Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Can You Say Disaster?

This weekend Curt stopped at the bike store and bought a bunch of little gadgets to outfit my bike. When he was done installing it all, I had two water bottle holders, a little bag with a spare tire and patch kit, a pump that attaches to the bike frame and some gloves that so perfectly matched my bike that I look like Miss Matchy Matcherson when I ride it. Too bad I don’t know how to use any of the new gadgets…

My kids are attending Vacation Bible School (VBS) all week from 9 to 11:30 a.m., this morning a bike ride was on the agenda while they were gone. I’m running a half-marathon on Saturday and didn’t want to over-do it this week so I figured a short bike ride would be a great choice for this beautiful day. Put on all my matching gear, filled my water bottles, clipped into my pedals that I’m mastering a bit better and set out fairly confidently. I realized around mile two that I forgot to pack my cell phone and some energy food but since I wasn’t planning on riding more than 15 miles and had two hours to do it, I figured neither of those things would be a factor. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The first left-hand turn I had to make wigged me out so I stopped in the bike lane to plot my course of action. I forgot that I was clipped in still with one shoe and tipped right over into the dry grass. I dusted myself off, successfully navigated the left turn and took off. I was really in the zone and very much enjoying my ride. All the little things that make cycling tricky for a non-mechanically minded person were starting to make sense to me. I’m figuring out gearing for flats and for hills, can clip in and out of my pedals faster than a snail, and overall am starting to get the hang of cycling.

I came to a stop at an intersection and turned left to mimic a ride Curt and I had done together two weeks ago. One problem: I had already passed the intersection to turn left and was much further out on the road than I thought. So my left-hand turn added an unplanned ten-mile loop to my “short” bike ride. When I realized my mistake, I had under an hour to ride 15 miles home, get in the van, and retrieve my four kids plus one extra who spent the night last night. I also realized the reason why the first fifteen miles had been so pleasant – the wind was at my back. I turned into a gale force wind and promptly panicked. As I pedaled into the wind in the highest gear I could stand, I started listing off possible solutions.

1. Stop at a house and ask to use the phone or ask for a ride back into town. But would I answer the door to a complete stranger? Or give them a ride into town? No.

2. Hitch a ride? Then I thought through the safety issue of a single girl hitching a ride in the middle of back country and figured I’d rather be late and alive picking up my kids than the other alternatives.

My only option was to pedal as fast as I could and pray I got there without the staff at VBS calling the police. As I pedaled I felt my energy level start draining. Breakfast was hours ago and I knew my fuel source was about spent. I pedaled and prayed and walked the fine line between panic and laughter. What else can you do? It really is pretty funny, in retrospect, and these are such rookie errors to not bring a phone or extra food. DUH! I really should know better.

I have never been happier to see the “Welcome to Newberg” sign in my life. On my last bit of energy, I coasted down a steep hill and started to climb the last hill before our neighborhood. Shifted down to the lowest gear and apparently didn’t do it correctly because my chain came right off. I was clipped into both pedals and the next thing I knew I was a crumpled pile on the pavement. Lovely. At least I was going slow and the entrance to our neighborhood was in site. I ditched my brand new bike in the weed, took off those dumb cycling shoes with the spike and slippery bottom, grabbed the garage door opener and started running up the hill in my bike helmet and socks. The whole time I kept telling myself, “You’ll laugh about this later. It could be worse.” I dashed into the garage, grabbed my purse and some shoes and jumped into the van. I stopped to pick up my bike from the weeds and then drove like a mad woman to the church. I was ONLY twenty minutes late.

By the time I got there, all four of my kids and Alden had been gathered from their respective classes and herded into the room where the delinquent mothers could pick up their kids. Thankfully the leaders were incredibly gracious and I was so relieved the kids were okay that I forgot to be embarrassed I was still wearing my very tight and very padded bike shorts in a church.

It begs the question why I’m so darn determined to be a triathlete when nine months ago I couldn’t swim or ride a bike. But I guess life is about taking risks and being willing to make a fool of yourself to try new things. My ride might have been a disaster but I’m sure you’ll see me on my pretty blue bike again some time soon!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Way To Go Kidlets!



