Thursday, June 28, 2012

8 and under

The little guy on the left, we'll call him William ... he shaved 15 seconds off his baseline time for the 25-meter freestyle.


At his pace of improvement, I think that by 2020, he could give Phelps and Lochte a run for their money.

(He's so stinking cute. I have to resist the temptation to pinch his cute little bum in that tiny bathing suit. Sometimes I fail.)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

what's in you wednesday: where does your energy go?

My whole life I've been a writer. You can tell me something, but it doesn't correctly process in my brain unless I write it down.  It's for that reason I would listen to my college professors speak, but I had to record their lectures so I could craft on paper all of their words.

During my 2.5-day Corporate Athlete Course last week, I almost completely filled a composition notebook from the various sessions.  It helped me to digest the message during the course, but it will me help reinforce the concepts if I write them again, here.

So with that ... I present my Corporate Athlete scribble.


In western civilization, busyness is worn as a badge of honor.

But the reality is, busyness undermines productivity.

For every decade beyond the age of 30, humans lose 10% of their muscle structure and neurological capacity. And for every decade beyond the age of 30, humans tend to become more busy.  That's typically when the career kicks in to higher gear and the family scene begins to develop.  If our external demands are increasing, we need to increase our capacity to mange those demands. Because when the demands of life exceed our capacity - we crash and fail.

(I'm proof that can REALLY happen!!)

What we all want is less stress and more time. But we can't exactly add extra time to our schedules because that's not feasible. And since the stress in our lives will continue and will most likely grow - we need to nurture and harbor the critical energy that will allow us to function.

Successfully managing our energy not our time is the key to extraordinary results.

Our teacher shared with us the story of a former student, a young father, who was married with two small children. Every night, he would come home from work in time for dinner at 6:00 PM.  However, one week, he was entertaining out of town business guests and would not be home until 11:00 PM, several hours after his children were asleep. On the third day, he asked his manager if it would be possible to cut out a little early so he could swing by and see his children for 15 minutes, en route to the restaurant, that evening.

His manager agreed.

So the man left his office and drove home. On his way home, he mentally prepared himself for how he would spend those 15 precious minutes with his children, whom he hadn't seen for several days. He had a mission and he would not fail. When he arrived home, he walked in the front door and kissed his wife. He then took his phone off his belt and deliberately turned it off and placed it on the counter.

He could afford no distractions. 

Walking in to his children's room, he had a laser beam focus on his little people. He wrestled with them. He helped them to get in to their pajamas and brush their teeth. He could have read them a story, but he opted to wrestle some more instead. (He must've had two sons!!)  He then tucked them in to bed and said a goodnight prayer.  When his 15 minutes were over and he stood up to leave, his young child lifted his head from his pillow and said, "Daddy, do you think you could come home at 8:00, every night?" It was like a knife in his heart ... but it made him realize something profound:  He wasn't just there with them, he was completely focused on them and his young children could tell the difference.

They preferred the Dad who could spend 15 minutes of QUALITY time with them, over the Dad that could come home several hours earlier and not have nearly the same level of engagement.

So my question is this: who in your life deserves your best and most deliberate energy?

And more importantly .... are they getting it?


Totally unrelated: I colored my own hair and the result is not quite the color that was on the box. For that matter, it's not quite a color I've seen anywhere in nature. Thus I conclude: I don't think coloring my own hair is the best use of my energy.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

swimmers take your mark...

The kids are on swim team and although they have daily practice with meets once a week, I'm not sure who is getting the more rigorous workout ... them, or us?


For example, last weekend, the kids had their "time trials." What that means is that they went to a neighborhood pool and were timed in order to establish a beginning of the season 'baseline' for each of the strokes that they'd be competing. In our case, it is "only" freestyle and backstroke.  They swam for a total of 50 meters ... 25 free and 25 back. All told, this event took less than ninety seconds. Alas, we spent no less than three hours preparing.  Charlie - one of the official timers - had to run out the night before and buy his official timekeeping outfit (navy shorts and a white shirt). I had to run out and buy the kids their swim team paraphernalia (matching bathing suits and caps).  The kids were so thrilled to be on the team, that they all slept in their new bathing suits. Which saved us precious time in the morning, because on the day of the big event, they had to be at the pool by 6:45 AM.  My plan was to remain at home with Henry and get caught up on a few things ... like sleep.

