I always want to be surprised!

(Warning: This is long and probably boring if you’re not me. But, I don’t want to forget this weekend.)2017 varsity 8.png

Spent this past Thursday through Sunday in Sarasota for the Youth National Rowing Championships. Andy was not rowing – he was an alternate. He wasn’t thrilled. Mike and I were iffy about spending the money and going to Sarasota. Weather was predicted to be bad. There have been a lot of “growing pains” friction among board members and active volunteers lately. (When Andy joined, the team was struggling with the jump from 40 to 80 rowers.  Today, we have over 160 rowers! Change is painful.)

I drove to Sarasota on Thursday morning to drop kids off for their 10 am check in and practice. I was kind of dreading a weekend of trying not to say the wrong thing and avoiding conflict and just making the best of things. Nationals is a weird race – we have no food trailer, no real responsibilities as parents other than to chaperone and drive the kids. I was doing neither.

I spent Thursday exploring Sarasota  and Sarasota. We go to Sarasota a lot but usually just hotel, race course and maybe a restaurant.  Thursday, I got a great haircut. Visited about 8 thrift/vintage stores. And managed an hour at the beach before heading to the hotel. Hotel was lovely – we try to support people who are working to restore/revive the older hotels in Sarasota. We had one we really liked but they are doing so well we can no longer afford them!  This time we opted for the Lantern Inn and Suites.  Our room was great and totally updated.

I was on my own Thursday so I picked up a sub for dinner and checked in. I had a few writing jobs to work on so I settled in.  Okay, I took a two hour nap first.  Then I messed around with the cable (we don’t have cable at home) and discovered a Harry Potter marathon. Seriously? It was the best day ever!  Did my articles and everyone was happy.

Friday, I headed to the race course but no rush – my kid wasn’t racing.  Our team had a rough time trial period and there were LOTS of unhappy kids, parents and coaches. I gave Andy a hug, went to Walmart and bought a cheap bathing suit (Mike had the beach bag) and went to the beach alone. I ate hot dogs (2) with excellent sauerkraut and some nachos and just people watched.  Me at the beach without a book? Never happens. But it did and I had the best time.

Mike arrived and we went for dinner with friends we have been volunteering with for years. We’ve always had fun working with these folks but . . . when no one has any responsibilities?  None of us was dragging a trailer. No one had their dog(s) and no one had extra kids. SO MUCH more fun. We went to a restaurant that was new to all of us. Delicious and really good service. Mostly, though, we laughed and laughed and there was no dread about having to be up at 5 to get the food tent set up.

Saturday, we headed early to the race venue. Weather was iffy. About half way through the weather turned. High winds, lightning and no more rowing. We ended up trapped with the boys team and a handful of chaperones and random parents. We were all soaked, the kids were rowdy and funny and we made the best of it. A dad I have only talked to a few times but who Mike knows stopped by to invite everyone (adults) to a local micro-brewery that evening.  Mike and I have been there before – you can’t go wrong with a place that has rock-em-sock-em robots on every inside table, a grilled cheese truck out front (seriously – lobster/grilled cheese?) and horseshoes and bocce ball in the back patio area?

This guy is my hero. He spent Friday and Saturday walking around the whole venue inviting anyone in orange and blue to come to JDubs Brewery. And, they came. There were about 60 OARS people who showed up. Many had never met. This is a lot of people as we were only traveling with four boats (about 40 kids).  So awesome! Multiple people offered to split the tab with this dad and he just kept saying, “This is great. I’m happy to pick up the tab.”

I don’t think the tab was a big deal for him but he was so right. It was awesome. So many people talking and so many people rethinking and so many people getting along. I think this generous dad put our club ahead about five years. For the price of a few (okay – probably more than a few) beers and some grilled cheese!  Sunday morning – there were all kinds of new friendships and the tension from the past few months was gone!

I don’t even know how to explain it – that simple invitation (the man was running around inviting complete strangers) changed the climate of our team!  As far as the kids’ races went? It was not a great year for us but . . . it’s crazy to complain when your boats end up in the top ten in the country.  The really great thing – the parents were all sane about it. It was just a wonderful, low stress, friendly ending to a well-run event.  People who wouldn’t share the same sidewalk on Thursday were having civil conversations on Sunday.

