Wednesday, December 05, 2007

First Snowfall of the Winter

video I've been so jealous of Anne's blog with its falling snow, and while this doesn't come close in aesthetics to her perfectly timed music and slideshow with the background snow falling, it DOES beat it in that it's REAL snow :) I'll try for better footage when TnT get home from school. The camera kept getting wet and Beth didn't like looking up into the snow for the camera...this is mostly for the sake of family in never-any-weather-California :)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

HALLELULAH! and a Merry Christmas to you from Beth!

I don't know where she heard it first, or why she started singing it, but Elizabeth has been singing Handel's Hallelujah Chorus over and over for quite a few days now. We all absolutely love it (even when it's the middle of dinner time she gets away with singing it, it's THAT cute.) So we finally got out the Christmas CD's yesterday and played it for her, and here's a video of her singing it tonight.

Tyra crochets a scarf during our Endless Autumn

I can't remember the last time the autumn leaves stayed on the trees for this long! It has been beautiful, first when we drove up to Princeton the end of October, and again when we drove down to Charlottesville in November. I love autumn! One of the neat things about the last few weeks has been watching Tyra's scarf get longer and longer. She just started doing it herself. She patiently undid many many rows at the beginning that somehow seemed to get skinnier and skinnier (I remember having the same trouble with some of my own early crocheting.) I was so proud of her continual effort even when things got tricky (like Beth trying to "help", losing her hook, etc.) Tom and I both kept saying how excited we were to finally get to wear "my scarf", but Tyra proclaimed the scarf for everyone, and that we could take turns. I decided Tyra would be the best one to model it for you, but I can testify, it really keeps your neck cozy!

Thoughts about Facebook

So I have joined the social networking phenomenon known as Facebook. Why did I choose Facebook? Because it is a Google derivative -- I mean, because most everyone I know signed up with Facebook instead of MySpace.

My Top Ten Favorite Things about Facebook:
10) I'm now a proud member of the "When I was your age, Pluto was a planet" group.
9) Making friends on Facebook is as easy as sending an email. It also appears that to get married you only need an email confirmation.
8) "Susan is listed as married to Thomas Draper". Phew!
7) I resumed contact with my old Brazilian friend Vitor from High School. I haven't heard from him for nearly twenty years.
6) Getting "poked" doesn't hurt at all online. In fact, I have no idea what it is for at all if you can't use it to raise the ire of your brothers.
5) I was able to "friend" the wonderful Pennington family, who showed me a wonderful time the Sunday I was in Brisbane, Australia earlier this year.
4) I like to "Flip my pillow over to get to the cold side" just like 398,683 other people.
3) My brother Michael was mocking me within ten minutes of signing up. To quote, he said, "Hey boy, what made you decide to join facebook?" Now I know why he never responds to my emails. He spends all his time scoping girls on Facebook.
2) Being "friends" with my mother-in-law is much easier in cyberspace.
1) My cousin Grace is already one of my friends. She has only been married a couple of months. So I was rolling on the floor in tears when I received a "friend update" that said, 'Grace Gordon Hart removed "my husband" from their interests.' Welcome to married life!

Feel free to friend me if you are short on over-aged, married, working males with four children. I seem to be a rare commodity on Facebook.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Car Trouble Plus Security Guard Equals?

We have been having a little trouble with our car engine recently, and this has evidently affected our fuel economy. I was driving to work up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, when my car started to sputter. I was about 50 miles short of where I would usually need to get gas, and I was actually planning on gettting gas at Costco on my way to work.

The car was sputtering on and off, and I was slowly losing speed. Luckily, there was an exit within half a mile and I slowly coasted down a gentle hill to the NASA only exit not too far from our house. Well NASA might not be as tightly guarded as good old NSA, but they still have security guards. I had my hazards flashing as I coasted up to the gate and pulled off to the side.

One of the guards immediately came out to greet me and I said that I had ran out of gas, and that I needed to call my wife. She said that she would talk to her supervisor and left. A few minutes later she came back and said, "I'm sorry. We don't have a phone that you can use. You just need to move your car out of here." "It's out of gas.", I said, "Do you have any sort of assitance vehicles? All I need is a splash and I can make it to a local pump. I would be happy to pay for it." "I'm sorry", she replied, "We don't have anything like that. Now please move your car."

Again I replied, "I can't. My car has run out of gas." I had noticed that she used a phone to call her supervisor. "Is it really not possible to use your phone? I just need to call my wife or a friend and they could bring me some gas." Again the reply, "Let me talk to my supervisor."

I waited patiently wondering if I had gotten myself into more trouble by pulling of the exit rather than flagging down someone on the parkway with a cell phone. The security guard returned, "Don't you have a cell phone?" "I did.", I confessed, "But we lost it recently." "You really should have a cell phone.", she reprimanded. "You're right.", I said, "We're planning on getting another one." I then hopefully asked, "Do you have a cell phone?" "Of course not!", she barked back, "Why would I have a cell phone?" "I dunno.", I muttered wondering how long this could go on.

"The other guard leaned out of the booth and shouted, "Tell that person he needs to get his car out of here!" The guard at my car turned to me again and said, "Sir. You really need to get your car out of here." I replied, "Do you want me to push it out of here? I don't think I can even push it back up this hill. If you just let me call my wife, she can bring some gas and I will move the car." She emphatically restated, "We can't let you use the phone sir." I said, "Okay. My house is only three miles from here I will run home, get some gas, come back here, and move my car." "You may not leave your car here sir.", came the reply. "So what do you want me to do?", I said. "I want you to move your car out of here.", came the reply.

