Swim Caden Swim


Caden doing the butterfly. Looks like a natural!

Well, last year we had Run Finn Run. This summer we experienced Swim Caden Swim.

One weekend, we were just hanging out at the pool when another parent at the pool and a  pretty young lifeguard (turns out she’s the swim coach) starts talking to Caden about how good a swimmer he is, encouraging him to join the swim team and telling him how much they need another 10-year-old boy swimmer.

He was flattered to say the least.

He seemed semi-interested so we said we’d come to the next practice and see how it went.

The thing is, this was half way through the season so there were only 3 swim meets left then the city finals. The rest of the kids knew all the strokes, turns, breathing, etc. and had been practicing for two months. When Caden swims he (like most of us I think) just jumps in and does his own thing. So he had to learn the proper way to dive, all 4 strokes, how to do a flip turn, correct breathing, etc. and he was going to need to learn these fast.

So we went to the first practice (on a Monday) and of course he liked it and wanted to continue.

His first swim meet was two days later!

He was SO nervous at that first meet he just sat there away from the team wrapped up in his towel not speaking to anyone. Very un-Caden like. He told me under his breath I am never doing this again. But he swam 6 events that night and by the end of the meet was MUCH more comfortable and confident.

By end of summer he was a fish, swimming several times a day and with an amazing tan to boot.

Caden with his city meet poster the coaches made and drove ALL the way out to our house (we live far far away from the pool). So nice of them!

Each meet his times and strokes and confidence improved — at his second meet he was an entire minute faster on one of his strokes than the week before!

He competed in the two-day city meet, and I even volunteered to be a time keeper, which was pretty fun in a close-to-the-action you’re-gonna-get-splashed kinda way. City meet was HUGE and chaotic but a lot of fun.

He loved getting ribbons!

The whole thing was good for him in several ways that he won’t admit but that I, mom, can see.

One, he was trying something new and it was good for him to experience relying on someone more experienced to teach him. Every day when I took him to practice I coached him be teachable. He sometimes acts like he knows it all (what kid doesn’t right?) and there’s nothing anyone can teach him about anything. And it’s important to take that down a notch (or two or three) and acknowledge that these swim coaches who’ve been doing this a long time might actually know something you don’t. So it was good for him to practice being teachable.

Two, this was a sport that none of us had ever done before, and Caden was leading the way. As the younger brother and the youngest of his cousins, he falls in other people’s shadows a lot, for no other reason than just he’s the youngest. They’ve all played all the sports and kinda paved the way so to speak. So this was new for all of us! It was nice that he got to be the first in the family to be a competitive swimmer!

At the end of the year party he got a trophy (he loves trophies!) and award for being the Fastest Learner!

I really hope he’ll continue this next summer with the whole summer to practice and improve. He really showed potential and had SO much fun. His coaches were so great at teaching and encouraging him it was a positive experience all around — especially since it was one we didn’t seek out but that just kinda fell in our lap.

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Why I finally gave in and let my middle schooler have a SnapChat


Pretty sure messages like this from his mom wasn’t what Finn has in mind when he asked for SnapChat

Finn (7th grade) first asked for a SnapChat the beginning of the school year, and without a discussion I gave a really firm ‘No.’ You’re not old enough, not mature enough, the world is big bad scary place, SnapChat is evil, No.

A few months later he wanted to understand why. Good for him. So I tell him all the bad things that can happen with an app like SnapChat. We googled real life stories about social media gone wrong with teens committing suicide over something someone said on social media. Plus, the fact that posts on SnapChat disappear in just a few seconds lets you hide things. Not good. More on that in a minute.

Of course to him, I was being the eccentric over-reacting, over-protective mom. To me, I wasn’t take any chances with serious problems like sexting, cyber-bullying, stalkers, etc. Teens (adults too) misuse social media and the more private they think it is the more they misbehave. Then there’s creeps and weirdos out there who use social media to lure or blackmail young people to do or say bad things. So I limit and watch carefully what little bit of social media he does.

We also have a “no delete” rule. You can not delete photos or texts without my permission, and if I found out you have (and I WILL find out, I have my ways), you lose your device. Indefinitely. If you’re not OK with your mom reading what you text or post on social media, then don’t post it. I’ve even used the WWJD threat — if you wouldn’t text it to Jesus you shouldn’t text it to your friend.

