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10th Anniversary

10th Anniversary

We’ve been thinking about our 10th anniversary since our 9th. We wanted to do something big and had narrowed it down to either a trip to Costa Rica or river guide school. When Glenna got diagnosed and came to live with us, planning became infinitely more difficult. (Maybe we should have known Costa Rica was bad luck, that was also the plan for our 5th anniversary and that didn’t turn out either.) Even if we’d logistically worked something out with family so we could go somewhere, there was always the fear that we’d be out of contact partying it up while she was dying. We decided it was probably best that we not make any big travel plans. We kind of moped around about it though. You know, Poor us, our life is so hard and our anniversary is going to be the worst ever. Boo, hoo, hoo. Super mature. At some point in January, I got a burst of optimism in the midst of the general malaise I was feeling and decided that we weren’t just going to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves, we were going to do something for our anniversary and it was going to be fun. I looked at all the local events that would be happening on our anniversary and bought tickets to the play An American in Paris. I bought Noel a new suit and me a new dress (all amazing clearance finds of course). We would at least getaway for a few hours in style.

I’m glad I made those plans months ago, because by the time our anniversary rolled around, we were too spent to make any plans. To put it in context, here was the calendar surrounding our anniversary:

  • Saturday, February 25th – Glenna passed
  • Thursday, March 2nd – We began traveling for the funeral
  • Saturday, March 4th – Glenna’s funeral
  • Tuesday, March 7th – Ellen’s birthday/traveling back from the funeral
  • Friday, March 10th – Our anniversary
  • Saturday, March 11th – Ellen’s birthday party with friends

And those were just the big things. Not included: planning the funeral, kids swim lessons, grieving, and typical life maintenance functions. Like I said, I’m glad we already had plans because otherwise we probably would have just gotten takeout and watched Netflix in our pjs. Instead, we had a pretty good day.

Subversive runners

Both of the kids are in school at the same time for three hours, four days a week. Sometimes Noel and I take advantage of this and workout together. Running has been one of the things we’ve enjoyed doing together from the very beginning, so we decided we needed to go on a run. There had been a fire the day before on the nearby mesa, a place where we frequently run. We headed out to run there, not thinking anything about it because we’d heard the fire was out, but hadn’t realized a second fire had started. When we got to the trailhead we were met by Park and Rec officials putting up signs that the mesa was closed. We could see people on the mesa though (there are multiple trails that go up the mesa, we were just at the main one), and in an act of subversion left the main trailhead and made our way to the top via another route. (I’d like it noted that the mesa is big and the fire was on the side farthest from where we were so technically we weren’t actually in any real danger . . . )

Out on the town.

That night we dressed up for our second, and much fancier date. We picked up our babysitter and hit the town.

Parisi's

While the kids ate mac n’ cheese, we ate dinner at Parisi’s, one of our favorite restaurants for special occasions. (We’d looked at going somewhere super fancy, but neither of us could get over the sticker shock and Parisi’s always delivers.) In case the pictures don’t speak for themselves, dinner was amazing.

Bathroom Selfie
A full length look at the dress.

After dinner, we headed downtown to the Denver Center for Performing Arts.  The play was a lot of fun – lots of ballet and singing –  and Noel even got into it after he overcame his acrophobia. (We had seats on the front row of the balcony and it was freaking him out a little. ♥) We headed back home and after taking the babysitter to hers, pulled some salted caramel cheesecake out of the freezer. (I seriously need to share the recipe on the food blog so you too can have this magic in your life.) We stayed up till midnight, which if you know me is late, and I didn’t even complain! It was a different kind of celebration than we’d thought we would have for our 10th anniversary, but it was still a blast. We’re planning on having many more anniversaries anyway so we have time for those other crazy adventures.

Dirty Thirty 2.0

Dirty Thirty 2.0

When Noel turned 30, we ran the Dirty 30 race at Golden Gate Canyon State Park. (Just to be clear, we did the 12 mile, not the 50K.) Logically, when I turned 30 we had to do it again. Because my brother-in-law, Joe, also recently turned 30, he and my sister, Hope, also joined us. And because we had three kids that needed watching, my dear mother came out as well to spend some quality time with the grandkids and make the race possible for the four of us.