"I don't know how I can move my car without gas." I said. "Do you have AAA?", she asked. "Will you let me call AAA?", I asked. "No.", came the response. Hrrrmmmmphhh. "Let me talk to my supervisor.", she said again. This time she returned saying, "My supervisor says that it is okay for you to call your wife on our phone." "What a brilliant idea!", I exclaimed, "I wish I had thought of that!" The security guard quickly drew her taser from her holster and I screamed, "Don't taze me sis!" ... No, I didn't really taunt the security guard. But I was thinking it very loudly. As I walked over to use the phone, I realized that my wife was leaving for a friend's house as I left, and I didn't know the friend's phone number.

Well the climax of this story has past. They let me call a friend instead, he brought the gas and I only arrived at work one hour later than I had anticipated.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Thomas' great end to a soccer season


Back in August when Thomas was saying "I WON'T play. I want to go HOME!" I knew it was important to steadily encourage him and make it as easy as possible for him. The first day I followed him back home then dragged him back over on condition that he only needed to watch. So he did, uninterested. A few days later I made T n T practice some dribbling and kicking, Thomas hating it all the while. The next practice I volunteered to help the coach as he was trying to get 2 smaller groups to practice certain skills. I was amazed Thomas stuck with it, mostly while I was there. With just one more afternoon practicing with Tyra and me Thomas has decided he likes soccer and he has "never looked back". Today was the last day, the tournament. Thomas' coach likes to put him on defense and says he has a sure foot and a strong kick. I'm just thrilled that he enjoys it so much.
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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween




Friday night was the ward's Trunk-or-Treat Party. Tyra already had a witch costume so when we found another one for Lil that came with a black cat head gear for Beth they were excited to be coordinated in their outfits. Thomas said he would only go as himself right up until it was time to go. Then when he had to get on long pants and sleeves anyway and I already had black for him to change into he finally did as it was the easiest thing for him. But he refused the cape, which is how Tom ended up in it. (Looking mighty fine, if I do say so.) The kids had a fun time running around with their friends from church. It was raining so they just put up chairs all around the cultural hall and the kids paraded around trick-or-treating from person to person.
Tonight we got home from Princeton with just enough time to have the kids vacuum the van while I picked up Beth's medicine (she's still on Miralax, and it sure is perfect for her, for those of you who knew of the difficulties she was having.) Then we put on their outfits again and went out enjoying the nice weather. I must say, this was the first Halloween where there were just LOTS of kids out on the streets and we recognized so many more now after doing soccer. We ended up walking easily downhill too far. By the time we were at the bottom of the hill Lily was already saying "It's enough! I want to go home! It's too heavy" We laughed, helped her, and skipped some houses. But there were so many people out on their porches we felt bad walking past. Our town really got into it and for someone who "hates" Halloween for it being a ridiculous thing to celebrate, I sure had a great time with my cute kids. I told Tom, as we stood on the walks while the kids went up to the porches that I never really thought about being the mom for halloween. Maybe because mostly my Dad would take us around while Mom passed out candy at home, but it was fun to carry Beth around, and watch her hold her little cat tail. "I call you Susan" she told me once tonight. Oh she thought she was hilarious. And she was. Whenever I tell Lily that she's hilarious she says "I'm not Larry" (referring to Veggie Tales, I guess she means hi-LARRY-ous, she made me laugh too, when I figured out what she was talking about.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ben and Jackie: "Unbelievably Thrilled"

I can't believe it! My brother Ben and his wife Jackie (see April's entry when they were married) just found out that they will be among the first people in the world to use a fuel cell electric vehicle as a daily driver! Only 6 cars will be given out for this program, 4 in LA and 2 here on the East Coast. I feel so nearly famous, and so excited for them. Check out this article about it: http://blogs.edmunds.com/.ee9f8bf.
Way to go, Ben and Jackie, have a blast! (And give us a ride the next time we're in Burbank :) )

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What's the price of quality family time?

Luckily NOT an arm and a leg. Unfortunately it can sometimes be the price of a very painful scratch to the cornea. Last Tuesday night Tom was doing his world-famous Daddy Roughhousing when some little 4 year-old who loves him very much accidentally stuck him in the eye. The scratch was obvious to me, it looked like the white skin covering (scelera?) had some jagged scratches. When the pain hadn't subsided by the next morning Tom got an appointment with the Opthamologist (voted top 100, as seen on his office wall :) .) He said that the cornea is the most painful part of the eye to injure. Tom said he wasn't surprised to hear that, judging from the way tylenol and advil had had very little effect on his pain.
All's well, but it has been funny to watch how Tom may move as an old man. He had a patch on his right eye for the first 24 hours and has had to have dilating drops and ointment put in it regularly. Luckily the perkoset has allowed him to sleep better than that first night! We go back to the Dr. tomorrow, hopefully all will be almost as good as newl. He's been peeking out more and more today, and even got some fresh air outside while we planned our camping trip for this Thurs/Fri when the kids are off from school. Getting so excited, hopefully Tom will have enough use out of his eye to get some depth perception so we can bike the C&O Canal trail by the Paw Paw Tunnel . We're also hoping that "all fun and games until someone gets their eye poked out" has a little more meaning for our kids now! (Not like we really say that. Usually Tom's the instigator anyway. His favorite way for that quote to end is "then it's still fun but you just can't see." Shouldn't surprise you if you've already heard me whining about hearing Beth who used to LOVE to sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat, suddenly start singing to me one day "Blow, blow, blow your nose, quickly comes the stream..." and it was a 34 year old who'd taught her, not a LITTLE kid.)
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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Is it better to think of it as genetic?

