Monday, June 15, 2015

Camping in LaPine

I planned out our summer several months ago. Assessing our "free" weekends and deciding which ones we wanted to devote to camping. So we officially kicked off our summer on the very first weekend after school got out with a camping trip to LaPine State Park. For added company and fun we asked Joe's sister (and her husband and 7 kids) and his parents to come along. The weather was warm during the day and freezing at night. We hiked, we biked, and some even kayaked. We visited Oregon's largest Ponderosa Pine and marveled at its wonder. We chatted around the campfire, relaxed in the hammocks and watched the kids create their own much needed adventures. Then less than 48 hours after arriving we were packing up and heading back home. Awaiting the next big summer adventure...

Things I learned on this camping trip:
- after our debut erection of the new tent last year, our start to finish time greatly improved on this round and there was no bickering involved!
- sleeping in a tent when it's 37 degrees outside might be bordering on insane
- my daughter still has no sense of direction and I am in constant fear of losing her
- cousins make the best of friends
- campfires are always better with wine
- it can take 4 adults to figure out how to get a pickup truck unstuck from a shoulder of soft gravel
- when a truck is stuck with the passenger side facing downhill, said passenger will likely fall out when opening the door
- there is nothing like pulling my sweet baby into my sleeping bag at 5 AM and having her fall back asleep snuggled into my arms

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Adult Siblings

The relationships we've developed as adult siblings are priceless. The ability to reminisce and look back on our childhoods and think "hey, we survived that together!" and the bond that formed when I realized they are now truly some of the most important people in my life are so incredible. I look at the three of us and I see us as babies, my sister and I so unsure of a baby brother. I see us as toddlers, as children, as teenagers, hating each other, annoyed by each other, laughing with each other and knowing we'd all do anything for each other. I love them both fiercely and my life wouldn't be the same without them. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

Happy 60th Mom

My brother, my sister and I asked our mom months ago what she wanted for her 60th birthday. Whatever she wanted we could surely come together to get it for her. These milestone birthdays are huge! But what she wanted wouldn't cost us any money. Just a little planning. 

She wanted a photo of her with all 8 of her grandchildren. And at first thought this seems easy and doable. Until we realized that it would have to happen during Shawna's graduation weekend or it would be nearly impossible. My visits to Grass Valley are few and far between, so having us all together with our kids and our mom happens on a rare occasion. And there's the fact that once you get them all together, with ages ranging from 14 months to 17 years it's like herding cats trying to get them all to focus at once. But with a little help from my brother (making silly faces and calling out their names from behind me) and an amazing digital camera, I just kept clicking away hoping for at least one good one out of the bunch. One good shot worthy of framing for her to hang on her wall. 

I think we nailed it... Happy Birthday Mama... 

Shawna Graduates

She was there with me when I graduated from the same high school. Seventeen years ago. My sweet baby niece. She was Violet's age when I brought Joe home for spring break our freshman year of college to meet my family. At the age of 5, she was the flower girl in my wedding. When I was pregnant with Brendan she laid her hands on my belly, giggling as he kicked and I said wistfully to my mom "when this baby inside me is her age, she'll be 18 and graduating from high school..." and then all of a sudden that day was here. I'm so incredibly proud of this milestone in her life. She has great potential and I pray that she finds it and runs with it.

You can do amazing things sweet beautiful girl. I pray that you find your wings and fly... 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

That Friend

Good friends are hard to come by. The kind whose friendship you know will last a lifetime. The ones you can go months, even years, without seeing yet you pick up right where you left off when you see them again. Which is exactly what I have in my friendship with Pam. We met almost 17 years ago when we were randomly placed together as roommates in the women's dorm at the University of Portland our freshman year. We bonded with each other at such an impressionable time in both of our lives, a time when we needed that new friendship the most. She listened to me tell the story of my first kiss with Joe, saw me through that developing relationship and stood as a bridesmaid 4 years later in our wedding. I complained to her, I cried to her, I asked her advice, we argued, we laughed, we giggled, we stayed up till all hours of the night. I couldn't imagine how I would have gotten through that first year without her. And when I made the decision not to return to UP my sophomore year I was afraid our friendship would falter. But we stayed in touch while she studied abroad and on into our final years of college. And in the years since then, we've managed to make contact a handful of times and every time feels like it's never enough. She's that friend that sits down on your couch and just starts chatting about life and you feel like you never want the conversation to end. She's amazing with the kids and they cry when she has to leave.

So when she texted last week an asked if she could "stop by" and stay with us as a stop on her spontaneous Oregon tour trip of the coast and Crater Lake with her boyfriend (before heading back to Seattle) I said "absolutely!" and was overjoyed at the idea. They came in late Sunday evening and we sat down to dinner and dessert before a night of endless conversation. They treated us all to brunch Monday morning before the kids and I guided them out to Lava Butte to admire the volcanic scenery of central Oregon. And then her quick trip through Bend came to an end. She had to leave and I didn't want her to. I hugged her. I cried. The kids cried. We said goodbye.

Maybe we shouldn't go so long before seeing each other again...

Friday, May 22, 2015

19 months

This girl. She's full of personality. Her vocabulary has taken off so rapidly that people often ask "how old is she?!" in disbelief that a 19-month-old would talk so much. She's a parrot to any and everything that we say. Which means she has developed the ability to say things like "come on!" "dang it!" and "knock it off!" (could be worse, right?) She loves to color with crayons and draw whenever she's given the chance. But because of her siblings inability to remember to put things out of her reach, this has resulted in toddler drawings in unfortunate places (the walls, the floor, Aubrey's bed, the couch...) She loves reading books and listening to stories. Her bedtime routine is never complete without her monkey blanket, a lovey, her teddy and a binky. Those items must accompany us everywhere if we want her to get any sleep away from home. She's currently 22 lbs 15 oz in weight and 31 1/4 inches tall. Her taste in food and beverage hasn't wavered an inch. She still dislikes milk, most vegetables and meat. I'm hoping this trend will change in the near future.

