Sep 18, 2017

Let's Go Explore

9/18/2017 — cori

I never take for granted that I can go spend time in these glorious mountains any time I want to. I have to pinch myself because it seems too good to be true.

With this being Gavin's last weekend at home before heading off to school, we wanted to make it special. We had planned a few fun things like going to see "Wonder Woman" and finishing the last in our 3 part series of D&D. But then we saw the weather was supposed to be beautiful and last minute decided to head up to the mountains to make the most of it.

It's very hard to talk 3 teenagers into getting up at 7am on a weekend! But in order to get an early start, beat the crowds, stay ahead of the afternoon storms, and get gorgeous views, you have to leave early. 

We didn't hike this trip. We were in search of fall color on Trail Ridge Road that runs through Rocky Mountain National Park and brings you to the tippity top of the mountain range. We stopped at every overlook to enjoy the views. It was magical.

I love the tire cover on this jeep we followed up the mountain road.

This is what 12,183 feet looks like.

One last family picture before "the big separation."

Ahhh...finally some fall color.

Sep 8, 2017

Twenty-one Years

9/08/2017 — cori

Years go by like days. How can it be that 21 years has passed in the blink of an eye? We still feel the same giddiness with each other we did as teenagers. How is it that we are 21 years older? Every year leaves me more thankful than the year before. Every year teaches me what an amazing, mysterious, beautiful, hard thing love is.

Our whole marriage we've always chosen a current song as representative of our love. This year's song speaks to the brevity and preciousness of this time together.

Sep 5, 2017

Dungeons and Dragons

9/05/2017 — cori
My old self would have cringed even writing the words in the title. In our religious tradition growing up we were taught that playing that game could send you to hell. Best just to avoid it altogether, leave it alone and not even look at it just to play it safe. Anyone who didn't...well, they must not really care about their eternal destination since this game was obviously satanic. 

Obviously my experience, world-view, and opinion of the game has changed over time. In Gavin's U of M Composition class last year, he was required to do an ethnography study. It is ultimately a study of a culture group. D&D is definitely a subculture. Gavin's friends were playing this game. He was interested since he'd never played it before. So he decided to make their weekly D&D game his ethnography study. He took lots of notes, got an A on the assignment, and was thenceforth a D&D gamer. He played practically every week for the entire school year.

He definitely has missed the camaraderie of this group of people that others have sworn to hell. Let me tell you why. It is ultimately just a role-playing game. I know this because Gavin thought it would be a good idea to share this game with his family. He wanted us to all experience the fun of the game. When he first suggested it, we reluctantly agreed knowing that at minimum we would be at it for at least 3 to 4 hours. He's played games that have lasted all day.

By playing this game for myself I learned several things: 1) it is a highly interactive game  2) it appeals to those people who love the fantasy genre of literature 3) you have to role-play your character, thus bringing out a ton of imagination and creativity 4) it's a bonding game for the people you play it with. The picture above shows how many dice are involved. That is also alluring to math-minded people (like Gavin and his friends) because they love the challenge of odds presented in the dice. You also have a board where the game takes place. Gavin created our simple board, graph paper with messy lines representing our location. Usually, you also have a character piece as in Monopoly. Since we had no D&D character pieces, Gavin let us use his Lego guys.

This is what a real board looks like. We didn't know any better and had fun with our graph paper board.

The game has a Dungeon Master. Essentially, he's the guy who makes up the story line that the rest of the people are supposed to follow. He spent the entire past week, preparing this story line for us. It's like writing a mini-novel with a "create your own ending" type of outcome. I was awed by how creative it was. For every choice we made, he had an outcome. I realized I had wrongly judged this game and the people who play it. 

One of the first things he had us do was pick a computer-generated character. True D&D players create their own characters. I can't imagine the hours of work that go into that. He had printed up at least 12 options for us to look through and choose. I chose mine solely on the quote under the title. I am Human Fighter 1. He kept calling me "The Tanky One". I learned that meant it was because I had a lot of weapons and armor. You have to learn the background of your character so you know what choices to make in the game. It lists your faults, your strengths, what motivates you, your's fascinating. My Human Fighter 1 reminded me of Russel Crowe's character in "The Gladiator", so I chose his name as my character's name. It's really uncanny how the characters we chose were very similar to our own personalities. Albeit, I don't actually fight or carry any weapons, but it was the essence of the character I related to: he fights for those who have no one to fight for them.

Chuck chose Elf Ranger 1 - suited him perfectly! We called him Soren.

Bennet was a Halfling Rogue 1 named Jaquan. As usual, his character cracked us up constantly.

Chloe was Elf Wizard 1. She changed her name at least 4 times throughout the 4 hour game, ultimately landing on Adria. She reminded me of the Elf Princes in "Fellowship of the Ring." This is where I can see why people might have a problem with the game. Some characters have the ability to use magic or summon certain things. This is offensive to some people, I understand. But this is all just fantasy, make-believe. For people who love the world of make-believe, it's an escape, a way to do and be something or someone you aren't in real life. Gavin has been doing this since he was 3. He would always escape to "Gavin World." I never knew which superhero he was going to be and what his powers were. He couldn't wait to share those things with me. He always loved sharing his fantasy worlds with me. So it makes perfect sense that he would find others who love imagining new worlds and make whole games around these pretend places. 

