Back at it Again!

Hi friends, I’m back! I know, I know, I’ve done this before. Come back. Write two posts, and then disappear again. The truth is that I don’t actually disappear. I still read…and start drafts…but life and time take over.

I thought I’d give it another go. Some time has passed. The kids are growing. Starfish moved across the country, Ocean Breeze is in high school and Sea Pony is now attending the same academically rigorous program that her older brother and sister attended.

I have some drafts that I would like to complete and post, so you may see me writing about stuff that happened in the past. It’s OK. It still happened, and we still learned.

Thanks for reading. See you soon.

~Coral Swimming

Blogger Recognition Award

Melinda from Purple Slob in Recovery has nominated me for the Blogger Recognition Award! Yay!!! Thank you, Melinda!! Thank you for thinking of me even after all these absent months. Honestly, I don’t know how I even deserve this recognition after dropping off for so long…but here I am, hoping to use this award as a kick-off to start blogging again.

Alright, so here are the rules of acceptance:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  2. Write a post to show your award.
  3. Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  4. Give two pieces of advise to new bloggers.
  5. Select 15 other bloggers you want to give this award to.
  6. Comment on each blog to let them know they have been nominated and provide a link to the post you have created.


2. This is it!

3. How My Blog Started

I started this blog at my children’s urgings that I should write a blog…and that it should be about them. Hence, Coral Reef, Star Fish, Ocean Breeze and Sea Pony were born (see my About page). I have always thought that parenting is one of those things that you do without instructions, and you never know if you’re doing it quite right or not. This is how the title Swimming Without the Manual came about. I wanted this blog to be a place where other parents could come and see and maybe relate to my own insecurities and imperfections about parenting, and where I could connect with others who are also “in the same boat”. I wanted people to know that we are all basically swimming without the manual when it comes to parenting.

4. Two Pieces of Advise

Given that I have blogged so sporadically, I don’t feel qualified to give advise here but this is what I have…for what it’s worth:

  • Write from your heart. I’m not saying that you have to reveal your deepest darkest secrets in your blog (there are other blogs for that), but my favorite blogs are usually those where the blogger lets his or her humanity and personality show through.
  • Go see people. Blogging is a community. I love to write, and I can write in hundreds of other forms (maybe not hundreds, but you know…). When I say that I miss blogging, however, what I mean is that I miss the community; I miss the interaction. Reading other people’s blogs serves you in several ways. One is that you learn from others. You may see techniques, layouts and, of course, life experiences that you can learn from. Also, commenting in other blogs is a good way to get your own blog noticed. When you read a post that you like, don’t be shy to leave a meaningful comment. Writers love to know what their readers think (I know I do). Leaving a comment leaves a little piece of you and a small sample of your writing on that site. That blogger or someone from their audience might like what they see and click on over to your blog ūüôā

5. My nominees: (in no particular order and intentionally not numbered)

6. Done



First Day of School…Done!

At the end of the day, I couldn’t believe that it was really me…my life. First day of school was so smooth. I was waiting for the proverbial next shoe to drop…but what shoe? The day was over…and it went well.

I took a deep breath the night before and a little advise from this very helpful article¬†and cracked open a new school year. After reading Debbie Zeichner’s piece, I remembered that my little sea critters already have an affinity to list making and that checking things off kind of makes them happy. Why not swim with that flow?

And so it went. Lunches were thoughtfully packed (by the kids themselves, might I add) and ready the night before, we all got our requisite zillion hours of sleep, and rise and shine went off without a hitch. In keeping with Zeichner’s instructions, partway through the morning I asked how they were doing with their lists (as opposed to frantically ordering them to get on with the next task). And yes, they were doing well…smooth sailing for sure!

The quiet peace of our early morning evolved into controlled madness at Sea Pony’s elementary school. As we drove into the drop-off area, we were greeted by the festive and upbeat sounds of the local high school band and dancers. It was incredible! A performance just to welcome our kids back to school! Everyone was all but dancing into their classrooms that morning. Clearly the best first day of school ever!

When asked about their day at pick-up, they both gave rave reviews. Perfect. Awesome. The carpool worked out. Piano lessons went swell. Dinner. Bath. Bed. Could it have been that easy?

It was that day. Thank. God.

I know it will not always be that way. The novelty will wear off. Tomorrow will bring a different challenge, a different struggle. For now, I’m just grateful that nothing bad happened.

Here’s to a great new year!

Yikes! Back to School!

