Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Finish a Half-Marathon: Check!

The more time that passes, the more there is to write about, the less motivated I am to write.

Call it some law of don't-wanna-blog or something.

Or maybe it's the fact that while writing those first two sentences my almost two-year old interrupted me twice to ask for a clothes change and a cup of milk. And all three of my children are running around the small apartment playing hide and seek and their screams are echoing in my head.

But when the few faithful readers, like my grandparents, remind me that they haven't seen an update in a while, I finally decide to click "new post" and attempt to write.

I've recently been avoiding all things political which means I've tried my hardest (and mostly failed) to not post things on facebook that are political, and tried to focus on my kids and life. I'm afraid of the small glimpses in myself of anger and frustration at this country and at the potential four years we have ahead of us with a man that would talk about women, like my three girls someday, the way he does...well, I'm going to stop myself there. I just can't.

So, instead...

My Half-Marathon! Never do I remember setting such a specific goal and completing it!

My first goal, of course, was to register for one and complete one in 2016. (I wrote about it way back on January 1st.). I'm not a long distance runner, and before this had never run more than 3-4 miles. So 13.1 sounded crazy to me!

As I'm a super literal person, I downloaded my training plan and set to work. Having a written plan really helps me, and I stuck to it! I don't think I missed a single run (maybe once?). A typical training plan involves running about 4 days a week, with some cross training that I mostly didn't do. I ran my long runs on Sundays, and for most of my training I ran the weekday runs early in the morning before Michael left for work. It was a commitment to wake up and run while it was still dark, but quickly 5 miles felt like a short run!

I couldn't have and wouldn't have done this race if my friend Lissa hadn't found the race and asked me to join her in training for it. Just knowing someone else was running and trying to balance life and kids and training was really helpful. I recommend finding someone to train alongside if you ever want to do a race.
Lissa and me at the starting line
Not only did I complete my first goal, which was to finish, but my second (and not as important) goal was to see if I could run it in under 2 hours. My final time was 1:58. I was beyond thrilled.

Race day was beautiful and the weather was cold but not freezing with no rain-perfect running weather. (Most of these pictures are from Lissa.) The race claims to be the most scenic marathon/half marathon in the US, and you can see why. It was beautiful. Yellow and orange leaves. A view of the Columbia River Gorge.

I'm proud of myself for finishing and working so hard. I have to admit I've only gone for one quick run since that day, over a month ago. I've needed a break and I've been doing some intense cardio/boxing videos. I'd like to do a half-marathon again, maybe in the Spring when the sun is out more and I don't have to train in the dark.
Lissa caught a picture of me as we passed each other near the halfway mark.
I'm now working on a different weight loss goal, as I learned soon into my training that you can't count on weight loss to happen when you are running such long distances. The body has to hang on to calories and it just didn't happen.

I'm proud of myself and was thankful that Michael was so supportive of me. He often encouraged me to get out the door on those mornings or afternoons when I didn't really feel up for a run. He and the girls cheered me on on race day, and it was fun to show the girls how setting a goal and completing it is possible and rewarding. We've been talking now at home about setting goals, and it's fun to have a good example of that. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016


I've started writing this post several times, but it has taken weeks to find the time and/or energy to actually finish it.

Yes, we are busy, but it feels like that's not an anomaly. The America Dream, or something?

Ellie's has been playing soccer, with practices 1-2x per week, and a game every Saturday. And Michael is the coach.

Hazel is in a co-op preschool which means I volunteer 2x/month to be at her school from 9-12, helping in her class. It's a fun chance for me to watch Hazel interact with friends. I'm also the Secretary of the Board which means, at the least, monthly board meetings.

I'm attending two different MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) groups. I know how hard it is to find friends, and how important Mom friends are in this stage of my life, so I knew I wanted to find ways to connect and hopefully make some friends and be encouraged. One meets once per month, the other one meets twice a month.

I'm also training for a half-marathon. My race is this weekend. I'm looking forward to the race, and also to taking a break from training. I've stayed on a training schedule virtually for 12 weeks, up until last week where I haven't done much besides my long run of 11 miles. But, I feel ready to run 13.2 on Sunday. I really never thought I'd get there!

We have been attending a church in Portland and joined a Home Group that meets every Sunday night.

In the remaining free time that I have, usually 1-2 times per week, I am working as a substitute teacher, when jobs are available. Thankfully, in the last month, I've been able to work every single day that I've been available. We are really thankful my Mom is able to help with the girls when I work. Living near family has been a significant and welcome change for us.

We've had multiple fundraisers in the first month or so of school. We've collected Box Tops, Ellie had a Fun Run at her school, I sold pies for MOPS, Ellie sold First Aid kits for her soccer team, and now we are supposed to be selling wreaths and poinsettias for Hazel's preschool. This is a new world for us!

