My mom adventures in Fort Collins


I just love my pool

In my childhood, nearly every pool that I swam in was indoors. I took lessons indoors, and  any “pool parties” took place at the local high school. The occasional trip to a hotel was made that much more fun by the exciting prospect of swimming in an indoor pool. Outdoor swimming? You did that kind of stuff in a lake, not a swimming pool. The Wisconsin of my youth was not the place for outdoor pools.

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This girl can get awfully brave at the pool!

Now, I’m living in Colorado, where summer is the season of nearly interminable sun. Neighborhood pools are commonplace and outdoor swimming is, for many, expected of a summer sun-bum.

I love it. We basically live at The Collindale Pool during the summer.

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In her “Puddle Jumper”–a lovely resource for the chronically sinking child

Don’t get me wrong. I hate living in my swimming suit, and I can’t stand schlepping our wagon full of supplies and snacks back and forth through the neighborhood. My laundry room is full of various stages of wet bathing suits and towels. However, this is a small price to pay for the exciting squeals when I say, “Whaddya think? You guys wanna go to the pool this afternoon?”

We didn’t join our neighborhood pool for the first two summers that we lived in our neighborhood. I had heard great things, but I was nervous that I couldn’t handle both kids by myself (that whole kids-can-drown-thing). Once we joined the pool (the kids were 5 & 2), it was great. It provided this welcome refuge from the heat, and a source of family fun-time. Suddenly, things started clicking for my older daughter and she was able to play, have fun and finally synthesize the many lessons that she had taken. My younger daughter is the lounger of the bunch, and it’s doubtful that she’ll ever request to leave her floaties at home. For every potty-training mom that thinks her daughter will attend the prom in her pull-ups, I’ve discovered the swimming equivalent: I fear my daughter will go on Spring Break as a college freshman wearing her beloved Puddle Jumper.

Our pool is private; you need to purchase a membership to swim. The membership is not cheap, but for us it is a convenient summertime activity and well worth the investment. Like anything of this nature–the more you go, the more cost-efficient the membership seems to be. I’m at an advantage, since the pool is walking distance from our home. In fact, the HOA we belong to owns the pool, though they do not financially support it (membership fees make up the bulk of the budget). This year, our HOA meeting was later than usual and in the notice letter were the words, “Show up at this meeting or we’ll fill this pool with pea gravel” or something like that. (Okay, maybe I didn’t get the wording quite right, but that’s what it might as well have said.) Turns out, my beloved pool had fallen on hard times and needed a bunch of concerned community members to bring it back to the thriving, vibrant place that it once was. There is a “Recreation Board” that had been working for years to run the pool, process memberships, pay the bills and market the pool to the public. These folks worked tirelessly (for free) and ran up against many challenges.

Ahem… Did someone say you needed a Volunteer for the Collindale Recreation Board? Although I never say to myself, “Gee, I would like to work for free any ol’ day of the week!” it does seem like I do. This is in my blood. And for a pool that I love and my kids love? I VOLUNTEER AS TRIBUTE.

When they're not in the water, they're lounging poolside

When they’re not in the water, they’re lounging poolside

While Katniss Everdeen’s words might ring in your head, it is actually the words of Margaret Mead that this whole situation brings to mind:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

I began my journey as a volunteer with the Collindale Recreation Board about two months ago. There is much to do, and I’m happy to learn. I’m a bit out of my depth, especially when it comes to marketing skills. I can’t market “Pick Up Your Room” to two children, so I could not fathom trying to convince people to join our neighborhood pool. This has been an adventure for me–along with several other amazing volunteers. I have met some truly lovely neighbors through this process, further proof that people of substance walk with us everyday. Together, we have beefed up our website, hand-delivered membership packets to all the residents of the Collindale neighborhood, started to use social media, hosted an “Open House” event, and reached out to our own networks to get the word out. Another volunteer has worked on handyman jobs like plumbing and painting and he even streamlined our parking situation (painting parking-lines in his free time!). We have a laundry list of things we’d love to do for the pool–plant flowers, purchase new chairs, save for a “rainy day” (or a supplemental boiler, as the case may be), but in order to do this, we need our financial situation to improve.

As one of the long-term board members put it, “I’ve got one goal: Keep the doors open.” For me, I can fall back on my old non-profit experience where I’d happily ask anyone anywhere to volunteer or give us money. (What’s the worst that could happen? They tell you “no,” and you move on.) I’m a chatty gal, and I’ll talk to anyone about this pool. I feel very confident that if the Collindale Pool is a good fit for folks, they will purchase a membership. I’m taking an If You Build It, They Will Come-Approach; however, I could certainly benefit from some expertise.

Do you have a story about a community entity that was brought back from the brink? Do you have marketing suggestions that might help? Words of encouragement?



