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.

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?!

Reading Rules

This Book Riot post about reading rules and personality inspired me to think about my own “reading rules.”

At first I didn’t think I had any, and the whole idea sounded a little too formal to me. But the more I thought about it I realized that I do I have rules, or maybe just how I do things, I just never codified it.

Til now.

So here we go:

  1. Always finish a book you start. I’ve only made exception to this about twice when the book was just so bad and going absolutely nowhere that I just couldn’t take it anymore! Even if I’m not loving it, I have to finish it just in case it gets better and I would miss the “better” by quitting. Also, not knowing how a book ends would drive me a crazy, even a bad book. Note: I’ve softened a little on this the last few years, concerned that there are so many great books to read I shouldn’t waste my time on a so-so book. I still can’t bring myself to just quit though.
  2. Give a book 100 pages before deciding if you’re into it or not. Anything less than 100 pages might be too soon. But certainly after 100 pages an author should have reeled me in. If it hasn’t happened by 100, probably not going to happen at all.
  3. Read more than one book at once. Sometimes I have several books going — one that’s serious, one that’s frivolous, one that’s deep, one on audio for when I’m driving, etc. — and that’s OK. Sometimes I don’t have a lot of time or I’m not in the mood for a real involved read so I keep a light and easy read going and save my deeper book for longer stretches of reading. Friends ask how do you keep the plot lines and characters straight when reading more than one book at time? The same way I keep TV characters separate on two different TV shows.
  4. Read the book before the movie. Otherwise the movie actors become the book characters in your mind and you’ll never have the opportunity to see what your imagination would have come up with on its own.
  5. If buying a series, buy all hardback or all paperback; don’t mix and match. This has more to do with bookshelf aesthetics than anything else but it’s still my personal rule.
  6. Never buy the movie cover. The original covers are so much prettier!
  7. Always underline and dog-ear favorite passages. Books impact our worldview, and if a story or description stands out to you mark it in some way so you can come back to it at a later time and see if it stands out to you still or if you think differently about it after you finish the book, if/when you the read book again or years down the road if you just pick it up off the shelf and thumb through.
  8. Loan your books! To trustworthy friends who will return and take care of them of course. Books are meant to be shared. Share them!
  9. Write your name in your books. I have fancy little “from the library of” stickers and I have a stamp with my name on it because that’s my style. Another idea is an embosser or maybe you just pencil your name or initials in the front cover. This serves two purposes: One, when you loan your books, your friends know who to return it to; and two, someday, if your books end up in a used bookstore or a thrift store, a buyer will know the name of the person who used to own it. I love buying used books with the former owner’s name and imagining who they were, did they like book, why did they get rid of it, etc.
  10. Document the year you read a book in the inside cover. Sounds silly but it’s kinda fun if you go to loan out a book or pick it up again for yourself to see what year you last read a book, recall what was going on at the time you last read it, and compare it to what’s going on now, noting changes in life and sometimes reading interests.

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 — rain jacket, coat and t-shirt — 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 — Ok seriously, where can I park my car? — 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!

Book Review: Prayers for New Brides

This book is the kind of book I wish someone would have handed me back in 1999 when I was preparing to get married or after the wedding when I was struggling to figure out what in the world I was doing as a new wife.

My impression of marriage back then was love, living together, sex, and doing whatever we wanted together. It’s the thing you did when you loved someone and didn’t want to ever be apart from them. Isn’t that how they portray it in books and movies? Attraction, romance and a pretty dress, a honeymoon and happily ever after. That’s all there is to it.

Despite both my husband and I being believers in Christ, I didn’t really understand back then how marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church, and even now, after 11 years of marriage and five years widowed, it’s still something I’m trying to figure out. Better pre-marital counseling, a Godly wife as a mentor, and a resource like Prayers for New Brides: Putting on God’s Armor After the Wedding Dress might’ve helped me recognize that sooner and resulted in a more God-honoring marriage.

What I like about Prayers for New Brides is that it’s organized in short, 2-3 page chapters that make it easy to use as a daily devotional. With 40 chapters, this book works nicely as a 40-day devotional, complete with suggested prayers and Scriptures.

You know what would be a great way to use this book if you’re a bride planning your wedding and about to say “I do”? Adopt this a group study, of sorts, for you and your bridesmaids to do together, reading, discussing and praying for your marriage in the 40 days leading up to your wedding. Bonus: Involve the mother of the bride and your future mother-in-law.

