Monday, December 29, 2008

Santa's Workshop

Every year around mid-November a mild panic sets in as we realize that although we have thought about it for roughly a year, the time is quickly approaching for Santa’s Little Workshop to fire back up again. About four years ago my family decided that it would be fun to MAKE our gifts for one another. Always up for a challenge we all happily agreed without fully understanding what level of commitment this would actually take to pull off. But off we went anyway and a tradition was born. Well, for the fourth straight year, Jill and I spent a weekend with Master Craftsman Glenn, (who rivals Bob Villa) and her aunt Rita (who is our artistic director) crafting our projects. I myself am not the most “handy” of men and so thank goodness that Glenn is there to make sure that I don’t cut my hand off with a saw or shoot the nail gun into my foot, but I am proud to say that we do the majority of the work. Glenn instructs and models and then we take over. Jill and I each have our specific jobs and what comes out is generally a good gift. And by crafting our gifts we have found that even though the projects always take a little bit longer than what we first thought, or we hit a snag or two along the way, there really is something to this gift making. We have found that we really take pride in what we are making. We have also learned that by giving (and receiving) a gift that was hand-made you know that the person giving it had to give up their time and expend a lot of energy and effort to make the gift. Simply said, it makes us look at the gift in a different way and we form a different kind of appreciation for the giver.

Even though we won’t start making our presents for 2009 until December 20th (we always wait until the last minute) we are already looking forward to what we can make for everyone next year. And remember, suggestions are welcome!

This year we made the game "washers." It was a popular game when we lived in St. Louis and I call it a city version of horseshoes.

Mark and Glenn
My job was staining all the wood
Cousin - Jahala
When was the last time you used a compass?
We always embed a penny with the year so we can remember when we did it and as our special trademark.
The almost finished products!

Happy 4th Birthday John Paul

Just trying to play blog catch up, and didn't want to leave out John Paul's special day on December 15th. He had a great birthday party at the gym that he takes gymnastics at. We all had fun playing in the balls and breaking the pinata.
July 2006

November 2006

April 2007

August 2008

My brother Mark

Blowing out the candles!!

Love this picture!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas at Silver Dollar City

We love the cinnamon bread!!!

Mom & Me

Austin and Santa

Love this picture of Autin

I think this tree is a little scary

Gobble, Gobble-- Another Thanksgiving

While some people would argue that there is only so much turkey that one can eat, we are fortunate enough to be able to attend Thanksgiving with both of our families each year. And while that means that we make the journey to southwest Missouri on two consecutive weekends, this is a minor trade-off that we will gladly sacrifice so that we do not have to do the every other year holiday schedule that some couples have to endure. As we always do on Thanksgiving Day, Jill and I and her father got up early and competed in our own “turkey trot.” Granted, ours is held at the churches family life center on the treadmills and so we don’t have to worry about the elements outside, but it is still a personal accomplishment to get up and run on one of the laziest days of the year. That being said, we certainly made up for it later in the day.

For those of you who have a small family you would be amazed at the amount of food that is on the table at the Evans Thanksgiving. I myself have what I would consider a good sized family and I always thought that we had more food than imaginable, that was until I went to Jill’s grandparents. There you will find a large turkey, an even bigger ham, and about 42 side dishes (because every family member tends to have their own favorite that they cannot do without). Oh, and to top it all off, there are at least 10 pies and countless other desserts just to make sure that you have no choice but to like something there. The food is canvassed across three tables and gently flows from the kitchen, to the table, and sometimes even overflows into the living room. But boy is it good. Needless to say, our hour of running is erased after about five minutes of arriving as we always find ourselves “sampling” it all.

In addition to the mounds of food I think that we also experienced an all-time first at the Evans Farm this Thanksgiving. Every family member was present! So what did we do to celebrate? We took pictures. Lots and lots of pictures! Each individual family, all of the siblings, every imaginable combination was snapped by at least two or three different cameras. There were so many flashes and shutters going off it almost made me want to go in for a wardrobe change. But nonetheless, we survived and looking back we are glad that we were able to get the shots that we did. I just hope that everyone realizes that each camera adds ten pounds and that they did not even give us time to let our food set after “sampling” 40 of the 42 side dishes. Just remember that when you see all of the protruding stomachs.

All the food!!

John Paul--Jill's nephew

Leta, Grandma, Rita, Gloria

Rita and Leta-(twin sisters)I can't count how may times they have dressed the same, these twins truly have a special bond.

Family Picture

Coloring Time
Playing in the hay barn

Jill's Dad (Paul) and Grandpa

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Hopkins Holiday Hijinks

Who would have thought that something that was started out of the fear of being inside for 10 or more hours with our family would have turned out to be so successful? Needless to say that for the last two Thanksgiving get togethers we have been able to see the true family spirit and competitiveness come out in full force. And while I am not certain that doing something for two years would qualify it as a tradition, I am certain that the “Hopkins Holiday Hijinks” is a time that has produced some memories that will be embedded in our minds for quite a while.

Although there were many memorable moments I think that the highlights from this year included: seeing Terri’s disappointment with being on the “old ladies team”, Nathan almost passing out after stuffing 12 marshmallows in his mouth, driving by and seeing half of my family running around the Marionville cemetery as cars slowly passed by with looks of confusion and astonishment on their passengers faces, and Reanne throwing up after taking her turn eating out of the can of corn. Needless to say that this is something that we enjoy doing as it allows us the opportunity to get outside and run around a bit after over indulging on Thanksgiving treats and being inside for the majority of the day. And although there is always a disagreement or an accusation of cheating by one team or another we know that in the end it is just fun to be able to do it -- especially if you were on the winning “Old Ladies Team” (needless to say, Terri isn’t disappointed now!).

