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June 15, 2009

The First Family. Or Family First.

Last night, Sunday, all I could think about for was how little I had accomplished over the weekend.

Actually, let me back up a little. The reason for me feeling that way is the direct result of a decison I made sometime in the spring of 1999. We had just moved back to the area, after living 4 years away from the family. The boys were little. So small, they followed me around like I was a mama duck. They must have been 5, 2 and 1 that spring. At the front of my subdivison was a sign that said something like "Swim Team sign ups!!! Join now, summer fun!!!" It wasn't a big sign, but it caught my attention. The kids didn't know how to swim yet. I had a friend with kids on a swim team. And as a child, I spent a brief period swimming at the University of Texas on their youth team. Swim team sounded like a fun sport.

At the very least, the kids would learn to swim?

I was born and raised in Texas, I should have known better.

Did I ever ask about swim team schedule or how practices work?


Had no clue what a swim meet was so I didn't ask about that, either.

All I could think about was my cute babies, finally in a sport for the first time, learning to swim like Olympians, and wearing cute little Speedos at some point (I still have all of their original Speedos, by the way. They are about as big as my hand.)

After 6 weeks of practice (Tyler was the only one old enough the first season, Jordan wasn't even walking....poor Chase just had to sit and sweat....) the time came for our first meet. We had our parent meeting the Friday before the Saturday meet. Coach Mark, who eventually taught all of my kids to swim, said, "we'll meet here at 5 tomorrow to follow each other to the other team's pool." For a split second, I thought, wow, swim meets start late, 5pm? Then the light bulb went off.

He meant 5 am.

The competing pool was an hour away.

5 am he meant, not 5 pm.

Me, with 3 babies, 1 in diapers, at 5 am? To swim? Had he been drinking?

I thought surely I had lost my mind. Or else someone had lost theirs.

Talk about false advertising! I distinctly recall that sign up poster saying something about summer fun! It certainly did not say, "Join swim team, we meet every Saturday at 5 or 6 am, for about 6 weeks straight, and it's going to be 105 degrees by mid-June, and the swim meets will end by 1 pm if you are lucky."

(one of Chase's first swim meets, summer of 2000, lined up with Austin and Tyler.)

Nope, I don't recall seeing that anywhere on the banners plastered around our neighborhood. Summer Fun? REALLY? I wanted to track down who wrote the sign and ask them, what else do you consider fun?

Root canals?

Bamboo under the finger nails?

Have you ever had 3 small kids ANYWHERE at 5 am?

Flash forward, June 2009.

This is our 11th season I think now, I've lost count. As it turns out, the kids are pretty decent swimmers. This is the only sport we do (we've tried nearly every team sport, swimming won out because they could all do it and there are 3 kids, 1 mom, throw in Robert when he could be here...something had to give.) I can count on one hand the number of meets I've missed in 11 years.

There are no perfect attendance awards for swim team parents. Just lots of used sun screen and a nice tan through the end of June.

The last couple of years, the kids have been big enough to walk to our pool on Saturday mornings for home meets so I could sleep late, sort of. They love swimming enough that my 3 tween boys would get themselves up on Saturday morning by 6 am or so, as I BEG to sleep for just an hour later, feed themselves something (I don't ask what), and actually walk to the pool on their own. At 6:45 am. They love swimming enough to get up that early on the weekend, who am I to argue with that?

This Saturday, Tyler drove them across our town to the meet, in his car, alone. Two big intersections. No air conditioning, still.

I did not sleep late. I did not sleep at all, actually, once I heard the door slam shut.

I laid in bed once I heard the door close as they left, and waited for the obligatory text letting me know they made it. It seemed like a long time waiting for that text to come through, but it finally arrived:

"We made it in one piece."

Not exactly the best wording but they did make it in one piece, which is what counts.

The swim meet we had this weekend was brutal. I think it was over 100 degrees and the humidity was probably equal. The competing pool we were swimming had 4 lanes (we normally have at least 6), was very shallow, and the whole poor area was a muddy, sloppy mess. The heat was brutal.

Keep in mind: kids swim, parents do not.

We sweat.

And cheer.

And volunteer. And sweat some more.

But parents aren't in that water. We are standing there, next to the water, getting sun burned, some of us ready to collapse, and we watch while the kids swim. At one point, I considered offering a random child money to push me in that water by mistake.

