Day 2: Kindergarten Trees

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She is my artist.  She is in kindergarten this year–the last of my three kids to be in kindergarten.  I am grateful she gets to be in the same school with the same teacher her brother and sister had.  We can enjoy some of the “kindergarten traditions” like this one.  They have to decorate a tree using any craft materials they can find.  I remember my oldest used a lot of candy, my middle child used actual greens from the yard, and she used lots of glitter and sequins.  Each tree is completely unique and different.  Just like they are.

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Thanksgiving!

I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to.  When my child care business grew two years ago, I knew my time to write would be limited. I also have been limiting my time on social networking sites. I don’t read as many blogs as I used to.

As my kids have grown older, their need for privacy has increased.  I am not one of these moms who wants to share on Facebook about every single activity my kids are doing or what emotions they are experiencing or our daily schedule.  In the past couple months I have felt this need for living life outside of Facebook posts.  Sometimes I feel like we might over post because we are looking for attention and/or validation we are not getting elsewhere.  I have to embrace the relationships and real live friendships in front of me to find the joy of living life’s moments.

With that being said, the holidays is a time I like to blog.  I have done the December photo project the last three years (one year I did not complete it) because it helps me focus on the day to day joys of Advent and Christmas.

This Christmas is unique as we will be seeing the husband’s parents here in Oregon a week before Christmas.  Then we will be spending a good part of the holiday break on the Atlantic coast in Virginia with my family. There have been many Christmases since we moved to Oregon when we have seen no extended family.  So this is a real treat for all of us. There will be plenty of Christmas programs, holiday parties, gift wrapping, baking and Christmas crafting sessions.

For now I want to focus on Thanksgiving weekend.

For the past three years I have run in the Keizer Turkey Dash 5K on Thanksgiving morning.  This year my eight year old and I ran it together.  We began training shortly after school started.  Due to my full schedule I could only run with him about one to two times a week. I figured with PE at school and the fact he is active when he plays in the backyard–that would be enough.  I was impressed when he could run two miles without stopping and then three!

His final time was 35:56 which is about ten minutes fast than last year.  Although last year he was sick and insisted on running it anyway.  And he had not trained as much.  Still ten whole minutes!  I wish I could shave ten minutes off my marathon time–I might be able to qualify for Boston.

We had perfect weather.  No rain in sight.  It was a little colder than normal, but we bundled up.

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He says he is going to miss our weekly runs and wants to do another race soon.  We’re looking at a Christmas or MLK King Day run. The problem with Oregon is we can get very nasty rain that time of year.  I ran a 1/2 marathon last year in December and nasty, windy, pouring rain.  It took hours for my body temperature to get back to normal.

IMG_4178.JPGEvery Thanksgiving since we moved to Oregon, we have celebrated with friends.  This year we celebrated with the same friends we celebrated with last year.  It was fun to have an established tradition of a big meal, game, and dessert.  It was a nice relaxing day spent with people we enjoy.

IMG_4174The kids even got to play outside for a bit in my friend’s big front yard.

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They can see the best sunsets from their front porch as well as the coastal range mountains.

IMG_4180 In the early evening we noticed black smoke in the distance and heard fire trucks.  My husband has an app on his phone that has all the police and fire calls for our city.  There was a house on fire only a few streets over that quickly escalated into a three alarm fire.  The smoke got thick and black and we could start to see the orange glow of flames.  As we left to go home there were fire trucks lining up and down the road and we saw how bad the fire was.  It made our news and the house was a total loss.  Thankfully no one was killed or hurt.

It was only a few weeks ago I lead a devotional for our seniors group.  I shared about storing up treasures in heaven and not on earth.  Our true treasure is the hope of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior who paid the price for our sins.  This treasure brings us peace in times of trial like house fires, floods, terrorist attacks, ill health, depression, family dysfunction, etc.  Nothing or no one can take away that treasure from us.  I was reminded again as we saw this family’s dream home dissipate into flames.

