Unexpected Magic

We’ve been planning this trip ever since we knew we’d be living this close. As we entered the gates and I saw the spires of the castle, the familiar characters, the Christmas carols playing over the sound system, I was overwhelmed.

It’s been 30 years since I’ve been here.

Magic Kingdom – Holiday Season

There is magic here. Beyond excited to see the happiest place on earth through the eyes of the minions, the hubby and I vowed not to be impatient, rushed and simply go at their pace.

Don’t let the picture fool you, there were plenty of moments depicting the exact opposite😜

Lil Miss wanted desperately to ride Splash mountain. After the 50 ft drop, and being soaked, both were crying and screaming. (We will accept our Parent of the Year award shortly.)

After calming them down, reassuring them that they’d never have to ride another roller coaster, we got to see Santa! Soaking wet of course…

Fakest, tear-soaked “smiles” ever!

Isn’t it weird visiting places you experienced as a kid? Neighborhoods and houses you thought were huge seem so small viewed through adult eyes. Floods of memories came rushing back through Toad’s Wild Ride and spinning crazily on Tea Cups. Even though I am now an adult (at least most of the time), the whole place still looms large. What I didn’t expect, was the magic of the mouse to hit me quite so hard.

“I think most of all what I want Disneyland to be is a happy place…where parents and children can have fun…together.” – Walt Disney

We didn’t get to see everything, but what we did experience was awesome. Planting the seeds of magic through the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, it will be fun to hear what the kids remember from this trip. I’ll remember the kindness of the cast in giving us extra services for Lil Man’s sensory and autism issues. The kiosks where we could ask for a return time for an attraction were a Godsend – and every single time they were courteous, informative and genuine.

I will also remember that my own slight disappointment at not making it to the fireworks wasn’t the end of the world. (The minions were so worn out.) The picture in my mind of our family vacation didn’t need to be replicated precisely in reality. It was wonderful – as it was. Back at the hotel, the kids zoned out and Hubby and I popped upstairs to the fitness center that overlooked the park. The fireworks lit up the sky just as I knew they would in spectacular fashion.

“Thank you,” I whispered to him, and to the unexpected magic. Standing there in our pajamas, there was no place that I would rather be.

Red Flags

We survived spring break!

We didn’t do much, more of a stay-cation really – but it was nice to have no where we HAD to be. The kids, of course, not wanting to miss a minute of the nothingness, continued their pattern of “up at o’dark thirty”. That was until this morning when it was time for back to school! Go figure.

When they returned from school this afternoon, I was greeted by a Texas-sized huge spider right by my front door. Luckily my daughter shares none of my arachnophobia, and she proceeded to exterminate the vermin. (YAY!)

Later we ventured out to a nearby trail with the intention of heading to the beach down below. It’s a little inlet by a nature preserve, so I thought great! We’ll get outside, get some exercise and the kids can play in the sand without having to drive 40 minutes to the beach we normally frequent.

This was what we call in our family “mando-fun”. It’s mandatory. We are getting out of the house and doing something active!

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Along the trail entrance, there were these lovely purple and blue flowers. It definitely feels like spring here!

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The minions however were not exactly excited. (Well, one wasn’t!) To quote my dear son, “This was not the kind of ‘adventure’ I was expecting.”

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Yes, even the picture shows a nasty spider. UGH.

This little sign should have been a red flag. We walk along the trail. I have run this trail dozens of times, but they must have just put up these signs, because I have never seen them, nor the images they depict. I should take red flags more seriously. Like when we walked a few feet beyond this sign and a fellow trail blazer mentioned that we should be alert, you know, because he had just seen a rattlesnake up around the bend. Hmmm. Okay. I’m sure with all the sunshine and foot traffic, there’s no way it’ll still be there by the time we get up that way.

I make a mental note to stick to the middle of the trail and suspiciously eye rogue branches that seem to move just out of my field of vision. Paranoid from the foreboding warning as well as my earlier arachnid invasion, I press on anyway lest the minions fully realize the extent to which their mother is a pansy. 

Another sojourner on the trail passes by with a smile and a wave. “Oh, by the way, we just saw a HUGE rattler just up this trail…” Gulp.

“Thanks for the warning! We’re going this way anyway…” And we head off in the opposite direction. You know, because the cactus and sage brush and weeds on this side of the trail are somehow snake- and other scary critter-proof.

