Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Winter 2017

My mom took us to a real farm in town. It was so great because Ammon is really in love with barnyard animals right now. He can "moo" and "neigh" and does so often when he sees cows or horses. Here's a short video of him moo-ing:

The cows were really loud and kind of scared the boys

Their favorite animal: the friendly barn cat

Ammon has two new favorite hobbies: unloading the dishwasher (clean or otherwise) and flushing the toilet. He just loves doing what the big people do. I can tell he wants to be a big boy and talk so badly!
Here's a video of him talking on the phone (it's acually a TV remote)
Ammon loved decorating for Christmas

We went on the Candy Cane Express. It's a train ride with hot cocoa and popcorn served by elves. Santa and Mrs. Claus were also there. Quin pointed at Santa and said "that's the Christmas guy. He's wearing a costume." I'm not a fan of Santa Claus so I haven't actually taught him anything about Santa. Everything he knows comes from books, movies, and what other people say about it. I'm not anti-Santa, I just don't feel comfortable deceiving Quin, even if it's for fun.

It was cold and drizzly but we had a great time.

Next was the city of Lebanon holidays at the park. It was also cold and wet.
We rode on a horse drawn wagon through downtown Lebanon and sang Christmas songs with the other passengers.
We stayed for the Christmas lights parade and as soon as it was over we went home.

We drove through the Pastega lights together.

We went to Storybook Land. I loved how it was a combination of the Pastega lights and Enchanted Forest. You walk through awesome animatronic stations that depict scenes from nursery rhymes and children's books. There were a lot of Disney sections and two huge train sets in the back. There was also a large Christmas village on display.

Quin really wanted to sit on Santa's lap. I realized it was because he wanted to get a candy cane. When Santa asked him what he wanted Quin said "a candy cane", which Santa gave him. It's not every day Santa grants your Christmas wish on the spot!  Way to keep expectations realistic, Quin.

 Quin's gingerbread house. It was really difficult to build because I made the frosting wrong. Michael finished it for Quin when I gave up. Not long after Quin destroyed it like Wreck it Ralph. Next year we'll just not do gingerbread houses.

This is what I made for my mom, grandma, mother in law, and previous piano teacher. It's called string art. You print a picture, put the paper on the wood, and then hammer nails in the outline. Then you rip the paper out and thread string to make a pattern. Each one is unique, just like each musical mentor in my life is unique.
Ammon helped.

It was real, it was fun, but I'm glad to be done. It was a great Christmas, but I'm so relieved it's over. Anyone else?

Christmas 2017

Hope you all had a Merry Christmas!
This was our first Christmas at our own house. It was so great! I'm not a huge fan of Santa so we're not doing the "Santa" thing with our kids. I don't have any real memories of Santa because I found out about it so young (and then ruined it for all of my friends). I guess it's fun but maybe the magic isn't there because I don't have any childhood attachment to it. So we decided to start some Christ centered traditions this year.

We opened presents very slowly. In fact, we enjoyed the stuff in our stockings for a while and didn't even get started opening presents until after 8:30 AM. It was all very civilized and I appreciated that.

We would open one and everyone played with it for a while. We had a really great time with these giant blocks.
Just look at that fireplace roar
Daddy fell asleep on the floor so grandpa and Quin built a tower on him
Yetti in my spaghetti was a hit
Ammon really enjoyed these hand puppets

For dinner, we had a Bethlehem dinner. Some people call it a Jerusalem dinner or an appetizer dinner. Basically, we just tried to eat foods that Mary and Joseph might have eaten back then.  We ate carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, pomegranate, hummus, goat cheese, pistachios, dates, dried figs, dried apricots, oranges, and flatbread. We turned off the lights except the Christmas tree and a few electric candles and ate on the floor with no utensils. It was fun and made the Christmas story feel a lot more real to try to imitate the setting. Ammon thought it was the best meal ever. He walked around the picnic blanket eating whatever he wanted off of unattended plates.
After dinner we had a birthday cake for Jesus. It was a red velvet cake made with beets and I made the most amazing goat cheese and cream cheese frosting. We turned off all the lights except the candles and sang "O Holy Night."
After eating cake my plan was to write down our gifts to the Savior, which are like New Years resolutions but it's a gift of changed behavior that we give to Jesus. We ended up doing this the next day, but Michael and I wrote down our gifts on a piece of paper and put them in a stocking. I'm hoping that every Christmas we can review these gifts and see how we progressed during the year.

Does your family have any Christ centered traditions? If so I would love to hear about them!

