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.



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)



How I spent my summer vacation …

Well not really my summer vacation (for that I went to the beach) but, I did get some really nice down time from rowing and all the rest of things. As I ease back into our school/life routine, though, I want to take a minute to share some of my bad pictures – I try but photography escapes me – of things I’ve been working on. No reason except I do like being able to come back to the blog just to check I’ve made progress every couple of years or so.


I.  Kitchen Table  When we moved in, I put our awesome garbage pick-Ethan Allen table in this space. It was a grekitchen-tableat table but it was simply TOO BIG. I found this table a couple of weeks ago at a thrift store. Perfect size. I painted it and distressed it because who are we kidding? Between me, Mike and the boys – any table we own is going to be distressed. I just decided to end the suspense and do it first off. (Can you see Dolores-the-Cow waving at you?)

II. Bread Box

When I first started blogging (10 years ago!!!!!) I found a bread box. It delighted me then. It delights me now. It’s a bread box. It needed an update after a decade of hard use.  I like it. I was even inspired enough to go find a new sandwich bread recipe. If you’re into making bread, I highly recommend it. I had the best grilled cheese sandwich ever this afternoon . . . from the bread in my bread box.  Guess how big it is?  (Sorry, I’m going to breathe into my paper bag for a bit before I write anymore.)

III. Suitcases

When Mike and I were young and beautiful and living in an awesome historic cottage when Danny was born (remember those times? – “It’s so cute, we don’t need closets or central a/c, look at the molding!)  we lived next to an old, old man who was funny and facing leaving his house to move to an assisted living facility. He was going to toss some old suitcases and I asked if I could take them. He thought I was a loon. These suitcases have served as storage/night stands/coffee tables and one was even a depository (would that be the antonym for suppository?) for cards at Danny’s wedding. But, they were old and sad when I brought them into this house. I painted them, added new linings and even practiced transferring (imperfectly) prints to surfaces.  They look just at home in the entrance way. All I need now is an umbrella stand and a coat rack (you know, the essentials for FL living).

IV.  Living Room/Office

This house has a “formal” living room space. We don’t really need that. What we need is a place for me to make my messes and not have to spend an hour every night putting everything away. So we’ve decided to make the formal living room my work space.  Andy can use the little office in the back for school. I moved the awesome Ethan Allen/garbage table into the living room. I can write, sew, paint, knit, whatever in here. If we’re expecting a crowd, it’s easy enough to clean up and have a decent sized dining room.  It’s a work in progress but, I’m so happy, I have craved this kind of freedom/space for years and years.

The chair? Awesome thrift store find! The fabric is so perfect. (In fact, my mom is working on a water color based on the chair – JUST FOR ME!) The table – big and perfect for all my mess. The reddish cabinet – I’m still working on that but it’s going to be my sewing station.  Now I just need to find me a dressmakers dummy.


I’ve been collecting frames from thrift stores for months – I try to get them at $.99 (preferably in the 1/2 off color of the week) and I  sand them down and spray paint them black. Amazing how a single color can unify a bunch of unrelated frames – at least well enough not to make my eye twitch. I have a ton of pictures that are perfect for the weird wall in our family room. I got started this weekend. Now I just need more frames.

You can kind of see where I did new pillows for the couch but they look awful because, gasp, Mike, Tim and Andy were actually using them! I’ll get a picture another day. They’re kind of fun – houndstooth, an old wool sweater, a great turquoise shower curtain and some remnants from Hobby Lobby. And a bit of burlap and ribbons.

Okay, not terribly exciting but I hope parts were interesting. So far, I’m on schedule for September. I think.

Tomorrow . . . let’s talk soap. Who wants soap. Who wants to learn to make soap?



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



Well, another month is gone and I haven’t been blogging. Ugh. The days just fly by and so much has been going on and I am in the midst of all of it. It doesn’t help that I cannot focus or hold a thought lately to save my life. By the time I sit down to “goof” around at the computer, I can’t remember what made me sit down in the first place. I’m turning into an 8-year-old with each passing day.

