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Viral video: Allie the dog teaches baby to jump

Need a chuckle this Monday morning?

Over the weekend, this video of Dakota the Border Collie pouncing on baby Alexis’ shadow as she hangs in her Jolly Jumper has wracked up millions of views.

Seeing how it’s done, the baby then tries to copy her pet friend — and the duo are soon hopping along together.

Trekking, sledding and starry nights amid the Great Sand Dunes

Driving down La Veta Pass into the San Luis Valley, the yellow pop of aspen near its peak, we still believed we were just passing through.

Even as we turned off U.S. 160, we thought it would be a one-night pit stop, a quick 16-mile detour to see the tallest sand dunes in North America.

Then, we saw it.

Thirty square miles of sand, more Saharan than Coloradan, appeared as though it had been dumped into a nook of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. The tallest dune rises 750 feet.

I could hardly look away — for the next three days and three nights.

With 250,000 annual visitors, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is not the most popular national park in Colorado. Not by a long shot. But flip a quarter and you may very well catch a glimpse. The park was iconic enough to be selected to represent Colorado on a new quarter, released by the U.S. Mint this summer.

My fiancé and I went at the end of September, joined by my sister and her boyfriend, visiting from Minneapolis. For my part, it was my first trip south beyond Colorado Springs since I moved to Colorado two years ago. I honestly didn’t know what to expect.

After a four-hour drive from Denver, we arrived at the park gates late in the afternoon and drove right in — no one was at the entrance station. There aren’t lines, or really many people, to slow you down that time of year. We also quickly found a site in Piñon Flats Campground, but since we arrived just as the visitor center was closing, we missed our chance to buy firewood inside the park.

(Thankfully, firewood is also available at the Great Sand Dunes Oasis store right outside the park until 7 p.m. The store is open seasonally, from April through October, as is the park campground.)

That evening, we pitched our tents, packed our food into the bear box (black bears are potential campsite visitors here) and started a fire.

The stars seemed infinite — as infinite as the grains of sand that formed the dunes in front of us.

We really did mean to leave the next morning, continuing a southern Colorado road trip that would have taken us all the way to Mesa Verde National Park.

Instead of moving on, though, we moved closer.

This place is amazing, almost, I don’t know, otherworldly, I said to my fiancé shortly after we arrived.

What if we just stayed? I asked, finally giving voice to the feeling growing in my gut since we pulled into view of the dune field.

If we stay, he said, we could go sand sledding.

My sister and her boyfriend were sold. The decision was final before we closed our eyes that night.

The next morning, we scouted out other sites on the loop as campers departed and moved our temporary home to a spot with a big shade tree and an unobstructed view of the dunes.

Sand sledding

The Great Sand Dunes, according to geologists, were created after a huge lake that covered much of the San Luis Valley receded. Predominant southwesterly winds then blew the leftover sand toward a curve in the towering Sangre de Cristo mountains, where it piled up. Opposing winds, coming down from the mountains during storms, cause the dunes to grow vertically.

The unique ecosystem has been protected as a national monument since 1932, expanding in size and becoming a national park in 2004.

In the dune field, there are no marked paths or trails — anywhere you want to climb is fair game, as long as you stay off what little vegetation clings to life there. It’s a crazy concept if, like me, the dunes you grew up nearest were of the delicate, “don’t touch” coastal variety.

Park ranger Patrick Myers told me that all of their research has shown that the dune field here is “really resilient.”

“People can make sand castles and sled on them and splash on the beach, and it doesn’t seem to hurt the dunes,” Myers said.

Once you try climbing around, it’s easy to understand, too, why most visitors don’t make it past the first square mile of sand, as Myers also pointed out.

For one, the park sits at 8,200 feet — that’s higher than Estes Park.

Then there’s the sand. Soft and shifting when dry, the sand poses its own challenges.

Think about the last time you walked on a beach. Then make that beach rise hundreds of feet into the air.

Plus, it was unpredictable. Step once and the sand would be firm, just hard enough to keep you on top of the crust. The next, you would sink down, just a bit, or up to your ankle. Each step forward felt like two steps back.

