Thursday, December 24, 2009

Lucy Keeps Asking, "Is it winter?"

Lucy's preschool teacher apparently informed her that it wasn't officially winter, so she was very confused on December 19th...
(You can see the rectangular decorative door-marks there in the packed snow if you look carefully).

We realize many of our blog readers have seen snow before, but this is also for the benefit of the grandparents in snowless climes. We invite you to enjoy all the white without the puddles tracked in and the baggies of snowballs saved in the freezer!

These bushes outside this window had been trimmed to sill-level. And in fact, on the back deck, our informal gauge of how deep it was getting was Nora's tricycle, which eventually was completely covered. One handlebar was the last holdout, but finally went under by morning.

School was canceled for the remaining two days before the holiday break was due to start, so we're delighting in extra time to bake cookies, sing Christmas carols, and scuttle around the house with secretive looks on our faces. (Or in my case, occasional worried looks when I can't remember where I've hidden something.)

We're having a white Christmas, baby!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Big Day for a Big Girl

Eighth birthday, baptism and confirmation as a member of the LDS church, two Thanksgivings, lots of uncles and grandparents -- Sage has had a lot crammed into life in the last week or two.

S. and I are so grateful to have her in our family, and aside from marveling constantly at how tall and graceful she seems (52 inches isn't too far from some of her shorter aunts), we also are amazed at the inner, subtle changes that have come as she grows and matures.

Sage has always been an observer of details, and now that she's growing older we've noticed that she in particular has an ability to hear the quiet voice of the Spirit. S. and I hope that we've prepared our children to have their own light of testimony as they grow up, each in their own way, and it's nice to see Sage's gentle nature glowing steadily.

Sage is also our newest bookworm, right up there with Ian in number of hours spent with a nose in a novel, and has recently finished the first 3 Harry Potter books. She has a best friend that she spends a lot of time with, including frequent playdates and sleepovers, and she's learning about how to be more grown-up in her responses to that friendship and its vicissitudes.

She's not growing up too fast, though. She still has a child's sense of wonder and loves all things cute and fluffy. She still hates having to brush her hair and adorably mismatches her clothes. We miss the little Sage that used to invariably hum while she ate and bring S. his slippers in the morning, but she's still our morning sunshine, usually curled up on the couch reading for a few minutes before S. and I make it down ourselves.

Happy Birthday and baptism to our Chirp, our sweet Sage! What a wonderful girl you are becoming.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Long Way Down

This morning my ring fell off. It was 5:30 and we were lying on a blanket, trying to catch a glimpse of the Leonids. Standing up, I let my left hand fall and felt the gold band drop right off my finger, free as a bird. Not the first time this has happened, but the first time in the backyard on a moonless night, so I frantically worked my fingers through the grass while K. went to get a flashlight. Making out its shape in the wet, frosty dark, I slid it onto my index finger and walked back to the house, hands firmly in pockets.

I didn't used to have these problems.

I must have been over 200 pounds when K. and I picked out rings. Until then I'd never worn a ring, so it was well into our marriage before I'd stopped twisting and sliding it, trying to get comfortable with my badge of commitment. Eventually the flesh at the base of the finger seemed to atrophy around the band, but the ring had never been what I'd call a soft fit.

Now I have a different problem. If I'm going to be swinging my arms or moving around with my fingers unclenched, I have to remember to put the ring in my pocket or slide it onto another finger entirely. Early into my marathon training I decided to leave the ring at home, convinced that it would bounce off during a long run and be lost forever. Throughout the workday I'm forever fidgeting, sliding it from one finger to the next, ring to middle, middle to index, then onto the other hand. It's a wonder I haven't lost it already, though I have tried.

Saturday I went to the mall and asked a jeweler what it would cost to get the ring re-sized. She looked at the cut, looked at a chart and gave me the quote: $45. I don't know what I was expecting, but since they'd have to cut off some of the band I figured the extra bit of gold would cover the costs of its extraction, no? And then what if I gained back the weight? But re-sizing has come to feel like an inevitability.

That was before today. Barely six hours after losing my ring in the grass, I was washing my hands in the restroom and reaching for a paper towel when I felt the familiar slip of the ring passing over the knuckle and--fling--there it goes again, dropping neatly into the wall-mounted trash bin with an insolent clang. I made up my mind while the janitor was unlocking the bin--$45 is a small price to pay for some peace of mind. I'm not really complaining, of course. It's a good problem to have.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fall Catch-Up

First, the obligatory Halloween picture.
From left to right: Ian as Harry Potter (Quidditch version? we could only get a hold of a red cape in time for Halloween); Sage as Cinderella, in my homesewn dress that I'm quite proud of; me as either a leopard lady or a cavewoman, depending on your preference; Lucy as a cheerleader; Nora as a cow -- she's the fourth child to wear that costume, and the button on the front still moos, but I guess it's time to retire it; and S. as Frank from 30 Rock (the hat says "ninja expert", if it's too small to read in the picture).