Which brings me to the biggest problem I have with SnapChat: privacy. Because the snaps disappear after a few seconds the accountability for what is sent and shared is non-existent. And let’s face it, accountability measures work. Knowing that your mom is going to see whatever you send or post is a reason to keep your posts in line. Knowing that your post is going to disappear in a few seconds is just enough false security to do something stupid and think you won’t get caught.

I also don’t see the benefit to SnapChat over using other apps that allow the same things without the accountability/disappearing posts issue. If you want to share a picture with your friend, post it to Instagram (he has an Instagram) or just text them a photo. If you want to chat, text or iMessage. So the only capability SnapChat adds is the disappearing posts. Which again, if you think you need to share something that private, especially at age 12 or 13, you’re probably up to no good and shouldn’t be sharing it at all.

Finn countered that you can add emojis and text on top of photos. Eh, there’s apps that do that too.

And I get that it saves space on your phone because the photos don’t get saved to your photo album thus filling up your phone’s memory with silly one-use selfies. So go delete it when you’re done. Easy peasy. Which violates the no delete rule so you’d have to ask me before you could delete it but still, there’s a way. I have a go-around for every single thing he says SnapChat can do that other apps can’t.

Except one.

The thing SnapChat does that no other app can do is make you cool. There. I said it. SnapChat makes you cool. How? Because you can say “yes” when one of your friends asks “Are you on SnapChat?” And if you and your friends think SnapChat is the best thing since sliced bread (I sound like an old person saying that don’t I?) then having the app — even if you don’t use it at all or often — makes you feel included, cool, like you’re the same as everybody else in your friend circle. And while we don’t always do what everyone else is doing (if everyone was jumping off a bridge would you jump of a bridge too?) I get that desire to fit in and if I can find a way where he gets to fit in and the risk of terrible things happening is significantly lessened, that’s what I want to do.

Finn says he just wants to share team selfies at the track meet or pics of what he’s having for dinner or selfies saying “I’m bored.” And I believe him. He’s a good kid with good intentions. But what do people want to share with him? THAT concerns me more. I know all too well that teens (and who are we kidding, adults too) use SnapChat and apps like it to hide their sexting, bullying, etc. and it’s all too easy to do.

So how I do let him enter this community where his friends are hanging out but keep him from using it inappropriately?

I decided it’s a trust issue. Do I trust him and his friends to use the app appropriately. The answer? No! How can you trust immature, impulsive moody teens to do the right thing when the wrong this is SO easy? You can’t, at least not 100%. So if I can’t trust you, I’ll create rules, rules to make it harder to do the wrong thing and easier to get caught doing the wrong thing lest your teen try.

So my No. 1 SnapChat rule is simple but strict: Before he can add anyone to his friend list I have to approve them. And I have the right to not allow him to follow someone if I don’t trust that person to use the app appropriately. So if you’re a girl who I see publicly push the limits of what’s appropriate on Instagram or be rude or use bad language on Instagram or texting with my son, he will not be your SnapChat friend. I will not give you the opportunity to take your inappropriateness to the next level with private disappearing messages.

If he adds someone without my permission, no more SnapChat. If he receives something in appropriate, he is to tell me no matter how embarrassing or no matter who gets in trouble over it. I will give him the opportunity to tell that friend that he doesn’t want to receive that kind of stuff and if they don’t stop he’ll remove them from his friend list.

So we’re trying it out. Which means he gets to receive snaps like this from me too.

Run, Finn, Run


After his whole young life playing all kinds of ball, Finn changed gears this year to running.

I blame it all on Paula. She’s the one who first mentioned cross country to Finn last spring when he didn’t make the middle school basketball team and was pretty bummed about it. Cross country is a walk-on sport, no tryouts and your main competition is yourself, to beat your own fastest time and set new personal records. It’s been such a good thing for him I shouldn’t say blame but rather credit Paula. She’s kinda changed his life. Way to go Paula!

