Thursday, May 24, 2007


If you have children you probably do a lot of waiting for them. Waiting for the school bus or waiting for school to get out, waiting for them to finish up socializing after the birthday party, waiting at gymnastics or ballet, waiting at sports practice. Whatever activities they are involved in, there always seems to be waiting involved for the adults in their lives.

I've been made to wait in all those situations, and it seems like it's been going on my entire life, but in reality it's been a fairly regular occurrence only for the last decade or so. Hold on, did I say a decade? Ten years? Is that all? I've been sitting here in the hot waiting room at ballet for at least 10 years. OK, actually it really hasn't been that bad, and in those 10 years I've met a lot of people who, it turns out, are pretty good acquaintances now.

But that's not the sum total of what I do while waiting. I've also become quite good at the daily crossword puzzles from the paper! OK, there's been more: I've also used the time to great effect in getting caught up on my reading. I've listened uninterrupted to entire albums on my MP3 player. I've people watched. And I've even composed blog posts on my laptop - this one included.

I truly enjoy waiting this way. Why? I come prepared. I always assume the worst; That this will be the most boring, uncomfortable waiting I could possibly endure, and to counter that, I load up on activities. The paper, magazines, the laptop, snacks. (Oh yes, I always bring snacks!) But I still hope for a good conversation or at least a good conversation to eavesdrop on!

By far the most trying - no, make that Challenging - waiting revolves around the sport of competitive swimming. Both our children have swum competitively for several years, and we've seen the inside of more natatoriums than I care to recall, all of them hot enough to melt steel combined with 100% humidity.

There are two distinct types of waiting to be had related to swimming. First there's practice. Practices are scheduled usually every night and also on weekends. Because facilities are scarce around here, swim teams must compete for pool time both with each other and with water related lessons and sports of one type or another. It gets so bad sometimes it seems like the pools are filled with gold dust. As such, the practice times and locations can get kind of exotic. Practices often take place at facilities just far enough from home that to do a drop off would have us back for the pick up having spent 3 times as much time in the car than at home in between. Mercifully, practices also are usually where a waiter can find a cool, comfortable place to hang out if they want. Like a nice cool concrete floor. And at two hours at most, practices give us waiters enough time to get through several magazine articles, or finish the paper - including the crosswords, or possibly get in a good nap. And Bonus! When practices are at the Y, we get a chance to work out if we want. (Note to self: Take more advantage of this one!)

But this is easy compared to a swim meet.

Meets are marathon feats of waiting endurance - testing the limits both of boredom-fighting preparedness and backside fatigue alike. Unlike practices, meets almost always require many hours waiting in a hot, humid and extremely crowded natatorium. When that's not the case, then it's an equally crowded meeting room or gymnasium - bring your own seating. Even dressing for swim meets is challenging. The main swim season runs all winter long. Many folks layer heavy sweats and coats over shorts and sleeveless t-shirts. But remember that whatever clothing you take off while at the meet must be kept track of and will take up room while you're not wearing them.

In instances where we must hang out in the natatorium to ensure a good spot from which to view our progeny swim, it can seem like torture! To simulate what it's like at Championships or other "big event" meets where you are trapped in the heat, you could follow these steps:

  • On Friday after work, get home as quickly as possible and pack three days worth of stuff for the entire family into your vehicle. Do this as fast and crazily as possible because there is never enough time.
  • Drive several hours around the beltway at super legal speeds to simulate trying to get to the meet on time. Many big meets have events Friday evening.
  • To simulate arriving at the meet, go into your bathroom and turn the shower on full blast hot. This simulates the temperature and humidity in a natatorium.
  • Drag yourself into the bathroom with enough stuff to do to keep you busy/awake for 4 hours or so. Take a few people with you to simulate a small crowd. Perform several meet watching actions (read that below!)
  • Finally retire to the neighbors house, and stay in the guest room to simulate a hotel stay.
  • Get up at 5:30 and prepare for a full day at the pool. Gather enough stuff to do to keep yourself busy for 8 to 10 hours, don't forget snacks and drinks.
  • Go back to your bathroom but take several folks in there with you, most of whom you don't know very well, if at all. Close the door to keep the heat and humidity in.
  • Vie for a spot to sit on the edge of the tub, the toilet, the sinks, the floor, wherever you can find. Find out that you brought too much stuff and must hold some of it in your lap lest the person next to you sit/stand/sweat on it
  • To simulate keeping track of events, mark down on a sheet of paper the time once every 10 to 15 minutes - sometimes 20.
  • When it's about time to watch your child swim, get out your camera or camcorder and check the batteries, tape, lens cap - wait at a heightened sense of awareness - oh and get out your stopwatch.
  • Go into a full panic because you can't spot your child behind the blocks where they should be because they swim in the next event. Oh there they are!
  • To simulate actually watching your child swim, stand up to get a better view. Have someone give a "Ready, Set, Go! countdown. Have another person simulate your child swimming. Start the watch while taping or snapping photos. Do this for two to three minutes for longer events, 30 seconds or less for the fastest sprints. Don't forget to stop the watch precisely when your simulated child finishes their race. (You must know how many laps the event is, so be aware!)
  • Sit down and wait some more for the next event. Usually in an hour or so. Repeat three to five or six times, depending on the meet.
  • Beginning with waking up at 5:30, repeat everything for one more day.
  • Pack everything in your car and drive around the beltway again (still at super legal speeds) to simulate your drive back home to try to cram a whole weekend's worth of chores into a single evening. Do this while you are very tired.
We once played the tape we shot at a three day championship meet for the children's great grandparents. This tape contained footage of each event swum by both of our children. It was less than 15 minutes long. The rest of the time was spent waiting . . .

