Saturday, June 17, 2017

Learning to Ride Bikes!

(This post was originally written for the Stapleton Moms blog)

We've struggled for years to teach our daughter how to ride a bike. She decided around the age of 4 that she was afraid - she didn't want to fall and didn't like the wobbly feel of the training wheels.

We were living abroad at the time and didn't have a ton of room for her to ride, so we let it go. She had a bike, but just wasn't interested.

Fast forward to age 6, when we first moved to Colorado. We got her a new bike, made a big, excited deal over it, but she was still afraid and didn't care. When we would get her up on her bike to give it a try it was a miserable experience for all three of us.

We tried encouragement and positive reinforcement. Nothing. We tried mild shaming - "Look at that little guy on his bike! No training wheels!" Nothing. It didn't help that she doesn't have immediate neighborhood friends who were riding - in fact, she had friends her age who were also still on training wheels. Oh, for some positive peer pressure...

She said it was too big, so we bought her a smaller one. She didn't like riding that one, either.

The look says it all...

This attitude leaked down to her little brother, who might have been more interested in riding, but followed his big sister's lead. We bought him a strider bike - no interest. I'll ride my tricycle, thank you very much. He inherited a 12" bike with training wheels from a cousin - that was more interesting, but he still preferred the trike.

We looked for a learn-to-ride-a-bike camp last summer and found a whole lot of not much. We signed our daughter up for a half-day of classes at a local outdoor store just to do something, but that wasn't enough for anything to stick. She was striding a bit but still didn't care. We were at our wits' end. She said she wanted to learn but never wanted to actually try.

Enter: Pedalheads! 

I saw a note online about how Pedalheads Bike Camp was coming to Denver and immediately signed up both kids. This is the first year they've been in the area - they're mainly located in Canada. They have three locations in Denver, and one happened to be in Stapleton - even better!

Knowing our daughter's attitude towards riding, we started prepping her about a month out to give her time to get used to the idea. "Give it a try - it might be fun!" "These are professionals - they know a lot more than Mom and Dad." While she wasn't excited about the camp, she at least agreed to give it a chance.

Since our kids were at the same level (even though one is 5 and one is 9), they were in the same class, which helped them initially and gave them a buddy. I signed them up for the all-day camp, but there are also morning-only and afternoon-only sessions. They work on skills, play bike games, do some crafts, play water games - it sounded like a ton of fun. We were excited and optimistic!

Day 1 with the awesome Mr. Tennyson

Day 1: The kids rode with their training wheels all day and worked on control, steering, braking, and learned about helmet safety. It was super hot so they also got to run through the sprinklers, which they loved. The kids rode over ramps to get them used to looking up instead of looking at their feet (held by the instructors, of course). Her bike was a bit small, so we were asked to bring her bigger one (which, thankfully, we still had).
Look - smiles! And after a full day of riding! Woo hoo!!!

Day 2:  After a brief morning review, they removed the kids' training wheels! Something just clicked for my daughter, and off she went, riding on her own! I talked to her teacher, and he said with the older kids it tends to be a matter of confidence since they already have most of the motor skills, and with the younger kids, it tends to be more a matter of mastering the balance and motor skills. My son was striding well by the end of the day and had pedaled on his own 5 times - yay!

Day 3: My daughter took to bike riding so well, they bumped her up to the Level 3 class with Ms. Celeste. Imagine our surprise! (Apparently, that's unusual - normally they'll bump up one level, but I'm grateful they were able to pivot and not leave her bored in the Newbees class.) Something clicked with my son after lunch, and off he went! A bit wobbly, but riding on his own!

Day 4: The Level 3 class walked their bikes over to Central Park and rode around there (about 6 kids with 2 teachers). The Newbees worked on braking softly so they don't fall over and improving control. Both kids come home smiling and wanting to ride their bikes more. Love it!

Day 5: Superhero day and a bike parade! Each kid in the class had his or her name announced and rode a fancily decorated bike through a course with ramps to great cheering and applause. We received a report card for each kid, and I know they would both love to return for another week.

We are incredibly proud of both kids and so grateful to Pedalheads and their fantastic instructors! Our son absolutely loved his teacher (Mr. Tennyson) and cried at the thought that camp was coming to an end and he wouldn't get to see him again. We may have to sign him up for another week near the end of the summer while big sister is at sleepaway camp...

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Get Your Goofy on with "Travelers of the Lost Dimension" at Stanley Marketplace

(This post was originally written for the Stapleton Moms blog)

Photo credit: Adams VisCom
From left: Leigh Miller, Adrian Egolf, Diana Dresser, Bruce Montgomery
My family went to see Travelers of the Lost Dimension at the Stanley Marketplace last weekend, a silly, fun, campy immersive theatre experience that left my 4-year-old son repeatedly exclaiming, "This was the best best best best best day ever!"

Did you know there's a dimensional rift underneath the Stanley Marketplace? We didn't until we visited, courtesy of our low-tech guides at Mission Control. (We realized our kids didn't know what television fuzz was and had to explain - how's that for feeling old?)

Callandra (a.k.a. Graham's cousin, Diana) guiding the crew to safety
Supplied with our survival kit and personal atmospheric tank (read: balloon), we ventured into the Lost Dimension, encountering Callandra the fortune teller and her prophets, dodging rift worms, watching some fabulous Olympics-style dancing, participating in a live television show and art therapy, and even playing an interstellar video game (bring a quarter!).

The beauty of this show is its complete and utter willingness to be goofy. The more you buy in and play along, the more fun you will have. We had a great "crew" (fellow audience members) who screamed at the rift worms, gave advice to the guide, and cheered and threw roses for the dancers. The four-person cast and one-person crew pull off a masterful symphony of multiple characters (each with its own name and accent), wild costumes, and fun surprises.

