Friday, June 28, 2013

The Swim Meet Chronicles - Almost the Finale

Our last regular meet . . .

I'll start this dramatic tale with an unexpected turn of events  . . . no one had a doctor's appointment yesterday. We could have enjoyed a leisurely afternoon, calmly packing this and that, making our list and checking it twice.

But where's the fun in that?

Tim's glasses  were positively flattened at camp and needed some attention. What better time to handle that than the afternoon of the swim meet?

Off to Penney's we went. We love Cynthia, the optical assistant at Penney's. We think of her as a friend. She knows our many and varied tales of glasses meeting tragic ends. She is kind and very, very fast.

Cynthia was off yesterday.

Because she knew it was swim meet day.

Her replacement, well, he was nice, too, but I've rarely seen anyone in less of a rush. So the process of declaring the current glasses a total write-off and ordering a new pair, a process that takes about two minutes, forty-two seconds with Cynthia, took about thirty minutes with this fella.

The good news? The new pair will cost me a mere $16.00. Thank you, cheap insurance plan that has paid for itself ten times over!

We zipped home, and here's where the story enters its tailspin.

We had a brief window in which to get our affairs in order for the swim meet -- the key word being brief -- and I arrived home to find the house a huge mess, the little people eating Captain Crunch on the couch, and the person in charge watching The Santa Clause, no swimsuit, towel, or goggles in sight. 

Is there an emoticon for a mother snatching herself bald-headed? Please insert it here.

While I was dealing with this child, I noticed a second one of my offspring had gone missing. Turns out he went outside for a relaxing jaunt around the neighborhood . . . minutes before we were supposed to walk out the door. Swimsuit, towel, goggles? Nowhere to be seen.

Then  I discovered the stopped up toilet -- a toilet my neighbors will one day see on my front lawn where I will be charging kids a dollar for the thrill of taking a sledge hammer to it. After persistent work on my part, I began to suspect another plastic tree or a second scrub brush had taken a nostalgic swim down those oh-too-familiar pipes. I threw the plunger in despair and returned to bark a few more orders the way of my older children.

I grabbed a few snacks out of the fridge only to discover the food from last night's dinner -- food that I had clearly stated needed to put away -- had indeed been put away if by put away I meant crammed into the refrigerator with no cover, no wrap, no foil covering it. No, no, my definition of put away is Store  in a reasonable fashion because -- Who knows?-- we might just get a wild hair and actually decide to Eat! It! which is precisely why we put it away in the first place!

My tirade may or may not have included some of those very words, and it may or may not have been so loud the pipes rattled and the toilet cleared.

Not my finest hour, nor theirs.

Anyway . . . We eventually got in the car.


And the sky looked ominous, so ominous I decided to take an alternate route. And it rained and rained and rained and cars were pulling over. And we saw lightning, very impressive lightning.

And we prayed.

And I begged my kids' forgiveness because if one of those towering pine trees had fallen over and taken me out, I didn't want my last words to be an over-the-top screed on the merits of Saran Wrap.
No new pictures -- I was a timer again.
We arrived safely, and, in the midst of the storm, probably nobody even noticed we were late. We waded through the parking lot.

For perspective, Kris, a faithful reader, pointed out that Atlanta has had more rain in the first six months of 2013 than in all of 2012 (and I'm betting the lion's share has fallen in June). And we're not really complaining too, too much because rain is a hassle, but drought is destructive and depressing.

After a sixty minute delay or so during which Ainsley attempted to eat every last bite of snack food without consuming a single morsel
of protein, the meet started.

And, as I've said before, it's really fun. We cheer and laugh and chat.

The highlights of the meet were watching our Godson who is a first year swimmer and very, very good and watching the older boys shave huge chunks off their personal bests. Their form is night and day different from four weeks ago.

John's relay was a bit pokey and earned third place. And then John swam his sprint which could hardly be called a sprint. He got just past the halfway mark and decided to hang out on the rope and take in the sights as hundreds of people yelled,"Go! Go!" He ambled toward the finish (if you can amble in a pool). He paused about two feet from the wall and waited about four seconds before actually touching and stopping the clock.

A personal slowest for John. He went from fifth place last week to sixteenth place this week.

At 9:30, with heat lightening appearing on and off and more clouds rolling in, they called the meet. There was great rejoicing.

"Isn't it ironic," I said to a group of friends praying for a quick end, "that we pay good money for our kids to do something we hope gets cancelled?"