We successfully shipped Ian off to Florida State and he and Dan are living in brotherly harmony as I type. Or not. My monkeys, but no longer my daily problem. They both started classes on Monday. I talked to Ian and he is settling in well. He took his server’s job at Chili’s here in Orlando with him to Tallahassee and is pleased with his new schedule and environment. Dan never calls me anymore and I have to rely on reports from Ian. (Dan, why do you never call?)  😉 I kid. Dan was in position for a good start to the school year and eventually, I’ll hear about it.

Dan and Christi have set a date! Gah! I’m not old enough to be a mother-in-law (at least in my mind). June 20, 2015 is the date we will add another Baker to our family tree.  (Someone remind me to plant the tree and label it before June?)  It’s kind of an awesome date though, that is my parent’s real anniversary. Dan and Christi will get married on my parent’s 51st anniversary. They will celebrate their own 50th anniversary in 2065!  (Yes, I imagine they’ll renew their vows while wearing the jet packs promised to us by the Jetson’s.)

Christi, aka the-girl-that-is-a-friend, is in Michigan starting graduate school. Dan is in Tallahassee finishing up his degree. It’s going to be a long year for both of them I think.  (I would know more if Dan ever called me. But, you know, he neglects me. Feel sorry for me.)

Tim is here, school full-time and working. He definitely misses his brothers – as he’s ripping loft beds down, repainting his room and enjoying the extra space. He’s got a new job at a photography studio and so far the hours are great and school-friendly. I know he’s sick of living with us, but he’s taking the smart route by working and saving and living with free rent, food and laundry. I like having him here and Andy likes not losing all his brothers at once. He and Tim get along really well and are having fun in their free time.

In other news, we took my car in for one problem and it had every other problem you can imagine. And, nothing wrong with my car fell into the recall category. The car is home and I’ve worked the mechanic smell out of it. For what we paid, though, this thing should fly.  Seriously, why doesn’t it fly?

Andy is back to rowing. We just finished week two. Fall is long distance season and we were warned to make sure he is eating enough that he does not lose weight. (I never have anyone tell me that.) I’ve been trying to get about 5000 calories a day into Andy without it being 5000 calories of junk. I am happy to report that after being weighed after tonight’s workout, Andy has gained nearly 2 pounds. I don’t care if he gains weight or not (the coaches do but, yeah) … I just want to keep him healthy.  Andy is on board – he hates to be sick.  Sheesh, 5000-6000 calories a day is a lot of food when you also have to fit in school, sleep, practice and having a life.  So here is my official HI FIVE to whole chocolate milk, butter in everything and Andy’s willingness to eat every hour.  (Mike and I will be paying the price of this new diet – it’s delicious and we do not have that teenager metabolism – nor do we run, row, lift weights in any way comparable to what Andy is doing. Send sweat pants.)

We have started the freshman year of high school for Andy. Andy! My baby! The beginning is always a little bumpy but we’re finding our way. I have added French to his studies. He still has Latin. Latin? I am constantly learning as I teach. French? I can’t speak French outside of Pittsburgh. BUT, I can read it and write it pretty well. We’ve been doing our initial lessons in the car. Counting, alphabet and introducing yourself and others. With Latin I often have to stop and double check my answers. French? Umm . . . Andy was horrified when he figured out I actually know it. Muhahahaha.  He’s also studying Ancient History, Geometry, Logic/Rhetoric, Biology and Writing. He probably won’t enjoy it as much as I do but, he will thank me one day.  (Unless he’s like Dan. You know, Dan? The one who never calls?)

Since this post is endless already, I’ll add that I’ve finished painting the living areas of the house. The new wall quotes will be done by Sunday.  I will get some pictures. I think this is my fourth or fifth cycle of wall quotes. I’m either going to have to give them up next time I paint or start over from the beginning. I thought I could give them up this time around, but after a week, I missed my words around the house. Still,  I’ve used so many of the really good ones.  My latest favorite is in the kitchen:  “Good moms let you lick the beater. Great moms turn them off first.”

The writing business was great over the summer. But, it has slacked off tremendously lately. I’m looking into writing a few e-books. I will likely be starting a new blog that combines my regular life and my writing life. I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you know anyone that needs a writer or editor, send them to me. I’m fast and reasonably priced! 

I hope all is well in your world!

