June 19, 2014

Our Trip to Northern California

Last Tuesday BJ, Ellie, Lorenzo and I loaded up BJ's truck and drove north to San Jose for a soccer tournament BJ was coaching at. We made a week out of it and had our first-ever family vacation that wasn't a trip to visit my family in Utah. It was such a treat to be with my kiddos with BJ by my side for 6 days straight. That is something I could really get used to. Here is a brief run-down of our trip and adventures in Northern California. (Which is now where I want to live...)
Tuesday afternoon we made the 6 and 1/2 hour drive to San Jose. We took the 5 freeway and passed hundreds of miles of farmland. I was in heaven trying to identify all the trees and plants. I LOVE gardening and was entertained for hours thinking about the lives of those farmers who work and sweat and pray and cry to raise their crops. It might not be a glamorous job, but they are a lucky, lucky bunch I tell you. Gardening strips away all the fuss and has a way of centering you on what this life is actually all about. Anyway, we stopped at a Baja Fresh in a gas station that served an amazingly fresh salad with kale and peppers and fresh lettuce and salsa. The finest gas station fare I've ever had to be sure. We sat outside the gas station on a little plot of grass for about 30 minutes and let the kids chase a bouncy ball, and had races together. It was so perfect outside that little gas station- just our little family in our own little world. About an hour or so outside of San Jose we stopped to get gas and just so happened to stop next to this amazing farm stand called Casa de Fruta. We wandered around and bought fresh peaches and strawberries, locally made jam, and some chocolate gummy bears, cinnamon bears, and chocolate caramel peanuts.
(I know the quality of this photo is awful, but the memory was sweet.)
 We got to our hotel late and tried really hard to go to sleep. It was pretty tricky sleeping with all four of us in one room. Especially with Ellie thrashing in the middle of BJ and I and whining and complaining and telling us to move over. Sheesh!
The following day we went to BJ's soccer game, had lunch at the field with the team, and came back to the hotel. BJ was absolutely swamped with work calls so I laid Lorenzo down for a nap and he stayed in the room with him while Ellie and I went swimming with the Afflecks (one of our dear family/soccer friends, whose son plays on the team BJ was coaching).

Then we came back to the hotel and I bathed and fed the kiddos and tried for an hour and a half to get my exhausted children to sleep while BJ went to dinner with the team. They were soooo tired but would not sleep. When BJ got back he took Lorenzo with him to a team meeting, and Ellie and I fell asleep together.
I realized that night that a weakness I have as a mother that I need to improve is that I typically get really grumpy as "mom" at about 8 o'clock. I feel so done, and I just want and feel like I need my own space. The problem is, little children always need their mama, and I'm the only one they've got. There'll be plenty of nights in my future where I will have to be "mom" into the late night hours and I can't change that. What I can change is my grumpy, mean attitude. I need to buck up and take a deep breath and continue to be kind, loving, patient, yet firm. Working on this. Praying about it, and already feeling better.
The next day BJ went to the game alone and I did yoga and hung out in the hotel room with the children. It cracked me up how entertaining the room itself was for the kids. They loved it. We didn't have any toys, or really anything for them to do in it, but they loved that hotel room! Amazing what a ways a little novelty goes, huh? When BJ got back we went to Santana Row for lunch and a little shopping. It was a gorgeous, upscale, high end outdoor mall. We bought Lorenzo and Ellie some clothes at H&M and then ate at a fabulous place called Pizza Antiqua. Amazing, amazing food (fresh strawberry lemonade with mint, margherita pizza, and a sweet corn and ricotta cream ravioli).
Ellie and Lorenzo cracked us up eating their buttered spaghetti noodles. Ellie and Lorenzo kept BJ and I feeling humble as we ate at a snazzy restaurant in a dreamy setting as they flung their food around, banged on the table, and had us chasing them and rearranging objects on the table every few seconds to avoid spills.

