Sunday, November 21, 2010

Family Pictures!!

If we ever thought coordinating life with teenagers and toddlers was difficult, this week confirmed it when we attempted a family photo session with Lindsey Orton. It is difficult to believe that she got as many quality shots as she did, considering the crazy combination that was certain to be reflected in our pictures.

Much to our surprise (and gratitude), a screaming two year old and 3 females who could barely walk in the heels we wore were not the highlights that stood out in the treasures we sorted through this morning. Reminders in the images that these sisters truly do love each other deeply, a husband and wife who share lovingly "the dream," a sweet Daddy and son relationship, and Mom and daughters friendship will be forever valued. How blessed we should feel, and how appropriate to be reminded of such eternal treasures over Thanksgiving weekend.

Looking through the pictures that will soon be on our wall, it felt like time stopped and eternity overwhelmed the heart. There is nothing more satisfying or fulfilling than to look into the eyes of my husband, daughters, and son and knowing that we are forever there, for one another; to love and encourage, to uplift and rejoice with, endure and enjoy. Simply put, families really are forever. No doubt about it, family love and support and unity reaches throughout all time and into the deepest unending elements of existence.

Thank you Lindsey Orton, for the patience, professionalism, and talent you shared with our family, and for creating these keepsakes for us to look back on always!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

To Break 2 Hours

I love what president Gordon B. Hinckley once said in a General Conference "try a little harder, to be a little better." I think each day, I can do "a little better" in something.

Last week at the Halloween Half Marathon I finally met the goal I set at the beginning of the year. I wasn't the fastest or fittest nor did I have the best form. Regardless, I set a personal goal in January and after all year of thinking about it, and running a couple of races without training, I realized I would have to try a little harder if I was going to reach that goal. So I did. I gave a two-month training effort, dedicated and motivated. During those two-months, I found that the effort in and of itself, trying harder, brought me to my goal of being better. It wasn't what the clock said at the finish that made me better, and it wasn't my placement in my age division. Simply trying made me, well... simply better. I ran the half in 1:53, a new personal best.

Not every run was great. But every run I tried. I haven't lost all kinds of weight, or become super-fit or incredibly athletic. But I got a little better with a little effort every day. Now what? I met my goal for the year, so what good does it do to head out that front door now, as the mornings grow colder and colder each week?

What I love about running is not so much the run itself--I am not a natural. After multiple marathons and half marathons, I have never experienced a runner's high. I learn a lot from each run though, and I feel like the life-lessons I glean from them are well worth the steps I take, so I keep taking them. And the lessons keep getting better.

As I ran this last race I was pretty focused on my pace-per-mile as they came and went, one by one. Of course by mile 9 or 10, I was starting to feel it and was tempted to slow down. I reminded myself that 2 hours would come and go whether I met my goal or not. Would I be pleased with my efforts? Then my family suddenly came to mind. Dania graduates this year, and Tori in two years. Their time at home will come and go, whether I have spent time with them or not. Will I be pleased with my efforts?

I think I am generally giving a good hard effort in motherhood, but can I try a little harder to be a little better? Always. A game here, some laughs there, a little longer walk, a frozen yogurt run, more memories and more good times. Just as my running goal required daily effort to become better and find success, I will never regret the steps taken and the lessons learned during the allotted time I have been given.

I can't help but look back and realize how very quickly the years fly by. It seems the more I want to slow those years, the faster they rush, like wind on my face and in my hair... uncontrollable, but thrilling to experience. Momentum has certainly set in. May the next 17 be as fulfilling, uplifting, and blessed as the last. I will never forget:

Hospitals and baby smells
Quiet nights and my heart swells
Feeding, bathing, changing too
Singing nighttime songs to you

Finger paints and sidewalk chalk
Bare feet when you start to walk
Beaches, snowmen, sun, and spring
Puppies, kittens, favorite things

Coast to coast, we've seen it all
Oceans wide and mountains tall
History and future too
Little feet in little shoes

Backpacks hanging to your knees
Broken stick-wands from the trees
Nature paths and city streets
Walks and runs and tired feet

Books and bed and story time
Cloud blankets and making rhymes
Cookies, picnics, hikes, and dreams
"Soaring in the sky" it seems

Schoolrooms, teachers, smiles and tears
Growing pains throughout the years
Weddings, changes, growing up
Such a bitter/sweet-ish cup

Middle school and high school days
Friends and races, concerts, plays
Finding time to read a book
Fires, hammocks, cabin nooks

Babies, pictures, family games
Vacations, no two the same
Church and prayer and blessings too
Always saying "I love you"

Road trips, skiing, trampolines
Birthday parties, Christmas things
Good luck posters, wish-you-wells
All the stories you could tell

Dreams of future special days
Setting goals and making ways
Cutting ties and apron strings
Heading off to bigger things......

