Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dangerous Beauty

We’re in our car, the whole family plus our two dogs, on the freeway headed North out of the city towards Flagstaff. And we’re at a complete standstill. No cars are moving. Snow is falling furiously all around us, blanketing the road in soft white. Daylight is fading. It’s cold. Our immediate situation is slightly alarming, but a simple glance out the frosted window reveals a breathtakingly stunning world of snowflakes, almost too pretty to be real. The trees and hills give the impression of absolute peace, quieted by the snow. It is beauty and danger in one. My family is stuck right in the middle.

Our day began like any other Saturday. We rushed to the soccer fields where we spent an exciting morning of play. Afterwards we came home, ate lunch and packed up. Our plan was to spend the long weekend up at the cabin, a favorite family getaway. Shortly before we left our home the skies broke open and let loose a downpour of rain on the Valley. Big, fat drops of steady rain. It rained continuously and impressively on our journey through Gilbert, Scottsdale, Phoenix and well beyond the city limits as we crept North to our destination.

Roughly 40 miles before our exit the rain abruptly turned to snow. Thick, full snowflakes fluttered down from the sky and buried the road at an extraordinary rate. We proceeded on undeterred in our efforts, eager to reach the warmth of the cabin. Little by little, however, the roads worsened, until all traffic lurched along at a stop and go crawl. Several cars stopped altogether, unable to handle the thickening snow-filled street. Other cars, better prepared ones, pulled over and hurriedly strapped chains on their tires. Most of us continued to swerve around on the increasingly icy conditions, hoping and praying to make it.

At 20 miles South of our exit all cars did indeed come to a full halt. I have no idea what caused the total obstruction but it was definite. We sat here for what seemed a very long time. In actuality it was probably close 20 minutes. All we could do was sit and wait and watch. We watched the intimidating clouds loom above us. We marveled at the sheer amount of snow falling, hiding the road we were supposed to travel on. We worried at the speedily fading daylight. We hoped for the best but quietly, mentally made plans in case we came face to face with the worst. Yet, we also enjoyed the exquisite white wonderland growing and expanding before our very eyes. Dangerous beauty indeed.

Miraculously the cars in front of us began to move again. Well, at least some of them did. Other cars remained firmly in place, stuck despite heroic efforts to break free from the icy, snowy cage they found themselves in. All of these stranded drivers were on their cell phones, calling for assistance. Those of us who were able to get our wheels moving eased our way at a snail’s pace, weaving in and out of our fellow travelers forced to remain behind. After initially swerving and skidding without actually producing any forward movement, our tires caught hold of some traction and pulled us out. Whew!!! A BIG sigh of relief was audible from everyone. We joined the train of creeping vehicles and inched our way out of the mess.

The rest of the drive continued at this pace, never exceeding 20 miles per hour. The roads were entirely white, no concrete visible at all. It was slippery, it was scary, it was a tense drive to say the least. But we did finally make it to our treasured cabin, safe, sound and whole. I couldn’t have asked for anything more and I’ll tell you, that little cabin never looked so good as we rounded the corner and pulled in the driveway. Blessed refuge!

The rest of the weekend turned out to be full of unexpected adventure as well. Craziness sprung at us right and left, keeping us on our toes, but also adding to the experience. There is way too much detail to include in this blog entry. I guess you’ll just have to wait for the book! (Yes, I really am writing a book and the happenings of this weekend will be included in its pages).

Friday, February 18, 2011

Chocolate Hog

I pick up a few items from the store for my oldest son’s Crazy Hair Day at school the next day. The plan is to spike it all up using hair glue then color it blue with colored hair spray. Driving home from school I tell him about this which of course makes him want to inspect the products as soon as we get back. Upon arrival we all stumble out of the car and make our way in. The boys both run straight upstairs to see who can catch the first glimpse. My daughter (21 mos), who takes much longer to make her way up two flights of stairs, holds back at the bottom, hoping for me to carry her. “Come on”, I say “You can do it, follow us up.” Then I bound, up eager to witness my son’s excitement.

I enter the room in time to hear exclamations of “Oh this is so cool!” and “I want to color my hair blue too!” and “I can’t wait, let’s put it on now!”. “Whoa boys” I reply, “All this is for tomorrow, not right now. You’ll have all day long to wear it, don’t worry.” We continue conversing about exactly how we should spike the hair and what it will look like. A few minutes later we’re done and head back downstairs. I never even realize that my daughter has failed to make an appearance.