Monday, May 18, 2015

PPP 2015

This day had been anticipated for nearly the last year. It seemed like such a huge challenge when Joe made the executive decision for us to drop our respective 6-person teams and go tandem this year. Initially I thought "what on earth is he thinking?!" until it became a massive personal goal and I pushed myself to break outside my comfort zone. I learned to downhill ski. Someone had to do it. Joe taught himself how to skate ski and enjoyed it much more than I did. I could practice cycling. That wouldn't be a problem. Joe is a faster runner than I am. Together we can paddle a kayak like nobody's business. And so we set our goals. I learned how to ski and then practiced as much as I could. Joe bought me a nice road bike, I learned how to ride clipped in and I felt confident in that too. Joe practiced skate skiing until the snow levels drastically dropped and it became impossible. Which then lead to the race officials cancelling that leg altogether and switching it to a trail run (that Joe would later describe as a cross between land navigation and trail running.) He started running several times a week on his lunch break and we paddled together the few chances we got.

I was excited. We were really doing this together and it was going to be amazing. And then the time drew nearer. Two weeks prior to the race my excitement turned to anxiety and I started dreaming nothing but relay races and every outcome of nearly every dream was that I somehow let my husband down. I missed a transition, I ran the wrong way, I didn't swim fast enough (that one was odd... there is no swimming in the PPP...) I realized it was my biggest fear. He was so confident in us... in me... that I was afraid I wouldn't live up to the outcome he had in mind. I was terrified. Until he sat me down and told me how proud he was. How impressed he was that I had not only learned to ski but ended up enjoying it. How proud he was that I overcame my fear of chairlifts, my fear of going fast downhill, my fear of clipping in to my bike. He knew that we had pushed ourselves and prepared for this. Regardless of the outcome, we were in this together, we were a team and we would do our best. And that was exactly what I needed to hear to get me through it.

We woke up early Saturday morning though I'm not sure how much I really slept Friday night. My dad was there to watch the kids. We had prepped our equipment the night before. Race numbers pinned and stuck, kayak dropped off at the launch, gear loaded into the van. We headed up to the mountain early to get in a practice ski run before race time. I was confident and did fine but it didn't do much mentally to prepare me for the real thing. We sat together for a few last minutes in the lodge before I headed back up on the lift to take my place in line for our starting wave. And then it began. My start time was called and I followed suit as everyone placed their skis at the top of the hill and took their places behind the starting line 200 feet downhill from that point. The countdown came and the race officially began.

From this point on the advice I would give to prepare for the alpine ski leg would be to forget the actual skiing and practice running uphill in your ski boots. The time I lost on this leg was primarily from watching everyone else sprint past me while I struggled to gain footing in my "robot moon" boots (I can barely WALK in those things... how on earth are those people RUNNING?!?!) I kept up with the majority of the pack once my skis were on, until I lost control and fell. And though I did pop off a ski, it stayed close and I was back up in less than 30 seconds. But I had lost momentum and therefore my speed. I came in nearly last in our wave. Joe caught me in the gate, tore off the timing chip and took off. Though the terrain may have been incredibly rugged, a 2 mile trail run leg for Joe meant that I had barely enough time to get out of my skis, run my equipment back to the van (again, I was still in my ski boots) , take off ski pants, change shoes, change helmet, change gloves, change jackets and run across the large parking lot to the bike staging area. I was there only a few minutes before he was crossing the transition line. He transferred the timing chip anklet and I took off on the bike. There's nothing like being timed to make you feel like, even mostly downhill, 22 miles takes for-ever... I watched as Joe passed me in the van and couldn't wait to get off the bike and be halfway done with the whole race. I kept watching my time and speed and was incredibly disappointed that I was slower than I had anticipated (though I credit some of this to the poor choice in jackets as my cycling windbreaker flapped like a parachute the entire way.) But when our number was called out as I entered the transition chute and unclipped from my pedals Joe was poised and ready to run. Another passing off of the timing chip. This time I knew I had a little more time to prepare and was able to relax just a bit. I rode my bike to Joe's truck at the kayak launch, loaded it up in the back seat, changed into my paddling top, running shoes and hat and headed off to wait at our boat. I positioned his paddle just like I was instructed, I turned on the go-pro cam, I watched the time and I waited.
He finished the 5-mile run with a time just short of what I had expected. I was grateful he had chosen a bright orange tech shirt to run in and could see him coming before they called our number. He was exhausted. I was nervous. He rested only a few seconds as I transferred the timing chip from his ankle to mine. We ran (I ran, he was beat) to our boat, picked it up and quickly walked it to the water with our paddles. He held it as I got in and I attempted to hold it steady while he jumped in the back. We took off smooth and fast despite Joe's exhaustion. And while we overcame a slight setback as the rudder took on a mind of its own and we veered off course and into the oncoming boats, we managed to set a pretty good pace and finished faster than I ever could have done on my own. I rested for the final 20 yards and stretched my legs in preparation for the sprint to the finish. I jumped out into the shallow water and ran probably the slowest sprint in the history of sprinting (my arms wouldn't even swing... I had to hold onto my life jacket to keep them from feeling like they were going to fall off!) But I made it to the finish.
My friend Megan had come out to cheer me on and, along with my dad and kids, they were the best cheering squad ever. A glance at the timing clock showed that we had finished in 2 hours and 17 minutes. It wasn't until nearly a half hour later that we asked a friend to refresh the list of final times and asked her where we had placed in our age division. She said without pause "number 3?" which stopped us both in our tracks. "Are you serious?" Joe asked her. She showed him her phone with the official times. He threw up a victory punch and I shouted "we mugged!" and jumped into his arms. He picked me up off the ground and declared over my shoulder "best teammate EVER!" (side note: we beat out the 4th place team by less than a minute!)

We wrapped up, rounded up equipment, went home to shower and partied with the Kittelson crew like we usually do. But nothing compared to the glorious feeling of our accomplishment. All I kept thinking was "we seriously did that... we SERIOUSLY did that?!"

