Saturday, June 30, 2012

Trail of Ten Falls

We started our hike from the North Falls
Today the kids (including Sarah) and I drove to Silver Falls State Park to hike the Trail of Ten Falls.  My goal was to hike the entire seven mile loop and see all ten waterfalls.  The kids would have been content to turn back in the first mile.  There are several spots to shorten the loop so we just hopped on the Canyon Trail that meanders along the canyon floor and winged it.  We hiked, talked, played, moped, sang, pouted, snacked, took breaks, whined, chatted, and told stories.  The kids rolled their eyes when I wanted to take a picture of every waterfall, but truth be told, we used each waterfall as a marker for a new distance covered.

Silhouette of our group behind the waterfall
The miles slipped by and before we knew it we had traversed from the North Falls (where we started) to the South Falls on the far end of the park.  But we were tired, it was getting late, and according to my calculations, we still had 2.6 miles to go if we exited via the less scenic, but more direct Rim Trial.

Sarah and I demonstrating to the kids what NOT to do

We all made this face at one point or another on the hike

Me and my four blessings

Sarah, Grant, Katie and Alli showing us how cool it is to walk behind a waterfall
Fortunately for all of us, Sarah is an elementary school teacher and a captivating story teller.  She entertained us for the remaining three miles by telling us the story of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. We gasped, oohed, sucked in our breath, and laughed as Sarah told the story from start to finish, complete with British accents.   I was as spellbound as the kids, listening intently to find out what came next.  We were so into the story, that we hiked right past Winter Falls without getting a picture.

resting in the cave behind the waterfall
It's obvious from our group beginning and end picture that the hike tired us all out, but we made it the entire seven miles.  Paige (age 6 years) summarized how she felt when she collapsed into her car seat and declared, "I'm dirty, tired, and everything hurts."  But she said it with a huge smile and we celebrated with Dairy Queen on the way home.


our group at the end of the hike

This hike was worth the time and effort.  We hiked behind three of the ten waterfalls and explored the caves behind the falls.  The trail is wide and well groomed.  The terrain is mostly flat with a few steep hills.  In the past, on hot days, we've cooled off in Silver Falls and stopped to catch crayfish.  I hope you and your family take time to enjoy this beautiful park.  Happy hiking.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Grateful for God's Protection

Curt and Alli
When I was a little kid, I had a few "active drowning" incidents in the water that were terrifying.  While those incidents didn't scare me entirely out of the water, they did make me terrified of being under the water, a fear I've been forced to overcome as I learned to swim in the past few years.  I think those childhood moments of thinking I might drown also led to an abnormal fear that my children will drown.

I am The Mom in the water, hovering over my kids.  Gasping if they go under the water and don't surface immediately.  Reaching for them if even remotely act like they're struggling.  Making them wear life jackets even though they've passed swim lessons.  Not letting them go in the deep water without an adult, even if there's a life guard on duty.  If my kids are by water, I can't relax.

As they've gotten older and become better swimmers, I've loosened my grip on them a bit, but only a little.  For crying out loud, Grant spent the last three months in the swimming pool playing water polo and I still get indigestion when he wants to go to the pool to swim with his friends.

Tonight was the season finale for Alli's softball team.  Purple Thunder capped off a really fun season with a private pool party and a picnic in the park.  Most of the parents watched the kids from the bleachers, but being the Hover Mom I am when it comes to the water, I got in with the kids.  Tonight, it paid off.

Grant is an excellent swimmer.  Katie and Alli are capable, but not experienced.  They only just learned how to put all the swim strokes together and still need to learn to tread water better, but they both easily passed the swim test for the life guard to get into the deep end.  Paige would drown if she was dropped in water over her head.  It FREAKS me out.  She just finished her fourth round of swim lessons and finally graduated to the next level.