As we unloaded gear and a sleeping child, John looked at me and said, "Mama, I want medicine." He woke up with an aching throat and a fever of 102. This may explain his performance last night.

So there you have the finale that turns out not to be the finale . . . We have a division championship Saturday. It's indoors, so come rain, come shine, we'll be swimming.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Things My Parents Got Right

So we're cruising down the highway, and Ainsley starts wailing, "John put underwear in my water bottle!"

"Your name is annoying," she tells him emphatically. "Annoying!"

You know, sometimes you just need to call a spade a spade.

This warm-hearted rant brought a wave of nostalgia as I remembered fighting with my siblings non-stop. My parents, bless them, took us on long road trips. In the early days, when we hit the highways in a woody station wagon, the seating arrangements never varied. Kathy and I road in the far back in the benches that faced each other. Keith, the oldest, got the entire back seat to himself. Karen, the youngest, was sandwiched between my parents up front. The plan wasn't born of favoritism, but of practicality, sheer Darwinian Survival of the Fittest. Kath and I would entertain each other, and, given the opportunity, the rest of us would have murdered poor Karen in cold blood.

How often I look back at amazement at the fortitude and restraint my parents displayed! Among the many things I appreciate about my folks are these:

1. We took great vacations. Not exotic vacations, but vacations with special memories of fishing in Northern Michigan and riding the waves in the Atlantic. On several occasions we drove from Detroit to south Florida straight through. (which makes the fifteen hour jaunt from Georgia to Michigan seem like a Sunday drive). I have amazing (Dare I say magical?) memories of our visits to Disney World. My parents' friends, Dave and Shirley, invited us to Pelee Island one summer (1973?), and we've been going there ever since.

2. We blew out holidays and big events. First Communion, eighth grade graduation, high school graduation -- Mom threw big parties. Big events called for sheet cake and tea sandwiches from Mrs. Maddox in Royal Oak. I've loved cream cheese and ham ever since.

When I look back at our Christmas photos, I'm impressed with the matching outfits and the plethora of presents under the tree. Where did my mother hide this stuff? Where did she wrap it? When did she wrap it?

The Christmas my sisters and I were about 4, 6, and 8, my mother knitted two piece Christmas outfits for all of us. Knitted! That qualifies her for rock star status, no two ways about it. And looking back on those outfits, I'm fairly certain all we did was complain that they were itchy. I sewed a Christmas outfit once. When I had one child.

3. We fished and boated. A lot. Oh, do we have fishing stories. The ones we caught and the ones that got away. Great memories.

4. They sent us to good schools. No small sacrifice. Big payoff.

5. We were free-range children. Growing up in the late sixties/early seventies, we left the house in the morning and came home for dinner. We rode our bikes everywhere. If there's a single element of my childhood I dearly wish I could recreate for my children, it would an open-ended summer with trees to climb, woods to explore, ice cream stores to visit.

6. We knew we could always come home.  I remember calling my dad when my best friend, the designated driver, tied one on.  Dad wasn't happy. But I called, and he came. I always, always, always knew he would. Both my parents have dealt with impressive equanimity the, hmmm, what would the word be?, stuff we have thrown their way. No details, but, wow.

7. They stayed married. My parents separated briefly when I was in seventh grade for reasons that were serious in nature and not mine to share here. I am so very grateful they stuck it out. Everything -- from weddings to my mother's health issues -- would be different had my parents walked away from their marriage.

The picture, above, shows my mom in 1962. The pearls she's wearing were a confirmation gift to me in 1978. At the time I remember thinking they were a ho-hum gift, one I barely appreciated. Thirty-five years later, I wear them all the time. If my house were on fire, and I could rescue just ten items, my pearls would be high on the list -- a cherished and irreplaceable heirloom, an enduring gift, little valued at the time.

So it can be with our parents. Before my parents' brief separation, I didn't fully appreciate or even notice the folks I call Mom and Dad. And then Dad was gone. And, believe me, I noticed; we all noticed. The longer I'm in this business of raising children, the more I appreciate the gift my parents were to me when I was young and are to me now that I'm not.

Today Mom turns seventy-six.

Happy birthday, Mom! I love you!

It's Theme Thursday over at Clan Donaldson. This week's theme is black and white. So I didn't take this picture, but I scanned it which in my book is way harder. Head over to Cari's to add your photos.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Rainy Days and Mondays

Our rainy, rainy weather has been great for the grass. But for late afternoon moods? Not so much. The boredom, the whining, the I Have Nothing To Dooooooooo!

"I'm going to show initiative," a certain someone informs me. "What is initiative again?"

