December 28, 2007

Merry Christmas Montage

I could write lots and lots about what we've been doing, but I'll try to let the pictures share most of the story. The captions/explanations are on top of each picture for easier reading. You can click on any picture to see it enlarged.

My mom and dad arrived in town on Saturday the 22nd, and we've been having a fun-filled celebration. It's our first Christmas together since they came to visit us in Ohio in 2001, when Charis was 14 months old and I was pregnant with Tobin. We enjoyed the Sunday church service very much, and it's been fun to see my dad get acquainted with Kenna, whom he had not seen in person before! Since Kenna is well on her way to being a complete menace, it's nice to have extra hands and eyes around to keep her (and our stuff) safe!

On Christmas Eve we drove to the Ethel M. Chocolate Factory to see the festively decorated cactus garden. (We can pause here for all you other moms to sing "Because we work real hard at the chocolate factory...we start at 8 and we don't get lunch 'til 3...") And if you've never seen a festively decorated cactus garden, you're really missing out! It was fun to take Mom and Dad to a unique place like that. Unfortunately, we weren't able to get in and get our free sample of chocolate, as they were closing up early, but we did enjoy the lights. (Well, most of us enjoyed the lights...Arden spent most of the time whining about being really hungry for chocolate!)

Ted had to work mids (midnight to 8 a.m.) for 4 nights, ending Christmas night. Thankfully he ended up having to only work 4 hours on the nights of the 24th and 25th. Our schedule ended up being a little crazy, but we were pretty much ready for Christmas Day when it arrived. By the time I was showered and dressed for the day, I came downstairs to find Tobin piling up his stash of presents and looking mighty proud for having found all of his own gifts. I reminded him that the kids were instructed NOT to touch the gifts until we were all ready, and he reluctantly shoved them back under the tree. We managed to get this fairly good shot of all four of them before Kenna started having a meltdown. Arden was awakened long before he was really ready to wake up and didn't get into his normal happy mood until well after breakfast! Thankfully by then Ted was home from work, Kenna was napping, and all was relatively peaceful!

This is as close to a family picture on Christmas morning as we got. Ted still wasn't back from working his night shift, but it was like holding back the tide where the kids were concerned! We had agreed that they could open their stockings before breakfast, and as Kenna had been up for about 2 1/2 hours by this point, she soon disappeared for her morning nap.

Our advent calendar is complete--Baby Jesus is in the manger! It was touching to see the kids so excited to do this Christmas activity, even before opening their own presents. *Sniff* I'm getting so sentimental in my old age...

Grandma J sent us money to help outfit our whole family with bicycles, and Ted and I had fun shopping on her behalf the Friday before Christmas. The kids were so excited to see all the bikes lined up in the garage! We just have to find something for Kenna...the seats sold at the BX would not work with bikes with rear suspension. I'm personally hoping we can find a reasonable deal on a jogging/biking stoller so I can go running with Kenna sometimes, too. Since Charis and Tobin both had bikes already (Charis just needed new innertubes for the tires), we used some money to get Charis some roller skates and Tobin a new scooter. As a P.S. to this tale, Charis learned to ride without training wheels the day after Christmas! Woohoo!

When I saw this bonnet, I knew Charis had to have it! She adores anything "Little House-ish" and was delighted to have a bonnet for playing dress up. By the end of her unwrapping, she was wearing her Christmas nightgown with a handmade apron from Grandma K, her new robe from Mommy and Daddy, her bonnet, and her roller skates from Grandma J. I should have gotten a picture of THAT get-up, but the bonnet pose will have to do.

Arden likes his Batman hat from Grandma and Grandpa. The jersey, which was from Ted and me (and only cost $1 on the Walmart clearance rack!), was also a favorite, and we had to tell him to stop wearing it three days after Christmas!!

One of the boys' favorite gifts was their own pop gun from Ted and me. Due to a remarkable (!) lack of self-control on their part, the pop guns spend the majority time on top of the refrigerator, waiting to come down when no one in the house is trying to nap! Tobin is also sporting a new hat and gloves from Grandma and Grandpa K.

Kenna is wearing a new outfit from Debi, chewing on a spoon from my mom and dad, and looking at her new book from Grandma J. Isn't she charming?! This picture was actually taken the day after Christmas, since we had a mess in the family room by the time she awoke from her nap and I didn't want her on the floor with all the little pieces of STUFF. We opened her gifts the next morning when things were a bit cleaner!

