Friday, June 21, 2013

Pursue Your Passions and Enjoy the Journey - Lessons Learned from my 5th Grade Daughter

Her freckles slay me.  SO cute!
Our oldest daughter Katie had a pretty incredible couple of weeks as she wrapped up fifth grade.  She'll head to middle school in the fall (pass the Kleenex please), but she's excited about the change and a new challenge.

I've been sorting through pictures from May and June and marveling at how full of life and joy Katie is.  She embodies her name: Pure Joy.  She lives her life with determination, enthusiasm and gusto.  There isn't anything Katie won't try.

Choreograph two different dances and perform them at talent shows?  Why not?

Run the hardest and longest of all the races at the all district 5th grade track meet?  Of course.
finishing the mile
Set a goal to earn a Presidential Award for Academic Excellence and then work hard to obtain it?  You bet.
Daddy took the afternoon off to attend the awards assembly.  What a special treat.

Play softball so intensely that you occasionally get in trouble for being too hard on yourself?  Guilty as charged.
official softball pictures

Last month fifth graders from all five elementary schools in our district converged on the high school track and their PE teachers hosted a track meet.  Each child was required to participate in a minimum of one field and one track event.  The kids look forward to it all year.

Katie chose to run the longest and most difficult races: the mile (four times around the track), the 800 meters (twice around the track), and the 400 meters (once around the track).  Her field event was the long jump.

I positioned myself and my camera at the end of the long jump pit.  I got lucky with the lighting and shadows and ended up getting epic photos of Katie and her friends jumping with all their might.  Katie jumped three times and wore a HUGE smile through the entire process.  Neither of us knew after she finished that she won second place overall, but we all knew Katie loved every second of competing.
look at that huge smile!

the 2nd place jump
with her 2nd place ribbon
When it comes to running, Katie has speed, endurance, and a natural stride.  She looks so graceful gliding around the track.  She ran the mile in 7 minutes and 20 seconds and placed third in her 400 heat.

The 800 was the last individual race of the track meet.  Sprinting for a half-mile is really difficult and not many kids want to run this event, but Katie wanted to try it.  It was also the only event that took place in one overall race instead of several heats.

Katie was completely exhausted before the race.  I gave her a pep talk - "Remember to not go out too fast.  Pace yourself and leave some for a kick at the end.  You can do it!" - and she was off to the start line.
intent and focused at the start
The gun went off and Katie settled at the back of the lead pack.  They were running fast and I was worried the pace would be too much.  She ran the corner and into the straightaway of the first lap and it was obvious she was hurting.  As soon as she saw me she started crying.  "Mom.  I'm too tired.  I can't do this.  Everything hurts."  
Alli chased her around the field offering encouragement
She slowed to a walk and I thought she was going to drop out of the race, and no one would have blamed her.  I wanted to sit down on the track and cry with her.  It was hard to speak around the lump in my throat but I slapped her butt and managed to say, "You can do it.  Just do your best.  I'm so proud of you."
finding another gear
My Katie Girl dug deep into her mental energy store and somehow came up with another gear.  She took off running and I chased her across the field hollering encouragement and trying not to bawl my head off.

One by one Katie slowly picked off the other runners.  When she rounded the last corner she was in second place.  Her face was cloaked in agony, but she ran strong and hard all the way through the finish.

She stumbled into my arms and we both had a good cry.  There is nothing like knowing you couldn't have tried any harder.  It's so satisfying.
after all the races
And then there's softball.  We started running relay races against the other teams at the end of the game as a fun way to build commraderie.  Bella and Katie - our two fastest runners - always anchored the team relay.  No matter what kind of deficit we had leading up to the finish those two combined every time to give us a win.  The Flame Throwers were undefeated in the Softball Relay race.

Coach Heather photographed one of the relays and the pictures tell the story of just how intensely fun Katie is.  From start to finish Katie (at the end of the line) was hooping and hollering, encouraging and giving her all.  I hope you enjoy her expressions as much as we have.

Curt and I have tried to teach our kids that anything worth doing is worth doing well.  Why waste your time if you're not going to give it your all?  Colossians 3:17 says, "Whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."  

I see Katie living this out in her daily life.  We could care less what place she comes in or what her fastest time is as long as she's giving it all she has for the glory of God.  Katie is pursuing her passions wholeheartedly and clearly enjoying the journey. We could all learn from her.

