Sleep

2012/04/26

I've been waking up at 5:45 this week so that I can run before my girls get up and the day starts. Mostly just to see if I can do it. Next week begins my student teaching and since the luxury of flexible days will be gone I need to find a new way to fit in exercise (not to mention next fall when I'm teaching full time). I am not adjusting well to the earlier wake up even though it's only 45 minutes early and I'm still getting enough total sleep. I'm just sleepy all day and a little cranky. Makes me wonder how in the world I survived the early years of motherhood when I was waking up at night to nurse as well as waking up at 5:30 to work before my girls got up. Anyone who says those early years of parenthood aren't the hardest is delusional. I'll deal with all the weepy hormone induced tirades life can throw at me if I can just get a solid night's sleep.

Play

2012/04/25

My dear friend is recovering from surgery, intensely couch bound, so I spent the day at her house entertaining this adorable two year old and her baby brother. It was rather delightful although I did leave with renewed gratitude that potty training is far behind me.

Books

2012/04/24

I generally give Tessa free reign in the library, but you can see why her migration from the "J" section to the "Y" section gives me pause. Ack!

Freedom


FreedomFreedom by Jonathan Franzen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Franzen is a master of dysfunctional relationships. I love his writing style and the book was completely engaging for me, but some parts are just incredibly disturbing from a human relationship standpoint. I love that the characters are complex, but the dysfunction was just a tad too graphic and it left me feeling heavy.

What I learned:
I am perhaps higher functioning and happier than I might feel on a bad day. There are some pretty spectacular ways to mess up your life. Reading this book made me grateful for strong bearings and core values.

What I loved:
His descriptions are superb and the way he told the story was very interesting. Some parts were in the form of a a third person auto-biography and some parts were third person omniscient. I am always a big fan of devices that give me different points of view. I like getting to know characters well even when it's not all wine and roses. I also liked how the title's central theme was revisited time and time again; I liked to watch the meaning morph. There was also an interesting theme of forgiveness in relationships and he explored the boundaries there that I thought was interesting.

A favorite passage:
There were many great moments in this book from a language standpoint, but there was also too much dark subject and bad language to make it particularly quote worthy.

View all my reviews

And...

2012/04/23

It's super fun to mail postcards from Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to be delivered by mule to the outside world. This year I planned poorly only had enough cash to mail one which went to my girls. But I bought this lovely one too and it's now on my desk smiling at me, reminding me... If I had the cash I would have mailed it to you...

More pics

And more pictures from the rim that I neglected to include yesterday. Some from the evening before our hike and some (the beautiful ones) taken by the wonderful Jackie on Saturday while the five of us were hoofing it down in the canyon.




Grand Canyon 2012

2012/04/22

Does twice make me an addict yet? Because I'm ready to go back again already. There is something so magical about the Grand Canyon. This year's hike was markedly different from last year. Better in some ways, more challenging in others. First of all, I am just immensely glad I got to hike the canyon this year. There were a lot of roadblocks to this year's trip but it all came together and I am so grateful for the opportunity. Grateful for friends that rally to commit and support. Grateful for a body that is whole and healthy to be able to complete the hike. Grateful for a world so immensely full of God's spectacular beauty. I am sad that my sister and other friends weren't able to make it this year, but I guarantee there will be a next time.

