Friday, May 28, 2010

Another Milestone

From the time Snapper was very tiny, we noticed that she had a tendency to be very fearful...unhealthy fearful. I can't even begin to tell you how many times she has melted down because of fear over nothing. Here are just a few examples.

-Having the doctor look in her ears
-Getting the flu mist
-Putting her toes in a lake
-Getting her hair cut
-Mildly loud noises (yes, I even had her hearing checked)
-Putting her mouth in the water at swimming lessons
-Riding a bike with training wheels

Ah yes, riding a bike with training wheels. We bought Snapper her first bike for her 4th birthday. She sat on it for about 2 seconds and then melted down. Terrified! It wasn't even moving. When she was 4, I could understand it. But when she was still pitching a fit at the suggestion of riding her bike at almost 7 years old, I was began to wonder. Last summer, at the end of summer, we managed to get her on it a few times. She was still fearful, but managed a few rides in our neighborhood. She is almost 8 years old now, and I had begun to doubt that she would ever learn to ride a bike without training wheels. But then came the surprise of my life.

Last weekend, we dropped Snapper off at a friend's birthday party. When we came back to pick her up, she was riding her friend's 2-wheeler down the street WITH NO TRAINING WHEELS! Turns out she saw her friend's bike in the garage and decided to give it a try. All by herself! With her friend's mom behind the video camera and her little friend cheering her on, Snapper conquered the 2-wheeler!

When we got home, the first thing we did was take the training wheels off Snapper's bike. She wheeled it carefully down the driveway, and rode off down our street, which happens to be a pretty steep street. She did awesome, and now wants to ride her bike every day. I attribute this surge in courage and confidence to her swimming. Overcoming several fears in the pool has made my girl into a much stronger person.

I LOVE that she is fearlessly riding her bike! I LOVE these signs of growing up. I couldn't be prouder. Tomorrow we are planning a family bike ride on the trail by the Arkansas River. Actually, Snapper will be the only one on a bike. Pepper will ride his Hot Wheels, and Matt and I will be dusting off our roller blades. It should be lots of fun! When we get to Orlando, Matt and I are planning to get bikes also, so we can pursue bike riding as a family.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mommy Brags

*Disclaimer: This post contains the raves of a proud mommy. If you don't mind a good mommy brag, read on.

Saturday morning dawned bright and hot. Snapper bounced out of bed, excited to get to her big swim meet. This was her first meet since she advanced a training level back in March. She has been swimming for an hour every Monday-Thursday, and it has been really fun to watch her stamina increase and her stroke technique improve. The fact that she has an amazing coach has helped a lot, too. After a quick, protein-packed breakfast, we piled into the car and headed out to Conway, Arkansas, for the meet.

This meet was so different from past meets. Never before has Snapper had the endurance to last through the non-stop 20 minute warm-up. This time she breezed right through it, and wasn't even the least bit tired when it was done. She was focused during the team meeting, and didn't have any jitters.

After warm-up and the team meeting, I always write her race information on her leg in a grid: Event, Lane, and Heat numbers. I noticed a difference as I wrote this time...her legs have really bulked up with muscle, and I didn't have to write small! Her quad is so much wider that every race fit on her leg with no problem. I love this photo because she is so focused on trying to flex her legs...check out the concentration on her face!

Snapper's arms have also bulked up. I hadn't noticed until I was putting sunblock on her last week. She's become a muscular, little studmuffin! Cracks me up, and she is so proud of her "guns." Seriously though, my arms didn't look like this when I was 7!

As a team spirit and confidence builder, I purchased temporary tattoos for the 7 kids from Snapper's training group who were swimming at the meet. Alas, I left the package of tattoos on the coffee table at home. Instead, I used a Sharpie to write on her back. Needless to say, it was a hit, and gave her a bit of a swagger.

Snapper has really bonded with her teammates at practice, and several of them were competing in this meet with her. It was great to see Snapper get really into cheering for each of them as they swam.

She also took the initiative to talk to her coach both before each event and after. Coach Tay has such a knack for encouraging her swimmer to do their best, and to help them evaluate each performance. When there are tears, she calms them. When there is a great swim, she pumps them up. We love Coach Tay, and will really, really miss her when we move.

Perhaps the biggest part of Snapper's day, though, was the swimming. She swam 5 events, all in the 8 and under age group: 25-yard Freestyle, 50-yard Freestyle, 25-yard Backstroke, 25-yard Butterfly, and 100-yard IM. The IM is a lap of each stroke. In her 4 previous meets, Snapper's best finish has been 12th place, which came in the 25-yard Backstroke. She has never won a ribbon in her meets with this swim team. This time was a different story. All the training and hard work has paid off, and she laid down solid swims in all 5 events. She set new best times in 4 out of 5 events, and her worst finish was 4th place!