Charis watches while Grandpa carves the turkey. My dad was in charge of cooking the turkey, and my mom did her famous mashed potatoes and gravy (plus the apple pie for dessert--yum!). I got off easy with making stuffing from a boxed mix and green bean casserole. Oh yes, and I also opened the can of cranberry sauce. So much work! (We won't think about all the dishes I did later, nor the mounds of baking leading up to Christmas Day either!)

Singing "Happy Birthday" to Jesus with our "birthday pie." We chose not to do a cake this year since we had so many other goodies--this is Chocolate Pecan pie, a to-die-for recipe from our dear friend Rose!

Merry Christmas to all!

December 20, 2007

The House Is Quiet...

I just got out of a nice, relaxing, hot shower, Kenna is napping, Charis is crafting, and (amazingly) the boys are wordlessly playing in the family room. Ahhh! I wanted to take a few moments and consider where we are in our preparations for Christmas.

First, the externals...

1. House decorated? Check. Our tree looks lovely, and no more ornaments have fallen onto the tile floor (or the tree skirt for that matter). Christmas candles make the house smell and look beautiful in the evenings, and the holly garland on our bannister is festive.

2. Shopping completed? Almost. We have some things to purchase on behalf of Grandma J, but our excursion is planned for tomorrow evening when we can take advantage of a youth babysitting service at the church of of our home school families.

3. Gifts wrapped? The ones to be mailed, yes. The ones to open in our house Christmas Day--haven't even started!

4. Handmade gifts done? Yes! This year I opted to make quite a few things for our family members. I hope they enjoy them as much as I enjoyed making them. I won't mention what they are here since several recipients visit our blog now and then. :-) I do have one more batch of "something" to make but hope to do that today or tomorrow.

5. Christmas cards stamped, letter written, copies made, envelopes stuffed, address labels printed, postage stamps attached? ABSOLUTELY NOT! ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!?! OK. For the past 8 years I have stamped all of our Christmas cards, written the annual family update, made copies, sometimes even stamped the letters themselves, printed address get the picture. And we've actually mailed this nice bit of effort. But this year? My decision was I could either A) do all of the above work or B) enjoy the season with my family. Since I have considerably less stress than I typically do this time of year, you can probably imagine which option I chose.

Don't get me wrong...I don't plan for this to happen every year. (Can I blame our move?? I was planning to start stamping cards in October but instead ended up packing and unpacking boxes!) I love creating handmade cards and writing our family update letters. Just don't look for it to happen at Christmastime every year. We may make a huge change in the WHEN of this project! During a season when there are so many good activities to choose from, many of which truly do help us focus on the Reason for the season, I am just having a hard time forcing myself to do a major chore that I could enjoy during a different time of year when there aren't so many other options for using my time.

So, I hope you will forgive us for not appearing in your mailbox this year, but frankly, if you are reading this blog, you probably know way more about our life than most other people anyway!

OK, back to my list...

6. Christmas goodies baked? Mostly! We love dipped gingersnaps (made, ate, and gave away one batch of 12 dozen already), fudge (still have some in the fridge), peanut butter balls (just made those, so we have a lot left), brown sugar pecans (currently going through the second batch), and roll-out sugar cookies (still haven't made). My plan is to let the kids do roll-out cookies with Grandma K on Sunday or Monday. I may make one more batch of fudge with nuts--the first batch was nutless because it was for the kids, and they aren't fond of any type of nut (with the possible exception of their mother, ha!).

7. Advent activities? Yes! We continue to enjoy our calendar by Noel Piper and our advent book. The children talk much about the first Christmas, and we never seem to get tired of it (praise the Lord!). They are eagerly waiting for Christmas morning when we can put Baby Jesus in the manger. Their sweet prayers and eager anticipation make this a special season indeed.

8. Guest room prepared? Hmmm...this one needs work. My parents get into town on Saturday, and my stamping area is a disaster! I suppose if they can at least get to their futon bed it will be OK, right?! Thankfully Ted is off work tomorrow and can help me prepare the room! Charis did her part in cleaning her craft area (though she may very well be messing it up again...)

So, on the outside it would seem that we are indeed very nearly ready for Christmas. How are we doing on the inside?

1. House decorated? Are my body, soul, and spirit ready for the celebration of my Lord's arrival on earth? I'm working on giving my body the rest it needs; my back is still giving me problems, and I'm fighting a cold. I'm forcing myself to slow down, which isn't a bad thing by any means. I am meeting with the Lord each morning for a quiet time of prayer and Bible study...but sometimes I leave God in the rocking chair and rush off to see what I can cross off my to-do list. My challenge during December (as always) is to stay quiet and listen, enjoying a heart-to-heart visit with Jesus.