But by 7:30 the phone was ringing off the hook and a desperate Charlie was on the other end.

"I NEED YOU HERE! GOOD LORD, I NEED YOU HERE, RIGHT NOW. I have a VERY important job to do, my eyes are supposed to be glued to the kids that are swimming and the triplets are running all over the place. I just handed them $20.00 to get something to eat at the snack bar and they're now scarfing down Starburst and french fries. Can you please get here ... like RIGHT NOW?" 

Wait a minute.... you mean you want for me to leave this peaceful sanctuary and enter the crazy zone?

Yesterday, the children had their first official swim meet. I was caught in a meeting at work and was late arriving at the pool. When I parked, I could hear someone playing The Star Spangled Banner on the violin and I bolted across the street and down a sidewalk wearing my satin lined slacks and heels.  I ran in to the pool area just as they were wrapping up our national anthem and caught sight of my husband wearing his official timing attire. Our eyes locked for a quick second and he waved his arms and pointed his fingers in several directions which is our universal sign for, "They're all over the place! You're it!"

Scurrying about in my heels (for which I should not be scurrying because I have no coordination when my heels are elevated), I rounded up our children and herded them in to respective heats.  As I'm focused on the triplets, Henry (who is a very accomplished swimmer in his own right) informs anyone that is interested that he wants to go swimming too and he begins climbing up the 1-meter diving board and prepares to do a cannonball on top of the kids that are already in the water, warming up.

Ack! More scurrying commences!


Fast forward two hours, the kids have completed their races, and Henry - remarkably - is still dry. Charlie is required to remain at the pool to complete the timing, but because it's getting late, I want to take the kids home and get them showered and in to bed, so that I might subsequently also go to bed.  My energy is waning fast as I herd them to the car ("It's time to go, because I said so, now let's everyone please cooperate and not evoke the nutso mommy, children..."), drive home, feed them something light, walk the dog, and put them in the shower. When I turn the faucet on, I don't realize that the shower head has twisted and is facing directly at me, so once the water enters the pipes, I'm saturated from head to toe.

(As is the floor.)  (And the wall.)  (And the clean pajamas folded neatly on the toilet seat.)

When Charlie arrives home at almost 10 PM, the kids have just been tucked in and I'm laying on top of the covers, soggy and barely conscious.


This experience, albeit a wonderful glorious one, is exhausting. 

I may have to begin taking naps at work. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

calling all dream rangers

We all have something called an "inner voice" and we all have something called an "outer voice." Our inner voice is, not surprisingly, our innermost deepest thoughts.  Our outer voice is what we project to the world.  During my Corporate Athlete Course last week, one of the objectives was to align our inner and outer voices. For me, that was easy. The hardest part was to ensure that those voices were "speaking" the truth. 

For the past few years, there has been a lot of confusion and pressure on my spirit. Confusion over what am I supposed to be doing - and pressure because time is moving by so fast and I only have one shot at life and I don't want to wake up one day and feel like I've missed critical opportunities. As a result, the best of my energy that has been diverted in to a million (and one) different scenarios and the "truth" of my stories have been effectively covered up by excuses. For example, there are very good reasons why...

I don't take very good care of myself. 

I don't volunteer and do things for my spirit. 

I'm not a better correspondent with extended family and friends. 

I lose my patience with my husband, my children, and dog.

I'm not the best wife, mother, sister, daughter and friend I think (and know) I can be. 

What has come as a startling shock to me, is that my story is not at all unusual. In fact, my story is virtually identical to everyone else's story that I heard and read and watched.  OK, so not everyone has four small children and an over-zealous puppy, but everyone has pressures on their lives that make them feel overwhelmed.  Everyone has a history that has led them to the embrace the good (and bad) habits that they now embrace. And everyone, every single person in that room, felt like they could do better. More powerful than that - everyone knew that so long as their heart was beating and their lungs were pumping ... they could do better. 

