My friend Rebekah’s request for a blog post is all the encouragement I need to gather my thoughts and get some writing up on this blog (it’s a bit of a long one people!).  It’s been a busy, wonderful summer and we are enjoying a week of reprieve before we set off for a final mini-trip to the lake to meet our friends from Calgary.  In the busyness it has been a bit difficult to find moments where I’m able to gather my thoughts.  I like it when I’m always pondering and reflecting and growing personally and spiritually.  However, it is in moments after temporary busyness that I am able to revel in the small pleasures and blessings, like Tuesday afternoon when Rayna had a particularly long nap and I simply sat outside on our ‘couch’, closed my eyes and just embraced the still moment of nothing being required of me.
Three weeks of our summer was spent traveling in Saskatchewan.  I will share what I wrote while we were driving home below.  Otherwise, I have been enjoying working on my novel.  It is slow (because I’m not spending as much time at it as I like), but sure.  And every time I sit down and write I love being with my characters more and more.  What else can I say other than that I think I’m on track for finishing my first draft by the time I go back to work in March and I think I actually have a good read (I really like it anyway!).  And then there is running.  I find myself thankful for many small things, but particularly 2 things: every single moment I am blessed to share with my daughter and the amazing capability of my body to push and perform.  I am training for the ’30 give ‘er take’ which is a 30km run around Cultus Lake.  In the hills.  It is incredible to run in the trails.  Sometimes I’m not sure if I can do it, but as of last week my running partner, Sarah, and I have implemented a jump in the lake at the end: so worth it!  There is nothing like running a couple hours and then jumping, running clothes and all, into the chill lake.  It’s refreshing and invigorating and makes me feels like a giddy kid.  So come October I will be running this race (probably not jumping in the lake after it given the time of year), whether I am completely ready or not!  And until then I am going to be spending more $ on groceries as I feel like I have the appetite of a teenage boy; with nursing and long runs I am literally alwayshungry and trying to keep myself healthily fueled.
This summer has also been spent sending friends off in love.  In spring our dear friends moved firstly to Surrey, then back to Manitobato spend some time there prior to moving overseas.  And then we packed up our other dear friends and bid them farewell to Albertawhere we anticipate a rich, fresh life for them.  However, we still have many wonderful friends still here and were excited to be able to join Chris and Vicky at Chilliwack Lake for Rayna’s first camping adventure.  She did awesome sleeping in the tent which was pitched and waiting upon our arrival.  My favorite moment being the morning when she woke up and first rolled to her left and saw me lying there and you could see it in her head ‘Mom?’ and then she rolled to her right and there was Ryan and she surely was thinking ‘Dad?  What are you guys doing sleeping in my bed?’  Oh how I love my precious munchkin!  We also had the honor of watching the Roughriders lose both in Reginaand then in Vancouver.  I still carry my green-pride, though I think Ryan’s may be waning now.  But let’s not spend our time talking about the Roughriders.
            Saskatchewan.  Always home.  Here are the highlights of Saskatchewan 2012 trip.
Homeward bound.  What a fantastic summer vacation, introducing Rayna to Saskatchewanand to many new faces.  As we entered our home province I was captivated by a sense of freedom: the expansive plains and the crisp clean clear skies made me breathe deep.  It is a different kind of freedom to see the horizon continue miles in the distance; different than the freedom experienced by conquering a mountain by hiking to its summit.  The fields were beautiful and it was great to see blue in the skies that I hadn’t for some time: a blue that is unadulterated, unpolluted, and free of cloud.  And then my captivation of the nature beginning to surround me became obstructed by a phenomenon I had forgotten:  a windshield full of bug guts.  Big juicy bugs splattered all over the glass and streaky bug guts from trying unsuccessfully to clear them with the wipers.  How could I have forgotten?