As I walk down the stairs I spot her. She is all the way across the room, on the far side of the kitchen where our table rests. She has pulled a chair back and climbed up. Her face is crammed so full she is unable to close if fully and she is laboriously chewing as fast as she can. When she looks and sees me she chews even faster.

It is just a few days after Valentine’s Day and our sons both returned from their prospective schools with huge boxes full of candy. These boxes have been temporarily stored at one end of our kitchen table. This is where my daughter is now. I see candy wrappers, at least five, strewn about the table in front of her. She has a chocolate trickle running down her face and onto her shirt and she is in the middle of unwrapping yet another chocolate heart.

“Stop!” I yell. “No more candy! Do not put that piece in your mouth!” She eyes me and ever so slowly begins to move her hand, which is desperately clutching the candy, upward toward her mouth. “I said no more.” I say in a low, even tone. I am not messing around. “Put it down”. She continues her slow movement, intent on snabbing just one more bite of yummy. What, does she think if she moves slowly I won’t see her? “Put it down now. That’s enough.” This whole time I am approaching her as I descend the stairs and cross the kitchen. I reach her just in time to snatch the chocolate piece out of her hand as she is about to jam it into her already over-crowded mouth.

My question is, how long did it take her to hatch this plan? Did she make a run for it as soon as I bolted up the stairs? Or did she sit and ponder for a second. “I don’t want to climb the stairs. It takes me forever. By the time I reach the top they’ll all be coming back down again. It happens every day. What should I do? Wait here or begin my climb? Aha! I know! The candy! They left all the precious candy at the table. If I hurry….”

Well regardless of the thought process, hurry she did. We were only away from her for about five minutes, max. Her mouth was so full it was comical. I wanted to burst out laughing. She looked like a cute, blonde chipmunk! I can’t blame her though. Anyone who knows me can surely attest to the fact that she is indeed my daughter. I would have done the same, I think. Chocolate is my great weakness.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Vomit In My Hair

My back aches, my legs are cramped, the house is a mess and I have a small amount of vomit in my hair… And yet, my heart is full and I feel great.

A nasty virus has been making its way through our community. So far our family has steered clear of the bug, until this morning that is, when my baby daughter (21 mos) woke up and promptly vomited. The rest of us are still healthy (fingers crossed!).

Initially I was bummin’ pretty hard upon learning of my daughter’s illness. Firstly for the most obvious reason, a sick child is distressing and difficult to care for. I’ve heard horror stories of this flu bug from others. It’s violent and completely miserable. Enduring such agony yourself is hard enough. Watching your child suffer through it, knowing they don’t understand what is wrong, is heartbreaking. As a mother, I hate feeling helpless as my son or daughter is struggling.

Another reason I was bummed out this morning is because I had to stay home and miss out on soccer. Both my boys have soccer games Saturday mornings and I am even the coach for one of them. I love these mornings. They’ve turned into a fun-filled family tradition for us over the years. Missing out on cheering for my kids and coaching my team is a big disappointment. (My husband did not have the option of remaining at home with our daughter because not only is he also a soccer coach, but he’s the Site Coordinator for the league, making his presence kinda necessary. )

However, I pick up my sick daughter and clean her up. We make our way downstairs and head directly for the couch. She is clearly miserable and wants nothing more than to crumple into my arms. I oblige. I then survey the area. I cringe. The house is a mess. Friday nights are late for us as my husband and I play our own soccer games. Then we’re up and at ‘em again first thing in the morning for the boys’ games. This means that the house is usually left in disarray until I clean it up properly after returning later in the day. Last night the dishwasher was full of clean dishes and due to our tiredness, instead of clearing it out and re-filling it, we just piled up all the dirty ones in the sink. Some got left on the surrounding countertops as well. Yuck. A few toys are scattered about the floor that the kids failed to tidy appropriately and a pile of clean, folded laundry is patiently sitting on the couch just waiting to be put away.

I sigh audibly. I hate messes. I spend a good portion of every day cleaning up after everyone in order to keep a clutter-free house. In reality I fail miserably at this task, having three young, active children plus a husband. But I try, nonetheless. So I’m sitting here holding my precious little girl, getting a good look at my littered house, and every fiber in my being is yearning to break free and clean it all up. I literally have to force myself to remain seated. I know I need to be a good mom and be with my daughter, but I am dying to rescue my house. As I’m contemplating my mental conflict my daughter begins to throw up again. We race to the sink and I hold her frail body over the side as she empties the contents of her stomach. Poor thing.

