Race Day And The Aftermath

Race day has come and gone.  This past Saturday four of the six of us suited up for the Monster Dash.  One, running the 5K, the other three a half marathon.  There were no costumes, only cold weather running gear and a heap of emotions.  I had been a bit under the weather, well let's call it as it was, I'd been suffering an upper respiratory/sinus funk for days leading up to the race.  Husband Jared was not feeling 100%, but those girl Things, 1 and 2, they were ready to run.  And that my friends was enough to roll me out of bed and lace up my trainers for the last race of the season. 
I had originally planned on achieving a PR with this race.  The course is mostly, emphasis on the mostly, downhill and quite beautiful.  Lined with old, historic homes, views of the mighty Mississippi and hysterically creative costumed runners and supporters.  Although when the morning came, too early as it often does, my mindset was recalibrated and just finishing the race seemed like a lofty enough goal. 
We had Thing 1's best friend with us for the run, and as we drove to the starting line we sang, acted silly, missed stop signs, don't tell, and even took the wrong exit.  Oops.  I think Husband Jared might have been distracted by the three teenage girls in the vehicle with us.  That is not our typical pre-race procedure.  Regardless, we wound our way up the parking structure, zipped up our jackets, pinned our race numbers and walked enthusiastically to the starting line.  The 5K runners departed and went their own way and with kisses and good lucks we told them we'd meet them at the finish line.  Us half marathoners found the good ol' porta potty.  Oh who am I kidding?  They are rank,  but they are the only option, so when in Rome.  I was feeling the butterflies for Thing 2, this being her first race and all and she was the coolest bean in the corral.  All business.  Head phones on, hand warmers in the gloves and ready to go.  Her goal, finish.  We knew none of us would be running the same pace so she had her phone in case of emergency and that gave this Mama some comfort.  Then the National Anthem and the start gun, two minutes later we were off.  Husband Jared hung with us for about a minute and then he waved goodbye and darted off.  Yep, he's faster! 
Waiting to start
I was off to a great pace, better than expected, until mile 3.  The mental games kicked in, there were no toilets to be found and then at the water station I almost ran into someone.  He ran across the street and right in front of me, coming to a full stop and causing me to dart around him, close enough to hold hands with the running pair next to me and have to apologize as I ran past.  Maybe he was a newbie, I don't know, but that can certainly mess with you.    Moving on and running on.  No need to dwell on it.  I kept going, one foot in front of the other.  My breathing labored and light headed I willed myself to continue.  I had never before experienced this.  It took every ounce of energy to go forward.  I had music, I was anxious to see Thing 2 cross the finish line and I had Husband Jared to try and catch.  What great motivation! 
And it was, until mile 6.5 or so.  I was running close to the curb in the event I had to spit or blow snot out of my nose, pardon the graphics, and I came up on another runner who I needed to get around.  I ran up on the curb, passed and as I was coming down something did not go the way it should have.  Not sure of what was happening, I kept running.  Until I couldn't.  Then I knew.  I knew what I didn't want to know and I stopped.  Walked up to a tree, caught my breath and stretched.  Tried to run again.  No.  My knee was screaming and all the muscles in that leg were angry.  I limped along the side.  Tears streaming down my salty cheeks.  Unsure of what I should do next. I had no phone on me and there was no first aid tent in sight so I kept walking.  Struggling.  Wanting so badly just to start running again but my body told me otherwise.  Thing 2 eventually passed me.  She had a great pace and was on her way. That helped seeing her, spurred me on a bit.  I made it to mile 10, where the first aid station was and I collapsed into a chair.  The emotions had taken over and I couldn't even get the words out.  Ice, was all I could say.  Then shuttle?  How was I supposed to get to the finish line where my family was?  The kind volunteers wrapped my knee up and helped me to the bus that would cart me and all the other 10 mile finishers to the half finishing line and the after party.  It was there that I borrowed a random stranger's phone to inform Husband Jared of the mishap.  Once I heard his voice I lost it, he was so worried and I could tell he had been on the lookout for me.  Within minutes I fell into his arms, all the disappointment flowing out of me. 
On the bright side, my girls finished and ran well.  They were all waiting for me with hugs and condolences and their medals, which were hanging proudly around their necks.  What a sight they were! 
Husband Jared and Thing 2, sporting their medals!

