Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Boston Stronger

One year ago today, I found myself stopped at the corner of Charlesgate East and Commonwealth Avenue in Boston, Massachusetts. Barricaded by yellow tape forbidding me from continuing any farther. After running 25.5 miles, I was 0.7 miles away from crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon. 

Instead of running down Boylston street, listening to the cheers of the crowd and seeing the glowing faces of my daughters sitting in the front row of the bleachers, I stood exhausted and confused, feeling very unfinished.

Thankfully, the family members and friends who came to support me that day weren't harmed. There are many others who can't say the same. I've gone over so many different scenarios of how the day could have played out. And then I just have to stop myself. Because it doesn't matter what could have happened. What matters most is what actually happened after those tragic events. 

Like I wrote about last year, something changed in Boston that day. Something bigger than the explosions. Something stronger than whatever was in those backpacks. Something so much brighter than the darkness of 2:49 pm.

The people of (and in) Boston pulled together that day - and together, they became stronger than whatever it was that was trying to ruin them. 

Instead of being overwhelmed with sadness or fear, I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the kindness of strangers who clothed me with a garbage bag and gave me water from their own apartments. 

Instead of feeling alone, I felt the love of literally hundreds of family members and friends texting and messaging their hope for my safety. A simple Facebook post that read, "Made it to 25.5. With Ryan now. Everyone we know is ok. I'll try to update as we hear more." received more likes and comments than I thought I had friends. And I appreciated every single one.

Instead of crying tears of sadness, I was cried tears of gratitude listening to the voicemail left by my weeping brother and reading the email from a dean at Tuck listing the families and classmates that were in Boston - to support Ryan and me - who were safe and accounted for.  

One year later, we are better. One year later, we are more aware. One year later, we are stronger.  

And one year later, we will finish what we started on April 15, 2013.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

a newfound appreciation...

Today marks six weeks until the 2014 Boston Marathon. And I've had a realization, a new found appreciation, if you will. You see, thanks to Mr. Polar Vortex (x5 now is it?), Iowa has been a frozen tundra for the last few months. Its coldest and snowiest on record, I've heard. And, though I'm no stranger to cold weather running, a few things have to align to allow me to get out the door:
1. Temperatures that don't cause frostbite in less than 5 minutes.
2. Sidewalks not lined with ice, underneath a fresh layer of snow.
3. Wind chills conducive to running with a one year old. 
So far, not even one of these things has happened for me in the past two months. Seriously, the warnings were to not go outside for more than five minutes for risk of getting frostbite. FIVE MINUTES!

As for number two, I actually like running in snow. I find it relatively peaceful and calming. But I like to leave the skating part to hockey players and ice dancers.

Those wintry conditions + dark skies until 7:30am and then again at 4:30 pm = no running sans kids for me = no outdoor runs. I'm still not completely familiar with the roads in my area, so I'm not going to risk running alone in the dark. And pushing a stroller on ice while trying to run is most likely less fun than run/skating on it myself (but in full disclosure, I haven't tried).

The dreadmill and I have become very close in the last few months. Too close, actually. Of my 207 miles of training since December 30th, a measly 54 of them have been outside (and that includes 18 glorious miles in California). For all you number crunchers out there, that's 26%. 

Which leads me to my realization/appreciation. Because the other 74% have been inside on my trusty treadmill, I've had a lot of time to stare off into space at my 1960s wood-paneled basement wall, feeling like a mind-numbed lab rat. Running round and round and round on my rubber wheel for hours at a time.

But that's when it hit me. 

A lab rat! 

Research for Rett syndrome! 

That's what this whole thing is about! 

And honestly, underneath all the moaning and complaining about where I'm running, I am truly grateful for the ability to run at all, and for the opportunity to run for Rett syndrome. For Leah. To raise funds for life-changing research. To finish what we started last year. 

I'm grateful for my treadmill. And I'm grateful for those little rodents. 

And so I run. And run and run and run. Sometimes on a treadmill, sometimes outside. It doesn't really matter. For Boston 2014, I run for Rett. 

