards. In the end, it wasn’t cheap, but it was money well-spent. I am thrilled that I gave the birthday-party-machine a chance!

Here’s my new approach to birthday parties:

1. Above all, have fun.If you need outside assistance to accomplish this, so be it. I thought the age-appropriate fun of bouncing around like superballs proved fantastic. The kids never seemed to tire of the action. Had I had the party at my own house, I think we might have lost a few after the third round of duck-duck-goose.

Tell me honestly, would you rather box in a ring with your friend or play “Pin the tail on the Donkey”?

2. If you can’t handle the details, leave the details to someone else. You may not need a party-planner, just an awesome friend or an establishment that does this gig all the time. I loved the idea of getting everyone together, but when guests arrive at my home, I typically lose sight of some important aspect of the party (like seeing that everyone has drinks, for instance) because someone has asked me for a band-aid and I’m off tracking that down. I also delegate very poorly. By hiring someone to do this for me, I’ve suddenly lowered my stress level (and therefore, everyone’s stress level).

Cory and my niece coming down the slide

3. Keep it simple, keeping in mind what simple means to you. Kids like a party in their honor, but it can get over-whelming. The party attendees typically need some sort of sustenance, not necessarily a four-course meal. Goody bags are intended to be a token, but too often they’re a bag of plastic crap. In the end, our party consisted of 18 kids and assorted adults. I cannot imagine having more than this, and would readily admit that the guest list I put together was overly ambitious. What I did get right was just serving juice, cake and ice cream and skipping the (overpriced) pizza. The party was from 10 am to 12 pm, and I put a gentle note on the invitation that we would not be serving lunch, but would serve a snack. I had purchased a ton of simple paperbacks through a Scholastic book order, so each child picked out a book as a take-away gift rather than a goody bag.

Party attendees–all these kids, and I didn’t have to clean up a thing!

I can’t say we’ll do a big shindig like this every year, but I feel exhilarated to have conquered my fear of the birthday party. In the end, the birthday girl was happy and so were our guests. Couldn’t be better, right?

Tell me your insights into the world of kids’ birthday parties. I can’t wait to learn from the pros.

Out of the mouth of Scout

Lately, I’ve had so many funny moments really “hearing” my daughter Scout, now five years old.

She uses the words “car breath” to describe the smell of exhaust.

She uses the words “poop spray” to denote an experience with diarrhea.

Beyond these rather appropriate linguistic reinventions, she uses the word “hypothesis” a lot. I blame the show “Dinosaur Train.” She will often rattle off three or four hypotheses in quick succession. We might have somewhere near 48 hypotheses hanging out in limbo around here, just waiting to become a theory.

In happier times, here is the girl who coined “car breath”

Today came my new favorite laugh-out-loud moment in response to her truth-telling tongue. It came at a price, mind you. We were at her five year old Well Child Check. As not to make this post a controversial matter, I will just say that we planned on having a routine exam followed by the CDC-standard five year old “booster shots.”

There was very little conversation surrounding the vaccinations. Scout knew ahead of time that she would be getting shots, but we tried very hard not to play into her anxiety. We did explain what the medicine was for, what she could expect in terms of pain, and that the shots would be coming at the end of the visit.

She was determined that she would not be doing the shots. She might be the most obstinate person to ever walk the face of the earth. Do not underestimate her when she says, “Mom, I’m NOT doing it!” (Perhaps someday I’ll do a whole separate post about an experience at the dentist earlier this year.)

A nurse entered the room, rolling a cart containing four syringes and several vials. Cory signed the necessary documents and confirmed the vaccinations. Everything was handled very professionally. Scout, on the other hand, was doing her part of being the normal five-year-old: She was hiding underneath a chair.

She cried. We let her be for a minute, and tried to talk about how it would be over soon and advised her to ask the nurse Crystal any questions she might have. That didn’t do much to calm her fears.

Finally, I said, “Scout, come on out, honey. You can be brave.”

Scout yelled, “Mom, I’m not gonna be brave, I’m gonna be a whiner.”

So she was. That girl screamed, yelled, and thoroughly maintained that she was not doing it. Cory had to hold her pretty darn tight, but the whole ordeal was over in a minute.