We had wanted to hike from the North rim to the South this year but our trip was tied to April and the North rim wasn't open yet. Considering the weather we ended up with I'm glad we didn't try to press it. Around 10 days out when I started to watch the weather in earnest we were planning on 70s on the South rim which  means temps in the 90s at the bottom. A warm day for sure and not entirely enticing but doable. Well, that plan got chucked as soon as a surprise spring snow storm entered into the forecast. We drove up Friday night knowing that snow was likely and not entirely sure what that would mean for the trail. We bought crampons that night just to be on the safe side but went to bed with the ground clear, hoping they would just be for "insurance". Not so. We woke up to biting cold, wind, and lots and 2-4 inches of snow. The desert rats in the group were a little panicked but I was too excited about it to be worried - snow I can handle. We arrived at the South Kaibab trail head around 6:30 am. It was cold, but at around 28 degrees it really wasn't any worse than last year. Other than the wind. Stupid, stupid wind. A few of us had our Camelbaks freeze up, and there were some cold toes and fingers, but otherwise we all felt fine. Our biggest concern of course was staying dry knowing it would be a long cold day and keeping upright on the trail. The crampons worked great when they would stay put but it seemed that everyone's shoes other than mine weren't shaped to work well with them and they kept slipping off. (Side note here on the naming of these particular items. Surely, surely a woman is not responsible for it. We had more than one slip of the tongue and subsequent chuckle about it.) The first couple of hours were slooooow going. The first half an hour was novel and exciting, but the next few hours were a little demoralizing. We were quiet on the trail, just watching our feet and working for some forward progress. If we didn't have to keep stopping to adjust the stupid crampons it really wouldn't have been that bad. The trail last year with ice was actually more treacherous. The snow was gorgeous and it was really cool to see the canyon in such a different state, but I did feel bad for the two newbies in the group since the visibility was absolutely zero until we got below the cloud line. Seems a shame to come all the way to hike the canyon and not actually see it.

After we dropped enough for the snow to turn to drizzle the trail cleared up and the sun even peeked out off and on throughout the rest of the day. The rain was never a downpour, just came and went and we were all dressed well enough to keep dry and comfortable. We enjoyed the rest of the way down and the group spirit picked up now that we didn't have to focus so much on our feet. We meandered through Phantom Ranch and rested up a bit before heading back up. I was really worried about the way out. Last year the last few miles were sloppy with ice and mud to the point of danger and I was expecting more of the same from the reports we were getting from folks headed down Bright Angel. We had lost so much time with our slow decent and we were determined to not be chasing the dark like we did last year. So there was a little trepidation to get up and out but none of it was as bad as I was thinking. The snow started up again as we got closer to the top but the trail conditions weren't awful. Muddy and sloppy yes, but not as bad as last year and we had enough daylight to make it just fine. We took just over 12 hours compared with last year's 11, which all ends up fine by me. I am not worried about hurrying out of one of my favorite places on the planet.

I hadn't spent time on the stair machine to prep for this year's hike like I did last year, but I still have a strong yoga practice and am still running slowly but consistently. I was a little worried about not prepping further but my body felt even better this year than last. My calves were tired by the time we hit bottom, but not screaming at all. The way up was slow enough that it was comfortable going. No blisters to report and I was walking normally by late Tuesday. I was incredibly thirsty from the climate change and drank a ridiculous amount of water, perhaps that contributed to my happy muscles. I drank at least 24 oz before we even started and drained my 80 oz Camelbak both on the way down and the way up. The most physically taxing part of the day for me was the long drive back to Phoenix though yet more Northern Arizona snow. I was immensely tired and drained but couldn't sleep with the bad road conditions looming in front of us. We didn't get to bed until 1:30 and that made for a pretty long day. My recovery day Sunday was relaxing and would have been pretty awesome if it wasn't for a killer headache that woke me up way too early and spent all freaking day with me. Monday I was back at work and almost walking normally, just had to keep from sitting too long or my calves would cramp up. All a small price to pay.

Our group this year was wonderful. Audra and Pam were there from last year, such amazing women they are. Audra's sister Chrissy came in from St. Louis to hike with us and also our old friend Shannon who now lives in Tucson. And of course Jackie who didn't hike but volunteered to be our designated driver. It was great to spend time with each and every one of them. I threw out the word "epic" at the beginning of our trip and it ended up being the perfect descriptor for an amazing day.

I'm trying out Google web albums for my photos this year, you can find them here but below are some highlights.

Starting out with big smiles for the snow

 Shannon excited about the "big view" at Ooh Ahh point

The sun came out and we were a little euphoric

Chrissy doing her best Vanna with the river

Audra and Chrissy on the first bridge. Reaching that landmark is always a happy moment.

I was in a very silly mood all day and took far, far too many goofy posed pictures. Audra catching a candid of me over her shoulder ended up being much more flattering.

