Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The Great American Summer Road Trip

Dear Mom,
We made it.

11 days. Oregon to Idaho to Utah to Wyoming to Colorado to Montana to Idaho to Washington to Oregon. Over 3000 miles.

Our first two days were just driving, hours and hours of driving. There wasn't a lot of "amazing" sights to see but the different terrain was interesting. The endless miles of road construction were not a lot of fun, but being able to drive 70 mph, or 80 in some places, made up for that.

We pulled into outskirts of Denver late Friday. The Boy had taken a flight there and arrived a couple of hours earlier. So he and the uncle, aunt and cousins went to dinner. They were nice enough to bring back some ice cream to the hotel for all of us. I was so wiped out from 2 days of travel that I just stayed in watching "Fixer Upper with Little K," while the others went swimming.

On Saturday the 'fun' times began. We went up to Red Rocks Amphitheater and took in some touristy action. The theater was pretty incredible. The rocks - even more so!

The wedding was that evening. We were a little leary when it began to thunder and rain as we drove to the venue. But within a half hour the sun was out and we were watching the bride walk down the aisle with her dad. The first niece on the Mr's side to get married ... it was slightly surreal. This was the first time in 13 years that the Mr and his two brothers were all together, with all of their children and wives. What a party!

On Sunday we continued the party - minus the bride and groom - at the Brothers house in Fort Collins. It was so hot, "but a dry heat" that the water balloons appeared, and the kids enjoyed a new game "Duck, Duck, Sploosh" - a great way to beat the heat!

We got to see some more gorgeous Colorado scenery on Monday when we went to the river with the little ones for a picnic. The older cousins, now minus The Boy who had to fly home, went elsewhere for some rock climbing.

It was finally time to say goodbye to that 1/3 of the family and head on north. We stopped at a gorgeous place for lunch - Ayers Natural Arch Park. So beautiful!

And then we were in Montana with the other 1/3 of the family. It was just an overnight stay before we moved on to further parts of Montana. There are so many beautiful spots in that state. Some with wide open dry brown land, and others showcasing the brilliant trees, rocks and mountains of God's creation.
Eastern  Montana may not be a green area, but it was our destination for part of the day. We visited some more family members up there, ones we hadn't seen since The Boy was a baby, and some we met for the first time. Let me say, Montana farming is nothing like farming in western Oregon! I think it's much harder. The girls sure enjoyed meeting some of their Montana farm cousins.

From there we headed over to Livingston where The Mr's mom grew up. The Mr got to relive some childhood memories as we drove around the town looking at memorable spots. From there we headed to the KOA campsite, which was amazing! Our cabin was right on the Yellowstone River!

Thursday was our day to tour Yellowstone National Park. I think by the end of the day the girls had had enough of geysers and steaming rocks and water and bubbling mud, but The Mr and I enjoyed all of the scenery. The wildlife was a little scarce - but we finally got some excitement on our way out of the park. A bear just yards from our vehicle:

Another day of driving after that to get to our next adventure destination - Silverwood Amusement/Theme Park. Little K had her first roller coaster ride ever and loved it. She wasn't quite as fond of the water rides as the others were, so she and I spent most of the afternoon in the wave pool and lazy river, while The Mr and the other girls rode the water slides.

What a trip. We packed a lot into those 11 days; we made some great memories; and yet, we were glad to be home at the end.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Summer Adventures

Halfway through summer!
Here are some of the adventures we've had so far
McDowell Creek hike with the whole crew:

 And a sweet treat at the end of the trail -

Silver Creek Falls - The Boy has to work now, so he doesn't always get to go with us:

And no summer is complete without swim lessons:

We also had a mini-golf day, but the competition was fierce so we didn't get any photos. We've got loads more planned for the second half of the summer, but I'm afraid we might run out of time before we get it all done. Which means, we'll just have to extend our summer into September .. at least those of us at home can!

Family Life

Dear Family,

By now you've heard the news about our cousin's death.
Monday morning when the news reached me I felt like I was punched in the gut. It lasted all day. Even when I went for a run, trying to grip reality in my mind, my stomach clenched and tears rolled. I kept going, just hoping no one going by would notice.
(On a plus note it's the furthest I've run in a long time.)

This cousin was my best buddy when we grew up. We are both the youngest of ten, girls with older brothers (and sisters) who annoyed us and yet also spoiled us. We were pen pals in different states. We were Bert and Ernie. We spent weeks together in the summer, and camping together holds some of my favorite memories. In high school we started going our separate ways. Our choices in college and beyond took us in opposite directions, but we still managed to talk occasionally. Then she ended up living just 15 miles away from me in our adult years. And yet I still feel like I didn't do enough, didn't visit enough, didn't talk enough. Now it's too late.

