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.

A Fan of Experience


The scene at last weekend’s Clemson and Notre Dame game was insane! It had rained the 24+ hours leading up to the game so every place you drove, walked or sat was water-logged.

We were already wet from walking around in the rain most of the day in Greenville ,SC. If it wasn’t wet before we got to Clemson, it quickly got wet. I’m talking all-three-layers of clothes ‚ÄĒ rain jacket, coat and t-shirt ‚ÄĒ completely absorbed with water. Wet jeans? Yeah, those too.

The parking was madness! We drove around for nearly an hour, more than 3 hours before game time and absolutely nowhere to park our car. Cars were parked on the sides of roads, in grassy areas, in mud, wherever they could squeeze in, which left no really good options for where to park my car. I was willing to pay to park but I couldn’t even find a paid lot! The places that had openings were long, long walking distances away and had warning signs about being towed.

I finally asked a guy ‚ÄĒ Ok seriously, where can I park my car? ‚ÄĒ and he told me how to get to a paid lot that had a shuttle to the stadium (yay!). We found it (and it’s tiny little sign), caught the shuttle, and were finally on our way.

We finally make it into the stadium, purchase  nachos and popcorn and soda and climb way up to our nose-bleed bleacher seats. We sat in puddles. Our nacho chips got soggy. Our soda got watered down, not from melting ice but from the rain falling *into* the cup.

It didn’t matter that if we sat our bums were in puddles of cold water because no one sat. If we sat, we couldn’t see the field or the game because the people in front of us were standing, and the people in front of them were standing and so on.

Clemson scored two touchdowns rather quickly and the fans around us were ecstatic with cheers and singing along to the fight song. After the second TD we had learned the cheer and joined in.

C. L. E. M. S. Ohhhhhh (make a circle in the air with your fist) N!

As I observed all of this I thought these people are diehard Clemson fans! They are here in the rain, in the wind, in the cold, decked out in orange outfits that look a little like prison jumpsuits and they are happy and smiling and having the time of their life despite the deluge of water from the sky. Only a diehard fan would do this!

But wait. I’m enduring the same nasty conditions and I’m not¬†a diehard a Clemson fan. I’m not even a sort’ve Clemson fan. I didn’t go to school here and have no connections here. I just happened to be in town this weekend and thought going to the Clemson v. Notre Dame would be a cool experience.

Us, soaked, at the Clemson v. Notre Dame game

Why would I stand soaked to my underclothes to watch the football game of a team for which I have no passion, nor even a mere connection?

Because I’m a fan, not of Clemson (or Notre Dame) but of experience.

I’m a fan of experiencing new and different and unique and taking advantage of the opportunities that present themselves.

I didn’t really care so much who was playing, although it was a great match up and a great game. I cared about doing something local, something rare, something I could only do in that location at that moment in time.

When in Rome, do as the Romans, right?

When in Greenville, SC, on Clemson v. Notre Dame weekend, do as they do.

C.L.E.M.S.Ohhhhh N!

Adopting Hudson


Last March we adopted Hudson, a three-month old red-heeler puppy.

The boys had been begging for a dog for years, as boys their age are prone to do. I knew in my heart that it might be a good addition for them to have a companion to play around with, an animal to care for, all kinds of life lessons and responsibilities would be learned, plus the joy of a pet.

But I also knew in my head that a puppy would be additional work and mess for us all (ahem, me!) and we’re gone so much of the time I worried would we have the time needed not to just care for a dog but to really love and spend time with him.

I mentioned in passing to a family at church that the boys wanted a dog and that I was researching different breeds that might fit in with our life — something low maintenance but fun, trainable but able to be on its own while we’re gone during the day.

A young man at church heard me and said his uncle had a litter of red and blue heeler puppies that he was giving away. I had never heard of a red heeler but when I looked it up it sounded like a possible fit.

We drove out to see the puppies and I assured the boys emphatically: We will NOT leave with a puppy today. We are going to see them, then we’ll talk about it and see what we think.

Of course we thought they were all so cute and adorable little fur balls. But I stuck with my guns and left without a dog.

A few days later I asked my parents (my dad knows dogs) to ride out there with us and give me their opinion on this breed and if these puppies in particular were a good choice for us. We will NOT leave with a dog today, I said.

Dad’s opinion was favorable, so armed with all of the research I’d done and the opinion of my dad, we selected our puppy and made arrangements to pick him up a few days later after we’d had the chance to buy all the things we’d need.