Just the four of us.
Noel, Audrey, Joe, and Hope

We really wanted to be more prepared for the race this time around. Amazing friends watched our kids so we could go on a handful of Saturday morning “dates” and log some longer trail runs. Honestly, running dates are one of my favorite kind of dates. Still, life got in the way as it sometimes does, but we tried to be the wise, seasoned thirty-somethings that we are and keep our focus on training smarter, not harder.

Starting Line
At the starting line.

On race day, we hugged the kids and left them with grandma. One of the things that helped take the pressure off was that we had no delusions of winning anything. (Especially not the bloodiest finisher award. We really didn’t want to win that, again.) We started off slow and steady with a tortoise and hare attitude. Even though it was hotter, we definitely ran more this time and up until the last two miles I felt stronger overall. At mile 11 I was out of gas, but Noel pulled me through and we kept up a nice clip to the finish line where we beat our last time by five minutes. (Certainly Noel not falling down the mountain helped shave some time off, but I’d like to think we were also just faster.) Hope and Joe had great finishes – literally, their final sprints were impressive – and we were all ready for a great post race party. At least we thought we were. Half of us didn’t really feel like eating and Noel was busy throwing up in various types of foliage. So, we packed up all our swag (the race really delivered on the swag) and caught a bus back to our car.

Hammock Tickles

We enjoyed another day with the Walkers and my mom before they made the long trip back to UT.  It was a quick and crazy weekend, but we all proved that we’re as tough as we’ve ever been. Including my mom, who totally dominated on the grandma front.

 

Personal Best

Personal Best

In high school I could run a sub six minute mile. In college, I ran two Boston qualifying marathons.* I have a box in my basement full of ribbons, medals, and trophies, but as proud as I am of those accomplishments, the miles I’m proudest of these days are much slower. They’re long lasting miles fueled by patience and full of silliness, lack of focus, and creative endeavors at motivation. They’re the miles I do with my children. These miles require calculated self-control to keep my temper in check when Ellen stops to inspect the millionth rock and an endless resilience against discouragement as senior citizens with trekking poles pass us. In some ways, running fast was easier; holding back can be so much harder than giving it all you’ve got. These miles aren’t always as instantly gratifying. There aren’t any finishing medals or prize drawings at the end. But in the midst of the trudge Cooper will announce “I like hiking!” or Ellen will engage in the most ridiculously hilarious conversation about chipmunks and I’ll get a little taste of parenting flow. When we arrive at our destination and realize that our kids are the youngest to get there on their own two feet I can’t help but puff up with pride. These aren’t even close to being my fastest personal records, but they may be some of my most important ones.

*For the record, current me is slightly flabbergasted by and jealous of those PRs.

Training for Life

Training for Life

I read through countless bios of OBGYNs when I found out I was pregnant with Ellen. I wanted to make a choice that would be a good fit the second time around, but wading through academic histories, detailed resumes, and generic healthcare philosophies didn’t bring me any closer to knowing who to choose. In the end, my decision wasn’t based on shared viewpoints or prestigious degrees (although she has those too), but because she “start[s] every day with a thirty minute run along the trails below the nearby mesa.”  When I read that, I thought: There’s a woman cut from the same fabric as my own soul; we’ll be able to figure this thing out. 

team 015
Photo by Cindy McConkie

I’ll take a run anytime I can squeeze it in, but my preference is running with the sunrise. My current profession doesn’t offer a lot of alone time, so I cherish the quiet moments where I’m alone with my thoughts while the rest of the world nurses cups of coffee or lounges in bed. Everything feels fresh and hopeful in the dawn hours. Maybe it’s because, as Glennon Doyle Melton points out, “[The] sun shows up every morning, no matter how bad you’ve been the night before. It shines without judgement, it never withholds . . . The sunrise [is our] daily invitation from God to come back to life.” Days that I miss this ritual I almost always forget to pray.

I’ve been running since before I can remember. My parents are both runners, so when I was young I figured running is just what people do. I was as fast as the boys on the playground, always the one to beat on the timed mile in PE, and ran four years of Cross-Country and Track in spite of my parents being coaches. When Noel agreed to run a midnight 5K with me when we first started dating I knew he had serious potential and now running is a major contributing factor to why my children are still alive. I’m not one of those runners that never misses a day. I cross-train, get caught up in life, and sometimes am downright lazy, but it’s always there for me, waiting when I need it. It takes me as I am: fast, slow, and even jog-walking through pregnancy.

