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Happy Valentines Day!


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Thursday, February 14. 2013

I love Valentines Day because it gives me one more excuse to let me show those that I love how much I love them. Its a day to remember all those that I love, how they have touched my life and how very special they are to me. It is also a time to reflect on those who love me. To me its not about the commercialism, feeling I have to find the perfect gift or card but about sharing how special people are to me and letting them know how much I love them.

My kids were very excited about Valentines Day. They dressed in red shirts or wore a shirt with a heart, hid a piece of candy for their siblings to find, ate heart shaped or red food (we have been doing this for the past few days), enjoyed some special candy given to them by mom, phone calls to Dad (who is working out of state) and grandparents, cards to friends, a special scavenger hunt for the dog (pieces of kibble leading from the kitchen to the front door where he found a very special treat, lots of pictures created for me and even a surprise party when I arrived home from picking up L from dance. Lots of fun. Lots of love. Hope you were able to find joy today and know that you are loved.









(I had other pictures but they are not oriented correctly so need to be fixed)

Saying Goodbye to P


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Monday, February 4. 2013

I met P as we sat together watching our children in swim team practice three years ago. We had a lot in common. We both had daughters almost the same age. Her oldest was a year younger than L and her youngest and A-girl were the same age. She had taught swimming lessons for the Y and so had I. Our lives seemed similar in a number of ways. We planned the swim team banquet together that year and I admired her strength and her dedication to her family, friends and community.

Then the unthinkable happened in the fall of 2011. P was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. She defied the odds in a way that only she could do. She was given a maximum of 6 months and she lived over 14 months. Surrounded by the love of her immediate and extended family, she fought. Her mobility and sight were affected and she was unable to attend the things that she did before and had to rely on family members to cheer her girls on in their various activities. And they did. At least one member of the girls' family (and usually more) were there to cheer them on at swim meets.

This past Wednesday, P could fight no longer and passes away at the age of 43 surrounded in love.

P's family is absolutely amazing. I cannot imagine the heartache and the grief that they have been through in the past year and a bit but their strength is simply amazing. Swimming was a big part of P's life. She was captain of the high school swim team, she taught lessons and I know the girls took to the water even more in the past year to find a connection with her and to build their natural talent in the water. Both girls have excelled but particularly the older daughter K. She was on the high school team with L and did remarkably well lettering as a seventh grader! Yesterday was our team's sectional swim meet to determine who would go on to State and the absolute strength of this family was demonstrated yet again. There was no doubt in there minds that the girls would be swimming in that meet because it is what their mother would have wanted so they made it happen. Yesterday was also the visitation for P from 2-5pm. This is a huge meet and everyone knew it would not be finished by 2:00 despite it starting at 9:00. In true family fashion, P's family had set up shifts so that Grandpa brought the girls for warm ups, Dad came to watch from 9-11, Grandma and a cousin from 11-2 and an aunt from 2-3:30 when they finished up the meet and went to the visitation. The girls swam remarkably well considering all they were dealing with and they both have advanced to State competition in two weeks. It was a piece of "normal" for them when everything is else is anything but normal.

Today our family will stand alongside several hundred others to honor P and to celebrate her life. She has touched so many people with her love, joy and grace and her girls pour forth that love, joy and grace as well. L is very close friends with K and A-girl with M and because our swim team is small, we all become a close community so all my children had no questions about where they were going to be today. Me, I would prefer to shelter them but that is not realistic and they know the power of love and support and what to be that community for their friends. January 28 of the year I was in 7th grade my mother died (K is in 7th grade and her mom died January 30) and I know how very important that support is and how lost you can be without it and am so proud of my children for wanting to be there alongside their friends in this time of uncertainty.

P you are such an incredible inspiration to me. Your strength, faithfulness and courage is amazing and your love and dedication to family is incredible. You have touched so many people and a piece of you will ive on in each of us forever. Rest in peace P. You are free.

