Family Moab

Family Moab
In Arches National Park

Monday, August 29, 2011

Marathon Angst

"You will not want to watch that movie tomorrow night," said my husband with narrowed eyes. "I've been here for the past few months, remember?" It was Saturday night, our down night for the weekend, and Rob was trying to convince me to watch "Firewall" with him while I bargained for an early bedtime and the promise of a viewing on Sunday night. I had my weekend run Sunday morning and had to wake up at 5:15 to fit in 11 miles before church. Rob knew that my fatigue on run days would overcome my ability to watch a movie - suspect on the best of days.

We failed in the movie-watching department though I got my 11 miles done. The run seemed ridiculously short compared to the 18 miles of a week ago and to the 20 miles that await next Saturday. I have moved into a strange sort of marathon-training Twilight Zone where 10 miles is a short run, bright pink KT tape wraps permanently around my feet, and the study of electrolyte replacement occupies my free time. When Rob comes to bed (an hour or so after me) he finds me with my feet pre-taped for the next morning, covered in my running socks so the tape does not unravel, and ready to jump out of bed at first light to start gathering miles. Not attractive, but far more comfortable than sleeping in a jog bra and running clothes, as I did when we were camping. There is just no way to discretely get run-ready in a tent at 6:30am!

Fashion issues aside, I've been feeling selfish about the marathon. Training occupies a lot of energy, time and mental focus. Nightly I ice my feet and my knees and reflect that I've passed the point of balance. But we only have three and a half weeks of hard training left, and as a friend observed, "This is obviously important to you." It is. I have been blessed with health and good luck so far in the training process, and I want to prove to myself that I can do this. When I tell people about the marathon they often say, "Oh, I could never do that," and I recognize the words and the tone from the times I responded this way. I shut the door, not wanting to acknowledge the possibility....because then I might have to do it. So now that I have opened the door I deeply desire to walk through it. If I can finish this marathon, what else could I accomplish? And how many more folks might realize that they can do it, too?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

My Kindergartner


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First Day of Kindergarten

In the end, the day was exceptional by virtue of its normalcy. Daniel embraced kindergarten and his new school and proudly took his place alongside his classmates in line. As he trooped through the crowd of parents, peering through blazing sunlight and camera lenses to get a last look at mom and dad, friends of ours called out to him, "Have a good day, Daniel!" He grinned, waved, and disappeared into the school building.

I did not cry, though I came prepared to do so, with waterproof mascara and tissues close at hand. Daniel was happy about kindergarten and not overwrought, and I wanted to echo his emotions and not add my own mixture of joy and nerves. I pray that he is ready, and that he can absorb all the new knowledge and experiences. The teachers are fantastic, the classmates and parents kind, the school exceptional. That portion of the deck is stacked in his favor, but he does have unique challenges to meet and overcome.

When Daniel walked away from us, smiling,into the cool enclave of the school, it vividly recalled a day three and a half years ago when we took him away from another stone building. There were people calling his name them, too, but all were sad, and Daniel himself was full of grief. When Rob carried him out of the orphanage in Guatemala City, his little friends - more siblings than classmates - ran to the barred windows and called "Adios, Danielito!" He was exhausted by tears, his tiny body collapsed on Rob's chest. He knew only five words of Spanish, having been ill and hearing-impaired for most of his twenty-three months.

When I hold the that image in my mind's eye and contrast it with the photo of my tall, happy kindergartner I could bring myself to tears, but I find my emotions tilting to the side of gratitude and amazement. It's a miracle that Daniel has grown so much, learned so much, become so outgoing, and often I feel it is in spite of my fumbling efforts rather than because of them. As Daniel's caregiver wrote in a letter to us, "Daniel is a child of God." I pray that God continues to watch over him - and all the children - and helps them surmount all the challenges in their way.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Camping Gratitude

Marry an outdoors woman. Then if you throw her out into the yard on a cold night, she can still survive.
-W. C. Fields

I paused in my run last weekend, exhaling steam in the cool, moonlit morning. Two deer stopped and stared, no doubt wondering at this ungainly, dirty, and ill-dressed creature who dared to run down their road. After short analysis, they turned and bounded in opposite directions into the woods. I just grinned like a fool, having run by two mountain lakes and greeted the morning at a heightened elevation of 8,300 feet. Though sleep had been elusive I felt invigorated and optimistic. I knew the campfire would be lit and the hot water ready for coffee when I returned, and no greater joys could exist that morning, except possibly to share the day with loved ones.

