Something Indefinable

(Last week, I posted a link to a blog I was asked to write about my experience with Spartan Endurance.  This is my original writing that I had to edit down to make room for the comments I included.  Enjoy)

 

Wet, muddy, cold. Swearing I would never, ever do it again. When I called my husband after it was all over, apparently I dropped the f-bomb more times in 5 minutes than he had heard in the last 5 years. Or so he tells me. I don’t remember. Kinda like childbirth. Also, kinda like childbirth, as the days passed, the pain and suffering started to blur and the aftereffects of being through something difficult with a group of people also sharing that pain and suffering started to change into…something. Something indefinable.

 

Indefinable. We all have people with which we share things. Friends, colleagues, family. But it isn’t until you share discomfort and difficulty that you make those deeper bonds. I don’t mean the discomfort of an awkward situation – we’ve all had those – but real discomfort. Wet, muddy, hurting, and yet still moving forward because your team needs you. Once you’re pushed so far out of your comfort zone that you can’t see where you started, and you look around at the other wet, muddy faces struggling right along side you, things change. You change.

 

There’s a new “fad” out there on TV. Reality shows like The Selection, Team Spartan Race, even to an extent America Ninja Warrior College Madness, pushing small groups of people together, who may or may not know each other at the beginning, into doing difficult challenges. I’m not even talking about that, although I see shades of similarity now that I’ve been through it. Twice.

 

I’m talking about Spartan Endurance. Specifically the Hurricane Heat (HH). What? You haven’t heard of it? Well, let me just tell you, it’s hell, it’s cold (or hot), it’s definitely wet, it’s probably going to be muddy, and fun. How can it be fun? Imagine playing Hungry Hungry Hippo in groups of 6, carrying the “hippo” (the 7th person) and racing against other “hippos” to a field of tennis balls to see who gets the most balls in the 5 gallon bucket the “hippo” is holding. Oh, and the “hippo” can’t touch the ground. And you have 30 seconds before you have to go back to your spot. Then imagine a similar game where your team has a few minutes to gather the most tennis balls from the field, even stealing from other teams. The first team to 60 wins. We never made it past 28.

 

Imagine being duct-taped by the wrist in a group of about 12-15, and having to negotiate your way through mud and under barbed wire, all while trying to educate a Frenchman on the slang of the word “slippery”. Imagine standing in a line, facing a similar line of people, and having to pass a bag of peanuts down the line, using only neon-green, 2 ft long broom handles, and not letting the bag fall, otherwise you have to start over. Imagine a grown-up version of a 3-legged race, with someone you may (or may not) know, in the dark, up and over muddy hills. And imagine joking and laughing the whole time, keeping each other’s morale higher than yours, so they can boost yours higher than theirs. Oddly, I adapted a few of these challenges for my Cub Scouts, and they loved it.

 

Why am I talking about this? It’s simple. It’s been almost a year, and the Hurricane Heat is back in Atlanta. That one that I swore I would never, ever do again? This year, it’ll be my third HH. Over the summer, I participated in one at Ft. Campbell, KY, and it was almost like a family reunion. There’s something special about this group of people. We bonded in Atlanta that night in a way not many people do. I’ve made lifelong friends, bonded closer with acquaintances I had only just meet a few weeks before, and have found a network of people that “get it”.

 

We started that evening as strangers, for the most part, nervous, scared, not sure what to expect. But we finished as family. There’s definitely something indefinable about that night, the night that started with HH-080. Last year, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. This year, I can’t wait for it to happen. That was the magic of 080. I don’t know what the new number will be; I don’t know what the new team name will be; I don’t know who I’ll see/meet there. But I hope you’re one of them. Come define the indefinable with me.

 

Oh, and in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a 45 yr old housewife, with 2 kids. I’m not a runner, I’m not overly strong, but I know how to work on a team, and I’ll never leave a fallen comrade.

 

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On teaching art


For some reason, teaching art in our homeschool has been a struggle.  Which is a shame because I have a degree in art, a Bachelor’s Degree of Fine Arts in Metal Design to be exact.  I always felt I needed an art curriculum but lately, that’s changing.  What I decided to do this time and will hopefully continue through the end of this school year is to just read about artists and then let the kids explore their creativity.  It seems to be working well, however we’ve only studied one artist.

 

Jackson Pollock.

 

I thought that perhaps an unstructured artist might be the easiest to start with.  Jackson Pollock most definitely was NOT structured.  He painted on huge canvases stretched out on the floor with gallons of house paint, old stiff brushes, sticks and the full motion of his own body.  He truly got “into” his work.

 

Well, so did the kids.  No, I didn’t let them paint on huge canvases (although in hindsight, that would have been way fun!) but they did enjoy not having to follow a pattern.  They just painted.  And splattered.  And dripped.  And laughed.  And learned about mixing colors (I only gave them red, yellow and blue paints).  Plus it was beautiful outside.  All in all, a great day.