Please consider a donation to our 2014 Boston team on behalf of Leah's runners:
or Elissa:

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Fiji bound

Over the holidays, Ryan's dad was called to serve the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a mission president presiding over the Fiji Suva mission (the special late night FaceTime I referred to on our Chicago weekend away was when we found out). This is a three year calling for both his parents!

Though we are sad to not have them around for the next three years, we are excited for them and for the experiences and adventures that are sure to await them in the Pacific! And we obviously can't wait to visit (though I'm considering giving Ryan a turn flying solo with the girls, and this 15+ hour flight might be the perfect opportunity???).

After calls for new mission presidents are made, the Church features each couple individually in the Church News. Here's what they wrote about the Laytons.

LaMar L. Layton, 58, and Lynnette Stark Layton, two children, River View 6th Ward, Draper Utah River View Stake: Fiji Suva Mission, succeeding President Kenneth D. and Sister Janis Klingler. Brother Layton is a former stake president, counselor in a stake presidency, bishop, senior missionary in the Tonga Nuku'alofa Mission and missionary in the Illinois Chicago Mission. Founder of Decisive Investor. Born in Salt Lake City to Lawrence Martin Layton and Lida Marlene Prince. 

Sister Layton served with her husband in the Tonga Nuku'alofa Mission and is a former stake Young Women president, ward Relief Society president, ward Primary president and counselor in a stake Relief Society presidency. Born in Rexburg, Idaho, to Earl William Stark and Loretta Ririe.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Sixty years of mom

This past Monday, my mom turned 60 years old. For a brief moment, my three siblings and I talked about surprising her in Utah that weekend. With one child in Utah, one in California, one in Arizona and myself in Iowa, she doesn't see us all together very often. I may have been the child who ruined the whole let's-all-get-together plan, but with nearly $500 plane tickets, unpredictable weather and some already planned trips right before and after, it just wasn't feasible for a quick weekend. 

I was feeling really horrible about it all - I wanted to celebrate my mom and show her how much I love her! So, I got an idea to try and contact friends, co-workers and family members from all stages of her life and have them all send me a message for or memory of her so I could compile it all in a book. 

What an incredible experience it was to receive email after email, facebook message after facebook message, even some snail mail letters, all honoring an incredible 60 years of someone I love more than words can say. Some messages had me in tears while others made me laugh out loud (sometimes in inappropriate places!). And the pictures! Oh, the pictures!

I am, obviously, not the only one who thinks my mom is awesome sauce. And the time I spent creating the book was absolutely worth it. I had it in my possession for one brief afternoon before I had to ship it right off to her to make it in time for her big day. 

She says she loves it and feels it is a treasure for her to have. More than anything, I just hope she knows that she has been a treasure to me and many others during her sixty years. 

Happy 60 mom. Here's to 60 more!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

february in an instant

February has never been my favorite month. Growing up in Utah, it was always cold (though I will now admit, humid cold is a whole different monster that I simply did not meet until I left Utah). And it wasn't pretty cold - it was a crusted-filthy-snow-on-the-side-of-the-road kind of cold. A 'when-is-this-winter-ever-going-to-end?' kind of cold. 

Then I married Ryan and we celebrate him in February, so that gave the month a bonus point. 

Then we moved to California where February was all about refreshing rain and blossoms and the beginning of spring (gasp!). So February got some thumbs up for that. 

Then Leah was born. In February. And she's awesome, making February a little more awesome. 

So, though February (especially THIS February in Iowa) is still cold, a crusted-filthy-snow-on-the-side-of-the-road kind of cold and a 'when-is-this-winter-ever-going-to-end?' kind of cold, and a 'let's-see-how-many-more-days-we-can-cancel-school?' kind of cold, I've found things to celebrate in the meantime. 

Inside, of course. 

(And visiting that rainy, blossoming California in the midst of the ridiculous cold this year didn't hurt.)

So, here's to February while it lasted...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


And just like that, my baby girl turned seven years old. SEVEN. It's unbelievable. I'd say it needs to stop, but she's just so darn cute and so, so incredible, I kind of want the awesomeness to continue. 

