Apr 18, 2021

Spring Break In Miami

4/18/2021 — cori

 

This is what Spring Break at 16 looks like when you and your best friend proposed, planned, saved, and waited for two whole months. 

Back on January 2nd, the girls, feeling they had SAD put together an adorable powerpoint presentation proposing a spring break trip to Miami to help them deal with their disorder. 

They proposed saving for, planning, spending all their own money, as well as following stringent COVID safety protocol. Plus, they wouldn't be going solo, they'd be with Maggie's Mom and sister.

We agreed to said proposal on one condition....grades must be at a certain level. If that could be maintained, then Miami - here they come!

It was very dicey on the grade front...even after Chloe purchased her ticket. But she pulled through in the 11th hour and managed to find herself sitting on the plane next to Maggie.

 
I was promised sunrise pictures, but to no avail. There would be no one awake at sunrise! Ever!

Look at that white sand beach! And those tomato red feet! Although they put sunscreen on the first hour of the first day, they forgot to ever reapply. They paid a very steep price for that little oversight. As did we. We heard about how itchy and painful the whole episode of molting was for an entire two weeks following the World's Worst Sunburn Ever!


But the whole vacation did serve to fill up Chloe's soul. We all need time in nature soaking up the sun, waves, beauty, and fresh air! And all the better when we get to spend it with our favorite person! We are thrilled the girls were able to achieve their goal...it's that much sweeter after working so hard!

 


Apr 8, 2021

Celebrating Seventeen

4/08/2021 — cori


What a difference a year makes! Last year we couldn't wait to surprise Chloe with her car. It was the one thing we looked forward to all quarantine. This year, life is filled with much more hope, expectation, and fun. We haven't gotten our vaccine yet, but it's just around the corner. We've lived safely with masks, social distancing, and an abundance of caution for over a year now. And just like that my baby turned 17. It doesn't seem possible...it feels like we somehow lost a year.

I usually get all reminiscent and melancholy on the kids birthdays because: time. I feel like my life is being played out at 1.5x or 2x speed. It's literally flying! And because I've been through two other kids' 17 year old birthdays, I'm intimately aware of how incredibly fast this last year of Chloe living with us will evaporate. This saddened me beyond words this year. It was a heavy ache in my heart. I already miss Chloe and she hasn't even left yet!

But the sadness coexists with my immense joy for her to begin flying on her own as she leaves the nest. Each of the kids are leaving fully equipped and ready for the world. I share the joy, excitement, and hesitancy. It's all good. It's all normal. We can carry all those emotions at the same time. 

Okay...now for the explanation about the ridiculous brown car cake in the picture above. Chloe requested a race car cake. I tried talking her into a race track cake with little matchbox cars on top of it. Nope. She wanted the cake to be the race car. End of story. No negotiations. So....this is the best I could do. It looks a little more like...I don't know. I've never seen a car, much less a race car, that looks like this. But it did have fancy racing stripes and numbers on each side. And my sweet girl was happy...so that's all that matters.

Speaking of race cars. We also went indoor go-kart speed racing a few days before Chloe's birthday.

Here's our little speed demon coming out of the gate. I think these only went like 35 mph. But when you're that close to the ground and taking hair pin turns, it feels more like 60mph.

Chloe's best friend, Maggie, joined us for the festivities. Maggie beat Chloe twice, btw.

We capped off our fun day of racing with lunch at Chuy's. A nice treat, since eating out is a rarity any more. Plus, we had the added bonus of Bennett coming up from The Springs to join our festivities.

Both of the boys were able to join us via zoom for The Opening Of The Gifts after school. It was as if we were all hanging out in the living room together. We had so much fun. Gavin gave Chloe a pocket knife. Bennett gave her some anklets. We gave her a Lululemon gift card. She was in heaven. What more does a 17 year old need?

On Chloe's actual birthday night, the three of us took a relaxing stroll around Windsor Lake. It was pitch black by time we finished, but the views during the first half of the walk were spectacular. A beautiful end to a very special day!