I love the exclusive feel of being at the bottom of the canyon and the camaraderie with fellow hikers. Here's Pam adding to a cairn, makes me feel at one with the other's who travel this way.

Almost to Indian Gardens. Note to self: buy a more flattering sports bra.

Enjoying a short break and the view 

Audra at the keyhole. Another landmark that is good for morale as it signals we are getting close.

And here we are at the top. A very, very satisfying moment.

Can't wait to go again!

Awesome

2012/04/20

Tessa's friend is into giraffes and Phantom of the Opera. So what does my sweet girl do for her birthday? She buys a giraffe and sews it a cape and mask of her own creation. 100% her idea and execution. She is amazing.

Me

I am still overwhelmed at the prospect of using my scarce mental resources to cull through my Grand Canyon photos and craft a blog post. It has been a hectic week to say the least and I am drained. This moment as I sit here seems to be my first discretionary half an hour on record. Anyway, this was the very last photo taken (out of 925 total among the six of us) last Saturday and I think my goofy expression sums up a lot. Enjoying the ride. Tired. A little slap happy. Did I say tired?

Seriously

2012/04/19

Sylvie's comments on her spelling sheet cracks me up. Her vocabulary list consists of the days of the week and months of the year. She crossed out the "parent's" in the parent's comments box and changed it to "student's". Then she wrote "That's too easy seriously. You can see it on the calendar. " Fine observation my girl.

Yesterday

2012/04/15

Here I am at the beginning...

The end...

And somewhere in the middle of my day.

More pics and too many words will follow later in the week when I'm back home in Austin.

Epic

2012/04/13

Tomorrow is a great day for something epic. The stars are shining for us...

Girly

2012/04/12

We went to the school book fair this afternoon and the second we stepped foot back at home Sylvie was ferociously recording in her new, much adored "girl diary". Complete with lock and key. That's a right of passage for sure.

Grandparents

I was reading someone's post about fishing with their kids a few weeks back and it brought back the most vivid memories of my maternal grandparents. I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up. We lived very close to them most of my childhood and our family spent almost every Sunday at their house. Not to mention all holidays and birthdays that were always with them and my mom's sister and her family. But some of the best times were the fishing and boating trips my grandparents took me on. Lots of hours at Pineview Resevoir or Willard Bay plus a trip or two to Strawberry. My grandpa was also big on water-skiing and I'm sure he must have been frustrated with my reluctance and awkward inability to ever be successful on that front. But still wonderful memories. I loved that boat and the smell of gasoline in my grandpa's garage and on his hands from always tinkering. I loved taking long drives with my grandpa to find worms for fishing. I loved snow mobiling in the winter with my grandpa. I loved watching him tool leather and how he patiently let me try it out. I loved my grandparent's late 70's baby blue Thunderbird, sitting up in the back window on long trips or sitting with my grandma while she pointed out the cows as we drove through the country side. I loved my grandma's pink kitchen. I loved her cookies and how she always had dessert for us at every meal. I love her canned green beans. I loved working on word searches and watching Wheel of Fortune with her in the evenings. I loved smelling her cinnamon toothpaste in the bathroom. I loved how my grandpa made kool-aid with twice as much sugar as it called for. I loved playing with my grandpa's old cameras and carefully touching his model cars and space shuttle. I loved messing around with my grandpa's strange exercise equipment - resistance bands hooked over doorknobs, a twist board, and some strange contraption that was kind of like an inversion table only it folded in the middle. I loved playing with my grandma's big tin of buttons. I loved leafing through their World Books, especially the sections on dogs and costumes of the world. I loved how they let me stay up late on the hida-bed and watch Johnny Carson. I loved picking raspberries in their back yard. I loved playing golf in the back yard with my grandpa except for one awkward incident when I was on the cusp of puberty and he made an analogy between the golf balls and my newly forming breasts. Good job Grandpa. Mostly I just loved being around them all the time. I'm sure they were far from perfect but they were important to me and I loved them dearly. They both passed away when I was a young adult and from time to time I still miss them a lot.

My cute babyness with my grandma circa 1977


Laughing with my grandparents circa 1983



At my grandparent's house. They pulled out this small folding chair whenever I came over and I'm pretty sure it is one of my favorite objects on the planet. Wish I still had it.


