Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

The drive to Thanksgiving is nine hours long.  We'd only made it 20 minutes down the road before we had to stop.  

A sizable speeding ticket wasn't the best way to begin our trek, but it was, thankfully, our only hiccup.  The four mountain passes were crossed with ease and we plowed straight through, only stopping once (after the ticket) to fill up. 

The next morning, Thanksgiving Day, started with the Turkey Trot, of course.

Christopher is my annual running buddy.  None of the kids joined us this year.  

Instead, they were doing things like building a snowman or writing up plays for the Turkey Bowl. 

The Turkey Bowl participants also signed a "Turkey Bowl Compact," written by Jonas, committing themselves to good sportsmanship.  

But before any footballs could be hiked, a feast was to be consumed.  Just look at my plateful of beautiful food:

Jonas and Caleb waiting for the prayer:

Due to icy roads, the Lynn family did not make it down from Canada in time for dinner.  Here are the rest of the cousins ready to dig in:

After all bellies were filled, the kids hurried outside.  Three cousins had matching Columbia jackets.  Two of them were practicing their smolder while posing for this picture:

This year's Turkey Bowl was played at Carroll College.  I think the boys had fun.

At least the winners were happy.

Watching my kids adore their cousins is without question my favorite part of our gathering-for-Thanksgiving tradition.  They love each other so much, they can scarcely stand to sit in separate chairs.

See what I mean?  Just look at all of this chair-sharing:

The weather had been unusually warm on Thanksgiving and Black Friday.  But on Saturday, the temperature plummeted and a rather fierce storm blew in buckets of snow.

The girls tried to play in the snow but only lasted ten minutes in the sub-freezing winter wonderland.

We decided weather like that called for a trip to Starbucks.  We were stunned to hear that our cousins had never been.  Guess they don't have them on every street corner like we do at home.

Goodbyes are always hard.  The Johnson's were the first to leave.  Some of the remaining cousins went out on the porch to give them a send-off.

We later tried to go to Buffalo Wild Wings to watch the BYU/Cal game but the placed was filled beyond capacity with a much-too-long wait.  We had to just listen to it on the radio instead.  These two super fans celebrated the win.  (Look at the girls in the background.  Sadie's even plugging her ears. :) )

It was a Thanksgiving much like all the others before it.  Simply wonderful.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Letterman

He's always had fast legs.  In elementary school, everyone in the neighborhood knew him as the kid who sprinted home from school everyday.  And I mean sprinted.  At full speed.  All the way home.

In third grade, he set the record for the mile run.  It still stands today.

The fast legs may have come naturally, but hard work and determination did not.  Caleb never runs in the off season.  When I'd pick him up from practice, it was always obvious that he hadn't done the same workout as many of the other runners that seemed to be pushing themselves.  In races, he didn't seem motivated to pass others.  I tried not to worry too much about the fact that Caleb seemed to perform under his full potential and instead I tried to just celebrate the fact that he was even participating at all.

Then, in the second race of this season, Caleb broke into the top ten of the boys team.  That means that he got to take this t-shirt from the teammate that he had unseated:

That little white t-shirt seemed to spark a bit of a fire inside of Caleb.  He was suddenly working harder and demonstrated more determination than I'd ever seen.  He really didn't want to lose that shirt and he had several teammates that were anxious to take it from him.

Since he was still running JV, he was almost always in the front of the pack at every race.  It was just so much fun to watch him leading the way this year.

I know I'm sappy, but this next picture actually puts a little lump in my throat.  I love that the varsity team is cheering for Caleb as he is out in front of the pack at a large invitational called, "Hole in the Wall."

And you know why I love this picture?  Because it shows Caleb's athletic supporters (Grandma, Grandpa and Alyssa) cheering him on.  My parents should seriously earn a ribbon for being the most supportive grandparents ever!

In the end, Caleb finished 11th out of 233 runners.  That earned him his first ever XC ribbon.

Imagine this dialogue as you view the next series of photos:

Me: "Caleb, don't do a dorky smile."

Caleb: "Mom! What do you mean a dorky smile?"

Caleb: "I'm not smiling dorky."

Me: "Ah well.  That's maybe a little better.  Oh, and nice hand placement."

Caleb held onto that top ten shirt until the second to the last race.  He was passed at the end of the race but since he'd had it for most of the season, the coaches couldn't bear to take it from him, so both he and the other boy got shirts.  Also, it should be noted that throughout the season, it always seemed that some runner or another that was likely to take the shirt from Caleb was sick or injured.  As awesome as it was to earn that shirt, it always seemed to come with a bit of an asterisk.

Then came sub-districts and Caleb's favorite course, one he's run many times and knows well.  He gave it all he had and finished with an all-time PR of 18:29.  Not a single runner on his team was sick or injured that day.  Everyone ran, everyone did well and Caleb legitimately finished in the top ten.  That shirt, now free of any asterisks, was all his!

He was awarded his second ribbon of the season for finishing 11th of 286 JV runners.  The satisfaction he felt from the accomplishment was made obvious with his fist pumping and mile-wide smile.