When the results were posted, she finished as follows:
25-Free: 4th place out of 18
50-Free: 4th place out of 10 (the only 7-year-old!)
25-Back: 3rd place out of 16
25-Fly: 2nd Place out of 7 (only .06 seconds out of 1st!)
100 IM: 2nd place out of 2 (she has been disqualified every time before this!)

We left the meet on Cloud 9, with five ribbons in hand! Coach Tay encouraged Matt and me to keep our girl swimming. She sees potential for Snapper to become a great swimmer because she has a natural ability.

At this point I must stop my glowing report, and sing the praises of competitive sports. Snapper's life has been dramatically changed by her year of competitive swimming. I have watched her mature and grow in leaps and bounds. 
 -From the lost, nervous, bawling little girl at her first meet in October, she has changed into a focused, confident, strong athlete
-She has learned to push herself, to channel her energy, and to work hard during practices. Gone are the days of jumping up and down and spitting water while the coach is talking.
-Coach Tay demands respect for coaches and teammates, and that each swimmer give his or her best effort in practice. 
-She has learned how to perform under pressure, and how to be competitive at the right times.
-Sportsmanship and teamwork have been strongly emphasized as well. 
-Snapper has overcome the fear that has plagued her since she was a tiny girl. She dives fearlessly, and is no longer afraid to try new things. 
-She has learned through swimming to control her emotions so much better. Where meltdowns used to come daily, they now have almost ceased to exist. 
-She has developed strong muscles, has improved coordination, and has increased flexibility
-I've even noticed that she can run faster, probably a result of her overall better coordination and body awareness
-Her asthma is under control! We no longer need to use a maintenance inhaler!
-She can't get to the pool fast enough each day, and leaves happy and content
-Because she has a positive outlet for her energy, Snapper is much more relaxed and mellow when we get home. 
I can't emphasize enough how great swimming has been for this little girl! 

While sports are not for every child, I encourage you to explore your options and consider how competitive team sports may benefit your children. Research the sports together, and find one that is a fit for your child's personality, and give it a shot.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ooooh, Mom, You Stink!

When I picked Snapper up from school today, she climbed up next to the front seat to kiss me. She quickly pulled away and said in a disgusted voice, "Oooooh, Mom, you stink! What is that smell?" Under any other circumstances, I would have been offended. But today, I knew exactly what the problem was.

This morning, Matt was in the garage working, I was working on the computer upstairs, and Pepper was...let's see, where was Pepper? Last I saw him, he was playing with Legos in his room. Last Matt saw him, he was eating a snack at the kitchen table. He was eating popcorn, leftovers from my American Idol snack last night. He was eating cold, stale popcorn out of my stainless steel popcorn bowl.

From my station at the computer upstairs, I could hear popcorn popping, a bit louder than usual. Matt likes to make popcorn, so I wasn't surprised or even curious about the sounds. I knew he was making popcorn when I could smell it burning. I figured he stepped out into the garage for a minute and forgot the popcorn on the stove. Then he called up the stairs to me, and told me to come down right away. As I left the office, I was overwhelmed by the choking burned popcorn smoke. Eager to escape the smell, I ran down the stairs and into the kitchen, only to find that the smoke was thicker downstairs. I asked Matt how he had burned the popcorn. He didn't say anything, simply shook his head and pointed at the microwave.

There, smoldering in the microwave, was my stainless steel bowl of cold, stale popcorn, now charred and sending out billows of black smoke. Cowering in the corner of the kitchen was a very guilty 3-year-old boy. I asked him if he had put the popcorn in the microwave. To his credit, he told me the truth. It was cold, so he wanted to heat it up. Matt and I got down on our knees beside him and told him the danger of using the microwave without Mommy and Daddy there. He could have burned the house down! Needless to say, today I learned how to use the locking feature of my microwave.

All day today, the burned popcorn stench has filled my house. (How thankful I am that we are not dealing with showing the house anymore!)We opened all the windows, even though it was windy and pouring rain. We ran fans. We boiled vinegar water and steamed the house. We burned several candles and sprayed Febreeze throughout the house. It helped some, but the house still stinks.

And when Snapper hugged me, she was treated to a Mommy whose clothes, hair, and skin had absorbed l'eau de popcorn noir. Ooooh Mom, you stink!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Really Happening

They took our counter offer.
We close June 30th.
Two Pods arrive on June 18th, which we will pack and then ship to Orlando.
We leave July 1st for a month-long road trip.
We return July 28th for 2 days of goodbyes.
Then (Lord-willing) we move on July 30th.
It is really happening!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Oh My Goodness...