It’s raining, it’s pouring

No doubt if you live in Colorado, you’ve heard about some of the extreme flooding that we’ve been having. I live in Northern Colorado, so the main point of interest for me lately is that Estes Park (the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park) had flooded, and all of the roads in or out had been closed. (Not true, I learned after writing this that they opened Trail Ridge Road–the road that goes through RMNP over to Grand Lake–as a route for evacuation.) As far as I can tell from these photos here and here, Hwy 7 and Hwy 34 are fully washed out in areas. In mountain-area speak, there are only 4 ways in and out of Estes, and all are closed. (Well, Trail Ridge has traditionally been a seasonal road, so let’s see how long it can stay open before snow flies.) Residents are essentially living on an island. Can you imagine what the Estes Park Safeway looks like?

It’s estimated to cost millions to repair. Worse yet, people have died and many have been evacuated and may have lost their homes. Many in Boulder county have had entire residential streets torn up by the water. Schools are closed, the University of Colorado is closed, and there are closures along the interstate nearby. My sister-in-law works at a hospital in Longmont, and she assures me that it was a wild day at the office, so to speak. The hospital probably saw this guy:

But as for me, I can count my blessings. We are safe and dry. Our schools are also closed, but since I have soup and the kids have movies, we can just hunker down. If the kids feel like it, we might do this again:

Our walk to school on Tuesday morning

Our walk to school on Tuesday morning

We have the luxury of a safe, dry home, and I am grateful. For now, local reservoirs are holding and Spring Creek is okay. The Poudre River has overflowed, and caused a lot of road closures and some evacuations, but most city dwellers are safe this morning. Please say a prayer for those folks who don’t have such luxuries, especially those who find themselves scrambling for what to carry with them as they leave their home and head to safety. (How sad, the local Red Cross evacuation area doesn’t have a place for pets. This is probably not unusual in an emergency, but I just never thought about it before.) And pray especially for the folks in Colorado who were spared from fire a year ago, and are now fighting against mudslides and floods.

Stay safe, Colorado!



School Choices: Mountain Sage Community School

Part of the reason that we moved to Fort Collins was to be in a smaller community, where choosing a school for our children would be less intimidating. We didn’t stick around Denver long enough to find out how gruelling that process would be, but it still seems plenty difficult in this community. However, I am reminded by a good friend that it is better to have a choice than no choice at all.

The Poudre School District website is a wealth of information. I am trying to get more acquainted with it, since we will be signing up for kindergarten on February 7th. Since I did the back-and-forth-dance last year, I have lovingly put to bed our school decision. We know that we’ll be sending Scout to our neighborhood school, though, honestly, I was impressed with all five of the schools that I visited.

Recently, my humble blog was contacted by a rep for a new school option, and I thought that I could give this school some of my much-sought-after attention. From my understanding, Mountain Sage Community School has been years in the works, though only recently received its charter. Here is the press release:

Mountain Sage Community School, a new public charter school in Fort Collins, inspired by Waldorf Education and sustainable living, is hosting a series of enrollment events. Please come to one of the following events to learn more, get involved, answer your questions, and meet the founders.

When:
Thursday, January 17th, 2013, from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Thursday, January 24th, 2013, from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Sunday, January 27th, 2013, from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm
Monday, February 4th, 2013, from 6:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Saturday, February 23rd, 2013, from 10:00 am to 11:00 am
Saturday, March 9th, 2013, from 10:00 am to 11:00 am
Saturday, March 23rd, 2013, from 10:00 am to 11:00 am
Saturday, March 30th, 2013, from 10:00 am to 11:00 am

Where: The Gardens on Spring Creek, 2145 Centre Avenue, Fort Collins, 80526

The Mountain Sage Community School Charter was unanimously approved by the Poudre School District on August 14th, 2012. The school will open to K-5 students in the fall of 2013, expanding one grade each year until the goal of a K-8 program is reached.

Mountain Sage will offer an arts-centered, sustainably-minded, multi-sensory education that blends Waldorf methods with the Colorado Academic Standards to provide students with an exceptional and balanced education. The school is committed to offering students a challenging academic curriculum, which includes ongoing foreign language and music education, as well as a variety of hands-on learning experiences with ample time outdoors and in the school garden.

Mountain Sage Community School believes all children deserve a public education that inspires them to reach their highest creative and academic potential in an environment respecting childhood and the natural world. They are currently accepting applications for fall, 2013.

Mountain Sage Community School
P.O. Box 1253
Fort Collins, CO 80522

www.mountainsagecommunityschool.org

Best of luck as you prepare to make school choices wherever you are.