We went back to the hotel and watched a world cup game with the team, and then hung out and chatted and played a little with the Afflecks. Then we all took some little naps and then headed to Half Moon Bay as a family. This was the best.
We ate at a sushi restaurant per BJ's request that was great. Fresh sushi is so hard to beat. Then we had s'mores at the Ritz Carlton (as recommended by my BFF Stephanie Gaufin). It was incredible. Absolutely spectacular. This night really couldn't have been better. The setting couldn't be beat.
Being together as a family was so fun. The s'mores took s'mores to a level they have never been with locally homemade grahams, marshmallows, and fine bittersweet chocolate (although BJ hated that part), and the sunset. It was all almost too good to be true.
 The next morning we woke and drove to the Redwood Forest. It was awe-inspiring. Absolutely spectacular. It was reverent and quiet and majestic around those beautiful trees. Very humbling. Such a wonderful experience. My photos don't do any sort of justice.
 Then we ate a wonderful little local Mexican joint called Salsa's and watched Spain play the Netherlands in one of the first World Cup games. It was the perfect setting to watch a soccer game- eating fresh chips and salsa, excellent carne asada and fish tacos, and sipping Mexican Coke, Sangria, and seltzer water. (Which Ellie loves, apparently).
That afternoon BJ had a game that we got back for (they won, and won every other game except for the final in the championship :( ), and then we went to dinner with the team at Sweet Tomatoes and went to the hotel and slept.
The next day BJ's boys had two games so it was soccer all day. Thank heaven for the Afflecks and their sweet children. Ellie was entertained, fed, and taken care of, and Lorenzo just wandered around smiling and happy even though he was deliriously tired. He was practically the team mascot. Everyone adored him and his sweet, welcoming demeanor. The kids were both champs. So good and happy most of the time.

 On Saturday night we were at the soccer field until 10 o'clock, and the children were so good. They had had a couple breaks going to the hotel, resting, and grabbing food with me, but it was a long day. I couldn't help but feel that it was so good for them however. What an ideal setting for a child- there with their parents, with friends to play with and grass to run around on. They entertained themselves, came up with their own fun, and were outside. That unstructured, outdoor playtime is invaluable, and it is becoming harder and harder to come by in this modern world. I was grateful to put my dirty, tired, worn out from play children to sleep that night. This is what childhood's should be made of.
The following morning we woke up early, packed up, checked out, and went to 9 o'clock sacrament meeting. It was Father's Day and we had given BJ gifts on Friday, and cards on Sunday morning. Then his boys had their last game at 11. They lost, and it was heartbreaking. The score was 3-2 and they absolutely deserved to win. They were the better team by far, but it just didn't happen for them. BJ was sad, but not in a bad mood at all. We made the drive home together, and this time took the 101. We saw more miles of farm land and concluded that we are pretty darn lucky to live in California. It is such a lovely place to be. (I loved Northern California so much because not only is it beautiful, and full of farmland, but it is so much less populated. It isn't crowded, packed in, and full of traffic. I love Southern California, but the slower pace and more space seems pretty darn appealing to me.)

It was a blessing to be able to spend this quality time together as a family. It was so good for us to get away, and to have hours and hours and hours together. I feel more in love with and grateful for  this family of mine than ever.

June 18, 2014

What It's All About

Today, after several seemingly inconsequential occurrences my heart, mind, and spirit can testify more powerfully than ever before that
Families are EVERYTHING.

