Sunday, April 28, 2013

Drying a few Tears

I cried tonight.

I don't often allow myself the luxury of tears.  I think I'm scared that if I start, I won't be able to stop.  Yet as I sifted through Annika's clothes, sorting out the tiniest to put away, my cheeks grew damp.

She's growing up too soon.  I keep telling everyone that she's two and a half months old, but the truth is that she'll be three months the day after tomorrow.  I cringe inside every time someone says, "Oh, she's getting so big!"  Don't they know she's still tiny?  Can't they read her onesie that announces "Just Arrived"?  Wasn't it just yesterday that she was born, in that very spot?

I always feel melancholy packing up baby clothes.  Babies just grow so darn fast!  I sigh as I carefully fold darling outfits that I never shot a photo of, deeply regretting those few items that never were worn at all.  This time, however, was particularly hard.  Hard, because Annika is likely our final babe, and even harder because Jason isn't here to watch her grow day by day.  How I wish that I could press the "pause" button until he comes home!

Difficult as such moments may be, I feel so very grateful that our situation is temporary.  Life is uncertain, and I've been reminded lately that many must endure much longer and more painful separations.  The husband of a teacher at Dixie Sun unexpectedly passed away this last week after undergoing knee surgery for an injury sustained playing church basketball.  His wife is now on her own with five young children.  My heart just breaks for this family.  I hope that with time they can find comfort in the realization that in an eternal scheme, even their separation will be short.

On a more positive note, Jason and I will be reunited extremely soon.  A week from today Annika and I are going out to NY to visit.  :)   In fact, I was able to extend my trip by a couple of days to give us an entire weekend together by coughing up a whopping three dollars.  Hooray for Southwest Airlines, and an especially big hooray for Grandma Susie and Grandpa Charles who so generously (and courageously) offered to watch the rest of the munchkins for as long as we wanted.

With so many tender mercies, I'll dry my tears and feel thankful for my blessings instead.

Friday, April 26, 2013


You know how sometimes it's late and you know you should go to bed because if you don't you'll be tired and grumpy tomorrow but then it's already late so you're going to be tired anyway so then what does it matter if you stay up a little later?

Well, the upside is that you may end up with a post of pretty amusing pictures. Enjoy!

I find laundry to be exhausting. Apparently so do my children.

Dreaming of clean onesies.

Aww, so sweet. Just makes you wanna give her a squeeze.

Brooklyn and Talia decided to make their bedroom more cozy by adding a fireplace.

Jason, guess who's waiting for you to come home and play Legos?

Tonight at a church function, a quirky lady in her late seventies pointed to Annika and told her husband, "Say goodbye to Fluffy!" Normally I'd be offended...

...but you've gotta admit she has a point.

Now good night, y'all. I'm finally going to bed.

Full on the Trail for the Red Mountain Half

Shortly before Jason left for New York, I registered for the Red Mountain Half Marathon. Even though I knew I would be especially busy in the coming weeks, I also knew that having a race to train for would be particularly beneficial. As a mother, I spend most of my time taking care of the needs of others, now more so than ever before. While racing blesses my entire family in the long run (excuse the pun), it is also a very individual endeavor. When I run, I am taking care of myself. Even though races are a bit of a luxury, they provide extra motivation to work a little harder. No matter what our circumstances in life, it's helpful to have a goal to stretch oneself. For me, this dream consisted of 13 rocky miles along the dirt trails of the Red Butte between Pine Valley Junction and the hairpin turn just below Veyo.

Coming into the race, I felt fairly confident that I could handle the distance. Even though my running is limited to Tuesday and Thursday mornings while Eli is at preschool, Annika enjoys the jogging stroller and we've logged some good miles along the Virgin river trails. On other days of the week, I often cross-train at the gym or slog through a few miles on the treadmill. During visits from my Mom and Callie, I squeezed in a few extra long runs, including a couple eleven milers. And so even though my training wasn't perfect, I figured that I could manage two additional miles on race day.

A couple days before the race, my confidence plummeted when I took a close look at an elevation map of the course. At first glimpse, the schematic reminded me of a heart rate reading--full of sharp peaks and dramatic declines, repeated over and over and again. Too chicken to chicken out of the race completely, I reminded myself that once upon a time I managed an entire marathon--surely I had the willpower to plow through half the distance, difficult course or not.

