Monday, October 28, 2013

all three.

The thing about kids is they keep changing and growing. You can't stop it. All you can do is stand back and marvel (and make sure they don't get hit by a car).

Carly has taken her role as a 4-year-old quite seriously. She informs just about anyone she meets that she is 4 years old and now attends preschool. Preschool has been a learning experience for all of us. She loves it just enough. But she loves being home. It warms my heart that she loves being home. She seems to do really great at school. At her parent-teacher conference, the teacher mentioned she was quiet and reserved. But in the weeks since, both teachers have said she is really coming out of her shell. She has a couple of little friends she reports playing with every time she goes. One of these friends in a boy who wears braces on his legs. She asked me about it, and I explained that Jesus made his legs a little different, but doctors gave him those braces to help him walk. At a field trip last week, Carly slowed down to walk with him while other kids rushed ahead. Four-year-olds aren't big on chit-chat, but they kept looking at each other and smiling and laughing. She is an example to me of just how little such differences matter. She loves when daddy takes her to school. Its a fun thing for both of them. Chris has been quite busy, and she has been having some attachment issues. She won't let him leave her sight when he is home; he'll go to the restroom and she says "Are you going to school?!" She's always been a daddy's girl, and I hope she always is. 

At home, she is the type-A, slightly emotional, loving, active big sister she has always been. She is quite good at playing with her babies, and giggles and squeals often fill our home. But if it is not giggles and squeals, it is screaming. Sometimes the babies just get all up in her business, and sometimes she gets all up in theirs, and battles ensue. She cherishes their nap time, and I try to make an effort to do things with her during that time that we just can't do while the babies are awake. She has become an irreplaceable member of my twin-survival team. She helps me get them up and settled at nap time. She holds hands while we walk to the car. She finds shoes, brings diapers, soothes terror over the vacuum. At the grocery store the other day, both babies started to lose it when we weren't even half-way done. I started to stress, but Carly went over to them and played peek-a-boo and sang Itsy Bitsy Spider. Most of the time 3 is hard. But other times, I wonder how people have twins without a Carly.

Oh, Quinn. This girl is something else. She is the sweetest little thing. She has a cute little voice, and expounds quite a bit in Quinnish, but still speaks limited English. She loves books. She will grab a book, force her way onto your lap, and grab your hand and place the book in it, just in case you weren't catching her drift. She likes snacks and at this point probably out-eats her bigger little brother. She is currently in a clingy, mama's girl phase. She likes to be with me most of the time, and when we walk she likes to hold my hand. I can't say I mind, she is incredibly delicious, and she is sweet when she is clingy (her brother is more of a head-butter). I can't help but love when she reaches out for me and says "mama! mama!" She LOVES her blanket, and can often be spotted walking around with it wadded up in her arms.

Quinn is our flower child. She is unique. It is so hard to describe in words. I had the sweetest experience with her that I feel describes her so well. We went to a wooded park to take fall foliage pictures. It was in the evening so it was pretty quiet. We were leaving, and almost out of the wooded area, when I realized Quinn was missing a shoe. The others went ahead, and Q and I went back to find her shoe. It was so quiet without Carly and John. Quinn is a peaceful little thing most of the time. We went back a ways, and just ahead of us stood 3 beautiful deer. In the fall leaves and the rays of sunshine and the silence, it really was quite the sight. I was holding Q, and she pointed to them and whispered her beautiful deep jibberish to me. And she just watched them. I suddenly felt the spirit so strong. We watched them for a bit, then a cyclist came and scared them away. But that is Quinn. 

John. All we can say about John is he is all boy. I mean, all those things you hear about boys? John fits every stereotype. He's not quite as sharp as his sisters, but he is super vocal. He has a particular passion for roaring and ribbiting. He loves "vrooms" and "choo choos". Like, he is obsessed with vehicles. I didn't know that was a real thing. He takes his little trucks and drives them over and over again over the air vents in the floor, because that makes way more noise than just driving them on the carpet. He colors with marker on his face and gets in the bath fully dressed. He HATES his car seat because he doesn't want to be restricted in any way. One day the girls were picking dandelions and taking them to Chris. John was watching them, and decided to join in the kind gesture. He brought Chris a large piece of bark. Its the thought that counts, right?