June 8, 2014

My First Half Marathon, and How In the World I Fell In Love With Running

I think most women start feeling itchy in their last trimester of pregnancy to do something really physically challenging again. (Perhaps nature's way of enticing the body to actually want to go through labor?) I definitely had that desire my last trimester of pregnancy with Lorenzo. Because of spotting early on in my second trimester, I had quickly dropped any and all forms of exercise that might potentially cause harm to the baby/pregnancy and walked and stretched exclusively. Not only did I begin to crave doing something really physically demanding, but I went so far as to tell BJ, "I think I'm going to run when this pregnancy is over". That statement for me was as bold as declaring I'd never eat a piece of cake again. In the past, I HATED running. I loathed it, and had graciously accepted the fact that never again in my life would I feel bad for not being a runner. I know many fit and active people who share my old sentiment. They know the importance of exercise. They like to push themselves, but a line is drawn, and that line is drawn at running. Who cares if it's great for your cardiac, bone, and reproductive health, or if it helps stave off diabetes and cancer, or if reduces stress and builds your immunity and keeps your weight in check? It hurts, and it sucks. Period.
Suddenly, I had this desire, and surprisingly, it didn't go away after Lorenzo was born. If I remember correctly, my first run after Lorenzo was born was when he was 4 weeks old. Since I had faithfully walked 3 miles a day 6 days a week almost without fail, I would make my first run 3 miles. It was hideous, I'm sure, and by the end of it, my legs and shorts were absolutely drenched in urine. My uterine wall was no where near ready to handle the pound, pound, pounding pressure of step after step. I ran again a few days later though, and this time wore all black. The pee kept coming, and I was amazed how much harder it was to add just one simple mile. This run hurt. Nearly every step was painful and I did not enjoy it. I took a break for a couple weeks until I came across something called the run-walk-run method by Jeff Galloway. I read about it and how you alternate running and walking to create a gentler, more approachable and less painful alternative to just straight running. The point is to allow yourself to run at a pace that is comfortable for you, to avoid injury, and to not burn out. This method appealed to and piqued my interest. I wanted to run, but I didn't want it to hurt, and I knew I didn't want to just fizzle out again. I also knew that I loved to walk and the idea that I could walk every 3 minutes was so alluring to me. Right then and there, that Sunday night in my bedroom, I decided to start Jeff Galloway's half marathon training schedule. I had no intention of actually running in a race, but I wanted a schedule to keep me accountable, to guide me along, and to clearly tell me what needed to be done each day and week.
I followed the schedule and worked up to 8 miles, and started to taper off. I can't remember exactly why now, but around January or February I was only running a couple times a week. Then in March I decided to buckle down. I was still running, but had become less consistent, and I was realizing that the less and less I was doing it, the more and more I began to dislike it. I remember talking to Courtney and telling her I was only running a couple times a week. She said, "Oh, doesn't it hurt? I hurt when I only run a couple times a week. I have to run more than that." A light bulb went off and I realized that was true for me too. Sometime in March I bit the bullet and decided to sign up for the Fontana Days half marathon scheduled for Saturday, June 7th. This way, I would have to be accountable, and I wouldn't have the option of not being consistent in my running.
I essentially picked up where I left off and this time was creating my own training schedule. I had already successfully run some big mileage days, and didn't want to digress too much. I needed to be flexible and train for my schedule. At first I ran 4 days a week. 1 short run, 1 medium run, 1 long run, and 1 speed or hill run. Pretty soon thereafter I nixed the speed run (speed is definitely my weakness) for just another short run, and then eventually settled comfortably into a 3 day a week program with 1 long run, 1 short, and 1 medium. (The short and medium runs are my favorite. I have a little 3 mile loop by my house that is my bread and butter. I love it.) I worked up to 12 miles as my longest, did several 9 and 10 milers, and many, many under that.
