Saying Goodbye to the Magical Forest


Every summer when I was a child my family would drive from our home in Philadelphia to my Great-grandparents’ house outside Boston. We’d spend a week there, visiting historic sites, going for long drives through the country and walking along the beaches. My sister and I slept on the enclosed porch each night, listening to the sounds of the surrounding woods. The house sat on nearly three acres of land with big tall trees and thick underbrush, and when my Great-grandparents were a little younger there were veggie gardens and lots of big blueberry bushes for picking. Victoria and I loved to explore the property for hours, walking back through the woods as far as we could go, sometimes all the way to the abandoned railroad tracks that provided the back boundary. From up on the tracks you could see the water of the Back River, with its Weymouth Landing boatyard full of fishing boats ready to head out to sea.

23 Farren Weymouth

Eventually my great-grandparents both passed away but my grandparents kept the house, and after retirement they would spend their entire summers there, escaping the Houston heat. The gardens and berry bushes were abandoned and the train tracks were brought back to life with a regular commuter rail. College and married life kept us away most of the time.

For the past several years I have been taking care of maintaining the empty house from here in Texas. When my grandmother passed away in March, it became part of her estate and my job as executor to manage. We knew it was just impractical for us to keep the much beloved house and land, since no one in our family lives anywhere near it. My sister and I paid one last visit to the house this past May and started the process of clearing it out and selling it. It’s a beautiful house, on beautiful land. Farren-8

Our real estate broker helped us put the house up for sale in September and we immediately had multiple buyers. As of now we are under contract and working towards closing with some little complications that should be worked out soon.

Today we finally agreed on a price for the magical woods, which will undoubtedly have a couple of lovely new homes built on them. The land is the last major piece of my grandparents’ estate to say goodbye to.

Yesterday would have been my Grandmother’s 96th birthday. She is missed.


Ragnar Trail Relay Hill Country, TX Recap

First of all, let’s just pretend that it hasn’t been a year since I blogged. Good, now that’s out of the way.

In the past year I have had all kind of new and wonderful adventures and athletic endeavors. It’s very hard to believe sometimes that I only started running about five years ago. It’s true though, my journey from slug to avid runner is all documented right here on this blog!

This has been a year of trying even more new things, including a full marathon, triathlons and last week I did my first trail race…an overnight relay no less! The proposal to join my running friends from church on a 120 mile all day and all night relay race came many months ago. I first heard about it from my friend Becky and thought it sounded crazy. Running alone, in the woods, at night? With only a headlamp to guide your way? Plus camping…something I have not done since I was a kid and even then it was only a couple times.
Ragnar Hill CountryBut the crazy, adventurous nature of it sounded fun. Doing it as a team with my friends sounded like a great time. When I heard my friend Carla had committed, that sealed the deal for me. I lined up my parents to fly in to watch the kids and sent in my money. I knew this was just the challenge I needed to keep me training hard over the summer too.

Our team, Ragnar Schmagnar, had a few drop outs so I was able to recruit my Katy Fit friend, Walter, and my neighbor, Carrie, to join us. That only added to the fun. Carrie contributed a bunch of camping gear and tents which we sent ahead on Thursday with my friend Glenn, who helped set some of it up with the help of Walter and Josh. Glenn and Josh were part of a second team of Fellowshippers and friends, Running on Empty. Team Ragnar Schmagnar

Carrie and I rode out to Flat Rock Ranch in Comfort, TX with Ashley, Carol and David. We left Katy at 5am and rolled into the Ranch somewhere around 8:30 in the morning, grateful that the predicted deluge of rain was holding off. In fact, Friday turned out to be a beautiful day! We hauled all our stuff down and up the hill to our campsite that Josh had chosen on the highest ground, to avoid the potential flooding we knew was coming. I helped Carrie set up our little two man tent…a first for me and not hard at all. We greeted all our teammates as they arrived and wandered around the Ragnar Village…an area of large tents with various food and merchandise as well as the race starting line and transition area.

Ragnar Hill Country Campsite

We watched the required safety video and I bought a yummy chicken wrap for lunch, knowing I would need fuel for my first leg, the Red (hardest) loop…7.6 miles of climbing and rocky terrain. We took team photos and then our first runners started at noon with their Green loops. Josh started for our team and Glenn started for his team. They were both done their three miles pretty quickly but both remarked at how hard it was to run on the rocky trails. According to the course maps the Yellow loop was shorter but much steeper climbing than the long Red loop, but I would soon find out how wrong that was.