My wonderful sister-in-law, Janine, just sent me the link to this article about children and their eating habits. It reminded me of one part of Tyra's party that we didn't mention: dinner. Tyra got to choose the dinner and she chose chicken nuggets and plain angel hair pasta. I asked her to choose something green, and she said OK to Caesar salad. Well, when her friends were all eating this (surprisingly they all agreed to the salad, not surprisingly few of them finished the small amount of it I put on their plates) they said many times "This is a great dinner!" and "This is delicious!" just like I'd expect a friend of mine to do after I'd made some new fancy recipe out of our Gourmet cookbook.
I have to admit, our kids aren't NEARly as bad as the kids in the article, but this part is just soo true: "In some families, communal meals become brutal battlegrounds, if they haven’t been altogether abandoned. Cooks break under the weight of devising a thousand variations on macaroni and cheese. Strolls through the farmers’ markets are replaced with trudges through the frozen food aisle."
And as for Jessica Seinfeld's method of hiding the veggies, it seems silly that they say it's a bad idea, while in the next paragraph they basically say to just wait it out. At least the hiding it helps the nutritional content during the tough stages! I'd forgotten how often I've done the same thing until one time when Thomas asked why the spaghetti sauce looked so weird and I explained that it had spinach in it, but that you REALLY couldn't taste it. He then said "I remember when you put spinach in the brownies!" I must say, the reason he noticed, both times, is because I put in whole baby leaves, not chopped at all....

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Tyra's Under the Sea Party





Tyra has loved to plan a party from the time she was old enough to hold a pencil and a notebook for her lists. She spends a lot of time thinking about the invitations, who to invite, the decorations, and the activities. I enjoy the preparations myself, and love to follow her lead. This year there was an even better incentive, having a need to clean up the edges of my house a little more. I spent quite a bit of time getting rid of the broken bits of packing peanuts that were all over the back of the sunroom, and cleaned out and organized all the toys. I still have a basket full of small items to return to the rightful toy bins and game boxes, but many many hours of cleaning it out have made a difference!
Back to the party, I'm going to make Tyra write about it, but I'm putting up the pictures of the cake, friends, and decorations. A word about store-bought frosting. We all know it's the worst type of thing to put into your body: corn syrup and partially-hydrogenated oil. Not to mention it doesn't really taste very good. But things were busy and I decided to buy a container of it to frost the cake and then make thicker stuff for the decorating. It says right on the package that it frosts a 2 layer cake. All I can say is, when I spread the frosting on the cake it just OOZED off the edges and PUDDLED on the cardboard. I scooped it up and stuck it back on top and put it in the fridge. Then I had to take it out for short periods of time to add the words, then the seaweed, then the "gravel" then the fish. It was definitely NOT a time saver to have gone with that frosting! Luckily it sort of worked to shove strips of paper under the edges of the cake to cover up the grease stains on the cardboard! And luckily Tyra was feeling oh so happy and forgiving and said she loved it any way.
The other pictures show her "seaweed" and "jellyfish" decorations, and the pin-the-clownfish-on-the-anemone game/decoration.
As for the party, there was a lot of screaming and giggling, so I think it was success!

Tyra, age 9


I can't believe my little girl is 9! Well, when she's practicing her flute and piano, doing her cellular biology homework, cooking up a pan of brownies without any help, reading big long books, and braiding her own hair, I guess it's easy enough to believe. But she is still my sweetest-ever little snuggling girl who loves to wear her silk pajamas from Aunt Angela and Uncle Rob so that I'll want to give her back scratches. And while she doesn't say "I'm going to be a woman soon" like she did when she was 3, she DOES like to remind me regularly that she is 3 years from Young Womens, 1 year from being a tween, and (especially) 9 years from going to college! Ever since we walked around campus this summer and visited GramaLee in the Library and Grandpa Tom in his office she has been looking forward to going to BYU as a student. (I definitely prefer that to Lily's desire to be a princess when she grows up. But even now I feel it fading in Lily as she starts to realize there's more to life...)
Besides reminding me how quickly she's growing up, she also reminds me of her 3 year-old self when she feels the Spirit. Though when she was three she would look beatific and say things like "I'm going to be a Nephite woman" and "Heavenly Father is bigger than our house" her prayers and responses to scripture stories were a wonderful testimony of the Holy Ghost touching those who have faith. Even still, turning 9 yesterday, Tyra reminded me of those days as we listened to conference together in the living room. The astute, perceptive notes she took may have been different, but the beatific look, and the loving feeling of being touched by the Spirit were just the same. She would keep coming up to me with hugs and eskimo kisses and snuggles. If you saw her when Lily and Beth were born then you know the look I mean.
I am so proud of my girl. She is a beautiful person, inside and out, and I feel so privileged to be her mother. I absolutely love watching the person she is becoming, yet has always been.