A few weeks before the race I was absolutely kicking myself. I was so frustrated that I had signed up to race. Couldn't I have just been accountable without having to actually go to the event? I knew I wasn't going to not go. I had committed to it, and I had trained for it, but I was NOT looking forward to it. At all. The night before the race when I had to go pick up my number and shirt and bag I was in the grumpiest mood. I thought this was so stupid and I felt so out of my element. I was mad and cranky, but also a little sad. I had done all this work, these months and months of preparation, and I had no one to share it with. I felt really lonely throughout the process, so I prayed and prayed and prayed. Silent prayer after silent prayer- on my knees and all about my tasks preparing for it I prayed. I asked that Heavenly Father would be with me. I asked for comfort. (Surprisingly, throughout the entire course of the training, day before, and day of, I never really felt nervous. An excitement, and a tiny bit of butterflies perhaps, but not true sick or jittery nervousness.) I also prayed that since I was doing this alone, that Heavenly Father would bless me with His Spirit. I didn't want to feel alone. I wanted to feel that He was there with me. I also prayed that he would help me have fun. I decided to change my attitude. I was racing no matter what. I was doing it all no matter what, so I could be grumpy and cranky and miserable, or I could be happy, positive, and optimistic. My final, and continual prayer throughout the course of my training and for the race itself was that Heavenly Father would consecrate my performance for the welfare of my soul. This scripture was my motto for my natural childbirth with Lorenzo:
"I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul."
This scripture has become the theme in which I try to live my life, and I had seen how my prayer had been answered in my delivery, and knew it could be so again. I felt confirmation that my pursuit and training for this was a good thing when my Relief Society president talked to us several months ago about the good nature of setting goals and sticking to them and the power that comes from that. I did however, have weeks of turmoil second guessing why I had made this training a priority. I felt bad leaving my kiddos in the morning, especially on Saturdays when I'd be gone for two hours. I didn't know if the strain was something that was foolish since I was still nursing Lorenzo and needing to keep up with two young babies. And I knew it was hard for BJ to juggle work calls and the two kiddos in the mornings while I was gone. On the other hand, in the early days of my running, right after I had Lorenzo and had settled into my first half training schedule, I felt very strongly that finding and uncovering this love for running had been an answer to the prayers of my heart as I was a new mom to two little ones and feeling very overwhelmed. My running time was so therapeutic being alone, being out in nature, and starting my day to myself, sorting through my thoughts, and coming home with endorphins and runner's high coursing through my body. I felt like it was helping settle into my role as mother of two.
After ensuring I had all my stuff ready the night before, I went to bed early and got about 7 hours of sleep. I woke up at 4:25 the morning of the race and was out the door a little after 5. I listened to a talk on the Mormon Channel, prayed, sat in silence, listened to some music, and sat in silence again. When I arrived I found a good, close parking spot and sat in my car thinking through things and watch the people around me get out of their cars and observed what they were doing. I was definitely a novice and needed a little guidance in what to do. The car parked in front of mine on the street unloaded and had 3 men and two women. They all looked like pretty seasoned runners. I asked them a couple questions and felt somewhat "snubbed". They were cordial, but not overly friendly. I felt like it was mostly because they could tell I was such an amateur, but maybe that's an unfair assumption. I noticed a group nearby of four women who looked unassuming and unintimidating, and I went up to them and essentially asked if I could be their friend. I felt so strange being there completely alone, and as I looked around I hadn't seen anyone else that wasn't there with someone. They were beyond sweet, and automatically accepted me completely. They had all done this half before, among other races. They were good friends, but treated me just like I was one of them. I was so at ease, and enjoying myself completely with my new-found friends. After