Friday, March 07, 2014

Smart Phone and a Newborn

When Danny and Kaylee were first born, I had a cell phone, but it was minimal.  No texting and certainly no internet surfing capabilities or facebook.  In fact, when Danny was a baby I didn't even have a facebook account.  Abby Jo has arrived and I am embarrassed at how often she must compete with the draw of my smart phone.  I'm nursing her, so I check facebook or pinterest or email on my phone.  She won't notice or care, will she?  She starts getting smiley so I immediately try to Facetime with grandparents so they can see the smiles or I pull out my phone and try to shoot some pictures and capture the smiles.  Her smiles disappear as I wedge a device between her face and mine, confused at where the familiar face went.  At least it used to disappear, but lately she seems to be more accustomed to it and will keep smiling.  And that's what has me worried.

How many moments have I already missed trying to respond to a text instead of watching her sleep in the crook of my arm?  Am I going to remember the pin I pinned on pinterest more than I remember her bright eyes looking up at me?  Her new innocence has opened my eyes to how often I let my phone distract me from what matters most.  Danny is talking again about a video game or TV show that I just don't care that much about.  So I tune out and look up something more interesting on my phone.  Kaylee and I are playing My Little Ponies, but my phone beeps and I'm suddenly involved in a more important text conversation.  Abby Jo is contentedly nuzzled up to me, dozing, so I start catching up on friends in faraway places who I will probably never actually meet again in person.  And another moment, one that matters most, is lost.

The other night after her 2 month check-up and a couple shots, Abby was particularly fussy.  I finally was able to settle her down after a clean diaper.  She was lying on her tummy on her pink changing pad with a bright yellow long sleeved onesie.  I had been considering getting PJs on her, but she quieted down before getting the onesie off and I didn't want to disturb her.  She was peaceful lying on her tummy with my hand gently patting her back.  She found her hand to suck on and dozed off.  I reached for my phone to pass the time, but thought I'd left it in the kitchen.  When I tried to move away, she startled, so I patted and patted and patted.  Soon she was sleeping peacefully.  So again I thought of my phone, but it wasn't where I thought it should be.  I told myself to just be there.  Be present in the moment right then.  I looked at her soft, dark hair, reflecting on how different it was then the fluffy almost white hair Danny and Kaylee had.  Her perfect little hand, now tucked under her chin.  Her gentle, rhythmic breathing calmed me.  I went on my knees by her changing table, tired from bending over her for so long, but kept patting her back.  Soon I tuned in to other sounds in the house.  Matt was tucking in Danny and Kaylee.  I could hear him giving instructions about teeth and toy cleanup.  I heard them pray together.  Kaylee giggled as she climbed up to the top bunk.  I could hear their excitement as Matt began telling them a Minetropolis story, his special bedtime routine, and let them add in the details.  My exhaustion from our long day settled in, but I didn't dare move Abby, who was finally slumbering deeply.  I picked up her changing pad and moved her to the ground, then lay down next to her and continued patting away.  By now she probably would have been fine if I had left her to sleep, but I no longer wanted to leave.  I wanted to be here, just the two of us together, listening to the sounds of storytelling and giggling and bedtime snuggles from the room next door.  As I settled down on the ground, the nursing Boppy as my pillow, I felt something in my pocket.  My phone.  I instinctively started to reach for it, but then set it away out of reach.  This time I decided I would not miss the moment.     

Friday, January 24, 2014

Abigail JoAnne's Arrival

WARNING: There is a lot of detail in here, everything I want to remember, but that means there may be too much info for some to appreciate reading.  You have been warned.  

Both Danny and Kaylee were born on their due dates.  Our third baby was due on Jan.10, and though I was tired of being pregnant, Matt and I were expecting a similar prompt arrival.  This little girl had other plans for us though. 

Sunday night, Dec. 29, Matt was doing some meticulous planning for a special man day for himself.  Run a marathon in the morning, timed perfectly to finish and rush to an IMAX of The Hobbit.  The movie would finish up just in time for him to come home and watch the Longhorns in the Alamo Bowl.  I was totally on board with the plan and was surprised when in our prayer that night, he specifically asked for patience and a good attitude if the day didn't work out as planned. 

The next morning, Monday Dec. 30th, Matt was off to his marathon (a free one around Lake Washington set up by the Seattle Runner's Club) before the sun, or I, were up.  The kids and I slept in and it was at least 9:30 before I was getting to the shower.  That's when I noticed some minor bleeding - just spotting really.  This had not happened at all with my previous pregnancies though, so I was a little nervous and called the doctor's office to see if I should come in.  After conversing with a nurse, I was assured it was probably just the beginning of the beginning as my cervix was thinning, so I shouldn't be too concerned.  Particularly because I had not yet been having regular or painful contractions - just a few inconsistent minor ones throughout the night.  I also called Matt, who was on mile 21, to let him know what was going on.