The full moon was just disappearing when I returned to camp. My husband brandished the last two bags of oatmeal like a man possessed. "You're lucky you got any," he claimed as he handed them over, "the kids were HUNGRY this morning." I examined our happy, grubby children as they sat, full-bellied, amidst their friends. The oatmeal was gone but remains of toasted marshmallow outlined their lips and coated the tips of their noses. My late-night wet wiping skills had obviously been inadequate. They bragged to me that they had slept in until 7:30 (!) and then raced off into the woods to defend their fort against the 'stray teenagers' that were imaginary foe and fort-destroyers for the weekend.

The greatest gift of camping, besides the close-up view of moon and stars, mountain sunrise and sunsets, campfire singing, and shared meals, remains the wild play of the children. Disappearing in one grand troop or in two or three smaller pods, they happily moved logs, brandished sticks, invented obstacles (and wild animals) and - most importantly - rarely returned to the adult hangout all day. Their freedom was broken only by meal times, a hike around the lake, and a few bouts of kayaking. These activities were hardly limiting, as the older children ran ahead exuberantly on the hike and could man or partner their own kayaks. The younger children were a different story (especially on the hike) but still amazingly functional and certainly happy to be in the mountains with their peeps.

I keep a gratitude journal beside my bed at home and really missed having it in the tent this weekend as I had so much to add each night. When I got home - tired, dirty, and bent on unpacking - some of the finer details escaped me but I did write down 'camping,' and 'friends.' I scanned the entries for the past few weeks and noted that "friends' enter into my gratitude practice quite frequently, supporting everything I have done this summer. For example, I have "health and good triathlon - support of friends," "great trip to Cape Cod, visit with friends," "Rob's safe trip to Ohio, help of friends with the kids." As summer winds down I will be sad to say good bye to camping, to swimming outdoors, to children's freedom, but I continue to be grateful for the presence of friends in our lives and for their participation in the fun fall adventures to come.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Campers at Monarch Lake

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chaos or Complexity?

“If you liked Chaos you’ll love Complexity.”
- Washington Post review on jacket cover of Complexity, by M. Mitchell Waldrop

I actually snorted when I read this line on Rob’s book. It sits on his nightstand, where I glanced at it on my way to bed, worn to a frazzle by the all-kids, all-day reality of summer. We are now in the chaotic stage of the summer holiday, when carefully constructed summer routines and patterns give way to a free-for-all of visits, last-minute outings, camping trips and desperate attempts to keep siblings from attacking each other (or at least from attacking with deadly weapons).

It has been almost three weeks since we returned from Cape Cod, and they have been full. Wonderful moments of mutual entertainment and mom-free-time at Museum camp, a delightful visit from Grandma Connie and Grandpa Bill, who not only brought two suitcases full of games and art and books, but spent days sitting down with the children to play, and now preparations for a weekend camping trip at Lake Granby. My five-year-old, who has an obsession with what happens next, has almost given up trying to figure out a schedule. I barely know what the next activity will be on any given day, let alone all of what might happen between breakfast and dinner.

For example, my daughter turned ten yesterday (a decade passed since we brought her home from the hospital? Impossible). We started the day with candles in a donut, went scootering at the park, had karate (all three kids), quick lunch, took the birthday girl and two friends to jump rope camp, prepped bbq chicken dinner, and celebrated end of Tball season for our five-year-old with a family T ball game and picnic. Oops, I left out the pogo stick that came via UPS and the helter-skelter pogo stick practice that followed. A full day, to be sure.

My mother-in-law assured me that I will miss the children desperately when they go to school in less than two weeks. She said I would find the house empty and long for their footsteps and young voices. I assured her that would not be the case, and she just smiled and said she would wait for my call. Yesterday I read the following quote (between getting hit by baseballs as the boys practiced catching):

“As soon as we are alone, without people to talk with, books to read, TV to watch, or phone calls to make, an inner chaos opens up in us. This chaos can be so disturbing and so confusing that we can hardly wait to get busy again.” - Making All Things New, Henri Nouwen

So we’ll see what happens. When chaos gives way to the complexity of school – year schedules, lunches, and homework will I love it? Will my external chaos be replaced by a quiet house and a crazily disorganized interior life? I’m not sure, but I am ready to find out!