See, I never thought about Finn as a runner. He’s never been particularly fast at running, and when he ran bases in baseball he struggled to beat the ball to the base. Honestly, his dad struggled with running, and Finn kinda runs like him. Caden, on the other hand, has always been speedy so I always thought he should get involved in cross country and track when he gets older. I never imagined it for Finn, so I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see him fall in love with running.

Hold up though. It’s not the running he loves, it’s the team. It’s the social aspect of running with others, especially since, at his school, cross country and track are varsity sports even for middle schoolers.

The running itself, of course, has been great for him physically, staying in shape and all. I’m impressed with his endurance, running long distances for 20-30 minutes at a time and running at hours-long practices without complaining. But socially, he’s made friends with upperclassmen — and upperclasswomen — and they don’t seem to care that he’s a 7th grader. They help him train and hang out with him at practices and meets like he’s one of the team.

The coaches are great male role models for him and have really taken him under their wing, which something he desperately needs and that I’ve prayed for God to send him/us!

I don’t see his love for running being on the cross country and track teams ending any time soon so I see lots of cross country and track meets and a “XC Mom” car magnet in my future.

Have you ever seen anyone look so happy while running?!

Long Lost Journal Entries


Apparently back in the summer of 2006 I started journaling and apparently it was going to be this sweet little mommy journal of all those sweet moments from the boys’ childhoods.

My use of the word apparently will be apparent soon.

I bought a fancy little book and everything.

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Finn & Caden, summer 2008

The first entry is so sweet, from July 7, 2006. Finn was one week shy of his 3rd birthday. Caden was 6 months old.

It goes like this:

Finn’s going to be a good big brother. This week John was suctioning Caden’s nose and Finn says, “Don’t hurt my Caden.” He’s fascinated with how Caden is too little for things or can’t walk, talk, etc. I tell him that we’ll have to teach him how to do all those things.

Caden started making gurgling sounds this week.

Aww. Isn’t that adorable? Protective big brothers and baby gurgles.

There’s more.

The second journal entry is three weeks later and is just as sappy.

Tonight Caden has his first bath sitting up. I ran Finn a bath and let him play while I got Caden situated in the baby tub with the seat in it. He love it, making a mess with all his kicking and splashing. We had a better night with Finn too. He ate all of his pizza with only minor protests about wanting or not wanting pepperoni. After Caden went to bed we played with his PlayDoh and tools until near bedtime.

Caden has started blowing bubbles and spitting his bottles and baby food. He also pushed his knees under him tonight like he may want to crawl soon. He’ll be 7 months Saturday!

Awww. Brothers taking baths together and baby bubbles. Cute, cute, cute.

The next entry … oh wait (cue: record scratching sound symbolizing a screeching halt). There’s not a next entry. The rest of the book is void of words. Apparently my sweet fantasy of writing sweet journal entries after my sweet little boys were sweetly sleeping was just that, a fantasy. I’m guessing I became too busy and too tired (still am).

If I were still maintaining this journal today, it would look like this:

Tuesday, June 2

Yesterday the boys were killing me. Caden forgot his swimsuit for swim and I felt so sorry for him I went and bought one at Target (bought a cheap towel too) making me later for work than I needed to be. After picking them up this afternoon we picked up bacon wrapped pizza, which he’d been asking for, and Gigi’s cupcakes for dessert. They ate all the breadsticks before we even got to Gigi’s and then Caden had the audacity to give me attitude that I wouldn’t let him eat the cupcakes in the car on the way home. At his annoyed sigh, I lost the cool I’d been keeping all day. I make a special trip to buy you a swimsuit that you forgot to bring, buy you pizza and cupcakes and you’re going to give me attitude that you can’t have the cupcake right this very minute?? Really? So he had to go to his room when we got home and write three things that he was thankful for that day. He wrote more than three, thankfully, as well as “Forgive me check yes or no.”

I checked yes.

Not 30 minutes later Finn was telling Caden to shut his food hole and Caden retorted with something just as rude.

Sigh.

This morning though, I got into the car to leave and they had packed a lunch for me to have at work today. A slice of the leftover pizza (on a plate and wrapped with plastic wrap, I might add), two ham and cheese rolls (Finn’s favorite), two oranges and a fruit rollup. Also a sticky note from Finn saying “shine bright like a diamond.”

