Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Two Years Ago

    Today marks 2 years since Magnus was diagnosed with a brain tumor and subsequently cancer. I don't like this day much. 
About 6 months ago I had to write a Creative Non-Fiction piece for my writing class and I decided to write the story of Magnus' diagnosis. It was difficult to write, but also very healing. Whenever I go through memories in my head, look through photos, or watch videos Andy has made from that time, I literally cannot keep the tears from coming. I cannot believe he went through it-- that we went through it as a family. I really don't dwell on it much, because it is so hard for me when I do. Instead I try to think of the miracles that took place, and the incredible amount of happiness that I feel whenever I see him running, jumping, and playing with a big smile on his face. Anyway, to mark the occasion, here is my writing piece below. It's long (5 page requirement for the class, haha) but if you're interested, it has the details.   
   I let out an involuntary sigh as I collapsed onto my bed after what had seemed to be a Groundhog Day of events that morning. The afternoon sun slanted in through my window and dust mites flitted through the light. I’d been up since 5 AM and hadn’t gone to bed until midnight the night before. The entire week preceding this moment weighed down on me and settled in my chest, like a large stone had been placed there. I stared at the ceiling, my mind creating images out of the texture residing there. I could do this. I only had two days left of the demanding CNA course that I was attending. Four of my children had started school a couple days before, and my fall semester of classes had begun a few days before that. My youngest child, Magnus, would start preschool in just over a week. I felt like I could finally get back into a routine after that and everything would get back to normal. Summer had been a whirlwind of events with my husband, Andy, and I attending school for summer semester, Andy taking an EMT course every morning for 3 months, both of our work schedules on top of all that, and the kids juggled somewhere in between. I had a sudden feeling of regret that their summer hadn’t been more exciting. Yes, it would be good to get back to normal, and see the day when all of this chaos would payoff.
            Just as I had closed my eyes for a glorious and much deserved nap, I heard someone creeping into my room. I opened my eyes just a slit and saw my baby boy sneaking stealthily over to my side of the bed. He peeked up over the comforter and grinned.
“Hi mama!” he giggled in his raspy baby voice.
“Well, hello there my sweet boy!” I responded as I reached down and pulled him into bed with me. I nuzzled his fuzzy head and kissed his soft baby cheeks as he snuggled into the crook of my arm and beamed up into my face like the little piece of sunshine that he was. The look of complete trust and adoration was transparent upon his face. Andy walked into the room a moment later.
“Hi, babe” I smiled tiredly.
“Hey. How was your clinical this morning?” He responded as he leaned down and pecked me on the lips.
“It seemed like it was never going to end. Oh goodness, I saw so many naked, old people today!” I squeezed my eyes shut as if that would somehow erase the memory. He laughed and rubbed my back.
“Well, Magnus threw-up again this morning. I’m not really sure what to do with him. He always seems fine afterwards, but it’s getting a little strange,” he stated. My eyes shot open again. It was strange. That was the fifth time this week. Every morning, right after waking, he had thrown up. I looked down at the three-year-old residing in my arms.
“What’s your deal lately, huh?” I murmured into his hair.
 “I dunno!” he laughed as he shrugged his shoulders up and down like a butterfly about to take flight.
“Do you feel sick? Does your tummy hurt?” I asked him.
“No?” he responded as if it were a question, and one that he didn’t really know the answer to.
“Alright, well I suppose we should have something for dinner,” I decided as I swung my legs over the side of the bed to stand up. Andy grabbed my hands to pull me up off of the bed.
“Let’s go out tonight,” he said pulling me close against him, “We’ll let Laylah babysit and we can go to dinner at that new Thai place you like so much.” 
“Well, I am definitely not going to argue with that!” I exclaimed as I laid my head against his chest.
            After preparing a simple meal for the kids, Andy and I headed out for our own dinner, leaving our five children eating happily and with a movie and popcorn waiting for them when they were finished. It was a beautiful summer evening with puffy white clouds filling the perfect oceanic sky. The sun had just started its downward peak towards the western mountain range and I could feel the weight of the day melt off of my shoulders. Andy and I talked easily at dinner, enjoying the ambiance of the cool and dark restaurant, a plate of steaming curry in front of each of us, and talking of the crazy summer that was finally coming to a close. We were both equally amazed and relieved that we got through it. We toasted each other for a job well done and laughed about some of the more chaotic events that had occurred.
