You Don’t Want My Christmas Card

Every year I think about sending a Christmas card… but, I don’t do it.

The last time I sent out a Christmas card, it was 1996 and it looked like this—

First Christmas

First Christmas

Yes, that is Leah. She’s a week old… well, not any more. She’s actually 13 and that photo just got me thinking that I should probably send out a card JUST so people know we don’t look like that AT ALL.

I am terrible at sending out Christmas cards. The worst part is, I WANT to be good at it. Every year I buy cards. Sometimes they even have the sticky place to put a photo, because I fool myself into believing I might really pull that off too!

Good Intentions

Good Intentions

My cousin Jen has it down. Hers is always the first card I receive each year. She must do them while we are all taking our turkey induced nap on Thanksgiving.

Perhaps, I should pride mine in being the LAST card people receive… or as reality would have it, the last card they don’t receive. (sigh) I am not good at the Christmas card thing and I should accept it.

Please don’t suggest I email a card, because really… emailed Christmas cards don’t even count! That’s all I am going to say about that.

This year, I sat down with Aaron and mused at the possibility of writing one of those AWESOME Family Christmas Letters. Now there’s a commitment!! I secretly believe some marriages end over those annual productions. I opened the 2009 calendar to see if I could remember what we actually did this year. GAH! First of all, my calendar is 4 feet wide and 3 feet high. The boxes are crammed full of appointments, flight numbers, and the school holidays are highlighted, so we don’t forget and accidentally drop our children off. I could hardly decipher the information, let alone organize it and make it sound lovely.

Be Very Afraid

Be Very Afraid

I tried to conjure something up from the top of my head but the good was TOO good and the bad TOO bad. Continue reading

The Last Hurrah

Only two weeks of summer were left and we had them planned, solid. The Last Hurrah would be 6 days in Yellowstone. See, Lucy was scheduled for surgery. She was scheduled just two days after we would be returning home from our Yellowstone trip. She and I would then spend the final week of summer vacation in the hospital while she recovered. Ideally she would be released from the hospital, just in time for school to start.

Ideally.

If there is anyone who should have learned to expect the unexpected, it’s me, but sometimes I just forget that part.

This is where our story begins.

I had never been to Yellowstone, so I dug through their website looking for information. Their website was not very helpful, there was simply too much information and I had no idea where to start. (so I will link you to it!!)

Yellowstone was… in a word, remarkable. We must’ve accidentally purchased the deluxe package because we saw it all. It was amazing!

Considering that I called a reservation center and was assigned a random campsite, we somehow ended up with an amazing site!

Just what we ordered

Just what we ordered

When I retire, I think I am going to be a Campground Host. Aaron is the one with the Parks, Recreation and Tourism degree to make it happen. I was going to be a nurse, because I wanted to help people, but I dropped out of college after my first year to become a musician. A musician! How silly is that? How many college kids bail on their degree to become musicians… pipe dreams I tell ya!

Back to Yellowstone and retiring. When I do retire, you can find me at Bridge Bay Campground, Loop H. I will have potted plants, an herb garden and a welcome mat in front of my RV. I will have a hammock hung between two lodgepole pines. Look for me in a high-end camping chair, the kind with two drink holders, a sunshade and a footrest. Living large!

Leah and Lucy are great little campers. I have proof. Don’t they look miserable?

Happy Camper

Happy Camper

Playing kung fu games

Playing kung fu games

We also take our food very seriously when camping;) Dutch Oven Meatloaf was our dinner.

I can cook anything in a Dutch oven

I can cook anything in a Dutch oven

Roasting marshmallows takes patience AND focus.

Don't Mess With the Marshmallow

Don't Mess With the Marshmallow

Aaron and I are ambitious hikers. So, on day two we set out for a 6 mile hike.

Clear Lake Trailhead

Clear Lake Trailhead


Such a beautiful trail

Such a beautiful trail

We would have seen two lakes and two waterfalls. I say “would have seen” because just 1 mile up the trail there was a sign that said the trail was closed due to “dangerous conditions.” Hmmm.

