Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Joyeux Noel

And all there was in his stocking was a lump of coal...

... and a card which read:

There once was a lad named Nick,
who loved his leather jacket - all poofy and thick...
but he fell from the sky -
we still don't know why,
and the nurses cut it off him right quick.

So now it's time to choose some new leather
to keep him protected from inclement weather.
The old one was snuggly,
but really quite ugly -
so this time we'll choose it together!

I painted some tiles to earn enough dough
to buy a new jacket for my beautiful beau.
So soon we'll start shopping
for a new leather topping
to keep him looking chouette in the snow.

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday with loved ones, too!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Vegas, Baby!

What's wrong with this picture? (Might have to click on it to make it bigger to see.)

The first thing I said to Nick when he and the girls were done bumping cars was, "Cayenne's never getting her driver's license." But this was Vegas, so even though the signs say One Way, it's really whichever one way you want to go...


Acacia was barely four years old when she reached her little arm into the air one evening and pointed at the brightest light in the sky.

"A star!"

"Actually, that's a planet. Do you know its name?"

She thought about that, furrowing the gorgeous eyebrows she inherited from her Daddy, and then exclaimed, "I know! I know! That's Las Vegas!"

That memory kept popping into my head as we walked up and down Las Vegas Blvd. I kept thinking, "She was absolutely right. This place is another planet."

And, it turns out, it is where everybody goes for Thanksgiving. ha! Well, not everyone, but a couple of kids in Acacia's class were there, we had a fun Thanksgiving dinner with my boss/friend Kelly and her family, and we would have shared time with Barr as well if we'd known he was there. Although Barr, you wouldn't have wanted to spend Wednesday with us. Nick and Acacia got shaken and stirred by the rides at Circus Circus until Dad was about to puke. Cayenne and I went shopping. Smart girls that we are.

These rides are in a hotel. This place is nuts. (Nick and Acacia are on the roller coaster in this pic.)

But the best part of our vacation wasn't man-made. Those red rocks really were the perfect balance to the glitz. Every other day we drove the short twenty minutes from downtown to a gorgeous spot in the desert, just waiting to be climbed.

Here's Acacia SpiderGirl:


See Las Vegas in the background? Love the dichotomy.

He wore his Red Rocks camouflage.

Cayenne's built just like me. Ha! Not.

I have to admit getting the girls away from the hotel's swimming pool and television to go rock climbing involved a not-so-cheery conversation, but once we were on those sun-warmed rocks, seems everyone forgot about being plugged-in. I guess that's one of our roles as parents: Teaching them that getting out is worth the effort. 

While waiting her turn Cayenne went exploring, ending up on top of the rock Acacia was climbing. 

"Don't lean over!" 

"I'm not suicidal, Mom." (Ahh... the first twinges of teen-hood...)

And Acacia decided she wanted to climb one more time, after she'd taken off her shoes.

I'm not sure what part of this is more like her father: That her toes are long enough to grip like fingers, or that she's climbing barefooted at all!

This is where cameras are a good thing. The next time we head out to have an amazing day and they throw themselves onto the sofa - backs of their hands to their foreheads - lamenting their fates of being born Cofmans... I'll have photographic evidence that they enjoyed themselves the last time, and even went back for more!


Monday, December 5, 2011

Plane Down

"Oh no."
I knew from Nick's voice it was bad. He'd been reading some national news on his laptop.

"A Trinidad went down in Silverton yesterday. It's gotta be Steve. I'll be shocked if it isn't Steve."

As his fingers typed some searching words, I noticed his hands were shaking, just a tiny bit. My heart beat in my throat. Déjà vu.

When Nick couldn't find Steve on Facebook, he looked up his wife Jan. Already there were half a dozen messages on her profile page reading, "Rest in peace, my dear friend."

There were four people on the plane and no one survived. The Herald published an article this morning but it didn't mention names because they have yet to find everyone, so I still don't know who the other two passengers were. A mutual friend said they were Jan's colleagues from the Alpine Bank and that they were headed to Aspen for a company Christmas party.

This hit close to home, literally and emotionally. Nick and Steve spent many hours together in little cockpits; actually, Nick went with Steve to New Hampshire to pick up this plane when Steve bought it. And Jan was lovely and fun to be with. They've lived here forever and were very involved in the community.

Their families received the same phone call I did, but without the: "...everything's going to be okay" part. Those phone calls are planets apart, and my heart aches for the Osbornes and Measleses, the families of the other two on board,  their friends, everyone at the bank who lost three colleagues, for everyone at Building Specialties, where Steve was owner and president. So many people are hurting right now.

Lying in bed last night I asked Nick how he was feeling, and waited. When I wait for his words I'm usually richly rewarded. He spoke until 2 a.m.

This hits very, very close to home.


 Steve n' Jan


Thursday, December 1, 2011


On the way to Vegas, we spent the night in Zion and enjoyed a day of hiking engulfed by canyons so beautiful, I found it hard to speak. No, really. Check this out:

(For a sense of scale, that's a car in the bottom left-hand corner.)

