On deck

Pop tunes pump through the Christiansburg Aquatic Center — songs with catchy lyrics, strong beats, and lots of energy — our 10 year old daughter’s favorite kind of music. She has, against my will, made me love these songs. Justin Bieber? I get excited when his latest comes on the radio. Justin Bieber. Sigh.

The aquatic center is packed as tight as a professional sporting event, shoulder to shoulder, warm with the body heat of hundreds of humans packed into an enclosed space. The chlorine stings my eyes, and my coffee is making me hot. I can’t put it down for fear it will get kicked over.

We are rarely this crammed at the aquatic center. The air is thick with the crowding. It is as hard to breath as a 100% humidity day in summer, like I’m breathing through gauze that presses against my nostrils as I inhale, preventing a full stream of air to enter. Despite it being mid-December, the aqua water of the pool looks inviting.

At the next call for timers, I abandon my hard-won seat and move down to the pool deck. The air is open, and despite the pungent chlorine, I can breathe again.

Timing a swim meet can be a long and tiresome job — the noise is deafening between the continual, repetitive screech of the starting whistle and the raucous screaming  of kids cheering for their teammates — but on deck, you’re in the thick of the action. I can’t see for the splashes on my glasses; my feet are cold from the drenching of my shoes and jeans after scores of furious dives off the block; and the noise is exhausting.

But. I am right here with all these kids — 7-year-olds in their first swim meet, looking to me with big round eyes to help them onto the starting block; 10-year-olds at the top of their age group who don’t need me — whose focus and dedication is more mature than many adults can muster; and our daughter, who is in my lane for one of her races, and who I hug, kiss, and holler for. She cuts 5 seconds off her 100 IM (Individual Medley) time, and I am right here with her, on deck, to celebrate.

Making apple pie: a photo essay

Our daughter’s greatest struggle right now is, “I know I want to be a pastry chef, but I also want to be a swimmer and musician. I know I can play guitar on the side, but I doubt culinary schools will have swim teams. Maybe I can find a local swim team in the town where my culinary school is.” And so on. She is 9.

Regardless of what she will ultimately choose for her life’s course, I am more than willing to encourage all three. Especially the pastry chef idea. So today, I helped her make her first pie.


May this be the first of many.


August soccer

The SUV stinks of sour shin guards and sweaty soccer jerseys. The boys are splayed on the seats and the floor in the back, napping between games at the tournament while we sit in the parking spot, trying to cool off. I look over at the mom my son and I are carpooling with, and she smiles slyly. She she digs around in the console, then pulls a new air freshener out of a package. Spent fresheners litter the cup holder area. She pulls the old one out and clips a fresh one on the air conditioner vent, and we aim them at our noses to try to clear the stench. It doesn’t work.

I expected stinky diapers. But when planning for children, I didn’t really think beyond the small years, when of course there would be spit-up and pee and vomit and poop. I didn’t think about foul feet and smelly soccer socks. When I glance back at the boys in the back, I expect to see stink waves coming off of them like in the cartoons.

All day sweat has dripped in rivulets between my shoulder blades and down my chest. My bra has gained 2 lbs from the perspiration, and it’s smeared with suntan lotion to boot. This thing, and our son’s shin guards, are going straight into bins of soapy water when we get home. When he pulled his uniform over head this morning, after wearing it in two games yesterday in sweltering August heat, our son squenched up his nose and said, “This doesn’t smell very good.” I guess we could have looked for laundry facilities in the hotel. Oh well. Maybe next time. But probably not.

I don’t know how the boys play in sun and in this heat. Back out on the sidelines I sit with my arms and legs out, making sure no part is touching any other part. Even in the shade, sitting still, I feel vulnerable to heat stroke. And there our sons run in the sun and sweltering heat without even hats or sunglasses. Their red faces give the strain away. The beads of wet on their upper lips give the strain away.

The sour stench of boys in the back seat gives the strain away. And they are only 11. How will August soccer weekends smell when they are almost men?