Merry Christmas Eve!

Dec 24, 2014

Man Cub came up with his pose in the first photo all by himself, in response to me promising a treat if he'd cooperate for just one picture... so then, after family had left and I wanted a photo of just my three next to the Christmas tree, the girls decided they needed to copy their little brother.

It has been a wonderful Christmas Eve and we are so excited to see what is in store for tomorrow. Reindeer food has been scattered in the driveway, Santa's cookies are waiting by the tree and stockings are empty, anxious to be filled. These three did a surprisingly good job of falling asleep... It took a little while, but not nearly as long as I thought it would! So now I'm off to finish tidying up so Santa doesn't break a leg when he comes to our house. I have always loved Christmas, but these three make it even more magical than ever before. I hope I can manage to not wake them all up and open all the presents before Bruce gets home from work Ü

Merry Christmas to all!

Road Trip 2014 | The Final Week

Nov 14, 2014

Are you ready for this series to come to an end?? This should be it... the last blog post about our epic road trip to Utah this past summer. It's only taken like 8 posts to cover the entire 3 weeks we were gone. And once this final post is over, I can get back to the gazillion other posts I want to catch up on!

Our final week in Utah began with a trip to Logan to see Utah State University, the school my youngest sister was attending at the time. I've been to Logan a few other times before, but this was my first time stopping by USU and I fell in love. It reminded me so much of Michigan State, which is where I went to school and where Bruce and I met. It was fun to walk around the campus with my wee ones and dream about the day I can take them to walk the grounds of MSU.

Tressie showed us around her school, including a stop for chocolate croissants, a visit to the library where we saw the B.A.R.N. in action. The B.A.R.N. is a book storage system the USU library uses that is modeled after the door retrieval system in Monsters, Inc. We were all pretty captivated! We also saw the window of Tressie's dorm room from the previous semester and there were some hugs and kisses atop the A.

We also drove up into the canyon, paddled in the river, stopped by the Logan temple (love!!) and then the Providence cemetery where we saw the grave stones of my great grandparents. We had a great day up in Logan.

On Tuesday, Tressie and I decided to hike the Y in Provo, with all my wee ones in tow. The kiddos have hiked plenty of times and I stupidly believed an internet site that claimed the Y hike to be very family friendly. LIES! It was a really difficult hike and I am beyond impressed that my kiddos survived it without a massive melt down. The donuts we took to the top might have been the only thing that saved us from a melt down. And those donuts tasted darn good after all that hard work to get to the stupid Y. Note to self... the hike is not worth it. Don't do it again. Never, ever again! P.S. Do you love Man Cub's soaking wet pants? That was from me sweating so bad hiking with him on my back. Poor boy!

Wednesday, we  headed up to Salt Lake to finish our list of things to do there... we met up with some friends from back home and walked around Temple Square, then toured the conference center. My girls loved that... and they were so excited to watch Conference at the beginning of October because "we've been to that building!!" We also stopped by the Children's museum, browsed City Creek and ran by Scheels before following a large rain storm into Provo. Sunshine and my nephew Bodhi convinced Tressie to ride the indoor ferris wheel with them at Scheels and I stocked up on fuel for my fast approaching half marathon.

Thursday and Friday were pretty low key. My brother and I took the kiddos to the Provo Rec Center, I picked up my race packet and drove as much of the course as I could so I would be mentally prepared. I also carb loaded... cupcakes count right!? I was definitely stress eating! It rained a bit one evening and Beebs was in need of some loves, so the two of us went for a walk in the rain and enjoyed splashing in puddles and hunting for snails. And before I knew it, Saturday had arrived and it was time for my big race!

Once the race was over, our trip seemed to wrap up pretty quickly. Sunday I was in recovery mode... stiff and sore and barely able to move. Monday Bruce flew in with my gorgeous diamond earrings in hand and we enjoyed the day with him. Tuesday we repaired a flat tire on the Jolly Roger then said our goodbyes before piling into the car and headed back to Arizona. Everyone was especially sad to say goodbye to Mollie, my sister's ragdoll cat. We stopped several times on our way home- the Provo Temple, my dad's work for one last hug goodbye, Beaver for ice cream (and Eva found an itty bitty baby grasshopper that she named Lizzie and still talks about today), the St George temple where we walked the visitors center and the kiddos each drew a picture of their favourite Book of Mormon story, and then Las Vegas, to touch our final temple of the trip. The drive home was an adventure in itself!