After dinner we decided to run home and check on the kids before heading back out for ice cream. As we walked into the door I was alarmed to see Magnus in the kitchen, hunched over a bowl and vomiting, his little body heaving with effort. Laylah, our oldest daughter, was rubbing his back and whispering soothing words. I ran and kneeled at his side and took the bowl from him as he finished.
“Oh, sweet baby,” I cooed as I embraced him. He gasped and started screaming right then, a horrible scream filled with pain and suffering. It startled me and I turned him to face me and, alarmed, asked, “What’s wrong? Where does it hurt?”
“My head! My head hurts! Owie!” he howled while clutching the back of his skull.
I looked up at Andy standing over us and said, “This is ridiculous, I’m calling the pediatrician. I don’t know what is wrong with him, but we are going to figure this out.”
After a long conversation with the pediatrician, relaying various information and details of Magnus’ health history over the summer, and especially the past week, I hung up the phone.
“Well, she wants us to head up to the ER at Primary Children's. She said she would call and tell them we were on our way.”
“I just laid Magnus down for bed, do you really think there is something wrong? I mean, he’s acting perfectly fine now. Can’t we just go see her on Monday?” Andy asked, slightly exasperated.
“No, I really think we should go now. I have a feeling that something isn’t right. I need to listen to my mommy intuition. That’s a real thing, you know,” I replied with a wink.
Andy rolled his eyes and grinned. “Mommy’s intuition,” he mumbled under his breath. “Fine, you win, I’ll go get him up.”
            The drive up to the hospital was dark and quiet. Magnus sat in his car seat, a blank look on his face as he stared out the car window and into the dark night.  I kept glancing back at him and staring at his sweet, little face, while simultaneously reassuring myself that everything would be fine. He was pale and sleepy.
“We’ll be in and out of here, and out to ice cream before you know it,” Andy interrupted my thoughts. “You’ll see. I’m sure everything is just fine. What could really be wrong? It’s Magnus. He’s the toughest kid we know.” I didn’t respond. Andy had to be right. But what if he wasn’t? I didn’t want to think about the possibility of something actually being wrong.
            The ER got us back to a room right away and a doctor came in before we’d even had a chance to get settled. After relaying the same information that I had given the pediatrician, the doctor explained that they would be doing a CT scan of Magnus’ head, because of his symptoms and history over the past week. A tech came and took us to the scan room. It took some convincing to get Magnus up onto the table and even more tricks and bribes to get him to let us strap his head down. After a quick scan we headed back to the room where our nurse had turned on one of our family’s favorite movies, How to Train Your Dragon. Andy and I joked back and forth lightly, trying to lose the ominous feeling that had taken up residence in the room. I knew he felt it, too.
            Just as I had started imagining the horrible news that many parents must have received while waiting in this very room, the doctor opened the door and Andy and I both turned his way. The look on his face has since taken up permanent residence in my mind. He looked… defeated somehow. As if he’d just lost a fight with his worst enemy.
“I have your son’s scan results,” he started as he pulled a chair up to sit right in front of us. “I am so sorry to tell you that there is a very large mass in his brain. I have already called the neurosurgery team and they will be here shortly to speak with you.” His quiet voice, and words with a sympathetic tone washed over me and settled right in the pit of my stomach. I just sat there, in complete and utter shock. I vaguely remember placing my hands over my mouth, probably so I wouldn’t allow the scream out that threatened to erupt at any moment. I glanced over my husband and I saw a pale, white face with tears brimming at the corner of his eyes, a look of shock upon it that probably mirrored my own.  Was this really happening to us? Not Magnus, not my baby boy. I glanced over his way and saw him, a slight smile on his face, snuggling his favorite brown blankie and happily watching one of his favorite movies.
“Mighty Magnus,” I thought. Such a strong name, for a strong boy. Resolve came over me and I knew we would beat this, whatever it was.

