Persistence, A Swim Team Story

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The triplets started swim team two weeks ago.

They are finally age eligible and have talked about it for months.

I forked over the money for the registration, team swimsuits, and goggles, and finally the day arrived.  We knew the water would be cold and had done some refresher swimming the weekend before in our own chilly pool.  Several neighbors we knew would be on our team and the kids couldn’t be more excited.

Until their first 25 meters.

Those are long laps for adults, so they are particularly challenging for five year olds.  We’ve taken lessons periodically over the years in our own pool, but more for survival than form.  Little bit seemed to be rocking it.  She was faster than both the boys and had a buddy swimming just before her who encouraged her.  The boys struggled.  The baby particularly – because of his history with asthma he’s never been able to hold his breath as long as the other two.  The eldest can hold his breath all day long, in fact he must have gills, but he’s very slow.  This is not just in swimming mind you, this is in life.  He moves to his own pace; a pace akin to an elderly turtle or molasses.

Swim team practice is from 4 to 4:45, and by 4:30 both the baby and little bit were out.  I mean adamantly voicing their desire to quit swim team.  Little bit caught me off guard because she was so good, but I realized after a few minutes that she was protesting because it was HARD.  Things come easy to her.  She’s the most athletic and she’s normally fairly well-behaved, so things tend to be easier for her than the boys.  The idea of struggling to go back and forth after a few laps primed her to quit.  The baby on the other hand had actually struggled, and he burst into tears when I informed him we weren’t quitting.  They both refused to swim the last lap.

The eldest, on the other hand, got out after next to last lap and moved to the FRONT of the line to power through the final lap.  He was unstoppable.  Slowly, deliberately, he got himself to the other side and beamed at me as he climbed out.  He was NOT quitting.  He was coming back.

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I admire this child’s tenacity.

The reality is, right now, he’s the least athletically inclined.  He’s tall and lanky and hasn’t figured out how to get his limbs to all work together.  But he pursues athletics, as far as I can tell, so he can improve.  He took soccer this spring, the only one of the three, even though he’s not as fast or coordinated as the other two.  He’s begging to take gymnastics with little bit in the fall even though he can’t flip to save his life and she tumbles circles around him.

He keeps going TO GET BETTER.  He fiercely clutches with both fists when it gets hard.  He doesn’t quit.

When we received his mid season soccer progress report, the coach praised him for being a role model for his friends and for showing good sportsmanship.

He’s the only one of the three who encourages other players when playing board games and doesn’t storm off if he loses a few in a row.  Even in the face of criticism, he holds his head up and keeps going.

He LOVES the game.  He loves playing.  Even in the face of hard.

He’s not impenetrable, mind you.  He comes home sad because he was the slowest, or remarks in our pool when he doesn’t win the races.  He notices when he’s not the best.  But it doesn’t stop him from persisting.

He is a living role model in our home of how we should tackle life.  Life is hard sometimes.  We may be completely exhausted or the last one to cross the finish line.  But we must keep at it, get better, and enjoy playing.

I have no doubt that one of these days my sweet, strong, persistent boy will be the strongest athlete in the bunch just because of his tenacity.

I don’t know what “swim team” you have facing you this week, but if my eldest could give you a tip, he’d say, Keep Playing.

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P.S.  Remarkably, in barely 24 hours, swim team turned around.  They’re all enthusiastic now and have already dramatically improved in their swim strength and style.  (It pays to hang in there.  Thanks buddy for the life lesson.)

Weekend Update

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We lucked into a weekend away at the Horseshoe Bay Resort in the Texas Hill Country.

While I was exhausted going up on Friday (my 5 am flight in from Minneapolis was killer), Saturday was perfect.

I’m only now learning something about traveling with my kids.  I think I’m late to the game because we rarely take the kids anywhere besides the farm and the ranch.  It takes 24 hours to get to bliss. 

Have you parents found this?  The travel is painful.  The adjustment can be brutal as well.

We drove four hours straight and arrived at the resort for a late lunch.  The kids were bouncing off the walls after being cooped up.  And they’re past naps but still get tired, so they were cranky.  By the time we arrived for the group dinner, Bray and I were both rethinking our summer vacation plans.  If we can’t survive 24 hours away with the trio, then how will we survive a week?

But Saturday morning arrived!  Everyone slept well Friday night and awoke ready to explore and swim.  Despite the gloomy forecast, it never did rain, and the sun even beamed its lovely rays all Saturday afternoon.

Saturday was bliss.

After a big breakfast, we all five settled in down at the pool which was empty at such an early hour (they are EARLY risers).  They ran from big pool to splash pool to hot tub without taking a breath.  The boys decided to head down to the marina and rent a jet ski while little bit and I hung out with a girlfriend of mine for a few more hours until it was time to eat yet again…

The boys bounded into lunch with tall tales of speeding jet skis and near misses, and everyone’s words and laughter jumbled over each other’s.  Then miracles of miracles, all FIVE of us napped.  I am nap resistant.  Naps theoretically sound amazing, but I never can sleep in daylight.  And the kids have long passed naps.  But we were all sundrained and found an early afternoon two hours to recharge.  Ahhhhhhhh.  (When was the last time you napped?  It IS all it’s cracked up to be.)

