Monday, July 14, 2014

Temple Hike

Saturday June 7th was a really special day.  Our Bishopric took a number of months to plan and execute a 13.1 (half marathon) hike to our temple in Bellevue.  The inspiration for this hike was John Rowe Moyle, a stonecutter for the Salt Lake Temple.  His story, as found online:

"Both a farmer and a stonemason, Moyle travelled nearly 22 miles from Alpine to Salt Lake City every Monday morning to work on the temple, returning home on Friday to do the work of his farm over the weekend.  Moyle installed the Temple's circular staircase and carved the inscription "Holiness to the Lord" on the east side of the Temple.

Moyle suffered a compound fracture of the leg when he was kicked by a cow, necessitating the leg's amputation by his family and friends.  Moyle subsequently carved a wooden leg for himself so that he could continue traveling to Salt Lake City and working on the temple."

His story alone is inspiring.  What a great man who represents sacrifice, hard work and dedication. 

The Bishopric wanted to do this hike to help the youth understand the importance of the temple and sacrifice.  All that we are working towards in this life is getting to the temple.  Once we get there, it is always living in a way that we can keep going back to the temple.  Back in the days of John Moyle and the other pioneers, and even today in many countries, much was/is sacrificed to build temples and  to get to the temple.  We are blessed to live in an area where there is a temple so close, so we don't have to sacrifice as much to physically and financially get to the temple.  This 13.1 mile hike would be a sacrifice- the kids would sacrifice their Saturday, their sleep and their comfort (13 miles is a long way) to get to the temple, in hopes that when they are older and preparing to go to the temple, that they will remember this experience and the sacrifices they made for just that one day and hopefully make it a goal to sacrifice whatever is needed to always make the temple a priority.

We started our journey at 3:30 a.m. at the church.  Each youth and leader was given a matching shirt to wear for the day.  We had an opening song of "Come Come Ye Saints" and an opening prayer.  An outline was given for the days events, then we were all given a sack breakfast and the youth assigned to a car and we headed off.  We drove to a park in Preston where our hike started.  From that point forward, it was 13.1 miles to the temple.

Our hike started on a backroad where no cars even passed.  We quickly ended up in a wooded area, off of all public roads and completely in nature.  We got to see the sun rise and a new day start.

It was a beautiful day- sunny and the perfect temperature.  Not too hot but not too cold.  The trees and all of nature seemed extra beautiful.

We had aide stations and stops every few miles.  We were given food and water and a minute to sit down.  

Each stop had a speaker who would share an inspiring story with us.

We came out of the woods and into the middle of a town.  We came across and were right in the middle of this town's big road bike race. 

At one point, we were on a very busy road where cars were zooming right by us.  To the left of us, where you see all the cars, was I-90.

Group selfie- Young Women leaders rule!

Here are all of the Young Women leaders in our ward (minus one, who was the photographer for the group, and the lady in white who is a mom of one of the youth)!  What an amazing group of leaders this is.  I was tight and sore for most of the hike, but hiking with these fabulous ladies was such a treat.  We had such a great time and I have never laughed for 13 miles straight.  :)

Our last stretch before the temple took us through a big field.  Just beyond all of those trees was the temple.  We knew we were close, but it sure didn't feel/look like it.

As we came out of the trees, there was the temple.  The youth all stopped and someone started singing "I Love To See the Temple" and everyone softly joined in.  It was such a neat moment.

We then walked over on the temple grounds.

  We made it!

This group of youth was so amazing on this hike.  There were a few youth who had some physical challenges on the hike, but even then they fought and over came and pressed on.  For the most part, the youth were champs and there was laughter, team work and lots of energy.  I was so impressed. 

After our group picture, we headed over to a spot just off the official temple grounds.  Our Stake President, who walked the entire hike with us, spoke to us then.  It was one of the most amazing messages/talks I have ever heard.  I so desperately wished I would have had pen and paper with me to take notes.  I have since forgotten most of my favorite tidbits from his message, but I will never forget the way I felt.  I was extremely sore by the end of the hike (remember I just turned 30 and am already going down hill), but as I sat and listened to him, my aches and pains literally disappeared for an hour.  His message was on the temple- the importance of it and always keeping it in our sights.  He quoted from a conference talk by Elder Gary E. Stevenson, "You are never lost when you can see the temple." 

