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...)