Monday, November 20, 2017

Settling in

A year ago when my mom and I were working on Thanksgiving dinner, I said, "Maybe next year we'll be in a nice big house in Carmel and we'll have a giant kitchen and a guest room." And she said, "That would be lovely!"

And here we are, a year later, getting ready to host Thanksgiving in our new home. I can't remember the last time when I was this happy--I feel really guilty because the move has been very hard for several of our children, and Neil is working like crazy, but I am so, so, so, so happy.

I love our house--every time I come home it just makes me grin like crazy. I love the huge windows in the family room and the miles and miles of counters in the kitchen (Abigail says that it takes waaay too long to clean the kitchen now!). I love the kids pulling up barstools to do their homework and tell me about their day while I'm making dinner. I love the cozy fireplace in the living room and the light-filled sunroom and the space in the laundry room to unload groceries and wash 8 loads of laundry and dump Nathan's frozen coat in the laundry sink to defrost (he left it outside in the rain). I love the beautiful windows in my bedroom that look out over the gorgeous gold and red trees on the front lawn. I love the funny mirrored linen closet that is the BEST thing in Matthew's world (he loves to hide in there and then close the doors on himself and wait until you call for him before he slides the door open and giggles). I love the glass details in the front door and the way my red berry wreath looks against the wood. I love the stone that covers half of the house and the blue wood siding and the white trim that gives it a very New England feel. I love the cozy warm wood-paneled basement even though it flooded when Neil was in Germany (yikes!!!) and it's currently full of industrial fans and dehumidifiers. I love our huge backyard even though something ate one of our chickens when Neil was gone and I had to clean up the resulting carnage by myself--I was just able to take it in stride which is kind of crazy considering how much I love those chickens (I did cry, but it wasn't a total breakdown!).

I love the gorgeous Arts & Design district downtown--this morning at 6 am I was running through it with a friend and it was all lit up with Christmas lights and it was silent and dark and just the most beautiful thing. I love the bike paths that extend for miles and miles and where I've already logged so many happy hours.

And I love, love, love the people here. Everyone has been so kind and welcoming and just amazing. So many awesome and interesting and friendly people that I can't wait to get to know better, and I'm so grateful for how welcoming they have already been, and the friendships that we are already nurturing. I was called this past week to serve in the Primary presidency and I am absolutely thrilled to be working with 3 other amazing women in this awesome ward that has just reached out and embraced us.

So...long story short, I am crazy giddy happy these days. So in love with my life even though there are still lots of hard things and stressful things, but goodness I feel blessed and lucky and I'm just trying to tame my exuberance down for those members of my family who aren't quite feeling the same. It really has been a rocky transition for several of us and I'm trying to build new family traditions that will help ease the sadness. It's been hard too on the kids to have Neil gone so much, but I think we are settling in to some new routines, and I'm really excited that we will have a few days with him over the holiday weekend before he leaves again!

And now it's time to knock out some more painting before everyone gets home. :-) Soooooo much painting! So many renovations I want to do and so dreamy planning them out (and I have seriously been in HEAVEN decorating this house and ordering furniture. All the pent-up design dreams and home planning I've done over the last fifteen years are coming to fruition with a bang! I have a chesterfield sofa on my porch as I type this.) ;-)

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chicago Marathon

Oh gosh, I'm so behind again! Finished all my runs for taper and ran the marathon; it's just hard keeping up this log concurrently with the move!

So Chicago was not as good as I was hoping--a week before the race we started getting emails about the conditions. It ended up being very humid and in the 60s at the start and 80 at the finish...just not a great day at all for a marathon!

My legs were aching the day before, thanks to the combo of driving the Subaru up to Chicago (it always hurts my leg SO bad; something about the angle of the pedal just kills the leg I fractured two years ago) and walking around the day before, even though I really tried to limit the walking time. I went to bed pretty early and got a solid 6-7 hours before I woke up at 4:30 to get ready and head downtown. I got a ride from my sister's apartment in Lincoln Park in to downtown with a friend who was coming in from the suburbs, and then met up with another friend at her hotel. The race started at 7:30, and it was already warm enough by then that I was comfortable in a tank top and shorts...not a good sign!