If you click on this photo (above, right) to make it bigger, you'll see Cayenne and I hiking up Angel's Landing. We're little dots halfway up; not the blue one, look higher.

There are so many truly gorgeous places on this planet you'd have to stop time to see them all. Life is just too short!


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lucky Unlucky 13

Thirteen years lucky or unlucky? That’s the question. The years themselves have been wonderful, but it strikes me as curious that it was all nearly taken away from me in the thirteenth year of our marriage. And if it had ended differently, I definitely would have considered it an extremely unlucky Year 13! But alas, here I sit next to my Nicolas driving through Page, Arizona, on our way to Las Vegas - because isn’t that where everyone spends Thanksgiving?

Actually, if there’s anything I’ve learned over the past thirteen years it's that calling it a trip to Vegas was a way to get his three girls to agree to go rock climbing over Thanksgiving break. The Red Rock cliffs are not far away from the lights of the strip.
Far, far away from those lights we celebrated November 18th with a meal cooked entirely by Cayenne. She poured us cocktails and served us cashews to enjoy while she labored in the kitchen over grilled chicken breasts marinated in olive oil and paprika, and a potato and cherry tomato salad with olive oil, lemon and mint (dishes she chose out of a cookbook from Ilona and Michel). For dessert she baked my Mom’s ginger cookies, a recipe Cayenne has made her specialty. What a wonderful anniversary!

So do I consider myself lucky Nick and I are still together to celebrate? Absolutely. Was it lucky he had to go through this nightmare? Absolutely not. Does it matter what I call it? No.

I’m just going to enjoy every minute we have.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Wilsons

Some weeks ago we spent Acacia's birthday over at the Wilsons with the Hamiltons, and I have to say, it was a bit on the crazy side. The Wilsons are rough, wild and outrageous. And as much as I'd love to tell you that they are our new friends who enjoy a good party, they are actually a ruggedly stunning range of mountains.

The Hamiltons, on the other hand, are our new friends, and having them climb with us that gorgeous September weekend was a treat. We first met Andrew and his sons Calvin and Axel on San Luis. They were on their way up as we were coming down, and we stopped to chat. I had a good feeling about this family, so when we got to the trail head I left a note on their car. Andrew emailed and we kept in touch until our next climb, which turned out to be one of the hardest we've done. 

This is a good thing, because Andrew knows what he's doing in the mountains. Nick has always carried the burden of leading, making the decisions and shouldering all the responsibility, and it was very clear he enjoyed being able to share it this time.

Andrew and Calvin drove seven hours (from Denver), we drove two, and we all arrived at the trail head within ten minutes of each other. A short two and a half hour hike through meadows and over log bridges and we were looking for a camping spot.

The kids wanted to pitch the tents next to the river under a canopy of trees (i.e. stop walking now) but Nick likes to camp where we can see the mountains we've come to enjoy, so he headed up a steep slope to scope things out.

His efforts were well rewarded when he came across a beautiful hiker wearing nothing but her boots. ha! Poor girl; all she wanted to do was be one with nature, but unfortunately with our crowd she was seven with nature.

The campsite was perfect; it had water nearby, lots of firewood, and an unobstructed view of the peaks we'd be getting to know intimately.

Calvin and Acacia were soon inseparable. Cut from the same cloth, these two kids kindled a friendship that got them up three tough slopes that weekend, and will continue to grow during future adventures, I'm certain. In this photo, they're hanging out in their fort after gathering firewood, while their Dads got the fire going and Cayenne climbed some serious scree as the sun set.


Not so blissful was the crack-o-dawn departure. Even though the weather was truly perfect for climbing and it was the end of September so we didn't have to worry about summer afternoon thunderstorms, we still needed to beat the sun back to the tents. Twelve hours later, as our joints creaked back into camp just as the sun slipped below the horizon, we were glad we'd left when we did.

After singing Happy Birthday to Acacia and giving her some gifts, we hit the trail. The rising sun quickly warmed our bones and treated us to the spectacular show left behind by the previous weekend's freak snowstorm. That weather pattern had thrown a white blanket over a music festival in Telluride, but a warm week had melted the snow on the south side of the mountains, which was good for us this brisk and stunning morning...

...but there were times we had to nip over to the north side, when the south was impassable. This was where I was very happy Andrew was with us. He and Nick were extremely adept at passing kids to each other when the trail was sketchy. As the hours passed I noticed how both Nick and Andrew were treating all three children as their own and it warmed my heart - which, I might add, was occasionally beating in my throat.

Part of the traverse from El Diente (14,159 ft / 4,316 m) to Mt Wilson (14,246 / 4,342 m). 

Acacia received a small gift on each peak (thank you Jeanette)... so turning 9 in the mountains wasn't too bad!

On Sunday we packed up camp, drove around to the other side of the mountains, and started walking up Wilson Peak.

And Acacia and Calvin still had loads to chat about. Anyone who has hiked with Acacia knows that this means Nick and I had a break from having our ears talked off! Apparently, Andrew normally goes through the same thing, and also enjoyed the break.

