With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

When I Can't Worry About Bhutan

The kids had Monday and Tuesday off, which took me by surprise, as I never loaded the CCSD days off into my personal calendar. I've had kids in the district for twelve years and they haven't changed the schedule much at all, but somehow the in-service days perpetually catch me off guard. I had coffee dates, dentist appointments, and work meetings scheduled, and rather than cancel everything I just kept it in place, racing between locations and checking on Daniel every hour to make sure he was occupied by something other than "Madden" on the X-Box.

Prior to the President's Day holiday I was up in East Vail chaperoning the JV1 Girls' swim team. They didn't need much chaperoning, just help with food preparation and cleanup. The host family was gracious and welcoming, and the girls had plenty of room to spread out across the ground floor while the parents and chaperones had the upstairs. I got more sleep than anticipated, at least after the girls stopped rehearsing their "AquaPoms" dance for the talent show (sometime before midnight). I was tired from walking the neighborhood to see Lindsey Vonn's hous and strolling through downtown Vail as the girls flew in and out of T-Shirt shops to buy souvenirs.

After a crazy four days. everyone was out of the house by 7:30 this morning and I finally had uninterrupted time to work on an operations manual and respond to emails about the swim team banquet. Laundry and packing are next as William  and I fly out tomorrow for a water polo tournament in Northern California. I am back on my heels for this trip; it will be a miracle if I remember to check in and get William packed by tonight.

As I drove the minivan back toward home after a lunchtime swim, my mind added "Cat food" to the mental list of things to do. That list has grown out of all proportion to what I can accomplish, and I slid the Petco run over to things Rob should do while I am in California. About that time, I heard on NPR that sudden strife has arisen in Bhutan, of all place. At the thought of one more world crisis, I had to change the channel.  The people of Bhutan are worthy of all possible empathy and concern, but my brain has no more space.



Thursday, February 15, 2018

Family Day, Tenth Anniversary

Several friends texted to wish us a "Happy Family Day" yesterday. They had recently read Wild Specific Tangent, in which I reference our combination Valentine's / Family Day celebration and Daniel's fascination with the holiday. Yesterday was a big one. It's been ten years since we met Daniel and finished adoption paperwork at the US Embassy in Guatemala City. An eventful decade, full of every human emotion.

Daniel was absorbed in his preparations for this historic day, writing Valentine's and love letters to each member of the family. He re-wrote his adoption story in his own words, and added a few favorite photos to illustrate the main themes. He brought these documents to our traditional Mexican dinner last night, and read the sentiments aloud, each family member receiving their due.

Dressed in coordinating print shirt and festive tie, Daniel was unusually upbeat and focused. He didn't shed a tear or let his voice quaver as he talked about losing his caregiver and leaving with us "strangers." He included some of the difficult parts of his transition, wrote about waking up scared and lost every morning, crying until I could wrest him out of bed for an early morning walk in the stroller. His scary tonsillectomy /adenoidectomy was reviewed, too, though it was highlighted by the gift of his favorite teddy.

Watching Daniel take ownership of his story, find meaning in the trauma, find places for his brother and sister in his personal epic, display his affection and appreciation for me and his father- well, sufficient to say that my eyes weren't dry. 

Ten years ago I could never have imagined this journey, could not have anticipated the tremendous difficulties, resilience, strength of each member of my family. Thank God I didn't know.  But for a brief moment last night we all celebrated the process that brought us together, made us stronger, sent us forward into whatever life has in store.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Another Crazy Weekend

Another whirlwind weekend in the Dravenstott household. A swim meet for William, boatloads of homework, college prep and job applications for Aden, and Valentine's Day / Family Day preparation for Daniel (it's the tenth anniversary of our family forming in Guatemala, a big day for him and for all).  Here are a few highlights:

1. Watching the Olympics on Saturday night, dazed and confused after six hours in a chlorinated pool, hearing the instructors moan about the difficulty level of the "twizzles"  in ice dancing. Said no one ever:  "If something is going to go wrong, you know it will be during the twizzle sequence!" 
God forbid you tweak your twizzle.

2. Rob pulling up to the pick-up line at church yesterday, rolling the window down to catch my attention as the unmistakable beats of "Straight Outta Compton" penetrated the rows of exiting families and young children.  When I jumped in the car, horrified, and asked him to A. roll the window up, and B. turn the music down, he said "What's the problem? It's the edited version."

3. Waking up this morning at 5:15am to coach Masters swimming and finding myself unable to tie my shoe, distracted enough by that failure to ignore my hair standing straight on end. Needless to say, I provided amusement to all early-morning swimmers and instructors. 