My Mom always called my brother and I her "kidlets." I think it's an adorable term and when I'm not calling my brood "Stilpies," I call them "kidlets."

Last week Grant successfully completed 3rd grade. His hair, which started off super short, has grown and been cut, grown and been cut and is currently in an overgrown state which makes him incredibly happy and me slightly crazed. In this year, he has developed a habit of reading his Bible every day without fail and we see God moving in Grant's life and character development. He jumped on the science band wagon (no surprise there), learned to play guitar, and realized he has a love for skateboarding and is good at it. He gave up a long time crush on a girl only to have her return the favor now that his interest lies elsewhere. Who knew all this "liking" started at such a young age? Way to go G-Money! You are turning into quite the little man.

Kaitlin successfully completed 2nd grade. She is currently growing out her bangs. I'm certain we'll see her eyes again soon. In second grade, Kaitlin learned to take ownership and pride in her work, developed her many friendships with a passle of the nicest 2nd grade girls on the planet, lost a few teeth, and learned to dance. I think she grew several inches without gaining any weight and keeps stretching taller and taller. Kaitlin got her own room this year and she's been very responsible to maintain and take care of it all on her own. She's been quietly reading her Bible most mornings and I've watched my beautiful, tender, joyful (and okay very dramatic) daughter also become more assertive and confident. Way to go Miss Kaitlin! You are such a joy.

Alyssa, in her typical take-charge fashion, attacked kindergarten. She chose early on to "be good at school cause I don't like getting in trouble" and rocked the house with learning self-control, obeying and respecting other adults in an authority position, and made a bunch of adorable little friends. She learned to read and write (her penmanship is beautiful), lost three teeth which excited her more than I would have guessed, and found out she's a whiz at math. Who knew? She can not wait to start 1st grade and is most looking forward to "staying all day and getting hot lunch." Her bangs are ALMOST grown out and I think her eyes may emerge from the bang cover sooner than Kaitlin's. Way to go Miss Alli. You will love 1st grade.

Paige didn't do school this year but it feels incomplete to write a blog about the kids and not mention Poogie. She has always been a momma's girl and hasn't been as much of a social butterfly as her older siblings, but this year she started developing her own little social circle. She seems to have changed the most physically: she grew her bangs and her hair out, she got much taller and lost that baby-faced toddler look. She has learned to be VERY assertive and somewhat bossy, is testing boundaries to solidify her place in our family, and is that phase of wearing the same thing over and over and over again and bringing everything but the kitchen sink with her EVERYWHERE she goes. She is excited to start pre-school in the fall and loves going to the gym to play with her friends. I'm not sure what I'll do without my constant companion when she starts school...

Way to go Stilp kidlets. I am proud of your hard work at school and your hard work to grow the fruit of the Spirit in your life. You melt my heart, bless my life more than imaginable, and fill my heart with inexplicable joy. Well done.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Meet The Hadlock's






My brother Shane and his wife Quenby just arrived from Montana with their three beautiful daughters: Kayla, Maggie and Sydney. We are looking forward to hanging out with them over the next week and a half. This morning we met them at church and had the privilege of introducing them to the amazing friends we've made there. We all dashed home to change and then out to Champoeg State Park for a day of fun.

My mom married Terry Hadlock two years ago in January but Shane and family have never had the opportunity to meet Terry's three sons, wives, and kids. We changed that today with a Meet the Hadlock's BBQ and play date at the park. You would think, since tomorrow is the summer solstice, that the day of fun would include sunscreen, water, shorts and flip flops, but I don't think the temperature ever topped 60 degrees. Instead we found ourselves grateful for the covered picnic area as we shivered in our jeans and sweatshirts and watched the very gray clouds periodically unleash light rain showers on the lush rain forest around us.

The cousins, all sixteen of them, rode skateboards, bikes and scooters around the trails, collected snails and banana slugs, threw the frisbee and football and generally just frogged around. By the day's end, kids who had just met hours previous were begging for sleepovers and were near tears at the thought of saying goodbye. How cool is that?