I'm just about as motivated as my least motivated child, which is saying a  whole lot or maybe nothing at all.

Some of the most amazing socks ever to return from Scout camp.
We're all thankful for  John who never fails to make us laugh with questions like, "Mama, do steam rollers still exist?" or observations like, "Guess what, Tim? Curious George's dad doesn't have a wife!"

(We wonder if John has noticed the rather obvious fact that Curious George's dad is not a monkey, but a man with a big yellow hat.)

I am now going to find a crow bar, extricate myself from this chair, and move in the direction of something useful. Maybe that last remnant of Scout gear that needs to be sorted and

And those energy drinks I was dissing? Maybe they aren't such a bad idea after all.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Swim Meet #3

My faithful readers -- all twenty-two of you -- are on  pins and needles anticipating the next dramatic installment of The Swim Team Chronicles. It's right up there with the Downton Abbey Christmas Special. Don't deny it. Move over, Julian Fellowes. Kelly's writing about the Tuesday night swim meet.

This week's tale begins with -- drum roll, please --  swim practice and a doctor's appointment. Did this week's appointment end on time? Did Kelly gas up the van? Did John swim the backstroke?

Practice your rotary breathing, everyone.

All was well, but we wound up just a few minutes late because swim meet requires:

1. People, properly outfitted

2. Equipment

3. Food

I am fairly capable in the equipment and people departments. It's the food that inevitably trips me up. In a loving attempt to provide my family with food that was not delivered, did not come packaged in Styrofoam,  and was not served in a large cardboard box, I decided to pack a cooler of water, nice sandwiches, fruit, and, okay, a few Oatmeal Pies. The food set me back, not too far, but we were a tad late.

We had had another gully-washer just as we had arrived at the doctor's appointment, so we figured all was well weather-wise. Pre-disastered and all that. At this meet I had the all-important job of timer in lane 1. I was supposed to be a timer last week, and I showed up for the briefing and everything. The Timer In Charge kept saying "This is so simple, so simple" and then went on to explain that some of the heats were dive overs of swim overs, and we would therefore need not just one stop watch, but two. At that point my eyes began to roll back into my head, and my friend Judy kindly offered to take my place.

This week I emailed the Timer In Charge and asked for an easy lane. Let me tell you, Lane 1 is where it's at. I am so glad I highlighted my inexperience because it is a fast-paced job. You barely have time to reset the watch before the horn sounds and the next swimmers are in the water. The move-it-along mentality is the only thing preventing these meets from being seven hours instead of five, so I'll take a little stress and not whine too much.

My fledgling career as a timer was beset by two problems: First, a certain unidentified five-year-old repeatedly pestered me about toys he had left in the van, toys I certainly couldn't get my hands on in the middle of timing thirty-five races. And second, an unnamed teenager begged and begged for non-existent funds. Dehydration and malnutrition were imminent, but nameless remained wholly uninterested in anything in ye olde cooler of healthful offerings (and a few Oatmeal Pies).

My children are nothing if not persistent.

At heat 25 I realized we were a mere 33% of the way through the meet. And then the weather started to turn. A mother came up to me wondering how far along we had to be for the meet to be declared complete if it had to be called for weather. Apparently other pools were closing, and one had reported hail.

I've probably made these meets out to be misery, and they're not. But they are an investment. At that point, I had been standing poolside holding a timer for two hours. I really didn't want to do the whole gig over again a day or two later.

Apparently forty is the magic number. We hit race forty and slightly beyond, when the meet was declared done. And we won! And both Tim and John had personal bests! And since John is on a relay with a kid named Brennan who is lightning fast, I think he's guaranteed to win something every week.

We arrived home at a very reasonable hour. Ainsley was already asleep. John graciously offered to bring in the cooler. I was so impressed with his servant's heart and then I remembered there was one Oatmeal Pie left in the cooler. Not any more!

The morning after is always a shock. As I groaned and rolled out of bed, I remembered what I had forgotten the day before during my shock and awe run to the grocery story: coffee. Coffee! Not the Oatmeal Pies, not the milk, not the bread. The coffee!

I dashed to McDonald's and picked up a small coffee for me and a biscuit for Tim who was in a bit of a mood. As I walked up the front walk, I stumbled slightly and sent the coffee flying. I drove to swim practice, dropped Tim off, and headed for a second McDonald's where I gave serious thought to kissing the cashier as she took $1.08 and handed me my blessed brew. I sat on a bench and felt the strain seeping away and the equilibrium returning. Ahhhhh!

