On a Learning Curve

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


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Summer Plans

Tomorrow is July 1. That means that we have officially used up four weeks of our summer vacation. And so far, this summer has not gone according to plan.

It started with my right knee. I felt a little slower than normal on a couple of runs, and I had to stop twice to rest on a long run with friends one Saturday in May. I took three days off, tried again, took a full week off, and finally called for an appointment at the runner’s clinic. I was hoping I had strained my hamstring where it connects to the knee. After all, the pain was at the back of the knee, and that was a new source of knee pain for me. Instead, an x-ray and MRI confirmed that my hamstring was just fine.

I go all out when I injure something, and I even had a CT scan to add to confirm the exceptional state of my knee. I have a complex tear to my medial meniscus and an ACL that is so lax it makes the ligament more of a decorative accessory than a functional part of my knee. Additionally my right femur has a tunnel that is 14 mm in diameter because of the titanium screws holding my useless ACL in place.

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ACL = anterior cruciate ligament

I’m going to need two rounds of surgery this year. Neither of those was on my radar this spring. No, I had plans to take the girls to Washington state to visit their grandparents, beat last year’s time at a local women’s 4-miler in September, and nail a PR at the Richmond Half Marathon in November.

The good news is that my meniscus is going to look and feel a whole lot better in a couple of months. Also I’m getting a bone graft to fill in that huge tunnel. Once my femur is less hole-y, I’ll be having a third ACL reconstruction. The bad news? I’ve already had three knee surgeries and two rounds of extensive physical therapy. Oh, and I don’t really have time want to do all this.

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See my shiny new AC unit? It’s the one on the left!

While I’m waiting for my next appointment, Ryan has been busy flying, flying, and flying some more. He’s been pulling double duty for the reserves as well as his regular gig so that we can make the second payment on G’s tuition in August and put some money back into savings. We had a nice chunk of money in savings; in fact, we were planning to look for a new car to replace our 11-year-old kidmobile that prefers not to drive in snow or ice. Now we have a new air conditioning system upstairs. To be fair, Ryan did ask me if I was okay with not replacing the upstairs unit until next summer, but I selfishly insisted that the girls and I couldn’t continue to camp out in the living room and that we might want some heat in the winter.

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
             but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”
                                                                             ∼Proverbs 19:21

Sigh. That’s life, isn’t  it? We make our plans, and then the air conditioning breaks, or my knee falls apart. If I were more optimistic, I’d say that’s what makes every day so exciting: you just never know what’s really going to happen. Some days are disappointing and some seasons are hard, and sometimes life is just full of inconveniences.

Did I mention that I had two biopsies last week at my regular dermatology check-up? The spot next to my nose turned out to be  a funny looking mole, and I don’t really mind that it’s gone, thank you. That other spot on my left thigh turned out to be skin cancer–a squamous cell carcinoma that won’t require additional cutting, just six weeks of topical ointment and more frequent dermatology visits.

Life goes on though. Wednesday night swim meets still last a billion hours, G still has all sorts of testing and tutoring to get to the bottom of her math woes, H still refuses to read novels on any kind, and S is still in love with rodents. Better yet, we still have the love, support, and childcare services of our local family. But best of all, none of my summer’s woes are a surprise to the God who formed my knees many years ago. His strength has always been sufficient to me in times of weakness, and this summer is no different.

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S and Suki enjoying a lunch of mac and cheese last week.


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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.

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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.

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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.

 


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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.)

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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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Down on the Farm

As promised, here are a few pictures of how we spent yesterday morning. We set off for Fisher Farm in La Plata after discovering that they had pick-your-own peaches for $1/pound. I took no pictures of the peach-picking process, and that’s probably because we quickly abandoned our picking and left the dirty work to Ryan after the farm owner offered us a tour. We admired his pear, apple, pecan, and cherry trees; asked if the raspberries would be open for picking; and sympathized with his squirrel woes. (Apparently his squirrels are susceptible to lead poisoning; fortunately, the girls don’t understand how squirrels get lead poisoning.) Then we met Tom, Tom’s hens, and six coops of chicks.

Below is Tom, our newest friend. He’s very proud of appearance, as you can tell by his ruffled feathers. And he’s quite friendly, too.

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Here I am with Tom. This is as close as I wanted to get to him. Apparently if you get down on his level, he’s very, um, affectionate. (Ragnar friends, this is how I wear my latest Ragnar Swag. I love my new blue Saucony Mirage 3s.)

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This is as close as S was willing to get to any turkey. While she admitted that turkeys are soft, “Hamsters are softer.” She has a serious love for hamsters, and very few creatures can compare.

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Ryan was a better sport about the turkeys, but he told me that I needed to stop taking pictures of the turkeys and finish picking peaches.

ImageIn all, we picked 32 pounds of peaches and spent just $32. Okay, we picked about two pounds, and Ryan picked another 30 pounds. I dropped off 10 pounds with a friend, and later this week I’ll put up jam and make one of my great-grandmother’s peach cobblers. I also have another reason to enjoy living in southern Maryland.


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Off to the Market

There’s a lot that I like about living in southern Maryland: rolling hills, an abundance of shade trees, a slower-paced lifestyle, the abundance of roadside farm markets, and a wide variety of residents. We have Amish and Mennonites, test pilots and astronauts, government contractors and farmers. In fact, these things generally outweigh the parts I dislike: the ridiculous number of taxes, a state government that caters to the central counties and cities, and the dearth of health-care specialists in our community. Oh, and for a county that had the 14th highest median income in 2010, we have no bookstore, no retailer that sells professional clothing, nothing comparable to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, and just one Starbucks–without a drive-thru window. Before you feel truly sorry for me, Sweet Frog did just open a franchise.

Yesterday I discovered something new to like: the Loveville Produce Auction. I had wanted to go for at least a year now and got my first opportunity yesterday. Even from the parking lot, I knew I was in for a treat! Fresh summer veggies, watermelons, cut flowers, and flats of tomatoes abounded. The large auction was already under way, and the small auction was getting ready to begin. And I felt like I had stepped back in time 100 years. Amish and Mennonite farmers and children were everywhere: some were wearing shoes; most were wearing straw hats. My friend and I ignored the large auction because the bidding was on entire wagon-loads of produce. Yes, wagons. As in the things that teams of horses pull.

I marveled at the bounty of the fields, and I quickly figured out how to bid. I even got a small round of applause when I won my first auction: a pint of mixed cherry tomatoes for $1. At auction’s end, I wrote a check for $27.18 to cover my six purchases; the $0.18 covers the tax on the sunflowers that I had to have! Below is a picture of my haul. Much of my vegetables are hidden by my impulse buy: a half-bushel of red bell peppers (that I split with my friend) for $8.50. What does $27 buy? A flat of yellow beans; the bell peppers; one enormous cantaloupe; a quart of red potatoes; a pint of cherry tomatoes; a mixed flat of zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, field tomatoes, jalapenos, and cubanelle peppers; and the gorgeous sunflowers. Will I go back again? Definitely. The Loveville Produce Auction is now another reason why I like living in southern Maryland.

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After the produce auction and before the cleaning, chopping, and cooking.

Coming soon are pictures and a post about our peach-picking expedition this morning. Spoiler alert: There were lots of turkeys involved.