Shortly after finishing the marathon, Matt gave me a call to see how I was doing.  I was still feeling unsure and had decided I wanted to go to the doctor's office after all, just to get checked out.  I had never had ANY bleeding with ANY pregnancy, and it just frightened me.  Matt came home, took a quick shower, grabbed some food, and then we took Danny and Kaylee to some friend's house in Snoqualmie for a play date that had already been arranged.  Fortunately my friend had no other plans for the day and offered to keep them as long as needed. 

It was now about 12:00.   I was having more contractions by this point, but still very far apart and not very regular or painful.  Once you've been through labor, you know how fast, regular, and painful they become when you are in true active labor.  This was not yet active labor, but I still wanted to have my doctor check things out.

We were shocked at my 2:00 appt. when she said, "Looks like you could have a baby tonight."  I was dilated to about a 3 and 90% effaced.  Bonus- she was on call at the hospital that night so could deliver the baby.  She stripped my membranes a bit when she was checking me to get things going more quickly.  We were told to go walk around, get some food, and then head to the hospital to be rechecked there.  WHAT!?  It is NOT even January, let alone Jan. 10.  This baby is not supposed to be here yet!

Grateful that our kids were in good hands (Thanks Wheelers), Matt and I dropped by home to take the dogs for a short walk before heading to the hospital.  We had dinner at The Cheesecake Factory (I had a cheeseburger & Shirley Temple) while watching the Alamo Bowl.  I still had contractions going on, but nothing to scream about.  I was almost embarrassed to go to the hospital and get checked, but wanted to see how far I had progressed.  There was also two other concerns: 1. My labor with Kaylee progressed SO fast.  The doctor who delivered her told Matt that unless he wanted to deliver our next baby at home by himself, we ought to get to the hospital a little quicker. 2. I am GBS positive so need 4 hours of antibiotics at the hospital prior to the baby being delivered.  We were not there early enough with Kaylee and had to stay at the hospital an extra day to be sure she was OK.

We arrived at the hospital about 6 PM.  Sure enough, they checked me out and I had progressed very little.  Certainly contractions were getting a little stronger and closer together, but if they didn't think I was far enough along to stay, I was more comfortable laboring at home anyway.  We arrived home by 7, and though we'd made other arrangements for the kids (Thanks Billings), we ended up being able to tuck them in at home ourselves.  In case anything should change, we did touch base with our friend Kristin to see if she was able to be on call that night.

Well, the contractions continued, getting regular, stronger, and closer together.  It was finally really feeling like strong labor.  By 9:30 PM I was confident that this baby was on her way, but not yet ready to return to the hospital.  I never really slept, but was glad Matt was able to get a little rest.  He'd been going nonstop since finishing the 26.2 miles that morning and I knew I'd need his support for the rest of this adventure. 

At 1:00 AM I decided it was time to return to the hospital.  We called our dear friend who hurried over to be with the kids (and dogs).  I was disappointed at the hospital to find out I'd only progressed to a 4.  What happened to that fast labor with Kaylee!?!?  Before admitting us, the doctor had Matt and I walk around the birthing center for an hour, to hopefully speed things up.

I had decided prior to this birth that I wanted to have the experience of a drug free delivery.  Mind you, I had to have the antibiotics, but I wanted to do without pitocin or an epidural.  I'm not opposed to pain killers and used them with my first two deliveries, however, I wanted to have the experience of a natural birth.  I wanted to see if I could do it.  After having trained for and run several challenging races since Kaylee's birth, I had some new mental strength and perspective of mind over matter.  I encouraged Matt to coach me through this birth experience much like he would cheer me on at a race.  During contractions I pictured myself running challenging intervals around the track at 5:30 AM, anticipating the end of the pain.  I reminded myself that pain meant gain - it was getting harder, but that also meant this baby was closer to her arrival.

We were officially admitted about 3:00 AM and I was dilated to a 5.  My first nurse was not very nurturing, but she was just what I needed.  All business without being overly intrusive or opinionated.  I used a birthing ball for the first time and Matt and I spent some time walking laps around the birthing center.  I rocked on a chair, sipped water, listened to our "Labor 2013/14" mix, and reminded myself over and over that this baby was all worth it.

I was discouraged when I was still progressing quite slowly.  Especially with the expectation that like Kaylee's labor things would go quickly (We checked in to the hospital at 1AM and she was born at 3 AM with me progressing from a 7-10 in less than 30 minutes).  At 5:30 AM my doctor counseled with me about starting pitocin or breaking my water.  She was scheduled to be off duty at 7 AM, but was going to wait around so she could deliver our baby.  I declined the pitocin, but at 6:30 AM had her break my water.

