Monday, May 28, 2018

Winter 2017 - Spring 2018 Recap

In no particular order, the Whompton winter and spring recap:

Lola rocked her new school.  She was chosen as Artist of the Week for this piece, which also traveled to the Parkway Board of Education office, and then to the All District Art Show.  Her detail-oriented nature -- which results in incredibly slow rates of art production -- can create really gorgeous work.  

The same week she was chosen as an exemplar for citizenship.  Ross Elementary is a National School of Character, which means they heavily emphasize and develop character traits like honesty and perseverance.  So proud of this kiddo for being honored for doing the right thing!

Some Saint Louis families run Turkey Trots or cheer at the Kirkwood-Webster game as their Thanksgiving tradition.  Not us.  We hike at Castlewood State Park and then overeat at the Indian buffet.  This year, the Zareks joined us for Thanksgiving lunch at Flavor of India and they agreed it was the best way to do Thanksgiving!  :)

Mama Jo and Papa Bill prefer a different Thanksgiving tradition, so they came up the following day.  In our continuous quest to do touristy things outside, we took them to Laumier Sculpture Park for the artwork and hiking.  It was a lovely day.

Coming down the art wall.

Raina and her besties at New Year's.  These young women have really grown up.

I still marvel at how much of an adult she is.  

We accidentally dress alike more times than we should admit.  :)
Raina joined an all girls FTC (First Tech Challenge) robotics team.  The team was anchored by three seniors who each oversaw one-third of the team: programming, design/driving, or outreach.  Programmer Leigh actively mentored Raina all year and now Raina is the lead programmer for the upcoming season. She could not be more excited.

Also, this picture is incredibly inspiring.  So many STEM girls!

I know that, in Saint Louis, I'm supposed to raise my kids to be STL Cardinals fans.  Ugh.  Instead, the Whomptons are MICDS Women's Basketball fans!  We attend some games during the normal season and then hit all the post-season play.  The team pulled out some nail-biter victories this year, for sure.

Little Lola wore MICDS shirts to Ross almost every day during the post-season.  

Buzzer beater shot in overtime!  Sectional champs!  
One of my favorite pictures of this year.  A Post-Dispatch photographer took this picture immediately after the buzzer beater and the Rams fans are going crazy.  If you look closely, you can find Eric and Lola's arm in the picture.

Ross Elementary hosts a Trivia Night fundraiser each year so we bought a table and asked friends to join us.  Turns out, we invited two trivia ringers who racked up the points for us pretty quickly and led us straight to victory.

This is the last picture I have of Christine Floss before her death.  

Lola joined the Ross Choir and was selected for a special ensemble choir as well.  She'll cap off her singing season by performing "God Bless America" at a Cardinals game this summer.

She finished out Running Club strongly as well; in all, I think she logged 25 miles this year by running on occasional Thursday mornings before school. She has extraordinary energy to spare, for sure.  She's now progressed to do standing push-ups; Eric stabilizes her vertically and she lifts up her entire body in push-up position.  Sets of 40.  She's a beast.
Lola did many research projects this year: saving the African Wild Dog, how to become an engineer, and Frida Kahlo.  Lola was Frida Kahlo for the Ross Elementary Wax Museum, which involved putting together an appropriate costume and preparing a biographical script.  She did a great job.

Out of all the possible individuals she could have studied I was so proud of her for choosing a woman of color.

Raina gave up piano this year so her musical focus is on the band.

She plays the flute (with a ridiculously large number of her friends) and hopes to start piccolo in the fall.
Raina loves doing lights and sound -- she's a tech kid at heart -- and she worked the tech crew for the middle school play.  She's enrolled in a theatre camp this summer so that she can do more tech crew AND learn how to stage manage.  
All in all, Raina had a fantastic 7th grade year.  She loved Latin, science, band, robotics; she figured out the upper school math scene and is excited about upper school science and math in the fall; best of all, there was little-to-no girl drama within her friend group this year.  She's looking forward to 8th grade!

I turned 40 this year, and I celebrated my birthday in stages. Stage 1: Hamilton!  We totally skipped school to go and it was 100% worth it.  WOW!

Lola had studied the Fox Theatre but had never been inside it before.  She was dazzled.

I emotionally process everything through tears, so I mostly cried through the entire show.  We got home and found out that a good friend had died.  I spent the next 5 hours crying too.  I was honored to speak at Christine's memorial and getting to that point was an exhausting emotional roller-coaster.  Samantha and I did phase 2 of my birthday celebration the night of the memorial and went to see The Decemberists.  It was exactly what we needed.  Phase 3 was seeing Trevor Noah and eating at my favorite restaurant.  All in all, turning 40 was pretty great.