Next, a Thousand-Bloom chrysanthemum at Longwood Gardens. Technically this single plant actually had 718 blossoms, but thousand-bloom is the name of the horticultural style/technique used to produce it.

Fall in Valley Garden park.

The collection of jack-o-lanterns this year. Can you guess whose is whose? They're arranged in age order, if that helps, and I didn't make one...

Raking the leaves. And then, um, unraking them.

Lucy grumpy-faced in her "harvest hoedown" outfit from the day's preschool non-Halloween celebration.

Playing in the packing materials that came in a box of books from Grandma.

The girls wanted to make silly hats, which were mah-velous, and clashed delightfully with Sage's pajamas.

Our lives are not as impossibly rosy as these pictures might portray -- I decided not to post the unflattering, red-eyed and grumpy picture of Sage on Halloween after she woke up from a deep sleep just before time to go trick-or-treating, and there weren't pictures of the horrible drizzly, muddy hours we all spent on the soccer sidelines earlier in the day cheering Lucy on.

And I've avoided even looking at, let alone taking pictures of, the horrible hole in my (brand-new car's) trunk that came from me backing straight into a big black Suburban in a very dark, nearly empty parking lot after pack meeting the other night. I was up most of the night crying over that one...

But things are always better in the morning, and S. and I feel so incredibly blessed in all the ways that matter most. So I guess my sentiment today is, life is great, may we all make it through the rest of the holidays with our sanity, health, and family peace intact!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Victory Lap

I am a firm believer in the the power of If-You-Can-Do-It-I-Can-Do-It. In late April a friend from Charlottesville came to town to run the Trail Triple Crown Marathon in White Clay Creek. I had reached a plateau in my weight-loss goals and was looking for something to spur things along. Well, if you ever want to feel inspired you should go make friends with someone who isn't a professional athlete and then watch them run a marathon. Jennie ran on an unpaved trail, through woods and mud, uphill and downhill, and four hours later came staggering through the finish line, a marathoner. Flat on her back and gasping for air, I'm not sure if she still thought a marathon was a good idea, but I already wanted in on the action. For a first attempt, K. suggested I try the St. George Marathon (mostly downhill), and Jennie had barely caught her breath before I'd put in my registration.

Vacations are more fun when you have a purpose, and the marathon supplied this in spades. It didn't hurt that K. and I had met and married in Utah and still had plenty of friends and family in the area. I flew into Salt Lake the Wednesday before the race and caught up with my siblings in Murray. Thursday and Friday we caught up with more friends and family before making the five-hour drive down to the race. On the way, we stopped off at BYU and were pleased to discover that the bench where I proposed was still south of Maeser Hill:
After picking up my race packet and carbing up on the traditional pre-race spaghetti dinner, we backtracked an hour north to spend the night in Cedar City on what was perhaps the most comfortable sofa bed of my life (thanks, Rosalyn and Dan!). We set--and forgot to activate--the alarm for 3am, but luckily woke up on time anyway:
Full moon or not, it was still plenty dark when K. dropped me off at the bus pickup in St. George, and plenty cold as well. Judging by the leg room, it was an elementary school bus that drove us up into the mountains, 26.2 miles north of St. George, while my seatmate gave me a few pointers about the course. We got to the starting line at around 5:30, where it was all floodlights, loudspeakers, and winds in the 30s. Ditching the long lines at the porta-potties, I opted to sneak off into the dark of the woods, promptly barking my shins on a barbed wire fence. After that there was nothing to do but huddle around the fire for the next hour:
There's probably too much to say about the race itself. My training was so completely solitary that it was a novelty to run with so many other people. One woman ran in a bridal veil. Another man held a digital camera above his head while he ran. I made all the typical rookie mistakes and passed a lot of people in the first six miles, making such good time that I briefly considered pushing myself to see how close I could get to qualifying for Boston. Well, there is nothing like 26 implacable miles to bring you back to reality, and all it took was the first, steep hill at Mile 7 before I reverted back to my original goal of simply finishing at all. Towards the top of the hill my iPod started playing "Chariots of Fire" and a stranger, passing me, told me I was almost there. There is solitude in running, but there is also great camaraderie.