When I was seven years old we had a small fire in our house that only destroyed a lamp, part of the couch, and part of the wall.  By God’s grace, my parents discovered it the moment the lamp sparked and put it out before the fire department arrived.  When I was a sophomore in college, my floor in my dormitory caught on fire from a cigarette thrown in the trash can.  When I exited my room flames were shooting up to the ceiling in the hallway.  In both those situations you don’t think about grabbing everything you own.  You just go and get out of there.  You remember what is most important in your life.

So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my faith in Jesus Christ and how God has led me on this incredible journey with its own twists and turns.  I am thankful for my family, my extended family, my church family, my friends, my jobs, and this beautiful part of the country we call home.  I pray that throughout this conclusion of Thanksgiving as we move into Advent, I will continue to focus on that true treasure of Christ’s coming into the world.

Race Report: Minneapolis Marathon 2015

I started running in 2001 at the age of 24.  I ran my first marathon in October of 2006 at the age of 29.  No one in my family ran back then and some thought I was crazy.  Why would I want to fork over one hundred dollars to enter a race not to mention the countless hours of training? It took my older sister many years until she finally “got it.”  I never held it against anyone. I knew what I was gaining from running and it was enough to keep me tackling marathons.

So my sister and I had talked about doing the same marathon at some point in 2015.  We live on opposite sides of the country.  I loved the idea of doing “a destination” marathon and traveling somewhere.  I wanted to do a spring marathon because I have found it much easier to train all winter  and run in the spring versus training all summer for a fall marathon.  I don’t work in the summer so you would think I have more time.  However, our summer weekly routine is not consistent. It is hard to train when you are home for a week, go out of town, home another week, and then go someplace else.  Not to mention the heat!

We looked at a marathon calendar and narrowed it down to a few options.  We chose the Minneapolis Marathon because the timing was the best.  It was the only weekend in the spring I had nothing going on.  The course looked great running through parks and along the Mississippi River.  I wanted to do a run in a larger sized city versus a small community marathon.  I had no idea I was signing up for a marathon that had only 700 runners.  Then I remember the large marathon is Minneapolis is the Twin Cities marathon which is in the fall.  However, my sister and I found some advantages of running “a medium sized marathon” versus one with 10,000 runners.

I awoke at 2:00 AM on Saturday, May 30th. I slept without waking up from 10 PM to 2:00 AM and felt pretty rested.  I think when it comes to this whole marathon experience I am grateful for all the solid sleep.  When it comes to travel and racing, I never seem to sleep well.  I had to catch a shuttle bus at 3:15 AM.  My husband did not appreciate the shower going followed by my hair dryer–but hey I was not about to travel all day without doing my hair.  I made it to the shuttle bus on time.  Everyone on the bus was curled up on the seats and trying to sleep but I was wide awake.

4:30 AM seemed way too early to eat breakfast so I waited until around 5:15.  I get up this early to workout so it didn’t feel excessively early to me.  I did enjoy a breakfast burrito at one of the new restaurants in Portland International Airport.  I boarded my flight and had a three hour layover in Kansas City…which by the way is one of my least favorite airports.  It is claustrophobic, not enough food choices, and the bathrooms were not very clean.  I got to Minneapolis in the late afternoon and my parents picked me up.  We enjoyed a pasta dinner at Olive Garden with my sister and her husband.

My sister, her husband and I all shared a motel room.  It felt a little bit like a slumber party.  It reminded when we all went to Texas together on a mission trip when I was in high school and they were in college.  We went to bed pretty early.  Again I slept amazing right to the alarm when my brother-in-law said, “Ladies it’s time to get going.”

Marathon 1

Another great thing about this marathon is I felt like I got the nutrition right.  I ate everything I trained with.  I had a Honey Stinger organic vanilla waffle bar and a few homemade mini zucchini muffins while in the motel rooms and a half wattle bottle full of Ultima sports drink.  I ate a banana in the car.  I had a Hammer gel while at the starting line.  I felt like I ate enough and everything was sitting well.

