We picked our Park!

As you might know, the husband and I are slowly training and planning for a big backpacking trip that is still a year and a half away. That may seem like ages to you, but we are planning to lots of smaller trips and training to make sure our first major backpacking trip is successful. As much as I enjoyed reading Wild, I’m not sure I want to prepare so little.

So we began to think through our limitations –

  1. Altitude Sickness: Guess who has the world’s most amazing case of altitude sickness and also enjoys using hyperbole? It’s me! I start..ahem…emptying the contents of my body around 6400ft so that limits where we can go. There are so many places that are very high up (I’m looking at you Glacier National Park) we would like to go, but it would require going to a lower altitude for a few days (i.e. Jackson Hole or something similar) to get acclimated, and then making the rest of the trek. We do not have that kind of time right now.
  2. Winter: Our anniversary is in the winter and we want to go in at least the same season as our anniversary. It turns out a lot of parks are not great in the winter or need skills we do not have time to acquire to navigate the park. Sigh.
  3. Backpacking: We don’t want to drive at all while we are there. We want to actually backpack the whole time. Who knew that could be difficult in some areas?!

 

So we finally chose a park! Let me show you some pictures and see if you can guess…

Yosemite National Park at sunrise, California, USA
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Can you guess?!!?

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Yosemite National Park!

 

So bring on your tips and tricks!

See You Outside!

Training for the Half

So last week I told the Facebook world that I did a crazy thing, and I did! I signed up for the Houston Half Marathon.

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This will technically be my third half, but only the second half where I have trained properly. The first half I ever did, my newlywed self and husband attempted to do it together. You may see a knight appear over my shoulder here and say, “You have chosen poorly.”

You see that year it rained a ton (and I just cannot seem to run more than two miles on a treadmill – treadmills are the devil’s workshop slash they are boring and hard on my knees). But also both the husb and I (mostly me) got sick a lot. Not to mention that the husb is a foot taller than me so can you guess how running together went down? If we ran at his pace, I was a goner after just a few miles because I had to run four steps to his every one. But, if he ran at my pace, he was almost walking and not at all tired when we were done.

Suddenly, it was race day and we had never run further than four miles. We managed 6.5 miles running before I had a case of the runs (TMI?). After a lengthy wait for a port-a-potty, we were back on the road, but the run was all gone from me (the runs and the running spirit). So, we walked. About mile nine, I hated everything and everyone. Some poor soul offered me an orange and all I offered her was my look of disdain. I wish I could go back and apologize. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT! I would tell the woman. I AM BEYOND TIRED! I ate a banana, drank some water, and made the husband take me home. I cannot believe I woke up before 6am for this.

So it was not a success.

The second half-marathon, I actually ran the entire thing. I had just given birth to my first kiddo and I needed motivation to get up and moving. So I printed out the Hal Higdon novice 1 schedule and got to it. I treated running like my part-time job and my husband promised me that if I ran the whole thing he would buy me one of those quarter zips I wanted so badly. I found an ancient jogging stroller someone was tossing out and I started bringing the tiny one along when she was finally old enough to sit up. The stroller was awful and one of the wheels always listed to the left which left me fighting it and my arms incredibly sore. But I kept going. I was determined. I began eating healthier, not crazy healthy, but more healthy so that I would have enough fuel for my new running schedule.

And guess what…I ran the whole thing. I did it.

But there are things that people who train for half-marathons tell you that are LIES and things that they do not tell you which I think you should know.

First off: They tell you that if you train for 10 miles, you will have enough adrenaline to take you the final three. Maybe this is the case for flat places, but I ran the Fort Worth Cowtown which may not be the most hills ever, but was more than Houston had trained me. So I made it exactly 11 miles and change before I wanted to give up and walk home. I still ran the final miles, but only by sheer stubbornness and perseverance. Also, there was no “Mile 13” sign, so I honestly did not know how close I was to the finish (maybe .2 miles) when someone says, “YOU’RE ALMOST THERE!!” And I just barely held back a yell of, “SHUT UP!” I did not yell, I just did not acknowledge it at all. Clearly my kindness comes out when I am under exercise induced duress.