We enjoyed our trip to Utah so very much. The girls still talk about it all the time and even Man Cub seems to have great memories of our time at Nana and Papa's. He loves to talk about all of my parents pets. Ü I am so very grateful for all the fun memories we've made during our Utah Road Trips the past two summers.

Road Trip 2014 | The Ranch

One of our favourite places to visit in Utah is "The Ranch". The Ranch is an absolutely gorgeous property along the Provo River where my youngest sister worked as a ranch hand for a couple of summers. It is by far one of the most beautiful pieces of land I have ever walked on... mountain views to the north and east, trees to the south and the Provo River to the west. It is seriously breathtaking. The buildings on the property are constructed from the most beautiful stone... there are loads of flowers and enormous trees and fun gates and fences. There is a chance the property could go up for sale in the spring and it seriously makes my heart ache that there is no way in heaven or hell I could come up with the $5+ million it would cost to buy. I love that place!

And since there is a very high probability that I won't be able to use it for photos ever again, if the current owner does in fact sell, I am so glad that we were able to spend a few hours there while in Utah over the summer. And the updated portraits of my wee ones are just an added bonus.

The Lake Powell Half

Nov 1, 2014

It didn't take me long after running the Hobbler Half up in Utah to decide I wanted to give running a half marathon another go. My first experience was a good one, but now knowing what to expect, I was ready to try again. And it just so happened that my second counselor in the Primary was itching to run one as well. We saw ads for the Lake Powell Half and started to um and ah about it. Then one day Nicole texted me to say she had signed up... she was in! I quickly followed suit and was officially in training for my second half.

Nicole's sister in law was signed up for the same race, so the three of us planned to ride up together. Then, with just a few weeks to go before the big day, Nicole and I convinced a new friend from our ward to join in the fun, so we ended up going as a group of four... my first ever girls weekend away and it was an absolute blast.

We left the valley around 10am the Friday before the race. The drive to Page was beautiful... leaves changing colour in Flagstaff, beautiful orange rock against a blue sky as we drove across the Reservation. Not to mention lots of girl talk and laughing. We arrived in Page about mid-afternoon and immediately picked up our registration packets. I was excited to see that the race shirts this time around were super cute... the Hobbler Half shirts left much to be desired! The race expo was nothing to get excited about, so we skipped out of there pretty fast and headed to our hotel.

We stayed at the Lake Powell resort. After checking in, we headed to our room and hung out talking for a bit. Eventually we decided we were ready for dinner and headed to one of the resort restaurants that was offering a special pasta meal for racers. Upon scanning the menu we all opted out of the pasta and ordered fancy meals instead. My olive oil roasted salmon with risotto style black barley, sweet pea emulsion, lemon creme fraiche and oven dried tomatoes was divine. Not the typical carb-loading, pre-race meal, but I ate lots of bread rolls to make up for that. I don't regret my choice one bit! And the view during dinner was stunning... we sat right up against the windows where we had a fantastic view of the lake as the sun set.

After dinner, we walked the grounds a bit then prepped our running gear for the next morning. We chatted some more in our room and at 9:30 decided we were ready to attempt sleep. And I do mean "attempt". My eyes were closed from 9:30 until 4 the next morning, but I woke up feeling like I hadn't slept a wink. Apparently none of us actually slept.

4am- the alarms started going off. We got up, got dressed and ate. At 4:45 we boarded the shuttle from our hotel to the starting line. We sat in the dark at the starting line for a looooong time. The music was obnoxious (at that time in the morning! Any other time, I'm sure we would have loved it), the air was very chilly and the nerves were getting to me! Eventually, 6:30 rolled around that it was race time.