Then little bit and I went down to the beach where we met up with a newfound friend of hers, the seven year old daughter of a friend of mine.  Then of course more swimming.  Oh yes we did live at the pool Saturday.  The boys, on the other hand, couldn’t resist another hour on the jet skis.  This time the lake was more crowded and Bray was a little more nervous, but all survived in one piece and ready to join us swimming.

In the evening, the event planner brought in “kid care center” workers and activities for dinner which meant the kids were all occupied with lots of fun projects while the grown ups actually got to sit down, have a drink, and catch up with one another.

The five of us wandered down to the beach after dinner to take in the water at twilight.

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By bedtime, I’d completely unwound from the manic week.  Little bit came in and crinkled up her cute nose to tell me she loved me and to have me help her spell out some words.  When I went to get up to grab a pen, she held me at bay and whispered, “they’re writing on your mother’s day card, you can’t go in!!!”  Once I made it in to the living area, the baby said, “you’ll never guess what I’m sitting on.”  All of them looked like the cat that ate the canary because they were being so stealth in hiding my Mother’s Day card :)

This is the best gift ever.  Their joy in writing me messages of love and keeping everything hidden for this morning.  Our full day together of fun and sun and nowhere to be but with one another.  Moments together and apart with no agenda and unexpected sunshine.  A wonderful Mother’s Day away.

Louisiana Crawfish Joy (I Mean Boil…)

This was a wonderful weekend.

For some reason, something in me turned off, after all the whirling of my schedule and just settled.

It was gorgeous.  Picture perfect weather.

We spent Saturday, once arrived at the farm, doing odds and ends.  Bray off with the kids while his mother and I sipped champagne in the breeze of the back porch as the sun set and moon rose.

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And then Sunday, oh Sunday, we had a full blown Louisiana crawfish boil.  The kids cousins that they adore and worship were there from Austin and they ran around non-stop.  The tables were set out on the back lawn and the kids played with the crawfish like it was Christmas morning.  The bigs taught the littles how to keep from getting pinched and they all stood back as grandfather tossed them into the spicy boiling pot.

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It was perfect.  Local neighbors and family all in a muddle of crawfish, corn and potatoes, beer, and piles of paper towels well-used from all the peeling.  Laughter from the older set mixed with kids squeals as they raced from backyard to front yard riding the buggy and digging for worms.

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It was a gift of a day.  Messy.  Funny.  Joyful.  Just plain FULL.  Full of life and characters and stories but completely devoid of technology and work and stress.

As the crawfish boil started to simmer down, Bray took a truck load of kids, 11 to be exact (how do people have 11 kids he asked as we bumped over the expanse of fields), on a hunt for wild blackberries. The Pied Piper of children and blackberry hunting – I believe he must have gone on three excursions.  They tumbled out of the truck, bigs paired with littles, and exclaimed to no one in particular their magical discoveries.  They used cups and cowboy hats to gather the beautiful dark berries and then dumped them all in an ever-filling metal pail.  Two pails were filled and fingers were stained from the little hands eating as many as they contributed to the community bucket.  (The smell of blackberry cobbler is wafting through my kitchen as I type.)

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Simple pleasure.  A late night arrival back in town last night with dozing children full of memories and sad to leave.  I can tackle anything after 36 hours of sun and wind and land and animals and food and family.

When Pinterest Perfect Goes Kablooey

I’d seen the ideas and gotten excited.  I love pretty.  I actually love perfect pretty.

They were on Pinterest.  They came in Better Homes and Garden.  Heck, my creative girlfriend even sent me a picture.

So it was settled.  Despite the most frentic work pace of my life, I had all five of us home the Saturday before Easter which meant I could go nuts.  Set a beautiful table.  Bake til my heart exploded.  Decorate!  (Yes, we pulled our Easter decor out the WEEKEND of Easter!)

My plan was to host a couple of families along with our own for an elaborate Easter brunch.  We couldn’t spend it with Bray’s family as we normally did because of my hectic travel schedule but that wasn’t going to stop me from entertaining in high style.

Until, first, little bit got sick.  Really sick.  High fever sick.  She had 104 this afternoon, her fever ever climbing even though she’s been sick since Thursday night.  Which meant all the invitations got rescinded on Friday because there’s nothing worse than visiting a friend only to catch their kid’s contagion.

Unfazed, Saturday we gathered around the family kitchen table to decorate fun and festive Easter eggs.  Mercy.  There were dye and glitter and stickers everywhere, and the durn eggs wouldn’t take the color and they got dropped and cracked and, well, you get the idea.  This is the platter of the eggs that made it, and I’m not posting it on Pinterest.  (You won’t get many followers if you do… Not that I actually post anything of mine on Pinterest. Ever.)

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Next up, the kids wanted to HELP in the kitchen Saturday.  Y’all, I appreciate the joy that should bring me, but three five year olds baking is just not a joyful experience for me.  And I consider myself a relatively joyful person.  The baby particularly wanted to help, so I agreed to put him to work.