Last week, we attended the end-of-year banquet for his team.  We were proud to learn that Caleb's efforts this year earned him the school's varsity letter.  He was also awarded Scholar Athlete and Distinguished Scholastic awards.

Way to go, Caleb!  We are so proud of you.

Now, let's see some running in the off season!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Frame Builder

Who knew Alyssa was a woodworker?  Yeah, I didn't either.

In contemplating a project she could do for a Personal Progress project under the value of knowledge, she decided it might be fun to build a frame. I'm not sure where the idea came from, but when she shared it with her father, he was excited to learn how to do it with her.

I was really nervous about her using the power saw and suggested to Jon that he do that part for her.  He didn't listen to me and Alyssa came in house smugly wiggling her fingers in front of my face and stating in a sing-song voice, "Look Mom, I still have all of my fingers!"

The whole process took several days to complete.

Once the frame was finished, she decided she wanted to put a copy of the Family Proclamation inside and create a mat with family pictures to go around it.

She completed it just in time for Young Women in Excellence where she did a fantastic job presenting and displaying her project.

It was such a great learning experience that turned out to be a collaborative effort of a daughter and her parents.  Who knows, Lys and Jon just may decide to build more frames in the future.

We now have this lovely little gem hanging on the wall of our family room:

Well done, frame builder.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Turning forty seemed about as exciting as going to the dentist.  We actually really love our dentist, but truth be told, I dread every appointment.  

In my younger years, reaching the top of the proverbial hill didn't seem that big of a deal, but once I found my self there--feeling slower, chubbier and less "with it" than I have in years--I really didn't want to go over it.  But alas, I couldn't stop forty from coming and there really are lots of fabulous things about this stage in life, so let's celebrate those, shall we?

If you know me, you know that I delight in all things pumpkin.  Having a fall birthday often lends itself to pumpkin-flavored gifts.  A fellow employee at work has been making small gifts for each member of our staff every month.  This person remains a mystery to everyone, but whomever it is comes up with the cutest little gifts that are themed for that month's birthdays.  This was the first birthday gift I received:

Pumpkin bread was baked in that jar and it was delicious!

Other thoughtful cards and gifts followed.  My in laws and parents both sent birthday money.  Who doesn't love birthday money?  My mother-in-law wrote a really sweet message in her card to me and my own mom, who is known for indulgent gifts, included these words, "I'm sending a little extra this year because every 40 yr. old mom deserves a massage!"  

There seems an expectation that forty should be celebrated in extravagant ways.  About six years ago, Jon and I went on a trip to Cancun for a friend's surprise 40th birthday party.  My sister-in-law celebrated on the beach in Hawaii.  I saw on Facebook that an old high school friend recently had a barn dance with all of her friends and family.  Perhaps due to financial and time restraints, my birthday was none of those things.  It was simple.  But it was perfect.  

I came home from work to find this beautiful flower arrangement from Jon:

Then we loaded our overnight bags into the car and headed toward a secluded cabin near Mount Rainier.  I kind of have a love affair with Mount Rainier, you know.  On our way there, we stopped for a gigantic lunch at Black Angus.  I had the salmon, he had the steak.  A little further up the road, we stopped again to rent a couple of movies and buy snacks like Dove chocolates and microwave popcorn for later.

We arrived at our cabin at dusk.

After getting settle in, we built a campfire under the crystal clear sky that was bursting with brilliant stars.  The mountain air was cold and crisp and perfectly pine-scented.  Heavenly, really.

We talked while sipping hot cocoa.  (And Jon made dorky faces when I pointed the camera in his direction.)

But soon the warmth of the fire and hot cocoa were not enough to overpower the dropping temperatures, so we slipped into our private hot tub.

Later I got into my footy pajamas--oh boy do I really love those!--and we watched a couple of movies while eating birthday dessert.  

My friend Camille had given me pumpkin cupcakes which were the perfect treat.  

The cabin had a cute little shelf where couples could leave a little something to celebrate their time there. 

The very first Dove chocolate we ate had a most perfect saying.  So we smoothed out the wrapper, signed and dated it and added it to the collection.

The windowless bedroom allowed us to sleep late into the morning.  Outside birds were chirping and sunbeams burst through the evergreens.  Stunningly gorgeous, I tell you!

That's our private fire pit right there:

The hot tub was just as wonderful in the frosty morning as it had been the night before.

What were our kids doing this whole time?  Well that right there is one of the wonderful things about the stage of life we are in.  Our kids were home, very responsibly and ably holding down the fort all on their own.

We weren't originally planning to go into Mount Rainier National Park, but with the weather being so picturesquely perfect, we couldn't pass up the opportunity.

The views were spectacular.  We drove up to Paradise and went on a short hike to some water falls.

That's me in a t-shirt.  In November!

We stopped at the National Park Inn at Longmore for lunch before heading home.

The entire little get away really could not have been any more perfect.  So in the end, I guess turning forty wasn't so bad after all.  And besides, I still have that birthday massage to look forward to!