I called to John and Ainsley, "It's okay, kids. Mama's better now."

Tune in next week for the final chapter of this riveting season.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


It's Theme Thursday over at Clan Donaldson. This week's theme is water. My camera hiked off to Scout camp, so here are few oldies.

A favorite of Ainsley:

A favorite of John:

And my best water shot, which everybody's already seen:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hail and Farewell

This weekend was one long Hail and Farewell as Tim returned from a week of camp, and Kolbe headed out the revolving door for Scout camp.

I was a mix of emotions as Kolbe left, but, to be perfectly frank, the overriding one was Relief! when that heavily laden Boy Scout trailer finally drove out of our neighborhood. Does that make me an awful mom? Let's just say the two hours before liftoff tend to be rather stressful.

Having done this four years running, I have to say both the packing and the sendoff have improved rather dramatically. My friend and I were laughing about our much younger selves shipping our boys off to camp the very first time. You'd have thought we were sending them to Damascus for the summer. Every fear -- the reasonable and the fringe -- comes at you when your oldest does anything for the first time.

Where Boy Scouts are concerned, I've come to realize a few things:

1. The equipment you ship off with your son -- the cot, the pocket knife, the bug spray, the mess kit -- that collection of gear that sets you back approximately $187.37? The vast, vast majority of it really does come home eventually. And you'll actually reuse most of it fairly soon, so the costs (gradually, theoretically) drop. At least I think so. And that's what the fine folks at L.L. Bean hope you believe. Early on, a Scout learns that he is to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, etc. The Scout's mom learns that she is to label every last t-shirt and pair of boxer shorts with a black Sharpie. 
2. Those horrible scenes you try so hard to keep out of your mind, the scenes from horror movies you might have spent your teenage years watching? Yeah, the ones that tend to be set in a summer camp. They don't really happen. So don't dwell on them.
3. And if you happened to have read of The Shack (which did for national parks what Friday the 13th did for summer camp), well, it's best you put that out of your mind as well.
4. Problems do occur, of course. After weekend trips too numerous to count and many years of summer camp, my focus tends to linger over crises far more likely and, thankfully, far more mundane in nature --  sunburn and stitches, Poison Ivy and blisters.  
5. Fathers do things very differently than mothers, and it's a very, very good thing I don't have a front row seat to see this in living color.
6. The boys come home filthy, happy, and full of great memories.
We have another farewell tomorrow morning as Dave goes back out for the remainder of camp!

Sunday, June 16, 2013


So apparently some parents involved in summer swim league have sold energy drinks in the parking lot during meets. I received an email about this yesterday. Sometimes I'm a little slow to grasp an essential point, so I was first thinking that the concern was that these parking lot sales were taking business from the concession stand.

Oh, how naive I can be.

Finally it dawned on me that the email was talking about Energy Drinks and the key word was Energy, not Drinks. Think: Red Bull, Full Throttle, Monster. Perhaps those involved weren't thinking about those tired, tired swimmers, but thinking more like Toddlers and Tiaras' parents who juice their three-year-olds up on Pixie Sticks and Diet Coke before sending them off on stage.

In other words, these were performance-enhancing drugs. Legal ones, put performance enhancing drugs.


The sarcastic side of me wonders two things:

First, why weren't these energy drinks offered to those tired, tired parents enduring marathon meets without benefit of sprint or relay to pry their eyelids open as the nights grew long?

Second, why didn't some bright soul dispense with the energy drinks entirely and instead offer some adult beverages, preferably of the dry, red variety?

Really, people, let's use the old noggins.

I remember a little league game years ago. We were losing something like 19-2 when our assistant coach approached the umpire because the opposing team was consistently sidelining the one mediocre player on the team and subbing in their star batter in his place.

They were killing us and still felt a need to cheat.

In little league!

(And then I catch faultiness of my logic which seems to ask Why Cheat? if it's just little league or if you're already winning.  Of course, I don't believe this at all.)

I'm sure all sports fans sense the damage done by the Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrongs of the athletic world. We cheer watching the Olympics, but cheaters and dopers have cast a pall that may never go away. And drug testing has unintended casualties. I remember watching Andrea Raducan of Romania win a gold medal in gymnastics only to have it stripped away because her team physician had instructed her to take something like Sudafed for a cold. The drug she innocently took is no longer banned, but her gold medal was never reinstated.

Summer swim league is a long way from the Olympics, and energy drinks are certainly not banned. I scratch my head at all this, but then I'm the mom who took her kids to McDonald's before the last meet.