Thing 1 and Madi, her BFF at the finish line
And then there was me, sad face and all.  Allowing Husband Jared to carry me to the car. 
  Me, I'm not such a great patient.  It is not a space I like to play in.  Husband Jared knew it was serious when I allowed him to carry me to the car, Thing 1 took a turn too, I even rode on her back.  The eldest child carrying her Mama.  That doesn't happen very often.  In that moment I was so grateful.  Grateful that I found my people, that they knew my pride had been bruised yet their only concern was for me; How I was doing, if I needed help.  I suppose I've gotten over it.  Although I am still contemplating burning the "finisher's" sweatshirt.  Running for that swag was a key element in my motivation and then to not have a medal or even be able to wear the gear, utter nonsense.  Maybe I will keep it hanging in my closet to serve as a reminder, or motivation for the next race.  There will be another race.  Just as soon as this knee of mine and I have some PT and rest.  Fingers crossed, it might even be before the Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving.  Which I do believe all six Hansons will be participating in.  The girls enjoyed the race environment so much that they've agreed to join us for yet another go.  Here's to hoping that we're all at the starting line together come Thanksgiving. 
Thing 1 and Thing 2, still all smiles, proud of their medals!

The Table

I read a book this past summer that rocked my world rather unexpectedly.  From the onset the topic was clearly one near and dear to my heart, food.  So I watched a few videos, checked out the author's blog and literally sat crying in front of this very computer screen.  Then the book arrived and I read it in one day.  This author laid out her soul so beautifully.  I have never once understood the table and it's depth of sacredness like I did after reading this book.  I knew why it was that I craved people gathered, doors flung wide open and bread being broken.  That my friends is a holy language. 
And here I sit, having read the pages and even hosted a book club, which you can read about here.  Life altering if not game changing at the very least in the kitchen.  Let's begin there.  With the recipes.  They are simple.  The ingredients overlap and they are so tasty.  Filled with flavor and delicious through and through.  I have made several of the recipes in the book, some are regulars around our table already.  Others were experienced with the book club, over wine and laughter and the learning that comes with new friends.  And now the recipes have my stories and the pages of my book are splattered and stained and dog eared.  Sacredness.  You may be scratching your head and thinking, food, really?  How can that be defined as such.  Well it can.  It should.  It is.

Ever since having a family and particularly since the Things have been old enough to sit still through an entire the meal the table has been a gathering place for us.  All six to come together.  Take a deep breath and share.  Share the food prepared or picked up or defrosted. Talk about our highs and lows for the day.  Before you go thinking it's all happy and roses over here, don't.  There have been nights where little ones have sat, arms crossed not wanting to touch what was in front of them.  Or tears have been shed and voices raised loud.   Where heads hung low because of the shackles brought to the seats.  There have been silent nights.  No words leaving our lips.  Sometimes because of sadness.  Other nights because of anger.  Some just because there is nothing left to give.  I believe that is what makes the table such a sacred place.  We come, bearing all that the day gave us, and we lay it down.  Amongst the people we love.  The ones who love us, regardless.  Agape. 

Shauna Niequist, the author of "Bread and Wine", the very book I have been referring to throughout this post, speaks of being "fed and nourished on every level"  around the table.  That is exactly what I have experienced.  Her words say it so much more eloquently than mine, "The table is the life raft, the center point, the home base of who we are together".  And for us, this family of mine, it seems that way.  So the conversations, the meal, the laughing, the music, the candles, the messy beautiful is all shared at the table.  It isn't the food that takes center stage, although I'd be lying to you if I didn't say that it matters to me, but the heartbeat of this home can be felt around the table.  The times where we sit and the Things are begging to leave, there's homework, or chores, or friends, or this or that, and we force them to sit just a few minutes more.  Then those few minutes have turned into a half hour and none of us are the wiser.  Granted, there may be dancing or singing, sometimes full fledged performances complete with self created characters, that is the dinner hour at our house.  During the weeks where Husband Jared and I are more like taxi drivers and the Things are in constant disarray I know that when we sit around the table there is an audible exhale from everyone.  That is our life raft. We all know it.  Now I am understanding why.

