Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Welcome Home Party at the Farm

On Saturday night, we celebrated my cousin's return from his Air Force assignment in Korea and his upcoming move to Georgia.  His stateside reentry demanded a party to gather all the relatives and love him back home.

My Aunt Kathryn happily opened her house for the merriment, and we eagerly descended on her farm grounds.  When we arrived, albeit a few minutes late, the party was in full swing.  Relatives lounged on folding chairs in the driveway with an unobstructed view of the cornfields.  They clutched paper plates filled with chips, pasta salad, and grilled hamburgers.  Clearly we would not be walking away from the party the least bit hungry, we agreed.

But Aunt Kathryn's house was equipped with something greater even than food....four wheelers.  Before Chris could place the first potato chip into his mouth, the boys were begging for a ride.  Within minutes, Chris was perched on the four wheeler with a son clutching his waist.  And before I could blink, the four wheeler got swallowed into the cornfield.  It would reemerge within minutes with smiling passengers sporting wind-blown hair.

Caleb became singularly focused on catching a snapping turtle who set up residence in the pond.  He tried all sorts of tricks (bait, nets, sly behavior), but the turtle could not be outsmarted.  

Caleb: 0  Turtle: 1

At the end of the night, Chris took me on a four wheeler ride.  I grabbed his waist, and he started the engine.  We zoomed along a dirt path that flanked the outskirts of the cornfields.  The sun rays danced among the stalks, and the spring greenery formed our backdrop.

I yelled, "I think this moment is just about perfect."

And as if on cue, a tree branch slapped my face creating a slight gash on my cheek.  It was one of those moments that could only be greeted by laughter.

Clearly, the moment was not perfect, but it certainly was good.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Boston Marathon: Grateful to be Invited to the Party

First step when we landed in Boston was the Boston Marathon Expo.  My dear friend Jessica and her Boston pals joined us at the expo.

After the expo, we stretched our legs out on a shot run.  For this midwestern gal, running along the water was a treat!

Celebrity sighting in downtown Boston....Mark Wahlberg (in the blue hat).  Evidently, he was filming a clip for his upcoming movie "Patriot's Day."

Four of my hometown runners posed for pictures on the finish line.  We have started to call ourselves "cover models" as these photos may be used in our hometown magazine.

These two!  Mark is my friend since the age of five.  He set us up on our first date.  They still make us laugh.  We appreciate a relationship that has roots and still brings us joy.

Technically this Boston trip is our 15th wedding anniversary trip.  Grateful for a husband who is willing to count a race weekend as a romantic getaway!

Love that these two still make each other laugh.

And that they are not too old to be juvenile.

My race buddies!  So grateful to be experiencing the race with good friends.

Feeling a bit artsy!  Fun pic!

A trip to Boston must include the obligatory walking of the Freedom Trail!

A makeshift memorial for those impacted by the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.  This spot felt sacred and somber and remembered.

My training buddy Nicole and I spent 16 weeks to get to this place.  It felt good to experience the journey together.

The day before the race, Jessica and I stretched out our legs on a leisurely two-miler along the water.

Minutes before the marathon start, we took the pre-photos. 

With my friend Jessica!

With Claudia.

With my Indiana pals.

The Boston crew and the Indiana girls pose together.

Nicole and I anxiously awaited the race start in the corral.

I took a few photos along the way.  About mile 12, we entered Wellesley.

A photos of the well-known Wellesley girls and their signs.

Relief upon seeing this sign.  Note the crowds.  Amazing! 

Not my best time, but a wonderful experience.  So grateful to have completed another Boston Marathon and to experience it with those I love and enjoy.

A celebratory post-race dinner with spouses (and after a good shower!).

Are these the calories you are suppose to pump back into your body?

The day after the Boston Marathon, Chris and I took two days to ourselves to celebrate our anniversary.  We headed over to New Hampshire and then drove up the coast of Maine.

The scenery was truly breath-taking.

I found each and every lighthouse to be captivating!

Still walking the day after the race, but running shoes were a must!

We finally found a pocket of time to talk.  We weren't interrupted with homework, carpools, and sports practices.  It was glorious!

These are not stretch marks (promise), but chafing.  Just one of the many "war wounds" from the marathon.

As I was pounding the pavement in the Boston Marathon, I thought about how this race was like a party.  It's like the party that you want to get invited to because it is a special and prestigious party.  You want to tell others you got invited to the party.  But, once you go to the party, you realize the party is really not that much fun.  

Those were the thoughts that were racing through my head as I struggled up Heartbreak Hill amid 70 degree heat (temperatures that feel like the center of the sun for marathoners).  At this point, the party was not the least bit enjoyable.  I felt like I had been running for eternity in a sauna on an alpine course.

But, then I hit mile 23.  Reality sank in that I had less than a 5K until the finish.  

Then, my thoughts changed.

I started to think about how lucky I was to get invited to the party.  I remember the unique features of the party.  I relished the experiences associated with the party.