about twenty minutes, and after I had asked them all the number of children they each had, I asked if they were LDS. They were and they said they had been wanting to find a subtle way to figure out if I was too. Soon after we boarded the bus and were on our way up the hill. We waited at the top of the mountain, shivered, stretched, laughed and went to the bathroom one more time. Then it was time for the race! I loved how the event was well organized, yet so casual feeling. Unlike dance, you don't have people watching you and judging you, which was such a refreshing change. (I'm going to take a moment to mention that already that morning I had felt aspects of energy and excitement that had reminded me of mornings at conventions. The energy and anticipation of hard work and challenge was thrilling. I felt confident in my abilities, and challenged, and I loved that.) We started out slowly at a very casual, light jog and were lined up next to each other talking. They all knew the story already as they are good friends, so one of the girls was filling me in. I turned to reply to something she had said and suddenly, WHAM! I was on my hands and knees. I had rolled my ankle and tripped in a matter of milli-seconds. I stood up and my ankle was tight, stiff and sore so I pulled to the shoulder of the road to walk. The girls were so sweet, encouraging, and comforting, but I urged them to go on. They said I would catch up, and I quickly did after walking it out, rolling my ankle a couple times and standing on it. It was tender and a bit weak, but it would be fine. I casually jogged, and caught up to the girls quickly and then passed them. My comfortable pace was quicker than theirs. I jogged on and felt out how my ankle was going to be. I prayed and sent positive thoughts and imagery to my ankle. It felt kinky and crunchy for a few miles but I was comfortable enough. At about mile 4 I stopped to ask if they had an Advil. They didn't at their station but one of the workers said she did in her purse in her car. She probably took 3 minutes or so looking and she didn't have any, but then up came my friends and one of them did! I took 3 Advil and went on. I started to get into my comfortable pace, speeding up a little bit and after another stop decided at the next that I would put my headphones in. I was in disbelief when I asked and was told it was already mile 6. I couldn't believe how quickly it was going! I got a tiny drink and dumped the rest on my body, plugged my headphones in and took off. It felt incredible to RUN! I was literally running, not jogging, feeling an absolute high. It was incredible. My body felt so strong and fast and I was passing every runner on the road. From the rest of the race on, all I did was pass people. I did not have anyone that I could see in a reasonable proximity to me that I did not pass. That was a great feeling. I eased up a little around mile 9 and 10 because it had always been a goal of mine to finish strongly and sprint the last mile. I ate 1/2 of my Larabar at mile 10 and picked up the pace again. The last two miles I kept my eyes peeled for BJ and my kiddos. I wasn't sure where they would be. Besides my ankle, the only challenge of the race physically was some tightness in my quads on miles 11 and 12. I didn't know if mile 12 would be the last mile or if it would say mile 13 and then it would be 1 more mile til the finish line. But so quickly I saw the balloons in the sky and words "FINISH LINE" in the distance and couldn't believe it. It was not far away at all so I decided to push it. I ran strong and then spotted BJ and the babes. Ellie was in a daze and Lorenzo was bawling. At that point I began to glide. My stride was long, fluid, strong, and aggressive. I felt so, so, so good. My body felt incredible. I had done it. I had done it!
I said so many prayers of thanks throughout the race. I was grateful for my body above all. It is strong, healthy and capable. I am grateful for my muscles and for the talents I have been able to develop in this life that have challenged and pushed my body. They have blessed my life incredibly. It was overall the most positive experience in every way. There was not an ounce of regret within me. Like people had told me, I was hooked. I feel such a passion for running. It has blessed my life. Heavenly Father definitely answered my prayer to consecrate my performance for the welfare of my soul. I feel like every aspect of this race was beneficial to me.
I just wish I hadn't sprained my ankle.
Here's to many more. Hopefully!
Overall time: 1 hr. 51 min. 20 seconds
8:30 average mile pace
11th place in my age division (Female 25-29)
358th overall ;)

