The things we do as parents . . . (or is it the things we force our kids to do?)

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Here is my boy at the marathon swim meet we attended this weekend. You see, he swims year-round for a small but very competitive organization. And by competitive, I mean the coaches and the director. Our family–not so much.

This weekend was a big meet for the boy. He aged up last May into the older kids group (11 and over) and this was his first preliminaries/finals meet. This means if you make it into the top 20 during your morning swims, you have to return for finals the same evening.

Friday afternoon, we had check him out of school to swim the longer-distance  events (not a prelims-final thing). That was about four and a half hours at the pool. Saturday morning was over five hours at the pool–after a lovely wake-up time of 6:00 a.m. Sunday morning was only (ha-ha) four more hours with the same pleasant wake-up time.

I feel I should add in right now that this is not a shocking time for Sarge because he wakes up at 5:45 a.m. every day to get the girl off to high school. But for my boy and me, this was painful! I am in charge of getting him on the bus so we drag ourselves out of bed around 7:00 a.m.

Anyway, because they had final sessions, we got to go back not only Saturday night but also Sunday night. My boy was very excited since it was his first time “making finals.” The only drawback was that he only made it in one event each night. And to add insult to injury, the one event he made it in Saturday night was the absolute LAST event of the evening. We had to be at the pool beginning about 5:00 pm and we didn’t leave until after 9:30.

Talk about exhausted!

Because in between the various swim sessions, I worked on my Christmas cards, wrapped presents, did several loads of laundry, and tried to clean house.

I ended up crashing today about 2 p.m. and slept for over two hours. Probably not the best decision as I am sure I will pay for it tonight when I try to go to bed at my regular time.

Plus, I have to confess that I didn’t go to tonight’s finals. Nor did I go to the Friday afternoon session. Sarge took the boy for me on Friday so I wouldn’t have to take time off from work and then again today so I could try and finish all of my various chores.

And don’t even get me started on my poor girl! We have barely seen her this weekend. Which may have been an okay thing as she has finals this week and needed to study. Thankfully, she spent the night with a friend last night so she wasn’t home alone the WHOLE weekend.

During our very numerous instances of waiting for the child to swim, Sarge even whipped out the old adage that we need a weekend to recover from our weekend.

I couldn’t agree more.

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(sorry for the blurry photos--I was working with my phone)

But I do have to brag on my boy just a little. He was a trooper through all this driving back and forth, waking up at the crack of dawn, swimming in a poorly heated venue in the freezing temps, and eating fast good on the run.

AND he improved his times in almost all of his events!

All in all, a very impressive performance by an even more impressive kid.

Now if only we could add one more day to this weekend for ALL of us to rest!

#gohikingjustdontwalkbehindus

1380675_10201550707443974_196310975_nTonight at dinner, I let Sarge and the kids know that I am plunging back into the world of blogging.  And hopefully doing so with some regularity, unlike the past few years. 

Sarge’s one recommendation was to change the name of my blog since there wasn’t a whole lot of policing going on in his life right now. But I’m stubborn and I don’t like change so I’m sticking with what I have. 

I also let them know I created a new hashtag as it related to our hiking adventures (reference title above). I then received a few suggestions from them in return. 

#Ifyouarenotabouttodieitisnotagoodhike was my particular favorite. Ah, my family members can be a little dramatic at times. 

988316_10201550705523926_967171145_nAnyway, completely unprompted by me, the daughter starts to rank our various hikes. So to follow with her idea, I am going to start with her least favorite hike. The irony of this ranking is that the girl didn’t even go on this hike.

You see, this was in October of 2013. Two months prior, my girl had had surgery to repair her torn ACL–an injury which occurred a month prior to her surgery (and a whole other story for another time). So her rationale about this being her least favorite hike is that she wasn’t even allowed to come along as she was still in a knee brace. 

988719_10201550707923986_1062039536_nThis hike was dreamed up by my brothers at the last minute. Yet executed flawlessly regardless of the late planning.

To provide a little background, when my younger brother was in his twenties, he got the hiking bug and ended up hiking the Appalachian Trail as a thru-hiker (i.e. he did it all at once). He then passed on his fondness for hiking to my dad who then started hiking the Appalachian Trail in increments when he was 59. Over the next ten years, my dad would hike big portions of the trail over the summer months. He finished the trail right around the time he turned 69 and it was a huge accomplishment for him.