What do people live for?  Think about yourself. Think about where you are right now and what you want to be doing with your life. Are you doing it?  What's stopping you?   Please watch this video (based upon a true story) and let it open up your heart and mind to the endless possibilities... 

While our skin, gender, religion, age, health, geography, education, familial and financial circumstances may all be different ... we're all born to dream. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

what's in you wednesday

It was almost one year ago, that I wrote about the Human Performance Institute's Corporate Athlete course on my blog. This week, I had the incredible privilege of attending the event in Orlando, Florida.  

Over the next few weeks, I will write what I learned from this experience and how some of the most profound physical, emotional, mental and spiritual transformations have occurred in me over the span of 2.5-days.  But since it's late and I'm now on my "Ultimate Mission" I need to get plenty of rest. So in closing, I'll share a poem that was shared with the 21 students in my class ... 21 students who I'll forever feel bonded to, because of this mutual experience. 

What Will Matter
by Michael Josephson

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end. 
There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days. 
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten, will pass to someone else. 
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. 
It will not matter what you owned or what you owed. 
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear. 
So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire. 
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away. 
It won't matter where you came from or what side of the tracks you lived on at the end. 
It won't matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant. 
Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant. 

So what will matter? 
How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought but what you built, 
not what you got but what you gave. 
What will matter is not your success but your significance. 
What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught. 
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage or sacrifice that enriched, 
empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example. 

What will matter is not your competence but your character. 
What will matter is not how many people you knew, 
but how many will feel a lasting loss when you're gone. 
What will matter is not your memories but the memories of those who loved you. 
What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what. 

Living a life that matters doesn't happen by accident. 
It's not a matter of circumstances but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

super dad

He can run, he can swim, he can cook, he can fly...


He can make us giggle and laugh 'til we cry.


He holds it together, through and through ...


Not a day goes by we don't thank the heavens for you.


Happy Father's Day, Super Dad.
(There ain't no doubt about it ... you're totally rad!!)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

seizing an opportunity

Tonight as the children were enjoying dessert, Carolyn's front tooth, which has been wiggling and waggling all around her mouth for the past several weeks, abruptly twisted sideways.


After she ran around the house looking for me (pre-occupied with tucking her little brother in to bed) she ran back in to the kitchen and told her anxious to yank it tooth-pulling father, "It's OK Dad, I've got this...." And then my precious girl reached in to her mouth and gave a slight tug. Out came the little tooth. The tiny tooth that I remember seeing burst through her top gums not very long ago. It was sentimental moment for me - seeing my first child with no front teeth (lost by the grace of nature, as opposed to a mom gone mad).  As I turned the tiny tooth over in my hand, inspecting this important dental artifact, Carolyn suggested that maybe Uncle Michael could have her teeth made in to a necklace or earrings for me?

(Uncle Michael, no need to look in to that just yet. Until such time that I'm adopted by an African indigenous tribe, I'm not sure such jewelry would be a good compliment to my wardrobe.) 

This picture totally cracks me up. As Carolyn is showing off her new smile, her sister is wolfing down her Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich.  See this??


THIS is precisely what happens when you turn your back around here.

Friday, June 15, 2012

favorite thing friday - flowers

Many years ago, Charlie's sister Susan (who has celebrated a big birthday this week - HAPPY BIRTHDAY SUSAN, we love you!!!) gave us "Life's Little Instruction Book" by H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Perhaps you're already familiar with this book, if not - you should definitely consider adding it to your library.  We have our copy (actually copies because we now have more than one) in our bathrooms and sometimes, when we're in said bathroom for an extended span of time, we will peruse the 511 "Suggestions, Observations, and Reminders on How to Live a Happy and Rewarding Life."

Suggestion #97 recommends, "Always have something beautiful in sight, even if it's just a daisy in a jelly glass."  I'm a huge advocate of the theory that having something beautiful in sight REALLY CAN have a positive impact on your outlook on life.