My legs were aching in the first mile, and in past marathons I've just loved the whole experience for the first 15-16. I was literally checking my watch a quarter-mile in and already feeling like I didn't want to run that day. Just totally not feeling it one bit! The cardio felt fine and I wasn't tired, but I just was not there mentally and my legs were telling me that this was a stupid idea.
Then my feet started going numb and were COMPLETELY numb by 4 miles. Then they started hurting like crazy. Just crazy pain and I've never had anything like that (these were new shoes I'd worn on my last few long runs and I didn't really love them, but they were the best of the new shoes I had--in hindsight I just wish I'd gone with an older pair even if it had less cushioning). When I took my shoes off at the end of the race I had 3 blue toenails, multiple blisters, and some bloody blisters--and I usually NEVER blister ever ever. Anyway. My Garmin also had a hard time with the buildings/bridges, which I'd expected, but one thing I had not anticipated was how much that would drain the battery...more on that later.
I ran the first half in 1:59:17, so bang on target. Then my Garmin started going haywire--I was using the pacing function, and it told me that mile 14 was 8:16. Then mile 15 was 7:36. Not good! I was trying to just run by feel and keep the same pace I'd had earlier, but I was also hot enough that instead of running through the water stops, I was walking for about 10-20 seconds while I drank one cup and poured 1-2 more over my head. So that made it hard to keep the pace consistent. At the 25k, my pace had slowed to 9:26/mile, thanks to the fact that I had no idea what I was running and my watch had just told me I was at 7:36/mile. So so frustrating. By this point, my feet were also incredibly painful and I was scrunching my toes up and down at every water stop to try to get the circulation going again--it would help for about a quarter-mile and then the pain started up again.
Around mile 18 my watch died completely. I've had this happen a time or two on a run, but to have it happen during a race was incredibly demoralizing. I had no idea on pace anymore and I had no idea how far I was on mileage, which was also really emotionally difficult. I did the mental math for awhile on my splits at every mile marker, but around mile 20-21 I decided that since I had already missed the mark for a 4-hr marathon I honestly did not care that much about the difference between a 4:03 marathon and a 4-whatever, as long as I beat my previous PR of 4:17. At this point I was just so hot that I was more worried about being able to finish safely; I was both shivering and covered with goosebumps while also sweating profusely, and I knew from experience that once I hit the shivery-goosebump stage I am close to blacking out. So finishing on my own rather than getting loaded onto a stretcher became top priority! I started walking longer at the water stops and drinking both Gatorade and water, in addition to pouring water over myself--I was walking between 60-90 seconds at the water stops to make sure I was getting as much fluid as possible. I'd been eating Honey Stingers every 2 miles and kept that up with Gatorade and water at every water stop (I skipped the one in the last mile, but other than that I stopped for every one between 18 and 25). I didn't walk other than the water stops which was so dang hard--tons of people were walking and I just really really really wanted to join them, but I knew I would feel better about the race later if I didn't. At some point in here we passed the 24-mile marker and for some reason I was convinced it was going to be the 25-mile marker and I had one of those horrible despairing mental breakdowns that you only get in the late stage of a race like this--I'd been telling myself I only had 1.2 to go and to realize it was 2.2 was basically the end of the world. But I kept going.
Overall, the last 10k was absolute hell. I was so miserable and in so much pain and it was so dang hot!! (At some point my music also died but it was so miserable that I don't even remember when it was.) When we got to the last 800 meters and I saw that it was the uphill over the Roosevelt bridge to the museum campus I just felt so despairing--I didn't walk, but the pathetic little shuffle I did was probably barely faster than walking! I literally could not pick up my pace one bit on the last 100 meters of downhill to the finish...I seriously gave it everything I had to keep going on that last 10k.
In hindsight, I'm not sure I would have run anything differently. I had a terrible positive split on the second half of the race (1:59:17 for the first half and 4:12:08 overall), but I really do feel like I was trained for the pace I was running and it was a function of the weather and that stupid watch dying. Overall, I'm glad I was able to finish with a 5-minute PR; slowing down & taking the extra time at the water stops was very difficult emotionally, but I don't know that I would have been able to finish if I'd stuck to my original pace goal.
The Chicago environment and crowds were awesome, but I probably won't run this again. It was a great big city bucket-list race, but I think I will stick to marathons that are later in the fall just to avoid potential warm temperatures--I really do so much better with those 55-degree days!! And I'm not running another marathon with that watch or those shoes.

