Why I Like to Stay in Houses vs. Hotels

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The Colorado Airbnb.

This past weekend, we traveled to Colorado for a wedding. The bride was one of my children’s age group swimming teammates who played a big part in their swim and school lives. We’ve stayed close friends with her parents after bonding over years of volunteering for the team and going to meets. (Isn’t the swim world great?) They were one of the families I looked up to, who taught me the ropes about swim parenting. Not to brag, but their daughter swam in the Olympics–Beijing in high school and London in college, representing Singapore.

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The house we stayed at in the summer at the beach.

My kids insisted they were going to the wedding, which I was kind of hedging about. I mean, I wanted to go, but Colorado in the winter? They were going to go with or without us, so I finally agreed to go, too. I’m in Palm Springs, thank you very much, and I was stressed about flying in the snow, driving in the snow, and yes, even walking in the snow! We did have a six-hour delay flying due to a severe snow storm, so I had reason to worry.

Lately, when we travel with our adult kids, we look for rentals on Airbnb or VRBO. In the past years, we took a trip to Summerland, Calif., a few blocks from the beach where our kids joined us. We went to Park City, Utah, too. The kids were supposed to join us there but couldn’t take time off work. I like houses better because it’s nice to stretch out on the sofa, have a kitchen for snacks and meals and a full-sized living room. It’s so much better with family to have an entire house than staying in hotels where you have a bed and a coffee maker. I also believe it’s much more affordable.

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The claw-footed tub. One of two perfect bathrooms.

The house in Colorado this past weekend was really cute and fit us perfectly–in spite of the snow. We could walk (with our boots, parkas and gloves on) three blocks to downtown and some great restaurants. In Park City and Summerland, we also had great locations within a few blocks of the shops and main streets.

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Back in high school: The bride and my son in their Physics class cardboard boat competition.

If it’s just my husband and me, or me traveling alone, a hotel is best. But, for a family, you cannot beat a home. FYI, the wedding was wonderful and the bride especially beautiful. It made me treasure our swim team days even more and reminded me of all the time our kids spent together for years and years.

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At the wedding with the bride and groom.

Here’s my review of this past weekend’s Airbnb:

This spotless, bright and airy home has every convenience you’ll need including a fully updated kitchen and plenty of outlets everywhere. It’s located three blocks to downtown. We loved the beautiful decor. Everywhere we looked there are unique touches, from a claw-footed tub, stained glass windows above a bedroom door to an antique door handle collection. In every room you’ll discover something special. The beds and bedding are comfy, too.

Which do you like better for vacations? Houses or hotels and why?

 

Who Benefits the Most from Volunteering?

33944149_10156550450214612_1114497597600432128_oI gave up part of my day to volunteer at the Piranhas Masters meet. I was too chicken to sign up to swim. I haven’t done a meet since pre-knee and eye surgery.

I took on a new writing job for trade magazines in the last few months that has me chasing deadlines and sources — even through the weekends. Maybe I shouldn’t have been there and should have stayed home and worked.

But, I went and feel so good about helping out, cheering on my teammates and friends.

Two things that stood out today:

The first heat I timed, my lane had a 98-year-old woman, who needed help to get on the blocks, who dove in and swam a 200 free. I said to my teammate and friend sitting next to me, “What was my excuse again for not swimming?”

Then there was the 20-something-old autistic young man who doesn’t function well in day-to-day life. I watched as he got up on the blocks, dove in, swam amazing underwaters, gorgeous strokes and won events with personal bests. His friend and coach told me he’s part of the US Paralympic Team. Although he doesn’t function in the “real world” he gets the pool. It was beautiful to watch. The support he got from his competitors was amazing, too. Everyone was on his team.

Volunteering was exactly the medicine I needed to feel fulfilled, connect with my community and get away from the stress of deadlines.

I recently read about the benefits of volunteering from several articles. Here’s one I read called “Volunteering and its Surprising Benefits” from a website called Help Guide: Your Trusted Guide to Mental Health & Wellness. Here’s the link and an excerpt:

Volunteering can help you make friends, learn new skills, advance your career, and even feel happier and healthier. Learn how to find the right fit.

