Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 in Review: Happiness

We learned about the Junior Ranger program when we were in Colorado.  We promptly came home and earned another badge at Grant's Whitehaven.

We gallivanted around the STL Zoo after hours at the Zoo Parent Picnic.  (The picnic is the only time we do actions that cost money, like taking the train or seeing the sea lion show.)

Additionally, we took tours of the Veterinary hospital -- canine birth control is pretty fascinating -- and the Nutrition Center.  Samantha and I sampled primate biscuits.  They were awful.

We celebrated MICDS Homecoming with the MICDS-JBS Fun Run, lots of free food, and the Carnival.  The inflatable obstacle courses were wildly popular and the life-size bowling game was hysterical to watch.

Lola did another season of soccer.  Her time on the field saw her chasing the ball, actually getting aggressive and kicking the ball, dribbling a fair amount, and playing goalie.  She has really progressed in her soccer abilities.  Her time "on the bench" was really time where she played on playgrounds, rolled down hills in the grass, and practiced her cartwheels.

Eric ran his first official half-marathon.  We trained for this race together, and it was absolutely wonderful to have designated weekly one-on-one time together to exercise and talk.  He pushed us to run faster and faster during the actual race; he was determined to chase down the person in front of him, and was super excited when it was another pace runner.  The Halloween Half was an awesome experience for both of us.

I suggested that Eric be Bill Lumbergh for Halloween.  He delivered.

A $3 investment in wood and nails resulted in a two-day extravaganza of hammering fun.

Pneumonia hit the Whomptons hard this year; Raina, Eric, and Krystal all fell victim to it.  Disease did not stop Eric from trekking to Austin, TX, to celebrate Andrew McDiarmid's wedding, though, and we are so thankful he was able to be there to reconnect with old friends and honor Andrew and Cynthia.  The ceremony was incredibly personal, funny, and touching.  We wanted to applaud during the vows because they were just so good.  This weekend was a 2015 win.

I won the Worldbuilders lottery.  Pat Rothfuss sent me a personally inscribed book AND a copper jot (currency from The Name of the Wind's universe).  I totally geeked out.

Lola put on ice skates for the very first time.  She fell down a lot but picked herself up each time and tried some more.

Raina and Lola had another successful Navigators year.  Raina raked in a LOT of patches at the final ceremony, which is awesome (just like Raina) and troublesome because she doesn't have any more space on her sash.  She's grown so much in her Scouting adventures since she began Girl Scouts and Ethical Navigators five years ago.

Lola performed in the MICDS Winter Concert.  It was weird to have Lola be the only Whompton on stage that we were cheering for, and it was absolutely fitting that Raina asked to come watch and support her.

Wonderful friends joined us to celebrate the return of light and longer days at the Ethical Society's Secular Solstice event, Good Cheer.  My heart fills when thinking of Mini, Tina, and I together in the same space.

2015 in Review: Service

The Whomptons believe in the power of community service.  As Lola said yesterday, service is "mandatory fun!"  We adults are working hard to develop a service-minded passion in the girls and we are so proud of their developing concern for others.  They also are growing a belief that they can make an impact in the world because they see the results for themselves after each service outing.  Here are some highlights from 2015.

We made vegetarian chili, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and salty snacks for Winter Outreach.

We organized a "kids, aged 4 - 6, make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches" service project. This was a fun mess.

Raina's Girl Scout troop made recycled artwork for the MICDS Stem building.

All the Whomptons sort incoming donations from the Letter Carrier Food Drive.  We staffed the Creve Coeur branch in the pouring rain.

We made signs and held vigils.

We donated items and made "bags of necessity items" for Winter Outreach.

Raina joined the Rambassors and hosted many visitors to the school.  Here she is, calling her first visitor buddy.

The family cared for our friends' dogs.

And we spent numerous hours at the Saint Louis Area Foodbank -- nine during Winter Break alone!  The best way to do service is with friends and family.

We also set-up and took down the Ethical Society's Good Cheer event.  The whole family pitched in daily for four straight days to create a rousing good time for others.