Thanks Katie Girl for teaching us to embrace our passions and live life with joy.  I am so proud of you!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Saddle Mountain with My Love

Last August, Grant (our oldest) and I hiked Saddle Mountain.  It was a first for both of us and we had a blast.  When Curt saw all the pictures, he let us know that he wanted to take this hike as well.  This weekend he got his chance.
about 1/3 of the way up the mountain
Curt and I were headed to  a conference in Cannon Beach.  We literally were driving right past the road to the Saddle Mountain trailhead.  We decided at the last minute to risk being late for dinner and squeeze the hike in.  Curt didn't want to sweat so I chose not to tell him that the hike was rated "strenuous" until we were already on the trail.  We definitely worked up a sweat, but it was worth it.
Curt, nearing the summit, and demonstrating how strenuous it was.
It was supposed to be raining and overcast, but God changed the weather.  Over the course of the hike we experienced scattered blue skies with sun breaks and patchy cloud cover.  As we inched closer to the summit, we prayed for the clouds to move out and low and behold - they all started moving.  Talk about an unnecessary but super fun blessing.
Stud.  Ladies - he's taken.

about halfway up the mountain

Curt in the saddle.  HUGE drop off right behind him.

Not a bad place to stop and tie my shoe.
The most stunning part of the hike were the wildflowers.  They were in FULL bloom all over the mountain.  The meadows were filled with vibrant color.  Even the rocky crags had dew-drenched flowers poking through them.  We were amazed at God's creativity and exquisite attention to detail.
drenched with dew along the trail

in the saddle

mountain meadow

the clouds were swirling around these flowers at the summit

one lone flower clinging to the edge of the summit
The view from the top was awe-inspiring, even though one side of the mountain was socked in with clouds.  I sat and watched wispy clouds come up from under the mountain, swirl over my head, and dissipate in the air wherever the wind took them.  Jaw-dropping, crazy awesome goodness.

summit pictures - thank God for self-timer
This hike was the highlight of our mini weekend getaway.  Life moves at such a rapid pace.  It takes intentionality and purpose to connect in meaningful ways.  Three hours of alone time together, exercise, and admiring God's handiwork was so satisfying to both of us.  I'm sure we'll be back.
"Ewwww" was the kids' response to this picture
If you haven't hiked Saddle Mountain yet, I highly recommend it.  It is a CHALLENGING hike (read my review of when Grant and I went for more details) so bring a backpack with water and snacks and be prepared to take your time.  There are three picnic tables along the trail to stop and rest.  We passed four adults who had to be pushing seventy years old.  They were geared up with poles and backpacks and joked that their ham sandwich at the summit may have been their "last meal" but they were bravely and capably picking their way back down the mountain.  Where there's a will, there's a way.  So get hiking!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Sampling of Sixth Grade Writing - Guest Post by Grant Stilp

this is where Grant spent his spring - in the pool playing water polo
scoring his first goal of the season and I just happened to get it on film
Grant, our oldest, just finished sixth grade.  He loved his first year in middle school!  Now that is a huge answer to prayer.  Today we went through a GIANT stack of papers in his backpack and binder, a wadded up sampling of some of his work this year.  I was struck by how much his cursive improved from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.
he was REALLY excited about his new water polo sweatshirt
As always, I was moved by his writing.  He writes poetry effortlessly - a talent I do not possess.  His dreams are huge (work for NASA?) but it would never cross his mind to do anything except chase after them.  This kind of enthusiasm for living abundant life is infectious.

As Grant's life unfolds it will be interesting to see how much of his current passions will grow with him into adulthood.  We'll definitely be looking back at this post in ten years and comparing real life to his sixth grade dreams.  I sure do love my boy!

by Grant Stilp

this was the middle of the year cursive

Blue looks like a beautiful river flowing down the mountain.
Blue sounds like the noisy waterfall pouring off the cliff.
Blue tastes like a crisp, fresh glass of water on a hot summer day.
Blue feels like a smooth feather of a blue jay.

My Dream House - Writing Assessment Final
by Grant Stilp

end of the year cursive
Oh man, what would it be like to live in your dream house?  I think it would be amazing.  Living in your dream house would be like living in your own paradise, because YOU designed it!

My dream house would have a very modern looking design.  Also, I would like to create an open floor plan so you can see most of the house from the front door.  I don't like houses with long winding hallways.  It just bugs me that you can't see around the next corner.  So an open floor plan would be perfect for me.  Now that I have a theme for my house, what will I put in my house to fill up the space?

The first thing I would need in my house is furniture.  I would probably do all my shopping at Ikea because most of their furniture matches my theme.  In my house I would have a spot for all my hobbies.  The first think I would have is a giant recording studio with lots of percussion stuff in it.  Above my recording studio I would have a whole room just for playing video games.  Lastly, I would have a whole closet full of skateboards.  I would also have a long, steep driveway for skating down.  Now that I have a my dream house, where in the world will I enjoy my dream house?

My dream house would be located in Denver, Colorado, right in the heart of the Rockies.  The house would be located on one of the foothills surrounding Denver that way I could be in Denver and meet the need for a long, steep driveway.  I love the snow (because I'm from Chicago) so Denver would be perfect for me.

Now you have heard about my dream house.  An open floor plan with places for all my hobbies, right in the heart of the Rockies.  Ah...paradise.