So while it may seem insignificant to a lot of people, and many don't take it as seriously as we do, you will never know the feeling of bonding, love, support, and accomplishment that overwhelms you when you take on this kind of challenge with someone you love unless you just do it.

We did it.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

His First 5k

(despite the "Finish" sign above, this was our "before" pic, 
we were much more worn out and sweaty in the "after" one)

Not too long ago my boy expressed an interest in taking up running. He's never been into team sports and we've agreed not to push him. Team sports aren't for everyone. So in an effort to get him into some type of sport and keep him active we've started running. Back in January we took the kids running at the middle school track and Brendan had a goal of running 3 miles. A distance he had never attempted before. So I kept a slow and steady pace with him, keeping him on track (reminding him he didn't need to talk because it wastes energy) and motivating him with every step. I taught him the "in through the nose, out through the mouth" breathing technique that my dad taught me when he got an ache in his side. It was around about that same time that he informed me of the internal motivation he uses to push past his desire to quit.

"Mommy, you know, whenever I feel like I can't keep going... I hear this cheering in my head that says 'you can do it, Brendan... you can make it... you're awesome!!'"

I smiled from ear to ear. "That's pretty amazing sweetheart. Not everyone can stay motivated like that. Keep listening to that cheering squad buddy." This boy... he's pretty special.

We practiced the 3-mile run a few more times and I decided we were ready to register for an official race. It was a small race, a fund raiser for a local middle school, just 41 racers total, perfect for his racing debut. I used my watch to keep a steady pace and I ran just a few steps ahead of him to keep him on track and motivated. When we reached the last half mile and he looked a little worn and weary I shouted back to him "you can do it buddy! are you listening to your cheering squad?!" and slightly out of breath he answered "I am! I can do it!" Then I chanted with our footsteps "you. can. do. it. you. can. do. it" until we sprinted to the finish.

The evidence of his exertion and giving it everything he had was glowing in his rosy red cheeks. We high-fived and hugged and I told him how amazing he was. I'm so proud.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mother's Day Tea

She came home last week with a note about a Mother's Day tea party at her school. She said "if you can't go, Mommy, my teacher said someone else can come... I can bring any special lady, a grandma, an aunt, a friend... but it can't be a daddy." I imagined my sweet girl asking her teacher "can Daddy's come instead?" It's obvious she's a daddy's girl and her relationship with Joe is so different from her relationship with me. Nine times out of ten she'd choose him over me and that's just life. So I tried to pretend that I didn't hear the slightest bit of disappointment in her voice and the implication that I was second best. What I realized at that moment was that we needed this, my girl and I, we needed this bonding mother/daughter time. Sadly, I had done a very unfortunate mommy thing. I had double booked myself and needed a solution. The date on the tea party flyer matched up with the date of Brendan's class field trip to the high school "Seussical the Musical" performance that I had already volunteered for. I couldn't leave his teacher without a chaperone but I knew this event with my daughter would leave a much more lasting impression. So I talked Joe into rearranging his schedule in order to take my place on the field trip (after all, he couldn't take my place at the Mother's Day tea party.) Then I told her with excitement "I'll be there sweetheart, I wouldn't miss it for the world."

I dressed to impress. I wanted to look my best for her. I did my hair, I put on makeup. I even wore jewelry and pretty shoes! She took immediate notice of every one of my efforts and hugged me tightly with pride. She presented me with homemade gifts as we drank tea and ate cookies. It was sweet and it was special and I couldn't have imagined passing that up. It was all she could talk about for the rest of the day. And while I had initially felt slightly disappointed that I'd have to skip Brendan's field trip, it all disappeared when I realized how much this meant to my girl.

Friday, May 8, 2015

To The Rescue

I've come to realize that social media is an incredible way to ask for help/support. I had to get over my imagined judgement from "friends" as I didn't want to sound tasteless or desperate. Asking for help in general is a difficult thing to do. But when you run out of resources, I finally accepted that there should be no harm in asking. The thing is, when people can hide behind the mask of their own Facebook profiles (no judgement here, this is just reality), then when someone responds it's likely they genuinely want to help. Why respond just to be nice, right? If you don't want to help, you don't respond at all. I get it. So as the time has drawn nearer for the Pole Pedal Paddle relay race and the debut of our tandem team, we realized we desperately needed to practice paddling tandem-style. I posted my status, asking straight forwardly, if there was anyone willing to meet us down at the river to watch the 3 kids while we paddled a quick lap. It shouldn't have surprised me that the one who responded was none other than our beloved and much missed babysitter, Tammy who since resigned from that position when she gave birth to twin boys last October. She replied to my desperate plea with "Today? I can, if I can bring the twins haha. I can wear one and push the other and Violet in my double. The big kids can entertain them all hahaha" And the best part was that I knew she was serious. So she met us at the river, she took on 5 kids like a pro while we paddled our hearts out and I praise her and will forever love her for it. Tammy, you rock (and we miss you like crazy around here...) 

Thursday, April 30, 2015


Brendan was so proud of himself for teaching his baby sister to count. One of the benefits of having older siblings. They'll have her reading by the time she's 3...

Monday, April 27, 2015

Twelve to Eighteen Months

I'm not sure how much longer she'll actually pose for these pictures. I'll take them as long as I can get them...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

18 months

Happy half birthday to my sweet baby girl. This time goes so quickly. I wish it would stop. She's developing from baby to toddler and shedding those baby-isms as she goes. She no longer wants most of her food cut into small pieces and sometimes only eats it if she's given a fork to do so. She's getting better at mastering the spoon-to-mouth concept and gets quite mad if I try to help her. She loves all things dairy except for milk (she'll eat cottage cheese, all cheeses and yogurt.)

