Monday, July 14, 2014

What No Other Parent Will Tell You - Teenage Driving

“You can be anything you want when you grow up”, I was told as a child.

Yes, that’s fairly true.  If I really wanted to be a pole dancer, then I’m sure I make myself all stretchy and do that (although, truth be told, it’s genuinely hard).  If I really wanted to be a World Cup soccer player, then I’m sure I could work really (really) hard toward that. 

It all came with one little lie because, there’s just one thing I will NEVER be able to be.

A drivers ed instructor

Why did no one warn me about this aspect of raising a kid?

Nope, I knew all about colic and teething and the terrible twos.  Then I was told about the tears on the first day of kindergarten (that one was a crock, on both my daughter’s and my end).  I was told how fast time would fly from the first day of second grade to the second week of high school (that one wasn’t a crock) and the teenage attitude (the phrase “toddlers in bigger bodies” and “toddlers with hormones” are both incredibly accurate).

No one warned me about having to be the passenger in a two ton SUV with my 15 year old behind the wheel.  Going 60 down the highway.

With other cars on the road.

With no brake on the passenger side floorboard.  
Really, is it so hard to put the middle pedal on the
passenger side of the car, too?

I know she’s going to grow up.  From the day she came out of my body, I knew she was not mine to keep.  She was mine to raise into a productive human being in society (that will one day hopefully care for me in my dotage).  I walked into this parenthood thing fully prepared that things come along daily that work her way toward that independence. 

Driving blindsided me. 

I suck at being the passenger.  I suck even more at being the passenger in the back seat of the SUV.   Learned this the hard way yesterday. 

We had to take our fifteen year old across the state to band camp and thought it would be good practice for her to drive.  It’s a windy two lane highway that has a max speed of 55.  I dibbed backseat thinking I could relax and watch the landscape.  After all, my husband was in the front passenger seat navigating.    

I thought I was going to die – several times over.  I counted the airbags.  The manual says seven.  I can only find six.  WHERE THE HELL IS THE SEVENTH? 

I prayed.  I prayed HARD.  I prayed every time a semi passed us.  On a curve.  Going sixty.  I closed my eyes and waited for death.  Waited for the head on collision or the bump past the barricade into the rushing waters of the Skykomish River

I wondered who would finally discover the dog in crate at home if we were all dead.

I tend to think of myself as a fairly rational person (you wouldn’t think so from reading this, eh?).  I hadn’t heard any stories on the news about new, fifteen year old drivers causing the families demise in a car accident (THAT would have made the news).  I didn’t know anyone who had wrecked the car while driving with a drivers ed teenager (well, until my husband showed us the spot where his learning-permit-in-hand brother took the car too fast around a corner and put the car in a ditch).

Seriously I kept trying to be rational.

I just needed bourbon to help with the process.

Finally, we pulled over at a rest area to stretch.

“Switch drivers,” I announced. 

“Why?” my teenager inquired (picture it with a voice full of scorn and attitude).

“We always switch drivers after an hour of driving,” I replied in a sort of convincing voice, trying to rally backup from my husband, who had been silent and calm in the front seat the whole trip.

“Fine,” she rolled her eyes and handed me the keys.  
Photo taken in the garage because there was no way in hell
I was sane enough to operate a camera while being a

The difference between riding in the back seat of the SUV with your teenager driving and you behind the wheel are two totally different universes. 

The road was do-able at 60 (62, missy).  The semis were farther away than they appeared from the backseat.  The barricade to the river looked more solidly built from the front seat. 

I was much more at ease.

And I realized that she had done just fine.

I have to pick her up in three days and do the reverse trip.  This time it is only me and her in the car so no back seat for me. 

I will try not to do shots before I get in the car.   

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

World Cup 2014 - 7 Fast Facts

For the casual North American this whole World Cup thing can be a mystery.  While soccer or futbol is popular, well, pretty much everywhere else in the world, soccer is just now moving up in the ranks of popularity in the United States, but it has a ways to go.  Here are some quick facts to keep up with a couple billion of your closest friends who are also predicted to watch at least part of the games.  

1.  The World Cup to the world is like the Superbowl is to the United States.  

To put it into perspective, though, 105 million people watched the 2010 Superbowl909 million people watched the final minute of the 2010 Championship game between Netherlands and Spain (Spain won 1-0).