Noel and I halfway through our second marathon.
Noel and I halfway through our second marathon.

Running helps me purge the negative thoughts I have about myself and about others and helps me get one tiny step closer to seeing all of us the way God does. I’m unsure how this works. Whether the negativity oozes out of my pores as I perspire, gets expelled with my breaths, or pounded out through my feet, but I’m just happy it works. As I run I get to sift out my thoughts and emotions. I breathe, I pray, I count my blessings, and I sweat. Running makes me nicer, more patient, more grateful. Sometimes I think of nothing except the fact that I am; the thud of my feet and the labor of my breathing. Certainly running doesn’t solve all my problems, but it keeps me from reaching toxic levels. It strips me down to my barest, strongest self and leaves me to take on the world with the call “I am Woman; hear me roar!” reverberating through my soul.

IMG_1267

I often am asked if I’m training for anything. These days racing is sparse. There’s just not time or money or energy for it, but I’m still training, not for a race, but for life.

Thanksgiving 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Danielle (Noel’s sister) joined us for Thanksgiving this year. The kids were so excited and it wasn’t just because she works for a chocolate factory.

We decided to treat her to a beautiful tour of the Colorado outdoors and took her on a very windy snowshoeing trip. The pictures make it look still, but Ellen seriously got picked up by the wind at one point.

Ellen thought we were torturing her.
Cooper the Trooper
Cooper the Trooper

Thanksgiving morning we went to our church’s Turkey Trot.

Winners!

Noel and I took the coveted first place, i.e. first dibs on donuts.

Cooper and Ellen also set PRs.

November 2014The highlight of course was Thanksgiving dinner. I guess we aren’t very good Americans because we did not participate in any type of event involving a football, but we enjoyed one another’s company nonetheless. All too soon, Danielle boarded a plane and headed back home. Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving at least as much as we did!

Twenty-Something

Twenty-Something

My birthday and Thanksgiving have always been synonymous to some degree and this year they fell on the same day. The last time my birthday was on Thanksgiving, a family fun run went awry when we took a wrong turn. We ran miles further than planned and found ourselves trespassing in a construction zone as we deliriously tried to shortcut to our car. I remember miserably singing “happy birthday to me” under my breath while everyone argued about whose fault it was that we’d missed our turn. (There is a strong contingent that still maintain I was the reason . . . ) It was a memorable birthday and probably the only Thanksgiving where I netted negative calories.

Actual Fun Run

This year, Noel decided it was a good idea to celebrate my birthday on it’s own special day (as birthdays were intended ;). I told him all I wanted was to go on a trail run to the rock that overlooks Golden and eat lunch without any kids touching me. A good friend kindly watched our kids so we could do just that and it was marvelous.

We had Chinese takeout for dinner (one of my guilty pleasures) and stayed true to tradition by having birthday cheesecake instead of regular cake. We made a variation of this chocolate peanut butter cheesecake and it was absolutely delicious. After the kids were tucked into bed we watched Much Ado About Nothing on a projector Noel borrowed from work and went to bed at a delightfully reasonable hour. Clearly I’m still a twenty-something that knows how to party . . . or at least I can claim to be for one more year.

Dirty Thirty

Dirty Thirty

When Noel turned thirty, I wanted to give him the perfect birthday gift. After much contemplation I logically concluded  the best gift would be registration for the two of us in a local trail race, the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty. At first we toyed with the idea of running the 50K (30 miles), but quickly came to our senses and decided we lacked the time and motivation to train for a race of that magnitude. We did our best to train despite the catastrophe known as the month of April. We took turns running, pulled out the double jogger a few times, and even convinced a few friends to watch the kids so we could sneak in a few trail run dates together. (Yes, most of our friends think we’re crazy, but I think they were glad we didn’t compete for the popular Friday night date slots.)

home-golden-gate-600x400

We’ve done marathons, half-marathons, Ragnars, and even a 5K where we wore Santa outfits and ate cookies at every “aid station,” but this race is by far the craziest that we’ve done. We started to get the feeling this wasn’t going to be your typical crowd when we started getting emails from the director about how we needed to bring our own hydration systems for the race and our own plates and silverware for the post race meal since they wanted to have a paper free event. Now, we’re all in favor of being green, but being responsible for carrying our own cups during a race sounded a little strange even to us. We ordered a fuelbelt for the event, but it of course was delivered while we were running the race (shame on us for not factoring Memorial Day into the shipping timeline I suppose). Instead, we used some large rubber bands to DIY some handheld water bottles which actually worked better than anticipated. We were worried we were going to look like crazy people, but we needn’t have worried about that. When we pulled into the parking lot where we caught the shuttle we started to laugh because the ragtag group of hippies wearing compression socks waiting outside of their Subarus was a dead giveaway that we were in the right place.