Her vocabulary now includes "bless you" when someone sneezes (or coughs, she can't discern the difference.) It's quite possibly one of the sweetest things you'll ever hear, second only to "I yuv you!" which nearly brought me to tears the first time because I had been working so hard to get her to say it. She's established a long list of new words that make it fun to communicate with her but we sometimes find it difficult to translate a word or two and she ends up repeating it until we think we've got it (bucket, blanket, Brendan and bacon all sound about the same...) She gives great hugs and kisses when we ask for them and when she reaches her arms up and says sweetly "hold you?" or "uppy?" I can't resist.

She's great at emptying things (cupboards, boxes of bandaids, boxes of q-tips, bags of chocolate chips) but not so great at putting them back. She knows when someone is sad or not feeling well and she's learned that giving love can sometimes help. She's a blessing, this girl. She fills our lives with joy.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Military Ball 2015

Last year we attended what was probably our second military ball since Joe was commissioned in the Army National Guard. The event is held annually but Joe's interest in the event was always something along the lines of "yes, we should probably go, but I really don't want to." And so we never did. Until the military ball came to us. Held at different venues around the state, 2014 was the year it came to Bend. It seemed rather strange not to go... so we went. And we had a great time. It wasn't the good times and dancing that the words "military ball" seem to conjure up. But it was a great chance for me to see the side of Joe's life that I rarely ever get to be involved in. So when the opportunity arose for us to attend this year's ball we obliged. It's a rare occasion that I get to see my handsome husband in his stunning dress uniform. And the higher ranked he gets (promoted to Major last year!) the more "mandatory" these events become. So we went, we drank, we chatted, we ate (and when Joe introduced me to the General as his smokin' hot wife I nearly choked on my drink as I shook the man's hand... lucky for me, he laughed, winked and said "you can call me Clinton.") But the most amazing part of this memorable night was watching the interaction between my husband and each person he came in contact with. It didn't matter the rank... the men he's in charge of, the ones he's been in charge of, the ones he works alongside, and the ones in charge of him... each of them spoke to him with such high regard. Some sang his praises, some congratulated him on his position, some spoke of his amazing potential to do great things. All smiled while saying those things. I spent most of the night beaming with pride. I get to call this man mine.

Rumor has it the ball will be back in Bend next year... I'll jump at the chance to go through all of that again...

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Portland Zoo

The kids had last Thursday and Friday off from school for parent-teacher conferences and, since we got conferences out of the way early this time around, I decided to take the kids to Portland to visit friends and take a trip to the zoo. One of the disadvantages to living in Central Oregon is that we have to drive over 3 hours to Portland for this type of excursion. But what better excuse to also visit good friends? We managed to beat the rain by heading to the zoo relatively early on Friday. The forecast for 65 degrees was slightly off, the clouds and breeze made it feel a bit cooler. Sack lunches of turkey sandwiches on Stephanie's homemade bread, eaten picnic style in a secluded "secret" indoor spot. The kids were grateful for the adventure and everyone had a great time.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter Beauties

Trying to get a photo of all three of my beautiful children on Easter in their beautiful Easter best was no easy feat. It started out with a little attitude from the tiniest one that looked a little something like this:

And so I settled for this: 

And I was shocked and pleasantly surprised when, after lunch and a nap for Violet, I finally got this: 

Monday, April 6, 2015

Easter Egg Hunt

Our annual Easter Egg hunt on Saturday was another success. Organized by my good friend, Tracey, on a yearly basis for the last 5 years. Our friends Conley and Stephanie and their 4 kids came into town on Thursday and were able to be our guests to the event this year. A fun yet frigid time was had by all as they bundled up and hunted for eggs in the 38 degree weather of sunny Bend, Oregon. Searching for eggs, learning about Jesus and the reason we celebrate, and sharing time with friends.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Shooting Time

Joe's younger brother, James and his girlfriend, Kolab drove out to Bend for the day on Sunday and after church, coffee and lunch we decided to treat them to some good old fashioned recreational shooting time. Equipped with a few handguns, a small borrowed rifle, a shotgun and plenty of ammunition we scouted out some wooded openings, set up some clay shots for targets and spent a good hour firing off plenty of rounds.

We then let them nap on our couches, giving in to the exhaustion from getting up early for the long drive, knowing they needed to be rested for the drive back. They treated us to dinner at Worthy Brewery all the while commenting on how much they truly liked Bend. The blue skies and beautiful sunset with the silhouette of the mountains in the background were quite apropos. We said our goodbyes, welcoming them back any time. What a great way to spend a sunny Sunday.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Brendan and the Falkner Boys

These boys, they grow up way too fast...

March 2015

August 2014

June 2012

July 2011

Before we know it they'll be in cap and gown, graduating from high school, then college... *sigh* 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

17 months

What I love most about her right now is her sweet tiny little voice. I wish I could record all the sweet things she says so that I'd always be able to hear them. Her vocabulary is extensive and my favorites at this time are "what's that?", "nigh night sissy!", "I hurt", "hold you?", "banana!!" (because she says it with all three syllables and with such conviction), "pretty", "copter" (each time we see or hear a helicopter overhead), "daddy" and of course "mommy" though she has much much more. We talk to her just like we do the other to children and we've come to realize she understands so much more than we ever imagined. When I respond to "what's that?" with "sweetie, that's garbage..." she turns right around, walks into the kitchen, opens the cupboard and throws it away. When we make the blanket statement "it's time to go, everyone get shoes on!" she's right there with the other two, searching for her shoes too. I love our conversations and some of them can go on forever. When we're alone in the van she'll randomly shout "mommy!" to which I respond "what, sweetheart?" which she takes as a cue to spout off a litany of baby talk that is mostly incomprehensible. But I love her desire to communicate with me so I always just answer with an enthusiastic "seriously?!" or "oh, ok!" And then the entire pattern repeats itself at least a good 5 or 6 times.