I had a 2 fold purpose going into this day: I wanted to feel the spirit and I wanted to learn something. I came away with an overwhelming abundance of both of those missions.  It was such a wonderful experience for me and I will not soon forget it.  In talking with our youth, it seemed to have a lasting impression on them as well.

To end the day, our ward had a ward temple night that evening.  Our ward temple nights are a big deal and we have close to 80 people who attend these.  It is really awesome to be in the temple with that many people that you know and love (including my parents and my sister and her husband, who were in town and came along).  It was such a special day from sun up until sun down (literally).  We had a late temple session that evening and by the time I climbed into bed that night, I had been up for 21 hours.  I was bone tired, was walking with a limp and had a number of blisters on my feet, but it was a good reminder of an amazing day.  I'm so grateful for temples- for what they stand for and for the wonderful, eternal blessing they are for me and my family. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Baseball season recap

Baseball season ended about a month ago for us.  It is the busiest sport season for us.  The league we play in is hard core and very intense.  We are hard core baseball fans (at least the Blakeslee blood in me and my kids), but even we found it a wee bit TOO intense for a 6 year old and a 9 year old.  We played in this same league last year as well and with the kids being a year older this year, things got bumped up in intensity even more. 

It is a great program and Mitchell got lucky and got the same coach as last year.  This man is phenomenal.  I requested to have him again and was so glad we got him.  The skills he teaches these little kids is above and beyond and the way he handles active 6 year olds is unlike anything I've seen. He is patient and kind, but firm and strict all at the same time, which makes for optimal learning and growth.  He knows baseball inside and out and is a great teacher.  He will also stand in the field with the boys while they are playing defense and record stats.  He also has his clip board with him on offense to record their at bats as well. 

Chloe lucked out this year and got a great coach.  I was nervous because last year her coach was not great.  At all.  She missed out on learning last year due to her poor coach and I was nervous that the same thing would happen again this year and another year would go by where she didn't learn important skills. 

Having good coaches is a must, but the intensity of them was a little overwhelming.  Practices started at the beginning of March, with games to start at the beginning of April.  Chloe's coach wanted to practice twice a week for 2 hours each practice.  We have never had a 2 hour practice yet with our kids.  That seemed a bit much to me, especially twice a week. 

Mitch's coach scheduled 3 practices a week.  I about fell off my chair!  He made the 3rd practice optional.

With a small baby and a normal life to lead, making it to all the practices was tricky.  Practices started or went through dinner time and/or Livy's bed time.  She's a sweet girl, but she's almost zero fun if it's past her bedtime. 

When games started, I thought the coaches would cut down on practices.  Luckily, Mitch's coach cut down to one practice a week, but we gained 2 games a week, putting us at 3 nights a week for him alone.  Chloe's coach kept both practices and she had 2-3 games a week.  Our heads were spinning.  Most weeks, our calendar had 6 nights of baseball.  It was too much.  We decided that each kid could go to one practice a week and as for games, we took it week by week.  Sometimes a game (or two) and a practice would get rained out during the week.  Other times we just decided that we weren't going to any practices that week or would be skipping a game or two, as needed.  We love sports and we think it is important for our kids to play sports for a number of reasons (none of which is to make it in college sports or to make it pro).  Having said that, our lives couldn't be 100% consumed with baseball.  We took it week by week and would cut out what we needed that week to make life manageable.  This league has lots of great things about it, but to be having 6 and 9 year olds playing baseball on 5 different nights (per kid) is ridiculous.  Unfortunately, the only other option I've seen for baseball in our area is summer baseball and with how much we are gone in the summer, that doesn't really work for us.