Post-race recovery isn't going as well as I'd like; that old fracture site has really been bothering me. I ran/walked 1 mile yesterday to warm up and then did 2 easy miles and it hurt SO BAD later, so today I just walked a 5k. We'll see how it does later...I think having to drive back home the evening of the marathon did not help one bit.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017


I'm long overdue for some updates here--and goodness there have been some big changes! In the last month, Neil started a new job concurrently with the last months of his PhD, we sold our home, bought a new house, and Matthew turned one!!! So many wonderful and exciting things--we literally feel that the windows of heaven have been opened and blessings are pouring down on us.

The area where we are moving is consistently ranked as one of the best towns in America to raise a family. The schools are the best in the state (Abigail has gone from the choice of 3 electives in middle school to more than 30!!). The people are friendly and welcoming. The neighborhood pool is next door to our home, and we have more than a half-acre for the children to run and play while still being in the middle of town & only ten minutes from the temple. We have five bedrooms, a basement, and tons of space--plus the kitchen & laundry room of my dreams! Lots and lots of updating to do, but I can't wait to get started--I know exactly what a showstopper this home will be once we're through with it. :-)

I seriously love the exterior of this home so much!!!

The backyard is HUGE--it comes with a playset, tree swings, a basketball pad, a garden, tons of mature trees, a shed, and lots of room for chickens and fruit trees!!

Seriously love the front of the house too--you can't really see it in this photo but the door has glass skylights above the wooden part and it's just gorgeous. And I love the stone & wood siding combo!!

Oh this kitchen--when I walked into this kitchen I KNEW this was the home for us. Just absolutely knew--I could literally picture our family here. (It took Neil another 40 houses and 3 more showings on this house before he felt the same way, but I was sure right away! I'm still really glad we kept searching though because now we both know for sure.) ;-)

I have big plans for this space. Can't wait to make them happen!!

I love how the kitchen is literally the heart of the home--from one door you access the living room (and sunroom), from another the formal dining room, while the kitchen itself is open to the breakfast area and the family room.

And THESE WINDOWS. I love them with all my heart. (Not so much the built-ins, but good golly look at that light and that floor!!)

Our current home has a pass-through laundry room between the garage and the kitchen. It is always a nightmare when everyone is getting ready to leave--it's just tiny and inevitably people get stepped on and elbowed and fighting breaks out.

This laundry room could not be more dreamy to me. It does NOT connect to the garage (it does have an exterior door to the back yard). It has a sink! An extra 'fridge (which we will replace but whatever, there's room for the fridge and that's what counts). A desk area which I will tear out and build in cubbies/lockers! And the other door connects to the back hallway, which has a full bath, so basically when my muddy kids come in from the back yard, they can drop their clothes in the washer and go straight into the shower. Heaven!!!

The formal living room is super long--I'm not sure yet how I'm going to configure this but I'm excited to get started (and goodbye built-ins!).

And I'm daydreaming about this sunroom already--I know exactly how I'm going to renovate it and it is going to be an awesome haven of blissfulness. :-)

Probably enough pictures for now, but it's got 5 bedrooms, a basement (with an office/exercise room), a cedar closet, a tornado bunker (which really is awesome here!), etc. We move in a month from today!!