Quin's 4th Birthday

Pin the cape on Superman

Quin really liked his cake. He stood there and made up songs about it to the tune of "do you know the muffin man" for half an hour.
Homemade pinata nearly as strong as the man of steel

Fall 2017

Forgot to post this while it was actually fall.
Favorite song: Old MacDonald. He sings "ei ei eee." He also likes "Jump Jump Went the Little Green Frog". I played Old MacDonald on the piano for Ammon with him sitting on my lap and he kept wanting me to play it over and over again.
Says "wa" for water or when he wants to watch a show. He has been saying "wa" a lot lately.
We pet sat a kitten for a few days and Ammon fell in love. He followed her around and meowed.

He points out cats every time he sees a picture of one with an enthusiastic "ow! ow!" until the cat is acknowledged.
Ammon has also learned to dance to music. He will either bob with his knees or wave his arms.
I got him to poop on the toilet twice. The first time he thought it was pretty great. He kept climbing back on to clap and shout hooray over and over.
He loves dental floss. We have a cinnamon flavored floss and Ammon blew on it to make it less hot.

Has been speaking more clearly and acted more compliant since starting preschool. He is so excited to go to school on school days and seems reluctant to leave when I pick him up. On non-school days he sometimes asks to go to school and is very disappointed when I say no.
He is a budding vocalist and can sing several nursery rhymes on pitch.
 His Captain America obsession has faded into a Superman craze. He has been superman most days lately. He and Ammon were Batman and Robin for Halloween.

Downtown Trick or Treating with grandma and Uncle Curtis

Quin's preschool Halloween Party

Ward Halloween Party
I have been writing down the funny things Quin says and I'm so glad I did! Here are our favorite Quin quotes: 
"Da baby is wuvs you" and "Captain America is wuvs you."
"I have muscles like batman."
Fighting sound effect is "wha push" and it's really cute.
"Good job solving your problem!"
"Almond milk is so much fun!"
Playing with nativity dolls, made Mary take baby Jesus out of the swaddling blanket and said "The mom gets the baby out of the baby toaster."
"A little bit yes."
"My strong muscles will be there at the fight."
"It's a part of my life to love you."
"Look! There's Christmas over there. Are you ready to be a Christmas mom?'
He heard Ammon waking up from a nap and ran upstairs, then said, "I am a good helper. I help babies get out of their beds."
"I love Mr. Grinch so much."
"Breakfast is not for breakfast."
When asked "What did the pilgrims eat?" Answer: "Play and dragons. Vegetables, carrots, and ranch. Buffalo and dragonfruit." He actually ate buffalo and dragonfruit at preschool.
"Deoderant is full of wonderful things."
"Let's go follow the prophet!"
After I accompanied a song in primary he ran up to me and said, "Good job playing the piano!"
"This is the color blue. The color blue helps me be happy."
"This is the Christmas tree. The Christmas tree helps me be happy."
"Momma is the best."
"Look at my back. There's muscles on my back! One, two! They're really big."
I was having a rough day. Michael asked Quin what he could do to help me be happy. Quin's response: "Make things die."
"I need to eat some green beans and apple so I can get big... and fat."
"Look at my sword! It's so magicy."
"I'm so beautiful because I'm wearing my church clothes."
What do you want to be when you grow up? "Bigger and bigger and bigger!"
You could be a firefighter or police officer. He added "or superman..."
"There are so many superheroes I want to be!"
"Quin is a tall boy. He is going to drive a car and a fire truck."
I have been trying to notice the times he is being good and point it out. Today he did the same to me. "Look at you! You're stirring the pot!"

We had a lot of fun in the leaves

Ammon loves to help and do "big people" things

We accidentally put the leaves in the recycling bin, so Quin helped me dump it out and put them in the yard waste bin. After playing in them.

They are so sweet!

Friday, September 29, 2017

South Sister Climb

I lived in Bend from age 9 to 18. When I was in middle school my mom, uncle, aunt, and older cousin climbed South Sister together. I begged and pleaded with my mom to let me come. She refused, citing the fact that Emily did cross country and was in much better shape for the climb than I was. I stayed home with my younger cousin, Esther, but the whole time I kept looking at the mountain imagining the group at the summit and wishing I could someday be there too.
I looked at that mountain almost every day for the 10 years I lived in Bend. The house we lived in had an incredible view of South Sister from a large window in the living room.
View from the living room
It haunted me. I wanted to climb it so bad. I felt that my mom didn't believe in me and that I wasn't good enough. I wanted to prove that I was something, that I was amazing and capable. But the years rolled by and the opportunity never leapt up in front of my face. I did make it to the summit of Mt. Mcloughlin at ages 17 and 18 with girls camp groups. My mom came with me the second time I climbed it and it was wonderful to accomplish something so amazing with her.
Mcloughlin summit 2009

Mcloughlin summit 2010

In fact, during that first climb there was snow covering the trail and we got lost. We ended up on the mountain for 12 hours and I could barely walk the next day. So that was pretty incredible. But Mcloughlin wasn't the mountain that was looming over me each day.

