And just like that….it’s over

 

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Graduation day.

I am sitting at home after my morning walk with Waffles the pug, enjoying my cup of coffee–like nothing has happened. Yesterday at this time, I was driving across the desert from Cima to Amboy. I actually love that drive through the desert Mojave National Preserve and Sheephole Valley Wilderness. There is so much vast space—desert wilderness and craggy mountains with nothing but Joshua trees and wildflowers. We saw exactly one car going our way. There were five or six heading in the other direction towards Vegas.

We left on Wednesday to drive 652 miles for our daughter’s graduation. With my recent surgery, there’s no way I could sit in a car for 10 hours, so we broke it up with an overnight stay in St. George. I keep saying that I’d like to go to the beautiful sites around St. George like Zion National Park, but we’re always on our way to Salt Lake City with no time to explore. Someday, we say.

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Walking into the Huntsman Center for graduation.

 

So, to get on with the story, we drove for two days for our daughter’s graduation. She was also moving out of the house she’s lived in for three years. Needless to say, she has a ton of stuff and although most of the work was done, there wasn’t a lot of time to relax. On the day of her graduation, we were working out where to pack and ship boxes that would not fit in her storage unit with furniture, kitchen stuff and winter tires — or either of our cars. Then graduation happened. I was shocked to see literally more than a thousand graduates in her major. We skipped the general commencement and I’m glad about that. The David Eccles School of Business was plenty long and meaningful. Then it was off to dinner with her friends at one of our favorite places, Valter’s Osteria. It’s a perfect place for a celebratory meal. And we listened to three or four happy birthday songs while we ate a delicious Italian meal.

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This guy is mine for the next three months.

 

The next morning we were up early and she was letting in the carpet cleaners and throwing away junk left by the previous year’s roommates. On the road, we stopped to say goodbye to our dear friends, my husband’s childhood friend Pastor Scott of CenterPoint Church in Orem, who’s been a surrogate dad to our daughter these past four years.

Eventually, we made it home, and I wonder where the past few days went–let alone the past four years.  I haven’t had time to process graduation, much less have time to enjoy it. All I can say is I’m glad my daughter is home for a few weeks. It feels so right to have her here–although she will be leaving soon for her next adventure in life.

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And she’s a graduate.

 

 

 

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Hey, It’s May Day!

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HAPPY MAY DAY 2018! I sent my mom a basket of flowers today. I’m waiting for her call. Here are my reflections of May Days past.

In first grade, my teacher Mrs. Iverson showed us how to make May Day baskets from pink and yellow construction paper. We drew ivy and flowers on the paper baskets with our thick crayons before going up one-by-one to our teacher to get the handle stapled on.

On the way home from school, we walked together picking dandelions and soft lavender-colored clover to fill our baskets.

images-6We took turns “May Daying” the neighbors.

I climbed the steps to Mrs. Fixie’s front door. She was the grandmotherly lady with the neat white bun on top of her head who often gave me home-made oatmeal cookies.

I hung the basket on her doorknob. Then, I rang her doorbell and ran as far as my first-grade legs would take me. I hid behind a hedge and watched her open the front door and scan the neighborhood.

images-9Then, she looked at her doorknob at the paper basket filled with flowering weeds.  A big smile broke across her face.

“Happy May Day!” I yelled jumping up behind the shrubs.

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Where did this fun tradition begin? But, more importantly, where did it go?

Do your kids make May Day baskets in school? Do they surprise your elderly neighbors with baskets of flowers and sunshine on May 1st?images-8

My mom is in an assisted living home two states away. She’ll be getting a delivery from FTD today of a little basket of flowers. The card will read “Happy May Day! Love, ?”

She’ll call and thank me and I’ll say, “I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about!”

She’ll say, “Really? I could have sworn it was you! I wonder who sent me these flowers?”images-7

That’s how we keep our May Day tradition alive. My son sent me a text to wish me “Happy May Day” first thing this morning. My daughter may pick some snapdragons and roses from our backyard and pound on the door tonight after school and her swim meet.

I’ll run outside and won’t be able to contain the smile on my face as I race around the yard trying to catch her.

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Happy May Day, everyone! How do you celebrate May Day? Do your kids make baskets?

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Why I’m a fan of Sam Darnold’s parents

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I’m so impressed with the parents of Sam Darnold, who is rumored to be the first pick tonight in the NFL draft. They were parents who let their phenom athletically-gifted kid, be just that. A kid. Tonight we’ll find out if Sam is the first pick, or not. We can learn so much from Sam’s parents regardless of the level of talent our kids have, or what their passions are. I wrote this about USC’s quarterback eight months ago:

My husband asked me to read a story from the Bleacher Report about USC Quarterback Sam Darnold. I put him off for a day because frankly, I wasn’t that interested. I finally read it to appease him and found Sam’s story to be fascinating—mainly because of the parenting style of Mike and Chris Darnold.