Okay! It’s time for Choose Your Own Adventure: You are a family of four, hiking in the woods. Your route, which was recommended by a Ranger at an Information Center, is now closed. You…
A. Keep hiking that path.
B. Turn around and hike back a mile. (Wow! A whopping 2 mile hike.)
C. Take another path.
D. Get eaten by a bear (you are in Yellowstone)

We went with option “C” and took another path. I’ll admit we stood there for a while and thought about it though. I realized that if it were just me and Aaron, I would have gone for the closed trail, but then again, I got into a paddleboat in a lagoon of crocodiles in Ghana… so, I bet you’re not surprised.

Yes, we took another path that lead us out of the woods, directly to the road. Then we followed the road to a parking area, and from the parking area to some well marked tourist paths. Boo! 🙁 Oh well, we tried! Still ambitious, we hiked down Uncle Tom’s Trail, a path that the Ranger said we shouldn’t bother trying with a 50 pound child in a backpack. (Bring it!) It is pretty much a billion stairs down to the bottom of a waterfall. (Truth be told it is over 300 stairs and a descent of 500 feet) Aaron took the pack with Lucy down and back up. I’ve gotta say there were people, carrying nothing on their backs, who were huffing and puffing harder than Aaron. (Go Aaron, go!)

Somewhere Under The Rainbow

Somewhere Under The Rainbow


Catching His Breath

Catching His Breath


That's a whole lotta H2O

That's a whole lotta H2O

Then I took Lucy on my back and we “hiked” back to the car.

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

2 miles = Smiles

2 miles = Smiles

We had lunch and then continued on to the next stop.

Did you know that the center of the Earth smells like hard boiled eggs? Yeah, charming I know! In Yellowstone, there are countless geothermal areas, some spouting water and others just letting off steam, and all of them laced with varying degrees of sulphur. (Fabulous!)

Some are holes of boiling mud.

Boiling Mud Pot

Boiling Mud Pot

Others are multi-colored fairy pools.

Do You Know The Colors of the Rainbow?

Do You Know The Colors of the Rainbow?

Some look like science projects gone wrong,

Yikes!

Yikes!

and some look like science projects gone right.

Aaron and Lucy at Giant Geyser

Aaron and Lucy at Giant Geyser

Most of them smell bad! I really wish my blog was scratch-n-sniff right now.

I hiked Lucy around the mud pots. Leah thought this stop was torturous. The hot sulphur blasts of steam fogged her glasses and sent her reeling… she likened it to the open sewers in Ghana. Lucy, on the other hand, just hollered, “Pee-yew!” at each stop.

While driving up north to Mammoth Hot Springs, we saw bison.

Stay in the car kids

Stay in the car kids

And we saw a bear!

Roll Up The Windows Kids

Roll Up The Windows Kids

We stopped to hike the Tower Falls Trail.

Tower Falls

Tower Falls

This time, I carried Lucy down the trail and back up. As we hiked, I could hear Lucy saying something, quietly, to herself. I finally asked her, what she was saying. “I’m just counting your steps.” (That makes two of us)

When we were climbing back up from the waterfall, I stopped to catch my breath and drink some water. As I started back up the steep trail, Lucy could tell I was working hard, she leaned in, over my shoulder and quietly said, “Mom, this is what you are training for.”

Ok, talk about words of encouragement!

Did I tear up a little? Uh, maybe.
Did I pick up my pace? Yeah. I did. Because suddenly, I felt a little less tired.

But you know what, Lucy’s right! This is the event– waterfalls, dirt, trees and steep rocky paths with Lucy on my back. She’s right!

A few minutes later a curious voice asked, “How old is she?” I turned to see a couple in their sixties right behind me. The woman had asked the question. “Oh, she is nine.” I was breathing hard but doing my best to keep my voice steady.

“She’s nine?” the woman asked, surprised. Now I wondered, was she surprised because Lucy looks younger than nine or was she surprised that a 9 year-old was on her mother’s back? She continued, “Well, let me tell you something.” (here it comes) “When my daughter was five she always wanted me to carry her…” (ah, the latter) “and we came up with this game you ought to try.”

