Sunday, September 28, 2008

Superstar Saturday

Though I’ve had plenty of thoughts and events about which to write, I haven’t seemed able to get them posted to the blog. I want to change that. My memory is weak and if the experiences of my life aren’t recorded, they will get lost in the shuffle of the madness inside my brain.

This past weekend was all about having one-on-one time with our kids.

Jon and Caleb enjoyed a quick fishing trip to Whistler, Canada. The drive was long and DVD-free but evidently the scenery proved entertaining enough. They camped overnight then spent the majority of the next day learning to fish. The plethora of black bears didn’t frighten Caleb since he’s quite sure they consume only fish and honey. From what I can tell, it was the perfect outing for a dad and his ten-year-old son, even if they did have to give up a Saturday of college football. What was the best part? “Everything!-- except getting wet!” Drenched denim is not only difficult to remove but quite uncomfortable.

While the boys were off having all sorts of manly fun, Alyssa and I were enjoying an outing of our own. The Tour of Gymnastics Superstars rolled into town, fresh from their Beijing Olympic glory. We got tickets with many other gymnasts from her gymnastics team and one mom made matching t-shirts for the girls to wear. The Tacoma Dome was swarming with squealing little girls, all with the same—most likely improbable—dream of achieving their own Olympic greatness.

This is what happens when you have a bunch of gymnasts waiting in a long line. They just can't stay on their feet that long. I remember the feeling.

Because we purchased our tickets as a group, we got to go early and participate in what they called “Chalk Talk.” They had three gymnasts talk to us and take some of their questions. While the three—Shannon Milller, Raj Bhavsar and Justin Spring (remember Prince Harry?)—spoke with the girls, the other members of the cast were hanging out and warming up for the show. We watched Shawn get stretched out, Nastia warm-up on the bars in her slippers and then send a text on her phone, while Alicia Sacramone flirted with one of the guys. Paul and Morgan Hamm seemed to stay to themselves and the rhythmic gymnasts loosened up by bending their limbs into positions no human body should go. It was really exciting!

That's "Prince Harry" with the microphone with Raj on his left and Shannon sitting next to him on the right. You can see Nastia sitting on the stage on the right of the high bar.

The actual show started with a performance from Mitchell Musso of Hannah Montana fame. I’d never heard of him but judging by the crowd of shrieking girls, he’s quite popular. I thought he was alright but I didn’t come for a teeny-bopper rock concert, I wanted to see some flipping. After about three songs, Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin came out to introduce the show. It really was very entertaining. Many of the routines are watered down in difficulty when compared to what was done in competition, but their skills were nevertheless impressive. They had three high bars, which I think is one of the most amazing events, and they’d have up to six guys (two on each) swinging around them.

The show also included a girl’s rock band called KSM. They were MUCH too loud for our sensitive ears so we were careful to plug them through their several songs. What a relief it was to have Nastia follow them with a floor routine to Ave Maria. There were, of course, many numbers with a lot of dancing and some of the gymnasts are certainly more suited for double layouts than they are for hip hop. But overall, I’d give the show two big thumbs-up!

For me, the best part was being with Alyssa and watching her so thoroughly enjoy herself. She hooted and hollered for her idols and was doubling excited to see Shawn Johnson don a “fancy” pink costume and perform to a Hannah Montana song. Her performance included the occasional air guitar strum in between leaps and flip flops. Any budding gymnasts dream, right?

Here is Shawn Johnson doing her "American Woman" routine. Unfortunately, my camera is just no good in big arenas like this. I didn't get very many good pics.

Natalie spent her one-on-one time with a favorite babysitter. She gets her solo time with me every day when the big kids go to school so I didn’t feel too badly about leaving her all day long. And she thought getting the babysitter to herself was quite the treat.

It was a great Saturday for all!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Goooooooo Cougars!

We visited some of our favorite Husky fans at their tailgate party. Ivan has a purple van to use just for these occasions. Now that's what I can a fan!

How high were we?....About this high...

But the view of the field was great!

The "Haka"

It was a beautiful Seattle day.

Controversial or not, WE WON!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Drinking Lemonade

When life gives me lemons, I tend to bite into them whole, pucker my face at their tartness and then complain that my serving of citrus seemed to be purchased in bulk. And because I’m a mom, I get to taste my kids’ lemons too. I suppose using them for lemonade doesn’t cross my mind because at our house, it comes from powdered concentrate.

Last Wednesday, Caleb and I went to the school to meet with the fifth grade teacher that was hand-picked for him last spring. We’ve learned that it’s best for all involved if we lay some groundwork before the school year begins. This helps ease the anxiety and helps the teacher have a better understanding of Caleb. He really is a great kid who has proven he can be successful if we’re all using the right tools as we work together.

Caleb is not a child that is enthusiastic about going back to school each fall. But after our meeting with the teacher, we both came away feeling like we’d just had a nice, cold glass of lemonade. She was easy to talk to, very understanding, reassuring and best of all, knowledgeable. She has a background in special education and seemed especially equipped to help Caleb with his unique challenges. Caleb was able to select the desk he felt most comfortable in and he appeared much less dreadful about the new school year.

Last Friday afternoon, however, a big ol’ lemon landed in our laps. The school district did some last minute realignments and Caleb’s teacher was suddenly asked to teach a 4th/5th grade split class. Knowing that a split class is not best for Caleb, the principal moved him to a traditional 5th grade classroom. My heart stopped when I heard the news. Because Caleb struggles with even minor changes, I knew it would be devastating to him. And it didn’t make the sour situation any sweeter to have the principal “reassure” me that this new teacher was the “second best” fit for him. Nothing like being told your child is getting second best.

Caleb took the news far harder than I could’ve imagined. He was angry and hurt and couldn’t understand how someone could do this to him.

“But Mom,” he cried, “I already met my teacher!”

He ranted about hating the school and never wanting to return. He was so upset that I had to suspend revealing the new teacher’s name for more than an hour. And just in case one lemon wasn’t enough, I handed him a second when I had to inform him that his two best friends had now been moved into that split class that was supposed to be his.

Jon arrived home and after acknowledging his own feelings of displeasure, tried teaching Caleb about what to do with life’s lemons. He explained the old familiar saying and let him know we’d help him make lemonade out of this super sour predicament. Caleb was not in any kind of lemonade-making mood and frankly, neither was I.

Since Monday was a holiday, I called the school first thing Tuesday morning (the day before the 1st day of school) to start the groundwork-laying process all over again. Caleb had to be bribed into going but I knew the visit was an essential step to dealing with his emotions and getting to the point where he could be OK with this change. By the end of our one-hour meeting, we both felt reassured that everything was going to work out just fine. She was very easy (and fun) to talk to and I sensed that she would be more than capable of meeting our needs.

Wednesday morning brought a few nerves but everything went off without a hitch. Both of the kids slipped comfortably back into the school morning routine. I walked them to school and was able to snap a quick picture of Alyssa at her desk. As I left the classroom, I commented to my friend whose son is in the class, “I have the cutest little girl in the whole world!” Every mom feels that way, right?

After school, I met Alyssa outside her classroom to make sure she and her little walking buddies figure out where to meet. In the midst of the madness that goes on outside the school during the first few days, I ran into Caleb’s teacher. She gave me the thumbs-up and gushed about how well he did. She was so warm and friendly that I squealed like a little girl and told her I wanted to give her a hug. She grabbed me and as she squeezed me tight, gave me all sorts of reassurance about how he was going to be just fine. I thought I might cry. But I held it together.

I saw her again after the second day and her report was much of the same. The more I talk to her, the more I feel that this change, as traumatic as it was, just very well may have been a blessing in disguise. She seems to have the teaching style that works best for Caleb and she’s very easy to communicate with, which is always so important for us.

Neither Caleb nor I can take much credit for the sweetness of our lemonade. We both dug our heels in pretty deep on this one. Instead, we give credit to our Heavenly Father who hears and answers our prayers. He knows Caleb and I were both in need of a large glass of lemonade and in order to have that drink, we first needed some lemons. I’m sure this year will have its bumps, just as any school year does, but we both feel at peace and I’ve learned that I shouldn’t be so quick to complain about the sour juice I have to drink and rely more on my faith in He who can help us make it sweet.