She still only says "no" to everything asked of her, even when she really means "yes." Her temper is developing strongly and her stubbornness is growing along with it. Her canine teeth are popping up to join the other 12 teeth she has, which means she feels comfortable eating tougher and more textured foods. But it still has no bearing on her choices. She can arch her back and throw a pretty good fit but when she lays her head on my shoulder and wraps her arms and legs around my body it's enough to make me forget.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cakes I'd Like My Husband To Make For Me

The long standing tradition we have of Joe making my birthday cake every year has lead me to create a special Pinterest board titled "Cakes I'd Like My Husband to Make For Me." I honestly sometimes peruse Pinterest with just this purpose in mind. It started with an angel food cake from a box when we were dating in college and has become so much more. It had to have been about 10 years ago when I challenged him to start making the cakes from scratch. And around the same time he challenged me to stop caring how many calories the cakes contained. Our options soared. Not that I don't still love a good angel food cake with strawberries and whipped cream now and then (try an angel food cake from scratch... you'll never make a boxed one again!) But if my birthday is going to be about me and I want to enjoy some cake guilt-free then I get to choose a recipe regardless of its bad-for-me ingredients. I like this theory.

Since we're frequently trying to pawn off the remains of these cakes year after year (it's not that they're not amazing, it's that a family of 5 can only eat so much) he decided to put off the cake making until the weekend following my birthday since our good friends the Falkners would be coming to visit for a few days. What better way to enjoy my birthday cake than to share it in the company of good friends.

So this year he presented a Chocolate Kahlua Cake with Tiramisu Frosting. Every bit as rich and delicious as it sounds. I finished my piece and started in on the remains of Aubrey's as I heard Joe say "wow, it's good but you can really only handle one piece..."

Hey, it's my birthday, I can do what I want.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ski Lesson 5

Lesson #5 (GRADUATION!!):
Instructor: Darius (the Devil)
The three of us show up for our 5th and final lesson encouraging each other that we've finally made it to the end. We are the only three there for our graduation lesson and thus we've managed to create semi-private lessons out of all 5 of them. Darius is given the assignment of getting us through this final hurdle and the words he isn't saying are written all over his face. He either hates his job today and doesn't want to be there or he thinks we should be much more skilled at this level than we really are. He tells us his nickname is "The Devil" and the three of us contemplate turning around and going home. So maybe we won't be graduating with confidence and smiles today.

We plunge right into the comfort of Marshmallow run stopping every few turns so Darius can critique everything I'm doing wrong. I start to feel like I'm being picked on. Rachel feels like she's being left behind. Darius is a talker and wants to discuss and dissect every skill we've already learned up until now. The three of us wonder how much actual skiing we'll be doing today. We kick ourselves for wondering when he forces us outside our comfort zone and takes us down Carnival run to end the lesson. We all hate him for not mentioning that narrow catwalk at the top but I know at least one of us would have refused to go had he discussed this terrain beforehand. We made it down a new and terrifying run and Darius reluctantly signed off on our graduating terms. We were officially skiers and we were now on our own.

Rachel wanted to get out of her boots right away but John and I took our maiden voyage down Marshmallow as graduates. The one we had agreed to in lesson 2 when we never knew how far we would come. It felt great. It felt freeing. I knew I still had some learning to do but I was making it down the mountain... by myself! I was proud of what I'd accomplished and the complete 180 I'd done from the first lesson. I forced myself outside of my comfort zone and it paid off. I was having fun.

I called Joe when I got home and relayed my disbelief at my enjoyment. He was proud and it showed. His encouragement (and my brother's... I texted him after every lesson to update him on my progress) through the whole process was everything I needed to keep me going. I can't imagine having done it without Rachel even though I don't doubt she was hating me at least once a lesson for dragging her along. But we both overcame something we never had any desire to do before and we did it together.

And now... I'm a skier.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Ski Lesson 4

Lesson #4 (2-12-15):
Instructor: Katrine, endearing, some type of European accent, 40-something Katrine
John and I are feeling more confident. Rachel is still shaken up from lesson #3. Katrine does a quick assessment of our level 4 skills and, though she's polite, I feel as if she may be wondering how the three of us will ever actually graduate from this program. We venture out to the lift and spend the duration of our lesson with Katrine fine-tuning our skills. We joke and giggle like school-aged kids as Katrine teaches us how to "embrace" our turns (OK, John and I joked... I don't think Rachel was up for joking.) I did a few of what Rachel referred to as my "hamstring stretches" wherein I ended up turning too far, facing up hill, wedging my skis and bending forward to keep from going downhill backwards. But I always recovered and never actually fell. I was finally enjoying myself and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Katrine was sweet and funny and pushed us but not too far (though maybe that's what we needed at that point.) We had yet to do anything beyond our now comfortable green Marshmallow run but fear was holding us back. I was amazed at Rachel's ability to pull herself through it and she once again stayed upright for the entire 2-hour lesson. I was no longer watching the time, wondering when the torture would end. Graduation was approaching, I'd finally be able to call myself a skier.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ski Lesson 3

Lesson #3 (1-28-15):
Instructor: Stewart, easy going 40-something Stewart
The group of students is slightly bigger this time and the instructors attempt to put us in groups according to confidence and growing skill level. John, Rachel, and I attempt to hold back to no avail.

"Everyone who's ridden the lift and gone down 'Marshmallow', let's go!"

The three of us look dumbfounded at each other. Do we tell them we've only been once? And that it took us half of our lesson?? Everyone else looks so confident. We're not ready for this! And off we go...

I end up on a chair with instructor Stewart and a couple who are also on their 3rd lesson. I was separated from my buddies and hope we reconnect at the top. I ask the pair next to me how they're enjoying their lessons and their reply goes a little something like this:

"Oh we're loving it! We spent all day on the slopes yesterday. We got a good few runs in and even tackled Rooster Tail, it was great!" My face remained calm and my brain went into panic mode thinking "Holy crap, I can't be put in the same group as them! Someone get me out of here pronto! I am seriously going to face death today! I've been down this green run... once." And as we all departed the chair and met the large group at the top I was relieved to learn that Stewart had made a similar assessment. Rachel, who stood aside with John politely said to him "Umm, I don't think we're at the same level as the rest of the others... we've been down this run only once..." So Stewart waved the rest of the group on to join the other instructor and took on the task of pulling us over our personal hurdles.