Ande Mitch LOVES baseball.  He really enjoyed it last year, but his love for it grew leaps and bounds this year.  He has a lot of natural abilities and he just loves the game.  Chloe isn't as obsessed with it, but she enjoys it and is learning new sporting skills and lots of great life skills as well.  We feel strongly about letting our kids experience sports and being on a team and feel that there are lots of great things to be learned through sports.  It is definitely a sacrifice for all of us to have kids in sports, but one that is worth making with limits and boundaries.  The cut backs we made this season were made with the best interests of our family in mind.  We worry that each year will get more and more intense, but we will have to take each year as it comes.  I am disappointed that a league that has so much good about it is having such young kids devoting that many hours a week to one sport.  It was a fun season, but so tricky.  Our kids learned a ton and we loved that.

To start things off, my older sister sent me this throw back picture of us in 1996.  We grew up playing softball every year, starting around age 5.  I was 12 in this picture.  With scrunchie socks and a killer half pony tail, I rocked it out on the baseball field.  I love, love, love baseball.

Sometime in March, we took all the kids to the sporting goods store to buy some gear for the season.  Leah is very athletic and very anxious to play sports herself (not until kindergarten in our family) and had fun trying out the equipment.

Picture day for both kids and their teams fell on a yucky rainy day late in March.  It was not a fun morning at all.  Everything was such a mess.

They had to take individual pictures in a tent and group pictures under a big canopy.
Go Black Ninjas!

Go Hawks!

Baseball season also includes the Major Leagues around here.

We root for the home team (Go Mariners!)

And we root for the good team!  (Go Yanks!)  My family is lifelong Yankee fans.  We get a lot of flack for it, but it's nothing I can't handle.

Chloe went from her first year playing last year, which was machine pitch, to fast pitch this year where the girls pitch.  I was excited about that (yea! real baseball!), until the first game or two was over.  I decided very quickly that 9 and 10 year olds aren't quite ready for fast pitch.  All of the girls could have benefited from at least another year of machine pitch for a few reasons.  Fast pitch brings new rules/concepts- stealing, learning how to read pitches, understanding balls and strikes, etc.  Bless the pitchers' hearts- they did a fantastic job of hurling that ball over the plate.  But at that age, they are anything but consistent.  Most of the games were just inning after inning of walks.  The batters had a hard time reading the pitches and started off swinging at everything and striking out, and getting scolded by their coaches for swinging at bad pitches.  After that, they decided to not swing at anything, realizing they had poor judgement, and watched every pitch go by.  With the pitchers being so inconsistent they would walk most of the batters.  Sometimes 4 or 5 batters in a row would walk.  The girls out in the field playing defense would stand there so long with no action that by the time someone finally did hit the ball, they had totally forgotten what to do.  I would have loved for Chloe to have gotten another year or two of machine pitch in so that she could really learn and understand better the fundamentals of the game, including simply how to just hit the ball without worrying about how to read a pitch just yet.  With inconsistent pitchers and the fear of swinging at bad pitches, the girls rarely got to hit, let alone even swing the bat.  She learned a lot this year, no doubt, but it definitely came with it's drawbacks.

Being in such a fancy league, the girls this year all had their own equipment.  We showed up to our first practice and every girl had their own bat, helmet and softball bag.  Chloe noticed immediately and felt not only left out but out of place.  She had to keep asking the coach to use the league's equipment (which is what I was excepting everyone would use).  We don't like to buy stuff just to fit in or because everyone is doing it, but with how much we play baseball at home, we decided it would be a good investment to buy a few things for the whole family that the big kids could use at practices and game. 

My dad sent Chloe a softball bag.  She was so thrilled and loved hauling that huge bag around all season.  It fit all of her equipment perfectly. 

It also fit Olivia perfectly too.

The other big thing this year was sunflower seeds.  All of the girls on Chloe's team had them every game.  She was so excited when we surprised her with a few bags of her own.  Ben and I started taking them to the games for ourself and became quite addicted to them.  Mitch liked them as well, but he was too focused on his games to really use them during the game.

Olivia was such a trooper this season.  We hauled that sweet girl to countless games and practices, often in cold weather.  I always had to remember to bring lots of layers to keep her warm.

Another game!

