Sunday, July 10, 2016

We hold these truths to be self-evident:

 That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;

This is not a post to pontificate about all that's right and wrong in our country right now. It's simply a post about my love for Independence Day, and all it represents. In fact, I realized this year that it's my favorite holiday. Here are a few reasons why I love Independence Day:

1. Music. Mormons sing A LOT in church. On an average Sunday, we sing at least three hymns in our first hour meeting, and we sing at least one or two in our last hour meeting (unless you're with the kids and then it's a LOT more). I love all of our hymns, but during July the list of hymns always includes songs like America the Beautiful, the Battle Hymn of the Republic, the Star Spangled Banner, and My Country Tis of Thee. There is something in particular about America the Beautiful and of course the Star Spangled Banner that fill me with hope, and deep gratitude for what our forefathers and predecessors sacrificed for us. As confused as our world is today, our nation was built on the right principles and we've been incredibly blessed through those sacrifices.

2. Parades. I know parades aren't what they used to be, but I still get choked up as I watch our flag respectfully marched through the street by men (and women) in uniform, whether they are scouts or marines. I love the sense of community as we gather together in the blazing heat, and strangers and friends laugh together, share candy thrown from truck beds, and silently pray together that by showing up we're helping encourage our children to keep the America we love and strive for alive.

Family time in the morning and afternoon. The parade and pool time.
3. Community. I grew up in a town where everyone shows up on July 3rd and 4th for fireworks, 5k fun runs, breakfast, parades, and then a carnival in the park. Most years to this day I continue to see old classmates who've come back with their parents, and now their own children. We don't spend a lot of time really enjoying our community anymore, but on these two days every year, the town still comes together and celebrates.

Devin and Brad enjoying the parade... and a sucker.

4. Friends. This is the only holiday growing up where brand new traditions were created within our own family. We started getting together with our dearest friends when we moved to opposite ends of the Salt Lake valley and needed an opportunity to connect at least once a year. And now, when I can't be in Centerville, we find other wonderful friends to share it with. This year on July 3rd, Devin and I had the opportunity to experience the Magic Kingdom fireworks with McKenzie and Ben. They have taken us in as family the last few months, and they are so darling with Devin! McKenzie danced with him, played with him, and captured the most perfect pictures of him taking in his first fireworks.
We were invited to spend the evening of the 4th with the Krause and Gillespie families. I loved watching Devin "playing" with the other kids, since he's usually all alone, and we had a great time eating, dancing, and visiting together. We even caught a few fireworks through the trees (although the kids were FAR more interested in Zootopia).

Fireworks with the Stewarts. Magic!
McKenzie making sure Devin was awake and happy for fireworks

The kids (and Jared) partying on the floor
Ethan and Grayson entertaining Devin after bath time
Devin and Owen
5. Fireworks. Living right behind Disney, we see (and hear) our fair share of fireworks. But on Independence Day, I feel the significance of these symbols of "The rockets red glare, [and] bombs bursting in air, [that] gave proof through the night that our flag was still there."

"Oh say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave, o'er the land of the free, and the home of the brave."

I am grateful for the United States of America. I'm grateful for the sacrifices made for us to live in this land, and I hope we can live up to our responsibility to support our land of the free, and be the home of the brave.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Following Through

I was barely back to a bit of running by January, but Brad's first half marathon had me on a runner's contact high (is that a thing??), and we both immediately signed up for the Disney run in April. As the race drew near, however, I was seriously considering backing out.

The odds seemed stacked against me as several unexpected events sucked up my training time, and my body seemed unwilling to comply with my desire to run. I'd also managed to pack our schedule before and after the race, which left me no recovery time if needed.

I vacillated all week before the race. My reasons for backing out were legitimate, but I still struggled with feeling like I was giving up. By Saturday morning I decided I would get up, get dressed, and start the course. The potential of failure was better than giving up before I even started.

Race day started at 4am. I was full of anticipation and nervousness, not knowing exactly what the next few hours would bring. We started the race around 5:30am, and I carefully timed our pace using a run/walk cadence to help make sure I didn't put too much stress on my body. I told Brad he could leave me behind, but he stuck by my side every step of the way. I had a strong start, but I was cautious, knowing we had a long way to go. By mile 4 I was feeling really good, and we powered through a full mile. By mile 7 or 8 I was sore but still good, so we ran the full course through the Animal Kingdom and a little beyond. I changed our timing to longer runs and shorter walks, and at mile 11, I was ready to finish strong. All my tender spots were stressed, but not beyond their limits. I cranked up the volume on my music and strength and power pulsed through the rhythm of the music as I pounded out the final steps.