From childhood through high school, Sam played basketball, football, and baseball. I think he played volleyball, too. His parents let him try and decide what sports he participated in. They didn’t make him specialize or get him private lessons or coaches. In fact, Sam believes his success in football is from playing all different sports and learning a variety of skills. In a refreshing story written by Jeff Perlman, you find out about a dying breed of parents—ones who believe in fun and no pressure. Parents who let their child lead his own life.

“USC’s star quarterback and his parents do not live by the LaVar Ball theory of the universe. They let a multisport supernova grow up into his own man. And that’s why this 20-year-old might be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft.”

Yet the story of Sam Darnold isn’t the story of the modern quarterback, loud and sparkly and created to own the internet’s 24-hour hype machine. Nope, it’s the story of a young man on the verge of superstardom because, not long ago, he was allowed to diversify.

He was allowed to be a kid.

The Darnolds’ Capistrano Beach household is in the heart of south Orange County, where there are youth sports leagues atop leagues atop leagues, and private coaches atop private coaches atop private coaches.

In Orange County, it’s not uncommon for a nine-year-old pitcher to throw sliders and curveballs nine or 10 months of the year—with a father behind the backstop holding a radar gun. It’s not uncommon for a quarterback to play Pop Warner, then a season of flag and then spend the summer under the watchful eye of a $200-an-hour passing guru.

This was not going to happen to Sam.

“My parents,” the quarterback says, “wouldn’t have allowed it.”

On paper, this might come as a surprise. One would be hard-pressed to find a more sports-centric family than the Darnolds. Mike (Sam’s dad) was an offensive lineman at the University of Redlands, Chris (Sam’s mom) a volleyball player at Long Beach City College. Sam’s older sister Franki starred in volleyball at the University of Rhode Island and three of his cousins—Allie, Michele and A.J.—also participated in collegiate volleyball. Sam’s late grandfather, Dick Hammer, played basketball at USC and was on the 1954 team that went to the Final Four. He was also a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic men’s volleyball team.

Put simply, organized athletics are a big deal in the Darnold world and have been for decades.

“But,” says Chris, “they’re not everything. We’ve always tried to keep things in perspective. Yes, our children have always loved playing sports. But around here, in this part of California, it too often becomes live and die. That’s a big mistake in my opinion. It has to be fun.”

“One day you open your eyes and it’s, ‘Holy cow, your son is in this position,’” Mike says. “I mean, it’s crazy, right? Crazy, crazy, crazy—one in a million.”

He pauses. Though Chris is acknowledged by family members as the emotional one, the father has been showing his soft side of late. He insists he never cared whether his children played sports or an instrument or worked a job—as long as they were involved and happy and tried different things. But to have a son as USC’s starting quarterback; to have a son who is a Heisman Trophy front-runner; to have a son who is humble and decent and respectful?

“Say what you want,” Mike says. “Sam’s not flashy, he’s not a yeller, he’s not a trophy collector, a bragger. But I feel like we worked hard to raise our kids the right way. And it’s paid off.”

I believe the Darnolds have lessons for many sports parents, myself included. Of course, they had an exceptionally athletic son who could have been recruited in basketball, baseball or football. But more than that, they raised a humble, balanced kid. They are proud of him as a person, not just as a star athlete. Their attitude and parenting style helped develop Sam into the man he is and will become.

I hope you take the time to read the entire Bleacher Report article about Sam Darnold and his parents. There’s also another great article in the Los Angles Times called “As expectations swell, USC’s Sam Darnold finds comfort at home near the beach” by Zach Helfand.

I’m excited to watch him play football this year. Here’s a YouTube of his 2016 highlights.

Click here to watch a recent interview with Sam Darnold by CBS’s Allie LaForce.

What do you think about kids specializing in one sport at an early age?

 

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photo of Sam Darnold from the Bleacher Report

 

It’s the little things I miss about being a swim mom

My daughter diving in for the 1000 free during a dual meet. Utes vs. USC.

My daughter diving in for the 1000 free during a dual meet. Utes vs. USC.

When my kids started swimming in their Mommy and Me class in our city pool at age six months, I had no idea how swimming would evolve through the years for our family. Here’s an article I wrote a few years ago about the little things I’ve enjoyed as a swim mom. 

We went to my daughter’s first college dual meet of the season this weekend. I loved every minute of the meet, but even more, spending time with her. She invited several swim teammates out to dinner. It felt like the sprinkle of rain after a long drought—listening to them laugh and talk about their meet and practices.