I am not the kind of parent who is happy and relieved when the kids go back to school. On the contrary, I am panicked! I don’t know how many out there are in my shoes, but as a working mother who also serves as transportation, hair and makeup artist, scheduler and keeper of the time, and just overall cheerleader, the only time I feel that I can really manage my life is in the summer…when there is no school and there are no extracurricular activities. A day off from work means no early rising for ANYONE, and our free time is liquid and unscheduled.

But alas, summer can’t last forever and the children must be educated. As I sit surrounded by new school supplies, clothes and dance shoes, I try to borrow some enthusiasm from the kids in preparing¬†myself mentally and emotionally for this year’s new adventures. I pray that our new carpool works out and that the new mom is understanding of my insane and unpredictable work schedule. I hold my breath that Sea Pony’s soccer night will not coincide with dance, piano or competition team nights. And then I hope to have the stamina to keep this team swimming (sometimes upstream) for yet another year.

What is back-to-school like for you? Are you panicked or relieved? Is the school year easier for you or is it the lazy days of summer? I would love to know. Please share.

I’ll Take the Silver Lining

I can’t adequately describe the comfort that I feel as I once again sit down and make words out of thoughts. I had been away, and I am home again.

I must confess that I started writing this post in mid-December, and my intention was to post it before Christmas. I had one vision…life had another. When Christmas turned into January, I realized that this unfinished draft was preventing me from moving forward with this blog. I had written too much to discard it, so I knew I had to just finish it, post it, and move into a new year. This is it!

In an attempt to not be a Debbie Downer in the middle of Christmas, I had opted not to write about my recent catastrophes. I thought I would just deal with the issue at hand and…well…just keep swimming.

…but it’s been hard, and writing feels good.¬†Although the truth is that this cloud has been laced with a many silver linings…and that’s what I want to write about.

So what happened? Well, on Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend my daughters and I woke up to find that a malfunction of the master bath toilet had caused it to overflow overnight with water seeping through the floor and leaking into our living room ALL.NIGHT.LONG! By the time we discovered this mess, there was a waterfall pouring into the living room, onto our leather couch and running through the ceiling into the dining room area. There was so much water that it did not stop for hours!

A disaster indeed, and while I could spend precious writing minutes describing the cleanup process, I prefer to cut to the chase. At the end of it all, a disaster restoration crew had to come in and cut out the ruined ceiling, remove all the carpet in the living room and dining room and pull up all the tile from the master bath. On the week that we were going to decorate our home for Christmas, we found ourselves with no ceiling, no floor and no furniture in the living room or dining room.

Did I mention that we had just moved into this house a couple of months previously? We are not even unpacked…but we had taken care to set up the living room and kept it (relatively) tidy so that we would have one room to relax and receive friends in. It was our “pretty room” where we would set up our Christmas tree, Advent wreath¬†and manger scene…and it was gone!

There¬†was not a surface left in this house to put down a single ornament. There are messes upon messes…I don’t even want to describe it. I wouldn’t call it my worst nightmare…there are worse things…but it’s pretty far up there.

So where does the lining come in? Where do the rays peek through? In so many different places. First, there are the kids. They have been amazing! It is not their job, under any circumstance, to sustain me emotionally or keep my spirit up during the holidays, but they have done it anyway…by just being themselves, by never losing faith,¬† never failing to believe that Christmas would still come.

We are renting the house we live in, and there were changes that we would have wanted that were going to take the owners a considerable amount of time to complete. There were others that¬†we had been told would not be done. One was the colors of the walls. The entire house would have been painted…eventually. The carpet in the living room and dining room was not going to be changed.

Well, the restoration crew declared that anything that was touched by water was contaminated and had to go…that included the carpet that I never wanted and the walls that were a color too dark for my mood. Even the tile on the master bath floor had to be changed.

I got to pick out new tile for the bath and paint colors for the living room and dining room. Best of all though, I got to pick out new laminate floors to replace the carpet! These were the thoughts that kept me from completely losing my mind!

Things were not exactly perfect by traditional standards, but then again, I have never been a stickler with tradition. By the time we got a floor in the living room, it was too late to start the process of picking out a live Christmas tree and doing all the decorating. Instead, on the weekend when we would have normally gone to pick out a family tree, the girls each got a small tree for their bedroom, which they decorated themselves. They were beautiful!

Eventually, when all the construction was completed a week before Christmas, I set out our Nativity set where the Christmas tree would have been. The stockings went up on the mantle and handmade snowflakes and lights were put up.

