On a Learning Curve

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


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Just 2 More Days

2 days. That’s it. That’s how much longer I have to hold our family together all by myself. (Can you hear my sigh of relief?) It’s officially been 3 months since we said good-bye to Ryan. Here’s a recap of how we spent the time.

G can also use her powers for good. Here she is demonstrating her snow tunnel!

January went by in a blur of temper tantrums. Most of those were H’s; in total disclosure, a few were mine. The weather turned colder than usual, and I shoveled my first driveway. S started 4th grade, and Ryan came home for 2 weekends on breaks from training.

Frozen Heart

February brought an end (mostly) to the tantrums, and the snow piled up. I’ve lost count of how many driveways I shoveled in February. We celebrated my father’s 65th birthday with a not-so-enjoyable-but-totally-memorable 11-mile trail run through snow, hills, and mud. I started training for a half-marathon, and the girls helped me celebrate the 13th birthday of their brothers.

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March marked the beginning of soccer season, but it continued to snow on a weekly basis. We visited my sister’s family for my nephew O’s 6th birthday. The girls also spent a long weekend with my parents, while I escaped to South Carolina for a retreat with the amazing staff of Five in a Row.

Everyone loves the adorable meerkats.

More disclosure: I got my very first speeding ticket in 24 years of driving. On a serious note, H’s dear friend was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain cancer. The shock of this situation has caused all of us to re-examine our priorities and spend more time on our knees.

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April finally brought some sunshine–and flowers! A few daffodils have poked their faces toward the sun, and warmer days appear to be coming. Just in time for Ryan’s homecoming.

 

 

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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.


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Turning a Corner

We’ve made it to Day 28 of this deployment, and as my title suggests, we’ve turned a corner. Life seems to have settled into a manageable routine for the girls and for me. Of course, I had a little lots of help last week. My dad spent nearly four days with us, and that seems to have made a huge difference in my outlook and the girls’ behavior.

Last Monday, I had my semi-annual homeschooling review. Our county schedules reviews at the local public libraries, and I usually bring the girls with me. Last school year, two of the girls decided to have their very first fistfight during my review. Can I just say that it was one of my most embarrassing moments as a mom? I had just finished explaining that G was singing in our church choir–because that fulfills a music requirement–when H rushed over to tell me that G punched S. Let’s just say that I needed a few minutes to find different time-out spots for the girls before I could continue the review. This week I went to my review solo, and it was so relaxing not to be interrupted by a child asking questions or contradicting one of my statements.

On Tuesday, we prepared for Round 2 of snow and sub-freezing temperatures. And Wednesday did not disappoint: four more inches of snow arrived! As has become our snow day routine, we complete math and language arts and then head outside for P.E. (i.e. sledding). My dad and I shoveled snow instead of sledding. While I managed to shovel out one neighbor’s driveway, he shoveled two driveways. He’s an overachiever.

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Wednesday evening brought H’s biggest meltdown of the week. On the previous day, she had a long sob over the fact that both pairs of favorite leggings were in the washing machine at the same time, and then she remembered that her daddy was gone, and it took a long time to stop her tears. But on Wednesday, she discovered that her two big sisters had destroyed her only Barbie doll. By destroyed, I mean that S tattooed a skull and crossbones (in Sharpie) on Barbie’s thigh. G finished her off by removing every. last. piece. of. her. hair. No kidding. Somehow my dad and I managed not to laugh or crack a smile while G cleaned up the bathroom and I doled out the appropriate punishment.

G can also use her powers for good. Here she is demonstrating her snow tunnel!

G can also use her powers for good. Here she is demonstrating her snow tunnel!

By Friday, life seemed to be approaching normal. We worked through the morning without taking a break to play outside, and we ventured out for afternoon art lessons.

Today was not-so-exciting. Dragging three children along for an oil change is nobody’s idea of Saturday fun. Nor is grocery shopping. On the plus side, one of my neighbors kept an eye on the girls while I managed an 8-mile training run. I’ve decided to celebrate my next birthday–and new age group–by running the Iron Girl Half Marathon in Columbia, MD, so it’s time to hit the road again. And yes, we did visit our local Target so that H could pick out a replacement for the maimed Barbie. As she stood in the Barbie aisle pondering the many choices, G kept telling me that Barbies were ridiculously expensive and that she didn’t want to spend all of her money. As I calmly explained to her, I hope this is the first and last Barbie she ever buys for her sister.

And that brings us to 28 days. 4 weeks. A full lunar month. I think we’re going to survive.

[Note: I’m not being callous or self-centered when I omit my husband from our family’s activities. I can’t give details on his location, and I’ve learned not to ask how he spends his days. In good time, he’ll share what he can. For now, I simply pray that he does his job well and returns home healthy and whole.]


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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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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.