2. Shopping completed? What does one give Someone Who has everything?! This year I want to give Christ the things that are most important to me. I want to give Him a husband who is loved, cherished, honored, and cared for in all ways. I want to give Him children who have eager hearts to know more about Him. I want to give Him a clean, calm household--not because it's all-important that my home is clean and welcoming, but because He made me the "heart" of our home, and I want to extend His love to others.

3. Gifts wrapped? No, because I'm working on them on an ongoing basis!

4. Handmade gifts done? Whatever my hands find to do, I desire to do with all my might. So no, they aren't done, but Lord willing, they are working their way to completion!

5. Christmas cards stamped, etc.? I long for my life to be a love letter to my Lord. My prayer is that when I arrive in heaven's "mailbox," Jesus will read me and answer with, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant!" This is one letter that will take a lifetime to write, and trust me, there are many spots where we've had to go back with the eraser of God's forgiveness!

6. Christmas goodies baked? I pray my life gives off the sweet aroma of God's love: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him" (2 Corinthians 2:14).

7. Advent activities? Every day we are looking forward to the return of Jesus! "For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever" (1 Thess. 4:16-16). Amen!

8. Guest room prepared? Today at breakfast I had the privilege of being in a discussion with Charis and Tobin that involved how to get to heaven. Even though they grasp the idea that Jesus paid the price for our sins, for some reason Tobin still mentioned being "good enough" to get to heaven. This sparked a wonderful talk about how we can never even come close to God's holiness. Tobin did give his testimony again--he keeps referring to a time in our first LV house when he prayed and asked God to forgive his sins and come into his heart. Though Ted and I weren't present when this happened, the fact that he keeps referring to it tells me that there must be something to it. The truth is, when Jesus comes in, He gets more than the guest room! The whole house is His! May we make choices each day that allow Him to be the Master of the house.

For more thoughts on the true meaning of Christmas, I'd love to invite you to visit my sister-in-law's blog...she has done a fabulous job of writing devotionals for each day in December. Grab a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and let your heart be encouraged and challenged by God's wisdom poured out through Sarah!

December 17, 2007


Last week we "cancelled" school because of my back, so today we did sit down and read some Sonlight assignments. In lieu of starting a new math lesson I opted to have the kids watch a favorite DVD that teaches math--it has about 4 hours' worth of lessons, and I pop it in and let them watch different segments from time to time. I'm not sure we've quite made it all the way through, but they enjoy it and are learning at the same time--and it gave me a chance to shower this morning!

I think we'll continue with our reading assignments and do Language Arts "lite," as in the workbook assignments only instead of trying to squeeze in writing and the optional activities. The kids are definitely getting learning opportunities...lots of home ec around here as we bake for the holidays and clean house!

Charis's Christmas pageant was this past weekend. I'll have to upload a video clip camera is downstairs right now and I'm not up for stair climbing for any unimportant reasons. Anyway, she did GREAT! She wasn't nervous at all. I think we may have a drama diva on our hands. Her only regret was that she didn't have more lines. Well, that and the fact that she had to wear a mic. "The REAL angel didn't have a microphone," she pouted. But it wasn't her choice to make, as all the kids with speaking parts got hooked up with a "Madonna mic," and she looked quite lovely regardless. Apparently she was ready for more drama, as she lost her top front tooth moments before the very last performance! She was thrilled, and amazingly no blood ended up on the borrowed white angel costume, for which I am grateful. This picture was taken with "Mr. Rory," the playwright and director. He heads the drama troupe at our church as well and is an amazingly talented man. He has two nearly-grown sons and told Ted and me that Charis makes him wish he and his wife had tried for a little girl!

It was a busy weekend, with dress rehearsal for 2 1/2 hours Friday night, then 5 hours at church Saturday for the 2 performances and back to church at 7:30 a.m. Sunday. Ted took Charis Sunday morning while I brought the boys and Kenna later for attending our regular service, and then I drove Arden and Charis home after the last performance. (Arden wanted to see the show again!) Then we had a late dinner and I left again for a ladies' Christmas tea at Debi's house. It was fun to fellowship with the women, and we had a nice time of desserts and a gift exchange.

Now we're down to less than a week before my parents come to town, and we are looking forward to seeing them at last. It will be the first time my dad has met Kenna, can you believe it?! She's almost 10 months old. That's what happens when you refuse to fly, I guess...yup, they're driving from Wisconsin. We're excited to have our first Christmas together since 2001.

