Feathered Aspen


Summer in Utah Act 3: Bryce 100 DNF

(Viewer discretion is advised. As Lily would say, “Daddy-O said a bad word.”  Actually, I said many of them…  Perhaps view this video not in the company of little ones.)

Last year I completed my first hundred mile race.  It was a fun and challenging experience.  I did really well.  I tanked for a bit.  I walked a lot, but I still managed to finish under 30 hours.

We (I) chose Utah for our summer vacation so that I could run the Bryce 100 and give another 100 miler a go.  I went into the race with high hopes.  The previous three races I’d run this winter and spring had gone really well, and I’d set PRs at all of them.  So, I went into the Bryce 100 hoping for another great day.

I also went into Bryce thinking that I’d make a Mark Watney style mock-umentary of my experience.  After my 100 mile last year I had just two pictures of me on the course.  I felt that such an experience should have better documentation.  So, I set out with my camera hoping to catch something entertaining on film.

It is with great trepidation, humility and embarrassment that I post this video.  My high hopes for the race were dashed when I succumbed to the heat and ended up dropping out of the race.  I’m pretty disappointed that I didn’t finish, but I’ve learned a few lessons about myself from the experience.  I also had fun making the video.

I’d say more, but hey just watch (without small children).

And thank you K for that sensual sunscreen application.



Summer in Utah Act 1: Capitol Reef

At the beginning of the month, I wrapped up the school year and officially started my summer break. (Woo hoo!  Year seven in the bag.)

After a few days at home, we packed up the truck and camper and headed out to Utah.  I planned to run the Bryce 100 on June 17 (more on how that turned out later).

In typical Feathered Aspen style, I filmed our getaway and am making shorts to share.  Here is the first of what will likely be three acts.  I’ll try my damnedest to post one each day for the next few days.  Enjoy Act 1: Capitol Reef.



Week of 1/18 & 1/25

4:51 Am – Hell yes!  Snow day!

The girls are still sleeping away and likely will be for the next few hours.  I’ve got my coffee and bananas here.  Outside, the world is covered in a blanket of snow. All night I kept looking out the window thinking to myself and pumping my fists “snow day, snow day, snow day.”

Time to write a bit.

The past two weeks have had their ups and downs.  The biggest down was getting hit with yet another stomach flu bug last Tuesday.  I barely made it out of my classroom before filling a trashcan with chunks.  Ugh.  I spent the next two days knocked out again.  Both Ellie and Lu got it again too.  Lily, the only one in the family to get her flu shot, escaped again. (How’s that for anecdotal evidence?!)  We spent the rest of the week recovering and getting our GI tracks back in order.

Last week also marked the beginning of Lily attending her new school.  She was a bit anxious the first two days and would cry about not wanting to go.  Really, I think she was worried about not getting to spend time with Ellie and Lu.  InIMG_1697 terms of the school though, she loved it.  This was her when she came home on Monday and I asked her how school went.

In the welcome and orientation packet to her school, they warn not to expect (or really ask) your child to talk at length about their day and what they did.  That impulse is a grown up response.  Kids, especially, three and four year olds tend to live in the present.  Their minds are on whats in front of them.  They don’t have the same capacity and desire as we do to recount what they’ve been doing.  Instead, the school asks parents to be attuned to the ways that school emerges during unexpected times like when a child might sing a school song in the bath tub or talk about an art project when drawing.

This totally makes sense.  Last fall we sent Lily to a lackluster ECE school in DPS. At the time, I didn’t think about it this way and would pepper her with questions which she’d never answer.  As you may recall, we ended up pulling her out of that school after two weeks or so.  Upon reflection now, its interesting that those “moments” of school, as her new school calls them, never really emerged at home.  What she was doing there, never really seemed to affect or influence her actions or thoughts at home.  In the end, we pulled her out because the driving was a bit much, the food they gave her was wretched, and they often sent her home with branded corporate material.  At the time, we decided that she was still young, and the sacrifices weren’t worth sending her to a mediocre DPS school.  Plus Ellie is home.

