Day 40: Thunderbirds

About this time last year, we were all inside the house busy with various activities when we heard a terrifyingly loud, low, what we could only assume was some sort of air raid. Against my better judgment, we all raced outside to see what in the world?!

For the next hour or so, we watched jets flying from the direction of the Air Force Academy just north of us in different formations - 4 in a diamond, two side-by-side then splitting off just as they reached our house, 1 racing across the sky in a big loop back up to the Academy, and on and on.

Claire and Avery were terrified and fascinated. We spread a blanket on our driveway so we could rest between the vibrating rumbles that we sensed before we saw or even heard. Then we would leap to our feet, scream, "They're back!," and beeline it to the middle of the cul-de-sac where viewing was best.

The entire confusing, terrifying, wonderful time, I wondered, "What is this show even for?" It was the day after Memorial day, or maybe the day before, so I figured it was some sort of Memorial Day show for the year. I didn't remember it from 2013. Turns out, this happens every year for the Air Force Academy graduation, which takes place at the end of May, or near Memorial Day. Ha!

Do you realize what this means?

We get to watch this show every year! We were prepared this year. I looked up the date and time and even found out that they practice for the day or two before, so we actually got to watch a couple of shows. This video is from the actual show on Thursday, but the flying started on Tuesday. Blake is still walking around randomly whining, "Dja-et! Dja-et!"(This is 'jet' for those of you who don't speak 2-year-old.) It pretty much freaked him out. I mean, you can feel the noise IN YOUR BONES. I don't blame him for being a bit paranoid and obsessed.

So, they are called the Thunderbirds even if I do call them the Blue Angels half the time. You'll know what I'm talking about either way. I did already count 'jets' in general, but as you can tell, these sporadic jets flying around our city don't even compare to the dizzying air show referenced here.


Days 31 - 39: Convenient Shopping Center

I realized recently that I really, really like convenient things, and that has been one of the main problems with Colorado Springs for me personally. Over 600,000 people live in Colorado Springs proper. That's not because it's an over-populated city; it's because there are pretty much no boundaries to the city. I live all the way on the North end, but I still have a Colorado Springs address as does my friend who lives 40 minutes away from me on the other end. Mostly this means that a lot of the errands I need to run just aren't very convenient.

I spend a lot of time in the car unfortunately. Because of this, I have tried to make the car a happier place for us all to be, but that can be a post for another time. For now, I want to highlight the shopping center that is convenient for me. It's at the entrance of my neighborhood, and it has the following things that make my life easier:

1. Dunkin' Donuts: I know I made fun of it here, but it is SO close to our house! It's fun to stop with the kids when we want a treat or want to stay out a little longer. They always order chocolate sprinkle, but I just found a chocolate cake glazed that is my new favorite there. You should try it.

2. Dominos: I can stay an extra hour on the playground after school pick-up, call in my order when I've leaving, and pick up two medium pizzas on the way home for $12.81.

3. Papa John's: In the SAME shopping center. I love Papa John's! It's my favorite take-out pizza.

4. Corner Store: a gas station SO close but that doesn't look like a gas station with the overhead lights and cover and everything. I love that I don't have to drive to a busier place to fill up my car.

5. Red Box: Right at the gas station!

6. Post Office: Do you feel like the post office is always incredibly out-of-the-way? It always has been for me, and now it is seriously right there! I kind of avoid the post office in general because as previously mentioned, I don't like inconvenient things, but when I need to go to the post office I love that it is easy.

7. Oliver's Delicatessen: Just discovered this sweet little family-owned deli on one of the rainiest days in history this week. I didn't have my camera so no pics, and basically, I'm going to count this one twice because it will get it's own post someday soon.

8. Chase ATM: Just the ATM. Right there. For a Saturday morning Craigslist shopper, this is a very, very good thing.

There are a few other shops I need to try in there. Like, there is a karate studio. There is a clothing boutique I want to check out. Also, a hair place that I might take the girls to one of these days. Overall, it's a funky, little shopping center that could probably use a make-over, but I love the convenience that if gives me. None of the things, besides Oliver's, would make it on a list of things to love about my city, except they all mean convenience when located in this close-to-me shopping center.


Day 30: The Bears

I've already written about the bears here, but they definitely deserve special mention for reasons to love Colorado. Where else do you pretty much expect to see bears in your front yard? Like so:

These pictures were taken in October of 2013. At the time, I was terrified of the bears. In fact, Dustin knew that our neighborhood was well-known for bear sightings and interactions and he ON PURPOSE didn't tell me when we put the offer on our house because he knows me that well. I have a very irrational fear of all carnivorous wild animals. I used to have a recurring nightmare about lions chasing me. Well, it was one lion, and he would be leaping through the air to eat me when I would wake up completely freaked out. Heart pounding. Face sweating. Afraid I might see a lion that day. You know, the usual.

Dustin tried to convince me that black bears aren't actually carnivorous, and they really just want easy food, but that didn't stop me from being terrified to let the kids play outside alone. Sometimes, if I'm feeling particularly vulnerable, I close the garage door before we get out of the car. Stuff like that.