            Two years ago my son was diagnosed with brain cancer, specifically Ependymoma. Two years ago my son had brain surgery, his only chance of survival. We met with doctor after doctor and we were forced to trust them completely, literally giving them our son’s life to hold in their hands. We met incredible people: nurses, therapists, medical students, and volunteers. Magnus went through six months of intense treatments and therapies. He needed to see seven different specialists to help us deal with the backlash of that surgery, those treatments, and therapies. He lost his hair, something I never thought I would care about until I didn’t have the choice. He lost abilities he had conquered as an infant. But overall, he came out on top. He beat it, just like I knew he would.  
            And what did I gain from this horrifying nightmare that no parent should ever have to experience? I gained change, gratitude, and perspective. Before my son’s diagnosis, I had never before met a child with cancer. The empathy that has filled my being for families and parents like mine can be all encompassing.
I was taken to hell and clawed my way back. I can appreciate my child in a way that most parents will never fathom. And yet, at times, I’m still envious of their naivety. However, I would never change the brutality of my experience. That’s the funny thing about life. These experiences shape us into these incredible beings of who we are meant to be and show us how we can come out on top. That is what I have gained form my child’s cancer diagnosis. He won.
We won. 

If you would like to see a little video Andy made of Magnus' journey, click HERE to view it. 
And here are just a few photos of the day he was diagnosed and his hospital stay:

We could not be more thankful that Magnus recovered fully from this experience in his life. We are so very lucky, so very blessed, and so very thankful.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Thoughts At Three AM

It is 3:52 AM on Monday morning. School starts in one week (except for Jonah). He starts school this Friday because he's going into 7th grade and in our district the 7th graders start the day before everyone else so they can get used to lockers, seven different teachers, and walking from class to their locker to class in 5 minutes. 

We are leaving today for one last summer hurrah before school starts. We are making a quick trip up to Bear Lake with Rachel and her kids, and Cristan and her kids. We are staying at Rachel's cabin. It really is just a short trip because we will be there half of today, all of tomorrow, and then we will go to Lagoon on Wednesday and come home late Wednesday night. 

After that, we will have one last real summer day and then Jonah starts school on Friday, the other kids start school on Monday (and so do I) and then it is back into another year of school, homework, books, tests, and the like. 

I am not ready. As I have said many times throughout this summer-- this has been the best summer ever. I don't want it to be over. While I want to finish school, I don't want to go back. While I am excited to learn and grow, I am not ready for feeling stressed and run ragged. 

Another reason I am up this early is because I simply cannot sleep. Magnus is having a scan today and it took me over an hour to fall asleep last night and now I have been awake since 3:07 AM and finally decided to get up, pack for our trip, and write out my feelings. I always get nervous before his scans in a way that is hard to explain. I don't ever really think his cancer will be back, but at the same time, deep in the very back of my mind I think, "but what if?"

What if it is back and he can't start kindergarten? What if he has to miss out on all of the fun things that his peers are doing and learning? What if it is back and I have to drop all of my school classes because I am helping my little boy fight cancer again? What if he has to have major surgery again? What if something goes wrong? What if we can't get rid of it? What if he dies from this some day

I make myself sick over the "what if's" and while I tell myself to knock it off, I just can't help it sometimes. This year is especially weird and feels like deja-vu because 2 years ago exactly we were headed to Bear Lake with Rachel and her kids and Magnus got sick up there for the 15th time that summer and 5 days later we found out he had a brain tumor. Our whole world was turned upside down and hasn't ever been the same since.

I love this little boy so much that it literally hurts. It hurts my heart to think of all he has been through and all he will go through. Even if the cancer never returns, I still have to talk to him about Scan Day every few months. I still have to be strong for him and talk to him about getting "poked" and that afterwards he will get to choose a prize. I have to tell him the truth when he asks, "will it hurt?" every single time. I have to remind him that he will go in the big machine to check his brain and make sure he is still healthy and strong. It's not fair. But as the saying goes, life really isn't fair, is it?

I just can't wait for this day to be over. Scan Day hits me harder than others sometimes, and I just never know when that will be.

 Hopefully at this time tomorrow we will all be sleeping soundly in a little cabin up in Bear Lake, ready to wake when the sun comes up, and ready for a full day of sand and sun and water and friends. I can't wait.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

I Graduated!

 Remember how I started back to school just over 3 years ago (June of 2013, to be exact)? And how I was starting from scratch, because I went to Beauty School, not regular college, so I literally had no schooling under my belt? I went to Salt Lake Community College because they are so inexpensive and they have great classes and small class sizes. It was perfect for a returning-to-school-mom like myself. 

Well, guess what?!?!??!! 

I graduated, that's what!
 And I really didn't think it was such a big deal (because I still have so far to go) until I saw that diploma come in the mail and I actually got a little teray-eyed when I opened up the envelope and stared at that paper that represented all of that hard work I had done at this challenging time in my life. It made me so proud of ME. 