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Spring catch-up...birthdays, sports, and school!

 Oh gosh, so much has been happening!!!

Abigail turned 12 in April and my parents met us at the temple. We had a really wonderful morning--my dad & Neil baptized Abigail for the family names that my mom & Neil's mom had collected for Abigail (while my mom hung out with Nathan and Matthew outside the temple), and then my dad, Neil, and Abigail chilled with the little boys while Mom & I did the iniatory ordinances for those names. It was so so so so so wonderful.

Then my parents took us out for Indian food, which was also wonderful. :-)

That night Juliet & I ran her Girls on the Run 5k--she did the whole thing without walking, even though she wasn't feeling fantastic and it was SUPER SUPER hot (easily the hottest day by a good 20 degrees we'd had yet that spring). She wanted to hold my hand every step of the way and I was so proud of her! My mom snapped this picture of us at the finish line (she was there cheering us on with Matthew).

Meanwhile Abigail was at softball practice and my dad & Neil were at Isaac's game with the younger boys. Pretty much our life is spring ball right now.

The next day was the birthday of Luke the Magnificent, Magician Extraordinaire!!

He was very specific about wanting a "sneaky cake--white on the outside with my name in blue, and then CRAZY inside!"

The kids all had a piano recital after baseball/softball practice this morning, which my parents were able to attend. It was so neat to have them there! I don't think I took any pictures--oops.

And then it was off to Luke's first softball game!

We celebrated Nathan's birthday a few weeks before; he had some of his little friends over for a lunch party and some playtime. I didn't take a single picture, but Nate LOVED it so much--we ate "dirt cups" and had construction hats and served a construction themed- lunch (I can't remember everything now but I know we had clementines for wrecking balls, chicken nuggets for boulders, carrots for logs, etc. And we had baguettes and roasted tomato bisque to appeal to adult palates as well).

 We got some new chicks and our old chickens went to a new farm, where presumably they are happily laying away. I was SO sad to see our older hens go--they are nearing the end of their laying career, so we let each kid pick out 2 chicks this year with the understanding that we would have to rehome the older hens once the chicks got big enough. But four of our chicks died (and it was absolutely awful--totally devastating to everyone, especially since 3 of the chicks were killed by a predator when they were pullets and had really developed some personality and had been around long enough for the kids to really love them).

Here is Nate with one of the six remaining new chickens--Excavator. The ones left are Darth Vader, Excavator, Goldie, Raccoon, Spot, and Parsley (who survived being pecked by the older hens whereas sweet tiny Nutmeg managed did not--she wriggled through a gap in the chicken wire and it was very very sad and awful; Parsley's pecking happened after the young pullets were 8 weeks old and we'd very carefully integrated them in with the older hens, and after 12 hours when Parsley had been attacked we decided we really had to move the older hens on...argh).

I know this photo wasn't from Mother's Day--maybe the week after? My six cuties! (We matched because we were singing in church that day and I wanted us to look a little more visually coordinated!)

We finished up another year of school and we are 4/4 for kindergarteners starting to read the Harry Potter books at the end of kindergarten! I was really not thrilled with Luke's teacher this year, so I was happy that his school day ended up being only 2 hours every day. I actually didn't have him go the last 4 days after his teacher went on maternity leave and the substitute lost Luke on her first day. Yep, we're done. 

Isaac finished up his first year of high ability with his fabulous teacher who I love so so much! He was invited to skip 3rd-grade math and do 4th-grade math next year, so he's super excited about that!! I didn't get a picture of Jules with her teacher, but she has her same teacher next year for 4/5 and I am so grateful--I just love her teacher to pieces. So different from Isaac's amazing teacher and so wonderful in her way. Those two have really lucked out on teachers this year; Jules was also on the 4/5 highest honor roll for the year (they don't do one for 2nd grade, but Isaac had straight A's all year) and Abigail was on the highest honor roll and got a bunch of awards--one for English, another for band. She had a great year but I wasn't really blown away by her teachers.

