Wednesday, July 27, 2011


In a series of fast and unfortunate events I was the first to arrive on a scene in which I knew I would be the last to extend a little kindness to a life known as Shadow. Shadow -- a small black dog -- lay in the road with a halo of blood around his head, a heaving chest filling with fluid, and two miserably mangled legs. Bloody, muddy, and growling in pain his scared eyes told me the end was near.
As my horror-stricken children watched, I frantically called the number on his tag and delivered terrible news to the shocked and shaky voice on the other end. "Come quick your dog's been hit and he doesn't have long."
Then in my heels and skirt I kneeled in the road and sobbed as I stroked his dirty little back. I didn't pray he'd survive; I knew he was too far gone. Every breath he took was racked with the rattle of sure fate. But I hummed and I cried to him and I held his head. In minutes his momma came with fear in her eyes and the confused look of predictable circumstances -- knowing her dog would never come home, again. She took one look at her Shadow and sighed, "Oh Shadow, what have you done."
My heart couldn't hold the sadness of the moment. So I did what all good mothers do. I pitched in my strength with hers. She had come -- just as I'd instructed -- quickly, but unprepared. So she had no blanket to wrap him in. My mind went straight to the brand new picnic tarp I knew was in the back of my car. After all, I'd just enthusiastically selected it for it's lively red color. Though I knew I'd never get to use it if I offered it, I gladly handed it over and helped her move little Shadow onto what would be his last bed.
I had never met Shadow or his owner before this day, but the scene of his last afternoon plays over and over again in my mind. It even makes me gasp with emotion and begin crying in remarkably off-putting ways. I suppose it's the thought of the end that upsets me so. That and the raw need for unconditional love. Any of us who approached Shadow in his last minutes could have chided him; told him it was his foolish choice to run in the road that got him killed. In fact, I suppose I could have grimaced at the sight of all the blood and foaming saliva, even the grubbiness of his coat. But that is not what Shadow needed. All he needed was love.
While I am not a dog, I think I might be a simple creature. Despite the choices that make me, me -- when my last breaths are counted I hope someone rubs my back and says, "It's OK, little one. Close your eyes and relax. I'll stay until your people come."

Sunday, July 24, 2011


In the shine of the setting sun, on the afternoon of the 4th of July, my boys ran through the sprinklers while the rest of the family watched. Mason found the anticipation of fireworks mingled with the riot of playing in a yard bigger than he's ever seen almost more than he could stand. And I found that I just wanted to squeeze his little cheecks and kiss his nose. It's a mystery, then that this little clutch of photos were forgotten. Glad I found them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's Nothing, Really

This morning, on the heels of an extraordinary night, Cooper woke up late and delighted in doing something of no importance – he watched cartoons. He even clapped his hands in a small applause meant only for himself and excitedly breathed the words, “I have nothing today.”

The enthusiasm has waned; the season is over, every body out of the pool.

I still maintain that the high of the season was found in knowing he was dedicated. But just to show me up, the coaches saw fit to select him as their choice for a special trophy. In each age group they singled out one boy and one girl who had demonstrated Determination, Desire, and Drive.

So, that’s it… enough gushing.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I could tell you, The Coop is a champion. I could tell you he earned several top finish ribbons. I could tell you he improved his times in every race week-to-week. I could tell you he swam more meters than any of us ever expected. I could tell you he's faster than I could have imagined. I could tell you his best event is an event a former coach told him he'd never excel in. I could tell you... but I won't.

(Ummmm.... look at his face! Do you think he wants to win?!??!)

What I will tell you is that he is dedicated. For that, I am the most proud of him I have ever been. Nearly every day his father and I sit back and say, "I am so proud of that little guy. Who knew he could do this?!?!"

When we naively registered for swim team we were gobstopped at the duty they expected. The coaches suggested swimmers practice every day, every week. We balked when they told us what time practice started. We groaned when we discovered how many volunteer hours it takes to be a swim team family. But Cooper, he did not.

He woke up every early morning. He attended every meet. He competed in every race he qualified for. He never left a relay team standing waiting for him. He met his commitment. What's more, I never had to coax, convince, or bribe him to do it. He did it with a smile.

Sometimes that meant outdoor practices when the temperatures where barely 60 degrees. On Saturdays that meant waking up at 6 a.m. and warm-up in frigid waters at 7 a.m. (This for a boy accustomed to a kindergarten 9:05 start time.) Other days it was waiting for hours just to swim for 30 seconds. And at times it meant that mother and dad were timing other swimmers when they wanted to be cheering for Cooper swimming in another lane.

It also meant I spent hours and hours with my son. We traveled together, chatted, and bonded, and played games. I learned to follow his lead. He had specific ideas of where he wanted us to stand, how he wanted us to cheer, and which towel we were to have at the finish. I always suspected that this one had no fear. But now I know. He loves to win. He loves to do well. And he loves a big bag of Skittles.