I kept smiling. I didn’t want to interrupt, that would be rude, but I already knew how this was going to play out. Somebody was going to feel bad.

She kept talking, “See I would walk ahead and tell her all she needed to do was meet me. Once she met me, it was her turn to walk ahead and I would meet her. You see? Then, before she knew it, she had walked the entire way!” (helps if you can walk)

“That’s really great.” I said, meaning it.

See, I don’t like this. I don’t try to leave people feeling like they shouldn’t have said anything in the first place, but I was pretty sure that in a few minutes, she was going to be kicking herself. I turned, looking back down the steep path and said, “The thing is… this trail isn’t wheelchair friendly… at all. So, if I didn’t carry her, she would just miss out on all of the beauty.” I said it smiling, cheerily, not in snide or rude way, I promise!

“Oh! Oh! I am sorry! She’s in a wheelchair?” (no she’s on my back, but…)

“Yep, she has spina bifida and cerebral palsy.” Again, I state it as a fact, like saying “the sky is blue.” No pity. (Please no pity.)

“Oh! My! I am sorry! So, so sorry!”

Was she apologizing to me or to my daughter? Was she “sorry” that Lucy uses a wheelchair? Or “sorry” for suggesting I force Lucy to walk? It didn’t matter, really. For the past eleven years I have worked on ways to give information about my kids, without adding drama. Additionally I have honed my skills, so that I can take someone’s reaction and diffuse it, and explain it to Lucy or Leah so that they can see it is just someone else’s point of view. It is not the truth. Most people look at Lucy and they can only see what is “missing.” They are blinded by the wheelchair, the disability. They cannot imagine the full and beautiful life Lucy has. The full and beautiful life we have, yes, even with a child in a wheelchair.

I used to want to smack people upside the head when they said ridiculous things, but now I listen to the reaction that goes off in my head… it’s just my synapses firing. I listen to the reaction, my reaction and then… a very calm, collected mommy chooses the words that come out of my mouth. (most of the time)

I just kept smiling and the woman continued, “The poor little thing!” (Please don’t say that in front of my kid.) I quickly cut her off for fear that we might be dazzled with some of my least favorite adjectives like “crippled” and least favorite statements like “she’s bound to a wheelchair.” (Want to see bound? Watch her without the wheelchair)

“Oh, no apology needed.” I said. “Lucy is a very smart and very fun little girl. We’re not going to let dirt and hills stop us from seeing so many beautiful things, are we Lucy.”

The woman continued, “Well, I really can’t imagine doing what you are doing. You are going to be a very, very strong young lady!”

“That’s what I’m working on.”
I smiled.
She smiled.

It was quiet.
We all kept walking.
We came to the parking area.
We completed the trek.
We did it.
And you know what? I don’t even think the woman was kicking herself.

Yes, this is what I’m training for.

She's not heavy. She's my daughter

She's not heavy. She's my daughter

To be continued…

Wasatch Woman of The Year

How perfect! The day after I posted about Marcus, I got a call saying that I had not only been nominated, but won Wasatch Woman Magazine‘s – Wasatch Woman of the Year Award for 2009!

How cool is that? I was nominated (by a fabulous Signing Time fan, Tammy T., who will receive all sorts of cool Signing Time swag!) under the business category, but I won the overall award!!!

That also meant I had a photo shoot coming up and would be on the cover of the magazine. I figured what a perfect chance to take you all along!

Now remember, Thursday I found out there would be a shoot on Tuesday. I quickly made the necessary calls.

First, I called Michael, who does my hair. My roots had grown out about 2 inches. His schedule is pretty tight and to get in before Tuesday when salons are closed on Mondays??? You get my dilemma, I know you do. The call went like this, “Hi Michael, It’s Rachel – hey I have a shoot Tuesday and HAVE to get into see you. Please call me ASAP!”