The Teams:

The "Old Ladies" Team

Mark's cousin Bridget

Running around the football field

Nathan winning at "Chubby Bunny"

Monday, November 17, 2008

Whew, I am glad that is over!!

Whew, I am glad that is over! While we have shared that sentiment during various stages and events in our life, it seems like that is always the initial feeling after finishing a good long run. In this case, the long run took place in Tulsa, OK, as we were able to spend the weekend with Davin and Stacy and run in the Route 66 Half and Full Marathon. Trust me, I am not a hard-core runner and while my pace would certainly support that, I do enjoy the many benefits of running. Overall, I believe that running has taught me many things that are applicable both to running and to life in general. And while I am sure that there are some I already knew or would have found out eventually through another avenue, they are now deeply embedded in my mind. One of the first and most important things that you learn while running is that you will need something to keep your mind off of the fact that you still have a very long way to go. So please indulge me and let me share some of the thoughts and ideas that allowed me to get through yet another wonderful run.

  1. Preparation is everything. Many times we have to train for days, months, or years for an event that is over in a moment. It doesn’t seem fair to have to spend 12 weeks preparing for something that only lasts a couple of hours but I can’t imagine the results or the pain if the preparation wasn’t done.

  2. Pace yourself. -- If you start out too fast, you won’t be able to finish. If you start out too slow, you will be disappointed that you still have something left in the tank at the finish.

  3. You can’t compare yourself to others. Big and Tall, Fat and Small, one thing’s for sure, you see them all. I have to run with what I have and while I am sure that there are things that may make it easier, that doesn’t mean that I have to have them in order to finish.

  4. A good support system is vital. – All throughout the race Jill and Stacy would randomly appear and shout out words of encouragement. Although our moments spent together were brief, their words of encouragement provided a definite boost.

  5. It is better to go through life together than trying to tackle it alone. – Unfortunately, I often take Jill or others for granted. I don’t realize how nice it is to have someone there to pick me up when I am down or to give me a good pep-talk and most often I do not realize their value until they are not there when I need them.

  6. Preparation doesn’t always guarantee success. – Sometimes we do not get the outcomes that we desire. Someone once told me that if I prepare properly then I would not be disappointed. Not true. Sometimes you just have a bad day. Sometimes you find that your body aches in places that it hasn’t ached before, that you can’t breathe as easily as what you would like, or that it just isn’t was easy as you thought it would be. And sometimes you realize that you gave it your best and were fully prepared but things just didn’t go your way.
  7. Problems are often overlooked when things are going smoothly – Those first eight miles of nothing but flat pavement hide a lot of errors. When things are going well we don’t stop to consider our form, our posture, or other things that we may be doing incorrectly along the way. Instead we just keep coasting along. Many times that leads to problems later as we find that if we had paid more attention to them when things were going well, they could have been handled better in times of struggle.
  8. Size doesn’t matter. – Who would have thought that a 185 pound man would be termed a Clydesdale, but in the running world that is exactly what I am. Granted, being larger may limit me in certain ways or put additional stress on my body but that doesn’t keep me from finishing. I may never beat a 155 pound man and while I am sure that there are some that weigh 225 or more who I could never catch, the good news is that if you want to you can finish. It might not be pretty, but you can at least finish.
  9. There will be ups and downs, but it’s better if there is a break in between. – Who put the hills at the end? That was all that I was thinking at mile ten as the last four miles were up and down, up and down, up and down. How much easier would they have been if they were spread out throughout the course instead of all in one place? I don’t know but at least it would have seemed easier instead of seeming like I was always running uphill with no end in sight.

  10. Be proud of where you came from. All too often I look at where I am at and what I have in front of me instead of acknowledging what I have already accomplished. I am easily disappointed if things are going my way at that exact moment or if I have failed at something, but I never stop and reflect on everything that I have accomplished up to that point. Yeah, I might have a couple more hard miles to go, but look at the miles that I have already run!
  11. People running alongside you can get tired too. Although I have run in a handful of races I was able to experience a first in this one --- I was able to run a portion of it with my wife (who mind you had not signed up for the race). It was at mile 11 that I came staggering over yet another hill, looked up, and saw two ladies running along the route, sprinting about 150 yards in front of me. All I could see was two bundled up ladies running with backpacks and camera bags flopping behind them. As I had the luxury of coasting down the hill I realized that it was Jill and Stacy. Apparently they had misjudged how far away they were from the finish line and while Jill wanted to be there for me at the end, they just couldn’t make it. They ran but eventually I caught them and they were left to stand huffing and puffing on the side of the road, and the roles reversed as I was able to encourage them a little bit too.

  12. Laughter is the best medicine. Please see above. I have no doubt in my mind that my time would have been a minute or two worse if I had not seen Jill and Stacy dashing through the streets. It certainly added a spring to my step and made me forget that my body was aching.

  13. Trials never seem so bad at the end. Many times while we are in the middle of a battle, trial, etc. we think that there is no way out. The good news is that it is very likely that we will survive. We might not think that we will and it may feel like we can’t take another step, but somehow we fight through it and when we look back, it wasn’t nearly as bad as what we believed it was at the time.

13.1 Finish Strong – Sometimes you have to put the past behind you and finish strong. It doesn’t matter if that past spans 1 day, 10 years, or 13 miles. Move past it, stand tall, and sprint to the end.

Overall it may not have been my best race, but I enjoyed myself, had the chance to spend a great weekend with some friends, and I even learned some things along the way. And the best news of all is that I finished!

Do these guys look like they are about to run a marathon and half marathon?