Its striking now to seem how much of an impact her new school is now having only after four days!  She was generally in a great mood all week.  At home, her creative play has been off the charts.  She spent all week drawing, cutting paper, gluing, painting, and putting up art installations (seriously, she took almost an hour on Saturday to create an art work on our refrigerator that went way beyond just hanging a picture.)  At school yesterday, I opened my backpack to find another piece she wanted me to take to work.  She has also been singing a lot too.  She hums or rambles words to herself.  She will also sing to me if I ask here.  “Lily, can you sing me a song?”  “Sure daddy-o, which one do you want.  I have 6 mermaid songs.”

Part of the school’s no media policy encourages families to cut out the radio and music in addition to screens.  At first, I was a bit saddened.  I always have music playing in our home.  However, with music playing, it discourages you from making your own and using your own creative outlets.  And, now seeing how much she has been singing in the past week, I get it.  I’ve set the goal to not play the radio in the car with her (that’s also nice too so we can talk.)  I’m going to try to reduce the music I play at home too. I don’t think I can give it up entirely though.  And, it has me thinking that maybe I should pick up the guitar again soon too.

On a final note about Lily’s school, we’ve learned and been thinking a bit more about story telling.  Ellie went to the parent meeting on Monday.  There, the teacher told parents not worry much about reading to their kids, but instead to focus on story telling.  Similar to music, books and stories can limit you to one thread or idea.  They are also not created from within.  Reading when older is essential to expanding our world and thus our creativity. At this age, the teacher argued, oral story telling is more impactful and age appropriate.  Reading, she claimed, is better suited for older children.

Again, I had the same reaction as I did with the music.  But, as I thought about it some more, and noticed this week how Lily, of her own accord, told me multiple stories, I think there is something to this as well. (Side note: when I was sick and laying in bed again this week, Lily didn’t want to come with in three feet of me.  Instead, she pulled up at chair at the end of my bed and told me a story about mountains and fuzzy animals for almost thirty minutes.)  Humans are story tellers.  Prior to written records, and I would argue still today, much of our culture is passed through oral tradition.  Much of what we know about our families, how to cook, etc… we didn’t learn by reading, but instead through spoken word.  Lily’s teacher encouraged parents to pick up and embrace this tradition.  She urged parents to tell stories rather than read stories.  She also encouraged those stories to be personal and based upon truth.  Rather than begin a story with “once upon a time…” begin with “I remember when…”  So, this week, we’ve been telling more stories and trying to create more of an oral tradition in our house.  (I must also admit, the oral tradition strikes a nerve with that repressed Classics major in me. I nearly majored in Classics in college because I’m in love with and fascinated by ancient Greek culture, which was deeply imbued with and driven by oral traditions.  I think I am going to start telling Lily some greek myths soon too.)

So yeah, we’re loving Lily’s new school.  Another boon this week, Ellie was able to already switch around Lily’s schedule so she is going two days a week instead of four.   This was always our preference for this age.  It saves a big chunk of change and gives Lily more time with mom and sister.  She’ll be full time soon enough (and when the school is free.)

So what else?  In the past two weeks, we’ve continued to work on our home updates.  The new table for the eating area is complete.  I built it.  Ellie finished it.  This weekend, I also started building a bench for the eating area.  This bench will be built into the half wall that divides our kitchen and living room.  I’m building it to have lots of storage underneath and behind for all of our arts and crafts supplies.  We’re hoping to have it finished this weekend.  I’ll try to post some pictures then.

In other crafting news, Ellie has been inspired to start sewing children’s dolls.  There’s a bit of an experiential and learning curve, but she’s really getting the knack for it.  See what I mean?  Its fun for me to see her excitedly crafting away.  The girls love it too and have been helping out.