Despite this, when mama bear and her two cubs came to grab a snack out of our trash can, I sat transfixed on our porch with Dustin and Avery. It. was. amazing.

Watching them move around 'in the wild' instead of at a zoo was not as terrifying as I thought it would be. I loved it.

Dustin had been watching them dig through the neighbors trash so happy to have the bears visit, but the minute they started in on our trash, he grabbed his sling shot. Haha! Later our neighbor was like, 'What the heck?! Why didn't you sling a few rocks in their direction to get them out of our trash?' The thing is, we were all kind of mesmerized by these grand creatures almost on our front porch with us.

It turns out that Dustin was right about black bears. They do want easy food, and he made it too hard by flinging a rock right at their bear bums. (Did that make you giggle, too? Bear bums!)

I love that the baby is looking back at Dustin, like, 'are you sure I can't eat your trash?'

Now, I always hope to see bears, and I am sure Colorado will offer that experience to me again. In the meantime, I already have one fun memory and the anticipation of seeing them again. Soon.


Day 29: May Faire

On May 2nd, we celebrated May Day with Claire's school in what will be an annual May Faire celebration. Guys. It was so fun. And magical. Why don't we have May Day as a real holiday like the English do? 

There was wand-making:

Blake is not actually waving his cute little wand. He is lobbing it at me and the camera. For real.

Avery and I cut almost 200 sticks from the piles of trimmed branches in our backyard for this project since Claire's class was in charge of the wand-making station. I also ended up cutting 500 pieces of ribbon. Who am I even? This is so NOT like me to volunteer to do the stuff.

Also, I just want to clarify. When I say Avery and I cut the sticks, I mean it 100%. She cut at least 50 of them herself. What a cool little sidekick.

By the cold, rainy weather now, you'd think this day was last summer or something. We were sweating it out and it was probably only 78 degrees. We don't even know how to be hot anymore.

The hour-long face-painting line was completely worth it with wands in tow:

A beautiful unicorn:

A sea turtle:

Claire is REALLY into all sea creatures, but lately it's sea turtles. She picked the location on her face.

One of the teachers:

Are you jealous, yet?

Blake feeding the goats. He knows exactly where to go on the farm now and doesn't care one bit if I come with him or not.

The first graders had been working for weeks on the May Pole dance. Claire did not want to do it. You know, the whole 'people watching me' thing. And, there was also something about skipping being difficult, but she did it!

We were proud.

And, she was proud. I love when she is proud of herself.

Avery was proud of her, too. Here she wanted to give Claire a kiss. Spirits were definitely high. Claire was confused by the kiss, but she accepted it.

The fourth-graders were in charge of the flower crown table. they had been finger-knitting these yarn crowns for weeks, and the day of, we all got to choose one of the yarn crowns to decorate with real flowers. It was a highlight for the girls. And for me, too.

Except Blake didn't think so:

Sometime in the merriment, the girls discovered that the baby chicks were out on the farm. They excitedly told Claire's teacher here:

And, simultaneously, they all took off running to go see them together.

I couldn't have staged it any better.

At the beginning of the year, Claire's class studied the fable (parable?) of the stone soup. You know the one? Where the soldiers convince the villagers to add just one ingredient each to the soup that only contains a stone, and ultimately they have a delicious soup to feed the entire village? Well, her teacher found an actual cauldron:

And, everyone in the community brought something to share and a bowl to eat out of, and we all got some 'stone soup.' It was awesome. I really loved the day and kind of feel like it should be worth several days worth of reasons to love it here since it's an annual thing, but I will just call it Day 29 and look forward to it next year.


Days 27 & 28: Ute Valley Park & The Jets

I can't remember when hiking became so great for me. I don't think it was always that way, but I'm sure glad I like it now because these people:

They really like hiking. And, Ute Valley Park is the perfect place for a family hike. It's less than ten minutes in the car to a trail head, and I am sure there are lots of trails that are specific, but we always just kind of wander.

I like it when we start on the west side. It's a pretty steep hike up right away, and sometimes the kids wonder if it will be worth it, but it always is. We meander down whichever path looks the most ripe for exploring.

No matter who we run into - hikers, runners, bikers, dogs - they are always friendly. See? Someone thoughtfully picked up a lost pair of sunglasses and put them in a more visible location. That's just the way it is at Ute Valley Park. People are happy in nature.

There are lots of shouts of, "Mom! Look! Look at me!" Or "Look at this rock I found!" Or "Look! This flower is so beautiful! It's for you!"

Blake likes to throw anything and everything, so he was pretty much in heaven throwing rocks over the edge of these rocks. Also, we saw a jet! We see jets quite a lot here in the Springs because of the Air Force Academy, and we kind of love it. It gets to be it's own day even, but we got to see one while we were hiking around. Avery knows I've been on the lookout for one for this little project, so she yelled, "Mom! It's a jet! Take a picture!"

There's Pike's Peak in the background. It kind of looks fake, huh?

Every time we do a family hike here, which is almost every weekend in nice weather, I tell Dustin that I might like it here after all! Haha! Apparently, I should just spend more time in this magical forest as the girls call it.