What if you’re already married? Well, every marriage could use prayer and a little refreshment, so use the 40 days like touch up paint to strengthen the marriage you’re in.

Single? Whether you’re single and waiting for the right one or single again on the other side of a divorce or death, the prayers and discussions about God’s design for marriage are healthy considerations for determining what kind of future marriage you desire and for understanding what went wrong in a first marriage or how to do things different if given a second time around.

Prayers for New Brides would also make a nice addition to an engagement or bridal gift or even to a recently married woman who could just use a little encouragement.

I’m giving away my review copy to a randomly selected bride, whether you’re recently married, soon to be married, or married many many years. To enter, simply comment on this post with your wedding date and year. Winner will be randomly selected on Oct. 1, 2015.

God’s Heart for Haiti and the Child for Whom I Have Prayed

For the months and weeks leading up to Haiti my prayer was adapted from a Christian song that says “break my heart for what breaks yours.” I prayed for God to break my heart for what breaks His about Haiti.

What He showed me is this: while the poverty and starvation and sickness saddens Him, what breaks His heart is the spiritual poverty, spiritual starvation and spiritual sickness.

So going into the trip I was prepared to minister to the spiritual. I didn’t want to go to Haiti and just see what it’s like. I wanted this trip to have positive impact on the country’s future, one community, one family, one child at a time.

So this little boy above was one of my “one child at a time” moments.

He walked in with a group of children, all between the ages of 3 and 7, I guess. An adult sat him on a bench full of children and his little head immediately started bobbing down and back up as he nodded off to sleep and jerked back up.

Without hesitation I walked straight to him and scooped him up, holding him where his head could rest on my shoulder. I was a complete stranger — and one with white skin! — yet this little son was so exhausted he didn’t care. He rested on my shoulder and was out like a light in a matter of minutes. He, and the other children, walked a long way to come to the sports camp. The heat anywhere in Haiti is intense, but in Souvenance there are hardly any shade trees, and it’s very desert-like. So these children, and especially this young boy, were hot and tired before they even played the sports games we brought.

He slept on my shoulder for nearly an hour while I walked around dispensing crayons to our group of color-ers and commenting “bell” (creole for beautiful) to the children coloring.

It was near time for the evening worship to start and I sat down with him. I shifted to hold him like in the photo above and he didn’t stir.

One of the friends with me asked, “What are you going to do with him when it’s time to leave?” Goodness, I hadn’t considered that. No woman had approached me to check on her son, so I had no idea who he belonged to. Someone would come inquiring for him, I assumed, at least the children that he walked with, I hoped. Or if we needed to walk him or drive him home, we’d figure it out.

I learned through the translators that he came with one of the young women in the church and he was her cousin’s baby. These cousins were part of a family who participated in voodoo worship. I asked his name and it was something like Fredrick.

So for the next near hour I held Fredrick while he slept soundly — It was like working in the Haitian church nursery — and I prayed for him. I prayed for his health and rest, that he be protected from the evil practices of his family, that the revolution to set this community and this country free from the bondage of voodoo start with him as a new leader who believes in Jesus and follows Jesus. I believe it can and will happen and that this child could be the catalyst.

Near the end of the church service, he woke up and I could tell by looking at him he felt refreshed. He sat with  me until another child came up and took him by the hand and led him out of the back of the church.

I watched him til he was out of sight, and just like that he was gone.

I watched out the door to see if I could see him and the adult who came to fetch him or he and the other kids walking down the road when he popped back in the door and walked down the church aisle straight back to me. Just as I started to scoop him up again the child came back for him, took his hand and made him leave me. Fredrick cried and protested by the child made him go.

It broke my heart. I kinda fell in love with him and his future in those two hours.

I didn’t see him again the rest of the trip, but I haven’t stopped thinking and praying for him. I really hope I’m back in Haiti some day and that I see him again and that some day 20 years from now I’m privileged to see and hear his story and see him as a mature young man doing great things for the Lord in his country.

I want to see him again and show him the picture of us and tell him “I prayed for you as a baby and I dedicated you to the Lord,” because while he is not by biological child I believe God gave him to me in that moment and I dedicated what God gave me to God and His purposes and God will honor that.

Can’t wait!