Sunday, February 17, 2019

New York Trip!

On Thursday, October 4, Sammy and I left for our trip to New York!  Here is what happened.  Many months earlier, Faith had invited me to join her Ragnar team for a trail race in New Jersey.  I'm a sucker for a good team race, so I said yes.  A couple of months passed, our team jokingly got the name "Mountain Knights" when Faith's friend Kris Mountain suggested that we name the team after him, and I said that my name was a team-worthy as his.  Rene Hernandez, my Salvadorian brother, and friend from high school became our team captain. Then Faith got pregnant and abandoned our team, but I was committed, so Sammy and I headed off.  
 Does Sammy seem a little bit pleased to have his mom all to himself? 
 Jorge picked us up at the airport and drove us to his house. We got there pretty late, but Sammy stayed awake almost all of the way there.  In the morning I abandoned Sammy with Faith and Jorge and took off with Kris to New Jersey to race like crazy people.  I was happy to meet up again with Amy Perry, who I had recruited for our team.  Two years earlier she had recruited me for a Ragnar team, then gotten pregnant and abandoned me.  If this is starting to seem like a pattern, I think it is.  Amy had since moved to New Jersey, so this race was practically in her backyard. 
 It was so great to see Rene again.  He is working in New York City as a counselor at a boarding school.  He brought two of his students with him.  Tariq was one of our runners and Louis came as a volunteer/ to get a camping experience. 
 Kris was out to prove that a bicyclist does not have to train as a runner to be able to succeed in a long distance race.  He did very well.  This course was pretty grueling.  Trees on the east coast grow thin, spidery roots that want to grab your feet and trip you.  A lot of the trails ran straight through rocky stream beds, many of which were full of water.  The weather was drizzly.  The course had been altered due to flooding, but the wet, combined with the feet of hundreds of runners, turned portions of the trail into slippery, suck-your-shoes-off mud, made more treacherous by the invisible strands of roots obscured in the muck. 
 Amy brought us some dollar store Knight decorations (we were already on a mountain) to make our campsite more festive.  We never replaced Faith on our team, so we were a team of 7 runners doing legs for eight.  Three of us picked up a fourth leg to make up the difference.  My first run was supposed to be my seven mile leg followed immediately by Faith's 4 mile, but I slipped and smacked my knee, so Rene jumped in for me on Faith's leg.  I ended up running his four mile leg in the middle of the night in exchange, since he was already picking up Faith's 7 mile leg. 
The first weekend in October is General Conference weekend, when the leaders of our church broadcast sermons and announcements all over the world.  I didn't have good phone service, but someone texted Rene to say that there had been an announcement that church meetings, which have been held for three hours every Sunday since before I was born, were being changed to two hours.  Since we have joked about two hour church being announced every General Conference since I was a kid, I thought it was a joke, so Rene looked it up, and, sure enough, two hour church was legit!  Missing the exciting announcement is my consequence for running a race instead of watching Saturday conference. 
 We were all hobbling around by the next morning.  I broke up my fourth and shortest leg by taking selfies whenever I lost motivation.  I spent most of this run marveling that my legs were still working at all, and rejoicing at how much easier it is to run in daylight, even on mucky trails, so I finished pretty strong.  My feet hurt. 
  Our medals fit together to say, "We are Ragnarians. We believe. . . Together we ran Ragnar. Together we can do anything. . . Campfire makes the best cologne. . . Sunsets are better when shared. . . Mud and dirt are good for the soul. . . Sleep is overrated. . . Sore legs don't last, but memories do. . . s'mores and adrenaline can get you through anything. . . There's a badass inside all of us. 
 Here is our amazing team: Me, Mitchell, Amy, Rene, Louis, Tariq, Kris, and Stephen.  This was so great.  Is anyone up for Ragnar Trail Cascades next summer?
 I was exhausted and sooooo ready to get a shower back at Faith's house.  Sammy was delighted with our Mountain Knight swords. 
The women's session of General Conference came on after I got to Faith's house. I tried to watch, but I think I was asleep even when my eyes were open, which wasn't much. 
Miraculously, I could walk the next morning.  I got up and made cinnamon rolls.  Uncle Fred and Sarah came from New York City to watch conference with us.  They were only a couple of months away from welcoming a sweet little addition, Miss Lucy, to their family.  I'm so glad we got to see them.  We are going to miss meeting up with Uncle Fred every time we are in Tucson. 
 Sammy monopolized Uncle Fred.  It was lovely to sit and watch conference, but my legs objected to inactivity after all of the running. 
 Meanwhile, back in Washington, it was all silly shenanigans with Daddy in charge. 
 Also board games. 
The kids did quiet activities while they listened to conference. 
 They sent me pictures of their amazing creations. 
 I'm more impressed to see B and Jared collaborating than I am about the fabulous block tower.  It's a General Conference miracle!
 Monday afternoon I reorganized Faith's kitchen because I'm a bossy sister.  Then she took us to an apple farm to play and eat apple cider donuts. 
 I think we brought this damp weather from Washington with us. 
 Faith really lives out in the country.  I had never been to her house before, but I had pictured it being a little more suburban. 

