Thursday, March 29, 2012

The little helper


Emma is our little helper. You know those kids that the parents swear they have absolutely no interest in TV or hand-held games or any computerized device? Those kids are truly few and far between, in my book. In our family, it's a 1 in 5 ratio...with Em being the odd man out. The kid truly has no interest in electronics. She may be almost exactly like me in every other way...except that.
Instead, the child LOVES to help. It doesn't matter what it is...folding laundry, unloading the dishwasher, snuggling right up against your shoulder just watching whatever you are doing, vacuuming, cooking...as long as she is right there along with someone, she is perfectly content. She craves constant interaction with others. While Abby begs to sleep alone in a room from time to time, Emma can not stand being alone. She desperately needs to be surrounded by people. The funny thing is that it doesn't matter who it is...it can be family, friends, or strangers...the kiddo will adapt to any circumstance as long as there are people she can talk to along the way.
So, we have labeled her as our little helper. If there is anything at all that you need to do, she is the one to ask. She will willingly do any task and often asks to try tasks that are way beyond her level of success. Point in blank: when she asked if she could cut her dad's hair one night...
Now, I have been cutting Jay's hair for years...and Nate's, and Abby's and Emma's most of the time. Coming from a family with a whole lot of chitrens, I learned how to cut hair from watching my own mother do so on countless occasions. And my children have seen me do so numerous times as well. And given the fact that Jay's hair is very difficult to mess up, we gave her a try. She LOVED it. You could see the concentration and joy on her face as she tried to learn ways of a hair dresser.
Mind you, she butchered him up quite a bit. When we finally told her it was my turn to take over, his hair resembled much like that of a mangy pup. But it was easily fixable, and Emma felt so big and triumphant for being able to help along the way. That is truly all that matters there.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Spring Season


The spring soccer season is in full force, meaning that our family is officially having dinner together at the table about twice a week now. Despite our quality family time being spent in the confines of a motor vehicle going to and from various activities, it is quite nice to be back at the soccer fields on these gorgeous spring evenings.
Abby has always been my kiddo that needs to exercise on a daily basis in order to get out the wiggles. I used to make her ride her bike around the cul-de-sac as fast as she could to keep her from climbing the door facings over and over again in the house. I still find toes prints on the door facings from time to time. After being cooped up at school most of the day, she just needs expend her energy. Soccer has been wonderful for her over the past couple of years.
It has also been a lot of fun watching her improve each season and gain more confidence the longer she plays and understands the game. She is a lot less timid starting out this season than I have ever seen her, and she seems to really be learning how to handle the ball better. But more than anything, it has been delightful watching her come into her own from season to season...barreling out of the van and running to the field instead waiting nervously behind for me to walk with her, taking initiative in drills and talking on the field, and even creating celebratory "belly bump" moves with her team mates when someone scores a goal. They just all seem so much older this season in so many ways.
Emma has become quite accustomed to hanging out on the fields during these times as well. She has decided to not take ballet next year and opted instead to start soccer in the fall. As long as we can tone down her feisty-ness and teach her that she can not tackle the person with the ball, I think she'll do well. I do foresee her being quite a scrappy player for a while though.
For right now, she is enjoying just being around the older boys and trying to steal their soccer balls. Flirting at 6?? Good grief. Its amazing how she can literally just adapt and fit in with any age of others she is around. She is such a natural people person.
Austin was trying to teach her some intense strength exercises that make every joint in my body hurt just watching him. When she realized that she has her mother's lack of upper body strength, she opted for her own trick of making all the blood drain to your head.
The Natester resumed the spot he usually encompasses during games: playing someone's phone while periodically yelling "Go Abby!" from the sidelines. The kiddo was having a weird skin color day this day, which is one of the strange oddities that make up the little dude from time to time. Aside from him being a pale shade of grey a lot of the day and being extra tired, he was doing okay. Gosh, I wish I knew what was happening inside his body on days like that.
Abby looked good this game. She made a couple of great passes and a few fast break-aways. I never knew it would be this much fun watching your children compete. There is just something special about being able to cheer for your child from the sidelines and seeing that smile and look of confidence cross their face when they do well. I really do love soccer season.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Fun with friends


Everyone says that if you live in Florida, you either need a swimming pool or become good friends with someone who has one. Thankfully, my best friend here does indeed have a swimming pool. Coincidence? And we spend copious amounts of time at her house all summer long. But when we are at home, we try to make use of what we have at hand...a good sprinkler system and a yearly purchase of a slip-n-slide.
Some of our good friends from the northernland came to visit last week. Their oldest was born 4 months before Emma, and we all hung out together a lot while they were finishing up school here. Alas, due to the transient nature of a college town, our time together was short-lived as a job took them to live in states that have lots of snow each year. The great thing is that Disney and the beach and Gator sports help lure them back down to this area about once a year, and the kids get to rekindle their friendships while the parents catch up on lost time.
It really is unique seeing these little munchkins get excited about seeing their long-distance friends and start playing the moment they arrive here. They played so hard that day that everyone was quite exhausted...but it is never enough time together. It is so much fun to see these true childhood friendships develop.