Thank you Mr. M!

reid and andy regionals 2017‘Thank you Andy for accepting your role as an alternate (Reid, too).  You guys were awesome doing whatever was asked and keeping the coaches on track.  And, you totally looked like assistant coaches!



On Becoming “That” Parent …

reid and andy regionals 2017Four kids. Three grown(ish). Through it all, I’ve prided myself on not becoming “that” parent. The parent that makes excuses for their kids. The parent that takes their kid’s successes and failures too seriously. You know – the “high-road” parent? This weekend, at least in my head, I became “that” parent.

Andy’s rowing team went to Regionals. I did not even anticipate Andy going to regionals this year so had not planned to attend. However, when the coaches put him in a pair (2 man boat) he was excited and their times were good. I booked a room and headed to Lake Lanier, GA. First day was time trials and they took third. I was so nervous and excited for Sunday’s finals.

Never mind that our team mainly rows 8-man boats year-round. The boys had a week and a half to practice in a two. They finished fourth. Fourth in the entire Southeast. A normal parent would have been thrilled, even if she knew the boys in the boat would be disappointed. Me? Nope. I finally snapped. I’ve never been so sad at the result of anything any of my boys have done. Part of my brain knew I was crazy but, the other part was insanely disappointed, sad and kind of angry.

I’d like to take a moment to thank the sane part of my brain for taking charge. I really only lost it internally and only for a few minutes. But, as the Talking Heads famously asked, “Well, how did I get here?”

I think if you have a kid that starts out strong and does exceedingly well in a sport it’s hard when they change categories – Andy went from lightweight to the big time this year. But, the thing is, that’s HIS fight. Not mine. My fight is to feed him, make sure school’s a priority and to nag him about brushing his teeth. His accomplishments (or lack thereof) are not about me. I know this. I’ve always known this. Funny how I forgot so late in this “race” called parenthood.

I’m back to sane again thanks to a long drive home fueled by caramel M&Ms and a great audio edition of Anna Karenina. Funny how a “hard” book forces you to focus and move on.

No point to this. Just sharing. No matter how sane you are and no matter how long you stay sane, you’re always vulnerable. Take it from me, you don’t want to be “that” parent. I’m just grateful that my experience happened entirely inside my head. 😉

And the beat goes on . . .

Tonight Andy and his friend-that-is-a-girl are at the prom. It’s not at her high school and it’s not in our living room (aka homeschool prom). Instead, some fellow rowers issued the two of them invitations to the prom at their high school as it’s being held on one of the very few weekends there is not a race. Tim dropped by in time to go with Andy to take pictures, pre-prom. The other young man is Andy’s official “date.” But, let’s face it, they’re all accessories to the friend-that-is-a-girl. You can’t tell from the pictures but her earrings are butterfly wings that match the dress! (I’m sure the wings were donated and no actual butterflies were harmed in the making of the earrings.)

In other news, we were happy to see Ian Thursday night. He stayed here before catching a flight to Minneapolis. He’ll be back again Sunday night. Sounds like he’s having fun so far. Don’t know if he’ll end up there. I don’t know if he appreciates what living in such a cold climate entails . . . like shoes on a regular basis.

20170409_135535While I was (ahem) in Paris, Mike did the kitchen counters with concrete. The counters are awesome. However, they looked awful with the gray of the cabinets. Now our kitchen looks like this.  The backsplash is pallets – easy enough to change when we get tired of them and can afford what I really like. 😉

Other things I have neglected to blog about . . .

  • 20170401_123224Mike’s parents came down to see one of Andy’s races. They didn’t realize they had signed up for hard labor. They helped us with food for the race and to get ready for a party after the race. It all worked out. Andy’s boat won by a huge margin – which is especially fun for people watching who have never been to a regatta.  The party was equally fun. We are so lucky to know such a great (sometimes weird) mix of people! There was food, a birthday celebration, more food and occasional bursts of singing. Andy’s friends made clean up easy – there was NOTHING left over. (Andy is second from the right in this picture.)


  • We celebrated our one year anniversary in this house. Believe it or not, Mike found NEW garden sculptures just last week. I think that puts us up to about 25 hidden gnomes, creepy children and a barn yard full of “found” statues. The newest ones include a terrifying duck with dead, glass eyes and a dragonfly thing whose wings flap in the wind and make a creepy sucking sound. (Notice how Mike is wearing his falcon gloves to handle them.) 20170422_153047 My mom insists that the neighbors are sneaking in at night to hide them in the yard to scare us away. Not going to happen. Sure we’re scared but we’re not leaving.
  • And, finally, just because it was SO hard to find a suit to fit Andy – a picture of him all gussied up. This picture represents hours and hours of work culminating in me pitching a small fit that he put on the jacket AND shoes AND socks so I could take a picture. I don’t care if it IS 89 degrees. The smile is the result of Tim standing behind me as I  took the picture shouting “She is The Queen of the Harpies.” I relish the title.



Hope all is going well in your worlds. Next weekend we head to Sarasota for the state championships. I’ll try to take pictures. I’ll definitely collect stories.

Nonanowrimo this year

20161112_081237I must be getting old. As Halloween came to a close and a new month beckoned, I was optimistic that I could manage back-to-back weekend-long races for Andy, host Thanksgiving for 20+ people, create ornaments for my GIANT Harry Potter tree AND write a short novel. Oh yeah, and I am making and selling soap for the holidays – share with your friends and neighbors. About 6000 words into my November novel, I realized I just couldn’t do it this year.

And? That’s fine. Andy is a junior and he’ll be gone before I blink again. Once he’s gone, I’ll just sit here and write bad novels because I’ll have nothing else to do – no food, no laundry. Well, maybe a little bit but not much. For now, I’m going to focus on the real-life things going on.  (Of course, I’ll be taking notes for when I DO get time to write a novel.)

This weekend, we headed forty minutes east to Stetson University. I love Stetson – it’s a beautiful campus and it’s not surrounded by acres of strip malls (yet). I’m sure I’ve talked about this race before20161112_074921. It’s the one where you park in the cow pasture and hike in to the riverside. I love the idea of living the country but, truth be told, I don’t know that I’d be much good at it. There is poop everywhere!

Andy raced in the “B” varsity boat both Saturday and Sunday. They did well. The boat is full of kids who raced in last year’s lightweight boat who grew and gained weight over the summer. They’re big and strong and getting used to their new abilities. Sunday was a 21K race. (13+ miles). Andy’s boat was third. A very strong finish. After the race, all the boys had to walk their boats back to the start, de-rig (remove hardware) and load boats onto their team trailers. Andy got home and slept for 4 hours without moving once!

Pictures are of my view from the food tent. We were feeding 105 rowers this weekend. When not racing, they sprawl in the tent. The top picture is just to show how pretty the sky was and how big the boats look out of the water. My apologies – I do many things well. Photography is not on my list of skills.




29945Road trip finished. Chattanooga is a fun little town. There is a stretch where an artist has painted these tree trunks blue as some kind of environmental awareness thing – I was too tired to read it all. The trees are striking but ultimately creepy after my fourth pass.

29938Whoever was in charge of organizing the Head of the Hooch race did a fantastic job. (This statue gives you an idea of how important this event has become to the town. I thought it was kind of cool.) There were more than 10,000 rowers there from all over the world and it all went off without a major glitch. Thousands of boats on trailers, thousands of equipment trailers and thousands of spectators and, throughout the entire weekend, I did not hear (and I love to listen in on conversations) anyone complaining about anything significant.

I had a great drive up to Tennessee. I dropped Andy off at his bus at 3:30 am. Stopped for gas, caffeine and finding an audiobook on my phone and hit the road around 4 am. Decent book (The Last Tribe) – I picked it because the reader was Scott Brick and I’m a fan of his. I stopped in Atlanta and FINALLY met one of my long-time imaginary friends, Abbey and her two daughters for lunch.  After all of these years, I was fairly certain Abbey was not really imaginary. But, now I know she’s real and as awesome as I’ve always thought. Added bonus, she has really great girls!

Checked into the Read House around 3:30 pm. Nice hotel, really helpful staff. Super comfy beds. So comfy, in fact, I took a two hour nap before doing anything else. (The link takes you to a site that explains why the hotel is haunted. I encountered nothing weird at all just thought that link would be more interesting than a generic hotel website.)

29886I was part of the “food team” (though, until I get a team cape, I will never really feel at home). We were at the assigned race site at 6:30 am cooking breakfast for coaches and 100+ rowers. It was COLD (well, 40ish). After that, we made lunch. On Sunday we did it all again. I won’t lie, it was a LOT of work and I would not sign on for it again. Two twelve hour days after an 8 1/2 hour drive there and back? Ummm … not. Our rowing club has grown significantly since Andy joined. The parent volunteers? Not so much. That will be changing, I hope, in the near future.

There were small windows to explore the vendors, the bridges and the local artists and shops. I enjoyed it all – despite the fact that I was a total disaster. I brought my normal, comfy regatta shoes (I have three pair I usually bring). Never once thought that I wear those shoes all the time with no socks. I was cold in Chattanooga so I was wearing socks. By the time I realized that my feet hurt because of the socks rubbing back and forth, my toes and heels were bloody messes. I spent half of Saturday and all of Sunday walking around in my double layers of socks because shoes were not a possibility. Add my three visits to the first aid tent for knife wounds in the food tent and can you blame Andy for ignoring me?

img_3264Andy did not race until 12:15 Sunday. It was his first time racing in a 2-man boat. They did very well in a field of 40 finishing 17th. However, Andy is used to being in a boat that rarely finishes below third. Learning curve.  He and his rowing partner, Reid, however, had a lot of fun training and racing. We’ll see what happens in the spring. I’m a goober mom – the fact that they did not tip over and were brave enough to do the 5K without arm floaties made me proud.

Anyway, it was fun to get to know a new town. I spent my time volunteering with great, tireless, truly funny people. Can’t ask for much more.

Next weekend? We’re heading to Stetson University. 5K on Saturday and a 10K on Sunday. Send carbs.

Road Trip!

2016 andy hoochSo excited. In a last minute turn of events, I am headed early, early this morning to Chattanooga, TN to watch Andy row in the Head of the Hooch regatta – the second largest regatta in the U.S. I’m bummed Mike can’t come with me but, I’m also excited for a chance to travel on my own (Andy rides on the team bus). That doesn’t happen too often. (Pic is last year’s lightweight 8 with Andy in the front.)

I was able to take over a hotel room (they’re hard and expensive to come by this weekend) from parents who made other last-minute arrangements. I’ll be in walking distance to everything which is awesome. I rarely get lost when I’m walking. I always get lost driving in new cities – ask anyone who has ever been in a car with me.

Andy is excited. He gained about 20 pounds over the summer and can no longer row on the lightweight boat. This year he and a friend will be rowing a two man boat. It’s a new challenge and he has been having a blast at practice.  The team’s 2-man boat is “vintage” at best. This week, a family who has rowers on the team offered Andy the use of their 2016 boat for this race. Short of giving two high school juniors brand new cars, you’ve never seen such excited young men. They took the boat out yesterday. Andy said it’s like going from driving my old Suburban to driving a custom-made Ferrari. Should be fun to watch.

I’ll try to remember to take pictures. I’m committed to working in the food tent for Saturday and Sunday but I’m free to wander Friday afternoon and evening! If you know of any must-sees or must-eats in Chattanooga please let me know.

Couldn’t hurt to say a quick prayer my phone tells me the best way to get there and that I pay attention to the lady in the phone. 8)



Happy September!

naked victor hugoI give up. I don’t know where time goes. (Well, I kind of do, I just passed the 1400 level on Candy Crush – yay me.  My grandkids will be so proud one day.)  Anyway, the time is gone. It’s 11:45 and I’ve set a goal to post something remotely interesting everyday in September. We’ll see how it goes. 😉

Quick update . . . we’re on our third week of eleventh grade. Surprise, Andy was not interested in my idea for a first day of school picture. (Tall, lean, muscular kid in his sleeping pants scowling at me through the bagel in his mouth – there’s your picture.)  Andy is not thrilled with the start of his junior year. In the past, this was when his brothers started picking up 3-4 classes at the local college. Our moving date precluded Andy from enrolling until January. Woohoo! More time with mom.  (He doesn’t get that I’m at least as disappointed as he is.) We’re actually making the best of it and having some fun.

British Literature (a la Stobaugh) has been kind of fun so far. We’re finishing up Beowulf (for the fourth and final time).  Andy’s writing has improved and it’s nice that he’s reading much faster.  I’m really looking forward to Hamlet, Frankenstein,  Tale of Two Cities and Jane Eyre.  We just have to suck up some poetry with our best serious faces before we get there. For me poetry is like scrapbooking – I love all the elements but when faced with it in real life, my enthusiasm evaporates.

We’re saving the rest of his sciences for college courses. The outstanding Derek Owens is teaching Pre-Calculus this year. This man saved Andy and me from many arguments and tears last year and I am expecting more of the same this year. Somehow, Andy can accept when Derek Owens tells him the answer is wrong. When I tell him …. sigh. So, if you’ve got preteens/teens that you’re homeschooling and math involves tears and you walking away to bang your head on the washing machine – this is worth checking out.

To round things out, I’ve added a college-level Poli-Sci class and a college-level Psychology class. No credit but it will give him an idea of the reading and level of work expected.

BUT . . . The BEST BEST BEST thing about this year so far has been french.  I’ve followed Lindsay at Lindsay Does Languages.  Not because I’m adept at languages but because I think she’s a really interesting young woman.  She recommended Frantastique as her favorite way to learn French. Andy and I have been slogging away for two years and I was open to suggestions. Can I get an “AMEN!?”

This is the highlight of our day. The lessons are short and perfect for a teen. A little snarky but also a little sneaky with the history  they put in to each lesson. (One lesson was Victor Hugo announcing on his facebook page that he was alive and having a party that evening. Balzac and 48 others “like” this idea.)  If the idea of a naked (cartoon) Victor Hugo offends you – skip this. If you are not open to aliens wishing to promote the spread of French culture, skip this as well. If you’re intrigued, go for it. It’s really well done and entertaining to boot.

We laugh. We replay the lessons and Andy is getting it.  I had a a lot of French through middle school-college.  I can read just fine. Speaking? Not so much. I love the option of French/French or Canadian/French pronunciations. The corrections and the options to personalize things are exactly what we needed.

So we plug along. Still don’t know any of our new neighbors. Not sure that I want to. But, we love being close to my mom and closer to work and rowing.  And, for someone like me, the painting possibilities  are still seemingly endless so it’s all good.

And, that concludes September 1.  We’ll see if I can manage September 2.

Quick Brag

rowing 2016 mag coverAndy is off camping this weekend. The first picture is the cover of R0wing, the magazine. Yes, it’s a thing.







But, inside? This picture? It’s an ad for one of the biggest races on the East coast. And they used Andy’s Lightweight 8 boat for their ad. Andy is in the first seat, also called the stroke. He is never the stroke seat. Kind of cool.2016 andy hooch


Beginnings and Endings

20160620_205129Tomorrow (actually, today, it’s late) Andy takes his driver’s license test. It’s the beginning of the end of my hands-on, constantly involved, mom life. He’ll be like the rest of my sons who have abandoned me to live their own lives (I kid – sort of). He’s so excited and I’m excited for him. But am I also kind of sad.  What’s next?

Monday would have been my parents’ 52nd Anniversary. It was also Danny and Christi’s first anniversary. Bittersweet. If you’re so inclined, send virtual hugs to my mom and to all of us. We need them. It’s hard to explain how much we all miss my dad. And, it’s hard to explain how much we love having Christi as part of our family. (Christi’s mom and I decided that we’re co-in-laws. I kind of like that. We’re not technically related but we are so very connected.)

Last Saturday, we “tested” the house by hosting and open house/party. The house works! It actually works really well. I think there were about 50 people here at the height of the party. The whole house was getting used. All the food was being eaten. Rowing people met scout people. Old neighbors met new neighbors. It was a lot of fun (though, I am still kind of tired from getting ready lol). Mike made an awesome s’mores cake. Some people thought it was a ceramic decoration before we cut into it.

At the end of the night, we had some of the old neighbors spend the night. That was awesome. Everyone pitched in and by the time the kids had the air mattresses set up the house was clean and breakfast and coffee were set up. All parties should end this way. Added bonus, I got to catch up on neighborhood news and speculations.

The party felt like a beginning. Bringing people into the new house. Inviting a totally random mix of people made things fun (scary while anticipating it). I finally feel like this house is ours. We’ve broken it in. I know, I’m weird.

This weekend marks the eighth (I think) bi-annual beach week for our family. Again, bittersweet. Nothing will be the same without my dad. At the same time, I love that my parents started this tradition and we intend to continue it. Over the July 4 weekend, we’ll have everyone here and it will be wonderful to be together.  At the last beach week, we had a party for my parents’ 50th anniversary and Danny proposed to Christi. We can remember past beach weeks and talk about the future as well. It’s amazing how quickly things can change and I want to cling to the best of all of it as much as I can.

Cross your fingers at 11:50 this morning. Andy is a good driver so it should all be good. And then get ready for a long summer of rambling blog posts as I’ll no longer have a car or be able to leave my house. 😉


Aaaannnnnd . . . it’s Friday again!

pool readingMan, this has been the slowest and fastest week on record. I feel like I’ve finally regained control of the house and some of my life after the wedding.  I also feel like I’m behind on so many things I’ve been neglecting! Can’t win.

Dan and Christi are getting settled into married life.  They are discovering just how small their apartment is as we’ve been shipping wedding gifts their way!  They are planning their honeymoon (Puerto Rico) for the end of July.  I’m so happy they’re not putting it off too long.

Settling into the fact that we have a married child has both Mike and me thinking that no matter how young we feel (really) – we have been together a LONG time and when you really look at it, we have been through a lot – sickness, health, richer, poorer and every insane thing that falls into another category. I guess it could make me anxious for Dan and Christi but, honestly, I’m so excited to see what the future holds for them.  So many possibilities.

In other news, things here keep moving along. Ian reported another set of straight A’s for his summer term. Not bad for a homeskooled kid, huh?  He’s working a lot for the rest of the summer and trying to catch up on some fun reading. Tim had a friend-who-is-a-girl visit this week from Iowa.  She was all that Tim described and more. Fun, funny, smart and adorable. I’m so happy to finally meet her.  He’s got two years in Tallahassee and she will be two years at Univ. of Iowa, so who knows what will happen.  Still, I love seeing Tim so happy.

Andy’s had rowing again all week. Because that is what he does. Row. Now he drives and rows. He’s up to driving in 40 mph zones.  Kill. Me. Now.  I’m too old to be teaching another kid to drive! Andy’s not even a bad driver so far.  It’s just the fact that you know they are NOT in control of the car and the only way they can learn is to do things.  Have I mentioned that my “jesus handle” is broken?  There’s only so much my feet on the dashboard can do.  If you have kids coming up on driving age, start stretching now – you want to have multiple ways to brace yourself!!!!!

I was beyond excited this afternoon when Mike told me that he and my brother are closing the warehouse tomorrow and taking a day off.  Not only does Mike need it, he’s happy to drive with Andy.  A BREAK!!!!!  Our neighbors are away for one of their son’s baseball tournaments.  We are watching the fish and feeding a couple of stray cats they have always taken care of.  The fish are needy.  I think I might get up and buy myself a float tomorrow and keep an eye on the fish while reading and floating in their pool.  (I must say that they would let me float in their pool any old time.  But, it’ll just be me and my book and the fish.  I can hardly wait.)

Speaking of books, this spring I read Mr. Mercedes.  With writing all the time, it’s hard to find time to read. I have taken May and June off from writing. I’ve been looking forward to reading non-school-related fun stuff.  For my birthday, Dan sent Finders, Keepers and Tim/Andy gave me House of Leaves.  Even if you’re not a Stephen King fan – the first two books are fun. They’re not terribly supernatural, more mystery.  Great characters.  Definitely fun beach reads.  I have just started House of Leaves.  I have had it on my to-read list forever. It’s supposed to be VERY scary.  I’m not too far into it but I can definitely tell you it’s weird.

I got new tires this morning. While I waited, I walked to Chik-Fil-A and grabbed breakfast and read.  I almost burst into tears on the section I read this morning – so unexpected! Instead, I bought myself an ice cream cone for breakfast-dessert. Tears contained.  I’ll keep you posted as I get further into the book.  When that one is done, I still have a stack on my nightstand – I wonder how long I can put off tenth grade for Andy????

We are looking forward to an uneventful 4th of July – no party planned. Nothing. Our grumpy neighbor did call the police tonight but it was nothing Andy and his friends were doing – the nice police officer just drove by and waved.  Gah!!!  Hope you all have a great holiday weekend!