Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Ragnar Adventure

It has been the year of running for me.  It started in January with my first half marathon, followed by my second half marathon in June.  And now, as of November 9-10, I have completed the Ragnar Relay Race.

For those unfamiliar with Ragnar,  it is a 12 man relay race across the city.  In total, we traveled 198 miles in two days.  We had two vans with six runners each.  Each person completed three different legs of the journey ranging anywhere from 3 to 10 miles each.  The race goes through the night and is incredibly fun, even when the running part comes up.

There was only one damper on our crazy running weekend.  It was cold.  Really really cold.  Instead of being out mingling and cheering, almost everyone spent the race huddled in blankets and in their vans whenever possible.  Even the Utah people were freezing and that's saying something.

I didn't know any of the girls in the first van of our team, but they started the day up at Mt. Charleston at 9:45 a.m.  This was one of the later start times, which I thought was weird.  We were definitely not doing any speed bragging.  Most teams with our pace started around 6:30 a.m.  But our girls were pretty grateful that wasn't us because their morning started with a little less snow than the 6:30 teams.  

Our legs didn't get started until about 3:00 p.m.  We decorated our van with our team name, We Make This Look Good, and headed up to North Las Vegas for our first legs.  It was the warmest part of the day and it was still so cold.  There was a really strong wind blowing so chilly it just went straight to your bones.  I was the first runner up for our team.

Here is the  map for my first leg.  I just kind of meandered around some neighborhoods for a little over six miles.  It was a slight incline the whole way but not too bad.  The hardest part was my two biggest hills were straight into the wind.  That sucked.

But I was still giddy and ready to go.  So for our team costume we had these sparkly skirts our Team Mom Mindy made for us (more on her later).  I wore mine over my running shorts... and you couldn't see my shorts anymore.  I guess my running shorts are a bit leggy.

Oh and I found out a few days before the race from the eye doctor that I am experiencing very bad eye allergies and and developing an intolerance for contact lenses.  Which meant a run in glasses.  Blech.

But, who is going to let a cold wind and a set of spectacles bring them down?  Not this girl!

I hadn't met the girl I was trading off with so I over jumped a few times in anticipation with arriving runners and made a complete fool of myself.  But she came at last, I slapped on my bracelet and off I went. 

My team would drive forward on the race, stop and then give me big cheers as I drove by.  I was totally spoiled.  I got more stops than everyone else because it just got colder from this point out.  

I am going to pretend I was passing this guy in orange.  I had some of the hardest legs in the race and had some serious runners in my pack.  Still passed 6 people total though!  Woot woot!

And then my leg was done and I got to pass off to none other than my favorite second cousin (that lives in Vegas), Rachel Roylance!

Rachel's running made the rest of us look like we were standing still.  Her strong, athletic legs just move so impressively, we nicknamed her Gazelle.  It was a sight to behold.  Although in my defense, she did get to run with the wind at her back.  Just sayin.  

As soon as the sun started going down we had to pull out the safety gear.  Headlamps, safety vests and the red butt flasher light.  Are we hot or what?

Shauntelle Rowberry-Pallat was another of my buddies on the team.  Shauntelle is one of those awesome people that I am pretty sure could have fun with anyone at any time.  She is so easy going and hilarious.  The perfect person to have in a car with you for 18 hours straight.

Tavia Hart was my other race buddy.  This was my second time spending time with Tavia.  We first met on our trip to Fontana for our half marathon and now Ragnar.  So the two times we have spent time together have been cramped in a car for long periods of time while barely knowing each other.  And I would totally do it again anyday.  If that isn't a sign of an awesome person, I don't know what is.

The two girls I met the day of the race were Jamee and Natalie, who are now my Ragnar sisters for life.  I don't know how it was possible to be in a car in the cold running that much for that long and have only the most fantastic people around you but we somehow made it happen.  There was no complaining, no contention, tons of laughs, tons of food, and a Ragnar bond that is hard to describe but oh so very much there.