During the summer, the surface temperature can reach 150 degrees — hot enough to blister bare feet — and hiking and climbing at mid-day is discouraged. But during the fall, when we visited, you don’t have to worry about sand temperature. We hiked at the peak of afternoon and had no problems, other than sand-logged shoes.

On Day 1, we made it as far as the first high ridge of the dune field, with the help of lots of water and lots of breaks. From the dune’s crest, our view to the west was ridge after high, sandy ridge.

Where are we, I asked myself again. What is this place? Mars?

Our true motivation for slogging up there was realized on the way down.

Before heading out, we rented two sand sleds and a sand board from the Oasis for just $20 each for the day.

The specialized sleds are really nothing more than laminated wood with handles (or foot holds). But do they fly once you wax the bottoms with the melon-scented puck of “Doctor Dune” included in the rental. At the park, sand sledding has grown increasingly popular in the past five years or so as the special boards became available, Myers said. But don’t bother with snow sleds, cardboard or saucers — you won’t budge.

Another lesson learned: Everyone will want their own sled. This is not something where you trade off. Also: Sledding is much easier than boarding, unless you’re an experienced snowboarder.

My first time down, I crashed, hard. One second I was flying down the slope on my sled, the next, I was airborne, and then falling, landing and faceplanting in the sand.

In the shock of it all, my first thought was, “I bet I just broke a rib. Vacation is ruined.”

Of course, I was fine. And soon, I was back on the sled, my face a little more exfoliated.

I’m no adrenaline junkie. But speeding down the dunes, I was overcome by the fun of it: Am I really doing this? And can I do it again?

It really is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, my much braver sister pointed out, her face just as covered in sand, her sledding lines (and crashes) even more epic.

As sunset approached, we finally trudged back to our campsite, sand in every nook, pore and sock, but happy.

From dunes to forest

In terms of ecological diversity, Great Sand Dunes is hard to beat. There are sand dunes, of course, but there are also mountains, lakes, forests, meadows, creeks, grasslands and a seasonal alkali wetland called the sabkha.

On Day 2, we headed out on the Mosca Pass Trail, a 3 ½-mile-one-way route up into the Sangres, which shelter the dunes. The trail follows a creek through forest and boulders, eventually climbing to Mosca Pass.

Round trip, the park suggests giving yourself 4 ½-5 hours, but we left too late in the afternoon and had to turn back well before that.

Still, the quiet, wooded trail, with aspen just turning golden at the lower elevations, was worth whatever time you could give it. I would go back just to see it to the summit.

The transition from dune to forest happened quickly — cross the main road and you’re transported from sandy scrub brush and grassland to aspen grove almost right away.

In September, the average high in the park is 71 degrees, with lows near 42, according to the park service website. It was fleece mornings, short-sleeve days and campfire evenings.

The most popular time to visit is late May and early June, Myers said. That’s when Medano Creek, which flows along the eastern edge of the dune field, runs full with mountain snowmelt, and families splash around in swimsuits.

By September, though, the creek is a trickle — wet sand, really. But there are also the fall colors, aspen in the mountains, cottonwood along the creek, and by early October, the autumn migration of sand hill cranes begins in the valley.

“Fall is the rangers’ favorite time of year,” Myers said. “The weather is great, the vacations are over, and everyone seems a little more relaxed.”

On Day 3, I finally pulled out my camera to try to capture the view that brings people here year-round. There was nothing between me and the dunes but a sandy grassland traversed by an rarely driven primitive road.

I crawled out of my sleeping bag a half-hour after sunrise, the air still crisp, the campground quiet.

As the sun slowly crept above the Sangres, spilling warm, early-morning light onto the dunes, I was transfixed.

Surely this was some other world, some other place, not Colorado.

Plan your visit

Great Sand Dunes National Park is open 24/7 year-round, although hours at the visitor center vary depending on season. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. in fall and spring, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. winter, 8:30 a.m.-6 pm. summer. Entrance fee, $3 per adult for seven days, $15 annual pass.

