Friday, May 3, 2013

Love them

"I love you," he said as I hugged him good night.  "I really love you," he repeated, pulling me in tighter.  As we lay there, he said, "Thank you for letting me go on the trip tomorrow."  [pause] "Thank you for everything."

"I don't thank you enough."

I closed my eyes, breathing it in, and rested my heart there a moment.

He's 14.

Love him.


"Good night, Jared" she called from her room.

"Good night, Emma."

"I love you," she added.

"I love you, too."


Love them.


No family is perfect.  No parents expert.  No children model.

But there is love.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


This post is a year overdue.  My son is a competitive gymnast and he (and we) learned a lot last season.  About success and perseverance.  I am in awe of the young men in this sport.  Most of the world sees only those at the top, and that only once every four years.  And for sure, the world only values those precious few at the top.  But I am telling you, these kids are champions.

So this story is about success.  It may not look like what you expect.  For example, take a look at this video and tell me if you think this is a successful routine.

Well, was that routine flawless? Was it spectacular? No? Then why, pray tell, is the boy behaving as if he has just won a medal? Why does my friend Ana have goose bumps?

I'll tell you why.

It all comes down to expectations. And goals. It all depends, really, on your definition of success.

This past season my son moved up from level 6 to level 9. That's quite a jump. Was he ready? Maybe, maybe not. But here's the thing. Success is really not about winning. It's not about being the best. It's about being your best. It's about setting goals for yourself and accomplishing those goals.

My son was given a choice by his coaches at the beginning of the season -- he could compete at either level 8 or level 9.  Level 8 would mean more success, outwardly -- fewer competitors, better scores.  But it also would  mean competing alone at most meets, being the lone level 8 gymnast on the team.  Level 9 would mean less chance of success -- more and better competitors, lower scores.  But he would be part of a team (at least 3 are required at the same level to be eligible for a team award), competing with his friends.  He chose level 9.  Of course he did.  We were unsure how he would handle being at the bottom of the pack, instead of at or near the top.  Could he measure his success, not against others, but against himself?

In the first meet of this level 9 season, my son did not even compete on high bar. Because he wasn't ready. His coaches made the decision that it was best he not compete with a routine that just wasn't there yet. I appreciate that decision. I believe this motivated his training and by the next meet he got up on the bar. Was he ready? Maybe not. But he got on the bar. How many times did he fall? More than he wanted. But he improved his previous score (a 0.0) by 6.4 points. Is 6.4 a good score? No... no, it isn't. But were we proud? You better believe it. The boy got up on the bar. And he finished. I've never been prouder.

Until the next meet (the one the video above is from.) His warm up was awesome. He hit his new skills. We all wanted it for him. Competition began and he started his routine. And then he fell off the bar. On a simple, basic skill. In the video you can hear me say, "Oh, crap." (I know... I'm such a good mom.)  I had no idea if he would recover.

But he did what competitive gymnasts do.  He got back on the bar and he finished.  He swung his giants.  He got his body around the bar and he didn't fall.  He landed his dismount.  The celebratory fist pump says it all.  Maybe no one else in that gym realized the success of that routine.  Maybe not the judges.  Maybe not the other gymnasts.  But my son knew.  I knew.  His coach knew.  My friend Ana knew and it gave her goose bumps.

At the end of the regular season of competition, there is a State meet.  How you perform at State determines if you qualify for the Regional meet.  At Regionals, you have the opportunity to qualify for Nationals.  Most of the boys at State will qualify for Regionals, which Jared did.

And here I want to show you another video.  This is a compilation of his routines from the Regional meet, his final meet of the season.

You may not be impressed with what you see.  Because you don't know what I know.  For instance, you don't know that his peach glide on parallel bars was hit-or-miss all season.  You don't even know what a peach glide is.  You also don't know that he consistently fell on his pirouettes.  So you may see a so-so parallel bars routine.  But I see grand success!  You know a little about his hi bar struggles.  At Regionals, he hit the routine and stuck his dismount.  Success!  You also have no idea that this floor routine was the first time he did his double full in competition -- what his coach called his "big boy skill" -- and he put it to his feet.  You may or may not know that pommel horse can be the bane of a gymnast's existence.  It is not uncommon to have 4 or 5 falls off this beast.  As you can see, he only had one fall (zero falls at State, but that's another video and story.)  Rings was kind of ugly there at the end, but I can tell you that he doesn't sit down that dismount anymore.  Finally, it was fitting that he finished on vault.  What you don't know is that he had been working his Tsukahara all season and never could quite land it in competition.  I love that he finished his inaugural level 9 season on this event.  When he landed that vault, the tears welled up within me.