Work.  Ugh.  This year has really been a tough one.  I just can’t seem to figure out the group of students that I have.  So many of them constantly complain “this boring” or “I don’t want to do this.”  At first, I always think its me.  Is my lesson not engaging?  Is it not relevant?  Teach For America drilled the adage “what teacher actions led to those student actions” down our throats, and it still resonates with me.  So, I’ve done A LOT this year to make sure what I’m teaching is relevant and engaging as well as student centered.  Yet, a large portion of my students, and not just in my class, refuse to do any work.  They are adverse to reading or asking questions.  When I probe deeper as to what would not be boring, they don’t really have an answer.  When I ask what they do outside of school, they say video games, Facebook, snapchat.  Ugh.  It kills me how plugged in my students are.  My bias is obvious, but I feel like media is stupefying my students.  They want flash and bang and ephemeral selfies.  They don’t care about the war in Syria.  Or the migration crisis. They had no clue what was happening in Iowa yesterday. They want to sit at home and play Fifa or shoot zombies.

I’m ranting I know.  The truth is not all of my students are this way.  In fact, I have many students who are doing very very well.  I think its likely, that a good portion of my AP students will pass the test, and some may even earn 5’s (the highest score possible).  I have many, many gems, but the ones I’m not reaching are the ones plaguing my thoughts.  I posted grades yesterday.  That’s why I’m feeling this way. For the ones plaguing me, its bleak.

This year, my school moved to an “incomplete” policy.  In a nutshell, students don’t earn zeroes for work they don’t complete or turn in.  Instead, they get an “incomplete.” They then have until the end of the year to make up or turn in that work.  Yup.  This means, I must accept and give full credit to an assignment from October that I receive in May.  Ugh.   The idea behind the policy was to give students more opportunity to pass their classes.  There was concern that hard deadlines were the reason so many students were not on track to graduate.  In general, I agree with this policy, and I have seen a good number of students use it to make up crucial assignments and keep on track to earn credit for first semester.  However, the result that I am seeing now at the start of the second semester, particularly with my unmotivated freshman, is that they see no reason to do their work on time.  I assigned a big research project on an ethnic conflict of students’ choosing.  We worked for two weeks.  The report was supposed to culminate in a presentation to the class on their findings.  Out of nearly forty groups, only 8 presented.  The rest told me they would make it up.  Ugh.

Additionally, we’ve been encouraged not assign homework.  Apparently in this day and age, students should not be expected to work outside of class.  This is just one policy with which I really disagree.  Colleges will give students boatloads of work to do on their own. I understand that the school day is long and students have lots on their plates at home.  However, students should work and read on their own.  Homework should be manageable and flexible.  Our students are not in college yet, but at some point they need to figure out how to work and read on their own.  Thats how you learn!  That’s what life is!  That’s what happens in college!  How can we be college preparatory and not expect students to work outside of class?

With these policies, there is now a culture amongst some of my students that it is unacceptable for a teacher to ask you to do homework.  You shouldn’t have to do it.  And hey, with the incomplete policy, we’ll I’ll just make it up another day.

Lately, I feel like I’m beating my head against a wall with these students and these policies.  I really don’t know what to do.  I wish administrators would examine the root of the problems stemming from the culture in which we live in.  Our struggling students are checked out and tuned out.  No new grading policy is going to fix it.  We need to address the larger issues of why students check out.  Why don’t they want to engage with the world?

So when I’m stressing about school, I’ve been running.  I had a good stretch the week of 1/18.  Last week the flu set me back a bit.  Tappering down now this week and next to rest my legs up for my first race of the year.  Over President’s day weekend we’ll be traveling out to Moab with our friends John and Kelsey and their kids.  John and I will be running the Moab Red Hot 55k.  I’m feeling pretty good lately and am looking forward to the early season race to test my fitness level (and the strength of my always troublesome IT bands).

Week of 1/18 – 11h 26m  59.2mi  7,818ft

Mon – 12.4mi  MLK day family jogger slogger and Tempo workout

Tues – Off running.  Strength training in gym (hips)

Wed – 5.8mi Easy commute home

Thur – 10.5mi Commute to work & Temp workout on track

Fri – 5.6mi Date run with Ellie

Sat – 24.7mi – Morrison Triple Crown:  Linked up the summits of Green Mt., Mt. Morrison, and Mt. Falcon.  Felt really good. I’ve been trying to adapt my body to burn fat on long runs, so I completed the entire run on a single zucchini muffin.

