On a Learning Curve

Life may not be easy, but it's always an adventure.


Leave a comment

She Loves Me…

20140722_112738This artistic masterpiece is the reason that H interrupted my morning shower. She loves me. She thinks I’m awesome. And she thinks I’m cool. She commandeered the rose from a neighbor, and she wrote two of the nicest words that she knows how to spell.

Just 60 minutes before she professed her love for me, I parked her bicycle in the garage and ordered her onto the porch for a cool down. It seems that I was “ruining her life” by insisting that she stop whining and play nicely with her sisters and our neighbor. She didn’t find it funny that I threatened to spray her with the hose in my hand if she didn’t stop fighting. She was angry when I did spray her because she continued to say ugly things. She even threw her bike helmet onto the grass to show me how angry she was, which is why I parked her bike.

In full disclosure, I hit her with fewer than 10 drops of water and she could find no evidence of water on her clothing. I even apologized, but she was still grumpy with me.

I suppose H either has a terrible short-term memory or that she’s forgiven me. Either way I’m thrilled with my gift. It’s better than a paycheck or a full vase of roses with the stems attached.


Leave a comment

Lessons from the Swimming Pool

Summer swim season comes to an end next week. (Phew!) All 3 girls have spent countless hours in our neighborhood pool over the past 6 weeks. So have I.

This is H’s first swim team experience; actually, this is her first experience with organized sports. It’s been a bumpy introduction for her. On her very first day of practice she proudly swam 200 meters and then threw an enormous tantrum when she learned that she would have to come back to the pool every weekday morning. Once we bypassed that hurdle, she declared she would never, ever dive off the blocks. (Guess who is an accomplished diver now.) Alas, she is holding tight to her preference for backstroke. I can always spot H when her teammates are swimming their laps; she is the lone swimmer on her back. On the bright side, she has shaved 8 seconds off her PR and recently won the second heat for 7- and 8-year-old girls. Next year’s goal: Swimming on her belly.

DSCN1378

H found this H during our trip to Oregon.

S’s swim season has been more about her blood sugar and less about her actual swimming. Swimming is notorious for making blood sugar numbers wacky, but her numbers this summer have been crazy low: 37, 36, 35, 34, 33. She’s drunk more juice boxes and eaten more fruit strips in the past two months than I can remember. Type 1 diabetes continues to make our lives unpredictable.

DSCN1247

S (in the center) occasionally tolerates photographs.

G loves swim team and has asked to start swimming year-round. She’s moved up an age group this summer, and the competition against year-round swimmers is stiff. Still she continues to excel in breaststroke. On Thursday we watched her cruise to a second-place finish. Of course I’m proud of her accomplishment in the chlorine, but I’m equally–if not more–proud of the way she handled a recent swim meet situation.

Swim meets are super fun for swimmers. They swim for 30-60 seconds at a time and then have several hours to hang out with their friends and eat all sorts of delicious foods. Parents generally don’t have the same view of meets. We get to provide those delicious foods, and we have assigned jobs that take way longer than 30-60 seconds. I typically spend 2 or more hours lining up swimmers on their way to the starting blocks. During pre-meet warmups, someone often plays music over the loudspeakers. It’s mostly innocuous pop meant to help pass the time before Event 1 starts.

At the last meet I was sitting with several moms and children at a table; we were just digging into our dinners when I heard the opening bars to “Sexy and I Know It,” last year’s hit from the group known as LMFAO. That’s when I jumped up from the table and race-walked (because you can’t run at the pool) across the concrete to the source of the music. I hope I was polite, but I was less than thrilled to be asking another parent (of young girls, no less) to fast forward to the next song. The father who was acting as DJ and meet announcer complied with my request; however, that’s not the end of this story.

