Thursday, July 23, 2015

Soccer 2015 Begins

Soccer season is in swing here. Hannah, our emotional child, was in tears a few days before it began because she said she just didn't want to play this year and that soccer was boring. I gave her a hug and told her to go to bed and that she'd probably feel different about it in the morning, and she did. Hormones. She had her first practice last night and she's babbling on and on this morning about how great soccer is and how she can't wait for her next practice.

Toby loved soccer when he arrived at his first practice, and then hated soccer half-way through the practice, and loved it again by the end of practice.

Naomi has had two practices now, and it's been rough. Her coach is using the first 10 practices or so mainly for conditioning, meaning he's running the girls for about an hour. This is really difficult for all the healthy young girls on her team, but impossible for Naomi. Because of her genetic condition, her metabolism runs at about 75% of what a healthy girl's metabolism would be, so she has 25% less energy to begin with. Add to that an enlarged liver and spleen that add weight and make running painful, extra weight that is a result of her condition, problems with balance and coordination, and running with full ankle braces on to keep her ankles from turning. To top it all off, she has been much weaker in her left leg since birth and spent her whole childhood galloping instead of running so that she could always lead with her right leg. It has taken two years of physical therapy and new braces to even get her to where she CAN run, so throwing her into a practice with girls who can run sprints for an hour is a little unfair. I talked to her coach and he is very supportive of her and accommodates her well, but I also don't want her to get used to extra-special treatment, so I told her she just had to do her best.

She gave it a good shot at the first practice, but eventually just sat down and refused to get up or even talk to anyone. We had a good talk on the way home about pushing ourselves, how to keep trying when we think we can't go anymore, and how to do our best without giving up. I gave her another pep talk last night before practice, and then she amazed me. She was really a warrior last night.

Naomi ran sprint after sprint across that soccer field and back last night. Yes, she was always the last girl to finish (sometimes by a mile), but she kept going. Coach had them sprint backwards and she tried her best, she fell down twice but got back up and tried again. When Coach told them to run sideways and cross their legs while they ran she just stood at the starting line, confused, while all the other girls took off so I walked up and said, "Lets' do this walking together, but we're not going to sit out," and then we walked it together and she eventually got it. She did take a break for some of the sprints to drink extra water and to walk off a stitch in her side, but she always got back in as soon as she was physically able. I have never seen that girl move that much in her life.

All the while, I wondered what the other parents standing there saw. Did they see a lazy, overeating child? Did they see poor parenting? Did they groan at the weakest member of their team?

Did they have any clue just how many physical therapy sessions that girl has cried through just to learn to walk, to run, to jump? Did they have any idea how many social speech therapy sessions Naomi has cried through trying to learn how to interact with other kids? Did they know she's in stage 3 kidney failure, carries a huge, heavy liver full of fibrosis, doesn't know what it's like to feel satisfied after a meal, and has 25% less energy than anyone else on that team?

I don't know what they saw, but I saw the most determined, hardest working, strongest little warrior on that team, and I nearly had tears in my eyes when I told her how proud I was of her after that practice. Her face glowed with pride, and with a little help from a post-exercise endorphin high, she chattered the whole way home about how well she did.

Soccer season has begun here, and the season looks bright.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Four Mile Hike

Today's weather was gorgeous and our calendar was open. It was a bit too nippy for swimming, but Hannah and I were both in the mood for hiking. She suggested a familiar stomping ground, but I was ready for a bigger adventure, so I looked up a state park about a half-hour away, packed some sandwiches, and herded everyone into the van for some sunshine and exercise.

Elijah was looking forward to the hike, but found the trip a little too monotonous, I guess, since half-way through the drive he whined, "Mommy, there's something wrong with my eyes. I want to keep them open, but they keep trying to close."

He did manage to keep them open, and soon we arrived, unloaded, and were off.

Shortly into our journey I almost stepped on a snake, which we later identified as a harmless Northern Water Snake. It made my heart stop, but the kids loved it.

We also encountered several orb web spiders, daddy-long-legs, water striders, and lots of other creepy-crawly wonders.

 It was thirsty work.

Toby found the biggest acorn cap I've ever seen in my life (somewhere in those woods was one lucky squirrel),

and Elijah carried a stick with him throughout the entire four-mile hike, which he called his gun, of course.

We picnicked at the top of a hill, half-way through our hike, at an elevation of 885 ft above sea level. When Toby heard this, his eyes grew big, "Whoa!" he said, "We're higher than the ocean!" So, to help Toby understand elevation a little better, we discussed how high other places on earth were above sea level while we ate. This led to a riveting conversation about the pros and cons of attempting to climb Mt. Everest.

After lunch, we found a vine hanging in the trail and had to play Tarzan for a bit.

Mostly, though, we just walked. A lot. And we really enjoyed it.

OK, we ran a little bit too. 

We even discovered our family tree.

By the end of those four miles, I was dragging…like dragging Elijah by the hand while he whined that he was tired. But all the kids soon found renewed energy when the trail ended here:

In the end, even I found my child-like spirit, and Naomi found her photography skills.

Hannah couldn't wait to tell Dad all about our day when we got home. "Dad! We had the BEST day EVER!" she announced. I joked to her that she's had a few of those before. "Well yeah," she agreed, "but this one broke the record."

Here's to a record-breaking day of fun, learning, and exercise. We might just have to go again.