The Chehalem Pool doesn't have a shallow end.  It has a pool deck that drops off immediately to close to 4 feet.  It's over Paige's head.  Curt and I took turns in the shallow end staying within arm's length of Paige. I was on duty in the shallow side playing with Paige and talking to some of the girls from the softball team when I heard the lifeguard yell, "Are you okay?"  Then again more urgently, "Are you okay?"  I turned and saw my sweet Alli underwater, flailing wildly with a panicked look on her face.  It was terrifying.

I've never swam so fast in my life.  I got to her right as the lifeguard arrived at the side of the pool.  I pulled her out of the water, she clung to my neck, and I swam to the side.  The lifeguard, who apparently got down from her perch and dashed around the pool to where Alli was, said Alli jumped into the shallow end and then panicked.  It was like she forgot she knew how to swim so she just sank.  And once her head went under water, she panicked even more.  She told me she was pushing her tippy toe off the bottom and trying to get her head above water but couldn't keep it there.  AGGHHH!!!!!

Alli and I after my marathon
Alli and I sat on the edge of the pool, holding each other and decompressing.  We praised Jesus for keeping her safe, took deep breaths to calm down, and within ten minutes she was back in the deep end swimming like nothing had happened.  Oh to have the resilience of a child.

She's sound asleep now and I can't get the image of her floundering in the water out of my mind.  It's hard not to run the "what if's."  So instead I'm choosing to be grateful.  Grateful that I was in the water and within easy reach of my daughter.  Grateful that I took the time to learn how to swim three years ago so that I could actually swim to her quickly.  Grateful that she doesn't seemed very rattled by the entire experience.  Grateful that she is safe and sleeping peacefully in her bed.  Grateful for an attentive, well-trained life guard who knew to sound the alarm.  Grateful for God's protection over my sweet, fearless daughter.  Grateful for the reminder that we can never be too cautious with our kids when it comes to water.  Grateful, grateful, grateful...

Thank you Jesus for giving me another day with this incredible little girl.  What a gift.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I'm So Proud of You!

Last week Grant participated in his first track meet.  All the 5th graders in the Newberg school district converged on Sherwood High School for a one-time-only, official track meet.  Each student got to pick three events to participate in, but one of the three had to be a running event.

After much deliberation Grant chose high jump, softball throw, and the 200 meter dash.  The 200 meter dash concerned me because Grant runs like I do.  We are not sprinters.  Our chances of winning races grows exponentially the longer the distance.  I suggested to Grant that maybe he should switch to the 400 or the 800 instead, but he was adamant about giving the 200 meter distance a shot.

The day of the meet arrived and we both headed to the track.  I was assigned to help run the boy's high jump and was surprised at how popular it was.  There must have been at least fifty boys who competed and it took a long time to trim the field down to the top ten finishers.

Each boy got three attempts to clear the bar.  My heart broke for the kids whose talents clearly were not in track and field.  Nervous and apprehensive, they lumbered toward the bar knowing they had no chance of getting over it.  The fact that they had to make three attempts in front of their peers before finishing the event made it especially painful to watch.  Thankfully the boys who were waiting in line saved me from being reduced to a crying fool.  They began offering up unsolicited encouragement to the kids who were struggling.  They clapped, encouraged, and cheered for each of the non-athletes, even as they faltered.  It was really touching.

Grant originally told me that he was "pretty good" at high jump, but the morning of the meet he was second-guessing himself.  He cleared three feet four inches on his first attempt.  Then three feet six inches.  Each time we raised the bar higher, he (we) got more and more nervous.  The field of athletes whittled away to a small handful of boys and Grant was still in the mix.  I caught myself holding my breath every time he jumped.

In the end he surprised himself - clearing 3 feet 10 inches - and tying for third place with nine other boys (two of them his best friends).  It was really exciting to watch him receive his third place ribbon in front of hundreds of his peers.  I hooped and hollered, took pictures and embarrassed him by shouting, "That's my boy!"
receiving their third place ribbons and chasing each other off the field

Ironically, the most intimate moment of the day wasn't through the sweetness of victory, but through the agony of defeat.  The announcer called for all the 200 meter dash participants  to meet on the field.  Grant headed to the starting area and I headed down to the grass by the finish line.  Things didn't look promising when Grant got put in an eight-man heat with the two fastest 5th graders. The best he could hope for was a third place finish and that was before the race even started!  It's a tough spot to be put in, especially for a kid who is used to being good at most things without having to put forth much effort.