But do you know what else I did? I arranged a private swim lesson for one of the kids who was struggling with his strokes. Performance enhancing? Yep. And I plan to do that for a different child this week.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Just Add Water

Everyone warned me about swim team: daily practices, marathon meets. The practices, folks seemed to take in stride. But the meets, oh the meets!, the meets garnered descriptors like epic and  gruesome.

Our first meet was rough long before the first swimmer took his mark. We had a doctor's appointment in the mid-afternoon. The bad news is that it involved three of us. The good news was that it was the sort of appointment that starts on time and ends on time. But being the day of the swim meet, naturally it didn't end on time. Which means I didn't gas up the van, and I was late picking up Kolbe from computer camp, and we were all late for the meet before we managed to pull out of the driveway.

And then the sky opened up.

For perspective, during the first ten days of June, seven inches of rain came to our previously parched area. I'm fairly sure a solid inch or so fell as I dashed from the van into the community center. As I returned to the van, the rain was coming sideways, and I was drenched to the skin.

The meet was about forty minutes away. It took us a good eighty minutes to get there -- bad rain, a missed turn or two or six, a necessary stop at the gas station, avoiding debris in the road. Given the weather, I called my friend Rachel to see if -- maybe, possibly, dare I say hopefully? -- the meet had been called.

No such luck.

As we pulled into the parking lot an hour late, I noticed some of our swim team families heading for their cars.

"Is it cancelled?" I asked another friend, trying hard to disguise the glee in my voice.

No, turns out they were just opting to wait it out in a dry vehicle.

To see the gear we dis-engorged from the van, you might have thought we intended to spend a few days rather than a few hours at this pool that I'm sure was very nice except that it was hard to get a clear view through the deluge.

I'll say this for swim people: They're nothing if not tenacious. There we sat huddled under umbrellas and towels for thirty minutes, sixty minutes. We'd hear a rumble of thunder, and every rumble brought another twenty minute delay.

Rachel's husband Paul kept joking, "I just can't have my kids swimming under these conditions" in vain hopes that we'd bag the meet and take our soggy selves home.

And then -- surprisingly, amazingly -- they started the races.

And how fun was that!

There is nothing cuter than a bunch of five-year-olds doing "big arms" across a pool. One pint-sized girl has mastered a unique maneuver that's sort of like stroke, stroke, wrap your arm around the rope. She does this with near flawless grace, and I hope her mom gets it on tape.

Too, too cute.

All the veteran moms kept patting me on the back and saying, "This is as bad as it gets." An out-of-town meet, horrible weather, long delays. Around nine o'clock, with the weather still looking ominous, enough races were complete to declare the meet done. We packed up thirty-seven pounds of sodden gear and home we went.

Yesterday was our second meet. I was determined not to repeat the error of our ways.

Three of the kids had afternoon dental appointments. Somehow we have doctor's appointments before every swim meet in June. The good news was that the dentist's office was almost directly across the street from the pool. We got out of the dentist on time (and with no cavities!).  We ate an early dinner and killed some time at the McDonald's Playland.

(Don't get me started on the irony of eating McDonald's just before an athletic event designed to promote fitness. We were on a schedule, people!)

And let the record reflect that we were early. We arrived as the coach was pulling in. The only snafu was that John's buddy who rode with us couldn't get his Speedo on. Thankfully, five-year-old boys don't sweat little things like being naked in front of a friend's mother. A tug and a pull and all was well.

And now for the bad news. Here's the deal with swim meets that don't get called for bad weather: They last forever. For-ever!

John had two races early on, and Kolbe had one. We had another obligation last night, so Dave left after Kolbe's 100 meter freestyle. That was at 7:15. Looking at the heat sheet, I figured Kolbe would swim again around 9:30.

Just call me an optimist.

Kolbe's final race was at 10:00.  As in 10:00 p.m., as in five hours after we arrived at the pool.

I looked at my friend Stephanie and said, "Wow. This is going long, huh?"

"No," she said in her gentle way, "This is moving along kind of quickly."

I briefly contemplated running the little people home and arranging a ride for Kolbe. I am not a mother who kills the entire family for the sake of every last sporting event every child has. But here's the thing: The older boys are latecomers to this sport. We knew this going in, and we discussed this with them. Tim and Kolbe are fifteen and eleven and swimming with and against guys who started at John's age.

We knew this, but that doesn't mean it's been easy. It isn't easy to do things you don't necessarily do well. It isn't easy to do them in front of a crowd. It isn't easy in a sport that is so individualized. It's your heat, your lane, your time.