 We had some daylight left after donuts, so Sammy pressure washed Faith and Jorge's house. 
 I started dinner, but, with all of the other things we did, I started it pretty late. Jorge invited us for dinner at the pizza place where he works, and it was obvious what Sammy wanted.  We left the meal I had started for Faith to eat for lunch the next day. 
 And that was the end of our whirlwind trip to New York.  Jorge is our hero for driving us clear back into the city to fly out of JFK Tuesday morning. It was quite an undertaking.  We miss you, Faith and Jorge! 
 Sammy dozed off on our way home from the airport. 
 Sometimes we need a vacation after our vacation so we can recover from the pace of vacation.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019


The first week of school was also the first week of fall pee-wee soccer. I was a volunteer coach for two teams. Sammy was in the 3-4 year old division on the Lime Green Coyote team. B was in the 5-6 year old division on the Purple Polar Bear Team.  I was slightly terrified to coach, but it was a fun challenge.  Sammy loved soccer, but he did NOT love me being a coach.  He was grumpy and took a while to decide to go on the field.  B's team was wild.  I had a lot to learn.  
 The rest of the family had to keep themselves occupied for two hours while I coached.  This is Eloise's style of keeping herself occupied. 
After all that hard soccer playing, silly boys have to clean up.  
 We had a couple of warmish days left in the year, but not many.  We had to live it up on the jacket-free days.
 I started a co-op preschool with a couple of my friends.  Jared was excited for Sammy to get his picture taken on his first day.  Sammy was over the moon to be going to "school" just like the other kids.
 I'm so glad Sammy still likes to sit on the counter and help me cook.  I'm going to be so sad when he grows out of this.  We attempted a new cookie recipe to surprise the other kids when they got home from school. 
 Jared found the first couple of months of school disorienting.  I met him in the park to walk him across the busy road every day after school, and, for a while, he arrived every day in a nasty mood as he processed all of the new stresses of his days.  He was worried about finding friends, his hand was sore from all of the writing he was expected to do, he missed the free time he used to have, and he was totally blindsided by homework, which strained his emotional resources at the end of a long, difficult day.  Doesn't he look cute with his bike and his backpack, though? 
 Before long, Jared realized that there are two boys in his class who he recognized from cub scouts, which he described as a personal miracle for him.  It really is a miracle that there would be someone there he could feel comfortable with. Our church/ cub scout group is quite small, and Jared is in a school district the size of the entire town I grew up in.  Jared also ran into one of his classmates at the park when I was coaching soccer. Rowe's little sister was playing soccer, too, so Jared and Rowe played together at the game.  This helped Jared feel more comfortable at school, too. 
Jared was also excited to start playing trumpet in band in September.  He goes to the middle school early Monday, Wednesday, and every other Friday to practice.  I was impressed how quickly his playing started to sound like music. 
Sammy now believes that he is old enough to take over basically everything, since he is my solo helper a lot of the time. 
 On September 15 we had a very special opportunity to see our prophet, President Nelson, speaking at SafeCo Field in Seattle.  We knew that parking would be limited, so we parked in downtown Kirkland and caught a bus to Seattle.  Todd was making a weird face in EVERY SINGLE PICTURE we took while standing in line to get in.  Every single one.  Here are the kids looking halfway normal, and that dude in the back. . . yeah. . .
 There was a bit of an echo up in the nosebleeds where we were sitting, and President Eyring spoke softly, so he was a little bit hard to understand, but Sister Nelson gave a really awesome talk about what it is like to be married to a prophet, and hearing President Nelson speak was really amazing. 
 Of course, in a huge gathering of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints we were bound to see a few people we knew.  The Carvers were sitting about four rows in front of us and a little to the right.  We saw them on the bus both coming and going, but we got separated in line.  There were nearly 49,000 people there. 
 On the way home Eloise was tired, and pretended to sleep, probably so no one would suspect that she was related to her brothers, who were making jokes at the top of their voices all the way home, even when the bus made an extra long stop for the bus driver to check something.  Some of their jokes even made sense. 
 The end of summer snuck up on me.  I was training for a Ragnar the first weekend in October, so we had to do lots of runs, but one particular morning Sammy was a little bit underdressed for the weather, so we made do with what we had.  I believe he ended up in Jared's sweatshirt with my sweater as a blanket, and a couple of leg warmers on his ears. 
 We hosted co-op preschool.  Sammy loved it so much that he doesn't even want to have play dates without music time and letter learning anymore. 
 One day I leashed Shadow to go over and get Jared, only to find her having some kind of horrible allergic reaction. 
 Benjamin was terrified of Shadow's swollen face.  We took her to the vet to get a steroid injection, and her face went back to normal in about four days.  It was very alarming.  I'm guessing she got stung by something. 
 B's transition into school was a bit rough.  His natural love of performance and lack of interest in rules and conventions got him into daily trouble in kindergarten in September.  He came home tired and in need of attention, but Eloise and Jared came home at the same time, also needing attention.  It was a tough month. 
Cold weather had us climbing the walls. 
 Todd and I finally broke out the chain saw to do some major pruning. 
 Our neighbor, Rick, came over to help with pruning our shared hedge.  The spot where the ladder is in this picture used to have a rhododendron that grew like a tree over the driveway and touched the Japanese Maple Tree on the other side.  We cut it down to about four feet tall.  It will be back to its former glory in a year or two.  Rhododendrons are tough to kill. 
The pile of branches that Sammy is climbing in represents about an eighth of all of the branches we ended up with.  We cut a lot in the front yard, then we moved to the back yard and I immediately fell and smacked my head pulling a branch down, so we decided to stop. 
 Sammy and I had to take a selfie after surviving a seven mile hill run with the stroller.  The trick is to bring one picture book per mile and develop the skill of reading while running uphill and pushing. 
 Eloise and B's school did a dancing fundraiser.  I came to watch the kids do their dances.  Eloise had her own struggles with starting school.  She is very concerned about following rules and doing things right.  Her team teachers have been great about encouraging her, and fantastic about communication.  She loves school, even if there are things about it that surprised her by being hard, like making friends. 
 I grabbed a picture of her class after the dance marathon. 
 The Blackwelders wanted to get together, so we met them at St. Ed's on one of our early release Wednesdays. 
 Some of B's overwhelming emotion turned into a block flinging episode, which resulted in the blocks (far and away the favorite toy in our house) being stored out of reach for a while, and an ugly bruise/scrape on Sammy's ear. 
We decided that full day kindergarten was a bit much for B, so I arranged with the school that I would start picking him up after lunch in October.  If September was a lot to handle, though, October was not about to get much easier. 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

