Simple Joys

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Perfectly clean carpet smiled brightly up at us. I hated to step on it with or without shoes. The large sweeping lines across the carpet are starting to disappear. Footprints show our traffic patterns throughout the house. It was inevitable. We live here. Oh but how nice was it to come home to a clean house?

Fresh smells and clean lines. The only things out of place were items we had moved into bathrooms and closets in order to get as much off the carpet as possible. It was a shame to have to disturb the solitude by bringing in luggage and groceries.

Our neighbors were surprised we would give our carpet cleaner a house key and let him go nuts in our house. He’s a very trustworthy guy. We have known his parents longer than we have known him. I work with his wife in Primary. She’s amazing. Their kids are great. He has cleaned our carpets before and he is awesome. We had no problem at all doing what other friends do – give him a key.

The last time he cleaned our carpets we went out to dinner to give the floors time to dry. They weren’t dry when we came back. We all huddled in the master bedroom watching TV before letting the kids run through the clean hall to their bedrooms for bed. This time we had him clean everything, including the bedrooms.

I spent an entire week cleaning the house and getting things off the floor. It was the only thing that kept me from feeling anxious about the trip. My grandma calls it cleaning closets. If she had to prepare a lesson for church she suddenly realized how unacceptably messy her closets were! I felt like I was cleaning closets instead of getting ready for a long trip. It ended up being the perfect way for me to prepare.

I have tried to clean the house before trips before. Somehow it hasn’t worked. I can’t get it all done and I’m still nervous. This time I was very aware someone would be in my house. I knew he wouldn’t look in the bathrooms and they would be full of desks and other tables. It was to my advantage that I get all weird about people seeing my house. Proper motivation helps one move from doing things to doing things well. Every day I told myself I would take a day off and do nothing. After dropping kids off at school I would putter around the house. The next thing I knew I had perfectly organized more rooms.

By the time we were ready to leave on our trip it felt like we were preparing to move. The house was so empty. Coming home felt like we were moving too. I watched my family walk across the parking lot of the Oakland airport. Three of us were rolling a suitcase behind us. Gavin was struggling to carry a heavy duffle bag we had to buy at Target in order to have enough space to fly home. I had this thought of us carrying all our earthly possessions. Only it wasn’t true. It was just a lot of junk we took and acquired on a weeklong trip to Southern California.

Our pristine home with the grass going to seed greeted us warmly. We took several trips to empty the van. I couldn’t handle seeing piles of stuff littering my once perfect home. After dinner … dinner was wonderful! Homemade food with milk was bliss. After dinner we emptied luggage and put stuff away like a well oiled machine.

Today I started putting furniture back in its place. It’s nice to go back to normal but it feels weird too. The house is filling back up. Laundry feels never ending. There are still odds and ends that need to find a place. Toys are stacked in a corner of my room waiting for kids to finish homework. The house may never be perfect again. But hey the carpets look awesome!

One of Those Days

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Somehow I knew when I decided to skip the makeup and threw my air dried hair in a messy ponytail, that I would see people after all.

The kids have been taking longer than ever to come down the path after school. Today was no exception. The playground had cleared except the Kids Club students who have a recess right after school. My kids were nowhere to be found. The street had cleared of cars and I had pulled up to the front row Joe spot. Still my kids were ever so missing.

Heath was sent home early on the insistence of his new boss. Apparently BART was a snarled mess and she told Heath to leave so he could get home sometime today. One of the tracks broke this morning and trains had been single tracking ever since. With nothing better to do but sit and wait, Heath was texting me. I let him know our kids were missing and we agreed I would have to go find them.

A woman and two girls started walking down the path. One of those girls looked very familiar – like my daughter. But why was she walking with a friend and a mom but not her own brother? Where was he? He wasn’t on the blacktop.

I should have gotten out but I let Gwen walk all the way to the car. She said she didn’t know where Parker was. The plot was beginning to thicken. So we walked up the path to find him. Just as we walked through the gates I saw a kid that looked very familiar – like Parker. But he disappeared behind the multipurpose room.

Gwen’s teacher walked out of her building and stopped on the steps to talk to someone. She waved but I wasn’t sure if she meant me or the visitor. Gwen and I continued on toward the office. When we reached the back office door the secretary announced on the PA system for Gwen to go to the front of the school. We walked through the office to the front desk. The secretary saw us and told us Parker had just walked out the door to meet us out front.

We opened the door and he told me he was talking about homework with his teacher. I had suspected as much. Finally all united, we took two steps and then Gwen’s teacher came up to us.

“I have been chasing you all over! I didn’t know where you went. I told Parker to have Gwen paged.” We quickly discussed how it was just one of those days.

Periodically I would get a text from Heath announcing where he was along his route. He was inching his way home. At one point he said he got on a train and wondered how he would get home from that destination. I wondered if I would have to drive out there to rescue him. It’s a nearby city only about 15-20 minutes from where his car was parked at our BART station! He was able to switch trains to the correct route. And he had a seat all the way home. Usually the train ride home is a standing room only situation.

Gavin texted me that track practice was done soon after I left the house. All the lights were green so I got there in record time. Not that it matters. He patiently waits for me by playing games on his phone. Heath texted me that he was arriving at the station. It only took him over three hours to get home from work today.

He called and asked what we should do for dinner. His tone of voice was saying it was a long day and he wouldn’t mind having someone else cook for us. I told him I was planning on making some broccoli stuffed chicken and pasta. Besides that, nobody was supposed to see me today. My tone of voice didn’t project well enough that if Heath wanted fast food he could just bring it home. Vanity won that round. I cooked dinner and luckily nobody else saw me today!