Why volunteer?

With busy lives, it can be hard to find time to volunteer. However, the benefits of volunteering can be enormous. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. The right match can help you to find friends, connect with the community, learn new skills, and even advance your career.

Giving to others can also help protect your mental and physical health. It can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness.

Benefits of volunteering: 4 ways to feel healthier and happier

  1. Volunteering connects you to others

  2. Volunteering is good for your mind and body

  3. Volunteering can advance your career

  4. Volunteering brings fun and fulfillment to your life

    16387450_10155016389794612_6785187209915237532_nWhere do you volunteer in your community and what do you enjoy most about it?

Who Knew? BINGO Is Good for You!

Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO.

Selfie of Mom and me playing BINGO.

For six years, my daughter and I volunteered through a mother-daughter service organization. We had a dozen places throughout our community where we could volunteer together—from 7th grade through her senior year of high school.

Some of the philanthropies we helped out were Guide Dogs of the Desert, Angel View Crippled Children’s Homes, our swim team and the Braille Institute. We were required by the service organization—National Charity League—to put in a minimum number of volunteer hours per year.

One of the funnest and easiest things we’d do is show up at a nursing home and play BINGO with the elderly residents.

imagesI never thought much of it. It was something we’d do occasionally on a Monday night. My daughter would show up with her hair wet from swim practice wearing a t-shirt and shorts. On a big night a half-dozen other girls and their moms would volunteer to get out BINGO cards, the cage and set up seven or eight tables for the residents.

The girls would cruise the hallways and peak into rooms and ask if the residents wanted to join us for BINGO. The regulars would be waiting for us in their wheelchairs for their weekly game.

How did BINGO become so popular? Who invented the game? Here’s a link to a brief history of BINGO.

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I thought about what a difference it makes to the residents of that nursing home to have these young women escort them to BINGO. I never thought about it until last week—after visiting my mom in her assisted living home.

I took my Mom to BINGO for the second time this year. She’s had a blast both times. It got her out of her room. It engaged her mind. We had fun. She said “BINGO!” and won the first round. She had a smile on her face. She was excited to pick out prizes. She was interacting with other residents. Both times she’s promised to go back. But she never does. She’ll be sitting in her room again on Sunday at 1:15 p.m. in the dark, when she could be having another fun 45 minutes of stimulating her mind and getting exercise by walking down the hall and back using her walker. 

I wish they had a group of young ladies that would peak into her room and plead for her to go.

My mom after winning at BINGO. She wanted a fresh glass of water, because

My mom after winning at BINGO. She wanted a fresh glass of water, because “winning makes her thirsty!”

When my daughter was pushing a complete stranger in his wheelchair into the game room on a random Monday night with NCL, I had no idea how much it meant. Not only for my daughter—to learn compassion and think outside of her own immediate needs and desires—but also how much it meant to that elderly person. To get out, interact with people and have a little fun.

I wish we didn’t live two states away. I miss my mom. It was so good to see her so happy playing BINGO.

Here’s another article about how BINGO and the intellectual benefits for elderly.

What to do and say when you’re facing an empty nest, or Is there life after kids? Part 1.

openwaterfinish“What are you going to do after Kat leaves?” I’ve been asked more than a few times. Yes, I’m facing an empty nest, with a soon to be senior at UCSB and my youngest going off to Utah to swim in college.

christmas cardI asked a friend the same thing last year when her youngest left for college. She said it’s unbelievable how many people ask that. She’s a busy person and didn’t think that was going to stop because her kids were living away from home. She liked to answer the question with, “I’ll be taking up underwater, upside down yoga basket-weaving.”

piano lessonsI remember when this friend and I carried our youngest on our hips, and watched our first graders begin their day with an assembly in a courtyard lined with fragrant rosemary bushes. Our babies would wriggle off our hips and run to the playground. I won’t forget the day they were escorted back to us by a horrified teacher that told us they had called their older siblings “poop heads.” Oh my! Those were the days!

friendsatbeachFor the past 25 years I have been serving as a volunteer in one form or another — and the majority of my time has been caring for others. I’ve served on boards of Ad Club and Junior League — in my life before kids. Then the preschool and elementary school boards, room mom for years, National Charity League, the swim team board, etc. It’s been a busy life, filled with great memories and friendships.

katyawnI’ve been changing diapers, wiping noses, making late night trips to the ER with sick or hurt kids, and cooking, cleaning, and driving.