Oops, this was supposed to be a post about her birthday party and such. I better change the title and try the birthday info again...

Greenbelt National Park, .2 miles away







One of the neatest things about living inside of the Capital Beltway is that it doesn't feel so big city. Part of that is being near lots of un-developed farming land belonging to the USDA, but the other part for us is being right across the street from a National Park, complete with camping, picnicking, and hiking. Tom pooh-poohs the idea of camping there, mostly because of the fact that there are constantly airplanes and helicopters overhead. But it sure is great for an afternoon of hiking in the forest, or paying $13 for a campsite for date night to have a campfire picnic dinner (I made lemon-butter salmon steaks, corn-on-the-cob, and vegetable ribbons in olive oil and sea salt, tinfoil dinners, soooo yummy and non-family camping feeling.)

A strange thing about Sundays is that by about 4 or 5 in the afternoon we are all feeling the same urge to go outside for fresh air and sunshine. So these pictures are from a Sunday a few weeks ago when we loaded the kids in the car with the biking trailer and some snacks and water bottles and drove .2 miles to go hiking :)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Maryland Renaissance Festival

Last Saturday Tom went to Tyra's soccer game, then I took the girls to Thomas' soccer game, then by 1:00 we picked up a new soccer friend of Tyra's and took off for Crownsville, MD, home of the Renaissance Fair. We watched a jester "A Fool Named O" show, a swordswallower magician show, and a jousting match (Huzzah!) We also got to practice juggling, walk through a big maze, and eat some fun treats. The kids all had a great time (although Thomas will tell you otherwise.) We barely had energy for baths before falling into bed.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Out of the Frying Pan...

I have enjoyed so much working with the sisters in our ward through Enrichment. I think I've complained way more than anything else, but that's pretty much normal for me. It wasn't easy, and I can't say I'll be sad to be released, but that doesn't mean I won't keep with me some good memories and more still, closer relationships because of serving with the sisters. I got to go out on a "high note"--being an alto that's not necessarily a good thing-- by being in charge of a Saturday morning quarterly enrichment meeting with luncheon. Sally did way more than she was supposed to, having had her 3rd baby during the last month of preparation time. But after calling quite a few sisters to help with the luncheon to no avail, I was sure glad that she was up for more work than she should have been doing. After running around like crazy (trying to get Thomas to his first soccer game, along with everything else required to run a big activity) I felt a sense of relief: Ah, now the quarterly activity days will be put on for just the primary kids, no luncheons required, no adults "watching", scheduling up to me, etc.

And into the fire...
The only part of being Primary President that I really feel anxious about is being in charge of the Primary Sacrament Meeting Program. Which happens to be coming soon, to a day not scheduled by me. With lots of adults (more than at enrichment!) watching. Luckily Sister Baun did get together with her counselors and song leader and write up an outline months ago. But at this point it is only that, a VERY rough outline. I may take the suggestion to copy one that's been posted on the internet, if I can find one that fits our very small primary.

Anyway, I'm excited for what I believe this calling will mean to our family, especially the children and myself. I have kept one of Holly's counselors, Rebekah Barnes, who used to be one of my Achievement Days girls 9 years ago when I moved into the ward. She's great, enthusiatic, on time, reliable, great with the kids. My other counselor is yet to be determined. I was told that everyone I asked for were spoken for by other organizations. We'll see, it might just be the two of us for a while, good thing it's such a small primary!

Lillian Turns Four








Sept 14 was a busy day. I was preparing for my final quarterly Enrichment activity we were holding the next morning. It was also the last soccer practice before Thomas' first official soccer game. Luckily GramaLee gave Lily a little princess laptop which she opened up in the morning and was then busy with while I dragged her to Costco to get the luncheon food, and while we dragged her to the church to set up tables and chairs. (We don't even have an Elder's Quorum president yet, though the Lambert's have been gone for a month!)

Can I just say, I don't know what I'd do without Tyra. She got Lily to help her put up streamers around the livingroom. And she frosted and decorated the cake with Lily (100% on tyheir own!.) We ate Wendy's on the floor like a picnic (maybe Lil didn't know it was because the table was covered with stuff for the quarterly!) and let the kids play with some balloons. She was a real trooper. It was only the next afternoon when I was driving with her in the car that she suddenly said "I didn't LIKE my birthday! I didn't have any of my FRIENDS! I wanted FRIENDS!"
It was certainly a busy time, so much so that we never managed to call Aunt Annie and have the two birthday girls share in the fact that they're on the same day. But it sounded like Anne was pretty swamped in California too!