If you’re unfamiliar with the lyrics to “Sexy and I Know It,” you can read them here. If you can’t figure out what LMFAO stands for, I suggest that you NOT look up the term. The more I think about what happened the other night, the more upset I get. It is hard to raise little girls in today’s culture. It is harder still to keep them appropriately innocent. I want our daughters to grow into young ladies; therefore, I resent anyone who uses the word sexy around or to describe children. Children aren’t sexy at all, and I resent having to defend what should be a basic tenet of parenthood. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

I cooled down after chatting with a few moms who had appreciated my request, but I was utterly floored by the conversation I had with G yesterday. We were in the car when G told me about the conversation she and another friend had with the same parent just moments after my request. It seems that several of G’s friends didn’t like the next song and went to ask if they could pick out a song. They asked this parent why he hadn’t finished playing “Sexy and I Know It.” His response was that “some lady” had asked him not to play it. Her response? “That was my mom. She probably didn’t think it was appropriate for 3-year-old kids to listen to that song.” What floored me is that this parent tried to convince her that it wasn’t a big deal since these same kids would probably hear the song on the radio anyway.

WHAT?!!! This is what a grown man of approximately 40 years says to 11-year-old girls? This is exactly the kind of argument I would expect to hear from someone who is not old enough to drive a car or vote. And by the way, G is smart enough to know that she’s not going to hear this song on any of our radios.

Yes, I know I’m on my soapbox again. But I am also ridiculously proud of G. I guess she’s actually been listening to me all these years, and I think she is growing into exactly the kind of young lady that her father and I want her to be.

G (on the left) and one of her favorite friends.

G (on the left) and one of her favorite friends.

 


Leave a comment

75 Years

6 siblings,

1 birthday boy,

1 Nunu.

062

8 granddaughters.

084

3 spouses,

1 girlfriend,

2 boyfriends.

1 long-haired Banjo.

028

Not enough beds,

Not enough forks,

Too much hummus.

???????????????????????????????

75 years celebrated by 22 people

with 7 different surnames.

0485 days together in 2 houses.

Too much laughter to count,

Too much love to measure,

Too many dishes to wash.

???????????????????????????????2 play performances,

Endless bike rides,

Marathon rounds of Phase 10.

???????????????????????????????

28 miles in 6 runs,

0% humidity.

070

12 hours by car and plane,

4 suitcases in tow,

3 time zones to cross.

052

From Maryland to Oregon and back,

One person is worth all this fuss.

Happy birthday, Michael.

049

 


Leave a comment

Summer is in Full Swing

I just finished vacuuming cherry pits and stems from behind the piano. No one knows how they exactly got there, but I suppose it’s the same person who left an apple core behind a living room chair in an experiment to see how long it takes to completely dehydrate it. Or it could be the child who removes strawberry tops wherever she happens to be and then drops them so that it looks like our house has been invaded by an army of green spiders.

Yep, summer is in full swing, and I have the discarded fruit remnants to prove it.

015

H’s second swim meet. She only swims backstroke.

Our calendar now revolves around swim practices–2 every weekday morning–and swim meets–every Tuesday and Thursday. In between we manage to accomplish small things like unloading the dishwasher, completing a remedial math lesson, and offering first aid to a field mouse.

006

It’s easier to just take the picture the first time the kids ask than to listen to them beg you to take a picture for 30 minutes. This is S and a maimed field mouse. She couldn’t decide if it had a hurt foreleg or hindleg.

Last week G got her first pair of glasses. I would have been horrified to need glasses when I was her age, but she was ridiculously excited after I realized she needed an appointment with the optometrist.

20140626_145307

G–in her new specs–enjoying a cool treat on a warm day.

Today we are waiting for the windshield repairman. He’ll be here any time between 12 noon and 5 P.M., and this gives me an opportunity to enforce a lazy day around the house. Plus we’re packing for a family vacation, which means we’re cleaning out drawers and closets, doing laundry, and fighting over whose turn it is to fold the laundry.

20140628_152050~2

We pretended to be tourists and posed at the Virginia Welcome Center on I-95.