As I spied John running around with glow sticks, playing in mud l-o-n-g past his bedtime, as I watched Ainsley looking precious in her flowered nightdress, curled up under a towel on a lounge chair, I knew that the best place for them would be home. But the best place for me was pool-side, cheering loudly as Kolbe swam the 74th of 77 races.

We stayed.

And we were back at the pool at 9:30 this morning eating donuts and playing water polo -- standard morning-after-the-meet fare. One of the moms sorted through last night's results and assembled the ribbons. John came in sixth in his sprint and first in his relay. And I am one proud mom. And Kolbe, who battled a nervous stomach all evening and would have preferred to skip that late night race entirely, well, his relay team came in third.

(Kolbe attempted to explain to me that there in an A Relay and a B Relay and he was on the B Relay and there were only three teams on the B Relay, soooo getting third place meant his team came in dead last).

He may be entirely correct in his assessment.

But this I know: Kolbe pushed himself well out of his comfort zone last night. And I, for one, am declaring victory. And victories like this one, successes that are hard fought and borne of prayer and perseverance and grit, mean far more than the cheap, white ribbon you stuff in a drawer.

A few years back, I watched my niece Hannah, a swim team veteran, swimming in Lake Erie. I have no idea if she's fast or slow, but I do know she's a graceful, competent, beautiful swimmer. When the marathon meets are behind us and the practices are done, this is what I hope my boys will take away. Despite this long, rambling whine, swim team is one of the best things we've taken on in a long time.

Thursday, June 13, 2013


It's Theme Thursday over at Clan Donaldson. This week's theme is Dad. Here's one of my favorite pictures of my Dad:

Two years ago I wrote the following post about Dad. I don't think I could say it today any better than I said it then. He still rocks!

My father's birthday came and went, and the post I had written in my mind never made it to the screen. My message is brief, and I lift it from the Gymboree t-shirt John wore last Father's Day:

My Dad Rocks!

My Dad rocks in a thousand ways -- some significant, some trivial.

Years ago, when my sister was considering an important decision, Dad offered some blunt advice.

"When you have kids," he shared, "your dreams die."

On the face of it, you would think those words stemmed from a life of disappointment and bitterness, from a person disillusioned and disenchanted. Nothing could be further from the truth.

When my parents first married, Dad owned his own business. It was a T.V. and radio shop. Dad is a mechanical wizard and has a passion for all things electronic. I'm sure he loved setting his own hours and being his own boss.

When children began arriving in regular succession, Dad closed his business and ultimately invested decades in a career with the Bell System. He was not his own boss and did not set his own hours. It was no dream job, I'm sure, but he was able to support us nicely, to pay tuition at Catholic schools,  to provide health insurance.

In short, he let a dream die.

In truth, though, Dad is a man of many, many dreams. The T.V. shop closed, but he went on to pursue a hundred other joys -- fishing and ham radios, model airplanes and chess. He loved the water and always dreamed of living on a lake.

He had a passion for boats. We always had boats. Yes, that's plural. Dad's record was owning four boats at one time. Dad would typically buy a clunker held together by a thin veneer of varnish and spend years refurbishing it. When I was a baby, he ordered a sailboat kit and built an entire boat in our basement. He then ripped out half the kitchen to get it out of the house. True story. The entire neighborhood and the local media turned out for the occasion. 

We often joked that my father had nine lives. He was forever slicing this or breaking that while sailing or carving or chiseling.

Around the office Dad was known as "Rapid Regan";  in our family he was "Gotta Go." He attended school years before anyone had heard of ADHD. Had he been born fifty years later, no doubt he would have had a lengthy string of letters after his name. I am sure he was a challenge in the classroom and at home. My boys love to hear the story of their Great Grandmother sending Grandpa to his room and then finding him inexplicably flying a kite out his bedroom window. No doubt there is a bevy of nuns who bypassed Purgatory entirely for having attempted to divert one Keith Regan from his chess manuals and radio magazines and in the direction of grammar and algebra.

Dad is something of a character. One of his most endearing qualities is his ability to laugh at his own foibles. We laugh right along with him. Last week I sat engrossed in a game of Scrabble and listened to my sister attempt to teach Dad how to check his email. Her tone alternated between patient and patronizing as he interjected "What the hell's that for?' and "Ah, forget it! Just forget it!"

After about sixty seconds of this,  my shoulders were shaking and tears coursed down my face I was laughing so hard.