Stephenie Meyer Book Signing

59

I had noted that she would be coming to the DC area, and even thought about going. So when Sally emailed asking if anyone wanted to go, I was in. Ryan took his laptop and drove down to the borders around 6:30 or so in the morning to get us tickets. He got us number 80 and 81. Not until we arrived at 6 or so in the evening did I realize how great that was. The people sitting near us on the floor had #859. And that was with an hour to go of people just coming in. I had to keep laughing at us, and I was, from the time I took off leaving Tom home with the kids. It just felt like such a teenage thing to do. We didn't join in the "Edward! Jacob!" chanting. We didn't have the t-shirts. We weren't wearing birthday hats in celebration of Bella's birthday. We were passing the youngest girl in the crowd back and forth between us (Sally brought her 1 month old Zoe, who was sooo cute and perfect, falling asleep during the q & a.) It was fun to get to hear her answers to the questions. Unfortunately no one asked the ones I wanted to hear, and they pushed you through the signing line sooooooo fast that I didn't even ask her when we were up at the table. But it was a fun outing, even getting lost on the way back home. Sally was easy going (even with Zoe crying in the back seat) when I went the wrong way. It was fun to chat and just have a girl's night out.
Of course, now I'm thinking of selling my signed books on ebay as I see them going for so much more than I paid. Too bad I had her write my name in Eclipse! :)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

So Proud of my Hubby

I know, maybe you get tired of hearing it, but it's still hard for me to believe how lucky I am: smart, funny, handsome, sweet, great father, wonderful husband, etc., etc.! But tonight has been a fun time to just think on especially one aspect of Tom's greatness: success at work. (I know, that's MANY aspects: ability to get along so well with people, straight brains, quick eye and understanding, managing skills, technical writing, keeping his mouth shut :) etc.,)
Tonight was the Grade 14 Promotion Ceremony. Only 10% of the people who were qualified for the promotion received it. General Alexander wasn't there for the ceremony itself as he was talking to Congress about FISA But after we had eaten our refreshments, chatted with the people Tom knew, and looked at the new sections added near the "They Served In Silence" memorial which were all about the war on terrorism, Tom wanted to go back one last time to see if he'd come. Right as I asked "Will you even recognize the general?" Tom said "Yes, and that's him" So we got to shake his hand. Tom had already met him because of a advisory board of which he's the executive chair. My big-wig husband :)
I mostly noted that he is the first person to compliment me on my new necklace my mom gave me for my birthday, though I've worn it many times. :) (Besides Beth, of course. She mentions it every time saying "Oh, your necklace is fewtiful, mommy! I like your necklace! Oh! GrammaLee gave it to you for your birthday! It's fewtiful!" Thurs. night when we came home from the ceremony Elizabeth went through all this again and then added "I like your chinny-chin! (and touched it) I like your lips! (touch) I like your nose!" and on through everything, with a pause about my forehead, which she finally said, while touching it like for a fever "I like your... head!" Ah, funny how I blame my diminished looks--wrinkles, weight gain, etc-- to having Beth(and the others) yet she's the one to make me feel so fewtiful!)

Bit of a sidenote there, but I never said you had to read my blog! This entry is about the super-man who is my husband, who is keeping us all safe every day at his job :)

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Lambert's Leave

It happens all the time. I blame it on the airlines. If they didn't make travel so easy and affordable, people would be forced into staying my friends! As it is they can just pick up and go at the drop of a hat, and they sure DO. I've been avoiding blogging for 3 weeks or more now because this entry needing to be written. But I think I've come around.

OK a few more weeks have passed. I started to write a list of all the good friends we've made in the ward who have since moved away. It made me all melancholy and so I stopped writing this once again.
So the Lambert's are in American Fork, UT now, and Lily asks me daily "Is it time to go on the airplane now?" and "I'm ready to go to Utah" all with the intent of seeing Carol Anne and Ellie. But I figure we've come a long way in the last month since last week Lily said "Mom, let's go to Utah or the farm" Needless to say, I rushed us all to the farm when Tyra and Thomas had the day off and counted my blessings. Another good sign is that Elizabeth now thinks of the other 2 year olds in the playgroup as her friends. For the first many weeks I would prep her on our way saying "Yay, we're going to see your friends Auden and Sydney!" to which she would reply "NO! JOHNNY's my friend!"

Anyway, there's still a big hole in our hearts, but we're surviving. Ug. I just won't write my thoughts on the subject. I wanted to write of the Lambert's and what their friendship has meant to us over the last 4 years, but I guess it'll take even longer. Many of you who read my blog are people I've had to say goodbye to already, and sometimes I'm crying when I write the occasional sappy letter or note!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Tyra's first soccer game


Tyra had her first soccer game this past Thursday. Her team practiced biweekly, for the last two weeks, and they were excited for their first real chance to take the field. Tyra's team consists of 8-12 year olds, and she is one of the youngest and smallest on her team. She looks up to the older girls on the team because they are so much faster and stronger. It turns out that their first game gave everyone on the team a chance to feel small.

When we arrived, everyone was waiting for the previous game to finish. The parents started scoping out the opposition. There was another group of girls there, but they looked like a group of teenagers that would be playing in a different league. When the game was getting ready to start, it became clear that this was actually the team they were going to play. Many of us wondered if they actually were under 12, but when they all showed us their driver's licenses to prove their ages, all our fears were assuaged.

If you ever have wondered what would happen if David faced Goliath without God on his side, this was a good example. The first goal was scored in about thirty seconds. So was the second third and fourth. The other coach was a reasonable sport and pulled each player on the other team after they scored a goal. The main problem was that the smallest player on the opposing team was about the same size as the largest player on Tyra's team. Each of the opposing players was either very fast or very large. I would guess that about six of the other team players out weighed me. That is the adult ref in the all blue shirt.

As Tyra's little team tried to valiantly defend, players kept getting mowed down. One girl got kicked in the ankle. Another got ran over. Another successfully blocked a kick with her chest and got the wind knocked out of her. Our team bench began to feel like a hospital wing. When the call for subs came, the girls bravely agreed to reenter the fray. The poor goalie took the pounding of her life. Even when she managed to block to first couple of shots, they always seemed to score. It almost looked like dodgeball, when the team mercifully scored after a little kicking practice against the goalie.