Sand sleds and boards

Located right outside the park, the Great Sand Dunes Oasis rents a limited number of sand sleds and boards seven days a week between April and October. 5400 Colorado 150 North, Mosca. 719-378-2222. $20/day

Kristi Mountain Sports, 3223 Main St., Alamosa, also rents sand sleds and boards year-round. Rentals can be picked up Monday-Saturday during store hours or on Sunday at the Colorado Welcome Center, 610 State St., Alamosa, with a prepaid reservation only. 719-589-9759. $18/day.

If you’re not experienced at snowboarding, a sand sled versus a sand board, which is ridden like a snowboard, is likely the better option.

On camping at the dunes

Piñon Flats Campground has 88 sites open April-October. Reservations are not accepted for Loop 1, the area closest to the dune field — it’s first come, first served.

To claim a spot, pick up an envelope at the self-service kiosk near the campground entrance, fill out the form on the outside, put in your $20 per night, tear off the receipt and slide everything else into the locked metal tube. There are no refunds for unused nights after the envelope goes in the tube.

Reservations can be made for Loop 2 sites up to six months in advance at

-Emilie Rusch


Movie Review: Big Hero 6’s inflatable robot is irresistible

Apologies to some of the best docs a gal can ask for. But who wouldn’t want a health-care provider like Baymax of “Big Hero 6”?

Sure, Hiro Hamada may be the young brainiac with the story arc in Disney’s zippy animated feature, but the over-sized, inflatable robot invented to be a personal health assistant is irresistible.

The action starts in a Amer-Asian burg called San Fransokyo. Under-age Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) is visiting a robot-fighting gambling parlor. Only the innocent with a rudimentary bot isn’t such a naif after all. And that bot, well…

Big brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) saves the 14-year-old prodigy’s hide. Better, he tricks the rebellious Hiro into a visit to his university, where Tadashi has been designing robots, including Baymax.

There Hiro meets a group of appealing geeks: CLICK TO KEEP READING

Got a picky eater? Join this hilarious club!

Do you have a picky eater? Join the club. Literally.

When Mommy Shorts blogger Ilana Wiles asked for tales of picky eaters, her readers responded in droves. The responses are hilarious–everything from Gabe who won’t eat scrambled eggs unless his mom spells out his name in ketchup next to them or “Hello, my name is Olivia and I hate crust. Just just on bread and pizza but but did you know there is crust on pancakes and hot dogs rolls, too?”

Because it’s better to laugh than cry, here are some of the best submissions to the Picky Eaters Club, shared via Mommy Shorts.

Do parents turn kids into fussy eaters? What you’re doing wrong to get your kids to eat

Both of my girls love to eat — and not just processed foods and sweets.

When my now-17-year-old was 7, she was eating salads as the main course at dinner. My 3-year-old recently passed over chips and guacamole for pretzels and hummus at a party.

Not all parents are this lucky.

Sue Bevens, of Walnut Creek, has bought every kids’ cookbook she could put her hands on. Nothing she made tempted her 4-year-old daughter, Ava, to eat anything except pizza and toast with jelly. Then, out of desperation, she took Ava to Trader Joe’s and gave her a child-size shopping cart. “You can buy whatever you want,” Bevens told Ava. “But whatever you buy, you have to try.”

Into the cart went apples, tomatoes, sliced cheese, pre-made burritos — and a package of cookies. The cookies helped Bevens to get Ava to try the other foods first. And it turned out that the apples, cheese and burritos were hits.

“Part of it was her need for control,” Bevens said, “but I also think shopping and, now, eating have become more like an adventure for her.”

That’s also the mood I try to set with my 3-year-old, Carolyn. Every night, she drags her step stool into the kitchen to help me cook. As I slice and dice things, she always want to “try a little bit.” Self-discovery is how she got turned on to carrots, peas, green beans and every kind of fruit (except blueberries and raspberries, which she calls “funny tasting”).

Thousands of articles and blogs online, as well as hundreds of books, cater to families with “picky or finicky” eaters.

Christina Le Beau wishes that phrase could be banned from our language.

