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.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Highlight #10

It's taken me a week to catch up. But I've saved my favorite highlight for last.

Highlight #10 - My family!
This crazy, talented, sweet, chaotic, independent, amazing, chicken-loving group of people is my tribe. They keep me busy as I drive them to music lessons, make meals, attend races, and get them to church activities. But I love that kind of of busy!

They also keep me busy with laundry (it is never-ending) which is NOT my favorite activity. Thankfully, they are dish-doers/kitchen-cleaners...even if they do have to be reminded. I also stay busy as I ride the emotional roller-coaster nearly everyday with these teenagers and an eight-going-on-sixteen child. But we're making progress. "I'm sorry" is a common phrase in our house...most often used by me.

These people are my favorite travel companions. They cheer for spontaneous stops on road trips. They support adventurous treat finding. Our favorite treats (besides the Dream Cones) were Schmakary's cookies in NYC and the all-you-can-eat buffet in Dutch county Pennsylvania. Truman ate the equivalent of five meals in two hours, plus three whoopee pies to top it off. He said, "I stopped eating when I started sweating." :) Madi and Elise are my Shakespeare-partners, joining me anytime I have a craving for theatre.

Don't get me wrong, we've had our share of heartaches this year. The fox attack on the chickens was devastating: bloody, terrifying, and tearful. Keeping up with school work and a stressful xcountry schedule nearly did us all in. Dad's new work schedule in April meant that after 4pm (the busiest part of the day) I was a single parent everyday. The strain on the high schoolers (who didn't see their Dad on school days) had a bigger impact than we anticipated. But we've managed. Together.

The biggest blessing of my life is spending time with these people. I feel joy in seeing their progression. They keep me from getting lonely.

And we couldn't have managed half a well as we did this year, without the help from these people:

Grandparents are the best! Their love, support, and hardwork not only bless us, but inspire us to strive to do and be a little better.

Someone said, "Family isn't an important things. It's everything." Yep. That's true.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Highlight #9 - Love

This year I learned about love. It all started on a snowy day in February. I was participating in a training meeting for leadership in the stake, and part of my responsibility was to organize a musical number for the opening session. I asked Jess to play her violin...because well, it's Jess, only the most musically talented person I know.

On the morning of the event, I arrived at 7:30 thinking I was very early and prepared. I was surprised to see people rushing around and seeming stressed when we still had an hour and a half before the event started. By 7:40, I casually asked, "Why are we all hurrying?" My friend Cheryl said, "Because we only have twenty minutes till start time." WHAT!? Yes, it started at 8. And yes, I had told my dear friend, Jess, to be at the chapel at 9AM. Not 8.

My stomach dropped.

I called Jess's cell, and it went right to voice mail. I called her husband's number. He answered. "Hi," I said with a a shaky voice. "Ummm, so I made a big mistake. So you know how Jess is playing for the stake training meeting today? Well...I told her the wrong time. I told her to be here at 9, but actually it starts at 8." Joseph said, "You mean in 15 minutes?" When I confirmed the time, he said something like, "Oh boy. I'll go tell her."

Now it must be recorded that #1, Jess lives 20 minutes away from the building where she was supposed to play. #2 It had snowed that morning. #3 Jess loves her sleep, and I'm pretty sure she might not have even been awake when I called.

I confessed my mistake to Robyn, the YW Stake President, and the Stake President. Then I sat on the stand while the people arrived for the meeting. Robyn used a little stalling tactic and postponed the beginning of the meeting five minutes due "to the weather." I sat there feeling so sick that I had put my friend in that horrible position. I sat there feeling sick that most likely she wouldn't make it in time...and it was all my fault.

During the opening song, the chapel door opened and in walked Jess. She was wearing a long skirt...and snow boots. Her beautiful blond hair was pinned up in a messy bun. And she was wearing her glasses. She hadn't even taken the extra time to put in her contacts. Not a stitch of makeup on her face. All because of my mistake. When Jess walked up on the stand to do her musical number in front of all the stake snow boots and her glasses...I whispered, "I love you." And she whispered back, "I love you more."

In that moment I learned more about love and service than any church lesson ever taught.

Love is selfless. Love is service. Love is without vanity or guile. Love is forgiving even when you have every right to hold a grudge.  Love is friendship. Love is coming late to a stake meeting in snow boots and glasses and playing the violin even when your friend messed up.

Love is road trip partners! Love is running 200 miles together over 36 hours. Laughter and sleep deprivation and lots of chocolate definitely strengthens a friendship. Love is coming to the Miami EANA conference with a 3AM pickup time and return flight on 9/11 - whoa! Love is when two friends accompanied me when I went to get a mammogram because my doctor had found a lump. And then love is when one of those friends stormed back into the office to demand better service for me when the radiologist was rude. Love is invitations to enjoy a backyard fire pit, company on the trail, and phone calls while I drive home from teaching. Love is inviting my girls and I to watch Poldark and Dr. Thorn on a big screen TV. Love is sharing Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas dinner.

