Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween...

from a silly little raccoon,

the headless horseman

a couple of deer hunters,

a stunning witch,

Achilles and his defensive line girlfriend,

and a cute little skeleton who

spent most of his time trunk-or-treating transferring candy from his grampa's bowl

to his own pumpkin.

We hope you are enjoying rifling through your candy as much as the raccoon has.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Go the Distance

Chet and Faith joined the running club at school. This is big news for Chet. After all these years, here is a competitive sport that requires strength, training, discipline, and a will to give it all, a
and he can actually participate. Faith has been planning on joining the track team as soon as she is old enough. Having this chance to be part of this cross-country club was a golden opportunity for her. Over the last few weeks, they and their team have been training when the weather has relented enough to allow them to do so. They thought they were ready for their first meet.

On Wednesday, we drove to Rogers where a bunch of other middle schoolers were ready to compete in this meet. Most of them train everyday. The majority of them were teams in uniforms. Their parents had signs with their schools and teams on them. They warmed up with well-polished drills. I knew that with only a few actual practices under their belts that our kids weren't going to win. Yet I couldn't wait to see what they would do.

At last all the kids were directed to line up, mark, set, and go!

Tyler set out to win this race. He sped past the other runners, and for a while held a first place position. But cross-country meets aren't won by sprinters. All of our kids need to learn to pace themselves and build some endurance. Tyler's take-off dash to the front was impressive to see, though!

There were two laps in the run, totalling 1.5 miles. Chet had me worried as he came around the first lap. I could hear him breathing, his face was flushed and pale at the same time, and he kept stopping to walk. He told me later he wanted to pass out at this point. All the other parents were on the sidelines cheering their kids on and urging them to speed. My mama bear came out and I could be heard hollering, "Are you okay???" Besides, his legs were blinding me.

Faith made it around the second part of the run before she started the final lap, and thought she was done. I was trying to encourage her. I said, "Good job, Faith! You're almost there! (she thought I meant "almost to the finish line") You only have one more lap to go!" At this point she looked at me and said, "whaaaat?" as best she could muster.

She buckled back down, though, and pressed onward. Along with pacing, we need to work on some breathing techniques. I am pretty sure they are supposed to breathe in through the nose, out through the mouth. I am positive they aren't supposed to gasp and gulp for air.

By the time Chet made it around the second part before the final lap, he had fallen somewhere, bruised his knee, was walking because his energy was sapped, and could barely muster the breath to say "gonna throw up." I really didn't know if he would make it the rest of the way. He was paler than he was the first round, and I could see he was exhausted. The mom part of me that doesn't want him hospitalized or worn out for two weeks wanted to pull him out right then and there. The mom part of me that just wants to see my son's dreams for himself come to fruition couldn't bear the idea of that. In the end, I kept silent except to say, "You're almost there, Chet! Don't worry about anyone else, just do what you can do!"

The kids finally heaved their way around the last lap, and I saw Faith coming with these two girls. They are from the highschool CC team, and were there to help guide the kids around the paths. These two basically adopted Faith, and through the rest of the lap kept her going when she wanted to stop and walk. Later she told me that anytime she slowed down again, they cheered her on and literally helped push her forward to keep her going. They were awesome.

I missed seeing Chet come in, and for a minute before I found him, I felt an internal panic bubbling up as I wondered if he had passed out during that last lap. But he had made it ---- safe, sound, and sweaty.

In the end, Chet came in last place, and Faith was 2nd to last. I thought it was a glowing victory for both of them. They could have stopped. They could have given up. Instead, they pushed on and they both finished the race.

I do love to see my kids win in sports, but sometimes I think there are much better things to be experienced in losing. Not only does Chet want to train harder and longer now, he is actually asking me to make him salad to eat. He has never eaten salad. Somebody stole myveggie hater, and replaced him with tall gangly teenager! EEK!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Under Destruction

Jesse and Sam are coming to visit soon. They are bringing pretty Sophia to charm us. I can't wait. There is so much to be done around the house, so tonight the kids and I pulled out the tools and got to work. I installed lots of details: curtain hooks, shelves, coat hooks and bed canopies. I also moved furniture and washed several loads of laundry.

Matt took care of moving things out to the storage shed that needed to be taken out.

And Kyle got the fun job.

When we put down the ceramic tile floors, we tiled the stairs. It looked great until the tiles on top of the stairs started breaking. I don't like the sharp edges on the seams either. So I gave Kyle a hammer, he donned a pair of Faith's winter gloves, and he set to work breaking out the tiles on the stairs.

It was a very loud project.
We are cutting oak boards and putting those on top of the stairs. It will look great when it is done. I don't think Kyle will find that as fun as the de-construction job, though.