The course did not disappoint. The lengthy repeated climbs were just as grueling as I'd envisioned. The descents were wild with feet skidding and arms flailing as I struggled to keep my balance on the loose, rocky terrain. I thanked the good Lord for my good knees and prayed that they might stay that way.

Challenging as the run was, it was also very rewarding. Long climbs lead to magnificent vistas painted pink by the breaking dawn. While forcing myself to power through several of these lengthy ascents, I pushed the envelope of what I thought possible for my body to handle. Slogging on with a jog so slow that it barely surpassed the pace of those walking around me, I kept on running, even when my legs were on fire.

And then, faced with yet another climb so long and steep that I couldn't even see the end, I had another breakthrough. It's okay to walk. Everybody (human) does it. In fact, it's a perfectly acceptable strategy for long distance trail running. Conserve energy and save your legs by walking up the hill, then feel the wind blow through your hair as you blaze down the other side.

This breakthrough changed my entire outlook on the race. By giving up any focus on time, I gave myself permission to more fully experience the beauty of the course. Some runners thrive on the energy of cheering crowds in big city races; I find the solitude and tranquility of a trail much more invigorating. I'm propelled forward by curiosity--eager to discover what lies just around the next bend or over the next peak.

And so, when my iPod ran out of battery at mile 7, I was so high on the beauty of nature that I didn't care. At mile 8 I felt so good that I wished I'd registered for a longer distance. Come mile 11, however, and I'd had enough nature and enough hills. An older gentleman (60 something?) passed me as I was trekking up another major incline and asked if I'd ever done this race before. I quickly asserted my rookie status, then watched wistfully as he pulled ahead. Another quarter mile down the trail, however, and this same man starts heaving. Alarmed, I ask if there's anything I can do to help. He pulls himself up, smiles graciously and says, "No, thank you I'm fine," then doubles over to vomit again.

I thought about sticking around to help, but my own stomach troubles caught up with me right then and I headed into the bushes to find a private place. (No port-a-potties at the aid stations--not that I could have waited.) Good thing I wasn't racing for time, since that pit stop must have held me back a full ten minutes. Why do runners do this to themselves?

Well, my question was answered in the last half mile of the race. Out of nowhere, a fifty-something year-old man who's probably carrying an extra fifty pounds of weight comes blazing by as a blue streak. Realizing that he's almost made it to the end of his race, he grins widely and tells me how there are just a few sloping curves left. Looking at his watch with pride, he talks about how he may even beat his wife to the finish line. I smile as I ponder how running touches such a diverse group--the young, the old, the heavy, the thin, the athletes, the musicians--all pounding out their own rhythm on the trail. I sigh and wish that I had the energy to pick up the pace with him and bound to the finish line, but alas, I am nothing if not consistent.

Before I know it, I round one final corner and see my family. Oh, such sweet hugs! All too soon, the race that was oh-so-long is finished. A snazzy medal and a few peanut M&Ms later, and I've recovered enough to consider registering for another.

As for the vomiting older gentleman, we passed him several miles up the road during our drive back home. He (and many other 50Kers) were still running, having signed up for an extra 18 pavement miles on top of the strenuous 13 trail miles we'd just completed. I'm not quite sure what to make of these ultra-marathoners. Two of the runners had just gotten back from Boston. I really can't grasp what it would be like to run the Boston marathon on Monday as your taper for Saturday's race. Is it inspiring or insanity? I felt totally out of my league browsing through the "TrailRunner" magazine included in our race packet. Consider this advertisement: "In 2009 I was considering giving up on 100 Milers due to stomach issues. Then I gave Vespa a try." Gee, I'll keep that in mind.

As incredible as these ultra-marathoners may be with their 100 mile stints through Death Valley, I'm perfectly content with my "little" half marathons. I'm glad to be balancing many things (especially people) that are more important than racing. Even with potty breaks and walking spells, I was still done with my race by 8:30. Rewarding as the race may have been, the time afterward with my husband and children was by far the best part of my day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Since little Annie Mae refuses to be put down so that I can get chores done, I thought I'd record a few Eli-isms instead. I am positively fascinated by how kids learn languages, and wish I recorded the endearing constructions of their emerging language more often.