 

 



“If you’re the parent, be a parent.”

I heard this quote the other night: “I feel like it’s your job to parent them.  If you’re the parent, be a parent.” I’m not going to tell you who said it, because it might cloud your judgement of the statement.  But let’s think about this, shall we?  And yes, I am going to make a few assumptions about things and speak in generalities, but I don’t have the time to actually research numbers.  I can only speak from personal experience and how I observe things in this world.

It’s your job to parent them.

What do your children listen to?  Who are their friends?  Where do they play?  It’s easy for me to control this right now; my daughter is only 8 years old and my son will be 5 soon.  I’m not handing them the keys to the car just yet (nor will I until they’re about 25) but I’m hopeful that my involvement now will influence how they are as teenagers.  I’d like to think that my active participation in their life now will only serve to provide them with a platform, a sturdy framework on which to build their life.  I’m not perfect, by any means.  There are days when I’m just as likely to turn on the TV for them to watch so I can get things done as I am to spend time with them doing what they want to do.  There are times when I’ve reached the end of my rope and snapped at them.

But I will not become passive as a parent when they hit those teen years.  I’ll be just as involved then as I am now but it’ll be a different kind of involvement.  I’ll talk to their teachers (assuming I’m not still homeschooling my daughter) and their friends.  I’ll know their friend’s parents and their coaches.  Sure, they will have independence, but they will also have me.

If you’re the parent, be the parent.

It’s easy to throw blame around on other people when you see bad things happen.  But couldn’t it all just boil down to what they were taught at home?  If someone was taught, whether by example or by inattentiveness, to be disrespectful to others, then who is to blame?  The child or the parent?  What about entitlement?  Suppose a child is given their every desire; wouldn’t that fail to teach them the value of working towards a goal and instead teach them that they should have everything, regardless of what cost it might be (and I’m not just talking financial cost)?

But let’s go back to the notion of respect.  For me, everything boils down to respect for others.  I’ve written about this before and I do still believe this.  And you’ve heard it before: “Kids these days have no respect.”  And who should we look to?  The parents.  Since when did it become “cool” to backtalk your parents or your teachers or any other adult for that matter?  I’ve often seen parents try to be the “friend” instead of the parent, but kids have lots of friends and only one set of parents.  Children need that role model.  Since when did “ma’am” and “sir” become lost in our vernacular?  Parents should be parenting their children and be involved and teach them the importance of showing respect.  A local teacher is waging her own battle against disrespectful students and I applaud her efforts.  But I have to ask the question:  If the parents were being the parents, would she still have this problem?

As I said at the beginning, I’m making a lot of generalities here and I know that my children are not perfect, nor am I a perfect parent.  I often have to remind them to change the “yeah” to “yes, please” or “yes, ma’am” or the “nope” to “no, thank you” but they’re making progress.  Monkey and I talk quite a bit about bullying and respect and how “I was just teasing” isn’t the answer to saying something that hurts someone else’s feelings.  With Little Man, it’s more of a struggle getting him to think of others, but that’s a whole other post.  I often have to step back myself and ask if I could have handled something differently or better.

But back to this:  “I feel that it’s your job to parent them.  If you’re the parent, be the parent.” Are you curious yet who said this?  Marshall Mathers.  Do you know him?  He’s better known as Eminem, a controversial rapper if there ever was one.  This was his response to Anderson Cooper’s question on 60 Minutes about whether or not Em should feel responsible for children learning profanity from his music.  Even he doesn’t use that language around his daughters.  Surprised?  I’m not.  I hope you take the time to watch this.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B0h_uEhNJfs&feature=rec-LGOUT-real_rn-1r-23-HM

Soccer and four-year-olds

Little Man started playing organized soccer three weeks ago.  It’s more of a soccer “camp” in that it only lasts 8 weeks and he’s learning more skills and playing less games but it’s an outlet for his energy.  But I have to tell you, I have learned something about myself watching him play.  But let me back up ~ I’m getting ahead of myself.

He’s playing at an indoor soccer place.  There’s also another indoor field and a regulation size ice rink in the same building.  Monkey is taking ice skating lessons at the same time Little Man plays soccer so I’m pretty busy going back and forth.  The thing about indoor soccer fields is that they are surrounded by a wall of plexiglass to keep the balls on the field and presumably the watchers safe.  I’m beginning to think it’s to keep those overbearing soccer moms and dads at bay, but that’s just me.

The first week, Little Man’s hands contacted the ball more than his feet did (and he wasn’t playing goalie).  He did learn towards the end of the hour to keep his hands off the ball.

Last week, Little Man made soccer a full contact sport.  I think he spent more time tackling the other boys (he left the girls alone) and wrestling them to the ground than he did chasing the ball.  But at least his hands weren’t touching the ball.

