Monday, September 28, 2009

The Quest

Ruthie Started gymnastics right around the same time she started 1st grade. I really had no idea what I was signing up for. We had tried the soccer thing, T-ball and dance. Done the recitals. We played the violin for a brief time and went to one of those concerts. But when we stepped into the gym it seemed to all fall into place for her. She had found her passion at the young age of six. In the three years that followed, I never once heard her ask, "do I have to go?" She went quickly from rec to hotshots and from there to level I in a matter of just months. She climbed through the ranks of Level II and Level III. There were tears as the conditioning got harder. There were set backs with a broken wrist and stitches that planted fear in her mind. She got through all of that and still never asked, "Do I have to go?" All you parents out there know what I mean...your child is so excited to begin that new thing. You get out that birth certificate, stand in line, get signed up. You rush to buy the right shoes and the proper outfit. Then, inevitably, the shine wears off and you hear, "Do I have to go?"

When your child starts gymnastics, there is really not much to go watch. They go in and they do what looks to you like playing for 45 minutes to an hour. There's no game on Saturday morning. There is no recital at the end of the year. But, one day, you get that invitation to be on team and your daughter's face is so bright it could light a football stadium at midnight and you just know that the hours you have spent fighting the other children to behave in the lobby so she could do her thing have all been worth it. And so, after 3 years of hard work, we have reached her first year of competition and I have to tell you...I'm nervous!

Because she had just gotten her cast off and was not yet ready to compete, Ruthie had to be a cheerleader at her first meet, which for a gymnast is sacrilegious. But, she went in looking at the bright side which was that she would get to observe how it all happened without all the nerves. Her team did well, she had fun. After awards, her coaches awarded the team award which was a banner to the gymnast who scored the highest ALL AROUND. As we walked to the car, I looked down at her and I said, "what do you think? Pretty cool, Huh?" And oh, child of mine said, "Ya, I'm gonna get me one of those banners." And so we begin the quest...

Black Jack AT The Beach, Daytona, FL

Gymnastics is a confusing sport. There are deductions I could never begin to understand. If they stay on the beam, it looks good to me...however, apparently mommy's opinions do not matter. So, her first time out the gate, she scored:

Vault 8.9 (10th)
Bars 9.05 (2T)
Beam 8.25 (9th)
Floor 8.7 (4th)
All Around 34.9 (7th out of 12)

Now, they break them into levels and then age groups so in her age group, there were 12 girls. She got some medals. I smiled and was very excited for her. I say, "wow! Great job...that was so much fun!" She says, "People did better than me, next time, I'm going to be better." By "people" she means her team mates and I know that this is really what is bothering her. Ruthie has a drive that won't quit. She can't help herself and understand it but, I want her to be proud of where she came from and remember that it is her first meet and everyone else's second. I want her to remember that she overcame a broken ankle and put in extra time to get to this meet. She's having none of it and so, we will see what the next meet holds for her...Stay tuned.

The boys have also begun their fall activities. They are off and running with flag football. More on that, later...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dancing Queen

I have started helping my friend Lisa with the kid's choir at our church. When I say helping what I really mean is the I am there for crowd control and as a sounding board for her. I have no music back all...but, I can manage children. Since she was very small, Ruthie has always enjoyed singing and acting in front of crowds. She has always been very entertaining at the preschool musicals each holiday and at the end of the year. She has always worked very hard on memorizing all of the motions and whenever possible, she has tried out for a sung solos at church. So, this year, Lisa decided it was time to take it up a notch with the choir and do a musical. This woman pulled off the the cutest show I have seen in quite a while and my beautiful and multi-talented daughter had a dance number...the show was so good that there is little room for improvement...if I do say so myself!

Happy Birthday, Rusty!

Rusty is EIGHT! I can't believe it! I remember just a few short weeks before he was born walking from the back of my house to see Ruthie sitting in the family room watching a Baby Motzart video and my eyes began to water because I wanted just a little more time with her before the new baby came. Now, all these years and 3 children later, I cannot imagine a house with just one child. I can't imagine the meals, the laundry, the vacations, the car rides. The birthdays! We are our own party. But, continuing with this year's theme, Rusty picked one park and I shared it with him.