Monday, October 25, 2010

Another Season

This year was especially sentimental at the end of the Cross Country season. Dania ran her last race at the state finals and Tori ran her first. What a fantastic thing to watch, as they each practically ran a 2nd race as they cheered one another up the hills, around the corners, over the river, and yes, through the woods. I was so incredibly proud of them during those few hours. Not because they can run fast enough to qualify for the race, but because of the support they gave one another. I will never forget it. State, to the girls, was a reward for months of hard work. For me, state was "payday." 3 days after my birthday--well worth the belated present! Every mother wants to see her kids love and support each other. I was lucky enough to witness it for myself.

"Love at Home" is fantastic... but knowing it continues on when they walk out that front door, is real happiness.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

"Run fast, or your family won't love you!"

At my last half marathon, one of the directors got on to the bus that brought us to the start. He left us with a few final instructions and one motivational message: "And remember, run fast or your family won't love you!" While I feel no pressure from my family to run fast, it does bring up a thought on the subject--reasons why I run. My family is one big reason.

I started running with my sisters at the Desert Classic Marathon in Arizona. But now I mainly run with my daughters. I still love to get together for fun events like "halfies" with my mom, sisters, nieces, etc., there's nothing like the whole family participating in something like that. But on a smaller level, I really enjoy the quiet daily opportunity to think about my life, my community, my kids. Sometimes I just soak in the nature and beauty of the canyon, sometimes I pray, and sometimes I just enjoy the moment without any conscious thought at all. Undistracted by phones, TV, and doorbells, the fresh outdoor air and the rhythm of my feet together, seem to create a duet that centers, focuses, and strengthens me enough to make it through daily work, family busy-ness, and random nonsense. My family got me into running, and my family will keep me running.

Yesterday, in fact, Dave drove me to the top of Sundance Canyon to prepare for my next half marathon which starts with an incredibly steep downhill run of 5 miles. After he dropped me off, a while later he and Benny passed me as they drove back down. It was so fun to hear them cheer together for me, even though it was just a training run. Running brings out the best in the runner, but often it brings out the best in others as well. The spectators at marathons and half marathons are full of the same kind of energy the runners are. Their signs and noisemakers and yells are so fun and very often inspiring. The number of volunteers at the stations is fantastic and the crowd at the end is unlike any other crowd. Almost every one of those supporters is there for someone they know and love... family, for the most part, or friends that are close enough to be... because they love them.

So, I might take the thought "Run fast, or your family won't love you!" and turn it around a little. LOVE FAST, OR YOUR FAMILY WON'T RUN YOU!

Putting one foot in front of the other,


Sunday, September 26, 2010

"Running" an experiment.

Since my last post, I stepped WAAAAY outside my comfort zone and opened myself up to opinions, judgements, and comments (sometimes supportive, sometimes skeptical, or simply shocked) by announcing my personal goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I am not fast. Yet. I do not look like a runner. Yet. I do not have a lot of time to train. Who does? It is amazing to me, to watch people run or bike in my neighborhood. I truly respect the individuals who have the drive to become and maintain athletic abilities beyond what I know. When others see me trotting down the bike path I look less than impressive when compared to the those who share my exercise venue. BUT--I like a great come-back story, and I often cheer for the underdog. So why not me, the working mom of 3, less-than-competative jogger, who once had a day in world of athletics?

The human mind contains unmeasurable power, many people agree on this. But how far can our minds take us, realistically, in every day life? When I was younger and less "damaged" by life's blows, I believed we could simply chose what we wanted, and make it happen. What happened after that? Life. And after that? Nothing. I quit trying, reaching, and growing. I went to college and got my degree/job. The end. I completed a few marathons slowly. The end. I had 3 kids. Well... that's a never ending story. Bottom line, everything I dreamed of as a kid, happened. Who can complain about that? Not me. But why did I stop dreaming?

Dara Torres makes a point in her book, Age is Just A Number, when she says that often times people give up on themselves when they become middle-aged. This needs not be so. More experienced are we middle-agers? Yes. Have all of those experiences been pleasant? No. Can difficult and unpleasant experiences make us stronger, smarter, and better? Absolutely. Not just physically, but mentally, and spiritually as well. Dara Torres among other athletes have proven that with hard work and sacrifice we can be strong. I want to be strong. But I also want to be smart. And I want to remember where I came from and where I am going and why I am here on Earth experiencing life to its fullest.

So goes the experiment: Running. I will continue putting forth my best physical effort toward my goal of achieving an official Boston qualifying time at a full marathon (2011?). I will read and learn and grow mentally as I study the best way to do so, in my middle-aged state. I will research and apply what I have found. And I will share these things with you. Whoever you are. Then, and most importantly, I will apply my experience in running, training, and ultimately qualifying to who I am and where I am going spiritually. This part may bore or even scare some readers away. That's okay. I don't just run to be stronger and smarter. I want to be better--and better, in my opinion, is on the inside.

Stronger: I'm losing the weight. I started with 15 pounds to lose, and I am down 1.5 this week. I ran every day I was scheduled, even my long run on Saturday. And although life happened, I got it done at 9:30pm. Better late than never. I also got a few days of strength training and extra walking at nights. Cardiovascularly, I'm doing better as well. It still takes me 2-3 miles to warm up, but once I do I feel like I could go forever. But I'm still slower than I need to be.