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The mundane


When I am 90 years old...when my mind and eyesight and hearing have failed me in so many ways...I want so badly to be able to remember the mundane days of our life. The hours that remain the same ticking by day after day, year after year. The times when you are just going through the motions of daily life. Those are the times I want to remember. For those are the times where I think that so much of our love and zeal for life is stored...

In the times when we teach our children to be independent...to develop the skills to take care of themselves one day...

Like brushing their own teeth:

 And teaching them to dress themselves...how ever old they may be before they master the task:

 Having a periodic game of "Who smiles first is the loser"...in which they always start out so strong...
 ...but never win. Its just too hard for them. To maintain a frown long enough to win this game is virtually impossible...
 
 ...unless the parents let them win, which is what they all do most of the time. But sometimes, just sometimes, its okay to let them loose so you can see that genuine smile. The one you love so much.
 When I am 90, I want to remember the initial impossible task of putting on socks...
...especially when there were so many times that they got sidetracked and started an impromptu puppet show...
 
 ...that always concluded with one sock hand eating the other. And always, always ended with laughter and the rolling of eyes of such a mundane task.
 I want to remember the down time of giggling at TV shows right along with the siblings.
 When I am 90 years old, I want to remember this. Because this is daily life. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

February races


I love living in our city. Having lived here for 8 years now, we are quite settled and can't imagine being any where else at this point in our lives. It really is a wonderful little city to raise a family.

One of my favorite parts of our city is the emphasis they have on health in general, but particularly exercise. Being in the deep south, we have about 11 months out of the year that are outdoor-friendly. We have bike lanes throughout most parts of the city and can see runners along the sidewalks pretty much any time of the day. Having the propensity to sit, eat and gain weight pretty easily, I love the constant silent "push" to get outdoors and exercise.

February is a big month for us in these terms...I think in part because it is usually so nice that time of year (barring the thick pile of pollen on everything). The girls have participated in the 5 points of Life Kid's Marathon for the past 3 years, benefiting Life South Community Blood Bank for our area. The kids must log in 25 miles of running throughout the year (the girls log this through their elementary school's morning mile program), and then they finish the last 1.2 miles during this marathon event. It truly is a lot of fun! The school with the largest participating class wins $1000 for their school, and our elementary school has won this for the 7th straight year. Hats off to our P.E. coach for putting so much emphasis on morning mile and this race.
I let Abby run with her buddies since she is older and more experienced in this race, and I ran with Emma and one of her class friends, Corban. It was on that day that I realized how fast my middle-un was! She and Corban ran 1.2 miles in 10 minutes...beating quite a lot of the older kids. I was huffing and puffing by the time we got to the finish line, and those two looked like they could have run another mile.

The very next weekend, we had the Talbot Trot and Fitness Fair at our elementary school. This is one of my favorite yearly events at Talbot. The kids are sectioned by grade levels and then race completely around the school...a pretty long trek.

 Now, I knew from the previous week that Emma was fast, but I had no idea how fast until I saw her cross the finish line in first place for the kindergarten girls. It was one of those moments of complete pride...the kind where you have to work to hold back the tears. To see her succeed greatly in something that she tried so hard in...it was an incredible feeling. To watch her look sheepish, almost embarrassed, as her name was called and she was awarded her medal and stood on the makeshift podium...it's a memory that still makes me smile.
The hard part has come with the fact that her older sister has always been in the top 10 in her class in this race but has never placed. I am not quite sure how to parent competitive jealousy, other than reassuring each kiddo that we all have our strengths and weaknesses and need to support each other regardless of victory or defeat. That's a tough one. As the kids have gotten older, the old adage of "parenting doesn't get easier, it just gets different" has been very true.
Parenting is hard. Rewarding, exhausting, exhilarating, and frustrating...but never easy. I am prayerful that I don't screw up these little humans.

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