- "Water feels me better." For some reason, Eli has chosen water as his mechanism for self-comfort. Whenever he gets really upset and needs to calm down, he insists that water will "feel him better." Personally, it's chocolate that feels me better, but water is definitely the healthier choice.

- "Yesterday we go-nt to the store." I love this grammar! Instead of using the irregular past tense construction of "go", Eli combined "go" with the "nt" of "went." We've heard him use "go-ed" often (a pretty standard deviation for language learners), but "go-nt" is adorable.

- "I have a hedgie." Translation? I have a wedgie. Despite the mispronunciation, the accompanying body language always makes this phrase quite communicative.

The Perfect Weekend

A couple of weeks after Jason left for New York, I wrote the following snippet in my journal:

March 11, 2013

I’ve decided to switch to journaling for a bit because I feel rather flummoxed when it comes to blogging. (What do you think of my new word? I discovered it in the thesaurus while searching for the word I’m really thinking of, which I still can’t find, leaving me stumped, confused, bewildered, bemused, puzzled, perplexed, mystified, and baffled: flummoxed.)

Ah, writer’s block. I think that’s the concept I was going for, although the term brain dead kept coming to mind. Quite appropriate for one whose brain won’t work, don’t you think?

Yes, I have blogger’s block. In the past, regardless of whether or not I actually posted, I’ve almost always had ideas about what to blog on. Finding the time to transform these thoughts into coherent posts was difficult, but if I didn’t blog, it certainly wasn’t because I had nothing to say.

This time, however, is different. My mind feels, well, empty. Tired, yes, and empty. Even if I find a moment to sit down at the computer, life seems dull and I draw a blank. I’m sure that on some basic level, this has everything to do with Jason being gone. I think it’s hard to numb your heart without closing off the rest of you as well. Overall we’re doing fine, but I’ve somehow got to get past the mindset of merely surviving and start living. Surely there must be some larger purpose for the next six months than simply enduring.

In the six weeks that have passed since then, I've done a lot of growing. I've learned how to start the lawnmower, purchased sprinkler parts, and attacked wasp nests. I've mastered the take-out menu, survived church, and put all the kids to bed for weeks on end. (Well, okay, sometimes the kids put me to bed, but somehow we all end up getting some shut-eye anyway.)

I've become more courageous in venturing out with the troops in tow. We've enjoyed lazy evenings at the park, picnics by the pond, sunny play at the sand dunes, even creative sidewalk chalk art at the street festival. We've learned that even though we miss Daddy desperately, we don't have to stay home and mope because he's gone. Time passes more quickly when we still enjoy the miracles of springtime.

This past weekend, however, we had the best of both worlds--gorgeous St. George weather with Jason home to share in the joy. Here are some photos of our lovely days together.

Hiking in Snow Canyon: Even though we venture up to Snow Canyon often, I'm always amazed by the new treasures we discover in this gem of a park. On this trip, we explored the lava tubes for the first time.  Below we have an assortment of photos of Jason with his baby girl.  I couldn't decide which one I liked best.  :)

And here's Jason with all his girls.
At the entrance to the lava tubes.
The texture of the volcanic rock is pretty incredible.
Hiking in with Eli.
And heading home.

The Forever Green Fashion Show:
Eager to squeeze in as much fun as possible in as little time as possible, we immediately headed over to the Forever Green Fashion Show being hosted by the Girl Scouts. The girls had a lot of fun strutting around, even if we didn't have time to locate a hairbrush.
Here's Talia trying to get suited up as the "Paperbox Princess."
In the end, she needed a little help from Mom.
 Talia, all ready to go.  If you look in the background, you'll notice Eli dressed in his space helmet made from a movie theater popcorn container. 
Thanks to a little help from our hot glue gun, we were able to add the finishing touches to Brooklyn's "Right on Target" design while waiting for the fashion show to begin.
Ta da!  If you're ever short on bling, recycled CDs will add sparkle to any occasion.
 Spring at the Splash Pad:
Saturday was the perfect day for cooling off at the downtown splash pad.
Eli shows off his super-hero powers (and backwards swim trunks.)
Talia, looking surprisingly serene.
That's more like it, Tally Wally Doodle all the day.

Brooklyn loved to capture the splash in the center.
Even Eli enjoyed the wet 'n wild fun.

