Sunday, May 7, 2017

Mormon Prom 2017

A little rain, a bit of mud, lots of pink, a beautiful backdrop, thousands of twinkly lights, and incredible kids were just a few parts that made this year's Mormon Prom memorable.

First of all, the dress. Oh this was a challenge! Back in February, Madi and I spent a couple weeks pouring over pictures and prices on the internet. There were late-nights of frustration when we decided there was just NO POSSIBLE way we were going to ever find a modest, pale-pink, reasonably-priced dress. We settled on trying one of those "made-to-order" sites where we entered measurements for a custom fit. I think I closed my eyes when I finally clicked "submit" hoping that the Chinese company would actually come through and deliver a dress that looked like the picture. Miraculously, the dress arrived a nail-biting 14 days later. Thankfully, the dress was perfect!

The date. Madi was asked by Josh Holtom, a wonderful young man in our stake. They doubled with Mara Berringer (one of Madi's closest friends) and Spencer (one of Josh's closest friends). It was a true date with a special dinner at Lightfoots in Leesburg. I love that it all worked out! The picture of Josh and Madi with the boutonniere are one of my favorites from the night - I had just mentioned something about the huge amount of trust shown during the pinning of a boutonniere. Madi laughed and I think Josh tried to laugh.

Friends. We are so blessed to have an incredible ward with wonderful youth. The Hamilton Ward youth and their friends met at the dramatically picturesque Morvan Park for pictures. We applauded the color coordination of the beautiful ladies.

The theme of the dance was "Enchanted Evening." Antique mirrors, garlands, bottle-lights, and paned glass windows decorated the lodge-like setting.
The food was Pinterest-worthy. I mean, really?! 4000 cake pops in a woodland setting, s'mores bar, and Italian Sodas were some of the highlights.
The personal highlight - besides seeing my daughter and friends enjoying themselves - was a tiny celebration that passed almost unnoticed. My husband ended his year-long, night-time work schedule Friday night. Which meant that for the first time in a year, we attended an evening event together. We chaperoned the dance. We talked with our friends from the ward and stake, peeked in at Madi (only a couple times), sampled the yummy food many times, and celebrated. 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

200 Miles

Last year my girls and I signed up for craziness: running 200 miles as a relay team from Charlottesville to Williamsburg. When my girls rated their most favorite experiences from 2016, this race was at the top of their list. So, we did it again! This year, we added another Abbe girl.
As I ran my miles, I found myself contemplating the ridiculousness of putting ourselves in this "artificial" extreme situation - very little sleep (if any), long miles, and long car rides in between. I'm guessing my pioneer ancestors would scratch their heads in confusion about this activity. But in the middle of the extremes we found laughter, courage, teamwork, and more laughter. And that's why I love it. It's a break from the normal. It's a goal achieved by relying on each other. 
The night time runs included an extra adventure when Elise was startled by barking dogs. I bolted from the car in Mama-bear fashion when I heard her scream, ready to take on the vicious dogs myself. Thankfully, they were fenced. In an act of dedication, Elise decided to finish her leg even after the scary encounter.  
More courage was shown by Jess (AKA bandit runner) who completed her legs in spite of terrible allergies and asthma. That girl pulled out her inhaler, medicated herself, donned the scarf (to the envy of all!) and ran!
There is something beautiful about watching my girls work together and accomplish hard things. One of my favorite moments of the race was catching sight of Amelia, who ran the last leg of the race. Amelia had been in the other van with her best friend, Melanie, for the duration of the race. When I saw her emerge from the woods with a quarter mile left, I felt so proud of her. I was equally proud and touched to see Melanie at her side. They finished the race together. 
Some more memorable moments:
The gratitude I felt as my head hit the pillow, even if the sleep was only for two hours. 
The incredibly rejuvenating feeling of a shower.
Representing OMF again..."See A Cure!"
Sweet Frog before second set of legs.
Enjoying the witty banter of Jess and Joseph.
Crazy man riding a bike past the window of the Iron Horse restaurant (those beads and the bonnet).
Elise's joy at finding a blinkie light during her leg. 
The failure to find breakfast...and the glory of finally eating an omelet and pancakes (post race). Sleeping while waiting for our food to arrive.  
Marci's comment: "I feel so blessed to do this!"
Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. 
High-fiving preschool kids at the end of my first leg.
"Exchange Zone Ahead" signs.  
Cat-fact questions from Van 2. 
Having Luke Sauter drive down in the middle of the night to run 13 miles with our team.  
Peanut Butter M&Ms. 
Madi saying, "You know you're tired when the asphalt feels comfortable."
Here's the dream team (from left to right): Jess, Joseph, Jenny, Luke, Melanie, Amelia, Madi, me, Elise, Cori, and Kyle. Way to go! Let's do it again!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

