Sunday, July 26, 2009


I promised myself when I started this blog that I wouldn't limit the posts to sunshine-and-happiness reports and ignore the clouds and storms in our lives. We as a family are in the midst/on the brink of so many big (and happy) transitions right now, including Jeff's very different working schedule as a floor nurse, room sharing by Aidan and Leo, Aidan's impending start of kindergarten on August 10, and the new baby's arrival in a mere two months. Change is hard. But if Jeff's transition to nursing, and room sharing, are any indication, hopefully the others will be manageable and smooth as well. However, we are also faced with another transition, far from smooth or easy - that of finding a new church home. I am angry and resentful that we were left with no other choice but to leave a church we loved; I feel powerless that I am not able to voice my objections loudly and publicly. I can certainly give voice to them here.

We had been very involved, active members at a church near our home, with a church family who loved and supported us, who nurtured our children and helped us to root our family in faith. Jeff and I both sang in the choir and offered our gifts of flute and trumpet. I taught Sunday School, led Worship Workshop, and helped out with youth events. Aidan participated in Sunday School each week and was looking forward to singing in the children's choir. Leo made himself well-known to all those around us during worship. The members of the congregation loved us, and we love them. Most regrettably, irreconcilable differences with the pastor have forced us to leave the church, and it is painful beyond measure that one person alone could undo the good that so many others had created for us.

We visited a new church this morning, the first of a handful on our list. Jeff and I were hopeful and wanted it to feel like a perfect match, right from the start. We don't want to spend week after week searching for a place that feels like home. We want to be home already. When we told Aidan and Leo we were going to try a new church, Leo asked us, "Um, they sing bumblebee song at new church?" My heart ached as I responded, "No, honey, I don't think so." The bumblebee song is one of the warm ups our choir uses before the service, and Leo loves it (He also loves the "wee-oh wee-oh" warm up that sounds a whole lot like "Le-o! Le-o!") Aidan didn't have much of anything to say. But his behavior during and after church betrayed his feelings, and he made it crystal clear to us that he resents having to find a new church as much as we do. On the way home, all he kept saying is that he wanted to go back to our old church. Why can't we go back to our old church? he implored, over and over. I tried to explain to him, as accurately and age-appropriately as possible, why we could not go back, but still I failed him in my attempts.

In my 5 years of parenting, this has been one of the hardest times for me - doing what's right in the long run for my children even if it feels terrible to do so. I endure the cries after vaccinations at the pediatrician's because I know I am protecting them from greater evils than a needle prick; I put up with the protests when dessert is withheld when a good dinner is not eaten. But how can I possibly expect them to understand and accept that leaving a place that they love is "doing what's best" for them? We tried to stay. Oh, did we try! But a year later, those attempts have proven to be futile and we are back where we started, if not more saddened than when we first began. A wise man once asserted, "Doing what is right is not always popular. Doing what is popular is not always right." It is right for us to leave; we must find a new church home. But it makes us very unpopular with our children, and that is a difficult burden to bear.

One day soon, I hope, this rough period of transition of being church-homeless will only be a distant memory. The feelings of loss and resentment will be replaced with knowing that we have a new church where the congregation loves us and supports us - and the pastor is a leader who demonstrates integrity and a calling to nurture, encourage, and guide us in a positive, caring, and constructive way. We are lost, but we will be found.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

7th Annual Camp Laguna!

Pictured above, the Camp Laguna Campers 2009: Kitty, Dan, Jake, and Max B.; Sue, Mike, Molly, and Haley F-O; Michelle P; Emily, Connor, and Patrick G; Paul and Susan Seehaver; the Carters.

ttempting to explain Camp Laguna Weekend is nearly an impossible task, but I'll give it a go. In a nutshell:

7 summers ago (in 2003) my mom and dad had this idea to invite all the neighbors from our Clyde Court house to come down for a weekend of fun at Lake Monticello. We lived at Clyde Court for about 15 years or so, and I used to babysit for some of the kids who were invited for the weekend. The Beckhards, Feazel-Orrs, and Polchows were always in attendance at homeowners' association meetings, Christmas parties, and even gathering on front lawns in princess dresses to watch me get into the limo on Prom nights. (Okay, fine. The adults were in normal clothes. The kids dressed up. But I wouldn't put it past Sue, Kitty, and Michelle....) I never would have imagined that the one weekend 7 summers ago would become an annual event with elaborate rituals and traditions, as well as ever-evolving new ones, but indeed, it has...

Camp Laguna Traditions, Rituals, and Highlights include, but are not limited, to the following:
  • Games, games, and more games - Farkle and Rochambo (aka Rocks, Paper, Scissors); Ladder jacks; ping-pong tournaments; and of course, Mexican Train (complete with an official plaque with names added each year of the Championship Team).
  • Drinks, drinks, and more drinks (this probably should have come first!) Vast quantities of Sue's homemade white sangria and Jeff's homebrews are among my personal favorites.
  • Food, food food! Michelle brings delectable baked goodies; Kitty, the breakfast pastries and croissants; I provide some kind of cake or another (wedding cake, fish cake, sand and lake cake, etc.), and my mom (and dad, too) cooks up a huge feast for every meal. Dan and Mike try to provide fresh-caught fish, but always fail!
  • Boating, sunning, tubing, and fishing - we rarely leave the waterfront.
  • Competitions including "Name the Car Color," "Name the Boat," "Name the Baby," "Camp Laguna Theme Song Contest," and even "Talent Show!"
Almost always, Camp Laguna has included some new faces. Sometimes obligations like performing at Wolf Trap and returning from mission trips prevent the kids from joining us... but they always seem to make it back the next year. I've been pregnant for half of the annual events, so Aidan, Leo, and Future Baby #3 have all made/will make their debuts at Camp Laguna. This year, my close friend from college, Emily, joined us with her two children. What is most amazing is that in the past 7 summers, the Camp Laguna "kids" have started to become legal adults, heading off to college this fall!