The gun went off and the boys started running.  The two lead runners immediately separated from the pack, leaving the other six to duke it out for the remaining spots.  As they rounded the corner to come into the home stretch, Grant was in dead last.  I fought back tears as the gap got wider and wider.  I didn't want Grant to be embarrassed or humiliated.  I wondered if he'd just give up.  It's so hard to see your child struggling, especially on a public stage.

But my boy didn't give up.  I couldn't have been prouder as Grant approached the finish line.  His feet were flying.  His arms were pumping. Grit and sheer determination marked his face.  His eyes were focused as his body strained toward the finish line.  It was evident he was leaving it all on the track in spite of being in last place.  

I cheered and clapped and hollered, "That's my boy!" as he ran past.  Other parents were cheering too.  Somehow he passed two kids just before the finish and ended up with a sixth place ribbon.  I found him after the race and we hugged and both pretended we weren't fighting off tears.  I told him how proud I was that he gave his best effort, in spite of being in last place.

I learn a lot from my eleven-year-old son.  When success come quickly and with very little effort it's easy to feel invincible.  But what do we do when we're 100 meters into the 200 meter dash and we're in dead last?  The finish is still a long way off and people are watching to see what we'll do.  What then?

I read Philippians yesterday.  Paul, the author, is serving time in a Roman jail not knowing if he'll be released or issued a death sentence.  In spite of his dire circumstances, he chooses to purposefully press on.  He says in chapter 3, "But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."


I read that verse and instantly saw my son in his orange shorts and royal blue shirt, straining with everything he had for the finish line.  The next time life throws me a curve ball and I'm at the back of the pack,  I hope I'll do what Grant and Paul did.  I pray I'll forget what is behind and instead press on toward what lies ahead.

When we cross life's ultimate finish line won't it be incredible to feel our Savior's hug?  And hear Him say, "Well done.  I'm so proud of you!"

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sole Sisters Running

Last fall, Carissa and I were in the middle of a run when she asked if she could talk to me about something.  She proceeded to lay out a vision she felt God had given her to start a running blog.  The focus of the blog would be on fitness, faith and friendship.  She hoped the blog would encourage women - especially newbies - on their fitness journey.

Carissa is terrified of writing and had no desire to launch the blog on her own.  She invited Tanya (our other running buddy) and I to pray about joining her on this journey.  We both said yes and within a few weeks, the brainstorming, planning, praying, writing, and editing began.

Carissa is a numbers and research junkie.  She spends hours researching training schedules, running blogs, and gear reviews.  She's a great running partner because all I do is show up and she tells me how far and how fast we're running that day.  Carissa wants to share her passion for all things running related by writing gear, race, and training schedule reviews.  Runners of any experience level will appreciate her summaries of things she's tried that worked or didn't work.

Tanya is a nutrition guru.  Several years ago she lost 50 pounds and has kept the weight off!  People want to know her secret.  Tanya is passionate about teaching women the HOW TO's of living a healthy lifestyle.  If diet and weight loss are things you've struggled with, you'll want to hear what Tanya has to say.

I love stories - reading them, writing them, telling them, and hearing them.  I plan to write stories of other Sole Sisters who inspire us.  I also plan to write stories of what God teaches me while I'm running.  It's often in the quiet miles of a long run that Jesus and I connect most intimately and I can't wait to share with you what fuels my soul.

The months we spent brainstorming and planning culminated today when we officially launched our blog.  Check it out at www.solesistersrunning.net and let us know what you think.  You can easily subscribe to blog posts and we encourage you to do so.  If you like what you see, please spread the word.  We want to encourage as many women as possible to join us in running through life...together.