Thursday, April 25, 2013

RAGNARly!

So, after a ridiculously fun experience last year, Jim and I decided to run the SoCal Ragnar again this year. In case you missed it, Ragnar is a 12-person relay over 200 miles from Huntington Beach down to the San Diego Harbor. (I admit it, we runners are crazy: We pay $120 to run miles with no sleep and surround ourselves with sweaty, smelly friends, all for the "free" t-shirt and post-race snacks...and we call it fun! Twisted, I know.)
Our original plan was to wrangle a bunch of our former Biola cross-country teammates and make it into a reunion of sorts. But after a lot of initial interest, when push came to shove and it was time to collect the moolah, go figure, not everyone finds what I described above as unmissable fun. So we ended up with Jim, me, and Trevor (who lives here in Vista and runs with Jim every Thursday at 5am) (Yes, even in the cold, dark winter. They're super crazy!). That left 9 more spots, which we somehow filled with other crazies like us. A few from church, a few friends of friends, etc...(BTW, several from our team from last year stepped up the craziness and formed their own Ultra team--6 people running the same distance instead of 12! We graciously declined on that foolishness ;)).

Along with finding 12 crazy runners, we also had to find 3 volunteers to help at the race and 2 drivers to drive us around between legs. All in all, that's a lot of crazy (and perhaps somewhat naive/not-fully-informed-of-the-craziness-of-it-all) people...Which is a huge part of what makes this whole experience so fun. It was such a bonding experience, and I feel like not only did we have fun but we also came away with deeper friendships. And I am especially grateful that I got to do it with Jim. Jim is leagues ahead of me in running--or anything athletic or competitive for that matter!--but it was so great to be able to work together as teammates. In fact, we had such a great time, that we are contemplating maybe even doing another Ragnar (like the Las Vegas one perhaps?) later this year...
Jim and I ended up in Van 1, along with George and Jake (from our small group, their wives are my good friends Kristen and Sarah, and their kids are Jadon's good friends Molly and Andrew), Matt (George's acquaintance from the Marines who we all barely met on Friday morning before the race), and Jeff (a former student Jim helped to coach at El Camino High School like 6 years ago). We also had Jake's wife Sarah as our driver for legs 1 and 2, which was really nice, because that meant I got to hang out with one of my best friends all day--without our kids! For leg 3, Jim's dad joined us as driver (he was in town for a conference...and Sarah needed to get home to her kiddos).

("The difference between us and you: We make this look good!") 
(Our team name was "The Good Looking Team." Obviously, we meant it as a joke, but the announcer at the start line said, "Well, with a name like that, you guys better put up or shut up!" Little did we know what was to come...)
Van 2 was Trevor, Scott (the brother of our Biola teammate Steve who couldn't make it out from DC for the race), Brittany (friend from church who didn't get to run Ragnar last year but really wanted to), Molly (friend of Brittany), Lauren (friend of friend), and Jerame (last minute sub in and friend of Lauren). 


It is so amazing--and cool!--how running can bring perfect strangers together and by the end we felt like best buds.

Approximately 650 teams started Ragnar SoCal. To spread things out, 20-30 teams start every 15-30 minutes from 5am to 2pm on Friday. We had a 9am start time...
Matt led us out like a champ, coming through the checkpoint in 2nd for our heat...
He passed off to Jim, who proceeded to pass 6 runners from the previous heat (called "roadkill") before passing off to Jeff, who passed like 10 more before passing of to Jake, who passed some more before passing off to me...who passed 4 (woohoo!) before passing off to George, who passed like 10-20 more.
(This is Jim before his first leg. Notice his shirt: "When you see me, yell, 'Go Jim, Go Jim!'")

At that point we passed off to Van 2 at Yorba Linda Regional Park around noon, and it was starting to get broiling hot!!! The park looks cool and refreshing, but the moment you stepped out from the shade, you were being cooked alive. It was fun to see 2 of our volunteers there, Kristen (George's wife) and one of our collective favorite babysitters, Allison, who graduated from our youth ministry (not sure how she got suckered into this...except that Jim is very persuasive, and she is very awesome!). They got stuck making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for like 5 hours, lucky them.