In case you are curious, out of 68 gymnasts in his age group, he placed 63rd.  Is that success?  Maybe not by the world's standards.  But the backwards glance and thumbs up he throws to the camera say it all.  He knows what he did. 

That is success and I couldn't be more proud.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Memories

This past Thanksgiving, we packed up our minivan and headed west for some long overdue family time. We just love Thanksgiving in New Mexico! Below are just a few highlights of the many things I was thankful for...

Cousins! (first cousins once removed, that is.)

Reading time.I loved (!) listening to the kids and their beloved Aunt Bambi (not her real name) giggle with delight while enjoying the latest installment of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. She giggles as much as they do.

Cribbage with my daughter. Here she is being instructed by cribbage master Uncle Bob (his real name), who shows no mercy. Her glee at beating the pants off me several games in a row was cute. His glee at her beating the pants off me was a touch humiliating, yet also endearing. The pride of the teacher oozed from his mockery. What I loved most was her progression. At first, Uncle Bob was at her side, helping her choose her cards and count her points. Later, she began to play on her own, but a particularly confounding hand would send her running from the table, cards in hand, shouting, "Uncle Bob!!" Eventually, the time for consultations was past -- she played me mano-a-mano... and held her own.

Sibling love and goofiness. Yes, they bicker. A lot. But, as I always remind them, they love each other. I tell them often that they hit the jackpot with their sibling, because they did. He is a wonderful brother. And she is a wonderful sister. Amidst the squabbles and general annoying of one another, are pockets of sweetness -- shared candy, kind words, and bedtime "I love you"s. And hugs on a mountainside.

Snow. We had to travel up into the mountains to find it, but it was worth the drive. (There's a funny story behind this excursion. Of course - it's us.)

Hi-D-Ho. What can I say about Hi-D-Ho? If you ever find yourself in downtown Alamogordo (but, why would you?), skip the familiar fast food chains and hit this local drive in. You'll be glad you did. Get the Tiger Burger. And the Butterscotch Milkshake. Mmmm. (And wear your stretchy pants.)

White sand.In your hair. And in your pockets. And in between your toes. And in your ears. And in other ...[ahem] ... unmentionable places. If you have never been, you should visit White Sands National Monument. The largest gypsum dune field in the world. The world. It is cool. Bring a couple of sleds. And unleash your children (and yourself!) Don't be afraid to put your 41-year-old body on a sled and head down a steep sandy slope. Remember to laugh as you tumble end-over-end ever so gracefully. Make sure the video camera is rolling.

Running. In the mountains. More on this elsewhere. It was awful and awesome all at the same time.

Woodstock. An impulse buy. Because I had $4 in my pocket. And he makes me smile.

Parents who love you and never stop praying for you.
Big, goofy dogs.More on them in my previous post.

And much, much more. Glorious sunsets. The stars at night. Hot oatmeal after a cold run. Thanksgiving dinner prepared in love. A cat named Smokey. A roaring fire and warm quilts. The neighbors' hysterical pet goat. Hastings. A shooting star just for me.

And Cherry 7-Up.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The dogs of Thanksgiving

Our Thanksgiving was fraught with puppies. Four, count 'em, four puppies. Two big, two small. If you like dogs, my sister-in-law's is the place to be. This plethora of puppies is one of the many reasons my kids LOVE going to Aunt Vangie's. My kids (and my husband) are definitely dog people. Their glee and giggles at the puppies' antics always put a smile on my face. There really is nothing like a dog to bring a special kind of joy to a child's heart.

Quadruple the puppies, quadruple the fun!

First up, there is Snuggles. The miniature matriarch.
She's a slightly tubby chihuahua, with a freakishly long tongue. Needs assistance scaling the height of the couch cushions. Tends to the asocial, but has an affinity for my boy child, who has a gentle way with her.

Then there's Eva. With a face only a mother could love. She's everything you expect a chihuahua to be. Excitable, tremulous, underfoot, very licky. This tiny lady awoke us many a morning with her excitement-induced, snorting asthma attacks. Ah, good times, good times.

And then there are the big dogs: Molly and Ivan.

Molly is a hulking bear of a dog with a bulldog's stance and a bionic tail. Neurotic as all get out -- chews her nails and spends an inordinate amount of time grooming herself. It makes you want to pet her gently and soothe her like a distraught child, "There, there... it's okay... everything's going to be okay." Can you imagine what it's like to wake up each morning to this face ... ... inches away from your face? We can.