Rachel fell for the first time and it shook her confidence for the rest of the lesson. John and I continued to tumble here and there at random times but not as regularly as the week before. And I was finding it easier to get back up! We made it down our "easy" run three times. I was beginning to see how skiing might be considered fun and why people actually enjoy doing it. I call this my "breakthrough" lesson. My thoughts were less "this is stupid, I'm never doing this again after I'm done" and more "I think I'm starting to get the hang of this, I could really have a good time with it!"

I wanted to hug Stewart when we were done. His patience, encouragement and teaching were fantastic. He pushed us, but not too hard. It was exactly the boost of self esteem I needed to get me through the final 2 lessons. It was Rachel's turn to cry, as the blow to her confidence came at an inopportune time when her proverbial plate was already full (maybe she was hormonal this time...) So when she broke down in the van on the ride home I knew enough not to placate her with "it's OK"s and just listened as a friend instead.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ski Lesson 2

Lesson #2 (1-21-15):
Instructor: 20-something-year-old Eamon, sweet Eamon who usually teaches children... perfect for round 2 of the idiots on skis (I am really only speaking for myself... John and Rachel were doing great at this point.)

I head into lesson 2 with this doozy from lesson 1:
It's a wonder I've returned. 

The three of us are teamed up with Eamon as our instructor. He does a quick assessment of our skill level and no doubt wonders how we advanced from lesson 1. I want to tell him that if it were possible to be held back, Bob surely would have given us that punishment. Eamon seems intent on getting us over our fears and after an hour of "practice" in the learning pen we venture out to our first chairlift ride. I have only once in my life ridden a chairlift before this and remember nothing about it. I am intensely afraid of heights and after successfully getting ONTO the chair I comprehend nothing Eamon is saying as I try to steady my heartbeat and focus on not eating it upon my exit. The four of us disembark without a hitch and turn onto what looks like a beginning skier's version of hell. "No..." I mumble to Rachel. "Oh my word... NO!" 

Eamon takes a gentle approach and patiently guides us down the "steep" hill (we're talking an easy green run here folks... but it looked like a double black diamond to a beginner!) We follow him reluctantly with every slow turn. I fall several times (think: turn, turn, fall, get up, turn, fall, get up, repeat) but Eamon calmly helps me up and carries on with encouragement. I secretly take pleasure in the fact that John finally falls too and I feel we've made a necessary connection. We are comrades in this stupid adventure now! I am still resenting Rachel and jealous of her ability to stay upright. It takes the remainder of the lesson to make it back down the hill. 

Eamon showers us with nothing but encouragement and I'm feeling slightly better about where this might lead. No tears are shed on the ride home but I still tell Rachel I hate her for not falling. I don't really hate her and she knows that. It's what I love about her. Neither one of us wants to come back for lesson 3 but we do it anyway...

Monday, March 2, 2015

Ski Lesson 1

Lesson #1 (1-15-15):
Instructor: 102-year-old "Bob"
We arrive with plenty of time to psyche ourselves out and convince ourselves (after the pep talk in the van on the way) that we were crazy to do this and we would most certainly die. Rachel gets her rental equipment, we put our ski boots on and experience the "death grip" on our feet and calves that we are told ensures a good fit. We meet John who also happens to be there for his first SORI5 lesson (Ski Or Ride In 5 for those who don't know the lingo.) We are thrilled that he looks as terrified as we do (misery loves company) and we mingle out to the lesson area together.

Bob looks delighted to be teaching the first timers today. He seems to have a hearing problem and proceeds to rename us "Andy" and "Raquel." John gets a kick out of this. We roll with it and we embark on a lesson that would eventually lead me to tears. Bob decides halfway through the lesson that we are not, in fact, ready to take on the chairlift today and we all agree with a sigh of relief and remain in the learning pen practically bowling for children for the rest of the class (how does anyone think it's a good idea to send a newbie down a gentle slope and expect them to dodge the group of inexperienced children on skis at the bottom?!)

 I am the only one of the three of us who falls repeatedly on my @$* and every time Bob yells at me "smile" and responds to my fake smile with "like you mean it!" I want to impale him with my ski pole. We exchange numbers with John and agree to continue lessons as an exclusive group because proclaiming "nailed it!" (even when we don't) makes us laugh and he doesn't judge our lack of skills. I think we could be friends.

When Raquel tries to console me with her genuine "it's ok..." in the van on the way home, I break down in sobbing tears. I was not meant for this. I am a failure. If I hadn't already paid for the lessons I'd quit. I suck at this. I HATE SKIING! (I may have been hormonal.) I call Joe when I get home and cry that "I was the ONLY one who fell! I'm never going to get it! What's wrong with me? Why did I think I could learn to ski at my age?!" He listens with the sympathy he employs at the times I need it the most. He encourages me, lifts me up, and boosts me into lesson 2.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

I learned to ski

So I learned how to ski this year. I took the plunge, paid for lessons, and forced myself to jump outside of my comfort zone. I won't pretend that this was a spontaneous personal choice. Had it not been for the fact that Joe and I decided to attempt a tandem (duo) Pole Pedal Paddle team I would not have completed this treacherous journey. But see, neither of us knew how to downhill ski, an important piece of this amazing race. And so it was, that we laid out the plan for which legs we each needed to do in order to achieve the best race time... and I was pegged for the downhill ski.

Fortunately for me, we live in one of the best skiing regions around. Mt. Bachelor offers some amazing deals on lessons for beginners (non-skiers) and I realized I was crazy not to have taken advantage of them until now! For $199 I would get 5 two-hour lessons that would include rentals (which I didn't need because my craigslist-crazy husband found me a screaming deal on some used equipment) and, upon completion of the 5th lesson, a 12-day pass to use for the rest of the season. I was nervous beyond belief and sure that my life would most certainly flash before my eyes. I couldn't guarantee that I wasn't going to be badly harmed. Yet I did it anyway...