He chose Magic Kingdom and with him, It wasn't the race cars that we rode over and over. Well, it was, we rode them 3 times but we also frequented the tea cups...who knew? I had to convince him to ride Pirates of the Caribbean and The Jungle Cruise but I think the cruise ended up being his favorite ride of the day. You see, it's not as if he's never been it's just that Rusty is our easy going, go with the flow child. It seems now that I have been with him by himself, he probably had opinions the other times we went as well. He probably enjoyed some rides more than others, but being the kind, reserved person he is, he just went with the rest of us making no waves along the way.

Truth be told, the high light of his day (among all the "War Eagles!" and sharing a moment with a fellow Tiger and birthday boy at the race track) was shopping. I know. However, he knew weeks ahead of time that he would be able to pick out one toy under $50 as part of his day. As soon as we walked in the gates, he wanted to buy his toy. I convinced him to shop along the way not making his decision until it was time to leave the park. I mean, Disney World, no stroller...who want to carry a bag all day? So, we shopped on Main street, in Fantasy land, Frontier land and in all the lands between finally settling on a set of Puffle pins for his lanyard. On top of that, the park stayed open until 10pm but around 7:00 he looked up at me and said, "OK, I'm done now." Really? "yah, I just want to stop at McDonald's on the way home." It's his birthday and I am fully prepared to shut the park down but I can't compete with the pull of a little college football with his daddy before bed.

The best parts of the day for me were the car rides...just talking to him about nothing really...just that time where it's me and him and there are no other voices chiming in and no fighting in the background. I also really enjoyed seeing the park decorated for fall...that was a first for me. Rusty was awesome about letting me take his picture all day and he was so sweet, constantly asking what I wanted to do. We did just about everything and I got to know my new 8-year old Rusty just a little bit better. You can't buy days like this.

So, at the end of a wonderful day with my oldest son, we wander back out to the car and we stop for burgers and fries at the golden arches. We walk into the chaos that is our home, and flop onto the couch to finish out the day with a little SEC football. Happy Birthday, Rusty!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summer's End.

OK, SO as the mother of four beautiful, talented and so wonderfully spirited children, the end of summer is just a little bit bitter and a whole lot sweet. We spent the summer carting kiddos to and from swim lessons, swim team, gymnastics, camps, VBS and friend's houses. Starting school doesn't stop any of the carting but it does allow me some moments of peace in between, an hour of quiet here and there where I can focus on my work or enjoy one of my shows or work on a project that just hasn't gotten done.

Where did the summer go? Well, Flip and Ellie spent their afternoons in swim lessons where as in any other situation, Ellie got away with goofing off in one class while Flip got away with goofing off in another. It's a catch 22 having adorable children! Flip looks like a little Easter egg in his brightly colored swim cap and stark white skin and Ellie looks like an island beauty with her very bronzed skin, blond locks and stark blue eyes. Anyway, ask Ellie if she can swim and she will tell you yes, however, throw her in the pool and you will watch her sink to the bottom! Flip is...getting there...darn the ears!

Ruthie went to LSU, which you already read about for gymnastics camp and followed it up with team camp. She worked out all summer prepping for her her first competition season. She spent time with her friends, read her Sunshine State Readers and did some writing.

Rusty spent his summer on the swim team. It was as I said earlier, a love hate relationship...loved the swimming, hated the waiting.

The three little ones went camping again with my mom and Joe. This year they went to Illinois. They met up with my Aunt Jackie and her grand kids. While they were gone, we took Ruthie out and about and one of the places we went was Sea World's Aquatica. We let her bring a friend, Laura. We spent the whole day doing whatever they wanted, as often as the wanted and I believe we did everything a minimum of 3 times. This was, of course, after the cast came off.

So, the summer ends and it is time to go school shopping...I remember loving this! I couldn't wait to get new clothes! The more, the better!! Right?!? Well, this is torture for my children, they hate it, I'm outnumbered. THis year I got wise and I sent the boys with my mom. I gave her a list of things they needed and I sent them on their way. I took Ruthie, thinking this might be the year she gets into picking out some clothes. Our first stop she was enthused...for about 10 minutes and then I got the, "can't you do this without me?" uuugh! Yes, I can. But, I drug her along anyway. We finished it up and between my mom and me, we dressed some prttey darn cute kids for that first day of 4th grade, 2nd grade and, kindergarten.