When we picked him up and got him in the car, he cried little sad whines, missing his puppy family I’m sure. But he quickly bonded with the boys and they (we) became his new family.

He’s been such a precious addition and all those things I thought he’d add, he did and more.

My first 5K!


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Nearing the end and still smiling. Also, apparently I run with my thumbs up. Weird, huh?

I ran a 5k!!

Well, I ran part, walked part, jogged part, but I completed it, and that *is* the point.

I first got the hairbrained idea to train and run a 5K several years ago. I don’t really remember what prompted it but it kind’ve became this unattainable thing.

More than that it started to represent all things that were unattainable because the excuses I could use to not run a 5K were the same excuses I used for everything else.

Excuses like …

I need to lose weight first.

I need to do couch to 5K.

I don’t have time to do couch to 5K.

I’m to busy with the boys.

I don’t have anyone to do it with me.

So one year I signed up for a 5K — a local run called the Cookie Run because you get cookies at the end of race — thinking because it was cheap and local and involved cookies, I’d be motivated to train and run.

Was I?

Nope.

As soon as the boys ball schedule came out with a game for that morning I was out. With a good excuse, but I was still letting excuses stop me.

So this year, at my new job, they have this really fun 5K called the Double Helix Dash and I signed up. I asked my friend Amanda to do it with me knowing I’d need that kind of support and encouragement to follow through. At the time there was six weeks til the race so I had visions of doing a condensed couch to 5K but cold weather and migraines and busy schedules — my excuses are coming out again — foiled most of those plans.

Excuses almost won out again because I was very, very sick the morning of the race and Amanda was having trouble leaving work early. But I loaded up on Powerade and Amanda’s boss came through.

There we were at the start line and I reminded Amanda for the 100th time, “You know I don’t run, right?” I needed her to know this because she does run and I wanted assurance that her expectations were set fairly low.

We ran through the start and after a while slowed to a fast walk.

I first felt pain in my shins. They went numb after a while and then it was my knees.

When I could no longer feel those, it was my ankles that were killing me.

Once both legs were completely numb I kept pace pretty well.

We neared the end and had to finish with a run, right? So we sprinted up the hill across the finish, and something about that last push but a tug in my back.

But no pain no gain, and I was so glad to gain the confidence I felt after this accomplishment.

Will I do another? Oh, sure! It wasn’t bad as I thought (most things never are) and now I know I can do it.

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Looking good, pre-race.

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Added my running number to my memory board

How My 8-year-old Taught Me to Be Myself


A few weeks ago I was having my photo¬†taken¬†by Shattered magazine to run as mug shot with an article I wrote for them. For more than a week leading up to the photo shoot I mentally stressed over what to wear and what my “look” would be.

I looked at other mugs in the magazine for inspiration and what kept coming to mind was this mug shot of author Holley Gerth.

 

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I had all the elements to make a photo just like hers.

Denim jacket? Check.

Chevron scarf? Check.

Coffee mug? Check.

But as the day of the photo arrived I felt uneasy about stealing someone else’s “look,” yet I didn’t really feel like I had a look of my own to use.

In steps the 8-year-old, who likes to help me choose my accessories (and he’s pretty good at it too). He takes an owl necklace and a pair of owl earrings and says, “Wear these. You like owls. Just wear what you like.”

So instead of chevron scarf I’m wearing a owl necklace, and you probably won’t be able to see the owl earrings hidden behind my hair but I know that they’re there.

In that moment he showed me something about myself, that I do have things that are “me” and they are not the same things that are everyone else.

 

Green Christmas Cards


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Ah, Christmas cards.

It’s that time of year again.

In the past I’ve written a Christmas letter telling all about our previous year, or sent photos of the boys in Santa hats, or sent just plain ol’ traditional cards with a nativity and a verse from Luke chapter 2.

One year I mailed no cards at all and sent Christmas wishes via Facebook.

The list of people I mail cards to has kinda shrunk over the years, as I stay more in touch with folks via social media and only mail cards to those who live states away or who aren’t on social media.

This year, though, I’m SUPER excited about my cards.

I ordered them from St. Jude’s Ranch Recycled Card Program, which takes used cards and turns them into new. The old cards are re-made by young people at the ranch.

St. Jude’s Ranch is not affilated with St. Jude’s Children Hospital, for children with cancer. This is St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, a program that works with abused, abandoned, neglected or homeless children, teens and families. Read their about page here.