Lola was told her "flowers in a vase" art work was at the Parkway District Art Show so we trekked out to see it.

Turns out, she had other work on display.  This piece represents all the circles of concern -- family, friends -- and how interconnected they are.  

Cadette Troop 1093 on April Showers collection day.
I'm still so thrilled that my daughters are Girl Scouts and take pride in doing service.

Ross Heritage Night.
The hip-hop instructors taught us a dance and we performed it for the crowd.  Samantha and I needed a little more practice before being performance ready.  :)

Baby cheetahs at the STL Zoo!  We went opening weekend and there were no crowds.  It was amazing to see them romping around, chasing each other, and being playful.  

Lola bridges from Brownies to Juniors.

Volunteering at the Foodbank on Stamp Out Hunger day.
This year I organized more groups of volunteers to come to the Foodbank rather than just scheduling for my family.  I hope that the more opportunities we provide will lead to more folks saying yes and doing service with us.

This winter and spring, Eric coached Lola's basketball team.  It was their second season together and Eric devoted SO MUCH TIME to watching youtube videos on coaching, developing new drills, and putting together strategies for making practices fun and formative.  Lola and he also practice together at our neighbors' goal.

After every basketball (and soccer) game, the girls do the traditional "good game" shake hands and then they create an archway for the other team to go through, who then make their own archway for the first team to go through.

Girl sportsmanship in action, y'all.  It's inspiring.

Eric also devoted a lot of time to music.  He is the vocal front man for an Ethical Society band and they performed multiple times this semester.  Highlights include singing "One" and "Love Stinks" in February and They Might Be Giants' songs "Why does the sun shine?", "Why does the sun really shine?", and "Put it to the test" in April.

I was the President-Elect of the Ethical Society this year and was responsible for putting together the pledge campaign and pledge party.  We had requests for the Whompton Family Band to perform, so Eric, Raina, Lola, and I arranged and performed the They Might Be Giants' song "My Brother the Ape."  Raina, Lola, and Eric have far more musical talent than I do.

Eric and Raina coordinated Lola's birthday party this year.  It was the third year of a superhero theme and, this time, it featured Dr. Noxious Foot (seen above), planned missions, rescues, and an escape room.

It's months later, and still some of Lola's guests see Eric and say "Hey, Dr. Noxious Foot!"
Eric and I renewed our vows.  
We also shared about our original vows and wedding ceremony, to great amusement of the crowd.

Our minister and dear friend, John Kindschuh, was able to join us for the renewal ceremony.  Every time John Kindschuh and I get together, we just hold each other and sob.  We did that for about 20 minutes, off and on, that morning.  It's always so good to be together.

Yes, it's the same wedding dress.  I couldn't believe how many people wanted to talk about the dress.
Our renewal vows read:
Years ago, we made promises to each other.
Some promises we’ve kept;
sometimes we’ve fallen short of our ideals.

Today I renew my vows to you
with clearer eyes and deeper understanding,
as we walk together through life,
partners and best friends.

I promise to love, respect, and support you;
to listen and to share;
to nurture and to grow with you;
and to work together to achieve our goals.

In joy and sorrow, through good times and bad,
my heart will be your shelter, my arms will be your home. 
I believe in this marriage more strongly than ever,
and I chose you, every day, and for life. 

Lola's piano recital, winter 2018

I received a Distinguished Teaching Chair.  When the award is presented, Lisa Lyle reads about the recipient and why the individual was chosen without saying the person's name.  Part of the fun is trying to figure it out and then turning to see the person as she/he/they figure it out for themselves. I, of course, cried. It's challenging to sit and be complimented, even though it's wonderful to be recognized for hard work.  

The Middle School math department received the Loeb Award.  The generosity of Carol and Jerome Loeb means fantastic professional development opportunities for the math department; this year, our team is headed to NCTM!  I am so, so grateful to the Loeb family.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Being Betrayed by my Body


Eric and I have spent the last twenty-two years together and there’s something marvelous about aging with another person.  We’re hitting the same milestones and needing the same support at similar times.  I remember turning 30 and getting my first real sports injury; I idiotically showed off a back kick without warming up appropriately and then I had to nurse my right hamstring back to full capacity over a period of 6 months.  Eric also nursed a hamstring injury – his was because we impulse joined Tina Kearney for a 10 miles training run in Forest Park.  That, my friends, was a mistake for Eric and he paid for it for multiple months.