If this had been like my previous 2 labors, this meant I was almost finished and we would have a baby in less than 30 minutes.  I had a new giddy burst of energy thinking I was almost done.  "Matt, it's the last mile of the race - the finish is in sight,"  I said.  But, this baby girl had her own ideas and we were not to meet her just yet.

The nurse shift changed and the new nurse was much more nurturing, almost too in my face.  I appreciated her nurturing once the baby arrived, but in the intensity of the end of labor I just wanted to say, "SHUT UP!"  During all of this, Matt was a rock.  He held my hand and let me squeeze tightly.  He reminded me of how strong I was.  He played Katy Perry's "Roar" over and over for me, as well as other songs to pump me up from our running mix (by this point I no longer wanted the soothing music of our labor mix).  But my progress had frozen.  I was at a 9 and nothing was changing, so I could not yet push.  It was as though the finish line kept moving further and further away.

In addition to exhaustion, I started feeling guilty that my doctor was missing out on her time at home to see her baby girl.  She was staying to deliver my baby, and my baby wasn't coming!  Granted, this was entirely in my head, but it added to my frustrations.  The doctor emptied my bladder and I tried several different positions - left side, hunched over a bar, on my hands and knees, but baby girl was not in just the right place and that last cm would not happen.  At one point I just started sobbing, so completely discouraged.  So much for having a fast labor.  So much for being strong.  This was a low, low point, hunched over a metal bar on the edge of the hospital bed, just sobbing through painful contractions, over and over, with seemingly no progress being made.  Instead of feeling strong and proud of myself, I just felt like I was such an idiot for not getting an epidural.  And now it was too late and I was just so tired.  Fortunately Matt buoyed me up again and I think I even let the nurturing nurse hold my hand through a few contractions. 

During a short moment of relief during contractions the nurse had me lie in yet another position, on my right side.   That was exactly what baby girl had been waiting for and it seemed like almost immediately, I felt the urge to push.  As my doctor had said earlier, "I don't want you to push when you feel like you want to.  I want you to push when you feel like you can't not push."  And that's how it suddenly felt.  The nurse knew and summoned my doctor again.  Matt knew and held onto me as I began to shake and scream.  The nurses tried to calm me reminding me to breath and use the energy to push the baby out.  I don't know what was going through my mind during those moments - I think just pain.  I was no longer thinking about finish lines or holding my baby - just unbearable pain that needed to end.  And the only way to end it was pushing out the baby.  So I pushed.  And my doctor hurried in.  And I pushed.  And suddenly, there she was.  At 8:53 AM on Dec. 31 this perfect, beautiful, little human being entered our world.   Matt cut the umbilical cord and they hurriedly put her on my chest for skin to skin time.  There were many tears of joy and awe, because even though we've been through this before, it is still just as miraculous to be a part of.  A new little life that Heavenly Father has entrusted us with - to love, to teach, to help grow.  Our family changed forever.  Welcome to the world Abigail JoAnne.


Wednesday, November 06, 2013


I truly can't believe our first baby turned seven last month.  Seven seems so old.  He's crossed over from a little kid to a big kid.  This is such an interesting age.  On the one hand, Danny is showing independence and responsibility, wanting and able to take care of himself and prove his abilities.  I had to laugh recently when the family took a picnic to the nearby park.  Though we'd brought a basketball, we left it in the car while we ate and played soccer.  We were about ready to leave and Danny decided he really wanted to play basketball.  Matt and I said we didn't have time to get back to the car to get the ball, so he should choose something else.  Instead, Danny walked up to the adult stranger who was already playing basketball on the court, and politely asked if he could play with him.  The man was very friendly and let Danny join in for about 10 minutes.  Danny is good at problem solving to get what he wants.  And usually his ideas are pretty darn good.

 On the other hand, sometimes growing up is hard for this guy and he'll just melt into tears about how hard his day was or how it's not fair that Kaylee gets to do fun stuff all day (like run a zillion errands with mom - fun I know).  At the bus stop he just wants a wave goodbye and secret "I Love You" code through the bus window, but at night he still wants an extra back rub or snuggle.    I try to treasure these moments, recognizing that they too will slip away soon. 

Right now Danny loves LEGOs, sports (soccer especially), Minecraft (recently purchased and playing with Dad), reading, history, CHIMA, & Star Wars.  It's been a big year - he's become a fluent reader, bike rider, swimmer, and lost his first 4 teeth.   

