Thursday, July 31, 2008

Do a little dance...

We dance A LOT on RAGBRAI. Marie took this shot from our normal spot each night...front and center of the dance floor. People often ask how we can pedal our bikes all day and dance all night. Obviously they don't understand how much I/we LOVE to dance. Besides, we've decided it helps to work out any soreness. A little lactic acid removal booty shakin'.

Our crew doesn't just wait until the cover of dark and safety of the beer garden to dance. We dance on our bikes if the mood strikes us. We create our own little dance floors in pass through towns...especially if we can get the DJ to take requests. We dance in the 'Stream...this year I believe there was even a little dancing in our fantabulous outdoor shower that Carlos and Jason fashioned for the sexy silver lady.

We've meet some great people on the dance floor (Kim, I know your reading...HI) and have partied to some great bands. (Can you say Zydeco?!?!) We've dance through lightning and in the rain. (Ahhh...Independence '07.) It's one of the parts of RAGBRAI I miss the most....dancin' till the music stops...every night!

Sunday after we got home I had a little Marley playing while we were making breakfast. Jason grabbed Brea and started dancing around the kitchen. What a special moment I will always remember. I love my brother!

Later in the day after Jason had left for TX, Brea came up to me and asked "Will you dance with me mom?" Yes honey, yes I will. A little everyday.

So if you visit our house, watch out. A spontaneous dance party may be brewin'!


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What's time to a pig?

My friend Laura uses that expression when she's stressing about time. It makes me smile.

One of the strangest things about transitioning back into life after RAGBRAI is the concept of time. Here's a normal RAGBRAI day:

Get up.
Get ready, pack up camp, and have a snack.
Ride my bike.
Stop for food.
Ride my bike.
Stop for food and a lil' dance party to loosen up the hips.
Ride my bike.
Stop for food.
Ride my bike.
Get to camp, shower, find food and a beverage, hang out.
Head to the dance party with the crew.
Dance, dance, dance until the music is no more.
Back to camp, sometimes to chat more, usually just to hit the hay.

Notice the lack of time attached to our daily schedule. It's an amazing freedom just to be and live by our natural rhythms rather than by the clock. I'm hardly every aware of the time on RAGBRAI. I eat when I'm hungry. I dance when there's music. I ride my bike in amongst all of that.

Needless to say the transition back into "real" life is strange because even with my relatively relaxed schedule, I still have to be more aware of time. The times I need to go teach class. The time I need to make lunch and get Brea down for her nap. The time Scott will be coming home from work. The time the girls have to get in the tub so they can get to bed "on time." Pretty leisurely as far as schedules go, but still aware of the time of day.

I'm thankful that today I'm able to step back away from the clock a bit and just enjoy those natural rhythms again. We (the girls and I) got up when we got up. I had one appointment at 9:30 but then we have just been doin' our thing without much regard for the hands of the clock. Marley is playing, we're cleaning house, and dancing. Today a little piece of RAGBRAI lives on...


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Team 'Stream...

Home from RAGBRAI XXXVI and processing. Physically and emotionally recovering from an intense week of communal living and the challenges that come with spending 7 days traversing the varied Iowa terrain in the elements of nature on a bike. Tired, browned, a bit sore, and full of a whirlwind of emotion that's hard to explain to someone until they have experienced what is the phenomenon of RAGBRAI.

This year our crew took out on our own, living in a gorgeous old Airstream (and a few tents) driven by my very dear friend Marie. The brothers and sisters together again...with a few new members. A crew of 8, spanning 15 years in age, from various places across the country, and quite different lives outside of RAGBRAI. Put us all together and watch out! We bring the dance party everywhere we go and I can't imagine a group of people I'd rather share this experience with than our team. My love for each of them runs deep and true and forever. Their presence is missed today as I sit here "alone", telling my story.