John likes to "snuggle" which is really more like wrestling, and he LOVES to wrestle. He really loves wrestling Chris, and loves to climb up on him and jump off. John is so loud. He is 100% everything. 100% this is the best moment of his life ever, or 100% this is the worst thing in history. He is highly emotional. And when he is sad he screams, and when he is happy he screams. The problem with John is he is so dang cute. I'm pretty sure Heavenly Father provided him with such cuteness to ensure his survival. But the boy is as lovable and as infuriating as they come. And he really is "all boy."

As for the duo? They are chaos.
They both know a lot of animal sounds, but beyond that they don't talk a ton. Their vocabulary includes mama, dada, bottle, night-night, bye-bye, pumpkin, Jesus, amen, and Elmo. I think it is interesting that while John uses words more often and usually says them first, they usually learn the same words. Their vocabulary is almost identical. I guess they are learning in the same place from the same people. They hit 18 months in August. They checked out perfectly at their appointment, and went to nursery without a problem. I don't know if it because they have each other, or because they have always been a little more independent with it comes to being watched by others. But they do great, and after a LONG sacrament meeting, the next two hours of church sure are nice. They are learning songs and are getting pretty good about folding their arms during prayer. During family prayer each night, we try to get them to be still and quiet. Lately, when they successfully last an entire prayer, they know they did a good job and all three of them stand up and clap and scream and squeal and laugh. It is hilarious.

John and Quinn make an incredible mess. They really wreck a lot of havoc. We keep the kitchen gated off and it is annoying, but every once in a while I will let the babies in there and it reminds me why it remains gated. They empty drawers, start the dishwasher, pull the desk apart, climb up on the table. Our living room is a disaster zone, but it is contained. I recently took about 80% of our toys to the basement, so that has helped too, but it really is amazing what they can accomplish together. I can only imagine how it is going to be in another 6 months. Two 20-month-olds wear me out. The thought of two 2-year-olds makes my head spin.

But they are partners in crime and their deeply contrasting personalities make for a relationship full of love and emotion. Quinn recently started saying "J'boi" . . . "John Boy". And I die every time she does. They are sweet and funny with each other, and totally insane. And I can't imagine having just one.

These kids are the three musketeers. Every time Carly gets out of school, she is so excited to go see her brother and sister, and they squeal when she arrives at the car. She climbs in and gives them each a kiss and there is much rejoicing (very loud rejoicing). They cherish each other, and they have so much fun together.

Every night after the long process of getting the kids to sleep, I spend way more time than I'd like to picking up toys, wiping down tables, chairs, and floors, doing dishes and preparing for the next day. To every thing there is a season, and my current season is a messy one. But before I go to bed, I like to sneak in to the kids room and peek at my sleeping babies. I walk into that room and the spirit is so strong. I love to fill my heart with their goodness before I fall asleep. They are my work, and they are my reward. And sometimes, I must admit, I find myself thinking about how much simpler it would be if there were just two. But when I look at those peaceful faces and listen to their even breaths, I know just how much I need all three.

Friday, October 18, 2013

every leaf speaks bliss.

I have to say, in all my love for autumn, my heart has been a bit heavy these last few weeks. I feel like Michigan is slipping away. There is so much excitement in the months ahead, but still so much unknown. While applications are going in and dissertations are soon to be proposed, answers to what our future holds are still a ways off.  What I do know is that this life journey will always and forever be shared with my very favorite people. The other evening I went on a run. It had been a particularly hard mom day, and I ran my favorite trail. The sun streamed through the trees and every time the wind blew the leaves rained down on me. It was beautiful and soul-soothing, as it has been so many times before. One of my favorite quotes came to mind: "Every leaf speaks bliss to me, fluttering from the autumn tree." {Emily Bronte}. I decided to go back to that beautiful place and take pictures of my beautiful people.