Meanwhile, Jason and Annika caught a little snooze.
Catching up on lost time.
Talia agreed that it was the perfect day!

The Kite Festival:
As if we hadn't already had enough fun, we then headed to the Kite Festival sponsored by our school district.  All of the elementary school students earn kites or books for participating in a reading program.  Here's Talia choosing her kite.

Jason helps assemble the flying fairy.

In past years, kite flying has been difficult because of the lack of wind.

This year the weather was perfect.

Brooklyn flies her kite as well.

Help! I'm being attacked!

It made my heart happy to have our whole family reunited once more.

Add in a thirteen mile trail race, an elegant dinner date at the Riverwalk grill, some home repairs and church, and it makes for an extremely busy, fun-packed weekend. Lovely as it was, the time passed far too quickly. Before we knew it, the kids and I were standing on the observation deck of the St. George airport, waving goodbye to the speck of an airplane in the sky. I shed a few silent tears, just like the first time we parted ways, then pulled myself together and promised to make the best of things until the next time we are together again.

Thanks for coming, PB. We love you!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Stained with Love

I learn from my children every day. Whether I'm being quizzed on goofy knock knock jokes or marveling that a single pair of shorts can hold such copious quantities of sand, every day is filled with new discoveries.

Last week, however, I was truly taught. After a morning full of nagging, I finally got Brooklyn out the door to catch the bus to school. Just as she was leaving, I noticed that her white school polo was filthy. Covered in black grime. Exasperated, I started to lecture her about how she needed to try harder to keep her clothes clean, how I couldn't keep up with all of the laundry, how she should be more responsible in getting herself ready for the day.

Brooklyn listened to my lecture without talking back, then apologized for being so slow. She told me she had been doing a secret service. Then, hiding a small smile, she asked, "Is today trash day?"

All in an instant, I realized where the grime on her shirt had come from. Even though it's not their assigned chore, Brooklyn and Talia had taken the trash cans out to the curb for me. Tears filled my eyes, and I was taught. Taught humility. Taught patience. Understanding, not judging, forgiveness. Taught love.

I wrapped those beautiful girls in my arms, hugged them until they couldn't breathe, and told them over and over again how grateful I am for them.

A stained white polo has never looked more beautiful.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Thanks for the Memories

In case you hadn't noticed, we're already halfway through April.  (Hopefully you remembered to file your taxes.) :)

Besides being tax day, April 15th marks the first quarter of our family's six-month separation.  I'll write more about life as a single mother later, but for now let me summarize by saying that I think this this experience has been most difficult for Jason.  I may be crazy-busy and often exhausted, but I am blessed to have the kids to brighten each day.  In the "Life of Pi," Pi descibes how a bengal tiger, Richard Parker, is actually his salvation as they are stranded together at sea.  Caring for Richard Parker gives Pi a reason to live, a purpose for each day.  Similarly, the kids save me, even through their neediness.  I am so engrossed in making sure that everyone is dressed and fed and occasionally clean that I rarely have a moment to feel lonely.  (Better yet, I'm not usually afraid that they will eat me, with the exception of Annika.)

Jason doesn't have the same luxury.  His work is tough, challenging, and time-consuming, but when he retires at night, it's lonely and too quiet to sleep.  He misses us, just like we miss him, but feels the ache more keenly without the blessing of constant distraction.  Peanut Butter, we love you and appreciate everything you do to support our family from afar!

So here's the good news.  Jason's coming home.  Thursday!  Hurrah!!  Which means that I better hurry and finish catching up on photos before we take a hundred more.  Enjoy the photo dump.

Cathedral Gorge:

When Jason came home for Annika's baby blessing in mid-March, we drove out to Cathedral Gorge, a Nevada State Park in the middle of nowhere.  Our friends, the Johnsons, were kind enough to invite us for some hiking and a picnic, and all of the grandparents were kind enough to tag along for the long journey.

The Wind Caves at Cathedral Gorge

Erosion of the soft clay created these dramatic, deep caverns and slot canyons.

Peering up through one of the many mazes.

The clay is perfect for climbing...

...or for resting, right Eli?

Jason, back at home in a desert clime.

Our friend Kess is the blue dot in the middle.

Brooklyn and Talia thought the caves were great fun for playing hide and seek.

