Weekend Snapshots 53


On Friday we went to our friends’ house to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The grand finale was the lighting of sky lanterns, which we tried to send up to the heavens with our wishes.


With each launch I made a fervent wish…





My daughter and I spent the day at a local high school for her Destination Imagination tournament, where I served as an appraiser for a category in which she was not competing. (“Wear a funny hat,” they told me)!

What’s Destination Imagination? my sister asked.

Well…it’s an activity for kids who…aren’t athletic, was my daughter’s coded explanation.


My family and my friend and I went to see Postmodern Jukebox that evening…Those are some crazy talented artists!

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We made a flash visit to Arlington to meet up with some of my family, including my sister & her crew who were down from Princeton. We went to our nostalgic favorite, Peking Gourmet Inn:


One of these things is not like the other…Spot the giant among pygmies.



This one’s dedicated to all the friends and family members who helped my daughter and her team go to their Destination Imagination Global Tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee last week. It was a thoroughly exhausting, thoroughly wonderful week. They had the time of their lives! THANK YOU!

There were so many things my daughter got to try for the first time last week, like the human hamster ball:

Bungee banana basketball…(the expression on her face)!

Organized thuggery:

NASA was there…

I got to play astronaut too!

Buzz Aldrin was the keynote speaker at the Opening Ceremony!

Over 17,000 people from 17 different countries all over the world came to Knoxville for the tournament.

Pin-trading was serious business:

Registering for the Instant Challenge:

The kids were cheered on as they went to do their instant challenge:

I got to hang out with these lovely mamas all week. We waited in the wings for our little teamsters…

They were ready to cut loose after their challenge:

And then it was on to the Duct Tape Ball! My girl only managed to put a few pieces of duct tape on the shirt she was wearing…(UNDER the fleece)!, but her teammates were far more enterprising:

There were some really elaborate duct tape costumes at the ball:

The next day the kids performed their main challenge. They had worked on the “Creature Feature” technical challenge for which they had to build a creature that performed actions, and to present a story featuring the creature as a character.

Once their challenge was done, they could relax!

On our last night in Knoxville, we went to dinner in Market Square, where we saw this statue:

The girls wanted to say thank you…

On Saturday morning before hitting the road for the six hour drive back to Charlottesville, the kids had one more woman to thank – their wonderful, wonderful, out of all whooping DI coach:

What a week! Goodbye, Knoxville! Hope to see you again…

Destination Imagination

Part I:

I’ve recently discovered that there’s a right and wrong way to praise children, and I, of course, have been doing it aaaaall wrong. Not only have I been “cheapening” my words when I’ve praised my children, I may have actually been harming their development. I’ve created praise-junkies, afraid to to take risks for fear of not getting their next hit of approval. In fact, when I think I’m praising my children, I may actually be “belittling” them, because I am sending them the message that their every move is some sort of high wire performance for my benefit and judgment.

Now whenever an errant “Good job!” escapes my lips, I clap my hand over my mouth and try to counteract the bad I’ve put out into the universe by immediately shouting out something more appropriate:

“I mean: ‘I can see that you worked hard on that!'”

After my child wins a soccer game, rather than “Great game!”, I have to remind myself to say, “I loved watching you play…Not because you’re a good player or anything, but because I truly enjoy sitting in the blazing sun/freezing cold/pouring rain watching you and your friends kick a ball around the field for an hour.”

It’s frankly exhausting. What? It’s not enough just to keep these little people alive?!

My daughter has been a part of a Destination Imagination team for three years now. Last year was the first year her team was old enough to compete. They had a wonderful time, but did not advance beyond the first round of competition. This year, before they had even competed, she was chirruping away about the Global Tournament. I felt that it was my duty to manage her expectations. I kept gently interrupting her reveries by saying things like, “…It’s actually quite difficult to qualify for Globals. Only a few teams get to go…” and “Let’s see how you guys do at the Regional Tournament first…” She took it on the chin for awhile, but one day she narrowed her eyes and said, “Wait a minute…Do you have low expectations for us?!

Clearly, I haven’t yet hit upon the right balance.

Part II

Two weekends ago my daughter’s team competed at the Regional Tournament and qualified to advance to the State Tournament, so this past Friday she and I headed to Harrisonburg, Virginia. We shared a hotel room for the night with our good friends, who also happen to be the DI team manager and her son. I think my daughter may have slept three hours. She spent the rest of the night thrashing, getting drinks of water, going to the bathroom, and being shushed by her increasingly grumpy mother…

The rest of the team and the rest of our family showed up the next day for the competition.

Because I’ve been appraising other challenges, I’d never actually been able to see my daughter’s team perform this year. She looked like this!

The gym before the Award Ceremony looked like this!

