Friday, May 25, 2007

The longest post ever.....

If reading the randomness of my life mixed with the absurdity of my life combined with the complete insanity of my life sounds like a mighty fine time....then pull up a chair and sit a spell.
If however, you find some degree of priority in accomplishing daily tasks and you do not aspire to waste time....then I suggest you find the exit right about now. I'm about to unleash the fury of Mi Vida Loca from last week. The following pictures took place over the course of 3 days. That's T.H.R.E.E. days people. Not three weeks.

Can you see Jesus proppin' up my backside? Well are not looking hard enough. On your mark......Get Set......GO!

We stayed at a beautiful hotel near the Coliseum where the gymnastics meet was held. It was not terribly family friendly, but this did not deter my young'uns from making themselves right at home.

The player piano was a big hit. It was all Samuel talked about. I personally think it gave him the creeps.

Why is it, that when my family stays at an upscale hotel, we always....ALWAYS, have some form of an ice chest with us? Are we the only ones??? Some say this would be considered "redneck". I prefer the word....."thrifty".

Emma woke up at 2:00 a.m. unable to turn over because of severe stomach pains. Within minutes she ushered me to the bathroom and let me say....once again....she made her momma proud. Can you be proud of the way a child handles vomiting? Well, I was. My girl walked into the bathroom and then in one sweeping motion, removed her top and bottom retainers, knelt down and did her business. No whining. No protesting. No nothing.


Well, I did what all moms do. I held her hair, stroked her face, and then......held my breath with my eyes closed, cause I needed to remove myself from the moment. Cracker Barrel's Chicken & Dumplings were taunting me real bad.

And then I prayed.

Help me Lord. We are all stuck in this hotel room for the next two days. Would you spare us this plague.....please? But God....if you see fit to allow this foul illness to enter Room #419....could you please invoke a sense of urgency for Samuel? Could you "encourage" him to follow in the footsteps of his sister and make a beeline for the toilet and turn from his lazy throw-up


Six hours then pass before dawn breaks. Emma Cathryn is drinking small sips. So good.


We head to Virginia Beach for an absolutely beautiful day, but not before we stopped at the Bass Pro Shop. This is the woman's equivalent to Pottery Barn, Ann Taylor, Barnes & Noble, and Target rolled into one. Throw in some kind of gourmet coffee, a pedicure and a large selection of shoes and handbags and you've got me interested. The Bass Pro Shop is where men become shoppers. They look at guns, fishing rods, pants made of rubber that can be worn in 8 foot of water and guns.

Hannah made an important point to me as we were checking out. You can take a girl to a "man's world" of shopping but evidenced by our purchase we will find shoes, food, or reading material or else the trip is a bust.

Hello cherry sours & flip-flops. This place ain't half bad.

Dad and Samuel headed for the VA Beach boardwalk. Let me give you the head's up about Virginia Beach in case you are planning a trip and you assume based on my visit that it is "family friendly". It is a on soooo many different levels if you know what I mean. We seldom visit anymore but day trips are nice when we can't schedule a real beach vacation to the Outer Banks. We only stayed a few hours and the water was f-f-f-freezing cold but it didn't seem to bother Emma. Remember her? She was the one emptying the contents of her belly just a few short hours ago. Against my better judgement and the fact that my hunger was getting in the way of my mothering skills....she consumed a very large greasy BBQ sandwich from the Dairy Queen and topped it off with a rather large Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Blizzard.

The girl has a cast-iron stomach, I tell you.

After this trip I made a couple of mental notes....

1.) Feed Samuel
2.) Feed Samuel some more
3.) Stop starving Samuel

Just kidding. He does eat. He has inherited the family trait of "bones showing through the skin" from my mother's gene pool.

I was not so fortunate.
My bones are very well hidden.

Samuel actually had an ongoing dialogue with the ocean. It would roll in briskly at the balmy temp of what felt like 22 degrees and Samuel would shake his fist at it and run the other direction. As it would roll away, he would taunt the sea with a couple of karate kicks and warrior yells. It was bizarre and hysterically funny.

As we were traveling back to the hotel, I motioned quietly for Chris to turn around and look at our darling daughters under their blankets. What were they doing, I wondered? Telling sister secrets? Making precious memories? I had to capture this moment of "bonding".

I asked them what was going on....

"Umm...Well....We were uhhhh.....diggin' the sand out of our swimsuits."

Very ladylike.

At the hotel pool...


Homeschool....Marriott style! Not really. It was just homework, because we kept the girls out of school on Monday. We actually don't finish school until the middle of June, but my plans are to find out when grades are turned in and at that point we are basically done. Did I say done? YAHOO!!! WE CAN'T WAIT FOR SUMMER!!!

We spent the Monday at Busch Gardens. It was the first weekday that they were open and because Virginia schools are not out yet, we walked on to all the rides. Awesome.

Road Rage in it's infancy...

Look Gigi! A picture of Mom AND Dad......

Hey, wait a minute...

What's that guy doing in the background???

Another day....another joker.