Second off: Your toe nails might fall off or turn black. Why did no one tell me this??? I started seeing some signs from the many people who come out to cheer and gawk at the runners and they said, “We love you even if your toenails fall off!” I was literally like, “WHAT?!?!?!?!” I’m looking around at the people running around me (and that older woman who is walk/running faster than I am running, ok wonder woman calm down) to see if anyone else is as confused and concerned as me, but everyone else is either just running or laughing. Now, I ran the whole race without headphones or any thing to distract me because I’m ridiculous, so I kept running while I stewed over this new information. After the race, my toenails were still in tact, but they were black/brown. The underside of my toenails was full of blood it turns out. I guess my shoes weren’t as awesome as I expected and maybe I should not have bought shoes just because they were on sale. They were hyper tender to the touch and I could not wear tennis shoes for a while. The upside, they never fell off. The downside, it took months of painting my toenails before my toes were back to normal.

So here we are at my third half-marathon, I have three kids, and I’m starting from almost scratch on running. I’ve been doing couch to 5k for a while and I am finally ready to start running for real.

It started so well too – I went running with the middle and the youngest in a jogging trailer (nicer than my last one, thank you Craigslist) while the oldest was at a church activity. But it turned that that two kids each over 30 pounds and a jogging trailer that is over 10 pounds is really heavy and if you combine that with high humidity as well as 95 degree heat, I cannot run quite so far. So I am hoping that the next run will be better and alone. But we will see. My stomach keeps not letting me exercise early in the morning which is what I really need. Say a prayer.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress as I go. Sweaty pictures and all.

See You Outside!

Galveston Island State Park

If you live with a zest for adventure, you probably are like me and you made a Summer Bucket List. This last weekend we checked off one of the things on our list, beach day.

The problem with bucket list items is that they are hyper exciting, but we have a large family and a highly limited budget. So when we say beach day many people we know chimed in with suggestions Cozumel, Hawaii, Myrtle Beach, Nantucket, Clearwater Beach, California, Martha’s Vineyard, and Key West. I took a deep breath and kindly let people know that those types of locations were not in the budget. So…we went to Galveston.

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You may be thinking, “Ew, Galveston.” But it is family friendly, budget conscious, and can I just tell you that kids do not care about the blue-ness or clearness of the water. They. Had. A. Blast.

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The kids were in suspense until we actually loaded the car, but were ecstatic when they found out we were going to the beach. And even though it was on my bucket list, can I just say that me and the ocean are not friends. I mean, hello, “Don’t go in the shark’s house!” (if you haven’t seen this YouTube video, you are missing out) But for real, there are just so many things in the ocean that can hurt you. Case and point, the husband and I both caught bit or snagged or something by some unknown substance (thank you, muddy water – maybe clearness does matter?) and ended up with a lovely red rash – me on my legs and him on his toes. Yay.

But I knew the kids would love it, so I persevered!

We left the house by 8am loaded up with all the food and beach toys that we could muster (thank you, Five Below). The kids did so so good on the drive which was a sheer miracle. We listened to kids’ music part of the time and…actually let me stop a minute to talk to you about kids’ music. Why is it so bad? Why is it that in order for the music to be kid-friendly it has to be sung by kids and played on a preschool xylophone? Bleh. We have one album that is made for kids, does not make me feel like my brain is dissolving, and has more than 3 songs on it (because for some reason the good music ones only have 3 songs on them, it’s all the artists could muster apparently). It’s a Doorposts album by Dave and Jess Ray. Check it out.

Anyway, we listened to music, we played with cars, and I read them the first chapter of the illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (because I win at being a mom). We change some of the words to make it more toddler-friendly, but they love it.

And a little bit we survived on sheer beach-driven adrenaline.

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This tent SAVED us. Some friends with older kids, like high school aged, have been cleaning out their garage and they gave us this amazing structure along with some other things. It bequeathed to us the most amazing of gifts on beach day – shade.

In fact, our youngest, who liked the waves only in tiny spurts when he was solidly clinging to my body but also laughing maniacally, camped out under this tent and played in the sand most of the day.

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The younger two were a little nervous and not at all sure if they even wanted to get into the water, but the oldest ran into it with abandon. What I wish I could show you is the sheer joy that each of their faces had as they ran into the waves and enjoyed the sensation, but it was a moment to be treasured rather than documented. The oldest spent almost an entire day in the water. She ran in it, jumped in it, swam, kicked, tossed it around in buckets, and begged her dad over and over to carry her out into the deep water. He, of course, obliged. I don’t think she could have made him more happy.

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The middle kiddo was cling wrap to my body all day, but for once I embraced it. I said to both my little clingers, let’s play. And we did. We built innumerable sand castle and domes, we played tag, we went on a walk to see what the rest of the beach looked like, and we saw what patterns we could make in the sand with the different shovels we brought. And they felt loved, so so loved.