Heath took Gavin to the office supply store. Gavin wrote a report on the Cold War. The final draft is due tomorrow and his teacher expects it to be in a three ring binder. The paper is four pages long, including the title page! A three ring binder? I found an old flexible plastic folder with three brads. Gavin said it had to be a three ring binder.

All my energy is going into not hating that teacher! She is something else. Gavin said, “That’s why I call her the high expectations teacher.” Indeed. Oh this woman makes me crazy. Some of her assignments are great and then she loses me again with her ridiculous expectations. He’s in the 6th grade for crying out loud! She’s lucky he has involved parents. I read his rough draft for grammatical errors then handed it to Heath to check for historical accuracy.

The Cold War according to Gavin was like reading a fractured fairy tale. I decided to add two extra sentences to the ending. Gavin had ended by saying that the Cold War could have been avoided if we would have just talked rather than intimidating each other. If only life were that simple. But it’s not. Politicians don’t just talk and hug it out. And four page reports must be turned in a three ring binder. Some days are like that. Today was one of those days.

The symptoms of laziness and fatigue are often the same

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It’s been another busy Tuesday where I am driving hither and yon all day. I finally feel like I have a minute to sit down and write about Gavin’s track meet yesterday. Apparently Heath took 389 pictures. They’re not all pictures, he shot a lot of video too. Still that’s a lot to look through and I’m suddenly not so inspired to do this post anymore!

The track team lost their ace photographer. I guess one of the parents could always be counted on for pictures but that student had to leave. That’s all I know. I don’t know if they moved on to high school or just moved or what. It was mentioned in an email that the coaches are in desperate need of pictures for the awards ceremony.

One parent uploaded some pictures and shared them. I asked where to upload our pictures since we had a lot. Nobody answered me. There was an email yesterday to everyone saying they have a guy who will put together a slide show for the awards night and to email him. I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a thousand pictures between all four meets. The thought of uploading them to share sounds so exhausting. Maybe tomorrow.

Heath took so many pictures last night partly because of the need for pictures. He tried to take pictures of everybody and not just Gavin. Which is not hard when Gavin only runs two races. He also took a ton of pictures because it was freezing cold! I stayed with the kids in the bleachers. The shade rapidly grew and grew. Heath went onto the grass in the middle of the track for better pictures. He stayed much warmer in the sun!

Even then it wasn’t that warm. Morning fog rolled in as far inland as Sacramento and the sun took several hours to burn through. Burn may not be a good word. The clouds probably just gave up and dissipated on their own because that sun was anything but warm. Then there was a nice stiff breeze from the North Pole (it felt like) that blew and gusted all day long. It was bitterly cold.

I had the presence of mind to put on shoes for the meet since I had worn flip flops to the school to tutor. Just a couple days ago it was a million degrees outside! Winter clothes have been put away but we keep getting the occasional winterish day. Welcome to spring, right? My feet were ice cubes in my shoes because I didn’t have socks on. I had long capris on so about two inches of my ankles were exposed to the hypothermia inducing weather. My lightweight jacket also did little to protect me.

Still, I cheered for every single one of Gavin’s teammates. I know three names. Gavin, Avalon, and Aoife. The rest of the kids get a loud, “Come on (name of school)!” I also cheered for the underdogs; any kids, regardless of school, who were jogging in last place miles behind the other racers. They got a loud, “Come on (name of school)!” and lots of clapping. My hands were red and stinging pretty early on from all my clapping. At one point I was the only one clapping and cheering. I felt idiotic. At the same time these kids are running races. We are sitting in the stands watching it. It seems like the least anyone could do is cheer.

The coaches haven’t sent the email with all the race results yet. Gavin claims he knocked 15 seconds off his mile time. Hopefully that’s true. We sat next to Lizzie’s family after Gavin ran the mile. Lizzie continues to kick butt out there as a runner. She looks so calm as she smokes all the other runners. Gavin looks like he has lead in his feet compared to her. He loves running. All we can do is ask him to keep improving himself. He’ll never be a Lizzie and it doesn’t matter. As long as he is happy, that’s all that counts.

The runners mostly stayed on the grass in the middle of the track. Some were in the stands. The smart ones were in the sun on the grass. Then we started seeing kids in their street clothes. Their races were finished and they were freezing. Gavin said he was given a Capri Sun and a fruit roll up for staying through the whole meet. He thinks about 20 kids received the same thanks.

Gavin asked me for a dollar toward the end of the meet. He wanted a hot dog. I should have let him do it. I found a dollar on the floor in his room earlier in the day. It was still in my pocket. Normally meets end between 6:00 and 6:30. This one ended after 7:00. Heath said the meet was run by the high school track team. I feel much more forgiving for the long stretches between races knowing it was students running the meet. Other than the long delays between races you would never know it was a meet run by kids. They did a great job. Gavin said it was his favorite meet. I can still feel a chill just thinking about it!

We headed out to Baja Fresh for dinner and got home a little after 8:00 pm. The kids were not excited to have to do homework when all they wanted was just to relax and go to bed. Poor Gavin. He put in a 12 hour day! He left the house at 8:00 am and came home at 8:00 pm. Then he had a couple hours of homework to do. But he was a champ and he did it.

My days seem to start early and end late. It’s that busy time of year known as the end of the school year. Academics start to slow down a little but all the activities and extras accelerate. I’m tired and will look at the pictures tomorrow. Maybe I’ll even post some. We’ll see.

Love is Running

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My new favorite song is Polaroid by Imagine Dragons. I love the rolling easy-going flow of the song. And the chorus is addicting. You can’t help but sing along.

