Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Our Best Highest Selves

So I started writing a post Friday morning on our last day in Breckenridge, but the chilly mountain air wooed me and forced me to sit all cozy with a hot cup of tea and google Denver legal jobs and good school systems instead of writing and I couldn't finish.

Then we got home Saturday night at 9 p.m. after driving for 13 hours in pouring rain while semi-trucks rushed all around and I jumped in my seat every single time one got near us because I no longer trust them to stay in their own lane and James was like can you please just close your eyes for a little while and stop doing that and I said no but I can read about a romance novel about a demon-possessed lord (actually, lady) of the underworld so I did. We got home safe and sound ("barely," I mutter, while side-eyeing semi-trucks) and had the kids in bed and the car and all suitcases and million bags unpacked by 9:45 (I am a terror at unpacking; my soul is only settled when my house is back in order) and decided we would gift ourselves with the Game of Thrones episode we missed the Sunday before and went to bed terribly late.

Also on Saturday, and also making it different to do a my usual cheerful vacation recap, a woman my age was killed while peaceably protesting Nazis who were marching and shouting about Jews, in America in 2017, and our temperamental, morally bankrupt, will-do-ANYTHING-for-those-who-praise-him president who blanket-rages at Mexicans, Muslims, and every member of the legitimate media, basically shrugged his shoulders and was like "eh, who can say the Nazis are the bad ones?". So I just couldn't quite vacation-blog through my renewed horror that I know people who voted for this horrible man. I mean maybe you didn't vote for him because he's a racist, but his birtherism and inflammatory and racist campaign rhetoric (not to mention sexual assault and related bragging) were also not a deal breakers for you and I really still struggle with that. And as for his unhinged remarks today defending our neo-Nazis and white supremacists ("some very fine people"), there is simply no equivalence between those who march for white supremacy and ethnic cleansing and those who stand against it. None. And an American president pretending otherwise is an outrageous moral failing for the country in a way that goes beyond his usual (also terrible) outrages. I was talking with the kids tonight about Charlottesville and racism and Landon was like, I know who the Nazis are! They're bad! I read about them in my I Survived book about WWII! And I thought yes, wouldn't be nice if our president felt the same.

So now it's Tuesday night and I have to finish blogging about our vacation because life has continued and I'm behind and I am SO TIRED and keep canceling my workouts and drinking extra wine to drown my disappointment that I don't live in the mountains, so I need to wrap it up and go to bed early, but it's weird to just skip back to the mundane. I need to and I will- I like reading my life recaps years later when I can't sleep at night, and I accidentally "met" three law mamas through comments on my favorite facebook group today who read this blog and now I feel guilty that I haven't updated it, but while I know no one comes here for political commentary- and I don't come here for that myself when I re-read my archives later, it feels deeply dishonest to not stumble through some of it in writing my story. Because my occasionally overwhelmed reactions to the news and press conferences of the day are a part of that story and since nuclear threats and racist violence inserted themselves into my vacation, it would be fake to not reflect that spillover here as well.

But back to last Friday ---

~ ~ ~

Our quirky huge rental house is empty except for us and suddenly 5 people seems so quiet.

We've had such a great trip up here with our group of 18 (pro tip: most group discounts start at 20; bring more friends). We've never vacationed with friends before, much less a whole gaggle of them. Our trips are usually about us getting away and being together and I love them more than I love any other minutes all year times 10, so I wasn't sure what it would be like to add 13 non-LagLiv-persons to a 6-day getaway, but it went SO well and so smoothly and was SO much fun. I'm not even saying that because most of them will read this blog post later... it's just- it was easy, easy and fun, and that is exactly what vacations should be.

The kids- all 10 of them- got along great (I mean, like 98% of the time) and everyone was involved in the cooking, cleaning, and parenting, like we were just a nice, smoothly-running commune who decided to spend a week in the mountains. I'm ready to go again with the whole crew, assuming they'll have us.