Jesus broke bread with people.  With tax collectors and with His disciples.  He called it communion.  And we "experience it, or at least we could, every time the bread and wine are present-essentially, every time we are fed", says Niequist.  Herein lies my revelation.  The "why" of sacredness felt at the table.  Where Jesus asked us to remember Him.  A place where barriers are crossed and the everyday can be transformed into extraordinary.  All beause we are being fed.  Sharing sustenance, and in this case for both body and soul.  Such a beautiful picture.  This concept alone brings my desire for our table to be a holy space to a higher level.  When the very act of communion has been built into our soul there is no wonder we crave that intimacy in our lives.  Sitting around the table with my people could be nothing less than that.  A sacrament lived out, and as Niequist writes, "The idea of  a Savior, of a sacrifice, of body and blood so many centuries ago, fills our senses and invades our present when our fingers break bread and our mouths fill with wine."  Thus the table has the potential to become a place of remembering, inviting Him in and celebrating.  A sacred place.  Holy in it's purpose, in it's existence. 

After all this, the reading, the pouring over scripture, attempting new recipes and learning how to navigate through the in between, I am so grateful.  Cup overflowing kind of grateful.  This book spoke to my heart.  Seeped in and changed the perspective.  The table truly is the heart of our home.  It is the "intimacy in it, in the meeting of needs and the filling of one's stomach, that is, necessarily tied to the heart", so claims Niequist.  And I so believe that to be true.  For my family and hopefully for all those that join us around the table as well.  Perhaps the perfect and maybe only way to end this is to quote directly from the author herself, again, because her words typed on the pages are what spurred this inside of me.  These are some of the last sentences, towards the conclusion of the book, wrapping it up pretty, "The table is the place where the doing stops, the masks are removed, and we allow ourselves to be nourished, like children.  We allow someone else to meet our need.  In a world that prides people on not having needs, on going longer and faster, on going without, on powering through, the table is a place of safety and rest and humanity, where we are allowed to be as fragile as we feel."

Thankful Thursday

* the view below from the light house
4073. for day trips with all six
4074. back scratches late at night
4075. flowering mums on our porch
4076. creating
4077. allowing myself to be vulnerable
4078. being comfortable in my own skin
4079. a new trail discovered
4080. flames of a new candle flickering
4081. reading on the sofa together
4082. whispers of prayers in the dark

Duluth in a Day

I was on the edge, getting close and just chomping at the bit for a little exploring with my peeps.  Husband Jared was quite keen on the idea too so we set out early and made our way North.  I mean we are already living North, way North for us but we went even further.  A place we had heard so much about.  The fall colors, the water, the beauty, sold.  Fall is quickly coming to an end here and we are ushering in the bite of winter so the time had come to soak up as much fall goodness as we could.  And that my friends is how we ended up on the North Shore of Lake Superior, mouths gaped and hearts bursting with awe for the God who created all this.
That's just the view from my passenger window as we were driving.
We drove straight through Duluth on the way up and right to Split Rock Light House.  The sun was shining and the light house stood tall on top of a 130 foot cliff.  There we walked the old fog horn room, looked straight over to the jagged rocks below on the shore line and then walked up the stairs to see the only functioning mercury base light house left in the United States.  It was built in 1910 and began working that same year after deadly storms in 1905.  Knowledgeable and humorous historians filled us in on the details, explaining the glazed brick walls, the inner workings and all the fascinating behind the scene information that I love.
Look at that, the curves, the glaze, the variations in hue, ahhh. 
The inner workings

Looking up
As soon as we were told that there was a trail leading to the shore line we knew what was next on our agenda.  Only a walk through the light house keeper's house, the original, detoured us.  Thing 1 and were in our element.  Stopping in every room for pictures, taking in the old faucet, the baker's pantry, shiny, gold radiators, molding lining the ceiling and "antiqued" furniture.  Simple.  A different way of life so revealed through what was on display. 