What I really want is to stay in Michigan. I want the perfect university with the perfect job to be right here. And I want Idaho to be a few hours one direction, and Indiana a few hours the other direction. And I want winter to end in March.

Is that really too much to ask?

I know wherever we go, we will find happiness.
We have always been led by the hand of a loving Heavenly Father, and I know that will continue if we ask Him to guide us.

So here's to one more beautiful Michigan fall.
And here's to what's next.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

thirteen point one.

I'm not a runner. Not in the traditional sense of the word; those people who just naturally run smoothly and fast and just love it from the get-go. I started running when Carly was 16 months old as a way to lose those last few baby pounds and a way to have some "me" time. I ran on a treadmill, 2 or 3 miles, and I liked it decently enough. After I had the twins, I started running again. I wanted to run a 5k, so I started running outside. The transition from treadmill to road was rough. It felt so much harder. I have bad knees stemming from a basketball injury in high school (highly frustrating, since I was a mediocre bench-riding basketball player), and it took a lot of stretching and strengthening to teach my knees to endure. It still does. But my outdoor training went well, and last Fall I ran a 10k. That race was my victory race. It will always be a special experience for me.

That 10k also lit a fire. I set a goal, I followed through, and I had the sweet thrill of success. I wanted more. A half-marathon entered my mind, and by New Years' I decided to make it a resolution. I got violently ill and ended up in the hospital on the first day of February. After that experience I could hardly walk, let alone exercise. When I started running again in April, it was starting from scratch. But I crawled my way back. I found a half on Labor Day and a good beginner training schedule, and I was excited. 

I met with a marathoner friend before I started. She shared her wisdom and fanned the flames of my excitement. She told me, "If you do this, it won't be your last one." My dad, a 23-time marathoner, was also a wealth of knowledge. As I went through the training process, all the "quirks" about my dad started making sense, like his habit of chugging glass after glass after glass of water morning and night. I remember one night I stood by the sink with the water running, chugging glasses of water. I laughed out loud. I was now my dad, and it was a really good thing.

My Summer of training was full of ups and downs. There was the pain and frustration of plantar fasciitis (which was cured by arch support insoles) and the hunt for the perfect shoe (I literally went on runs in 6 different pairs of shoes over the summer). There was the trial and error of finding the right food, the right fuel, the right routine. There were victorious Saturday runs. Each week they got longer and longer and longer. And each week we tackled them. I grew to love those Saturday runs. They were beautiful and empowering and completely exhausting. I needed a power nap every Saturday afternoon, and a long nap every Sunday to recover. But to go further than you ever have before week after week, now that is a good feeling.

I was blessed to share this adventure with two wonderful friends. When you live far from family, your friends are your family. I have always felt that in Michigan, and I am so grateful for my training buddies, because this first go around would have been so much harder without them. They were a source of sanity and camaraderie. They were there to cheer me on when I felt weak. I looked forward to our Saturday runs together. They were like GNO, only before sunrise and we burned 2000 calories instead of consuming it. Conversation makes 10, 11, 12 miles go by much faster. During the half itself, I was feeling so good at 10, I sped up too early. I was feeling pretty wasted at the end, but Jessica stayed with me, and Tara was right behind us. We crossed the finish line seconds apart.

Then there is my kids. If there is anything these kids have taught me, it is that I can do hard things. Its that hard things are often the best things. Its that the most rewarding things in life have to be worked for. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure I would have had the mental and physical fortitude to do this before them. My pregnancy with the twins was the most painful thing I've experienced, not to mention childbirth (even with the miracles of modern medicine). Then you have months of sleep deprivation. The emotional toll they take on you is the icing on top. They made it possible for me to do this. They made me stronger. Not only that, but they were so wild every day that I couldn't wait to get away on my runs (ha!), and they were the very best cheering section when I got home. The morning of my first 10 miler (it was my first double-digit run, and I was nervous), I came home to cheering, squealing, screaming, jumping, and clapping. While a successful 10-miler will leave you feeling high, it doesn't compare to coming home to that.