This all means we have a full calendar. There is so much nitty gritty going on. We celebrated Ellie's 6th birthday this week. Ruby moved into a big girl bed this week, and after a couple days of staying in her bed it's been a bit of a battle.
Birthday pancakes!
Visiting Ellie's class on her birthday.
Days are long but time is flying. We've been back in the States for more than three months. We still miss Guatemala and still wonder, in moments, if we did the right thing.

I went to Ellie's teacher conference this week. Her teacher told me that Ellie is probably the best Spanish speaker in the class. She does even better than the native speakers. How? Apparently she conjugates her verbs and has a wider vocabulary. So, this was a huge encouragement that we are in a good place. I share this because, of course, I'm a super proud Mama, but also, to remind myself that our time in Guatemala has been a building block to this stage in our lives. Ellie is thriving in her Kindergarten class. Hazel is thriving in her preschool. Ruby thrives wherever we go. At church or MOPS she walks right into her little class and doesn't look back. She plays at a friend's house on the mornings I work at Hazel's school, and she walks right in there, too. She loves to sit on my lap and read books for an hour at a time. She is thriving both at home with me and around other people.
Every time I start working in the kitchen this girl pushes her stool right over so she can help.
There is so much to be thankful for. I get to have quality time with all of my girls. We still have stress in our lives, but work and home stressors have changed since we moved back to the States. And we are enjoying time as a family. Also, we're glad to be back in Oregon, despite the rain.
Happy Fall!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Summer's Over!

It's been a busy summer.

We've been back to the States for 2 1/2 months.

We've done a lot of living over the past several weeks. This is one of many reasons I haven't blogged. We are often asked about our transition process. We continue to feel settled and also miss Guatemala. It's an interesting place to be.

We were gifted with a pantry party to stock up on basics. It was a blessing to be welcomed back to Oregon in this way.
I traveled to Idaho with the girls to visit cousins and grandparents. We had a family reunion and the girls had almost two weeks straight of cousin and grandparent time. I will have to probably post more pictures of that in its own post.
The five girl cousins
An attempt to take a picture of all 7 cousins.
This was the first time all 7 have been together at the same time.
We spent time with friends "camping" in their backyard. (New summer tradition!)
We went to the Oregon coast.
We've gone to parks and the library.
We've played and relaxed and read books.
"Queen Ruby" enjoying playing with her big sisters.
Ellie is on a soccer team and Michael is the coach. That will keep us busy every Saturday this Fall.
Every day that goes by puts us one day further from life in Guatemala, and we become more entrenched with this "new normal."

Today marks a turning point. A blog-worthy one, apparently.
Ellie's First Practice Day of School
Ellie is at her first official day of Kindergarten. She had two half-days of "practice" a few weeks ago, and last week we went in for an hour to meet her teacher and she was assessed. (The assessment was fun for me to watch because the teacher did it all in Spanish. I was really proud of Ellie).

Not to be overly dramatic, except that I will be dramatic to say that this is the first day of the rest of our lives.

Grandma was here to hang out with Ruby during preschool and to see Ellie on her first day!
It was special for Daddy to come see her school too!
Yes, you bet I cried!
Today Hazel had an Open House at her preschool where I accompanied her to her school and we got to check out all the fun activities. Wednesday she starts 3 hours a day, 3 days per week.
In front of Hazel's preschool.
I have no doubt this girl is going to love all the fun to be had. She never wants to leave.
I signed up for my first half-marathon for October, which is a goal I made at the beginning of this year. I've been running and training for that. Yesterday I ran 7 miles, and it actually felt good. In fact, I felt like I could have kept going! It's amazing how our bodies can adjust and increase endurance.

Now that we're in a bit of a routine, I'm hoping to get back to writing/blogging. Happy Fall!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Getting Settled

We moved into our apartment officially last Saturday.
We feel settled. Decorations are on the wall, boxes are unpacked. We're figuring out what we got rid of 3 1/2 years ago, what we saved, what we need to replace. (We got rid of things that we didn't think would store well: wood spoons and a tea kettle, for example).
Wall decorations from Guatemala, Haiti, and Rwanda
Mostly, we've been enjoying summertime and activities here. All the free activities. (Well, not quite free. Thanks to our tax dollars we have public parks and public libraries and really nice roads to drive on to get there. I'm very aware of how great it is to have access to these.)

We've been to the library multiple times. We joined the Summer Reading Program, tracking our minutes reading. We've borrowed Spanish books and DVDs, books that have motivated Ellie to read. Shout out to public libraries. We signed up and got several coupons: free sandwiches at a local sub shop, free swimming passes and mini-golf passes. Free soccer tickets. Free books. 
Our Summer Reading Logs
We went to a free family music night, sponsored by the library, which the girls loved.