This weekend the girls and I visited my parents for some much-needed rest. Last week was full of long and difficult days. Our dear friend Sophia went home to Jesus on Saturday, June 21. While she wasn’t my child, I spent much of the day weeping for her parents. Ryan and I decided it was a good time to take the girls to a local beach and then spend the day doing things we don’t normally do. We watched Maleficent and then ate a delicious Chinese dinner.

20140621_142029

S and a horseshoe crab skeleton that she found. Ryan declared it too stinky to come home with us. Boo.

Still my heart aches for Sofia’s parents. Her service last Friday was beautiful but heart-breaking, just like her life. I cried for my babies, too. With some consolation and in total childish honestly, H reminded us that Sofie is now playing with her sister Lucy in heaven. And they’re not just playing; I think they’re dancing together and running around those golden streets. Their bodies are strong and beautiful, and they realize that those of us on earth are the ones experiencing “light and momentary troubles” while they’re enjoying the start of their eternity.

S with her swim teammates at yesterday’s meet.


Leave a comment >

Today marks the official beginning of summer in our home. We finished our school work 2 weeks ago, but it hasn’t quite felt like summer until today. Here’s why:

1. We made our first trip to the family doctor for an in-office removal of a deer tick. The tick was a parting gift from a Saturday spent playing outside in thick grass. I removed about 95% of it yesterday, sealed its microscopic body in a Ziploc bag, and then tossed it into the freezer just in case we need it later. It’s only June, and already it’s been a horrible tick season for our area. It took our doctor 20 minutes to remove 4 itty, bitty tick mouth parts. H was a trooper through the entire procedure. (Here’s a really fun interactive tick ID page. Okay, it’s only fun if engorged ticks don’t make you squeamish.)

Image

S paddling to shore after her very first kayak ride on Saturday. S was all smiles during her adventure.

2. I drove 5 children to Sweet Frog for an afternoon treat. (That was H’s bribe for cooperating with the doctor.) I enjoyed sitting at my own table and listening to their crazy banter. I was impressed that 3 of them voluntarily used napkins, and I withheld comment as they each tasted each others’ “delicious” yogurt creations.

3. Four of those same children are now busily repairing the “broken flippers” on their little friend J, who has decided he is a sick dolphin who needs medical care. Apparently he prefers to be an injured dolphin instead of his usual sick puppy. Either way, he is wrapped tightly in several Ace bandages.

4. The thermometer has passed 90 degrees. Combined with the humidity, the kids need a break from outside play; thus, J has become a sick dolphin. Update: J briefly sustained a dangerous snake bite before asking if he could be a daughter instead of an animal.

5. Swim team practice began this morning at 8 AM. G and S are veteran swimmers and are pleasantly tired from their hour swim. H is new to swim team and swam 100 meters before deciding to take a break. I was okay with that decision since that’s the farthest she’s ever swum in her 7 years. She did another 100 meters with a kick board and then called it a day. She was shocked to learn that she has to go back tomorrow for another swim practice. So far she’s told me that she won’t be diving off the blocks and won’t be swimming in the first meet on Thursday. She was greatly disappointed that she didn’t get to swim the backstroke. This promises to be an interesting season for H.

6. I actually had time to have a lazy conversation with a neighbor today. It’s amazing how a little interaction with other adults throughout the day can recharge and redirect the flow of my day. Thanks, Clair!

7. I was able to spend some time vising Sofie and her parents without feeling rushed. Perhaps that was the most important thing that I accomplished today. Please continue to pray for Sofia. Her body is shutting down, and her parents’ request is that she not suffer any pain.

8. All 3 girls had complete melt-downs during or after dinner tonight. That’s proof positive that they are ridiculously over-tired and in dire need of sleep. Right now they are each quarantined in separate rooms, and I’ve started the washing machine in hopes of drowning out the crying and moaning.