I'm so far from being a good friend or knowing how to show love in a perfect way. But for some reason I have been blessed with people in my life who are and who do.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2016 Highlights #6-8

And the highlights continue...

#6 - Loudoun County Fair. When the kids were in elementary school, the county fair was the highlight of our summer. With a four year break because of Indonesia, coming back to the fair grounds was nostalgic and exciting. It was definitely a family affair - a week of baking, competitions, rodeos, demolition derby, fried food, animal responsibilities, and interacting with the club members and the general public.

This year, the girls entered the Miss Loudoun County competition...and Madi won! She spent most of the week handing out ribbons at the various animal competitions. 
#7 - Trip to Cape Cod. I took my children back to the place I called home for five years. I moved to Sandwich, MA my sophomore year and graduated from high school there.  Elise, Madi, and I ran my old route through the quaint Sandwich village, around the old grist mill, and past Heritage plantation. Memories surfaced with every corner and twist in the road.

If I had to name a single favorite moment of 2016, it would be jumping off the Sandwich boardwalk with Madi after a morning run. 
If I had to name a single favorite food from 2016 it would be the "Dream Cones." Three scoops of homemade ice cream are the epitome of summer.
And if I had to name a favorite day of the entire year, it would be the day Shelley and Nelson took us on their boat to a private beach for a BBQ with their family. Toes in the sand. Hamburgers grilled on the beach. A swim to cool off. Buying ice cream from the Ice Cream truck boat. Talking books and comparing teacher and mothering experiences with my dear friend. Best. Day. Ever.
 #8 Running! Besides running from activity to activity, we are definitely a family of racing runners. This fact became even more clear this year when Truman and Amelia joined the ranks of our runners. Truman won the middle school bulldog mile (pictured below with the fastest high schooler in the US Drew Hunter), and Amelia joined the NOVA Acer track and xcountry teams. 

Elise and Madi became teammates as they ran on varsity together. I love to cheer them on. But mostly, I love to watch them cheer on each other. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 Highlights #1-5

With my poorest record of posts this year (a paltry 8 posts), I hardly know where to start. But Elise encouraged me to list the highlights and then press forward with renewed commitment for 2017. Our lives have been full. Full of events, activities, challenges, tears, laughter, homework, deadlines, meals, and celebrations. They've also been full of very mundane moments...moments hardly worth recording. A brief snuggle on the couch, Saturday morning chores, Redbox rentals, sick days, Sunday afternoon walks, daily dish jobs, runs on the trail, and instrument practicing before school. Yet, it seems strange to record the large, rare moments when really our lives are made up much more of the small and mundane.

But pressing forward...our 2016 Highlights #1-5:

1. Madi turned 16, and to celebrate, we went to NYC! From the two Broadway musicals (Lion King and Neverland) to the corner suite upgrade at the Marriott Marquis, the entire weekend was magical.

2. St. Thomas vacation! We cashed in our miles and Marriott points and flew to St. Thomas for my husband's birthday. The snorkelling, kayaking, blue sky, and turquoise water was balm to our souls. My favorite memory is beach hopping from Magen's Bay to Coki beach where my husband snorkelled to his heart's content! Shortly after this trip, our lives changed significantly with my husband's night shift work. The memories of this trip seem very a lifetime away.
3. Bunnies and Chickens. After a year of no animals because of our move and house building, we finally got bunnies and chickens again. We went from zero pets to over 20! The rabbits took over the garage (a fact I'm not thrilled with but have resigned to). Truman helped his dad build a coop for the chickens. We experienced the full array of emotions with exciting baby bunny births and tragic fox attacks. 
 4. A new driver, dating, and prom. With Madi's 16th birthday, all of our lives changed. The biggest change was adding a driver to our family. Madi drives to early morning seminary on some mornings and with some pretty amazing car drop-off-choreography, she often has a car to drive home after school. Oh the joy of having an extra driver! Also, Madi was asked to Mormon prom by Jared Schoeny...a landmark occasion for her as well as me. How can my first baby be old enough to go to prom?
5. Youth Conference at Kirtland, OH. I was called to serve in the stake Young Women's earlier this year. And so far, the most thrilling part of this calling was getting to accompany the youth to Kirtland. It was a whirlwind weekend of spiritual experiences with friends and my girls. We were asked to participate in a reenactment, I taught one of the sessions at the Johnson farm, and Madi and Elise sang with the youth choir. The meeting in the Kirtland temple was what Madi called, "this year's highlight."