We proceed to the ‘beach’ where it’s marshy, mucky and salty goo. Not the puffy sand that my now sad daughter was requesting. We attempt, and fail miserably, at jumping over really deep spots, but all three of us end up with mud up to our ankles. The water’s edge is covered in green slime. There is broken glass shards all over the place, so no taking off shoes. (Not that we wanted to at that point.)

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“This is NOT the beach we had in mind!”

After about 10 minutes, we declare our mando-fun a big fat fail and decide to head back. We discuss options for a beach make up day tomorrow after school. Going back up the way we came to the main trail, I see about 3 feet from my right foot the largest snake I’ve ever seen outside of a zoo.

Oh holy hell, do not panic. DO NOT PANIC!

TOO LATE!!! I’M PANICKING! AAARRRGGHHH!

I back up and tell the kids to follow me now. I’m sure they realize from my guttural tone of voice that mommy means business and they both quickly follow me back down out of the trail, spotting exactly why I was freaking out.

We all nervously breath a sigh of relief as we look back to see the monster slither back into the weeds. I smile at the kids and assure them that backing up and not crossing paths with a rattlesnake is totally what you are supposed to do and that we would find another trail back to our car. Like I know what the heck to do with a rattlesnake!

Needless to say, the minute we return home, we hose off the now-caked and dried salt-mud off our feet and call it game over. Tomorrow is a new day. We will go to our regular beach complete with puffy sand, lots of clean ocean waves and NO RATTLESNAKES!

Perhaps I should leave the orchestration of mandatory family fun to my husband!

Merry Christmas!

When I was around 6- or 7-years-old, my parents got me an entire bedroom set. It wasn’t furniture under the tree or in the garage. We went to bed just like any other night. After I was well asleep, they transferred me into their bed and set to work. When I woke up Christmas morning, Santa had arrived! I blinked my sleepy eyes and gazed around – pretty pink bedspread, new sheets, a big bed, night stands, dresser, and a desk and chair! It was simply amazing.

This is one of my favorite Christmas memories. I feel giddy as we are recreating that Christmas for our daughter! When she wakes up, she will be in princess sheets, a new bed, rearranged room and a big dollhouse that she has been asking Santa for (for 2 years!) and I simply cannot wait!

Get up! Get up! Get up!

Santa was here! Santa was here!

Is it time yet???

Bah Humbug

I’ve been fighting it for a while.

I just can’t seem to get into the holiday spirit this year. Part of it is that we are far away from family and in a new state. Part of it is the weather. It’s kind of hard to feel festive about Christmas sweaters when it’s 80 degrees outside. “Frosty the Snowman” and 100% humidity just don’t jive, you know? I even bagged out on my Christmas cards/letters this year. I just haven’t been  that into it.

The Christmas shopping not even started yet, I sat down to get organized and it just felt like more heavy demands. “Bring the party tray for Hannah’s pre-k Christmas party…bring a wrapped book for Jacob’s gift exchange…don’t forget the gingerbread house supplies! Pajama day on Friday! Can you spare a few hours to volunteer in the classroom? These kids are our future you know!” These little things aren’t much in and of themselves, but when piled together it makes a giant pile of to-dos sucking the joy right out of the season and sends me under my covers not wanting to be vertical at all. It’s just pressure that I dread.

Throughout December, I usually play holiday music to center myself. It gets me in the holiday frame of mind, as the music and lyrics take me back to past Christmas seasons. I can still hear Elvis singing “Blue Christmas” as my mom and I wrapped presents in my childhood home. “Mary Did You Know” and “Immanuel” will put me right back into that Christmas Eve service where they had arranged for a stunning live nativity with real farm animals! My favorite hymns and carols all have specific memories attached. I even got desperate and played Faith Hill’s “Where are you Christmas?” Because that is essentially how I’ve been feeling. Even my runs the past few days have felt sort of “meh” with not one butterfly sighting. (I usually see small yellow butterflies on EVERY run, and look so forward to them. It’s like a visual hug from the universe.) I went out to tackle the bulk of the shopping and was striking out at store after store. (This year I did not plan ahead like I normally do. I like having it all done by December 1st, so I can sit back and enjoy the season.) I started to notice the people out and about and not one person seemed really happy or content. Everyone, including myself, oozed rushed, harried and tired energy. No smiles, no joy, and definitely no holiday magic. The holiday music just wasn’t working the way it usually does. it felt, well, forced.