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(He is clearly joyful.  This may have been captured when he ordered me to let him lick the knife since he’d been relegated to sorting candy melts.)

Three things had to be baked Saturday.  The zucchini bread (which is a classic for me) with a twist – dark chocolate.  (Feel free to ooh and aah, this actually turned out, just slightly undercooked.)

Next were these little chicks made out of Oreos that I saw in BH&G.  The problem was I couldn’t find the yellow candy melts, so we improvised with mixed color Hershey melts (see above sorting project), and I couldn’t find the white beads for the bottom so I made the executive decision green sprinkles would look as good.

It was not the melts or the green that tanked this project.  I have found that if you use candy eyes for any project it tanks itself.  Y’all, sorry to use Texas-twang twice in one post but this is a grab-you-by-the-shoulders-and-shake-you kind of a y’all, why do they make candy eyes?   I guess if they looked realistic you’d feel weird eating eyes, but candy eyes are FREAKY!  Plus the Oreos wouldn’t stay together.  Plus the melts were so sticky that half the jelly beans beaks got covered by the melts so the noses are in weird spots.  And the green, well the green clearly didn’t have the same effect.

Here’s project number two (you can see the magazine image at the bottom; ahem, I have a bone to pick with the editor):

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Finally, project three were whimsical butterfly cupcakes.  They looked adorable and super easy.  I have made a zillion cupcakes.  The kids desperately wanted to help, but I desperately wanted to have one of my Pinterest-y ideas turn out so I only allowed them minimal involvement: they inserted the pretzel wings and put some of the heads on.  Aside from the candy grass I had to use as antlers (do butterflies have antlers?  what are those things?  those little antennae?), because who sells black licorice (and really, who should?  it’s gross. why I am using a zillion parentheticals today?), I followed the instructions to the tee.  I did make every row have one different butterfly (see the third butterfly?  i’m just embracing the parenthetical. go with me.) because I meant to illustrate a big life lesson about how we’re all different but still beautiful and delicious, but I was worried that might just make me sound like Hannibal Lecter plus I was really wiped from all the failure.

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Where was I?  What was the point of this post?  All the slang and parentheticals have me off my game.  Oh yes, how my life is REALLY far from perfect pretty.  But you know, it’s pretty all the same.

We have weird crumbly Oreo chicks and sick kids and butterflies with antlers, mercy, but it was good.  (I won’t even go into how BREADY our beautiful Easter brunch full of Pinterest-y recipes was.  Seriously with the bread in everything.  What happened? Where was the MEAT?!?)

And little bit is still sick.  She rallied from Easter egg hunting in the dark, since our kids wake at 6 am and spy the eggs and cannot be contained inside.  You can see the poor thing has a cool pack on her head.

Easter

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After mommy melted down because the team didn’t LOVE the coordinating Easter outfits I had so lovingly selected for all five of us, we all headed out to church to celebrate what Easter is really all about (the Passion, not the Pinterest).  She went downhill fast during the service though.  You can see from picture one, taken at 10:30, to picture two, taken at 12:30, how she tanked completely and her fever spiked again poor thing.

 

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They’re off school tomorrow so she can get the first appointment with our pediatrician and maybe the insane amounts of sugar in our house will hold her over until then.  I have a hard week, a really hard week, with work and my first of six speaking engagements this month, but I know God is good all the time and this season will teach me something just like my Pinterest kablooey reminded me what this weekend was really all about.

How Could I Ask For More?

So the trees were all there dancing in the breeze.  Rustling their leaves above the noises of kids playing well below their branches while the moon looked on and the sun fell.

I stood still.  Scared any movement would frighten this moment away.  I struggle living in the moment.  But the moment had me wrapped up in its tangles and I was in no rush to break free.

Our Lenten gratitude ribbons danced on the gate in their blues and greens and pinks and yellows and inspired little bit to her own free-form, wind-blown dance.

I felt such utter gratitude, in the deepest marrow of my bones, as I breathed it all in.

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Grateful for little tee-ball players rounding their first bases of the season.

Grateful for snatches of real conversation held with friends so dear to me over the melee of children’s banter.

Grateful for a church committed to the neighbors on their street and the ones all the way over in Kenya.

Grateful for a husband home safely smelling of the land and sporting three day stubble.

Grateful for the first swim of the spring and the pink cheeks reflecting hours soaking up the sun.

Grateful for children who listened and obeyed and laughed and played and helped and worked and slept and swam and ate and danced and prayed.

Grateful for even the bloodied lip because it meant we were alive and dirty and playing and falling down and getting back up to do it all over again.

 

A song played on college radio two decades ago, and it ran on repeat in my head tonight.  It’s all I could think.  It’s all I can say…

There’s nothing like the warmth of a summer afternoon
Waking to the sunlight, being cradled by the moon
Catching fireflies at night, building castles in the sand
Kissing mama’s face goodnight and holding daddy’s hand
Thank you, Lord, how could I ask for more?