Do these pictures even need words? Basically the equation is....

Amusement Park =

Funnel Cake


Child Sleeping in Stroller

Every. Single. Time.

Samuel had his preschool ceremony. Bittersweet is defined as "both pleasant and painful or regretful". Wow. That carried quite a punch. I am not sure that I am regretful but I am certain there were painful moments during that ceremonial day. It has always pained me when my children are unaware of the changes that are taking place right under their noses. Samuel has no idea that he will not go back to preschool. He's too young to understand the time table and there is no benefit to try and explain it now. His path will be so different from the girls. I am at complete peace with that, but it does not remove all of the sentiment that I carry in my heart.

Samuel has absolutely loved preschool and thrived in the environment for the most part....if you don't count his obstenance against "coloring" and "sitting" and "waiting his turn". His teacher wasn't the warmest, kindest, sweetest individual that I've trusted my children with but I think I was more intimated than Sam was. He made great friends and all the while I withdrew socially and had no interest in establishing relationships. I felt so out of place. God was truly at work in my heart. Where did my priorities lie? Was I weighing each and every parenting decision with a deliberate and prayerful heart? Even preschool? Was preschool best? I had always assumed "yes".

I only know the process that I have experienced with my older two. I only know about preschool, and teacher gifts, and room mothering, and field trips. I know about lunch boxes, and school supplies and homework and bus stops. I am well-versed in the coming's and going's of public school, preschool, and the circles that envelop both. You have seen me on the PTA, as the Room Mother at least a dozen times, riding the field trip bus, and volunteering in the classroom. I have taught afterschool bible studies, raised questions about the "Holiday Traditions Around the World" curriculum that did not include the true meaning of Christmas, and read....I actually read the Christmas story in public school classrooms. I know about developing relationships with my children's teachers that truly impacted their lives....and mine.

All these things I know. Some of them I will miss.

Walking hand in hand with Samuel as we left the church building, I was taking giant steps away from the only education process that I have ever known.

And you know what? Not one tear. I think that the Lord actually paralyzed my tear ducts. I *always* cry. I couldn't believe it! I am ready.

Thank you God.

But to be honest, I have shed tears throughout this process. I have cried those same tears when I got married, got pregnant, had children, and moved across the country. Each time, I was leaving behind what I knew and surrendering to the unknown... embracing His best.

Goodbye Preschool...


Emma's gym had their end-0f-the-year awards celebration on Tuesday night. This gym has been in existence since the 1974. Same owners. Very small facility and no air conditioning. You heard me. Emma chooses to spend a fair part of her summer hanging upside down in a 100 degree metal building that smells like feet.

That's either determination or lunacy. Some days it's hard to tell which.

Level 4 placed 3rd in the State!

O.K.....last but not least.

We put our house on the market on Saturday, May 19th. While we were out of town we received two offers. We chose one. The market here in VA is slow and there is only one reason why our home sold in record time.

Glory to God.

We found some property that is about 20 minutes from here, close to Chris' job, and not too far from church (or Target). About 7+ acres and a sizeable increase in our square footage, but these features pale in comparison to the fact that we will be living out our dream. Chris and I have always....ALWAYS wanted to live in the country. We love barefoot children, open fields, lightening bugs, and front porches. We have always wanted a place to ride four-wheelers and host get-togethers. Oh yes. And chickens. I love chickens. Not in my wildest dreams did I ever dream it would happen at this time in our life.

We should be closing some time next month and moving in our new home by the Fourth of July! I would love to post pictures but I think I should wait until we close. We have an overwhelming amount of work to do over the next few weeks. Moving means purging and I looking forward to that!

(sigh) That wore me out. I hope you enjoyed the very long, very exhaustive replay of
"Mi Vida Loca".

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Level 4- State Meet and Gymnastics 101

Emma competed in the Level 4 State Gymnastics Meet this past weekend. We had a wonderful time and could not be more proud of her hard work and determination in this oh-so-grueling sport. I'll just say for the record; that for neither love nor money....would you find me "choosing" to subject my body to such cruel punishment, but..... She loves it.

Go figure.

Gymnastics 101
Let me give you the skinny on how gymnastics works. I had no clue. Honestly, I thought you made up your routines, picked the coolest music and the shiniest leotards, did the best tricks you could manage and try to get tha' 10. You know like... the one with the pointiest toes and the most flips wins?

No quite.

That doesn't happen for a long, long time. When you start on the competitive team, every single routine (on all four elements) is identical... all the way up through level 6. There are age limits for the highest levels so that small children cannot compete at the elite level until they are know like 9. Here are the age requirements in the state of Virginia:

Minimum Age For Competition

Level 4- Must be at least 6 years old

Levels 5, 6, & 7- Must be at least 7 years old

Levels 8 & 9- Must be at least 8 years old

Level 10-Must be at least 9 years old

Basically, in the world of elite gymnastics, our 10 year-old Emma, who is working through Level 4, is like Methuselah running a marathon. In her gym however, she is a very average age for her level. Only two girls are younger than her and the rest are the same age or older. In the more competitive gyms, she would be among mostly 6 & 7 year olds.