Sun – XT – Family Bike ride (10mi)


Week of 1/25 – 8h 17m  42.4mi   ~4500ft

Mon – Morning strength training (hips), then 5.1mi Sloan’s – Felt like crap.  Think the flu was coming

Tue & Wed – off Flu

Thur – 6.1mi family jogger slogger

Fri – 8.0mi 6x Zenobia Hill repeats

Sat – 15.5 Green/Winters/Dino ridge with Will

Sun – 7.6mi – Snowy family jogger slogger (with eagle sighting!)


I wrapped up January then with 213 miles on the month. I was just shy of climbing 20,000ft.  And, I spent roughly 38hrs running.  I good start to the year!

What I’m reading and listening to.

51fn0md37nl-_sy344_bo1204203200_I finally finished listening to Natural Born Heroes by Christopher McDougall.  While I didn’t enjoy it as much as Born to Run, I thought the story was intriguing.  McDougall
chronicles the Cretan resistance movement to the Nazi occupation during WWII.  Throughout it he explores how the fighters we able to move and survive in the Cretan mountains while being starved out by the Germans.   I found his portions on adapting one’s body to fat burning over carb burning to be the most interesting.  He recounts numerous studies and stories of how fat is superior energy source to carbs a51wynjumagl-_sx354_bo1204203200_nd that conventional running wisdom has been out of touch for a very long time.  In my experience this is definitely true.  When I can keep my exertion level below an aerobic threshold, I can go for a long time.  I’m curious to read more about the Maffetone method, read Tim Noakes The Lore of Running, and really experiment on myself with how I can adapt my body as I train for another 100 miler.


Well, that’s the news from our little corner of Colorado, where all the women are crafty, all the men run far, and all the children are playing in the snow.

The past two weeks in pictures


Our MLK day adventure searching for the magic tree that makes colors swirl.


Daddy-o taking mama’s work out seriously


Our own bedroom!  (Plus, great gifts from Ecuador.  Thank you Pietaris!)


Bike riding


Hot mama


Snuggles with Grandma.



Drawing with Nana


Green Mountain in the pre-dawn light


Running Dino Ridge


Summit of Mt. Morrison


Summit of Mt. Falcon


What to do with short hair?


Family day fun


“I’m nursing my cat.  mmmhaahaheee”


And, then this one was weaned.  Sad mama.


Lily’s emoji drawing


Lily took these last two.  Very artistic shots huh?


Eagle at Crown Hill

A call for comments:

Tell us one of your oral traditions.  Start with “I remember when…”

What’s your opinion on media and education?  Are screens stupefying today’s children?




Week of January 11

Knocked on my ass.  That’s the motto this week.  From a raging stomach flu to life changing news, this week has definitely been about getting knocked on our asses.

Last week, I wrote that my goal was to have intention driving my routine.  This week was an exercise in reality and humility.  I was reminded, ever so gently, that I am not always in control and that there is always beauty in the unexpected.

Monday was a normal day.  Relatively calm at school.  Later in the evening, we we went out for a family run.  Once home, I felt terrible.  My stomach was rumbling.  Lu was still weak and weary so we called it an early night.  I slept poorly and in the morning was feeling worse yet.  I always err on the side of going to work when I’m not feeling well (why waste a precious day off when I don’t feel well?  I would rather not feel well at work and save a day off for playing!)  Luckily I was on planning first period.  I sat at my desk and slowly deteriorated.  I couldn’t focus and kept having to run to the bathroom.  It was time to go home.

The stomach flu sucks.  There is really now other way to put it.  It sucks all the life out of you and leaves you curled in a ball on your bathroom floor writhing in pain in your own filth.  Its an experience in which you are so powerless.  Your body is at an all out war trying to kill the invaders. It’s animalistic.  Grunt and writhe.  Lose your mental facilities.