Tomorrow we’re going to get up and do it all over again. I’m hoping my summer cold will be gone, that H will decide that she wants to swim, that I won’t forget to teach S’s math lesson, and that our dentist doesn’t find any cavities or reason to refer us to the orthodontist. That’s not asking for too much, is it?

Happy summer, everyone!

 


Leave a comment

Growing Up

My babies are growing up, and they won’t be my little girls much longer. I don’t write this because we regularly spend $200 on groceries every time we shop. And it’s not the way that G’s legs seem longer each morning she tromps down the stairs. Instead it’s how they’re handling changes in the world around them.

For the past several months, our tightly knit neighborhood has been rocked by cancer. I’ve written about Sofia’s battles, but there is another family nearby with 2 parents who are fighting 2 different cancers. In our own family, my favorite aunt has been undergoing chemotherapy for yet another type of cancer. The hardest one to ignore, however, has been Sofie’s, and the hardest questions to answer have come from S and H. Yesterday they finally understood that they won’t be able to celebrate Christmas or the next round of birthdays with their sweet friend.

As their mother, I want to shield my girls from unnecessary pain, but I can’t shield them from everything. And I see value in allowing them to walk beside their young friend as she faces something so much harder than many of us understand. (If you’re still reading at this point, Daddy, go get the box of tissues. I could use a couple anyway.)

My girls never met their brothers Seth and Owen or their sister Lucy, but they know where they are. They know what heaven is, and they don’t fear the life after this temporal one. They know that Sofie is going to get to play with Lucy and the boys before they do. They also know that there is no pain, illness, sadness, or death in heaven. And they know that this is where Sofie will meet Jesus face to face.

The screen is growing blurry now for some reason, so I’m going to post a picture instead of writing more on the subject.

684

This poster is the collaboration of neighborhood kids and moms who gathered yesterday to turn a friend’s craft supplies into something beautiful for Sofie. The children decorated butterflies, and I followed a clever friend’s idea for attaching the butterflies to a foam board. While we hadn’t intended to be symbolic in our artwork, I think a butterfly is entirely appropriate for our little friend.

Meanwhile, S made a monumental decision yesterday: she finally agreed to cut off most of the hair that she’s been growing for the past 3 years. S has thick blond hair with tons of natural wave, but she despises brushing her hair and is not very particular about rinsing shampoo after she applies it. Since swim team practice begins on Monday, we’ve been suggesting coaxing her into donating her hair before 6 weeks’ worth of daily swim practice does its damage. When I told her that a friend’s daughters had recently donated their hair to Pantene’s Beautiful Lengths program, she was intrigued. She didn’t want to donate the 10 inches that Locks of Love requires, and Pantene will accept 8 inches. I’ll leave you with a few pictures to show you the transformation.

20140612_132252

Before: The shock of what she’s going to do has just registered

20140612_132536

During the cut: Amused and unsure

 

20140612_132627

After the cut: Is there enough left for a ponytail?

20140612_134127

The last picture: Moms are so annoying when they tell you that you’re beautiful.

Yes, my girls are growing up. And yes, I’m not sure their dad and I are ready for them to grow up quite so fast. But they’re doing it well: they’re becoming young ladies.

 

 


1 Comment

Field Trip Week (or How I Bought 5 Dozen Eggs)

Life is busy during this time of year. We’ve been finishing up our school year, making up rained-out soccer games, and wiggling back into our bathing suits. All of this means that I haven’t stopped to write anything in several weeks.

I’m not going to kid myself into thinking that suddenly I will have all sorts of free time on my hands; it’s nice to dream, but I’m not sure what I would do with lazy, open-ended days. As of today, our seventh year of homeschooling is complete. G is now a 7th grader, H is officially a 2nd grader, and S is halfway through her 4th grade year. We still have weekly art and piano lessons, and we’re trading spring soccer for summer swimming in another 2 weeks.