The amazing thing about this apparently messy Christmas is that I learned that Christmas is still Christmas without all the frazzle. You see, at a time when I would normally have been drowning in shopping and decorating and holiday activities, I was forced to focus on home reconstruction and cleaning up a mess…but Christmas still came, and it really boiled down to celebrating in the ways that mattered the most – those that were the most essential Christmas for us.

I wonder if I can do it again next year…without the excuse of a catastrophe.

The Sunshine Blogger Award

On October 1st, Melinda from purpleslobinrecovery nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger¬†Award, which recognizes bloggers who spread sunshine and positivity throughout the blogging community. Yay! My first blog award! Thank you, Melinda. You bring me sunshine too ūüôā
The rules for accepting the award are as follows:
  • Thank the person/people who nominated you
  • Answer the eleven questions from your nominator(s)
  • Nominate eleven other bloggers and give them eleven questions to answer

These were the questions given to me.

  1. Where is your favourite place you have lived?
    1. Philadelphia, PA
  2. If you could change one thing what would it be?
    1. Everyone would live by the “pay-it-forward” method.
  3. What is your favorite childhood memory?
    1. The beach, the impossibly clear water…always going with my mother
  4. What is your dream job?
    1. Anything I can do from the comfort of my home and at whatever time I choose…so writing.
  5. What was your best subject at school?
    1. When I first moved to the United States and before I could speak English, it was math and music. These were the only two subjects that I could understand in any language.. After I learned English, that changed to Language Arts, especially writing.
  6. Do you prefer to live in the country or the city?
    1. I prefer a quiet, but not remote, setting. I like having neighbors, but I don’t like city traffic.!
  7. If you were stranded on a desert island which book would you take with you?
    1. Something that I could create with, such as The Artist’s Way
  8. Everyone has a song that makes them want to dance, what is yours?
    1. Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long” and Mark Ronson’s and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk”
  9. Favorite colour?
    1. Pink
  10. Do you prefer camping, caravaning or staying in motels?
    1. Pamper me in a nice hotel…although I’d like to try RVing once:)
  11. How many different careers have you had?
    1. For the past 15 years just one – pharmacist. Before that, I was a waitress, a receptionist, a secretary, a bank teller, a parking pay booth attendant at a HUGE international airport and a supermarket cashier.

The following are my nominees:

(Some of these¬†folks may be too busy to answer my silly questions, but that’s OK. I just want to recognize that reading their blog makes me happy.)

I know this is not even half of eleven, but I’m a newbie myself, and this is as good as it gets for now. I have always been a believer in quality over quantity. I am¬†sure that as I blog on,¬†there will be more Sunshine Blogs to discover.
And now, for my list of questions:
  1. What inspired you to start blogging?
  2. What is the best book you’ve ever read?
  3. What is the best movie you’ve ever seen?
  4. What attracts you first to a new song, the lyrics or the music?
  5. When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  6. What type of vacation do you prefer Рloafing on a gorgeous beach or sight seeing in a cool city?
  7. If you had the talent to be in the Olympics, would it be summer games or winter games?
  8. Would you prefer an afternoon at the art museum or the museum of science?
  9. What is your favorite season of the year?
  10. What is your favorite quote?
  11. If you could do just one thing that would make a huge difference in the world, what would it be?

Blogging 101: Writing Feeds Me

Please bear with me while I learn. In an attempt to write more regularly as well as discover a few ins and outs about blogging that I am certain I am not familiar with, I have registered for Blogging 101 on Blogging U. For the next three weeks, I will be completing a daily assignment designed to help me develop and advance my blog (I can use some help).

Please forgive me if I veer off topic as I try to complete the assignments, although I will try my best to stay true to the theme of the blog. Today’s assignment is to introduce myself to the world. Here it goes:

Although I introduced myself on my About page, I suppose I can elaborate a little bit here. Why do I write this blog? I have always needed to write. As a child and adolescent, I wrote poems and kept journals. I continued through adulthood until life took over…career, marriage, motherhood, etc.

The funny thing was that life may have trampled all over my writing habit, but my need to write never extinguished. I always felt like I had to somehow find my way back…and then I stumbled upon blogging…and my kids said I should write a blog about them.

I was in. I could be a mommy and still feed my hunger to put words to thoughts and feelings…to paint a picture with my words. This is what I try to do in this blog. I try to capture the essence of a parenting moment and recreate it in writing. As a bonus, readers comment on my posts. I absolutely love this interaction!

It seems like a symbiotic relationship to me. Being a mom gives me material to feed my writing soul. I hope to continue to write more regularly, as I find the discipline to make time for this essential part of my day.