Speaking of fabulous people, I cannot leave our of seventh team member:
Mindy Warren wasn't able to run with us this year.  Instead, she provided the vehicle, she drove us around the whole time, she had supplies for any foreseeable circumstance, she is the only reason any of us have pictures of the race, and she was the only one willing to jump out at every single stop to cheer on the incoming runner, no matter what the temperature.

Everyone should have a Team Mom.  They are the best.  

After completing our first six legs.  We sat down for some good Claim Jumper protein and then headed to Tavia's house for a quick nap.  I got about an hour of rest in before we headed out the door.  I think I was one of the only ones that got some rest before we headed out.  Thank goodness I did as that turned out to be the only rest I got.

Our next leg was supposed to start at the M Resort but they moved the location at the last minute.  So that added an extra half mile to my starting run.  I got to take off at about 2:00 a.m. and according to Mindy's van it was officially 34 degrees.  It. Was. So. Cold.
This was my most difficult run of the race.  It was eight miles uphill.  And it was a straight road the whole way.  There were no mile markers and I didn't have any kind of GPS with me so it was just me and the bouncing light of my headlamp for a long, long time.
No matter how I am feeling I always like to give a good pose for the running cameras, but even after an hour  and twenty minutes of running, I was still frozen.  Too cold to smile.  But still incredibly proud of myself.

Jamee ran my same leg back down the hill to finish our set.  It was kind of a pointless down and back run for our team, which was annoying but it was nice to be on a closed road in the middle of the night.  You can see though from this picture the straight nothingness of the run.

So at about 6:30 that morning we finally finished and headed back to Tavia's for a few hours of sleep.  We ate some food provided by her very sweet husband and laid down for about 30 minutes when we got the call.  I guess our team was behind.  Ragnar had informed Van 1 that our team was going too slowly.  Our time would be disqualified and we needed to start Van 2 even before Van 1 finished.  It was a big bummer.  I really think our start time was just too late for the speeds we had told them we were running.  I know everyone in our van did a fantastic job keeping pace.  We were a little bummed but all of us knew we had done a great job so, with no sleep, we headed back to the car to finish up.

Things got a little confusing at this point.  They wanted us to run multiple runners at the same time.  So the van dropped me off for my run and then dropped Rachel off for her run and then came back for me.  We didn't have a slap bracelet since our Van 1 girls were still running so we would just go to the starting line and start running.  But we got a little off on the map, so instead of running my leg, I ran Rachel's leg.  And then Rachel ran it too!

Rachel's run was about a mile shorter than the run I was supposed to do.  So I didn't complain too much.  At that point, with no pressure to finish at all, it all just became fun and we all did really well on our last legs.  

And before we knew it, the finish line was in front of us.  We located our Van 1 girls just in time to run together through the finish line.

Team Mom was not very happy that we didn't give her enough time to set up a good finishing shot.  Sorry!

We really do Make This Look Good!

 It was such a blast.  Even with all of the setbacks, it was just such a fun experience.  I wear my tech shirt proudly.

Now this might have been the end of the story.  But then I got a package in the mail the other day from Ragnar.  It was full of 12 metal batons that said, "Not Quite First Place," on them.  I was surprised that they would send us yet another medal beyond the ones in the race.  Then I read the certificate congratulating us on our second place finish in the all women's division.  Yeah... they didn't disqualify our time like they were supposed to.  Oops!

There are Ragnars all over the United States.  I highly suggest everyone find a team and get running!  And if you are short a runner, give this girl a call.  I will be there!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Primary At Home

We had a sick day this week from church, not so much because my kids were stuck in bed with illness, but because we were just a little to germy from coughs and sore throats and didn't want to share.

Scarlet and Rhode were disappointed, until they remembered a story we recently read in the Friend.  In the story, a little girl was sad she was too sick to go to Primary, so her family hosted a little Primary at home.

They immediately got to work.  When I was allowed to come downstairs, this was the crowd that greeted me.

We sang the welcome song to our visitors and even celebrated a few animal birthdays.

Scarlet and Rhode were in charge of the lesson.  Scarlet chose to talk about Sharing and Rhode talked about Being Nice.