Last night wasn’t quite so full contact and there was definite improvement on his game play.  But there were a couple of times when he just stood there, or went off on his own following that drummer with a different beat.  This is where I come in and why I think there is plexiglass between the parents and the kids.  As loud as I may yell, he doesn’t hear me.  As much as I may walk up and down the side of the field, he doesn’t really see me.  As much as I want to interject myself into his game, I’m forced to leave it up to the coaches to correct him and have faith that my little stubborn four-year-old will listen.

Maybe it’s a good thing they aren’t playing on an outdoor grassy field.  I think I’d be one of those parents that gets ejected from the game.

A crafty Valentine idea

Monkey and I decided to get a little crafty this year for her valentines.  Her homeschool enrichment program meets on Mondays and Wednesday and they are exchanging valentines this week.  Her teacher encouraged the kids to get a little creative with their valentines and so Monkey and I looked around online to see what we could find.  We discovered Valentine’s Day Fortune Cookies on a blog I visit (thanks, Brandi over at Not Your Average Ordinary) and they were ridiculously easy to make.

First, you find some craft felt at your local craft store.  We tested the idea with paper but it just didn’t turn out so well.  Trace a circle on the felt and cut it out.  We used a bowl and it worked out nicely for size.

Take some pipe-cleaners and cut them to the same length as the diameter of the circle.  Glue with tacky glue or fabric glue.  I guess you can use a hot glue gun, too, but this is what we had on hand.

Then place the pipe-cleaner along the center of the circle.

Glue a small section across one half of the circle…

… then fold over like a taco.

We made lots of tacos.

Then Monkey spent some time hand writing her own messages on little strips of paper.  She even came up with “You’re a “dog”gone good friend” all on her own.  It was for a friend who really likes dogs.  Can you believe it?  I giggled about that all afternoon.

Then she used fancy cutting scissors to make them look neat.

We slid the strips of paper inside our little “tacos” after they dried, then we folded them back over the middle and made our little fortune cookies!  And a pipe-cleaner heart just because we could.

And there you have a basket full of red Valentine Fortune Cookies.

Waking up with enthusiasm

Little Man has a new thing.  It’s waking up happy.  No, that’s not right, not happy – elated.  No, that’s not right either.  Ok, so maybe I can’t my words right, but I think you get the idea.  No?  Well, here, let me explain.

Three mornings ago, he burst from his room, running down the hall yelling something.  I have no idea what.  It could have been “BONZAI” and it would have totally fit.  Normally, I hear him rustling in his room as he’s waking up, turning on the light, that sort of thing.  Oh, no.  Not this morning.  Why bother with such trivialities as lights when life is waiting for you?

Two mornings ago, I heard him before he reached his closed door.  “Wah HOO!  Wah HOO!”  He opened his door and practically danced into our room, chanting “wah hoo!”  I asked him why he was in such a good mood and he tells me, quite frankly and in that how-can-you-really-ask-me-that tone, “Because it’s morning-time.”

This morning was a duplicate of two mornings ago.  “Wah HOO” echoes down the hall and Little Man celebrates another day.

Shouldn’t we all be that way?  Shouldn’t we all wake up with joy in our hearts and celebrate the new day?  It’s another gift; another opportunity to get things right; another opportunity to connect with a friend or family member.  For this is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Right?

I think tomorrow I’ll shout “Wah HOO” when I wake up.  Especially if I see 6 inches of snow on the ground 🙂

Stuck

This past weekend was a good one.  A dear friend had to have shoulder surgery last month and as a surprise, I planned a pedicure session for a group of us to pamper her.  It was a great excuse to go get a pedi and she hadn’t had one in years.  It was fan-tab-ulous!

While we were sitting around letting our toes dry and finishing our glass of wine, I got a call from Trey.  He usually doesn’t call unless something is wrong but this time he was calling to share a funny story.  I’m here to share it with you.

It was a beautiful day – perfect fall weather – so he and Little Man were outside playing and doing yard work.  Trey was working on trimming some bushes that had grown too high by the house and decided to get the ladder out to finish the trimming from the roof.  While he was up there, he started cleaning off the leaves and getting junk out of the gutters.  As he’s telling me this, my first thought was the Little Man had climbed up the ladder to join him.  Nope.

CRASH

Little Man had knocked over the ladder.  Trey is stuck on the roof.  Trey said that Little Man was standing there like “what?” then started trying to lift the ladder up himself.

“I can’t get it, Daddy!”

“Go get Monkey!”

“K!”

So Little Man returns with Monkey.  Trey tells her that Little Man had knocked over the ladder.  Monkey tells him Little Man said Daddy did it.

Monkey was able to get the ladder up (she’s really a strong little girl) but it was very unstable.  Trey and Monkey worked together to find a stable piece of ground so that he could get down without falling.

I can’t even begin to tell you how badly I wished I could have seen it all happen.  I would have been standing there with a video camera for sure.