It’s now going to be time for me! Isn’t that an exciting thought?

So, what am I going to do? I’ll let you know at a later date.katandrobertPhotos are from the past 21 years of being a mom. From the top: Kat at June 2014 Open Water National Championships, Robert and Kat at sunset sailing in Santa Barbara, one of 12 years of piano lessons for Robert, at the beach with friends, baby Kat yawning, and a 1997 Christmas card photo.

Top 6 Things Parents Love About Swim Meets

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One of my favorite parts of being a year-round swim parent for the past 14 years has been swim meets. Not home meets, but traveling to meets. Don’t get me wrong, the home meets have their unique qualities that I’m sure I’ll miss — but, travel meets — I’ll definitely miss more.

kat at a meetThis past weekend, we were at a meet in So Cal Thursday through Sunday. Other swim parents posted photos and wrote on Facebook about how much they enjoyed the weekend and meet. My age group swim parenting days are numbered — 40 days and nights to be exact — but who’s counting? With my daughter leaving soon for college, I’m nostalgic about why I and other swim parents love meets. kat meet

My top six reasons why I love swim meets include:

  1. Spending time together.  When you are away for two to five days with your swimmer, you have a captive audience. There’s no distraction of 8 hours at school, followed by 3 hours of swim practice, and hanging out with their non-swim friends. Spending lots of time together, unfettered with household, work, and daily school responsibilities is refreshing. Enjoy your little bubble of time, treat it like a mini-vacation. Play cards, sing songs, go to the beach, have fun! You’ll look back on these days as precious memories.kat girls
  2. Nap time. When your swimmer is older, and in age groups that have prelims and finals, you’ll find yourself in your hotel — with your swimmer — for three to four hours in the middle of the day. Your swimmer needs to be off their feet and resting, so going to the beach isn’t a good choice. Nor is shopping. Bring in lunch, relax, and enjoy some of the best naps you’ll ever have!50Free
  3. Walking. Being at a meet for days on end, without cooking, cleaning, working, etc. allows plenty of time to walk. I walk during warm-ups and warm-downs. I walk with my husband, with friends, and by myself. I look forward to checking out the areas by the pools on foot. Walking gets rid of my nervous energy and walking for hours and miles has to be good for me!kat shelby
  4. Friendships. You’ll spend lots of hours with team parents under the pop-up tent. Mostly, swim parents are generous, encouraging and have the common interest of your team and kids’ successes at heart. I’ve made great friends with parents from other teams and I look forward to seeing them at the away meets. I had a great conversation this past weekend with a parent of another graduating senior. Our daughters are in separate towns, on separate teams, yet they are both swimming in college next year — and going through the same excitements and anxieties. I’ll look forward to seeing these parents in the future, during our college phase of swim meets.kat medals
  5. Watching your swimmer race. What is it about watching your child race that is so rewarding and exciting? I’m not sure, but if you have the answer, please let me know. It’s so exciting when they do well. I love that feeling when I see their hard work pay off and watch their growth as a person and an athlete.kat relays
  6. Sushi. We eat lots of sushi at swim meets. I consider myself a sushi connoisseur and I’ve scouted for the best sushi restaurants near pools throughout Southern California.  My daughter likes to eat sushi at meets, too. It’s healthy, light, provides her with the right fuel to race. My top three favorite Sushi restaurants include: bake-lobster-roll_resize

O Fine Japanese Cuisine, Laguna Beach and Irvine, CAojc_00100_resize

Zen Sushi, Lake Forest, CA, and Orange Roll and Sushi, Fullerton, CA.sunset-laguna-roll_resizeAre you a swim parent, or a sports parent? What are your favorite things about going to away meets?