For Danny's birthday party this year he wanted a Star Wars theme.  He was a good sport when he got really sick on his birthday and we had to reschedule the party.  This year I didn't take many great pictures, but we had a lot of fun.  When the kids arrived they built their own droids using a variety of cans, screws, nuts, bolts, and hot glue.  They could also build their own light saber using toilet paper rolls and long balloons (the kind you would make into animals).  Next the kids played a few games - Star Wars variations on who has the button (LEGO Clone trooper) and simon says (Clone Commander says) followed by an obstacle course.  The obstacle course had great potential, but for the last obstacle kids were to use a nerf gun and shoot down some cardboard clone troopers and Darth Vader.  I did not test the guns, and some of the darts I loaded didn't fit.  Additionally, some of the kids had never shot a nerf gun, so it was a challenge.  They still had fun.  Then the kids all had to detonate some explosives (pop a balloon) which revealed a number.  The number corresponded to the order in which they picked a Star Wars prize (thank you Target dollar spot) - everything from puzzles to glow sticks.  This was my first time trying this in place of a traditional treasure hunt or pinata - it was GREAT!  We may do it again.  This picture isn't from the party, but captures Danny's tough Star Wars/Ninjago / CHIMA/ battle pose. 

Next at the party was food.  For this I had too much fun, and really none of the kids, except Danny, probably noticed or cared.  We had Wookie Cookies, Vader Veggies, Padawan Pizza (bagel pizza bites), Jar Jar Links (sausages wrapped in crescent rolls), Jedi Juice, Light Sabers, Obi- Wan Kabobies (fruit kabobs), and a Yoda Melon.  Thank you for the ideas pinterest.  :) 

I knew I did not want to try to make a clone trooper shaped cake, so instead layered chocolate and white cake (4 layers) and drew the clone trooper on top.  Danny was happy. 
And now our baby is seven.  We sure love this kid and are grateful for his patience being the oldest and our guinea pig child.  He teaches us a lot, makes us laugh, and is fun to be around.  We are so glad he is our number 1!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How I Want to Remember the 2013 Boston Marathon

Carrie wrote about our Boston Marathon experience in the previous post. I will not mention the attack again because that is not what I want to remember about the day. I feel like my memories and celebration of an unique and life changing experience were stolen from me by an act of madness and hatred. I want to capture how I felt about the race before my positive memories are overshadowed.

The starting line was buzzing with potential energy in a way I've never experienced before. Some people were kicking their legs and a few were stretching out, but most were looking forward with a steely gaze toward the starting line. I had a set of headphones on, listening to some music to get pumped up for the race but I didn't really need it - and unlike all of the other Marathons I had run I planned on not wearing the headphones for the actual race. The racers lined up in the corrals were like a giant spring compressed as tightly as possible. Thousands of elite athletes who had trained for this moment and who were so full of power bars, cliff shots, gu, and honey stingers they were nearly ready to burst. When the race began it was a tidal wave of speed. I'm used to jostling for position at races but this was more like getting caught up in a surge then fighting to get ahead. The course starts downhill and everyone is so amped up that it is easy to go out too fast.

My right leg had been really bothering me for the past two weeks ever since I started tapering off my training. I did a speed work session at the jr. high track and felt like I pulled something. I had low expectations for this race since I could hardly walk around Boston without a hitch in my step on Sunday. I seriously thought I was injured and wouldn't be able to run well. I'm sure my friends and coworkers were tired of me trying to lower my expectations. I was just going to enjoy the experience. The time is not important I kept telling myself. The course is too difficult to set a Personal Record (PR). I told my coach (Carrie) that I would try to go out at 7:20 pace and see what happened.

That plan lasted about a mile. With the wave of adrenaline and the help of some ibuprofen my leg felt pretty good - and with the spirit of the event I just wanted to run. I found a group of people that were going at a pace that I thought felt good and decided to try to shadow them. There was a beefy blond guy in a yellow singlet that I nicknamed Wolverine for some reason. A black woman with an easy to spot long braid that had a "Run with us, it's better than therapy" shirt on and a red headed girl that I stereotypically labeled Ginger. So I fell into step with Wolverine, my therapist, and a member of the crew of the S.S. Minnow for the next 8 -10 miles. Since I was not wearing headphones I was having a hard time hearing the audio pace cues from my iphone GPS app. I thought I heard them clocking in at about 7:05 minute per mile pace. That was much too fast - but I was feeling good and I wasn't sure of my pace because the crowd was so loud!

In regards to the crowds - I have never felt more like a rockstar than I did on the course of the Boston Marathon. My wife had made me a sticker with my name on it and I wore it on the front of my shirt. I must have had at least 1,000 people yell "Go Matt", "You got this Matt", or my favorite "Way to be Matty boy!" during the course of the event. My face seriously started to hurt from smiling so much. The people of Massachusetts were unbelievably supportive. I gave hi fives to hundreds of kids. There was a guy with a sign that said "Go Go Idaho" on a ladder that I literally jumped up to for a high five. That was probably not the best move for my pace but the endorphins were firing like crazy. I was so full of dopamine I was just being silly. 