June 1, 2014

Today's Day

Posting last night made me so happy. I can't adequately describe all the reasons I love blogging, but one reason I had forgotten on my year + hiatus is that it makes me savor the every day moments and fills my heart with gratitude. Documenting has a way of lining up my blessings right in front of my eyes and helps me realize how content I am living this life of mine. I am thrilled to be back.
Eventually I want to spend some time recounting my labor and delivery with Lorenzo, and also reciting some of the wonderful details of his blessed little life. Today however, I'll give the brief minutes of our day...
Slept in
Ate breakfast
Played with Playdoh with Ellie
Went to Stake Conference
Made banana bread and a scrambled egg and veggie hash with Ellie
Ate lunch as a family
Went to Abigail Tolman's baptism
Had the friends (the Trasks, the Hoopes', and Denise & Hailey) over for ice cream
hung out with BJ
(add in several nursings, cuddles, naps and boo-boo kisses for Lorenzo)
It was a great day. I love my little family.

The Time Ellie Proceeded to Claw Her Brother, Make Him Laugh, and Declare, "I Love Lorenzo" All In One Day

Their relationship is still touch-and-go as I imagine it most likely will always be. But break-throughs are made every so often that make my heart practically burst. I adore these two and want them to adore each other, and although this morning started with Ellie viciously scratching Lorenzo's bare chest and making him bleed, it ended with her making him laugh hysterically over and over again as she yelled "boo" to him in his high chair and then with her telling BJ and I, "I love Lorenzo" in the most angelic voice I have ever heard. These two...there are not words, pictures, or songs to describe the rollercoaster ride these two take me on. The best rollercoaster I've ever known.

My Favorite Picture (and duty) of All Time

I began motherhood with such confidence, assurance, and joy. I felt a great nobility in my calling as a mother. I had known my entire life that I wanted to be a mother- exclusively. Pregnancy came quickly and easily, and I loved practically every minute of it. I fell in love with my baby girl before she was here: had her name chosen, her nursery made up, her stroller put together- everything was raring to go. There were rocky days here and there, but for the most part, every stage with Ellie was sheer bliss.
I expected to grow my family as easily as it had begun but over time discovered some bumps in the road. First I got pregnant for the second time and miscarried shortly thereafter. Then my following pregnancy with Lorenzo was a bit more eventful with worrisome blood platelet levels and spotting. I felt much more "pregnant" than I had when I carried Ellie, but I still thought that having two children would be just as natural, blissful, and "easy" as having one.
Lorenzo's first five or ten minutes of life were spent screaming. He was traumatized by the labor and delivery, but I think he just had his final fuss, got it out of his system, and has basically not uttered a peep of discontent since. He is the easiest, happiest, most joyful baby. I had a remarkable recovery from my delivery and things were off on the best foot. And then, out of the blue and all of a sudden, I was getting Lorenzo, Ellie, and myself ready for Lorenzo's two-week check-up and hell broke loose in my innocent, young mothering world. Ellie threw a crazy tantrum as I tried to do her hair- the first manifestation of her terrible two's, I lost my temper and yelled at her- my fuse so short with the inadequate amount of sleep I had been getting, and after that, things never seemed to be as consistently "blissful" or "easy" as they had been before.
Tantrums have become a somewhat regular thing, losing my temper has also occurred more than I'd like to admit, and although some days when my now three-year-old is throwing a maniacal tantrum I long and cry for "easy" days, "easy" times, and an "easier" dynamic in our relationship, I realize that the bliss, the perfection, and the really, really hard can actually coexist really well together. Being a mom of two young babies has been more exhausting and exasperating than I anticipated.
I have to figuratively slap myself on a continual basis to bring myself back to the present moment, to realize what a freaking miracle it is to have these two awe-inspiring little spirits growing like weeds before my eyes, and to remember that they aren't going to be bathing with me, crying for me, or calling out "Mommy!" for me forever. I have to slap myself to stop checking my instagram while my kids play, and instead, actually play and be with them. I have to slap myself to realize that there is a season for everything, and that although I can't keep my house clean with any sort of ease, spend hours (or thirty un-interrupted consecutive minutes) working in my garden, or spend time persuing interests like yoga and pilates without two toddlers hanging off my downward dog, their precious faces aren't going to long for my gaze, their chubby hands for mine, or their ears for my lullabies forever. I am blown away that they love me so fully. Sometimes I wish Ellie wouldn't love me for a little while just so I had some room to breathe for a minute.;)  But ultimately, the challenge, the difficulty, and the exasperation just continue to bind and weld my heart to theirs. We are one in the same- me and my two babies. 
They are my world.
I will never stop being in awe of them. They keep me on my toes, and they bring me to my knees in desperation, tears, triumph, and gratitude. They are incredible, fiercesome little souls. I love them more than there are stars in the sky, and I always, always will.
(And this, for now, is my favorite picture of all time. Taken when Lorenzo was about 1-2 months old.)