Found you, Grandma Susie!
Here's the pavillion where we ate lunch.

From left to right, Heather, Thad, NomiAnn, and Kara--all enjoying our hot dog roast.

Papa Kay enjoyed his diet drink nearly as well.  If only I had that kind of willpower in the face of smores!

Kess's all-time favorite thing to do is kidnap the baby.
Ha ha!  I snagged her back.

Hiking to the overlook.  From the front...
And the back...
Just for the record, I love the kids' Camelbaks.  SO nice not having to tote water bottles for them.
And the view from the top.
On the way back, we stopped by an really neat old train depot in Caliente.
The inside of the train station had some fun hand-painted murals.
The best part, however, was the merry go round.
After some super spinning from Kajun and Keat, the kids were krazy dizzy.

Fun in St. George
When Justin and Brianna came up from Phoenix the next day, we all headed to mini-golf.  Here's princess Brianna in front of her castle.
The princess Annie Mae, sound asleep.
Justin and Brianna help retrieve some golf balls for their nieces.
And Jason, back at work behind the camera.
A fun afternoon, right Talia Lily?

Back at home, Grandma Susie pulled out a game of Qwirkle.

Talia, hard at work tallying the points.

Jason, serving Susie's pie in honor of Pi day.

All too soon, it was time to bid Daddy farewell.  I think Jason's absence has been hardest on Eli, who can't quite understand why it's taking Dad so long to come home.  Every time we drive past the Heritage Court construction site (a tax credit project Jason was highly involved in),  Eli notices and says, "That's Daddy's tower!"
Even though our bubbling house simmered shortly after Annika's baby blessing, my mother Cathy fortunately stayed for a full two weeks.  It was such a blessing to have her here!  Most days we were too busy caring for munchkins to take photos, but here are a few:

Hanging out by the duck pond at Shadow Mountain.  This cute little park is tucked away in a nearby neighborhood.  Too bad it took us so long to discover it!
The turtles remind me of our beloved Parc Tete d'Or in Lyon.
NomiAnn bonds with Annika (who is donning her first pony tail.)

Few things in this world are happier than bright red shoes.

Love this picture of Annie Mae watching NomiAnn sew.

Oops, spit up!

NomiAnn took each of the kids on a special date to Jumping Jacks or Fiesta Fun.
Can you tell Brooklyn had fun?

Walking with Annika along the Virgin River trail.

St. George in springtime.

The kids enjoyed a neighborhood Easter egg hunt at their school.

In truth, the event was a crazy free-for-all where the kids were better behaved than the adults.  The little girl next to Brooklyn didn't get any eggs, so Brooklyn and Talia happily shared their treats.  I was really proud of them.
As one who loves to be held, Annika is the ultimate time-waster.
Annie's favorite position.
And now the hard part--saying goodbye.  Thanks so much for coming, Mom!  You mean the world to us.

Aunt Callie:
As hard as it was to see my Mom go, my sister Callie came from Washington to spend her spring break with us about a week later.  We don't get to hang out nearly as often as we would like, so we played hard together.  We started the week with a picnic along the pa'rus trail in Zion and ended with an exploration of the white rocks in Snow Canyon, squeezing all sorts of adventure in between.  (We also squeezed in all sorts of miracles too, but I'll save those for later.  Let's just say I'm extremely grateful Talia didn't get hit by a jeep and our van didn't get stolen when the door was left open all day.)  Despite all the fun, I took almost no photos.  I guess that makes the ones that I do have even more special.
Aunt Callie and Annika.  You can tell Annie loves her auntie!

We delighted the kids by treating them to shaved ice one hot afternoon.  Sugar in a cup--Talia was ecstatic!

Eli thought the spoons that change color were pretty nifty.

Even Brooklyn agreed that a small tropical snow is plenty large!

Can you tell we're sisters? (By the way, I got a compliment on my figure when Callie went to my gym class one morning.  An older woman told Callie how fantastic she looked after having four kids.  Wish someone would tell me that...)

And one more photo with my sis.  Callie, it was such a treat having you!  Thank you for spending your break with our crazy crew.  Far from a relaxing vacation, but hey, definitely something different!
Whew!  And there you have it.  We're all caught up on photos and ready to make some more memories.