This was in the "kitchen", a bit different than today's kitchen sink.
Thing 4 was over all this and waiting outside for us, halfway down the trail.  We passed the old incline track that was used to haul supplies up to the lighthouse.  All six of us walked down the steps and then stopped at this overlook. 
Love these four.

There it is, see the hint of gold on the trees, even more majestic in person.

We continued on after our photo opp and climbed over the rocks, hoping none of us would slip in to the icy water.  There were small pools of water that had collected from the night's rainfall and I had visions of a sopping wet Thing shivering from the cold and me watching it all, biting my lip so that those words didn't leave my mouth, "I told you so".  Thankfully that scenario did not play out, I call that a win.  The Things did climb and skip rocks and pretend to be mermaids, well at least one of them did.  I give you one guess?  One took pictures of a stranded dragonfly, the other was relentless with his questions about cliff diving and shipwrecks and still another stood there contemplating all that was before her.  As did her Mama. 
No words.  These are my Things. 
The walk back up the stairs was somewhat of a race.  Everyone was hungry, clouds were closing in that looked a bit threatening and nature was calling, if you know what I mean.  Husband Jared scored a parking place right next to a picnic table and we all sat together eating lunch and laughing.  Shocking, right?  That's just how we roll.  There was a trash can near the table.  One that is "critter" protected.  As in this Mama could not figure out how to open it and all the Things could not stop mocking me.  Once I overcame and joined them at the table we had a chuckle watching all the passersby attempt to conquer the bin as well.  It really is the little things.  Before you think we were being mean, Thing 4 always was the first one up to display his skills with the bin and offer assistance.  We are not cruel people. 
Next on the list was Gooseberry Falls, a short drive down from the lighthouse.  We were planning on a short hike to the falls and some more exploring of the Great Lake Superior.  Only when we arrived in the parking lot the heavens opened.  Not just with mere rain drops, no hail accompanied it and pelted the windshield.  A family vote was taken and with not even a change of socks with us we passed on the hike and drove into the town of Duluth.  Our drive had us winding through the most quaint of neighborhoods.  Historic homes on each side and breathtaking views of the lake peeking through, just what I had hoped for.  By the time we reached the "city" the rain had stopped, thankfully.  Into the port there is an aerial lift bridge and the boys in the family were so hoping to see "big" ships coming in.  As we pulled up to the light to cross the bridge, it turned red and we were first in line.  The excitement was almost uncontainable.  Then we saw the tip of a sail and realized it was not a cargo ship after all, only a sail boat.  Having seen the bridge work up close and personal was no disappointment though.  It is impressive watching the track and witnessing the timing of it all.  And on the other side the sail boat sailed away. 
Up it goes!
Betsy took us across the bridge, after the sail boat passing of course, and we continued our drive exploring.  More houses, looking like an artsy community complete with a Viking ship park and a harbor.  It was there that the boys were able to see the large ships they had been hoping for.  Thankfully.  Although they were in port and not moving it was good enough.  The girl Things were hankering to do some "city" discovering, aka shopping.  So we browsed antique shops and walked around Canal Park, down to another light house and a different view of the bridge.  From the canal we had a grand view of the city, complete with fall foliage and a rainbow of fall colors.  Thing 4 skipped rocks, climbed the boulders, and the girls helped in my hunt for drift wood.  For the record, as were looking and sifting through pebbles I looked up and whispered, "I have become my mother", to which the girls nodded and then we burst out in laughter.  Which I'm sure frightened all those around us.  Nonetheless there was a plentiful supply of drift wood on the shore, some of which came home to be added to my collection. 
Thing 2 gets photo credits for this one, I love the sky and the reflection in the puddles of rain water, basically I love everything about this picture.