Baseball fields are a work of art to me.  One night at Mitch's game, the sun was setting and the mountain was out, just above center field.  It was gorgeous!

We did get some days where the weather was warm and the only hat we needed was the bottoms of her outfit.  We called her "Captain Underpants" this night.

On a good night, she would sit in her stroller for a few minutes.  But a crawling baby does not like to be contained for very long.  And baseball parks are usually not the cleanest place to let babies down to crawl around.

The other troopers of the season were these sweet twinners.  They went to every practice and most games as well with either me or Ben, or the entire family.  They loved running around and playing wherever there was open grass or dirt.  They are great self entertainers, which was a lifesaver with having to keep Olivia entertained and happy past her bedtime.

Baseball season wasn't just for the kids this year!  An acquaintance from my stake asked me if I would be interested on playing on a city league team.  I haven't played on an organized team since college 10 years ago.  I jumped at the chance!  It was a co-ed team comprised of mostly members of our stake (most of whom I had never met).  They needed another girl in addition to me, so I recruited a friend from my ward.  Everyone was very nice and it was so much fun to be part of a team again.  I was certainly rusty and didn't play quite as well as I imagined in my head that I would, but it was really fun.

Our second game was the day after my 30th birthday.  I thought turning 30 was great and was finally embracing my older age, thinking I could really rock this whole 30 thing.  My first at bat that night, I hit the ball and as I started running to first, I felt shooting pain go up both of my quads.  It was so bad and my muscles became so tight that I could barely limp my way to first base.  I thought with a little stretching would ease the pain and I'd be good as new in a few minutes.  After another inning or so, I realized that this probably wasn't as minor as I thought it was.  I shouldn't have continued playing, but who wants to be the wimp that quits?  And besides, we didn't really have a sub, so I continued playing through both our games that night.  By the time I got in the car to go home, both of my quads were throbbing (imagine the worse headache/migraine of your life but in your legs) and I could barely walk up the stairs to get into my house.  Pulling quads is pretty rare and I had pulled both of them!  My muscles were spasming out of control and I was in so much pain that I feared I wouldn't be able to sleep that night!  With some ice and some painkillers, I was able to sleep, but the damage had been done.  I was extremely sore for a number of days.  I took the next two weeks off from playing, which was super frustrating.  It was also frustrating to realize that my body is not what it used to be.  I really haven't felt that old in recent years, but after that night, i realized that after 30, things really do start to fall apart. :)  When I got back to playing, each time I would go to run to first, I would re-tweak the same muscles.  It was never as bad as the first initial injury, but enough that I was tight and sore for the rest of the game and for a day or two afterwards.  Ben tried to warn me that 30 is not what it's cracked up to be. 

Watching the kids play and learn new skills is so much fun.  Mitch had the same coach and a number of the same teammates as last year.  The improvement they have made from last year is phenomenal. 

Mitch takes baseball very seriously.  Any good ball player knows that on defense you are down and in "ready position."

Chloe in "ready position" too!

Mitch's knowledge of the game this year was fantastic.  I loved watching him know what to do with the ball when he got it.  He wasn't perfect- he still has lots to learn about the game, but as the season went on, his hesitation on what to do became less and I saw his confidence grow. 

Grandma Cynde came to a few games this season.  This game, she showed up bearing gifts for all the kids.  She had just returned from a beach trip in North Carolina and brought the kids some fun things.  My girls love bags and were thrilled with them.  

Chloe's last game was on a beautiful, sunny Saturday in late May.

Liv had a great time crawling around in the grass.  It was all fun and games until time for her morning nap...

Playing 3rd base!

She made a few good plays on 3rd.  She made great improvements throughout the season.  She is still a bit more timid and non-aggressive than I would like, but she doesn't give up and tries and we are proud of that.