Pamela (Nicole's sister in law) and Dani (our new friend from church), took off when the gun sounded. They are both faster runners than Nicole and I. Nicole and I did the first half of the race together. We were going strong until we hit the two mile trail run portion of the race. That slowed us considerably, but we survived, despite our great hatred of trail running. Ü Then we reached my nemesis... the Glen Canyon Dam bridge. I hate, hate, hate bridges and had NO idea this race included running across one. In all honesty, I would not have signed up for it had I known about the bridge in advance. It was a huge stress for me the night before the race and the first portion of the race... I was absolutely dreading it. When we got to the bridge, I had every intention of sticking with Nicole and talking our way across it. And then I overheard this 9 year old who was running the race with his mom talk about collapsing bridges. I freaked out and took off without even thinking about it. Nicole snapped a picture of me tearing across the bridge, ponytail flying. After the race, I checked my Garmin stats and found that as I crossed the bridge, I was maintaining a 6:37 mile pace. If only I could run at that for more than the length of one bridge!!

After the bridge we hit the uphill portion of the race. I knew this part would be physically difficult as I had been struggling with some Achilles pain that was definitely aggravated  by uphill running. But before I left for the race, Bruce had given me a blessing and promised me that my body would work as I did this race. And guess what! It did. I was absolutely blessed with strength far beyond my own throughout the entire race. I did hit a major mental wall around mile 8, at which point I ended up putting some distance between Nicole and I because I just mentally could not run. I walked and struggled for about half a mile but I knew I wanted to finish strong. Luckily, I happened upon the 2:30 pace runner and started chatting with her and another girl who was running with her. They were just what I needed to break through that mental block. The random conversation kept me going and before I knew it, the race was about to come to an end. As the finish line came into view, I realized that I had the chance to beat my previous half marathon time by 10 full minutes. I kicked it into high gear and ended up crossing the finish line at 2:28:10. I had cut a full 10 minutes and 45 seconds off my time from just 3 months earlier. I was ecstatic!

Everyone else had come in before me... Pamela and Dani were just after the 2 hour mark and Nicole ran in about 5 minutes ahead of me. We hung out at the finish line admiring the amazing medals we had received and guzzling chocolate milk. Then we made our way back to the hotel, but not before Nicole and I had our picture taken with "the cowbell guy". This guy stood on the sidelines cheering for the runners and ringing a cowbell at various places along the route. Every time we ran by him, I couldn't help but smile and feel motivated, so of course we needed a picture with him.

We spent a little time in the hot tub, showered, packed up our room and checked out. We grabbed burgers at the floating restaurant at the marina then headed home so Dani, Nicole and I could all make it to our ward Trunk or Treat. It was a super fast trip, but oh it was a fun one! I will absolutely be doing the Lake Powell Half (and hopefully some other Vacation Races runs) again in the future. It was a very well done race and I had so much fun running it. 

Road Trip 2014 | The Half Marathon

Oct 17, 2014

A Utah road trip was in the plans for summer of 2014 since returning home from Road Trip 2013. The wee ones and I had so much fun last year that we just had to do it again! But this year's trip was a little different than last year's... instead of staying just shy of two weeks, we were in Utah for three full weeks so that my lungs would have time to adjust and I could end our road trip by running a half marathon!

I am not a natural runner. I am not even remotely athletic. Bruce Wayne will tell you- watching me play sports is actually painful. But, I do like to exercise and be healthy, I have just always managed to do that without running Ü

At the beginning of the year Bruce decided he wanted us to run a half marathon together. He asked me what it would take for me to agree to this. I told him there was nothing he could offer me that would even begin to tempt me to run for 13.1 miles. He started to offer me all sorts of things but I declined everything. Then he mentioned diamond earrings. For practically every anniversary, birthday and holiday, when Bruce would ask me what I wanted, I would reply "diamond earrings". In nine years, those diamond earrings never materialized, but here he was, promising them to me in exchange for running a measly 13 miles? Psssh. Done!