Grandma and my brother Ben playing trains in her kitchen circa 1985. You can just make out the pale pink cabinet paint.


My grandpa and Ben in the boat circa 1987.


On the back patio where we would clean the fish. We'll pretend I caught them all. And while we're at it, let's pretend that I made better fashion choices in the 80s.

Yay Music!

2012/04/11

I've recently compiled a list of all the live shows I've seen. Classical performances and musicals have been omitted, and there may be some I've missed, but it's a pretty good list if I do say so myself. And now it has a permanent home on my blog here.

I've also created a playlist of some of my favorite songs from the last few years. Spotify has a new widget to incorporate such awesomeness on a blog, so you can listen here. I might add more play lists as time goes on.

Both are linked on my sidebar also. Yay music!

Perfect

2012/04/10

I'm going to jinx our gorgeous weather by proclaiming how perfect 80 is for an evening walk with my girls and doggies. And I love that they still haven't outgrown a stop to our neighborhood playground in the greenbelt. Lovely time.

Easter Dress



Sylvie flat out refused to take any pictures in her Easter dress Sunday morning. It's a shame too because both my girls were looking beautiful in their finery. But here is my lovely Tessa who was most accommodating to my shutter bug tendencies. Every once in a while I glimpse her moving through the house and I'm shocked at what a tall and elegant girl she's becoming.

Where did this three year old go?

Easter Fun

Some Easter fun on Saturday. We colored eggs, had an egg hunt in the back yard, and decorated some super delicious sugar cookies.


Sewing

2012/04/07

We did Easter basket this afternoon and in them I had bought sewing kits for the girls to make loveys. Now the girls and I are working through the steps and it's a lot of fun. I'm hoping the fun this afternoon will also involve a nap at some point.

Crime and Punishment


Crime and PunishmentCrime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a difficult book for me to get through. I think it's a perfect case of appreciating a book without actually enjoying it. All of the things that make it a classic are difficult to appreciate from a 21st century mind point. But also I am rusty on my ability to find interest in classic literature and that's why I'm doing my best to get back into them. There was a crime. There was punishment. There was an endless litany of extremely messed up characters. The protagonist was infinitely unlikable. But all the characters were multifaceted and that was interesting to watch unfold. It was just hard for me to unravel all the names and characters and connections through the language.

View all my reviews

Yay internets!

2012/04/06

The internet is a splendid and complicated thing. It is hilarious to me that I get traffic to this little blog from all over the globe mostly by an accident of google. The internet sends people my way often from searching "eco-columns" since I did a post by that name showing a picture of Tessa's school project. Not very informative and I apologize to those seeking a DIY step by step. Then of course there is the weird hula hoop story from a few years back. I also get a lot of international traffic on the term "tomatoes are the devil's fruit" since I once posted about my food preferences and absolute abhorrence of tomatoes. I honestly thought I had made up that phrase but apparently the tomato has a history of skeptics such as myself. I am okay with attaching moral significance to my dislike of tomatoes. They deserve it.

Inequality

2012/04/03

One last doggie tidbit. Here is one of my favorite daily scenes: Cinnamon likes to be outside, Cricket does not. So often Cinnamon is playing outside in the evenings and will sit patiently at the back door for someone to let her in when she's ready. (Unlike Cricket who will begin incessant whining from the back step 1.3 seconds after he has done his business and wants to be let back in.). On the nights Cinnamon has been outside all evening she'll be waiting there at bedtime when I put Cricket out for his last business trip of the day. Cinnamon loves Cricket, Cricket tolerates Cinnamon. So the second he steps outside Cinnamon is delirious with joy to have someone to play with. She gets overexcited and pounces all over him, dancing from one side to the next to get him interested in the action. And he growls angrily and walks away. And I laugh. Each and every time. Grumpy old man.

Cricket

This is my dog Cricket. Not looking his best because I bathed him yesterday and have yet to brush him out. He is not my favorite. I feel bad about that most days but he has way too many neurosis to be a good dog. That said, he is the prettiest dog ever and probably loves me more than any other sentient being on the planet so that counts for something. 