Mar 31, 2021

The Stash

3/31/2021 — cori

The other day I was in a cleaning mood. I vacuumed all the floors, made all the beds - even Chloe's. And to my surprise, found this behind her bed. You know my brain went wild with questions: Why? Why 4 boxes? Are all the boxes empty? Does she not know how to recycle boxes? Who needs that many cheese-its? When is she eating these? Why am I just now learning about this? Does she have a cheese-it fetish? Also, why ramen still in a bag? Has she read any of those books propping up her food stash? Should I be concerned? At what point do we need to have a cheese-it intervention for her?  I could go on, but I'll spare you because: Chloe. There are no answers. It is what it is. SMH. #facepalm
 

Bennett's Turf

3/31/2021 — cori

 

This past weekend, while Chloe was off enjoying Florida, Chuck and I road tripped it to The Springs to visit Bennett at school. He has adapted to his new home quite nicely.

Luckily, we got there just in time to enjoy breakfast in one of the most beautiful school cafeterias I've ever seen. And the food was good, too - unlike my memories of college cafeteria food.

And it was a good thing we had such a hearty breakfast because we sure needed it to climb this little formation. This is called Pulpit Rock and it's right in the middle of Colorado Springs. 

 
Bennett told us there are three ways up - the boring way, the easy way, or the "fun" way. It was a no-brainer that we would be taking the "fun" way, especially since Bennett was our trail guide. Come to find out, he's only ever hiked this trail at night. This would be his first day time excursion. I imagine the "fun" way to be even "funner" in the pitch dark. 
 
It wasn't a long hike, but it did go straight up, required lots of huffing and puffing and many rest stops (at least it did for me), and sometimes outright climbing up rocks. We are not known for doing things the easy way. However, we made it to the top, with these photos as proof. 
 
A pretty perfect day for a hike.

Don't know why we wore out backpacks...there was no place to set up our hammocks. But we are ever ready, just in case. We wear them when we don't need to and forget them when we need them - the story of our life.

My sweet boy.


Right after the first hike, we took a second hike up the bluffs behind the school. We were treated to a set of pull up bars once we reached the top - just what I was hoping for. As if he needed to prove his youth and invincibility to us, Bennett did a set of 10 pull ups immediately upon making it to the top without so much as a huff or a puff or any sweating. I found the nearest thing to sit on and promptly sat my shaking legs down and gasped for air.

But the views sure are nice from the top!


Spring Break Happiness

3/31/2021 — cori

 

This crazy group of people right here is all I need. This was a special, unexpected treat! We didn't think we'd all be back together again until this summer. Then suddenly, we got two whole days all together this March and there was lots of love, happiness, and laughter abounding again. The house is so quiet nowadays that I welcome the chaos, late bedtimes, noise, lots of groceries, and activity that comes with a full house again.

 
Turns out Gavin was able to join us for the last few days of his spring break and was flying into town the exact same day his roommate and friend Collin had already planned on coming to town to visit Estes Park for a class project. The three of us had an awesome day exploring the entire town.
 

The weather was perfect, the company fun, and the town perfectly uncrowded (a rarity).

Collin and I even bought matching sweatshirts. We're twining!

The rest of the time was spent in conversation and/or chess competitions. I opted out of chess, but the boys sure did enjoy it.

The following day we enjoyed ice cream in Old Town and the CSU Art Museum (Chloe was at work).

Getting any type of pictures together was like pulling teeth. I just wanted a simple memory of all of us together and it digressed into a complete charade. But what they didn't know was that I treasure any picture together - crazy, posed, or candid - I just love remembering our time together.

These people are my absolute favorite! The older the kids get, the better this parenting gig gets. They are the best! We like each other. We want to be together. They are fun (if not a little crazy and stay up way too late!). Time together is a gift I will always treasure and never take for granted. As they grow and go down their own paths, I take such joy in watching them come into their own and thrive in this world. We are cheering them on from afar, and when we can, close together.