There are truly two different groups of gymnasts. In one group there are those who are willing to sacrifice everything for their dreams of being an Olympian. 8 hour practices each day, with months spent in training away from home, and even schooling at their gyms. Nothing else matters but gymnastics.... not even donuts. (here was where they would have lost 10-year old me).Then there are those who love the sport, love the challenge, love the team environment and relish in the discipline. Age matters very little and while some may set their sights on college level gymnastics, the Olympics are not the goal. In the same way that every track & field runner doesn't intend on taking on Michael Johnson, there are gymnasts who never consider the Olympics to be their goal. Don't get me wrong, now. There is some dreamin'....

After you go to a beginner or intermediate class for 6-12 months where you learn basic stuff, like cartwheels, proper forward rolls, flexibility, etc. (most girls have done this at some point...),
and you still want to stretch your ligaments into shapes that they do not belong and you desire to fling your body haphazardly into the air AND the idea of several hours of practice still sound appealing....then you move on to Team Level competition. Basically, if your coaches say you are ready to be on the team, you are placed within a certain level based on your ability. This is across the board with USA gymnastics. The same girls you watch on the Olympics all started on the same lower levels and worked their way up.

Level 1-3: Mostly non-competitive. Level 3 will have some exhibition meets (depending on where you live) and maybe even a couple of competitive meets. I don't even know what the criteria is for Level's 1 & 2 but at Level 3, you begin learning your routine for each element. Bars, Vault, Floor, and Beam are all exactly the same. Each time you advance one level the routine takes on a higher degree of difficulty but the actual choreography stays very much the same. For example....on the floor routine, what is a
round-off for Level 3 becomes a round-off, backhandspring for Level 4 and that becomes a round-off, backhandspring, back-tuck for Level 6. Once you reach Level 7 (no easy feat) then you can choreograph your own routines. Now it gets fun. There are required elements on each event, but you have the opportunity to show off your having a floor routine with the theme song from Pirates of the Caribbean and flashing cheesy grins at the judges.

Level's 4-10:
Competitive teams travel to various gyms (usually once a month) and compete with other gymnasts on their same level. Medals are given for each event for their age group and then overall medals are given for the total highest score (40). Competitions are fun. They are. But they are tedious. Remember that all 100 gymnasts are doing the exact. same. routine. as your child. You usually wait about 45-60 minutes between elements before you see your group again. Sometimes this is a great opportunity for nachos. Other times, it is agonizing because your 4-year boy....well your 4-year old boy is present. Enough said. The other tricky part about gymnastics is the judging. What might look like the most exquisite routine you have ever seen, with the highest kicks and the most elegant arms mean nothing. You are not judged for that. The routine has required elements and at this level, your only job is to meet the requirements. No more. No less. The gymnast starts with a 10 and is deducted for each and every mistake. Foot pointed in the wrong direction. Slightly bent leg or arm. Hold particular pose for less than one-1 thousand... two-1 thousand seconds...etc., etc. All these are deductions. Plus the obvious bobbled landings and falls are all taken into account. Gracefulness and sweet smiles are yet to be rewarded. But when they are.....GOLD MEDALS HERE WE COME!!!
Here is a more in-depth look at the requirements. I have mostly no idea what any of it means. I know that Level 10 means you get to wear the red, white, and blue leotards and carry the torches every 4 years :)
Level's 1-6
Level's 7-10

Here are pictures from her meet. We spent the weekend in the Host Hotel because....well we needed a break from all the wiping and cleaning and sweating that made our house presentable for prospective buyers. By the way....the house is sold. Done deal. There are glitches on the other end and none that I care to divulge at this time. Prayers would be lovely.

Anyways....we stayed the weekend and had a marvelous time. I'll post on that too. Too many posts. Too much going on around here. Brain about to explode. I would concede to the fact that writing a 75 minute post about the in's and out's of gymnastics was probably not the wisest use of my time....but I needed to think about something other than contracts and contingencies and where to hide the dirty underwear.

Emma scored her personal best all-around score. She placed 13th on the balance beam out of 51 girls with a score of 9.4...(but who is counting?) Her team scored 3rd in the state out of 28 gyms!!! That is such a great accomplishment!

Emma made a deal with Dad that if she scored 36 or better, he would carry her on his shoulders into the Cracker Barrel....and he did :)


Mother's Day Sweetness...

For Mother's Day, Samuel's preschool hosted a little luncheon and the children presented the Momma's with little gifts. After I read the scrumptious card, he gave me a candle holder with his little grubby prints on it. ADORABLE.

He is serving me. Brownies. I love him.

He took this picture of me opening my gift. Pretty good, huh? Please ignore the 62 year-old hands.

I know...I know....The're all cute.

But sometimes.....they are too cute.

Gigi....we love you!

The following photo montage was an attempt at gaining a blessed photo of Gigi with her grandchildren. These pictures make me smile.

Gigi....We love you... We miss you.... We can't wait to see you again :)