5280Mommy

The Manitou Incline

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Shiny faced and optimistic at the bottom

You guys! I did it! I climbed the Manitou Incline. Holy hell I thought I was going to straight up die on that hill, but I made it up and down alive. Here are my tips and tricks for the treacherous climb and the lovely descent.

Facts to know before you go

This is a serious climb. If you have any injuries, no matter how slight, wait till you’re fully healed before you take this on. The Manitou Incline is about 1 mile long, but an impressive 2000 foot increase in elevation. The base of the Incline starts at 6530 feet, so the air is going to be mighty thin by the time you get to the top.

Get to the Incline early in the day. You’ll be more likely to avoid crowds, get a good parking spot, and have better weather in the morning. God help you if you get caught in the rain or in intense heat.

Bring a couple bottles of water and some snacks with you. The parking lot at the trailhead allows for 4 hour parking, and depending on your fitness level, you just might need that entire 4 hours.

Sunscreen is critical. There are no shade trees on the stairway to heaven.

Layer, layer, layer. I wore a hoodie over a light jacket over a tank top and used all three at some point during the climb and descent.

I saw one person with hiking poles and was deeply envious.

On the Incline

There’s no easing in to this. It starts climbing immediately. I stopped to catch my breath after about 2 minutes. It’ll take awhile to find your stride, but you’ll get there.

Look up from time to time, but you’ll be best served by keeping your head down and focused on the three steps directly in front of you. After a while, I found my rhythm and would count the number of steps I was taking between breathing breaks. I’d do 30 for a while, down to 20, down to 10, recover, back up to 20, etc. It totally helped keep my mind off getting to the top and counting the steps satisfied my darkest OCD tendencies. Read more

Review: The Nightingale

I picked up The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah a few months ago. I was at my bi-monthly book club and the hostess suggested either it or The Primates of Park Avenue as our next selection. Primates sounded fun, catty, and gave us the opportunity to drink themed cocktails at our next dinner. As if we need an excuse for that. The Nightingale, on the other hand, wasn’t as immediately attractive because it seemed we had read a lot of WWII fiction, so we went with Primates. A choice we all bitterly regretted. I decided to read The Nightingale first. I blew through it and then spent a week trying to slog my way through Primates. More on that another day.

The NightingaleThe Nightingale is wonderful. The story focuses on two French sisters, Vianne and Isabelle. Vianne lives in the Loire Valley with her husband and young daughter. She has a quiet, charmed and happy life before the war. (Anyone who has picnics in the Loire Valley as part of their daily life is blessed beyond measure.) When her husband, Antoine, is called to fight for France, she not only has to endure life without her childhood sweetheart, but is eventually called upon to house a German officer. Vianne is quiet, subdued even. She keeps her head down and her chin up.

Vianne’s younger sister, Isabelle, is a fiery nineteen year old with a long history of boarding school expulsions. After an altercation at her last school involving the proper way to eat an orange, she is sent back to Paris and her father’s bookstore. Things quickly change for both women when the Germans invade. Isabelle’s naturally feisty personality takes a political turn. The book follows the sisters throughout the war and beyond: their choices, their sacrifices, and their reactions when confronted with love and with war.

What I liked about this novel is the focus on everyday lives of the French during the war and the eventual path both sisters take. I ran across a post on A Mighty Girl‘s Facebook page recently that recounted a woman named Nancy Wake, a British secret agent. I won’t go in to more detail here, as I don’t want to spoil the novel, but I will say that I love stumbling across true stories that have inspired novels after I’ve finished the book. It gives me a chance to revisit the characters and places in my mind, and gives me a little bit of proof that the magic from the book really may have happened.

Favorite quotes:

From the picnic basket, she withdrew a crusty baguette, a wedge of rich, double-creme cheese, two apples, some slices of paper-thin Bayonne ham, and a bottle of Bollinger ’36.

If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: In love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.