I'm so glad Gavin invited us into this special world and shared what he loves with us. He actually showed a lot of vulnerability in doing so. People easily mock this game and those who play it labeling them all sorts of names. When in reality, it's just a bunch of grown up kids still playing make-believe and role-playing characters. It's a highly relational game too. You have to talk to your other teammates constantly to see who would be better suited for a particular activity or role based on their background. 

Gavin and his friends played this game once at our house once. I didn't pay it much attention at the time - I just kept the food coming. But I did hear 5 boys loud talking, laughing, arguing, convincing, eating and eating some more for hours and hours on end. There was no evil spirit in our house. There was no witchcraft going on; just a bunch of creative kids who were in essence "acting out" a fantasy novel. Something my boys have done since they were tiny. Every time they watched a "Rescue Heroes" movie, they immediately had to be the Rescue Hero and act out what they saw. Same idea, different age. 

I guess the moral of the story is, we can't let things we don't understand or know much about scare us. We can't assume to know about something we've only judged and not learned about or experienced. 

Aug 28, 2017

Another Epic Parenting Moment

8/28/2017 — cori

Yes...that would be me putting Bennett in a headlock. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. We were actually just fooling around in this picture but the kid does not know when to stop. He is the ultimate jokester. Sometimes his comedic timing is perfect. Other times it's not. It's annoying and he doesn't know when to stop. That's typical at 15. He's still perfecting his craft.

That's why you will completely understand my parenting stroke of genius from the other day. Here's what happened: we were all in the car driving somewhere. Bennett thought it hilarious that after anyone said something, he would respond by saying any random sentence that rhymed with what was just spoken, whether is made sense or not. The first few times this occurred, we couldn't help but laugh. It was complete nonsense and actually funny. The 17th time...not so much. For example:

Me: "Bennett would you please stop that."

Bennett: "I don't sit in a hat."

If this was a rap battle, it would be an epic fail. We had to admonish him that timing is everything. A well placed look, joke, comeback makes the situation even funnier. Then the light bulb went off in my I sang him a little diddy.

Me: " gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run."


The car went silent. Why on earth is mom giving poker tips right now? Would he be wise enough to hear the deeper lesson in those words? So then we did what any parent would do in that situation, we youtubed the famed 1978 song and played it for the kids:

It fits the situation nicely I think. Plus, it adds a small dose of other life lessons to boot. Sometimes parenting happens on accident, sometimes intentionally, and other times you just plain luck out. Not that I have any gambling experience, but when a stroke of genius hits, you just have to run with it whether it makes sense or not. I know this will come back to bite me one day. Bennett will use this against me and we will all laugh our butts off. But this time...I get the last laugh.

Aug 23, 2017

Food Truck Rally

8/23/2017 — cori

One of the fun things about moving to a new area is checking out all the fun, local activities. Fort Collins seems has an ample supply. We had read about the summer Food Truck Rally at City Park and were excited to try it out.

Bennett and I decided to go on a date and see what it was all about. He's always up for an adventure. And we both love food. He was the perfect partner in crime. We thought it would be a fun way to close down summer and usher in the new school year. So last Tuesday, we braved the threat of a thunderstorm and ventured over to City Park.

The first thing we did was walk up and down the street checking out all the offerings. Once I saw a fish and chips truck, I was sold. They only had one item on the menu and that's all I wanted. Easy choice.

Bennett wanted as much protein as he could possibly get. So the Bigs Meat Wagon suited his fancy just fine. 

Here were our meals respectively. And yes, they were delicious. And no, I couldn't finish all mine. And yes, Bennett enjoyed his two types of meat immensely.

Since we were so close to CSU, we decided to walk around a bit. We were able to get a picture of Bennett in front of the arena where they play basketball. His dream is to play here one day. 

Aug 12, 2017

UCI Orientation

8/12/2017 — cori
A couple weekends ago, Chuck, Gavin and I got to travel to SoCal for Gavin's new student orientation at the University of California, Irvine. This university is even better than I imagined it would be. (The only thing that could make it better would be free tuition.)

We had the whole first day we were there free and enjoyed exploring the surrounding area of Newport Beach.

We also spent a lot of time walking around campus, Gavin showing us around.

Here we are posing with his new mascot - Peter the Anteater. We learned a very interesting fact during orientation: UCI is the ONLY school (elementary, middle, high or university) in the U.S. with an anteater as it's mascot. We are embracing the uniqueness. Zot, zot, zot (that's the supposed sound it makes).

As we were walking around we happened upon this amazing place. I think Chuck and I were more excited than Gavin.

Here's Gavin trying to act cool in his dream-like sports arena. These people get him. UCI was one of the first schools in the nation that had a program for playing League at this level of competition.

Here is a close-up of one of the individual computer stations. It is for competing in an online, e-sports game called League of Legends that Gavin has been playing and following for years. I hope to see him here as part of a team one day. And yes, you have to try out for this team, just like any other sport. They take their e-sports seriously at this school. UCI was the among the first universities in the nation to have a top-rate program for e-sports.