Around mile 10 I ran into some LDS missionaries and gave them a shout out - and noticed a guy running next to me did as well. I asked if he was Mormon and he said he was. We chatted a bit - something that I never do when racing - a peril of not wearing my headphones. It was fun to have someone to talk to. Maybe I'll try to be a more social runner in the future. We lost each other at the next water station though. I had also lost track of the other folks I had been using as pace bunnies so I settled into my own pace.

I really enjoyed running through the smaller towns like Ashland and Framingham. Being a small town boy myself it was fun to run through them. The crouds reminded me of the Eastern Idaho State fair parade.

I ran near a guy dressed as a hamburger for a while but pressed forward since I didn't want to get beat by the burger guy. I was able to turn up my volume on my phone and confirmed around mile 11 that I was on 7:05 pace. This was much faster than planned and I needed to make a decision. There were still the dreaded Newton hills ahead. I was starting to feel a tiny bit of a hitch in my stride. It was probably best if I backed off the pace for a bit - after all I wanted to be able to walk tomorrow. But, instead I decided to go all in and just try to maintain the 7:05 pace as long as I could and see what happened. It was time to go big! This was the Boston marathon. I started to make small goals. I would see how I was doing at the halfway mark in Wellesley - plus I wanted to be in good form for the legendary Wellesley College screamers.

A note about my nutrition plan. I felt I didn't eat enough for the Victoria Marathon and that perhaps that had contributed to me flagging at the end. To remedy it I ate a lot more during Boston. I had a plain Bagel (72 cal) in the morning on the train ride in and a banana (105 cal) and powerbar at the staging area (230 cal), a package of honey stingers as I walked to the starting line (180 cal), two cliff shot block packages spread out from mile 5 to 18 (caffeinated 400 cal total), and a power bar vanilla energy shot (100 cal). I also probably drank at least 20 oz of Gatorade (517 cal). So, in total about 1600 calories consumed between waking up and finishing the race.

Back to the Wellesley screamers - they were great and very supportive - although I didn't feel their volume lived up to the hype. They were loud but not deafening. There signs were very clever and it was one of the rock star moments of the race. Favorite signs "Kiss me I'm from WA" and "Kiss me I won't tel your Wife / GF" and "Kiss me I'm an Engineer". I gave a high five to the WA girl but did not partake of the kisses. I did see some men accepting the invitations though and it seemed like we all got a boost of energy from the attention.

I made it through Wellesley maintaining my pace. My next milestone was when I expected to see Carrie and our friends around mile 16. Surely I could keep it up until then. I wanted to make sure to be in trouble with coach for being four minutes ahead of schedule. I was starting to feel the affects of the fast pace at this point. I could feel myself breathing harder. My feet were starting to hurt and I wanted to relax my running posture. I felt like the people cheering for me were saying "looking good" less and less and "you can do this" more and more.

Mile 16 came and went and I didn't see Carrie. I thought I would see our friend Mark first since he was on a bike and was planning on shadowing me through part of the race. I started to worry that they had troubles getting to the course and only took solace in the fact that perhaps they missed me because I was so fast.

Happily, around mile 17 I spotted Carrie before she saw me and swooped in and gave her a big hug and kiss - pace be damned! It was great to see her and it gave me a much needed shot of energy as the dreaded Newton hills began.

This is when my hubris started. I was actually looking forward to the hills. I run on mountains in Washington and I was excited to see what all the heartbreak was about. I started taunting the hills a bit in my mind.

"Is that all you got?"
"My hill is five times your size!"
"I'm from Bellevue and this is nothing!"

I felt good through the hills and passed a lot of people. When I crested heartbreak I didn't believe it. I was worried someone was playing a joke on me and that there had to be at least one more hill. I had reached mile 21 and knew it was all down hill from here. My pace had slowed to 7:08 through the hills but I was still well below PR pace and feeling like superman. On the downhill after heartbreak I just took off. I ran one of my fastest miles of the race and the crowd was screaming my name! I knew that the hardest part of the race was still to come but I didn't care in that moment. I wanted to fly.

At around mile 23 I started to pay for my hubris. In my sprint down heartbreak I let my form deteriorate and it was catching up with me. I locked on to a guy in an NRA singlet that had a good pace going and just tried to let my desire to keep up drag me through the last 5k. It doesn't seem like 3.1 miles should seem like a long way to a marathoner - but at that point it felt like an eternity. I could start to see my dreams of a new PR fading away.

As we got closer into the city the crowds were getting bigger and bigger. Unfortunately it was harder to connect with them as I wrestled with myself in my head. The body definitely wanted to shut down. But I thought of all the thousands of people that had given me this gift - the people in Hopkington, Framingham, Ashland, Wellesley, Newton, Boston College. They gave me this one perfect day to run their race. I thought of my wife and my kids and how the race had inspired me to not only run with more heart than I had before but to live my life better than I have before. I wanted to finish strong for all of them.