Last year I was most worried about the physical challenge of riding my bike almost 500 miles in a week. And while it is a physically challenging event each time you attempt it, it's probably the easiest part of the week for me from which to recover. I trained so much more this year that I expected the ride to go a little easier than it did. I was a bit disappointed in my "performance", but remembering that it's not a competition or a race to be won, I rode a good strong ride. I rode alone much more than I would have liked, not having the distraction of conversation to help me through many a mile, but making peace with that demon part way through the week made the rest of my ride much more enjoyable. Our team, while mostly casual riders who's biggest biking challenge each year is RAGBRAI, are all good strong riders and this year I had to accept that I was often the sweeper at the rear of the pack. Having a personality that prefers to be the one in the lead, it was a good lesson in graciously allowing others to take that place for the week.

My biggest emotional struggle this week was a big surprise I didn't see coming while preparing for this year's adventure. Our group is full of amazing, strong, creative, intelligent, beautiful people which I LOVE dearly. So it was a big surprise when I found myself feeling out of place and wondering just where I fit in the big picture of our team. While in my day to day life I tend to be the one "in charge" in many situations, in this group that's not my place. So it was a bit uncomfortable and confusing figuring out my role. Larger (and yes, a group of 8 is large enough) groups tend to bring out my more introverted side and I start to feel lost in the background. I know nobody would expect me to feel that way, or wish for me to feel that way, it's just an old insecurity that starts to surface with which I need to make peace. I need to believe in who I am and that I too am a strong, beautiful person with much to contribute to the experience, even if it's done in a quieter manner. I'm working on it. Obviously it's still a work in progress.

Emotional ups and downs aside, it was an amazing week full of love, good times, and memories that will forever live in my heart. A reminder that every day we should dance, laugh, move, and appreciate that which has been given to us that day, at that moment. A reminder of how very blessed we are to have the chance to take a whole week each year to do nothing more than ride our bikes in the beauty of nature and then party like there's no tomorrow...only to get up after a few hours of sleep and do it again. A reminder of the value of friendships, sisterhood, family, and love.

Processing...and looking ahead to '09.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Wedding...

Saturday our friends Allen and Shannon tied the knot in a small, joy filled ceremony. Allen and Shannon are two of the most beautiful people I know. They are kind and loving and compliment each other so well. I'm so happy that their friendship is part of our reality. And as you can see, they're pretty darn good lookin' too.

I am so honored that they entrusted me with helping them to preserve their memories of this special day in photos. As many can tell you, I was WAY nervous in the weeks leading up to the big day. And after feeling a little "in over my head" at the start of the day (even though I was really trying to exude confidence!), I did find myself falling into a comfort zone by day's end. (I'm sure Scott would agree that I'm pretty good at being in charge...ordering people around...whatever you want to call it.) Even though the ceremony wasn't until 4:00 pm, I awoke at 4:45 am with my mind whirling with ideas. Now that it's all said and done, the most amazing thing to me is to look at the photos knowing I created them and to see how my visions became reality.

I'm thankful that Allen and Shannon were patient while I set them up for shots that were nothing more than visions in my head. Some of the shots worked...some not so much. It's all a learning process.

I'm also thankful my loving hubby was willing to serve as such a patient and helpful assistant. Thanks honey, you were fabulous!

Even though this was their special day, I couldn't help but snap a few extra pictures of Allen's adorable kids, Maggie and Tommy. Their love for their Dad, and for Shannon, shined through at it's brightest.

By the end of the photos shoot time we were all getting a little slap happy. I love this photo. It makes me smile.

The Mathes household will be expanding in December! Baby photo op!!!

The rest of the wedding photos have been uploaded here, if you'd like to check them out.

Allen, Shannon, thank you for letting us be part of your special day. We look forward to many years of creating fun memories with you and your growing family. Love ya guys!


Thursday, July 10, 2008


Today was a big day for Lexi. At swim lessons this morning, after many a failed attempt, she jumped off the diving board. I, unfortunately, was not in attendance...which partially may have been the reason she found the courage to show off for Uncle Jason. She is so proud of herself and promises to show me her courage tomorrow.

During lunch we were talking about her big event and she asked if we could have a party after supper to celebrate. I assumed she meant a trip to our favorite sweet treat spot, Dairy Barn, but decided to ask her what she had in mind.

