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July 2012

Swim Team or a Working Parent's Nightmare

Over the years, we've encouraged our boys to try different sports. I admit, there are some that we haven't tried, golf, hockey, and tennis, to name a few. But Trouble and LT have tried their hand at karate, dance classes, baseball, basketball, football, soccer and swim lessons, not to mention piano lessons, boy scouts and school band.

If they don't like sport then we don't make them sign up for it again. Trouble did one season of basketball and football and then didn't play again. Those two sports were definitely not for him. We made him stick out the season. Once you make a commitment to a team you should honor that commitment. With football that was downright painful for everyone involved.

Cole_footballThere also have to be some limits about how many sports or activities they can do at one time. When LT is in football, there really isn't time for much else. Practices begin this Wednesday and for the rest of the summer he will be in practice five nights a week, two hours a night. Hopefully, practice doesn't conflict with cub scouts once school starts and they scale back to practice three nights a week. But he loves football, so we're willing to make that investment of our time. One or the other parent needs to be there for the duration of practice. Football is pretty intense, even when they're not yet into physical contact, and I'd hate for him to get hurt and neither of us be there.

 However, we're working parents, and not just working parents but each of us with our own careers that we've invested ourselves in. If Blackstone has a town meeting to attend and the boys have practices or games at different fields, I have no choice but to leave each of them and do my best in volleying back and forth. How parents with more than two kids involved in sports and activities do it is beyond me. Especially, when we're talking different age groups and different activities.

Connor_swimSwim has proven to be particularly elusive for us. First of all, swim teams don't advertise. I had known there was a swim team at the YMCA that we have belonged to for over a decade, but had no idea what it was about. The only promotion they do is a board by the pool where they post winner's names and pictures. When we asked about signing Trouble up at the information desk, they told us they didn't have any information to give and that we had to email the swim coach. Since when does a gym not have information about its own programs? It was like I had just asked for directions to platform 9 and three-quarters.

Trouble tried out last fall but didn't make it. We inquired about try outs in the spring and were told to just sign him up. Okay . . . Great! Except . . . . He had to attend three out of five practices a week at 4:30 in the afternoon. And he was already signed up for baseball. And Blackstone was coaching his team. And even if it weren't for baseball, 4:30 in the afternoon! Ugh! Blackstone's hours are all over the place and I work until 4:30 and am 30+ minutes from home.

Swim team is definitely a rich person's sport. Or at least the sport of a kid with parents who work nontraditional hours or where one parent stays home. (Note: I do not mean to insinuate that staying home is not work. I know it is. However, it definitely affords opportunities for kids that can be very difficult to finagle when both parents work outside the home. And yes, my husband does work out of the house, but his office might as well be in Timbuktu most of the time for the flexibility it affords us when it comes to situations like this. It will inevitably be the day he spends 12 hours in the field, or the night he has to drive to Boston for a meeting at 7pm. Then I end up going to my boss sheepishly at the last minute to say I need to leave.)

So now we're trying for the third time. I'm not sure what his chances are since I seem to be gathering that fall is the competitive season, and it seems we'd have more luck come spring. So just to cover my bases, I'm also going to register him for two swim lessons a week to keep him practicing and help him continue to build his endurance. If he does make it, then I know I need to request to flex my hours a bit at work, which is slightly less awkward since I've been there over six months now and the big project should be launched at that point. One way or another, we'll find a way to make it work, even if I have to pay someone to drive him to the pool. But then you have to remember that all this craziness is just for one kid's activity and that LT will also be in football. I fully expect that there would be plenty of nights when Blackstone would have a meeting and I would need to pick Trouble up and drop LT off at the same time, in different towns, neither of which we live in. Not to mention we'll also be juggling cub scouts and boy scouts.

When the heck dinner would figure into this mess? I'd have to pack it in the morning and carry it with me, or pick up take-out in between the running from the pool to the football field, only getting home around 8:30 at night. And homework? They better get it done at daycare or in Trouble's case at home, because we have agreed to start letting him be home alone after school. He is in middle school after all. This has not been without its issues since we started in the spring, but that's another post.

We haven't even gotten into the games and meets yet either. I gather that swim meets are often on Sundays which is also game day for football.

It is no wonder parenting drives so many of us to drink. This isn't just the lazy parents either. If I were a lazy parent, I wouldn't need a drink so badly at the end of the day. It's because I try to balance so much that I drive myself to drink. It may be time for one now.



Caleb's Crossing

Our last Book Club book was Caleb's Crossing. I didn't get to go and discuss it because Trouble ended up having a play off game that night, and what kind of mother would I be if I ditched the game to go to Book Club? They did end up winning, but were eliminated in the next game which I missed because I was at Football Camp with LT. Have I mentioned that I never played or watched sports in my life until I had kids?

Caleb's Crossing takes place in Martha's Vineyard in the 1660s. I adored Bethia, the narrator. The story follows her journey from childhood to young woman. A naturally subsurvient and submissive woman Bethia is not. She is constantly struggling to quench her thirst for education and knowledge in a society that does not deem it appropriate. Early on, she befriends Caleb, a member of the local Indian tribe. She takes it on as her personal quest to turn him from his idiolistic gods to the Christian God. As the daughter of a minister, she sees it as her duty to try to convert him from his hedonistic ways. But Caleb is the nephew of a powerful shaman, and he asks questions that are difficult for Bethia to answer. As she comes to know and understand Caleb and his tribe, she realizes that they are not the savages she was taught to fear. She even finds herself curious about their gods and attracted to their spiritual rituals.