~ ~ ~ [Now writing in present-day which is 11:40 p.m. on Tuesday night which is clearly not going to bed early like I promised myself but whatever I'm finishing this] ~ ~ ~

When we last left off it was Tuesday night and we had lost Landon for over 20 minutes and several hundred vertical feet next to a roaring waterfall and my voice was still breaking any time I talked about it. Wednesday dawned, bright and full of the possibility of always knowing where your children are, and 3 of our men (James included) had already left the house to go hike Quandry, a nearby 14,200 foot high peak. James didn't even pack a jacket on this trip and we've never hiked anything over 12,500 feet, so he was a little unprepared for the physical demands of his first 14'er. But all three of them made it and he sent me pics along with a text that read "Cold as f$&@."

I think they round-tripped it in less than 5 hours, so they were feeling pretty shaky-legged and proud of themselves when they met up with us on the Blue Lakes hike later that morning.

basically on top of Everest

Our hike was much simpler, which is good since we had 10 children we couldn't lose eye-contact with. Blue Lakes was right at the base of Quandry and wound around a beautiful lake surrounded by boulders to climb and a waterfall to go explore.

The tutu-wearing toddlers hiked like newly minted experts, scrabbling over rocks and discussing princess fashion. At one point Cora had had enough (of what, I'm not sure) and decided to let out a few screams, and sweet J turned to her and said to her in her most reasonable 4-year-old voice, "Cora, you do not have to scream. You can just cry."

Really the kids were all great, scrambling over the rocks like excited puppies, but we were happy when our manly mountain climbers joined back up with our group. 10 is a lot of kids.

After some water-logged detours, we made it to the waterfall and got a group shot before climbing all around and then back to the cars.

We rounded out the rest of the day with movie-watching, tea-drinking, wine-drinking, and shopping/cookie-buying in downtown Breckenridge.

We had a great home-cooked dinner by one of our friends and that night I introduced everyone to a beloved group camping tradition from my childhood- Pass the Pigs! Shockingly no one had ever heard of this amazing game, but the group quickly caught on and the pigs were hot! I think one of the best things about a group vacation, besides basically everything about it, is getting to play games and learning new ones to bring home.

On Thursday, our last full day, we headed to the Epic Discovery park on Peak 8 at Breck. You take a gondola up to pay near-lift-ticket prices for rides, slides, and a multitude of mountain activities on the summer ski slopes. It was our only activity that cost any money and it was super fun.

We rode the Alpine Slide (James's favorite) and Gold Coaster (my favorite; also Cora's, who is a tiny little SPEED DEMON), climbed up giant rock faces, ran around in a maze, and watched the kids to a ropes course and zipline.

Cora did everything and delighted in it all.

On that last night we hired a local sitter to watch our brood while we went out to dinner with just the adults and it was an excellent decision for everyone. The kids had a blast, the sitter (a lovely local daycare employee) made a bunch of money and promised our kids were good, and we got to eat a seriously delicious meal and drink adult beverages in giant cups made from canteens. Winning!

Our friends all cleared out Friday morning and we hung out to savor the mountain air and then slowly made our way over to Denver to eventually stay the night with my sister.

We had 85 miles to drive and managed to stretch it out for 6 hours, stopping in all our favorite places- Lake Dillon! Keystone! the Continental Divide! Idaho Springs! Every beautiful climbable rock along Highway 6!


I really feel like we're our best selves in Colorado.

Like we're all operating at a higher, happier, admittedly less-oxygenated level.

Climbing rocks.

Enjoying the views.

Beach combing barefoot in freezing mountain rivers.

Jumping over water while holding two children after giving up on continuing the tradition with all 3...


We made it to Denver and picked up not-so-baby Skyla from daycare. I was on the approved list, but she wasn't so sure... Luckily her skepticism about me vanished once she got to the chaos that had taken over her house. My kids play-tested ALL of her toys and wanted to talk to her ALL about them and she was like, you! kidnapper lady! hold me!

And I did.

We enjoyed a lovely meal and night with my sister, brother-in-law, and niece and then left early in the morning on Saturday for our long haul home.