We had a whirlwind weekend celebrating the commencement of her newfound seven-ness. Since her birthday was on Saturday, we took a pan full of "7" sugar cookies for her kindergarten class to enjoy on Friday. Kate was thoroughly pleased to be a school guest and wear the lanyard that said so. She also loved the leftover cookies at home.

After Kate and I went home, I put her down for a nap and then got a call from Leah's school saying Leah was just not being herself. She was crying and responding in the affirmative when asked if she didn't feel well/something hurt. Since we all know Leah doesn't shy away from the spotlight, I knew she had to really not be feeling well to be talked into going home early on her big day. So, I woke Kate up and we went to pick up Leah. Sure enough, she was weepy and all-around kind of pathetic looking. Which is so strange because she was fine a few hours earlier! 

I was worried because we were leaving at 4pm for a weekend retreat with some special needs families in the area and I really didn't want to have to bail. So, we set up her sick bed on the couch and she fell right asleep. She slept for a few hours and when she woke up, she seemed so much better. I asked her if she still wanted to go to the retreat and she said yes! 

Her actual birthday was spent at the retreat with games, toys, movies, bowling, a magician, a ball pit, swimming, balloons, presents and more. It was basically a seven year old's dream come true. We took a few presents to open up in the hotel room, but saved most for home. 

We went straight to church from the retreat on Sunday morning where Leah got to BE a cupcake. 

When we got home, she opened the rest of her presents (um, SPOILED! from family and friends!). This is how Kate felt about me taking pictures of only Leah. 

After presents we had a combined cake and ice cream celebration for Leah and our good friend Haley. Please don't judge her cake. We had lofty Magic Treehouse plans, but not being home all weekend changed that idea pretty quickly.

And the celebration didn't stop there! A few people stopped by on Monday with gifts, including cute Mr. M who brought her GREEN flowers. He knows the way to Leah's heart...the color green! 

And at her school, the PTA has a fun program where a child can get a name plate in a book for their birthday each year. The child picks a book from a list and then the birthday child gets to be the first one in the whole school to check it out. It's really fun and Leah loved it. 

But the very best gift came the following day at her annual well-check appointment. As of February 24 at 4pm, Leah is officially ON THE CHARTS. This is serious, people. Leah hasn't been on the charts since her first year of life. We're talking first percentile here with a BMI that will not include talks of a g-tube. Hooray for Leah! 

Looks like #7, in true #7 form, is off to a lucky start. Which is perfect because we sure feel lucky to have this incredible 7 year old in our lives.

Friday, February 14, 2014

valentine's day

Valentine's Day this year was simple and perfect. Leah didn't have school, but I attended her class party the day before. She was glowing. And she was actually able to participate in the class game - they sucked up marshmallows with a straw and dumped them into a cup. She was really good at using the straw! 

The following day, we colored our valentines, got some of them delivered and took some glorious naps. All while wearing hearts, of course. 

It was a simple holiday this year. 

And, quite simply, I loved it.

Ryan's 33rd

I flew home from California just in time to bake and frost a "pink cake" and celebrate Ryan's 33rd birthday. His parents were still in town, so it was fun to celebrate with a few more people! We ordered in some Texas Roadhouse, opened presents (Kate was the official present-opening helper) and ate some pink cake! It was a perfect evening at home, avoiding all the Valentine's Day eater-outers. Win, win. 
(My favorite part of this picture is Ryan holding Leah's hand so she doesn't smash the cake!)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

ca travelogue part four: the original ca family

When we moved to CA in 2007, Ryan and I were both stepping into new territory. Neither of us had never lived far away from home before (other than Ryan on his mission in Hong Kong) and we were just unsure of what was in store for us. 

Luckily, great things were in store in the form of incredible friends who, over the course of the next nearly five years, became family. Our first family away from family. Families who we spent Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Years Eve with. Families who let us cry on their shoulders when we had no idea what was going on with Leah. Friends who got me through my first marathon (and so so many training miles before). Families and friends we went to church with, taught piano to, had girls nights out with.

And to be honest, two and a half years is way too long to go without seeing some of these incredible people. It makes my heart hurt sometimes to think that things can't just be the same as they once were. But, although things have changed, it was so wonderful to walk into a room full of people I know and love like no time has passed at all. 