All my life I’ve been living in the fast lane
can’t slow down I’m a rolling freight train
one more time gotta start all over
can’t slow down I’m a lone red rover

Lone red rover! I love that line. Red Rover is a game you play with a lot of other people. A lone red rover has got to be someone just running. Running as hard as if they had to break through the line but there is no line so they just run hard.

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Heath got some really neat pictures at this last track meet. I love the blurred background. I love the look of determination on the faces of those runners. That was a really cool meet.

We sat in the bleachers of the high school the meet took place at. Gavin loved the all weather track. The runners gave me goosebumps the way they laid it all out on the track. They ran through the tape at the end of the races even though there was no tape. They gave each race their all.

The last race was the 4×400. Do you write out the numbers or spell the numbers? I don’t know. It’s a long relay race. Our boys were in the lead the whole time. It was awesome to watch. The first kid took off like a rocket and had a huge lead. About the time the second place kid started to catch up our kid handed off the baton and that boy exploded off the track. It was like that for every handoff.

Just as the gap started to close our boy passed the baton. We were screaming like we were at a football game. It was so intense and I could not watch our boys lose any ground. We won! It was the best. I was almost in tears it was so amazing and exciting and just plain old awesome to watch the power of the human body.

Gavin only ran the mile. He was lucky to have been able to run that much. Some kids couldn’t run any race. It was a strange meet with some interesting restrictions. The high school agreed to host the meet probably because their two middle schools could join. But a Lacrosse game was scheduled for 5:00 sharp. We had to be finished by then.

The tight schedule made the meet start thirty minutes early. We were late. The mile is always the first race and I am so grateful we were able to see Gavin run the last half of the race.

We left the elementary school too late. Gwen and Parker took their time coming down the path and then both realized they didn’t use the bathroom first. So I walked them back up and Heath met us in the front. It’s impossible to leave the front of the school. Heath mixed up this meet with the next meet and started driving toward our high school. I didn’t realize in time that he forgot which school it was at. So we pulled in a couple minutes late.

The tight schedule meant strict limits on the number of athletes in each race. There were limits on age and gender. Basically only two kids per race is what the coach told us. It was fine. We weren’t upset. Gavin ran his favorite race. He finished in 6:45.

One thing that did get under my skin a little about the meet was that the hosting high school refused to give up their track team practice. What? So the already restricted races also had lane restrictions. Every so often a wave of high school kids would run through on the outside lanes. The first time I saw this big pack of kids jogging I wanted to yell at them to get off the track. There were kids sprinting behind them. I didn’t realize at first the racers were only on the inside lanes. Still, it was distracting. It was a nice meet in that the setup was great and it was well organized but all the extras going on were weird.

I loved watching all the races. I just love watching people run. Mostly because I can’t run. Can not run. To save my life. Seriously. It’s not like I’m afraid I look stupid. I cannot run. At all. I probably walk faster than I run. So it’s always inspiring to watch other people do what I could only dream of doing. And that last race was like watching the Olympics. Those kids ran with their heart and soul. It was awesome.

Here is a music video I put together of the meet.

Oakland A’s Adventure

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As told by Gwen.

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Dad and I drove to the A’s Game for a long time. First we got there early. So we walked around the stadium.

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When we found the place where we got to watch the game we saw some people doing the bat practice. So we found our seat and sat down. It’s a good thing we were in the shade. But Lauren’s dad was not. They were watching at the gate. I said it was cool.

Finally more people showed up. My other friend, Zoe, sat next to me. We talked for a long time. I saw some more friends. We talked for a really long time then.

Dad bought me a hat at the beginning. The hat is pink. It has the letter A on it. It took a long time for the game to start. Zoe said she was going to take a walk around. When she got back she shared some cotton candy with me. We ate some with our friends. Zoe shared a little bit of popcorn with me.

Dad took me to 7-11 before we drove to the game. We bought popcorn and frozen chocolate and popcorn. No that was at the game. At 7-11 we bought apple juice and I got Skittles. My apple juice bottle has Arial on top. The straw comes out the top of her head. Daddy got a Diet Coke and a Twix.

When the game started we talked a little bit together. We chanted a lot. Towards the end of the game Lauren came to sit next to me. We had a lot of fun. When the Los Angeles Angels scored one more point me and Daddy left.

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During the drive home I slept a little bit. Then I got a little bit bored and I woke up. When we came home I was so sweaty that I fell on the couch. And that’s my adventure. Then end.


Oh but the adventure didn’t end there. Gwen made it home in time to play at the park with some friends from church while I talked with my visiting teachers. She got more treats! Elizabeth bought frozen fudgesicles for everyone. Gwen didn’t eat hers fast enough so she ended up wearing most of it. It’s definitely a bath night tonight!

Heath recorded the game in case they showed up on TV. Their seats were too far up. The A’s were down 6-0 when Heath and Gwen left. When Gwen fell asleep Heath found the game on the radio and realized the A’s were making a comeback. We watched the last bit of the game before I took the kids to the park. The Angels won 6-5. It was close.

Heath also bought them hot dogs and drinks at the game. This could be why no one seems interested in dinner! I was just impressed they stayed as long as they did. Gwen and Parker have zero patience at Gavin’s track meets. Yesterday was particularly painful since we were sitting in the bleachers in full sun. They whined the entire time! I joked that Heath would be bringing Gwen home soon after the game started. They left a little after 3:00. I was quite impressed. Gwen had to find a ball and a baseball mitt to play with at the park. You know, since she’s an expert on baseball now!

Whatever

“You’re not going to like this.”

