Sunday, September 27, 2015

Senior Year in Seaside

I feel like I'm writing the last chapter of a story that I don't want to end.  It's the story of a boy who is growing up and the role a high school cross country team has played in his life.  Over the last four years, I've been a cheerleader along every course, urging him toward the finish.  I've seen how his training efforts result in better times as each season progresses.  But, it's the social growth and sense of self that have come from the camaraderie and positive aspect of this team that has been a true gift.

For the last three years, Caleb has run the Three Course Challenge in Seaside, Oregon.  We've always made a family trip of it.  We have established all of our favorite activities, favorite shops and favorite restaurants.  Caleb spends the night with his team on a high school gym floor.  He works out on the beach and runs an unusually challenging course.  It always makes for a really great weekend and this year was no different.

Alyssa got to bring along her dear friend Maison and Grandma and Grandpa Seely also joined us this year.

We headed to the beach as soon as we got into town.

While the girls did handstands and cartwheels in the sand, we adults were flying kites.

Do little girls get any more adorable than this?

There were all sorts of sand creations along the beach, but I was partial to this Seahawks stadium:

Natalie later got to meet up with Emma (who was in town to watch her sister run), which made beach play exponentially more fun.

The sunset over the Pacific Ocean that night could not have been any more stunning.

Caleb had been playing (and working out) on the beach with his team.  His coaches took some fun pictures that they later shared with us parents.

It really is a great group of kids.

They divided into groups for some games, one of which included building a pyramid.

It warms my little heart to see my boy, to whom social interactions and inclusion do not come naturally, being held up by teammates willing to support him and linked arms with friends who cheer each other on.

After a spaghetti dinner at the high school where they also spent the night, it was time to draw chips to see which of the three courses each runner would run the next day.

Caleb drew the red chip.  The hard course.  It really should be called the brutal course.  He'd run it before and was not happy to have to run it again his senior year.  It's just truly that hard!

I have to admit that this was the outcome I was secretly hoping for.  Because it's his senior year, I like the idea of him having to push himself to his limit.

This is the hard course group:

Caleb is showing his two thumbs down:

Meanwhile, we were having a blast at the arcade.  Fascination is so much stinkin' fun:

Much to my chagrin, Nat demonstrated her uncanny claw game-winning abilities and acquired an armful of new friends.  

Jon was in his happy place with Ms. Pac-man.

The next morning was race day.  We arrived at Camp Rilea just about the time Caleb's group was doing their pre-race cheer.

"Who dat talk 'bout beat dem Ravens?  
Who dat, who dat, WHO?!
Who dat talk 'bout beat dem Ravens?
Who dat, who dat, WHO?!
Let's get fired up, Ravens put them claws up
Who, who, who?

We made our way-- and it's a LONG ways--to the mud pit to wait for Caleb to come through.  The mud was really thick this year and took an untold number of shoes prisoner.  While waiting for the next group of runners to come through, several kids were digging for lost shoes.

This course is not about time.  It's about perseverance.  Even the strongest of runners can expect to add at least 4 minutes to their usual time.

Caleb did persevere.  And he made it to the finish line with both shoes on--which is more than many runners could say.

I hate that these memories have to come to an end.  Seaside is always a good time, but it's so much more than that to me because of the growth cross country has provided in this place.  Growing up is part of life and I'll forever be grateful for what running cross country in Seaside has represented in that process.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Snapshots of Summer

Our lawn died this summer.  We were too busy making memories to water it and Mother Nature was busy bathing us in exquisite Seattle sunshine, so it died an ugly brown death.  And I didn't even really care because this may just go down in history as my favorite summer ever. Ever!

Way back in March, Jon and I decided tickets to Jim Gaffigan would be the most perfect birthday present for Caleb.  We planned to go with our friends, the McCabe's, whose son Griffin's birthday is just two days prior to Caleb's.  Both boys have a real affinity for Jim Gaffigan, making it an ideal birthday surprise.  After purchasing the tickets, however, we discovered that the show conflicted with Trek. Caleb would be absent for his birthday outing!  Natalie got to go in his place.

Jim's jokes had us laughing hysterically from start to finish.  If Trek hadn't been such a wonderful experience, Caleb probably would've never forgiven us.

Just a few days after returning home from Trek, Natalie and Caleb went to Yakima to spend a week being spoiled by Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Chad and Aunt Amy.