After hanging out with them for awhile, we headed down the road toward our next big exchange and stopped at Jake's uncle's house at Lake Elsinore. The thermometer read 90 in the shade, but it was so pleasant eating Subway on his deck overlooking a little inlet...much better than running in the scorching heat like our teammates!
Oh yeah, that's also where we got tattoo'd!
We were expecting to be there for awhile as the heat slowed them down, but based on their updates we discovered they only slowed down 10 minutes off of their projected pace over their 40 or so miles...and they had tracked down A TON more roadkill (Scott alone passed 60 people on his leg...and then literally puked his guts out. Crazy runners.)
So before we knew it, we were up and running again, from Lake Elsinore down the 15 to the Fallbrook area just east of our house.
That second leg was my favorite. Whereas my other 2 legs were each half uphill, this one was 7.8 miles of continuous gradual decline. Running that at 11pm was a sweet, surreal experience!
As we continued to pass more and more people (and not BE passed by anyone), Jim's competitive juices started flowing, and we started doing some math. We estimated that maybe 250 teams had started ahead of us, and we had already passed about 150-200 runners, and the crowd was definitely starting to thin out...so at each exchange, Jim started asking the volunteers how many teams had passed by so far. By 10pm, there were 55 teams in front of us...and we kept picking more off. The guys especially were going crazy!
After finishing our second legs, we stopped by our house to get a quick shower and an hour or two of sleep. But then at 1:05 am, Jim got the call that Van 2's last runner had just started their leg and we needed to get to Carlsbad fast. We had assumed they might slow down a little bit, since they had pushed so hard through the heat...but no! They had picked up the pace...and passed a ton more runners! So we all jumped into action (as much as half-asleep tired bodies can "jump") (BTW, try waking up an exhausted Marine who's come back from Iraq...it's a wee bit scary, let me say!), and we dropped Matt off at the exchange mere seconds before Scott came in. 
The third leg is notoriously the most difficult (my words were carefully chosen there--you wouldn't believe how many teams embraced awkward slogans about how hard "it" is...), since your body is going into shutdown mode from exhaustion, but by the time we finished just as the sun was rising on the coast, we were in tenth place...as in, we had passed everyone but 10 teams who had started up to 4 hours ahead of us--and NO ONE had passed us! I'm not that competitive, and even I was excited. No pressure on Van 2 or anything, but we were gunning for the front!
So while they held up their pace, we celebrated with free Starbucks on the cliffs, 
a free sunrise massage,
and an indulgent breakfast at Denny's before making our way to the Harbor finish line. That's probably the best part of being in Van 1: getting to finish early and eat anything you want and just relax as you wait for the other team.
And they did not make us wait long. At 11:02 am, we joined Scott in crossing the finish line, a mere 26 hours after starting this grueling race, and only 3 teams crossing that line before us. It was SO exhilarating!
(When all was said and done, we found out that our finishing time put us in 2nd place for our division, which was actually MEN'S Open since we didn't have enough females to be counted as a mixed team...and 13th place overall out of 650 teams!)
Of course, while we're all celebrating and bragging to ourselves about how awesome we are, we suddenly realized we had no idea where Scott had gone...until we found him practically passed out in the First Aid tent.
That was what I loved about our team this year. We aren't a bunch of running elites. Shoot, for that matter, half of our team hasn't even been running for very long. Lauren has had a foot injury and hadn't run at all for the previous 5 weeks. Jake started running last year and his leg broke mysteriously on mile 22 of his first marathon. Matt and George are Marines who were deployed last year. Bottom line...it's not like we really, truly trained for this. We're just a little bit crazy enough to find enjoyment in running...and even more enjoyment in competing.
And the craziest part...
I think most of us are crazy enough to do it again!

Oh [shoot]!

Jadon passed a major milestone last night.
Apparently, he said his first bad word.
bummer.
Perfect time and place, too: at our small group Bible study.
Great.
I actually didn't hear it. He was playing with Molly's Disney princess castle, and pushed it off the table just as one of the guys was walking by toward the bathroom, and he's pretty sure he heard Jadon declare, "Oh [shoot]."
Yikes.
No one else was around to verify, so I'm still hoping our friend misheard Jadon. I've heard Jadon say plenty of things, but never that. But I think I know where he might have picked it up from. If it truly is in his little head, I'm sure it will come out again sooner or later, and then I get the fun task of teaching him that there are words we shouldn't use. I guess this time was going to come sooner or later. I just wish it would have been later.