My little to races. Dressed to impress, new lunch box, new empty backpack, fresh haircut and sparkling least for an hour. Does he give his mama a second thought? Nah...he just walks right in, sits right down and establishes his circle of friends. I think this is going to be the beginning of beautiful school year!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Casting Call...

So, Summer is nearly at an end and Ruthe's first competition season is fast approaching. She was nursing a sore ankle with ice and Ibuprofen for a few workouts when her coach finally came out to tell me she thought we ought to have it looked at because it was effecting her form on floor and vault. hmmmm...So, we went to the same orthopedic we went to when she broke her wrist, oh, and her other wrist. He was on vacation. (really? Why does he need a vacation?) So we had to see the ortho to the stars. I didn't know he was such a "big deal" at our first appointment where she got xrays and a cast to begin the healing process of a stress fracture. She picked her color, I paid the massive bill and we were on our way.

When we returned to gym, the coaches were just as surprised as I was to see her in a cast. She spent the next several weeks doing a whole lot of arm and abdominal conditioning while her team mates worked diligently on their routines. During this time I started to notice that she felt separated from her teammates who really are her best friends more than any of the kids she goes to school with. How could this not be the case when she spends so much time with them? It was hard not to feel the separation when she was off to the side doing sit-ups and pull ups. But, finally the time came when it was time to return to the doctor to get the cast taken off.

We sat in t he lobby anxiously anticipating our appointment. We sat and sat and, this is no Dr. Seuss bo ok. Finally I got up and the woman at reception informed me that he was running about an hour behind but that I was next. I watched 3 other people get called back by this man's nurse. Again, I got up. This time I was told that he had an "important client" come in without an appointment. WH AT!?! I was livid! When we finally got into the room, the nurse that took the cast off did not use the guard and burned Ruthie's leg with the blade. When the Doc came in, I let him give me his spiel about easing back into regular workouts and then I gave him mine about him, his office and his staff. And then I left. I won't be back.

Anyway, Ruthie eased back into her workouts and tumbling. You will have to stay tuned to see how competition season went!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

le Tour de France

The City of Lights. We drove into Paris in the late afternoon. I was relieved to see our hotel was once again beautiful. We would be staying four nights. After quickly checking in, we reloaded into the bus for a farewell dinner followed by a city lights tour. This was great because it helped me get my bearings so I could navigate the city for the rest of our stay. We had originally opted out of this excursion to save a little green. Darn the dollar! But, we made such good friends with several of the people on the tour that we wanted to spend one last meal with them.

The highlight of the night was, of course, the Eiffel Tower. It was not only lit but we got there in time to see it's twinkling lights. We took our turns with all the other tourists snapping our once in a lifetime shot in front of the famous landmark. No time to sit and marvel, back on the bus to finish the tour, back to the hotel for some rest and then, back in the bus for the same tour in the morning light. This time, went into the tower and I must say, it was bit disturbing. We were rushed straight to the front of the line, ushered into the weird slanted elevator, taken to the top and deposited in the middle of a mass of tourists all competing for a space by the rail. I was content to stand as far away from the rail as possible but Adam coaxed me over for a picture which, to be honest, was not that great as it was a hazy shade of summer. I left Adam with some friends and ventured inside to the gift shops where I picked up an ornament for my tree and a purse for my little Taylor. After that, I was Ready for the bus. Along the way we fought off several street sellers with cheap statues of the tower and witnessed the pursuit of a pick pocket. Not a bad adventure for 10 o'clock in the AM!

In the afternoon, we headed for Versailles. What can I say? WOW! You step off the bus to a sight that even under construction is more than you can imagine. "Less is more?" I don't think so. Gold leafing everywhere and gardens. Holy cow! So, we get our headset and begin our audio tour which leaves me a little A.D.D. Still the beauty, the details and the art are not lost on me. I look over and Adam seems to be really enjoying his tour...who is this person who hates history and would rather tour the SEC football stadiums? My mind is wandering and I find myself coveting the molding in each room and mentally pricing it out for my living room...