The next call was to Marcus and I left him a message like this, “Hi Marcus, it’s Rachel. I have a shoot on Tuesday any great ideas? It’s a magazine cover and I am supposed to bring 3 changes of clothes. I am thinking bold and bright. I also have my dirty Signing Time clothes in my trunk. Heh, sorry about that. Call me.”

Then I made an appointment to get my nails filled, because they were about as bad as my roots.
*Little Secret* I am not a girly girl. I only get my hair and nails done when I have a shoot or an appearance or a performance. It makes me crazy to spend an hour in a nail salon or three hours in a hair salon. I NEVER wore make-up or used a hair dryer in my real life prior to Signing Time. I learned everything I know about hair and make-up from our crew. In high school, Emilie did my hair and make-up for important occasions, like dances.

Now, when I get ready in the morning, if I have a meeting or something, Aaron says, “Let me get this straight… are you going to do your hair and make-up EVERY morning for the rest of our lives?” The other day I went to work with a baseball cap on a ponytail. I think he was relieved. When I have a shoot and come home with all that make-up on, he asks, politely, if I plan on washing it off or just hanging out that way for the rest of the day. He thinks make-up is pretty gross and I think he misses his “granola” wife!

1996

1996

1998

1998

2008 crunch

2008 crunch

Michael called me back and scheduled me for Saturday. Marcus called me back and said we could shop after my hair appointment. Saturday was also the University of Utah vs BYU football game and Aaron had tickets. This meant Leah and Lucy would be with me for three fun filled hours of salon and then a long shopping trip.

Saturday I loaded up the girls and got to the salon. They took my iPhone and stayed pretty busy, taking pictures of me and of each other.

Bye-bye roots

Bye-bye roots

Not bored yet

Not bored yet


Then the esthetician took pity on them and offered to paint their nails for free.

We loaded back in the car and called Marcus. We met Marcus for dinner and then dove into Anthropologie. Leah and Lucy ran/rolled around, trying on hats and giving me the “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” as I tried on countless outfits.

Round 1

Round 1

Round 2

Round 2

Round 3

Round 3


Finally we had narrowed it down to 2 outfits and I told Marcus I would bring some other options from home on the day of the shoot.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning. I got up at 7, loaded my car with clothes, shoes and jewelry and got to my hair and make-up appointment at 8 at Tranquility. I arrived at Cafe Niche for the shoot at 9:30.

Cafe Niche

Cafe Niche

Marcus had been there for 15 minutes. The rolling rack was set up and everything was steamed. Lindsey was already there too.

The art director took a look at my clothing options and we decided to go with 3 different looks, since the plan was to have me on the cover and photos inside with my story. Look #1 was some stuff I just brought from home, the art director said my collar had a personality all its own, so Marcus took that as a cue to use his toupee tape and mold that collar, forcing it to follow his artistic whims.

Hair and wardrobe

Hair and wardrobe

Final touch-ups

Final touch-ups

More make-up

More make-up

The photographer, Michael Calanan was great. As I am SURE you can imagine, I am a pretty demanding subject, especially because I RARELY smile. 🙂

Look #2… I can’t even remember, I guess we will see when the magazine comes out. Maybe the red/orange top and jeans.

While I waited I figured I could probably talk Marcus into taking a picture with me so you can all meet him officially! I even put it up on Twitter that very day. (NOTICE the toupee tape stuck to the top of his hand!! In case of emergency, ya know!)

Toupee Tape - don't leave home without it

Toupee Tape - don't leave home without it

They were shooting all the winners for each category. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I called Aaron and asked him to meet me there. That way we could have lunch after the shoot.

Look #3 was a dress we found at Anthro. They wanted to shoot it on a white wall, but the only white wall had someone sitting at a table eating in front of it. We finally shot it outside against a white shed.

We wrapped around 3pm. Aaron and I ate lunch.

Marcus loaded out… still sporting toupee tape on his hand 🙂 and that fanny pack is filled with all the secrets I shared before. So- he is allowed to wear a fanny pack.

If Marcus is happy, I'm happy

If Marcus is happy, I'm happy

The end!
Oh, sort of the end. I will be featured in the January/February issue. I am even supposed to be on the cover!