Mar 27, 2021

The Blizzard

3/27/2021 — cori

 

Two weeks ago we were hit with one of the largest snow dumps I can remember seeing. It snowed from Saturday afternoon through Sunday night. We ended up with 17.5 inches at our house. Other towns along the Front Range ended up with up to 24 inches. It shut the Denver airport down for 2 days straight. 

The thing you can't see in the picture is the 30 mile an hour winds pummeling us from the north. The snow stung your face as you were getting pelted by it. The wind froze anything wet and exposed. That's why we had to wear ski goggles to go outside and play. 
 
We all handled it our own way. Chloe preferred the crawl into a ball and lay in the snow method along with a healthy dose of the disgust look.
 

Chuck and I played. He had better luck fashioning balls that stayed together for our snowman. Actually, I think he pretty much built it single-handedly.

This was the back deck before Chuck shoveled so that Ninja could go out. This was actually on Sunday morning when we woke up. It only got worse the rest of the day. And the worst part of it all was how heavy the snow was. It took forever to shovel!


Mission accomplished.

Ninja was made for this. She loves the snow so much. Even though she's an old lady now, she still prances around in the snow, tunnels her nose around, chases snowballs, snaps at the snow. It's so fun watching her have fun.

Here was the driveway Monday morning. There was no going anywhere.  The sad thing was, this was supposed to be Chloe's first week back in school in person all 5 days a week since a year ago March when the quarantine started. They ended up having two snow days this week because the snow was so hard to plow.

This was my paltry attempt at shoveling for 45 minutes. Did I mention how heavy it was?! That small portion left me exhausted and sore the rest of the day. I have no idea how Chuck endured doing the entire driveway and back deck.
 
 


Mar 25, 2021

The Flat

3/25/2021 — cori

 

A few Sundays ago Bennett called us at 9:30 at night. That's when we usually go to bed. He knows that, so getting a call from him at that time would be an oddity. He's like, "Ya, so I got a flat tire. Don't worry. I pulled into a parking lot. I can change it, I just don't know how. So Dad, you could please walk me through it?" 

So many questions: How did you get a flat? Where are you? Did you run into a curb again? Are any of your friends with you or close by? 

Long story short, he was just out for a lovely little night drive while all his friends were somewhere else. He has a hard time avoiding curbs. He veered into one and popped his tire. This would be the second time this has happened. The first time, Chuck could drive up to where he was and rescue him. The second time, Chuck was two hours away and could only walk him through it over the phone. This is a herculean task.

Luckily for us, Bennett has 70% battery power on his phone. Unluckily for us, bedtime has been obliterated. Bedtime occurs once we know our boy is back to his dorm safe and sound. We ask him if he can call a friend to come out and help him or at the very least hold a flash light for him since he's in a very dark parking lot with no lights. He says he wants to do it all by himself. Great timing for choosing complete independence!

Chuck texts his brother, John, and alerts him to the situation around 10pm. John lives 50 minutes from where Bennett is and can get to him sooner than we can if need be. He's okay with being on stand-by. He offers help in the form of sending YouTube videos to Bennett to watch on "How To Change a Tire." 

Thus begins a 3 hour long ordeal. 61 texts, numerous phone calls and 1 YouTube video later it is finished. It was HARD! It took over an hour just for him to figure out how to get the spare tire out of its resting place in the back of his Forerunner. It also took forever for him to pull the old tire off. It eventually came off but the force of it threw him backwards with the tire landing on him. By the very end he was down to 1% battery. This was the part that scared us the most. If anything went sideways, we would have no idea.

Finally, he made it back to his dorm a little after 12:30am. He did a hard thing all by himself. He persevered. He grew. That's what you hope for as parents.

 

Mar 15, 2021

Quarantine - A Year Later

3/15/2021 — cori

 

So much has changed in a year! Yet, it also seems like March 2020 was just last month. How can that be?! Life is a paradox. A year ago when we were told that it could be at least a year, maybe a year and a half, before we had a vaccine for covid-19 and life could get back to "normal." It didn't really compute. I was almost 100% positive that the drastic measures we were all taking by hunkering down in our houses, closing the world, and isolating ourselves from all other human beings would most definitely bring a much sooner end to this virus.