Some injuries and pain linger.  As a former wrestler, Eric has had neck issues the whole time I’ve known him.  Add in a computer programming career and a penchant for the bench press and push-ups, and Eric’s nerves that run from one hand, up the arm, through the chest, and back down suffered mightily.  He has lain on more frozen bottles for his neck than I can reasonably estimate, and he has a twice-daily mandatory stretching routine to keep his carpal tunnel nerves happy. 

My injures center on my feet.  I’ve broken the same bone in my foot about 9 times; I’ve stepped on a mystery item (turned out to be a plastic shard from a cassette tape case) and had it surgically removed; I’ve had a growth on a tendon that make it painful to run, had it injected to reduce the size, had it grow again, and had it injected again.  The cortisone injections irritate the skin on my feet for about 9 months afterwards, so I now have orthotics in the hope it will prevent the cyst from returning.  Trying to keep this under control has been irritating but has also been easily managed.  I’m grateful for health insurance!

The most recent injury – and the one that really has me feeling old – is my right knee.  On a beautiful Thursday morning in February the sun came out and the temperature was a balmy 65 degrees.  I took my advisory out to play tag on the front lawn of the school.  I sprinted after a kiddo, stepped into a mole hole, and slammed my right knee into the ground.  It swelled up so much that I was certain I had broken my kneecap; I barely could bend it enough to get in the car and drive home.  I spent the next five days icing and elevating it and using a knee brace and sometimes a cane when walking.  (Eric and I did our wedding vow renewal ceremony that Sunday.  You cannot see the knee brace in the photos, nor the amount of pain killers I used to get through that day, nor the practice attempts I did at walking up and down the auditorium stairs before the audience arrived.  I hid my injury well, I think.)

When I was feeling sorry for myself I complained that I wouldn’t be able to run anytime soon.  (Honestly, I could barely walk.)  Eric put it in perspective: if I didn’t heal quickly enough, I wouldn’t be able to hike at our Big Bend vacation.  I put physical therapy into full throttle because I was determined to be able to hike in the mountains.  The knee brace lasted two weeks; the physical therapy lasted about four weeks; the pain when using the knee lasted six weeks.  Now I can walk, bend it forward and lift it, sit cross-legged for brief periods of time, and do a standing hamstring curl without wincing (this took the longest to regain).  I am not yet willing to kneel on it nor do lunges, squats, or jog but I’m hopeful that will be soon in my future.

In the end, I did hike at Big Bend.  I carried a pack the whole time and put my knees through a work-out going up and down mountains.  The hardest part of the trip was driving the long distances and having it stiffen up; my body was quick to inform me that driving for multiple hours at a time without a break was a mistake.  😊   

Getting older means my body is more and more fragile.  I’m closer to 40 years old than 14 and it’s a frustrating reality sometimes.  I’m grateful that I’m still able-bodied enough to be physically active in ways I want, even though it’s restricted, and I hope that Eric and I can see each other through these challenges in the years to come. 

Big Bend National Park pictures

Lola stretches out over two spots in the van, while she can.  Pretty soon she will be relegated to the center seat only.

At Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas.
It's spring because the redbud is blooming!

Dave Molfese made us a welcome sign.  So cute.
We're idiots because we never got an actual picture with Dave.  Oh well.

Those fried balls are stuffed avocados. 
We're always smiling when at Mexican restaurants.  

Out of the van!  Hallelujah!
Sanderson, TX

First interaction with desert flora.  Good gracious, that plant is huge and prickly!

Lola with the Sanderson sunset
We made it!  Desert and river and mountains and stars!

First desert hike, Dog Canyon

Dog Canyon.  Look at how flat the landscape and flora are.

We hiked to canyons so we could have shade.  In Dog Canyon.

Walking the Panther Path at Panther Junction Visitors Center.
We learned the names of all the desert plants we had been seeing and avoiding.  Additionally, Samantha and I quickly began quizzing each other as we saw other flowers.  We've become our mother.

Claret cup cactus

Creosote bushes had golden blooms and yellow-tinged leaves.

Purple prickly pear cactus

Thought about crossing the border and we decide against it.  The Border officer asks "Is it because you're scared of the Mexicans?  It's okay, you can tell me."  

Enjoying the view of the Rio Grande, along the Boquillas Canyon trail.
The river is incredibly narrow and shallow, due to overuse and lack of rain.