Helpful links regarding the book and other recommended reads:

Buy the book here

Read about author Kristin Hannah here (A note: Ms. Hannah is one of those former attorneys who has eschewed her legal career to gain fame and fortune as an author. I hate her. In only the most affectionate way.)

Read A Mighty Girl’s brief story on Nancy Wake here

Read more about Nancy Wake and others like her in Women Heroes of World War II: 26 Stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance, and Rescue, found here 

And finally, if you recall the Reading Challenge I mentioned from my local library, this book satisfied the category ” A book with a strong female lead.”

Colorado Adventures

I love to write about our travels. Love, love, love. On our trips to Argentina and Japan, I took meticulous notes each day so that I could blog about it when we were traveling between cities. I got so wrapped up in it that Andrew had to confiscate my iPad on a particularly long bullet train journey between Fukushima and Tokyo because I hadn’t slept. Writing about what I see and experience, the people I meet and the conversations we have, is nirvana.

About a year and a half ago, the family took a trip to Glenwood Springs and, predictably because Glenwood is awesome, had the most amazing time. As we were strolling back to our hotel after having mind-blowing pizza and ice cream from an old school candy store, it hit me: “Jenn, you should blog about Colorado! You can write about drives, towns, hikes, restaurants, stores, people – the possibilities are endless!” I was completely jazzed about this idea for a month or two, and then the self doubt started to creep in. “There will always be people who know more about XYZ than I do. I’ll miss something totally amazing and lose all credibility. I’ve never skied, never hiked the Manitou incline, never climbed a fourteener. I’m a lowly semi-native so what the hell do I know?!” It took a long year of gentle self-prodding and several great Colorado experiences that made me think “damn! I want to tell somebody about this!” to get me back on track. No, I still don’t know everything there is to know about Colorado. But I think it will be fun to do as much exploring and trying and talking as I can, and I can share that with you. Because even if you have skied since you were 2, if you hike Manitou every year, and if you have ten 14ers on your list of accomplishments, maybe you haven’t hiked from Steamboat Springs to the Strawberry Hot Springs and been caught in a thunderstorm. Maybe you haven’t been schooled by your 8 year old while climbing the Great Sand Dunes. Maybe you haven’t spent a perfect summer night in a beer garden in Castle Rock. But I have. And if I share my stories with you, perhaps you’ll share yours with me, and then we can all be inspired to do everything that our colorful state has to offer.

View of Glenwood Springs from the Hotel Denver
View of Glenwood Springs from the Hotel Denver

Just for the record, I’ve got a couple “firsts” under my belt already this year: I went skiing for the first time and lived to tell the tale. But the tale is too humiliating and too boring to recount here. I have some pride. And I’m going to attempt Manitou this week. If I don’t check in on Facebook by Wednesday night, please contact the authorities. Tell them to look for a tearstained chubby brunette with a gaggle of skinny friends trying to coax her up a few more steps.

I am teeing up this idea today and I’ll get into more details on future posts. I’d absolutely love to hear suggestions on what adventures I should take, so please chime in if you have any to share!

Soccer Momming 101

I consider myself an up-and-coming professional soccer mom. Now before you go jumping to unfair conclusions about soccer momming involving helicopter-piloting, ref-abusing, World Cup-aspiring craziness, let me give you my definition of a soccer mom. The ultimate soccer mom has the ability to follow the game and she genuinely loves the game. She has a good handle on gear, skills, rules, team size and positions. She has soft skills such as communicating well with coaches and parents, having the “right” gear for soccer practices, games and tournaments, and having good ideas on fuel for her little athletes pre and post game. Finally, she has a sense of humor about her role as a soccer mom and her kid’s ability, or lack thereof.

So I claim to be an aspiring pro at soccer momming. Where does that put me on the spectrum of the ideal I described? As in all other aspects of parenthood, I am woefully inadequate. But in the spirit of self-examination and improvement, I want to break it down. Five categories, ten points each: knowledge of the game, parental soft skills, parent gear, love of the game, and self-awareness/sense of humor.