2015 in Review: Race and Staying Woke

I think a lot about race nowadays.  Debby Irving, in her book Waking Up White, asks the question “How often do you talk about race in your household?” with possible options supplied: once a day, once a week, once a month, once a year, or hardly ever.  Ten years ago, I believed I thought a lot about race and racism – you know, by considering it every couple weeks or so.  But, goodness, I really didn’t know what I didn’t know.  I was so na├»ve.  Krystal of 2015 thinks and talks about race and systematic racism every single day.  I can’t not see it.  I can’t not think about it.  It permeates my existence, my every interaction, my explanation for how I see the world.  In this situation of extreme inequity – where some folks are privileged based upon the color of skin and some folks fear for their lives because of the color of their skin – it defines and describes and is the basis upon my entire life.  Nothing is untouched. 

My waking up journey has taken many years – from a belief in being colorblind and everyone is equal because Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said we should be to a belief that every culture and background should be tolerated, then celebrated, then understood, and now to an ever present questioning of the world around me and the systematic design to advantage folks with white skin. 

I recognize and am grateful for my inherited privilege.  Completely selfishly, I am grateful that it meant that I had a great education, parents with jobs, no fear of police, and a preserved optimism about the world and opportunities around me.  I’ve had a fair amount of heartbreak as I’ve learned about all the unasked-for privilege I have and that it came fully at the expense of others.  It’s extraordinarily challenging to believe that I am entitled to everything that I have earned in my life because I know that I started farther ahead than many folks and I was given breaks along the way. 

I am a talented individual; I’m smart, I work hard, and I try to make the most of what I have.  However, I know that a major factor in landing my awesome job – at age 22 – was that the Middle School Head knew and trusted my Wash U Education advisor.  The Head did not talk with my student teaching cooperating teacher, who most likely would have given an honest and unflattering description of my abilities.  Instead, he reached out through his connections and hired someone who – on paper – seemed pretty identical to a wonderful hire from the previous year (who was also a White, Wash U educated, Kentucky-raised young woman).  He probably looked at me and thought, “She will grow into what we want her to be” and trusted that I would reach that goal.  I was given a chance – based upon who I was presumed to be and talents I was presumed to have and over substantially more qualified candidates.

My Wash U Education adviser’s recommendation sealed the job for me, which, because she is so well regarded, probably happened for dozens of teachers over the years.  But here’s the thing.  The fifteen student teachers in my Wash U cohort – the 20 teachers who had the advantage of my adviser’s well regarded connections and recommendations – we all were White.  And while there were students of color at Wash U, I don’t remember many in my education courses.  The all-White education faculty taught a mostly-White student body to go out and be White teachers in the community.  It would be foolish to think race played no part in my training and my job offer.  That’s one small instance of how race impacted my life and I never considered it until these last few years.

I have spent a significant amount of my 2015 year having conversations about race: about Whiteness, systematic racism, how we, as White folks, can help in antiracist efforts, how to support and amplify the voices of persons of color in my community, how to show that I care for the life and dignity of others.  I delved into a Witnessing Whiteness discussion group, followed up by a Waking Up White discussion group, followed up by The New Jim Crow.  I organized and participated in many Black Lives Matter vigils.  I attended rallies and protests but, more often, sat in committee meetings with the goal of moving police departments along in their accountability journey.  I helped shut down a highway.  I gave speeches.  I challenged statements by others that I, in the past, would have let slide to keep the peace.  I organized, mobilized, burned out, re-centered, and joined back in the efforts. 

I woke up in 2014.  2015 is the year I stayed woke.  

2015 in Review: Basement

Back in 2002, when the Whomptons numbered two, we had a completely empty basement which resulted in much romping.  Andrew McDiarmid and Eric devised all sorts of silly games that involved our newly acquired Nerf guns (thank you, Amy Sia!).  There was an accuracy game about shooting balloons that are blown by fans, but that paled to Ball Blaster Battle Ball, which was a mix of on-your-knees dodgeball and, well, guns.

Those types of games fell out of favor once we acquired furniture for the basement.  This summer briefly saw their resurgence, because we removed all the furniture so we could change the carpet and paint the walls.  The girls, Eric, and the dog greatly enjoyed all the new-found space.

Eric's knees after a Ball Blaster Battle Ball game 

The major downside of this wholesale effort (besides the actual effort) was that we painted over the girls' height chart. We measured all the heights and entered them into a spreadsheet so that we could recreate their height history in the same spot.  (It's five months later and we still haven't done this task.)