From the canal, all those pointy roof tops, the sound of the water lapping against the rocks, leaves falling, just glorious I tell you.
Moments after taking this picture the wind began blowing and our stomachs growling.  I had been given a recommendation for a greasy spoon which we had planned on visiting for dinner.  It was time.  Everyone unbundled and climbed in for the last leg of our day trip.  With confidence and anticipation I entered the address into Lindsey, our GPS, and off we went, waving goodbye to Duluth.  Ahem.  I made a mistake.  The aforementioned diner was closed for the season.  Duh.  Another look at the website and I realized I had completely overlooked the tag line which read, "See you next season".  Oops.  So grateful my family is flexible and willing to go with the flow even when hungry.  Husband Jared found a family owned Mexican restaurant nearby and it was there we dined with plans to visit the diner's ice cream/coffee shop for dessert, that was in fact still open.  The mistake was redeemed.  I have no pictures unfortunately, of the milkshakes or ice cream scoops that the Things and I indulged in.  The coffee wasn't too bad either. 
Another sweet ending to a rather sweet day for these six. 
I leave you with this.  This, because these are my peeps and I do so love them.
Thank you Lake Superior for exceeding our expectations and
filling our hearts with joy!

Thankful Thursday

The marker at the orchard for everyone's favorite apples!
4063. a day at the orchard
4064. falling asleep to the rain
4065. newly discovered trails with Thing 4
4066. unexpected beauty found when I wasn't looking
4067. apple crisp baked by Thing 3
4068. revelations from Thing 1
4069. challenging discussions with Thing 2
4070. pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere 
4071. twinkly lights
4072. Husband Jared, enough said

Apples to Apples

One blustery fall day we ventured out to Emma Krumbee's apple orchard.  In store for us: an amusing afternoon of scarecrow walking, hay jumping, goat feeding and apple picking.  We were accompanied by the Stinson family and with eight children in tow we were quite a sight. 
So here is our day at the orchard in pictures.
Trying to pile all 8 on the tractor for a photo op, clearly we are missing a few.
Thing 2, as a scarecrow

Things 2 and 3, they were making sad faces hoping that Mema would
 catch on to the "kids for sale" sign and rescue them!

Thing 3 and Ms. Hailey feeding the goats

Hailey showing us her adorable pose, and maybe one of my favorite photos from the day.  Can you even stand the cuteness with  her apple hat?  Oh my word. 

Thing 4, trying to ride the trike that was at least two sizes too small for him
Thing 4 and Jack on top of the wooden train

Thing 1 showing us the first apple picked

And this man, he can still make my heart go pitter patter!

Michael and Mama Hanson as the Stinson littles call me,
 I was giving him a piggy back ride into the orchard! 

This poor girl was quite chilly and needed some cuddles with her Daddy, so sweet.

Do I even need to explain this?  Thing 2 I love your laugh!

Our apple bounty, Harrelson and Honeycrisp, perfect for baking!

An added benefit of sharing the joy with another family,
all six of us could be photographed together, thank you Mama Stinson!

This boy, he makes me smile, he was posing for his picture all by himself when he was really supposed to be with his family for their picture!

Thing 4 and Jack comparing apples

The Stinson family, love them!  Yes, I did take a picture with Michael's hands down by his side but this one, this one I couldn't resist.
I'd like to add this one for posterity's sake.  As if!  Carter was totally showing us how to sneak an apple out of the orchard here.  He stuffed it in his hood and was trying to walk without giggling.  The moment was priceless.  I laughed and then quickly realized I shouldn't have been when his mom was trying to tell him that would be stealing and lying and that was like one big double whammy!  Oops. 
Well that wraps up our day at the orchard.  It was wonderful and chilly and apparently everything a fall day should be?!  I mean leaves falling and windy and the smell of pumpkins and smoky bonfires and all that.  It was good.