And

I removed the link on my sidebar to my blog where I journal about my girls. It's still up and running, I'm just realizing that they are getting to an age where information is a little more sensitive and shouldn't be on display for the whole world. It was really only ever meant for me and it gets almost no traffic, but if any of you happen to be a mega fan and lost the link, send me a note and I'll email it to you. But only if you promise not to tell Tessa :-)

Cinnamon

2012/04/02

This is my dog Cinnamon. She is far from a perfect dog. She is skittish beyond reason and she pulls on her leash when she's excited. Which is a lot. She kills birds on occasion and eats unsavory things in the back yard. But she is crazy sweet and she makes me laugh. I laugh when she'll stop running to roll over and submit to a yorkie. I laugh when she runs too fast in the house and skids into a wall. And I laugh all the time at her puppy dreams. Puppy dreams are on my list of pure joys in this life. 

Slaughter Creek Trail

Tessa and I took a little walk/hike late yesterday afternoon. I'm never sure here in the land with no mountains where walks end and hikes begin. Considering it was 5 miles and I wore a Camelbak we'll call it a hike. This spring has been so beautiful I've been determined to soak up every last minute of it. A good chunk of the trail is in full sun so it was pretty warm considering the temps were in the low 80s, but still so green and full of wildflowers that it was a treat. Lots of good quality time with my girl which we both needed. I took the opportunity to plan out her whole life (and Sylvie's too) and she seemed to think my brand of crazy was entertaining for at least one day.


Letting it go

School is going well for me. I was super un-impressed with the online course I took to get me up to snuff with my Math, but now we've started meeting face to face to learn more about the actual business of teaching. My estimation of the program is picking up and I'm feeling energized about the process. I had forgotten how much fun school is with regards to meeting new people and the camaraderie involved. We'll be seeing each other around a dozen hours a week so will be getting to know each other very well. There are almost 40 of us in the secondary education cohort and 4 of us in 8-12 grade Math.

I've had a lot of questions about how I'm getting it all done. I am super busy but it hasn't been completely hectic. And of course I've had to let some things go. List time!

  • Reading magazines. This makes me sad but there are only so many hours in the day. I hate not knowing anything about current events. I still skim the news headlines, but that's about it. 
  • Crochet. Makes me sad too, but it's not like it's super vital. Or going anywhere for that matter. I can have useless old lady hobbies another year.
  • Grocery shopping. Not like this was ever high on my priority list to begin with, but I can't think of the last time I sat down and planned out a week of meals and then shopped accordingly. We are working on emergency need milk status only and eating a lot of pathetic dinners.
  • Cleaning the house. Again, not as if this was ever a major preoccupation for me but things are a little grimier than I'm accustom too.
  • Budgeting and bills. Thank goodness for auto-pay or we might not have utilities any more.
  • Mostly it's just the little niceties that are gone. I am running at a much higher percentage of efficiency which is fine until something goes wrong. This morning Sylvie could not find her assignment folder and her ensuing panic crippled the morning. It took me an hour and a half to convince her to go to school and the rest of the day will see the ripple effect of this time lost. This has happened with her before and I'm sure it will happen again. I am getting better at dealing with her anxiety flare ups, but it definitely tests me. I am glad to be there for her when she needs me, and I hate the fact that my ever present time crunch informs the way I deal with her. 
When it really comes down to it, I rarely am able to sacrifice my down time. I still read, I still watch TV, I still exercise, and I definitely still get a full night's sleep. I need these things and just simply can't run non stop from morning until night. Stress eats at me too quickly if I do. So the things that fall away are the medium priority items. It's working for now.

Pie

2012/04/01

I made my favorite Applescotch pie for lunch with friends between General Conference sessions. Love General Conference. Gives me great joy. 

Birds

Sitting in the front yard with my baby, listening to birds and reading my scriptures. It's so beautiful right now I knew I wanted to get out in it this morning, but I'm dealing shin splints right now so I opted for a bike ride instead of a neighborhood  run. It was splendid. Yay spring.