Smile.

I just might be doing something right.

Blog Where You Are: The Beach


I needed this.

This.

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Sand and waves.

And this.

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Nowhere to have to be.

No boys arguing.

At least if they’re arguing I’m too far away to hear.

Relaxation.

Toes in the sand, nose in a book.

It’s been a crazy stressful couple of weeks months.

Some said the impromptu “let’s go to the beach this weekend” was crazy, but that’s nothing compared to the craziness of the last few months. New job. Boys’ school work. The book is out and all that that entails. Crazy would have been staying home. The most sane thing was to recognize I needed a break and to take one.

So we here we are. The six hour drive and the “are we there yet’s” was worth it.

I wish I could bottle this. People have tried. But no CD of ocean sounds or beach-scented candle can compare to this.

It’s sound. Waves crashing, kinda rhythmically but mostly at random.

It’s smell. Salt and water and sunscreen.

It’s sight. Blue green water. White sand. Lots of people but the only two I see are my sons, bobbing bravely in the waves, smiling and laughing.

It’s touch. Cool, gritty sand under my feet. Cool breeze on my skin.

It’s even taste. You can taste the salt in the air.

Right now, for me, it’s a balm to this weary soul.

Who needs chicken soup (for the soul). I’ll take an ocean instead.

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The Girl With Two Pearl Earrings


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He didn’t know what he was doing, but for just a fleeting moment, the 8-year-old made my day.

I was herding him into the shower after a typical Easter Sunday of church, family, lunch, egg hunts, and playing with the neighbors.

I didn’t wear a new dress this year, so there was nothing special to notice there. Immediately after church I changed into capris and a t-shirt; again, nothing special. I’d worn my hair down to church, but to settle into the comfort of the afternoon I’d whipped it back into my typical low-ponytail/bun. Nothing out of the ordinary.

But in my quick wardrobe change from church-dressy to afternoon-casual I’d not taken the time to change my earrings.

And with hair swept back into a bun, the dangly diamond and pearls and I’d worn to church that morning were more easily seen, I guess.

Because as I was there in his bathroom getting the water temperature just right and the fresh towel hung on the towel bar for him, he looked at what I was doing, hopped in the shower and then took a double take.

He saw something he hadn’t seen all day apparently.

My earrings.

He said, “Your earrings look pretty, mom.”

And then — this was the kicker — he said, “Has anyone told you that today?”

Thank you, I said. And no, no one has told me that today. How sweet of you to notice.

He kept right on going with this shower, didn’t miss a beat, but I had stopped my flurry of activity with the water and towel and just took in this moment of sweet surprise at his noticing. I was wearing earrings he’d never seen before. That’s probably why he noticed them. Yet isn’t it interesting that he asked me if anyone else had noticed? It’s like he knew that most likely no one had seen them, but also that he valued being the one who noticed. He does, by the way, love being the one to notice details that others overlook.

He had no idea that those were earrings were special and that my choice to wear them this day was special too. See, I wore those earrings on my wedding day to his father nearly 15 years ago. I don’t think I’ve worn them in the 15 years since. But I’d chosen to wear them especially on Easter Sunday because Easter this year felt like a celebration in a way it hasn’t felt before and I wanted to dress up to celebrate. I wanted to wear a dressy pair of earrings, and this pair is one of the dressiest I have.

He didn’t know what he was doing — and he doesn’t even now understand what he did — but for just a fleeting moment, the 8-year-old made my day.

Shunt Revision One (and Two)


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The week before Christmas, my oldest son Finn was unexpectedly hospitalized and underwent two surgeries. Not a lot of people knew about his history with hydrocephalus, so I wrote about the first shunt placement here. This is the story of his first and second revisions that occurred in December 2013.

Around age 4 — Finn had had his shunt for about three years — he started to get occasional headaches that were bad enough to make him throw up. Now, the doctors will tell you that the first two signs of a shunt malfunction are headache and vomiting. You’re to go to the ER for CT scans and xrays so they can check out the shunt.

Well, these are also the symptoms of a migraine headache, of which my family has a history.