We drove to the starting line from our motel and had a little bit of a scare.  As my brother-in-law drove on a major highway, a “wrong way driver” was coming at us.  She was on the wrong side of the median.  There was not very much traffic on the road so my brother-in-law easily pulled off to the shoulder while slamming on the horn.  We did not want to turn around in fears we were about to witness a head on collision.  I think I saw her get off the highway, but our hearts were pounding.  Our guess she was a drunk driver coming home from a party in the early morning hours.

Thankfully we got to the starting line in one piece.  We had to walk about a half mile to it.  After a stop at the port-a-potties and snapping a few pictures, I lined up with the 4 hour pacing group.

Marathon 2

This was my first marathon with my little ipod shuffle.  I also wear my iphone on my arm band. This was for the purpose of texting my brother-in-law and parents following the race if I could not find them. A small race advantage is finding your family right away.  I don’t listen to music through my iphone because we don’t get much date per month with our plan.  So I am the dorky runner that wears a iphone on my arm and a shuffle clipped to my shorts, but I am OK with that.   I have not run my previous marathons listening to music.  The jury is still out on whether I would run with music or without should I run another marathon.

On one hand I loved having music at the very beginning.  This is when my nerves are at their worst.  Having the music calmed my anxiety level and “pumped me up.”  I focused more on running and less on trying to keep up with the pacing group.  However, I really got tired of the music by around Mile #21 and looking back I could have turned it off.  By that point I did not care about anything but finishing strong.

Marathon 3

The run started through many scenic parks and we could not have asked for better weather.  It was in the 50’s and sunny.  My brother-in-law cheered for us at Mile #4 and then a few miles later. Again another small race advantage is he did not have to deal with a lot of traffic and weaving through crowds. This was very motivating.  I was able to stay between the 4 hour pacing group and the 3:45 group most of the first half.  As we get further into the city we ran through the University of Minnesota.  At around Mile #12 the half marathons turn off and go to the finish line.  Us full marathoners keep going and then turn around at Mile #17.  We were going down some massive hills and my only thought was “Oh no we are going to have to go up these on the way back.”  I trained on big hills (there is no way around them in Oregon) but I still hate them.

At the turn around around Mile #17 (or it could have been closer to #19) I felt like I was dragging.  My brother-in-law yelled to try to stay on the 4 hour group’s tail.  I really tried, but it was extremely hard.  I hated having them pass me, but I could not keep up with them.  Once I stopped to walk through an aid station, they were almost out of sight.  I was a little disappointed because I wanted to break four hours.   I knew if the 4:15 group caught up to me, I would not PR at all.

I tried to think positive thoughts.  It is a beautiful day.  I am running in a marathon–my fourth!  How many people can do that?  I worked hard in my training.  I gave it my best.  I am not walking but running mostly–how can I ask for more than that at this point?

The big hills that came at Mile #22 and #24 plain stunk.  They were terrible and I had to stop and walk up most of them as were many others.  My right knee often starts to give out around this point on marathons and my form falls apart.  It is almost harder to run downhill so I did not appreciate reaching the top and going back down.

Marathon 5

Once I saw the Mile #25 sign I put in my last surge of energy and I ran most of the way.  It was a blessing to see my dad at Mile #26 and I pushed as hard as I could to the finish line.  I was excited to see 4:04 as I crossed the finish line.  I did not break 4 hours, but I did PR.  The 4:15 group never caught up to me!

My sister had suffered an IT band injury while training.  I was not sure she would be able to finish let alone run the marathon.  So I had a twinge of anxiety as I saw the 4:15 group finish followed the 4:30.  Her husband said she was strong until Mile #20 maintaining a 4:15ish pace.  While watching her I was shivering. I had my cell phone out of its case so I could snap a photo of my sister as she crossed the finish line. I left my jacket in the car and they did not give out space blankets.  My dad lent me his sweater, but as I put it on I clumsily dropped my phone on the asphalt.  The phone still works but has a nice scratch going across it.  I tried to not let it ruin my mood.

My dad somehow found himself in a conversation with a homeless person. My brother-in-law and I stepped away in fear we would be too distracted and miss my sister coming in.  My sister crossed at 4:55 and she looked strong.  It was amazing to share this moment with her.  My first ever marathon with a family member and I could share it with my sweet sister.