Knowledge: The low end of this spectrum starts with the wonderful Juliet Stevenson who played Keira Knightley’s mom in “Bend It Like Beckham.” Her husband hilariously tries to explain the offside rule to her using condiments. “The offside rule is when the French mustard has to be between the teriyaki sauce and the sea salt.” Brilliant. Top scores go to those who can name 3 or more synonyms each for “defender” and “forward”. (I swear there are unlimited names for these positions.) Bonus points for anyone who understands the World Cup seeding and draw.

Soft skills: Here’s where the helicopter parent and soccer stage parent fail. You know that Facebook meme that makes the rounds at the beginning of every youth sports season (so, you know, constantly)? Something like, “Please remember, these are kids, this is a game, coaches are volunteers, refs are human, no scouts from [name your favorite pro team] will be here today.” The parents for whom these reminders were penned get a goose egg here. You know exactly who I’m talking about. Those who can gracefully and diplomatically communicate with a coach or ref to promote their child and/or their cause without eliciting a single eye roll from other parents get a 10.

Parent gear: This is especially critical in Colorado where, as I write this on April 30, all soccer games have been canceled due to SNOW. Parent gear is the stuff that keeps us chauffeurs and fans happy during practices, games or never-ending tournaments. The bottom dwellers are the people who are constantly getting sunburned or frostbitten (and hey, in Colorado that can happen on the same day!), who don’t have anything to sit on, who have no refreshments for themselves or their kids, and who are generally miserable from first whistle to the post game parent tunnel. Top scores for those who have collapsible wagons packed efficiently with canopied chairs with cupholders, blankets, sunscreen, winter gear, summer gear, an actual tent for smaller children and pets to play in, and a cooler with snacks, Gatorade, and a few adult beverages (disguised neatly in Starbucks insulated mugs). Soccer momming on a Saturday morning is infinitely better with covert mimosas.

Love for the game: Okay, I’ve got this one mastered. In the summer of 1998, after my first year of law school, my newlywed husband and I planned to do some exploring throughout the northeast. We were living in a sweet little spot, Canandaigua, New York, which was roughly a six hour drive from everywhere exciting on the east coast. Imagine my dismay when those plans were derailed by the 1998 World Cup. Instead of sightseeing, my husband spent the entire month of June on the couch absorbing every televised minute of the action. I could either be a World Cup widow or I could join him on the couch. I chose the latter and have since become an involved and avid soccer fan over the past 18 years. We’ve traveled to Chicago, New York, Pasadena and Columbus, Ohio more times than I can count to see big games. Seeing a World Cup in person is definitely on my bucket list. So yeah, I understand and LOVE this game. That’s a 10, my friends. The lower scores go to those of you who would rather be waterboarded than spend one additional minute watching soccer beyond those that your darling children already subject you to. (Which is how I feel about youth baseball. Ohmygod, just shoot me.)

Finally, your self-awareness and sense of humor. Refer back to the “soft skills” discussed above. Let’s say you have zero soft skills. Do you know you are a complete jackass when you watch your kid play? Or are you blissfully ignorant? If you don’t even understand what I mean about having a sense of humor and being self aware, I’m sorry, but you get a zero. Just stop reading now and join me again the next time I post. The rest of you likely understand what I’m getting at. Most of us should fall in the middle of this spectrum because, lets be honest, sometimes our parental pride makes us adorably blind to our child’s shortcomings. But if we are forced, via some method of Donald Trump endorsed torture, we have the ability to be honest about our kid and ourselves, we earn a higher score. We know that we shouldn’t have flipped out when our kid had 30 less seconds of playing time, and we feel super bad about giggling at the other team’s own goal. We are appropriately sheepish about googling the college scholarship rate of the various soccer clubs in our area, but you bet your ass we have alerts set up to notify us when those stats are updated. We know that this is all in fun, it’s just a game, and these are awesome memories that we’re building and these times will be over all too soon, so we have to laugh at every opportunity and enjoy every minute.

