A Little Tip for Summer Sanity: Just Add Water

Every time we have a child finish kindergarten, we go out and celebrate by signing them up for their first summer swim team.  This trend was started with our eldest, who was indeed a tender six years old when she first hit the blocks for the Area Tallahassee Aquatic Club.

She cried and cried the first day of practice.  I can hardly blame her.  There are bunches of kids who do swim team here, and a big competitive crowd swimming lap after lap can come off as quite intimidating to a little kid.  And yes, for you moms who are wondering, it was pretty darn excruciating for me to see her tearing up on deck in her brand new pink Speedo.  I really wanted to put her right back in the car, treat her to a Chick Fil A milkshake, and call it a day.

Alas, we persevered with our plan even though the tears didn't stop that day.  They came again and again and again until one day, she walked right across the big pool deck and hopped right in.

Collin joined her a few years later, then Anne Mason, and this year, Reid is officially in the mix.  Every single one of them cried the first day week of swim team. We have come to expect it as a rite of passage to Growing Up Roberts.

But why?  It's somewhat expensive and is a huge commitment of time, requiring three to four days a week of workouts and meets.  The most simple reason is that we wanted an easy way for them to learn all four strokes.  Swim team accomplishes that in one season of swimming, and those stroke skills will be with them well into adulthood, allowing swimming as a great alternative down the road when their joints get as touchy as mine.

Secondly, swim team develops core strength, a strength that translates into any sport they want to pursue.  Madeleine swam many summers before she started softball, and boy can she wallop the ball.  It all goes back to those repetitions of laps she put in, logging about a mile per workout by the last season she participated.

Moreover, who doesn't want to compete and win stuff?  My kids all do.  The first meet is scary, but then it's a great challenge to them to clock their personal best in whatever the event might be.

Reidy sports Collin's old royal blue jammers as he tries to get into the zone.

Reid's first-ever meet happened to be this week, in the evening after the conclusion of eight (hot) hours of baseball camp where, of all things, they practiced sliding all day.

His legs were toast by the time the meet rolled around.  This kiddo still loves his nap, so he really had to put the exhaustion at bay, which wasn't too hard once the fear set in and replaced all other emotions.

To say his older siblings could sympathize would be an understatement.  They stood right by him until his race was called.

He did amazing in the 25m freestyle.  Look at that eye and believe me when I say that this kid is focused as all get out when he wants to be.

And this shy little bunny didn't do to bad herself.  Not a tear to be shed this year--just fun times.

And, of course, my most competitive one lives and breathes for occasions like this.  In spite of the day spent sliding at baseball camp, he blasted the 50m free for the 10U boys, coming from behind off the wall to win and knock two seconds off his personal best.  All this awesomeness was fueled almost exclusively by McDonald's french fries.  Inexplicable, so I've stopped trying.

Where was Madeleine?  She's not entirely off the hook.  Instead of participating on the swim team, she attends practices and joins the group in the spare lane on the end to swim a workout of her own choosing.

Fuel up, Team Roberts, for swim team season is now upon us.  Or, as you like to say, "Eat my bubbles!"


The Morning Shift {Friday Photo}

In the first morning moments, I access multiple forms of technology while waiting for the coffee to brew.
All the while, this little guy makes a few connections of his own.    


What Do Birthdays and Giving Birth Have in Common?

I hobbled through another birthday.

Not mine, mind you, but a child's--a certain child who asked for a peach cake and would have loved nothing more than to receive a tank of live lizards.

her official spy name

The week before her big day, I ran around purchasing several gifts that would suit this adventurous, stuffed-animal, critter-obsessed little lady.  I also gathered special mementos, including a monogram her sister cross-stitched, and we assembled them in a shadowbox for her. In the wee hours, I began work on her annual birthday letter from mama, something I have written for every child (almost) every birthday since their first.

The day before her big day, I printed out two dozen sentimental pictures of this child, pulled out some of her favorite decorations, had a helper craft some pink tissue paper flowers, and cutely wrapped all the gifts. It was a labor of love. As usual, I stayed up way to late.

On her big day, we started the morning with Frappuccinos while playing rock/paper/scissors on the Starbucks patio in the warm sunshine.  We swam at lunch, crammed in a swim team workout, chowed down on Five Guys burgers for dinner, had a big cakefest and present unwrapping, then hit the late, late night showing of Maleficient.

the understudy learns to pipe

Boy, was I pooped out at the end of this birthday.

Wait, let me be honest:  I'm completely wiped after every birthday.  The searing exhaustion rings so familiar, and I know just where to place it.

Yes, this fifth dimension of tired is how I felt the day I gave birth to this child. Exhausted. Spent. A shell of a human being.  So!  Birthdays and the day of birth DO have something in common: that bone-weariness that only a people-pleasing mom can feel.