Smarter: I read Age is Just A Number and am still reading Racing Weight. I am learning how important it is to live for the goal. Everything we eat or watch or dream of, potentially has an effect on the ultimate goal. I started thinking positive, and actually dreamed of achieving it. I can't wait for it to happen in reality!

Better: Dania and I were teasing about how "muscle memory" works. Specifically, how now my muscles don't automatically reach for the cookies like they used to--I reach for building foods ;-) Same goes spiritually. Less of the remote, and more of the scriptures. I love to find messages that seem to pop out and inspire me stretch and grow each day.

Putting one foot in front of the other,


Sunday, September 19, 2010

You will know that I am happy

Yesterday, Tori asked me a good question. I gave her an answer that later, made me really analyze myself and my life. "Are you happy with your life?" She said smiling, as we stood in the kitchen rushing to get breakfast on. First off, I would rather be the kind of person that radiates happiness and joy and enthusiasm for life no matter where I am or what I'm doing--my happiness and gratitude for life itself should be obvious. But at that moment, I was tired. Very tired. Young mothers are tired from early morning baby/toddler hours. Older mothers are tired with late-night (which turn to early morning) talks with teenagers. Mothers like me who have both, well, occasionally I have lack-of-sleep moments when I wonder what "my life" really is. My response reflected this when I quickly answered, "I don't really have a life. I'm just part of everyone else's."

Why did that comment seem less than happy, when in fact I am thrilled with my life? Being a contributor to the lives of those in my family is the greatest thing I do and I wouldn't give it up for anything, this is who I am. I work because this world demands it. But I play and serve and enjoy my family because I love them eternally. I always wanted to be a mother and build a home that is a sanctuary from the craziness of the world out there. So why is it that sometimes, while doing the very thing I've always dreamed about, I can feel lifeless after all, and the happiness inside is not evident to others?

Even my dream life can be overwhelming, and "balance in all things" is necessary to keep things moving like a well-oiled machine. Even Jesus Christ who's life's purpose was to serve mankind, took time to be alone. Maybe taking time to care for myself is more important than I thought. So... once upon a time, I set a goal (nearly 10 years ago). A goal which in reality, I DID NOT KNOW whether or not could physically be achieved. But I set it and I meant it. And now I will conquer it once and for all. I started running not for the run itself, but for the benefits that a good run yields. Then I ran my first marathon in 2001 and said someday, I would be fast enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon. For many, this is no big deal. For me, it means a lot. If I am going to designate time each day to take care of myself in order to be a better and evidently happier mother and wife, I may as well accomplish something fun and worthwhile.

Fast? No. Slow and steady served me very well for a decade. I enjoyed going for my runs for all the reasons people run. Looming, however, was this goal in the back of my mind and I knew that someday I would have to "step it up". But speed workouts are haaaard (insert whining voice here). And with nobody to really coach or push me along, it was easier just to run a 10k, half marathon, or even full marathon, than to race it. So for 10 years that is just what happened.

But now, I am ready to go. First Step: Set a goal for this year; break 2:00 on my half marathon. I am still 8 minutes away, officially. But 'tis the season to be racing! The weather is cooling down and the Fall air beckons! Recently, I started training better and eating right. I believe I can do this by year's end.

Second Step: Complete a half marathon in 1:45. This equates to the Boston qualifying time (full marathon) except it is for a half. I am very hopeful to achieve this in Moab on March 19th, 2011 almost exactly 10 years from my 1st full marathon. Fitting.

Third Step: Once 1:45 is met, training for the full marathon will begin. If I reach this goal at Moab, I will enter the lottery for the St. George Marathon to be held in October of 2011. If I do not get picked I will likely choose the Top of Utah full marathon in September of 2011. I like the Utah marathons because they are on Saturdays (most others are on Sundays), and while the purpose of this effort is to take time out for me, I don't want to lose sight of HIM. Sundays are my "day of rest."

Fourth Step: Train like crazy, eat smart, and generally enjoy life along the way. I have a husband, two runner girls, and a toddler who are all great cheerleaders, I will depend on them on my tired or snowy or just plain lazy days, to push me out the door.

Fifth/Final Step: RACE, not just run, the full marathon this time next year, in 3:45, the qualifying time for my age division.

Would I be happy without this goal? Yes. The things that matter most to me are all in place. I take great comfort and joy in that. I will continue to "be a part of everyone else's" life. Every night I will dream of the greatest people on Earth only to wake up and find them in reality, having breakfast in MY kitchen while getting ready for school or work. My life is complete and full without the run, but still, it heals the heart, mends the mind, soothes the soul, and powers the person. So for now, running it is... and with a smile on my face. And you will know that I am happy ;o)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Summer Vacation 2010

Our trip to Jamaica was something really special. We probably would never have gone there if it weren't for my work sending us, so we made the most of it and WOW, what an amazing time we had. You know you've done something great with your family when it seems as though you were in a completely different world and time. What did we do? Mainly stayed close together enjoying the pool and being pampered by the staff at the Ritz. Jamaica was suffering "civil unrest" at the time, and were were advised to not leave the property. This made for a great reason to really just "be" together--I'm so glad for that. Dania is getting ready to leave for school in one year and I always wonder how many more of these times we will get, all together. Here are a few of my favorite moments from the 8 dreamy days we were there.