My oldest brother then got into the whole hiking thing as well and the three of them took both of my oldest nieces on overnight back-packing hikes several times before my dad got sick.

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But because my brothers are all about creating memories and honoring a legacy, they took my boy hiking and Sarge and I tagged along. My oldest brother’s daughters (and a friend) also came along for the ride. And what a ride it was!

 1381355_10201550709484025_1007537970_nNow to be completely honest, I am not the most athletic person. AND I am also smack dab in the throes of middle age. So walking a few miles with several pounds of stuff on my back while climbing up and down mountains was not quite as relaxing and soothing as one might like on a long holiday weekend.

And don’t even get me started on having to use the facilities outdoors for two days straight. 

But I really had a great time. The best part though was seeing what a natural my boy was at all this outdoor stuff as well as how in-shape he was! He carried his own pack and even with all that weight, he was quite a speed demon. He had no issues keeping up with the extremely experienced hiker brother. 

1383163_10201550707763982_1130925935_nThe scenery was beautiful. This shot above was taken off a mountain called Wolf Laurel.

By the way, I didn’t even bring my camera so the majority of these shots were taken by my oldest niece. She deserves major kudos for capturing these moments. 

I was more concerned with surviving while carrying all this junk on my back. Hence, my camera did not make the cut because I didn’t want any more unnecessary weight. 

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Yes, I even had energy for selfies with the second oldest niece. It was this element of fun that made this hike so enjoyable. And also why it is going down in history as the least favorite hike for my girl.

Because she had to miss out on the funny moments like when the coyote was creeping right outside my tent at the crack of dawn. Or how both Sarge’s and my snoring kept both my brothers up half the night–so much that they moved their tents very far away from ours on the second night.  

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So here’s almost all of our motley hiking crew (minus the oldest niece who is the photographer). In order from left to right, Oldest Brother, Second Oldest Niece, Second Oldest Brother, my boy peeking out, me, Niece’s Friend and Sarge in the back. 

Yes, I have included a full view of the man but since his face is in shadow.
I figure his identity is still safe. 

1395899_10201550707283970_808210676_nThe good thing is we are definitely going to do another overnighter hike here in the near future. And this time, it is my plan to take my whole family!

I will also be taking ear plugs for all because I don’t want to hear all that complaining about my snoring again!

You know it’s time to get back to writing . . .

When you create imaginary blog posts throughout your day.

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Like when you are supposed to be working and you are thinking about how you can tell this story or relate that incident, it might be a sign to get back on track.

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When you are supposed to be going to sleep and you think of random hashtags that could apply to a series of posts related to your family foibles while hiking . . .

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#gohikingjustdontwalkbehindus

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#innappropriateconversations

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When you have finally started to re-embrace the love for your photography that you once had lost in the hectic hubbub of life . . .

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Now to be honest, the last two plus years have been a struggle. In October 2012, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer (stage 4) that had spread all over his body, mostly in his bones. After an eight month battle, my whole family had to say good bye to my dad and then go through all the transition and grief that goes with losing someone you dearly love. Even these few words will never seem to encompass all that goes with a life event like this.

Almost immediately after my dad’s death, I also returned to work full-time (40+ hours a week) after working part time (a very strictly maintained 30 hours a week) for over 12 years. Needless to say, that transition was a nightmare. For so many reasons!

So I am social worker by training and by experience. I am in my 22nd year of doing social work and up until last year, I could say without the tiniest shred of a doubt that I loved my job. I loved the kids I worked with, I loved the challenges inherent in this type of work and I loved feeling that through my job, I had responded to a calling from above. But recently, I have encountered that dreaded state of “burnout.”

Yes, as defined by my favorite reference source, Wikipedia:

Burnout is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work. Burnout has been assumed to result from chronic occupational stress (e.g., work overload).

And I am not sure how to handle this feeling of exhaustion and ineffectiveness that I have been carrying like a thousand pound weight on my shoulders.

Then I remember a similar time when it felt another kind of exhaustion and I started blogging. It was the best form of therapy I could ask for and oh, so successful! So I am going to try this again with a few tweaks.

Sarge is no longer on the road or in narcotics or in vice so the police-related stories are going to be sparse. But there is a lot swimming around in my head so here goes.