Fast forward to 2017. After battling with depression for 10 years and seeing little improvement from  the 6 different antidepressants I had tried, I decided I needed to take my health into my own hands. I was willing to do major lifestyle changes to ease the burden of the problems that were left unsolved by pills. What does this have to do with climbing a mountain? Well, I realized that I cant wait around for a pill to solve my problems. My life is in my control and I need to act rather than waiting for good things to happen to me. I have spend so much of my life held back by fear of failure. Even though sharing music with others is my passion, I was afraid to teach piano again because I didn't feel like I was very successful the first time and didn't believe that my teaching could be worth anything to anyone. I'm pretty mediocre at playing the piano as it is. I was afraid to lead the toddler music group at church because I didn't want it to interfere with Ammon's nap schedule and deep down I was afraid that I would be terrible at it. There are so many instances in my life where fear has guided my choices. I want to be guided by faith, passion, and persistence in the face of adversity.
I decided I was done with excuses. I decided to teach piano, lead music makers, and to finally climb South Sister.
The trouble was, I couldn't climb it alone. I'm terrified of hiking alone because I don't want to end up like Aron Ralston or Annie Schmidt. Here I was being motivated by fear again. My mom was adamant about never climbing South Sister again because of how hard it was. I asked Michael if he was interested and was surprised to hear that he was. So we started training on the weekends together. We ordered fancy hiking gear and were very excited to attempt the climb. My mom was happy to watch the kids and stay here at 351 feet elevation. When the day loomed near we panicked and decided we needed a few more challenging hikes under our belt before attempting South Sister. So we hiked Mary's Peak the first weekend of September. Then, I came down with a bad cold September 16th and there was no hiking that day. September 23rd was the day, but we changed our plans when my mom showed me to weather forecast of freezing temperatures and snow. It looked like September 30th would be the day, but that is the day of a special church broadcast and Michael really didn't want to miss it. As we watched the weather we were discouraged by more bad weather on the weekend. Thursday looked good, so Michael quickly got the day off work and we headed out to climb the mountain.

We left home an hour before sunrise and arrived around 9:15 AM. We spent 45 minutes trying to figure out how to pay the day use fee, and finally got a hold of the Forest Service who said we don't have to pay a day use fee. (?!?!?!!)  Whatever. I left a note on the dashboard just in case because I really didn't want a ticket. We started out pretty late but it was a gorgeous day and our hopes were high.

At this point in the journey I was getting kind of emotional. We were about a third of the way to the top and the mountain was still so far away! It was like we hadn't even started climbing it yet! How could we ever make it! It's impossible! I felt like I really needed to summit this mountain to prove to myself, my mom, and everyone else that I am amazing and I can do hard things. If I can't make it to the summit, what does that mean for the rest of my life?! I felt that this mountain was symbolic of my life. I had to make it to the summit. How else could I be sure that I have what it takes to face the other "mountains" that lie ahead of me? Here's fear of failure again. I was certain that if I didn't summit, I would have failed and this whole trip would be a failure. 

Mt Bachelor

Onward and upward!
We though it was strange and funny when we first saw snow on the hike. Pretty soon snow was our reality. It was a really warm day, in the 70's, and the snow was soft and slushy. Around mile 4 the snow was 3 feet deep in some places and it was an effort to keep from sinking in. I kept trying to be like Legolas in Lord of the Rings and gingerly walk on the top of the snow, but I sank in about every 6 steps. Michael, being heavier than me, sank in a lot and was really struggling to make it through the snow and kept needing to stop to pull his leg out of the deep snow. It was hard for me to stop all the time. When I stopped my body slowed down and heat rushed over me. We were running out of daylight and I wanted to keep up my pace and try to make it to the summit, even if it meant leaving him behind. But I owed it to him to stay with him because he came out here with me and we needed each other for safety and encouragement.
So steep!