Not really a statement anyone wants to hear. There are only a couple ways to react. “Oh great!” or “Try me!” I was in the “try me” camp. How bad could anything really be at a Cub Scout Pack Meeting I didn’t even have to go to?

My patience for Cub Scouts was already wearing thin. On Monday one of Parker’s leaders called me. I hate those phone calls. The leaders never seem to understand what they are talking about. They ask me over and over if my kid really did something that I clearly stated, as well as signed in the book, that he did. What would help is if they sign the book every time so I know what’s going on. It’s 30 minutes of my time I could easily be doing anything else. Like putting clothes on. Yes, she called as soon as I got out of the shower and had just wrapped a towel around me.

The leaders ask if I have a minute. I say yes and they immediately launch into their agenda as if I magically have the book right next to the phone. Which is never the case. I always have to search for it. This time I had to wander my house with a towel on my head and another one precariously wrapped around me. I was home alone so really the body towel was more for warmth than privacy.

Then for the next several minutes I am assaulted with questions as if my kid is a liar. She skips through the requirements so fast and in no particular order. My head is always spinning. Parker had taken in his book, like he always does. He also took the list of requirements one leader emailed me. I just jotted them on a piece of scrap paper for my own use. Parker decided to just show his leaders that to let them know what he completed. I was annoyed with the phone call on the very premise that it was completely unnecessary.

But I should have known. The Wolf leader called me regularly to tell me my boys needed to do “just a couple more things to finish.” They would complete that list only to have her call again with a whole new list of “just a couple more things to finish.” She always implied, and sometimes said, that if they completed this “small” list they would get their Wolf. Yet she would call me every other week. I dreaded seeing her name on the Caller ID. I learned to just answer because she never told me via voice mail what he needed to do. I always had to call her for that information.

One of Parker’s Bear leaders emailed me a list of things to complete. I was told if he did those things he would earn his Bear. I should have known there was more. There is always more. By the end of the dizzying phone call on Monday I learned a couple things.

1.  The leaders use a computer program which is why I can never keep up with them by looking in the book

2.  Parker would only earn 3 beads at the Pack Meeting. He can’t earn his Bear until he goes to the next regular Den Meeting in two weeks.

That’s nice. I’m so glad we worked so hard to get it done for the April Pack Meeting only to have it be taken away. Cub Scouts is my least favorite activity behind gouging out my own eyes with a spoon or swimming in a pool of rusty razor blades. Nothing could possibly irritate me more about Scouts. Or so I thought.

I stayed home from the Pack Meeting so Gavin could finish his homework and Gwen could clean her room then clean herself. Heath took Parker. They stopped by the store for cookies since the Bears were in charge of treats. Parker sat with his dad in the back even though he could have, and probably should have, sat with the Bears. Apparently that made him invisible to his Scout leaders. They never called out his name. Why bother when he clearly wasn’t there. At least according to them. Forget about the fact that I specifically said he would be there. They just didn’t look. And he can’t get his beads until the next Pack Meeting. They couldn’t even hand it to him when they finally realized their mistake!

Wow. I could not be more upset. I will have him at least finish the one activity he needs to get the Bear. I will ask for the award because there is no way in hell I am making him go to another Pack Meeting. And forget Webelos next year. I can get behind Boy Scouts. That’s a program that is laid out in a more understandable way. The leaders understand the program and *gasp* actually give a flying fig about the boys. Cub Scouts has officially stomped on my last nerve.

The scary thought is what if this happened to a new member family or anyone that may have taken offense to the point they stop coming to church? I’m pretty peeved but I will get over it.

Out of the Ordinary

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After school I started feeling sick to my stomach. I drove to my mentor’s house for her house sitting instructions. As soon as I walked in the door I asked where the nearest bathroom was. Volcanoes erupted. 

With the glow of sweat on my brow and mascara smeared under my eyes, I walked out for instructions. I think I lasted a couple minutes before Mt. Vesuvius threatened to blow again. Back into the bathroom for me. Several more times. At some point, around the hope that there was nothing left inside me, I was able to drive home. Miraculously I managed to make it through the long 20 minute drive where I spent the next hour or so in my own bathroom.

When life turns upside down and everything is going wrong, there is nothing worse than realizing it’s your own fault.

In my panic over what to do about my volatile stomach, my thoughts fixated on lunch. For my first day of a two week long substitute teaching job I brought restaurant leftovers for lunch. I’m sure I had an ice pack with it which gave me some deranged idea to not put the lunch in the faculty refrigerator. What in the world was I thinking? I heated up the germs and finished eating my burrito while the sixth graders enjoyed their own break. It was only a matter of time before I paid for my stupidity.

At the end of the day, it was only a few hours of the fastest weight loss diet out there. My body began to heal from the war it had just been through. Hope returned. I was grateful I wouldn’t have to call the school begging for a substitute to replace me, the original substitute. The class had no idea. Teaching resumed as expected. A month or so later I was hired to replace that teacher when he accepted a teaching job closer to his home. Life was back to normal and it was beautiful.

As far as I can remember I have never before or since experienced food poisoning. Trust me, the one time was enough. My family had food poisoning once when I was at diabetic camp. They went to a dinner party with some friends. Later they also went to Snelgrove’s Ice Cream Parlor for huge shakes. My sister counted her stomach flops that night and to this day will not go anywhere near peanut butter. She had a bad experience!

Yesterday Gwen announced she wanted to buy school lunch. A friend of hers also was planning on buying that Monday. Gwen doesn’t like buying school lunch because she claims the line is too long and she doesn’t have much time to eat. So money just sits in her account. Finally she was ready to spend some of it.