Swimming Update


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Sunday, February 3. 2013



It is hard to believe we are approaching the end of the swim season and I have not posted any information about the kids' swimming this year. They are having a great year and learning a lot. After L was done with her highschool swim team experience, she rejoined her Blazer team. AJ and A-girl are also on this team.

The kids had their Sectional Swim meet today to determine who qualifies to go to State in 2 weeks. Its an intense meet, with lots of kids vying for only 3 spots to move on to the State meet. The teams in the league are divided up into 4 sections. The top 3 swimmers for each event automatically advance to State. There are 4 Wild card spots for each event that then go to the next 4 fastest times in the State so if you placed 4th, you might be able to go depending on your finishing time.

After the preliminary results, all 3 kids (LJ doesn't compete) will be swimming at State. A-girl finished 1st in the 25 back, 50 free and 100 IM. Both her relay teams (Medley and Free) placed first as well.

AJ finished first in his 3 personal events (50 Free, 50 back and 50 Fly) and his relay teams finished both events in third.

L finished her 100 Breaststroke in second, 200 Breast in 4th and 200 IM in 5th. Her relay teams finished first in the Medley and 4th in the Freestyle. She also picked up a Regional time (set minimum time standard to be able to go to the Regional Meet) for the 100 Breaststroke.

State is 2-17 and then they have 2 weeks off before the Regional Meet. A swimmer can qualify for Regionals by swimming at least the minimum time for each event. A swimmer is allowed to swim in a maximum of 7 events (regular meets is a max of 3 events and 2 relays) but can qualify in as many as they are able. L moved up an age category this year and the other two are at the max age of their categories for this year. Both AJ and A-girl have qualified for 8 events and L has qualified fro 2. Another team mate has qualified for 6 and another 5. The remaining 13 qualifiers have between 1 and 3 qualifying events. We may be a small team in comparison to the other area teams but we are a strong one. We will have a very full swimming weekend.

We survived the first semester........


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Sunday, February 3. 2013

.........barely. It has been a rough go but we finished it. Many things could have been better, stress could have been less but we have learned from the experience and are already buried in semester 2. Doing the online school program for three kids was hard but I had no idea the physical, emotional and mental drain adding just one more student to the mix would bring. They all need me at the same time and trying to accomplish the daily requirements for each kid is impossible so we rely a lot on evenings and weekends to get everything done. Throw in there a kid that needs extra help staying on task, starting and completing assignments and has trouble with getting thoughts to paper, another that easily gets overwhelmed and shuts down and a third that often has trouble seeing what they are supposed to be doing due to visual aura migraines (which have been really bad this month) and you have a recipe for long days some of which are overflowing with frustration for everyone. Portfolios, projects and papers fall behind. We had a lot to accomplish the last month of school and in reality we should have worked most of the week the kids had off from school but we chose to have company instead. Despite promising to work on school even with company here, the kids were not able to focus on it and the demands of trying to successfully do lessons and the activities and demands of the holidays became difficult to balance and I ended up pulled in so many directions unable to please some folks despite giving more than I really had left to give. I felt nothing was done well and was left feeling very defeated at the start of the New Year.

We had to pull long days for the first 3 weeks of the year and we didn't do much other than school to try and get caught up because instead of doing school on days where nothing new was being added over the break, we were having to do the regular daily lessons plus the ones needing to be done to get caught up and that was difficult. There were days at the end of the semester that I didn't really leave "my spot" and the kids just rotated in and out. Most things got completed and most grades reflected the ability of the kids. For the one that it didn't in one or two subjects, it was a great learning experience (great is likely pushing it so perhaps it would would be best just to call it a learning experience). We are now into the second semester and I would love to say that we are on track and everything is good, but alas that is not the case. AJ had strep and LJ's migraines have progressed to the next level (pain and nausea and vomiting) so we have lost days to illness. AJ has also had some testing through school to provide information as they look to see if he has a specific learning disability. I am not hopeful that we will get definite answers to his learning differences as he seems to have more subtle learning differences that what the questionnaires and tests are looking at. We now will wait about a month to get results back. He works really hard, stays focused and is able to handle the 3 hours of testing with the specialists he has worked with so far which from conversation with both his examiners I concluded is a rare treat for them. The testing is necessary in the process but again takes days out of our schedule that prevent me from working with the other kids on their school. That all adds up to difficulty keeping on track. We will continue to plug along and are hoping to be able to take a well needed break from school at some point int he near future. I think we all could really use it.