I didn’t realize how much I miss the little daily things about being an age-group swim mom.

I miss the kids hanging out. So many personalities, so many different families, all bound together by one common goal. Swimming.

My son and swim team friends.

My son and swim team friends.

I have a fierce loyalty to our team and the couple times when factions of parents split off to form their own teams, I was shocked and hurt. It felt like losing members of my immediate family. I’d always wonder why? I never thought we had a bad experience—maybe at times less than perfect—but I guess that’s part of the reason I didn’t understand.

Good times were sitting together in the stands cheering for all our kids. Getting the new team t-shirts, sipping Starbucks on a chilly winter morning under the pop-up tents. Chatting and laughing with parents while we waited to see what the day’s meet would bring. I loved working with our parents and officials under the admin tent, in awards, or in the snack bar at our home meets.

The team cheer at an away meet.

The team cheer at an away meet.

I loved having kids over to the house to hang out between morning and afternoon practices during long hot summer days. I loved cooking eggs, bacon and sausage in bulk for a pack of hungry swimmers. I was amazed at how much they could eat as a group. I loved having the team over for painting t-shirts for a big meet.

Swim team girls painting t-shirts for a meet in our back yard with their coach.

Swim team girls painting t-shirts for a meet in our back yard with their coach.

I loved listening to the kids laughing about silly things that happened in practice and the goofy songs they played and sang to like “Funkytown  and the “Numa Numa Song.”

Most of all, l I loved seeing my kids smiling, laughing and enjoying their friendships. Throughout the years, my kids were surrounded by amazing kids, families and coaches. Just being in the background was a joy.

I miss those days.

Group photo on t-shirt painting day.

Group photo on t-shirt painting day.

My daughter receiving ribbons from her first coach.

My daughter receiving ribbons from her first coach.

Michael Phelps Explains How Hardship Helped Him Become the Man He Is Today

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A little over a year ago, I got to hear Michael Phelps speak at a fundraiser for Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children. It was very enthralling and I couldn’t believe the darkness he had gone through on his quest to become the GOAT (Greatest Olympian of All Time). Also, It was special to me because I was present at the groundbreaking for the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center held on Frank’s 75th birthday (yes, that Frank!) during my tenure as a PR account executive for Cliff Brown Associates. I will confess that I met and shook hands with a lot of celebrities that day and my hands and body actually shook and melted when I met Frank Sinatra. I think it was Paul Newman or another actor who joked with me seeing my reaction and said, “What’s wrong, why are you so nervous?” It was the blue eyes–even bluer than Newman’s.

I sat with my Piranha Swim Team fellow swim moms and Masters swimmers at a fundraiser where Michael Phelps was the keynote speaker.

He had some really good stuff to say and seems incredibly happy with his life. As he said about his comeback from retirement and Rio Olympics, “I got to show the world who I am.”

He said he wouldn’t trade anything in his life because even the struggles have made him who he is today. What an amazing person he is and has become. Not only was he speaking at the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children, he spent time with our local Piranha swimmers and other high school swimmers before the event. How special will that memory be for those kids? It will definitely be a day they’ll remember forever.

 

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Alex Flanagan interviews Michael Phelps. Photo from Steven Erickson, Piranha Masters swimmer.

Sitting for an interview with NBC’s Alex Flanagan, Michael was relaxed and comfortable. Accompanying him were his wife and baby Boomer, who could be heard crying occasionally in the background.

Phelps said all his many accomplishments and discipline were “all in my heart.” He said, “I started with a goal and a dream. I wanted to do something. I wanted to become the first Michael Phelps, not the second Mark Spitz.”

When he talked about his darker days and struggles with depression, Phelps explained that he “said affirmations every time he walked through a doorway.” He said, “If you keep track of how many times you walk through doors in a day, it’s a lot.”

He said it’s important to “not be afraid to ask for help and talk about things. You can’t do everything yourself.”

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A lot of his strength, he attributes to his mom Debbie Phelps, who he called “the most powerful mom. She single-handedly raised us. Growing up, I learned about hard work and dedication from her.”

Abut his coach Bob Bowman, “He has been there all the steps of the way. He taught me how to drive. The two of us get along so well. We’ve been together for 20 years.”

On his return to swimming for Olympic Trials and Rio, Phelps recalled that he called Bowman to tell him he wanted to come back. Bowman was skeptical and said it wasn’t going to happen. Phelps waited and called him back the next day, and Bowman agreed so long as he bought into his program and did it completely his way. It worked out well.

With his parents separating when he was young, Phelps found the pool to be an escape. His coach told him to “leave everything at the door and focus on swimming for the time he was there,” whether it was one and half hours or two. “That stuck with me. If you look at anyone great, they find the time to do their best under any circumstance.”