In other news, my back is much better, though I'm not at 100%. I have not gone to a chiropractor, not because I'm opposed to it, but because I'm not sure TriCare covers it. (Any thoughts on this, Claire?) There's not one on base, and that's where all of our health care is provided from. Ted has done a great job massaging the muscles in the affected area, and I've used heat packs often as well as some medicine for pain management. I'm fairly confident that I will be back to normal within a day or two and look forward to at least going for a long walk. I've missed running.

Well, it seems that it's about that time...time to intervene between brothers squabbling and time to finish up dinner. Our sausage and bean soup is smelling yummy, and I want to throw some corn bread in the oven to go with it. Mmmm!

December 15, 2007


We struggled this week with a fair share of trials. Tuesday morning I bent over to pick up the empty water pitcher after watering the tree, and something spazzed out in my back. It was incredibly frustrating--I wasn't doing anything heroic, simply cleaning up the living room. Yet that one movement completely threw off all my plans. Caring for the children immediately became a chore for which much creativity was required. For example, when putting Kenna down for her nap in the pack-n-play, Charis climbed inside, then I handed the baby to her and she carefully laid Kenna down, then crawled out. The kids were great to help me when I would call for someone to pick something up or do a chore, but a complete lack of structure made for some more difficulties as squabbles occurred far more frequently than they would have had I been able to keep to our school schedule.

It's Saturday morning, and I'm just now starting to feel a little more normal. For example, it doesn't hurt to breathe! Unfortunately, we are now also battling sickness. Kenna has had a runny nose and slight fever for the past couple of days, and last night Arden had a temperature of almost 103. Ted has a sore throat and congestion as well. Sickness and holiday plans aren't a good mix.

But, lest this sound like a whine fest, I must say that in all honestly, the frustrations of the pain and sickness from this week pale when I think about more important things. Life, for example.

And death.

After years of doctor's appointments to monitor an enlarged aorta, followed by what seemed to be a successful surgery, the B family was beginning to hope that 7-year-old Elisha's health problems would soon be a thing of the past. The B's are one of the missionary families that we love and support, so the children and Ted and I had been following the reports of Elisha's surgery and aftermath diligently, praying every morning for him and for his family as they were separated. Elisha and his mom had flown back to Seattle when complications set in, while his dad and brothers and sisters remained in Alaska.

Yesterday morning I read with great sorrow that Elisha went home to be with Jesus Thursday afternoon. Knowing that he is in heaven is indeed comforting, but I couldn't help but weep with a mother's heart. Brian and Laurie are no strangers to sorrow, as their firstborn 5-year-old boy died suddenly nearly 13 years ago. Now they bid a second son goodbye, having only had 7 short years with him here on earth...the same amount of time we have had with our own sweet Charis.

I cried and held my children extra long as I hugged them that morning. I worried about how to tell them the news. Just two days before Tobin asked innocently, "Mommy, why is your back still hurting even though we've been praying for God to help it feel better?" We had a good discussion about how God's answers to our prayers are not always what we think they will be. I expected the children to ask why Elisha died even though we prayed for God to make him better.

You know what? They didn't ask. Instead, as we prayed around the breakfast table yesterday morning, Arden said, "Thank you, God, that Elisha is in heaven with Jesus." The news of Elisha's death didn't shatter my children's faith. Instead, they rejoiced that he is with Jesus with a perfect body.

My children's acceptance of what the world would deem bad news encourages my own faith this season. I've been wondering if, as parents, we're passing along the most important aspects of the Christmas season, wondering if my children will ever learn to get along instead of selfishly putting their own interests ahead of others'. Hearing their prayers for the B family's peace and comfort brings comfort to my own heart. They know Who brings true life and peace, and it's not a fat man in a red suit.

Lord Jesus, may the faith of a child grow in us this day and every day, until we see your face in heaven.

December 11, 2007

O Christmas Tree

Last night we enjoyed a scrumptious dinner and then loaded everyone into the van in search of the perfect Christmas tree. Though real trees are costly, and undoubtedly we'd be saving money if we had just purchased a pre-lit artificial tree years ago, both Ted and I much prefer the sight and smell of an honest-to-goodness evergreen in our house. We headed to Star Nursery, where we had seen a sign advertising 5' and 6' Douglas firs starting at $19.95.

The dark parking lot did not bode well. Who would have thought the nursery would close up shop before 7 p.m. during December?! Undaunted, we headed for one of the many white tents that had set up shop near the freeway. Along the way we sang Christmas carols, and then at the lot we walked around, finally settling on a beautiful 7 1/2' or 8' tree that the owner said he'd give us a deal on. (Ha! I'm sure he says that to everyone.)