Luckily its so short lived.  It comes with such intense fury. Its almost nature’s way of saying, don’t presume you have control of anything.   With one little virus you’re down for the count.  Mercifully, it fades after 4 or 5 hours, but there is nothing left of you.

The girls didn’t quite know what to make of me.  They watched me closely and stayed an arm’s length away.  Sweet loving Lily kept asking if I was okay and seemed a little afraid when the answer was no.

I’m probably overthinking it, but I feel there has to be some cosmic significance that the day after I wrote about plans and intentionality, I’m crippled for the rest of the day by the flu.  Something, someone, somewhere I think was reminding me that best laid plans often go amiss and that more often than not the altered path is just as beautiful and meaningful.

Somewhere in between my last dying breathes of the flu, Ellie excitedly told me that Will and Val were under contract to move within half a mile of us.  While it didn’t really register at the time, when I later came to my senses, I realized what an amazing news this is.  Super pumped to have them and their growing family so close.  The village is growing!

Wednesday, I debated if I should go into work. I sat on the couch for a while and another round of gut wrenching toilet blasting left me thinking that work was a bad idea.  If not for this last surge of the flu, I would not have been home when Ellie got the call.

Last spring Ellie learned about the most amazing charter school in our district that aligns perfectly with are values.  Children are outside everyday of the year for at least two hours.  There are no screens or media in the entire school.  Children learn to play musical instruments, act, farm, wood work and craft with fibers.  Kids can’t wear branded clothing or clothing with characters printed on them.  The focus of the school is building community and teaching compassion and empathy.  Students are allowed to be curious and let their imaginations run free.  Its a dream school.

Unfortunately, we registered late and were 80th or so on the waitlist. There was no hope.  Ellie took the girls there again last week to the orientation for the new year’s lottery application.  There they told her they were estimating 200-300 kids to be on this year’s waitlist.  A dream, but such a slim chance.

Then on Wednesday, Ellie got the call.  Some how. Through some cosmic twist of fate, Lily was selected off the waitlist.  She’s in for the remainder of this year!  With sibling preference, all our kids will get in for the future!  We were floored.  It seemed unreal.  We’d talked about the school so much.  We imagined what it would be like for our kids to go there for so long.  This is life changing news.  Our girls will get the best possible school experience we could imagine for them.  They will now, hopefully, make it through the school system unscathed by bullies and drama.  Their curiosity and  imaginations won’t be beaten to a pulp by a desire to achieve test results.

Had I not been knocked down by the flu, I wouldn’t have been there to share in the news.  While my stomach was a mess, my heart was elated.

After a midday nap, I was feeling a bit better.  I spent the rest of the day snuggling with the girls and talking with Lily about what her new school would be like.  She’s so excited.  My aches and pains from the flu faded.

The rest the week was uneventful.  On Saturday and Sunday we worked on the house more.  We set up Lily and Lu’s new bedroom and finished the new dinning room table.

This post is getting long and I’m getting tired, so I’ll wrap up here and write more next week about our home improvements and updates.

All in all it was an unexpected but extremely joyful week.  The flu was awful, but the news of Lily’s new school and the news of having Will and Val so close far eclipses those temporary pains. I’m left thinking that intentionality and awareness are essential, but so are the unexpected and random twists of the fates.

Well, that’s the news from our little corner of Colorado, where all the women are crafty, all the men run far, and all the children are recovering from the flu.

This week’s miles: 32.9 miles – 6h 14m – 3,750ft

Monday: Family jogger slogger – 6.2mi

Tues, Wed, & Thur: Off – Flu

Friday: Run to work 5.5mi

Saturday: Family jogger slogger – 5.6 mi

Sunday: Icy trail run at Apex – 15.3 mi

This week’s pictures




So excited about getting into school!


Mmmmmm Saturday morning pineapple pancakes


Little gymnasts


Bunk beds!