The adults took walks, threw the football (albeit badly), talked running/triathlons/sports, ate a lot and got to know each other. Turns out we're all a fairly athletic bunch with each of us loving one sport better than another. One of my brothers runs a 6 minute mile! Who does that? (You're a stud Jon.)

I was the general photographer but my camera batteries refused to stay charged so I fought with them all afternoon. Early on I made the mistake of retaking a photo because it wasn't "facebookable" and never lived it down. Those boys ridiculed me, but I can take it. Of course we took group shots and it was like herding cats to get all those kids and adults in one place and looking in the same general direction.

When I was growing up, I always wanted a sister. Not that I wanted to trade Shane in, but I just wanted a sister on top of having a brother. Of course my mom married a guy with three sons and Curt only has brothers, so now I have FOUR brothers and two brothers-in-love. Thankfully they all married really awesome ladies so I inherited some great sisters-in-love.

I bonded with my nephew Aiden today and that was a highlight for me. He's such a sweet, quiet little boy. We "talked" and snuggled and he played with my hair while he melted my heart.

I'm so grateful for this new family of Hadlock's and the opportunity to continue to get to know them. Thanks for a fun day and I can't wait until we do it again.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Life As Alli and Paige See It


Alli (6 years) and Paige (4 years) have been making me laugh this weekend. Here are my favorites.

We stopped at Sonic and each of the kids got a slushie drink. Paige described her drink as "watermelon juice with ice."

Tonight on the way to church, Paige and Alli were singing worship songs with their eyes closed and hands lifted. It was really sweet. Alli described to us why she worships like that: "Well, when you lift your hands you're reaching out to God to try to grab Him and bring Him closer, and you close your eyes so you can concentrate better."

Paige gave me her craft when I picked her up from her class at church. I tried to give it back to her and she said it disgust, "I don't want it. That's animal fur (pointing to the curly paper they glued to the drawing of a man). And that (pointing to a picture of a locust) is what he ate. Grasshoppers! Gross!" When I asked her what the man's name was, she said, "I forgot." Fortunately Alli knew his name and piped up with "John the Baptize."

Monday, June 7, 2010

Clip In, Clip Out

The night before Curt left for Haiti, we went over his list of tutorials that I needed to know before he left. After I learned to work the iTouch (or whatever it's called), and how to ahem... check for signs of heat on the dog, we moved to "learn to use clip in shoes for new bike." I wish we'd video taped it... Who knew there could be such a huge learning curve for something so simple?

I got out my cycling shoes, but they have a strap release like a ski boot and the last time I went skiing was before I had kids (over nine years ago). I legitimately struggled just to get the dumb shoes "open" so I could put them on. These are triathlon shoes too so in theory, I'm supposed to be able to get these on and off super fast to cut the times in the transition area. Fat chance on that one.

Once I mastered the lever and strapped the shoes to my feet, I straddled the bike and Curt started giving me verbal instructions. I was so focused on the pedal that I forgot I was supposed to balance and immediately started falling toward the van. After Curt rescued me, we switched strategies. He knelt down, held my tire, and with his face inches from the ground started talking me through where the clip on the bottom of the shoe was in relation to where it needs to go on the pedal. You would have thought he was speaking a foreign language. The longer I struggled, the more frustrated I got and the funnier the situation seemed. I'd get everything lined up and he'd say, "Okay, now push down with your foot" and I'd push out and over or down and the wrong way and then my foot would go flying off the pedal. We'd both laugh and he'd just look at me and say, "Wrong."

After at least 15 minutes of struggling, we almost gave up. I mean really. I managed to graduate from college. How can I not figure out these dumb pedals? I decided to keep trying and all of a sudden we both heard the welcome "CLICK" of the shoe snapping in. I was so excited I forgot that I was now attached to the bike and promptly fell right over on top of Curt's head. He set me upright and I tried again. CLICK. Once I figured out the motion, it got easier. We ventured out of the garage and into the rainy night. I got one shoe clipped in and pedaled timidly around the cul de sac with Curt barking orders. "Prepare for a stop. How do you get your shoe out? Twist your foot and pull it out. Stop slowly. Okay. Now start up again and try to re-clip your foot." OY! I was certain I was going to end up in the emergency room but I managed to avoid further crashes and when I was good and soaked, pedaled up the driveway and back into the garage. That was four days ago.