What it Takes Sometimes

First, we tackled the Duty to God goal: make a well balanced meal for the family. Truman worked next to me in the kitchen, chopping, mixing, and reading a recipe. We learned an important lesson about not using the same cutting board for raw chicken and broccoli. The end result tasted delicious, "Chicken, snap pea, pineapple stir fry in black bean sauce." But the best learning moment occurred when Truman said, "Cooking dinner takes a lot of multitasking." Yes. Yes it does! This validation was wonderful.
Next we pursued the last minute passing-off of merit badges for the upcoming Board of Review. We drove to two different leader's homes and got things signed off on those blue, rectangle cards.

Of course everything took longer than expected. I had left the kitchen in a state of crazy - the cooked-from-scratch kind of crazy. I had left the other kids to fend for themselves for the evening with their homework and instrument practicing. 

And somewhere along the dark, gravel road on the drive back home, I realized that sometimes this is what it takes. Sometimes I have to leave the mess behind. Sometimes I have to leave four other children behind to help one. And I know when my husband is finished with this upheaval of a job, we'll share these jobs and less people in our family will feel left behind. But on this night, it was the best I could do. 

I came home to a mostly clean kitchen (yes, angels live in my house!) and a monumental herd of stuffed animals at the top of the stairs where Charlotte had entertained herself. It was a soul-stirring moment when I realized my children also know what it takes: it takes a family. It takes everyone pulling together, working together, pressing forward together. Sometimes we're the ones in the car being helped. And sometimes we're the ones left behind at home to face the mess. Either way, we need each other. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Two Days with My Daughter

We cross the street, empty but for the parked cars and a few yellow cabs. The city is strangely quiet for a city that never sleeps. We enter Central Park from the west side near a group of runners who stretch and chat. We pass the arbor made from twisted vines thick as a broomstick handles, a whimsical landmark. We join the Saturday morning runners and begin Madi's birthday run along the paved path. She talks with me, and I cannot now recall our topics. But the sun shines. The sky opens above us like a huge blue umbrella. The city skyline marks the permitter. We marvel at the rooftop luxury apartments with their terraces and trees growing in pots. She tolerates my requests for selfies, and do-over selfies. And six miles later, we find ourselves where we started. The street is a little more crowded. The park holds more runners, dog-walkers, and vendors.
I took Madi to NYC for the first time in March 2008. She was eight years old. The highlights of that trip were lunch at the American Girl Store and playing the floor piano at FAO Swartz. It snowed our first night there, large quarter-sized flakes filled the sky soft and white. We purchased "I love NYC" hats because it was colder than we expected.

Nine years later.

We consider going back to FAO Swartz to recreate our first NYC memory. Google informs us the iconic toy store on 5th Ave. has closed.  We look at each across our slices of perfectly thin pizza in disbelief. It is really closed? There is no more FAO Swartz? And there it is. An ending. A symbolic hint of the changes to come over the next four years.  Childhood gone.