Ragnar Elevation

At approximately 1:30 in the afternoon, David came in from his Yellow loop and handed the bib off to me to start my first leg. Silly me almost ran straight down the wrong trail but Walter was there to see me off and yelled at me to go right down the well marked Red path, which crossed a small stream, then the main road, and then proceeded up, up, up an extremely rocky path. I was thrilled that it wasn’t raining and pumped up on adrenaline so I started my run bounding and bouncing along, enjoying the natural beauty of the landscape.

Ragnar Hill Country

It was curvy. It was up and up, maybe down a little and then up and up some more. I was huffing and puffing in no time. I know I was smiling just from being out in nature, alone, and taking on obstacle after obstacle, but at some point the sun came out and I started to get tired and I looked down at my watch…not even two miles. Dang. That’s a bad sign when you know you have six miles to go and you’re still climbing. I kept an eye out for cows or goats but saw none. At some point I reached what felt like a peak and I decided to stop and soak it in a minute…I even took this photo. Ragnar Red Loop

Even when I seemed to be going back downhill, there were always little inclines ahead. I kept drinking from my water bottles, knowing there was a water station somewhere on the trail. I had to walk some sections that were super narrow and rocky but I would run every chance I got, slow and steady…ignoring the interval settings on my watch. This definitely felt much harder than the practice trail run we had done in Bastrop two weeks earlier. 12049520_757759867683745_8600784481785521593_n

The only wildlife I would see on that run was a small green snake I encountered on the trail, head raised up in full alert mode. I happily jumped right over it, never missing a beat and congratulating myself on my bravery. Finally just after the four mile mark I saw the water station, and a heavy set girl who was actually just walking the trail stopped for a drink. The water was ice cold and perfect and it was nice to finally see and talk to another person. She said “it’s hot out here but we should be getting pretty close to done, huh?” I didn’t have the heart to tell her we still had 3.5 miles to go. That’s nowhere near done in my book. I took off running past her and marked my first Roadkill.

The last two miles I probably walked more than I ran. My legs just gave up. Not even my Gu was helping. I was so disappointed in what would surely be a pitiful time. As I came up out of a big dry creek bed my Red trail combined with the Green trail and I saw a photographer waiting ahead so I mustered up my energy, stood tall, ran and smiled at him. I hustled down the last stretch into the tent and handed off my bib to Carrie, and was greeted by lots of team members wanting to know how the Red loop was. “Awful” I think I said. “Crazy hard. Maybe the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” I didn’t want to scare everybody but I was whooped. I sat down while Walter got me water. Funny thing though, I swear less than an hour later I was smiling again, thrilled that I had tackled that trail and beat it. Glad to be done my longest leg of the race.

Sarah Hubbell

The evening was fun, hanging out back at the campsite and in the Ragnar Village. I bought two awesome shirts and ate the pasta dinner they provided. I got to know the new folks a little bit. They had yoga and an air guitar contest but I mostly just relaxed. Walter took off on his Red loop and then finished right around sunset as they were lighting the bonfire. Here’s a cool photo someone captured with Walter sitting down, completely wasted after his first leg. Ragnar TX sunset

My second leg started somewhere around 10:30 at night and it was considerably cooler by then. I was worried about what appeared to be a very steep climb, so I was totally surprised to find the initial path pretty flat, open, hard packed dirt and much more runnable than my previous loop. I ran quickly and comfortably, having fun dodging giant cow paddies along the way. My headlamp was plenty bright enough to light my way and the trail was marked with tiny LEDs that made it easy to see where I was headed. Even as the trail curved narrowly around along a rock ledge with a steep drop off I was still able to run and I was enjoying every minute. My Runkeeper had refused to turn on when I started so I had no music, only silence and my footsteps. The path sloped gradually upward but I still had no issue running it in the cool of the night. A couple people passed me but eventually I came upon a girl walking and as I passed her she fell in line running directly behind me.