We may be sick, we may be a bit germy, but we have been taught.

Thanks guys.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Four-Eyed Smarty Pants

Scarlet finished her first quarter at Discover Charter School!  She ended the quarter with school pictures, her project presentation, and her progress report and teacher conference.

Taking school pictures... one of those moments that just takes you back.  Isn't it crazy that schools are still using Lifetouch photography?  Seriously, what mobster owns that business and what do they have over the Superintendents Union?  They have upgraded a bit over the years.  I am pretty sure Scarlet's background and pose are identical to a picture from my childhood, but I did get to order my pictures online.
Scarlet's first project for school was called All About Me.  This first project had very specific requirements.  They were supposed to create a posterboard full of information about themselves, their likes/dislikes, schedule, family, home and traditions.  Scarlet loved working on her project and, in the end, it really reflected her perfectly.

I love that she calls her hair color brown & blonde.  Her likes included Thai Food, Madagascar, Madeline, Fancy Nancy, Dance, Baby Dolls and Barbie Movies.  Her dislikes were Peppers, Thomas the Tank Engine (because the shows are boring), toy cars and fighting.

This is her pictures of the outside of our house and then the individual rooms inside.

Her daily schedule.

For her family tree, she had to show how everyone was related and where they lived.  It was not very easy but she did a great job.

She finished the project two weeks before it was due and we were so excited to be done.  But, even though it was stored high out of his reach, Asher still somehow managed to get it to his level and do some serious damage.  Oddly enough, the most damage was done by his drool smearing the marker.  So she didn't have as much extra time as she thought but it was finished on time.

She did a great job on her presentation.  But, it turns out Scarlet has a nervous habit of pulling on/up her skirt when she is speaking in public.  I was so excited to be there to watch as I got to be 1) committed to dressing her in pants for future presentations and 2) grateful she was wearing shorts underneath.

Jon and I got to go to her parent/teacher conference last Friday.  Her teacher only had great things to say about Scarlet.  She is one of the top of the class, doing really well with reading and is very helpful.  She got a perfect report card and a perfect score on her project.

Her latest love is writing her own sentences.  Her teacher says I am not allowed to correct her spelling, which kills me just a little bit but it is so fun to watch her create.

I could credit this good news to great parenting, awesome DNA or many other things that point back to me, but if I take credit for the smarts, then I have to take credit for her newest accessory.  And I'm just not ready to do that yet.

Yup, she is now a glasses wearer.  The pediatrician referred us to an optometrist at her last appointment.  She has an astigmatism so she gets to wear these babies when reading, working on the computer, or doing homework.

She loves them most of the time.  Remember that point in your childhood when you thought having glasses just might be fun?  Thankfully she is still there.

They make her brown eyes look even bigger than they already are but in a good way... I hope.

Next quarter here we come!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

California Here We Come!

A few months after their homecoming, we finally got to really celebrate having Grandma and Grandpa Nielsen back in the USA.  The Marshalls, the Drivers, Swen and our family got to spend a week in the most perfect sunshine doing only the funnest of activities.

While planning the trip, we knew one of those activities was going to be Disneyland and my kids were counting down the days.  One of the ways they were counting was by saving their pennies for a special Disneyland toy of their choosing.  My kids earn one dollar every time they earn 10 tallys (which are earned doing good things).  They also usually get birthday money from grandparents.  And as an extra incentive, my mom rewarded them with cash for each Article of Faith they memorized.  They got a dollar per article (i.e. $5 for memorizing number 5).  And they memorized up to #8 before we left.  So by the end, they had some serious cash.

Scarlet's Total:  $42
Rhode's Total: $87

Rhode was loaded.  I tried to talk him into spending some money here and there but he was bound and determined to save every penny for Disneyland.

And, while I'm on the subject, let's start with Disneyland!  Our Disney part of the trip started in California Adventure.  We had a fantastic day of great weather, small crowds and a brand new Cars Land to enjoy. 