Back at home we listened to a Relient K Christmas CD, drank hot cocoa (the kids) and chai tea (Ted and I), and ate some of our favorite holiday goodies, Dipped Gingersnaps, fudge, and white-chocolate-covered pretzels.

When our glorious tree was decorated, we tucked the kids in bed and followed soon after.

And if that sounds ridiculously Norman Rockwell, let me go back and insert the following details to make you feel better.

* Our Christmas carol sing-along included the following lyrics by Tobin:
"Hark the herald angels burp,
Glory to the newborn burp,
Peace on earth and mercy burp,
God and sinners want to burp..."

* Our Christmas carol sing-along also included the melodious sounds of children bickering over which carol was to be sung. Charis sang all three verses of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sang" about 900 times, amidst the growls of her brothers who were irritated that she was singing words that they didn't know.

* Ted and I were the only ones interested in the actual choosing of a Christmas tree. Our other dear, sweet, well-behaved children were playing hide-and-seek amidst the trees, completely ignoring our requests to come hither.

* Two nice ornaments were broken--I can't even blame my children, as I was diligently guarding the box to keep little paws off the breakable ornaments. One was apparently already cracked, as it literally fell apart in my hand. The other slipped out of my fingers and landed on the ceramic tile floor. Sigh. It was my hand-painted egg ornament from Hungary.

* Many ornaments fell off the tree--apparently Arden hasn't gotten the knack of proper ornament placement. Good thing none of the ones he put on the tree were terribly fragile, though we did lose a couple of animals off Noah's ark.

* Much whining and impatience filled the air as small beings awaited their Christmas-tree-decorating sugar fest.

* Herding the boys to bed took about as long as decorating the tree did.

So there you have it! The real story behind our tree, LOL!

All I Want for Christmas...

We have having tooth issues in our house--good ones, that is! Kenna's bottom two teeth have FINALLY broken through. We could see them working their way up, but just this morning I could actually feel them. Strange how quickly it changes; I had been rubbing her gums throughout the day yesterday because she was pretty crabby, but it was still smooth. She is our oldest baby to get in her first teeth...Charis was right at 9 months, and Kenna will be 10 months old on Dec. 27.

And Tobin finally has his first loose tooth! While we were decorating the tree last night, he was munching on some Christmas goodies and all of a sudden started crying because he said his tooth hurt. I poked my finger in his mouth and tried wiggling said tooth, and sure enough, it moved slightly. At the news that his tooth was loose, Tobin immediately stopped crying and got such a delighted look on his face that I couldn't help but laugh! He went to bed with visions of tooth fairies dancing in his head. :-)

Everybody Bounce Now!

Kenna is still loving her jumper. She has nearly outgrown the exersaucer, though it's nice to be able to stick her in there for a few minutes if I need to do something and not worry about what she's getting into. I took a video of the kids all bouncing along with Kenna, and then I zoomed in for another clip of Kenna by herself. You can just make out her happy, tongue-sticking-out grin amidst the blur of action! You can also hear Charis saying, "You bounce, girl!" LOL



The Books of the Old Testament

Recently Charis said a whole jewel's worth of sections in her AWANA Climber book. She learned them on her own, and they included a number of verses, all the books of the Old Testament, and all the books of the New Testament. Here's a video clip of her reciting the OT books--I did not prompt her, nor did I correct her pronunciation, though we did work on that at other times. :-)

December 08, 2007

The Race--After

After crossing the finish line we herded through and were given "space blankets" (which were surprisingly warm), finishers' medals, and an assortment of samples ranging from foot cream to pain relief patches. Somehow I missed the food tables, having gotten in line for water and Gatorade, and had to turn around and go "upstream" to load my arms up with bananas, cookies, and power bars. Ted and I did find my sweat bag, which I had hidden in some bushes before the race since I hadn't been able to locate the storage that was supposedly in the parking lot. We walked back through Mandalay Bay and headed right to the parking garage after a stop at the bathroom. (I hadn't wanted to stop during the race, as EVERY port-a-potty I saw had a line in front of it!)

It was much easier driving away from the city than it had been coming in that morning. I was feeling great, having stretched before we left, but I could tell my legs were going to be hurting later on. We arrived home just before 10 a.m., and Debbie said things had gone well with the kids. Since we were home earlier than we thought we might be, we decided to attend the late service at church. (I took a hot bath first, and Ted showered. Later on I realized I really should have had an ice bath.) I'm glad we were able to make it to church, since we hadn't made it to a Saturday evening service. At home we enjoyed some yummy chicken pot pie, and then I crashed for a nap.

