Friday, August 29, 2014

Team in Training (Finally...)

I've been without internet access in my house for an ENTIRE week!  (Well, other than the 4G on my phone, but still...)  It's like living on a desert island.  Actually, we've been so busy that, other than the nuisance of having to make two trips up the road to the library to get some work done on their computers, I've hardly noticed.  Except for the fact that this post is way past due.  So here goes...

When Bryan was in the hospital, on one of those few blessed days where he was well enough to be himself, his phone rang.  It was the Leukemia Lymphoma Society asking if he'd like to renew his yearly donation to fund blood cancer research.  Bryan laughed.  "Funny you should mention that.  I'm sitting on a hospital bed and I've just been diagnosed with blood cancer."

The lady on the phone offered condolences, encouragement, and a promise to offer whatever help they could.

And they did.

June 6, 2012
Daddy in the hospital with all his little people.
One of the toughest parts of being in the hospital and being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness is the sheer amount of information that you have to sift through.  Bryan's team of doctors was fantastic, and they did exactly what they needed to do: They focused on the clinical side of his care.  The overworked nurses did their best to care for all of the patients on the ward.  But sifting through the treatment options, the new vocabulary, the side effects, the tests, the precautions, the prognosis- that whole process is overwhelming. 

June 18, 2012
Daddy at home with his little sunshine.
 And it wasn't too long ago that the treatment "options" for blood cancers were few and the prognosis was grim.  Organizations like the Leukemia Lymphoma Society by coming alongside patients and their families to educate and support, and by funding research to extend life and search for cures and treatments, have made a tremendous amount of headway in fighting blood cancer.

Shortly after Bryan died, I saw that the Leukemia Lymphoma Society raised money through the Team in Training.  I knew immediately that I wanted to join.  I wanted my kids to see that their are people fighting back against cancer.  That we can use something as devastating as their dad's death to motivate us to do something for others.

In December, Lord willing, I'll be running my first half marathon- the San Antonio Rock n Roll Half- with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Team in Training.  I need your help, please support me and my kiddos in this quest in Bryan's honor.  Every little donation will help move me closer to the finish line (okay, my legs might have a little to do with that too) and, I pray, will one day conquer leukemia.

June 26, 2012
Still holding on.
You can give by clicking this link.  Thank you to all of you who have already donated, and please forward this to your friends and family.  I'm blessed to have each one of you in my life.

I posted this verse when Bryan had been in the hospital for two weeks, and quite possibly several times since then.  It's become a theme for me.

"They that wait upon the LORD 
shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings as eagles;
they shall run, and not be weary;
and they shall walk, and not faint."

Isaiah 40:31



Sunday, August 17, 2014

From the Outside Looking In

I was standing in line at the grocery store, and I was reading the fronts of the magazines.  I saw a picture of Kate Gosselin.  "Oh my goodness!" I thought, "I can't believe she's raising all those kids by herself."

And then I laughed.  Out loud.

What was I thinking?  She only has one more child than I do and hers are older than mine!

But that brief moment in the store gave me insight into everyone around me, and for that I'm thankful.  It made me realize that things appear far different from the outside looking in.

It's been two years since Bryan died, and we're doing well.  Our lives have changed dramatically, and will continue to change over the next two years, and the two years after that.  Some of the change has been inevitable, some of it has been the result of my prayerful decisions.  All of it has moved us forward.  One of the biggest challenges we face now is the reaction of others to our situation.

"You have how many kids?"

"Seven.  Six boys.  One girl."

"Wow!  Are you going to have more?" (or, alternatively...) "What does your husband do?"

"I'm a widow."

And then, the reaction.  Best: "I'm sorry."  Okay: "Oh."  Worst: Anything longer than the first two.

Because I get it.  It's sad.  Seven kids.  No dad.  Cue the violins.  No one would choose something like this.  But, it's our LIFE, and quite honestly, we spend most of our time happy, or at the very least "normal."  There are tears, but they're usually of the "he destroyed my six day Lego project" type.  Life goes on, and especially with growing and active children, grief just can't stay around for long.

As the two year anniversary of Bryan's death approached, I did a little investigative work with my kids.  Did they want to "do something" to remember the date?  Ummm, no.  Turns out we are not a memorializing family.

We do remember Bryan, of course.  He comes up in conversations all the time.  But we rarely talk about the sad stuff.  We remember things he said, things he did.  The kids are particularly fond of the things that make them laugh.  They want their memories of their dad to be happy, and I'm okay with that.  More than okay, actually.  I know that it's exactly what Bryan would have wanted.

