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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

where the *&$% have we been?

It has been an excusably long time since I have written a blog post. I don't exactly have a good reason except to say that, while I like to think of this as an authentic space, I try not to use it as my own personal therapy office. 

Also, I have actually been writing. I have nearly 100 pages written in my book. I have crossed over to the point where I feel the need to write, like the story and the characters are taking on a life of their own. It is indescribably exciting and entirely intimidating to me. 

The theme of the winter has been gymnastics competition and skiing. This means a lot of early mornings and later nights, car rides, a great deal of hair braiding, the packing of clothes, gear, snacks and a piles of hand wash only clothes. No weekend has been unspoken for and we constantly say to each other: sure we can pull it off, but will it still be fun? 

We are not the kind of parents that care about our children's scores (to the point where they will what they scored on their floor routine and we have to shrug and apologize for not having paid more attention). We are more wowed that they have the guts to get up in a massive gym full of watching eyes and display the skills they have worked tirelessly to master. When I watch our girls traverse the narrow balance beam, watch them waver and lose their balance only to find it, correct and resume, I have all I can do not to shout my triumph. 

I don't need my kids to do all the cool flips or to win first place. I want them to find their strength, to wobble and then find their center, to fall off that tricky beam, get back up and finish their routines with pride, to use their strong arms to swing around the bar. I want them to work hard and see their own improvement, to cheer for their teammates, to respect the adults that coach them, to have fun.  (I also really want them to invite me down on the floor while the scores are being calculated to do the Cotton-Eyed Joe with them but we can't have everything.) 

 The girls are so lucky to have their family come and watch them compete.

In February we spent our vacation at NEVI Fest again this year  (The New England Blind and Visually Impaired Ski Festival) at Sugarloaf with Noah, who skis double black diamonds blind, and his amazing parents.

Noah, with his amazing parents (Buzz and Suzanne). I feel like that could be, should be, the title of a book.

 We were so deeply impacted by our experience at NEVI Fest last year that we were so excited to return and be a part of such an amazing event.  The main goal of the festival is to help blind skiers be able to ski and Maine Adaptive volunteers help them with whatever adaptation they need to do so. Close your eyes and think of skiing blind down a mountain and you will have a sense of how inspiring this week is.  Close your eyes and imagine just trying to get to the bathroom in an unknown place. These participants, their bravery and determination, are incredible.

At the closing banquet the keynote speaker, Randy Pierce, spoke beautifully about the difference between sight and vision. Lots of people have vision without sight and lots of people have sight without vision, he says. How very true. He is the first blind hiker to summit all 48 New Hampshire peaks over 4,000 feet. He has run the Boston Marathon and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.  Check him out here.
Noah and his guide.

Hot cocoa at Bullwinkles, the ski in, ski out restaurant we all love.

Maya couldn't wait to get home and play Connect Four (one of her favorite games) "blind" like she had seen Noah do. Half of the chips are modified with aluminum foil in order to "feel" the game. I'm not sure why Maya had to look like she was robbing a bank in order to play, but knowing her, it just added to the fun. 

 Sometimes skiing is really fun for Maya. Sometimes it is a power struggle. She has been reluctant to ski with Maine Adaptive (the guides use assistive technology to overcome her hearing loss and teach her to ski) yet she always ends up having fun and listening to them in ways she won't listen to us.  As a result, she can now execute clean parallel turns. No more snowplow for her. Unless she gets angry at us. Then she points her skis in a standard snowplow which is akin to giving us the finger.

Photo juxtaposition: (on the left) she and her guide highlighting all the trails they skied and basking in the glory of success versus (on the right) laying on my lap in the lodge.

Maya with her guide, Eric. These people are amazing, I tell you.

Four days of skiing at NEVI Fest equaled victory for both girls. Ella skied every advanced trail she was allowed on, including the elusive double black diamond Gondi Line (Sandi took her. My feeling about those trails is that I really have no business on them and I am just very relieved to see my girls when they come down still on two legs.). Maya tackled a challenging intermediate slope, Sluice, with the help of the very patient and encouraging Alissa, a Maine Adaptive guide I liken to a Sugarloaf superhero. She has an uncanny way of showing up when things are falling apart on the side of the mountain (for both the child and her two mothers) and coaxing Maya's determination and grit back out of her.  We are pretty sure Alissa wears a cape under her ski jacket. 

Ski glory, of course, doesn't come without at least a few double ejections. 

Also, this happened. Note the bottom of the sign: "Warning! Serious injuries or death possible. 
You assume all risks."
 Ella took Sandi and I down this terrain trail and I can tell you it had all the same emotional components of riding a roller coaster. I want to do this. I shouldn't do this. What if I die? I'm doing this. Oh dear god, I'm going to die. But I will die having fun! What if I don't die but just get maimed and lose limbs? This is beyond thrilling! I have never felt so alive! And so terrified! When will it end? I hope it is almost over! I hope it never ends! It's over...I did it. I'm alive. All my body parts are intact! I want to do it again...sort of.  

I am of the belief that I need to be terrified of something and do it every now and then in order to have a fulfilling life. I just would like to keep all my knee ligaments. And my brain, too. 

In truth, our family is sort of in love with Sugarloaf. 

Perhaps my most exciting news is that we are drafting plans for our new house. Anyone who knows us can imagine how this is going. Sandi is using her brilliant math mind to draw things to scale on graph paper and calculating square footage in her head while I sit next to her compulsively pinning ideas on Pinterest to ensure that our house falls outside our budget.  (Who doesn't need a hidden door that looks like a bookcase? Or a book nook that you can only get to by ladder?)

Because we are not stupid, we know we have lots of research to do as we make the 50,000 decisions that go into building a house. Because we are actually smart, we know how to make it fun. Our friends Kate and Paul, who have a lot of experience designing the insides of houses, invited us to visit their house (and peek in their cupboards and ask them personal questions like, "Do you actually use your front porch?" and "Where do you store all your towels?"). It was a such a treat to hang out with them and pick their brains.

Maya knew we were on MDI and kept saying, "I want to go to the beach!" to which I kept replying, "We aren't going to the beach. We are here to visit and it is March!" Then Paul and Kate said they wanted to take us on a walk so we could see how beautiful the nearby ocean was and, whaddayankow...BAM, Maya is on a beach. That girl is the captain of her own destiny. Parenting her is often an exercise of just getting out of the way.

Paul and Kate and their adorable child. 

 The girls are growing so much right now. It is somewhere between really cool and a total betray of my deluded parent/child contract.

 Alas, Ella is not too old for Sandi to pick her up. (However, she is close approaching my height and so I don't attempt this.)

On a hike with their surrogate sister from upstairs, Jax.

And, lastly, Maya has a new favorite face. Just to keep you in the loop. 

If any of you out there have any house building advice, I am open to all of it. Unless you want to say "Don't do it." We have thought long and hard about this decision and we have bought our tickets for the train. But I would love to hear about any things you would love to have known before you built or things you would do differently if you did it again. There are so many things to choose and decide on and many of them I don't even know I should be thinking about. 

Happy almost spring to all of you!

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