The dry desert air sucked all the sweat right off of my skin, so I made a point to drink water or Gatorade at every single aid station. I tried my first power gel (like thick honey) and gave high-fives to kids holding their hands out on the side of the road. It's a great feeling to participate in something where you feel like part of the main event. Most of the uphill was over by Mile 11, but by then I had started to get a spasm in my right calf that stayed with me for the remainder of the race. It was probably for the best. Fearing that my leg might give out at any minute, I ran more cautiously than I otherwise might have. As a consequence, I never hit the runner's wall and never pushed myself to the point of injury or collapse. In spite of everything, I made a respectable time (3:34:20) and crossed the finish line running rather than crawling:

(I'm the red shirt in the middle)

(and here's a close-up to show off my runner's calves :)

After the finish line you're shuttled through the sprinklers, then get your medal, then shake hands with some veterans in wheelchairs, then get dumped in a holding pen where fruit, bread, and popsicles are pushed into your hands.
I limped it off on my stiff legs for half an hour before meeting up with my support network. I was flattered by all the friends and family who came out to see me, and by the many others who wanted to come and wished me well. You guys are the best.
[Pictured (from l to r): sister Mish, nephew Erik, sister Tiff, nephew Charlie's feet, K. and a very foolish man. Unpictured but adjacent: brother-in-law Kyle, niece Ellie, K's cousin John, John's children Samantha and Tim, John's girlfriend Audry and her daughter, Sarah]

The St. George Temple made a good landmark for regrouping after escaping the crowds. Mom and Dad called for a recap of the race, and then it was back up to Cedar City for a celebratory feast (thanks again to Rosalyn and Dan for supplying the venue).

The aftermath has passed quickly enough. The balls of my feet were really sore, but just for the first afternoon. My hip and knee joints were stiff for the first 24 hours, but by the next day my sister and I were standing in the overflow line for General Conference. Over the last two weeks I've gotten the occasional surprise twinge here or there, but I'll probably be back to running in the next week. My sister Mish ran the Top of Utah Marathon last month and now we want to run one together next year. It's hard to find a fall marathon that's not on Sunday, but we can work it out. Hey Mish, how does Richmond sound?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Lucy Q

Each of our kids had a womb name. We didn't want to refer to them as just "the Baby," and we certainly didn't want to call any of them "It." Ian was Ziggy (the Zygote) and Sage was Phoebe (the Fetus). Lucy was just Bonus, and that's what she's been. We have several theories about Lucy, one of which is that her little body is ill-equipped to contain her largeness of spirit. If you don't know what's on Lucy's mind at any given time, you must not be in the same building. A biter, a shouter, a sprinter, a hugger--Lucy has no intermediate step between feeling and action. Lucy is as Lucy does.

You'd think it would be easy to give a name to this phenomenon, but we had a hard time getting all our ducks in a row. Does this look like a Zoe Renata?

What about Katherine Midnight?

Once we settled on Lucy for a first name, finding a matching middle name was still just as hard. With an October birthdate, Lucy Octavia was always a contender:

But K. and I also liked the Portuguese variant, Lucy Beatriz:

Finally we settled on Lucy Quinn, which seemed to fit her at the time. However, as she's gotten older she hasn't seemed to grow into it in the same way that Ian has grown into Hyrum and Sage has grown into Dorothy. The saving grace is that she makes a very fine Lucy Q:

Sometimes K. and I still talk half-seriously about changing her middle name. This never gets anywhere because (1) in our state this requires a court appearance, (2) we'd have to change her church records, (3) this would surely nonplus some relative or other, (4) we still can't agree on another middle name, and (5) seriously, who changes their child's name after breaking it in for five years? After giving it some thought, I think I've got a better idea: Middle Nickname. For years we've joked that Lucy's middle name should have been an exclamation point, and while I'd never inflict that on her officially, I see no reason why it shouldn't gain some unofficial traction. In short, friends and family, you can keep sending those birthday checks to Lucy Quinn, but feel free to think of her, in your heart of hearts, as Lucy [!]. Heaven knows we do.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Last Days of Summer

Dear Teacher,

This is how we spent our summer vacation. We:

-saw cousins

-went to the Adventure Aquarium in Camden
-said goodbye to a pet

-chilled out along the Brandywine

-took a family bike ride

-dressed up

-slipped and slid

-waded into the Huron River

-showed Grandma how to bowl

-ate pancakes every Sunday night

-tended a friend's garden

-camped at Cape Henlopen

-hiked to a salt marsh

-parted the sea

-made an unholy mess of ourselves

-grew a few gourds

-bounded back into school

-camped with the cub scouts at Lums Pond

-got Lucy back into soccer
- and set down roots in a great place.

I'm sure there were some dull and tedious moments in there somewhere, but we forgot to take pictures of those. Is that enough, Teacher? Can we play outside now?