Month: October 2019

Santa Fe Road Trip

For Fall Break this year we decided to take a road trip!  Get ready for a LOT of pictures.



Our first stop was Manitou Springs.  Ben had the kids try the local mineral water.  It was not well received.


We were too early for the arcade and most shops, but it was fun looking in the windows.  We also got some crepes to stave off hunger for the morning.


Day 1 Adventure was to tour the Cave of the Winds!  This was the first cave for the boys.  Ben was unimpressed, compared to others he has seen.  But I enjoyed it quite a bit and I think the kids did too (though Sam was “done” when we still had 20 minutes left).


Phone camera pictures were unsurprisingly terrible (my attempt with a flash above).  So I splurged and bought the staged photo they make everyone take on the way inside.


We drove on for the rest of the day, mostly stopping for bathroom breaks.  In Trinidad we stretched our legs at the local library before getting pizza dinner.


After we passed the New Mexico border, after the sun finished setting, we pulled off the highway onto a dirt road and drove out a quarter mile.  Just far enough to stargaze.  The boys were impressed with the Milky Way, not ever really seeing it where we live.  They were astounded by the depth and multitude of stars.  We identified Scopio and the Big Dipper, Jupiter, and the North Star.  We would have researched and looked longer but it was SUPER cold and we were ready to sleep in Santa Fe.  Onward!


Our Big Adventure for Day 2, Meow Wolf, had tickets at 11:00.  Until then we wandered around the Plaza of Santa Fe.  The kids were not too into the historical sites or the art galleries that ring the plaza.  But they got a good sense of the local adobe architecture and I helped them tour the cathedral, getting a basic understanding of cathedral beauty.  Then we went to the local Railway Park to let Sam run in circles.  He was so AMPED for Meow Wolf.  (On the other end of the spectrum, Jack was cold and bored and Ben was fighting off a virus that had attacked last night).


Finally it was time for MEOW WOLF!

What is Meow Wolf? “An immersive environment that is part haunted house, part choose-your-own-adventure, and part jungle gym.”

My pictures are very blurry, it was mostly dim and I was literally chasing Sam through most of the rooms.  At the start I quickly decided I should split off with Sam so he could frantically explore at his own pace, while Ben and Jack could experience it more slowly.  Later, as Ben’s flu took him out, I went out with both kids, letting them take turns being the leader.

It’s probably best to look at the website for better images and videos, but I have mine here to show us actually there 🙂  It was really incredible.  I can see why adults go slow (and stoned) and take a long time exploring.  They have hidden stories, puzzles, and clues for guests to work out during return visits.  But with my crazy dudes we took a whirlwind approach, probably covering all 70 rooms in under 2 hours.



Theremin-playing DJ!


Strobe stop-motion scene behind this doorway



This and the above two photos were Sam’s favorite room, a bus that had been upended and converted to a space ship that you could use to make light and sound effects with a control panel.



Weird tiny diorama that I liked.


Jack found a couple strange pianos on this trip.


Spot the Ben trying to power through his flu 🙁

My favorite: the smoke-filled electric harp room.


Mammoth skeleton drum and keyboard



Touch sensitive walls make light and sound.


After Meow Wolf we took Ben back to the hotel to rest.  Over lunch I polled the boys how to spend the rest of the day.  Jack and I wanted to see the Puye cliff dwellings, but Sam was strongly opposed to the trip.  If Ben had been there we would have forced him, but I wasn’t up for the long drive and battle of wills all by myself (I had hardly slept the night before, and was running on fumes all day).  So instead we went to see a movie, Abominable, at the local theater.  Abominable was actually really good!  I assumed it was another trashy kids movie.  Instead I was pleased to find it was clever and patient and well written.  The kids both loved it and have been quoting it ever since.


We got sandwiches to eat back at the hotel and were all ready for an early bedtime.


Happily we woke mostly refreshed Sunday morning.  Ben and I were both capable of driving (I wasn’t sure if I was getting sick or just exhausted the night before – turns out to be just exhaustion).  The kids had a final hotel morning of cartoons + continental breakfast, then we hit the road.