Bryan was all about moving forward.  He was, actually, all about careening forward at break-neck speed and actively looking for ways to reach out to others.  He wanted to squeeze every drop he could out of life, and he never let pain or grief stop him.  He figured that death demonstrated that life was short, and that the departed would be honored to know that their loved ones were continuing to embrace life.

And we are embracing life.

But I understand that others don't understand.  When you're on the outside looking in, life looks messy, scary, and sometimes sad.  God gives grace for each moment, though, and with His grace comes joy and strength for the battle.

I want our family to share the blessing of God's provision for us with others.  I want my kids to see that life goes on and that we need to do what we can to serve others.  I want our family to be part of something bigger.

On that note, I've decided, because I believe it will honor Bryan and his embrace life and reach out philosophy, to begin half marathon training with the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Team in Training.  (If you'd like to donate in Bryan's memory to fund research to combat blood cancer, you can click here.)  I'll post more details on what led me to take this leap and on what I'll be doing and why.  Until then, dear friends, embrace life, and remember, things look a lot better from the inside.


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Randomness #2

Here are a few random things from the last few weeks:

Swimming

It is hot, hot, hot.  Swimming is about the only outdoor activity that's possible after noon around here.



Magic

Our fridge FINALLY got fixed.  (At least, I think it's fixed.  It's still freezing stuff in the back.  I really hate my GE fridge and dealing with GE.  The repairmen they send are friendly and probably competent, but the company is not endearing itself to me.  Fortunately, I have a second fridge in the garage which incidentally cost less than the repair on the less than two year old GE fridge.)  Anyway...after two weeks of making trips to the garage every time we needed something cold, we finally had an indoor fridge again.

And I saw Justin standing in front of it in the kitchen.


"Justin, what are you doing?"

"I am standing in front of the fridge hoping that something good will magically appear."

"It won't.  Shut the door."  Can't blame a guy for trying.

Weekend

Last Saturday as I was taking Megan to her gymnastics practice, I saw that the fountain in the town square was FILLED with foam.  After I dropped Megan off, the boys and I headed out to investigate.




It took about two minutes for this to happen.


Yep, he fell in the fountain head first.  After a quick change of clothes for Austin, we headed out to the green belt for some nature exploration.  (When I got the Ergo out for Austin, he said, "Oh, THANK YOU, Mommy!" like I had just given him the best gift in the world.  So cute.)

There were ducklings.


And walls to climb.



 And Austin found two feathers and flapped his arms, "I'm flying!  I'm flying!"


It was a delightful way to spend a Saturday morning.

Rhetoric

Austin's rhetoric skills are improving.  Just the other day, he anticipated an argument.

He was playing with a metal stick (yeah, I know, I'm a great mom), and he narrowly missed whacking me in the head with it.  


Just as I was getting ready to launch into a "and this is why you shouldn't play with sticks" lecture, he said, "It's not dange-wus, Mom.  Look! (He pats my head.)  You's head still all better."

Elvis

Finally, I got running shoe advice from Elvis at the Leukemia Lymphoma Society Team in Training event. More on that exciting development to come...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Randomness

I started this blog primarily as a way to keep grandparents and other scattered family members updated on the kids as they grew.  Lately, that's been a bit of a bust, hasn't it?

Some of it is because I'm busy, but a lot of it is because I tend to post things that have a theme or a point.  But most of life is pointless.  Not really.  But seemingly.  There are so many random things that happen that are funny, aggravating, and just, well, life.

So enter Randomness posts.  At some predetermined interval (I refuse to commit to a specific time period), I will post little things that have happened, probably accompanied by mediocre pictures taken on my phone.  (I rarely have the big camera handy.)  The grandparents will love it.  Everyone else?  Who knows?  If you prefer posts with meaning, feel free to skip over the Randomness posts and wait for something better to come along.

With that introduction, Randomness #1:

We went to Enchanted Rock.

This was supposed to be my Mother's Day, but life intervened, and this got pushed to July.  We went early to beat the heat.



Nathan, Evan, and Carsten RAN up to the top.  The rest of us resolutely followed along behind.  I learned something from our trip last year and put Austin in the FRONT pack on the way up and switched him to the back on the way down.  (I'm still rocking the Ergo with 2 1/2 year old Austin. It is by far the best baby accessory ever made, and if I had to pick just two new parent products, I'd say the Ergo and the Boppy.  All else, including the crib, is really optional.)  It made balancing on the steep climb sooo much easier.  And the view is certainly worth the climb!




"Someone" ate the last piece of banana cake.

Notice the tipped cake carrier on the top shelf. And the black bar stools used in the commission of the crime.  I was planning on sneaking that piece myself.  Oh well.  Food doesn't last long in our house.