The kids were feeling rather glum when the awards were announced and they didn’t place high enough to advance to the Global Tournament. I was mentally preparing my consolation speech, when they were announced as the winners of the Instant Challenge part of the competition!

At the very end of the ceremony two “Wild Card” teams were pulled out of a cup. The only teams who could qualify for the drawing to advance to the Global Tournament had to have placed first in either the Instant Challenge or the Main Challenge…They won!

This awesome  hard-working team is going to the Global Finals in Knoxville, Tennessee!

Two years ago when my son’s team advanced to the Global Tournament, my daughter was crushed when her mean mother didn’t pull her out of school so that she could accompany her brother to the tournament. Here she is saying goodbye to him as he headed off back then:

And here they are on Saturday!

Knoxville, Tennessee here she comes…despite all the damage her mother has inflicted upon her psyche over the years!

Global Finals in Tennessee

Destination Imagination is a non-profit program that promotes creativity and problem-solving skills in students from kindergarten through college level. This morning we said goodbye and good luck to our son, who is heading to Knoxville, Tennessee to compete with his Destination Imagination team at  Global Finals. There will be over 15,000 people from  1,200 teams from 45 states, 7 Canadian provinces, and 13 countries competing against each other in various challenges.

Our daughter was sad that she couldn’t go too!

Good luck, DI’Ablos!

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Weekend Snapshots 2


The SPCA. Helping Hands, the elementary school service group I co-lead, took a field trip to our local SPCA. Miraculously, we left with no more and no fewer than the bodies we came with, though one of our second graders piped up at the end to announce that he had money in his pocket and was ready to make a deal…


Soccer Games. My girl kept a clean sheet as goalie in the first half, and then scored the only goal for the win in the second!

Fundraising. My son’s Destination Imagination team is going to Globals along with another winning team from his elementary school. Between my daughter’s and his own soccer games, we worked at a huge yard sale both teams held in the school gym to help offset the considerable cost of the trip. My daughter was wandering around the yard sale when she spotted something on one of the tables.

“Is that my jack-in-the-box?” she gasped in horror.

I squirmed as I said, “Ummm, well, yes, but that’s a toy for babies.”

I told her we would take it back if it didn’t sell, and fortunately, it is now back in our house, where it belongs. For the rest of the weekend she kept pointedly reminding me about how my sister had asked me for a pair of her baby sandals that had the perfect imprints of her tiny little feet and was furious when she found out I had thrown them away.

My beloved Janel” surprised us by sending a check to help with the fundraising. We haven’t been able to see each other in way too long. We had a phone conversation to hatch a plan to fix this!

Gardening. I made the rounds of some local garden centers and got my fingernails dirty in my own garden…


Theological Debate. My oldest son and I had a hasty and somewhat tortured discussion in which we weighed the merits of atheism vs. agnosticism and discussed the importance of being reflective, keeping an open mind, and always asking questions. All this in the church parking lot, minutes before Sunday School was about to start, as I fervently prayed that he would stop asking questions for Christ’s sake! I broke into a sweat as I surreptitiously snuck glances at the clock, and mentally calculated how much time it would take to cut up the paper strips we would need for the purple “cloth weaving” we were going to do as part of the lesson I’d prepared on Lydia opening her heart to Jesus.

Wrestling. Back at home, having just partaken in Holy Communion, where they symbolically sought “reconciliation in every instance of conflict or division,” the boys decided to have a wrestling match. As always, it ended up in tears and bitter recriminations. For the next half hour, I made them practice for their piano recital, but Beethoven’s Rage Over a Lost Penny, kept derailing into Rage Over a Lost Wrestling Match. Finally, I was forced to bellow, “STOP TALKING TO EACH OTHER! YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SPEAK TO EACH OTHER AT ALL! NOT. ONE. MORE. WORD!!”

Piano Recital. My husband headed off to Lynchburg for his own concert with his singing group. The rest of us dusted ourselves off and staggered to the boys’ last piano recital of the year…Rather than run the risk of more bickering, I made the oldest sit up front with me during the ride, instead of in his usual spot in the back of the minivan with his siblings. En route, he and I devised a post-recital game plan.

Obligatory Photo Op. As you can see, the boys worked it out, as they always eventually do.

The kids took turns taking pictures of their own.

Then they took a series of “artsy shots” and insisted I post them on the blog today. There you go, kids:

Dick’s Sporting Goods. After the photo session I announced that it was time to go to Dick’s Sporting Goods.

“Why are we going there?” my younger son asked.

His brother and I answered him simultaneously:

N: “To buy a punching bag.”

Me: “To save your relationship with your brother.”

When I went to check on the boys tonight, I realized that N. had set up a makeshift bed for himself on the floor of T’s bedroom. Peace in the valley. I’m heading to bed.

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