I went in to tutor that afternoon and could have never predicted the draining evening in store. Gwen was completely normal until a few minutes after we got home. She was in the bathroom sobbing. Parker and I looked at each other and he said, “Well today just took a weird turn!”

Apparently Gwen had had a “major accident.” Since I didn’t see it I was a little shocked. She cleaned everything up and decided on her own to get in the shower. Afterwards we talked and I realized she had diarrhea. I assured her she did everything in her power to take care of herself but just didn’t make it. She was afraid I thought she was a little girl. I eased her conscience as best I could. She said her stomach still hurt and she laid down on her bed where she immediately fell asleep.

The volcano erupted undetected in her sleep. More cleanup. She didn’t eat any dinner. Heath and I asked her about her lunch. She said she had a hot dog that she didn’t like because it had “too much honey in it.” Parker only buys school lunch on Pizza Tuesday. Gwen was the only one sick and with that strange description of her lunch we started to blame food poisoning.

I called the school and left a message that there may have been something wrong with the hot dogs served at lunch. I haven’t heard from anyone. All I can hope is no other student was sick. I tried to be diplomatic and say that I didn’t know if there was anything wrong with the lunch but I wanted to report the issue in case other students had the same fate. I’m curious to know how Allie felt last night. At the same time I tried to downplay the connection between Gwen’s body betrayal and her lunch. No need to create food aversions.

The A’s game shirts were sent home yesterday. I rinsed the dye and set the colors in the dryer per the instructions, hoping against hope Gwen would be well enough by Thursday to wear it. Gavin heard us talking about how we hoped it was food poisoning so she could get better as soon as the germs had left her system. When he prayed over dinner he asked that Heavenly Father make Gwen better “within the hour.” I thought that was a pretty bold request.

Interestingly enough she started perking up within the hour. I’m not saying Gavin’s faith was rewarded. I just think it really was food poisoning. What a blessing! Symptoms left almost as quickly as they came. That’s not consistent with a 24 hour stomach flu. Especially since it didn’t last 24 hours.

She slept through the night with no issues. She felt great this morning so I sent her to school. She requested a ponytail for PE today. As she walked through the gates her ponytail was swinging dramatically from side to side. I could tell she was watching it in her peripheral vision. To see her you would never know anything out of the ordinary had happened yesterday.

Service Saturday

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Saturdays are special days. They are the only days we can all sleep in. Unfortunately my body doesn’t always cooperate. I wake up early when my blood sugar is inconveniently low. Or I wake up simply because my body is used to waking up early and it thinks it’s time. Forget how late I went to bed the night before. It’s 6:00, get up! getupgetupgetup! I do try to sleep in. Some Saturdays I actually succeed.

This was not one of those days. Everyone was up early for an annual community service project. The anticipation was killing all of us. We had no idea what to expect. Jobs range from gardening to painting to cleaning senior citizen homes to scraping gum at the high school and everything in between.

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Over 800 or 900 people signed up to help. More than half of those people were associated with Mormon Helping Hands. (the people in the yellow pinafores) The Lions Club provided breakfast. There were several types of muffins, fresh fruit, croissants, and a variety of beverage choices. I was impressed. The kids were hoping for donuts but were satisfied with the muffins.

It was a very cold morning. We were blessed with rain overnight and the winds were still blowing bitterness into our bones. The kids didn’t seem to mind. Gwen ran around on the grassy hill with a couple kids from our ward. I don’t know what they were playing but at one point I saw Zoe tackle Gwen to the ground. Gwen got up with the biggest smile on her face. Then Jack’s family came and he had to join in on the action. He was chasing Gwen and succeeded in tackling her to the ground. Again, she stood up laughing. Her feet and knees were soaked and she could not be happier to be alive.

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Assignments were kept on the down low. Even when people checked in they were given a number. Then they would go out to the gathering area and look for their bucket that were numbered numerically. Sort of. LaReen and her boys couldn’t find their bucket. It simply wasn’t there. Finally a guy brought it over and they learned they would be mulching. We weren’t given a number. We were the rovers. What that meant was anyone’s guess.

My family was all secretly hoping for a painting assignment. I had no idea what to expect. To be prepared for anything I told the kids to wear clothes they didn’t mind never seeing again. The boys were in pants that were a size too small and therefore several inches above their ankles. They looked ridiculous and I was embarrassed. We all put on ratty old t-shirts and wore sweatshirts we were willing to part with if needs be.

While a couple different people were taking turns saying basically the same thing in a different order with the mic, a young girl came by the rover pop up. She counted our family and another family. Twice. Then she said there were enough of us and she asked us to follow her. The other dad and Heath both asked her what we were doing. She wouldn’t say. I think she didn’t know but still I had to wonder what the conspiracy was all about.

We followed her to bucket #47 where we found out we too would be mulching. Gwen was disappointed we weren’t painting. Heath was grateful we weren’t painting house numbers on the curb. I was thrilled with mulching. I was a little jealous when I found out LaReen’s family would be doing fun gardening. We got to do it too!

Our team leader was a little frazzled. She had just found out that morning she was a team leader. Instructions seemed to be coming in slowly. I felt uncomfortable as I often do in public until I finally learned all I needed to know.

She took our group of 30 or 40 people over to a pile of mulch in the far end of the parking lot and told us to spread it in the flower beds. So half the people swarmed the small flower bed like locusts and started spreading the mulch in a thick layer. Because all we understood at that time was that huge pile of mulch was going to be distributed evenly in that one tiny spot. I felt like an idiot just standing there without a rake or shovel or really any idea of how to fit myself in to help.