I stood in the heat with the other parents as we tried to get through this meet. Many of these parents I have seen and volunteered with for many years now. Some of the kids on the other team have known Tyler since he was in 1st grade. And, a few of Tyler's teammates this year are graduating and this was their last meet. With all the mud and slop and heat, there was a reason to be there and I knew it.

We lost the meet, but it was a good battle.

To say we were tired when we got home would be an understatement.

I had all sorts of grand plans for getting 'something accomplished' when I got home. I didn't have a huge amount of work to do, but I wanted to feel 'caught up' for Monday. The meet took it's toll, I was too tired to work and instead chose to have dinner with a friend I have not seen in a long time. We had a really nice time catching up. I made it home at 11 pm or so. The word 'work' was not even in my vocabulary at that point. Only words like 'bed', 'sleep', and 'late' were on my mind.

Sunday rolled around, I did manage to sleep until 9 am or so but as I mentioned earlier, we are a committed swim team family.

Two of the kids had an invitational meet Sunday at 12:30.

Robert got home from work after being gone for four straight days, packed two of the the kids back in the car and drove to the next meet, which was fortunately indoors.

I met him later at the meet, laptop in tow, sure that I could 'get something accomplished' and get 'caught up' in between events.

Didn't happen. Instead I talked to other swim moms (who at some also apparently saw a sign about 'summer fun' at some point, and got sucked into swim life like us.)

I watched Chase do an awesome Butterfly stroke.

Tyler swam great. Okay. We heard he swam great. I was talking to the moms and missed Tyler. Twice. My brain was getting really tired by then.

The laptop stayed in the bag.

I left the swim meet at about 4 pm for one last weekend event-Sunday bbq with my mom and her husband and friends. By this point, the last thing I wanted to see was a pool or water or chicken.

I wanted cold air, indoors, lots of a/c...the mall would have sufficied if had not been so tired.

But, my brother and his family, whom we dont see often, were going to be there and I did not want to miss them.

So, I put Jordan in the car and we went over to my moms to GO SWIMMING.

Jordan was looking at me at this point like I had grown an extra eye.

'We are going to Nanas for WHAT?'

'Do I HAVE to go?'

Off we went to my moms, laptop in tow.

And we swam. I didn't even bring a suit, borrowed one of my moms suits(kinda weird, I know...but it fit?).

I played with the my nieces and nephew in the water. Watched 2 year old Catherine fall flat off the pool ladder and landed backwards to our horror on the wooden pool deck, cry for a split second, then get right back up. And, I watched her jump in the water to me off the same ladder 15 times saying "AGAIN" each time. I listened as 5 year old Caroline informed she is a "Power Puff girl, there to fight crime!"

The laptop never made it out of the bag.

Jordan and I stayed a good two hours, brought home a plate of chicken for Robert and got home about 7pm.

Sunday night and I didn't get anything accomplished. It was nearly time for bed and I was exhausted. In fact it's Monday and I still am exhausted from Saturday and Sunday.

But, as I thought about the weekend, I realized I did get something accomplished.

None of it was work related.

I let my son drive the farthest he's driven since he got his license last week. I watched my kids swim some awesome races, several of them in fact. I let Tyler drive to go pick up donuts Sunday morning. I caught my niece every time she jumped into that pool (it was Nana's fault she fell off that ladder, I swear!) and promised to fight crime with the other one as a Power Puff girl. I held baby Alexander as his mom tried to keep Catherine from going over the ladder again. I picked two banana peppers out of our first ever garden (although I am still waiting on tomatoes to appear.)

As a working mom, I need to be reminded often about what I consider an accomplishment. Getting work done over the weekend is sometimes necessary, it can be a fact of life.

But, the fact that I didn't 'work' over the weekend and instead spent the weekend taking children to swim meets and sitting in pool chairs with many requests for cash to use at the concession stand doesn't mean I didn't accomplish anything.

In fact, I think it means just the opposite. I accomplished everything important, which is all that counts.

Work will be here in 6 years.

Swim meets, Sunday donuts and requests for money to buy a Frito Pie will not.

I think I accomplished plenty.

(But, to be totally honest, I sure will be happy when mid-July rolls around and we can have our Saturdays back.)


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