This morning the sun came out again and I knew I should try to actually ride my bike further than the end of the cul de sac before I forget how to clip in. I dropped Paige off at my friend's house and donned all my official cycling gear: helmet, ski-boot cycling shoes, and running shorts. (I definitely need some of those padded cycling shorts.) Got my bike down and started the self-help talk. Out loud. "Okay, don't slip and fall on the garage floor. Those shoes are slippery. Careful now. Okay. Try to clip in...." I took at least ten practice circles in the cul de sac, stopping and starting. Clip in. Clip out. Start. Stop. Do it again. I finally ventured out of the neighborhood, flew down the steep hill and unclipped in time to stop and look for cars. Clipped back in but forgot about gearing to get up the hill by the golf course. I freaked out and instead of trying to remember what side I needed to push to shift down, I unclipped and bailed off my bike. But I forgot that my fancy shoes are slippery and have pegs in the bottom which eliminates pushing your bike up a hill without grave danger of falling. All the golfers were staring at me in my obviously new (cause it's still shiny) gear tip-toeing gingerly up this baby hill pushing my road bike. Can you say embarrassing?

I managed to get back on and start the pep talk again, but this time I had to focus on gears. Which side worked which set of gears and did I push the button down or over to get it to move up and down. It's so confusing especially for someone who scored 20% on the mechanical portion of the skills test you take in high school. Right about the time I realized all the gadgets on the right side worked the back set of gears, I saw a stop sign. "Oh no. I have to unclip and stop and not crash."

And then I had to turn left. But I never ride a bike. I always run. Against traffic and use the cross walks to make turns. I must have sat at that intersection for five minutes trying to remember how I've seen bikers make turns. Do they do it like a car? Or like a runner where they cross, stop and re-cross the other direction? I was only a mile from the gym, so I rode there and asked someone how to make a left turn on a bike. I wish I was exaggerating or joking, but I'm completely serious. Can you say humbling? I practiced more clipping in and out in the parking lot and FINALLY (now 30 minutes later) set out on the highway to risk my life on my first real bike ride.

There I was, pedaling down a busy highway talking to myself and concentrating ferociously on not falling, staying on the shoulder and off the actual road, figuring out the gears, and worrying about left-turns and clipping in and out. I made two successful left turns without getting killed, made some progress on figuring out the gears, and clipped in and out at several stop signs and road crossings. All in all, I rode 20 miles without crashing, turning illegally or getting killed and I consider that great progress. Whether or not I'll actually love cycling like I love running is still up for debate. I'm just glad I lived to see another day.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Of Dogs and Kids...


I like dogs, but I don't love having them in my house because they are dirty and messy and hairy and I like things neat, tidy and hair-free. We had a dog when we were newly married and pet ownership wasn't a good fit for me. I was overrun by babies and adding one more permanent toddler that never grows up to the mix was too much for me to handle. When we decided to get Dusty, our current dog, it was a big decision for me and one I didn't make lightly. She stole our hearts immediately and her adorable face has gotten her out of a lot of trouble in the past two years... She just might be the best dog on the face of the earth, or at least the best dog on the face of the earth for our family.

I have my days where as Boston Rob from Survivor would say, "I have a case of cry-baby-itis" and whine and complain about how much work Dusty generates and how sick and tired I am of being the only one who picks up poop blah blah blah, but in reality, I love Dusty. She brings so much fun, joy and entertainment to our family and it's hard to remember what life was like before we adopted her.