I think I so often want them to grow up to be independent, think I’m doing what’s best for them, surviving, and trying to make space for myself that I don’t take enough time to let them cling. I don’t think this is a common philosophy because they do need to learn not to cling sometimes, and I do need to make space for myself (and my sanity) sometimes, but I also need to just enjoy where they are at sometimes. So they clung, and I loved them, and they loved it. Lesson learned, mommy.

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I will be honest that I wanted to tap out about 1pm because I’d had enough of the beach, but the husband convinced me to stick it out until 4. We then headed over to a great restaurant, Gypsy Joynt, and had some delicous, exhaustion food.

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So it sounds like the perfect day!? Well, there was one snag, and it wasn’t my rather intense fear of the ocean that I was perpetually telling to chill out. It was… drum roll please… sunscreen. We brought two tubes of sunscreen and while the first tube did its job with admiration, the second one turned out to be expired. So the youngest, who was in the shade all day, is fine and I only have a little on my legs, the husband is a lobster and the two other kiddos are rocking some redness as well. They look like the world’s saddest raccoons. And the oldest has the top of her hands to contend with. Not only does this make me feel extra extra intense about throwing out old sunscreen, but it makes me want to buy a different brand each year so that if someone were to come upon and old bottle, they would know it was not the current brand. Goodness.

The good news is that the littles didn’t burn badly and have been such good sports about aloe vera. We have done some potent aloe (no fragrance, no additives), and apple cider vinegar which has gone smashingly. No one was even complaining of pain by Monday. Beautiful! Thank you internet for the apple cider vinegar tip! We are usually so cautious that these sunburns really caught me off guard. Now I know way more about sunburns, but hope to never repeat this same mistake at least. Learn from me, oh internet reader!

Other than that snafu, it really was such a beautiful day and I hope to continue making equally wonderful memories with the rest of the summer.

Until later,

See You Outside!

Summer is Upon Us

So what I am realizing is that summer is busy. Very busy. Despite all my best intentions to have one of those summers where there is nothing to do, my kids are not really into that sort of thing. And it turns out neither is the world. So we are carving out spaces to relax, but we are also attending VBSs (yes that’s plural – we have 2 VBSs on the docket), having beach days, swim lessons, Bible studies, and guess what we homeschool year round right now so we still have some work we are doing. For the bored out there, I thought I might give you a little round up of what we’ve done and where we are headed!

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The husband gave me some new gardening tools for Mother’s Day and I finally got to use them! I had already planted potatoes, carrots, and cantaloupe in the backyard, but once it was clear some of our plants were not going to rebound after the winter they had, it was time to pull them up and plant new things! I went for beans and tomatoes. Down side – when I pulled up the plants it turned out that they had tiny shoots of green on the bottom that just had not broken the surface yet, but the plant was past saving after I pulled it out. I was really sad because I hate the idea of killing anything off. Not my thing. But I did plant some seeds and I even got a new sprinkler head (mostly for the kids, but who doesn’t like something that serves more than one purpose) that I used to water them!

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The older two kids have gotten really into games lately, especially during the afternoons where 100 degrees and climbing is just two much for them. The oldest prefers Catchphrase and Taboo while the middle prefers Guess Who!? Above was my attempt to teach them Scrabble which, it turns out, is not a good game for kids their age. Especially for the one who can’t read very well yet. C’est la vie!

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We looove spicy food! It had been ages since we cooked Indian food and we were jonesing. Who cares if the temperature says, “add ice not spice!” We went all in and boy was it worth it. Now I’m wondering if there is a way to make Indian food while we are camping. It would be amazing. Maybe I could bring little balls of dough and make fresh naan over the fire. Yes, yes, yes. Granted nothing I cook will be as amazing as the real deal, but for now (when the funds are too low to eat out at the best Indian restaurants) we will have to just delve deeper into our Indian cookbook and enjoy the results.

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The husband had a birthday! The oldest and I made him a delicious apple cake – I should really say that the oldest made it more than I did as she is determined to become an excellent baker like her mom. I also sent three dozen cupcakes to his work (1 dozen butter cake, 1 dozen french vanilla, and 1 dozen white chocolate) and they were all demolished in one day. You know what’s better than apple cake? Apple cake, sitting outside, with a big ‘ole dollop of vanilla ice cream. (I opt for Nada Moo because I’m dairy free)

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We finally broke down and bought a pool! Can I just tell you that if you’re living where summer is near unbearable, this is a life saver. Not only do the kids play in it almost daily, during nap time I take a camp chair out there and put it directly in the pool. I sit up to my shins in water, reading a book, and finally reaching the perfect temperature. A little shade, a little heat, and a little cool water. This is my nap time heaven.