Why? Because I've hear this identical exchange every! time! I! visit! I mean, every time. Don't you know these software engineers have formed a vast conspiracy to frustrate Keith Regan and Keith Regan alone?

Dad is still best friends with Lerew, a childhood pal. I will never forget the weekend they spent driving around trying to scam free Wi-Fi access. They finally succeeded by creeping in great stealth up the driveway of an exclusive club. They came home thrilled with their success and chuckling over their antics, two men in their seventies with multiple open heart surgeries between them. I wondered if they had thrown TP through the trees and scammed a beer or two.

I remember having coffee with my sister on my parents' deck as Dad fished offshore. We looked up to see Dad gesturing wildly, arms flailing madly. Kate and I immediately burst out laughing. No need to hear the dialogue. Make no mistake about it -- someone had just lost a Walleye.

Walleye fishing is a part of everyday life because Dad is living out his dream of living on the water. My parents live on an island in Lake Erie.

To me, that is a key part of their story. There is a time to do the right thing, to let a dream die. But, in Dad's case, he was really embracing another dream. He took hold of that new dream and didn't get mired in self-pity. He didn't count the cost over and over again. He found a life of purpose, of commitment, of excitement, of unexpected joy. In the end many of his dreams did come to pass.

That's a lesson I hope I have learned from my father.

Now in their 52nd year of marriage,  my parents are now, without question, walking through the "for worse " part of their wedding vows. My mother lives with chronic pain and rapidly diminishing mobility. Obviously, my dad lives with this as well. Pressing medical needs make life on an island in Lake Erie a tad problematic.

On a recent visit, Dad casually mentioned, "We need to think about selling the house."

The house. The house he built. The house on the lake.

Dad shared this with all the gravity of discussing new tires or having a tree removed. We need to think about selling the house.

Why? Because he is a courageous man, a man willing to let one dream die so that a more important one might live, a man who knows he will not succumb to bitterness and self-pity if things -- even really important things -- don't go his way.

I pray that he doesn't have to sell the house, but the fact that he can utter those words, can face that possibility, simply reinforces my longstanding view:

My Dad Rocks!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

More of My Girl

On her way to a princess party that included tiaras, tutus, make-up, and manicures. 

Can I just state for the record how un-me all this is? Can I also add how fun it all is?

And those shoes on the wrong feet? They really complete the ensemble. 

Monday, June 10, 2013

At Least It Wasn't a Snake

Tropical Storm Andrea brought an abrupt end to our drought-like conditions and dumped something like four inches of rain on our parched land.This made for a long and uneventful first swim meet and a few afternoons of movies and board games.

When we get weather like this, I love to run out to the swamp near us to see what's changed.

I share my Dad's love of water -- rivers, lakes, oceans, and, yes, even the swamp makes the list. My older boys so far do not share my love for walking the beach. What's the point, they wonder. What are we going to do, they ask.

What do they know? I love exploring water. The shore is never the same twice.

We log lots of time on the Great Lakes. After a ferocious storm one night, my sister Karen and I walked waaaay down the beach to search for a lost toy or two. We came upon the mother lode of items swept out and then back in by the waves of Lake Erie -- towels, floats, buckets, shovels. We could have held a yard sale with the loot we hauled away.

On Saturday morning the rest of the gang was busy sleeping late, attending a birthday party, and doing jobs around the house, so John and I took a brief hike across the swamp. The snakes were out in force. I can type this calmly only because they were at a distance. John was dying to catch something -- a lizard, a frog, a dragon fly. As we walked back to the car, I spotted a small turtle crossing the road.

"Catch it, John," I called.

John caught it, named it Batman, and then renamed it Mr. Turtle. We brought Mr. Turtle home.

Tim saw it and said, "Duuuuude, Mr. Turtle is my father. The name's Crush." He has a perfect Aussie meets Surfer accent and can still remember nearly every line of Finding Nemo. 

(Maybe I should strike that line. Tim's now fifteen and probably in denial about the number of times he watched that flick when he was little).

I told John we'd check with Mr. Swenson, science teacher extraordinaire, to see what kind of turtle we'd bagged. Mr. Swenson's the go to guy with
any form of wildlife. Bring a photo, a carcass, or a live specimen, and Steve will ID it. I texted Mr. Swenson and went about the rest of the day picking up Ainsley and getting Tim ready for camp. As Tim was making his list and checking it twice, I heard John yell, "Mr. Turtle is gone!"