Moments to remind you they are still your little one


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Thursday, January 24. 2013

Yesterday AJ was sick. He rarely gets sick but when he does, it seems to really take him down. The last time he was at the doctor for illness was two years ago when he had mono and pneumonia. Yesterday was strep. He was very tired and spent most of his day looking as while as my computer and laying almost as still. When I got home after class last night I checked on my 3 sleeping kids and saw AJ, my almost 11 year old cuddled up with his stuffed giraffe named "Jaff-Jaff", affectionately named by him when he was just 2 years old. I was reminded that no matter how old he gets, there is part of him that will still be my little boy.

Life as a mom


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Sunday, January 6. 2013

Life as a mom can be very rewarding and yet at times it can be difficult. It can be a struggle to find meaning in the 5th load of laundry for the day, the umpteenth meal you have prepared without any recognition, or the piles of things to do on your to do list. It is often very hard to carve out a moment for yourself to re-create, rebuild your reserves to take on the next days adventures and still find the balance in meeting the demands of your family and the many other people that seem to need your time and your service. The community requests of things someone would like me to do that sounds like this; "well because you don't work, we thought you could do....." (since my 2 part time jobs, online schooling 4 kids and volunteer work aren't really work).

And then, in those moments when I feel completely exhausted and have no energy left to do anything, hope and light come streaming in. Recently it has come in the gift from a very special friend who gave me a pair of earrings, a heartfelt thank you from others who were truly grateful for some pool time teaching and some precious drawings.

The online school the kids are doing is very demanding. Many days it feels like I cannot physically (or emotionally) complete all that is required as their learning coach. As the end of the semester fast approaches, we are in crunch time. Things are tense. The kids are under pressure to get a lot accomplished and I am trying to navigate through the rough waters so we can get through with the least amount of damage. As we try to stay our course, the demands just keep coming. Lately, a special little girl has been leaving reminders that I am loved despite all the pressures and feeling the opposite.


This was in the 10 pages of a third grade math test and I couldn't help but smile. A-girl is forever doodling, drawing in the margins and being easily distracted. This time however, there were two beautiful drawings. This one and one that had a picture of her, her Dad and her dog.

This afternoon, as my patience was running thin and I was trying to redirect a very off task boy (he was to listen and complete science lessons but was making words out of broken pretzel pieces instead), he discovered a drawing on the kids' computer that had been created by A-girl. She wasn't home and AJ quickly commented that it was likely a surprise. I couldn't help but smile as I read the title "Hearts for Mom" and saw the beautiful colors.



These are the moments that make all else possible.