A List of Five

While this post may err on the lazy side I prefer to look at it from more the creative side.  Ha.  Y'all I just don't know.  There are no less than five posts running through my teeny tiny brain at the moment and at least that many drafts sitting in that folder on my desk.  I  just can't seem to pull the thoughts cohesively together from my notes, the journal and my Bible margins.  Go figure.  I never before thought of myself as scatter brain but today that is exactly how I feel.  So for now and because I do feel the pull to put something on this blank page we have a list of five.  Five what you ask?  Well, that remains to be seen.  Keep reading. 
1. Rocking my world right now is this question, "what is your one thing?".  And while I don't think it is necessary to have that one thing it seems like a valid inquiry.  I mean, from the spiritual side, we are all gifted in some way and all differently, right?  He has created us in His image.  How after years of not understanding that do you suddenly change the game and long to know?  From a practical view point, I am not the bread winner of the family.  Thus allowing some leeway and freedom in this arena.  There is no money pressure.  Although, bonus to be doing what I love and was created for and bringing home some cash because of it!  Score.  Essentially at the heart of all of this nonsensical debating I've been doing with myself lately is the deepest desire to be in God's will.  Right in the middle of that, doing exactly what He has planned for me.  And I guess maybe I am.  Only I really hadn't fore casted the whole pre-school sports coach  gig and I'm not sure I'm in love with that position.  Make sense?  Yeah, I don't know that I've really wrapped my head around it either. 
2. Parenting is hard.  Really?  Yes and yes and then throw in another affirmative YES.  Husband Jared and I were reminiscing recently about the younger days of our Things.  We were bone tired.  I did not fully comprehend the depth of that expression until I became a mother myself.  Those early days were filled with the constant meeting of needs for survival.  Pouring out love and kisses and band aids and cleaning the kitchen 5 times a day because they are always hungry, sitting in the rocking chair as the moon rises and whispering into their ears.  These days of parenting teenagers is a different season, yes, but uniquely draining.  Just as we turn the corner with one, another is right behind with their very own challenge.  When we make the choice and parent the heart and not the behavior we feel weird.  When we choose to stray from the culture and live outside the norm, we feel weird.  Being weird is not easy, but it is where we feel lead to be.  In no way do we do it right each and every time, and for those days we cling to the grace given to us so freely.  Again and again. 
3.  I have been catching glimpses of myself in each of the four Things lately.  In either their expressions or actions.  Maybe in their frustration or excitement.  Often in what they say to one another or to me.  Yesterday it was standing in the dressing room with the three girl Things and each one of them walking out with an article of clothing they were trying.  One look into those eyes and they didn't have to say anything.  I knew.  I had been there.  I remember the exhilaration of thinking, this works, it's good, or absolutely not and moving on to the next and then the next.   Nonetheless it is like looking in a mirror for me.  Sometimes on my best days and others at my worst.  These moments are for teaching me.  Revealing my desperate need for One greater than myself.   How grateful I am.
4. My wanderlust has been getting the better of me these days.  The need to travel, to be exploring and learning about someplace new has the power to consume my time.  Whether it be looking through guide books for far off places or searching the Internet for day trips within our very own state, that excites me.  I can even plan, write and live the excursion out in my head, without even going, it most definitely is not the same.  I love the limitless possibilities of life on holiday.  A new café discovered through a chat with a local, an unexpected nature trail or a hidden historic gem, maybe an old library or an industrial museum, a random garden in the middle of a city, a ride on public transportation, a walk through an abandoned park.  No plans, no itinerary. 
Just pure unadulterated possibility and opportunity. 
5.  For the last of the list I leave with you a quote that I find myself staring at while I sit at my desk.  Thing 2 wrote it beautifully and artistically in captivating colors and it is pinned to my cork board in the hopes of reminding us six.  Here it is, and I pray that it causes you pause as you go about your day.
Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier,
be the living expression of God's kindness:
kindness in your face,
kindness in your eyes,
kindness in your smile.
Mother Theresa

Thankful Thursday


4053. almost fall break for the Things
4054. 3 glorious hours, outside, leaves falling, cupping my coffee between my hands and sharing
4055. God ordained meetings
4056. new energy
4057. parenting the heart
4058. a new phone that comes with an opportunity to learn new technology
4059. watching them serve with joyful hearts
4060. sweet smiles from my dear friends' little ones
4061. bubbling blueberry crisp for breakfast
4062. time spent at the table

A Baptism

Following a few days of mother-daughter togetherness I was fortunate enough to spend some time with my brother and his family.  Sweet Olivia was being baptized and I was chosen as her godmother, a honor.  The ceremony was planned and I did not want to miss it. 
Upon arrival at the Stuck house Gianna was waiting for me.  We had a park date planned.  There was running and laughing and swinging and then crying for Daddy because someone sat on "her" swing.  Then I chased her home and remembered what it was like when the Things were two years old.  And I promptly collapsed on the floor until my Daddy rescued me with the smell of In N Out.  Hallelujah!  Really.  We were in bed shortly after for the big day that would cause our alarms to ring all too early.  Yet another reminder of having littles in the house, early morning wake up calls. 
Though they're fun when you're the Auntie! 