Chloe started off the season swinging and looking to hit.  After a few games, she (and a lot of her teammates) realized how hard it was to judge pitches.  She got to the point where she would get in the batting box and let every pitch go by and not swing once.  She'd end of either walking or striking out. With just a few games left, I made her a deal: I told her if she hit the ball- regardless of if she was thrown out, or if someone caught her pop fly, so long as it was a hit ball in fair territory- I would take her out for ice cream.  That was all the motivation that girl needed to start trying again.  The very first game after the bribe, Chloe stepped into the box and started swinging again.  And she hit the ball, too!  The next game she hit the ball twice and made it on to base both times.  They were not just hits- they were great hits!

Looking to steal on second.

Running hard to third!

I love so many things about baseball.  I even love that when someone gets hurts, the fielders all take a knee to show respect. 

Their last handshakes!
A good group of girls and some really good ball players.

Unfortuantely for us, we ran into the "playing on Sunday" issue this year.  I was really hoping to avoid it for another few years.  Towards the end of the season, Chloe's coach emailed all of the parents telling us that we had been invited to play in an All-Star tournament right after the season was over.  Chloe's team consisted of 8, 9 and 10 year olds.  Only the 9 and 10 year olds qualified to play in the tournament and we had the exact amount of qualified players needed to play.  So as the coach told us, "Everyone needs to be able to commit in order for us to have a team."  No pressure or anything, eh?  The only date the coach gave was a Saturday.  I knew that with it being a tournament, it was 99% possible that they would also play on Sunday.  I emailed the coach right away to tell him we would be glad to play on the Saturday and any day the next week, but that we would not play on Sunday.  Within a few days, I received an email back from the coach saying "I know its not any of my business, but I was wondering why Chloe can't play on Sunday.  Is it a religious thing, or are you guys going to be gone?"  He was asking because without Chloe and one other girl that couldn't play, they were going to be short players and wouldn't be allowed to play in the tournament.  I replied back and told him it was a religious thing.  My first reaction was to apologize that our decision was effecting the team, but Ben made sure I did not.  I didn't feel bad that we had to miss and did not feel sorry for the choice we were making, but I felt bad that we were making others girls not able to play.  The coach quickly replied and told us it was fine and "kudos to us."  I thought all was well, until Chloe's final game when the coach came up to Ben and I before the game started and told us that he just wanted to let us know that they were going to have to pull out of the tournament.  What I'm sure he wanted to say was "Because of you guys, we can't play in the tournament."  We just said, "Oh, ok. Thanks for letting us know."  He was very kind about it and didn't say anything mean, but I'm certain he was hoping that by telling us that we couldn't play in the tournament without Chloe that we'd change our minds and play on Sunday. 

It's a tricky situation that we are going to face over and over again in the years to come.  I know people don't understand it.  I'm sure most people think it's a cute thing to say, but when it comes down to it and when things get tough and the team needs you or they forfeit, that we'll just drop our convictions and play.  It doesn't work like that for us and we are going to face this many times over.  I truly did feel bad for the team.  But doing what we feel is right isn't always going to be easy.

Mitchell's last game also fell on a very warm and sunny Saturday on June 7th.  It was the perfect baseball weather.  I got to the game late, as I had been gone all morning at a church activity with our youth.  I didn't bring my big camera and was quite tired from my morning activity that I didn't even think to get any pictures.  After the game, one of the mothers from a teammate approached us and told us she had taken some pictures of Mitchell and would be happy to email them to us if we wanted.  The pictures were amazing and she caught some great moments.

She captured the pop fly that Mitch caught.  We saw it in person and it was so cool.  When she sent us the picture of it, I was so excited.  Mitch was so excited that he had caught it as well.

He has been a great batter this season, but did not get a hit at all in his last game.  He was so bummed after the game.

Love that batting stance!

I love watching this boy play!

Mitch man!  Baseball is serious business.

It was a crazy busy season- I really don't know how we are going to be able to have more than 2 kids playing sports at a time, but we are going to make it work somehow.  We love watching the kids play and learn and grow and we love that they enjoy it.  We weren't able to attend either of the kids' end of season parties- we were gone on the night of Chloe's and Mitchell's was on a Sunday.  The kids handled that well.

So long to another great season.  We are looking forward to a lazy summer filled with lots of family baseball time and nothing we have to do.