We're a guardian home for our breeder, Springcreek Labradoodles (scroll down to see Dusty's profile) and we were all waiting with baited breath for her to have a heat cycle so she could start her breeding days. Of course because Curt's gone and it's my turn to "check for signs of heat" she came into heat yesterday. So on this rainy Sunday, the kids, Dusty and I piled into the van after church and made the trek to Pleasant Hill (doesn't that sound inviting?), Oregon, to drop her off.

We stayed for an hour to get Dusty acclimated for her two week stay at the farm and to stretch our legs from the 2 hour drive down before we piled in the van to head home another two hours. I milked the gas tank down to 8 miles until empty before we stopped in Salem for gas and for dinner. The kids chose Denny's (UGH!) and literally ate every last bite of food on their plates. I even busted Grant drinking his syrup which I thought was absolutely hilarious even though I tried to give him my stern "no" face. The kids behaved beautifully on both car rides and in the restaurant and I praised them up and down for being so stellar and awesome. I've had trips to the grocery store that were much more painful than our four hours in the car and one hour in the big booth at Denny's. Way to rock it Stilp kids!

We got home and realized someone left the refrigerator cracked open the entire six hours we were gone and the internal temp was up to 51 degrees! I left a load of laundry in the washer from this morning and the whole thing smelled nice and musty twelve hours later. The toy room was a disaster from play mania that didn't get picked up before bed last night and I had to laugh at how the cycle of life never ends. While the kids got jammied, teeth brushed and started picking up the toy room, I threw the laundry in the dryer with an extra dryer sheet to mask the musty smell, reset the door alarm on the fridge, and headed over to the kennel to let Dusty out to go potty. Oops - she's not here.

During the day, Dusty follows me absolutely everywhere I go and on most days it drives me bonkers. I spend hours each day with my personal space infringed on and I can't even go to the bathroom without the dog following me and waiting outside the door. We do this all day long, Dusty following and me telling her to go lay down, and never in a million years did I think I would miss that. But as I puttered around doing the myriad of things that need to get done to put four kids and one adult to bed, the house felt oddly quiet and slightly off. There was no Dusty following me from room to room at bed time, I didn't have to tell Grant 18 times to stop playing with the dog and get in bed, and there was no jingle of her tags announcing her routine of sniffing the garbage cans, checking on each of the kids and plopping on the loft landing to stand guard while I work on the computer. I'm starting to realize what an integral part of our family Dusty is and I'm so glad to have that reminder. I thought I'd welcome the break while she was at the farm, but I'm already looking forward to her home-coming. She's going to be one good mama!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Haiti-Bound


An hour ago Curt said goodbye to us and hopped in the car to head to the airport. Alli, our six year old, was completely distraught and at one point wailed, "Can't you tell them you quit and you're going to stay home with your kids and your wife?" It was heart-wrenching, but I digress.

Curt, along with 13 other guys and 2 girls from Solid Rock, is heading to Haiti for a week to help with earthquake relief efforts. Solid Rock has a huge emphasis on reaching the poor and needy both in the greater Portland area and around the world. Our missions pastor Mike uncovered an opportunity to partner with Forward Edge, a non-profit organization on the ground in Haiti, to build semi-permanent housing for more than 22,000 people living in a tent village on a non-denominational church property in Grace Village.

Mike gathered a group of men together and he's leading the team to Haiti this week to bring crucial supplies, set up a base camp, and start building homes. Each man on this trip has committed to return to Haiti some time in the next year, leading his own team, to continue the work they will start. The primary focus is to be the hands and feet of Jesus and to serve the Haitians by building homes for them, but there will also be opportunities for women to work in the food kitchen and with the orphans. Since Curt is medically trained, he'll be scoping out the medical needs to potentially address when he brings his team back.

It's an amazing opportunity for Curt to build relationships with like-minded Godly men, to serve the Haitian people in practical ways, to step outside the realm of what is comfortable and predictable, to experience a third-world culture, and to go deep with God. I'm so thrilled for him and can't wait to hear all about his trip when he returns. Normally I would have no reservations about a trip like this but because we had the opportunity to walk the faith-building and sad road of losing David Hames to this very earthquake, I can't help but feel hesitant to kiss my man goodbye and let him drive away.