It was a wonderful trip. Unexpected and unplanned- I'd just recommitted to NOT going on a vacation this summer when our friend was like hey, want to go to Colorado and I accidentally immediately yelled YES!, but it ended up being very inexpensive and totally was worth all the pennies. I love that state. I love the mountains. I'm still googling neighborhoods.

This week is crazy and chaotic and I'm still vacation-hungover, so I'm going to save Texas-based-reality for later and just soak up my memories of that cool air and the spectacular views from what already feels like a long time ago.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Hikes, Cozy Layers, and All the Wine

It's 4:30 p.m. and I have poured my first glass of wine to steal this 30 minutes for myself. We're here in Breckenridge, Colorado with 3 other families (8 adults; 10 kids) in a huge and extremely weird house, and, as always, I wonder why I live somewhere it's 110 degrees in August when I could live somewhere it's only 50. I'm in leggings, fuzzy boots, and my softest long sleeve shirt. I have hiked until my legs were shaking, surrounded by stunning views and running water the whole way. Now we're home, about to start dinner. The balcony door is open, there is a light afternoon rain outside along with an inexplicable patch of bright blue sky and full sun. Music is playing, Landon is reading, and the girls are playing Go Fish next to me at the table. My whole heart is happy.

Landon drove up with the rest of our caravanning friends on Saturday. They all wanted to do the drive in 2 days and since one of our friends has an only child, they enthusiastically welcomed the addition of a same-age adopted son for the long drive up. Another family donated walkie-talkies to spread out between the three cars and apparently the kids' non-stop chatter was hilarious. I needed the extra day to prep and pack, and I hate sleeping in roadside hotel rooms with my children, but I'm sorry to have missed out on the road trip fun. Our temporary family of four left early Sunday morning and arrived about 5 p.m. on Sunday night, just in time for dinner (each family has one dinner and one breakfast, making this trip easy and fun and cheap) and were reunited with our long lost son.

On Monday morning, after a night of drinking and 90's music with the parents out on the balcony after the kids were in bed and then Landon waking us up at midnight covered in altitude-induced vomit at literally the exact second I finally fell asleep, we started out with some hikes! Kids get up very early when they're all sleeping in two bunk rooms (each adult pair has their own bedroom with bath; all the kids are spread out in bunk rooms and a downstairs den), so we were out on the trails by 8 a.m.

Our 18-person crew takes up most of the path, but the kids had a marvelous time with so many buddies to run with and we had a marvelous time watching them.

We got back to the house afterward, shocked to find it was still only like 10:30 a.m., so we packed lunches and decided to try another hike- this one to Mohawk Lake.

Turns out, the path to the trail head that takes you to the lake involves about 4 miles of semi-drivable SUPER rocky "road." We tapped out early, parked the cars, and decided to walk, not quite understanding the 4 mile thing. So we walked, and walked, and walked, and never actually found the trail head.

We pulled off to the side to feed the kids their picnic lunch and they did some climbing and then we found an offshoot trail to a lovely field and little pond we told the kids was Mohawk Lake.

Then a storm blew in and we high tailed it back to our cars as fast as you can do something like that with 10 kids who have already hiked about 6 miles in the day.

It's... not super fast.

We got back to the house and lounged and snacked and played games and it was so great. There were storms and open windows and sweat shirts and wine. There's an indoor hot tub the kids have taken quite a fancy to and multiple living areas for them to spread out and watch movies.

That night we played games- indoor games, with dice and cards and challenges and all my favorite things in the whole world. I discovered Yam Slam, my new favorite mostly because the dice love me, and we introduced everyone to the Paper Bag game, first introduced to us by my parents in Steamboat Springs in 2014.

James still dominated, but having the kids play at least gave him a tiny bit of competition and a few of our adults did too! I was out fairly early, my yoga utterly failing me, but a few stayed in another round or two until James destroyed them all by picking up a bag literally 1" off the ground. He's freakish. But he's mine.