That evening we went back to church for a pre-school leaders' Christmas party. Charis had play rehearsal, and the other kids went to child care while Ted and I joined the adults for an evening of Bunko. We didn't win any Bunko prizes, but I did get a nice Christmas dish as a door prize, and it was fun to visit with the folks at the tables we were at. Getting up and down, however, was NOT fun, as my knees by this time were protesting at every little move. We were more than ready to call it a night and head home for bed. Ted massaged my legs with massage oil, and that helped tremendously.

I took some Motrin before bed, knowing that my body was no longer feeling the rush of accomplishment. Instead, I was feeling the effects of running farther than I've ever gone in my life. I woke at 4 a.m. feeling like someone had whacked my kneecaps with a baseball bat. For whatever reason, I thought it would be good to get out of bed, even though I couldn't straighten my legs without nearly screaming in pain. Somehow I managed to get up and started walking to the bathroom, but I was overcome by a wave of nausea. Ted realized something was wrong and asked if he could help. I asked for water, a large bowl in case I threw up, and some crackers. I ended up only drinking the water and made it back to bed for a couple more hours of sleep.

Monday was a painful day. Believe it or not, we actually did do home school! I found the pain relief patches I had received as samples after the race and plastered them on my knees. Wow, they really did help a lot--I don't think I would have been able to make it through that day at all if it weren't for them. The stairs were killers! Going up and down with the baby was interesting, but praise the Lord we made it through the day! Thank God for Motrin and pain relief patches. I did also get a nap, so I should also say, "Thank God for DVD players," ha!

Tuesday was much better. My knees were almost completely back to normal, but this time my hamstrings were feeling sore. It felt as if there were a spring tied from the back of my leg to my heel, as it was difficult to completely straighten my leg without feeling an uncomfortable pulling. I kept trying to stretch and massage the muscles, and of course Motrin was again my friend.

Wednesday I hardly felt any pain, and Thursday I went for a 3-mile run! I'm actually surprised that I even felt like doing that, as I hadn't expected to do ANY running for at least a week. My lower back has been hurting the last couple of days, but I'm not sure that's from running. At any rate, I think I'm back to "normal" and am thankful for the experience of running a half-marathon. I would definitely do another one, and hopefully next time I will be more prepared beforehand!

Someday I would like to do a full marathon...I think the Disney World marathon would be very fun! Anyone want to join me in planning?!

The Race--During

Ted stood right near the starting line and heard the announcer say that last year it had taken 12 minutes for everyone to cross the line. I was toward the back of the pack, and Ted actually found me and watched me cross the line after 17 minutes! The timing chips we wore on our shoelaces started the clock from the time we crossed start and stopped when we made it to the finish line, so I wasn't too concerned about how the delay would affect my overall time. However, I didn't anticipate how many people would be walking or jogging very slowly from the beginning! I was never so glad to just RUN as I was when I actually got across that line and was able to separate myself a bit from the throng. I don't do well in large crowds, as anyone who has been with me at a Stampin' Up! Convention knows. :-) I tend to find the path of least resistance and zip right through it!

So there I was, running down the Strip with multitudes of people. People in Santa hats. People in elf hats. Running Elvises (208 of them), trying as a group to gain the World Record for the highest number of running Elvi. (They did it!) Brides and grooms, preparing for their ceremony at the Run-Through Wedding Chapel at mile 5. People running for causes--leukemia, stroke, heart disease, cancer, children's tumors, AIDS. People running in memory of loved ones. People walking, people laughing, people sight-seeing. Old people, young people, skinny people, not-so-skinny people, handicapped people. I loved being there and just taking in the sights, sounds, and even smells. Around mile 2 a man passed me saying, "It smells like Disney World here," and indeed the air did carry the scent of a theme park, with deep-fried goodness wafting about.

I heard the Blue Man Group playing music as I approached mile 3. I skipped this water station, as I was hoping to get past more of the crowd, but the crowd really didn't thin out until well after the full marathon split off from the half. Thereafter I stopped to walk while I drank either water or Gatorade, forcing myself to breathe and take it easy for a half-minute or so. It was hard--I had more energy than I would have thought possible! Running on the flat streets downtown seemed so easy after running around the hills close to home. I wondered when it would start to get hard but decided to just keep pressing on until that point came.