I didn't want the party to end.

What if I never came back to the party, I wondered.

I decided to enjoy my final minutes.

As I finished the last mile of the Boston Marathon, I truly soaked in the sights.  This is not a race to be raced; this is a race to be experienced.

The last .3 miles finish on Boylston Street.  When you turn onto the street, you see the finish line.  The crowds along the street are 3-deep, I've been told.  Their cheers rival a freight train.  I remembered that I was running on sacred ground.  The same spot where bombs wrecked havoc just three years earlier.  Now, this street was a party.  It was a celebration, and I was invited to be one of the key guests.

When I finished the Boston Marathon, I had tears in my eyes.  At that point, I realized the party was quite possibly the best event I've ever been fortunate enough to attend.  I remembered the truly best portions of the last few hours.  

As for everything else, those memories seemed to fade.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Neckties and Brothers

My dapper son ready for the speech competition.

Older brother fixes his tie.

This is a picture of spring soccer in Indiana.  In case you are wondering, those white specks are snow flakes.

And to truly display the miserableness.

Another parent modeled the spectator conditions.

The best viewing area is sidelines, in a car.

Connor played against a beloved classmate, friendly rivals.

April 7th.  Spring.  Snow.  What?

A few weeks ago, Cooper came to us with eager anticipation and a yellow flyer in his hands.  He wanted to participate in a speech competition with his school, he explained.  Then, he handed us a memo with all of the details.

Over the course of several weeks, he practiced "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" until he could rattle off the story without missing a beat.

Yesterday was the speech competition.  Participants had to wear the proper "church clothes" attire.  Typically, my sons like to play fast and loose with the "church clothes" category.  After all, my boys consider vintage T's and sweats to be "fancy attire."

But, Cooper surprised me.  He wanted his appearance to match the effort he put into the event.  Not only did he willingly pull on khaki pants and a button-down shirt, but he insisted on wearing a tie.

The kicker was, as a female, I could not adequately assist him in knotting a stellar tie.  As I struggled to pull the tie into a knot, older brother Caleb jumped in to help.  Caleb rushed to the computer and pulled up You Tube.  He swiftly located a handful of instructional videos on neckties.  Then, he snagged Cooper's tie, followed the video, and created a nice looking knot around his brother's shirt.  Next, Connor (my recent hair gel expert) stepped in to assist Cooper's hair.

I watched the whole process with a sense of awe.  Most days, those boys are at odds.  But, when a need arises, brothers step up for each other.  When their dad is gone (which often happens with an ER doctor for a father), they rally together for the help of their mother and each other.  When a younger brother needs to learn "manly" things, they know it is their responsibility to teach their brothers.

For this, I am glad they are all boys.  

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Spring Break: Lone Star State Style

Cooper made a "code of conduct" for the car during the first leg of our spring break trip to Texas. Well said, Cooper.

If you ever wanted to have a visual on the word "snug" and "lively".....

Yes, friend Claudia was a co-passenger for a drive to Oklahoma City.  When I think about Claudia's time in our car, our favorite Texas phrase rolls through my head: "Bless her heart."

One toe in Oklahoma, and we were excited!

This is what one hour sleep and a full-days car ride with seven people looks like!

Day two, Claudia and I participated in the Go Girl Half Marathon in Oklahoma City.  For Claudia, this was state #41.  For me, state #18.

Was Claudia smiling because the race was over or because she was about to leave our family and fly back home?

Hubby is much more happy after a full night's sleep!

Stopped by the somber and touching Oklahoma City bombing memorial.

Next stop: Dallas/Fort Worth.  Spent Easter weekend with my favorite law school buddy Tiffany.  She's truly a beauty inside and out.

Easter morning was spent at Tiffany's church in Fort Worth.  (FYI...packing Easter clothes required an extra layer of frustration and suitcase space, but seeing four dapper boys on Easter was worth the stress!)

Post-church, Tiffany's children and my boys collaborated on an Easter egg hunt.

This teen proves there is no age limit to enjoying a good Easter egg hunt.

Easter hunting makes one hungry. 

The kids table.  Tiffany's daughter was a sport to be the lone girl in the kids' table!

After we left Dallas, we traveled down to Waco and landed at a little bit of paradise: Magnolia Market.

It's just my favorite show and latest obsession. To be walking the same grounds that Chip and Joanna created...there are no words.

Honestly, this experience was one of my favorites.  It wasn't because of the adorable scented candles and vintage keepsakes.  It was because of this field that adjoined the market.  We had a blast playing with the boys on the field and enjoying the Texas sunshine.

A handful of gourmet food trucks lined the market making lunch a real treat.  The boys hydrated with Mexican Cokes, something they talked about the entire trip.

Well, we didn't spy Chip and Joanna at the market, but a few minutes later we spotted Chris Kyle's (American Sniper) dad at the gas station.  He is the one with his backside to the camera.

His vehicle. 

From Waco, we landed in Austin at the Barton Springs, a natural swimming pool.