Knowing that almost everyone out there is faster than I, I asked her “Do you want to pass me? I don’t mind.” And she replied “Oh no, you’re fine, this is a nice pace. I’m tired and I think I’ll just follow you awhile.”  It turned out she was on an ultra team, a team of four that runs twice the distance. Another guy ran up behind us but instead of passing, he fell in line behind us too. He was also on an ultra team and liked me slow and steady pace. So the two of them mostly chatted back and forth for awhile while I listened and led the way, happy for the company. After a couple miles I slowed down to walk some particularly rocky parts and they finally opted to run past me and take off. So the last couple of miles I ran in quiet, rapidly downhill with drizzling rain cooling my face. It was honestly bliss. I heard a cow “moo” off to the right of me at one point, but I could not see him in the dark. I actually ran past a couple of women in the last mile, and finished with a big smile to hand off to Carrie again.

As I finished I headed straight to the s’mores tent to get my much desired snack, roasting a marshmallow over a mini fire pit with Ashley as the rain started to fall harder. I walked back up to the campsite and shared my joy with Walter and whoever else was there. Who would have ever imagined that I would love running trails in the dark so much?

Poor Carrie was off on the Red loop when the rain really started coming down hard. I felt bad for her but I know how tough she is. Eventually I climbed into my tent to try to sleep, but too many nearby voices and the rain kept me awake. When Carrie finally joined me in the tent she handed me a set of earplugs and that’s when I really knocked out for a couple of hours. Until around 5:30am when I massive gust of wind nearly blew our tent over with us in it and woke me right up. It was so loud and windy and raining so hard at that point I did get a touch nervous. I knew I wasn’t going to sleep any more so I got in my running clothes for my next run, trying to avoid the leak in the tent roof the whole time.

So glad I brought my wellies, I walked out to sit under the canopy and snack on the cinnamon rolls I found. I grabbed a golf umbrella and hiked down to the port-o-potties and back…the road was rapidly turning into a river. After awhile the team captains, Glenn and Becky, decided to call the race for our teams. The conditions were becoming dangerous. We sat around till daybreak and then hurriedly packed up camp, hauling our gear and taking down tents in the pouring down deluge. We got our medals so I had mixed feelings about not finishing but overall I was glad to be getting done and out early. Many many cars and trucks got stuck in the mud and we waited and waited in the pouring rain for everyone to get out. Finally we left in Ashley’s truck and headed to the first Whataburger for dry clothes and breakfast. 1653570_10208217348730934_6378532866588612476_n

Ragnar Trail was an experience I will not soon forget. Despite the cold, rainy end to the weekend, I had an amazingly awesome time. I learned a lot about myself that I didn’t know or had not realized before…namely that I love love love being out in nature. I even love camping! In a tent! Who knew? I love running up mountains and over rocks and roots! I love running in the dark and the quiet! I already knew I loved spending time with awesome people, but a shared experience like Ragnar Relay can not be beat.

I will do it again next year. 

Sarah Hubbell Ragnar





Family Lessons in Phenotypes

Sitting in McDonalds and my boys start talking to a friendly Asian boy. Alex tells a story of a bird flying into our window, then the boy says “One time when I was in Vietnam we were on a bike and ran over a chicken.”

A few more stories and the boy asks if Nathan is his brother. Alex says “Yes that’s my brother and that’s my sister” pointing to Rose. The boy gets this confused look and I know what’s coming. The boy, who looked about 9 years old, said “how come you are different colors?”

Transracial Siblings

I paused and quickly decided to let Alex answer the question, which he didn’t hear at first. So I prompted Alex, “he asked why you are different colors”. So Alex immediately smiles and says “Because she’s adopted!”

I smiled as the boy said “Oh! My mom had me first and then my little sister, but my older sister is my dad’s daughter.”


So then Alex explains that if you get Park Place in McDonalds monopoly you win $1,000,000. The boy immediately retorts “I’m already rich!”

I may have laughed out loud.

Alex talks about if he won he would buy a house and the boy mentions “we just moved here”. Alex then says “from China?” and I am immediately embarressed and say “honey no, he said Vietnam”. The boy is like “What does China have to do with anything? I’m not Chinese. And when I went to Vietnam I was just visiting my grandma.”

I told Alex “China and Vietnam are two different countries, when we get home I will show you on the big map in the playroom.” The boy said “Vietnam is a really long plane ride.”

Then they moved on to talking about grandmas and great-grandmas.


Adjusting to Life as a Stay At Home Mom

A month ago, just before we left to fly to Haiti and bring home our new daughter, I left my job as the Director of Engineering for a wastewater treatment equipment company. It’s actually a temporary leave of absence since I plan to go back part time once Rose is in school, but that’s probably two years away.