Time spent with my kids was amazing. I love being home with them on a day-to-day basis, we certainly have a lot of great home days. But going away seems to add the perfect accent to those memories. I loved that we had no cell phones while we were away. No texting or competing with calls or reminders of the real world. Our focus was just time together and boy did we make the most of it! Benny was passed around a lot, but I usually got him when he was tired and/or hungry. I don't mind. What better place to comfort a baby than in paradise?
My favorite times with the girls were kayaking and going on our rain run. It was POURING outside, but really, it was like liquid sunshine. The water was actually VERY warm! The girls stomped in puddles (we were all running barefoot) and I just kept it steadily moving forward, trying not to get swept away in the rivers of warm water. That is by far the best run I have ever been on. Barefoot, warm, great company, Heaven, excitement!

The girls had a few times where they could just enjoy the resort together. I love to see them as friends as much as they are sisters. Tori makes Dania laugh and Dania always has an entertaining story. It was even nice to just see the two of them resting by the pool with a book and a smoothie. Could life get any better?

The kids in general really played hard. Benny especially was running way beyond his normal routine. He was pretty exhausted by the end of the day, but so were the girls. They usually caught a nap in the middle of the day (during the hot sun hours) sometimes all on the same bed! There was no shortage of things to do or places to explore. We went sailing and kayaking, swimming and snorkeling, running and walking, and shopping and roaming, and soaking up the sun wherever we were.
Ya mon! Naps were a critical part of our trip. The heat and humidity was very draining, since the week we left home, it snowed enough to break trees in half! We needed some time to acclimate to the area. Now that we are back to the mountain hot/cold weather, I miss our warm blanket that surrounded us in Jamaica.

I have to give Dania credit right away. She was our official photographer of the trip, and she did an excellent job capturing everything from the big fun events to the small Jamaican insects. She was fun to watch as she explored the grounds looking for a beautiful image to save--and she found a LOT! Dania had a good time generally soaking up the lap of luxury here, before she left the next week for her 2 1/2 week "service mission" to Fiji where she would be digging toilets. Benny seemed to want to make up for lost time with Dania--she's been so busy with school and activities, he didn't see her much during the school year. This trip made up for that!


Dave and Benny were a great pair in the pool from the first hour we got there. The two of them are really water buddies and Benny learned to jump into the pool, whether any of us were ready to catch him or not! This pool was a kind of healing spot for us. We all went there to rest and recover from a long year of hard work. We had many lunches, smoothies, and treats poolside, and quickly grew to feel at home there. I miss it already.

Tori was probably one of the more excited family members to go on this trip, and contributed a lot--especially at the pool and beaches. Benny liked walking in the sand with her and she was happy to take him. We were all a little disappointed that we couldn't see more of the country, but all things considered it was good we got to see what we did. I loved watching Tori listening to the staff at the hotel, with their strong Jamaican accents. I think she had a hard time understanding them, but from time to time I could see her connecting with them. I could really see her traveling the world some day--she is a natural and really seems in her element when she's out exploring. I hope she can do more of it sometime soon.

The first night we were there, the girls were really tired from the long day traveling so weren't feeling hungry for dinner. Dave and I, however, were ready to check out "Horizons"--the restaurant at the hotel; Dania and Tori crashed in the hotel room. The food was fabulous, and matched the service as well. Benny fell asleep in Dave's arms, so the staff created a bed out of two chairs, a pillow, and a tablecloth. Dave and I had an amazing night together just enjoying eating outside, listening to the waves in the distance, and having some peace and quiet--just the two of us.
Bliss. All in all the trip was something we will never forget. More than the beauty of the island, the service of the staff, the poolside therapy, or the fabulous food, I enjoyed being close to my family with no outside distractions. Thanks PARAGON, you made our year!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Be Grateful

Dave and I both have our "pre-marraige" story. Long, each of them, but gladly they come with happy endings--a marriage sealed for time and all eternity. While Dave may have opted for someone to help him through his illnesses so he wasn't quite so alone for quite so long, and I may have preferred to NOT go through the sadness of divorce, what we have now is long-lasting gratitude in our hearts for one another. Why is it, we most appreciate what we work the hardest for? I suppose it doesn't matter--perhaps we should work hard for all that we do have, so we appreciate what we are given each day. Especially those people who are closest to us.

There is so much to be grateful for, when we think of it, and blessings continue to come by the dozens. I hope to always be able to be blessed with the ability to see what I have, love what it is, and be thankful for it. After all it is better to "want what you have, than to get what you want".

