On a Learning Curve

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


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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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Things I Am Learning This Week

It’s been a few days since I’ve written. Here’s what’s going on this week:

1. No more home school co-op for us. Yes, we’re going to take a bold step and actually educate the girls at home. Brilliant concept. In fact, it’s been about 5 years since we last tried this approach to schooling. Home schooling is a wonderful educational option, and there are so many ways to accomplish it; however, there is also a seemingly endless list of educational opportunities that keep us out of our house. And let’s just say that carving time out of our family’s schedule for unicycling just wasn’t something Ryan and I thought was a good idea.

2. Insulin pumps break when you are least expecting them to do so. Then again, I can’t think of any time that seems right for S’s pump to stop working. Yay for the loaner pump that is making its way to us. And boo for the two to three weeks that it will take for Tricare to approve our new purchase.

3. My littlest running partner, H, slows way down when it’s hot outside. To clarify, I’m the one running, and she’s the one pedaling the Cutie Cat pink and purple bike. At her fastest, we’re logging 9:30 miles; our slowest mile clocked in at 11:00 last Friday. The time spent with her is totally worth the slower pace.

4. The smallest accomplishments bring the greatest joy. S won her heat in her second freestyle race at yesterday’s swim meet. Her face was radiant when she held that blue ribbon in her hand. My face was radiant this morning when her endocrinologist’s secretary read me her latest a1c results: 7.1 for the second time in a row.

5. Life is a constant exchange of stresses. Now that I no longer have to design and plan a creative writing/public speaking course for middle school students, I have plenty of time to earn my E-level soccer coaching license. So far I have completed the online Level 8 referee course and the Heads Up concussion training. After I write a couple of papers and spend a weekend on the soccer field, I will be licensed. (Why, why, why did I not do this when I was younger and single???)

6. On a serious note, the gift of life is a beautiful thing. We attended a sweet memorial service for the tiny baby boy of some church friends of ours. Born at just 22 weeks, his little life has already made a permanent impact on his parents, big sister, and extended church family. To paraphrase our pastor’s words, we were confirming the choice his parents made to celebrate his brief life at a stage where the majority of Americans believe his existence is part of a woman’s choice. I shed a few tears, gave quite a few hugs, and took great comfort in knowing that little Walter is running around heaven with my Seth, Owen, and Lucy. I look forward to the day that I will join them.


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My Learning Curve

Tell me that I’m not the only person who sets out to simplify her life and somehow ends up with a proverbial overflowing plate. Yesterday I opened an email asking me to provide a few sentences describing the creative writing/public speaking class that I will be teaching this coming school year in our homeschool co-op. She needs the blurb within the next day or so. Gulp. I asked to teach this class; actually I asked to teach the creative writing part and be released from teaching P.E. to 1st and 2nd graders. You see, I was a high school English teacher in my pre-children years. I enjoyed teaching writing and literary analysis to students who had already mastered phonics and potty-training. In the throes of teaching phonics and toileting skills to my own children, however, I put my academic credentials on hold and started teaching classes that required great physical energy but little mental preparation. Three years later, I am ready to use my brain again.

Of course the request came as I was figuring out how I will feed my family, supervise all 3 girls, and work both halves of tonight’s swim meet without my other half. I also had just finished a conversation with my college roommate that involves coordinating the schedules of 5 adults and 15 children. (Translation: Other college roommate had a baby in January, and the rest of us are suffering guilt that we may not see this new baby before he sprouts teeth and vocabulary words.) I threw out that I am working the registration table for our church’s VBS in August, two children will be attending different camps, and I’m supposed to taking a coaching clinic at some point. I totally forgot to add that we’ll be starting our school year at some point in the month, too! Hmmm. I think the one thing I didn’t mention is probably the most important thing.

It’s the coaching clinic that’s tugging at my gut. Years ago when I had all sorts of free time, I had signed up to get my D-level soccer coaching license. In retrospect, it was ridiculously stupid of my single, childless self to blow off that clinic because of a scheduling problem. Now I have 4 other schedules to juggle just to get my E-level license, which is actually a step down from a D. Sigh. I just wanted to coach S’s soccer team.

Why is life so complicated? That’s a rhetorical question. I know why. It’s because I make it complicated with too many good things. During the school year, we purposely limit the girls activities to Awana, art/music lessons, and one sport at a time. We want to make sure that they have “down” time and learn how to entertain themselves; in other words, we believe it’s okay that they are occasionally bored rather than over-scheduled. The problem is that I sign up to help during their activities. I’m the substitute Awana helper since I’m there anyway. I’m S’s soccer coach because I get to pick the days and location of practice. We belong to a parent-run homeschool co-op so I’m required to teach or assist a class once a week. We chose the co-op because the state of Maryland requires that I teach a laundry list of extracurricular subjects every. year. to. every. child.

So where and when do I let go? The story of Mary and Martha has been nagging me lately. When is it my turn to sit? I suspect that this coming school year will be full of learning opportunities, and I hope that I’ll have answers to my questions without having to learn things the hard way.


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Finally!

For the past decade, I’ve entertained friends and family with the highlights of our family’s life. Okay, mostly I just retell funny stories that will one day embarrass my three beautiful daughters. A ridiculous number of people have suggested that I write my stories down–or, as my mother frequently requests, write a book–before I forget them. Yes, I was an English major, and yes, I taught high school English for five years. But write a book? Keep a blog? Those things take time. For the past decade, the aforementioned children have been using up all of my time. They want me to feed them, find their missing shoes, and explain complicated subjects to them. (I’ll save this tidbit for a later post on why I don’t own a smart phone, or why I’m not going to spend $200 every month to Google “world’s largest rock” or “world’s fattest hamster.”) Oh, and I forgot to mention that six years ago, we decided that I would homeschool our girls; actually, that was supposed to be a two-year commitment to one child, but that is also another topic. So this afternoon I find myself sitting on my front porch with my laptop. As I stared down a couple of brazen squirrels who were eying the contents of the bird feeder, I realized that I had some time today. After all, tonight’s swim meet (Future Topic #3) was canceled for “technical reasons.”

This morning as I was telling my oldest child that tonight’s meet had been canceled, she pressed me for details on those “technical reasons.” Really, those were the only words that the email listed. I told her that my guess is that the computer timing equipment is probably not working. Instantly I knew that some outrageous comment was working its way out of her mouth. Call it mom’s intuition. She adroitly replied, “Yeah, like if swimmers get into the pool with the broken equipment, they could get electrocuted.” Is that really the most likely scenario? Nope. Is this exactly the reason I love this child so much? “Exactly,” I told her.