Even though I have worked from home for the past ten years, this is very different. I really had no maternity leave with either of my first two children. When you start-up a company and work from home you don’t get maternity leave. You never stop answering the phone or email. The most I did was miss our big annual conference twice. I hated missing that conference each of those years because it’s always so great to see my colleagues, my industry friends and present the great work my company does in front of a large audience.

This year things are so different because I’ve been waiting for this little girl to come home for two and a half years and now she’s here and I wouldn’t dream of having any other focus. I will miss some fun nights in New Orleans but I’ve had enough of those over the years to sustain me for quite some time. I do not yet miss work at all.

My job right now is therapeutic parenting of a little girl who doesn’t even know what a family means. Watching her thrive and blossom has been so joyful and fulfilling, and I can only say it’s a miracle from God that she is doing so well.


I usually only have one or two big things to get done a day right now and I like it that way. Maybe a trip to the grocery store, maybe some laundry, maybe going to get my allergy shots. I am always happy to get out of the house and talk to some grown-ups, but I try to keep like simple and unhurried.

My little sidekick is very accommodating and I see her using her orphanage coping skills less and less often. Sometimes she thinks she’s the boss of me but I pick my battles and I’m bigger so I can win but I also know how to circumvent or repair any disconnections that happen. Life with Rose is a dance of connecting and disconnecting and reconnecting.  She chooses to shut down instead of throw a tantrum and I don’t like when it happens but I can fix it quickly. A quick game of Patty-cake is my go-to solution, she’s usually up for it and it brings back the smiles and eye contact immediately.


The toughest time of day for me by far is after the boys get home from school and the couple hours up until dinner. She gets pretty wound up around them and they need to get homework done right away. The boys seem conflicted because they really want to play and engage with her after a long day away but they also know they need to work and sometimes need my help. One thing that has really helped us was creating a new rule to keep the screens off until after dinner. The boys can get sucked into playing Minecraft or watching Stampy videos quickly and that leaves Rose trying to get their attention and them getting annoyed. Since I started that rule they mostly choose to play with their sister, which leaves me peace to go fix dinner.


So right now I’m pretty much taking one day at a time with her, passing up lots of fun opportunities like blogger conferences or races. I know it’s a season and before I know it she’ll be speaking English and staying with babysitters and life will probably be much like it used to be except with more singing and giggling and talking.



The New LeapFrog LeapBand is Fit Made Fun!

*This post is sponsored by LeapFrog and CLIF Kid. I received free products but all opinions are my own. 

Over the years our family has enjoyed a great many children’s products from LeapFrog. I am a big fan nearly anything they make so I was excited to try out the brand new LeapBand from LeapFrog with my kiddos and their friends. The LeapBand is a little like a Fitbit for kids, and though I don’t use a fitness band like that I am a big believer in personal and family fitness! I have plenty of friends who love their FitBits so I was anxious to see how the kids would enjoy the LeapBands.

On Saturday, September 6th, we joined loads of other families in having a #FitMadeFun party. Our party was small because we did not want to overwhelm our newly adopted daughter with people, but it was super fun.


The LeapBand is designed for kids ages 4 to 7, but my two year old loves it and the 10 year old had great fun with it as well. It is worn on the wrist and tracks movement so the kids earn “joules” with lots of activity. There are customizable pets that the kids get rewarded for taking care of and there are fun fitness challenges that inspire kids to get moving. We had the most fun with the challenges!


The kids participated in the Fit Made Fun Record Breaking Challenge with ten minutes each of three different activities.  Here they are playing follow the leader and dancing like chickens! There were giggles galore.


After several more planned activities such as a game called Frogs on the Lily Pads, the kids did some stretching to make sure no one was too sore or got injured.  We made sure they had plenty of water to stay hydrated on our super hot Texas afternoon.






After all that exercise the kids had worked up quite an appetite, so they had snacks provided by Clif Kid. Clif Kid sent us three flavors of Zbar Protein bars to choose from, Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chocolate and Chocolate Mint.


Rose and Nathan both loved their Zbars and I love the fact that they are full of nutritious ingredients and healthy.



The kids seemed to love the new LeapFrog LeapBands. It has kept them busy with fun physical games for days. The digital pets are cute but it’s the challenges that really interest them, which is of course the same appeal that any adult fitness tracker has. I’m definitely in favor of anything that keeps kids up and moving.

I received free products in order to host the LeapFrog and CLIF Kid sponsored MommyParty. The opinions expressed here are my own.