Sure enough, Mr. Turtle was nowhere to be seen. I began to move a few items around gingerly, trying hard not to be surprised to find a living creature in Ainsley's comforter or behind John's fire engine. Gingerly soon turned to hurriedly as Mr. Turtle proved elusive. Soon I was pulling ever last item out of John and Ainsley's room. I dusted and vacuumed, pulled out all the furniture and unearthed the entire closet. I moved on to my room and then to Tim and Kolbe's. There were six people at home, and I found it hard to believe a turtle could march straight down the hall with no one spotting it.

Mr. Swenson texted me: Stop by. I'm in my backyard.

I texted back: Mr. Turtle has gone missing. I'm cleaning and beseeching Saints Francis and Anthony to come to our aid pronto!

He responded: Though not of theological correctness . . . a prayer to good ol' Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter, might be good, too.

Mr. Turtle was M.I.A., and I was worried. Worried that we would find Mr. Turtle when an unbearable stench began emanating from, I don't know, underneath the piano. Worried that John had overheard his parents discussing whether or not we could keep Mr. Turtle and had found a really good hiding place to render our catch and release efforts null and void. Worried because to this day I remember being about eight years old and pulling back a bookshelf to discover our long dead gerbil who had lost a fight with our cat. Worried that I also remember the fate of the turtle that spent a few hours in the cozy comfort of my sister's pocket.

Dave sat down with John and gently but firmly explained that without water, Mr. Turtle would die.
Meanwhile, I took a last look through the now spotless bedroom and, lo and behold, there sat Mr. Turtle wedged between a container of light sabers and the Lego table.

Mr. Swenson identified Mr. Turtle with a long Latin name and a simple English one: He was a mud turtle, and Mud Turtles bite.

By that point I was relieved. Three hours of  being a pet owner had not gone swimmingly. I need no extra drama in my life. Back to the swamp we went. We released Mr. Turtle into the wilderness, and he marched off, not surprisingly, at a rather brisk pace.

To keep everything in perspective, I watched this story of a dad and dog who teamed up to rescue a four-year-old Ainsley look-a-like who was cornered by a Cottonmouth.

Mr. Turtle seems nothing short of cuddly by comparison.

Thursday, June 06, 2013


It's Theme Thursday over at Clan Donaldson. This week's theme is Girls.

An old one:

A new one:

 My favorite one:

The runner-up:

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Nervousing Me

Ainsley sidles up to me, clearly perturbed.

"John's nervousing me," she says with a pout.

The nature of his offenses remains unclear, but I've got to say, it's the rest of the family that's nervousing me.

I'll start with Tim who's Learning to Drive! All things considered, the process is nevousing me much less than I would have predicted, but he's Learning to Drive! A car, no less! Nervousing!

Then there's Kolbe . . .  The boys' swim coach came up to me during practice to tell me that Kolbe had failed to execute a shallow dive off the starting blocks and had executed a deep one instead . . . . in four and a half feet of water. Nervousing! Way nervousing! When you scare the experienced swim coach, that's bad, really bad. Nearly all my concerns about swim team revolved around logistics -- the cost, the daily practices, the marathon meets. And then there was the issue of shallow diving which just flies in the face of everything I've ever been taught about diving. I have prayed every day for safe diving. Thanks be to God, Kolbe is safe. The only casualties are a scrape on his arm and his mother's blood pressure.

We have at least a temporary solution: For the time being, Kolbe will not dive off the blocks.

And then there's Ainsley . . .  Just as my heart rate was returning to normal after the news of Kolbe's diving escapades, I realized I couldn't find Ainsley anywhere. I checked the woods, the girls' bathroom, the top of the slide . . . no Ainsley. I ordered the big boys to search in opposite directions and nearly chewed one of their heads clean off when he offered a minor objection.

Kolbe found her. No harm done.

The ride home was full of prayers of thanksgiving and Kolbe trying to lift my spirits by telling me of his latest writing endeavor . . . a screenplay about a foiled terrorist attack, a take off on one of our favorite movies, The Indian in the Cupboard. The working title: The Libyan in the Cupboard.

I could scarcely control the van I was laughing so hard.

They're all nervousing me, the whole lot of them!

But they also make me laugh.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Them's Fightin' Words

So I was printing out three copies of these fill-in-the-blank number worksheets for kindergarteners and was surprised to see six sheets print off. Upon inspection, I noted that the second set was filled in.

Says Kelly, the English teacher: They think I need an answer sheet?

Says Dave, the engineer: Do they know you're a liberal arts major?

And that couch should be mighty comfy tonight.