Alyssa left for Girl's Camp.  Our house was all together too quiet.

After dropping Alyssa at camp (she had a splendid week!) Jon and I decided that we were in no hurry to return to our empty house.  So we delighted in a delicious seafood dinner on the harbor.

Good golly, we live in a beautiful place!

For dessert, we enjoyed frosted lemonades from Chick-Fil-A, just to make Caleb jealous.  And he was!  We made sure to text him a picture of what he was missing.

Our dear friends, the Evan's, came to town and we got to spend a couple of days at Lake Tapps, where their grandparents live.  Dreamy, right?

We loved meeting their new addition:

Chad and Amy came to town for the Jamie Moyer Hall of Fame Mariners game.  The game went into extra innings and was a whole lotta fun until we got blown out in the 11th.  But Caleb rocked the jumbotron and we all went away with bobbleheads, so it's all good.

The game ended just in time for Jon and the girls to walk from Safeco Field to Century Link for the Taylor Swift concert.  This should earn him a nomination for Father of the Year.

To say they had a blast would be a gross understatement.

Summer also made time for Wild Waves, backyard swimming, froyo and shopping.  

Caleb sampled BBQ chipmunk thighs on his week-long High Adventure outing.  With a little Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce, he decided the little rodent's legs were a tasty snack.  

He had a great time doing all sorts of activities and came home positively filthy:

At the end of August, we spent two nights camping with a few of our favorite friends at our favorite campground, Camp Zarahemla.

This little cabin holds so many family memories.

We ate very well in spite of a burn ban:

The air was rather smoky, but it was still beautiful.

And speaking of beautiful, look at that canopy:

We took a group picture of the adults before our talent show.  We're good at jazz hands, aren't we?

All the moms and dads prepared a skit.  We knew just what to do to engage the audience--our children. Some of them ran away screaming.  Natalie grabbed both sides of her head and exclaimed, "That was the worst skit ever!"  I beg to differ.  I thought it was awesome.

The kids did fun skits, too.  They'd probably tell you theirs were better than ours but I'm not so sure.

We played lots of games and ate far too much sugar.

Such a great bunch of kids.  Such a great weekend!

Early September brought what Caleb described as, "the biggest rush of emotion I've ever felt in my life!"  BYU does a really fun promotion as a countdown to the first football game.  Called BYU 50, the campaign drops fan boxes (huge Y boxes filled with BYU gear) in each of the 50 states.  Because it goes in alphabetical order, Washington was one of the last states to have their box dropped.  After the box is placed in a mystery location, a photo is posted on all of BYU social media accounts and the first person to the location wins. 

Caleb follows the BYU Instagram account religiously.  Around noon on the drop date, he found out that the box would be dropped in the Tacoma area.  I warned him repeatedly that his chances of winning the box were extremely low and though I was feeling rather grumpy about even trying, I decided I couldn't deny my superfan the opportunity. (I wasn't about to allow him to race around Tacoma at rush hour by himself, so I drove him.)  

He decided we should wait at the Tacoma Dome.  Caleb checked his phone every few seconds in the hour and half we spent parked there. 

At long last, this picture appeared on the Instagram feed:

I threw the car into gear and raced to the Glass Museum.  Caleb sprinted around back and was to the box within three minutes of the picture being posted.  But he was third place.  So all we got were two runner-up t-shirts.

This is the picture BYU took and posted of the winners:

It was the girl on the far left who won.  I congratulated her and then said, "I hope you are a really big fan!"  She and her mom assured me they were and told us how they had been walking around the museum for well over three hours, just hoping that would be the right location.  There's simply no way she's as big a fan as Caleb, though.  Oh well, nothing a little Chick-Fil-A can't fix.

Aunt Maureen came to visit for Labor Day and one final summer hurrah.  She treated the girls and I to an outing at the Fifth Avenue Theatre to see Matilda.  It was a really fabulous show!

We cheered Caleb on in his first cross country race, celebrated Jon's birthday, enjoyed some yummy meals together and delighted in BYU's miraculous Hail Mary win.

A visit to Gas Works Park and the Ballard Locks left us envious of the sail-boating, yacht-riding crowd.

It was a great way to end an unforgettable summer.

I wish it didn't have to end, but maybe now the lawn will come back to life.