And boy were we excited to be done with school this year--not least because we were headed down to Tennessee the next day for a week of camping, hiking, and Dollywood-attending!

But before I blog about vacation, a few more baseball pics...nice and blurry for most of these, but with a few great sharp ones taken by my friend with her nice camera when her son's team was playing Isaac's (thanks again, Melissa!!)

Neil is Luke's head coach this year for t-ball; it's been really fun for them both!

Abigail has had a fabulous time with her softball team--her coaches are awesome and the girls on her team are so sweet!

When we started the season, all of our kids were total novice players. It's been awesome to watch their improvement in both skill and confidence!

I confess that I'm not the biggest fan of frantically rushing everyone through dinner/packing up dinner to eat at the fields/figuring out how to get 3 kids to games & practices all over town, but the kids have LOVED LOVED LOVED the spring ball season so much that it looks like it's in our future for the next 18 years!

Mattycakes is 8 months old!

Oh goodness. Matthew is at the cutest sweetest stage right now--the one where you think you could happily have a million babies! I must admit, he's a pretty nice antidote to some of the angsty door-slamming happening around here with the older kids.

At eight months, Matthew is crawling all over and starting to pull himself up onto things (today he pulled up on his crib mobile--goodbye, mobile!). If there is a person lying on the floor in his way, he crawls right up and over them, leaving a drooly little snail-track in his wake! He cut six teeth simultaneously around 7 months, and they are finally all through, giving him a little jack-o-lantern smile. He's getting pretty good at taking 2 consistent naps and is sooo close to sleeping through the night, but the poor kid doesn't get to have the most consistent evening schedule thanks to the 1001 baseball/softball/t-ball games we have every week. Methinks his nighttime sleep will get better once the spring sports season ends.

If Matthew could live on bananas and sweet potatoes, he would! He's very big on feeding himself these days and it's a bit of a struggle to get him to take a bottle or eat his oatmeal/formula mush (still nursing, but not the greatest nurser, so we will usually try to get 2 oz of formula in him 3x/day). But he will always open his mouth if one of his siblings is around to make him laugh and we sneak in a lot of spoonfuls that way!

Matthew is absolutely cherished and adored by every single person in our family. He is so sweet and darling and I love watching the older kids interact with him--I expected that the girls would totally dote on him, but it's been really sweet seeing how obsessed Isaac & Luke are with him too. Isaac confided to me that his goal is to make Matthew love him more than all the other kids, and so he has a special "Matthew sweet voice" that he reserves for Matty. And Luke will spend SO long just lying on the floor letting Matthew yank on his hair, or gently tickling Matthew's tummy, or slowly crawling towards Matthew while growling (which is so, so, so hilarious to Matthew--he laughs so much that he falls over). They spend a lot of time lying on their stomachs face to face bonking noses while Luke sings little songs to Matthew. Nathan also adores him but hasn't quite got the "fragile baby" thing down; he wants to roll around with Matty like he does with the older kids! (And he keeps trying to share his Legos with Matthew, argh!!)

We are so grateful for our sweet little Matthew--our gift from God!

Summer Reading 2017

Yesterday I was chatting with a dear friend who has taught 3 of my children (oh, how we missed her this year!). She asked me if I had created our summer reading lists for this year yet, which reminded me that I need to post them!!

There's more details about our summer reading in this post from last year, along with last year's lists, but the short version is that every summer I help my kids pick out 10-15 books that I think they really should read. :-) We try to mix in a lot of fun stuff, so it's not all heavy heavy classics, but basically my goal for this is to get them away from whatever junky books are popular in their classrooms (Warriors and Wings of Fire series, I'm looking at you!) and back into the really good reads that are just absolutely delightful and ones that I love myself. Our lists are pretty fantasy-heavy since that's what we love. :-) I also often ask them to read the first book in a series and figure that they will finish reading the rest of the series or zip through all the books we own by a new-to-them author; the kids probably read 3-4 times as many books over the summer as are actually on these lists, but these are the ones that they're "required" to read. And I always figure that the oldest 3 will reread all 7 Harry Potter books at least once every summer (note: from looking back at last year's post, I thought Isaac would stop at book 4, but he tromped right on through book 7 and then started back at the beginning again!).