Monday, April 22, 2013

March and April Madness

Today is the first day in at least 6 weeks that I haven't had some enormous impending project or event hanging over my head...and I feel great!!! I even dusted all my ceiling fans this morning! And now that Jadon is down for his nap, I might as well catch up on blogging since it's one of many items on my catch-up to-do list.

*Sleep training has officially become a success. Jadon "easily" falls asleep by himself every nap and night, minus a few crazy days.
He still insists, however, that we leave his and our bedroom doors open a crack, a sad reminder to me of when we had to "lock" him in his bedroom those two times. It hurts me that we scarred him in this way, and I wish I could've figured out another way to do it. Several times since then he has accidentally closed the door on himself at the doctor's office and other random public places, and it always ends up with him in hysterical tears, sobbing in my arms that "you locked me!" *sigh*
However, one of the good things that has stuck with him from that same traumatic period is that Jesus is with him "in his heart." Maybe not theologically correct, yet, but I love that he's thinking that way. Now, whenever he sees anyone sad or lonely for any reason, whether at the store or in a movie or at church or at the park or wherever, he will either tell them or me, "It's okay, Jesus in your heart." It is SO cute. I love that in his own way, Jadon is already telling people about Jesus! On our GOAL mission trip with the youth group, we watched Wreck It Ralph one night, and when Ralph was sad and lonely, Jadon yelled it out to him. Our teenagers thought it was hilarious. We are starting to tell Jadon that not everyone does have Jesus in their heart, but are treading lightly on that theological detail. :)

*Sarah and Greg's visit!
One of the most exciting parts of March was the arrival of my sister and her husband for a 2 week visit. It was so amazing to see her growing baby bump and to be able to include them in a ton of our family festivities. We all were crazy busy, but it was such a blessing to be with them.

*Passover
Within days of Sarah and Greg's arrival, we celebrated Passover. I can't remember if this was our 5th or 6th year in a row hosting it, but this year we had another 75 people celebrate a Passover Seder dinner with us at church the Thursday before Easter. It is such a great way to enter the Good Friday/Resurrection Sunday weekend, observing the "Last Supper" the way Jesus did with his disciples. The traditions Jews have been following for years are so rich with symbolism pointing to Jesus, it just puts a smile on my face to go through them, and I love being able to share them with others. This year, as always, was stressful and hectic and exhausting, but it was my most enjoyable one yet, thanks to delegating more of the food prep to friends and the leading of the Seder to my sister and Greg.

(Setting up for 100 people, using all the table cloths and dishes from my sister's wedding)

 Greg and Sarah explaining the significance of Passover
 We grew Jadon's hair for this event ;)
 Fallon lights the candles at our table, using a napkin and a sweater as a makeshift scarf :), while Pastor Hal and Amy encourage her
 My sister prepares to say the blessing over the lighted candles. Her Hebrew is so great! I am so proud of her!

 Jadon did great, but he could only take so much of the sitting down...and the curls
 Probably my favorite part is bringing all the kids up to "experience" the 10 plagues. They got to throw "lice" confetti on the adults, stick sticker "boils" on them, throw pompom "hail" at them, and wear sunglasses for the darkness, among other things...We thought it wise to skip the 10th plague, however. How do you make "death of the firstborn" fun?
 And then there was the cleanup...Ugh!



*Easter
Of course, when your husband is a pastor, Easter is inevitably a busy, hectic time of year. We had an early Easter service/kids' carnival on Wednesday night, the Seder dinner on Thursday night, an Easter party with my MOPS group on Friday morning, Good Friday service on Friday night, Easter service on Saturday night, and three services on Sunday.
THEN we finally got to do the family stuff Sunday afternoon and evening.
Jadon is definitely getting to a fun age with holiday traditions...and it was even more fun to have my sister and Greg join in on the festivities.
In Jadon's Easter basket, among other things he (and Jim) got awesome remote controlled cars that twist and spin and light up...and rarely get stuck. So.much.fun!