I love this girl of mine. I love her sense of adventure, her love of literature, her gift of words, and her companionship. I love her so much that it aches to think of the coming changes. Sad for me. Happy for her.

Which, of course, makes this day all the more significant. It turns our morning run into a snatch of perfection. It turns our pizza eating, cookie munching, and restaurant hunting into treasures. They are memories in the making that will linger longer than a toy store, longer than a trip, and certainly longer than a cookie lasts in my tummy.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Bunnies Bunnies Everywhere!

Picture a warehouse full of long tables, wire cages, and thousands of rabbits. Thousands. There are big rabbits like Flemish Giants that look like medium sized dogs only more fleshy, loppy, and lazy. A young girl lugs one around. Its legs dangle almost to the floor, and its head bobs like a large Raggedy Ann doll. There are the tiny rabbits. The dwarf hotots that look like fancy Guinea pigs wearing eyeliner. And then there are the medium sized rabbits. This is where we fit in, amongst the mini lops with their long wide ears, the dutch with their clean fur lines (like oreos), and the mini rex with their velvety coats. Soon the long tables are filled with waterbottles, towels, hay, grooming kits, and breed standard books.

It is the PASRBA rabbit show. And it is our first year to come as more than spectators and buyers, but as participants in the youth show.

We watch the judging begin...all senior buck dutch rabbits are brought to the judging table. The distinguished, white-haired judge looks with a critical eye over the judging stock. Seriously, he looks as though he's walked out of a masterpiece theater episode with his expression of proper distain. All he needs is a pipe and a tweed jacket. The mini lop judge looks like a California beach girl, down to the sunkissed, straight hair and the sunglasses with blue lenses that perch on her head for the entire six hours of judging.
The rabbits are judged by a "Standard of Perfection." We experience the gamut of results: one disqualification (poor Snoopy!), a third place, a fourth place, and a winner for variety. Amelia's Tetrus, shown below, is awarded first place in Otter category.
The true joy comes in selecting new rabbit purchases. We are so grateful for kind, experienced breeders who take the time to teach and train when we purchase a rabbit. These nationally ranked breeders are willing to invest in the 4H-ers. They lower their prices by more than $100/per rabbit.

We come home with six new rabbits...and a new breed (Netherland Dwarfs for Elise). We also bring home a new set of cages, because, well, SIX new rabbits on top of our somewhat large brood already at home. I have a shocking moment of "What have we done?" when I see our new line up of cages. But then I remind myself that life is short. And bunnies are joy. So the more bunnies, the more joy!

We stop for dinner because everyone is starving. You get really hungry when the day starts at 4AM. We ride the high of the event; everyone has something to celebrate whether a win or a new rabbit. We splurge and purchase a bakery item for everyone!
When we return home, it is late. But even though it has been a long day, everyone rallies to clean the garage to make room for the new set of cages. We sweep, organize, rearrange, and install plastic sheeting. 

Why do we do this? Why do we turn our garage into a barn? Why do we invest time and money into rabbits? Why do we spend an entire Saturday at a rabbit show? Well number one, it's a family activity. Rabbits are the only activity, besides church, that every member of the family can do together. My teenagers are as engaged as my eight year old. Number two, cuteness!! Oh we love these fluffy sweet creatures. Holding rabbits is like holding handfulls of joy, laughter, and comfort.

Meet Lucy. She is my rabbit. Yes, I bought her at the show. And yes, she is as sweet, floppy, soft, and cuddly as she looks.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Non-January

This January has been a non-January. A non-winter. The days have felt like a trick with almost spring-warm mornings and rain that should have been snow.

Even minus the cold and the snow, I feel the need to hibernate during January. It is a planning month for me where I hunker down and try to write, catch up on organizing, and procrastinate taking down the Christmas decorations (one tree is down...two to go).