I went for a ride with these folks.

My dad, Mark, and my brother, Sam.  They (and the 30 hilly miles) nearly killed me.  It was the most fun I've had in ages.




Bluetooth can make you look crazy.


We were in the grocery store, and all of a sudden, Evan whispered, "Mom, who is that lady talking to?"

"I guess she's on the phone."

"But I don't see any phone.  Or cord.  Or anything."

And he was right.  There she was, in the middle of the aisle, gesticulating with her hands and talking in a normal tone of voice- to nobody.  "The problem is, it's 16 by 30.  That's just not a standard size.  I'm really not sure what to do..."

Then Evan just dissolved into a complete laughing fit.  "Maybe she's crazy!"



Maybe she is.

Austin found his dream car.

We were on our way into the pool when Austin saw this.  He LOVES Spiderman right now.



He said, "This is my car!"

Then he walked around and pointed back toward our van, "I don't like that car now.  I like this car."

 So there you have it: Randomness.

Until next time!






Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tiny Texan

This past Sunday was the Tiny Texan Triathlon!  Here's my race recap:

I had done this race last year.  It was, in fact, my very first sprint triathlon.  When I got home, I set my bike up on the trainer in my room and didn't touch it again until 10 months later.  I did a little better with my swimming and running, but those became pretty erratic after November as well.  Even though I knew I had let myself slip over the winter, I was still hoping that my summer training would pay off at least a teensy bit by the time the Tiny Texan rolled around again.

My race prep went really smoothly.  Too smoothly, I began to superstitiously tell myself.  I've only done four races in my life, and the lead up to those included having the van- with all the kids in it- break down on the way to packet pick up, realizing the night before that I had zero race "fuel," and nearly abandoning a race completely because of extreme kid meltdown.  Not this time.  This time packet pickup went off without a hitch and I had everything packed and ready to go by 8 PM on Saturday evening.  Too smoothly.  Then, at 9 PM, I whacked my head really hard on the corner of the freezer and felt better.  No need to worry about impending doom anymore- I had a lump on my head.

The Tiny (sprint) and Small (Olympic) Triathlon takes place at Boerne Lake every July.  The sprint distance is considered a slightly "long" sprint: 800 m open water swim, 25K bike over "hill country terrain" and a 5K run.  The views are really beautiful and it's a race I'd wholeheartedly recommend to others. (Just remember:  It's Texas.  It's July.  It's hot.  It's hilly.  It's- mostly- a trail run.  You should totally go for it!)

I got my bike racked and my transition stuff set up.

Thanks, Mike, for the picture!

Transition, Before.  See Below for "After."

And then the waiting.  Lots of waiting.  I chatted with some of the other racers, recognized a few from last year and from the Rockin’ R, and just bounced around trying to burn off my nervous energy.  It’s actually fun to see so many people of so many ages and backgrounds coming together for the same crazy reason.


As the start time got closer, everyone grabbed swim caps and goggles and headed down to the lake to wait there.  The Small Texans took off first to swim their 1500 m.  The speedy ones were finished before the Tiny Texans even got in.  The fast women climbed out of the lake congratulating and encouraging each other.  The fast men climbed out, checked their watches, and shook their heads in frustration.  (I’m glad I’m not a 20-40 year old male.  Their competitiveness must just suck the joy out of everything.  It gave the rest of us something to nervously laugh about while we waited, though.)



Then came the call for the "Tiny Men" to get in the water.  They did, while inwardly swearing never again to do a race with "Tiny" in the name.  And then, the Tiny Women.  

I felt more confident about my swimming this time around, but I was still a little freaked out by the open water.  Try as I might, I couldn't keep a straight line!  For the first 300 meters, I was swimming ALL over the place.  I was getting really thrown off by some of the other swimmers who were swimming off to the right and the left.  One lady actually was swimming TOWARD me.  "Other way!"  "Thank you!"  I think she may have beaten me in the end.  About halfway, I finally started to get into a flow that allowed me to actually swim and not just try to figure out which direction I was going.  (Note to self:  Do not wear goggles that fog on race day.)  The stretch to the shore was a little tough.  There weren't any brightly colored landmarks to aim for. (I thought there was, but turns out it was a picnic area off to the left.  Thank you, fellow swimmer, for setting me straight.)  Fortunately, a spectator with a bright yellow polo had noticed the problem and stationed himself right at the exit point.  Thank you, Yellow Polo Man!