The next sample was my Mother's Day gift this year.  Grant explained that if you take the words "the eyes" and rearrange the letters, it says "They see."  This was the basis of a poem he wrote and then read out-loud to me.  I cried.
The Eyes
by Grant Stilp for Mom on Mother's Day
June 2013

The eyes
They see
her eyes
They understand
They search
Your heart
They love
And Care
They are
Her eyes
They see

Grant Stilp Value Frame
by Grant Stilp

In my life I value...

  • Family
  • Sports
  • Fitness
  • Science
  • Air
  • A home
  • My brain
  • Respect
  • Music
  • God
In my life I will...

Use the powerful brain I was given to reach my ambitions, big or small, and to accomplish great goals.  I plan to make discoveries in physics and aerospace engineering, and to work for NASA or Lockheed Martin.

What about you?  What would your value frame look like?  What kind of dreams do you have for your life?  Why not chase them down? 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

McCall Nature Preserve Hike

I know this post is SUPER late, but I'm trying to write a review of all the hikes we take so we have a record to look back on.  For you Midwesterner's, this is more bait to tempt you to come out for a visit.
summit of McCall Point
On March 30th, our family tackled hike number nine in our 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles - Portland book: McCall Nature Preserve.  I ran the Wheatfield Half Marathon that morning in the beautiful country outside The Dalles.  It seemed sacrilegious to be in the Gorge and not go for a hike, so I asked Curt if he and the kids would meet me after the race.  

We wanted to choose a route that wasn't too long or too challenging given the fact that I was hiking on tired legs and our youngest participant was seven years old.  McCall Nature Preserve was recommended to us by my Mom and Terry as easy-ish with beautiful views.  We liked that the five miles were broken into two smaller hikes:  three miles to McCall Point and two miles on the Plateau. It allowed for us to bail out after the first three miles if the weather was bad or if the whining outweighed the fun factor.

We were blessed with the nicest day of the spring.  Unseasonably warm, temps topped out over 70 degrees with full sun and blue skies - a rarity during Oregon's typically rainy and gray springs.  What a fun and unexpected gift.

The hike to McCall Point was rated "moderate" because the first 1.5 miles were all uphill.  The path was pretty steep and all dirt.  Had it been rainy, we would have been walking through thick, slippery mud.  We all felt the burn in our legs but we made it to the top one small step at a time. 

Things we loved about the McCall Point hike were the vastly differing habitats.  We started in the parking lot with a sweeping scenic overlook of the Columbia River Gorge and dizzying views of the hairpin turns on the road below.  
Grizzly Adams

hairpin turns

I am IN LOVE with this photo.  Alli needed a gentle word and soft touch.  Curt knew it and took the time to give her exactly what she needed in the moment.  Tender and unposed, this is a moment to remember.
We hiked into a berm of trees and newly blossoming wildflowers.  It felt a bit like we were hiking through Narnia and the kids entertained themselves by pretending to be the characters in the book.
hikers on the trail
This is where the Narnia play began
The berm led out into an open space along the edge of a meadow.  Eventually the trail wound back into a clump of "old growth oak trees" (I stole this from the hiking book - I never would have known they were oaks) and up to the summit of McCall Point.
heading back into the old growth area
We also loved that when we started the hike, we could just barely make out the tip of Mt. Adams across the river on the Washington side.  As we hiked, the mountain grew and grew, finally coming into full view in the meadow at the summit.
Mt. Adams
When we turned around, Mt. Hood was directly behind us in all her glory!  A total surprise since she had been covered by foothills until we reached the summit.
kids with Mt. Hood in the background

Mt. Hood
We spent at least an hour in the meadow at the summit soaking in the view, taking pictures, eating snacks, and refereeing arguments (<- just keeping it real).  
C-R-A-Z-Y  F-U-N
Once the kids decided to play a game, Curt and I (and Paige) relaxed in the meadow, breathing deeply the scent of spring and the Great Outdoors.  
this photo is another keeper.  Paige just snuggled right up on Curt and they rested for quite a while like this.
the hills are alive...
The wildflowers were just starting to bloom and we both commented on how amazing the meadow would look had we waited a few weeks to tackle this hike.
The Plateau hike was less impressive with its view but WAY easier, a big bonus since we had to bribe the kids with candy to get them to agree to another two miles of hiking.  The trail was flat and wound along a big plateau overlooking the awe-inspiring Columbia River Gorge.  
taking in the view
We stopped to splash in one of the pretty little ponds and sat on the edge of the trail watching the train on the Washington side of the Gorge fly along the river's edge and through the mountain tunnels.
pretty little pond
train and Lisle, Washington
Bathrooms were hard to come by - there weren't any at either of the trailheads - but there's always the Hide Behind a Tree method which we all employed as one time or another throughout the day.

The kids selected their over-priced Reward Candy at the local store in the thriving metropolis of Moiser, Oregon (population 433) and used the porta-potty across the street for a final potty stop before heading home.

McCall Nature Preserve was definitely worth the drive and a perfect hike for a family.  I highly recommend it.