The house, oh I forgot to mention, my brother and Corynn had just purchased their first home and moved in weeks before I was coming and the big event was taking place.  It is stunning and my sister in law/love, definitely has an eye for design.  They have made their four walls into a lovely home for their family.  We made it event ready the next morning and then worked on beautifying ourselves and the little girlies too. Then we were off for a beautiful ceremony and back to the house to celebrate.  Family and friends were rejoicing with us and it truly was a special day.   
Love these girlies
Just look at that smile, precious
Stuck Family
Godparents and Goddaughter
We rarely take a picture with just the two of us,
I love this one snapped in her new kitchen!
I was able to spend some time with my "little" cousin, Kayla too!
The festivities lasted well into the night.  I was going to leave out the fat lip story but I just can't resist.  It's one for the books.  Everyone had moved the celebration to the pool, adults and kiddos alike.  After a while the kiddos, Gianna and her friend Sebastian, had enough so Auntie Le Le took them home.  Actually, I rode them home in the Burley, me riding a bike and the two of them in the trailer behind.  What a workout, but oh so fun to hear their squeals and giggles.  I no sooner got them out of the Burley and we were marching to the front door singing, "Follow the leader", towels wrapped around their bathing suit bodies.  I'm the leader and every so often I turn around to check on them, and then it happened.  A sound I never like to hear.  And I saw red.  Everywhere.  Gianna had tripped over her towel, on the curb and landed face first.  Yes people she did and this Auntie scooped her up, kissed her head and ran with her to the house.  Trying not to panic we applied ice and attempted to assess the damage.  Hard to do with a screaming two year old and a bloody lip.  Thankfully Aunt Callee, who is also a nurse said it was alright.  Whew, still, this Auntie was in a mess of tears.  I was and so I did what any Auntie would do to make their niece feel better and I bought her the biggest chocolate shake, topped with whip cream and a cherry.  That most certainly made everything better!  Quite an ending to the full day we had.
So grateful that the next morning was nice and slow, just the way I like them to be.  We had breakfast, did some running, Gianna and my brother on the bike, lounged by the pool and soaked up each and every minute together.  Oh, and the lip was much better.  Swollen and a tad red still, but better.  Family dinner and dessert at Dripp, another one of my favorites, and then goodbyes, or see you laters, because I was headed home to my Things and Husband Jared.  I so enjoyed my time with the Stuck family, my parents and all the Aunties and Uncles that were there to celebrate with us.  Thank you for a weekend to remember. 
Olivia laughing at me in her swing!
This is what happens after a few hours of swimming and a bike ride with Auntie Le Le,
 I'd say it was a good day.

Eating my homemade O cookie at Dripp, the cookie is bigger than her face!