Finally, there is Ivan. He's an imposing figure. But here's the truth: it's a facade. Behind the I-could-tear-you-to-pieces-in-a-nanosecond exterior lies the softness of a teddy bear. He's just a huge baby. And he has the whine to prove it. He is the most attention/love seeking, doe-eyed, dog I've ever met. He knows he's found a sucker in my husband, and they have a special bond. I'm not much of a dog person, but it's true -- I have been caught, on occasion, wrapping my arms around this big galoot. Or letting him snuggle up to us while watching the big game.

Thanksgiving in New Mexico wouldn't be the same without these pups. When it's time for us to head home, we are told there is a collective depression that settles upon them.

And the feeling is mutual.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Duct tape summer

First of all, I have to give a hearty thanks to my friend, Hannah, who introduced us to duct tape crafting at this summer's Bible Camp. At the camp, the kids made duct tape wallets such as the très chic one you see here ...

It was a labor-intensive craft for the workers, but oh-so-worth-it, as the kids loved it!

After Bible Camp, we came across this little book at our public library ...

... and she was off!

A few of the summer projects included more duct tape wallets: for Daddy on Father's Day, for Grandpa on his birthday (in Dallas Cowboy colors and with a fresh dollar bill tucked inside), and for her brother, just because.

There was a duct tape flower frenzy, with custom orders being taken for Daddy, Mommy, her brother, her BFF and of course, herself ...

Empty tissue boxes scored at a birthday party became treasure boxes (one for her and one for her BFF) ...

Beloved doll, Julie, received a much needed dresser for her clothing and accessories (at the foot of her fabulous canopy bed, which just so happens to be at the foot of my daughter's fabulous canopy bed) ...

(notice the divider to separate the compartments)

Somewhere floating around is a duct tape ring, which may never be found.

This little horse (found randomly in our sewing table and measuring 1-1/2" high by 1-3/4" long) now has a saddle, blanket, feed bag, and some sort of collar ...

(wearing the saddle and collar)

(wearing the blanket and feed bag)

And last, but not least, some duct tape flip flops (I got to help with these) ...

The girl just couldn't understand why (and was none too happy when) we would not allow her to wear the flip flops outside.

Have duct tape, will craft!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Love to share - locks and locks of it

Oh, this girl. Where did she get her heart? The girl who, when she gets some candy, immediately says, Can I share some with my brother? The girl who jumps at the opportunity to help. The girl who is always on the lookout for gifts for her BFF. The girl whose primary joy is to make things that she can bestow as gifts upon others.

My giving girl.

Most of all, she gives love and I am always awed and grateful for it. I don't deserve it. But I receive it and it makes me yearn for a heart like hers. Just the other night at bedtime she took my face in her two soft little hands and planted a ring of sweet kisses from my chin up around my cheek to my forehead and back down the other side and ending on the tip of my nose. She has no idea what a quiet ecstasy it is, to be the recipient of her gift of love. But I know.

So it is no surprise that as her hair grew heavy and summer fast approached and talk turned to a short summer do, her first thought was, Who can I share this with?

If you have a like-minded little girl, or you yourself are in need of a style update, please consider donating to Locks of Love. Your donation will help provide hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children suffering from long-term medical hair loss. My daughter was thrilled when she received her thank-you card in the mail from the Locks of Love organization.

The hair grows back and the heart grows bigger.

Friday, May 13, 2011

How can you mend a broken heart?

The other evening while my attention was absorbed by a phone call, my sweet girl was sitting quietly nearby flipping through an old photo album. At one point I glanced in her direction and was shocked to see her little body hunched over, weeping. I motioned to her to find out what had happened and she lifted up the photo album to show me this:

(Not his best photo)

It has been 8 months. 8 whole months. And she still dissolves into a puddle at the sight of him. Not all the time, of course. But sometimes, still.

As I held her, I had to let her know that I still miss him, too, and think of him at the oddest of times. Like the other day when I opened up the bathroom cabinet and remembered that we always needed to keep the cabinet shut or he would simply HAVE to check it out, wide-eyed and tentative, forcing his massive girth into the small space because, because .... well, I just don't know why. I'm sure he got trapped in there once or twice. Not the brightest bulb was he. Nope, not too bright.

But gosh, I miss him!

What I wouldn't give right now to lay my weary head on his oh-so-soft, warm, motoring tummy and make him comfort me (you always had to make him) and then laugh when he immediately set about cleaning whatever area I had besmirched with my offensive human touch.

Miss you, Seb ... you big dummy.