Thursday, July 28, 2011

Birthday tradition

So far, all birthday parties have been at our home.  Today marks the very first time we'll go out to celebrate with friends - and the first time we've had a party before the actual big day!  Since we didn't have time to plan in advance (because my husband is in the process of starting a new job and has had frequent appointments that the employer schedules 24-48 hrs in advance), we whipped together a plan two days ago.  We are going to Monkey Bizness to bounce and slide for two hours, then we'll come back here for pizza and cake.

And even though we couldn't do our normal big party planning, we did continue with our kids' very favorite birthday tradition.  Mom and Dad decorated for the party while the kids were sleeping.  It reminds me a lot of Christmas Eve!


Our creative kid wanted to rummage through left-over decorations to help him choose his theme.  He settled on sports, meets Cars, meets Batman, meets generic balloon hats! 

At this exact moment - five years ago - I started having contractions.  As the day progressed, so did my labor.  Twenty hours later, our boy arrived.

So...  While the party is the day before his actual birthday, big things were happening five years ago.  A favorite cherished memory for Mom.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Love and marriage

So...  My son is in love with me.  Marriage love.

After firm warnings to not get out of bed tonight, he wandered out after just a few minutes with tears streaming and the saddest little look on his face.  When I asked what was wrong, he said:

"I want you and Daddy to get divorced."

Surprised and perplexed, I asked why.

"So I can grow up and marry you."

I explained that divorce would mean that he would only get Daddy and me part time for the rest of his life, and that I will be his girl forever and ever.

Then Bryan arrived on the scene and... to turn that sad, sad frown upside down... Bryan offered to step aside when Luke's all grown-up so that he can marry me.

Luke's reply?  "Okay.  And you can live really close by and visit us all the time."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Gone swimmin'

We bought a family pass to the public pools when they went on sale for half off.

Cheap entertainment.

Lots of fun!


Luke learned to swim this summer.  No more swim vests!

They are both sliding maniacs.


They perfected their handstands.

And Mom and Dad sat down for the first time ever and just let the kids run...within reason, of course.


Sunrise bike dates

It's 7:47am and I've been awake for over two hours.

I'm not usually an early morning person.

I met my friend Mandy for an 8 mile bike ride at 6am.  Returned home at 7:15 and kissed Zach and Bryan as they headed out for Junior Golf.  I jumped rope for a few minutes (and learned that jumping rope is not just child's play!) and am now relaxing with a cup of coffee.  I'm thinking that jump rope, bike and run would be a fun training combo.

I only get up early like this to exercise.

The first time I made a 6am bike date, Bryan laughed out loud.  My friend Erin could hear him through the phone!  She laughed too.  And I then I ran three minutes late.  But I loved it so much that I've repeatedly made early morning bike dates with a few different girlfriends...and haven't been late since that first one!

Why have I not started my mornings like this before?

We watched the sun rise over the river today.  Simply gorgeous.

A good morning, indeed.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Growing up

These past several days have been really fun.  We went to St. Louis for a much needed get-away over the weekend...but the fun was so much more than just getting away from home.  Following the suggestions of many, many friends, we took our crew to City Museum.  I'd heard people talk about this place, and I'd seen pictures, but nothing prepared me for what this place is!  I'd expected to find things to climb up in, through and on.  I did not expect to find that the entire place is filled with trails, holes, bridges, tunnels, caves, buildings, and passageways - and everything connects.  Following our children into all of this fun was not always an option, as many of the spaces are too small for an adult.  Watching them from the outside was almost never an option indoors, as every re-bar tunnel ultimately led to a solid structure that we couldn't see into.  In no time, our children had disappeared - and they didn't pop out through the exits we'd expected!

Honestly, this place would have given us panic attacks had we even considered going prior to last weekend.

As we settled in and got a feel for the place, their staff and how closely they were paying attention to stray or crying children, we decided to give our boys a little room and responsibility.  I gave Zach my cell phone, showed him how to call Bryan's cell phone, gave the kids firm instructions for staying together, cooperating, never leaving a man behind, and checking in with Mom and Dad very often... and off our smiling children went.  They checked in with us every 5-10 minutes and were almost never heard bickering.  Eventually Bryan and I settled in and actually sat down.  It was amazing.  Our children are growing up.  They are becoming trustworthy and responsible.

I won't even go into bravery here - but let me tell you - they are BRAVE.  Climbing tunnels 6 1/2 stories high and exploring in the dark without parental supervision.  They are brave rock stars!