At the end of the excursion, I had accomplished little and felt like time would have been better spent just staying home with my family. After a good night’s rest I tried again. Hit the toy store, stopped at Target, and was finally making some headway. Then something shifted when I stopped at the book store. I asked an employee about a book, and looking at her computer she said they didn’t have anything like what I was looking for. Bummed, I strolled down some aisles looking for new inspiration – that perfect gift. A while later lost in thought and browsing titles, this same employee came around the corner carrying a book. The biggest grin spread across her face, her eyes dancing she said, “I think I have found something like what you are looking for!” As I flipped through this beautiful book and gazed at the photographs within, my mouth dropped and gratitude washed over me. “I could just hug you right now! Thank you! This is perfect!” She laughed, and we shared a wonderful moment. What I couldn’t articulate at the time was that she not only found a gift I had been searching for, but her kindness allowed me to see a spark of authentic cheer, and it started with gratitude. When you find that gift that you know deep down all the way to your toes that the person receiving it is just going to LOVE – that moment of anticipation to me, embodies the tradition of giving a gift. What I had failed to remember up until that point is that these nuggets of Christmas cheer are embedded in the busy. She gave me a gift without ever realizing it. Her joy in helping me find that item was magic as I finally started to feel ready for the season.

Part of our holiday also usually involves a visit with Santa. The idea of standing in a long line while trying to entertain the minions was not high on my priority list. (It was, not surprisingly, on the “don’t wanna at all” list.) Eric was a bit surprised at my reluctance. We went anyway, and as I looked around at all the parents, we all wore that same expression of wanting to be ANYWHERE but in that line. But the kids? They had a blast. My daughter’s excitement was palpable. They wore what they wanted, I kept my perfectionist expectations low, and we had a pretty fun evening. We played thumb war in the line. We took turns holding them, then playing silly little made up games, and Hannah spent time on Daddy’s shoulders. I was having fun in spite of myself. After they had their visit with Santa, my daughter, who is a hugger by nature, ran back to Santa to say thank you and gave him the biggest hug! I love her little huggy heart.

Feeling somewhat lighter yesterday, (and seeing the light at the end of the shopping tunnel) I again had one of those runs. The ones where you feel light and could go for ever.

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The dogs are doing great on the leash, and the butterflies returned. The little yellow guys flutter across the path as we glided along the trail. And then I saw a GIANT monarch like this one:

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After that sunrise, and a heavenly run, I was having a game of fetch with the dogs in the backyard and there was yet another one of these monarchs fluttering around – in my backyard! I am always reminded by these little experiences that joy is where I find it. It happens when I am looking for it, when I’m open and have a posture of gratitude. It doesn’t matter if it’s during a deployment, a cross-country move, a trail run, or even during the holidays in my yard. Joy waits to be discovered as we look away from the unimportant and toward the things for which we are grateful.

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IMG_0691  I am grateful.

When Coming in Last is a Big Win

Last year we ran the St. Patrick’s day fun run out on base. We did the 1 mile run, knowing the kiddos wouldn’t be able to do much more than that. We also had the benefit of the stroller while Eric was deployed, so worst case scenario, they could take turns taking breaks.

It’s amazing how much changes in just one year.

Today’s event did not have a 1 mile option as they did last year, but we did not know this until we showed up at the event. I asked Jake probably a half dozen times if he was sure he really wanted to do this race. He didn’t have to, I wasn’t going to make him do it if it wasn’t his thing.  If he decided he was going to do it, however, we finish what we start – exactly like last year. Hannah opted to cheer with Daddy on the sidelines!

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This was us at the start line!

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Eric snapped a few pics right about mile 2, and Jake was definitely “not so fired up anymore”. He kept commenting on how we were last. I reminded him that it never matters if you are last, middle of the pack, or first. (Yes, first is awesome.)

What matters is that you do your best.

We are always striving to improve, but we are racing ourselves. We race against the voice in our head that says we aren’t good enough, that we ‘can’t’. We keep going until we finish what we start.

I found it funny that right about that time, we talked about running. I told him that if running wasn’t something he liked, he never had to do it again. (He heartily agreed to stick to t-ball!) PSo often as runners we think “Why the heck do I sign up for this?!” Yet, many of us have stacks of bib numbers and race medals to prove that that thought quickly subsides.