I also didn't want to pass out - which I was definitely was in serious risk of at this point. I could see the Citgo sign which marks the 1 mile to go point but it seemed really far away. NRA guy pulled up because he had something in his shoe and I passed him which actually felt disheartening rather than encouraging. My arms started to feel numb and tingly and I could feel myself drifting into a bit of a trance. I had to keep talking to myself to make sure I was there. I really wanted to stop running. I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. I passed the Citgo sign and the NRA guy passed me. It was good to have my friend back. One mile to go.

At this point people saying my name was really helpful because it helped pull me hold on to consciousness. I slapped myself in the face every few hundred feet to keep myself alert. I waved my arms to the crowd to try to get them to cheer for me. Carrie saw me do this and later reported I looked like a wounded bird trying to take flight. I turned the corner onto Boyleston street and was daunted by how far way the finish line was. I wasn't positive about it but I had a feeling I was close to my PR. I gutted it out and just kept my feet moving. After what seemed like an eternity I crossed the line and could finally stop. I finished in 3:10:10. Just 30 seconds slower than my PR - but on a much more challenging course and not in as good of shape. I was so happy. This was much better than expected - even though I was a little disappointed about missing the PR and about not hitting the qualifying time for my age group by a mere 10 seconds.

I was laughing with joy and stumbled around the finish area trying not to pass out and trying to soak it all in. I had finished the 117th Boston Marathon and it had been the greatest run of my life. I was so happy. I jumped on my phone and was overwhelmed by all the texts and Facebook messages and emails from the people I love that were cheering for me - it's pretty awesome how technology can magnify this type of experience.

I will always cherish this trip to Boston and the love I felt from all the people in this area. I've never run at any of the other major marathons but it's hard to believe that they could match the spirit of the people here! Despite other events that occurred I'm already scheming about how to come back - good thing my time in Victoria can count toward next year too.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tender Mercies at the Boston Marathon

I am choosing to write about our entire experience here in Boston, while it is all fresh in my mind.  If you are only interested in today's events, you can scroll further down.  It's been important to me to remember ALL of this experience though. 

The Boston Marathon is AMAZING.  Though I consider myself a runner, I have never had ambitions to run the Boston Marathon.  Actually, neither did Matt until about a year ago.  He had gotten faster than he thought possible and qualifying actually seemed feasible.  He worked like crazy, running hundreds and hundreds of miles in all kinds of weather.  Many days he was out running before the kids and I even woke up.  When he qualified last October at the Victoria Marathon, it was almost unbelievable.  He'd worked so, so hard and had reached his goal.  

Walking into the EXPO on Saturday was overwhelming.  SO many other runners who had achieved this great goal.  Who had worked just as hard as Matt.  It was different than other running expos - everyone looked wicked fast.  Thin, athletic, strong, fast.  I got a new pair of orange running shoes.  We both had lots of free samples of cliff bars, protein chews, gus.  The hype was tangible.  Our good friend Jenn had connected us to her parents, Julie & Bob, who were also there for the race.  They generously opened their hotel room to us so we could change into running clothes & store luggage.  Matt and I were able to enjoy a fabulous run together along the beautiful St. Charles River, surrounded by many other racers getting their final short run in to stretch their legs.  We ended it at the finish line, anticipating Matt's marathon finish in less than 2 days.  

After feasting on crab cakes & tuna at Legal Seafood, a Boston icon, we attended a seminar by Team Hoyt, an incredible father-son team.  The father pushes his quadriplegic son in a wheel chair and this was going to be their 31st Boston Marathon.  They shared an incredible message, "YES, YOU CAN." 

Saturday night we met up with our friends, Jenny & Mark, whom we hadn't seen for almost a year.  We spent most of Sunday together, exploring the historical sights of Cambridge & Boston.  Harvard Yard, Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, The Old North Church, & Paul Revere's House to name a few.  Neither of us had been to Boston before and it was pretty amazing to see where this country's founding fathers had started it all.  Sometimes current politics leave me frustrated, but for the first time in a while I felt very proud to be an American and call this great country my home.   

The day was cold & crisp, but it was beautiful.  There was enthusiasm & comradre throughout the city with so many bright blue & yellow marathon jackets wandering around.  That evening we joined some thousands of other racers at the Pasta Feed.  We unexpectedly shared a table with another LDS couple, close to us in age.  However in their case, the wife was the runner.  We also reunited with Julie & Bob and enjoyed sharing stories and laughing together.  I have run hundreds of miles with Jenn, so it was great to finally spend some time getting to know her parents as well.   