Ruby found a friend, her doppelganger with more hair.
We've been to several beautiful, green parks, with swings and slides and even a sand pit, all within a short drive or walk from our apartment.
We've enjoyed fresh Oregon peaches and blueberries and strawberries.
Blueberry Zucchini Cake with Lemon Buttercream
I made this cake last week. It's fantastic.
I've had two playdate/friend dates and both times each said friend brought me a coffee treat. It's so great to be back to where my friends appreciate the value of coffee on a person/mom's soul.
We're enjoying sunny evenings (it stays light so much later here!) and time together as a family.
Happy Summer Days to you!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fast Food

I went to a fast food place for lunch with the girls. I immediately noted differences between this experience and being in Guatemala.

First of all, there is basically not a single fast food restaurant in Guatemala (and a majority of sit-down places like Pizza Hut), that doesn't have a playground or play area for kids. Because there are no parks or safe public places for kids to play, the restaurants all have something. It's a given.

Today I took my girls to the only option in this town that had a play place. I had to drive around town to find one. Impressively for Oregon, it was an outdoor one with a cover.

I noticed that a small or regular size meal here is a medium or large in Guatemala.

Also, refills. I have no idea why, because I worked in the restaurant industry for years and I know that soda is super, super cheap, but, there were basically no refills anywhere in Guatemala. It wasn't standard. We would get tiny cups, and no refills.

Afterwards, Ellie said to me, "Mommy, you order in English here." Yup. True. The girls are still a bit in awe that we use English for EVERYTHING.

Not only did I get a huge cup today for a "small" meal, but I could fill it as many times as I wanted. Also, WAY too many french fries.

Oh, America.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Walk Down This Mountain

This morning the girls decided they missed Daddy. So we packed a picnic lunch and headed an hour North. I got to show the girls our new apartment for the first time, which they loved getting into their playroom...a work in progress...

 ...followed by a lunch visit to Daddy's office.
On the way out the door I found our old CDs in our stored stuff. I grabbed them to test out our new 6-CD changer in our car.

These were CDs from several years ago. Back before we bought music on I-Tunes. Actual CDs from the 90s. Counting Crows and Pink and Jars of Clay and Backstreet Boys and Tim McGraw (yes, random collection) and a whole bunch of recorded mixes.

I was jammin' and singing the whole way. It was awesome. Songs I memorized years ago just came right back to me.

One of the CDs was a random mix that was put together by a friend several years ago while on summer staff at camp. One song popped up and as soon as the lyrics started I remembered. I remembered that it was a song I've listened to at the end of anything important. At the end of anything where I have had to say Goodbye. Because Goodbyes and Changes are always difficult.

I continue to have mixed emotions about being here. Did we make the right decision? While snuggling with Ruby this morning, my answer was absolutely yes. But in other moments, when faced with soaring prices in healthcare and cost of living, I'm not so sure.

So when this song came on, the lyrics just came right out and I suddenly found myself choked up. I couldn't quite sing them. But my heart felt them. Especially the chorus:

So walk down this mountain
With your heart held high
Follow in the footsteps of your maker
And with this love that's gone before you
And these people at your side
If you offer up your broken cup
You will taste the meaning of this life
(Walk Down This Mountain by Bebo Norman)
The mountain is always the thing I'm walking away from (in this case, life in Guatemala), and there are always people both sending us off and waiting for us at the bottom, in the new place. It's a reminder to walk away, down the mountain, with my head held high, towards new things, with people by my side.

And sometimes, all my doubts and fears flow out over the broken cup.

I've been blessed by people here in Oregon wanting to help and welcoming us home. One person is even throwing us a "pounding party" to help us stock our pantry. Several other people have sincerely offered to help us in any way. We're borrowing a car from one family. We are feeling the love and support of community here, though we haven't lived here in almost a decade.

And the second verse reminds me of community, and the very face of God on each of those helping us to transition and settle.
It's a common ground
And I see we're all still standing
Just look around and you'll find 
The very face of God

He's walking down into the distance
He's walking down to where the masses are

We've arrived to a new place, with new people, and we are trusting that this is the beginning of another mountain climb.

We ended the quick trip by driving by Ellie's new school.
Another beginning, coming soon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Every day we've been trying to accomplish some task. We've gotten a lot accomplished in a little over a week. We got US cell numbers (reusing our super old phones), bought a van, got car insurance, found a bed and a dining room table on Craigslist, refurnished some toys. Michael started a new job, we signed papers on a new apartment and have moved in some things. We've unpacked the kitchen in the apartment and several duffel bags we brought from Guatemala.

I'd say we've been productive.