“’Picky eater’ has become a crutch and an excuse to fall back on easy, so-called ‘kid foods,’ the notorious standards that everyone laments but too few seem willing to forgo,” says Le Beau, author of the blog “Spoon-fed: Raising Kids to Think About the Food They Eat.”

As she further explains, Happy Meals and Lunchables exist because that’s the type of food adults think children want to eat.

Instead, Le Beau and professional organizations, from the Mayo Clinic to the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggest letting children make their own choices, while parents provide the right environment. The Mayo Clinic even offers 10 strategies for helping “picky eaters.” These include respecting a child’s appetite (or lack of one), sticking to routines with meals and snacks, being patient with new foods, making it fun and being creative, letting children help, setting a good example, minimizing distractions, not offering dessert as a reward and not making a separate meal for children who reject the first option.

Jill Dorsett, of Gilroy, found that latter trick to be hard — but ultimately it was the way to success. She tried to make at least three different side dishes each night with her family’s meals. Then she would pass the dishes to her four children and let them take what they wanted. Her youngest son, Sam, refused most of the dishes.

“Eventually, he realized this was all he’d get and he started trying a small spoonful of this and that,” Dorsett said. “Sam is now a sous-chef who has eaten things even I wouldn’t want to try.”

Janet Burdick, of San Jose, opted for the creative route when her daughter, Zoe, refused to eat any green vegetables except frozen peas. Burdick came up with “green soup.”

“When I made a soup that contained green vegetables like broccoli, celery, cabbage and/or zucchini, Zoe would eat it happily if it contained potatoes and, most importantly, if I put it in the blender,” Burdick said. “It was the texture and sight of green vegetables that put her off. Now, at age 27, she makes her own versions of green soup regularly, and this soup has become a symbol of a way we discovered to work together despite differences.”

Margie Gilbrater, of Fremont, found her solution in a bowl of shredded cheese. She served her son the same meal as the rest of the family, then let him top everything with cheese.

“After about a year, he used less and less cheese,” Gilbrater said. “He realized the meats and veggies tasted fine by themselves.”

For all parents, patience, apparently, is the key.

Ann Tatko-Peterson

Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy hosts Spa Day (win one of 10 $50 gift cards now!)

Pharmaca Integrative Pharmacy, a new fixture in Greenwood Village, is excited to announce its first annual Spa Day Event on Saturday, November 15, from 12-6 p.m. Pharmaca, located next to Trader Joe’s in the Cherry Hills Marketplace, will host the event twice a year to highlight their unique selection of all-natural skin care and cosmetics from brands like Dr. Hauschka, Juice Beauty, jane iredale and ZuZu Luxe.

 “Spa Days are our most luxurious event of the year!” says Marisa Buchsbaum, Greenwood Village store manager. “Makeovers, mini-facials, and free chair massages are a great way for busy moms to pamper themselves while getting to know our line of spa-quality beauty care.” Customers can speak with beauty experts about products, sample cosmetics and skin care, and get a sneak preview of Pharmaca’s great holiday gift selection.

pharmacarestsmIn addition to mini-facials and makeovers, customers can reserve skin care screenings performed by representatives from Colorado-based MyChelle Derrmaceuticals skin care. Using the unique Visia scanning machine, reps can assess the health of skin and then offer a customized list of product recommendations based on the screening’s results.  

Event-goers can also take advantage of free consultations with Pharmaca’s staff of estheticians and practitioners about natural medicine and supplements to boost skin health for the inside out. Attendees will also receive coupons for shopping savings, including $10 off a $50 purchase, or $20 off a $100 purchase, to use on the day of the event.

Spa Day is just one of the many events held each year at Pharmaca, which strives to serve as a natural health and beauty resource in the community. As an integrative pharmacy, Pharmaca offers traditional pharmacy services along with natural vitamins and supplements, herbal remedies and homeopathic medicines, and natural skin care and cosmetics.  