As we reached the last half mile tears of joy and gratitude poured out as I felt the indescribable empowerment of finishing something I thought I couldn't do. Brad ran ahead and caught me up in his arms as I crossed the finish line smiling and crying.

I spent many years of my life doing whatever felt good. I played hard, I slacked even harder, and I just enjoyed all the good that happened my way, letting the bad roll off. I never really "failed" at things because I didn't try. I switched paths (which is the way I justified quitting) once a job, a relationship, or my education got too hard. Life wasn't as painful that way (in theory), but it sure wasn't full of joy either.

A wise man (he's my dad in case you were wondering) once helped me realize that everything really "worth it" in life are things we have to work for. And each thing I've stretched to achieve has brought me more joy, and more confidence in what I'm capable of. Half marathons are probably pretty unimpressive in comparison to other endurance challenges, but the thing about physically challenging myself is that each time I finish I am reminded that I am powerful, I am strong, and I am a champion when I reach beyond my limits and don't give up.
I am grateful that God has given me a body that while imperfect, is healthy and strong. I am grateful that I've been blessed with a desire to do hard things. I am grateful God brought the most incredible cheerleader into my life to be my forever companion. I am grateful for a beautiful son who inspires me to be my best. I am grateful for the journey. While the finish was important, the true learning came through the journey before, during, and after the race.

9 Months

Dear Sweet Devin,

Month #9 of your young life has been full of adventure and big changes! You went from the army crawl to an actual crawl within a week or two, and now that you can easily pull yourself up on things you are constantly standing and inching around the ottoman or anything else nearby.

You were in "turtle mode" up until just a few days ago. You could move anywhere until someone laid you on your back. Then you accepted defeat and awaited rescuing. I helped you figure out how to roll yourself back to your tummy one night, and I instantly regretted it. The first night you had it just about down, I found you moments after putting you in bed sitting up in your crib, playing with Walter and reaching for anything else that looked close enough to grab. Bedtime aside, diaper and clothes changes are also a whole new adventure. As soon as I pull your legs up to clean you up, you twist yourself over and onto your belly. It's frustrating, to say the least.

You are clapping, waving, "giving 5", and giving kisses now, but you have become selective about when you want to show off your skills. And you've also started singing along when I sing, or when we listen to music. You LOVE music!

For a couple of weeks you didn't seem interested in food, other than rice krispies, cheerios, bottles, and sometimes what we had on our plates. Then one day we gave you a squeeze packet and you SUCKED it down like you couldn't eat it fast enough. It turns out, you'll eat pretty much ANYTHING (even the broccoli/apple combo) that comes out of a squeeze bottle. You also LOVE water. Anytime and anywhere you can get water in your mouth, you suck down all you can get. you'll drink it from a cup, the tub, mom's water bottle, and you even suck it out of a washcloth (I know. gross!).

You love your daddy so much, and you two got in quality bonding time while Mom traveled this month. It was so hard on me to be away from you, but McKenzie, Ben, and Dad took great care of you, and you definitely weren't lacking for love!

Our new house will be done the end of August, and for awhile we weren't sure we would be moving in after all. We went to see the builder's progress after church one day, just as we were deciding to keep it.  As we walked through you looked around, looked at me, and smiled your biggest smile. I was pretty sure you knew this was supposed to be home.

You're right at 50% for weight and height, and healthy and strong. The doctor also helped empower us to get you through a full night's sleep (you were still waking up a couple of times a night) and we're just about there! No more bottles at night. Just a little soothing and you go right back to sleep.

I try to avoid too much TV at home, but you really like Little Einstein's, and you'll sit through a few minutes of a Disney movie here and there. I love watching you recognize things like the Little Einstein's theme song. It's fun to see you recognize the things you like.

You also like the piano. We didn't have our keyboard with us the first couple of months we were here, but now that it's hear you love to experiment when you get the chance.

Devin, this month has been hard on your Mama. Leaving for two trips, two weeks in a row broke my heart. I knew you would be watched over and loved, but I miss every moment I'm away from you. I've always wanted to be a mom, and always hoped I would be able to stay home with my kids. I know that for our family it's best for me to be at work for now, but I feel so grateful that most days that means I'm still home to be close if you need me. You have handled it all so well. You are such a good natured kid, even though you definitely have your opinions about things!

People still tell us everywhere we go that you look like Jack-Jack, and we agree. Your chubby cheeks are so kissable, and your smiles fill your whole face. We adore every little bit of you, and love having you as part of our forever family!!


Mom and Dad