The lady came back and told us we were spreading the mulch too thick. It was supposed to last through every island flower bed in the entire parking lot. We would have to fill large garbage cans with the mulch to move it where we needed it. So the shovels dug in between the pile and several cans and a wheelbarrow.

Heath asked specifically if we were supposed to mulch around the trees in the next island over. She said yes. Parker and I started dumping mulch by the trees. As soon as we did she told us no! Only around the flowers! Like I said, it took a minute to get all the instructions. The eager Girls Scouts scraped the mulch into their green buckets. The mistake was immediately forgotten and everyone settled into a pace of either spreading mulch or scooping it up to be moved.

Heath and Parker took a wheelbarrow across the parking lot to a flower bed. There was a dad and his two teenagers working. I joined and somehow found a rake. Finally I felt helpful. We moved from island to island spreading mulch.

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Gavin really enjoyed shoveling to fill wheelbarrows and cans. He was a hard worker. Later that evening he said service made him feel good inside. Now Gavin has a habit of saying what he knows he should say but I still hope he meant it. I think in some ways he did. He really enjoyed working next to other people “having legitimate conversations.”

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Parker looks like he’s goofing off. He really worked hard too. He loved pushing the wheelbarrow back and forth. We were more than halfway through the parking lot before the dad we were working with noticed a whole other pile on the opposite end of the parking lot! There was a lot less time wasted trudging so far to deliver mulch.

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This was pretty much Gwen all day. She was all smiles and loving every minute of helping. She especially loved it when we got close to the end. Not because we were almost done but because there were a lot of tight spots. It didn’t work to spread the mulch with the rakes, so we asked all the kids to spread mulch with their buckets. Gwen got our bucket out and worked shoulder to shoulder with her idols the Girls Scouts.

The buckets were a freebie item given away at checkin. We could have had five buckets but we figured one for our family was enough. And then it came in handy later. We also got a moisture detector that the kids keep putting in my plant. They keep berating me for how low the moisture level is. Heath finally told them this morning to leave me alone because we don’t want the plant to be sopping wet. That’s how the roots go moldy. The plant is fine. They just are very vigilant.

We also got a five minute shower timer. The kids love it. I love it too because it’s amazing to me how long their showers can be. What could take a young boy so long in the shower? He doesn’t have long hair that needs to be shampooed and conditioned separately. He certainly isn’t shaving. Get out of the shower already! I did not enjoy everyone’s quick showers at the same time. Short is good. Niagara Falls cold is not. The boys claimed their showers were cold but their bathroom was all steamy. I have never felt more cold in my life. 

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It was nice when the sun came out. I almost wanted to take my jacket off. When we finished mulching the flower beds another group asked us for help. They were mulching a large area that was tricky because of the steep slope. What made matters worse was they were moving the pile sideways and uphill. It was very ineffective. Heath was pouring wheelbarrow loads at the top and I was working them down. You can see the girl in the blue Pathways t-shirt behind the tree. She was using only her bucket to spread mulch. She was significantly faster than anyone else.

As a reward for a job well done, we went home and took our freezing cold showers. That wasn’t the reward! Then we went out for pizza. That was the reward. The kids worked hard and were thrilled with a trip to Round Table Pizza for lunch.

We were supposed to meet two other couples at 2:00 to clean the church. We finished lunch and decided to go early to knock out as much as we could before anyone else got there. It was interesting to have a cleaning assignment the same day as the community service project.

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Things went extra fast since we couldn’t clean the kitchen or the gym. A wedding reception was scheduled for that night. The Primary room was being prepped for a baptism so we didn’t have to go in there either. I don’t know why Gavin has his hands over his face. Maybe he can’t believe that Gwen and Parker are actually getting along for five seconds.

It was a little awkward when the father of the bride asked me if we were going to come that night. We never got an invitation! I knew his daughter was getting married but I didn’t know it was then. I just gave him a vague maybe and we never showed up because we were super tired after putting in over four hours of service with our kids. Heath’s Fitbit said he walked well over 10,000 steps before 4:00 pm.

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To see Gwen’s energy levels you would never know we had worked all day. She helped in the church. She cleaned the Sacrament prep room. And she dusted in the chapel. The rest of the time she more or less did this. Or followed Parker around driving him crazy. Silly kids.

Service is always its own reward. But today I was thrilled to be the recipient of service. For a year now I have been the Primary secretary. It has been incredibly difficult for me because I am sacrificing my own spiritual instruction to fulfill my responsibilities. This sacrifice has come at a time when I feel I need spiritual instruction the most. I get to enjoy all of Sacrament Meeting and believe me, I do! Then I listen to partial lessons in Primary because I always have to leave early to let the classes know it’s almost time to come back into the Primary room. Primary lessons are simple because they are for young children. And I don’t even get to sit through an entire lesson. Ever.

Today was Ward Conference. The Stake Primary Presidency traditionally takes over Primary. This year they cancelled classes so the teachers could enjoy all the meetings. They also requested only one Presidency member be present. The President was out of town this weekend and the remaining three of us volunteered to help the Stake leaders.

Apparently high councilmen and missionaries were asked to sit with the children to help maintain reverence. I was told I could go. Dumbfounded, I argued a little. “Are you sure you don’t need my help?” The answer was yes. That the Stake leaders do this so we can enjoy the rest of the meetings. Well you don’t have to ask me twice. I took her up on her offer and I found my husband. We sat through the Sunday School portion together with his arm around me. Then I went to Relief Society where I was surrounded by friends. It was a glorious day. I have never been more appreciative of the opportunity to be at church sitting through full lessons.