Our Crew
The show runs just about an hour, so my 4- and 9-year-old kids had no trouble walking around (there are a few sit times to break up the action). The audience (maximum 45 people per show) is treated like a beloved cast member itself, and the ticket includes a free beverage (beer, wine, or fountain drink) at the Stanley Beer Hall for the day of the show and a passport of other offers for the Stanley Marketplace to use later.

Travelers of the Lost Dimension only runs through May 21 (after being extended since every show was sold out), so make sure you get your tickets before the rift closes!

To learn more and purchase tickets, visit

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Spring Break Road Trip to New Mexico

(This post was originally written for the Stapleton Moms blog)

We've been in our house for about three years now and still have pretty bare walls. To remedy the situation, we decided to spend our spring break this year in New Mexico, and the art centers of Taos and Santa Fe are only a 5- to 6-hour scenic drive from Stapleton. It made for a great family road trip, so I wanted to share our experiences with you:

The incredibly stunning Spanish Peaks on the road to New Mexico

We stopped in Taos on our way to stay in Santa Fe, and visited the old Plaza area and a couple of galleries. We really liked an artist at gallery in Taos, but since we were just getting started, we filed it away for on our way home if we still liked his work best. (Spoiler: we did end up liking it best - see below for details and a special Stapleton Moms' promotion from the gallery!)

Hanging out with Padre Antonio Jose Martinez in the Taos Plaza

In addition to all the art and natural beauty, New Mexico is filled with a ton of history. We visited the oldest house in the U.S. (c. 1200) and the oldest church, which happen to be right next door to each other in Santa Fe. We also spent quite a bit of time in the old Plaza area in Santa Fe, which is larger than the one in Taos but very similar. Lots of great shops, restaurants, and galleries. We ate a lot of tasty New Mexican food (different than Mexican!) and had our fill of delicious sopaipillas.

Inside the San Miguel Mission (the under-floor dates from 1300) 

In the center of the Plaza

My daughter's favorite O'Keeffe painting
Our first full day in Santa Fe it rained and snowed, so we opted for a couple of the area's incredible museums. In addition to the oldest house and church, we visited the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and the Museum of International Folk Art. At the O'Keeffe Museum they gave the kids sketch pads and pencils and encouraged them to make their own art as they walked, which I thought was a nice touch.

The Folk Art Museum is filled with dolls from around the world and other pieces of folk art, which the kids found fascinating (and slightly creepy at times). They also had an exhibit on the flamenco - my four-year-old son loved watching this clip of José Greco's dancing over and over again. In Lloyd's Treasure Chest we made origami swans and small, Japanese kites. It was a great mixture of look, listen, and feel for the kids.

A cold, wet day is perfect for visiting museums

We learned why so many artists flock to New Mexico - the natural beauty is breathtaking!

The kids with their magnetic kitties
The next day we checked out the Santa Fe Children's Museum, which was half inside and half outside, and full of fun family creative activities. We played with giant bubbles, conducted science experiments with ice, lifted ourselves with pulleys, built a domino creation to knock down, created sculptures with magnetic shapes, played giant musical instruments, made paper helicopters to launch, climbed, and more - it was marvelous!
Creating giant bubbles

Taking a whack at a giant xylophone

The weather was gorgeous in the afternoon, so we visited the famous Canyon Road, which has more than a hundred galleries on a relatively short strip. We visited 20-30 and got a better feel for the type of art we like and what we might want in our home. The kids looked at art and played a little Pokémon Go, so they were happy, too.

Getting up close and personal with some of the art on Canyon Road

Our final day in Santa Fe we visited Meow Wolf, which is an interactive art installation in an old bowling alley primarily funded by Game of Thrones' George R.R. Martin. Called "The House of Eternal Return," the installation is part theatre, part haunted house (without the scares but definitely with some creepy), part art installation, and part jungle gym. Our 4-year-old was rather nervous for the first 10 minutes, but then he really got into exploring. Both kids loved climbing through things like the fridge and the dryer and discovering other secret passages. We hear it actually might be coming to Denver!

Flying some kind of ship in an alternate dimension 

Taking a break to listen to nature sounds in the eyeball room

We ended our time in Santa Fe with a hike on the Black Canyon Trail just outside of town - it was cool enough at elevation that there was still a bit of snow on the ground. In a couple of weeks the area will be bursting with color!

Drumming on a downed tree

At the end of the hike with my boy...

On our way home we stopped in Taos again, because we couldn't stop thinking about the art we saw on our first day. The artist's name is Roberto Ugalde, who lives in Texas but is originally from Mexico. He has a unique way of using a palette knife and drip-painting with industrial oils to get really vivid colors and interesting shapes in his landscapes. We ended up commissioning a 48x48 painting from him (similar to the square one above my son's head to the right below) and are also purchasing a 24x48 or a set of 24x24 paintings as a diptych. Our house is about to be much more colorful - so excited!!

I just love his work!

Roberto is exclusively in the U.S. at the Michael McCormick and Sons Gallery in Taos, so we feel very fortunate to have stumbled upon this talented artist. We worked with Michael and Jamie on the best fit for our home - they were incredibly helpful and friendly. They even offered a promotion for Stapleton Moms readers - if you email them through their website and either like their Facebook page or follow them on Instagram, they will send you a free poster worth $50-60. You only need to cover shipping, which is roughly $12. Big thanks to Michael McCormick for this generous offer!

A few examples of their posters - they have dozens of different options if you have a request based on the art on their site

We had an amazing time and would absolutely visit again - gracias, New Mexico!