We took them to the pool tonight.  This pool is intended for the younger crowd - mostly preschool thru early elementary.  There's a play structure with a few medium sized slides, a 2' deep wave pool, a zero depth pool, one tall slide, and one little pool with a maximum depth of 4'.  There are lifeguards everywhere, and only one entrance and exit.  It's a pretty safe place to let the kids play...and by the end of the night, Bryan and I actually sat down poolside for the first time ever at a public pool.

The kids are growing up and we're beginning to let go.  I am so proud to see how easily Zach took leadership at City Museum.  He was so responsible with the phone - he had to call us a few times - and safely led sobbing Luke out when he bonked his head near the end of our visit.  Zach patiently went through "babyish" things for Luke's sake without complaining, and both boys' mantra became "Never leave a man behind."  I'm delighted that we're still hearing that even though we've been home for 36 hours!

In what seems like a blink of an eye, the kids have matured.  I am so proud of them.  It is a blast watching them grow up and take on more responsibilities.  I've always said that my goal is to raise competent young men and not over-sized babies.  Before long, I will be able to check "uses public restrooms without Mom's supervision" off the list. 

It may not seem like much, but giving Zach that responsibility - and watching him flourish in it - has been the highlight of my summer.  I am so proud of my guys.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fully alive

In about an hour, I will be getting a baseline mammogram.  I was thinking nothing of it, till I ran into a girlfriend yesterday who told me that she was diagnosed with a very aggressive breast cancer in early June.  She looks wonderful and feels great.  No pain, no discomfort, no concerns...just a routine mammogram that discovered her cancer.  She will miss her husband's 20 year high school reunion next month, as her double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery is two days prior.  And she was all smiles as she told me.

I love her zest for life.  She understands living life to the full!

As I showered this morning, I prayed for my sweet friend Marcy and her upcoming surgery, and my high school BFF Kobi who is currently undergoing radiation for Hodgkins Lymphoma.  I prayed also for my dear friend Adam, who lost his beloved Aimee to breast cancer in April 2010.  As I prayed for complete healing and a cancer-free outcome for Marcy and Kobi, I also prayed that all three of my friends would embrace new life lessons through their circumstances.

One lesson that I learned...through the unexpected news that my father had died of to embrace every single day.  Life is such a precious gift.  I uncovered the news of my father's passing while training for a 5K benefiting AIDS affected and infected orphans in South Africa.  Talk about timing...  Every run thereafter was flooded with gratitude that I could run.  My father spent his final weeks lying in a VA hospital bed, most certainly unable to run.  At some point, AIDS infected orphans in South Africa are also lying in beds.  In those weeks of training for the 5K, I ran for them.  I continue to run, bike and swim today for everyone who cannot...

I have always been a pretty adventurous gal.  I've been to Canada and Europe and I've cruised just about every Caribbean destination.  I socialize easily and am not afraid to try foreign languages or escargot.  However...  Until my 30's, I used adventure as a way to escape reality.  My life was pretty sad when I was wounded and far from God.  I am so happy - and so grateful - to have healed and learned enough that today's adventure is entirely about being fully plugged-in and engaged, rather than withdrawing and avoiding.

I pray for my friends, and for myself, that down days are days of rest and not days of waste.  I pray that we all continually seek lives that are fully alive.  Loving and serving.  Worshiping.  Learning and teaching.  Exploring.  Sharing.  Connecting.  Trusting. 

My friend Aimee led the most exemplary fully alive life I've ever seen.  I am beyond blessed to have known her.

"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."  John 10:10

Monday, July 18, 2011

Reading for pleasure

In April, I was fantasizing about reading for pleasure this summer.  After spending all school year studying, I planned to enjoy myself over the break.  I had no idea that reading for pleasure would mean reading triathlon books, online articles, and product reviews!

While it's received absolutely no reviews on, my favorite book is Sam Murphy's Traithlon: Start to Finish.  She has great insight and advice and the book is an amazingly easy read!  It's perfect for me. has a lot of articles that I've read too.

I keep reading that much of triathlon is mental.  I've known for a long time that my endurance is entirely mental, and I have never had an inner competitor who pushed through pain or discomfort.  If I want to walk, I walk.  However, walking my bike sounds really embarrassing, so I've started to grow a little endurance and determination.  What I've lacked in determination all these years, I've made up for in spunk and ambition.  I finish everything I start, but I don't necessarily finish with gusto (but I am always smiling). 

Somewhere I read one triathlete say that she talks to her legs when they want to give out.  She's rather insulting, so I've had to tailor this approach.  I've started saying (to my legs - sometimes out loud), "C'mon, girls, you can do this!!!  Don't give up!" works!  I'm taking hills faster, never stopping, and figuring out how to shift efficiently. 