So what if she threw down the numerous thoughtful gifts like the sentimental shadow box and latched on instead to the stack of cash from various grandmas and the As Seen On TV! stuffed animal nightlight?  No need to care that the custom strawberry three-layer cake was just mashed with the back of a fork till it covered the plate without a morsel being eaten!

Because no matter how you cut the proverbial cake, kiddie birthdays and the day of birth are all about the kid, not the mom or her labors of love. We do put in the labor, literally and figuratively, and are left at day's end with a saggy chest, stretch marks, ripped up wrapping paper, and drooping decorations.  Or, in our case, a dog who attacks, pops, and eats the poor pink balloons that eventually come back out again, littering the grass like bright bubblegum soldiers and confounding the yard guys.

Alas, I would do all this and more for my sparkle-sunshine girl.  On the day she was born, my world forever began to spin a little faster.  Happy birthday, May May!  You are so loved.

Now then--pass the caffeine.


So Many Kids: What Gives?

Today at my favorite Publix, I checked out almost needing two carts since the summer elves have taken up residence and eaten me out of house and home.  I had a light crew with me this morning: only the baby, the newly-six year old and the seven year old.  As so frequently happens, the cashier eyed us thoughtfully, taking in the baby gumming his black checkout pen, the other child flipping through my open wallet like a teenager, and the third shiftily looking back and forth at the Redbox while brushing soggy free-cookie crumbs off his mouth with the back of his hand.

And like I have heard almost every single day over the past six or so years, he commented:  "Ma'am, you sure have your hands full."

Oh, how I have sought to come up with the perfect reply to this deft observation.  Not because I desire to be unkind, but because there is so much I would love share in earnest reply.  Today, I simply looked him in the eye and said: "Not really. There are two more at home," to which he could only glance at me with deflected pity and continue to scan.

This comment can be topped by the time I was in Walmart, eight months pregnant in a balloonish tent dress, pushing a 1 year old baby sucking two pacifiers at once, with several energetic preschoolers clinging to the metal sides of the cart.  Some well-meaning devout stranger put her hand on my arm at the checkout, leaned over and confidentially asked, "Aren't you so excited about the Pope coming to America next week?"  To which this Methodist mama with pregnancy-brain could only sputter: huh?

I admit in the general populace in modern America, it is unusual to see larger families. The diapers, the potty training, the forgotten putrid sippy cup under the passenger seat all the way through the mass feedings, chaotic sports schedules, wacky adolescent hormones and the jaw-dropping cost of college--it really is quite a lot to wrap your mind around.  I am always floored at my dental bill when I take all the kids at once.  I mean, really!  False teeth might cost less in the long run.

All hassles aside, having this many children comes down to one thing for me:  purpose.  At a certain point, the hubs and I came to realize that part of our purpose on Earth was connected to raising children in a Christian home, with a prayerful desire that they eventually go out into the world reflecting Christ in an authentic, respectful and intelligent manner.  So we went "all in" for this purpose, and now we sit here with five and absolutely no regrets.

The old adage is true: it's unlikely that someone will lie on their deathbed lamenting I had too many children! Woe is me!

And, to be honest, we like our kids. No need to overcomplicate things; there was no master plan.  We liked the first one so much that we had the second. We liked the second so much we had the third.  And so forth.

We want to be with them, we enjoy the process of raising them, we savor the chances for all of us to be together under one roof.  There simply is no shortage of entertainment with this many funny folks, nor any shortage of marvel at the people they are becoming.

I know without a doubt that God has great plans for their lives, and I am very interested in being a part of His plan with the days I have been given.

My fortieth birthday, three weeks before the birth of #5. 
Gifted with tooth fairy money, this chair is physical proof that there is a teeny tiny 
return on investment for costly dental care. 

So to the clerk in Publix, our ever-patient pediatrician (who I saw twice on squeeze-in appointments in the last 48 hours), the beleaguered Honda salesman, the transient lawn helpers, and anyone else wondering what faulty birth control must be going on with this many children under one roof, I say: there is nothing in life more satisfying than living out your calling.

This happens to be mine and I joyfully accept it, even as my two college diplomas gather dust in the closet, the noise decibels in our home exceed the legal limit, and the dog was hand-fed a bag of party-size Fritos by the toddler for breakfast.

Yes, despite the shock of uncovering a secret trove of live frogs in someone's pink bedroom only this morning, I would not say I have full hands.

Only a full heart.


Summer Forecast: Sunny with a Chance of Getting Wet {Friday Photo}

Here at Wallyworld, we have a zip line, swimming pool, batting cage, basketball goal, pond, and a long long driveway for scooters, bikes, and skates.  However, hands down the most popular activity every summer is the slip 'n slide (with a squirt of dish soap for better acceleration).   It's how we Floridians get in a little sledding, without the snow, bulky clothes, and hot chocolate.  C'mon over- the water's fine!