The initial quarantine and shut down was scary, unnerving, unknown, and indefinite. There was an invisible enemy lurking about outside our houses and we didn't know enough about it. This enemy upended the lives of everyone in the entire world. We all became used to new normals...wearing face masks, standing 6 feet apart, not shaking hands, not socializing with friends,  not eating out or going to movies. We were in collective shock. And those are the people that had it easy. We didn't even get the virus, nor did any of our immediate or extended family members. A few friends got it, but recovered quickly. But so many others didn't. It brought devastation to millions of families with (as of now) over 550,000 deaths in the US. 

But oddly enough, it also brought us closer. We spent lots of time talking, either on zoom, on the phone, or FaceTime. We got to really take time for people and give them our full attention because...what else was there to do? We had time for creativity, more reading, rest, spending time out in nature, games, and binge watching Netflix. We enjoyed time together, yet we also knew when to each go to our own rooms if we needed to be alone. It definitely tested relationships, for good and bad. 

I felt horrible for kids and grandparents during this entire season. Kids, especially teens, desperately need time with their friends. I saw and felt the loss of this and it made me so sad. Also, the loss of time in school and learning. The kids finished the 2020/2021 school year at home with online learning. Which...to be honest, was not a great experience. No education system was ready for something of this magnitude. To overhaul how you teach on the fly is an enormous task for any organization to make. Sadly, many kids suffered the loss of much learning time. I imagine many grandparents felt so isolated and lonely. They were in the most vulnerable age category. This virus seemed to have a preference for the old and overweight. 

So many lost jobs. The number is obscenely high. It will take years for many families and for the economy to recover. However, in the midst of this, I was able to find a job (shockingly) and even one that I enjoyed at that! Amazingly, UCCS allowed their freshman to come live on campus at the start of the school year. Bennett's first year of college was a resounding success. He made incredible friends and memories. Even though he lost so many rights of passage of his senior year, it wasn't all bad. Gavin has been at NDSU now for 6 semesters....3 semesters of in person classes and 3 semesters of on-line only classes. Chloe had a hybrid system since Fall 2020 where she went in person 2 days a week and online 3 days a week. All the kids are going to LOVE going back to in person learning. You can't recreate the energy of a class on line. The teachers and students need that time together. 

Thankfully, Chuck's job stayed in tact the entire time, even though he just started at a new company the month before the world shut down. He went to NJ (where his job is) when he got hired in February and hasn't been back since. He's definitely looking forward to getting back to the office and traveling more frequently. We realize we are the lucky ones, not losing our source of income, still being able to afford our mortgage, our groceries. We definitely found ways to help those who weren't as fortunate. 

As of now, President Biden say every US adult will be able to get a vaccine by May 1st. I can't wait! We've already re-planned last year's vacation to San Diego that we had to cancel. Bennett and I have re-planned his senior trip for 2022 that we had to cancel (even though he'll be a college sophomore). I think having something to look forward to is the most wonderful thing of all. For the past year, everything ahead of us just looked bleak. There was nothing to look forward to, no vacation, no last minute getaway, no work trips. It was just an open calendar of nothingness. There is much to be learned from this revelation, I'm just not ready to unpack that quite yet.

In the end...we made it through to the other side. We collectively kept putting one foot in front of the other every day. One day at a time. So much good of humanity shone through. We all learned so much about ourselves. Was it good or was it bad? Only time will tell. Maybe it was both and we can learn to be okay with holding the tension between the two.

Feb 25, 2021

I Listen To You Now

2/25/2021 — cori

 
Those were Chloe's exact words: "I listen to you now." And this is how I feel. :)
 
I don't know what prompted this decision other than the fact that Chloe made a choice and felt the need to inform us. It came out accidentally at first in response to a question, something like, "....well, I wouldn't do that cuz I listen to you now." 
 
Oh Really?! Do you now? Hmmmm.....do tell...
 