She paused and then said, "What's that day when we have turkey to eat?"

"Thanksgiving?" I asked.

"Yes, let's have a party like Thanksgiving. Only without the turkey."

Huh? She's ok with a trip to Dairy Barn instead.

Kids. Too funny.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Have you ever...

I'm having one of "those" days today. You know, the kind where you've been super busy all week and your body is starting to wear down and while you feel really productive on one hand, on the other you're completely overwhelmed by the thought of having to finish out the rest of the week with everything that's left on the "to do" list. The type of day where innocent comments are taken the wrong way so that suddenly you find yourself on the verge of tears for reasons you're not even clear about. The type of day when you just want to lay down for a little nap because you're exhausted, but as you lay there resting your mind is running a hundred miles a minute so it's not restful at all but rather just adds to the anxiety about how busy and tired you feel AND that now you're wasting time not doing anything.

That's where I'm at today.


Friday, July 4, 2008

If I could pause time...

Brea has come into the age where I wish I could freeze time. The tiny little sentences, in that oh so sweet voice, that come out of her mouth make me smile...especially since there's often one slightly mixed up word. Like this morning at breakfast when she asked for help picking up her strawberry because it was "too easy!"

She loves to sing us little nursery rhyme songs. Her favorites include You are My Sunshine, "Tinkle, Tinkle" Little Star, and The Itsy Bitsy "Pider". Sunshine is fully animated and always includes a point out to her audience to let them know how much she loves them. Pider apparently just gets washed "off" the water spout by the rain, not "down" like I've sung for all these years. Little Star is the never ending song. It ends just like it begins, so she might as well just continue on. Eventually you can tell she's just like "enough already", stopping mid-verse to move on to her next adventure.

Brea has always been a cheery loving child and that trait continues to shine now that she can verbalize her emotions. Often I get the invitation to sit on the couch to "nuggle". She likes to share her nuggles too. If you have a lap, you're fair game...especially if there's a book around and you know how to read. One of her favorite books at the moment is All Tutus Should be Pink. She's heard the story so many times that if no one is available to read to her, she just sits down and tells the story to herself. Brea (and her parents) are SOOOO fortunate that she has a big sister who will tirelessly read to her day after day and who doesn't mind reading the same story for the 87th time.

Of course, life is not always perfect and neither is Brea. She's our independent, strong willed child who doesn't much like when she's told NO. And she makes sure to let you know just how she's feeling. But those moments are far out-shined by the joy she brings to our lives.

I remember thinking as Lexi moved through her year of 2, "Why would anyone wish away the terrible twos?" She was a complete joy at 2. So full of happiness and open to learning something new every single day. She was like a little sponge soaking up that life had to teach. And her sister, while her own person, has followed suit. I'll always remember the year of 2 as TERRIFIC for both of my girls. Once again I find myself trying to soak up as much as I can before it's gone!


Thursday, July 3, 2008

And just like that...

This morning my hubby set off for Des Moines and his new job...what we hope to be the start of a new career. This past year has been an adventure, one that we didn't expect, but for which I am thankful. We've learned so much in this past year of ups and downs. Things that are often taken for granted until your forced into examination.

A short recap: September 7th of last year, the Friday after celebrating Labor Day weekend in Kansas City with his parents, Scott was unexpectedly let go from a job he had taken here in town just short of a year before. It was a complete shock, and as is the case with many of those type of incidences, I can tell you almost every detail of that day. Let's just face the facts...we were scared shitless! During the next 5 months there were lots of ups and downs for us. Many which we kept hidden at home under the blanket of winter. We tried to keep things as "normal" as possible, for the sake of the girls and our own emotional well-being, but it was rough.

Then, just like everyone said it would happen, a switch was flipped, an offer was made, followed by another in less than 24 hours. We had a decision to make. Move to a new job in an old familiar location or stay here. In the end we choose to take the offer that allowed us to remain grounded in this little community we've come to know as home. A HUGE weight had been lifted from our shoulders.