I sat and thought about the last three years and all that had transpired and I posted this on Instagram and Facebook:
 Can I show you what came in the mail?! My Associate's Degree. This little piece of paper may have come extremely easy to some (ahem... my sis-in-law Terra who earned hers while still in high school...) and may not seem like a big deal to others, but for me it was three years of part-time limping along while feeling like I would never finish. It was long nights studying while over dosing on coke (the drink, not the drug, ha!) to stay awake. It was juggling five children, all of their activities, and making sure they all knew they came first. It was going out with my husband on Saturday nights to ensure our relationship was nurtured, and then coming home in time to finish an online assignment and turn it in before midnight. It was 7 semesters of school, back to back (including summers) to help me finish faster, only taking time off of one semester in the middle to help my youngest child battle brain cancer, and jumping right back in after his scans were clean. It was doing it all while working part time, and then full time to help with income we desperately needed. It was sticking with it when my husband lost his job and all i wanted to do was give up. It was keeping it together when it was so hard that I had to hire a tutor and meet with him weekly. I did it to show my kids that they can do hard things and accomplish their dreams. I did it to show them that it is a GREAT idea to go to school while they're young. I did it to show them that education is important and filling your mind with knowledge is something that no one can ever take from you. So, yeah, while this little paper might not seem like a big deal to some, it's a HUGE deal to me, especially the part where I did it with a 3.4 GPA. I'm excited to continue my education in the fall at the U of U and SO thankful for the love, help, and support of my family and friends. Couldn't have gotten this little paper without you. xo

 While I still have a ways to go, I am on track. I am on track for finishing something big and working towards something I am extremely passionate and excited about. I am nervous and excited to start back to school in just over a month. This summer has been the BEST summer ever so far and cannot wait to see what other adventures we can manage. But when school starts up again, I will be ready.

Next up... Bachelor's Degree!

Happy 14th Anniversery, Andy Boy!

 Andy and I celebrated 14 years of marriage on June 20th. It's pretty crazy. I mean, 14 years?! I met him when I was 18. I have been together with him almost as long as I haven't. 

I will spare you the "Life passes us by too quickly" spiel, but it really is true. I mean, how can it be?! 

Anyway. We love celebrating our anniversary, even if it is something little. It's funny how life ebbs and flows and changes over time. Some years we both make our anniversary a huge deal and other years we celebrate on a much smaller scale.  The past few years with crazy life and growing, busy kids, it has been much smaller. HOWEVER. I EXPECT A TRIP NEXT YEAR!! It will be our 15th, and it will be special, dang it. I actually tried to book something for us this year, but we wanted to do the grand canyon and with Andy getting a new job in May, he couldn't take any time off. So! Next year it is.

We always get a small gift or card for one another, but this year we both forgot! Haha! So we told each other what we would have written in a card had we gotten one. Tee hee!

The morning of, I actually had to leave quite early to take Laylah and Jonah to teen week at Camp Hobe. By the time I got home Andy was ready for his lunch break and we went to get Thai food at our very favorite Thai place. 
It was a really fun lunch date and we talked about our life and how much we have both changed and grown together over the years. It was so much fun.

That evening we celebrated our family's birthday by taking our kids swimming for FHE. We had a picnic at the pool and because Laylah and Jonah were gone, it was just our three little ones and it was a blast together. 

 I spy, with my little eye, a handsome bald guy! I like him.

After swimming we took our kids home to bed, and Andy went and rented a movie and picked up our very favorite-- cheese fries and ice cream from Leatherby's. Sooooo yummy (even though they look super gross in this photo)

I can just hardly believe how long we have been together. I've mentioned this before, but we have not always had an easy marriage. There are times where it is easy and effortless, but equal amounts of times where it is challenging and difficult and I want to run away (and actually have, on occasion). Andy and I are both soooo stubborn. But, the funny thing is, I like it that way. I like that we are both passionate and that we fight for what we believe in and what we want. Otherwise, I think our marriage would have ended a long time ago. Our grit and passion has served us well in our crazy, trial filled marriage. It has given both of us the determination to go back to school, trudge on when we want to give up, job search when there are no jobs to be found, fight hard for one another and our family, get through the most painful and difficult time of our child battling cancer, and show our children by example of how a marriage should be. 

It's life. Real life. It is not a happily ever after when the wedding bells stop ringing. It is hard work. It is sacrifice. It is love. It is selflessness. It is helping. It is listening. It is so many more things that someday they will understand and I hope they will remember that their parents did their best to teach them just what a marriage is.

Look at those two down there in that photo. They have no idea what is coming. Ha!
This married life is nothing that I would have ever expected it to be. It has made me the person I am today, and I wouldn't change it. At least I don't think I would, haha ;)

Happy Anniversary, Lover Boy! I love you always and forever.

Father's Day 2016

 Father's Day was great this year, as usual. I had tried my best to prepare everything before going to Ragnar because I knew I would get home super late on Saturday night and not be able to do anything because I would be exhausted. 

So it works out well that I have a super awesome husband who just happens to be a great father to our incredible kids.... because they all helped make breakfast when I could hardly drag my sore, sore legs out of bed. We had some super delicious breakfast burritos with all the trimmings, opened gifts, and had a lovely morning together.
 These kids sure love their dad.