After 2 months of wearing myself out of keep the house spotless for showings, it would appear that journey has come to an end. We got an excellent offer today, one that is only $5000 under our asking price, and does not include any goofy demands like asking us to cover all closing costs and inspections and junk like that! We are going to counter and ask them to meet us in the middle. If they do, we will close on June 18th.

Oh my goodness...

It is really starting to seem real. It is such a short time until we pack up and say goodbye to our beloved Little Rock. We have been here 4 years and 3 months now, and we have loved every moment. God has blessed us with the most wonderful friends, fantastic church, amazing school for Snapper, and two swim coaches who have impacted Snapper's life tremendously. The goodbyes will be so painful. On one hand, I want to jump up and down and scream out of excitement. On the other hand, I want to curl up in the fetal position and cry my eyes out. Such a range of emotions, all of which are growing more intense with each passing day. I am exhausted from all of the emotional upheaval, and the uncertainty of waiting. I am SO ready for this process to be done, and to get moved to Florida. But at the same time I want to sink my heels in and keep the time from passing so quickly.

Sigh. The thought of starting all over again--new home, church hunting, new school, making friends, learning a new (much bigger) city, new job--is overwhelming.

If you are a praying person, would you take a moment to pray for me right now? Pray that the peace and joy of the Lord would fill me to overflowing me so that others will see Him in me during the next few months. Pray for smooth negotiations on the house. Pray that our support would flood in quickly. Pray that God would provide the funds for us to take a much-needed trip to visit supporters and family in Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado. Yup, it's a big trip we are hoping to make...the plan is to leave on June 14th if the house sale is final. Put all of our stuff in a Pod and go on the road for a month. Also, pray for Snapper. God closed the door on me taking her to Orlando for a visit. Pray that she would really trust the Lord to take care of her and meet her needs through this transition.

Okay, I think I'm done. It has been a very long, full day, and it is time for me to get some sleep. I love you, bloggy friends. I am so glad that even though I am getting ready to move forward and start a new life, you will go right along with me.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day (original title, I know)

Seeing as how yesterday was Mother's Day, I think today is a fitting time to share a few of yesterday's best moments.

When I woke up yesterday morning, I shuffled into the bathroom to begin my morning routine. As my focus cleared, I saw this sitting on the bathroom windowsill.

Snapper went to a birthday party on Saturday, and they did these plaster hand prints for their mothers. Needless to say, I love this gift!

After I had sufficiently gushed over the gift, I happened to look out the bathroom window at the driveway, and this is what I saw.

My sweet husband and Snapper had gotten up early to do this chalk art for me. Seriously, how cool is that?
I also received a foam Coke can holder that Snapper had made at school, and a homemade card (the very best kind!). I love the card. Here is what it says:

Happy Mother's Day! Mom, this letter is espeshally for you. I love you. You are my BFF. You are all mine. You are sweet. Love ya! Happy Mother's Day! Love, Snapper.

We had a relaxing afternoon, which was just what I needed. After tacos for lunch, I folded some laundry and tidied up the downstairs so I could relax in peace. As laundry cycled, I sat in my comfy chair with Dove chocolate and the book I am reading--a great one about parenting boys. The kids played upstairs, and Matt was working on putting away all his office stuff into our home office. I thoroughly enjoyed the quiet.

A little later in the afternoon, I got to do one of the things moms do. I have been having a laundry power struggle with Snapper for several months now. It started when I got tired of turning dirty socks and pants right side out...because all the socks and pants were put in the laundry inside out. Nothing worked in helping her remedy this. Then I began to notice a new trend. Mixed in with the dirty laundry, I would find pieces of clean, folded laundry. I would also find clean outfits that she had tried on, decided not to wear, and dropped in the dirty clothes. Seriously, that is NOT cool. I do not have enough hours in my day to be washing and folding clean laundry. So we decided that the best way to help Snapper learn responsibility in this area is to teach her how to do her own laundry. When all the burden of turning clothes the right side out, sorting and cycling laundry, and doing the folding lands on her alone, I'd be willing to bet that she won't be throwing clean laundry in the dirty clothes basket again. Throughout yesterday afternoon, Snapper learned how to do laundry. I taught her how the washer and dryer work, what settings to use for different types of clothing, and how to use the right amount of detergent. I also taught her how to remove spots so they won't become stains. We watched America's Funniest Home Videos together while she got a fresh lesson on folding. The end result was a tired, but wiser girl, and a huge basket full of beautifully folded clean clothes. She beamed with her sense of accomplishment. A job well done, and a mommy much relieved.