I got to Jeff and Sarah's house late Saturday night. Like really late. And they still stayed up even later to chat the night away. They're the best.

Sunday morning, we got dressed and ready for church. As I entered the chapel I used to frequent every Sunday, I was overwhelmed with love for this California family of mine. I received such a warm welcome and even a "welcome home" from a number of people. And that's what it felt like! Home! It happened to be a stake conference, so the actual Sunday services were a bit different than usual, but it was an incredible meeting and I was so glad to see so many wonderful faces all at once. Little Mr. Tyler McPhie walked down the aisle to get a drink at one point about an hour into the meeting (I hadn't seen him yet) and I nearly jumped out of my seat to give him a giant hug. I abstained, don't worry. 

After church, we had a delicious dinner with Jeff and Sarah, Scott and Rachel McPhie and Ben Thomander and all their kids. We were all laughing so hard tears were streaming down my face. At one point, I was so incredibly happy inside that I just had to call Ryan so he could be a small part of it. I think it made him even more sad to be missing out, but that was definitely not my intention! It was just a perfect afternoon with some truly incredible friends. 

Monday morning I decided to head out on my beloved Stevens Creek Trail for a long run. I had avoided 14 miles a few days prior, but felt like this was a great opportunity to get a long run in on a great trail. I ran from Sarah's house 3 miles to the trail where I met up with Jaimi, a dear friend and one of my old running partners. A lot has changed for Jaimi in the few years I've been gone, but it was so wonderful to talk with her just like we used to. Four miles flew right by and she had to go to work, so I finished the final six by myself. The weather was glorious. And the trees were flowering. And I was in a tank top.

I met three lovely piano moms (including one piano mom/student!) for lunch at a local restaurant and had a great hour catching up with all of them. They sure know how to make a girl feel good! They are incredible ladies and I'm so blessed to know each of them.

After lunch, I walked to a nail salon to get a pedicure with Sarah, which, by the way, is a perfect thing to do after a long run. The massage was incredible and my impending headache waned a bit. It didn't do much to settle my stomach ache, but it did wonders for the muscles.

After pedicures, I still wasn't feeling so well. We headed to Kathy's house where I saw Kathy and Tawni and their good lookin' kids. As I got out of Sarah's car, I really wasn't feeling well. So, I hung back for a moment, lost my cookies on the street outside of Kathy's house and then went in and had a great afternoon. Seriously, I felt so much better. I even got to buy some girl scout cookies!

After Kathy's, Sarah took me to BevMo to pick up some local "root brews" for Ryan. His favorite root beer is only sold in California, so I lovingly purchased, wrapped and packed six of them and brought them home to him in my luggage. I'm so nice. After my BevMo pitstop, I spent a few hours at my Tuck friend Andrea's house. It was fun to catch up with her after a few months away and see her new home...in my old city! I love that our lives are intertwined like that now.

For dinner, Rachel organized a fabulous girl's night out at BJs (mmmm, pizookies!) where I was able to see so many dear friends! It was so great to eat, chat and catch up with all of these beautiful women! 

A few of them couldn't make it to dinner, but were able to come to Sarah's house after and I had so much fun spending my last few hours with them. 

Tuesday morning Sarah drove me to SFO, where I soon learned my flight was delayed. I spent some more quality time in the terminal and missed my connection in Chicago by seriously one minute. I ran to the gate and they had just closed the doors. So, I spent some more quality time in Chicago. They booked me on the flight leaving the next morning (um, no thanks!), but Ryan looked and said there was a flight later that night. So, I went back to check and sure enough, there was a spot! 

Though it was so great to see Ryan's face again, it was not great to see it holding my down NorthFace coat in frigid temperatures. I missed California already, rain and all. 

All in all, my California trip was amazingly perfect. I still can't believe I was lucky enough to escape for nearly a week and reconnect with so many dear friends from so many parts of my life. As I was on my final leg of the flight home, the flight attendant said, "Make sure your mask is secure before you assist others." Though there were no little ones by my side to assist, this particular trip gave me just what I needed to continue to assist those littles at home. It oxygenated me, gave me strength and filled my cup. I think I'll do it again soon.