Monday morning was race day.  Our friend Mark drove Matt into the subway station at 6 AM.  He rode the subway into town and caught a marathon bus out to the start line and athlete's village in Hopkinton.  He said it was incredible.  27,000 racers.  Wow.  The rest of us made our way to the 17th mile marker to watch and wait.  We saw the wheel chair racers.  We saw the elites.  Shalene Flanagan and Kara Goucher - so cool!!  And so fast!  I was telling Matt it's pretty crazy that the fastest athletes look like they are in the least pain.  If I was running that fast, I'd be in a lot of pain.  After the elite men came the masses.  Thousands and thousands.  I cheered and cheered, yelling out to those with labels I could read.  "Go Florida!"  "Go Navy!"  "Go Greater Boston Runner's Club!"  Many people, including Matt, had stickers with their name on it, so I could actually yell their name.  That was fun.  The entire time I tracked Matt on Runkeeper.  I knew he was getting close, but couldn't see him in the masses.  And suddenly he was there, pausing long enough to give me a hug & kiss.  We were both beaming.  He ran on and the rest of us boarded the T (subway) with about 5,000+other people to head to the finish line.  We were greeted with joyful chaos, everyone trying to get to the finish line to cheer on their loved ones.  Signs, cheers, cow bells, whistles.  The runners beamed with exhaustion as they rounded that final corner onto Boylston and the finish line.  The crowd was huge, but I was able to squeeze in and find a spot up front just as Matt rounded the corner.  I yelled so loud that the security guard next to me jokingly said, "Wow, glad he passed - you were louder than my radio!"  I could not BELIEVE his time.  After worrying about a hurt leg the past few weeks, he'd rocked the race, missing his PR by a mere 30 seconds.  It took us a while to maneuver through the crowds to meet up with him, but the reunion was wonderful.  3:10.10.  He was jittery & shivering from too many shot blocks & chilled sweat, but he was beaming.  Me too.  I am after all his number 1 fan.    

We said goodbye to our friends, who had a long drive back to Maryland, and began walking back toward the finish line to cheer on more racers.  As we headed that way, we got a text from our new friend Julie, who said she'd been able to watch Matt cross the finish line from the VIP Bleachers.  Her husband's run the Boston 10 times and this year was able to secure her the VIP Pass.  She had a fantastic view from the bleachers, but decided to head back to her room to warm up for a little while since her husband Bob wouldn't be finishing for another hour and a half or so.  We asked if we could use her room again for Matt to get changed, and she generously obliged.  We headed to their hotel, the Colonnade, located a convenient quarter mile from the finish line.  After chatting a few minutes, Matt took a long, hot shower. We were all grateful to get out of the crowds and warm up a bit.  We caught the elevator together, at about 2:50, ready to go cheer on her husband Bob and the final runners.  As we were ready to cross the street, a rescue vehicle raced in front of us, sirens blazing.  This is not uncommon in marathons though - there are injuries and people need to get to hospitals.  We made it across the street and parted ways - Julie heading toward the VIP Bleachers right by the finish line, Matt and I heading to the edge of Boylston street.  Matt's dad called to congratulate him and we continued to walk as they talked.  I started noticing that the crowds were all coming towards us and overhearing comments.  "Did you hear it?"  "Loud boom."  The closer we got to the finish line, the more frightened people looked, and it seemed everyone was on their phone.  Matt got off the phone with his dad and I said, "I think something happened.  Look around."  Finally we asked some bystanders who had stepped aside and they said, "We don't know exactly.  There were two explosions by the finish line."

We held hands tightly, turned away from the finish line, and decided immediately the best option was to try to go back to the hotel and hopefully reunite with Julie.  Neither of us has ever been in the midst of a crisis situation like this. Everywhere there was fear and chaos.  Everyone was trying to reach loved ones, but nobody could get through easily since phone lines were immediately jammed. Cell phone service was never shut down, but there was SO many people suddenly trying to call, that it was impossible for anything to go through.  As we walked quickly back to the hotel, there were many people crying, parents comforting scared children, and lots of emergency vehicles.  I was in awe of the police and first responders I saw.  I'm sure they were as afraid as anyone else, but they were doing their job directing traffic and clearing the streets as quickly as possible.  We went into the hotel bar, waiting to reconnect with Julie, and watched the news.  They wouldn't let anyone who didn't have a room key onto the elevators.  We were grateful she came down and got us.

We watched the news from their hotel room on the 5th floor in shock.  Such a beautiful celebration of strength & hard work, shattered by this act of violence.  How could this happen here?  Who would do this?  More importantly were our immediate concerns for those we knew still out there.  Her husband Bob, their other friends, and our friends Jenny & Mark whom we'd only separated from less than an hour before.  Over the next hour and half, texts were spottily sent and received.  How grateful we were when we finally received news that Bob was still a couple miles back and had been stopped at Kenmore Square, along with thousands of other racers that hadn't finished.  He was safe.  Another friend of theirs had finished a minute before the explosions.  He was safe.  Jenny & Mark's family had been evacuated from the subway, but was a distance away and safe.  When Bob finally returned, having walked the rest of the way, we were all so grateful to be reunited.  As the news unfolded, we watched, dumbfounded.  The next few hours in their hotel room were a blur.  We continued to hear sirens out the windows for quite a while and sat glued to the news.  How grateful we were for the many texts, facebook messages, and phone calls of concern, support, and love.  How grateful we were to be together and safe.

