On a Learning Curve

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


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I’ll Fly Away…

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Yesterday a small flock of goldfinches discovered that our porch feeder was full of sunflower seeds. Conveniently, H also started a winter nature study yesterday, and we were mesmerized by the pretty yellowish birds who decided to join the cardinals, titmice, and chickadees who live year-round in the adjacent woods.

I snapped this photo through the glass of our front door this morning. We awoke to another four inches of snow covering our world, and the goldfinches ate a noisy breakfast before disappearing for the day.

Today is also the day that my husband is flying far, far away to a land that is not covered in snow. Between the goldfinches’ visit and my love’s departure, I have the lyrics to “I’ll Fly Away” stuck in my head today–the Alison Krauss/Gillian Welch duet version. Sing with me:

Some glad morning when this life is o’er,
I’ll fly away;
To a home on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).
When the shadows of this life have gone,
I’ll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away)

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).
Just a few more weary days and then,
I’ll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away)

I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away)

2014 in Review

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Yes, I know we’re a mere 3 weeks into 2014, but I decided that I’m going to document Ryan’s deployment. I’m a little late with my first post, but that probably tells you how the deployment started. My goal is to post at least once a week through the remaining months, but this post will get you caught up to today.

Day 1: Nobody cries at good-byes anymore, and this was no exception. Busy day for us with morning church service and afternoon Awana meeting. So far, so good.

No visit to DC is complete without seeing Dorothy’s ruby red slippers.

Day 2: I have a bright idea to combine S’s regular endocrinology check-up with a field trip to DC. We get out of the door by 9 AM, drive to the Green Line, and hop on the Metro. Three of us decide to visit the Museum of American History, but one of us is very displeased by this decision. After a quick visit to see the American Stories exhibit, I realize that the entire West Wing is still closed. We walk down the block to the Museum Natural History, but first I set some ground rules:

  1. I will not visit the early humans exhibit.
  2. G can visit the Hope Diamond and gemstones but not the crystals.
  3. H gets to visit the Insect Zoo.
  4. S gets to pick out her own lunch in the cafeteria.

By lunchtime, I realize we’re barely halfway through our day. We still need to catch 2 trains to get to S’s appointment on time; then our visit takes twice the usual time; I had promised that the girls could stop by Barnes & Noble to use their Christmas gift cards; and ack! It was rush hour by the time we hopped on the Metro for the final time. We arrived home just before 6:30 PM. Do you think I bit off more than I could chew?!

Day 3: Decided never, ever kick off a deployment with a combined medical appointment/Metro ride/Smithsonian visit again. Ever.

Day  5: The day got off to a bad start. No one was dressed or ready for school. No one wanted to do chores. So I called a family meeting. Yes, I know it’s terribly lopsided of me to call a family meeting when I’m the only adult and I’ve already set the agenda. Summarized minutes: Get out of bed before 8 AM; clean up after yourself; do your household chores; show up at the school table by 9 AM.

Later that day, a friend volunteered to have H over for a playdate this afternoon. My wonderful friend Tracy even drove to our house–and brought me a chai tea latte!–to pick up H. Guess who suddenly decided she was a piece of Velcro? Yep, H refused to rip herself from my leg. Tracy is a true friend and very flexible: she took all 3 girls instead and I left for an hour-long run. I felt much nicer when I returned.

Day 6: We had a lovely day. I set 2 separate alarms so that everyone G would get out of bed by 8 AM; S and H also set 2 alarms on their own. It was a noisy beginning to a great day. We finished all subjects except for history before lunch. G and S took their regular Friday afternoon art lesson while I enjoyed a latte and H ate a scone at a nearby coffee shop.

Day 7: Took the girls to see Frozen at the base theater. I have now officially seen a movie in a theater for 2014.

Day 9: Realized why school went so quickly and smoothly last Friday. Apparently we forgot about G’s math lesson.

Day 12: Ryan surprised the girls by driving home for a weekend visit. Is there anything better than hearing your girls shriek, “Daddy’s home! Daddy’s home!”? (Grammar friends: Please excuse the punctuation of the previous sentence.)