Tonight, more than six hours after the blasted shots were over, I caught her saying to her sister, “You know, Ruby, I really didn’t like that doctor’s visit.”

Really? Couldn’t tell.

Please tell me your favorite “out of the mouth of babes” story. I feel like I have millions of them, but then I always forget to write them down.

Local Color: Bike Trails
June 5, 2012, 11:05 pm
Filed under: Blogging, Family, Local color | Tags: , ,

Every once in a while, I think to myself, “Where’s the local color?” We, as wordpress writers, have the opportunity to name our blogs. And long ago, I chose a name relative to my location. So, where’s the local color, right?

I’ve written a bit, but I’m feeling called to do more. Favorite parks, fun things to do, restaurants, kid-friendly destinations, and more–it’s all running through my head.

For today, here’s some local color: My friend recently started a blog about the bike trails around Fort Collins. Fort Collins boasts miles and miles of trails and considers itself a bike-friendly city. A link to the city’s information and maps can be found here.

I’m hoping that we can take advantage of this information ourselves. I have long needed a new bike, and we have been slackers in this area of activity (I’m pretty sure Cory’s bike hasn’t moved since we hung it up in the garage two years ago).

Perhaps our best excuse just arrived the other day as a birthday present from Grandma and Papa:

The maiden voyage!

Whether you live in Fort Collins matters not, though. What are your favorite spaces in the place that you call home? What do you want to explore in your own neck of the woods?

Kitchen success: Cheater baked beans

I have been MIA for a bit, and it’s only because I can’t get focused. I have two or three drafts started of something or another… It works the same way on my nightstand: I have two books that I’m in the middle of, and about 4 others that I ambitiously think I’ll have time to read before they are called back to the library.

While I may not have had much success lately in keeping up my writing, I have been keeping up a fun and active social life by having folks over for simple food and conversation. The kids all play together in the backyard, we pull out the kids’ folding table and have a “kids’ table” and an “adults table.” I’ve hosted three BBQs in the past two weekends. And each time, I’ve made my cheater beans. They are simple, taste great, and they provide an easy side for a bbq or pot-luck. Best of all, they are made in the slow cooker and can be made ahead of time (Think more conversation, less time in the kitchen!)

The kids’ table: complete with at least one fairy and one Cinderella

Here’s what you need for the cheater baked beans:

Equipment: Cutting board, knife, fry pan, slotted spoon,tongs (optional), slow cooker

Ingredients: 2 Large cans (28 oz) vegetarian baked beans, 6 slices bacon (cut into 1-inch pieces), one onion (chopped), molasses, ketchup, yellow mustard, agave nectar (optional)

First, chop your  onion and bacon. Using your fry pan, fry up the bacon pieces.Flip as necessary with your tongs, or just stir that business around. Wait until the little buggers are a bit crispy and plenty of the fat has rendered. Transfer by slotted spoon to your slow cooker (leaving behind a lot of the bacon fat).

Mmm… bacon

Next, fry up your onion in that delicious, decadent bacon fat. Stir that goodness occasionally. While that is happening, empty your two cans of beans into the slow cooker. Add to that approximately 1/4 cup of ketchup, 1-2 Tablespoons of yellow mustard, 2-3 Tablespoons of molasses, and 1-2 Tablespoons of agave.

My slow cooker (next to another slow cooker)… I’m not really sure why I didn’t take a photo of what was actually IN the slow cooker.

Last, once your onions are all fried up, transfer the onions by slotted spoon (leaving behind some of the bacon fat) to your slow cooker. Stir up your beans and additional ingredients, and set your slow cooker to low for 4-6 hours (or if you’re a complete cheater like me, do high for 1-2 hours, then turn it down to low, but they’ll be ready in less than 3 hours). You’ll know that these are ready when the molasses have turned the beans into a nice dark color, and they are bubbling just a bit. Turn your slow cooker to warm or just turn it off for serving purposes.

Notes: I like to use vegetarian beans simply because there is less “junk” in them. I’m not a huge health nut, but I am kind of a meat snob. If you’re inclined to use pork-n-beans, you may want to adjust the seasonings. I like Bush’s brand because there is no high-fructose corn syrup. During the summer, you can often catch these on sale–like $1.75 for one can. Not only a super easy side, but also a pretty inexpensive addition to your meal.