"You can make anything by writing."

-- C. S. Lewis

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Figuring Things Out

I come bearing Ryley stories of various kinds. As with all kids, the older she gets, the less “cute” her stories become, of course. But she still has a way of putting things that consistently catches us off guard, and we cherish each little sliver of light that allows us some insight into her active, quirky, beautiful mind. :-)


The first week of school was a tough one. It’s hard to get back into the rhythm of school, you know. Between remembering to bring her red pen here and there (sound familiar, Riverviewians?), and working hard not to speak out in class, 3rd grade is just plain tough. As bright as she is, and as dedicated to being right as she is, our Ryley is only eight, and she struggles with being a tad scatterbrained.

(Funny sidenote: I don’t know if I am forever scarred by my own six years of experience with Mrs. Wille, the responsibility Nazi of my youth, but I literally burst into tears one morning when I discovered Ryley’s red pen sitting on her seat in the van as I arrived at work. She had expressed to me her concern of the policy “No red pen, no grade” and had been so excited when she remembered to grab the pen on our way out the door that morning. But it never made it to her backpack. I ran crying into my office and immediately wrote her teachers an e-mail along the lines of “she tried so hard, and please have mercy on her this once!” They wrote back, “No big deal. It’s the first week of school, yada, yada, yada.” Mercy? Really? What a concept!!! Clearly I have my own issues to deal with. And now Ryley’s teachers quite possibly think I’m insanely Type A.)

So anyway, Ryley’s big problem (being of her dad’s blood, of course) is being a bit of a know-it-all. She shouts out the answers without raising her hand. When I addressed this with her, her response was, “But Mom, they never call on me when my hand is raised.” So obviously, if her teacher is to know she knows the answer, she must yell it out. Naturally. We discussed this at length and talked about why this is wrong on many levels.

A few days later, Ryley said that the teacher had told them that she would actually be calling on people who didn’t raise their hands and weren’t paying attention. Which gave Ryley an idea.

“I just look around and look at the wall and act like I’m not paying attention, but the whole time I have the answer in my head, ready to answer just in case they call on me.”

Yes. A win-win.


Ryley has been reading the Mandie Books, a series I adored when I was her age.

Tonight she asked me, “Why can’t Mandie learn to swim? In all these books, she doesn’t know how!”

“I don’t know,” I responded.

“Ohhh, I know why,” she said. “It’s because it makes the story more interesting every time she falls into water!”


The other night we were eating dinner, and, as I have for the last eight years, I cut up Ryley’s chicken breast for her. We were talking about some of her favorite foods that they serve at school, like chicken fried steak. It dawned on me suddenly that she eats chicken fried steak, yet hasn’t learned how to effectively cut meat yet….Hmmmm….

“So when you have meat at school, do the teachers cut it for you? Or do you do it yourself?”


“How do you eat it then?”

And Ryley proceeded to stab the uncut chicken breast with her fork and (quite awkwardly) lift the whole thing to her mouth to take a bite, gravy dripping down her chin.

Ryan and I both gasped in simultaneous horror and ashamed laughter.

“Tonight you’ll learn,” I told her. “What do your friends do?”

“The same as me,” she answered.

And breathing a small sigh of relief, I pictured tables and tables of 3rd graders with no table manners, struggling to eat their steak, and teachers trying hard to turn a blind eye. :-)


As we knew they would eventually, the questions about the Birds and the Bees have started flocking into our home. And they’re always at the most awkward times…like as we’re walking into swimming lessons, or at 8 p.m., the night before school starts. I don’t want her to think I’m ignoring/avoiding her questions or that they’re bad questions, but I also want to have time to sit down with her and prayerfully, wisely tell her what she needs to know. I want to protect her innocence as long as possible, but I don’t want her to hear things from the wrong people either. I was so much older than her before I even cared to know, so it’s caught me off guard.


I bought some books on the subject that we felt were a little too revealing, even though they are Christian books. Like Ryan has always said, after she knows, there’s no going back. And we want to make sure that even though she’s smart enough to ask, she’s also mature enough to handle the answer.

She has such an inquisitive, scientific mind, and I try to approach all my answers from that perspective. But it won’t be long before the vagueness isn’t enough anymore. The questions just keep coming and are more and more detailed.