Marathon 6

We left the marathon soon after.  Honestly walking to the car was almost worse than the last few miles of the marathon.  This might be TMI but if you are thinking of running a marathon, your bladder can do weird things post run.  I intentionally went to the bathroom right before getting in the car so we would not have to stop.  It was only about a 15 minute drive back to the motel so I assumed I would be OK.  A few minutes into the drive I had to GO…BAD!  There was nowhere to stop…we were downtown and there were no discreet bushes or trees.  My brother-in-law graciously dropped me off in front of a hotel where I went as fast as my sore legs could carry me to the lobby bathroom.  Then I waited on a street corner until he could come back from me.

The rest of the weekend was relaxing and a time of celebrating family togetherness.  We had a lunch at the motel and said good-bye to my brother-in-law who was flying home that afternoon.  My sister, parents, and I went out for a nice dinner.  The following morning we had breakfast together and I met an old friend who lives in the area for coffee.  My sister and I did not have a firm plan for the rest of the day.  We just wanted to explore Minneapolis.

Marathon 9

We started out an outdoor sculpture park my husband and I had gone to about fourteen years ago.  There was a mini golf course with actual art you golfed around.  I had never see anything like that and we had fun playing mini golf.  Who won you might ask?  We tied of course. Then we went to the Minnehaha Falls which my husband and I had also gone to in November of 2001 and it was COLD! I loved having more time to sit and view the falls.  No major hiking for us–we were SORE!  We had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant we found on the Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives website.  Then my sister wanted to go shopping.  I felt a little dead by that point but I did go to a few stores with her and bought presents for the kids.

Marathon 11

I wanted to be home in time for children’s school musical.  When I booked the trip the musical was scheduled for before I left.  Because of auditorium rental schedule changes, they had to move it to the last week of school.  Because my bus was running fifteen minutes behind I missed the oldest child’s piano solo, but my husband recorded it on his phone (LOVE technology!).  I saw the rest of the program.  By the time I got home I was exhausted and jumped right into a crazy week of wrapping up work, 8th grade graduation, Education meeting, end of the school year picnic, street hockey, strawberry picking, husband’s Open House, husband’s karate test, and more Open Houses.  Let’s just say I am glad our pace slowed down this week!!

I am blessed to have completed Marathon #4.  I have not made any firm decision on future races or triathlons this summer or fall.  Let’s just say I am already back to running, swimming, biking, weights, and street hockey–I just can’t seem to slow down.

 

 

First week of summer

First week of Summer 2014 is in the books.  I think it could be called the “Woa–we have all this extra time on our hands, what do we with ourselves?!” week.

ImageWe enjoyed an early Father’s Day dinner at Sonic.  We only go here about once a year (though their milkshake menu tempts me to go more).  There is something fun about eating in the back of the van.  We had just come from Costco hence the giant bottles of detergent.

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And the hot dogs too!

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On Saturday we had a small army of men from our church in our house.  Since we moved into our house I have despised the carpet in the eating area.  It seemed to get more disgusting with time.  The red velvet cake stain would not come out, the cat peed in the corner, the kids tracked mud in this winter–I hate the carpet.  If I were to give any advice to pastor wives out there living in parsonages I would say the following 1) Show love to your Building & Grounds 2)  Advocate for your families’ needs in a kind and gracious way.  Gentle reminders are good, but don’t be pushy.  3)  Be patient.

ImageAnd hooray–hardwood floor.  Someone asked, “Did you cry when they ripped out the carpet?”  I said, “No I cried when we had the carpet.”  The guys did an amazing job and we felt incredibly cared for as friends and a pastor’s family.

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We celebrated the start of summer by going to the drive-in with friends.  I LOVE drive-ins.  I have always had a thing for them.

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The kids love them too!

ImageYesterday we celebrated Father’s Day…

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I have to say that we are loving the down time.  I still cannot gauge if this one needs a nap or not.  I don’t think she can either.  I, myself, don’t take naps anymore except on Sundays…I can’t during the school year as I am working.  I think I took two naps last week mostly because I could.  My rule for when I take a nap–“Don’t wake me up unless–” The kids: “Someone is bleeding.”  The kids have been keeping busy playing baseball in the backyard, picking raspberries, playing Lego Friends and regular legos, coloring, and riding bikes.  We went to the library and the mall last week, but mostly we have enjoyed being home.