Because we completed all of our lessons in less than 180 school days, I declared that last week would be Field Trip Week, and I invited my dad, aka Granddad, to join us. Here’s a look at how we spent Thursday.

20140529_103806

H as we began our visit to Washington National Cathedral.

We started at Washington National Cathedral. I remember taking a field trip there myself when I was in sixth grade and my mom was my teacher. (No, I wasn’t homeschooled; that’s another story.) We took a tour with a docent whose voice was too soft to be heard consistently over the noise of construction work. The Cathedral suffered significant damage during the 2011 earthquake (the same one that damaged the Washington Monument), and you can see some of the fallen spires in the background of the above photo.

20140529_121328

Gargoyles direct rainwater and stand guard.

We visited a half dozen chapels, and the girls were delighted to be allowed to sit in the Children’s Chapel, which was built on a 6-year-old’s scale. We also learned that Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan were interred together in a columbarium and saw just a few of the 10,650 pipes that make up the cathedral’s organ.

20140529_125827

Sir Wilfred Grenfell is portrayed in a triple window at the left.

We also did some searching for a bit of family history. The National Cathedral is famous for its scads of stained glass windows, and the Space Window is perhaps its best known. Instead we were looking for Sir Wilfred Grenfell, a British medical missionary to Labrador and a distant relative of my mother, who shares the same maiden name. He is pictured in the Physicians’ Window, a triple window with Louis Pasteur and Jesus. The above picture is the best I could do to get around the scaffolding that is presently screening the image of Sir Wilfred in his parka and mittens.

20140529_124221

Goldfish on a cloudy day

As usual, the girls were more impressed with what was outside the cathedral than what was inside. To be honest, it was much quieter and more peaceful in the Bishop’s Garden. S and H both saw a black squirrel, but no adult actually verified the sighting.

20140529_125008

H snapped this picture of me and my dad.

After a picnic lunch inside our car, we headed home. Seeing a wealth of unclaimed public parking spots, we decided to take the girls to the Lincoln Memorial. The girls were suitably impressed, but G was quick to remember that someone had doused President Lincoln in green paint last year. She’s good at changing the subject like that. (On a side note, the same perpetrator vandalized the National Cathedral as well.)

20140529_132500

A repaired Washington Monument pokes through the storm clouds.

Though the drizzle was steady, we decided to make the best of our prime parking spot. We walked to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, crossed the Reflecting Pool again, and visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The girls are still too young to understand the impact of these wars or to appreciate what all the inscribed names mean; however, they were respectful of the numerous visitors. Last Monday was Memorial Day, and there were still wreaths, flags, and decorations on display.

20140529_140050

At the Korean War Memorial, the rain seemed appropriate for the soldiers (back right) in their ponchos.

Everyone slept soundly on Thursday night. Several hours of walking and exploring has that effect. When my father said good-bye on Friday morning, the girls and I headed to the Loveville Produce Auction. I had gone once last summer and did reasonably well with some help of an experienced friend. I thought I’d be fine on my own with the girls–and I mostly was. Because it is run by Amish and Mennonite farmers, I did not take any pictures out of respect for their customs. I found this picture instead, and it’s typical of what you might see on any Monday, Wednesday or Friday.

We came home with 10 quarts of strawberries, broccoli, 3 bundles of asparagus, baby squash and zucchini, 3 quarts of new potatoes, and 5 dozen eggs. Yes, 5 dozen. H was enjoying the auction so much that she wanted to bid on something. I thought she was bidding on a lot of just 1 dozen brown eggs. Nope, but at least she’s a shrewd bidder; she bought those 5 dozen eggs for just $5. I, on the other hand, goofed on a couple of bids and was thankful that I had two friends who wanted to take berries and veggies off my hands.

Despite my auction miscalculations, the week was a wonderful way to end another school year. I’m thankful that we live in close proximity to the history and wonder that surround our national’s capital, and I’m delighted to live in a community with such a variety of residents and experiences.

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 76 other followers