That's all for now. I feel certain that this hectic week will provide more sources of amusement and inspiration via Olympic athletes, teen antics and parent exhortations. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Mind Over Maddening Colds

A few months ago, Jason Lezak (Olympic Champion swimmer and owner of the fastest 100 M free of all time) told a group of us at SwimLabs that he had learned the power of positive self-talk.  In his last Olympics, as one of the oldest members of the team, he was tired and broken down on the day of the 400 freestyle relay. He woke up sore and tired, but told himself, "I feel great. It's a great day to swim, and I am going to rock this race."  Repeating that message over and over, through warm up, massage, hydration, more warm up, he gradually "tricked himself" into feeling good, and anchored the USA relay (against the dominant French) with the most amazing split of all time. 

At  Centennial A League championships, last Friday night, Aden still struggled with her cold.  She felt weepy, tired and sorry for herself on Wednesday and Thursday evenings, which made sense given her sore throat and red eyes. But Friday morning I told her to brainwash herself with this one thought, "It's a great day to swim."  That's all she was allowed to say to herself as I told her the Lezak story, because the problem with life is, you get what you get. If the meet is Friday, you have to swim Friday. No waiting until optimal conditions come together.

By remarkable coincidence, Arapahoe High School played the clip of the USA 400 free relay during warm ups at the meet, with Lezak's swim as amazing as ever. In similar form, Aden rallied for her 200 free, doing her best time by 1.5 seconds and placing 14th overall, then slumped a touch in her 100 free, going .22 over her best. But she drank some coconut water, ate some cookies, and rallied again to lead off her 400 free relay with a best time of 57.6. - about 1.5 second faster than she went at the same meet last year. 

After the last race Aden came up to the stands and we hugged as the tears leaked out.  Folks around us were a touch confused as to the emotion, since she hadn't made a State cut or broken a record of any kind, but we were just relieved and grateful that the self-talk worked. She turned a rough spot into a banner day for the last swims of her junior season, and learned a life lesson along the way.




Thursday, February 1, 2018

Tea Tree, Sambucus, and Benadryl

Aden has a cold, probably from a combination of a pesky virus and the anticipatory stress of her final swim meet. Yesterday, slightly panicked about her rough morning, I went in search of natural remedies at Whole Health and Vitamin Cottage, where I buy most of my supplements. After consultations with an acupuncturist and vitamin specialist, I emerged with tea tree oil, sambucus throat spray, and herbal remedies for swollen throat and bronchioles, as well as coconut water.

After application of all of the above, plus an evening dose of Benadryl, Aden seemed better this morning, though grouchy as Oscar and bemoaning the timing of the cold.  "You're a fast healer," I told her with my fingers crossed, "today was better than yesterday and you will be well by tomorrow."

Truth is, the cold shouldn't matter too much for her performance if she's mentally strong. No fever, no broken limbs, no hacking cough (at least not yet - hence the permanently crossed fingers), she should be fine.  But the "mentally strong" part is tough. Girls often struggle to deal with expectations, their own and others, and the resulting pressure to do well. I did, a bit, though it usually made me slightly angry and therefore fueled my racing. Aden takes things to heart more than I, and she doesn't want to let her coach or her teammates down.

It doesn't help that their encouragement takes the form of over-the-top compliments. Phrases like, "Oooh, of course you'll make State,"  don't help Aden.  I have to remind Aden that her friends are not really thinking about her performance in any great detail - they're thinking about their own.  And when they say confidently that she will make a State cut, they're not really that convinced, it just seems like a good thing to say. 

At the swim meet last weekend I discussed this quandary with a friend of mine, who noted, "It's just like saying "we'll do lunch" in the South.  The old friend / acquaintance / frenemy has no intention of having lunch with you, you'll never get her phone call or text, but it's just  what you say."

Along the same lines, here's a great quote from the New Yorker book review, "The Parenting Paradox" of January 29:  "Civilized  behavior is artificial and ridiculous: it means pretending to be glad to see people you aren't glad to see, praising parties you wished you hadn't gone to, thanking friends for presents you wish you hadn't received" (p 69).  Not that I think Aden's teammates are in the category of people who aren't glad to see Aden - they're both supportive and kind. But they're not seriously invested in the outcome of her races, and she needs to know that.

Her competition tomorrow is only for her, a snapshot of where she is at this moment, cold and all. If she's mentally strong and does her best, just for herself and not for me or anyone else, she won't be disappointed. In the meantime, I'm going out to buy Benadryl with my fingers crossed.