Our family had a fun, although rather subdued, holiday season. Dave had a pretty major surgery Thanksgiving week — a procedure called a “microvascular decompression” — and he’s been home recovering with the family for the month of December. Because of that, we kept our social calendar pretty empty: we didn’t have our traditional holiday open house for the first time since 2008 (when I was TDY for much of December), and we didn’t go to any of the holiday parties to which we were invited…except for the Boy Scout party for the kids. That one was definitely our speed.

Dave’s parents visited for a week right after Dave came home from the hospital. By this point Dave wasn’t able to do much, so his parents enjoyed a relaxing week.

For this new year, I’ve taken the advice of a fellow GeekMom writer and tried to come up with a single word to direct my efforts. My word for 2017 will be “Return”. “Return” to work (hopefully), “Return” to writing (for this blog and for GeekMom), and “Return” to my exercise habits that I’ve allowed to falter in 2016. More »

04. August 2016 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 50: Get Away from the Crowds with the Palmer Trail at the Garden of the Gods · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
The Palmer Trail at the Garden of the Gods is our family's favorite hiking spot.

The Palmer Trail at the Garden of the Gods is our family’s favorite hiking spot.

It is clear that the Garden of the Gods is among the most popular locations to visit in Colorado Springs. Trip Advisor will tell you that it’s the #1 tourist attraction in Colorado Springs, ranking higher than Pikes Peak and the U.S. Olympic Center. I even wrote about Garden of the Gods as one of my first-ever “Colorado Discoveries” posts. There are several reasons why it’s #1 for tourists: it’s centrally located in the city, it’s ADA-friendly, it’s not 14,000′ high, and there’s no cost to visit.

However, because it’s so popular, it can be very crowded. More »

04. August 2016 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 49: Air Force Academy Graduation & Thunderbirds Airshow 2016 · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,
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AF Academy’s football stadium got a new scoreboard this past spring. It’s very nice. Each class designs a crest that is shaped for their class ring. This crest is very interesting to me because of the flames towards the bottom (this class reported during the Waldo Canyon wildfires in 2012) and the icicles at the top (they had their “Recognition” training during a blizzard in 2013).

For the 3rd year, our family was able to go the USAF Academy graduation. This year I was able to go in non-orders status, so I didn’t have to wear my uniform. However, you won’t see any pictures of me in this post.

We were especially excited this year because it’s a year that the President speaks to the graduating class. So we were able to hear President Obama give an uplifting, humorous speech to the graduates. Since this is an election year, the whole country was paying attention this speech. More »

04. April 2016 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 48: Colorado Springs Labor Day Liftoff Balloon Festival · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
Okay, so I was a bit of a madwoman photographing all the balloons.

Okay, so I was a bit of a madwoman photographing all the balloons.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t write quite as much as I used to. Blame my full time work, but you can also blame this lack of motivation issue that I have these days. After a full day of work, I tend to come home, make dinner, and then not want to do much.

This evening I was cleaning up the photos on my iPhone and realized how many things we’ve done over the past couple seasons that I have failed to share here. Those of you who follow me on Facebook have seen some of this before, but in case you just follow my blog, let’s catch up with some of the things we did. More »

02. February 2016 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 47: The Royal Gorge Route Railroad · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,
We got a nice photo of the family before boarding. I wish Dave's Dad was more visible.

We got a nice photo of the family before boarding.

As you might imagine, being the wife of a train guy, I’ve been on a lot of trains. From the Amtrak Auto Train to dozens of tourist railroads, we’ve experienced rides that range from luxurious to utilitarian, with lengths from just 15 minutes to 7 hours.

We have been driving past the Royal Gorge Route Railroad depot for the past couple years on our numerous day- and weekend-trips to Monarch Mountain. We kept telling ourselves “We need to check out that railroad.” but hadn’t gotten around to it for a while. The Royal Gorge takes a 20 mile route along the Arkansas River that one can only see via this train or whitewater raft (or the Royal Gorge pedestrian bridge at the park).

In 2014 we tried to get tickets for a ride, but the Holiday Train route we were interested in was sold out. The boys are too old for the Santa Train that dominates the holiday season, and besides, it didn’t take the complete route. Dave would have wanted the complete route.

Dave’s parents visited during Christmas week and we got tickets for everyone for a daytime Holiday Train for the day after Christmas. We got the tickets nice and early (around Veteran’s Day) and were very pleased with the number of options available to us. We choose to do a 12:30pm trip so that we could see the beautiful gorge. More »

01. February 2016 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 46: Breckenridge on a Budget · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

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I know, it’s been a while! I’m here, really, but with my full time work and the kids’ activities, I have had to re-prioritize my blogging. This also goes for GeekMom, where my writing is now at a bare minimum (despite having ideas for posts all the time), but I still do editor duty every few weeks.