Earlier this year I mailed to the ranch used Christmas and birthday cards from years past, and this week I received an order of Christmas cards to send out this year. I wondered if any of the ones I sent in made it back to me in my packets of re-made cards.

The fronts of the old Christmas cards are cut to size and glued to the front of a new, blank card. The back of the card says it was made at St. Jude’s Ranch and it’s signed by the person who made it.

How special is that?

It’s probably not too late for you to order your Christmas cards for this year from St. Jude’s, if you’re looking for cards and want to do something a little different.

They also sell packages of cards for birthdays, thank you, all occasion, etc.

And of course after the holidays when you’re looking for what to do with all the Christmas cards you received, consider donating them to St. Jude’s.

All the info to order or donate can be found here.

 

A Stroll Through Maple Hill


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The city of Huntsville, Alabama,¬†has held the annual Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll for I don’ t know¬†how many¬†years a long time. I’ve wanted to go but¬†it hadn’t ever¬†worked out … til this year.

First, let me tell you how I feel about Maple Hill Cemetery and maybe then you’ll appreciate a little more what finally making it to this event means.

This is the largest cemetery in my city. Some source say it’s the largest cemetery in the state. 100 acres. More than 80,000 people are bured there.¬†As a kid we would drive past it and went on and on and on for what seemed like eternity.

It’s where everybody who’s anybody is buried.

It’s where I want to be buried. Not because I’m anybody special in the big picture,¬†but because I’m¬†from here¬†and the cemetery has great local significance. I like the idea of someone, hundreds of years from now, seeing a marker with my name on it, wondering who I was and what I did and doing research to find out. The idea of being appreciated long after I’m gone.

Maybe someday I’ll even be portrayed in the Cemetery Stroll.

Which brings me back to the purpose of this here post and that was to talk about the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll.

As I said, this was my first year to go and I thought I knew what to expect.

I was mostly right.

Remember that little kid in Sixth Sense who said “I see dead people”?

It’s not like that.

What it’s like is local historians, actors, TV personalities and even the county sheriff take on personas of people buried in the cemetery and talk, kinda from the grave, telling about the life and death of their person.

I thought¬†the boys¬†— 10 and nearly 8 — were old enough to handle the history portion in favor of walking around in¬†a cemetery. Boys should appreciate the creepiness of a cemetery right? Especially in October, so near to Halloween.

But no, I was wrong. They were bored from the time I told them we were going.

Not even knowing one of the actors or the trolley ride from the parking lot at a nearby church to the cemetery gates was enough to interest them, really.

We weren’t even in the cemetery¬†one minute when¬†they were already¬†asking “Can we go yet?” or saying “This is boring.”

I said, “Next time I’ll get a sitter and y’all can stay home,” to which the¬†smart-alleck¬†10-year-old said “Is it too late to get a sitter, now?”

So moving on, there are more than 80 graves with actors to visit and the stroll only lasts two and a half hours.

Do the math.

There’s no way you could see all 80.

In fact, I was told to make sure and see the presentation about Lily Flagg, a famous Hunstville cow, and it was there that Ron Cooper,¬†the man acting as¬†Samuel B. Moore (Lily Flagg’s owner) gave the best cemetery stroll advice ever:

You can’t see it all in one year so come back year after year and see it blocks at a time so you know year after year which blocks you’ve seen and which blocks you haven’t.

Great advice.

I saw only two and a half presentations.

But not all was lost. I enjoyed the two (and a half) presentations that I saw, enough that I want to come back next year.

And this time I just might leave the kids at home.

Note: Just because my kids weren’t the best sports about going this year doesn’t mean your kids will be. The cemetery stroll¬†is actually very kid-friendly with all the actors and actresses dressed in interesting period costumes, lots of guys in military wear, some with guns and muskets.¬†A small band played period music and the Lily Flagg stop is a guy dressed in a furry cow costume. So certainly, it can be a family-friend thing. Bring the babies and the toddlers in strollers. It has the potential to teach kids about our local history and an opportunity to teach cemetery etiquette too.

If you go:

The Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll is sponsored by the Huntsville Pilgramage Association and held in October. The event is free but donations are collected and used to restore and preserve the cemetery’s headstones and monuments. Parking is very limited. Park at Jackson Way Baptist Church and ride the city trolley to the cemetery gates for free!