The scenic part was all at the beginning. After we split off from the full marathon folks, we wound around some not-so-great looking streets, places I certainly wouldn't be walking around any other time. (Don't worry, Mom, I was perfectly safe! Tons of people around, and police at every intersection!) It was so neat to see people cheering us on at every mile marker. Obviously some were there looking for specific people, but they cheered everyone on regardless. Race volunteers were overworked and definitely underpaid, ha! We had to fill our own water cups at several stops because they just didn't have enough volunteers. The ones that were there were frantically setting out cups and opening jugs of water and Gatorade. No matter, most of us weren't out to set any world records anyway.

Mile 8 caught me by surprise--had it really been 8 miles already?! That was a good sign. Mile 10 was even better--the full marathon loop met up with us here, and we saw the first runners coming through the tunnel and heading down the last stretch. We joked that we were "running with the elite!" Wow. We got lapped at mile 23!! Those guys are amazing. Every time a full marathon runner came around the corner you could hear the half-marathon folks cheering him on. (And I say "him" literally here, as I didn't see any women runners...they had been given a head start in order to account for the time differential for the first place finisher overall.) I saw a wheelchair racer come around as well, having nearly completed the full marathon in approximately 2 1/2 hours. So inspiring!

In fact, so many people inspired me that morning...older folks that whizzed by some of the young ones, as well as older folks who were wheezing and plodding along. The woman with two prosthetic legs, leaning on her husband at mile 8. The cancer survivor. The kid who didn't look a day older than 12. What an accomplishment, to be committed to health when so many in those situations would excuse themselves from pushing hard physically.

A couple more bands were playing as we headed down the home stretch. I didn't pay much attention, as I was antsy to get to the finish line by this time. I knew my time had to be better than I expected, having seen the clocks at various points and realizing I was close to 10-minute miles consistently. As we rounded the corner to head into the parking lot at Mandalay Bay, I started scanning the crowd to see if by chance I could find Ted. And I did! His Avalanche ballcap, plus the fact that he stood head and shoulders above the spectators nearest him, made it easy for me to pick out my best friend and lover! I felt like a teenager, as my heart leaped and I could hardly catch my breath for a moment! I could see on his face how proud he was of me, and I loved that he ran toward the finish line with me, trying his best to get some pictures of this momentous occasion.

Ted took the picture above, and here is the link to the professional ones taken. I had my sweatshirt on for all but the last mile and a half of the race, as it was COLD outside, so not too many pictures are posted. And they probably won't be there past this month, so hopefully you'll read this post and be able to see the pics before they disappear!

Crossing the finish line was exhilerating! To think that I, Beverly, who couldn't run more than a mile in high school without having to sit down, could actually run 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 12 minutes! It just goes to show that anything is possible. I've learned that I have, for much of my life, completely underestimated the abilities God has given every human being. Our bodies are simply amazing. I thank God for my health and energy and pray that I will stay committed to a healthy lifestyle so I can be ready for any opportunities that He brings my way.

December 04, 2007

The Race--Before

On Saturday I had to pick up my bib, timing chip, and other stuff at Mandalay Bay's Quality of Life Expo, so we drove downtown after Kenna's morning nap, hoping to be able to get the stuff, see the fountains at the Bellagio, and be home in time to do some Christmas decorating and maybe even attend one of the Saturday night church services.

Ha! I think we were downtown for at least 4 hours. First of all, the city was a mad house. I'm sure lots of extra people were there because of the marathon, in addition to it being a weekend. Simply GETTING to the Convention Center was stressful, and then we had to fight our way through the crowds all the way to the back corner (of course) to get the required items, then wind our way back through all the vendors to get out. Had I been alone, I may have enjoyed looking at the stuff and possibly purchasing some things...I loved the girl-y running shirts that said things like "Find your happy pace" and "I run like a girl!" I was also seriously considering purchasing some running tights. Our weather had been quite good, and I was doing fine with shorts and a sweatshirt in the mornings. But Saturday was a different story--after our first rain on Friday since July, some cold winds swept in, and I was worried about what it would be like on Race Day.

But the crowds got to me, and I just wanted to get OUT of there with our kids intact! So we drove to the Bellagio, having promised the kids that they could watch the fountains. Ted dropped the older kids and me off so we didn't have to walk as far, and we found a good viewing point and stood, shivering, waiting in eager expectation. By the time Ted came pushing Kenna in the stoller, an announcement was being made that, due to high winds, the show was cancelled. Grrr. We did get to see some smaller fountain displays as we walked through the Bellagio Conservatory to get to the parking garage, and it was neat to see the area all decked out for Christmas. By this time we were all starving, so we went through the drive-through at In 'n Out Burger for a healthy pre-race meal of cheeseburgers, fries, and chocolate shakes.