En route Rayna was able to ‘catch up’ with Auntie Carmen and cousin Kaleb in Okotoks.  Rayna and Kaleb even got mistaken for twins in the double stroller!  Of course, it was wonderful for Grandma and Grandpa Elias to see Rayna again when we reached Swift Current.  She had grown so much in size and development in the 2 months since they had seen her last.  At Grandma and Grandpa’s house cousins Rachael and Isaiah awaited Rayna’s arrival during their 1 week stay away from their Mom and Dad.  Rayna got lots of attention.  Isaiah ‘read’ her books.  And Rachael spent much time an inch away from her face saying hello and stroking her hair with her index finger.  Rachael also loved to hold Rayna, though only for a moment before saying “go to Mommy” and pushing her out of her arms.  Rachael also loved to declare “Rayna nice.”  We went to the farm (my mom’s cousin’s farm) Friday before Carmen and Jason returned to relieve Grandma and Grandpa of full time duties.  At the farm Rayna met my second cousins and her 3rd cousins and Wanda of course!  Wanda (my mom’s cousin) is a hit with the kids and we are so glad to have her farm as a place to take the kids.  Rayna even experienced her first quad ride! 
Rayna also enjoyed a day with Grandma and Grandpa and Auntie and Uncle and cousins while we went off to watch the Roughriders (lose) with Chris and Vicky and Chris’ family.  After the game we met up with my friend, Megan (and Bevan).  A late night home and a new day, Sunday meant more visits with more family.  Our family BBQ brought more introductions of Rayna to her second cousins and great aunts and uncles.  Ryan and Jason and Chris made some new friends and played football in bare feet and managed to come away free of much muscle pain.  We also managed a chance encounter with friends Mark and Erynn, followed by a wonderful dinner at their place a couple days later. 
It was a full house at my parents until Carmen and Jason packed up their family, dog included, and squeezed into their Jetta car bound for home in Okotoks.  That was Monday.  Tuesday we all slept.  A lot.  Rayna couldn’t nap enough!  Those cousins of hers are hard work!  We enjoyed a few more days in Swift before heading on to Saskatoon
With a bit of miscommunication we arrived at Ryan’s aunt Bonnie’s place Thursday night at 10 PMunexpected to her!  It all worked out just fine and we enjoyed our luxury accommodations at her place and began a new onslaught of visits.  Friday held breakfast, lunch, and supper dates!  First Great Grandma Braun and Great Aunt Shelley, then Great Uncle Darryl, then Brad and Ashley and Raymond.  What an exciting introduction to almost 1 year old Raymond!  He loved her pink button on her jeans and they smiled and talked.  
Saturday, I had a lovely breakfast with my friend Erinfollowed by an afternoon family BBQ with Ryan’s cousins and introductions to Rayna’s second cousins.  Sunday we introduced Rayna to the Meewasin trail and took her swimming at the pool with Brad, Ashley and Raymond.  Try as he could, Raymond couldn’t get Rayna to hold his hand (Rayna was getting a bit short on sleep by this point and it took everything just to stop her from crying).  But, no time for a nap, straight to another family dinner and a chance to meet Great Grandma Rostek. 
One more full day and full it was.  Rayna met yet more second cousins, on my side.  We had a wonderful visit at my Auntie Anne and Uncle Kip’s place with them and my cousins and cousins’ kids.  Luckily, Rayna managed a nap there before it was off to Great Grandma Rostek’s and then Fuddruckers, of course, for supper.  Following was a night with Brad and Ashley playing Dutch Blitz.  Maybe it was me, but I feel perhaps parenthood has slowed our evening play of this game…or maybe that’s just my excuse for not winning!  One more sleep in Bonnie’s comfie bed for us (and in Bonnie’s closet for Rayna!) and one more breakfast date with Great Grandma Braun before we packed our bags.
Though, this was not the end of our visits!  Oh no, Rayna, you will learn, if you haven’t already there are many faces to see.  We enjoyed another Breakfast date with Ryan’s longtime friend, Pam, in Edmonton.  And now it is off to Hinton for a dinner date with my wonderful former coworker, Laurie, before stepping foot on BC soil in Valemount.  One more sleep until we return home to Chilliwack.  We’re a-coming Fritzy boy, we’re a-coming!
What a fabulous trip.  Rayna has learned that she can stay up past 6:30PM (her usual bedtime)! That sometimes there’s just no time for napping!  That great family and friends are so important and they love her dearly.  And that we love Saskatchewan(and the Saskatchewan Roughriders—even when they lose) even though we live in a province that claims to be the best place on earth.  We have ourselves a good little traveler and thoroughly enjoyed Saskatchewanroad trip 2012!