So after several trips to the emergency room for headache and vomiting and no indications on CT scans that the shunt was causing this, the doctors concluded that Finn was having migraines.

They were pretty frequent for a few years, and we tried a few medications to prevent and treat. The last few years though, as he’s matured and has been able to tell us when it’s coming on so we can address it quickly, they’ve slacked off.

So on Monday, December 18th, when he woke up with a headache, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I gave him medicine and sent him back to bed to sleep it off. He missed school that day, but by lunch was feeling better and had a normal afternoon.

Tuesday morning, same thing, except this time, I gave him medicine and had him get ready for school, hoping the medicine would kick in before we actually made it to school and he’d feel well enough to go.

But when we got to school he wasn’t any better, so I kept him out with me. Again, by noon time, he was pain free and feeling good.

I had a Christmas party that night and he had basketball practice; a babysitter was coming to stay with Caden. I debated letting him go to basketball, thinking he might need extra rest to make sure he didn’t get a headache the next day. He sweetly and sincerely informed me, “but mom, my team needs me,” and I melted and let him go.

I got home from the Christmas party and the sitter said he’d gotten home from practice feeling fine and had gone to bed on time.

All was good til he woke me up at about 3 in the morning, calling out from his room, “mom, my head really hurts.”

I gave him medicine, but he threw it up. For the next two hours he would hurt, throw up, sleep, repeatedly in that order, until finally at 5 a.m. I made the decision to take him to the ER when he was getting any better and there was nothing more I could do to help him.

Because of his shunt, the ER ran CT scans and xrays, to rule out a shunt malfunction.

Every other time the scans had showed that the shunt was working fine.

But this time that’s not what happened.

This time there was crack in the catheter that went from the shunt into the ventricles of the brain.

This time it wasn’t just a headache.

We were about to have our first shunt revision.

I’ve read on the Hydrocephalus Association web site and newsletter about shunt revisions and children who’ve had multiple shunt revisions, and I knew that we were in the minority to have our shunt last as long as it had — almost 10 years.

When they gave me the news, I was very practical about it — asking what, where, when, etc. But once alone, the emotions of the situation hit. I cried. Not sobbed, just light tears. I didn’t want Finn to know I was crying, I didn’t want to scare him. I wanted to be strong for him. But in my mother’s heart, I was hurting that he was going to have to go through this.

I didn’t even know at the time why I was crying. I wasn’t scared, or sad, or worried even. Concerned, but not worried. I’ve since pondered my reaction and believe my tears streamed from a place of helplessness because that’s how I was feeling.

The next few hours are kinda blurry as Finn mostly slept and I signed permission papers and talked to a slew of medical folks about what was about to happen — the surgeon, nurses, anaesthesiologists, etc.

The surgeon hoped to only have to replace the cracked catheter and the shunt valve.

But when he opened the shunt to replace the valve the shunt just fell apart — it had worked hard for 10 years and was worn out — so he replaced the whole thing.

That was the good news. The bad concerning news was that a little bit of blood had gotten into the ventricle during surgery, and it was possible the blood could plug up the new catheter. More scans were ordered and we were sent to intensive care where Finn could be watched more carefully for this.

For the next few days Finn’s recovery was slow. He didn’t come out from under the anaesthesia very quickly, and some of the pain meds made him sick to his stomach. He would improve some but then he would worsen. And the next time he improved it wasn’t quite as good as before and when he worsened it was worse than before. They tried a few different things — changing his pain medicine, adjusting the shunt flow rate, and steroids to reduce the inflammation and break up the blood in the ventricle — but he was still having headaches and throwing up and the pain was getting worse not better.

So on Sunday the 22nd the surgeon went back in, and sure enough the catheter was partially clogged with blood. He placed the catheter in a different place in the ventricle, away from the blood, and Finn’s recovery from the second revision was radically different! He was alert and able to talk in sentences; no more light sensitivity (he was VERY photosensitive when the shunt wasn’t working) and his appetite bounced back quicker.

After days of enduring him writhing in pain and discomfort and being absolutely helpless to do anything about it, my heart was overjoyed to have him well!

Here’s hoping for another 10 years — or more — and prayers for miraculous healing too!

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