We come across an amazing mural painted on a bedroom wall which probably belonged so someone important, I don't know, I wasn't paying attention. It is an exact replica of a much smaller painting in the Louvre, except, one of the women of the court is wearing a different color dress. The portrait is of the coronation of Napoleon in 1804 and the story is that he was really in love with her and not Josephine? I just can't believe it. huh. Of course, the most amazing part of the castle was the gardens. At this point in the trip we had seen many gardens but none came close to the gardens at Versailles. It is impossible to fully describe them and equally impossible to get a good picture of them. The one here is from a window in the castle. With the weather being so beautiful, and my love of reading, I feel I could have sat there in the garden a read everyday and never once felt that I needed TV, a car, or anything else. Leaving the castle, we stopped at McDonald's where Adam got to have a Royal with Cheese and if you have seen Pulp Fiction, you know why he thought that was so cool. Finally, ending our first full day in Paris, we headed for the Moulin Rouge Theatre. This picture is taken out front with our tour guide. I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Adam and I were taken aback by the topless dancers...The show we saw was a series of novelty sketches interspersed between a weird story that involved some cheesy singing while topless. It was strange. There was one really cool act in between one of the segments where this man and woman used a jacket and did all kind of tricks passing it back and forth and it never came was always on one or the other. Also uncomfortable was the fight between some of our fellow travelers because she felt he was looking a little too closely so he spent the remainder of the show looking down at his plate. Which is what Adam had been doing the whole time. Such a good boy! The rest of Paris can be blogged in pictures...I know I don't need to go back. The only other stand out was the Tour. Lance didn't win but that's ok. We wandered the city and headed over to the mall where the riders would be looping several times into the finish. We came up out the Subway, stood looking around and scored some awesome seats right there on the wall where we had basically front row seats for the finish of the race...Our European vacation comes to a close.

Adam with his Cheeseburger.

Napoleon's coronation...see, her dress is white in this one...

One of our fellow tourists who just happens to look exactly like my grandma!

Venus has some pretty nice abs! We also saw Mona and some other famous ladies.

Arc de Triomphe: big, beautiful...a tribute to French soldiers.

Luxembourg Palace: also amazing gardens...sensing a theme?

Oscar Wilde's grave at Pere Lachaise Cemetery. We also saw Jim Morrison's, Ablard and Heloise, Chopin's etc. The irony was that on Wilde's grave they ask that you not deface it and yet it is covered in lipstick kisses and someone has carved, "here lies the greatest man to ever live." Really? As we approached, a young man was sitting there bawling out loud. Really? huh.

Our view of the peloton...who needs tickets?

Napoleon's tomb...short man's complex?

Notre Dame Cathedral...Amazingly beautiful but I liked St. Paul's in London better...or, maybe I just liked London better.



Aside from London, Lucerne was my favorite stop on our trip. This city sits on a lake full of swans between mountains and is just…beautiful. Adam and I decided not to do any optional excursions. I did not want to ride in a car full of people hanging from a wire. Sorry. AND, on our anniversary trip, we wanted a little time to do our own thing. We spent the time wandering the city, taking self portraits in front of landmarks and doing some serious souvenir shopping…a Swiss knife for Flip (I know what you’re thinking) a Swiss watch for Rusty and a doll named Lucerne for Ellie. (Ruthie got jewelry from Paris) When we were done with our wandering, we got some ice cream, a loaf of bread for our feathered friends and rented a paddle boat.

We set off from the in the late afternoon…not wanting to get too far away, just far enough to have some quiet and space between us and the rest of the world. Out in the middle of the lake it seemed as though it was just us, the swans and the mountains. So, I got out the snack we had brought along for these beautiful, peaceful birds…and, they attacked! There must have been fifty of them. It was so much fun! They came right up to the side of the boat, following us everywhere, snatching from our hands and honking aggressively if they felt they were not getting their fair share. Adam and I laughed so hard and at one point almost tipped our boat. It really would have been a shame because we were a little far out and the water, COLD! When we ran out of bread and our time on the boat was at an end, we headed back to the pier, a line of swans trailing behind.

That evening, we went to a dinner show with the group. It was all going really very well until I got pulled up to the stage to yodel and participate in a beer chugging contest. Really? Now, you know I don't drink beer...I can't even stand the smell of the stuff! I had to pass on that part much to the disappointment of the crowd. I am quite the yodeler, however, if I do say so myself!

After dinner, I made Adam go back to the water with me to feed the swans again. This was probably MY favorite day of the trip. Not my favorite city but my favorite day…Just me and Adam…playing…all day. Next stop…

Other favorite pics from this stop: