How do you know it’s time to downsize?

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The view from my back door.

We are thinking about selling our empty nest — the home we moved into 27 years ago — before kids. We started off just the two of us, plus a dog and cat. Now we’re thinking about leaving.

When my husband first brought this concept up, I burst into tears. “But my babies! I had my babies, here!” I blubbered with tears running down my cheeks. Actually, I had my two children in the hospital, down the street, but you understand. Our family was raised in this house. It’s filled with memories of them in a basinet, crib, bunk beds, to the big beds standing empty now in their rooms. Kids coming over. Christmases, birthday parties, swim friends hanging out. Senior prom pictures and all.

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My daughter using the tub to stand.

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My son in his bedroom.

We went looking and found some gorgeous new places to live. It’s kind of exciting, but overwhelming to think about leaving. Cleaning out the house is a project I’m not looking forward to, either. My dear friend Cindy left her giant home and downsized ahead of me. She said “Once you start purging, it grows on you.”

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My view writing on my laptop.

My son is fighting us tooth and nail. According to him, we’re never supposed to sell California real estate. The property is by all rights his and his sister’s — they’ve laid claim to it. Interesting, I never looked at it like that. I’m wondering if they can afford the AC, the pool man, the gardeners, all that stuff we’ll be hoping to get rid of in retirement. I never thought I’d want to sell, but maybe it’s time?

What are your thoughts about selling the family home and down-sizing? When is the right time?

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My back yard 27 years ago.

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My favorite things about swim meets

I wrote this five years ago when my daughter was still swimming with the Piranha Swim Team in Palm Springs. What an amazing time we’ve had as part of Piranhas since 2001. Swimming has been a vital part of our family life, and now with the kids gone, my husband and I have joined as masters. It’s fun to look back at my memories from the team. So many great coaches, kids and parents throughout the swimming community.
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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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Missing My Angus and Birthday Boy


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It’s my son’s birthday is in less than two weeks. I wrote this story a few years ago when he was still in college and Spring Break aligned with his birthday. It was always a treat that he could be home and we’d all celebrate. This year, I’m going to visit him in the Bay area and celebrate his birthday with him there.

I can’t help but get sentimental and nostalgic for when he was a young boy. He called me “sweetheart” because he thought it was my name. When we went to “Mommy and Me” at the Palm Springs Pavilion, there was a “good-bye” song at the end of each session. When his name was called, he’d toddle to the teacher and plant a kiss on her cheek. He was so sweet. Still is.

robert 1In honor of his birthday, I’m reposting a story I wrote when he invited 50 kids to his second grade party. Originally published in the Los Angeles Times Kids’ Reading Room, it’s about Angus our yellow lab of 15 years, who shared my son’s birthday.

A Birthday for the Dogs

“MOM, I’m inviting 50 kids to my party.”

“What, Robert?” Mom said. “That’s too many. Do you know 50 kids?”

I sat in the back seat while Mom drove home after school. My eighth birthday was in two weeks. 

“There’s my class, plus Cub Scouts, and playgroup.”

“I can’t afford to take 50 kids skating or bowling. And I don’t want 50 kids in my house. What about the city pool? It’s heated, open year-round, and it’s only 50¢ a kid,” Mom said.

“A swim party, that’s cool!” I said.

“I’ll say yes to the party, but no to presents. Fifty presents is too much for one 8-year-old. It’s decadent.”

“What’s decadent?” I asked. Mom used words I didn’t know.

“Self-indulgent, corrupt.”

I sat silently and thought I’d be sad with no presents. Then I remembered Angus. Mom got him for me as an early birthday present. We were on a waiting list for two years with Guide Dogs of the Desert. He was being trained as a companion dog for people who couldn’t see. We got him because he had poor hips and couldn’t be a working dog. Angus was big, yellow, and I loved him. We shared the same birthday.

“I have a great idea!”

“What?” Mom asked, glancing at me in her rearview mirror.

“I’ll ask for money for Guide Dogs of the Desert.”

“Ah?” Mom made a weird swallowing noise.

“It’s Angus’s birthday, too.”

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In the rearview mirror I watched Mom dab at the corner of her eyes with a tissue, and nod her head in agreement.

Two weeks later, I had a great birthday. Fifty kids came with bathing suits, towels and money. Instead of opening presents after cake, we counted dollars they had stuffed into a large jar decorated with photos of Angus. 

Together, we raised more than $1,600 for Guide Dogs. Mom called me a “philanthropist” – whatever that is.

Angus8Happy birthday, son! We miss you, Angus!

I’ve been swimming in the rain!

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Reflection in a mud puddle on my morning walk.

It’s been a strange week weather-wise for Palm Springs. That makes it harder for me to concentrate, because instead of the usual sunny blue sky staring back at me, we’ve had clouds, fog and rain. Lots of rain. My view from my laptop keeps changing and I have to keep looking.

I felt like I accomplished something because I suited up and swam in the rain. It took a special nudge to get me to practice when it’s freezing cold and wet outside. The water was 82 degrees and quite nice, but getting in and out of the pool was a challenge. I called my friend Linda, who I swim with and asked, “Are you going to the pool? Did you hear thunder?”

She said with her usual wisdom to get to the pool and “If it’s closed because of thunder and lightening then you can go home and say ‘at least I tried.’ Otherwise you’ll sit home and feel guilty for not going.”

So, following Linda’s advice, I went to the pool on rainy days and jumped in and swam. I had to keep moving, or it was too cold. But, the accomplishment I felt afterward standing in my hot steaming shower was great.

Every morning I went for a walk, regardless of that wet stuff coming down. I bundled up with a warm hat, gloves, and a raincoat over the top. I’d come home wet, but the views were amazing.img_2490This morning we’re back to sunshine and I made a point of getting outside to catch the sunrise with my camera. I was standing in the middle of the street in my bathrobe when I saw a little movement out of the corner of my eye. Trotting down the street were two well-fed coyotes. The big one looked right at me and came towards me. I stretched up tall and yelled, jumping up and down. They ran away but I managed to get one quick picture of the smaller one.img_2504

Then I decided to capture the sunrise from inside my back yard, behind the wall where the coyotes aren’t roaming. This is the mountain turning a gorgeous pink as the sun rises in the East. The palm trees glow, too.img_2505

When the weather changes how does it affect your day?

 

How to let go of stress and chill — as a parent

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Life is less stressful at the beach.

We’re only a few days into 2019 and it’s a perfect time to take a look at how our family lives are going. We can decide to make changes if needed, right? Here are a few questions to ask: Is life too hectic? Are you and your kids too exhausted at the end of the week? Do our kids have any downtime? Are we rushing our kids from activity to activity and then facing homework late at night?

I found this helpful article in the HeraldNet (which was one of the two daily papers we subscribed to when I was a kid — back then it was called The Everett Herald). In “Parenting is stressful; here’s how to be a more relaxed parent,” Paul Schoenfeld explains “Two full-time working parents have become the norm in America — mostly out of financial necessity.”

Here’s an excerpt:

No doubt, one of the hardest jobs I ever had was parenting. Of course, once you have kids, you are always a mom or a dad.

But during the first 18 years of life (at a minimum) parents have a huge responsibility — not just to provide for their children, but to help them become independent, decent adults.

When children do become independent, we can sit back and relax a little. But it takes a long time to reach that moment.

As both a grandparent and a child psychologist, I can see how today’s parents feel particularly stressed. Two full-time working parents have become the norm, mostly out of financial necessity.

Upward mobility was always a fact of 20th-century life — children were likely to do better than their parents. But in the 21st century, that is not a given. Indeed, most kids won’t be better off than their parents. There is even the possibility that they will do worse.

This new economic reality pushes parents to enrich their children’s lives with all kinds of extra activities — music lessons, dance, art, sports and tutoring. Parents are spending more time helping their children with their homework, too. This new reality has been called “intensive parenting.”

For many working parents, it’s plain exhausting.

Schoenfeld says there is no evidence that all this extra time we’re spending on activities result in our kids becoming successful adults. In fact, with anxiety rates rising in our youth, it may be one of the underlying causes. We do have more kids with anxiety and depression than ever before. That’s a fact. What can we do as parents to help our kids become independent and happy adults — and alleviate stress in their lives? We can try to be less stressed ourselves.

Here are some tips from Schoenfeld:

Here’s how to be a more relaxed parent in 2019:

At the end of the day, trust yourself. Sure, there is a lot of useful information out there. But you know your kids better than anyone else. Trust your own intuition, knowledge of your child and your own common sense.

Be realistic. Too much is too much. If you see that both you and your kids are exhausted at the end of the week, take a step back. You can’t be everything to everybody.

Take care of yourself, too. Try to get enough sleep. So what if your house and your yard won’t be perfect. If you don’t take care of yourself, you are going to be a grumpy, irritable parent. You won’t like yourself and neither will your kids.

Limit screen time. I know, I sound like a broken record. But too much time on email, computer screens, television, smartphones and video games sucks your time up like a vacuum cleaner. It doesn’t really add quality to children’s lives. I don’t think it makes parents’ lives better either.

Savor your child’s childhood. Turn off your cellphone, step back from your “have to’s” and “shoulds” and simply enjoy your children! These are precious, fleeting moments. Savor them, drink them in. Engrave them in your memory. Be 100 percent present and in the moment. You won’t regret it.

Paul Schoenfeld is director of The Everett Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. His Family Talk Blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.

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Angus and the kids during one of our relaxed summers. No wonder we treasured our summers!

Looking back, I sure could have used this advice back in the day. I’ll never forget when my son was in middle school and he was super busy (which means I was tearing my hair out). It was his choice to audition for the school play, try out for basketball, continue with piano lessons, enter a piano competition, have his science fair project make it through the local and county levels and then prepare for state. Plus, continue with the Piranha Swim Team. It was great he wanted to do all these things. But, as a parent, I was the one who should have said, “No. Let’s pick a few things and try the others at another time.”

I let him do it all and tried to support him. It meant I was dropping my son off at his piano teacher’s in Cathedral City, running my daughter to the pool (that was the one activity besides school she was passionate about) in Palm Springs. Then I drove back to piano to take my son to basketball practice at St. Theresa’s in Palm Springs — driving back and forth on the Cross Valley Parkway like a maniac trying to get to the activities on time. One night, I missed a turn, tried to do a U-ey — and smashed into the curb. Flat tire, bent rim. I realized it was time to stop and slow down.

Today, my son says he has recurrent stress nightmares from that time in his life. Mainly that I signed him for a swim meet, and he’d been too busy to go to practice. Talk about a nightmare!

robertkatbangsWhat gives you a clue that you’re trying to do much in your life? What do you do to slow down?

Getting back to my normal routine

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This is my view as I write.

After a busy week celebrating Christmas with my kids and guests, today I’m having a normal day. My routine feels great. I swam for the first time since last Friday and also found time to work on writing projects. Yay for me!

We were fortunate to have a houseful of interesting, intelligent people in our house for Christmas. My son’s girlfriend arrived with her mom and six siblings. They’re all talented go getters and crazily accomplished. I felt at first like we were being invaded by a superior race of human beings.

On Christmas Eve, we were treated to a viola concert by two of the sisters, who happen to be professional musicians. One was a Cal grad and the other has two Masters degrees from Yale. I came from a musical home, and having a live concert in our home moved me to tears. My dad was with us and he was amazed and delighted, too.

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One of our meals together.

The family drove up to Joshua Tree to watch the sunrise, ran the Tram road, hiked the Karl Lykken Trail, and worked out in the gym. We managed to fit in a walk to Robolights, too.

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Robolights

Athletically gifted, most of the family rows and they work out and run. One was an NCAA champion from Cal and coaches for the East Bay Rowing Club. I wrote about one of the daughters and her first running race — the Boston Marathon — here. The second to the youngest is double majoring at U Penn in Engineering and the Wharton School of Business — while being team captain of the Women’s Rowing. Yikes, it’s mind boggling to have so much going on in one family. It makes me feel like a slouch.

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The nightly charcuterie board created by my son.

Along with the energy and big personalities, everyone seemed so happy and appreciative to be in Palm Springs. They lifted my spirits and filled my empty nest. They also ate an amazing amount of apples. On Christmas Day, I bought 24 Honeycrisp apples and the next day I was off to the store for 18 more.

 

 

As much as I loved having guests, my empty nest is welcomed once again. I was sad at first to have my kids leave and our newfound friends, but getting back to my normal routine is nice, too.

 

Views from my morning walks

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Beauty.

I’ve been lousy about going to the pool lately. Mainly because of two reasons. First, I went to visit my daughter in Arizona for several days. Second, I got a nasty cold and I felt weak, congested and couldn’t breathe. Those are two absolutely acceptable reasons to skip Masters swimming, don’t you think?

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The Wellness Park in Palm Springs.

One thing that I haven’t missed, despite going out of town and feeling less than stellar, are my morning walks. In Arizona, I got to walk Waffles. Here, at home, the weather finally changed for the better. It feels perfect and the views are gorgeous. It’s the best I feel all day, being out in nature for an hour, soaking up the sun and radiant desert plants and mountain views.

I also treasured the days I had hanging out with Waffles, plus working on my laptop catching up on work. He’s a good companion, but not nearly as good as my daughter. We did the usual things we enjoy as a mother-daughter team. We went for a pedicure, she cooked me dinner, we shopped and we sat together and talked. All in all, the time together made me once again appreciate the small special things in life. Like having a daughter who wants me to come stay with her from time to time.

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Waffles

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Waffles and my daughter at Tempe Beach Park.

What are your favorite parts of the day? Do you find that they are spent outside or with family, too?