Procrastination by any other name . . .

Okay, my interests have always ranged far and wide and make no particular sense when you put them all together. However, my complete and total inability to focus on one thing lately is starting to scare me. Usually, I start out scattered and then find my groove and get things done. These days? No groove, nothing getting done. Lots of things getting started . . . my house looks like a war zone.

Ian abandoned us on Wednesday. He’s in Tallahassee living with Dan now. Like he’s a grown up or something. For some reason, Ian’s leaving is hitting me much harder than Dan leaving. (I love you, Dan!) And then, there’s Dan.  He’s going to finish college, get married and start a life with the-girl-that-is-a-friend. I love the-girl-that-is-a-friend, aka Christi, but still . . . Last week was pretty much of a wash.  I wandered and thought deep thoughts and accomplished nothing.

Andy’s books for next year are arriving haphazardly. I have no real plan yet. Nice, huh? I have been harping at him that ninth grade counts and I have not a single plan in place. I have an ebook I’m supposed to be writing. I’ve already lost money on that score – I am on my third version. This one, at least feels right.  I don’t know why I stress so much about it – my name is not going on it, but I hate the thought of delivering something crappy.  Live and learn. I think I need to find out how one goes about publishing their own ebooks. I surely couldn’t make less. 

Over the weekend, the-girl-that-is-a-friend/Christi invited me and Bing to go along with her and her mom wedding dress shopping. Can you say girl-fix?????  I remember my own wedding dress shopping. I have linebacker shoulders and had to try on plus-size dresses with tons of clips and stuff. Christi? Perfect size four. I have never, ever seen a person try on clothing that fit every damn time! Each dress she tried on looked better than the first – no alternations needed. It was so fun. Like shopping with a super model. Still, we knew she’d found THE dress when she came bouncing out in yet another perfectly fitting gown. She actually glowed.  I suggested to her mom that we get Christi to try on our dresses – that way we’ll look awesome too! (work with me)

During the times Christi was changing we helped the group sitting with us choose mother-of-the-bride and mother-of-the-groom dresses. What a fun family.  The moms were a riot! I felt much better listening to them – both lovely – complain about sagging bits and disappearing parts. We’re all in this together, right? In the end they both picked dresses that suited them exactly. It was an excellent way to spend a Saturday morning.

To celebrate, we went out for MONSTER burgers, fries and the most amazing milkshakes.  My mom and I both feel so lucky/happy/blessed to be included in the planning stages.  I think Christi’s mom, my mom and I are still stunned that we are actually planning a wedding. Especially Christi’s mom.  It’s crazy. Don’t worry, I will be sharing more as things develop.  If anyone has wedding tips, please share – big, small, weird, it’s all good.

I am so excited for this week – no rowing, no major commitments.  I WILL finish this book. I WILL finish painting (btw – I need new wall quotes if you have anything) and I WILL accept the fact that my kids are all leaving me – except Andy. I’m keeping Andy forever. I don’t know how to work anything in our house without at least one kid here.  (Don’t tell Andy though, it’s a surprise.)

Hope things are going well in your world.  Happy Monday!

Have to share this –

I have posted so much about rowing these past six or so months. I’ve only had glimpses of it myself, I just know that Andy loves it.  This video was taken of the boat from Andy’s team that recently participated in the US Nationals. They did not place nationally but, they won the race in this video.

The voice you hear is the coxswain (say coxen). Andy swears this boy sounds nothing like this in real life, only when he’s on the boat!  The boy you see rowing is in the first seat  and is called the “stroke.” He is the most technically sound rower and sets the pace for everyone behind him.  Yes, behind him! There are seven young men behind the boy in the video.  Gives you an idea of how well coordinated they are.  Each seat on the boat has a job. The coxswain’s job is to keep them together and focused.

I love the coxswain on this boat – I think he does an amazing job!

The rowing itself? Each kid has an oar and they go left, right, left right. What you see the boy in the video doing is what Andy does for several hours a day nearly everyday. He loves it. Me? My stomach muscles hurt from watching this video.

Anyway, I thought the curious among you might get a kick out of this.  If you can’t tell, the OARS (Andy’s) team wins in the end.