And...  As I've learned to stick it out on the bike, I've found that I have more endurance and determination while running too.  Truth be told, running is my greatest weakness.  But I had the best run ever yesterday - 3 miles in 33 minutes.  Maybe I should be embarrassed by that, but this later 30's, mother-of-two, renowned run/walker is so very proud.

To my boys...  The next time you want to quit because what you're doing is just too hard, remember that improvement only comes through studying and practicing.  Also, you never learn anything if you get everything right the first time.  Nothing is out of reach, young men.  Now go practice something!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


...breathe life into their members.  Love our LifeGroup.

Christian, Cheryl, Angie and Aiden - you will be sorely missed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

This summer's mothering challenge

I have been writing this blog post in my head all summer; however, I've not actually put fingers to keyboard because I sound like an impatient, irritated, mean mom...and I do not want to embarrass my son.

But, truth be told, mothering is not always glamorous and there are times that I simply don't know what to do. This is one of those times.

Here it is...  So far, my greatest challenge in raising Zach is reconciling how this extremely bright child does the wackiest things.

For several years now, I've been scratching my head and saying, "What would possess you to do that?"  My tone is generally calm yet perplexed, but this summer I've found myself needing to walk out of the room before I say words I'd be willing to fight another person over.  At the age of three, this young man held an intelligent conversation with a space museum worker about Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffey.  You know who Neil Armstrong is, but these other fellas?  My son watched hours and hours of NASA documentaries before his third birthday!  He could read in preschool and was doing multiplication in kindergarten.  I have had to refer to Google during conversations with him since he was a toddler.  The other day, he told me that he didn't want to be baptized because "he didn't feel the Lord leading him to make that public declaration yet".  He is a mature thinker and super bright.  He has impeccable manners.  He is very responsible with things he values.  He's figured out how to concoct a plan and manipulate people into doing what he wants.  Yet...  Sometimes he can't figure out (or merely won't do) the simplest things!  He makes huge, inexplicable messes and stands (or sits) in the middle of them not knowing what to do.  He touches everything in site, all the time, and sometimes these things break.  No matter how many times he's told to stand back from fire, walk on wet pavement, go around puddles, or stay out of the mud, he inevitably does the exact opposite (yet finds biking downhill to be too dangerous!).  And...  He rode his bike out in front of a car the other day.

I caught myself saying, "Your baby brother can do this..." when Luke was just two years old.  I try so hard not to say that...but it's often the case.  To make matters worse, Luke is a totally independent self-starter.  He practically walked out of my womb saying, "I'll do it myself, thank you very much."  We have different challenges with Luke.

This summer I'm struggling with the overwhelming urge to say, "You're smarter than this."  I know that I'm not saying, "What you've done is soooo dumb", but I'm just not sure how either of these statements write on the heart of a child.  I've stuck with, "You know better...You know the rules...You know this is dangerous." but years of repetition haven't yet done the trick.

So...  I feel like I'm spending much of my summer nagging and walking a fine line between teaching my child and tearing him down.  I don't enjoy it.

Bryan keeps telling me that when Zach cures cancer, we'll understand that his mind was too busy processing more important things than, "Hang the bath towel" or "Don't flood the bathroom floor".  But we'll only get to this cure for cancer if he learns to look at traffic while biking and not fall into a campfire.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

First time on the course

Gina and I went out to practice our swim and bike on the course last night.  I was super nervous and intimidated.  As a newbie, I envisioned all these polished racers whose way I would be in.

As it turns out, I passed the two swimmers in front of me and finished my 500 meters in 12 1/2 minutes.  I could not have been more pleased!  And those two girls...  Well, this is not their first tri...and I passed them...pinch me!  They were super nice and encouraging as we chatted after the swim.

I still can't believe I did that swim.  I was so afraid of it.

Gina and I were the only ones on mountain bikes.  And I was carrying a paper map since we'd never been on the course before.  As we tried to make heads or tails of where we should be going, three bikers came up behind us.  We asked if they were familiar with the course, and then announced that we'd just follow them.  One of the ladies replied, "Not on those bikes."  NO JOKE.  I laughed and said we'd do our best to watch them way up ahead and follow where they lead.  I will never recognize their faces, but we refer to them now as the mean girls.

The ride itself was amazing.  Somehow, when clothed in a dripping wet swimsuit, 100 degrees doesn't feel bad at all as the sun is setting and the breeze is blowing.  We were surrounded by pastures, crops, hay and beautiful houses and barns.  How can anyone not believe in God, when you take in the majesty of His creation at sunset on a bike?

As we made our way back to our car after the ride, the mean girls were there cheering for us.  Maybe they're not so mean after all.

We finished the bike course in 55 minutes.

We ran across the parking lot and back after the swim and bike.  Our legs felt like logs!  Good thing we have 59 days to work that out.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Good morning.