In brief, this is my way of ensuring that they read new books along with old favorites. All 3 of my oldest children have very different approaches to reading (to be honest, I was preeeetty devastated when Abigail read the first 3 Anne books over Christmas break and was just like "meh"), and Juliet is still much more apt to try new books than her siblings, so a lot of the books Abigail is reading are ones that Jules has already read and quite a few are ones that Isaac has read.

So without further ado, here are this year's lists:

Abigail (just finished 6th grade):
1) The Oracle Betrayed (Catherine Fisher)
2) Elantris (Brandon Sanderson)
3) The Dark is Rising sequence (Susan Cooper): Over Sea, Under Stone, The Dark is Rising, Greenwitch, The Grey King, Silver on the Tree
4) Banner in the Sky (James Ramsey Ullman)
5) The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley)
6) All Things Bright and Beautiful (James Herriot)
7) The King of Attolia (Megan Whalen Turner)
8) A Conspiracy of Kings (Megan Whalen Turner
9) The Memory Thief (Bryce Moore--another fun one from my grad school buddy! )
10) The Truthteller's Tale (Sharon Shinn)
11) The Dalemark Quartet (Diana Wynne Jones): Cart and Cwidder, Drowned Ammet, The Spellcoats, The Crown of Dalemark
12) Dark Lord of Derkholm (Diana Wynne Jones)--Abigail brought this on our trip to the Smokies last week and was so engrossed that she was reading by firelight while the rest of us were playing cards and roasting marshmallows! One of my absolute favorites too.
13) Sorcery and Cecilia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot (Patricia Wrede & Carolyn Stevermer)
14) The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (Maria Augusta Trapp)
15) Eye of the World (Robert Jordan)

Juliet (just finished 4th grade):
1) Johnny Tremain (Esther Forbes)
2) Calamity (Brandon Sanderson)
3) A Swiftly Tilting Planet (Madeline L'Engle)
4) Watership Down (Richard Adams)
5) Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites (Chris Heimerdinger)
7) Cart & Cwidder (Diana Wynne Jones)
8) Drowned Ammet (Diana Wynne Jones)
9) The Blue Sword (Robin McKinley)
10) Beauty (Robin McKinley)
11) Spindle's End (Robin McKinley)
12) Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain)
13 Wildwood Dancing (Juliet Marillier)
14) The Story of the Trapp Family Singers (Maria Augusta Trapp)
15) The Wheel on the School (Meindert DeJong)

Isaac (just finished 2nd grade)
1) The Grey King (Susan Cooper)
2) Silver on the Tree (Susan Cooper)
3) Time Cat (Lloyd Alexander)
4) The Black Stallion (Walter Farley)
5) From The Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (E.L. Koningsbury)
6) The Egypt Game (Zilpha Keatly Snyder)
7) The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkein)
8) The Wheel on the School (Meindert DeJong)
9) Charmed Life (Diana Wynne Jones)
10) The Lives of Christopher Chant (Diana Wynne Jones)
11) The Iron Trial (Holly Black & Cassandra Clare)

Luke (just finished kindergarten)
1) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J.K. Rowling)
2) As many Magic Treehouse & Calvin & Hobbes book as his little heart desires--he's still such a new reader that I'm mostly just encouraging him to read whatever he wants. :-) True story--the Calvin & Hobbes books are probably THE most-read books we own. We're on our second set and there is always always always someone curled up in one of the grey chairs with a Calvin & Hobbes book!

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