On a Learning Curve

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


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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.

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Brought to You by the Letter H

Fall has finally reached our home and decided to stay for a while. We had a brief preview last month and were tricked into thinking we could turn off the AC and open the windows for 2 weeks. Then summer returned over the same weekend that I was running Ragnar DC. The temperature hit 90 degrees, and the humidity hovered in the 80s. So we fired up the AC for another week before deciding it was safe to open the windows again.

This week we fired up the heat. Yep, that’s the official sign. Not falling leaves–those come all year long–or earlier sunsets or migrating geese. We let the heat pump make that call.

Other signs that fall is here to stay:
1. Pumpkin spice lattes at Starbucks. (Just kidding! Those things are full of sugar, and you can’t believe every ad you see!)
2. The final five tomatoes on my two surviving tomato plants just won’t ripen on the vine when it plummets to 39 degrees at night.
3. Ryan and the girls spend hours collecting sticks, yard waste, and old bank statements to burn in the chiminea. Children love to play with fire.
4. I can’t decide whether I should wear long sleeves with running shorts or short sleeves with capris. Hard decisions!

Summer's final harvest will have to ripen on the kitchen windowsill.

Summer’s final harvest will have to ripen on the kitchen windowsill.

Fall’s arrival also means that we’ve finished a full quarter of our school year and settled into our routine. G is tackling geometry and 5-paragraph essays, S has completed 75% of third grade, and H is reading like a champ. Proud mom brag: she just memorized the 23rd Psalm! And she finally earned her super-hero cape. See pictures below.

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Yes, those are pink and purple butterflies. A girl needs her butterflies.

You see, I’m all about bribing children to teach good behavior. Sure, you could call it positive reinforcement, but let’s be honest: there’s not a huge difference. Plus, I was raised by a master briber, and I think I turned out fairly well-behaved. H had to stop throwing temper tantrums to earn this cape. She picked out the fabric and chose the monogram design, and I insisted that she not throw a tantrum for one entire week. It took her a full month, but now the cape is hers.

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The cape in action. Look how Super H can scale the playground in it!

Lest you think we’ve forgotten our other children, G and H have had their own struggles. G has turned 11 with a vengeance. Ryan and I spent last Sunday afternoon removing the extra bed from her room. Then we removed all her art supplies, books, food wrappers, Rainbow loom bands, and other contraband. We sorted through her clothing and showed her very specifically how she would keep her room. It was an unpleasant afternoon for everyone involved, but we needed to follow through on the warnings we’d been doling out in the previous days. Though her bedroom looks rather spartan at the moment, she is actually happy that she can easily keep her room clean.

S is following a third program. (Do you know how hard it is to keep all of these things straight?!) She desperately wants a new hamster. She has finished mourning Brownie and would like to add another rodent to her menagerie. She is a very good pet keeper, but she is not a good listener. Actually, her hearing is perfect, but her follow-through needs serious work. She needs to demonstrate that she can consistently obey Mom and Dad for a full week before we’re taking her down to the pet store.

Parenting is hard work, isn’t it? One size does not fit all, but I think that’s why Proverbs 22:6 tells us to train up a child in the way (s)he should go. It’s different for each child, and our family is proof.

It’s time for me to return to school. We have a science lesson to tackle, and our topic is carbohydrates. (I think we’re going to nail this lesson.)