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3 Tips to Manage a Hectic Life

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Have you ever had one of those weeks where you are literally running from appointment, to meeting, to work, to hosting a party, to watching your kid swim at the year-end championships meet?

And while you’re racing from one end of town to the other, you realize left your left rear fender somewhere?imgres-3

That was my week. I was planning a party with a friend, had to race to the next town for a meeting about a program for a gala event, then my husband called me and asked what was for dinner. One car is in the shop, so we’re juggling and struggling. (And it’s the season-end high school swim meet week.) When I left the meeting to rush to the grocery store for take-out food, I noticed I lost a fender! I raced home with food for the family then I squealed the car out of the driveway to backtrack and criss-cross town to all my previous stops to look for my missing fender! Yes, I found it.

images-11When I feel crazy and out-of-control because of too many conflicts and demands on my schedule, I do three things:

  1. Make a list. I have to write every little thing down. Or, I know for a fact I will forget something. I update the list several times a day.
  2. Breathe and walk. I start each day with a walk to clear my mind and figure out my game plan for the day. It’s amazing how much better your day will turn out with exercise in the a.m.
  3. Be realistic. I’m human and I will not accomplish it all. Nor, can I do everything that people in my life demand of me. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but  add it to your list for the next day. Like a good friend told me this week, “You can’t dance every dance.”  What do you do when your schedule gets crazy and out of control?

Alpha Moms and “The Cupcake Wars”

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If you’re an involved Mom — i.e., room mom, PTA vice president, Scrip mom, etc. you might find yourself ensnared in what I fondly remember as the “The Cupcake Wars.”icecreamcake

On any normal morning, I’d drop my young kids off at school, smothering them with last minute kisses. The coffee klatch moms, led by their queen bee, wore matching short skirts, strappy sandals, and perfect pedicures. I felt the heat of their stares as they gathered in a cluster. I used to be in the inner circle.  What happened?

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What did I do to get ex-communicated from the Mom’s Clique? One morning, I woke up and realized I didn’t have one iota of strength to fight over centerpieces for fundraisers. I no longer cared who chaired which committee, or who sat with whom at which table. I flat out disagreed with a war against one mom’s joy of baking works-of-art cupcakes instead of the required chocolate chip cookies.  Not that these aren’t worthy and high goals, but I’ll leave cupcake massacres to the queen bee.

images-5We women are trained from childhood not to fight or be aggressive, and to be “nice.” We love to share secrets and confidences with our friends. But if a woman feels threatened, she may be afraid that her secrets will be revealed.  She could clobber you with her fists, but it’s more likely she’ll resort to indirect aggression, a skill we’ve honed through the ages. Or, she’ll attack some mom’s cupcakes! (I learned about this from my friend Susan Murphy, Ph.D.)  She says,”Catfights result when the power and self-esteem among women are not kept in balance–a violation of the Power Dead Even Rule.” (Read more about the Power Dead Even Rule in her book “In the Company of Women.”

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Back story on “The Cupcake Wars”: At our kids’ school, you could earn your volunteer hours by baking for hot lunch. Chocolate chip cookies were the standard fare. A friend of mine bakes incredible cupcakes (see photos) — she should open a cupcake business — they are that good. But, the cute cupcakes so distraught the moms baking chocolate chip cookies that the school board banned the baking of cupcakes altogether! The board felt it caused too much turmoil in the lunch line because there weren’t enough to go around. So, rather than try to work out a solution, i.e. rotate the cupcakes each week to a different grade, or having them on a first-come, first-served basis — they said no more cupcakes. They left it up to me to tell my friend that she could no longer bring cupcakes to school! Which was totally wrong, since I strongly disagreed with their decision. My friend couldn’t understand why her fun, delicious cupcakes were banned — and why they didn’t inspire other moms to be creative — yet it was okay to drop off a box of Chips Ahoy. (So, then I campaigned for “Fresh Fruit Fridays” — a story for another day!)

3539053509_f64da7a86dAre there any rules at your school, either as a parent or way back when you were a kid that didn’t make sense?  If so, what are they? I’d like to know!