Today the other families were booked for white water rafting, something I totally want to do one day, but we decided wasn't worth it with our not-yet-four-year-old and the fact that we're not even supposed to be on vacation this summer with D-I-S-N-E-Y coming in November, so we planned an afternoon on our own. But first, we did a hike all together in the morning down Snowflake Trail to Sawmill Reservoir. It was lovely and totally as short (1.5 miles) and easy (fairly flat) as advertised!

We didn't even bring our hiking backpack and Cora walked 90% of it herself!

"I'm a GOOD HIKER Mama!"

She'd been lamenting on our short car ride over to the trail head that "I don't ever see my Winston anymore" and then we came upon a big poofy white dog at the reservoir. She was so excited!

James and Landon obviously immediately took off their shoes and waded out in the FREEZING COLD water.

And then the girls followed suit.

If there's a body of water, 4/5 of the Lag Liv family is going to be in it immediately while their mama watches from the side and thinks they're all crazy.

We got back to the house, said goodbye to our rafters, and decided to head out to conquer the elusive Mohawk Lake trail from yesterday. This time we popped the burb into 4-wheel-drive and drove over boulders and puddles and crazy elevation changes to get as close as possible to the real trail head. It was a rough journey, but we made it about 1 mile out before calling it and spilling out of the car to finish our journey on foot.

Finding the trail head was a relief and felt like a victory, and then the hiking started.

A hike that I for some reason understood to be a relatively smooth and easy hike but very much understood WRONG.

It was beautiful and lovely and had every gorgeous classic Colorado cliche a hike can have, but it was a tough, steep, slippery hike - the hardest we've ever done for sure.

After climbing for forever we got to Continental Falls, which were gorgeous and huge and very loud in their roaring magnificence.

James, Claire, Cora, and I pulled off the trail to take pictures and admire the falls. Landon kept climbing a few dozen yards to a giant rock that stuck out near the falls. I waved at him, he waved back, and I assumed he was coming down to meet us.

Except, after about 5 minutes of climbing carefully over a few rocks at the quieter edge of the falls, we realized he wasn't there. So we looked up to the rock he'd been sitting on and he wasn't there either. We put Cora back in the backpack and started climbing up, expecting to see him any minute.

But we didn't.

We kept climbing, starting to call his name, and trying to tamp down the rising awareness that it was a great big mountain with huge fucking falls and dozens of trails offshooting in different directions.

10 minutes of climbing later, we hadn't found him. James could only go so fast with Cora on his back and I was basically dragging Claire up the steep rock faces trying to get high enough to be able to see more than a few feet in front of me.

17 minutes of climbing and we came upon a cross memorial with "Rest in Peace Michael" written on it, right by the edge of the falls.

20 mother-fucking endless minutes of climbing and calling and dragging on the girls and increased panic later I saw James's hand waving above a boulder ahead of Claire and me and I knew he'd found him. The falls were too loud to hear anything spoken more than a foot away from your face (not helping the panicky feeling as we pointlessly yelled Landon's name), but I was sure James was yelling at him, as I absolutely would have done if I'd found him first, so by the time I climbed up and over the giant rock, I was just crying. I hugged him and tears just poured down my face and he kept saying "but I knew where I was! I wasn't lost" and then he started crying too, probably freaked out by the fact that I was hugging him so tightly and sobbing.

And then a hail storm blew in and we raced to take shelter under a copse of trees to eat granola bars and wipe our faces with jackets now covered in mud while tiny balls of ice ping'd all around us.

The storm paused after just a few minutes and a small group of hikers passed us by and said the first lake (of two) was only another 200 yards away, but it looked like another storm was coming. So we took a breath and responsibly turned back from our white whale and headed down as quickly as we could while rain came down and darker skies threatened. Three miles later we were back at our car, emotionally and physically exhausted but determined to see those damn lakes someday. Just, you know, not today or tomorrow or any day soon.

We got to the house, dumped all our muddy clothes in the washer, took hot baths and showers and poured wine. Or ate cookies. Or both, depending on which Lag Liv family member you are.

My chicken barley chili is now simmering on the oven, all my ducklings are in the house, and our friends are expected back from their rafting any minute. More adventures, and hopefully significantly less drama, await tomorrow!