Saturday, March 27, 2010

After long anticipation

Today begins the grand adventure of Kate, Greta, Matthew, Colin, and Erin from Denver to Hotchkiss to Moab to Grand Canyon. We're as ready as we can be for canyon backpacking, although, as we have been more than adequately warned, many obstacles are far beyond our control. Some examples from the permit application correspondence:

"Experience has shown that trips such as the one you requested all too often result in off-itinerary camping, injury, and occasionally even death. Please do not accept this itinerary merely because it is available."

"Legions of small animals...will devote much attention to separating you from your food during your stay at the designated campsites."

"...the water in Horn Creek may exceed EPA MUNICIPAL water standards for alpha radiation during high flows. Remember, the dehydration threats from not drinking can be much more immediate and life threatening."

"There is water in the bed of Horn Creek about half the time, but unfortunately it is radioactive so don't drink it unless death by thirst is the only other option."

After talking to a ranger in December, who assured me that our itinerary wasn't what they call "crazy," we made some slight adjustments and started preparing for the hazards ahead. So here we go--radiation, dehydration, traumatized toenails, legions of rodents, you're on.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Snow day

After being 65 and sunny two days ago, Denver had its first snow day in the two years that I've been working for the school district. I love my job and I love my kids, but let me tell you, this was a much-appreciated break. To celebrate, I'll give you some happy snow photos from the past few weeks.

This afternoon, for example, Greta and I decided you don't have to be a little kid to build a snow fort in the backyard.

We had rescued the daffodils from our flowerbed just before the blizzard.

Snow forts in T-shirts. I love you, Colorado.

And this was after surviving the bike ride home yesterday. It had just started snowing when I left school. By the quarter-way mark, the bridges were covered. By half, I couldn't see the trail. My tally of fellow bikers fell to a record low of one (who yelled, "Oh, YEAH!" as we passed in the blinding snow.)

My snowshoes got their initiation after last Friday's snowstorm on a trip to Mt. Evans with Andi and Emily.

And last but not least, an exhausting but well worth it cross-country skiing adventure to Lost Lake.

And that, sadly, must be all for now. The sun has melted almost the entire foot of snow, so it's back to school tomorrow. Two days till spring break, baby.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Critical diacriticals

Yes indeed, look at this--I'm writing on a school night. I came to the conclusion last night, after reflecting on my overstuffed day and realizing that the most relaxing thing I had done was to take a five-minute break to clip my fingernails, that I need to start doing more of what I love and less of what I have to do. So here I am.

Today's teaching highlight came during 5th grade Spanish class, where we've been working on describing family members. I took a brief detour into English to impress into my students' brains just how important it is to write and pronounce the diacritical marks--those lovely accents on vowels and tildes on ñ's--in Spanish. My high school teachers informed me of the papá/papa distinction, but they neglected to teach me the more important ones; I was well into my time living in South America before I figured out the crucial difference between mamá and mama, año and ano. I realize, I told my kids, that by teaching you these words, I'm running the risk of you using them inappropriately, but I'll take that risk to spare you the embarrassment of going around telling people, "My potato plays tennis," "My breast speaks French," or, horror of horrors, "I have 11 anuses" instead of "I'm 11 years old." Jaws dropped; ears turned red. For a fleeting moment, I had the undivided attention of every single student, until one of my typically less-than-attentive pupils leaped out of his seat to grab a pencil and started scribbling notes, and I burst out laughing. This was the only time all year that an elementary student had taken notes in my class. Go figure. A noteworthy occasion indeed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


I knew it had been a little while since I'd written anything here, but today when I opened a new Safari tab I noticed that my blog had been removed from the display of my 12 most frequently visited websites. Not only that, but it had been replaced by things like H&R Block and the Denver Public Schools job board--how terribly depressing. Fortunately, now that my taxes are done and my teaching job rather miraculously secured for next year, I can work on getting my priorities straight.

So. What has happened since January? We're well into March, somehow, and the first two weeks were absolutely gorgeous, no lions in sight. I left my fleece jacket and wind/rain/snowproof biking pants at home and wore sunglasses for the 6:30 am ride to work for the first time since fall. The commute home took me past several fishermen on the riverbank, two little girls on scooters, and a grown man on a skateboard being pulled along the bike trail by a big frisky dog. I counted an impressive 25 other bikers on my way home on Friday, more than doubling the previous record. My arms got minorly sunburned after a 60-degree Saturday morning spent building new compartments for the compost bin and digging up soil in the garden beds. (Also, spell check tells me that "minorly" is not a word. And there are some surprisingly heated forum discussions on the matter. Fascinating.) I spent yesterday afternoon hiking around a snowy mountain in a T-shirt. Then I woke up this morning to gray clouds spitting snowflakes outside my window. Boo. Now it's turned to chilly rain, and I'm sitting here staring at the garden through the glass and drinking hot chocolate out of a snowman mug in somewhat begrudging deference to the fickleness of spring. So be it. If I have to be inside this afternoon, I'll spend it digging my tennis rackets and sandals out of the closet and putting them optimistically with my skis and snow boots. Come on back, little lamb.