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The joy on his face as he crossed the finish line to high five Eric and I was magic. He was tired, to be sure! No doubt in my mind he was proud of himself.

But probably not quite as proud as I am. PRs are great, but coming in last with my son was the biggest win to date.

Goals and Year End Stuff

I had a whole list of goals this year, and many were accomplished. One was to run/ride at least 500 miles. Yeah, that one didn’t happen. (I checked my stats and I hit a dismal* 180 miles.) I killed myself last year running crazy miles to achieve the goal of 300. I felt great though, and the feeling of getting something done I had set out to do was an awesome feeling. As the saying goes, fail to plan and you’ll hit it every time. Here were some of the things on my “to do in 2013” list:

*Tough Mudder
*Spin Certification
*Group Exercise Certification
*Whidbey Half Marathon
*Whidbey Triathlon

This year has been different in some ways. The hubs returned from a long deployment, we settled into new routines, I continued working out, but definitely not at the pace I had kept up the last two years. And I’m feeling it. I actually haven’t been running since the Tough Mudder in October.

Ugh. It makes me sick to even type that.

I know I need to run. My body craves it. I’ve been focused on teaching spin, the kiddos, and being active daily, but not in a measurable way like before. For me, concrete, tangible goals make a huge difference.

Looking forward to the new year, I’m not one to make hard core resolutions. I do like to take stock of what transpired the year before and think about what I’d like to do differently or better in the next. So that’s what I’m in the midst of doing currently. And as part of those goals and planning for the next year, our upcoming PCS move next summer, and the not knowing what life will bring – I have signed up for a few races already:

*Resolution 5k/Polar Plunge (I’ll be skipping the dip into Puget Sound in January, thankyouverymuch!)
*Sweetheart 5K/10k
*St. Patricks Day 5k (Did that one last year with the minions)
*Whidbey Half Marathon
*5/5/5 Duathlon 5 miles on the spin bike, 5k run, followed up by another 5k

2014 has 365 days in it – just like every brand new year. But really, a January 1st isn’t necessary to fulfill goals and dreams. We are given a new start every single morning we wake up. So for my next 365 – I want to maintain that mindset, that each day is a fresh start, a day to work at goals, getting better and making the choices that support the health of not only me, but of my family.

Do you make resolutions? If so, are you able to keep them?

*Let me clarify that when I say the word “dismal” about 180 miles, those who run 500+ miles will understand. For non-runners, 180 miles seems like it’s a lot. It’s all about perspective.

Holiday Hiatus

I “decided” to take a holiday hiatus. It wasn’t really planned, but just sort of happened! Now that the family has left and the after-Christmas calm is settling in, I thought I’d sneak in a post before I return to my unscheduled break.

This year we were fortunate to be able to spend Christmas with our whole family! This is a rare occurrence with us being a military family, and most of the “kids” grown and having kids of our own. This is 2 generations of cousins!

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It was a great time with great food and lots of fun! I love enjoying the holidays through my kids’ perspectives. It’s all so new to them and watching them watch it all unfold is magic. The anticipation of the entire month nearly did Jacob in. He made it though, as did Hannah, and their holiday hopes were granted. And now it’s all over. (We say over because New Year’s eve isn’t the hoopla it was pre-kids. Let’s face it – we’re parents and if we stayed up for New Year’s eve, the 1st at our place would be a grouchy tired mess!)

While it was so much fun celebrating, is it weird that a part of me actually enjoys taking it all down, the quiet resolution of another holiday having past, and the breath of fresh air of getting things back to normal? Some find it sad to have it all over, even Hannah lamented she “hates that Christmas is over!” I don’t. I love Christmas, the build up and anticipation – all the festivus activities. But I really do love the calm and the return of normal routines!

With that return of normal, my husband just made my year! We stripped all the beds, did laundry like it was our job, shampooed carpets, Hannah scrubbed toilets, and my hubs scoured the kitchen – like pulled appliances out, vacuumed behind, took the burners off the stove, – you get the idea. It was deep spring cleaning in winter at my house. I helped a bit, taking down the tree, putting all the Christmas decorations away, purging the broken ornaments that couldn’t be glued together anymore, but mostly my other half did the work. Hannah and I fell asleep. For three hours.

When we woke up and came downstairs, I was delighted to see our house transformed: to the cleanest version of normal since we moved in! Perhaps it makes me a tad obsessive compulsive that a clean house excites me to the point of spending almost an entire post about it, but clean = calm and peace in my mind and spirit. I can think clearly, I can give freely, and enjoy my kids more fully when our home is in order.