Shown on the picture below...

On the left: vibrant hydrangeas from my Girl Scout troop. These, along with a very generous gift certificate for a massage were their tokens of appreciation for my two years of Daisy leadership.

On the right: deep red carnations from my sweet four-year-old son, Henry. Charlie took him grocery shopping today and he insisted on buying these for his "Honey." (aka: Me.)


Sigh. Gestures like this are what totally eclipse those moments when he does things that make me wonder, "What the heck? Seriously?!" (Case in point: Last week, we had a landscape architect at our house who discovered Henry hiding behind a hedge. As soon as he was spotted he yelled, "PRIVACY PLEASE!!! I"m going POOOOOOP!" Indeed ... he was.)

Even when I buy flowers for myself, they make me feel glad to be alive.

Thank you God ... for flowers.

And more importantly: for little boys and their moments of extraordinary sweetness.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

zoom, zoom, zoom

Tonight is the the night before the last day of 1st grade for our trio.  I'm not sure how it's possible, since it seems like only a week ago, I was writing about it being the night before their first day of first grade. Nonetheless, after tomorrow - they'll be on their way to second grade.

And then it's just a blink - blink - blink ... BAM!


All too soon, I know we'll be staring at their empty rooms and wondering where the time went.

Mah babies!

This week we bridged sprinted (across a real bridge!) from Daisies to Brownies ...


Notice, I spaced the petals wrong so oops, we now have a STEM!


Look at those big kids in their brown sashes!! 


AND, we bridged from Tigers to Wolves.



Charlie and I have really enjoyed leading the troops this year and watching these awesome little people grow up. These awesome little people who are able to stand still and look at a camera.  I never would have thought it possible!!


This week, we received an exorbitant amount of paperwork from a year worth of school work. We stealthily recycled 99% of that material ... except for a few gems (I have a puppy, I have a sister, I have 2 brudr, I love my feieu [OK, so I have no idea what that means and will require a translation] ... I LOVE ME.)


.... and hung up several new pictures in our Kiddo Galleria.


Unlike last summer, when I was too bone tired to sign the kids up for any events, this summer in between what I'm sure will be a lot of tree climbing, bridge building, fort making and book reading ...  they'll be on a swim team and dive team. They started their daily practice two weeks ago and let me tell you folks, swimming is a BIG DEAL around these parts.  Charlie has registered and is now trained as an official time keeper.  For the past few days, we've been very busy practicing cheers for our first swim meet this coming Saturday.

We'll be cheering at SWIM MEETS?

It feels like we're entering a whole new world.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

speed records


Want to see how fast I can go?



Are you watching? 


(Whoa! I don't remember these things being so slippery!)






How was that?


Sunday, June 10, 2012

when i was a youngster...

As the kids were snacking on watermelon today, I was telling them that when I was a little girl, watermelon had big black seeds that we'd try to spit as far as we could.

That was about as unfathomable to them, as it was to me that my mother's family would purchase an ice block every week to keep food in the ice box cold.

Ice box ... because they didn't have a refrigerator.  


After I'd explained what little I know about genetic engineering and how over many years, watermelons that produced smaller and lighter seeds were produced over and over again, the kids interrupted me and asked, "So, have you ever seen a real live dinosaur?"

Friday, June 08, 2012

they're all that and a bag of chips

After we'd dropped the children off to school today, Charlie and I ventured out for an appointment.  We spent three full hours together, in the middle of a weekday. Alone.

At this stage in our lives, that is extremely rare.

My sister recently told me that one of her friends had said, "Once the children move off to college and the dog dies, that's when life really begins!" That comment struck me as so hilariously funny because our lives currently revolve around our children and puppy. But today, it was a beautifully perfect near-summer day as we walked beneath the canopy of old shady maple trees and held hands, savoring every one of those blissful 180 minutes together. 

As we were strolling along, Charlie asked me if I'd ever imagined what my life would have been like, if we'd never had children. I pondered his question for a moment, before responding...