Instead of coming down I-25, we looped the trip using back highways.  This allowed us to see such sites as Cano’s Castle:

And the Big Adventure for Day 3: The Colorado Gators Reptile Park!

Ok, I guffawed during our trip-planning when Ben suggested this place.  But it was super cool.  It was that kind of old-fashioned place, run down, scrapped together, and has faith that its visitors will use their common sense.  After several hand-painted signs reminding you that this is a dangerous place, you are told to watch your step around the “tortoise fences.”  Puzzled, we quickly discovered these fences are planks set on their edges around the property to keep the roaming tortoises in their place.


The first roaming tortoise we found.


My kids love all cats.  This one is living a dream-cat life on this reserve.

Many terrariums of snakes, lizards, salamanders, and the like.  Each labeled with footprints to tell you which make the best pets, and which make the worst pets.  They had all levels of pet-titude at the reserve.


Shortly after arriving, this guy pulled a croc out of a bin and asked if we wanted to touch.  Seconds later, we were all holding him and posing for pictures!


The boys knew I was super squeamish about reptiles.  Snakes especially, but I’m not thrilled about gators either.  They didn’t push me, I was brave on my own.  It was so so so so icky, but I did it!



So cold and smooth and plasticky and heavy. Ick ick ick ick ick ick.

The boys got a certificate of bravery (MY name should have been on it!).  To make it official, they have the beast notarize the certificate with his teeth.



High on adrenaline, we explored the remaining displays.


Don’t step on a turtle!


Little snake crawling up to say hello.


Ben was chatting with the parrot, when his foot got stepped on!


The reserve is built on hot springs.  Initially this was built as a fish farm.  They brought in some gators to eat the dead fish, and the gators did so well, they expanded to taking in illegal pets, or other unusual origins.  The also sell plants grown in the green house, which help filter the water.  I was tempted to take home a fig tree, but I’m sure I would have killed it.



“Elvis the King of Croc,” one of their biggest creatures.



They are helping to house some wolves while their permanent home is being built elsewhere.

There were many bold emus.  They came right up to the fence looking ready to bite if our kids got too close.


Morris the movie star croc was hiding underwater when we visited.

Nile crocs posing with open jaws.

Albino crocodiles.



After the Reptile Park we pushed north to Buena Vista for lunch, then over Kenosha pass to Denver.  It was strange driving by Amanda’s old school, coming from the backside.

There was a snowstorm coming to town and we got home just as it was getting started.  Some blowing snow on the road through Conifer, but not too much trouble.

And that’s the end of our trip!  The cats missed us (as much as we can tell).  We had today (Monday) off of school as well.  It’s been nice to sleep in during the morning snow and take it slow, putting the house back in order.

I think everyone had a pretty great trip.  It’s too bad Ben had to deal with the flu while we were there, this trip was really his baby.  But he was able to do most everything we planned and have a quiet day at home recovering today.

I hope the snow is mild tonight so Sam can go on his class field trip tomorrow.  Wednesday looks like another blizzard and I expect a delay or closure for school.  Either way, we can plan on a cold, snowy Halloween on Thursday.  I’m glad I got long johns for both kids to wear under their costumes!  October is a strange weather monster in Colorado.

Spooky Season

Halloween is coming!


Well, for us the spooky season starts on October 1.  So it’s been a month-long HALLOWEEN FESTIVAL.  We got dem decorations, advent calendar, and lots of parties to attend.

This year the cub scout AND church trunk-or-treat parties were planned for weekend TWO WHOLE WEEKS before Halloween.  So I was strict about the kids locking in their costume ideas by October 1st.  Since I often end up hand-crafting a lot of the costumes I needed to get started early.

That’s why Ben and I are a couple, and the kids are a couple.  We adults picked ours in August, so I had already started buying pieces.  Jack had decided on his costume in October of LAST year and, surprisingly, never changed his mind.  Somehow he convinced Sam to be his partner and Sam commited too.  Dang it, I would have made all four of us match if I had known their plans earlier!  Oh well.  Behold!