Gone to the (prairie) dogs: Hangin’ at the Coterie

The Coterie Natural Area is located off Prospect and Timberline, with parking available in the EPIC parking lot

My childhood and that of my kids differs greatly. There are philosophical differences, sure, but geography plays the most significant part: exposure to the mountains, the hiking, the altitude, the dry climate, the sunshine, and many other things make their childhood what it is.

No way could I have predicted that a tiny mammal would be one of the ways in which my children’s life differs from my own childhood. My kids love (actually, psychotically love) to watch prairie dogs. In their defense, prairie dogs are incredibly interesting to watch. I think that a coterie (a family group) of prairie dogs could make even the least likely wildlife fan become an avid binocular wearer. There is not a rodent-loving bone in my body, and still I love to watch these little cuties.

I discovered a really great place to watch prairie dogs with the kids a few months ago. The Coterie Natural Area is located off Prospect and Timberline, with parking available in the EPIC parking lot. From the EPIC parking lot, it’s just a short trip down the Spring Creek bike trail. The kids took their scooters, and I walked. Once you get to the prairie dog town, there is even a bench for easy viewing.

A bit of a trip down the Spring Creek bike trail

A bit of a trip down the Spring Creek bike trail

On a good day, you can get the kids to settle down a bit and take it all in.

Might not look like much from far away, but just watch...

Might not look like much from far away, but just watch…

The landscape is moving!

The cutest thing is when they stand up and peek out of their holes

The cutest thing is when they stand up and peek out of their holes

Closely examing a hole

Closely examining a hole

Aren't they just the cutest things?

Aren’t they just the cutest things?

You can even check out this video of the kids getting up close and personal with a prairie dog’s home.

Hey little buddies!

Hey little buddies!

If you’re interested in prairie dogs (who isn’t?), there is a great kids’ book that I just discovered. The Great Fuzz Frenzy is written by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel. It’s a cute story with great illustrations of the underground prairie dog action.

From Amazon.com

From Amazon.com

There are other places to check out prairie dogs in town. I also like driving down Conifer Street near Jax Outdoor Gear on North College. There are several different open fields near there with prairie dog towns.

What wildlife viewing do you enjoy? Your kids?



Can you feel the Holiday Spirit?

I have had a blogging problem in that I haven’t been writing. Or reading! (Gasp!) November was a very problematic month for us because the germs seemed so prolific, and they would jump from household member to household member taking us down one by one. They even took hold of me in the form of Strep. Seriously, I hadn’t had Strep since college, and I’d like to go at least another 15 years without it because that is one nasty, horrible, awful bacteria that is not at all welcome in my throat. The damn Strep bacteria even caught up with my brother back in Minnesota after he’d spent 10 days visiting with us for Thanksgiving. Blasted germs!

But it is December now, and we’re moving on. With an aerosol spray of Lysol in hand if necessary.

With December comes an awful lot of Christmas cheer. I can’t explain why, but my kids think that Christmas comes immediately after Thanksgiving despite being informed of the facts time and time again. We have our Elf on the Shelf out, we have the stockings hung, the decor arranged strategically about the house, etc. And most importantly, we have our tree.

Getting our tree, now that is a fun story. Perhaps I could tell it in pictures?

This is a photo of my family tromping off into the forest in search of the perfect Christmas tree.

This is a photo of my family tromping off into the forest in search of the perfect Christmas tree.

This is my five-year-old holding a bow saw. She doesn't often hold a bow saw, but when the situation calls for it, she's willing.

This is my five-year-old holding a bow saw. She doesn’t often hold a bow saw, but when the situation calls for it, she’s willing.

There is a scenic vista here and there, but we can't waste our time because we have to hunt for the perfect tree.

There is a scenic vista here and there, but we can’t waste our time because we have to hunt for the perfect tree.

And we see a lot of trees. Not many (or any) perfect trees, but many trees that would rival Charlie Brown's.

And we see a lot of trees. Not many (or any) perfect trees, but many trees that would rival Charlie Brown’s.

But somehow, you get lucky (or rather, my husband gets lucky because by then I'm feeding the kids their snacks in the truck), and we bring home a tree that looks better than perfect. It's real, carried out of the woods on our shoulders (well, his shoulders), and still retains a number of pine cones. Oh, and the smell... Mmm.

But somehow, you get lucky (or rather, my husband gets lucky because by then I’m feeding the kids their snacks in the truck), and we bring home a tree that looks better than perfect. It’s real, carried out of the woods on our shoulders (well, his shoulders), and still retains a number of pine cones. Oh, and the smell… Mmm.

This has become a family tradition for us. I was not the one who instigated this deal, but I’m delighted that it’s here to stay and I’ve even come to embrace this tradition, pine needles sucked up in my vacuum cleaner and all. There are several different places where you can cut a tree, but one of the closest and least expensive options is on National Forest property at the Canyon Lakes Ranger Station near Red Feather Lakes. You can read more about that here, if you’re interested.