We had a wonderful Sabbath and afterwords went to visit our own father's (who I always manage to forget to take a picture of, darn it!!) and had fun chatting with each of our families. 

We headed home to eat our roast and potatoes dinner only to find that our swamp cooler  had pooped out and Andy was able to demonstrate just what a wonderful father/husband he is in our family by getting up on the roof to fix it on his day while we ate out on the lawn since it was about 90 degrees in our stifling house. 

I love this man so much. He shows just the right amount of love/discipline to our children. They know how much he loves them, but they are also amazing kids because of his teachings. 
 He plays with them, he wrestles with them, he teaches them (sports, cars, grammar, games, fun) and helps them to be good workers so they will be successful adults. He shows our boys that they can iron, cook and do housework, and the girls that they can mow the lawn, play soccer with the boys, and burp with the best of them. We don't follow typical gender stereotypes in this house and I am so thankful for a husband who shows our children that husband and wife are equal in all they do. I love that they know he will be there for them in their greatest hour of need, as well as the happiest and most exciting times of their lives. He is supportive, helpful, and can think up a mean science experiment for the science fair. There are just so many things that Andy does for our children, and I hope our sons can be half the father he is, and that our daughters marry a man that will support them the way he supports me, their mother. 

I love Andy and each time we had another baby, one of my favorite things has been to see the love and tenderness in which he displays towards our new child. He is a wonderful father. 

Our own dads are pretty amazing as well and I am glad we both had such incredible examples to look to as children. I knew what I wanted in a husband because of my dad, and Andy is a mean cook because of his. They have so many wonderful qualities and have been such wonderful role models in both of our lives. Their kindness, generosity, and love have seen each of us through some hard times in our lives. What would we do without dads? I don't want to know. 

Lastly, I want to share one of my favorite memories of my own daddy. When I was a little girl, probably 3 or 4 years old, I remember the first house I lived in-- it was a brown rambler on Granada Drive and the basement was partially unfinished. In the unfinished portion there was a tire swing hanging from the ceiling studs. I remember waiting until close to dinner time when I knew my dad would be home. I sat at the kitchen counter with my chin on my hands, just waiting for him to walk through the door as my mom prepared dinner. As soon as he would walk in, I would hop off of the bar stool, run to him, and he would swing me up in his arms. I would ask him, "Can you please push me on the swing?' And before he did anything else, he would carry me downstairs, set me on that tire swing, and swing me, swing me, swing me. I remember feeling like I was flying and throwing my head back, squeezing my eyes shut, and laughing. I just love that before he did anything else, he would comply with his little daughter's request and make me so happy for 5 minutes. I love him for that.
Here's my cute dad after we ran the Brain Cancer Awareness 5K

Happy Father's Day!  

Monday, July 11, 2016

Ragnar 2016-- Strangers in the Night

June 17-18 was the infamous Ragnar that I (crazily) decided to do again. I did it last year for the first time and explained what it's all about back HERE. The team we had this year was kind of thrown together but because it was with 5 of my best friends was So. Much. Fun. 

Last year we had found 12 people to make an entire team (two vans) but this year we could only find enough to create half a team (one van--myself and my 5 friends) so we reached out to anyone local that had another half team and were looking to create a whole team. Marcie had a friend from an old ward who just happened to be looking for 6 other people to complete a team and the 12 of us became Stranger in the Night (catchy, eh?)

We only met with them one time before the race to introduce ourselves and get to know each other a bit, but we had a group text to be able to communicate, and ask questions. We were lucky that they were okay with us being Van 1 because we did not want to be Van 2 (who typically has the crappy running hours-- two times in the heat of the day and one time in the middle of the night.) Van 2 does have shorter runs, but we had been training for months for our half marathon, so we were fine with running longer legs in the cooler, more desirable hours. It's actually okay that we didn't know the other van because you pretty much only spend time with your own van. You only see the other van at major exchanges and at the very end when you finish.

The night before the big race we met to decorate our van. Since we were Strangers in the Night we chose to do face silhouettes and stars all over with white glow-in-the-dark vinyl. It turned out pretty dang sweet. We also each had three check boxes to be able to check off each time we finished a leg in the race.

 The day of the race we met at Kat's to pack up our coolers, bags, sleeping gear and everything else we had to have for the next 2 days. We headed out to Scheel's to the big kick-off party and to do our team check-in.

Heading out! Van 1 consisted of myself, Julie, Marcie, Katrina, Lori, and Kari.
 The party was really fun, we got our race packet and information, watched the safety video, and got our tiny free meal from Costa Vida. It was super yummy. Then we left and went to Orange Peel to get a yummy bubble tea and then headed up to Logan where we stayed at my sister Kaylie and her new husband's place. They are living in Salt Lake for the summer, but they kept their apartment to move back to in the fall and it was SO nice of them to let us stay there! Free is always good. And logan is always beautiful.