In the second half, the other coach forbid everyone except his three worst players from crossing the midfield line. This put an end to the scoring free for all as Tyra's entire team seemed to be able to handle the three remaining players. Of course, whenever Tyra's team recovered the ball they headed down field to what they affectionately referred to after the fact as "The Wall".

"The Wall" functioned exactly as the name would imply. Tyra's team never got very far past the midfield line before they were completely overwhelmed. "The Wall" was getting bored and kept cat-calling their coach to let them cross the line. He refused. One of the players pounded a kick from just over the midfield line and it soared through the air into the net. Goal. Their coach was livid and pulled the girl for the remainder of the game.

The game finally came to an end. I don't know what the final score was. No one was really interested. The teams wished each other well and we were off. When Tyra complained about how the game went, I told her that she probably had more fun than at least on person on the other team. Who? "The goalie. She just stood in the sun for an hour." "Dad!"

Sunday, August 19, 2007

What A Wonderful Day

What A Wonderful Day
by Tyra D.

The wind is whistling.
The birds are singing.
The crickets chirping.
What a wonderful day.

Feel the wind.
Isn't it cool.
It is not a hot day
But what a wonderful Day.

What-A-Wonderful-Day

Tyra Zanne Draper
Age 8

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The Chess Tournament

For the last two years, whenever I have suggested playing chess with Thomas, he has adamantly proclaimed, "No way! Chess is boring!" However, this summer when we were visiting with family in Utah, Thomas' uncle Brian convinced him to play a game of chess with him. Once Thomas started playing, he latched onto Chess with typical Thomas tenacity. He asks to play chess almost daily and he commonly wants to play many times in a single day. After we returned, I took Thomas to the local chess club that meets biweekly. It is currently sadly under attended. Both times we went, there were only one or two other children there, and these "children" were teenagers. Thomas still enjoyed playing, even though he was thoroughly routed. The chess instructor told me that there was an upcoming chess tournament and he thought Thomas should play. He said they were going to divide into two groups for the competition, K-4 and grades 5-9. Thomas was willing, so we decided to give it a shot.

The day of the tournament came. Tyra wanted to watch, but refused to participate, even though she certainly has the talent. At least she only says, "I don't like chess." instead of "I'm not good at chess.", since the second statement is definitely false.

We arrived and there were only 14 children registered, so the director made the decision to run the competition with everyone together, K-9. I had already prepped Thomas on the way down saying that the most important thing in this tournament was for him to have fun. He may have thumped on his friends who barely know the rules to chess, but he was now playing with other children who also loved and played a lot of chess. Now things seemed worse than I had anticipated. There was one ninth grader, one eighth grader, one six grader, four fifth graders, two fourth graders, Thomas and another second grader, and three younger children.

So before the tournament, I reiterated my advice to Thomas, "Have fun. Think carefully before you move." The initial opponents were selected randomly. Before things could get started, one of the very young children, a small sweet girl, simply refused to sit down against her older opponent. Eventually, it was clear that she wasn't going to play at all. So her opponent was to get a bye the first found and the field was reduced to 13.

Mr. Fagan, the tournament director then announced that the games could begin, and it wasn't 15 seconds before the next interruption. The other second grader raised his hand and said, "What should I do?" Mr. Fagan walked over and asked, "What do you mean?" The second grader clarified, "How do I move?" Mr. Fagan credulously responded, "Do you know how to play chess?" "No." "Have you ever played chess?" "No." "Do you know any of the rules of chess?" "No." Mr. Fagan paused about 10 seconds and then carefully said, "It will be very difficult for you to participate in the tournament today if you don't know how to move." He quietly took the second grader aside and asked for the parent. The boy turned out to be the brother of the younger girl who refused to play. Evidently, their mother didn't really understand that this was a tournament and not a lesson. Mr. Fagan kindly took her aside and praised her for having an interest in chess and told her when the regular club meetings were. The field was reduced to 12, with only two children younger than Thomas.

The other games were moving along rapidly, and Thomas' game was the first to finish. I went over to check it out and it wasn't pretty. He was down a queen, a rook and two minors by the time he was checkmated. This fifth grader had just obliterated him. Thomas said, "Good game." and shook his hand. Tyra had her arm around Thomas and was speaking comfort to him, but his face was stoic. I asked him if he had fun. He said, "Yes." "Do you want to keep playing?" "Yes." "Will you do me one favor?" "What?" "Will you take at least 10 seconds before you move each time." "Why?" "I think you will see more." "What about on my very first move when I know that I am doing the King's Indian?" "You don't have to wait then." "What about my second move?" "I don't know, but I think you will enjoy the game more if you make yourself wait a little before moving." "Okay dad."

I took Thomas and Tyra outside to run around a little bit. When we game back in, only one game was still going. It involved another one of the younger children. He was in check, but didn't see the move to get out of check. According to tournament rules, no one could assist, and clocks would come out only after 30 minutes had expired. And then the child had to wait for his time to run out before losing. So the two children sat at the table not moving for 40 minutes before the one finally lost on time. It was time for round two.