So brothers who don't talk to each other, please get in touch with those people who made your childhood memories, who played a part in making you who you are today. Phone, text, email, write a letter to your siblings whom you haven't talked to in years. It's worth it. Because when the time comes for them to go to heaven, you might not have the chance ... and that's not something you want to live with for the rest of your life.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Running On

Dear Brother,

I'm running again! I was off for over a month. At one point I even told my husband that i thought I didn't want to run anymore, ever. It was that bad. What changed my mind?
Well, 1st off, the weather. We had a lot of rain, and it was very easy to not want to run in the cold downpours. Now with the sun, or even the gray but warm days, I feel like getting outside and moving.
2. My schedule. Now that school is out I actually have time to run.
3. My energy. I started taking a multi-vitamin along with my iron supplements and it has made a huge difference in my energy.
4. Accountability. My daughter wants to run a triathlon, so I'm trying to get her started with running, working her into the Couch to 5K kind of program. Also, my aunt mentioned doing something, so having the two of them motivates me.
5. And one more thing .. I want to lose some weight, at least 5 pounds. When the pants start to feel too tight, it's time to get back on the road!
So now I have grand dreams - a 5K this summer, a 10K later maybe in the Fall or winter, then a half marathon in April. And then, maybe just maybe a full one next year.
 It feels great. And my shoes are happy again.

Higher Education

Dear Brother,

Well this week it happened. My oldest child graduated from high school, my middle child graduated from middle school, and we added a couple of parties, and a funeral in the mix.
Our Boy has been gone most of the week attending senior parties, or just impromptu get-togethers with his friends, enjoying every last minute with his buddies that he can. On Thursday we had a little discussion as to what would be worn under the graduation robe .. a compromise was struck mainly because he has no good pants, and he took the tie off once he saw that none of his friends were wearing one. But at least he had a nice button up shirt on, and good jeans.
I didn't cry during graduation this time! It was definitely a celebratory evening. Our Boy was one of 6 valedictorians, so instead of having them all give a speech, 2 of them gave the speech, our boy opting out of that.

The Girl who Swims is starting the countdown for her graduation in two years...

The next evening we had the graduation of our 8th grader - on to high school! She thinks she is ready ... she has no idea what's in store for her!

So next school season we'll have 2 in high school, 2 at home school, and one in college. How do I deal with this changing of the seasons?!
I embrace life - I am trying to still live by my motto I picked up early this year, Live Life Abundantly. On Saturday we went to a memorial service for the kids' classmate. It was a celebration of a wonderful girl's life, and even though it was sad and difficult, at the same time, it was a great celebration of a girl who lived life fully, and who is now running with Jesus. During the service, someone sang the song "Come to Jesus", and I kept thinking they needed to add a verse for this girl - Run with Jesus. She liked to run, she liked to run with her friends, even though she wasn't a star athlete, she did it because she liked it. That is living life abundantly.
And one more photo to leave you with - we've got another one who likes to hang on the rim...

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Go For a Run

Dear Running Shoes,

You greet me each morning, staring up at me with your eyelets, silently begging to be taken for a run. And yet I pass you over for my sandals.
I know, I know, it's been a month since I took you out for a run. But hey, don't stick your tongue out at me - at least I've taken you for walks in the evenings. The days have been long, not only with the sun staying up until 9 pm, but with all the activity going on around here. I have a senior graduating from high school, and an 8th grader moving up, and two homeschoolers that still need to finish their books. It looks like we will be doing some math through the summer. I must say, not having summer basketball has been a nice break, although I do miss it. I miss the games, and the visiting with our sports 'family'. But I don't miss the time it took up. And I know there will be more in the future.
But, dear running shoes, you won't be stuck in my closet forever. I promise. The 11-year-old has mentioned a number of times now that she wants to do a triathlon. In order to do that, we need to get her running first. Which means she and I will be starting a 'Couch to 5k' training plan next week. So you see, all hope is not lost, soon you'll get to hug my sweaty feet again and support me in my quest for mileage.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Up and Down

Dear Family and Friends,

A BIG thank you to those of you who made it to our son's graduation party! It was so fun to see everyone, and yet, we feel like we missed out a bit because we couldn't get around to talk to everyone. The Boy has been incredibly blessed by all of you, not just with the cards you left for him, but for your input in his life. I know that someday he will look back and see just how you played a role in his growing.  Thank you.
To those of you who could not make it, I totally understand. I didn't make it to some friends' parties this weekend either. And so for you, I have pictures of what you missed:
Good friends,

Good food,

Good family,

I must say, having company over is quite an impetus to clean up the house and yard! It was sparkling on Sunday after days of 'spring cleaning'. The kids all pitched in to help ... ok, maybe it was more like mandatory volunteering, but we worked on it as a family, and then got to enjoy it as a family. 
Seeing the people from our church mingle with family members mingle with school friends mingle with neighbors was a little surreal, but yet really cool. The Boy has lived here basically his whole life, gone to the same church his whole life, and only attended one school besides homeschool. That makes for a lot of people he has known for a long time. And because The Boy is pretty outgoing, he also has a lot of people he knows for a short time. It's one of the things I admire about him - like his dad and uncle, he can talk to anybody easily. For some of us it takes a bit of effort. 
The party wound down and the seniors were making plans. But then some tragic news was communicated to us, and plans changed. 
A friend of our kids' - a student at their school, a running partner of my daughter - was killed in an accident yesterday. Every parent's nightmare became a reality for her parents. My heart is hurting for them, and for her friends, and even more so for the friend who was with her at the time. It's going to be a hard week for our school, balancing the pain and grief, and finding the balance with graduation celebrations at the end of the week. This school is small enough, that it is like extended family (- my siblings know what I'm talking about because of the high school we went to). Please pray the kids, the staff, teachers, and the family as we grieve this week. I have a feeling cross country season in the fall is going to be kind of difficult for our team.