Logan temple up on the hill.

We went to Even Stevens to get a sandwich before heading to drop off some stuff for Jaxynn, Julie's daughter who was at Utah State in the dorms for EFY. Just a bunch of moms yelling out her name trying to find her, it was pretty hysterical. At least, we thought we were. Typical. 

We had a little adventure trying to find out which town home was Bob and Kaylie's and I ended up knocking on four different doors before we found it. But we finally did and then laughed so hard and stayed up way too late, even thought we had to be up at 4 in order to pack up and be ready to be at the starting line by 5:30 AM. 
 Sleepover! Kari and I (the two with back issues) claimed the bed upstairs.

 We got a solid 4 hours of sleep (whoopsie) and then we were up packing up and getting ready fro a long day ahead of running. I was runner one again (same as last year) but the course had changed and while my first leg was the same, the rest was very different. We arrived at the Utah State campus and into the starting line for our 5:30 start time. I felt much better this year than last year when we had some mishaps along the way and nearly missed our starting time. ANd this year I actually got to eat something before starting my 6.8 mile run!
Glowing safety girls
 No flash is better ;)

Starting line!

 Around 5:25 the announcer announced each team who was starting and then the gun sounded and  we were off! Like I said, I had done this course the year before but I must have forgotten how hard it was. I thought I was going to die! The first 2.5 miles are basically straight up a mountain and not easy at all. I walked quickly for part of it and regretted wearing a long sleeve shirt even though it was only forty degrees. I was dripping with sweat. I finally made it to where my team could cheer me on at about mile 4 and cheer me on they did! They got some other team with a bullhorn to yell out, "Sarah Collette! You're awesome! Also, your team says to run faster!" Hahaha. It was hilarious. They cheered me on as I ran past them and also gave me some water. I continued on and at about mile 5 there they were again cheering me on and giving me water (even though technically this was a non-supported leg and they weren't supposed to stop-- but they did because they're the best and they know it does wonders for your confidence when running a tough leg.) They asked about my foot (that I injured at the half marathon in May and had been having trouble with-- it was doing great, by the way) and then they were off to meet me at the first exchange. I arrived and Marcie took off and with that I was done with my first leg. I love being runner one and getting done first. I also loved that I finished ahead of my scheduled time!

We carried on and cheered Marcie for her long 9 miler and stopped along the way to give her encouragement and water. She rocked it with a 9 min pace and finished way ahead of her scheduled time.

Waiting at the exchange. Kat was the next to run. She had a 6.5 miler.

Lori served a mission in Sweden where it is only sunny for a small part of the day and whenever the sun is out the general population does this:
 She kept telling us to be Swede's and enjoy the sunshine on our faces.

 Exchange 2! In comes Marcie and out goes Katrina!

 We cheered, we supported...

We made bridges to run under...

We hung out of car windows and  sunroofs and called each other funny names.

Waiting for Kat at exchange 3. Lori was up next.

Katrina did amazing and kept up the trend of staying ahead of schedule. She also had an injury and was relieved to not have any problems with her injured leg.

 Go Lori!

Lori is a running maniac and had something like an 8:50 pace. Here she is switching with Julie at exchange 4.

And Julie was off for one of the toughest legs in the whole Ragnar. It is a complete dirt trail up a mountain. It is dusty and so hot and just not ideal running conditions for 8 miles. Luckily van support is allowed the whole time and we stopped about every mile to give her water and spray her with the squirt bottles and give her whatever else she needed.


There were some kids selling home made cinnamon rolls off the side of the road and we got some to be nice. But we were pleasantly surprised when they were ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! And we wished we would have bought more. Haha. Here is our awesomely healthy reward station after finishing a tough leg:

 While Julie's leg was rough, it was also the most beautiful. We could not get over these wildflowers! And we couldn't stop taking photos in front of them either.

Here comes Julie at exchange 5 for the hand off to Kari...

Aaaaand realized she lost our exchange bracelet somewhere along the way. Oh well! Kari was off for her 6 mile leg!

Kari's leg wasn't easy, it was a steep downhill after a steep uphill and she rocked it as well, of course. 

Coming in to major exchange 6! This is where we met our other van and the other half of our Stranger's team.

We chatted with them for a bit after their runner took off and told them we would see them again at the next major exchange (#12) 

They also took this photo of our cute van-- Leg One complete! Love these ladies!