I made my kids autograph books for the trip but Donald Duck is the only character we saw during our two days there that didn't have an extremely long line behind him.  

I also made matching Mickey shirts for Rhode and Asher.  Did I get a picture of them together wearing them?  Of course not.

My kids are the perfect age for Disneyland.  Well, actually perfect height.  Scarlet is 48" and could go on everything and Rhode at 42" inches was denied very little.  They even both went on the Tower of Terror.  They both claim it was fun but ask that they never have to go on it again.

The picture taking out first day was slim but here are some of the awesome people we got to hang out with on our park day.

Grandpa Bert

Cousin Olivia

We got there from the minute the park opened all the way until the World of Color show.  The show was fantastic, a tad long, but my kids were fascinated in their exhaustion.

We had so much fun, we funned out the rest of the family.  So our second day at "the real Disneyland", as my children referred to it, was a Jon Nielsen family only affair.

This time the kids sported their very neon Halloween shirts.  It was a fantastic way to spot them in a crowd.

Asher was the best little guy through our whole trip.  He hung out in our new (to us) sit n' stand stroller, took a few naps, enjoyed every second of every ride he was allowed to go on and was stoked after discovering his long lost love, cotton candy.

Rhode and Scarlet were ride going champions.  The park wasn't too crowded, except for character spots and Fantasy Land. So instead of doing little kid Disney, we just went straight for the big stuff.

They rode Splash & Thunder Mountain, the Matterhorn, Buzz Lightyear, Star Tours, and even braved Space Mountain - Halloween Version.  We did the baby switch pass on all of the rides so one kid would then go on the ride again with whatever adult stayed with Asher.  So not only did they get on these big rides, but they were then willing to immediately get on them again.  It was a blast.

Our first kid money expenditures were all edible.  We got a wide assortment of treats whenever hungry, or delayed, or walking by a delicious looking booth.

So here's something I didn't know existed.  I guess it used to be called Tom Sawyer's Island but has been renamed Pirate's Cove.  But its a whole tree house, tunnel play area  you have to get to by raft in the middle of the park.  I have absolutely no memories of ever being their or even knowing that existed.

Luckily for all, I got to relive those missed childhood experiences when Asher decided he was old enough for the tree house and needed a guide.

We also enjoyed all of the classic rides.  Pirates and the Jungle Cruise were two of this little guy's favorites.

And other than a brief visit to Toon Town, we pretty much stayed away from the middle and highly populated part of the park.

Except for the carousel.  Nielsen babies love them some carousel.

By the end of the day, my kids had decided on their purchases.  Scarlet had squandered most of her money on treats and a spray water bottle that she promptly lost but her dreams came true at a little kiosk in New Orleans.  After weeks of telling us she was going to buy an umbrella at Disneyland, she found a dark pink ruffled parasol decorated with her name in beautiful calligraphy.  It was the perfect find for her.

Rhode decided after Star Tours (which I think may be his only introduction to Star Wars in his life thus far) that he really needed to build his own light saber.  The task included choosing eight different parts of your own design, which was pretty fun.  Plus his gift only cost him $20.  Minus a few treats and he came home still the proud owner of $50.  He has since squandered some of it on bad behavior but that's a whole other story.

Our week long vacation included two days at the park and the rest of our days at the beach.

The weather couldn't have been more beautiful.  It was just warm enough for the kids to be diving in and out of the water.  And guess who finally decided to like the ocean?  

This guy.

Asher thought the beach was pretty fantastic as well.  The water was a bit chilly and kept moving out of his reach but the rocks were plentiful, the sand was kinda tasty, and the birds were just askin' to get chased.

He almost got that one.

We got to play some tennis at the resort, had a fantastic visit with our friends, the Mercuros, played a very fun round of Minute to Win It, and played our favorite card games until they weren't our favorite anymore.  Nah... still our favorite.

I am so glad I get to be related to such great people.  We missed the Moores, but we did our best to have fun without them.  It is also so nice to have Grandma and Grandpa Nielsen just one state away.  Hope we get to keep them there for awhile.  Or in our state would be nice as well!