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.