On a Learning Curve

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

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Lessons Learned This Week

It snowed again in Maryland. You would have thought from the news coverage that it has never, ever snowed before in the history of Maryland. Phew. We survived the five inches of snow that were immediately follow by rain and sleet. The thermometer hit 50° today, and now our yard looks like it is covered in melted white Slurpee. Ick.

This was another learning week for me. Here are my Top 7, in no particular order of importance:

1. I am loved. My parents sent me a bouquet of red roses as an early Valentine’s gift. My mother-in-law sent me chocolate bars. (The kids don’t know about the chocolate, and they don’t read my blog.) And my sweet husband sent a gorgeous arrangement of yellow lilies.

A fun flower arrangement and my 3 Valentines

A fun flower arrangement and my 3 Valentines

2. I need to hold newborn babies more often. I delivered dinner to friends who recently welcomed the arrival of healthy twin girls. The babies are still in that scrunched-up stage where they just want to snuggle and make sweet little noises. I was in heaven for 20 minutes on Wednesday, and all of my stress magically melted away. (This is not to say that I want a newborn baby of my own.)

3. I need an attitude adjustment when I start feeling sorry for myself. The  snow was ridiculously wet and heavy yesterday, and I struggled to clear half of the driveway. The snow plow skipped our street, and I almost gave in to a rather bad attitude. Until I realized that no one owes me anything. There are much worse jobs than shoveling snow.

4. Other people are facing much harder challenges than I am. (See #3 above.) Several friends and acquaintances are fighting cancer, waiting for test results, or dealing with difficult situations. This realization is an instant attitude changer.

5. Sometimes you need to take a snow day. We didn’t take one yesterday, and lessons dragged. Children were grumpy. The teacher was grumpy. Children were unmotivated; too late the teacher loosed them. Today students and teacher struck a deal: no new work for math, language arts, or history. Instead we made up the music lesson that we forgot to do yesterday; G wrote the paragraph that she didn’t write earlier this week; everyone worked on Awana assignments; and H counted and categorized birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count while S and G wrote expository paragraphs.

My snow squirrel and S's version of Olaf

My snow squirrel and S’s version of Olaf

6. Night terrors stink. Period. That’s about all I can say on the subject.

7. Sometimes children are smarter than we think. H is becoming an excellent birder. I have the hardest time figuring out exactly which brown finches are eating from our feeder. Yesterday we were stumped by four little brown finches. H insisted that the females were purple finches. This morning a male purple finch arrived and confirmed H’s diagnosis. I was impressed!

Tomorrow brings more adventure. In honor of my dad’s 65th birthday, we’re heading out on a 10-mile trail race that promises to be snowy, slushy, muddy, and full of adventure. I’ll save the details for my next post.



15 Years: A Brief History

Ryan and I have reached another milestone together. On September 12, we will celebrate 15 years of marriage. I didn’t say wedded bliss because that just doesn’t cover the past 15 years. Perhaps roller coaster or soap opera would be a better description, but I am also reminded of the classic children’s line from Ludwig Bemelmans: “They smiled at the good and frowned at the bad and sometimes they were very sad.” (That’s from Madeline.) Here are the highlights of our 15 years together.

September 12, 1998

September 12, 1998

Year 1: Honeymoon on the road as we drove from Norfolk, Virginia, to Pensacola, Florida. Somebody had to start intermediate flight classes on Tuesday. Two months later we headed farther south to Corpus Christi, Texas. Ryan earned his wings of gold in July 1999; then we moved to North Carolina where Ryan joined VMGR-253 and I started a new teaching/coaching job.

Outside our 2nd apartment with our 2 puppies

Outside our 2nd apartment with our 2 puppies

Year 2: Life revolved around Ryan, me, and our 2 dogs. We had no idea how easy things were!

Posing for family photos in my father-in-law's courtroom

Posing for family photos in my father-in-law’s courtroom

Year 3: Excitement over our first pregnancy was followed by heartache after Seth and Owen arrived too early at 23 weeks on February 24, 2001.


Year 4: A hard year for both of us as we put our lives back together. Ryan deployed to Afghanistan, and I changed high schools. Here we are enjoying a rare vacation in Charleston, SC.

Charleston, SC, with Ryan's family

Charleston, SC, with Ryan’s family

Year 5 began with great joy: Grace arrived on October 12, 2002. Ryan deployed for 6 months on the USS Iwo Jima, and I navigated single-parenthood.