Someday I won’t be a soccer mom anymore and I will bitterly mourn the loss of that part of my identity. So for now, I will relish the hot mess that is our Saturday morning. I will roll my eyes without abandon at every douchebag parent who’s convinced their son will play in the Premier League one day. I am going to go buy that damned collapsible wagon because I think it is totally rad. And I’ll keep aspiring to add more points to my tally. If you’re curious about my soccer momming status, I rate myself at about a 36/50 (7-7-5-10-7). I’ve got some work to do.

 

52.80 Books in 2016

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If you know me and know my family, you know that we are a tribe of addicted readers. My grandma recently stayed with us for three weeks, during which time she read 5 books. She estimates that she reads somewhere around 150 books a year. (Gah, goals!) My aunts, uncles, mom, and cousins are all fanatics. I’ve started working on my older son too. And although I would rather do almost nothing more than sit in a beautiful, cozy spot and read an entire day away, with a full time job, full time kids, and full time husband and house to keep up, my reading passion was often pushed to the back burner. But there was a book light at the end of that sad and desolate tunnel. Since I retired from my full time job back in October, my reading time has skyrocketed. So I decided to challenge myself to read a book a week in 2016 – 52 books in 52 weeks. (Maybe I’ll read 52.80 books just to be consistent!) I did not do well in January. Or April. At all. But I figure if I blow through some awesome YA fiction I can get relatively back on track in a jiffy. Here’s a sampling year to date:

Someone: A Novel, by Alice McDermott

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

The Giver Quartet: The Giver, Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son, by Lois Lowry. (This counts as four books, right? I vote yes.)

Primates of Park Avenue, by Wednesday Martin

11/22/63, by Stephen King

Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin

In reviewing my list so far, I realize I’m all over the genre map: literary fiction, YA, chick lit, sci-fi. My usual focus is literary fiction and YA, and particularly where those two categories meet. (Think The Fault In Our Stars.) Around the beginning of the new year I found a fun reading challenge put out by my local library. The goal is to read a book in each of the following categories: Read more

Welcome to My 5280 World

How many feet are there in a mile? How many words are 5.28 pictures worth?  What’s the elevation of the thirteenth step of the Colorado state capitol building in Denver, Colorado? If I had a penny for every time my children asked me “why” or “why not,” how many millions of dollars would I have?

The answer to all of these questions is 5,280 (except perhaps that last question, for I’m sure I’d have more than $52.8 million). For all you lowlanders, “Fifty-Two Eighty” is a common phrase in Denver. You have 5280 Magazine, the $52.80 per couple Denver Restaurant Week (which has since been upped to $60 per couple, which is terrifically non-catchy), restaurants, gyms, and a whole lotta other blogging mamas who have all incorporated the number into their identities. I adopted the “5280Mommy” moniker back in 2007, on a quiet little Blogspot site where I wrote about my babies, my job, and my travels with my husband. My audience included my grandparents, other family members and a few long-distance friends.  The 5280Mommy Blogspot site was long ago abandoned, but it lives on thanks to the infinity of the internet.

This site, my own site, will be so much more.

My desire (a lofty goal, indeed) is that I want to share 5,280 things with you. Things that I love, and things that I think you will love or at least like and things to which you can relate. Broadly, I expect those things to include posts about parenting, books, cooking, soccer momming, traveling, career, sports, getting older, the very occasional DIY, and things that I love about Colorado and need to tell someone. Sharing 5,280 things will take, if I post once per day, over 14 years. So yeah, that’s a little ambitious. And because I have absolutely no intention of posting once per day, it’s safe to say that if I were to adopt a more reasonable pace, I could easily keep this up through retirement.  As a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so too does a written journal of 5,280 things. Welcome to my first step.

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