Me mid race.
Me mid race.

The race started with a quarter mile on a dirt road where everyone can get into position before heading into a single track hiking trail. Even though this was a race everyone was super polite and no elbows were thrown and no one was tripped. Heavy rains this last month had washed out parts of the trail which only made the technically difficult terrain that much more exciting. The race starts at a mere 7,700 feet above sea level (2,000 feet higher than where we live) so it was of course no big deal when we climbed and descended around 4000 feet. Okay, it was a big deal and we felt like big sissies when we finally gave in and walked, but as far as we could tell no one, not even the winners, ran the entire time. Really, the event was more of a speed hiking competition. The course was beautiful, but also kicked our butts. When we finished we enjoyed a nice soak in the creek before eating our post meal of grilled hamburgers on the plates we’d dutifully brought from home even though we were outraged to find they had a stack of paper plates for the taking. Everyone was really friendly and also in insanely great shape. (Seriously, we were starting to feel a bit self-conscious as 90% of the people looked like they walked off the cover of Runner’s World.) We were feeling pretty wussy as we listened to everyone’s ultra running resumes, but when we mentioned we had kids we found many people were impressed with us. It was a really fun environment with a good spirit of camaraderie. We were really glad we got to meet pink-tank-top, old guy, girl from France, guy-with-the-shoulder-tattoos, and guy-that-didn’t-move-his-arms among others. I guess we were all in such a kumbaya state of mind that names didn’t even matter.

Soaking our feet in the creek.
Soaking our feet in the creek.

Before the race started the director mentioned that they give a prize to the bloodiest participant so if you happened to fall you should stick around for the award ceremony. We had absolutely no intention of winning that prize, but when Noel took a somersaulting tumble down the mountain I may have gotten pretty excited about the possibility of him being a contender for the $100. When it came time for the contest of bloodiest battle wound Noel headed up to the front of the crowd along with a couple of people with bloody knees. The second Noel took his shirt off all the other contenders immediately dropped out and he walked away with a crisp $100 bill. For once, Noel was grateful for his unrivaled clumsiness. We also both won raffle prizes and got complimentary beer glasses, so we think we came out on top of this one.

Noel's award winning injury. This prize was better than if he'd won his age division.
Noel’s award winning injury. This prize was better than if he’d won his age division.

After all the fun was over we decided it was time to end our date (Yes, we considered it to be a date, and an awesome one at that!) and rescue my friend Emilie who had kindly agreed to watch our children. We’re a little sore today, but we’re already thinking about doing the race again someday. Perhaps when I turn thirty. Noel definitely showed thirty that he’s still got it in him.

Us at the top of Windy Peak happy to have our hardest climbs behind us.
Us at the top of Windy Peak happy to have our hardest climbs behind us.
Be Careful What You Wish For

Be Careful What You Wish For

Lately, I’ve been wishing life could slow down. Everything has just felt a little chaotic and it seems we’re constantly rushed as we dash from one place to the other. This weekend I was hoping to get some insight into how to lead a less stressed life as I listened to our church’s semiannual General Conference, but an answer came before the conference even started. Noel and I were out for a 6 mile trail run (made possible by mother-in-law being in town). We’d fought the first three miles going uphill into the wind and were enjoying the easy descent back to our house. I generally consider myself to be quite nimble, so I was cruising down the mountain dodging rocks like a mountain goat. Can you see where this is going? Three-quarters of the way down I rolled my ankle in a heart-stopping-breath-seizing moment. Adrenaline kept me going home and got me through two more miles of walking with some ladies from church, but by the time I sat down to watch conference it was pretty sore and swollen. I’ve literally had to slow down this weekend, so I guess I got what I wished for. I think I’ll lay off the wishes for awhile.