Days 14-15: I discovered that H is a fabulous kitchen assistant. On Saturday I decided to make the Banana Energy Bars from my new Runner’s World Cookbook. H wanted to help; the next thing I knew we were whipping up a batch of cinnamon apple scones for Sunday’s breakfast. On Sunday afternoon, my recipe book completely fell apart. As I sorted through recipes, H asked to bake something else. I have to admit that we baked some excellent almond biscotti. (Note: If you’re interested, I substituted Whey Low Gold and Whey Low D for the sugars in all 3 recipes.) On another note, I learned that H isn’t interested in throwing tantrums or misbehaving while she’s cooking in the kitchen. I foresee a lot of baked goods in the next few months.

Day 16: G celebrated MLK, Jr. Day with a day of horse camp at a nearby state park. The rest of us took a break from our schoolwork, too, and enjoyed a nice lunch, some time at the gym, and visiting with friends we hadn’t seen in a while.

Don't the 3 of them look like they're having a serious conversation?

Don’t the 3 of them look like they’re having a serious conversation?

Day 17: My girls love adore snow. If you somehow missed yesterday’s East Coast forecast, we were under a winter storm warning from 7 AM until 11 PM. Apparently my children expected all 6 inches of snow to have arrived exactly at 7 AM. Boy, there were some grumpy children at breakfast. Eventually I banned the use of the word snow. H decided to call it the “S word” instead. There’s nothing like trying to keep a straight face when your 6-year-old tattles that one of her sisters is using the “S word.”

She can't see a thing, but her smile says it all!

She can’t see a thing, but her smile says it all!

Day 18: G woke me up at 2:30 AM to let me know that the snow plow was on our street; I sent her back to bed. When we awoke the second time today, we had 6 gorgeous inches of white powdery snow on the ground, and the thermometer read 11 °F.

Climbing up the hill for another ride.

Climbing up the hill for another ride.

I love snow days. The girls are super-motivated to complete their assignments, and nobody whines about not getting to watch TV. Everyone spends time outside and gets plenty of sleep-inducing exercise, too. Today was no exception. We finished all our work, and the girls spent their free time sledding, snowboarding, and building a snow fort. I spent almost an hour acquiring a new skill, too: snow shoveling. I shoveled our driveway and sidewalk in a manner that reminded me of the first time I mowed my parents’ grass. It wasn’t pretty, but I got the job done. Emboldened by my accomplishment, I decided to surprise my neighbor Ted by shoveling out his driveway and walk. It’s very difficult to quietly shovel someone’s asphalt and concrete, but he was definitely surprised.

PE doesn't get any better.

PE doesn’t get any better.

And now the girls are asleep in their beds. Actually, that’s not true. H is asleep in my bed, and G is pretending that she turned off her night at 9 PM. The thermometer reads 9°F, and my arms are pleasantly sore. I have 2 more blood sugar checks tonight, and then it’s time for me to sleep, too.


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Word of the Year?

I don’t have one. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile. All sorts of people have chosen their word of the year. But not me. It’s not that I’m rebellious; on the contrary, I’m pretty much a rule-follower. It’s more that I’m indecisive. Do I really need a word of the year?

I’ve done some blogging for Compassion International, and December’s topic was to prayerfully consider a word to focus on during 2014. This isn’t supposed to be a New Year’s resolution; it’s “a challenge to surrender control of our goals and ourselves and let the Lord lead.” Well, January is a third over, and all I’ve accomplished is mulling over several words.

It’s not like I’m trying to wrestle control back from God. Nope, I’ve learned all sorts of lessons over the years about who’s really in control. I’ve had multiple knee surgeries, mourned for my lost babies, struggled with anxiety, and faced a child’s diagnosis of a lifelong disease. None of these were in my plans, and none of these situations were events I could control.

Instead, I’ve been distracted by bad news and hard circumstances all around me. Cancer  relapsing. Chemotherapy not working. Families in crisis. My own husband separated from our family as he prepares to deploy overseas. Children who aren’t thrilled that I’m the solo parent 24/7.