This was a typical ladder style tournament. The means that the winners play the winners and the losers play the losers. Each win moves you up the ladder and your next game is against a more difficult opponent. If you lose, the opposite happens. Again I moved to the far end of the room, wanting to give Thomas his space. He was going to play another fifth grader. Tyra stayed close to observe. Shortly, I saw Tyra jumping up and down smothering Thomas with hugs and kisses. He had won his second game. He walked over to me again. His face was still stoic, but with a small crack of a smile as the sides of his lips. I asked him if he had fun. He said, "Yes."

Thomas' next opponent was going to be better, given his win, but he seemed to be getting in his groove. We repeated the pattern of running around outside, talk a little bit, and play chess, and Thomas kept on winning. Along the way Thomas had made friends with Jack, a fourth grader. Between each round they would discuss their games and other topics mostly of interest to boys. Tyra had also made friends with Jack's sister, who was also just watching the tournament. In the final round of the day, two undefeated players were playing at Table 1. The winner would take first, the loser second. At table 2, it was announced that Jack would be playing Thomas. They had each lost only one game, and the winner would take third place. Tyra and Jack's sister kept going on about "Friend against friend!" They didn't know who to root for.

Thomas and Jack wished each other luck and the final round began. They were playing fairly even, until Thomas pulled a surprise checkmate out in the middle of the game. None of his pieces were within 4 squares of Jack's King. Jack searched for a way out, but couldn't find it. He called the tournament director over to verify that is was indeed a checkmate. It was. They shook hands and said, "Good game." It had been a long day, but as it turns out, it wasn't over.

At table 1, there was a mighty battle. The game was very close, but eventually one boy turned his two pawn advantage into a two queen advantage and prevailed. The winner of the entire tournament was the same boy that trounced Thomas the first game. Mr. Fagan said that since Thomas and Rick, the loser at table one, had the same win-loss record and their only loss came against the same person, the tournament champion, they were tied for second. There would be a one game playoff for second place.

Tyra was jumping around nervously repeating, "Oh Thomas. Oh Thomas." Knowing how handily the champion had beat Thomas and how close the final game was, I didn't want to get Thomas' hopes up to much. I could overhear the other dad saying, "...remember to attack queenside first..." and some other suggestions. I told Thomas I was already proud of him, and that I would never have believed that he could do so well in first tournament. "Just move carefully and have fun."

The game began. Thomas started out patiently and Rick attacked vigorously. Thomas met the attack deftly and was soon up two minor pieces. I started to be optimistic. Thomas would have a fairly easy victory by just trading pieces now. Rick was worried. He started to withdraw, and Thomas in his haste to pursue, chased with pawns that were best suited to protect his king. Rick saw the new weakness and was able to isolate Thomas' king with a sacrifice and then move in for checkmate with his queen and rook. Thomas looked the board over and extended his hand, "Good game."

Thomas received his third place trophy in the ceremony that followed. We were all smiles coming home. Thomas was already talking about next time...

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Middle Age?!



Now, when I say this, everyone jumps in and says "No, oh no, not till 40, 45, 50, 55" depending on how old they themselves are. But ever since I was a preteen I always have thought as 35 as the epitome of middle age, if not the zenith. I think it is related to the bible saying we should expect to live to 72. But then that would make it 36, wouldn't it, math friends. It's probably more likely I just read it in a book or something. Or maybe my mom was that age when I was putting it into my conscious mind.

Whatever the reason, I've looked forward to 35 for quite a while. I was hoping for 2 possible outcomes: a camping trip or a multi-dessert party with all my friends. But due to Tom's chronic fatigue of the previous month, my lack of planning, and my general laziness, (I KNOW Dad, I'm FINE, I'm not really lazy... etc!) we opted instead for a 3rd outcome, which turned out just great: Pancake breakfast at the Lambert's all morning, then errands with Tyra in the afternoon (including sharing a salad and chocolate dipped ice cream bar at Costco) Then there was Chevy's as a family. --Can I just say? That is the best restaurant to take 4 kids. Not only do they have the regular crayons and coloring menu, but you get balloons, a hunk of tortilla dough to play with, the tortilla making machine to look at, and chips and salsa to keep them happy till the food comes. Plus for only $4 the kids get fries and fresh fruit and ice cream along with the main thing they order. And finally, they put a hat on the head of the b-day person and sing, which is fun for the kids (if not so much for the Mom)-- And we came home and did our candles on the Costco Cheesecake that no one really ate because we were too full. I just love how we are our own party wherever we go, whatever we're doing now. Very much the way it felt as a kid with 6 siblings. And to end the day Tom and I put up our feet on our new reclining sofas and watched Freedom Writers.

So this first picture is of my present from Tyra. I just laughed. Maybe when we put Tyra in charge of camping it will happen! She made me a campground with a tent and fire :)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tom's Volleyball Team...