Cankle

PS Thank you so much for all the kind words and support on our last post. We’re so lucky to know so many wonderful people, really.

Mud Run

Mud Run

The memory isn’t as crisp as I would like it, but it was back when jelly shoes were popular the first time.  I was five or six and had a pair that were orange and smelled as much like strawberries as a piece of PVC plastic could. When a downpour visited us one spring or summer afternoon, I slipped them on and stepped out of our apartment. The thick rain had quickly swelled the gutters and dips in the pavement. Awestruck, I hesitated on the porch taking it all in before gingerly dipping a jellied toe into the nearest puddle. The chill water rushed around my partially protected feet. Satisfied, I plunged in, the water erupting around me. I was soaked through in less than a minute, but I giggled instead of shivered as I leapt from puddle to puddle choreographing my water ballet. I’m sure my parents watched me from the window as I splashed my way to utter sogginess. Perhaps they laughed or worried I’d catch a cold or planned what they’d do when I inevitably created a puddle in their entryway, but whatever they thought or worried about was irrelevant to me.

Rain CoupleMaybe it’s because I grew up in a desert, but I’ve always loved rain. The fresh smell, how its sound drowns out ambient noise, the lightning that often accompanies it – I love it all. As the years have passed I’ve shied away from that carefree-puddle-jumping girl I used to be and traded her in for a more sensible version of me who enjoys the pitter-patter of rain on my roof from the inside of my warm house. Spring seems to have finally made it’s way to Colorado and it brought along the rain that both the land and my soul long for. When Noel came home from work yesterday and asked if I wanted to go for a run with him (since my brother is visiting and could watch the kids) I made a list of a million sensible excuses for why this was a bad idea. It would surely be cold, I had to make dinner, it would be such a hassle to clean all of our soggy, muddy clothes, et cetera. Maybe it’s because Noel inadvertently pointed out how boring I’ve become when I recently tried to convince him that yard work is a perfectly wonderful form of leisure or maybe it’s because I’ve been reading The Happiness Project for book club and giving a great deal of thought to what it means to “Be Audrey,” but after only a little thought I relented.

This is how muddy we still were after puddle jumping washed most of it away.
This is how muddy we still were after puddle jumping washed most of it away.

We zipped up our rain jackets and headed out into the rain to a nearby trail.  We made slow progress up the mountain since our footing was incredibly unstable in the slick mud. The rest of the world was taking the sensible route, so we were alone in our hysterical laughter at our comical ascent. Once on top, we enjoyed a short period of normal running before we began our slip-sliding descent where we practically skied down the side of the mesa. We emerged from the trail looking like swamp monsters – our hair matted to our faces, our bodies splattered with mud. The last half mile was a paved route back to our house. Squealing with glee, I jumped in every puddle we came across and Noel soon joined me. Back at the house we hosed our shoes off and took quick showers. Dinner was indeed delayed which made the children a little testy, but I felt an invigorating exuberance that made their pre-dinner whining more bearable than usual. There is something respectable about being sensible, but every once in a while a lack of sensibility can make life a lot more enjoyable.

6th Anniversary Trip

6th Anniversary Trip

In the “early days” of our marriage, we always went on a trip for our anniversary. Our Spring Break wedding and our continuing student status aligned our first several anniversaries to fall within close proximity of Spring Break, so a trip was always in order. Once we graduated, there was always a baby to nurse so we had to take a two year hiatus, but now that both those babies are weaned (Don’t worry, Cooper much sooner than Ellen) we are able to bring that glorious tradition back, and it was glorious.

Back in 2010 we went to Monterey, CA. We had a grand time, but since I was seven months pregnant we knew we hadn’t reached our full potential of fun and vowed we would come back. That’s exactly what we did.

We rented a cute house in Pacific Grove as our home base. Then we hiked without wearing children, ran without pushing a jogger, boarded planes without car seats, read books without anyone touching us, ate delicious food without anyone screaming, visited good friends way past bedtime (although we may have messed with their kids bedtime, sorry!), saw a bunch of really cool things without worrying about anyone throwing a tantrum, and slept all night long every. single. night. It was pure bliss. Allow me to invite you into our virtual living room for a viewing of the slideshow of our adventures. Pull up a chair, stay awhile. I swear we took out the most boring ones . . .