What’s more, Pharmaca stores are staffed with industry professionals, including pharmacists, naturopaths, homeopaths, herbalists, nutritionists and estheticians, who are available to offer their expert guidance on the most appropriate products and treatments for the individual needs of customers and their families. Combined with a warm shopping environment—including a complimentary cup of tea— customers find Pharmaca to be a stress-free and uplifting pharmacy experience.

Come experience Pharmaca for yourself during what will be the most popular event of the year!

Pharmaca Giveaway

Spa Day Giveaway

Please note: Because of the popularity of the mini-facials, makeovers and Visia screenings, Pharmaca asks customers to make reservations ahead of time. A $10 reservation fee is required, but customers also receive a $10 shopping coupon.

To make a reservation or for more information, call 303.798.4548 or visit the Pharmaca store at 5910 South University Ave, next to Trader Joe’s in the Cherry Hills Marketplace. Mile High Mamas has partnered with Pharmaca on this promotion.


Customers receive a coupon for $10 off a $50 purchase or $20 off a $100 purchase during the Spa Day event. In addition, they will be giving away (6) deluxe beauty gift bags filled with samples from Sanitas, Dr. Hauschka, Ahava and many more!


Mile High Mamas is giving away TEN (10) $50 Pharmaca gift cards. Contest deadline is 11/30/14.

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Gun training for teachers a hot-button issue

The issue of whether teachers should be allowed to carry guns in schools is not going away anytime soon in Colorado.

On Saturday, more than 400 educators — two-thirds of them women — from throughout the region will gather at the Centennial Gun Club for a free conceal-carry class, the largest one-day training session ever in Colorado, organizers say.

While politicians are reluctant to announce any bills before the legislative session begins in January, it is expected that a measure or two that could allow teachers to carry guns in school will be introduced.

This past session, a bill that would have left it up to school districts to decide the issue was killed by Democrats in committee. A similar proposal was defeated the year before.

“I think it is definitely a political topic, and certainly the folks on the Second Amendment side of the issue strongly believe it’s a potential deterrent,” political analyst Floyd Ciruli said of guns in schools. “I can’t imagine they won’t introduce it.”

Paul Stanley, manager of Centennial Gun Club, said the class was a response to ongoing school shootings and other places that have been deemed gun-free zones


Where’s the beef? On your dinner table with these recipes!

I grew up as the granddaughter of cattle ranchers, which meant our freezer was always stocked with beef, every Sunday dinner was a pot roast and grilled steak was our go-to meal for special occasions.

Since becoming a mom, I’ve realized my love of beef goes beyond the delicious taste. My husband and I recently completed a month of Paleo where our diet consisted of meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and oils. Though I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss sugar, carbs and more sugar (I more than made up for it during Halloween), I learned that the statistics don’t lie: When I eat a higher-protein diet (about 30% of daily calories from protein), I’m not hungry, which helps me stop overeating.

And that is a beautiful thing, particularly as we head into the holidays.

Over the next several months, Mile High Mamas will be partnering with the Colorado Beef Council to bring you delicious beef recipes for your family. Not only do heart-healthy diets with high quality lean protein lower cholesterol (the bad kind!), they reduce the risk of chronic disease and high blood pressure. Animal proteins contain all the essential amino acids the body needs for optimal health.

The Beef–It’s What’s For Dinner website is treasure trove of tips and recipes such as:

To whet your whistle, be sure to check-out these delicious slower-cooker recipes:

Lazy Day Beef & Vegetable Soup beef soup

Southwest Beef Wrap


If you have any favorite beef recipes, we’d love to feature them.

Hands down, my favorite cut of beef is tenderloin. Whenever I go home, my sister-in-law invites the whole family over for grilled tenderloin and it’s serious business. So serious, in fact, that when I saw my 17-year-old niece Emily had invited a friend over, I very firmly informed her that she was a vegetarian so as not to share the highly-coveted 4.5-kg hunk of beef.

I then turned to my husband and informed him, “Do you see these people, Jamie? Do not look at them as family. Look at them as competition.”

As it turned out, Emily and her friend ate the very best, rarest pieces.

Game ON for next year.