Jadon also got a pretty awesome basketball bunny. Unlike 98% of humans who go for the ears first, Jadon went for the nose...the basketball...the tail...the feet...and THEN the ears. He was pretty stoked to get so much candy, but was surprisingly disciplined. After a few bites of the chocolate, he'd give it back to me to save until later. He definitely doesn't take after his mama on that!
 I know Easter egg hunts come from pagan fertility rituals...but Jadon loves looking for treasures, so we did one anyway. As he gets older, I'll try to weave in the story of Jesus better, but for this year, I just filled the eggs with candy and cars and coins...and playdoh. Jim and Sarah and Greg got in on the action, too, and it was so cute to see Jadon trying to help them and share with them as much as they were trying to help him. It made me really happy to see that Jadon wasn't at all greedy. After a few eggs he was content...and couldn't wait to get to the treats inside!



After all this fun, my parents cooked an amazing prime rib roast dinner. I think this was my favorite adult Easter so far, and it gave me hope that in spite of being in ministry, we can still carve out time for our own family traditions. 
It was also exciting to see Jadon just starting to get the concept of Jesus dying on the cross for him. We bought two simple books telling the story and read them almost every night in March, and Jadon totally seemed to connect when I explained the pictures of the "mean" men who were "pushing" and "hitting" Jesus. He still doesn't seem to comprehend death...or crucifixion for that matter!...but now, every time he sees a cross anywhere, he says, "That's where Jesus born!" Not quite...but that's what Jesus was born for, after all!

*Sarah's shower
The weekend after Easter, I cohosted a baby shower for my sister up in Orange County with her dear friend Janna. We spent the morning at Sarah's messianic fellowship Adat HaMashiach, where Jadon got to try out Israeli dance worship and Greg gave the sermon. 

video


Then we had a fun time celebrating Wee Williams. Sarah has a ton of wonderful friends who came and showered her with love, but I was especially grateful for my friend Kristen coming up from Oceanside.


*GOAL Missions Trip
Before the dishes were all washed and put away from the Seder and Easter and shower, it was time to gear up for our annual youth missions trip. For the past several years we have forgone trips to Mexico in exchange for a trip with more tangible and long-lasting impact to our military base next door, Camp Pendleton. Without a language barrier and long distance, our teens are able to do the same Kids' Camp and service project ministry that they would do in Mexico...but better. Several families started coming to New Song as a result of their kids' lives being impacted by our teens, and it really teaches our students the lifelong lesson of evangelism and outreach WHEREVER life takes them. Also, it costs a lot less, so we are then able to send the surplus money to Children's Hunger Fund, an amazing ministry that conscientiously works through local churches in impoverished communities around the world to feed the hungry physically AND spiritually.
My roll on this trip for the past few years has been cook, and as usual, it was absolutely exhausting! (as evidenced by this horrific picture Jim got of me!)
$2,000 in groceries and my dad's full truck later, my living room was full of a week's worth of food for 75. That chaos eventually settled into about 20-25 labeled boxes, and another truckload of ice chests and tables and propane griddle and huge pots and pans and water coolers, etc. My brain was spinning for days trying to get it all organized!
 BUT, thanks to simplified meals and preplanned menus and shopping lists, it definitely is getting "easier." I even had time to go for a run three days during the week!
And...for the second year, we were able to borrow an AMAZING RV from our AMAZING friends the Walkers. Seriously, this thing is almost nicer than my house...and it even has Direct TV! I gotta admit, I definitely appreciated the Disney channel when I was trying to get dinner ready. That and the blow-up pool were lifesavers!

 (Jadon watching Cars with a friend)
That was another thing that made it easier this year: Jadon hung out with our students a ton. They loved taking him to the park (they weren't allowed to go unless they had him with them) and playing with him and watching movies with them, etc...and he had a blast being the center of their attention.

It was cute watching him get involved at the different kids' camps, too. He thinks he's one of the teenagers, and he loves getting on stage and leading the scream-team (worship) with them, or getting right in the mix during game time.

video
 All in all, the week was a huge success, with a lot of significant spiritual moments for our students. I never look forward to the week, but I'm always glad I was part of it.

*Austin:
After GOAL, Austin went back to live with his mom, who is currently living in a good apartment and seems to be pretty stable. Please pray for this transition for him. We think it is for the best, but change is never fun, and sometimes "the best" isn't necessarily the easiest.

*Ragnar:
After Austin moved out, I had a few days to deep clean the house, put away all the Seder/Easter/Shower/GOAL stuff, and get ready for Ragnar So Cal (this past weekend). Let's just say that in a week where I should have been getting as much rest as I could, I ended up with 3-5 hours a night...But more on Ragnar in my next post...