1.3 miles and 1000 feet to go
We trudged on for 0.7 mile in thigh deep snow until we crested a ridge that seemed like a false summit to us. It might not have been the actual false summit, but it had been all we could see for that 0.7 mile. During the last three hundred feet I felt my body reaching its physical max. I was burnt out, exhausted, my feet were cold from swimming in melted snow. And we still had 1.3 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation to go to make the summit. It was 3:30, so that gave us 3 and a half hours of daylight. I knew it wasn't enough time, but I still wanted to summit so bad. We were so close! My goal was just up there, within reach.

We took a good, well-deserved break at that ridge and had a meal. We were debating continuing the climb and hoping we could find our way back down through the partially snow covered path. We'd had a hard time finding our way a few times during the ascent. We had head lamps and flashlights, but we could end up stuck on the mountain for the night if we got lost. We finally decided to pray about it. After praying I felt strongly that we should head back. Michael agreed and we made our descent. It was easier than climbing up but still precarious and challenging. During most of the hike we had at least one other hiker in view and we met up with a man and a woman who were climbing down the same time as us. It was a relief and a pleasure to hike with them. I confided in the lady that I had hoped to prove myself by making it to the summit, and was disappointed, but still proud of what I was able to accomplish and I accept my best as good enough.  She told me that she hikes South Sister once a year and this was the worst year yet. Apparently it took her two hours longer to summit than it normally does because of the wet snow. She assured me that if there hadn't been this much snow we would have made it to the summit. Repeatedly she expressed her relief that we decided to turn around when we did. She was really sad to hear that this doozy of a trek was Michael's first mountain climbing experience and encouraged us to try it again. I'm not sure if we will, but it's nice to know that we're not total wusses.  We made it back to the car just after the sun set and, after enjoying the luxury of an outhouse, started our drive home. After 8.75 hours hiking 7.7 miles we were so ready to go home! I drove the first half. I really wanted to do the whole drive because I felt bad for dragging Michael into this crazy adventure and he was exhausted and feeling sick. When we got to Oakridge I had a headlight-induced migraine combined with extreme neck pain and couldn't drive any more. We stopped at Ray's for ibuprophen, water, and the bathroom. We both looked so ragged as we limped around the store. I'm sure we smelled bad too. Michael started driving out of the parking lot but quickly pulled over when I started gagging, just in time for me to open the door and throw up. After covering my eyes with my jacket for an hour I felt a lot better. We were so happy to get home!
I learned a lot from this experience. I truly feel that I came down from that mountain a different person. If not making it to the summit constitutes failure, then I failed. I don't care. I am so proud of myself for how far I was able to go. Maybe this is a paradigm shift that needs to happen. There are so many summits that I am gazing at. I feel like when I don't reach them, that I am failing. Summits like the mountain of a perfectly clean house, mt. perfect mother, perfect wife peak, and fully magnifying my church calling climb. I can't physically, emotionally, or spiritually make it to the top of all these peaks by myself. Because of the atonement I don't have to. But I have to try, and more importantly, I have to be proud of myself for how far I was able to make it.
I respect my mom for not allowing me to come on that climb 14 years ago. It's not likely that I would have been able to summit then and I probably would have held her back. She made the right choice. And we made the right choice turning around when we did. I don't know if we will ever attempt the climb again but I don't feel the burning need to do it anymore. It was a wonderful, difficult, unifying experience that brought us closer as a couple. I'm so grateful Michael was willing to do it with me.

Life Lessons I Learned From This Climb
  • Choose your mountains wisely and climb as high as you realistically can
  • Don't measure your failures against other people's successes
  • Don't judge. You might be climbing the same mountain but that doesn't mean the same experience or even the same difficulty from day to day
  • YOUR BEST IS GOOD ENOUGH!!! Accept what you are able to do and be proud of yourself

Tips for climbing South Sister
  • Go in August 
  • Watch the weather. Don't go if it has snowed recently, even if it will be a warm day
  • Download the AllTrails app before you leave home
  • The night before, spend the night as close as you can to the mountain. Bend or Sisters are great, camping near the trail head is even better
  • Start climbing with head lamps at 6 am
  • Bring 2 trekking poles!
  • Wear long sleeve UV protective clothing made of nylon
  • Bring a lightweight jacket that will protect against wind
  • Bring at least two pairs of synthetic socks and two pairs of liner socks
  • Wear a UV protective hat that covers your neck
  • Bring sunscreen, hand sanitizer, toitet paper (!!!), a first aid kit, a compass, good knife, and an emergency blanket for each person
  • Bring more water and food than you think you will need