Later that evening we went to Laguna Beach and passed this beautiful mural while walking down the coast line.

The water and weather made it too cold to swim, but that didn't stop Chuck and Gavin from making attempts at it.

Some more lovely beach art and rock formations.

The following day we dropped Gavin off for his first day of orientation and then we drove up to LA, about an hour north. We went to Griffith Park and the famed Observatory that gives you sweeping views of the city as well as...

the Hollywood sign.

We spent the majority of our last day there at the University learning all kinds of goodness just for parents. As soon as it was over, we had a dinner date set with a friend we hadn't seen in over 27 years. It was so good to connect again, meet her family and know that someone is close to Gavin if he ever needs help.

Jul 27, 2017

The Great Salt Lake

7/27/2017 — cori

Although we have visited Salt Like City before, we had never been to this eerily beautiful place. It's very quiet and still. It almost feels like what you might imagine the surface of the moon to be like.

Yet all around it is surrounded by mountains. There's even an island mountain in the middle of the 33 foot deep lake called, Antelope Island. This is where I took these photos from. We learned several interesting facts while visiting: it is a bird sanctuary for thousands of birds, only brine shrimp live in the lake and there is no outlet for the water.

Here's our rag-tag group of visitors. This is just the beginning of many more Thompson/Mallott family adventures.

After not being around any friends (except Bennett) for over 2 weeks, Chloe was in heaven getting to spend quality friend time with Esther and Lucy.

Bennett and Isaac both share a love of basketball and kind-heartedness.

Here I am sporting my Junior Ranger button that Chloe gave me after attending a "Let's Learn About Snakes" session at the visitor center. I learned that although there are many poisonous snakes in Utah, including the rattlesnake, not one rattlesnake resides on Antelope Island for reasons unknown to scientists (see...I was paying attention).

These two! Wes has a special affinity for Chuck. Really....who doesn't have a special affinity for Chuck?!

Jul 26, 2017

The First Hike

7/26/2017 — cori

It is the end of our first week in Fort Collins. Bennett is wondering when we're going to do something "fun". Like moving across the country and unpacking all your belongings into a new townhouse isn't "fun" enough. However, the kids had done great with all the recent upheaval and all the packing and unpacking. We all needed a little fun. A nice hike in the foothills of our new mountains should be just the thing. So we set off for Horsetooth Mountain around 8:30am armed with hiking backpacks, sunscreen, and water. Just not enough air.

As we were driving to the park we saw some idiots walking up the street towards the park we were headed to. We mocked them, "Duh! You're supposed to hike on the trails people; not the street." Obviously, they didn't know as much as we did about hiking. Then five minutes later we pull into the park to park and are told there are no more open spots. "But," said the park ranger, "you can park a mile back down the hill and walk back up here."  Ohhhh....those people we just saw weren't idiots, they were fellow poor souls who got shoved to the 'bad' parking lot down the hill. Nobody wants to hike up a street on a hill a mile before actually starting their "real" hike. We were doomed from the start.

Here we are rounding our first bend on the real hike. We were already exhausted. We just climbed up a mountain, dodging dangerous cars on a bendy road and depleted half our water supply and even more of our oxygen reserves. Therefore, we chose to hike the "easy" path. There was no way we were going to hike for 4+ hours in this 90 degree heat on a moderate-hard path on our first weekend in Colorado. Those just aren't realistic goals people. 

Although the "easy" path was beautiful, it was not "easy". We were huffing and puffing and exerting mucho amounts of energy, sweat, and oxygen. We eventually came to a fork in the road. We could chose to go up farther to see the Horsetooth Falls from a higher elevation or go back down into the gully and see the Falls face on. This was a very hard decision for our weary and oxygen deprived brains. Going up meant more climbing and our legs were already cramping and throbbing. Going down meant we would have to climb up again and there was no way anyone was voting for that. So we decided that just hearing the Falls was enough for us. We've seen Niagara already...all falls are pretty much the same, right?! 

I think I have a picture of Chuck standing like this from every hike we've ever taken. This is his pose. Normally it also involves being on the edge of a large boulder, cliff or mountainside preferably with a terrifying drop-off just inches from his feet. 

And to top off our first adventure in Fort Collins, I hiked with a migraine the entire time. It was hard - very hard. But I wasn't about to take away everyone's fun. Granted, none of us could move the rest of the day. We laid on the sofa, the floor, the bed...anywhere...we just had to lay. We paid for that "easy" hike the rest of the day. But hey, we had fun!

Jul 14, 2017

A Week Later

7/14/2017 — cori

We got all moved into our temporary housing. We found a beautiful, new apartment complex that offered a townhouse option. We got it set up and boxes emptied within two days.

Chloe colored her hair teal.

Bennett already got injured. He took an elbow to his
 eye during basketball practice at the high school.

Gavin's friend Colin already came out to visit for 2 days. 
They explored every square inch of downtown Fort Collins. 

Chuck has set up his office and is hard at work.

And I've already taken one sunset picture.
I'd say things are 'normal' around here.

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