With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Leave it!

I'm mind-boggled this morning, frustrated by my master's thesis and how to strike the right note of personal and professional. The phrase that leaps to mind when I'm stymied? Not a literary exhortation, but the favorite phrase of my dog-walking friend, "Leave it!"  This admonition works for dogs who stray off the path, who sniff too far afield, and also to my hamster-on-a-wheel brain, when I can't seem to let go of an issue. It's truly an all-purpose stricture.

In our house, "Leave it" can apply to cats or kids equally. They act much the same, lying in wait to torture the unsuspecting other, butts wiggling in delight (that only applies to cats), then pouncing hard to elicit snarls and hisses from the target.  Jack** was particularly guilty of this yesterday, when poor Rex had just had a bath and was angry at the world, slinking around and shaking his wet legs in irritation.  Aden and I warned Jack to stay away, that Rex  was aggrieved and ready to snap, but Jack fixated all the more on his rival, earning boxed ears and scratches for his pains.

That happens with the kids, too. When William was ticked off at the world two days ago because he couldn't manage a standing back flip, I warned Daniel to stay away. Did he listen? Absolutely not - Daniel made a beeline for his aggravated sibling and I had to break them up before the verbal slings and arrows turned to blows.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't novels say things like, "He knew well enough to stay away when his brother was angry, wary of the fists and fury." I feel like I've read such statements many times before, but rarely seen such avoidance in real life.  I've rarely read the words "Leave it!" either, but that has become my most useful tool, likely to appear anywhere from blog entries to masters' theses.


**Jack is a somewhat foolish feline, recently earning the nickname 'Ryan Lochte of cats.'

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Nothing good after midnight

The news reports about four US swimmers being held up at gunpoint in Rio shocked us at first, and now have morphed into a huge bummer and object lesson for my kids. As my dad used to say, nothing good happens after midnight.  After Rio officials' first embarrassed and genial response, inconsistencies in the swimmers' stories led them to remove two young men from their plane flight home to the US and keep them for further questioning. The loudest voice and brightest profile in the situation belongs to Ryan Lochte, who eluded further questioning by flying home ahead of his friends. The fourth young man is at large in Rio, perhaps wishing that he never went drinking and dancing with Lochte and company.

I don't know what occurred, don't know if the inconsistencies in the swimmers' accounts occurred because of natural variances due to post-traumatic stress or if they somehow elaborated and exaggerated the true events to cover up their own questionable antics. I do know that it's rarely productive to drink until 4 or 5 am, whether you are representing your country at an international event or just pursuing an all-nighter at home. At the age of 32, you would think that Lochte, at least, would realize such a thing.

Every time I hear the story on TV or see it in the newspaper, my father's words echo in my head. Perhaps it's his fault that my college nickname was "Cinderella" because I always went home - well, at midnight. (It made for short nights when parties started at 11:00),

Parents always hope that kids internalize their warnings and hard-won wisdom. For example, trueisms offered while driving tend to linger.  We now have a teen driver in our midst, which is alarming on many fronts. When Aden drove to her art class yesterday she did well, with the notable exception of breezing right past the stop sign in front of our house. When I yelled, "honey, honey - you have to stop!!" she did, at least find the brake, and we came to a halt in the middle of the busy intersection.  My dad reminds me that I did the same at her age. 

So we let kids go, try to pass on what knowledge we have, cross our fingers and pray. Perhaps someday our internalized voices will prevent them from making a misstep, and get them home safe to their beds. And at other times, they'll stay out late drinking, and pay the consequences for their follies. We can be thankful that the drinking and the driving didn't happen on the same night in Rio.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympic Gleanings

We kicked off the Olympics by watching an intersquad scrimmage of the UCLA water polo team. That the game took place at the US Olympic Training Center gave it special resonance and luster, which it scarcely needed due to the high level of play and obvious tremendous conditioning of the athletes. The coach spoke to Colorado Water Polo athletes and parents after the game, encouraging the young players to decide on their goals and work hard to pursue them. He said that the UCLA players and the Olympians had all started as youngsters with dreams, just like our kids.

Though the speech was inspiring and motivating, I could not help but think that the Olympians are NOT just like us our or children - they are genetic freaks of the best kind. No normal human can swim as fast as Michael Phelps or Ryan Murphy, or Katie Ledecky. The commentators put their wins down to hard work, a feel for the water, good coaching, technique; all of those factors certainly contribute, but there is a genetic component that can't be overlooked. Many of the athletes have relatives in MLB, or the NFL, or previous Olympics. Not all, certainly, but consistently enough that I know it's a factor.

Even if our kids win the genetic lottery (which in my case is most unlikely!), the sacrifices made to get to the Olympic level are monumental. Gymnasts who forego school, social lives, growth, even puberty, and others who withstand shoulder surgeries, cortisone shots, long periods of pain - they pay a price for their excellence.  And, too, they are not immune from struggle and disappointment, falls from grace that are extra long because their former heights were stratospheric.

Missy Franklin comes to mind when I think of loss. From America's sweetheart to a mere footnote in these games, she's a class act all the way, even while finally giving way to tears in the pool after her best event - where she did not final. She's created no drama, supported all of her teammates to the best of her ability, and quietly tried to mask her pain in smiles of goodwill. As much as we admired here in 2012 for her swimming prowess and joie de vivre, we now admire her for her grace in difficult times.

So when Aden watched yet another medalist go to kiss his mother in the stands, remarking "Sorry, Mom, but I'll never be in the Olympics," I can only respond that my genes aren't sufficient, and we both might be a little grateful. Acknowledging that the heights aren't accessible for mere mortals, we can return to watching with greater appreciation and admiration.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Schedule Collapse

As white-hot July melts down to hazy August, my carefully constructed summer schedule completely gives way. Gone are the mornings of swim practice, afternoons of baseball and swim team activities. Fading, too, are the summer rules of "no screens until 4pm" and "15 minutes of math every day." School starts for our kids in eight days, so our waking hours have devolved into a free-for-all of school errands, required reading (for the big kids) and last-ditch summer camps for which I alternately curse and bless my ambitious March self.

Aden has driver's ed classes all week, which still shocks me when I write it. My baby is going to drive a car? And share the road with crazies?  I'm not sure how it came to pass that her fifteenth birthday comes in a week and her learner's permit with it.  I don't know which bothers me more, that she's going to drive or that I have to clean up my act when I drive with her so I don't teach her the wrong stuff - i.e. the "California roll" or checking my email at long lights.

Way back in the spring when I ambitiously planned activities for all of the kids I signed William up for a writer's camp this week so that both the older kids would be busy and I could have some free time with Daniel. I neglected to account for the fact that writing camp is at Bookbar in the Highlands, a half-hour drive from our house (without traffic). Loathing the freeway, I decided to spend most of our time downtown within ten minutes of camp. Daniel and I have hit the Colorado History Museum (free for Colorado Day!) and the Children's Museum, as well as scouted out coffee shops and boutiques all along the hip street where Bookbar resides.

Daniel's having  a wonderful time and William doesn't complain too much because he gets to capture all of the Pokemons that live downtown. Today I've called "uncle" on museums and decided to spend time in an air-conditioned movie theater watching "The Secret Life of Pets."  Have to get in one more movie before school starts and we forget there's a world outside of our subdivision. Cheers to the last eight days .....