I'd still be with my employer - but chances are, Charlie would be, too. Instead of striking it out on his own, I suspect he would have taken the job that they'd proposed to him a few years ago and we would have moved to Texas. I'd probably still be driving a convertible BMW although maybe a newer model, and Charlie would probably be driving the Porsche that he'd wanted for his 40th birthday. We would have traveled to several foreign countries and been certified in scuba.  Chances are, we'd both be in better shape and I would have replaced my eye shadow a lot sooner. Our home probably wouldn't be styled in all earth tones. Why, we might have a white sofa.

And all white dining room chairs. 

After less than two minutes of this discussion, our conversation quickly shifted to the gap we'd have in our lives if not for our children. The aching gap that we'd felt before our children arrived. Those many years ago, when we had fancy things and no one to think about - except ourselves.

It certainly was quieter, back then. 

On that plane of existence, we lived large, we had lots of "me" time and dinners at upscale restaurants several times a week. On this plane of existence, our resources have been truncated and/or largely directed towards our four children and the only "me" time is when we're in the bathroom (and even that's not a guarantee...). 

Tonight, Charlie made an amazing dinner. Shish-ka-bob chicken and vegetables that he'd grilled, after marinating for 24 hours. Portobello mushrooms sautéed with fresh herbs and garlic served over basmati rice with an endive salad. When we sat down to eat, the children burst in to tears. THIS WAS BEYOND TERRIBLE.  Where were the tacos or fish sticks? 

So we struck a deal: tomorrow night, the kids get to pick what we'll have for dinner.

Charlie and I looked at each other and smiled.

The hugs and joy that our little ones bring in to our lives more than offset the exhaustion we typically feel at the end of the day. On this plane of existence, we work and pray harder, think faster and love more deeply than we ever imagined possible. Our hearts are so full, it often feels like they'll burst. And when we look in to our children's vibrant eyes, we see a future far beyond our time on earth.


On this plane of existence, with our cluttered cars, chalk-colored home and hot dog dinners ... we know, without a doubt, that we are the richest and most privileged people alive.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

now, in other fascinating news...

Shortly after Charlie and I were married in 1994, I went out shopping one day. Whilst on that shopping soiree, I stumbled across a make-up counter in the Mall. 

Now, I'd never been to a make-up counter before. Up until that point in my life, all of the make-up that I'd ever purchased came from Rite Aid. Or a grocery store. But on that one particular day, as a newly wed bride and graduate student with a hefty sum of financial aid in my pocket, I was feeling mature, radiant and foolishly extravagant.  So I stopped by the Chanel make-up counter and very quickly, a team of cosmetologists descended upon me and worked their magic. For the next two hours, I sat in a black pleather chair.  During that time, there was a transformation of cosmetological wonder upon my face, the likes of which had never been seen before. 

Nor since. 

When it was over, I was handed a small bag of make-up supplies including (but not limited to) foundation, blush, eye shadow, mascara, eye liner, lipstick, brushes, foam wedges, instructions on how to recreate this look at home (which I never quite mastered) and a price tag that could have paid for all of my post-grad text books. That feeling of "Me So Pretty!" is what prompted me to traipse from the make-up counter directly in to a salon where I had eight inches of hair lopped off. What remaining locks were on my head, were permed and frosted. When I returned home, my new husband gasped and said, "Wow. Um? Gee, honey.  So, do you like this look?"  

Turns out: I did not like that look and it took five years for the perm to fully grow out. But eighteen years later, I still have some of the make-up that I purchased on that fateful day. The day that made me afraid to step near a make-up counter, again because:  

1. It's ridiculously expensive. 
2. It makes me do crazy things like cut off all my hair and get a poodle perm. 

Now, I don't know if the fact that I still have eye shadow from 1994 indicates how infrequently (and lightly) I use it, or if Chanel makes such a great product it just lasts and lasts.  