Personally, I do very little tree hunting. I like to let Cory determine our tree. I find that the forest full of (mainly) Lodgepole pines can create a distorted reality. Much like shopping at Costco, where buying a 5 lb. package of grape tomatoes suddenly seems like a good idea because everything in the store is of colossal proportions, I find that glancing at tree after scrawny tree can actually make you look at a half-way symmetrical 5 ft. tree with limp branches that wouldn’t hold an ornament weighing more than a coffee filter and say: “Yes, we’ll take it! That’s it! That’s the one!” My tree-cutting trips always prompt outlandish fantasies where we emerge from the forest victorious after a short walk into the woods of 20 minutes or less, with the kids never once complaining. Truthfully, when we exit every year, we bear witness to countless “better” trees tied tightly to the roofs of various Jeep Grand Cherokees. We’ve even seen Blue Spruces that I’m convinced are trekked in from a tree lot by the Subaru-owners simply to elicit envy from those of us who slaved for hours only to hunt down the exact same Lodgepole Pine that we passed six times and sat less than 20 feet from our parking spot. My expectations are skewed, and it now seems perfectly reasonable to cut down an 18 foot tree only to lop off parts of the top and a good 11 feet of the base to create a decent-looking tree out of the original tree’s mid-section. (That’s actually exactly what Cory did this year, and I think it’s our best tree yet.) And the kids, well, they do okay. Ritz crackers and clementines helped a lot this year.

But it does feel great to get this season started, doesn’t it? If you celebrate Christmas, what are some of your favorite traditions? And if you don’t celebrate Christmas, tell me something fun that I should be celebrating in addition to Christmas.



Taking a minute to talk about “The Girls”

October, as many of us are aware, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The pink ribbons attached to large buildings may have tipped you off to this fact.

From vibevixen.com

There are a number of non-profits that create awareness, search for a cure, educate women and girls on breast health, and support women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I think it’s fair to say that this October we can all do something for “The Girls.” Breast Cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in women, but it is a disease that is best conquered by education, early detection and consistent screening. If you live in Larimer County and you need more information on how low-income women can receive such screenings, call Linda Miller at the Larimer County Department of Health and Environment, (970) 498-6751.

Whether it’s a self-exam, making that appointment for a mammogram that you’ve been putting off, or just getting in touch with your body, we can all stand to appreciate these luscious jugs a bit more. Mine have nursed two babies, and for that I’m grateful. I just bought myself a boatload of new bras–and Tracy Fulks and RFL were completely right, I was wearing the wrong size. Big time. For the past five years, I have been one size off on band-width and two sizes off on cup-size. Shows you how out-of-touch I was with my own over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders.

A woman’s chance of developing breast cancer increases with age, which is why 40-years-old appears to be the age that most health professionals suggest having a routine screening process performed, such as a mammogram. I recently learned of a great organization here in Larimer County that serves women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer–through support groups, various counseling services, hair and wig help, acupuncture, music therapy, nutrition counseling, etc. Check out the Lydia Dody Breast Cancer Support Center when you have a chance. And come out for one of their fundraisers–

Zumba BooBash–a Halloween inspired Zumba dance-a-thon to raise money for Hope Lives, the Lydia Dody Breast Cancer Support Center, on Thursday, October 25th from 6:15 pm to 8:15 pm (Free Childcare provided)



Upcoming Events: The Fresh Beat Band is coming to Lincoln Center
October 12, 2012, 7:10 pm
Filed under: Blogging, Local color | Tags: , , , ,

Okay, y’all. Tell me you haven’t done it. Tell me that you haven’t gone to see a huge locomotive Thomas the Train, or Disney on Ice, or, in one of my favorite moves, gone to the Princess Ball to see real princesses.

Just thought I’d give you the heads up that Nickelodeon’s fabulous team of four musically inclined best buddies is coming to Fort Collins.

The Fresh Beat Band Live in Concert coming to the Lincoln Center Performance Hall – Fort Collins, CO  Nov 02, 2012, 6:00 PM. Get your tickets today: CLICK HERE FOR TICKET LINK

The Fresh Beat Band live in concert

 

The Fresh Beat Band debuted in 2009 and is now in its third season on Nickelodeon. The Fresh Beat Band centers on four best friends – Kiki, Shout, Marina and Twist – in a band who love to sing and dance.  In each episode, preschoolers sing and dance along as they help The Fresh Beat Band solve everyday challenges.  Lincoln Center Performance Hall – Fort Collins, CO  Nov 02, 2012, 6:00 PM. Get your tickets today: CLICK HERE FOR TICKET LINK

This reminds me that I should do a fun post of all the wonderful upcoming events at the Lincoln Center–love that place! But this event is coming up quick, so I had to put in the plug. Should be a blast!