 

Triathlon Journey: Swimming in the Open Water

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Last May I did my first sprint triathlon and was hooked.  I wanted to do a mid summer triathlon that required swimming in the open water (my first tri took place in a pool).  I had grown up playing in lakes, rivers, and ponds so I had little fear of not seeing my feet on the bottom.  I had never swam laps in the open water.  I had only learned to swim about eight months before this and had only been swimming laps regularly for about three months.

So when my friends invited me to swim in their lake last June, I was excited.  Here was my chance to swim across it because I knew I had the endurance.  But it went terrible.  I could not stay in a straight line.  I veered so off to the left so I was completely off course from my friends who were swimming.  Coming back I felt so panicky my husband rode next to me in a kayak.  I kept wanting to grab the kayak.  He kept telling me my stroke was off.  How come I can swim in a pool but not in a lake?  I was on the verge of tears and threw my goal of an open water triathlon out the window that day.

When we were in Michigan last summer, I was thrilled we were staying on a lake.  Lots of open water practice right outside my window.  But I was incredibly nervous and anxious.  The times I did try I felt exhausted after two minutes.  How come I can swim for an hour in a pool but only two minutes in a lake.  My brother-in-law said, “Your stroke is off.”  Then my sister-in-law watched me, “Yeah you know your stroke is off?”  Again I was constantly veering off to the shore and almost hit a dock “head on.”

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So my husband said to put the goal off for a year and focus on swimming at the pool.  Why should I focus swimming in the pool when I am trying to learn to swim in a lake?  But I took his advice to heart.  I became a regular at the pool early Wednesday mornings.  I worked on my stroke (which used to be really off), my speed, my kick–everything.

I asked some triathletes this spring when it would be warm enough to get in the open water.  I asked some of them if they could give me lessons.  One of them said, “You can totally do it.  Just have confidence in your swimming.”  Um…I was confident last summer and then I had to hold on to a kayak and almost hit a dock.

 

DSC09185So last week I went to my friend’s lake and took my eight year old with me…mostly for moral support.  I jumped in the water (which surprisingly with a wet suit was quite comfortable). I started swimming and then I looked up–I was going pretty straight!  And I had the endurance–I felt like I could swim for a long time!  I yelled to my daughter, “I can do it!”

My goal on this triathlon journey is to do an open water tri in July.  The moral of this story is 1) sometimes you have to wait for things…at times it takes a little more hard work and postponing your goals  2) sometimes your husband gives the right advice and you should follow it

 

Looking ahead to summer

I am not really a working mom, but I am not a stay-at-home mom either.  I stay at home with my children, but I watch four children on a part time basis close to forty hours a week.  This year I feel like I identify more with working moms in terms of my schedule and availability.  But what I do now as a working mom versus what I did as a stay at home mom is not much different.  I stay home more, but I think I would have done that anyway this year.  The last two years being involved in morning Bible studies, preschool co-ops, daytime mom’s groups plus play dates got to be a little much. The house showed for it too.  

But this summer it’s just us.  I decided not to do summer daycare because I have quite a bit going on at church including directing VBS.  As much as I enjoy child care and our whole family is committed to it, we do need a break too.

We also talked about last night about activities and came to a conclusion we need a break from those too.  Aside from one or two weeks of swim lessons in June or July, VBS in late June, and my oldest does a one week theatre week in August–that might be it.  It will be very strange not having evening Bible Study, youth group, swim team, mom’s group, not to mention child care kids here every weekday.  However, I am craving the down time.  

My kids are at the age where we can all go running together at the track, bike on the cycling paths together, go swimming together at the pool, go for day hikes, and beach comb at the coast.  We need opportunities for that.  Summer is our prime time.  I tend to gravitate towards “the soccer mom” role wanting to put my kids in everything because I tend to try to do everything too, but the Lord has putting it on my heart the need to rest.  To slow down.  To stop.  I am greatly looking forward to Summer 2014.