Though what better way to tackle a gigantic fear than to do it with a buddy, right? So I enlisted (pushed, coerced, bullied, intimidated... forced really) my good friend and neighbor, Rachel to do the lessons with me. Her husband and children ski for heaven's sake. She was a perfect candidate! If I was going to make a fool of myself I wanted to do it with someone who would eventually let me live it down.

After she finally surrendered and paid for her lessons too, we agreed to take all 5 lessons together with an ambitious plan of one lesson per week in order to get through them with time left to use the 12 day pass. We had no idea that we were headed into one of the worst snow seasons on record and that we'd be learning to ski in sub-par conditions. But so it goes. Mother nature is unpredictable. We survived. Read on for a recap of my skiing misadventures.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

My 3 Blessings

It's such an incredible effort to try to get a photo of the three of them at once. It's not that they don't love being together. It's that, when they are, they're not sitting still. So to get a shot of all three I have to deliberately stage them together and hope for the best. Which is exactly what I get sometimes. I actually changed the screen saver on my phone to this photo because I can't help smiling every time I look at it. They are all so beautiful and fill a special place in my heart. I love them all to the moon and back... at least a few thousand times.

Monday, February 23, 2015

16 months

Molars! My baby girl is getting molars.  It's these seemingly insignificant things that become so truly significant in the eyes of a mother. I had no idea she was hitting this milestone until I held her in my arms, blowing raspberries on her soft tummy and as she tossed her head back giggling, the four corners of her mouth caught my eye... MOLARS!

She's 16 months old and, though there were photos where she actually looked at the camera, this one was a favorite because it personifies her. She cherishes her teddy, sleeps with her arm wrapped around him at night and the girl is forever content with a book in her hand. I breed readers... what can I say? In all honesty, if a love of books is one of the biggest things I pass on to my children, then I've given them one of the greatest gifts in life. So I'll take it.

She's sweet and loving, gives hugs and blows kisses. Her answer to every question is "no" which leaves us all frequently countering with "I think you mean yes..." She has a temper and can be awfully dramatic but nothing more than I think is normal for a child of her age.

I live in awe of her on a daily basis, this sweet tiny human that came out of me. I am amazed at how much love I am filled with for her. My life is richly blessed.

Friday, February 20, 2015

It's Only a Carrot!!

Remember how I said I can count the number of vegetables she'll willingly eat on one hand?

Carrots are not one of them. She also refuses zucchini, cauliflower, peas and cucumbers. Broccoli, and corn are hit and miss (you ate steamed broccoli three days ago... why on earth are you looking at me like it's poisonous tonight?!?!) While sweet potatoes, green beans and avocados are her favorites though labeling them "favorites" is a stretch since she mostly acts like she's doing me a huge favor by ingesting them. But it doesn't mean I don't stop trying. I hold out hope that maybe one day she'll diversify her choices and so I keep offering them to her. And then I find myself wondering why I torture myself as this photo depicts what is often the result of my efforts.

It's a difficult thing for me to let go of. I didn't intend to raise a milk fearing, vegetable hating, meat loathing child. And while I know that toddlers go through so many food "phases" and she'll likely change her habits with age, these trials are so often trying... I yelled at her one day as she sat whining "EAT?!?!" and crying with no reason, as I had placed several food choices in front of her. Yes, I actually yelled at her, my small child, as if she had any control over the way she was acting or any understanding as to why I was upset. So, because of my shame and guilt, it is with calculated patience that I try my best to just let it go. Because after all, it's only a carrot...

Tuesday, February 10, 2015



It sucks. It takes every ounce of liveliness and happiness out of your child and puts you on anxiety-filled high alert. Respiratory Syncytial Virus is a highly contagious disease that presents itself as a common cold in the majority of children infected. But in a number of infants who become infected with RSV, it becomes something much worse. I can only thank God that, unlike every other baby we know who has been infected, our sweet child never had to be hospitalized. Though this was only a tiny consolation in the nightmare that was our experience.

Poor Violet came down with a fever on our way home from Portland Saturday evening and we figured she was just coming down with a bug that would be out of her system within the next day or two. But we figured wrong. She spent Sunday in a feverish fog, refusing to eat or drink much of anything and wanting only to spend time in mommy's arms. I decided to forgo the invitation to our neighbors' for BBQ ribs and the Superbowl and let Joe and the kids go without me. My baby needed me. I was sure she'd be feeling fine by Monday.

Though I was sadly mistaken... again. In fact she seemed to be getting worse as she developed a cough and woke up with mucous cemented to her face that drained all night from her nose. Her fever was responding only slightly to tylenol and ibuprofen and would fluctuate between 100.5 and 104 at all times. By Tuesday (day 3) things were looking pretty grim and my nursing skills set in as I watched her every breath and became concerned that she just didn't "sound" right.

I sent a video to my best friend who became immediately worried that she was showing signs of RSV (which she dealt with 8 years prior, having an infant son who was hospitalized for it) and convinced me to at least put a call in to the pediatric advise nurse. So at 12:15 p.m. I received a call-back from the advice nurse and began listing Violet's symptoms. She didn't even let me finish, I was in the middle of doing an impression of my poor baby's breathing pattern when she interrupted me and said "so... we need to get her in to be seen right away... how soon can you be here?"