Sunday, May 9, 2010


On Mothers Day, I stop to think for a moment about the Mothers in my life. Starting with my own Mom who has been an inspiration in ALL things. Strong in her beliefs, strong in her physical goals, strong in her leadership, strong in following what she knows to be right. One of the things I have observed about her is her ability to NOT think too much. If something needs done, she does it. If someone needs help, she helps them. If someplace is void, she fills it. My mom is an excellent example of a truly Christlike individual who offers love and compassion to all--no strings attached. Simply put, I want to be like her. Sadly, there are many women out there who, for whatever reason, can not have children. My mom leads the kind of life that they could follow--offering a motherly influence to all who they come in contact with.

Granted, there are times when I catch myself after having instinctively said something and thought "did my Mother's words just come out of my mouth?" So what if they did? It just means I am one step closer to my goal of growing into her shoes :) I have been blessed to have her all my life. She is my set of training wheels right now, keeping me up when I am unsteady--I do not look forward to the day when the Lord takes her back and leaves me to ride all on my own.

Dave's mom lives just around the corner and also plays a wonderful role in our lives here. I see clearly, where Dave gets his consistency, patience, generosity, and strength. She has endured a great deal of physical trials and continues to aim her focus on her family through service. Her talents hang on the walls of all of her kid's homes, where her heart also dwells. She waited a long time for grandchildren, and clearly loves to have them a part of her life. We are lucky to have her influence in our daily lives.

Of course, I also reflect on my experience as a mother. Motherhood has been all that I hoped it would be. I only wanted to be a mother, growing up, and still if there was only one thing I could do in life, it would be to be a mother. My children have changed my life. Each of them have brought out in me, qualities that I would not have had without the experience of living with and learning from them. Dania has a focus and drive like non other. She will go wherever she wants and will not take no for an answer. I hope I will be able to remember her righteous motivation to achieve all good things when she is grown and moved onto her own life somewhere. Tori-Laine has taught me valuable lessons in taking time to enjoy the simple and beautiful things. I am not one who normally sits and enjoys a good book, or soaks up the sun, or gets engaged in a great story--but she has brought that much-needed, softer aspect into my life. Benny of course has brought laughter and smiles and joy beyond measure. He reminds us everyday that "Sunday will come" no matter the trials we endure, the promises and blessings of the Lord will come in their own time. He is our family's Sunday.

Grandmothers and great-grandmothers have also helped shape and form my life, for which I will be eternally grateful. It all comes together and creates an amazing picture. I know that my Father in Heaven has a plan for families, and I know that the part we each play in the plan is a critical piece to the overall outcome. "I stand all amazed" and look forward to the day we are all together in the eternities sharing, loving, and continually offering the support we do each day, as mothers.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The First Step Back

I started running again this week. I never should have taken that "recovery week" after the half marathon in March. One week lead to two, three, four, and five. Now here I am, running as though I never ran multiple half and even full marathons. Ouch. As I started again this morning, Day 2 of getting back to running, I thought how much my workouts are like my life in the gospel. There are big spiritual events in life that can often take a lot out of a person--tempting us to step back and "recover" for a while instead of keeping one foot going in front of the other. Before you know it, a "recovery period" can turn into a lack of drive and motivation to progress in a spiritual way.

Yesterday was the hardest. Those first steps back are always the hardest--whether running or scripture study. But today was better, and I expect tomorrow to follow suit. I suppose the moral to the story is, I ought to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Even if I just competed an exhausting event. Even if it's a slower pace. Even if it's shorter distance. Even if it snows. Every day I'll move forward some, and through time I will remain strong enough for the next day's workout and any upcoming event that may await.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Be Humble

I once heard that no matter how grand the size of the tree, each leaf must return to its roots for nourishment. The roots Dave and I come from are both strong and deep, though different. He comes from a very academic family with University Professors in many areas. I came from farming roots on both sides. His side of the family is quiet and orderly, mine is crazy and hectic. It's interesting to compare childhood stories with those differences, and then realize that when it comes right down to the important things, we are are the same--equally yoked.

I fell in love with Dave for many reasons, but one that will continue to sink it's roots into my heart is how dedicated and devoted he is to living a steady, strong, devoted, loyal, selfless, Christ-centered life. We surely haven't made it to be "rich and famous" just yet, but I know without a doubt that even if we did, together we would return to our roots for nourishment daily. We are blessed to live near his side of the family and for the occasional visit to Arizona or Washington to visit mine. Our kids have been reminded regularly of the importance of family and where we all came from which keeps us humble and ever-reaching for growth.

Dave's family history is filled with amazing and sentimental stories that clearly depict how they all came to where they are... as is my family history. It is humbling to remember that we are somebody's family history and our stories will make a difference in their lives too.

Vacation Time

Hawaii became our family's getaway spot the first time we went... on our family honeymoon :o) We have been to the Big Island, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai, and love them all differently for what they each have to offer. My favorite thing about Hawaii is that it is so remote. I love the time we have together, away from distractions and phones and DVR recordings and homework and work work and community responsibilities, etc... Selfish, maybe, but I love to have my family all to myself sometimes.