After further analysis, I realized a half marathon itself is a lot like having kids. At first it seems like a really good, fun idea, and you're really excited. Then you get into it and you are wondering what the heck you were thinking . . . this is miserable. But in the end, you are happy, you are better, and you've devoted yourself to something greater than yourself. And it was worth it.

Let us talk now about my man. If you noticed, I said I found a half marathon for Labor Day. This meant I'd be done before Chris's semester picked up, and before Carly started school. I ended up sitting 2 weeks thanks to the mysterious foot pain that made it so I could hardly get out of bed in the morning. After solving the riddle of plantar fasciitis, I was too far behind my schedule to stick to it. It is hard to find a half here that is not on a Sunday, but I found one a full month later. Chris was set to start dissertating, and I tried to tell him I shouldn't keep running. He wouldn't hear of it. Half-way through my training plan, and I ended up almost starting at the beginning again, with a new race on October 5th. He got a proposal date that meant a LOT of work . . . in the weeks leading up to my race. We had some wild, exhausting weeks. Chris took the brunt of the pain, with long sleepless nights and evenings of holding down the fort while I ran. I have to say, the training took much more time and physical and emotional energy that I expected. I'm sure it being my first go-around exacerbated that. We lost a lot of family time, and even more couple time. We were both working toward huge, contrasting goals. And this man of mine was endlessly supportive. There were many nights I talked my running stress out with him, nevermind the intense stress he was experiencing. But while he could talk me through mine, there was only so much I could do for him. He had a lot on him, and still does, and I am so grateful he was there for me through this.

I mentioned I sped up too early during the race. At the very end there was a steep hill up to a bridge. I was dying up that hill. Just then, a familiar car slowed down next to me. Chris and the kids had the windows rolled down, and cheered me up the hill. They were late; they should have been waiting at the finish line already. But it turned out that they were exactly where I needed them to be exactly when I needed it. Chris has a habit of being exactly what I need him to be, and this was no exception. He is the best of men.

Now I'm going to admit something. Friends and family made it possible for me to do this race. Their support made all the difference. But the reason for my running a half marathon had very little to do with them.

About 4 weeks before the big day, I was struggling emotionally. I was hitting a wall and losing motivation. I was thinking while doing the dishes one night, "Why am I doing this?" Then I decided I needed to actually find an answer to that question.

The answer: because I want to.

As a mother of young children, you spend 95% of your time doing things for others. I eat while wiping counters. I take 2 minute showers with tiny fists pounding on the door. There are diapers and owies, park visits and play time. It is important for mothers to still be women, to still have hobbies and passions. It is so hard to find those things outside of our children. I view motherhood as my greatest calling, the single most important thing I will ever do in my life. And devoting my life to them is something I take pride in.

But I wanted just a little corner of my life to be just mine.
I just wanted to use that spare 5% to reach someplace new.
And this was it.
Running the open road/trail has become a passion.
It is something just for me.
I found a quote that said, "I loved life more because I ran, so I kept running."
That was spot on.
I'm not a natural.
I won't be setting records or impressing people with my speedy times.
But I love life more when I run, so I'll keep running.
And my friend was right: knees-willing, this half won't be my last one.

I ran my half marathon in 2 hours 17 minutes and 24 seconds, achieving my goal of sub-2:20.
During those final miles, I popped by headphones on.
A song came on, and as I neared the end of my long journey (in more that one way), the lyrics had a new meaning. 

Where there is desire there is gonna be a flame
Where there is a flame someone's bound to get burned
But just because it burns doesn't mean you're gonna die
You gotta get up and try, try, try.

I crossed the finish line at a full sprint, then walked to the side and laid down on the ground (because that is exactly what you're supposed to do . . . ). But while the world spun around me, I thought, I just ran a half marathon. And I felt very very good.

So here's to goals.
Here's to hard things.
And here's to doing something you've never done before.