Fast forward 3 months, and again, unexpectedly Scott found himself back on the job market. Sometimes things that seem like the perfect fit, the perfect solution, just don't work out. In this instance there's really no one to blame, no hard feelings, it just didn't work out. So, back to the drawing board we went.

This time though I think we were much more prepared emotionally for what was ahead. At first I was again panicked, my body remembering how awful and stressful this experience had been the first time around. I spent a good portion of the month of February this year sick and I'm convinced that it was my body letting go of all the stress, all the panic, all negative which it had fought during the previous 5 months. It was miserable and I didn't want to relive that experience.

Then life threw us some perspective. On the same day Scott was let go, my brother received his cancer diagnosis. Suddenly this thing that seemed so awful at first, was playing a small second fiddle. April 21st, a day I don't think I'll ever forget. A day that sent my world as I knew it crashing down, but which brought so many gifts into light.

Those who follow this blog know my brother has had the best outcome possible when it comes to cancer. He is cancer free...and already recovered to the point he'll be riding circles around me on the last of our training rides next week before we depart for RAGBRAI in 2 1/2 weeks.

And just as quickly as the switch flipped last time, we find ourselves celebrating a new job, a new career direction, and a new sense of peace with Scott's new employment opportunity. Yes, it means a return to commuting, but as we've discussed, there's worse things in life than a commute.

Along the way we've received so much support, so much love, and learned so much about ourselves it's hard not to be thankful for even this trying time in our lives. I've learned a lot about my a mother, as a wife, and as a friend. We also learned a lot about the strength of Scott and I's relationship. I truly believe that after going through this past year, we're ready to face whatever lies ahead in our lives...together.

Honey, I wish you the best as you enter into this new adventure. We'll always be right here by your side, cheering for you, and waiting for you to return home each evening. You're gonna do great. I truly feel like you're going to be doing what you were born to with people. I love you...deep down in my bones I love you.

Peg and Bob, thank you for your tireless and endless support. Your calls, your encouragement, your financial boosts, were all a big part of us getting through this past year.

Mom, Rod, and Jason, your emails, phone calls, words of encouragement and unconditional love through this all has meant the world to me. (And to Scott too.) I'm so fortunate to have you for my family!

Marie, Monica, Laura, and Jen...the four of you ladies mean so much to me I can't even begin to scratch the surface here. Your friendship, hugs, tears, the beers (and sometimes shots), endless cups of coffee, and true, sister like friendship warms my heart to the very core. I can't even imagine going through the past year without all of you by my side. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Aunt Kathleen, Aunt Pam, Meg, Megan, Shannon, Nikki, Jennifer, and so many others, thank you for your emails, phone calls, and words of encouragement. Our family has truly been blessed by your kindness.

Yes, it's been a rough year, but there's so much hope, so much possibility for our future. I can't help but be thankful about the path we have traveled and optimistic about the road ahead.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

To the farm we go...

We took a little trip to the edge of town to visit our friend Carlos (or "Uncle Carlos" as the girls lovingly call him) at the Ferguson farm. He had something special to show the girls.

A box of baby chicks, that came into his care this past weekend.

25 chickies, destined for the dinner table. It's a cruel, cruel world...but these chicks will have a great life while it lasts. (I think my friend Nick things I'm a bad, bad mom for so bluntly explaining to Lexi these little guys fate. I figure, no need to skirt around the issue...she's gonna learn the hard facts of life eventually.)

The girls were of course enamored with the little balls of fluff. Brea wanted to pet each one. I think she was just making sure they were all soft. It was fun to share the chicks with the girls and talk to them about how when I was a little girl my mom (Grandma Shirley to them) raised chickens both as food and for eggs. At the time I hated those chickens and each year's slaughter. Little did I know how well it prepared me for future life. I've volunteered to lend a hand on "harvest" long as I don't have to do the killin'.

Chicks with the purpose to provide eggs (layers) will be coming the end of July. I'm sure we'll have more fluffy photos to share then!

Thanks Uncle Carlos for sharing!