I'm always afraid that "this year" will be the last of the Camp Laguna Weekend tradition, and I am always thrilled to hear everyone planning next year's activities as they are packing up the cars to head home. This year, we each received bright blue official Camp Laguna t-shirts, and there's even one for the impending Carter baby, so I think CL will be alive and well for at least one more summer.... at least, it better be, because I have some serious Sangria catching-up to do!

It seems only right to end with the Camp Laguna theme song. Sing it to yourself, to the tune of "Take Me out to the Ballgame," for the full effect. (It is worth noting, too, that it was the Carters who developed this award-winning jingle.)

Take me to Camp Laguna, take me out to the lake!
Bring out the ping-pong and ladder jacks,
We play in the sun as we float on our backs!
Now it's time for a glass of sangria, Mexican Train and grilled s'mores!
Here's to P_____! B______! F____-O___, Carters, and See...ha...vers!!!!"

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Rich Woman

"I feel very rich when I have time to write and very poor when I get a regular paycheck and no time to work at my real work. Think of it. Employers pay salaries for time. That is the basic commodity that human beings have that is valuable. We exchange our time in life for money. Writers stay with the first step - their time - and feel it is valuable even before they get money for it." -From Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg

Seeking inspiration to teach my students creative writing and blogging, and seeking inspiration to guide their own writing, I came across this excerpt in Writing Down the Bones. It spoke to me, resonated with me, not because of my fledgling attempts at writing, but rather, because it gave voice to a sentiment I feel, a challenge I struggle with as a mom who grapples with the difficulties of needing to work part-time and wanting to be with my kids exclusively.

Teaching at UVA's Summer Enrichment Program each morning, I earn an attractive paycheck in exchange for some pretty cushy hours spent with some smart and interesting kids. During the school year, I receive a hard-earned paycheck for working with one student a few hours a week. And yet, particularly in the summer when I am away every morning, I feel like a poor woman. I love teaching, am passionate about it to the core of my being, and yet it takes me away from the job I love best.

It is only after investing in a morning spent at the pool splashing Aidan and Leo, an afternoon going on a walk to the fishing pond to help them hunt for frogs and fish, or the half hour we spend before I start cooking dinner playing with play-doh, when I finally feel like a rich woman. Out of curiosity, I googled what a stay at home mom (or dad) would earn if she or he could be paid for what we do, and the amount is staggering - the mean salary is $137,000.

The things I miss most about earning a full-time paycheck are fresh-cut flowers every week, buying books for pleasure at the bookstore, and enjoying a weekly dinner out at a restaurant. But flowers wilt, books get read, and dinner ends up as poop no matter where it was first savored. I am a rich woman, indeed, because of the quantity, and quality, of hours I invest in my children.

Monday, July 6, 2009

More, more more!

"More, More, More! Said the Baby" - a popular children's book by Vera B. Williams. More blogging, more blogging more blogging! I've been so busy teaching my SEP campers how to blog, I've neglected to blog myself. So here's a quick-and-dirty post to get caught up. (Quick because the content is pretty much already written for me; dirty because, well, you'll see.)

Out of the Mouths of Babes, part 5(?):

(During a "school" session in which I have Aidan practice writing the alphabet and sentences, plus illustrations)
Aidan: "I'm a Piwrite. I'm a Pirate who Writes. Get it?"

(Jeff and I both think that this comes from a book or something that Aidan has read. But it is still impressive that he can verbalize one of the strongest tenants of our faith in such a memorable, concrete, visual way...)
"If you put God's love into a measuring cup, it would overflow."

(a short time later - this is Car Theology, by the way, announced to me on the drive home from gymnastics class)
"You can't measure God's love, because God loves all the people in the world, and there are a LOT of people in the world."

(After Jeff and Leo made a quick run to the store, Leo kept telling Jeff all sorts of random things that we "needed," like honey and syrup and milk, all of which we had. Finally, Jeff asked him,)
"Leo, do you like going to the grocery store?"
Leo: Yep. Actually,..... sometimes.

This is a turning point for Leo, a change in our conversations with him - instead of reflecting back a question as a simple yes or no, he is elaborating and incorporating abstract ideas into his answers. To answer more completely for Leo, he likes going with Jeff, because Jeff lets him use the tiny pint-sized shopping cart made especially for kids. I, on the other hand, feel I deserve a medal when I acquiesce to the dreadful, impossible-to-steer, low-capacity but kid-pleasing "car cart." Finally, there's nothing quite like hearing a two and a half year old utter words like "Actually...."

And finally - as I've stated before, a second child will prove to you, over and over, that nothing is the same or can be expected to be similar (or easy) as it was with the first. Potty training has proven to be an ongoing battle which Leo is still winning, for the time being. Here's a recent exchange between Leo and Jeff:
J: (groan) Leo, did you poop?
L: No.
J: You didn't poop? Then what's this? (pointing to his rear)
L: Shorts.
J: (grabbing his rear) So there's no poop in here?
L: Nope.
J: Then what's inside your diaper?
L: (stares at Jeff, blinks, stares some more).......... "Chicken."
(Perfectly articulated, two distinct syllables, staring right at Jeff the whole time.)