I dropped everything and tried not to panic as I packed up the girls and headed to the pediatrician's office. I held my lethargic, feverish, grunting baby in my arms and prayed for the best. As a nurse, I knew she wasn't showing signs of low oxygenation (blue lips, pale/blue coloring) but it didn't mean she wasn't infected and I was scared. The doctor did a thorough examination and in the process asked if she had had any ear infections in the past. To which I answered "no, none of my children ever have..." And seeing as how Violet had shown no signs or symptoms of one in the case of this current illness (had she just been too lethargic to care??) I wouldn't have assumed one now. So it came as a surprise when the doctor said "well she has a mild one in her right ear so we'll need to treat that as well." She went on to listen to her lungs and became concerned that a pneumonia was possibly developing (apparently a common consequence of RSV.) Though her oxygen levels were within normal limits it was apparent that something was attacking my poor child and the doctor's concern was comforting. She told me briefly her concerns that Violet was infected with RSV and asked for permission to administer the test to verify. I held my sick baby as she screamed in horror and discomfort when the swab was pushed to the back of her throat for 10 seconds (the longest 10 seconds ever when you're restraining your child's arms and watching her scream.) Then it didn't take long for the doctor to return with the result I hadn't wanted to hear.

"She tested positive for RSV."

Then she followed it up with "but since her oxygen levels are good at this time, there really isn't any further treatment other than antibiotics for the ear infection and keeping a close eye on her at home. If she turns a corner even in the slightest we need her back in here right away." I could tell that there was a part of this doctor that wanted a reason to keep my sick baby under observation. She was concerned and I was glad for that. But I knew what to look for and I promised to keep a watchful eye (and keep her away from any other small infants as she was now a confirmed human incubator for a very contagious disease.)

The next days went by on high alert and she seemed to stay steady with no decline or improvement. By Thursday we had gone 5 days without a single minute of normal body temperature. I was still concerned. I was told to give it one more day (by the advice nurse who consulted her physician) which seemed to be the magic number. She woke up Friday with a temp of 99.5 and I wanted to cautiously rejoice. I knew she would take some time to fully recover but I felt like she was finally on her way. And she wanted nothing more than to feel like herself again. Every time she thought she felt good enough to get down and finally play, I'd find her minutes later curled and cuddled up on the floor. By Saturday her energy level was increasing and her appetite was beginning to return and by Sunday she nearly seemed to be herself. I was beginning to see that we were on our way to looking back on it as one of the worst weeks of her life.

And though no good could come from being sick and infected with such a serious virus, I cherished and enjoyed every single moment I held her in my arms. My heart ached for her and I felt her pain, but a small part of me was loving how much she needed to be held and snuggled. But it doesn't mean I didn't revel in the return of this sweet smiling face...

Be gone with you RSV, we hope never to see your ugliness in our home again... 

Friday, January 23, 2015

15 months

Time is flying and things are changing. She's finally walking and it happened so fast. It seemed like one day we were watching her take those first tentative steps and within a week she was confident and ready to roam. She loves her new independence but I wish she would just slow down. She's got 8 teeth to count and more on the way. Though this seems to have no bearing on her picky palate. She refuses to drink more than a few sips of milk, drinks a total of sometimes only 8 ounces of anything in a day and I can count the number of vegetables she'll willingly eat on one hand. It is admittedly difficult to just let it all go. We still often endure the "witching hour" in the evening that involves whining, tears, tantrums and pulling at my leg while I attempt to make dinner. The door to our pantry doesn't latch completely which has also lead to her belief that this makes it a free-for-all play room for her. I've picked up spilled bags of beans, rice, chocolate chips, several spice jars and packets. So my evening life becomes slightly chaotic but I remind myself how quickly time passes and how I'll want these moments back. Most of them anyway... right??

Monday, January 19, 2015

We've Got a Walker!

You know how you long for those major milestones yet you dread them at the same time? Each time I tired from carrying her somewhere, or watched as she became a human broom, picking up every ounce of dirt as she crawled her way through the world I would plead silently "when will you just learn to walk?!" Yet as she neared this turning point my excitement waned as I longed to hold onto her "babyness" for just a little longer.  But it's inevitable, every child learns to walk.  And her time has come.  Just days before turning 15 months old, this girl took her very first steps...

Weaning Woes

We gave up the bottle. We called it quits.  Got her up Saturday morning  and nearly cried as she looked at me sweetly and asked in her tiny voice "bottle?" looking around my shoulder, certain that I hadn't forgotten such an important part of our daily routine.

"No bottle" I told her gently, laying her down to change her diaper.

A look of confusion... "bottle?" she tried again, twisting on the changing table, looking to the rocking chair where, just the day before, I had sat and cuddled her while giving in to her morning milk demands. Holding her in my arms, letting her adjust to the morning light. Rocking slowly. Our quiet time together.  After she weaned herself from nursing at nearly 12 months, which I had anticipated after a long journey for both of us, I welcomed her love of drinking milk from the bottle as it continued our bonding and we enjoyed our snuggle time routine.

"Milk?" I asked her, changing her diaper and getting her dressed, "Let's go get you some milk."

I tried to be cheerful and optimistic.  Telling myself that the longer I waited to take this next step, the harder it might be.  Knowing 15 months is old enough to be drinking from a cup but wanting nothing more than to hold on to her "babyness" forever.  I was torn inside.

I carried her downstairs and filled her big girl cup with milk. She looked at me with disbelief and softly whined.  She took a tentative sip.  She whined some more and pushed it away.

This might be a long journey... and it's surely going to break my heart.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Third Child Syndrome

I honestly think that sometimes her brother and sister forget that she's an actual human being.  As much as we remind them (on a daily basis), it doesn't stop them from treating her like a living doll. So it becomes commonplace for us to find her like this from time to time...

Friday, January 2, 2015


When Brendan was 18 months old, in 2007, we purchased this sweet bouncy horse for him for Christmas. Brendan was reluctant at first but grew to love Chester and bounce on him with enthusiasm more than we ever could have imagined.  He got passed down to Aubrey who loved him with just as much intensity as her brother had.  He got lots of use... lots of love.  I remember distinctly when Aubrey would just wrap her arms around his neck as if he were a creature capable of really feeling her fondness.  We knew he had been one of our best kid purchases ever.  But after Aubrey grew out of using him we needed the play space and retired him to storage in the garage.  We couldn't quite fathom letting him go for good.  And I'm so incredibly glad we didn't.  Though someday he will eventually leave this family, for now I believe this girl may have found her new best friend...