...goes to the championship playoffs. This was Tom's second year of playing volleyball with Don Baggett from work and some other friends. They do a great job and win almost all of their games. So when they were playing their final games Tom invited all the fam to come watch. Well, I was amazed at how well the kids stayed focused watching and cheering and keeping tabs on the score throughout the first game. With all that energy coming their way Tom's team won. (Along with his excellent serving, setting, and blocking skills) Then we said "hi" (we slipped in right as it started) and let the kids get a drink from the drinking fountain and it was all downhill from there. I spent the next 2 games of the set bringing kids back from the drinking fountain and trying to get them to come read books, eat snacks, or anything I could think of rather than running around and laughing loudly. Well, I like to think that the kids were not too distracting to Tom's team, but I think the lack of our collective cheering had something to do with them losing the next 2 games. But they played great and it was really fun to see my honey in "his element" (one of his many...) He also plays raquetball and has been nursing quite the fat lip for the last week since he got hit by the racket of his "friend" :) That's my man!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

National Wildlife Refuge Visitor's Center






Many of our visitors have visitied the National Wildlife Refuge Visitor's Center with us, but somehow Brian and Janine never have. So one of the days they were here we talked about going. The girls were excited to go to "the museum" but between J & B's car's a/c getting fixed and my general laziness for getting out the door it never happened. So every day after that Lily asked to go; so we finally did last Thursday. I must say I love that place. I'll never forget the first time I took Tyra and Thomas there. Tyra was probably 3 and as we were driving through the beautiful treesy exit and she sighed out "Thank you Mommy for taking us there!" It has always been a good experience, even this February in the freezing FREEZING cold when my dad and Pam were visiting us along with Lisa and Anne and their kids.

So back to the "museum", the pictures show the first thing where you can put your donations into the beaver's lodge, and pet the beaver. Then there are displays of some stuffed animals in the lobby. They there are displays with buttons and levers to push to learn about the world and how we can protect our planet from pollution, deforestation, etc. Finally there are beautiful displays of different animals in their habitats, and a place to look through binoculars at the Patuxent wetlands reserve.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Tyra's Swimming Lessons





For years now, whenever we sit down and discuss personal goals, or talents, or such things, Tyra has always said she wants to learn how to swim. Last summer in La Jolla, CA Tom started teaching Tyra in our pool, and Grandpa Lee taught her in his pool. But she still needed and wanted lessons. So this year I marked my planner for the morning the county parks and rec opened registration for their summer classes. So far, time and again I'd get around to trying in the first week or two and all the classes would be full, and being on all the waiting lists resulted in no phone call saying we were in. So I set my alarm and signed her up. Well, Tyra amazed me. She was so confident and did everything she was supposed to. When it was time for their first jump off the diving board I just prayed and yet still expected to see her inch toward the edge of the board then either refuse, or at least look terrified as she jumped. Well, she just walked, almost running, right of the edge!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

"I Say It!"

I think all of you who've had a kid around this age have gone through this stage before. Elizabeth just delighted us all many months ago with her happy compliance with our request that she offer the blessing on the food. But something went haywire a little over a week ago when she started her "I say it!" stage. Whenever another person is chosen to say the prayer Beth yells out that she wants to. So often the person who was either about to start or actually did start will stop and say "ok, you can". Then EJ refuses to say anything, or even copy the parent trying to prompt her. So after a while we give up and ask the other person, only to start the cycle over. It's great fun. So one time after Lily had finished the prayer and I looked up to see how the tears were actually rolling down Beth's cheeks over this I had to film her. It's too funny. To date, the only time she has said a prayer since this stage began is when Aunt Janine prompted her

Sunday, July 15, 2007

FAMILY THIS SIDE OF THE MISSISSIPPI!!!!

I am already enjoying the benefit of having family a short drive away! Janine and Brian just moved out to Winston-Salem, North Carolina this month. It is so exciting to me, since it has taken many plane tickets to see family for the last 9 years! J and B have found a house to buy and decided to come visit for a few days after getting their home inspection done. They were going to come Friday morning but after their birthing class Thursday night they called and said they were coming right away and would be here after midnight. Exciting! Our first such visit, and the most exciting part, that it is just the first of many, many, many!! Well, I'm off to help them make their world-famous chicken-tortilla soup!

Old Maryland Farm






I have had such a hard time getting out to do something with my 3 girls this summer. Between Playgroup, doctor's appointments, visiting teaching, and babysitting I've hardly had a day with a free morning. So I decided Thursday we were going somewhere, no matter what. Thursday morning did not start off well at all, but luckily Jo called early and said she was going to the farm with us, and suddenly I couldn't back out, even though I was ready to. It ended up being great weather, amazingly. I'd been all ready for the heat of the previous days. Elizabeth, at age 2yrs 3 months, has never been to a farm as a spectator (she was a little lump the only other time she's been) so it was fun. The kids enjoyed looking at all the animals. Then we let them ride the carousel and then the little train. They really enjoyed it all. We ended with a picnic and playing at the big playground (a truly nerve-wracking place for a parent with 3 children in 3 different places at all times!)

I'll post pictures later, but the greatest thing about it for me was the amazing thing which was: no whining kids. I am just accustomed to having every getting-out-the-door experience being the usual rush of packing the bags, the snacks or lunch, getting the kids dressed, finding hats, putting on sunscreen, filling water bottles....PLUS needing to say the enTIRE time: "Yes you have to go with us...No, I can't leave you here...It will be fun...We'll only be there a few hours...I'm sorry but you DO have to come....It will be okay..." To a certain young man who keeps saying the ENtire time "Do I HAVE to come? I'm NOT going!! It's BORING at the _____! I'm staying HOME! I want to play on my computer! I'm staying HERE!" etc. Not to mention the same conversation filling up most of the time while we are at whatever the activity is.
Aaaahhhh, THAT'S what I was looking forward to this summer. But I will say, I sure miss my boy, and I don't think I could be without him again for another summer!