The next major exchange was at Snow Basin and absolutely beautiful. It made me a little nervous though because I was the next to run after Van 2 finished and I was going to have to run straight up that mountain. 
 We rested and ate lunch and took naps. We played around, talked, and applied Ragnar tattoos on each others shoulders. We also made dance videos and sang songs. We checked in with the other team who was struggling a bit in the heat, but nothing compared to last year. A few of them did get sick and throw-up, but were able to finish. When they were close we got ready to run again and changed into fresh running clothes. I also happened to run into my twin cousins who are about 8 or 9 years older than me. I hadn't seen them in years and it was fun to catch up for a bit.

I was all ready to hit it hard when the other van met up with us and I waited for runner 12 to come. I was a little nervous as this was my longest run (8.8 miles) and it was a steep downhill. I never run downhill and was nervous that I would be really sore afterwards.  
 Kelly came in and slapped my hand and I was off. I had to run up that big mountain for 1.5 miles and it was hard. But then I pretty much had a downhill after that and ran my hardest for the next 3 miles. Around mile 4 my foot really started to bother me. My leg was completely unsupported as it was on a major highway and vans were not allowed to stop. It went from fine to excruciating within a matter of about 1/2 mile. It was crazy and I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to call my team, I wanted to finish. But I didn't want to permanently injure myself either. Just then, as I came down a steep area I saw a van pulled over. It was my team, breaking the rules (typical) and cheering me on! I almost starting crying right then and there and decided I could do it. I continued on up a short hill and near the top felt impressed to stop and rest and stretch my foot. So I did. I took off my shoe and un-taped my taped up foot and stretched for a couple minutes. At this point I wasn't worried about my time, I just really wanted to finish this leg. I put my shoe back on and started running again and the difference was night and day. But I had been running weird to compensate for my foot and now my right leg behind my knee was killing me. I hobbled along as best I could and actually finished right ahead of my projected time. A little faster, actually. The 3 miles I had been speedy were under 9 minute miles and it made up for my slower miles. I was so happy to see Marcie and she took off and I collapsed in the car and was so happy to be done with Leg number 2.

Marcie had a fast 4 miler and Katrina was ready for her.

Off she goes! She only had 2 miles this leg and seriously rocked it. She was so fast!

Lori ready for leg number 2. It was starting to get dark at this point.

They exchanged and Lori was off for a 5 miler.
 There she is, running in the dark.

Julie got all ready for her leg and was looking good!
 Glowing vs. Not Glowing. That is the question.
 Julie had a 5 point something miler and then it was Kari's turn again. Her leg was 4 miles and then our team would be done for the day.

None of our night legs were supported, but besides mine were fairly short. We finished around 11:30 PM and met Van 2 at the next major exchange where they were ready to run all night long.

Yay! Done for the day! We went to the next exchange to try and sleep for a bit. We were up high in the mountains and it was pretty chilly. We slept on grass at a high school and while I did get a solid 4 hours of sleep, it wasn't great sleep and I tossed and turned the last hour before I had to get up.
 Sleepover on the grass!

We kept in touch with the other team and I would text them any time I woke up to see how they were coming along. They told us that they would be done around 6 AM and we got up at 5 to pack up and eat and get ready to go. I ran down to the exchange and to my surprise Kelly was already there. I felt bad, but he said he had only been waiting about 15 minutes. I took off for my last run, a fast 4 miles. I was in kind of bad shape at this point. my right knee was killing me, my left foot still hurt, I was exhausted and sore. I told myself it was only 4 miles, approximately 12 songs. I decided that after 12 songs played I could walk for a bit if I hadn't finished yet. So I did. I just ran a slow pace around 10.5 minute miles and sang my songs. I was steady and after 12 songs I turned the corner only to see a huge hill looming in front of me, the exchange was at the top. I dug deep and decided to run for 30 seconds and walk for 30, run for 30, walk for 30, etc. 

Halfway through the big hill a song came on that always reminds me of Magnus and his cancer fight. There is a foundation called Millie's Princess Foundation that was actually having a fundraising race that day in Herriman (that I was so sad to miss because of Ragnar, but I was there in spirit!) to help raise funds for families who are in the midst of fighting currently. They hold this race every year in memory of a little girl named Millie who passed away from leukemia three years ago. This day, June 18th, was actually the three year anniversary of her passing. And instead of mourning, her parents were out there doing a fundraising race for other families and kids fighting. I started to cry because if my 3 year old baby boy can fight cancer, I sure as hell can finish a stupid race up a hill. I did it for him. For all those sweet kids out there fighting a battle bigger than  anything I will ever have to face. And for their parents and their families who are fighting right along side them. When I finished red faced, out of breath, and splotchy from my emotions, I laughed and cried with my team who surrounded me with hugs. I was finished!
 Leg 3 complete! 19.5 miles total!