I love Christmas. I love celebrating the season with my family. And I love the return of normal. What about you? Do you like the return of routine, or is it melancholy when it’s all over?

The REAL Mother’s Day

Upon returning from my workout this morning, I opened the door to find my husband and the minions diligently laboring over the mixer. I smiled as the kids exclaimed they are making chocolate chip cookies and later they are all going on “an adventure”! Looking to my husband for the plan of the day (he’s the master adventure planner of our brood), he looked at me and grinned.

“You go to your movie today, do some writing, whatever – we are going to a football game and hiking up north,” he informed me.

The vacuous cloud of dust left by my hasty exit to shower was scarcely noticed by the minions as they were still engrossed in cookie dough, but my hubbs noticed and chuckled. My mind was suddenly tripping over its own thoughts of all the possibilities of what a day to myself could bring. Shopping, lunch, writing in a cafe, seeing The Butler, oh my there were just so many choices!

Watching a movie in a theater without anyone else is bliss to me. I don’t have to share my popcorn, I don’t have to worry about whether one or both of the minions will pass out half way through, or make a scene and have to leave. I get to pick the film – no pleasing anyone else. I love the movie experience, and I have not gone to a movie by myself in over 6 years.

Needless to say, I’m going to fully enjoy this day. The sun is out, I get to do something I rarely have the luxury to do, the brood gets an adventure and time with daddy before preschool, and the routines of fall tick away the days on the calendar.

Of course we love our kids, but a true Mother’s Day to me is a day spent doing exactly what you want to do, rather than what you should or have to do.

I am grateful for this Mother’s Day, and a husband that knows just what I need before I do!

And….The Honeymoon Is Over

Well, not really. It’s just back to work and regular life. We’ve had the best time over the last few days just spending time as a family and reconnecting and getting out and about!

The 4th of July was great – celebrated by going to a parade (complete with puking Jacob as he gagged on a candy he didn’t like), a carnival, and of course fireworks.

Photo: Love!

Can’t stop staring at Daddy!

Photo: Can't get enough rides!!

Big Fun!

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Just being silly!

Photo: Ready for the parade!

We went to our local track (which is by the playground – genius!) so I could run while the minions worked on riding bikes without training wheels with Dad. Jacob rode his bike as if he’d always been riding! He picked it up quick! Hannah will probably need to grow just a bit more to handle balancing, but she’s anxious to learn so I have a feeling it won’t be too long!

We also ventured up to Lake Padden to run/play with the kids. The trail at the lake is beyond beautiful. Perfect sunny day for a trail run. The kids got to play and swim, I ran and then we all headed to a college baseball game, not that much baseball was watched. There was a bouncy house (which the kids headed straight for, of course) and face painting.

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My scary minions! This was Hannah’s idea. Other girls were getting all sorts of animals, fairy wings or butterflies. Not Hannah. She went skeleton all the way. Jacob originally wanted to be painted like a dog, but quickly abandoned that for the skeleton look as well. I find it fascinating to contemplate how these two little ones will be as they grow older.

And today we took the kids on their first ferry boat ride:

Photo: Fascinated by the water. As usual.

These kids are nothing if not fascinated by water!

It’s been loads of fun having Daddy home and celebrating. While I like to think the “honeymoon” is never really over – it’s definitely time to get back to a routine!

I’m exhausted!

Freedom

Ahhh, Independence Day.

Yes, the big one for our country, but also the one that’s a bit more personal for our family, and for me.

I ran my first run yesterday. The first solo-non-stroller-pushing/non-dreadmill trail run in about a year. No races. No bib numbers. No PRs or time clocks. No having to ensure the minions in the stroller are fed (not thirsty, changed, happy, fighting with each other, etc).

No music.

Only the gravel hitting my gait, the beat of my breath, and the summer sun shining through the trees.  I was near tears; breathless and joyful, barely containing myself as other runners passed. I resisted the urge to high-five every single person. (On a couple, I held my hand up in the typical runner’s wave, thinking that if someone felt like it, they could – but sadly, no takers.) It didn’t really matter though. My ear-to-ear grin spelled out exactly how I felt.

In a word: Heaven.

Contentment.

Release.

Joy.

Exhilaration.

And so much more. I can’t wait to get out and run today.