I didn’t serve all day yesterday for any reward. I do feel richly blessed and rewarded to have been asked to leave Primary today! It was the best.

The Joy of Running

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“Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.” (Jenkins Lloyd Jones supposedly said this in the Deseret News in June 1973, other attributions include President Gordon B. Hinckley)

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Gavin’s second Track Meet was more interesting than the first. It was much more organized and easier to watch the runners. Gavin ran the mile and the 800. The only field event at this Meet was the long jump. Gavin was not asked to participate, which is fine with me. He has only been practicing the long jump with his team for about a week.

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We all felt pride watching our Ward members run even though they attend different schools. Lizzie (pictured above) is a rockstar. The girls mile was the very first race. Lizzie was out in front the entire time from what I could see. Then in the final lap a girl from Gavin’s school started to close the gap. I had chills as I watched the mental struggle between the girls.

My brother used to tell me that running isn’t really about speed as much as it is a mental game. If you can pass another runner you won. The defeat of being passed is real. I thought of all of that as I watched a girl I should have been cheering for pass a girl I know from church. Lizzie dug deep to hold her ground but the other girl passed her anyway. I could see Lizzie’s face fall. I could see the disappointment on her face even though I didn’t have the best vantage point.

When the race was over I saw Lizzie and asked her how she placed. She told me she placed fourth. Her mom and Avalon’s mom both swore at different times that Lizzie placed third. Maybe Lizzie was still upset about being passed and thought she was fourth. Where she placed doesn’t really matter though. Her time is iron clad. She ran the mile in 6:03. Her mom said Lizzie’s goal was to run it in less than six minutes so she was bummed by the extra three seconds. This girl just turned 12 in January! The passing girl from Gavin’s school was not a 6th grader! Every race I saw Lizzie in she was leading the pack.

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This picture is from the other race Gavin ran. He is not the slowest and he is definitely not one of the fastest runners. He ran the mile in 7:01. I think that’s fast and it probably isn’t too bad for a 6th grader. Gavin says there are only a handful of 6th graders on the team. This Meet helped me get a better sense of how fast the runners actually are. They are faster than I thought but what do I know, I don’t run! Gavin was second to last in the 800. One kid dropped out early on because he couldn’t breathe.

Gavin’s coaches suggested he run Cross Country in the fall. We completely agree. He has the body for a distance runner plus he doesn’t sprint like the other kids. Avalon’s mom said she and her husband had to really talk Avalon into Track. She prefers Cross Country. She also ran all the short races at the Meet because she hates running on a track. She prefers the rugged terrain of Cross Country! I thought that was funny.

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I love this picture because you can see Parker’s grubby little hand waving at Gavin, cheering him on. Parker and Gwen were much happier at this Meet. It was nice that everyone was sitting in the grass to watch the races. Last time we were lined up on the asphalt in front of the buildings and the runners ran on the grassy field.

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At first they were playing together in the grass. Parker was rolling around in the grass which was making me sneezy just watching him! I don’t think he has high grass allergies because he wasn’t too bothered that day. I was. Grass, trees, flowers, mold, you name it it makes me sneeze. I hate spring!

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Soon Gwen had a following of little girls. They skipped and danced and ran races in the grass. Gwen is like the Pied Piper when it comes to little kids following her around. She also played with a third grade girl who was not much taller than Gwen. I love watching Gwen instantly become best friends with any girl.

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Parker spent most of the afternoon looking something like this. He brought his Kindle but as soon as we arrived he claimed he couldn’t do anything on it because he didn’t have Wi-Fi. So he asked to play on my phone. As soon as Heath finally arrived I gave up my phone. The sun was really bright which made it hard to see the screen. I was having a hard time texting Heath all the exciting news from the first races he missed. At one point our stuff was in the shade but the shade rapidly moved onto the track. Parker did his best to shade the screen to play games and watch YouTube videos of Studio C.

Toward the end of the Meet Parker announced he needed a bathroom. There was a building nearby that looked like it was for restrooms only. But the doors were locked. We walked on campus trying to find an open building with restrooms. We found the girls restroom next to the gym. I couldn’t figure out how to find the boys room without interrupting a basketball practice. None of the other buildings were open.

After all that waste of time I suggested we walk to the public library. It’s just across the street from where we were. Sort of. If we had gone from the track it would have been faster but we wandered around the school grounds on the opposite side from where we needed to be. When we walked past my van I wished I had grabbed my keys and not just my cell phone. On we walked. It’s a decent little walk to the library. We found a hole in the fence that would make a nice shortcut across the field past the track. We went through it on the way back.

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These are my favorite pictures of Gavin. I think he knows he’s not the fastest or most talented runner but he doesn’t care. He’s part of a team for a sport he loves. We told him early on that running is a team sport but it’s more individual. The race is always against himself. He should improve himself each time and not worry about other people.

Yesterday I was talking to some friends. I feel like the two most important messages from that conversation were that children need to have confidence in who they are and mothers need to have confidence in their parenting skills. How you teach a child confidence is beyond me. I have three confident children. They are so different from each other but they are so good at being themselves. I need to stop worrying about what other people think of me because my kids are doing just fine.

Gavin has always inspired me with his self confidence. In that conversation I talked about the past and how Gavin never really had a lot of friends in elementary school. It never bothered him. It bothered all the teachers but Gavin didn’t care. He just did his Gavin thing and was oblivious to the judgments.

I watch him run and I see that confidence again. He’s not Lizzie but he doesn’t care. He is doing what he loves to do. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Do what you love and thank the Lord for letting you enjoy the ride. 