Lola cools off in the water.  Boquillas Canyon.

Everyone else cools off in the shade of Boquillas Canyon.

Hiking the Tuff Canyon trail.
The sky was a stunning blue every day.  I'd never seen a sky so consistently deep blue.

You can tell the rock is made out of tuff because of the color and texture.  So excited to use knowledge gained at one national park at another one!  Tuff Canyon trail.

Raina boulders to the top.

Providing perspective on size.  Technically the canyon is an arroyo, which I learned by eavesdropping on an educational tour.  :)  Tuff Canyon trail.

Rio Grande Scenic Trail.  

Top of the Rio Grande trail overlook at sunrise.
Eric proudly shows off his new, nonsensical t-shirt.

Sunrise over the river.  Gorgeous.



All the desert plants were in bloom.  Ocotillo featured here.

Enjoying the river one last time.  Rio Grande Scenic Trail.

Samantha and I showed up with matching smiles and matching hats and folks immediately said, "Well, you two are sisters!"

Hot Springs Canyon Rim hike.  

The Hot Springs hike combined river and lots of sedimentary rock.  

The river creates a ribbon of green in the Chihuahuan desert.  Hot Springs trail.

Hot springs trail.

At an overlook on the Hot Springs trail.  The contrast between riparian and desert areas is so stark.

Hot springs trail.

Someone, at sometime, build a hot tub with the hot springs.  The hot tub spills into the river and has an absolutely gorgeous view.  We were hot from our hike and didn't submerge fully into the 100+ degree hot tub.

The sedimentary rock is also archaeological because it contains pictographs and petrographs.  Hot Springs trail.

Remains of home along Hot Springs trail.
To get the patch we were supposed to have counted the number of windows and doors on this building. 

Junior Rangers!

Start of Lost Mine Trail in the Chisos Mountains.  Starting with smiles.

Our hike order was almost always Eric, Lola, Raina, Krystal, Samantha.  On this hike Lola fell behind and had to be cajoled back into her appropriate spot.

Raina shows off her dimples, her MICDS gear, positive attitude, and unflagging energy.
Lost Mine trail. 

Making our way on the Lost Mine trail.

The trail had gorgeous views of the South Rim.  If you can only do one short hike in the Chisos it should be this one. 
Lost Mine trail.

We made it to the top with amazing mountain views in all directions.  Lost Mine trail.

View from our tent in the Chisos Basin.  From our campsite we had mountain views in every direction.  We were damned lucky.

Tackling the Pinnacles and then Emory Peak Trails!
Check out the elevation chart on the bottom right.

The day started out at 45 degrees and breezy.  It was cold!  Pinnacles Trail.

The cool climes made the ascent easier to manage, though, as did sticking to the shade for as long as possible.  Pinnacles Trail.

Sunrise on the Pinnacles Trail.

The Pinnacles Trail had amazing views.  

The sky was so blue!  Pinnacles Trail.  

Love the symmetry in this shot.
Taking a break on the Pinnacles Trail.

The Pinnacles Trail got us really high up.  It was amazing to be on eye-level with other mountains and clouds.

We still had distance to climb.  To the top of Emory Peak!

The last portion of the hike required scaling up Emory Peak.  The views were rather spectacular without going all the way to the top.

Even so, the view from up top was even better.  Go, Whompton women!  Emory Peak.

Emory Peak selfie.  The solar panel is evidence we made it all the way to the top.

Coming back down on the Emory Peak trail.

Almost done and we're still smiling.  Pinnacles Trail.

Our "downhill" evening hike required climbing back up portions of the Pinnacles Trail.  Our legs complained and we told so many jokes about it that our bellies hurt from laughing.  Chisos Basin trail.

Darth Whompton returned.  Chisos Basin trail.

The "Window" view through the mountains.  Chisos Basin trail.

View from our Chisos campsite.  The campground host told us not to share with anyone how amazing it was at Big Bend but how could we lie about it?  Every bit of it was gorgeous.

Last hike on the Grapevine Hills trail.  Sunrise through the mountains was so pretty.

Magma formed the boulders and features on this hike.  Visually it was very similar to Lumpy Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park.  Grapevine Hills trail.

At this point, Krystal's knee, Samantha's knee, and Raina's ankle were hurting.  Even so, we persevered. 
Grapevine Hills trail.

Requisite Balanced Rock shot.  Grapevine Hills trail.

The George Washington Carver National Park is celebrating 75 years and has a special Junior Rangers badge and stamp.  Get there this year to celebrate!