God’s given me a lot of wisdom so far, and I’ve felt like each conversation has been extremely informative and has effectively answered the questions asked. After our Labor and Delivery 101 lecture this morning, however, I’m thinking it’s a matter of days rather than weeks. :-) Jesus, help us.


The other day Ryan and I were having a disagreement about something. When Ryley and I were alone for a minute, she said, “In movies, when two people disagree, they always kiss and make up. You always kiss and make up too, but I’m never there, so that’s good.”


And last but not least, randomly:

“I hope someone marries me for love and not for my fortune!”


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Up, Up, and Away….

I know you are breathlessly awaiting the continuing story of our Labor Day adventures.

It has been cold and rainy today (65 degrees or less), and as we all know, nothing puts me in a writing mood more than a good old rainy day! And so, even though it’s been a tough few weeks at work, I find so much solace, comfort, and joy in our little home on a rainy night, and even more so in our little family. It was 15 years ago tonight that Ryan called me up in my dorm room and asked me to go on a walk to “discuss a book.” That was only the beginning of something wonderful. :-)

So the trip to the Royal Gorge was quite exhausting, especially since we had gotten up so early at 4 a.m. on Saturday. Plus, there’s just a lot of hilly walking at the Royal Gorge, and since we’re not really what you would call “in shape,” we were really physically tired when we got home that evening. The Balloon Classic was supposed to take place Sunday and Monday mornings as well, weather depending, and we still really wanted to make it work since we had looked forward to it for so long! But when we went to bed Saturday night, I didn’t have high hopes for convincing the fam to take yet another sunrise trek to the Springs.

But we did it. We were up at 4, and after checking all the weather reports this time, we decided to buzz down and try it again. And I am so glad we did….

The first balloon at the Colorado Balloon Classic in Colorado Springs….


We made an interesting choice, and I feel like if we ever attend this event again, we might do it differently. Because we had read online that the best photographic opportunities are across the lake from the launch, we decided to set up camp there. So though we saw some beautiful scenery (and missed traffic, crowds, etc.), we missed out on actually witnessing any of the balloon lift-offs up close. I don’t regret our decision, but I think I do want to try the other experience too sometime. :-)

But it was just so peaceful sitting there, watching balloons slowly lift into the sky….


Boring? Probably, to some.  But we all enjoyed it thoroughly.








They just kept coming and coming and coming. Just when we thought they were about done, more would appear on the horizon.

Can you guess which balloon in the picture below was Ryley’s favorite?



I know all these pictures look the same, but they’re just so pretty!!!! :-)



So around 8:30, it seemed that the balloons were all gone – probably 40-50 in all. We lost count after awhile. So we packed up, headed out, and decided to go find some breakfast. But unbeknownst to us, the fun wasn’t yet over!!!

We were probably 10 miles down the interstate when we saw several balloons headed for landing in the area. One was particularly close to us, so we pulled off the highway to see if we could watch.



It flew right over our car, and I jumped out to take some pictures.

We drove to the next intersection, flipped a U, and pulled into the parking lot of a hotel and McDonalds just as it was landing.



It was so exciting!!!


What a way to end our hot air balloon experience! :-)

After grabbing breakfast, we decided to also stop by the Garden of the Gods since it had been awhile. We felt like we’d been there fairly recently, but when we did the math, we decided it had already been four years, and Ryley had no memory of it.

I think Ryley had envisioned an actual garden, so I’m not sure of her level of disappointment.


(One of Ryan’s creations with his phone’s panoramic app):


But she seemed to really get into it, and since we had let her use her own camera all morning to take pictures of the balloons too, she really got into that!





God’s beautiful creation!!!




It was a great little day-trip, and get this: we were home and back in bed by 11 a.m. for a much-needed nap!

The rest of the weekend was spent resting and recovering/prepping our house for yet another busy week. Oh, and we taught Ryley “The Game of Life.”


That was a huge hit!!

Thank you, my friends, for reading about our exciting weekend. :-) Sometimes the best fun to be had is when exploring your own state, and we know we are blessed to live in Colorado. Other than our coupon-assisted admission to the Royal Gorge Bridge, as well as the expense of a tank of gas, all of the things we enjoyed this weekend were free. That might be the best part of all!