About 7:00 PM, Matt went to the lobby to see what was going on in the streets and if we'd be able to head back to our own suburban hotel in Woburn.  Bob & Julie's hotel was in the designated crime scene, so there was yellow tape, SWAT Team members, police, and hotel security everywhere.  They weren't letting anyone into the area, but they would let us out.  The streets were quiet, as most people were heeding the counsel to get home or to their hotels.  Though there was heightened security, our trip back to the hotel on subway, train, & shuttle bus, was uneventful.  We stumbled into the hotel restaurant, about 8:15, starving and exhausted.  Matt was wearing his Boston jacket, so several families stopped to talk to us.  Though dinner was in a sports bar & grill, most of the TVs were playing news of the tragedy.  At the end of the meal, we asked for our bill.  The waitress said, "No.  The meal's on us tonight.  We're so sorry for all of this.  It breaks all of our hearts."  We were truly touched.

Now back in our hotel room, I am counting the many tender mercies of the day.  Our children, have been safe and sound with Grandma and Grandpa at our home in Washington.  My friend Jenn sent us an email the day before we left, telling us we should try to hook up with her parents while we were there.  Matt had an amazing, memorable race.  Julie went back to her hotel room, instead of staying in the bleachers, and invited us to join her for a rest instead of going straight to the finish line.  Jenny & Mark made it, eventually, safely to their car.  Matt and I are together now, knowing we have many who love and support us, and we are safe.  The many prayers offered for us have been felt and I am so grateful for the tender mercies we have received on this day. 

As I mourn those who have suffered on this day, I am also grateful for the many great things this city and race stand for.  Freedom.  Determination.  Persistence.  Strength.  Overcoming the impossible.  My heart breaks.  But I know this city, this nation, will race on.    

Monday, October 22, 2012

Family Night at the Hongs

During weekly allowance, Matt pointed out that Kaylee had been putting a lot into her savings jar. 
"What are you saving for Kaylee?  You'll have enough for a phone someday!"
Danny piped in, "I'm saving my $ for a DS."
"I no want a phone.  I want a animal," explained Kaylee.
"Oh, like a pet?"
"A lizard or snake (which she's fond of)?"
"No.  A dolphin pet."

Then, a few minutes later during our family counsel time where everyone has a chance to share anything important, Kaylee shared some significant news.
"I like candy."

And finally, after a great lesson on forgiveness by dad, caramel apples, and creationary, it was time for bed.  But Danny and I couldn't stop giggling during his song and snuggle because I messed up the words to Baby Mine.  "Rest your head, close to my heart, never to fart, baby of mine."  But really, who wants a fart when someone is resting close to your heart? 

I sure do love this family of mine. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I Three

 We still think of her as our baby, but she's been in panties over a year, sleeps in a big bed, and negotiates like a teenager.  She is sassy, stubborn, and independent, but equally sweet, snuggly, and fun.  Her fearlessness keeps us on our toes, but is a joy to watch, and she has unwavering determination, always doing things "by myself," usually in her own unique way.

This year, we decided to have a friend party for Kaylee's 3rd birthday.   She chose a Mickey Mouse theme and I promptly found this blog.  Hooray for people willing to share their great ideas!  We certainly had fun Mickey Mouse bowling, playing 'Who Has Mickey?' coloring Mickey pictures, Mousekercising, and eating Mickey Mouse chicken nuggets followed by Mickey cupcakes. 


 On Kaylee's actual birthday, we were spoiled to have grandparents and cousins visiting.  With a 4th of July birthday, Kaylee is going to have to put up with excessive red, white, and blue her entire life.  Then again, she also has fireworks for her birthday every single year. 


We feasted on Jello parfaits, blue and white chips with red salsa, veggies & ranch, watermelon, and (not pictured) wings, hot dogs, & corn on the cob.  Yum.

There were more Mickey Mouse cupcakes and hats, along with "Who has the Mickey," a cake walk with Mickey characters (and stickers instead of cake), a treasure hunt, and gift opening.   

And here is our big girl.  Her hair is a mess because she wanted to do it herself.  She is sitting with her cousins, the big kids, with no concern or awareness of mom and dad.  And she is so focused on the task at hand, eating dad's chicken wings, that there is no pausing for smiley pictures.  Our baby, is not a baby anymore. 

We love you Kaylee LaRue!