Phelps is enjoying his time as a husband and father and looks forward to a growing family. He’s focused on his brand MP and his foundation that is saving children’s lives through water safety.

Although Phelps Olympic career is over, as the most decorated Olympian in history with 28 medals and 39 world records, he said “The pool is very relaxing for me. It’s very Zen.”

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Our local USA Swimming and high school swimmers meeting Michel Phelps.                      photo from Piranha Swim Team 

 

 

 

17 Days After Surgery…Ouch!

My kiddos at PAC 12s after my ski incident/pre surgery.

It’s been more than two weeks since my new ACL was installed and my miniscus repaired. I looked at my post after week one and I was happy and positive. I still am, but I’m hurting! I’m thankful that my son was home for three days over last weekend and my daughter chose to come home for Spring Break. I don’t know what I’d do without my family during this long, frustrating recovery!

I do know how fortunate I am. We have insurance. It’s not life-threatening. I will get better. I have family and friends calling and taking care of me. I started this post out whining about the swelling and pain. Poor, poor pitiful me. My first physical therapy appointment was yesterday and leading up to it, I was feeling so good lately that I did too much. I realize this should be a post of gratitude! After all my PT, who I haven’t seen since before surgery, welcomed me back with a hug!

Others who are ill, all don’t have family around them. Nor do they have the same positive outcome to look forward to. Plus, this week I have Waffles, my daughter’s pug (and my daughter). I’m truly blessed. I’ll get through this stronger and with a better appreciation for what I do have.

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Waffles, my daughter’s Pug.

 

That time my son tried to give away the cat on Facebook

 

Baby Olive

Baby Olive.

Robert’s asthma and allergy appointment–on his first day home from college for his four-week Christmas break–didn’t go well. The doctor said we could get rid of the cat or put Robert up in a hotel for four weeks.

We’ve only had baby Olive for a year. We’re not too attached, but still. She’s a member of our family. We rescued her from a local pet shelter and committed to be her loving family. And she’s Robert’s little sister’s cat. Not mine. I felt before we agreed to give Olive away, we needed to discuss this with little sis. Or, let Olive be an outdoor cat.

I heard that Robert had posted on FB for a new home for Olive. Of course, as his loving mother, I’m filtered from seeing his posts. Grandpa, on the other hand, has full access to Robert’s FB account. He told me about the long and lengthy post about how I love the cat more than my own son. Short and shorter: we needed to get rid of the cat. Several people had said yes to adopt the furry feline.

Am I a terrible mother for not wanting to give away our pretty little kitty, Olive Bear?

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Olive today.

 

Robert said I’m infected with Toxoplasma gondii and I’m in danger of turning into a crazy cat lady. I “googled” the toxo thing. It’s different than cat scratch fever, which can cause chills and a fever. T. gondii is a protein that invades your bloodstream and makes women crazy about cats. Or, it makes men crazy in a wild way. And there’s a link to schizophrenia. It’s why my OB GYN told me not to change the litter box while I was pregnant. However, he said that if I’d been around cats my entire life, most likely I was already infected. Great.

I know about crazy cat ladies.We had one in my home town. She lived in a house filled with felines and feces. Hundreds of cats. My parents drove me to her house out in the country a few miles from town. The home badly needed paint and had broken floorboards with cats leaping in and out of the foundation. We picked an adorable calico kitten named Pansy to bring home. Pansy died a few weeks later from feline pneumonitis.

I never had good luck with cats. I can name the ones we owned when I was young: “Ting, Tack, Tenni-runner, No Name, Thomasina I, Thomasina II, Little Leticia, Bianco, Streshia, OJ Simpson. We lost these cats (in addition to the aforementioned Pansy) by the time I reached first grade, due to an overzealous cat-hater neighbor. He caught them in a wooden trap, dropped them in a gunnysack, then tossed them in the river.

When we moved out into the country I had Soute´from second grade through high school. Coyotes and bears were kinder animals to our kitty than our former neighbor in town.

babyolive2 I was pregnant with Robert when we adopted Sherman. That allergy doctor told me for years to get rid of Sherman. I didn’t. Robert was allergic to lots more things than cats. Things I couldn’t control, like ryegrass and oak trees. Sherman lived from 1992 until Obama’s inauguration day — don’t let me get started — when the neighbor’s dog jumped a wall and killed him.

I know it’s terrible not to want to get rid of the cat. I never believed that a cat could be harmful to my child. Now, my son is living in beautiful Santa Barbara, going to college.
He’s only home for visits. Or maybe it is the toxoplasmosis that let’s me rationalize all this.

If you have suggestions on how to keep a cat when you have family members with allergies, I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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