 

Spring Break Plus A Bonus Week

So we had Spring Break plus “a bonus Spring Break” because my sister and her family ventured out to Oregon the week after our break. Since I had to dig my flip flops and shorts out of the attic for my trip to California and I am not about to put everything back, I feel like summer is on its way.  Especially with the warm sunny weather we are soaking up.  Yet I know well enough about the rain that sometimes invades in May and the June gloom here in Oregon so I am leaving a couple long sleeves and hoodies in the closet.

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So back in March we told the kids we were going to Washington because my husband had an all day meeting at a church. This was all made up.  There was no meeting. We told them they had to spend a full day entertaining themselves in the church nursery.  I hate holding the truth from my kids so I told them we’d stay in a motel with a pool.  Our plan was to surprise them and take them to Great Wolf Lodge in Grand Mound, Washington.  And yes, they were surprised.

ImageOne of the best things about Great Wolf Lodge with a 8,6, & 4 year old (we have gone when they were younger) is we could do almost everything including all ride on a tube slide together.  There was just one slide my younger two did not meet the height requirement on.  It was refreshing and fun to not have to spend the whole time in the little kid’s area. However, it was nice they still wanted to play there at times giving us a little break too.

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It was a great time for our family.  I am in this new phase of parenting where I am doing more with the kids versus for them.  It really makes events like this enjoyable.

ImageAfter Great Wolf, my family dropped me off at PDX where I flew to LA to visit my friend Linda.  Linda was in the youth group I lead back in Michigan, and somehow she got all grown up on me and is now a graduate student at USC.  I love seeing my youth group “kids” all grown up finding their place in the world.

My first full day in LA I drove in my rental car braving the crazy six lane highways I am not used to.  I headed to Santa Monica where I enjoyed the festivities on the pier and a run along the beach.

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And an amazing sunset!

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 Linda gave me an “inside” view of LA.  We ate at several ethnic restaurants, drove to the Hollywood sign, I went to her Ultimate Frisbee tournament, and we even got to visit the LA opera.

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I could not get enough of the warm, sunny, LA weather.  I am not sure I could live the pace of LA, but the weather and the beaches are pretty amazing.

After four days of being home and trying to revert back into some kind of routine, we were thrilled to have my sister, her husband, and kids come visit us in Oregon.  They live back in Michigan where we used to live so we don’t get to see one another often.

While they were here, my brother-in-law did the Beaver Freezer Triathlon on the campus of Oregon State.  It was my second sprint triathlon.  He has done more and even completed an Ironman Triathlon.  It was fun to do one with a family member.

Amy runningMy time was very similar (only a thirty second difference) from my first triathlon last spring in Stayton, Oregon.  But the swimming went so much better.  Last spring I felt nauseous swimming and could not get into a good swimming pattern.  I felt like I could have increased my speed on the bike, but I am still not totally comfortable “bike racing.”  This is something I hope to work on this summer.  The run for me was by far the best and my run time was only about 1 minute and half more than my normal 5K time.

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My brother-in-law is the guy in the back with the blue shirt and sunglasses.  I thought this picture was funny with the “happy runner” in the front.

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One of the greatest things about having my sister and her family here is seeing all the cousins playing together.  They are ages 12,10,8.6,4–there was a baby every two years.  My brother continued that pattern with an almost two year old and a baby due next month.

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The weather cooperated and we were able to spend most of Monday at Silver Falls State Park.  We have been there many times.  We appreciate it more going with people who have never gone before.

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My sister, her husband, my niece, my nephew, and my oldest two hiked to Double Falls which was about a four mile hike round trip.  My youngest and I made it just past the lower South Falls and took a breather while the rest went on.  We were able to hike back together.

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And then return home to a wonderful dinner cooked by my husband.

After my sister’s family left I cannot believe how tired everyone was.  It has taken us a few days to get our energy back.  My sister made the comment that there is something relaxing about getting back into your normal routine.  I have found that to be true.  The house is slowly getting put back together and everyone is returning back to work, school & regular activities.