Unicorns are for Babies

I remember the day last spring when¬†Ocean Breeze “un-unicorized” her locker. “Unicorns are for babies”, she said as she removed every magnet, clipping and photo of unicorns that she had so blissfully collected over the past few months. “I want to ‘unicorize’ my locker”, she had announced when she put up the first picture not that long ago.

I stood there behind her with my hands out like a shelf, receiving all the precious memorabilia which she had apparently outgrown in a matter of months. My job was to take it all back home, where I presumed it would be safe from peer judgment and ridicule.

I did as I was told, but I had a hard time accepting that she was so soon finished with unicorns. I hung the magnets and pictures on the metal posts of her loft bed. Other items I placed carefully on her desk, knowing she would come home that evening and want to look at and handle these mementos.

And what did she replace them with? Well, beauty products of course! A mirror, hairbrush, a container with the word “dance” on it, etc. (no make-up allowed yet). These were things that I suppose were more in keeping with the ever-present desire to age that is so prevalent in adolescents.

A desire that is not so readily shared by the parent of a pre-adolescent. Yes, we want the unicorns to stay. “Unicorns are not¬† for babies!”, we want to say, “They’re for you to enjoy this magical and so fleeting part of childhood. Stay a while longer here in wonderland. It’s hard to find your way back once you leave.”

The unicorn magnets still cling to her bed posts like babies clinging to their mothers’ legs. They remind me that she hasn’t quite flown away from wonderland yet. She merely stepped out the front door for a minute and left it open so that she could come back in.

Swimming Without the Manual
Calling all Unicorns!


What About Me?…and the Plight of the Little Sister

While writing the post “Dancers are Made of Steel and Grace”, Sea Pony overheard me discussing ballet terms and choreography with Ocean Breeze. “What are you guys talking about?”, she asked, “What are you doing that for?’ “I’m writing about Ocean’s first recital en pointe”, I replied half expecting her to understand the magnitude of that event. “What about me? It was my first recital with jazz!”, she replied fully expecting me to understand the importance of that accomplishment. “You’re going to write about me too, right?” “Of course, I am!”

So here I am writing about her. The truth is that she’s right. Although performing a jazz piece for the first time does not appear¬†to carry the same weight that ¬†balancing on pointe for the first time does, it¬†bears a magnitude of importance¬†when looked at in relation to her world. “Get Your Sparkle on” was her jazz piece, and my girl was sassy yet precise. For the first time in her dancing years, she danced her choreography without the aid of a dance instructor off-stage marking the steps. For the first time, she had to really memorize her choreography. Did she accomplish it? And then some! ¬†Like I said – sassy yet precise. This means that although she was keenly aware of delivering a performance accurate in technique, her personality was not lost in concentration. My girl’s smile illuminated the stage. She followed us with her eyes…never losing us…capturing us with the fun in her heart.

So what about her? Is “what about me” the plight of the little sister? Is she constantly feeling compared to her older sibling? Always feeling like she has to live up to a standard that was set years before she arrived there? Always following a path that was already forged for her? Constantly dancing in someone else’s shoes? I hope not. The truth is that she sparkled all on her own. Her performance so individual and so different from anything her sister had ever done. But what do we do to help her feel that internally? How do we say you shine all on your own?

I’m not sure what the correct answer to that question is, but my mama gut tells me that I have to let her forge her own path on some things. I have to let her be the trail blazer on something. Everyone deserves the opportunity to feel like they were the original one for something…or maybe even the only one. Could it be soccer for Pony? This is a sport that she has shown interest in but one that we have not had the time to pursue. I, adamant in not over-scheduling my children, have refused to add yet another extracurricular activity to a week already filled with a night of piano and several nights of dance. But piano and dance are things that Ocean Breeze pioneered in our family. Pony followed suit, because she wanted to learn what her big sister had learned…and it was certainly easier for me to take them to the same location after school than to do the insane rounds of dropping off one kid, driving to pick up the other, and then going back for the first.

Could it be her time? Do I need to bite the bullet and add soccer to that preciously free Thursday night? (and those relished activity-free weekends?) It’s not that she does not enjoy dance and piano. I don’t think she would give either of them up (well, the verdict is still out on piano). It’s that I think she needs her own niche…her own world. I think she needs a place where there is no one to be compared to, even if she is the one doing the comparing. I feel that she wants to be able to say, “This is Pony’s thing, and nobody else does it.” Would turning an already painfully hectic schedule up-side-down be worth the validation that she would feel in knowing that her interests matter and that she is more than a copy of her big sister? I might find myself testing the waters this fall.