My mom found this easel at a garage sale and I repainted the chalkboard with chalkboard paint. That stuff is awesome. Another new (to us) toy that I imagine will get hours and hours of use.
And they found this unfinished dresser. I spent yesterday and today adding a layer of stain. My first staining project.
Halfway done
We are ready to move in all the way this weekend!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Car Antics

I spent several hours at a car dealership today getting my van checked out.

It was worth it, because I got great news. The car we got was a great deal, with no problems. In fact, I was told it is a super clean, well-maintained van in great shape. YAY! I got a few basic maintenance things taken care of, and our van is good to go.

Our "golden van," as Hazel calls it. (How else to describe the color champagne to a 4-year old?)
This whole process has reminded me of how we haven't been in the US for a while. There are things we have forgotten.


When we were purchasing our van, they asked us for a copy of our insurance card. We looked at each other and realized, oh yeah, car insurance. So we had to call and get insured before we could finish the purchase. Thankfully insurance can be had by a 30-minute phone call.

And then today while sitting in the waiting room, two women were chatting in Spanish and I realized I miss talking in Spanish. I'm afraid of how quickly my brain will forget Spanish. Eventually I ended up in the bathroom at the same time as the older woman and started chatting with her. We ended up chatting for quite a while until my car was ready. She told me all about her two sons, one a successful businessman who recently bought her an almost brand-new car, and her other son, who is addicted to drugs and alcohol. Sad story. It turned out, she doesn't speak English at all and was happy to have someone to talk to.

I'm wondering how to continue to use my Spanish. There are a lot of people in Oregon who have family members that come from Latin America, but they may not speak Spanish themselves. You can't assume one speaks Spanish, and there might be a preference to only use English. Something to continue to ponder.

On a really fun note, my Mom and stepdad built this gorgeous play kitchen as a gift to the girls. It's adorable and precious, and the girls absolutely love it. I can't wait to put it in our new apartment.
I love all the details. Chalkboard paint on the fridge. A real sink and faucet and a backsplash.
And the knobs for the stove and oven came all the way from Guatemala.

So many things to be thankful for in our first week back to the States.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Vehicle: Check!

We bought a minivan!
We've been in the US for a week.

We got keys to our apartment and Michael "moved in." We'll be renting a small U-Haul this weekend to move the rest of our stuff and officially move in as a family.

I'm looking forward to getting settled into our new home, showing Ellie where her new school is, showing the girls the parks nearby our place.

We did a lot of research on minivans and other vehicles. On Saturday Michael and I woke up early and headed to Portland to shop around. We had a list of places with the vans we were interested in. After several hours and test drives we ended up with a very low-miles 2007 Honda Odyssey. 

I love it, and the girls love it! We have so much space, and there are a lot of little features that I love. We are fully embracing the minivan stage of our lives. Lots of seats, extra space, sliding doors that open automatically. And did I mention lots of space? We drove a Mazda truck in Guatemala that was super tight with literally no room for anything except three carseats. 
We are really thankful for Grandparents available to watch our girls so we can do things like car shop for an entire day, and I am really thankful we found a solid, high-quality van.

I hope this will be our vehicle for a very, very long time. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

Oregon Stereotypes

The stereotypes of Oregon are so valid. 

This morning we walked to the park. One child wore shorts and a tank top. 
Another had pants and a sweatshirt. 
Another wore rain boots. All carried umbrellas. All were appropriate choices. 
Within a few minutes I fluctuated between needing a sweatshirt and needing sunglasses. And then a sweatshirt again. 

It was great. Also what was great was we were at a park. 
Walking to the park as pedestrians, cars kept stopping for us to cross the street. Hazel noticed. "Mom, that was so kind," when yet another car stopped while we waited on the corner. Yup. Oregon loves pedestrians. 

Something I missed a lot as a mom with young kids while living in Guatemala was access to parks. Places to take my kids to run and play and scream and just be kids. In Guatemala we mainly had to rely on going to the mall where there was an indoor play place or the myriad of fast food places with plastic play areas. There is not much outside that is free or public or safe. 

In the less than a week that we've been in the States, I've vacillated between many thoughts. I'm simultaneously glad we're here and at other moments wonder if all the choices we've made are the best. Self-doubt enters in the midst of uncertainty and change.

We have made several decisions in a short amount of time. Where to live and where to enroll Ellie for Kindergarten. And the decisions will continue. We have furniture to buy, a car to find, an apartment to settle. 

I'm content. Michael is learning the ropes at his new job. I can already see that the levels of stress we lived under in our last job have virtually vanished (stress due to the types of responsibilities that fell on our shoulders running a bi-country program, and the limited help in the office). 

Every day I wake up and play with my girls. We're still in transition, living out of suitcases, so it's not always tranquil. Things feel chaotic. But, we feel at peace. This was and is the best choice for our family. 
I foresee several hours at parks and playgrounds in our future.