Well one week later and I am still not quite sure that I am on my A game just yet.  Last week I jetted off for a get away with my Mom.  Something the two of us have never done together.  I flew in to OC and we were off to Laguna.  Two days at the beach.  Just me and her.  Bliss.  Upon arrival  at our hotel the front desk attendant upgraded us to a room with a view.  Although it was dark we did our best to squint and find the ocean waves.  We weren't able to see the ocean but we could hear it.  That would have to wait until morning.  For the moment our stomachs were growling and we hit the pavement to find some sustenance.  With the hour on the clock growing later our choices were limited and we happen to stumble upon a lovely late night café.  We sat outside and toasted the start to our weekend together while eating sweet, buttery chicken, macaroni and cheese and collard greens.  Delish. 
On the walk back to the hotel we passed boutique lined streets, enormous succulents in planters and the late night scene coming to life and the two of us thought of only one thing.  Dessert.  Mom had picked up cupcakes from Casey's Bakery in Riverside, winner on Cupcake Wars a while back.  Her specialty, an espresso cupcake with chocolate espresso curls.  There are no words.  Moist, rich and melt in your mouth scrumptious! 
Espresso Cupcake
Stinkin' cute packaging, the cupcake was hiding in the striped box
So needless to say we devoured both the espresso cupcake and the coconut one.  Why not?  It was the best way to end the night.  And when we woke and opened the French doors to the patio, look what was waiting for us.
The view, good for my soul
We were off for an early morning run on the streets of Laguna.  Up and down hilly sidewalks with the ocean as our guide.  Doesn't get much better than that.  A quick five miles and we met back at the hotel for breakfast.  We sat rooftop and admired the view, sipped our coffee and watched hummingbirds flit all around.  Mom made friends with this creature and fed it her raisin bran. 
When I sent Thing 1 this picture with a message that said, "Look who Nani is talking to this morning", she was not surprised and responded with, "go figure".  Yes, we love Nani, the bird whisperer.  Reluctantly we made it back to the room to shower and prepare to conquer some shopping and lunch at Javier's, the infamous restaurant.  So we prettied ourselves and took to window shopping on the streets of Laguna.  Walking up and down, stopping in intriguing stores and finding treasures like the ones below.
Fiestaware on display
This was stunning.  And see that orange creamer dish on the right?  Yes, yes you do.  That is from the 1930's my friends and it almost came home with me.  That and it's partner, the sugar dish that you can't see.  Sadly enough when I was told the price I just couldn't do it but I will continue to think about the sugar  and creamer dish that wasn't. 
The night before Mom and I had walked past a store front window with the very best display on a lanky mannequin, it was a grey t-shirt with black lettering that said, "SUNDAY FUNDAY".  Yes please.  I obviously could not stop talking about said shirt so Mom was on a mission to find it for me and that she did.  We drove up and down the street and feasted our eyes on such sights as this until we found the shirt once again.  Then the shirt came home with me.  In fact I am wearing it as I type because today is Sunday funday!  Don't you agree? 
Laguna Nursery
All that shopping and browsing vintage purses, clothes and trinkets made our bellies growl and I do believe that Javier's was calling our names.  Off we drove with Mexican food on the brain.  We entered into the best smelling, most wonderful atmosphere of a Mexican restaurant and landed ourselves at a beach front table.  Score.  The view was magnificent and as chips and salsa were delivered we found ourselves whale watching.  Yes, yes we did.  Could it have been any better than that?  Right there at our table we spotted whales in the distance giving us a show, God's creation is truly remarkable.  Not only that but the food at this place, that was a show in and of itself.  We shared the tablita, carne asada and jandori chicken tacos with roasted pablano peppers, bell peppers, guacamole, rice and refried beans.  Gastronomically wonderful!
Oh my! 
Mom and me after lunch, there is this beautiful wine bottle fountain behind us, amazing!
Our day together was not quite over and from lunch we drove to the beach once again.  I needed to feel the sand in my toes one last time and Mom needed some photos taken for her new business cards.  The jetting rocks in Laguna create the most wonderful sound as the waves crash into them.  Not to mention they house tide pools galore.  We did some exploring in the sand, took some photos and drank some coffee.  Side by side.  Laughing and talking and dreaming. 
Yes a selfie, a sweet passerby offered to take our picture
but why have a normal photo when you can have this for all time? 

The waves
I must explain the photo below.  So I was standing on the rocks in the picture above trying to negotiate an angle to capture a photograph of Mom's feet with sand on them for her business cards, you can ask her about that, and as I was leaning over to take the photo my earring fell out.  One of my favorite earrings that my brother and his sweet wife gave me from Anthropologie.  My beyond wonderful Mom was calling to the ocean to bring back said earring.  Yes, she loves me that much!
I did manage a handful of shots that she was hoping for so that was a score too.  Well that and knowing that  my Mom would try to find an earring amidst cloudy, sandy water just for me. 

And that my friends is how my Mom and I spent our days together.  Eating, laughing, talking, sharing, praying, shopping, more eating, creating and just being.  Together.  The very best way to be.