The other great thing that happened yesterday involves Pepper. He is such a delightful boy...and he is all boy. He thinks creatively, and gets into mischief that Snapper never even imagined. I came upstairs in the late afternoon and found Matt working in the office. Pepper was in his room with the door closed, which is never a good sign. I went in and found him happily occupied in little boy mischief. He had a mostly empty bucket of water in the middle of his room, and all his stuffed animals and plastic soldiers were spread around the room. Upon closer examination, I noticed wet fur on the stuffed animals. Pepper joyfully announced that he had given all his soldiers and dinosaurs and stuffed animals baths, and now they were nice and clean. Yes, the animals were clean, but they were also sopping wet. I also reminded Pepper that the new carpet in his room does not have a drain like the bathtub does. So the carpet was sopping wet, too. I had Pepper help mop up the carpet while Matt put all the animals in the tub to dry.

I love my kids. I love my flighty girl and my mischievous boy. Yesterday was a great reminder to me of how wonderful it is to be a mother, and how much I thank the Lord for giving me my two, precious gifts.

I forgot to mention that this precious boy also thought it would be funny to pee in his sister's closet yesterday. She didn't think it was funny at all.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Ponderings for Summer

Spring is here in full force, with summer coming quickly behind it. For Snapper, this means that the bubble (dome) has been taken off the pool, and she swims outside during swim team practice. It also means the team doesn't have the pool to itself. All members of this club have access to the pool in the afternoons now, and it is always full of kids. The team has lanes of its own, so their practice isn't affected by the recreational swimmers. However, watching all the little kids swarming the pool has raised a few concerns. Let's just say that I really understand now why my mom was such a stickler about choosing modest bathing suits. Though I didn't appreciate her determination at the time, I am so thankful now that she didn't let me wear the bikinis I wanted to wear. 

The following is my opinion, the standards we have chosen for our daughter. If your choice differs from mine, let me start by saying I in no way judge you and the choices you make. Every parent is free to decide what is best for their own children. If our opinions are very different, though, I would challenge you to read this with an open heart.

Matt and I have made the decision that we will not allow Snapper to wear 2-piece bathing suits. We will also not allow any 1-piece suits that have the sides cut out, have low-cut fronts, or any sort of mesh material on them. When she tries on a suit, it needs to fit comfortably--not baggy at all, and securely fitting in the armpits and behind. At first she complained that there were no cute bathing suits that met our standards. She also didn't understand why we had the standards in the first place.

Here is what we told her.
1. A bathing suit is meant to allow her to be comfortable in the water.
2. There are parts of her body that are private, and should be kept covered.
3. There are other parts of her body that while not necessarily private, draw unnecessary attention when they are uncovered.
4. She is a little girl. We want other people to see her as a little girl, not as a miniature adult.
5. When she is a pre-teen and in her teenage years, we will discuss with her how men and boys think, and of how we want them to be more focused on her as a person than on her body.

Snapper seemed to get it, and even helped me by telling me how the suits felt on her as she was trying them on. In the end, we were able to find a very sweet bathing suit. It is a rainbow print that she loves, covers her nicely, is age-appropriate, and fits her to perfection.

Each day at the pool, I am concerned at the message parents are unconsciously sending to their little girls when they allow them to wear suits like this. And yes, this is a children's suit. It is available in sizes 4-16 from a store I will leave undisclosed.

In and of itself, this suit seems cute. But when it is on the body of a 9-year-old, what kind of message does it send? Really, sweet mamas and dads, do you want your little girl radiating sexy? There are so many sick people in the world who would get a thrill out of seeing a little girl in a suit like this. Yes, I'm being very frank. But the truth is that there are all sorts of twisted minds out there, often closer to home than you know.

See how cute this suit is, without sending a sexy vibe. This one would have come home with us, but the leg openings were too loose on my skinny girl.

We have chosen to draw the line now, when our girl is still unconditionally trusting of us. Lord-willing, it will make the transition to the teen years easier, because our standard has been the same from the beginning. It is one thing to see a little one running around in a bikini, but picture your 15-year-old in this, and tell me the boys in her life are not going to struggle in their thoughts about her.

Wouldn't something like this be more helpful in presenting your daughter as a young lady of high standards?

Again, my purpose here is not to be judgmental--every parent needs to do what is best for their children. Just want to challenge you to think twice as you do your swimwear shopping for this summer.