That’s just how I always roll . . . or fall–take your pick.

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I’m clumsy.

And when I say clumsy, I mean that I am super-duper, breaking-bones, multiple-stitches-on-various-body-parts clumsy.

I’m also used to discovering all manner of bruises on my person due to various brushes with . . . well, I’m not sure what I’m brushing against but I seem to run into a lot of things. Some of these encounters I remember, some not so much.

Case in point, I’m getting out of my car at work this morning and I somehow, quite magically it seems, slam the car door on the back of my calf. You know the part of the door at the base that is extremely pointy, that’s what gets me. And it literally stabs into my leg leaving a nice divot-like gouge (thankfully, no blood though). As of now, 12 hours later, the bruise that is coming in around the injury is a lovely shade of purple. That little incident should have been my hint that things may not be going my way today. But alas, I did not heed this warning.

On my way home from work, I decided (due to general feeling of not getting things done at home) that we were finally going to repaint the daughter’s room this weekend so she could move back into it. You see, for the last year and a half, she’s been sleeping in our guest room/play room due to a leakage issue around her window. We have since had the windows replaced in her room and other parts of the house (in January, no less). But it’s the very end of July and I have still not caulked around the new windows, filled the new nail holes from the installation, nor painted the trim.

So I came home with a mission. I immediately got my girl on board (especially since this is her room), gathered all the various implements and supplies needed, including a small step ladder, and went upstairs to get things going. Now, with this flurry of activity, my boy decided to come into his sister’s room to see what all the fuss was about. It was at this moment that the epic event occurred. I was climbing up the small, two step stool when IT happened.

I fell.

Those two very simple words do not catch the full body of events that transpired. By my recollection, I was standing on the mini-ladder and the next, I was laying on the floor with my girl’s trophies surrounding my head (she was cleaning off shelves and had placed them there). As both kids were in the room, they immediately began spouting expressions of concern.

“OH MY GOD! Mom, are you okay?”

‘MOOOOOMM, are you hurt? Mom, say something!”

And from downstairs, the hubby is yelling “What just happened?”

And there I lay on the floor.

Dying laughing.

And we’re not talking about loud, belly laughs.

Yep, it was the silent laughter that means your body is literally vibrating with humor!

Because in the short time it took to fall and subsequently land, I was also able to assess in a similarly brief period of time that I was not seriously injured. But because I had fallen backward and landed square on my back, I had also had some of the breath knocked out of me. This combined with my laughing meant I could not, under any circumstances, answer any of the questions being thrown my way.

Things did get a bit iffy there for my family. You see, when I laugh this hard, I usually start crying. Which I did this time too. So all they know is that I have fallen off a two-foot ladder, made an extremely loud ruckus in said fall, am laying on the floor unable to speak, and shaking uncontrollably but also crying.

Finally, I inhaled enough oxygen and gathered my wits about me just enough to let everyone know I was okay.

But after that, the questions came.

Oh, not from the kids or the hubby.

From me.

I really could not figure out how this whole thing happened. I asked the kids multiple times what they had seen and their only reply was “Well, you fell. One second you were on the ladder, the next, you were on the floor.” I still cannot fathom for the life of me what exactly occurred. Did my legs give out on me? Did the ladder tip over while I was climbing? What the heck had happened?

So amnesia aside, let’s say an extra prayer of thanks that I did not impale myself on the trophies on the floor, knock my self out, or break the significantly heavy, thick-glass-top, metal frame coffee table that was literally six inches away when I landed in a sprawl.

Let’s also be very appreciative I did not release a slew of F-bombs which I may have done on previous occasions (even when my kids were present). My boy later admitted to me that he was scared on two fronts. One-that I had been seriously hurt. Two-that I would unleash my sailor-like cursing talent (which is a quite questionable ability) and spew a great deal of bad words.

Unfortunately though, I think I may have bruised my lower back/bottom area.

That bruise is going to make for fun sitting tomorrow in my cubicle too!

I knew she was smart . . .

and funny and fun to be around.

But I had no idea how observant and insightful she was.

You see my girl’s in middle school now and her Language Arts teacher required them to submit a piece for Reflections. Reflections is a national PTA contest to encourage children of all ages to explore their own creativity in a variety of methods and media. This year’s theme for Reflections was “Diversity means . . . “

Yesterday, she brought home her submission, which was a poem, and it had won Honorable Mention for her school. And I was amazed, not just about the poem but also about her author’s comments. I’m going to share both as I am blown away.