Despite the icy water temps, the boys dove (literally) right into the water.

Then, they let the sun wipe them dry.

A common theme for a Texas trip is food.  In Austin, the boys had their first (of many) taste of barbecue.  They were hooked.

Your screen isn't dirty (or maybe it is:)).  Those spots in the sky are bats.

We joined a few hundred other spectators on the Congress Bridge in Austin to watch the nightly "bat" show.  Like clockwork, every night at dusk, the world's largest urban bat colony exits from under the bridge and floats into the sky.  It's estimated that 1.5 million bats leave the bridge each evening.

Texas capital at night.

The next day, we made our way up to the peak of Mt. Bonnell, the highest point in Austin with a killer view of the Colorado River.

Later, we jumped on kayaks and toured around Zilker Park in Austin.

These two were a dynamic duo in the kayaks.  They rowed in rhythm and sliced through the water with ease.

These two were a hot mess.  They didn't need anyone else's advice on how not to constantly spin in a circle (except they did).

Leaving Austin, we did a drive-by of Jen Hatmaker's house.  The fact that she wasn't on her porch with a sign that read "Welcome Woods" was a bit disappointing.

And the barbecue feasting continues.  This time, the boys hit Salt Lick between Austin and San Antonio.

Our final Texas stop was at San Antonio. The next morning, I ran along the riverwalk.  It was beautiful, but I was terrified about becoming lost amid the maze of turnoffs and curves.

We tried to remember the Alamo the next day.  The weather was trying to help us forget it.

The Alamo didn't seem as interesting to the boys as the Wax Museums and tourist stops across the street.  Where did we go wrong?

When the weather cleared, we toured around the San Antonio Riverwalk via boat.

When in Texas....

I completed a half marathon in Texas while in San Antonio (state #19), and I was the overall winner of the race.  (But in effort to be transparent, there were only four participants in the half marathon:)  It's an experience worthy of a future blog post solely devoted to that race.  I told a friend my win was turning me into a diva.  She said the Boston Marathon will humble me.

Our final spring break stop was at Hot Springs, Arkansas.

There is no false advertising.  The springs are, in fact, hot.  Very hot.  143ish degrees.

He's hot too:)

I seriously think these three will regret this photo one day.  But, they were more than game about jumping into the tub for a snapshot.  I was more than game about giggling over the result.

What can I say?

The boys were sworn in as Junior Rangers again in Hot Springs National Park.

As we made our way home, nourishment was required.  Where to eat in Memphis?  According to my men, it's a no-brainer: barbecue (again!).

While in Memphis, we also visited Martin Luther King's assassination location.

And we swung by Graceland.  A perfect end to our Southern travels.

Last night, we rolled back into town after a jam-packed week of travel.  Our spring break destination was the Lone Star state with some bonus visits to its neighboring states.

What I will say about the week is that it was fun and full.  

The fun part revolved around seeing dear friends.  In Fort Worth, we stayed with my favorite law school buddy Tiffany.  During law school, I could count on Tiffany to know everything from the criminal code to what Kelly wore to the Peach Pit on the latest episode of 90210.  She was(is) smart, strong, fun, kind, and fiercely loyal to her dear friends.

When we came to visit, Tiffany was nursing a brand new broken shoulder.  Most people would find this injury to be the perfect excuse to rid their home of houseguests.  Not Tiffany, this tough lady showered us with hospitality and love. 

Chris also visited his friend Dan from medical school.  Dan and Chris spent an evening alternating between rehashing medical school war stories and regaling each other with patient tales.  For Chris, the entire evening was a treat.

The fun could also be found in the places we explored.  

In Austin, the city park offered natural spring pools and kayaking adventures. Congress Street Bridge introduced us to the strange, yet wonderful, migration of bats.

In Waco, we toured around one of the prettiest places on earth: Magnolia Market.  I honestly could spend my remaining days outside of the silos.

In San Antonio, the riverwalk provided great people watching and a feast for the senses with the aroma from the never-ending supply of restaurants and the sounds of the mariachi bands drifting along the water.

In Hot Springs, Arkansas, the hot springs fascinated our bunch.  The sight of steam rising from the many pools was a source of wonder.

And, the fun was found in the races.

In Oklahoma, Claudia and I raced along the city streets and enjoyed meandering through this pretty town.

In San Antonio, the race was tiny and the experience was unique.  But, the more eccentric the race, the more it becomes a memorable adventure.

As for the full...

Our tummies were full to the point when didn't even think was possible.  My brother works for a company that sells medical devices.  He says that Texas is their biggest consumer of bariatric instruments.  After a week in Texas, we understand.

Texas Mexican food puts Hoosier Mexican food to shame. I seriously ate my body weight in tortilla chips (good thing I had a few races to counter the chips).  

And for my boys, the endless supply of barbecue joints made them giddy (and eager consumers).

It was also full because the week was busy.

But, we didn't mind.

The busyness was filled with all of our favorites: family, friends, and food.