And then it was onto the bike!  My bike was my worst leg last time around, so I was determined to give this a good effort.  It's a pretty hilly ride, but it has some beautiful views.  I had done some training rides on the route so that I'd be better prepared, mentally and physically, for the race.  (That, of course, is when I took these pictures.  I would be in sad shape if I tried to snap pictures while riding.)


 The great thing about these long rides is that there are so many supportive spectators to cheer you on.



I was able to pass a few people along the way, and not too many women passed me.  A few men did.  Very fast men.  People shouted encouragements along the way.  On the way back, I fell in behind a man who was keeping a good pace for me.  (Drafting is illegal- I wasn't close, just behind him.)  As we hit the last big hill, I could see him deflate and slow down some.  "This is the LAST HILL and the view from the top is awesome!" I told him as I passed.  A woman nearby said, "Really?"  I don't know whether she believed me.  This picture doesn't do it justice, especially since the camera flattens everything out, but that's the lake in the distance, and it's breathtaking.  Worth the climb.


Then, it was time to run!  Normally, in my training, my legs would feel heavy running off the bike, but this time, I was having some serious pain in my hips.  Yikes.  I ran up the hill anyway and hoped it would work itself out.  And then came the Dam Run.


Hot. Hot. Hot.  The key for me is not to look down and see this:


Beautiful, cool, lake water does not make me feel better about running while I'm frying.  I tried to keep an even pace- something that I didn't do last year- and an awful lot of people were walking.  Only one woman passed me on the run, and she had an Ironman tattoo- so, you know, whatever.

After much deliberation, I had decided to carry my own water on the run instead of relying on the aid station.  I'm not too great at drinking out of those bitty cups and on a run this short, I don't need an excuse to walk.  I ran the whole way, and on the way back, I still felt like I was running in slow motion, but I couldn't really force myself to go any faster.  I kept telling myself it wasn't as hot as last year.  (That may or may not have been true.  Some of my fellow racers were very skeptical when I said that later.)  And the blisters!  Normally I don't have a problem running short distances without socks, but my new(ish) shoes apparently had razor blades installed on the sides that I wasn't aware of.  I plodded on and swore that next time, I'd take the 4 second hit and put on socks.



And then, the finish line!  I did, apparently, have some extra reserves I hadn't tapped because I did speed up to cross the line.  And then it was on to the after party.  Lots of very sweaty, happy people swapping war stories, and eating the BEST FOOD IN THE WORLD.  (Hunger is, indeed, the best cook.)


Transition, After.
Final Stats:
800 m Swim: 23:57 (I nearly screamed aloud in frustration when I saw that.  The same to the SECOND as last year.)
T1: 1:37
25K Bike: 1:03:26 (6 minutes faster than last year!)
T2: 1:24
5K Run: 35:53 (About a minute faster than last year.  Like last year, the 5K was "long" 3.4 miles.  Maybe one of these days they'll invent something that will help race directors use some sort of satellite to set up the distances properly.)
Overall Time: 2:06:19 (7 minutes faster than last year.  Progress!)
18th of 53 women, 6th in my age group.

I think the training did pay off a teensy bit, and this year, there won't be any dusty bike sitting in my room.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Beach!

June has been a busy month in our household, including a trip to the beach!

I hadn't really planned anything for our summer.  We were pretty much buried the entire school year and thinking ahead to summer just wasn't possible.  But when I looked at the calendar and realized my kids were going to have a FOURTEEN WEEK summer, I knew I had better get planning.  Seven sets of idle hands make for quite a busy workshop.

So I booked a very reasonably priced condo at Port Aransas and got everyone packing.  Austin was ready for days before we left.


Our condo complex was on the beach so we were able to walk right down the boardwalk to the sand and waves.


The waves were pretty rough this year and the kids spent hours jumping and splashing.  And I counted.  Wave.  1-2-3-4-5-6 heads popped up and I managed to hold onto Austin.  Another wave.  1-2-3...



Then, they'd come back to the beach for a snack and a "rest," which essentially consisted of them feeding the seagulls half of their snack and running around screaming while the birds chased them.


They also built a few sandcastles for Austin to destroy.  (At least, that's what he thought they were for.)


In the afternoons, we chilled out at the condo and in the evenings, we picked up dinner and avoided the whole eating-out-at-restaurant-with-kids stress.  After that, we'd go for a swim in the pool.  Megan perceptively noted, "When we get in the pool, it kind of empties out and we have it all to ourselves."  Ah, the benefits of having an army of children.

We couldn't have asked for better weather and the kids are already planning next year's beach trip.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Rockin' R

So...last weekend I did something I had no business doing:

A triathlon!