Unfortunately, tragedy strikes Bethia's family, and as the devout daughter of a minister, she believes she's being punished for her sins.The depth and assurity of her guilt was difficult for me to understand, though I'm sure Bookgirl would be able to empathsize better than I. I know from my study of history how brave and independent a character Bethia is for this time in history. I can't imagine how I ever would have survived in such a time. They probably would have burned me at the stake if I didn't die in childbirth first.

Bethia's father takes Caleb into his home and schools him and another Indian, preparing them for college at Harvard along with his own son. The novel is historical fiction and is based on the real history of some of the first Indians to attend Harvard University. The goal was to convert and educate them, so they could assist with the conversion of others. You may be wondering why Caleb would go along with such a thing. He is as strong-willed and independent as Bethia and has his own reasons for obtaining his degree, that are not necessarily inline with those of Bethia's father.

On a personal note, shortly after reading this book we took our trip to Virginia ,which I wrote about in my previous post. Part of the Ghost Tour of Williamsburg took place at the College of William and Mary, the second oldest college in the U.S. What was the first, you may ask? Harvard, of course. And like Harvard, William and Mary also educated Indians and our ghost tour took us by the dorm where they slept. One of the stories was about the Indian who used to sneak out of his third floor window and run the grounds in the middle of the night until one morning he was discovered dead. They say his ghost can still be seen running the campus grounds at night.



It is nice to be able to say that vacationing with the kids is getting easier. At 8 and 11, there are no diaper bags, no strollers, no tantrums, no chasing them around the airport, no crying on the plane. I don't miss those days. Not that I ever did that much traveling with them when they were babies. We don't need to travel to see our immediate family, we were tired and broke, and frankly, we didn't see much point.

Not that we never did it. We did. We went to Niagra Falls when LT was only 6 months old. I still remember trying to chase Trouble down in the hotel lobby while holding LT in my arms. Trouble got a spanking for that one, to which he screamed in indignation, "You don't do that to me!" Seriously, what three-year-old has that kind of confidence and assurity?

And we went to visit Polly in CA when LT was about 2.Trouble had a terrible asthma attack after visiting Sea World and he managed to slam his tooth into the sink and kill the root. We had a good time, but it was a lot of work.

We were going to drive to Virginia and at the last minute decided to fly.Unfortunately, our 6AM flight was canceled. We should have been in Virginia at 9AM. Instead we arrived at 4PM. It really didn't save us much time on the way down.And we landed in Virginia in the midst of a heat wave. Walking out of the airport was like walking into an oven. I knew we were headed south, but I didn't plan on landing in southern Florida.

Va_connor_ericaOur first night there was a terrible thunderstorm. Somehow Blackstone and the kids slept through it, but it woke me up. I heard the power go on and off a few times. I mentioned it to Brandon the next day who had missed the entire thing. Turns out we were one of the few units in the resort that had power. We were truly lucky to be one of the few that was hooked into the generator for some reason. There was a point in time when I would have said we're never that lucky, but I can't say that any more. We've been pretty lucky lately.

The second night, we heard our first real warning from the Emergency Broadcast System. Blackstone told the kids, "Oh, it's nothing, just a test," because honestly, they are always tests in RI. Maybe in my lifetime there have been some real warnings, but in my entire life I have never heard a real emergency broadcast. This was a tornado warning. Pretty scary to us Yankees who know nothing about tornados. It did sound lke it was going to be quite a storm and we actually hunkered down in the bathroom for a while, but the storm split and missed us entirely.Like I said, I can't say we're not lucky any more.

We stayed around the corner from Water Country and down the street from Busch Gardens. We managed to tour both theme parks, Yorktown, Williamsburg, Jamestown and Virginia Beach. The days we toured the theme parks we had to head back to the resort between 2 and 5 to avoid heat stroke in the 100+ degree temperatures. We did a ghost tour of Williamsburg at night. I enjoy a good ghost tour and the idea of touring the town in the heat of the afternoon had me swooning like a southern belle. (It could happen!) The boys did their share of complaining about the historic sites and tours, but they enjoyed it in spite of themselves. Trouble gave our tour guide for the ghost tour a real workout. He was just full of comments and questions.

Va_brandon_connorVirginia Beach reminded me of Myrtle Beach. They're both so built up you can drive down the coastal street and never see the ocean. As someone who has grown up on the beaches in RI, seeing Myrtle Beach was a shock. I had no frame of reference for seeing hotels actually sitting right on the beach, one on top of the other, entirely blocking the view of the ocean. If you weren't staying at a hotel on the beach, you had to pay to park in some tiny lot and find the small part of the beach that was designated as public access. Not that you don't have to pay to park at the beach in RI, but they are huge lots, and very little of the beaches are actually private. Much is owned by the state or towns, so it's more of a public park. I see now how spoiled I am, to be able to walk the sea wall, or choose between any number of beaches to visit, or just drive the coast line and enjoy the view.

Still, the trip was amazing, in spite of the heat, the canceled flight, the tornado scare. I would definitely recommend a trip to Williamsburg.