And that is just the way life is with Chloe. She was blessed with....shall we call it...stubbornness I mean, persistence (the positive spin). When she sets her mind to something, she does it. The other side of the coin is, you can't talk that girl into nothing! There is zero manipulation, cajoling, suggesting, or any other such nonsense. She knows what she wants - or doesn't want - end of story. It has been this way with her since she was a wee baby. I have spent the past 16 years learning how to be the parent she needs and how to trust this deepest of instincts she has.
 
Come to find out. All I had to do was wait long enough and she would decide to listen to me on her own time. I asked her what prompted this decision after 16 years and she said, "You're normally right. So I decided to listen. And I've been doing it now for 3 weeks and things have been going good for me."

So, there you have it. It appears listening is good after all and there are actual positive benefits to the practice. It's actually rather comical because from the very beginning of our parenthood, "listening" was one of the words we put great importance on.

 
Here's a picture of our very first protege showing us "listening." We decided it would be easier to communicate with this little human by using very rudimentary sign language. Gavin latched on to that like a bee to honey. Little did we know his penchant for learning that would come to define his life. This is a photo taken when he was 15 months old for a photo shoot of all the sign language he knew. We'd say the word behind the camera, Gavin would demonstrate, and the photographer would capture it. Gavin didn't speak a word of English at the time, just sign language. As parents, it was incredible! He could express himself to us and show us he understood what we were saying. This was a big deal for two novice parents as ourselves.

Then came Bennett, this is the only sign language we got out of him:
 
 
We lovingly referred to it as "the look." He definitely didn't do "listen." Out of desperation we got him to do "more" and "please" which weren't true to form, but we knew what he meant - some lazy, generic slapping his hand against his belly. And then came Chloe.

How can you deny that precious baby face anything?! She had us wrapped around that chubby little finger of hers from day one. Guess what her first word was...."no." I'm not joking. Her first sentence was, "Bee lellow tuck" (translation: big yellow truck.) This girl was in charge of her own self, thank you very much. She held her own with her brothers. She might have been the youngest, but that never stopped her from keeping up with them. If they were superheroes, she as a superhero. If they rode bikes, she rode a bike. If they were reading, she was reading. But the ONE thing she didn't do was any of that sign language tom foolery. No sir! She would have none of it. We couldn't bribe her with anything. All effort on our part yielded exactly zero results in the Teach Chloe Sign Language program. So we did what every parent would do...we quit trying. She won. Like I said, I've been learning how to parent Chloe for 16 years. And turns out all I had to do was....wait. I should have known. I should have seen this pattern from the beginning. 

 

And this is why I'll never be asked to write a parenting book. The secret is out...I have no clue what I'm doing. I'm learning as I go. I'm re-writing the parenting manual with each kid. I push when I should wait. I wait when I shouldn't. I learn after-the-fact. And I have no answers. But oh how I love these people of mine. They've taught me everything in the world that is important. I don't want all the answers, I just want them. We're learning and growing together. That's the beauty of life!


 

 

Feb 23, 2021

A Weekend With Bennett

2/23/2021 — cori

So this is the ONLY photo I received from Chloe from her Weekend With Bennett down at UCCS this past weekend. This is what I get when I ask her to take "fun" photos to document their time together. Obviously, I was not clear enough in my directive. She went all out here. At least she lowered her sunglasses to her chin. 

Despite the lack of pictures proving otherwise, Chloe said her first solo trip down to The Springs to visit her brother was fun (she didn't elaborate much beyond that one descriptive word). They ate...a lot...at the cafeteria. Bennett lives for each meal time where they offer an "eat as much as you want" option. So that pretty much keeps him happy. Between meals (Chloe said she's never eaten so much), he took her to The Garden of The Gods to hike (without hiking shoes - and probably coats, mind you.) It was very windy, cold, with lots of slushy snow still on the ground, so they couldn't get too far. 

Bennett also took her on a tour around campus. They had a snack in between their all-you-can-eat dining experience at the Shake Shack. They hung out in his dorm. That's been the one great things about the pandemic. Bennett gets a whole room to himself whereas he normally would have had to share the tiny space with another person. So, he had an extra bed for Chloe to sleep in (at her own risk). 