And I love the big family of supportive friends called swim team. Swim team families are devoted and enthusiastic. And though swimming is an individual sport on the surface, it takes the whole team for each swimmer to swim in a well-run meet. We met some incredible people. And I found that I love cheering for other children as much as my own. Our coaches defended our children, protected their interests, and taught them something about themselves.

Now for the bragging. Cooper proved he is a force in the pool. With experience, he could be great. He qualified for championships. And when he competed in championships today, he surpassed ALL of our expectations.

He's already asking about next year!

Swim Team Photo Montage

Waiting for relay. (After this race started and seconds before this picture was taken the coach actually picked him up and ran with him -- potato sack style -- to the other end of the pool because they decided to have him swim a different leg at the last minute.)

Swimmers take your mark.

Crazy tent city.

Necessary skill of eating sugar tube in .43 seconds.

Oh the pressure!
Actually, I think he was thinking something like,
"Wow, there's a lot of fog in my goggles."

Very little fat on those bones!

Towel pants, a must for every swimmer.

Looks like a champ.

Pre-race meditation.
This was actually a pre-race meditation.
I thought it was very adroit of him and did not ask questions.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Aluminum Canoe Time Machine

A few days ago I found myself in the cockpit of a canoe, paddling up the Snake River with my father behind me giving commands like, "Other side! Nope, other side. Paddle faster!"

And the strangest thing happened. For one minute, or maybe two, I couldn't see him and his sweet, bald head. And I couldn't see my age-speckled arms. And I thought I was 11, again. The air smelled the same -- a charming mix of river and trees. The sun felt the same -- gratefully warm against a little bit of nip in the wind. He sounded exactly the same -- only the necessary words to get the job done. And I felt exactly the same though so much has changed -- eager to please, willing to try his idea, and enjoying his brand of fun in spite of myself.

Is this why we go on family vacations? To remember how I felt the first time I floated down The Snake on what seemed the only craft in the world with the only man who mattered in my world? An interesting return after decades of navigating freeways next to hundreds of thousands of folks I don't know during a morning commute a thousand miles away from that man?

Anyways, just to make sure, I sent my boys down the river with their dad, and then mine. And they had fun.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Carried Away

Not far from the shores of the North Fork of the Snake River my grandparents have a small, rustic (emphasis on rustic) cabin. This is a "family" cabin and as I've grown up I've been permitted to visit there from time to time and enjoy the beauty of the mountains, the smell of pine trees, and an awful lot of mosquitos.
We've taken our own children to this retreat before. Frankly, they didn't grow an instant love for the little cottage in the trees. But they are a generation raised on spacious bathrooms, microwave dinners, and Wii playsystems. The idle pastimes available at Mack's Inn in the early nineteen hundreds -- and still the main attractions -- have a hard time getting their attention. This is why it is an ideal spot for family outings and family reunions. There is really nothing better to do than turning off your smart phone, staring at your family, and saying, "Now what?"

Don't get me wrong, this Nature-land is about 20 minutes south of West Yellowstone and the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park. Gorgeous. You should go. And if you want to rent a teeny, tiny crash pad, and you are neurotically clean, my family might offer you a great rate. (But don't hold your breath.) And if you get all excited and decide to visit, remember your mosquito repellent, citronella candles, and long pants or you might just get carried away.

PS -- There's a remarkably sturdy swing set. Built because you can't tell grandkids you are going to Island Park and then not have swings.

PHOTO NOTE: These pictures are a mix of my kids, my husband, one of my brothers, and his wife and daughter.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Lesson Learned

There are two truths in photography that I have become aware of in the past year.

1. Never let anyone take a picture of you jumping on a trampoline. (Believe me, even children look old whilst jumping on a tramp.)

2. Never, and I do mean never let anyone who is holding a camera talk you into sitting on a swing. They will take your picture, and that is a big FAT no-no.

Seriously people, seeing your butt in a swing is a little like seeing your butt in a backless bar stool. Do yourself a favor, sit at a table in a bar and look at everyone else's butts at the bar. You will NEVER sit at the bar again. I'm just saying.
Strategically cropped, and still woefully unflattering.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Kickin' It Off

Our family vacation began with a 10+ hour drive through some of the most uninteresting part of God's green earth. Seriously, next to the Akmola Province of Kazakhstan, Wyoming is up there.
So it was nice of my parents to arrange for us to meet a herd of miniature horses and a donkey. This is screaming for me to make jack ass jokes. But, I can't.
Anyway, the mini horses were a hit. More so with one of our adorable nieces -- Claire -- but my boys mustered up the "that's cute" gene just long enough to feed the little things some hay. Which leads me to a kid-ism from the drive.Somewhere along the way we passed a pastoral scene replete with cows and hay bales. When we pointed out what was in the field outside his window Mason started to scream, in escalating tones, "Hey, Hay!" I believe this is called, making a connection. Very amusing to observe.