I spend the next three hours repeating this procedure. I hold her for about 15-20 minutes, then we rush to the sink just in time for her to hurl. I wipe her face off, give her a sip of water, then sit back down. About thirty minutes into the routine I begin to let go of my cleaning obsession and relax. I realize, quite suddenly how fortunate I am at this precise moment. I get to spend uninterrupted hours alone with my baby. This never happens! I never just sit with any of my kids. They are way too active to sit. Not only are we sitting, but I am holding her closely. Her body molds into mine as she lays back against me, completely trusting her being to me. It’s a heartwarming feeling.

Now, instead of feeling anxious about my unkempt house and disappointed at missing out on the soccer games, I feel exhilarated that I have this special time with my child. She needs me and I am here for her, completely and wholly here for her. No distractions, no other obligations, nothing. Right now she is my only concern. I release everything else and relish this bonding. My boys are with their father, I secured another coach to sub for me, and the dirty dishes will still be there later. There truly is nothing hindering me from giving my all to my daughter. So I do.

Three hours later I am still holding her, in basically the same position, thus the aches and pains in my body. We have made numerous trips to the sink (the poor girl is definitely not well) but she has dozed off and been blissfully snoozing for a half hour. I’m so glad she’s asleep. She can finally get a break from the horrendous vomiting. I slowly stand up and carry her upstairs to bed. My heart is full. And I will be here still when she wakes up. In the meantime I’m just going to quickly wash her vomit out of my hair…

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Be A Player

Today’s entry is an invitation for you to participate in some type of physical activity, be it a regular class at the gym, a community sponsored class, or an organized sport. Take your pick: volleyball, softball, soccer, basketball, zumba, tennis, roller derby, lacrosse, boot camp, anything.

I think everybody should play a sport or participate in some type of organized physical activity. The reason stems from my own experience. I play on a soccer team and I have a blast even though I am horrible and have no idea what I’m doing. It’s true. I joined a recreational coed soccer team a few months after my daughter was born. I’ve played three seasons and just began my fourth. However, I have never had a real practice, nor have I ever been taught how to play by a coach. My skills (which are nothing to brag about) have been entirely acquired on the field. I learn as I go. But the important part, and the entire reason for this blog entry, is that it is FUN!

My very first soccer game I was so nervous I couldn’t even see, I was blinded by black spots that invaded my vision. I wasn’t even informed of the rules. I had a general understanding of the basics: no hands, kick the ball towards the goal but I harbored no strategy and I could not get my feet to do what my brain was telling them to do, they just never had to perform in this manner before and were completely unaccustomed to these new moves.

I have slowly gained knowledge of the sport over the months although I’m still very rookie-like in my performance. But for me that’s not the point. You see I know I suck, I know I look goofy, I know I make many mistakes. That’s why I only play recreationally. For me, even though I am super competitive and absolutely love to win, I don’t make soccer about winning. I can’t. I’m not trained and I have minimal experience. I have no foundation to compete from. Instead I have fun. I choose to simply enjoy the game, the exercise, the interaction, the company.

Engaging on a weekly basis with people I would otherwise never see, and some who I would never otherwise meet, does marvels for my well being. There is no pressure to be awesome on my team. We just play. If we win, fabulous, if we lose, no biggie. We’re not there purely for competitive points, we’re there to enjoy, really enjoy, the experience. Win or lose, good game or bad, I always walk away feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, happy and fulfilled. Obviously I would rather win and I strive to play well, but if it doesn’t happen, it’s ok. I still have fun.

Being involved in this type of team effort boosts my morale. I cheer for my teammates, I get excited for the challenge, I burn a lot of calories, I laugh, and heck, I even improve my game and learn a little bit more each time. Plus, as a stay at home mom, the adult interaction is wonderful, an added bonus .

As human beings we crave physical stimulation. We are created as physical beings, built for activity. Our bodies, minds and spirits all respond well to action. Energy is allowed to move freely and abundantly, releasing endorphins and producing health and vitality.

Playing organized sports is more than “just a game”. It’s exercise, bonding, learning, challenging, engaging, rewarding, interactive. It’s emotional, technical and physical thereby involving all parts of your person. Therefore, even if you suck like I do (or think you suck), even if you’ve never played before, even if you don’t know anyone on the team, I encourage you to at least try. You may just find a new love. 

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