I really love to wait.

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Wayback Machine

It's funny how memory enhancing it is to have your children attend your alma matter! Our son attends the high school where my wife and I met. Being the involved parents we are, we have many occasions to visit that fine institution and so also find many opportunities for flashback like trips to the days of our youth. It's really too bad many of the best stories can not be shared with him for awhile. Like maybe not until his own kids reach high school age. . .

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Absence of Unease

The other day I was riding "shotgun" with my 16 year old son. He wanted to work out at the Y and because he hasn't quite gotten his driver's license yet, he must have a licensed driver in the passenger's seat.

Now he's been driving since he was able get his temps at 15 and a half and I must say he is really quite a good driver by now - I know this, or actually it would be better to say I met the abrupt reality of this, because of what I did on that ride:

I watched the scenery go by.

That's it - watched the world go by out the side window. So why does that matter? Think about any time you've ridden with someone who really was not a good driver, like maybe riding shotgun with your own novice driver, or possibly a taxi driver who drives like they just came to this country from somewhere where they could never drive very fast because the only roads are choked with cattle, people and potholes. Probably all three. Anyway, think about the unbridled terror you felt when this driver you've trusted with your life seems hell bent on ending it prematurely for you! And if you've never felt this before, then you've never taught anyone to drive, have had extraordinarily good luck with taxis, or you're the worst driver you've ever met and don't know it and so don't know to be scared. Well anyway, because I have been in that situation more than once, and am just not the type of person who willingly gives up that much control in the first place, it was unthinkable that I would not be on "high alert" when in the passenger seat with a 16yo who's been driving fewer total hours than I've spent stuck in traffic!

But truth be told, there I was, son driving, me daydreaming, and time passing.

We get to the Y completely uneventfully and I'm yanked back to reality only when he stops to make the left turn into the Y. It was at that moment when I realized why this trip was so unusual: My son is turning into a responsible adult. (Knowing his parents as well as I do - that seems like a miracle.)

As I drive home alone, I'm remembering this same child was the one who, just a few years ago, could barely steer his bike straight but was nevertheless hell bent on riding the thing as fast as possible while ignoring all the dangers: Parked cars. Moving cars. Other kids. Trees. You get the idea.

Thankfully he drives cars nothing like that. Funny how they grow up when we're not paying attention.

When I arrive at home, I open the garage door and can you guess what's the first thing I see? Sitting there, propped against the wall, is the bike that reckless child once used to ride. Bent wheel, torn seat, crooked and battered handlebars . . .

I decide that I'll drive him back after his workout.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

My Ring has Three Diamonds

I've been thinking about the title for my blog - My Ring has Three Diamonds - and the subtitle quip about the facets. When I made it up I was actually getting a little pissed because I couldn't come up with a title - seemed like every idea I had was already taken. So when I glanced at my wedding band and saw the three rocks there, I thought "Why Not? So I tried it out. It was available, so I used it. I was pretty satisfied with it right away, more so than I really thought I should be for something I pulled out of thin air. I knew there was at least one good story to go with it though, and that was enough.

Or so I thought. over the last day or so I've been really mulling over "My Ring has Three Diamonds" (hereafter abbreviated as MRHTD) Seems that there's more to it under the surface than I was aware of at first, well at least my mind has been able to put some pretty interesting stuff together, but it seems real enough, and vaguely profound. I'll mull over it some more and let you know what comes out.

Meanwhile, let me relate that one anecdote that led me to land on MRHTD as the name. There really are three diamonds in my wedding band. When we were newlywed, my wife and I of course were asked to show off the rings. Ours match - same rings in other words, rather than something plain for me and more ornate for her. Anyway this in itself was usually interesting to folks. However my Aunt was more interested in the diamonds. She told us that she had four diamonds in her band, and they had had four daughters. She obviously was hinting that we might be on the way to having three daughters of our own. We of course thought that was amusing, and since we went on to have two children - one male and one female, it seemed that my Aunt's experience was just a fun coincidence.

It was some years later, (and many years ago now) that I realized that we did have three children (albeit not all female) - The one I had forgotten was the one unfortunately that was lost to miscarriage before having the chance to be born - but a child none the less. Again just a coincidence right? Well maybe, but it sure made me think a lot about my spiritual life - and right at a time when it really mattered. (But that's another article.)

So the title is.