Checking off the last box!

I did it. Go me.

 Marcie had an uphill 5 miler and did it in record time. She was also having some feet problems and was in bad shape when she finished, but was so happy to be done.

And off goes Kat for her last leg, which was also her hardest. A 9 miler in the heat, all uphill. She was worried about her leg holding up, but she had been doing great so far, so we were hopeful she would do great.

Done with 3!

Kat made it! What a rockstar! She didn't have any pain and we were so glad. She said it was a super hard run and she was so relieved to be done.

And Lori is off for her last in the heat. It was really starting to get hot. I think she had a 5 or 6 miler to go.

 Check! Done with 3!

 At the exchange where we were waiting for Lori I ran into my in-laws! Andy was supposed to be in the van with them, but he had an injury the week before and had to find a replacement. It was fun to see them and talk with them. They were all doing great, even Bree who is 3 months pregnant and Terra who just came home from her mission and was basically forced into doing Ragnar, haha.

Awesome Lori! These last legs were hard because we couldn't support any of them. They were literally all non-support legs and it was hot and everyone was so tired when they finished.

And Kari is off! Poor Kari has a compressed disc in her back and was really struggling near the end of her second leg (I am telling you, our team had so many injuries, we were such a mess, haha). If you remember, Julie was our 5th runner, but Julie and Kari switched places and Kari ran Julie's leg because it was only 3 miles and her original leg that Julie took was 5.5. What a great friend Julie is. That's why I just love this group of ladies so much!

Go Kari!

Lori, checking off her last leg in style.

Here comes Kari! She made it.

Chest bump!

Bum slap!

And Julie is off for our final leg of the day!

Kari, so happy to be done!

Julie's leg was SO hard. It was so hot at this point and her nearly 6 mile run was mostly uphill. She was so awesome!

Dancing her way in. I just missed her awesome heel kick, but caught the very end.

 Woo hoo! Our van was finished!

We were famished and headed to a cool and quiet bar for an awesome burger and fries. And it was SO delicious. After eating we decided to go to a park while we waited for the other van to finish their last legs. We took out our sleeping bags and napped and then talked and played some games after we were rested. We also rubbed aloe on each other since we were burned. After the other van was almost finished we went to Dairy Keen and got shakes. SO good. I don't know why food tastes so good sometimes, but it's so nice when it does.

After that we headed to the finish line and met up with everyone from the other van. Runner 12, Kelly, would be finishing soon and while we waited there was actually a wedding ceremony at the finish line! What?! It was crazy!
 These people legit ran Ragnar and their team was their wedding party and passed out ring pops to everyone and we all were guests at their wedding. So fun.

And this couple got engaged at the end of the race. SO fun and exciting.

There were also a few other crazy and emotional happenings at the line. There was a team who had run for their son who was dying of cancer and they ran him through the finish line in a wheelchair. His mom had also just been diagnosed with cancer and it was a sad story. There was a team of blind runners who had finished together. There was a man who was paralyzed the year before in a boating accident and had worked all year so hard and was able to not only walk again, but was able to run Ragnar with his family this year. There was the family who decided to run for the man who passed away on the Ragnar course last year and they had a huge memorial for him. It was just so emotional and crzy and wonderful. SO many sad stories and also feel good stories. An emotional ending to be sure. 

Finally Kelly came running down the hill and we joined him and ran through the finish line. And with that, another Ragnar was finished.

 Our medals all togehter. Together we ran 200ish miles!

And one of my favorite sayings on the back:
 Van 1. Love these ladies more than I can say.

Because Lori, Kat, Marcie, and I had run the Ogden marathon we got a double medal. It was the Mullet Medal: Business along the Wasatch Front (Ogden Half) and Party along the Wasatch Back (Ragnar)

We literally danced from the beginning to the end and didn't stop. So much fun.

Ragnar Medals

 And here's actually a better representation of who we are as a group.

 It's funny when I tell people about Ragnar and they immediately say that it sounds crazy and they would never want to do anything like it. And I get it. It does sound crazy. But the bonds that are forged and the friendships made are something that no one else can understand. We were all great friends before this, but every time you do something so absolutely and physically tolling and hard, it just bonds you together in a way that nothing else can. Also, the mental blocks that are overcome during the race make you feel like you can do anything in the world. And I have always said that only Ragnarians understand the crazy ;)

I was so lucky to do this with my ladies! Love them lots and I am relieved we all finished in one piece. 

Now, if you want to watch some fun videos we made along the way click HERE and HERE.