First Days of School

September 4 was the first day of school.  Eloise could not wait.  
 Jared was a little less eager and a little more anxious, but he was looking forward to a new experience. 
 Jared goes to a different school from the other kids.  The district did provide buses to his school, but he would have had to arrive at the other kids' school to catch the bus ten minutes before the bus from our neighborhood dropped him off there.  Since Jared's school is actually closer to our house walking than the other kids' school is, we decided that he would walk or bike to school, even though this means crossing a very busy street without a crossing guard.  Most of the time I walked him to school, or at least across the busy street.  For the first day we biked. 
 But first we saw Eloise onto her bus. 
 Since kindergarten didn't start for three more days, Sammy and B spent the first day of school at the zoo.  Note the interesting wardrobe choices B is making.  I think he wanted it to be summer, but Washington decided that September 1 was the end of short sleeves weather this year.  Arm warmers to the rescue!  Sammy was already in his fleece hoodie, since I was dressing him for the weather. 
 Benjamin's hand isn't quite as big as an orangutan's, but if he keeps eating five pancakes at a time. . .

 I was dreading B starting school and leaving Sammy home to rule the roost.  I was convinced that Sammy would turn into a tyrant when he was home alone with me.  I wasn't wrong. 
 B could not wait to start kindergarten.  He has been dying to make dozens of new friends.  He really wanted to ride the bus for his first day. Eloise was also on the bus, so I didn't worry about him. 
 Todd drove to the school to meet the bus, which was good because there was a little drop off ceremony with parents that we hadn't known about. 
I wasn't too worried about B starting school, since he was almost six already, loved to write and draw, and was very confident in his social skills.  Little did I know how challenging the transition to public school would be for all of us.