Dania tries to keep a schedule, even while we're away, which is great! Otherwise, I think we might sleep through the entire vacation. Tori keeps us laughing and finds the funniest things in everything. Dave knows Hawaii very well so is a fantastic tour guide on drives or whatever. I'm just there for the ride. The closest Benny has come to Hawaii, is the summer 2008--I was pregnant with him.

We spent 5 1/2 weeks on Oahu that summer, which was a lovely opportunity to bond, just the four of us, before the baby came the following October. Why are there no pictures of me? I was swollen. REALLY swollen. My feet blended in with my knees, each the end of a large and tightly filled tube what otherwise would have been recognized as a shin/calf. The ocean water was amazing to sooth my feet, however, and I get homesick to go back even still.

Prior to that summer, we have had the opportunity to go with family over Thanksgiving and share a house. Maui beaches are amazing! And of course our family honeymoon to the Big Island--was unforgettable.

This year we will try something new and go to Jamaica together, as a result of a work meeting there for me. I look forward to the same things there, as I always do with Hawaii. A long way from home and distractions, and a short way to building more memories.

Be Smart

I didn't realize how glad I was to graduate until a year or so later, when it was once again "finals season" for the students at BYU. I associated the smell of the blooming trees and cool mountain air with stress and deadlines for so long, that even though I was thrilled winter was coming to an end, I had an instinctive pit in my stomach. When I realized, however, that was then free to enjoy the season for all it was WITHOUT those stresses, Spring meant even more.

How grateful I am to have had the opportunity to go back and finish up school. I'm even more glad to be done with it... completely done with school? No. I would really like to continue taking classes and learn as much as I can when that is possible again (when Benny goes to school in a few years). I love the atmosphere of BYU and actually miss spending time in the library, the "Wilk", having lunch with Dave, and just roaming around watching the love-birds. There is no place on Earth, like BYU, that is for sure. I am lucky to live so close.

Go Cougars!

Be Clean

Sundays are great for a lot of reasons. I feel like it is a clean start for me, my schedule, my family, my house, my goals, my goodness!! I grew up with a children's song that sang "Saturday is a special day, it's the day we get ready for Sunday..." it goes on to talk about the many things we can do to prepare for Sunday in order to make it the best day of the week. While I may not prepare as well as I could or probably should, Sundays are the desserts of our days and we cherish them.

Benny's bath time, especially on Sunday, reminds me that I love to get things done--even things that I might tend to put off for later (as Benny likes to do with his baths). President Hinckley taught us to "be clean" among other things, and that is how I hope our family will always be. And while I'd like to use this to remind the kids to do better in their rooms, I hope more so, that they will remember to always try to do better in their hearts. To be clean from judging others and free to encourage; to be clean from fear and free with confidence; to be clean from mental clutter and free with order in their lives.

He that hath clean hands and a pure heart shall ascend unto the hill of the Lord, Ps. 24:3-5

Monday, April 26, 2010

Growing-Up, Books, and Prom

Some quick thoughts on each of the kids this week:

Benny started going to nursery this month! He loves it. It's that simple. He seems to know what to do and where to go as if he were prepared somehow, to make that big step! The first week, I didn't know what to expect when I brought him in. The ladies said I might expect to stay for a few minutes with him and let him get used to the place, and then leave. They warned me he might cry, but probably not too long. He didn't even wave good-bye. He went straight to the table, found his chair, and started in on a puzzle. Beginners luck? No. The second and third week were followed similarly. He appears to be quite social and fits in well with the kids. Whew! Another milestone for Benny-boy, and we are on our way to the next one.

Tori-Laine and I were going to sell her hundreds of books. She said they were too much of a temptation (she REALLY gets sucked in to the books and sometimes forgets about her real-life). So we posted them and sold the first couple collections. I have never felt so much regret in all my life. She grew up with these books! She is who she is, partly because of these stories! What was I thinking? Long story short, I cleared shelf space in my office, and have vowed to read them all myself. I have never really been one to "make" time for pleasure reading, but am finding it nice to read a chapter here and there--catching glimpses of Tori's world from time to time.

Dania attended her Junior prom this weekend. She went with her very good friend Jacob, and they looked fabulous together. Everyone at school thought the "double redhead" idea was cute, but I think they were even cuter for who they were on the inside. Two great friends, each hoping the other had the perfect day, and they did. It started with a group horse-back ride up some mountain trails--Dania had a BLAST! Then after getting ready, they were off for pictures in the orchards (in their formals), Italian dining, Prominade, the dance itself, and crepes at a friend's house afterward. Dania looked stunning (in my unbiased motherly opinion) and Jacob was quite the gentleman. Their next dance they'll be seniors!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Home Sweet Home, and Arizona

When I wake up to a snow covered lawn in the middle of April, I try not to say anything--at all. I know it will melt quickly, I know it won't last forever. I can't help but think of Arizona's warm air in my lungs and sun on my back. The girls and I took a trip to Scottsdale this winter, just the three of us to soak up some of that good stuff, how I miss it now.