Last week at church our pastor started his message by reading out-loud this quote from Jesus in Luke 14:26, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters, - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple." Can you feel the awkward silence and muffled giggles when he read that verse and then just stopped and looked around? How do you explain away such an offensive statement? Over the course of the message (podcast it to get the full story- it's called Becoming a Disciple) he broke down what a disciple does: follow, go behind. If we reverse the order (us first, Jesus following), we're not being disciples. We worked our way back to this verse and realized that what Jesus is saying is that anything that comes before him, inhibits our ability to be a disciple. So if I put my husband and kids, my job, family, FILL-IN-THE-BLANK before Jesus, I'm not being a disciple.

There's not much that stands in the way of me and God but if I'm really honest, I keep a tight grasp on my family. My biggest fear is losing Curt or one of my kids and in an ironic twist in God's plan, I'm being forced to face that fear head-on this week. Sunday's difficult message challenged me to evaluate my life in terms of how closely I'm following Jesus. Tonight, when I kissed Curt goodbye and watched him drive away, I had to trust that God's got him covered. That God's plan, purpose, timeline, and protection are greater and better than anything I could ever dream up or imagine. That His grace is sufficient for me and that His power is made perfect in my weakness.

Curt found this verse today in his daily Bible reading and it will be my prayer for him and the entire team this week. Psalm 5:11b-12, "Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield."

Dear Jesus, will you spread your protection over this group? Will you give them safe travel to and from, give them rest, make them useful, and be near to them as they serve these dear people in Your name? They love You and rejoice in You. Please surround them with Your favor as a shield and bring them home safely, I ask in Your mighty name. Amen.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Hair






I'm a big fan of clean-cut guys, especially clean cut hair. I still love you if you're a dude with long hair, it's just not my personal preference. When Grant was a little guy and I had time to actually dress my kids, he was Mr. Preppy. He had hats and shoes for every occasion, rocked out the button-up shirts with cardigans and khakis, and his hair was always cut short with a little bit of gel in the front to emphasize the few curls I left on the top of his head.

Wouldn't you know, now that he can choose his style, he hates preppy? Grant is all about plaid flannels, skinny jeans and Vans. He skateboards, got a trick bike for his birthday, loves alternative music, plays guitar, and loves his hair LONG. He started wanting to grow his hair out in Kindergarten and for the past four years, Grant and I have been battling it out over his hair.

He likes it long. I like it short. We both try to compromise and one of us ends up not thrilled. He cut his hair really short for school this year and I thought we'd turned the corner but that style lasted all of one haircut before he wanted it long again. It's not a battle I care enough to really fight but everyone has their tipping point so when I get really tired of not seeing his ears, I force the issue and he gets his hair cut.

I'm currently at my tipping point so I prepped him earlier this week that a haircut was on the horizon. Of course he moaned and groaned and rolled his eyes and we started our good-natured negotiating. Curt overheard us and jumped into the conversation with this brilliant statement, "Hair cut? No way dude. It's almost summer. I think you should grow it out ALL summer long and see how long and crazy it gets!" Grant got so giddy with excitement that he began giggling like a little girl. His smile consumed his entire face and how could I say no? I did manage to negotiate that I get to have a say in the back-t0-school haircut this fall and with that, Grant and I shook hands and sealed the deal. He's a free man for the summer and I get to learn, every day for the next three months, to let the little stuff go.

All three of the girls are in various phases of growing out their bangs and I haven't seen their eyes in several weeks. Alli is growing her hair "to the floor," Katie is growing her hair "to her bottom" and Paige doesn't care. I'll be sure to keep you posted on their hair-growing progress.

My hair, which has always been so stick straight that I can't get a wave out of it if I tried, has over the course of the past several months, started getting wavier and wavier. Yesterday it was slightly humid here and I had legitimate curls. What's up with that?

Curt's hair stopped growing in the places he wants it to so he started shaving his head. Don't expect any dramatic hair changes for him. Sorry to disappoint.

I've posted beginning photos so watch for how bad it gets before the back-to-school hair cuts in three months.