Friday, November 27, 2015

The Smallest Moment

Thanksgiving is filled with happy moments, isn't it? 

Pie moments 
Whipping cream moments 
 Dessert table moments. My personal favorite this year: cranberry upside down cake!
 Kitchen island overflowing with goodness moment. 
Ice skating with friends moment.
 Charlotte-antics moment.

Truman summed up the day best when he said, "I wish everyday could be Thanksgiving!" My son speaks truth.

Of all these moments, however, my favorite Thanksgiving moment yesterday was so fleeting, I'm sure no one noticed but me. The pies were made, the three tables were set, the house was clean (thank you to my five helpful children!), our friends had arrived, and even the blessing on the meal had been said. Owen and I stood side by side for the slightest moment. Our backs were against the kitchen sink, and I took in the sight. All that delicious (shall I say gourmet?!) food covered the kitchen island, the kitchen bustled with children getting in line to fill their plates, and the family room echoed with the sound of talking and laughter in our home. I squeezed Owen's hand for a second and he squeezed back.

That hand squeeze with my husband signified so much. It was a thank you, a "look how our kids have grown", a "we're getting older but I still love you",  a "how wonderful to have a full house," and a "look at all our blessings!" moment. It was celebration mixed with the kind of gratitude that humbles me and fills my heart to the aching point.

So on this Thanksgiving weekend, I am thankful for all the moments, small and large, quiet and rambunctious, tear-filled and belly-laugh-filled, alone and crowded, and, of course, the tiny but oh so significant hand-squeeze moments that fill my life with joy.  

Happy Thanksgiving. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Lessons from XCountry

For Madi, this was the season of overcoming an injury. After doctor appointments and a brutal needle compression test last spring, we weren't sure what to expect this cross country season. Madi started seeing a chiropractor, and little by little the numbness and lower leg pain subsided. However, the mental struggle coupled with lingering pain made the first few races challenging.

This was the season of personal dedication and discipline. Madi decided to make drastic changes to her "fuelling." No desserts. No candy. No refined starches. More real food. Lots of fruits, veggies, and protein. Her favorite breakfast was her powershake: half a banana, 1/2 cup almond milk, ice, and two dollops of peanut butter. I watched, in awe, as Madi exercised discipline time and time again. No candy on Halloween. No apple fritters when I made them for a party. It was tough. But she was tougher. The coach also modified her workouts, catering them to her (which often meant less miles).

It worked. Madi ran a fantastic final three races of the season at crucial team moments. The Valley girls were seated 5th at Conference, and they needed to be in the top three teams to continue on to regionals. Madi took a tremendous 2nd place finish for her team. At Regionals, they had another surprise finish allowing them to continue to states. 
Here are the Viking girls at Conference, Oatlands, VA. 
This was the season of surprise endings. At States this past Friday, the girls were told by their coaches, "When we crunch the numbers, it looks like you could place from 9th to 2nd place. If everyone on the team has a good could get 2nd." But it was a long shot, at best. They were seated and expected to get to 7th out of 15 teams.
The autumn day started chilly especially with a brisk breeze which sent showers of leaves tumbling from their last perch on trees. But the sun shone brightly in the clear blue sky. Owen took the day off so we could support Madi together. And Glen and Karen came to join us as we cheered on the Valley Vikings. The race snaked across long stretches of meadow, hugged the woods, and charged up hills. In the last mile of the race, Madi had made her way to third place for her team and in the top 25 overall (there were 100 runners in the race). With two teammates in front of her, the Vikings looked like they were having a solid race. 

We had no idea just how good they performed until, to everyone's surprise, they announced Vikings girls placed 2nd overall at state! A huge accomplishment considering they were seated 7th. My favorite moments of the day: seeing the girls from across the field in their final huddle/prayer right before the race, watching Madi charge up the final hill, running alongside Owen as we moved to our next cheering spot, seeing Coach Joan skip and leap when she found out the girls got 2nd place, snapping shots of the girls being interviewed by local journalists about their surprise victory, standing next to Karen in the loooonnnng line to get Madi a shirt, and embracing Madi to celebrate her accomplishment.

Here, the girls are interviewed by journalist about their surprise performance.
These shoes have run many miles together this season.
Celebrating 2nd place - we're counting it as a Viking Victory!

Below is my favorite picture of the season. The girls had just finished their regional meet, securing a place at States. This was their cool down run in the twilight of an autumn evening. 

I've always loved running. I've been running since I was in 2nd grade when my Dad would take me running with him after work. But there's something even more inspiring and satisfying about watching my children run. It's bigger...nostalgic and epic at the same time. It's the archetypal journey coupled with the inner struggle. My girls run faster than I ever have in my life. And although I love to see them and their team succeed, it's the determination and sacrifice before the races--in the training and discipline--that make the victories memorable. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Peacocks and Angels

When my NYC weekend adventure plans were dashed, my plan B was a DC day. At my friend's urging (she actually said, "Your kids HAVE to see this room!"), I took my kids to the Peacock Room in the Freer Gallery. Since it was a Tuesday and a non-school holiday, we had the room basically to ourselves.

The gilded room holds an eclectic collection of vases from Asia and the Middle East with a beautiful Whistler painting as the centerpiece. After a quick look around, we sat on the bench in the middle of the room and thumbed through a book with information about the room. Using the pictures in the book, we played an impromptu game of "I spy" and tried to locate the items shown on each page. The result was a mini treasure hunt for turquoise vases, textured pottery, gold painted butterflies, and peacock feathers (which we found on the ceiling!). The hardest to find was a cat statue, no bigger than a salt shaker, that we finally found sitting at the feet of the woman in the painting.
Next, we selected our favorite item in the room and shared it with each other. Elise liked a purple vase with sapphire streaks trailing down the sides like a rain storm. I love when my children interact and connect with art.  

Madi chose our lunch spot: Sweet Green. According to our GPS, it was only .8 miles away which we decided was a doable distance. When we arrived at the .8 destination, the restaurant was no where to be found. So we continued to the next closest one...another .7 miles away. There were a couple moments when we all seriously doubted if the food would be worth long walk. Charlotte was the hero of the walk, keeping her complaining to a minimum as she held tightly to her McDonalds bag.

Sweet Green did not disappoint! Organic, locally grown vegetables make the most delicious salads. I had the Wild Child Grain Bowl: organic wild rice + organic baby spinach, cilantro, peppers, raw beets, shredded cabbage, carrots, raw seeds, avocado, miso sesame ginger dressing. Delicious!!

Our final stop was to visit an old friend of the American Art Gallery. I visited this sweet angel every week during my lunch break when I worked as an editor on Pennsylvania Ave. She is still as serene as ever, her feathers still so pristinely white. Although she hasn't aged a day, I certainly have! The last time I visited I was so young...probably about 24. I thought my life was so "crazy" and "busy" back then with my full time job and daily commute into the city. How wonderful and strange to bring my children to the museum to see her. My life is still "crazy" and "busy" just in a completely different way.  On a day like this--visiting art and eating good food--I'm grateful for all my crazy/busy, the chance to hold Charlotte's hand for 3 miles, and time spent with my favorite five angels.