We really had a great time, except that Tori became quite sick once we got there. While we didn't spend as much time poolside as we had originally planned, but the purpose of the trip was fulfilled and girl-time was certainly maximized. One of my favorite memories of the trip was a simple walk to get Tori out in the sun and feeling better. We started with the hotel grounds, taking pictures. Then we moved on to the nearby neighborhood and admired the very different (from Utah) landscaping and architecture of the homes. Eventually we decided to test the limits and went for a drive to see the LDS Mesa Temple.

We used to live in Mesa when it was just the three of us. Every Saturday night we would go to the Temple grounds and watch the Arizona sunset behind the peaceful building. We brought blankets and pillows, and though the girls were small they somehow offered reverence here. I remember breathing deeply and wondering how things would turn out for us. This was a healing place for us then, when we needed it. And now, as we returned some 10 - 15 years later, it was again. Reverence was there between us, the sun was setting, and Tori was feeling better.

I love that my family moved to Mesa back in 1990 from Seattle. While I appreciate the beauty and climate of the great Northwest, there is something that will always bring be back to the warmth of the valley. Our family visits are often at parks or trails. Even Thanksgiving dinner has often been at a hiking trail where the little kids could roam. There is so much to do outdoors there, and so much to love. I know the desert can come across as baron and desolate to some, but I connect with it. I miss it.

Maybe one day I will return for good. Tori swears she will live there as soon as possible. I hope she can. For now, we bloom where we are planted come snow or rain or (hopefully soon) sun. We soak up the goodness that Utah has to offer, love the people, enjoy the experience, and make the most of it. As much as our trip to Arizona was wonderful and warm, it was still better to be home in the closeness of our family and the life and love we have built together here. Home Sweet Home.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Plan B

Normally I am quite an "all or nothing" kind of person and I prefer to stick to the scheduled plan. In some things, people have called me OCD, or an over-achiever. I don't know if I'd go so far as to categorize myself in this way, but I admit to have a tendency to set very high expectations for myself sometimes. However, every week I am learning and trying to accept the very real place that "going with the flow" has in my life... at least for the next few years. So every Sunday I will continue set "plan A", and work diligently to achieve it as always, but inside I know that "plan B" awaits. Sometimes that isn't so bad.

This week, "plan A" was to spend each day familiarizing myself with italian cooking with Giada. I made it through Monday's meal -- then Benny was sick Tuesday and Wednesday so Pizza and Cafe Rio food were okay substitutes for a quick "plan B", all things considered. Then Thursday and Friday came, and the reality of teenager/baby combo hit hard. We had to start preparing Thursday, since we ended up hosting the MORP festivities this time, and I was lucky to do it. It is really a lot of fun watching the kids, and remembering my own similar times. Long story short, I got two decent cooking days in this week. Monday and Friday. For MORP we grilled out, up the canyon after games. It was FREEZING COLD and blustery up there, but thankfully it was dry.

The theme for the dance was "Celebrity Couples"... Dania's group chose Disney couples in the form of: Hercules & Meg (Hercules), Peter Pan and Wendy (Peter Pan), Woody and Jesse (Toy Story 2), and Carl and Ellie (UP!). WHAT DARLING COUPLES THEY ALL MADE! After dinner and the dance, they all came home for dessert--one HUGE ice cream sunday directly on the table, 8 spoons, and lots of toppings later... well, you get the messy idea. What a blessing it was to listen to them talking and laughing and tossing whip cream over the newly mopped floor.... really. I wouldn't trade that hour and a half for 4 planned days of successful cooking with Giada... ever.

Lesson learned: sometimes "plan B" is the B-etter plan in the end.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Benny - Our Family's Sunday

Dave and I were married December 28, 2002 raring to add more kids to our mix. First year went by and no luck... so we got a Suburban and we were REALLY prepared to fill all 8 seats. Second year went by and no luck... so we talked to the docs. 5 no-good rounds of artificial insemination, 3 expensive and failed attempts at IVF, a total of 10 miscarriages, the beginning stages of adoption process, 5 years, and well over $50,000 later, no luck. We really looked at the girls as our greatest blessing--the chance to parent together could only have come with them, we figured. All the hormone treatments and stress and disappointment took a toll on me--docs said enough is enough, stop trying. So we did.

When we were married, the girls (then 7 and 9) took Dave on 100% and boy did he take them on. I loved to hear him bragging about his daughters at work, and seeing the pictures he had of them all over his office. He earned the title of Dad right from the start--I couldn't help but wish for the sake of his experience, that he would one day have the chance of knowing what it was like, to parent to a pre 7 year-old. But that idea was over for us, and we were moving on. I got a job and we traded the Suburban for a brand new Jetta.

Docs said there was no way I would become pregnant, and if I did, we would certainly be looking at yet another heartbreaking miscarriage. They wanted to schedule me for an ablation--I would be left sterile (as if I weren't already?). I scheduled according to their direction. One week later, a positive pregnancy test. We waited for it to fail. We waited longer. I didn't want to leave the house for fear I would lose the baby in public, or in a meeting, or at church. I didn't want to get attached to the idea that this one might stick... but my sister said she had a good feeling about this one, and that it wasn't over 'til the fat lady sings. Each day I sent her another text "no fat lady".