The best word I can find is flexibility. I find myself being pulled in more directions than usual. I’m the mom (and the dad). I’m the teacher, the nurse, the substitute pancreas, and the chauffeur. I’m the cook, the housekeeper, and accountant. I’m not quite ready to be a soccer coach again, and I’m very thankful that I don’t have to teach a co-op class this year. Yes, I am a human Gumby these days.

Maybe I should buy one of these?

But I can be flexible. I mean, I don’t really have a choice, right? Ryan has completely uprooted himself from our family, left his job, and is preparing to live in a foreign country for two months. That’s flexible. A girlfriend was just released from a 2-week hospital stay to prevent preterm delivery. She’s not allowed to get out of bed until her twins are born. I’d say she’s being flexible, too.

There are always two choices in life: Accept change and make the best of the situation, or fight for control and refuse to adjust. One is hard at first, and one is hard forever. I think I prefer the former to the latter.

Flexible. See how it rolls off the tongue? The more I say it, the more it sounds okay to me.

 


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It’s a New Year, and I Don’t Know What to Write

It’s a new year. 2014. I have writer’s block. I start posts all the time, but I don’t seem to finish them. Perhaps that because life is busy right now, and my focus is not on writing.

Christmas was wonderful. We invited our elderly neighbor–Mr. Ted, as the girls call him–for dinner and then hosted two more neighborhood families for dessert. I even took out the good silver, china, and crystal. We spent a day relaxing at home and then headed to National Harbor last Friday. My very sweet in-laws gave us tickets to the ICE show at the Gaylord Hotel, and the girls loved the experience of walking through 9° to view ice sculptures. They also loved the snazzy blue coats that the Gaylord provided for its visitors. Look at us in all of our blue!

I'm driving an ice taxi!

I’m driving an ice taxi!

This week my focus has been on packing up Christmas decorations and putting them away. That means that I’m also cleaning out drawers and closets, organizing shelves and cabinets, and purging unused belongings from our home. It’s not just post-holiday cleaning though. We’re a military family, and we’ve been living in our current house for more than 3 years now. Since we don’t have orders or plans to leave the area, the next best thing is to clean out the house.

I’ve also been trying not to think about the end of our Christmas break. It’s been 2 weeks since we closed up our notebooks, and tomorrow it’s time to be productive again. Just in time for the first real snow of this season. That means I’ll be the horribly mean homeschooling mom who makes her kids do schoolwork on a snow day! Just kidding. (Sort of.) Homeschooling means you can get your work done and still have plenty of time for sledding and making snowballs.

Who needs snow when you can have ICE?

Who needs snow when you can have ICE?

Or perhaps it’s because Ryan is getting ready to deploy. It’s been a long time since he’s deployed for any real length of time. 9 years almost. Life has changed quite a bit since then. We’ve added another child to the family, and there’s the whole homeschooling aspect to consider. While we’re used to Ryan’s constant comings and goings, our youngest child has never experienced a lengthy deployment. H loves adores her daddy, and it’s obvious from her recent behavior that she senses that change is coming.

So I have reasons for my scattered thoughts. Tantrums, for example, are distracting. Did I mention that H has really perfected the art of throwing tantrums lately? In fact, she threw such a bizarre tantrum last Sunday–she refused to wear any pants except for the pink leggings that were in the washing machine–that she missed out on a special family dinner with my parents, siblings, and nephews.

On that note, I’ll leave you with a few pictures of the aforementioned family dinner. It took place at–drum roll, please–Islamorada Fish Company in Ashland, Virginia, which is conveniently attached to Bass Pro Shops. Dinner was surprisingly good, and the entertainment provided by Bass Pro Shops was spectacular. This was my first visit to the retail chain, and I was mesmerized by the number of taxidermy displays, aquarium offerings, and the way that families descend on the store in droves. Dinner did not require formal dress, but it did require pants–camouflage was optional.

Look closely and you'll see the bear behind us. This is me with my sister and brother (and the bear).

Look closely and you’ll see the bear behind us. This is me (R) with my sister (L) and brother (and the bear).

My parents (& the bear). Married for 43 years. How cute are they?

My parents (& the bear). I think this should be their Christmas photo next year.