Just flat out amazed.

Midnight Sun

As the time goes by

And our mind grows up

The world will change with each step

We shall make to

Change the concept

The concept of diversity

Encompasses

Acceptance and

Change

But the world still spins and

Our minds do not understand

That it does not matter

What clothes you wear or

What color you are and

The color you will always be

There is no changing who you are

It is impossible to change who you are

Or who you will be

Just like a Midnight Sun will never shine or

An Eternal Moon will

Never stay for long enough.

You have amazing beauty but,

You will not let it shine for fear

Of being different, fear of being weird.

Thus your beauty will never show

Or your true self shall never shine

Only few will find that

“You can’t spell Beautiful without ‘Be You’.”

Even few find that “Diversity is beautiful.”

And her comments about the poem are “I wrote this poem because I felt that people in middle school do not really know what diversity is. This poem shows why diversity is affecting my peers and me. We really do not know who we are because we hide behind make-up, new clothes and different actions. I have not seen the true character of numerous of my new friends here. This needs to come to the attention of parents, teacher, and students alike so we can show that you do not need to hide from you are. The phenomenon is common among teens and preteens but most people do not know it’s happening.”

It’s a little rough but as this child’s parent, I am just so darn-tooting proud, I can’t even find the right words.

It’s never too late . . .

At least not in this house.

Last year for Christmas, I gave Sarge, who has become our family’s personal chef, a pre-seasoned cast iron pan.

Seasoned Cast Iron

It looks like this (just without the lid).

Now I realize this sounds like a pretty lame Christmas gift. Lest you think I’m one of those people (you know–the kind that only gives disappointingly useful gifts), this was actually requested by Sarge himself.

Over a year ago, I schlepped my way to a store in horrible holiday traffic and perused various types of cast iron cookware. After finally deciding on the item above, I had to then carry this tremendously heavy pan around for awhile as I had a friend with me who had more shopping to do.

Fast forward to last night and guess what?

Sarge used the pan for the first time.

Yes, you read that correctly. THE FIRST TIME!

And no, I don’t mean the first time in 2012–I mean the first time EVER!

Of course, after he cooked a mouth-wateringly delicious flank steak in it last night, I have to tell you that I was torn.

The positive was that the steak was so fabulous, I honestly couldn’t get enough of it.

The negative side of this whole situation was my disgruntlement that it took over a year for him to try it.

When I think of all the tantalizing meals that could have been cooked . . . well, it just doesn’t do to dwell on the past.

So I guess in our house, it really isn’t too late to redeem yourself.

Just being honest . . .

When I started this blog approximately 4 years ago, my husband was a sergeant working the evening shift (2:30 pm to 11:30 pm). And he had been on this shift for the majority of our marriage and our kids’ lives which meant we didn’t see him a lot. He then segued into the narcotics and vice unit so the combination of the working nights and the new assignment meant he came home with some pretty exciting stories.

Now, Sarge is actually a lieutenant and is working an extremely normal Monday through Friday, 8 to 4 schedule. He also is working out of his department’s headquarters in a support position so he doesn’t even wear the full uniform every day any more. This change has been absolutely miraculous for our family in terms of quality time and the kids and I enjoying having a husband and father around more than a couple of days here and there. But it has also meant a decidedly huge lack of exciting material for me to write about (part of the rationale behind my hiatus for 2011).

Little did I know how this “normal” life had impacted my boy. But I had a very hysterical example of this impact today during my boy’s scout meeting. The topic for the meeting was “America” and those who have served our country. And the leader expanded upon those who have served beyond the armed forces to include various occupations like firefighters and police officers.

Yet, when the leader was trying to point out Sarge’s service in the police arena, my boy came back with this comment . . .

“My dad only arrests paperwork in his job.”

As if his current job doesn’t really count in the “service” arena.

Of course, my reaction was ever so mature as I started laughing uncontrollably.

And it certainly didn’t help that I was also the only mom in attendance at this scout meeting.

Then later tonight, when I was telling Sarge about this little incident, all he could say, in a very monotone voice, was “Thanks, son, thanks.”

Maybe it’s time for a transfer there, Sarge.