Since we were eating in our van, we began crawling down the Strip, as my "brilliant" plan had been to drive the route of the race so I would know what to expect. However, we realized before long that I would be able to run two miles more quickly than we were driving them, so we bailed out about half-way through the route and just headed home. By this time Kenna had been awake for about 5 hours and was more than ready for her nap. I actually took a nap myself in the afternoon, knowing that I would likely not be able to sleep all that well at night. We had a relaxing evening, though it did not include church or decorating as planned, but that didn't matter so much after all.

My friend Debbie arrived around 9 p.m., and after chatting with her about instructions for the kids the next morning, Ted and I headed to bed while she made herself at home in our "Stamp Suite." I tossed and turned for nearly an hour before settling into a fairly good sleep, then woke at 3:15 a.m. and dozed off and on until about 3:45, when I finally got up and turned off the alarm (set for 3:50 a.m.). I took a quick shower to wake myself up more, ate a banana, checked the weather conditions (no wind--praise the Lord!), and dressed and braided my hair for the race. My sleepy but supportive husband awoke about 15-20 minutes after I did, and we were on the road by 4:30.

Getting downtown was no problem, but we did encounter quite a bit of traffic at Tropicana, where it seemed that most other people were exiting in an attempt to get to the parking garages. We found parking plentiful at Mandalay Bay, where the race was to begin, so that was a blessing. We walked back inside through the Convention Center where we were the previous day. Participants were everywhere, causing the whole building to smell like a nursing home with all their patches and cream for pain relief. Had I known how I would feel after the race, I may have been slathering myself up as well, ha!

After eating another banana and hitting the bathroom a couple more times, we were ready to head outside. Ted and I separated, and I was left clutching my "sweats bag" that was handed out at the Expo. We had been told that we would receive labels and be able to put the bags in a holding place in the parking lot, but alas, the location was nowhere to be seen, and a sort of official-looking person told us the area was actually inside. I'm not sure he knew what he was talking about, as everything had indicated otherwise, but as I couldn't find the area anyway, I joined with a couple of other runners in hiding my bag in some bushes, hoping to find it after the race. One more quick trip to a port-a-potty, and I was ready!

"Elvis" was singing the national anthem as I joined the throng pushing its way to the starting line. Fireworks began going off, and I could hear an announcer, but only the fact that he was speaking--I couldn't really distinguish words, nor did I try, preferring to just take in the sight of 17,000 people gathered in one place for one race. The sun's rays were just beginning to shine light over the horizon, but I still needed sunglasses for the stadium lights that were shining over us.

I was positioned towards the back, but I didn't mind so much, as I didn't plan to worry about time. Besides, the new state-of-the-art timing chips would give us exact times from when we crossed the actual start to the finish line. It was an amazing thing to be standing there, waiting, with so many people with so many different aspirations, goals, and dreams. I could have people-watched all day, but before long my focus would be elsewhere...the race itself!

To Be Continued...

December 02, 2007

I Did It!

I finished the Las Vegas Half-Marathon, and I'm still alive to tell about it! I will write a separate blog entry telling about the fun sights, sounds, and (yes) smells of the race, but for now, since we're getting ready to attend the late church service, I shall just say that I DID IT!

And by the case you're time was 2:12:19!! WOW! I surprised myself AND my wonderful husband, who was cheering me on at the finish line. He was confident that I had reached my rather humble goal of finishing in less than 2 1/2 hours, but neither of us expected that good of a finish, particularly since I have never run farther than 10 miles before.


December 01, 2007

Call Me Crazy...

...And please pray for me today and tomorrow! I'm officially registered for the Las Vegas half-marathon! I am probably insane for even attempting this. With various illnesses in November, I lost at least 2 weeks' worth of training time. The farthest distance I've ever run has been 10 miles, and I've only done that twice, the most recent of which was about 4 or 5 weeks ago. I didn't run for 8 days straight leading up to Thanksgiving, so I've only been back into it for a week and a half. I did make it 8 miles last Saturday, and it wasn't so bad.

So, I have no idea what tomorrow will hold, but Lord willing, I'll be able to post that I made it the whole 13.1 miles! Right now my only goal is to finish and have fun. I don't want to worry about my time at all. I know I'll probably be finishing around the time some of the elite runners will be crossing the line having finished a FULL marathon!

My friend Debbie R is coming to spend the night so she can be with the kids when Ted and I leave EARLY in the morning to get downtown. The race begins at approximately 6:07 a.m. Please pray for good weather as well as for safety for all the participants. I'm excited to see what the morning will hold!