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The husband and I went to the OneTribe Gala, People Building Peace. This beautiful non-profit works in areas like South Sudan to empower locals to build peace from grassroots up. We got all dressed up and really enjoyed celebrating the work God has done through this group. Afterwards, it had cooled off just enough that we got to walk around the area and grab an ice tea (passion fruit specifically) before heading home.

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I got to hear this excellent band play while some girl-friends and I sat outside enjoying an evening of raucous laughter. I mean we were loud! But what’s better than getting together with the best people, eating some good food, and listening to amazing music? Answer, almost nothing. The only regret I have is that I could not find anyone to dance with me! I’ll be back.

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Okay friends, this is not a drill. I hate kombucha, it is too too vinegary. But, my gut is messed up and I need something that is slightly less sweet to drink while I am hanging out outside in this crazy heat. How is a woman supposed to survive 100+ degrees without a cold beverage. So, I was at Central Market to grab a sandwich during my break at work (because there are no cheap places near my work), and decided to give this a try. I got one for then and one for later. It turns out that Strawberry Serenity is my favorite! I so encourage you to go try this. It will not taste like juice so don’t expect that, but it will also not taste like a swig of vinegar. You’re welcome. You’re gut is welcome too.

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We frequent the local Korean grocery store and a good friend introduced us to these ice cream bars. Now, I can’t have them because me and dairy have a long standing hatred for each other, but my friends loves them so I bought them for the kids. The kids went NUTS. They’re little hands were covered in sticky green happiness from the melting of this popsicle all over their mouths and hands. My friend also told me they are lower sugar than the normal stuff we buy (turns out, I looked and she’s right). Win!

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My beans are growing! We got a good rainstorm and they exploded! Officially all my plants are growing although only about 1/3 of my carrots grew. I’ll have to figure more out about that later. I also have been in contact with a neighbor who is going to let me garden their backyard and I will pay them in produce! Get ready for more plant pictures. Those tools I got are going to have their work cut out for them.

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Solo premier! Not only did we got together, we went with another couple and got to ride in their Shelby Mustang. The husband was a very happy man. The sounds that car made, I’m convinced, are the sounds of his heartbeat. We even all went to get tacos from a truck afterward. Boom.

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I have baked my brains out. I have made cakes, donuts, cupcakes, scones, biscuits, etc. I don’t know why summer makes me crave sweets, but it so does. Here are just two of my creations. That ruffle cake for the sweetest couple’s baby shower and it was such an honor to make the cake. A sick kiddo prevented me from going, but getting to bless them was still worth every minute spent icing that cake.

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The oldest and I officially have a spot we love to go together. We love the iced chamomile tea with just a dash of honey and the pastries available here are the bestest. Plus, they have this amazing relationship with farmers in Rwanda. If you are shopping mostly chains, consider supporting your community and other communities around the world with your dollars. Don’t hear me saying that you can’t shop at Target because I cannot survive without Target, but I can do my best to shop local and to shop small whenever possible. They’re even starting to recognize us and that makes the oldest just insanely happy. So we sip our tea and share our turnover while we chat about life and answer all the questions. All of them.

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Ok the picture is crazy grainy, but swim lessons are upon us! We have some kiddos who have water fear and one with not enough, so here we are learning water safety and swimming. There have been happy smiles, but also tears as they navigate the water. I think overall it is creating confidence in my littles. Have you ever heard the theory that children need a little calculated danger in their lives? There’s this idea that if they do something that they perceive as dangerous (riding a rollercoaster, learning to swim in the deep end, learning to cut up vegetables with a real knife, etc), they grow in confidence and courage. They step up to the challenge, meet it head on, and stand up a little straighter. Of course these things have to be done with appropriate supervision, and safety protocols, but a little danger stretches them and helps them gain maturity.

Not pictured in this round up is the VBS we already attended and the numerous play dates we have been on. Summer is a time for friends! We still have one more VBS, beach day, learning to ride a bike, more swim lessons, and so many more fun things coming.

You might think to yourself, “but you haven’t gone camping at all.” Yes, the summer has been much less campy than the spring, but I think you will notice something they both have in common. They are unplugged.

We are intentional to put our phones, screens, and worries aside to focus on each other, to commune with Creation, to do something fun, to learn something new, to create beauty, to foster relationships. We are walking forward and creating intentional spaces where we don’t need Facebook to fill us up, we don’t need Instagram to tell us that our lives have meaning. By all means enjoy those things, but also take time to just “be”. To just enjoy where you are, and what you’re doing.

Until later,

See You Outside!