Stay tuned, as I have been collecting Ryley Stories and more inconclusive thoughts about parenting. ;-)

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bridge over Lovely Waters

The grand finale weekend of our “summer of fun events” dawned early Saturday morning at 4 a.m. We had penciled the Colorado Balloon Classic on our calendar back in June, unsure of what the summer would bring and whether we would actually be able to make it happen this year. In fact, up until Wednesday, we had toyed with the idea of a last-minute quick trip to Texas to help celebrate our twin nephews’ first birthday. But when it came down to it, the Texas trip didn’t really seem do-able for many different reasons, and we decided to stick with a less stressful route for our three-day weekend together.

So at 4 a.m. on a Saturday, we bounced out of bed, too rushed to make coffee and too early for Starbucks. It’s mornings like that that I realize I don’t really need coffee, as much as I enjoy it. :-) By 6:15, we were in downtown Colorado Springs in search of a parking spot, and it was quite cold and windy. But as we fought traffic, we realized that cars were driving away from the park, and people were walking away from the park. We asked a police officer, and sure enough, the event had been canceled due to 40 mph gusty winds! Apparently you can only fly hot air balloons in winds less than 10 mph (or 11.5 “knots,” said in a hoity-toity voice). :-)

We were so disappointed! So…what to do, an hour away from home, at 6:30 on a Saturday morning?? We decided to go out for breakfast, but everyone else had the same idea. We tried three different Denny’s/Village Inns before we found a wait time we could live with.

After breakfast, we headed southwest for the next part of our plans…The Royal Gorge!

But first we had to had to take a detour at Skyline Drive, which Ryan and I both had childhood memories of driving with our families. It’s a very high, narrow road with scary drop-offs on both sides at times…

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View from the top…

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Ryley was not too pleased with the situation!

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The next stop was the Royal Gorge Bridge. Neither of us had been since we were teenagers, so we were really excited to show Ryley!

Look at that! Doesn’t it make you feel so small and vulnerable??


We decided to walk across, and Ryley was very leery of being out  of arm’s reach of one of us at all times. (Like we could have helped if the bridge collapsed!)


Ryan shows Ryley how you can see the river between the slats. And of course, the bridge is swaying the whole time!

The Arkansas River…


I love the shadow of the bridge on the canyon below.




Look how casually I’m leaning against the ledge! At the time, it felt pretty safe, but when I look back on it, what if the railing had failed??? Interesting factoid: They replace 250 wooden floor boards on the bridge each year. Ryan noticed some were missing bolts.



Whoa, Ryley….Don’t fall over the wall!



Of course we took the cable car across….


Then we took the incline railroad to the bottom…






Sidenote: While we were in line for this incline railroad, we were right behind this mushy sugary-sweet family with four little kids. They all had matching shoes (even the parents), and they were constantly hugging, kissing, and dancing around to the music playing nearby. I mean, we are the mushy, huggy, kissy, dancy type as well, but this was over the top. The dad was even keeping a dance beat at the bottom of the gorge, where there was no music. Then his wife would join him and dance to his beat while swinging their baby around. Oh wow. Ryan and I were having trouble keeping ourselves from dancing to their beat!

So I noticed their son was wearing a shirt advertising a chiropractic practice. Well, seriously, who buys a chiropractic shirt for their kindergartener? Unless you are a chiropractor! I took note of the name, and get this: when we got home, I googled it, and I found them! Both the husband and the wife are chiropractors for this practice in another state. I found out their names, and I found Facebook pages and kids’ names, etc. I know I’m crazy, but these people just fascinated me! It is amazing what you can find on the Internet. And kind of scary, too.

And now, whenever Ryan or I start tapping a beat, the other of us starts dancing. And Ryley joins in. ;-) It. Is. Awesome.


Ryan had some fun with a new panoramic app on his phone! More on that later!

It was a perfect day in so many ways. Even though our balloon plans fell through the cracks (pun intended), the trip to the Royal Gorge was really nice. We had perfect weather, and we were all in good moods. Haha!

But the weekend wasn’t over just yet! More fun was in store for Sunday as well. Stay tuned for Part 2…