Where kids in Haiti play soccer - inside an unfinished building.

2.  The World Cup, like the Winter and Summer Olympics, are held every four years.  

Host Countries are chosen decades in advance.  In Brazil, there are actually 12 host stadiums where the soccer games are held throughout Brazil.  Brazil has reportedly spent $11 billion to host these games ($270 million alone for a stadium in Manaus that will only be used for four matches – and is so remote it cannot be reached by car).

3.  The US team consists of players from different teams.  

It is not like the San Antonio Spurs or the Miami Heat going to Brazil – it is like the Dream team of the 1992 Olympics in Brazil.  The captain, Clint Dempsey, is from the Seattle Sounders; other players are from Los Angeles Galaxy (Omar Gonzalez) and the Houston Dynamos (Brad Davis) and England’s Everton FC (Tim Howard, Goal Keeper).  The coach of the US team gets to choose players in a try out situation.  Much controversy came from the head coach, JuergenKlinsmann, not choosing Landon Donavan to play for the US World Cup Team. 

4.  Like the playoffs of football, baseball and basketball, there are brackets you have to get out of.  

The US was randomly placed in Group G which was quickly deemed the bracket of death  because the teams are good.  This is putting it mildly as Germany, having won the World Cup three times already, is not only favored to top the group, but advance into the finals.  Ghana knocked out the US’s chances of advancing in the 2010 games and beat the US team in the 2006 games.  The US could have a hard time advancing into the 16, hence the “death” name.

5.  The game has two 45 minute halves

There are no time outs, very few substitutions (if any – once a player is subbed out, they may not come back in), and the clock does not stop for anything.  Well, except snow in a 2013 World Cup qualifying game between Costa Rica and the US Men’s team in Colorado.  Then there’s this thing called stoppage.  If a player is injured (or “flops” – more on that later), or a yellow/red card is called, time is added to the clock.  It could be three minutes, or four minutes, or whatever the ref says.  It seems random.  And the clock on the screen does not always match the refs watch.  More randomness.

6.  It appears there are a lot of injuries.  

The more the merrier.  You would think Oscars are handed out for a performance.  Actually, it is called a “flop” and is one way to slow the game down (since the clock doesn’t stop) or get a yellow/red card called on an opposing player, or get a penalty kick.  Often you will see a player go down that, from their actions, you would think would require an aid car or medivac helicopter.  Then, after the card/penalty is given, they get up and walk to the sidelines.  The player stands on the sideline until the next out, then walks back in the game.  Nobody subs in or out unless and aid car or stretcher really is called in.

7.  After the “Full 90” (meaning the whole 90 minute game) the game can end in a tie.  

Whether 0-0 (or “nil, nil”) or 1-1, the game just ends.  Sort of anticlimactic, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.    

Bonus:  Why the US vs Ghana game was so important on Monday:  Twice Ghana kicked the US out of the World Cup running.  Once in 2010, the other in 2006.  The US’s 2-1 game on Saturday thumbed their noses back at Ghana. 

Another bonus:  Brazil has won 5 World Cups, Italy 4, Germany 3, Argentina and Uruguay 2 and England, France and Spain at 1 each.  

Follow the action at US Soccer Facebook page and FIFA

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Adding On - The Butt of the Family Joke

I've always been a forward thinker; always looked ahead for the next big thing (sometimes to the detriment of the thing I'm in right then).  I'm also not usually satisfied and want more (again, much to the detriment of the here-right-now).  So when we decided to add another bathroom to our house, we went ahead and got it started.

Only here's how THAT went.

"We need another bathroom," I said (we have one - read that one, with a kid)
"Then I want a master bedroom upstairs," my husband declared.  Granted, we have a 1000 square foot one story house.  Just where was this upstairs?
Not skipping a beat: "Then I want a new kitchen under that master bedroom," I remarked, arms crossed in front of my chest.
Nod.  Nod.  Game on.

We now have a 1,200 square foot bathroom addition.

Just kidding.  I managed to basically fit a whole new house next to ours with a kitchen, family room, half bath downstairs, two bedroom and two more bathrooms upstairs.

