On a Learning Curve

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

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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.)


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!


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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.


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.


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


During the cut: Amused and unsure



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


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.



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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.