After Kyle took care of cleaning up the mess, he thought he should warn everyone that the stairs still had some jagged pieces of grout stuck to them. Being the considerate tear-down crew that he is, he put up a sign of warning.

If you step on a piece of grout after a triple exclamation warning, it is all on you!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

She can spell nachtmusic.

And she can spell voortrekker and beleaguer.

She can spell pfeffernuss, ecargot, inselburg, mynheer, and maelstrom.

Faith has studied for the school spelling bee for a few weeks now, learning a whole new vocabulary in preparation for the big event.

Today she stood up for the first round, and the moderator asked her to spell cleanser.

"Cleanser - C-L-E-N-Z-R-E - Cleanser"

Apparently, my girl can spell very well. Just don't ask her to spell in English.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Friday Fieldtrip Date

I made arrangements to take last Friday off at both of my jobs.

I had a date.

With a much younger guy.

He had been planning it for weeks. The night before he packed us a picnic lunch: PBJ sandwiches, bananas, bottled water, and peanut butter cups.

On Friday I went to work for a couple of hours, then met up with Todd at his classroom. We were on our way to the 2nd grade fieldtrip at The Butterfly Palace.

We started out in a maze of mirrors that was too dark to allow for any pictures. It was very cool, though, and as each group of kids would make their way through it and reappear in the waiting area the other kids all clapped for them.

Then they had a chance to pet a blue-tongued slink. I passed on that opportunity. I prefer critters of the warm-blooded variety.

The next stop was to visit and admire all of the rainforest creepy crawlies they take care of. This is one of those lizards that runs across water. I am not sure if he was smiling at me because he was flirting or because he thought I might make a tasty meal.

Beth would have gone crazy over the frogs. There were fat frogs, skinny frogs, tree frogs, blue frogs. That sounds like a Dr. Seuss book doesn't it? I thought the poisonous blue ones were the prettiest, although I do think "pretty" is subjective in amphibians.

This was a fun picture to take. I loved seeing Todd's reflection in the mirror twice. Half of Todd's class comes to our children's program, so in this room I kept hearing, "Miss Jennifer, look over here!" "Miss Jennifer, I found a (insert critter name here.) Most of the critters have chameleon defenses, so some of them were a lot harder to spot in their habitats than others were.

I really thought the floating frog head photo prop was hilarious, and maybe a bit creepy looking. I wouldn't want to wake up to a giant body-less frog staring at me. But Beth might. I should frame this one for her room.
After the rainforest tour, we donned some cool 3D shades and headed into the theater to see a movie about the life span of a butterfly and a preying mantis. It ended badly for the butterfly. I don't recommend this flick if you like happy endings for your National Geographic specials.

Then we were at last headed into the hermetically sealed butterfly room. I am not kidding about that part. It is illegal for the moths and butterflies to escape, so we had to enter a small anteroom, shut the doors, then open the opposing doors to enter the butterfly room. Fortunately, it doesn't last long enough to really let the claustrophobia kick in.

There are people in this world whose entire job is to raise and care for butterflies. Then they bring packs of school children in and release newly emerged butterflies so the kids can watch them take off for the first time.

This one spread its wings, waited for them to dry off a bit, and then flew right towards me and landed on my hip.

Todd sidled up next to me and managed to coax my new-born friend to ride on his shirtsleeves instead. The outside of this butterfly is that lovely blue, but its inner wings are brown with dots. Those pretty dots are supposed to look like eyes to predators to keep these guys from being preying mantis food.

The whole room was full of beautiful things.

Beautiful butterflies flitting, drinking nectar, and eating bananas. I loved watching that nozzle attachment curl up when this one was done eating. (My ability to identify scientific anatomy confounds astounds you, doesn't it?)
Beautiful birds hopping from limb to limb on the trees.
More beautiful butterflies that looked like they were painted with glow-in-the-dark watercolors.
Beautiful flowers and foliage of all sorts.

Beautiful kids whose faces were lighting up every time a butterfly lit on them.
In my completely unbiased opinion though, this creature, with his big huge brown eyes and comedic personality was the best-looking critter there. My butterfly stayed on his arm the whole time we were exploring.

A lady saw my pitiful attempts to take a photo of Todd and I together, so she snapped this one for us.

These big chairs made wonderful photo props!

Then it was time to head back into the anteroom to leave. To avoid having to send Todd to jail for releasing a butterfly, the lady carefully removed our winged friend from his sleeve.

Then the kids hopped back on their buses to wind their way back to school, and I waved goodbye to my young date and all his buddies before climbing in my car to head back home.

It was an awesome date. Thanks, Todd... let's do that again soon!