Or perhaps this just reflects that I'm someone who doesn't exactly have make-up shopping at the top of their priority list.  Despite the fact that I still have more eye shadow remaining, that would probably last me another couple of years, what recently drove me to replace my stash is the feeling that my optometrist would be APPALLED if they knew I was using eye shadow that was almost two decades old.  


Last weekend, I bucked it up, strode in to the Mall with a 20% off coupon and replenished my make-up supply.  Without further adieu ... introducing: my new eye shadow: 


Also, my new blush in it's fancy velvet carrying case: 

I opted to spend more on the Chanel because it really is better quality. Consider my eye shadow (and the compact case) has lasted for EIGHTEEN YEARS.  Compare that to my Target blush that I recently purchased (ten months ago, which is like yesterday in my make-up world) that has been crushed to smithereens.  Of course, I'd still use this until every bit was gone, but I have a trip coming up and this wouldn't travel well in my suitcase... 


By all accounts, I should now be set on the make-up front until 2030. 

Monday, June 04, 2012

Day #4: banana watch

Out of the 21 bananas that we had in our inventory on Friday evening, seven of the bananas were bordering on past-the-point of ripeness. Those bananas were frozen and have since been used in the making of banana pancakes, banana muffins and fruit smoothies. As of this writing, the remaining 14 bananas, have been completely consumed.

There was sadness in the land tonight during dinner, when there were only three bananas remaining and four children who all decided they wanted a banana. It helped get me over my own bout of sadness that my "Banana, Banana, Bo Fana, Fee Fi Fo Fana Banana Rama Blog Fest" was ending two full days earlier than I'd predicted, when the kids split up their bananas to share with their sibling who wasn't fast enough to grab one.  I love to see the love that is in their hearts. The love which isn't always visible and is often hidden beneath name calling, tattling, teasing and other behaviors that are entirely age appropriate.

(So the books say.) 


And even though there was some bruising on the three remaining bananas, that didn't stop the kids from eating them. Why this little bruise ...


I'll just dig it out with my finger ...


Rub it over here on the edge of the table where it will most likely be cleaned up by someone OTHER than me...


And ... well, hello fiber, potassium and iron!


It's safe to say: we're bananas over bananas. And at only $5.11 a share, I'm thinking a purchase of some Chiquita stock might be a wise investment.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Day #3: banana watch

This past Christmas, the boys bought their sisters "American Girl" dolls as gifts.  Our children's "attention" to specific toys really seems to wax and wane, but five months later - the girls still play with their dolls almost every day. 


It recently happened that they were playing with someone who had three American Girl dolls. So one morning as we were talking, the subject turned to the three American Girl dolls situation and Elizabeth indicated that she wanted another American Girl doll. In fact there was nothing else in the world that she wanted as much as another American Girl doll. But when I asked Carolyn if she'd like another doll, too, she shook her head and said, "Oh no - no - no - NO!" 

"No thank you very much!" 


Not that I'd actually purchase our children another two dolls for Christmas, but her response confused me, so I asked why. And in a very matter-of-fact voice she said, "Mom, they are so much work. Do you know how much work it is to care of two dolls? How could I ever do that?!"

(Note to self: taking care of two dolls is exhausting.)



Perhaps even more so, than taking care of four children who decided they didn't like the color "brick" and have been methodically coloring the bricks of our home in with pastel sidewalk chalk.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Day #2: banana watch

A huge storm blew through our area, yesterday. We lost power in the afternoon and although it wasn't yet dark, the children wasted no time pulling out candles and making plans for the dinner that they intended to cook over the fire ... just like they had done last year, when we were without power for a full day. This time, we were only without power for a few hours, but we read several books and ate several bananas...


By candlelight. 

Friday, June 01, 2012

Day #1: banana watch

A few weeks ago,  I tweeted the following:

Charlie came home from the store tonight with two bunches of bananas.  We now have 21 bananas. In years past, we wouldn't have bought that many bananas in two years time.

I'm curious to see how long they last.


When you've got four little ones who will eat them for breakfast, dinner, snacks and lunches ... I've got my hunches that all three bunches ... will be gone by Wednesday.