On January 1st 2014, I strapped on my shoes and headed out the door. I ran for 3 minutes. Then walked for at least that many before running a few minutes more. It took me a good long time to run 1 mile and I was beat. Slowly but surely, I built up endurance and by April, I could make it 4 solid miles without even stopping to walk. By late April, my longest run reached 7 miles and I started searching for a half marathon to run. I knew it would have to be out of state since all races cease to exist in Arizona from about May to October. I looked in Utah and in California. I even looked up in Oregon where KJ lives. I finally settled on one in Utah that happened to fall close to our already planned road trip. Unfortunately, Bruce was not going to be able to join me for the race as it was squad change at work that weekend, but I had worked so hard to get to this point that I was determined to run something, and do it soon, before I could chicken out. So I paid the fees and started to panic.

In June I ran my first and second ever 10 miles runs and hoped that I was adequately prepared. At the end of June I arrived in Utah and began to train there, allowing my lungs to adjust to the much higher altitude. By July 12th I was as ready as I was going to be. I was also scared out of my mind. What on earth had possessed me to sign up for this!?

The morning of my race started bright and early. I think my alarm went off somewhere around 3:30 in the morning. I got up and put on my race gear. I stretched and tried to eat a little something. I then headed to Springville High School where I boarded a bus that drove me up into the canyon to the starting line.

It was super nerve wracking to be there by myself. In some ways it would have been really nice to have had a friend there with me to help calm my nerves, but then I am really glad that my first  half marathon experience was a solo one. It ended up being a super spiritual experience for me, one that I will definitely treasure in the years to come.

All during my training, I had listened to General Conference talks while running. Music just doesn't do it for me. I get so bored! But Conference talks grab my attention and help keep my mind occupied. Over the course of my training, I listened to almost all the talks that were available on The Mormon Channel app... almost 10 years worth of talks! I heard some amazing things during my training and felt the Spirit strongly on many occasions.

The day of my race, I started with the Priesthood session from the April 2014 session of Conference. It totally grabbed my attention and helped to calm me as the race started. As I ran down Spanish Fork Canyon, I couldn't help be but in awe of the beautiful world we live in. The views along my run were breath taking and I just felt so close to my Heavenly Father as I listened to His inspired words and enjoyed His beautiful artwork. I had many tender mercies throughout the race- from the friendly girl who I sat next to on the ride up the canyon, to the fact that they served purple Gatorade the entire race (the only flavour of Gatorade I can stomach!). Around mile 7, my knee started to act up really bad and for a brief moment I thought I was going to have to bow out of the race. It was extremely painful and I was scared I would do severe damage if I ran on it for another 6+ miles. I prayed and prayed hard and Heavenly Father poured out the blessings. The last half of the race was very difficult and I walked more than I wanted to, but my knee held out, I was able to finish the race, and I was given strength far beyond my own. I even managed to finish the race at a 12 minute mile pace (2 hr 38 min finish time), which is about what I had gone into the race anticipating. I still can hardly believe I managed to hit that pace while struggling with my knee. My knee could have slowed me down considerably, but really, it didn't. A 12 minute pace is exactly what I had been training at.

Coming to the finish line was such a neat experience. As I ran in, I quickly spotted my parents and children and my sweet girlies darted out, grabbed my hands and ran me across the finish line. I still get teary eyed thinking about it. I loved having them there to help me finish up what was by far one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I received my finishers medal after crossing the finish line, got a massage and enjoyed a French toast breakfast. Originally I thought the idea of finishers medals was kind of dumb. I don't subscribe to the "everyone needs a trophy" school of thought, but now the medal hangs on the wall near my desk, and I get great satisfaction out of seeing it there. I did something hard! Really, really hard! I trained for months and stretch myself more than I ever knew possible and I finished! I wasn't the fastest. Not by a long shot. But I finished, and that is definitely worth rewarding.

The next day I was incredibly sore, but it was kind of the best sore ever. Sure I cringed with every step, but it was just a reminder of what I had accomplished the day before. I swore I never needed to do another half marathon again, but by the time I arrived back home to Arizona, I was ready to sign up for another. And I did! In just a few hours I'll be getting in the car with a few friends and heading to Lake Powell to go through this madness all over again! And eventually, Bruce and I need to run one together, since that was the original plan. So it looks like, in time,  I'll have 3 half marathons under my belt. And to think, this from a girl who just 10 months ago, hated to run. Ü
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