I have numerous things to write about here on the home front, including a stunning ride on the Royal Gorge Railroad back in December but for now I want to share what a fun weekend our family had in Breckenridge. We didn’t ski (I’ll explain in a minute) but we found many other things to enjoy without spending much money.

Breckenridge Ski Resort is like the Walt Disney World of skiing. Tourists come in from all around the world for some amazing skiing, and the town of Breckenridge keeps up with that tourism industry with premier shopping, restaurants, and lodging options for their guests. More »

02. September 2015 · Comments Off on Our Next DIY Project: A Faux Log Cabin Guest Room · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

I am mainly writing up this post so we have something to stash to Pinterest.

Dave and I joined some friends who just moved to the area in the Colorado Springs area Parade of Homes. Unlike other Parades I’d been to in other communities, this one requires you to drive all over the city to see the houses in assorted neighborhoods.

In the Banning Lewis Ranch neighborhood, about 10 minutes from our house, was a house that had a youth bedroom decorated like a hunting lodge.

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Dave and I love this! We think this can be done pretty nicely with our guest room!

More »

25. August 2015 · Comments Off on Colorado Discoveries 45: Denver Comic Con · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
The Colorado Convention Center is Denver is famous for the giant blue bear peering inside.

The Colorado Convention Center is Denver is famous for the giant blue bear peering inside.

My family had the chance to attend Denver Comic Con* this past Memorial Day weekend with family press passes I obtained through my association with GeekMom, a $150 value. This fact that the organization offered complimentary admission to our entire family is a testament to what a family-friendly experience this particular Comic Con is trying to maintain: children’s admission was only $5 per day and $10 for the entire event.

Accompanying the press passes were interview opportunities with the celebrities and comic book artists. Interviews are not my strong suit but I did my best.

Because DCC provided complimentary admission, I made sure the timely writing about the event was posted to GeekMom first back in June, but I figured I’d summarize all the posts here and then share the full photo album. More »

12. May 2015 · Comments Off on Our Stock-Savvy Son · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,
We got to spend the day at the zoo to celebrate Timmy's team winning a Stock Market Contest in his school district.

We got to spend the day at the zoo to celebrate Timmy’s math class team winning a Stock Market Contest in his school district.

Last fall, Timmy’s gifted math class took part in a Colorado program called the “Stock Market Experience”. Many of states do this, and I remember a similar program while I was in high school, although I wasn’t part of it. Students are given a notional $100,000 bank account and are allowed to make investment choices in the stock market. At the end of the period, the winners are the teams/individuals who earn the most money.

Students in grades 3-12 can take part here in Colorado, and for the Fall semester Timmy’s team of four won for their grade level in the Pikes Peak Region, which is Colorado Springs and the surrounding areas. It’s one of 5 regions in the state: besides Pikes Peak, there’s Denver Metro, Northwest, Northeast, and South/Southwest. I don’t know the precise borders of these regions. More »

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Staring skyward at their Elastic-Launched Glider. We’re so proud of Jacob (on the left) representing his school at the state Science Olympiad competition. 

In March and April, our family was busy with Jacob helping his team for the Colorado Science Olympiad tournament. Plenty of after-school sessions, evenings at the kitchen island tuning his handiwork, and family trips to Colorado State University – Pueblo and Colorado School of Mines (known around here as just “Mines” — note the URL if you click through the link) for the competitions.

Science Olympiad is a set of competitions in a wide assortment of science and technology topics. You can click the link above to learn more. I remember hearing about it when I was in middle and high school, and for a while I thought I had participated in a regional tournament when I was growing up in Virginia, but now I’m more certain I had participated in Odyssey of the Mind.

I’m thrilled Jacob expressed interest in this group; he has a wonderful group of friends, not just in his own grade, but also in 7th and 8th grade.

The competitions blend of classroom testing, problem solving exercises, and hands-on homemade projects that are built to achieve some sort of goal. Jacob represented his school in the following competitions:

  • Solar System test
  • Road Scholar, which involves a problem solving exercise with maps. Jacob needed to be familiar with USGS Quads to be successful in this.
  • Elastic-Launched Glider competition. The students craft a glider from lightweight wood, launch it with an elastic launcher of some sort, and see how long it stays airborne.

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Jacob’s glider had a LOT of trouble and wasn’t airborne for very long. I didn’t take any video. But here’s a video of one that stayed airborne for nearly 30 seconds (and won!) at the 2014 North Carolina competition at NC State.

Reminder: This is NOT Jacob’s team! This is NOT even in Colorado!

Jacob’s school finished in the middle of the pack for the state, and we’re particularly proud of Jacob’s performance in the Road Scholar competition, where he and his partner placed 7th out of the 30 teams! He’s looking forward to joining the team again next year. He was taking keen interest in the better-performing gliders and seems to have a lot of ideas for next year.