Great, the design was laid out, concrete was poured, walls were 2x6'd, windows installed (23 - what he hell was I thinking?), doors with locks (again, 5 doors, really?) and the siding was up.  I painted.  Then we ran out of money.

Did I mention we were paying cash for this?

Note how there is no mention of the pretty stuff: drywall, carpet, tile, toilets, wiring, plumbing, lights?  Nope, just the exterior shell was finished.  Wholly finished - looks like we can move right in from the outside.  2x4 studs are in place of the drywall right now.  We are just now working on the electrical and plumbing.

The view from the existing dining room into the "addition"
(boarded up and insulated and I don't have to see it).

Now for the punchline (because it's the part that makes us the joke of the family).

The shell was finished in 2004.

You do the math yet?  If not, I'll make it easy.  It's 2014 right now.  That's a 10 year difference.

See, joke of the family.

The addition done yet?

Hows that addition going?

What color carpet did you put in?

Hardy, har, har.

I mean to finish it.  I really do (damn, I could use that other bathroom with a teenager in the house. and my current kitchen sucks the big one).

But things keep getting in the way.  In 2007, I had the money to get the drywall and tiling.  Then I found out Michael W. Smith was going to do a cruise to Alaska.  Out of Seattle, our hometown (so no airfare).  We spent my drywall money on the cruise.

He (Michael) did another cruise the following year to the Caribbean.  Spent our faucet and lighting money on that one.

Hunkered down the next year and were set to finish the damn addition the next summer (I did mention we are doing most of it ourselves, right?).  Hubby blew out his knee and had to have emergency surgery June 30th.  Summer = gone.

Bottom line, we have spent the kitchen money on the Cook Islands, the carpet money on Hawaii,  I-don't-think-we-delegated-whatever money to another trip to Alaska, and the addition is STILL NOT FINISHED.

I could feel really, really bad that it's not move-in ready, but I don't.  The family can laugh all they want.  The fact that we have an unfinished building next to our house doesn't matter all that much to me because I know we've given our kid (and ourselves) incredible experiences.  Our teenager has more passport stamps then most kids have detention slips.  She can travel the world confidently, adapt to new surroundings, meet new people, take in different cultures and be more accepting of those around her because she's seen first hand what most people only seen on TV.

Just not in a bathroom she doesn't have to share.

As I sit here one week from summer break, I am prepared to buckle down and get this albatross finished.  I have my to-do list in hand:  figure out radiant heating, purchase garbage disposal, design bathtub tile pattern and continue the argument between honeycomb light blocking blinds and roller shades with hubby.

I've already found a two week cruise to Norway that leaves July 19.


Monday, May 12, 2014

8 Things To Do With Your Vacation Photos

It's pretty rare for me to NOT have a camera strapped around my neck.  On vacations, I travel with my husband and fifteen year old daughter who also have cameras strapped around their neck.  This means memory cards and thumb drives galore filled with photos.  4,156 to be exact from a recent trip to the Cook Islands in the South Pacific.  But what in the tar can I do with all those pictures?

1.  Get them off your camera

Whether it is a DSLR or point and shoot or iPhone, the first job is to get them onto a laptop or computer.  This does a couple things.  First off, it is a backup.  If the iPhone gets lost or stolen, the images are gone.  If the DSLR gets left on an airplane, the images are gone.  Second off, you can do a whole lot more than swipe your finger across the screen occasionally to remember your trip.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sending Your Kid on a Mission Trip

We have been getting a lot of flack ever since we started answering the question: "So where is your daughter".

"Haiti", we've been answering this week.


"Without you?"  They ask.

"Yes,"  we answer.


"Oh."  Followed by a long pause, then, "are you crazy?"

About her being in a third world country with high temperatures, higher humidity, lack of running water, malaria, cholera, goat meat and incredible government corruption?


They shake their heads, "Well I wouldn't let my kid go there."

So don't. I could be flippant and say "Keep your kid in a bubble.  They can see the world through the news because we all know how accurate that is."  Okay, yeah,Ireallydidsaythatacoupletimes.

Really, though, that would be hypocritical of me because I didn't go with my fifteen year old daughter to Haiti.  I am in the four walled insulated house with a light over my head, power cord hooked to the laptop, sipping my coffee and watching the outdoor temperature inch up from 42 degrees under partly cloudy skies.  In about five minutes I will navigate my sheepskined slippers to the fridge for a roll of Crescent Cinnamon Rolls and pop those in my convection oven.  After that I might mosey on into the bathroom where I will flush the toilet without even thinking.