The sweetest moment for a mom

The sweetest moment for a new mother

In Year 6, we decided to buy our first house. That made our third move just in Havelock, NC!

Ryan lays sod on a (rare) snowy day in Havelock.

Ryan lays sod on a (rare) snowy day in Havelock.

Sarah arrived on December 1, 2004, as we began Year 7, and Ryan left for Iraq. That was a long 7 months for everyone.

picking berries

The girls go berry picking.

Ryan returned home, Year 8 began, and I was pregnant again. (Are you seeing a pattern yet?) As we prepared for a move to Corpus Christi, Lucy arrived stillborn on April 12, 2006. A month later, Ryan contracted viral encephalitis and was helicoptered to an ICU unit. We un-rented our home and stayed in NC so that Ryan could recover. Here we are during a much-needed beach week on Topsail Island.

topsail beach 008

Year 9 eventually brought us to Corpus Christi again, and we rented a house within walking distance to the beach on Padre Island. Ryan pinned on major–despite his wedding promise to me that he wouldn’t stay in the Corps long enough to need $1000 worth of new dress uniforms. And Hannah arrived a little early but in perfect health on May 3, 2007. Our family was complete.

I have no idea how to caption this shot.

Our 3 girls. I have no idea how to caption this photo.

Year 10 was a struggle for us in so many ways. I had postpartum depression, we had 3 small children, and I decided to homeschool Grace for the remainder of our time in TX. Ryan learned what it was like to go through ground school with a newborn, but life got even harder over Easter weekend. Sarah was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

My favorite Marine Corps Birthday Ball picture of us, November 2008

My favorite Marine Corps Birthday Ball picture of us, November 2008

We celebrated our tenth anniversary in separate states due to a mandatory hurricane evacuation. Ryan enjoyed golf in New Mexico while I drove the girls and dog to a crowded ranch-house outside San Antonio. During Year 11, however, we found our new normal. Normal meant finger pricks, insulin injections, and carb counting,

The only ballerina with an insulin pump!

The only ballerina with an insulin pump!

As Year 12 began, we committed to homeschooling indefinitely. Ryan did some soul-searching and resigned from active duty. In a great leap of faith, he accepted a job offer from a government contractor in Maryland. We put our NC house on the market and left Texas–first to stay with my family in Virginia and then on to California, Maryland.

Ryan's last active duty flight

Ryan’s last active duty flight

During Year 13, I was thrilled to be back on the East Coast, even if our address is California. Ryan stayed busy commuting between his day job and a reserve job flying for VMGR-452 in New York. The girls and I visited family and friends and took advantage of our proximity to the Smithsonian.

Team Sarah at the 2011 JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes

Team Sarah at the 2011 JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes

During Year 14, we settled into the routine that comes with three growing girls, a homeschooling mom, and a dad who works two jobs. Busy best described our days as Ryan racked up flight hours and I somehow kept my sanity in between school subjects, soccer practice, doctors’ appointments, and co-op classes.

A windy hike in Shenandoah National Park.

A windy hike in Shenandoah National Park.

And that brings us to Year 15. Ryan comes and goes and wishes he had more free time to devote to his golf game. I’ve returned to coaching, but running is my true passion now. All three girls are thriving in their schoolwork and daily delight/test us in innumerable ways.

Celebrating my first 39th birthday.

Celebrating my first 39th birthday this year

That is the abbreviated version of our marriage. We’ve lived in 3 apartments and 4 houses; and we’ve owned 2 dogs, 2 hermit crabs, and 3 hamsters. We’ve celebrated our 20th high school reunions, and one of us has turned 40. We’ve been a part of 3 churches and 4 squadrons. We’ve had 6 children together and have the gray hair to prove it. We bicker with each other, but we laugh together, too. We know each other’s faults, but we love each other anyway.

Many of you reading this already know our story. Some of you just know parts of our life, but I want all of you to know that if we can stay faithful to each other for 15 years, anyone can. We like to joke that it doesn’t seem like 15 years; it seems much longer. Our days are full, and we sometimes spend weeks apart due to Ryan’s work. But our marriage works. It’s by no means perfect, but it is solid because we are committed to each other and rooted by the vows that we made before God, our friends, and our family.  I am reminded of the verse that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). And so we will continue to smile at the good, frown at the bad, and sometimes be very sad. And we will do it together.