As we picnicked here, looking at what we'd traversed the day before, I told Nick it was a very good thing we'd already climbed the other two mountains because if I'd seen the ridge from this side first, there was NO WAY we would have done it! Nick replied that he was quite aware of that, and the order of things was no coincidence. Hmm...

Not that this peak didn't have its moments - if you look behind me in this photo you can see the near-vertical snow steps we went down, and then up again later - but it was definitely easier going than the previous day.

Wilson Peak (14,017 ft / 4272 m). Yay!

It felt good to walk back into Fall on the way down. Winter will be here soon enough...


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

All Hallows' Eve


That was Cayenne's reaction to the Haunted House at the Elk's Lodge on Friday night. Of course, her sweaty palms still clenched mine in a death grip and just moments before she'd been yelling, "Get me out of here!" I guess she thought we'd already forgotten that bit.

Lucky for her, ten minutes later we were at a party with another haunted house - maybe this one wouldn't be so cheesy? She stood, feet planted: "I am not going in there." I hate to admit that I forced her to, but I wanted her to be able to join in the excitement at school when the other kids would be going on about Sasha's haunted house. Her parents Kris and David did a fabulous job, and Cayenne was suitably horrified. She told me later she was glad she'd gone through it but at the time, when a dead David rose out of his coffin and she ran out screaming, I wasn't so sure...

But isn't that what this whole strange tradition is about?

The weekend started at school on Friday with a costume parade wherein Acacia was a figure skater and Cayenne the Goddess of Autumn.

Unfortunately I decapitated Acacia's great friend Claudia. I had to take the shot quickly before Cayenne's class paraded by.

The snake of kids winds through the school and passes outside where the parents await. Cayenne's class danced to the Monster Mash, and here Acacia's class is watching them boogie by. 

Little Bo Beep is one of Cayenne's closest friends. Behind Bo Beep is "An Open Book." Isn't that awesome? Her homemade costumes are always excellent.

But skates aren't the best footwear to run around in, and Cayenne forgot her leaves at school, so by the evening they'd morphed into a 70s rocker and the Goddess of Spring.

Two more parties on Saturday - including one where we went on a Haunted Hayride, passing tombstones and spiderwebs under trees lit from below by the tractor's lights - and it wasn't even Halloween yet. On Sunday at my hockey game a teammate mentioned he'd heard a senator was trying to pass a bill to make Halloween the last Saturday in October, so it wouldn't ever fall on a school night. I vote "Yea!"

On Monday we walked up to the Thomases' for their annual pre-trick-or-treating taco bar. Kristin made shrunken heads (baked apple faces with clove eyes) for the cider and loads of neighbours came to enjoy it. I love living somewhere long enough to be part of local traditions.

The girls trick-or-treated in a group of about 15 kids. Fun! See Cayenne? It's not all about blood and gore...




Monday, October 31, 2011

Googly Eyes

Is it twisted that I brought eyeballs to Acacia's class Halloween party?

The irony of it was lost on me until I looked at them, they stared back at me, and I thought, "Oops!" But Nick thought they were great. I didn't know what I was going to make for the party until I walked into City Market and saw the biggest green grapes ever. I dipped them in white chocolate, inserted chocolate chip pupils and added some veins. Martha Stewart, eat your heart out! They were a mouthful and popped when your teeth clamped down, just like a real eye would.

The funny thing is Nick's eye doctor was at Acacia's party. ha!

If you're going to be That Mom who brings fruit to a Halloween party, you have to make it fun, right? Acacia said the kids loved them and ate everything off the plate.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Live in a Zoo

When I married a vegetarian I assumed he was an unconditional animal lover, but seeing Nick last night sicking Satcho onto half a dozen raccoons in the garden while whacking the apple trees with a shovel reminded me you should never assume. Clearly, my Nicolas does not love raccoons.

The girls had picked most of the apples and pears when we thought it was going to freeze one night, and these critters were headed to the bags of fruit by the back door when they got freaked out and ran up the trees. We've tried to teach them before to stay away from the plums by having Satcho scare the poop out of them, but either they have short memories or they will do anything for a snack. Like Cayenne.

The sacks of fruit were already pretty wrecked however, by the bear who had visited the previous afternoon, gotten himself comfortable on the stoop and proceeded to eat himself silly with all our future tarts and apple sauce.

Isn't he gorgeous?

He hung out for two hours so our new friend and neighbour Petra had plenty of time to come over and get a front seat view of Colorado life. They may have cockroaches this size in Miami, but not too many bears.

The bear seemed to understand the protection glass offers because Satcho sounded ferocious, but it didn't at all bother the bear's feast - until Satcho ended up in the garden (you can safely assume here that Nick was home at this point, and I was not) and that bear shot right out of there. You can barely see out of our glass doors through all the dried slobber now. I wonder who's going to get to clean those?

So last night when I heard loud crunching of leaves lumbering through the garden I assumed the bear was back, and I was ready with the good camera this time (batteries were dead the first time) and waited. I couldn't figure out how the bear had gotten past me and into the courtyard without my spotting him from the balcony, until I saw the family of six raccoons tip-toeing to the fruit bags.

And that would be when they got to meet Satcho.