Seriously, I have gotten so very out of shape since November that racing of any type should have been the furthest thing from my mind.  But, I knew I needed something to get me back in the game, and that something was the Rockin' R Triathlon in Gruene, Texas.


This photo of Gruene Mansion Inn Bed & Breakfast is courtesy of TripAdvisor

It's a beautiful course along (and in) the Guadalupe River, with huge trees arching above the road along the water.  The weather was gorgeous too!

After the Tiny Texan Tri last year, I felt pretty confident that I'd keep exercising and stay focused on getting back in shape.  And while I will admit that I didn't touch my bike at all after that race, I did keep running and swimming through the first part of the school year.  In November, I started toying with the idea of training for a half marathon (it seemed like training for one sport might be a little easier during the school year).  Then, life smacked me upside the head, the stress of everything I was (trying to) balance caught up with me and I cut way back on any sort of exercise.  I ran some here and there, but it was very inconsistent.

As the end of the school year got closer and I started to see light at the end of the tunnel, I started running a few times a week.  I ditched the treadmill and ran outside ONLY.  The sunshine and fresh air did me so much good.  And, all that fresh air might have gone to my head a little after my long winter of deprivation, because I decided in April that I should do the Rockin R, even though it was coming up in just a few weeks.

I got back in the pool and didn't drown.  I dusted off (literally) my bike and didn't die (though my legs thought they might).  I ran with a little more purpose- not very fast, but with a focus on consistency.

And then I signed up for the race.  I told myself that I was going to be slow.  That it was going to be hard.  That I was going to do it for the fun and the fitness and not focus on my times.

When my alarm went off at 4, I thought to myself, "It's a good thing they make you pay for races in advance, because I wouldn't be getting out of bed if I didn't have money on the line."

I got my transition spot set up, and started to worry a little about the water temperature.  It's been unseasonably cool and we'd had some rain, so the Guadalupe was a chilly 72.  About half the racers were wearing wet suits.  Oh well. It was only 400 meters.  I wasn't going to freeze.  

I was also a little concerned about my lack of full preparation.  The race was the Sunday after our last day of school.  I had spent the weekend grading finals.  I hadn't had my bike tuned up.  I hadn't even taken the time to get bars or anything to eat.  I had a banana and some electrolyte water.  That should do it.

And then the race started!  I watched the first swimmers start off across the river and I wondered why they were swimming with their heads up.  When I got in, I figured it out: Rocks!  There were massive rocks just below the surface.  I half swam, half pushed myself across the rocks and then, when the water got deep enough to really swim, at first, I had a hard time finding my rhythm.  I was still a little concerned about the rocks and the water was so MURKY!  I couldn't see a thing.  (Note to self: Do not watch episodes of River Monsters before open water swims.)  I got into a rhythm eventually and finished the swim without a problem.
(400 m. in 9:40, for those who care about such things.  Not too bad for me right now.)
  
Next up, bike.  My transition time was forever long.  (2:36)  My laid back attitude about the race was starting to work against me, but I was having a good time!  The ride was a beautiful one with "rolling hills."  That means there's nothing too strenuous, but it's definitely not flat.  I was SO slow.  That one ride I had taken really hadn't done much to give me any bike power.  No surprise there, but really, it was bad!  I did enjoy the ride (who doesn't love having police officers to stop traffic at every intersection!) but I felt pretty much like I was crawling along.  (13 miles in 57:56; 13.8 mph)

I had told myself when I signed up for the race that I could walk the run if I had to.  I knew that I might not have the endurance that I needed to finish otherwise.  Plus, there was a killer hill right at the start!  They promised the run was pretty flat after that, and some of the racers said it was "okay to walk the hill after the bike."  The second I hit that hill, I suddenly told myself there was NO WAY I was going to walk- not even a single step- on the run.  I don't know why that suddenly became so important.  I think I was a little frustrated by my slow bike and I didn't want to compound it by strolling along for the run.  I found a pace I could sustain and I kept it up.  I was feeling pretty good!

And then I saw the one mile marker.  "What the heck?" I actually said out loud.  I definitely felt like I had been running much longer than that.  But I told myself that the first mile is always the toughest and it was only a 5K.  I stuck to my "run slowly, but run" strategy and finished the race feeling strong.  (5K in 32:59; 9:59 min/mile.  Total time: 1:44:51)

Sorry for the lack of pictures on this one!  I was going it solo and didn't really take any myself.  But what a great day!  It was just the summer jump start that I needed.  It was a much-needed lesson in the value of jumping in and finishing- not perfectly, not even well- but finishing anyway.

Oh, and was I sore the next day?  You bet.  Totally worth it.