I became sick with bronchitis and was down for nearly a month... no fat lady. I called the doc to see what she wanted me to do now... I honestly didn't know, since we had never reached this point before--almost through the first trimester! An ultrasound was scheduled, and I can not find words to tell you how fear filled my entire being that day. But there was a heartbeat, steady and strong. Some red flags were noted at that appointment, and I was watched very closely thereafter. Ultrasound after ultrasound, regular OB appointments, parinatologist appointments, geneticist appointments, ER visits, weekly non-stress tests, blood work blood work blood work, and a trip to Hawaii got us through to the end.

October 3, 2008 Benjamin John Whiting was born a miracle to the family, healthy and strong. The girls say they prayed him here, and I believe it. Now I watch him connect with Dave and I remember why I wanted this for him. I watch Benny with the girls, and I know he was sent here not just for Dave, but for each of us. He has brought an indescribable level of peace, hope, and gratitude to our home; and he has brought joy--OH THE JOY. He lives in an adult world, with his nearest sibling 14 years his senior, but he is very well adapted and thrives on all the attention he gets.

There was a day I hated hearing stories like this, with happy baby endings. So for those out there still waiting for their ending, I wish I could say "stop trying, and it will happen"--but sometimes it does not. I know that. But endings to our darkest hardest times do come in one form or another, thankfully. Elder Wirthlin of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints said this:

"I think of how dark that Friday was when Christ was lifted up on the cross. On that terrible Friday the earth shook and grew dark. Frightful storms lashed at the earth. Those evil men who sought His life rejoiced. Now that Jesus was no more, surely those who followed Him would disperse. On that day they stood triumphant. On that day the veil of the temple was rent in twain. Mary Magdalene and Mary, the mother of Jesus, were both overcome with grief and despair. The superb man they had loved and honored hung lifeless upon the cross. On that Friday the Apostles were devastated. Jesus, their Savior—the man who had walked on water and raised the dead—was Himself at the mercy of wicked men. They watched helplessly as He was overcome by His enemies. On that Friday the Savior of mankind was humiliated and bruised, abused and reviled.
It was a Friday filled with devastating, consuming sorrow that gnawed at the souls of those who loved and honored the Son of God. I think that of all the days since the beginning of this world's history, that Friday was the darkest.

But the doom of that day did not endure. The despair did not linger because on Sunday, the resurrected Lord burst the bonds of death. He ascended from the grave and appeared gloriously triumphant as the Savior of all mankind. And in an instant the eyes that had been filled with ever-flowing tears dried. The lips that had whispered prayers of distress and grief now filled the air with wondrous praise, for Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God, stood before them as the firstfruits of the Resurrection, the proof that death is merely the beginning of a new and wondrous existence. Each of us will have our own Fridays—those days when the universe itself seems shattered and the shards of our world lie littered about us in pieces. We all will experience those broken times when it seems we can never be put together again. We will all have our Fridays.
But I testify to you in the name of the One who conquered death—Sunday will come. In the darkness of our sorrow, Sunday will come.
No matter our desperation, no matter our grief, Sunday will come. In this life or the next, Sunday will come."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Music To My Eyes

So everyone has heard of the "Soccer Mom", and there is a place for her. I, however, am a "Runner Mom". I do not belong on the bleachers. Cross Country Running is a fantastic and spirited sport for the runners themselves, but even more spectacular for the parents. Attending one of these races might be confusing to some, but for those of us who live for the season of the winged shoe it is exhilarating and inspiring. Crowds of spectators ebb and flow throughout the entire 5k course--you almost have to be a runner, to watch a runner here.

I know I am into the season when I know the names of each runner on the team. I feel part of the team when I know the route, and go to the toughest part of the course to cheer them up the climb. I know I'm a runner mom when I don't care how many people are in the stands watching me run across the empty football field - ALONE - to meet my girl during her final lap to the finish, screaming "LAST KICK, WOOOOO HOOOOOOOO, YOU CAN DO THIS, YOU ARE STRONG!!" While this is most assuredly a "sight", the best sight I have ever seen was not at the finish line or up a climb or during a kick.

This year Tori became a freshman at Timpview and ran Cross Country with Dania. It was there that I got to see the two of them supporting one another in their efforts. It was music to my eyes. I couldn't ask for better girls or sisters or friends. They are examples in so many ways and I love them for that. Dania sets the pace and Tori keeps it going. There are many benefits in being a runner mom, all of which, come from the view.


As you can see, Benny's mind has outgrown his physical ability. It scares me. It makes me want to keep him inside away from long drops and busy roads and dog poop. I suppose, however, an enclosure for the tramp is in order and will have to do. This reminds me of when Tori was about Benny's age and stepped off the side of a porch, just in time for Dania to grab the hood of her coat with her tiny 3 year-old hands. By the time I turned and heard a scuffle, Dania's arms and hands were trembling as she held Tori up from falling to the rocks below. Little kids should stay in an egg until they are ready to be set into the world. Really, it is amazing to me that they make it to the teenage years at all.