Spread Thin

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How do the single parents do it? I feel like I keep being asked to be in multiple places at once. I know I’m amazing and all, but I’m not magic. I have not yet figured out how to clone myself to spread around to all the people who need me.

I should feel so flattered that I am in such high demand. Actually it’s exhausting. Yesterday I put out fire after fire it felt like. I’m so tired of emails that I have to respond to and responsibilities I have to be an adult for. Today I sat down for a minute and found my eyes growing heavy. My phone was as far away from me as possible in another part of the house. I was confident the alarm would still wake me up. Giving in to the strange dreams found between consciousness was worth it. My eyes flew open 15 minutes early when I swore I heard the alarm.

Rejoining the land of the living showed I had missed four text messages in my groggy state of mind. One of them was from Emily. She said her kids were sick and missed the last two days of school so Dylan probably shouldn’t go to Scouts. Is it okay if I pick up Parker? Technically yes but it’s tricky when Gavin gets out of Track at the same time in another city!

Normally I would just keep Parker home but he is the Denner right now. He also finished up some more requirements that allowed him to earn his Bear. Next week is Pack Meeting. I needed the leaders to know he was ready for the award. I put in desperate call for help #2 to Heath. He left work early. Just not as early as I would have liked. Getting on BART at 4:20 when both boys get out at 5:00 doesn’t really work. I’m still not magic.

Both boys were incredibly late. They are inconsistently late so it’s extra annoying. One time I sent Parker to Scouts solo so I had to pick him up. I left the house with enough time to get there without traffic. With traffic I was about 10 minutes late. He was the last kid at the church waiting for me with his leaders. I felt bad.

Today his leaders were a good five minutes late even pulling into the parking lot. This happens all the time and I hate it. The timing of Scouts coupled with the inconvenient location means we get there at 3:30. Meetings are supposed to start at 3:45 but the leaders roll in five to ten minutes late … consistently. I really hate it on days like today when I’m not carpooling. It means I get home and pretty much have to turn back around to do it all over again in a matter of minutes.

Gwen and I were at the church ready to pick up Parker at 5:00. I figured Gavin would just have to wait for his dad to get off BART. The Wolves let out at 5:00. The Bears on the other hand, finally emerged 10 minutes later. Why! The good news was that Gavin hadn’t texted that Track was over.

Track is another story. It’s also supposed to end at 5:00. Some days it ends on time and other days it ends 15-20 minutes late. I am not even kidding. Today they were doing team photos. Everyone was supposed to wear their Track uniforms for the pictures and Gavin said practice would end early. Apparently they practiced after the pictures. I think that makes the most sense considering they have another meet tomorrow. It worked out perfectly. Heath was getting off the train about the same time I was heading home with Parker. I don’t think Gavin had to wait long if at all.

Dinner was supposed to be lasagna. I debated over starting it before I left to get Parker. Frozen lasagna bakes with the plastic on for 50 minutes. Not an hour. Then you take the plastic off and bake it until it hits temperature in our case. I think our lasagnas freeze too much or something. Anyway, it’s a process that requires some babysitting. I didn’t start it before I left. We all got home so late that I didn’t even want to bother. I figured the Diet Coke at a restaurant would make me feel better than lasagna served at 8:00 pm.

We went to Chili’s. The service was adequate. I did get my three drinks. Heath only got two. We had to ask for Gavin’s drink to be refilled after the waitress walked by us three times and never noticed. When someone else delivered our food we asked him for the refill. Gavin almost finished his steak dinner before the waitress came by and we asked her for the refill. He finally got his drink. Heath said his fajitas were the best he has ever had there. My Cajun pasta was not that great. I’ve had better. Really all I was looking for tonight was the Diet Coke!

Thursday I get to wake up in the middle of the night to get ready before I wake the kids up at 7:00 am. Gavin and I have to meet with a counselor or secretary. I don’t know who she is. I went in to get an independent study contract and I was given the name and number of a lady who is only there from 7:30 to 11:30 each morning. She requires the parent and student meet with her so she can explain the contract.

I called her this morning to set up the appointment. She wasn’t even there and I had to leave a message! My mornings are timed to the minute. I do not have time to waste calling people who can’t even answer their phone in the few hours they are at work! She called me back a couple minutes before we left to take Parker to school. Since we left late I dropped Gavin off at the bus stop.

We got the appointment set for Thursday. The only day this week Heath can get away with working from home. The appointment should take about 10-15 minutes and we should show up at a time when Gavin won’t be late for school. I’m trying to be nice and just jump through the hoops. Obviously the school wants to discourage parents from taking their kids out of class. But I’m the mom and it is my prerogative to say life is short – play hard. You can’t put a price on memories. I’m taking my kids out no matter the cost. Heath is turning 40 and we decided months ago that if you have to turn 40 you may as well do it in the happiest place on earth.

I don’t know how the single parents do it. Sometimes life gets so busy and parents get stretched as thin as possible. I’m so grateful I have a husband with a flexible work environment that allows him to help me out. I couldn’t do it without him.

Somehow I thought that once all my kids were in school I could relax. So far that is not true. I am busier than ever and I don’t get to do much for me. All my time is sacrificed for others. It’s cool because I have been the recipient of this type of service from mothers like me. Now I’m there paying it forward I guess. I just never thought it would happen to me. I never expected to spend most of my day driving around town. I never expected to have to decide between cleaning my house and breathing in a chair. I never in a million years expected to choose the chair over the house! Somehow the house doesn’t seem to matter anymore. I’m tired.

To all the dual income families and single parent households, my hat is off to you! You rock! I admire your selflessness in sacrifice.

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