I can't wipe the smile off my face this morning.  I'm blissfully happy.

I woke up freezing, under a damp sheet, spooning my husband (er, smothering), adjacent to our boys that were on an almost flat air mattress, in our brand new tent (a "vacation lodge"), in our backyard.  We didn't leave our house, but had a most magical time.

I'm a simple girl.  It doesn't take much...

We roasted marshmallows and made s'mores.  The boys set all of that up by themselves!

We played Uno in our tent after 10pm, by the light of our lantern.  Luke laughed hysterically as he had to draw four, and drew cards that were all the same color.  He was ready to smash the competition.  He came in last place.

As we laid down to sleep, the boys bickered over who was taking too much of the blanket, and I determined to bring one for each of them next time.  I think it will be easier that way.

The last thing everyone saw before dozing off was the night sky full of stars.  Beautiful.

Zach was the first to fall asleep.  Luke fell asleep holding my hand - as he always does in the tent.  I thought Bryan was sleeping when he abruptly said, "Who IS that snoring?"  It was Luke.  Luke always snores in the tent.  Bryan fell asleep third, and I laid there smiling and praying.  I'm just so grateful for the simplicity of family and the sincere love and joy we share.

Whether at a park or in our backyard, I am loving this summer of camping!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A great fourth

It was another great July 4th for our crew.  If two-years-in-a-row constitutes a tradition, then we had our traditional celebration with the Stanions and Elliots.  Dinner and fireworks.

My boys lit fireworks for the first time.  They are their father's boys!  Mom would rather sit back and enjoy the show, but all of the guys are into blowing things up. 

Melissa was afraid to pull her popping strings apart!

Smoke bombs and sparklers are a huge hit.

Can you see the chicken who "laid an egg"?  It's a crowd pleaser for all ages!

The boys...  Next year we'll get a picture of all five kids.

A great time was had by all!

On the night of July 4th we headed out to Grandpa's to let off bigger fireworks and to watch the display at the high school across the street.  It was raining when this tradition began last year, so it was nothing like what we saw this year.  Neighbors all around us were letting off the most incredible fireworks I've ever seen.  It was awesome!  We're already counting the days till next year.  363.

Armed and dangerous...


The city's fireworks.

Now back to ours...



And...  The tradition of short-sheeting Grandpa and hiding a dismembered arm in his shower continues.  The family that pranks together, stays together.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Giving it a tri

I saw on Facebook that a couple of girlfriends are doing a local sprint-distance triathlon.  I pondered doing it myself for about 24 hours before mentioning it to my friends and Bryan.  No one seemed to think I was crazy, so I'm going for it!

Facts that could support a theory of insanity...

We have no jobs, so we we don't have gym or public pool memberships.
This also means no personal trainer or swim coach.
I weigh almost as much today as I did when I gave birth to each of my children. 
I haven't been on a bike since before I got pregnant with Zach in 2002.
I own a mountain bike, not a race bike.
I haven't owned a pair of swim goggles since I was on the swim team in 1985.
I haven't swam a single lap in our neighborhood pool since Luke was born in 2006.
Our neighborhood pool is 50 feet long.  My sprint tri swim is 500 meters - that's 1,640 feet.
That's 33 dizzying laps in our little pool.
Did I mention that I am afraid of what lurks beneath the lake's surface?

But I can run, and this is a beginner's sprint-distance race and I know some really fun women who are doing it.  It is such an exciting challenge!

A 3.5 mile run is no problem these days....but I can't wait to see how easy it is for me after a 500 meter swim and 10 miles on the bike!

I dusted my bike off two days ago and Bryan refilled the near-empty tires.  I rode for 5.5 miles with no trouble at all.  My rear was a little sore from balancing on the tiny seat, but otherwise I felt nothing.  Will give the full 10 miles a shot early tomorrow morning.

Yesterday I began swimming.  This will be my biggest hurdle, as I simply cannot breathe while swimming freestyle for any distance.  I swam a little more than 500 meters today, but much of it was the breast stroke and I had a lot of starts and stops.  I've got to figure out how to train for the swim by myself - maybe I should put Coach Bryan on this.  Right now I'm relying on sheer practice, repetition, reading and youtube videos.

I'm so excited.  The training journey is a blast.  The race itself will be the culmination (end...proof) of all the hard work, so I plan to enjoy every minute of the training.

I can't wait to work up the endurace to take my swim out into the open water!  But, I wonder...  Where can I get a protective bubble to keep the fish and snakes at bay, and not have to walk on the lake floor?  Getting into that lake for my first training swim will be an enormous accomplishment in and of itself.

I'm tri-ing!  Race day:  Sept. 10.