My greatest source of joy in this troublesome month is snippets with my family. With teenagers and their schedules and O's night work schedule, time together is precious. We spent a couple hours in the National Botanical Garden a couple weekends ago. We were drawn to the tropical plants, the ones that reminded us of Indonesia and Bali. The blossoms were a reminder of warmth and fun and freedoms that we may never experience in the same way again.

I find joy in the snippets with Madi on long runs. My favorite request is, "Mom, will you run with me?" She tolerates my slower pace, my music choice, and usually even lets me pick the running route. It is there on the trail or on a gravel road, our shoes striking a familiar rhythm, that my self-doubt is quietest, and I feel like everything is going better than okay.

I long for a hearty snow. A snow so deep we are stuck in the house together. A snow so deep that time stops, and all we have to do is enjoy each other.

Sometimes it is difficult for me to feel like I'm making much progress on anything during January. I feel like I'm in a flight holding pattern, circling a destination without actually landing. Making plans without making progress. But maybe that's just my hibernating mind speaking.

The joy is there...even if it comes in snippets. Even in this non-wintery month. I just have to look a little harder to see it.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Twins Turn 13

I supposed someday I will need to stop referring to Truman and Amelia as "the twins." But so far, they tolerate (and still celebrate) their constant "twin" status and the reminder that they come into the world together.

Amelia (first by 15 minutes - she likes to gloat). Wow this girl. Beautiful strawberry blond hair (more strawberry than blond) and a personality to match. She bucked the Abbe children trend and chose Oboe as her school instrument instead of strings. Her tone and regular practicing earned her a spot as first chair in the woodwind section in her band class.

Sewing is still a passion for her. She received a sewing table and chair for her room from Santa which allowed her to move her sewing machine out of Truman's room - they were both thrilled. It is not uncommon for Amelia to disappear during the weekend only to emerge from her bedroom a couple hours later with sewing project completed. She made everyone Christmas pillowcases as gifts this year.

She serves as president in her Beehive class which has been a good learning experience for her. It has been fun to watch her develop skills and come into her own in Young Women's.

We definitely recognized signs of the approaching teenage-hood. Amelia has some spunk to her. She is not a push-over and speaks her mind regularly.  She is a second mother to Charlotte and Truman, taking any opportunity to keep them on task and on time. It is not rare to hear her remind Truman "Time to catch the you have your lunch?" in the mornings. She is fully aware of the pecking order in Middle School, and we've had some good conversations about friendships. Although sometimes there are tears, Amelia has a way of picking herself back up and pressing forward. I admire her for this.

Amelia ran with NOVA Acers last spring and fall...joining the ranks of Abbe runners. She has a beautiful stride and a competitor's heart.

Truman (who gloats about his "birthright" status - which drives his sisters crazy!). Wow this boy. We had a rough patch with some depression and anxiety at the end of 6th grade, but you would never know now. He is a happy boy who takes care of his chickens and does crazy things like make up a game of bamboo surfing using the tree-tall stalks down by the creek.

Truman joined a travel soccer team this year. Soccer is his love - he'd play it everyday if he could. When the weather cooperates, he takes a soccer ball in the yard and practices.

He discovered gel this year - and man is this kid cute. Amelia says he's gotten a bit wild at school and has lots of friends. For the first time in my parenting life, I had a call from a teacher at school about some behavior issues. We nipped that in the bud, FAST.  At home, Truman is a HUGE helper. He still says "Yes Mom, I love you" when I ask him to do an extra chore around the house. He and Charlotte get along the best and they can play games for long stretches.

This boy loves his chickens. He invested in a second flock after our tragic encounter with a fox last summer. He feeds them, cleans out the coop, and thoroughly enjoys carrying them around.

Music, music, music. Truman learned the Maple Leaf Rag (original version) this year and keeps working hard with piano lessons. He played his viola in a trio with Madi and Elise during the Christmas season. That was a dream come true...for me.

I love my twins. I love their energy and contribution. I love their optimism and hard work. I love watching them develop their uniqueness while still relishing their togetherness...their twin status.