Jack is Jack Skellington and Sam is his dog, Zero.  Jack’s costume is store-bought, with a modified mask, separate gloves, and a rib bone that he painted so he can pull it out to toss to Zero, as seen in the movie.  Sam’s costume is entirely handmade by me.  I was most nervous about the headpiece.  I couldn’t find any tutorials I liked, so I improvised the whole thing.  It’s a paper-mache and cardboard mask built on a baseball hat, covered in fabric, with poseable wire-framed ears.  The nose piece was a 3D printed pumpkin I made last year which just happened to be the perfect size!

Ben and I are obscure characters from The Lord of the Rings.  They didn’t even make it into the movie version.  Only two people we know have correctly identified us.  We are Tom Bombadil and his companion Goldberry!

(Jack took these pictures, so this is the best I have.  Most are blurry and have Sam dabbing in the corner 😉

For our trunk I made a dragon’s lair.  There’s a bony dragon head that breathes smoke (I funneled in dry ice smoke from elsewhere in the car via a hose.).  There was gold and gems and armor and twinkling red and gold lights.  Best of all, I found some great ambient sounds on youtube that I downloaded.  Nearly every kid paused and stared at the great beast.

I took a short video that sort of gives you a taste of  the final set-up:

It worked great on the first night, but I had a lot of technical problems the second party, including with strong wind blowing away the smoke.  It still garnered some oohs and ahhs (the church party trunk standard is much lower than the scout party).

The second party was sort of a bust due to the aforementioned wind, and our tardiness.  I had the audition workshop that afternoon and didn’t have enough time to properly do dinner and get everyone out the door calmly.  This is just to say that I don’t have any pictures from that night.  Here’s the whole scout group:

I’m sure I’ll have more pictures to share once Halloween is ACTUALLY here 😉

First snow

Tradition continues.  This year Jack got super excited for the waffles.  As soon as snow was in the forecast he started asking if I had started the waffles.  I ended up making a double batch and they were delicious, as usual.

The cats didn’t let snow deter them from visiting the catio.  Freddy seemed confused by the snow, and thought jumping up on the shelf would get him out of this cold wet stuff.  He was shocked to find snow up there as well 🙂

Catching up

It’s been a busy time of year.  Lots of events at school, at church, and at home.   This is a short round-up of some things I’ve meant to write about but haven’t gotten around to yet.

The kids are doing excellent at school.  As you have seen, Sam has become an avid reader and loves to read out loud to us. He had an annual check-up with the doctor this week and he’s in tip top shape.  Very tall for his age, yet average weight.  We make ’em long and lean in this family 🙂

I hosted book club and made caramel apple pie bars.  They were delicious!

I’ve also been volunteering for the past few months with Days for Girls.  It’s a wonderful charity and I have strong feelings about women’s menstruation health and acceptance.  It’s been great to spend a half day sewing to help send kits overseas.


I made a quick overnight trip to Salt Lake City to celebrate my cousin Jill’s wedding.  It was great fun to see all my family in Utah and see her beautiful wedding.

On a sadder note, Betty’s sister, Jean Bress, passed away recently.  She had been struggling with some chronic health problems and some new complications all summer.  When treatments were no longer tolerable she made the choice to go on hospice care, and gently ended there.  It’s been a sad time for the family, but we’ve been blessed to see the Mason family frequently as they came together to help Jean out; and hopefully we spread a little cheer with our goofy kids.

Some cold days, some warm days.  The cats are still crazy and sleepy, and the boys love when they come home to freshly baked cookies with large mugs of milk.  (They wanted pictures to show their cookie-ecstasy faces.)




Sam loves to bike.  If only it wasn’t so windy this week, we’d be out practicing!  Earlier this fall he biked all the way to Bridgeside park and back!

Not pictured, the musical with Amanda and Becca is ramping up.  It’s going to be Rock of Ages: Middle School Edition.  We held a workshop where I taught the audition dance.  I love getting into the school and seeing the kids’ enthusiasm.  It should be a fun one this year!

Rainy October morning

The Halloween decorations are up and the leaves are turning yellow and orange. Fall is truly here!

The light drizzle and soaked ground didn’t deter our cats from visiting the catio.

But they weren’t happy about it and soon came in to cuddle on the couch.

More video of Sam reading

I’ve received such positive feedback about Sam’s book performances, that I made another video.  Enjoy!

(He loves doing silly voices, sorry if you can’t understand him)

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