Considering Open Adoption? What You Should Keep in Mind

What about open adoption agreements? What do adopting parents need to consider when entering into an open adoption? When do adoptees get to have a say in their open adoptions? How has social media changed openness in adoption?

For November — National Adoption Awareness Month — Rachel Garlinghouse (author of the new children’s book Black Girls Can) recently interviewed Mile High Mamas columnist Lori Holden

Time Saving Tips For Working Mamas

Have you ever walked into a room only to discover that you can’t remember why you went there? Gone to a store for something specific and gotten a bunch of other stuff but not what you actually went there for? Working moms are challenged with thinking of what they have to do at work and what they have to do at home that sometimes your brain can become one giant jumble. So, we have assembled a list of tips and resources that will help you save time and maybe even your sanity. (These tips, by the way, are in no particular order). 

1. Find pockets of time. If your weekends are less hectic, take the time then to pre-pack parts of lunches for the whole week. Put snacks in their baggies so they are an easy grab when  you are making lunches. Or if your evenings are less hectic, do tasks then rather than trying to rush in the morning. If you know your morning is crazy – put the things you will need the next day in the car already so they will be with you. 

2. Prioritize. Is is really important to get the dishes done right after dinner? No! And if they are going to be done after dinner, make a fun family game of it…turn on a timer and see who can was a dish and put it in the dishwasher the quickest. (Rewards for the quickest kid could include and extra 5 minutes story time). The same productivity concepts that you learn as a working person will also do well when it comes to parenting. You have to prioritize some tasks because when they are due or how long something might take. 

3. Little Helpers. Depending on the kids’ ages, give them jobs. Have them help (see above). I know it sort of sounds crazy but kids like to feel responsible and they can help in the kitchen. Simple things like setting the table or mixing the salad. As the kids get older they can do more difficult tasks. One time I paid my son (who was 8 at the time) $5 to be my personal assistant. He took my phone while I was driving and read emails and texts to me and responded to them for me as well (with me telling him what to write). This was a way for him to learn spelling and responsibility. I don’t think I broke any child labor laws doing that either and kept everyone safe by not texting and driving. 

4. Two For One. I am usually a deals blogger so the idea of a two for one is big for me. Usually it is in the context of purchase one get one for free. But the same basic concept applies here. Cook one meal with the second in mind using the leftovers (bonus points if the first one is super easy too like a crockpot meal). One of our favorites is pork roast the first day and the pulled pork sandwiches or pork tacos the next. 

4. Services. Stores like Target and WalMart are getting smart to the idea that moms live in a harried world of trying to get from one place to another efficiently. WalMart charges just $5 for them to deliver to your house. Target also has a program called Target Subscriptions. The service allows you to have household essentials delivered to your house. You can set up a regular delivery i.e. every Monday you get diapers, shaving cream, wipes, paper towels and milk delivered at 5 p.m. (You say what you want delivered and how much of it). These services not only save you time but in my house also save us money (because I’m not temped to buy other stuff while I’m at the store). While it is not a delivery service, I love EMeals because they plan an entire week’s worth of meals for you and give you the shopping list!

5. Apps. Use great productivity apps (that can also be used in business) like and Evernote. I make notes for things with my family as much as I do for my work. With Evernote you can color code things too – so you can easily see what is work and what is home (and which kid). The other one I like a lot is Google’s Boomerang extention. This will send an email back to you when you can deal with it. 

6. Don’t Think. If you can get a task done immediately do it right then and there and it won’t be looming in your head. Otherwise, write it down. I keep a list of grocery store items in my phone (so I don’t forget the list at home). I have a hard time remembering when I’m doing what – so I add it to my calendar in my phone with a notification. 

7. Just say YES! Never turn someone down if they offer to help. If someone says they will tote the kids to soccer if you can pick them up the next time – great that buys you one day. If someone offers to pick up the snacks or swing by and get dinner (no matter if it is another mom or your husband). I can’t say that I’ve ever had anyone offer to do my laundry.

I’d love to hear tips from other mamas on how you make it through their daily life with your sanity intact and what tips you can share with other moms!

For more ideas, be sure to go to my 9News segment for additional tips about maximizing your time.


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