So why send her?

Because she wanted to go.

All the stars aligned:

  • Two of her classmates/friends were also going
  • Their mothers were going
  • I can afford to send her
  • I trust the organization she's going with: Hope in Haiti
  • It is timed during Spring Break
  • She is covered in prayer

Who am I to tell her "no"?  Well, I do a lot, but on this?

She's traveled since she was nine months old.  She has been to a tiny remote island in the South Pacific so she knows what the tropics, the heat and humidity and tiny island life, is all about.  She has been to week long overnight camps since she was seven (she was one month shy of the age 8 cut off date, but they let her in anyways).  Last year, between grades eight and nine, she was home a total of three weeks during summer break because she was in Washington DC and New York (without us), band camp at a university across the state (without us), the interior part of Washington State (without us) with relatives and several little romps in between.  She barely waves goodbye to us, let alone hugs us goodbye!

She comes home tonight.  Tomorrow I will hear all about her trials and tribulations.  I will hear about the heat and the goat meat and the little girl she wants to bring home for us to adopt.  I don't know what else I will hear about because, honestly, I only know those little pieces.

And that's okay.  For now.

I am sure in the next week she will hit me up about going to Tennessee with some relatives to visit some relatives.  If it times out right, I will say yes.

Because, someday, she will move out of my house and on her own.  I'd rather it not be a big surprise (for either one of us) come that day.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Guess I Miss Her - Empty Nest Spring Break

The kitchen is spotless - even the junk drawer.

I have decontaminated the laundry room floor and cleaned around the cupboard handles.

I stapled the sagging wire in the chicken coop (this even required me finding the - working - stapler.  and the staples).

I have been a flurry of activity since Monday morning.  Because Monday night I sent my fifteen year old daughter on an airplane to Haiti.  Without me.

The Haiti Team from Hope In Haiti

Talk about a leap off the cliff into empty nest syndrome.

Don't get me wrong; I am that parent who sent my seven year old to a week long overnight Christian camp, and have done so ever since.  Music camp.  Basketball camp.  Soccer camp.  Last year I sent her off to New York and Washington DC.

So I didn't think twice when she mentioned going to Haiti on a mission trip with two friends - and their mothers.  See that part - and their mothers.  I am not a total parent failure (well, not in this scenario; others, we're not talking about those).  I knew trusting adults from my own sphere of life were going to be with my kid.

Which led me to dinner last night with my husband in our operating-room-sterile dining room when it dawned on me that we both were exhausted from mundane activity.  Little projects that hadn't been done in years yet had to be accomplished in the ten minutes before we drove her to the airport or cleaning the grout lines in the bathroom because it was a chore where I could have my phone nearby in case it rang.

We subconsciously had to stay busy to not feel anything.  Sure, I was worried she packed too many skirts and too few t-shirts or that two camera batteries would not be enough or two rolls of toilet paper would be sorely insufficient (for the week!?).  All that was surface stuff.  On some subterranean level, I was worried about my kid flying thousands of miles away to a third world country - without air conditioning.  Worrying about stuff like her growing up.  

Proverbs 3:5  "Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not to your own understanding."

I am not expecting a phone call today.  I know her plane landed in Port au Prince and she went swimming at the host families house with a bunch of Haitian kids (none of them speaking the other's language).  I know today they are trekking four hours north to a tiny town with an orphanage and a school.  I know she is fine and in, not only a whole bunch of mother's hands, but in the hands of the Ultimate Father.  He's in charge.  Not me.

Which is really good.

Please pray for the group in Haiti this week, putting on a Vacation Bible School for 300 kids.

Monday, March 24, 2014

One Year Ago - Cook Islands

One year ago, at 7 in the morning local time, we landed on a tiny island in the South Pacific called Rarotonga, one of the 15 Cook Islands.  After a 12 hour flight from Los Angeles aboard Air New Zealand, we were ready for some solid ground (although Air New Zealand does offer free dinner AND breakfast AND free wine).

We found solid ground and the humidity.  We welcomed both!


Welcome To Paradise

Photo Courtesy of JC Imagery