This was the first time Chloe has driven a long distance on the highway by her self. 25 is a very scary, dangerous freeway. But this girl LOVES to drive. And she loves to drive fast. She often declares, "I think I'll just go for a drive" like it's fun to do - because for her it is and it somehow relaxes her. So the drive didn't stress her out nearly as much as it did us. But we had complete confidence in her. However, we were very relieved when she texted us upon arrival. 

However, for the life of me, it's hard not to see these two at this age every time I look at my grown kids. At 6 and 4, they were riding safely in a bus with a professional driver. At this time of life, I couldn't have imagined a time of life without my precious children always surrounding me and needing every second of my time and joyfully giving it to them. The future seemed 100 years away. Come to find out it was actually only 13 years away. I'm so thankful they are friends. That they want to spend time together. That they enjoy each other's company.


Feb 21, 2021

Happy Boy

2/21/2021 — cori

 

This is what you do when you really, really, want to ride your new mountain bike but it's 30 degrees, snowy, icy, and gray out with 30 mile an hour winds. You just wear your helmet inside. 

Actually, Chuck just got his helmet in the mail on this fine day. This was actually the third helmet he ordered. He tried it on to make sure that this one was THE one. He ended up wearing it all day because...you can do that when you work from home.

I'm so happy that Chuck found the thing that fills his soul - mountain biking - not working with his bike helmet on.

Feb 14, 2021

Coat Wars

2/14/2021 — cori

 

 
This is what happens when I ask Chloe to wear a coat.

 
Every. Single. Time.

 
But today, I won. Because it's -2 degrees out and feels like -15. There is a line for me and Chloe just crossed it. I am willing to die on this hill. If she is mad at me the rest of the day, fine - I can deal with it. Apparently, it's unreasonable for a parent to ask a teenager to wear a coat. And it is worthy of the biggest of melt-downs, temper-tantrums, and all around disgust on the part of the required coat wearer.
 
I get that teens hate to look "poofy" and that jackets do exactly that. I'm willing to negotiate when the weather is a balmy 20 or 30 degrees. But I would be neglecting my parental duties if I allowed my daughter with .01% body fat to keep her warm, to head out into the polar vortex without protection. Even at the cost of her possibly looking "poofy." I HAD to play the parent card. And as you can tell, I won! She simply can't understand why she would possibly need a jacket to run from her car to the gym in -2 degree weather. Ahhh, the invincibility of youth. 

And so that Chloe doesn't feel singled out. This same scenario played itself out too many times to mention with both Gavin and Bennett when they were teenagers while living in both Minnesota and Colorado. Somehow, coats and jackets are seen as a badge of shame, weakness, the extreme of uncool. How could parents not see this?! At the most important time of your life when you can NEVER not look cool - parents are out there forcing their will on kids because they don't want to see them die of hypothermia on the way to school. Can you believe how unsympathetic parents are sometimes?

And if you don't have teenagers yet and can't possibly imagine yourself in this scenario, just wait. At one time, many moons ago, when my flock were all under the age of 10, they all wore coats outside when it was cold. And that was when we lived in Texas and thought cold meant 50 degrees. How innocently naive we were. They were happy to oblige their dictatorial mother and don the poofiest jacket in the closet as long as they could roam and play outside in the "frigid" weather. In my wildest dreams I couldn't have imagined they would turn on me with such animosity and choose to die on this hill of jacket wearing. This came as much of a shock to me as to anyone. 
 
However, if this is the depth of teenage rebellion we have to deal with, so be it. The teenage years are supposed to be a clash of wills. Your adolescent just wants to prove to you that they can do everything without your help or input. That's normal. I'm okay with that. I've learned to not impose my will on my teens (most of the time). We talk things through (negotiate), ask questions (get them to think through the consequences), and share stories of past experiences. The wise parents before us advised us to choose our battles. I choose the Wear A Jacket In Zero Degrees Or Below Battle. And I will every time. 



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