In the Holiday Spirit


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Friday, December 21. 2012

Last evening, I needed to do a quick run to the store(s) to pick up some gifts I hadn't got a chance to get yet. I met S in a parking lot at the soccer training facility, I took 2 kids from him (he had a party to go to) and took the one at soccer and made my way to the store. One complained constantly that they just wanted to go home. "Can't we just go home?" "Why do we have to go anywhere?" One was/is completely wild with the excitement of the season and was all over the place and the other was quietly waiting and doing what was needed. The one I really needed along (the one that loves to shop and has definite opinions about things) was dancing. We finished up one stop and I wondered if I actually should just drive home and leave them all there but decided not to as I want them to share in the process. As we went into the next store, I realized that we must look a bit odd. AJ was wearing shorts, LJ had on pants that were way too short (boy has he grown in the last little while!) and bare feet in crocks. Apparently S had argued with him about the need for socks and boots and LJ was having no part of it so S decided to take the natural consequences approach which didn't seem to phase LJ in the least (but did seem to make a lot of people wonder what type of parent would let their child outside in the winter in crocs). I was tempted to hang a sign around their necks stating why they were dressed the way they were :-) ) We did get several stares as we walked through the store, rode the escalator and found our items and I couldn't decided which child was eliciting them the most! They all got into shopping, found things for the people we were looking for (and some extras). Even my one that is such a homebody, decided he liked being there and also decided "I really like clothes now. Last year, I didn't care but lately I really like how things look and the style." Another Christmas miracle! Perhaps he will actually decide to dress nicely instead of just grabbing anything that fits. :-) When we got home, they got busy wrapping things and today were eager to put the tags on. We didn't get a lot done in terms of school which means we will be working over break (we already were needing to) but sometimes its really important to savor the moment and breathe in the holiday spirit when you get a chance.

A different kind of Chrismtas tree


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Wednesday, December 19. 2012

For school, LJ had to create a special kind of Christmas tree. He had to trace the hands of the people in his family, cut them out and arrange them to create a Christmas tree. This tree is special though as it symbolizes all the sharing and caring that happens this time of year. It took him a long time (with lots of breaks) to cut 12 hands out of the paper (only one finger was accidentally cut off and easily fixed with tape) but he finished this evening and then cut out his star to go on top. He is very proud of his tree.

A great communicator


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Saturday, November 24. 2012

It has been said that to get what one wants in life, they need to be a good communicator. This is also true for dogs. This afternoon, LJ and I were finishing up some of his lessons for school and were enjoying some fresh popped popcorn. We were the only two at home and J was hanging out with us. All of a sudden, J got up, went towards the back door and disappeared as LJ and I put handful after handful of the warm popcorn in our mouths. As we ate, we heard a plop in the kitchen. Looking up we saw that J had dropped the plastic measuring cup that we use to measure out his dog food in the middle of the floor and he was standing over it waiting for us to get up and get him his food. I couldn't really believe it as he had to get that off an open shelf in the cupboard at the back door. LJ and I were also amazed that he hadn't chewed it up as he could have easily done that given what he does to his toys on a regular basis. The other 4 arrived home shortly afterwards and were amused by the cup in the middle of the floor. Since it was AJ's job to feed J today, he took the cup and fed him. A couple of hours later, the cup reappeared in the middle of the kitchen floor with J standing nearby awaiting more food. Great communication skills.....too bad its not going to be successful every time he tries it!

A change in temperature


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Friday, November 23. 2012

We went from a record high just after midnight Thanksgiving morning to snow and wind chills in the single digits today. The kids' were excited about the (little) snow so were eager to get out an play.

A New Thanksgiving Tradition


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Friday, November 23. 2012

Yesterday morning, we started a new Thanksgiving tradition. We were up[ really early and joined some friends for the "Turkey Trot" downtown. We were not sure what to expect as we have not done anything like this before but we had a lot of fun. S, L and AJ were going to run the 5K with our friends and I was going to hang out with the younger kids in the children's carnival. When we got there, we found out that the kids were to be dropped off in the kids' carnival and that parents were not to stay so I decided to join the run/walk but was not exactly dressed for it (in jeans and carrying a fanny pack of everyone's stuff). We were engulfed in a sea of orange that flowed down city streets. It was a great way to start the morning and the weather was absolutely beautiful but quickly changed to cold and snow. After the race, we joined our friends for pie for breakfast. What a feast of pie we had. Egg bakes, chocolate, apple and pumpkin pies but the best part was sharing with friends. Later we enjoyed our family feast and gave thanks for all the wonderful blessing we have.







Happy Birthday J


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Monday, November 19. 2012

Our dog, J, turns a year old today and the kdis wanted to make sure his day was extra special. Because of schedules, we had an early morning birthday party complete with ice cream treats for dogs and humans.

J loves to curl up on blankets, towels or pieces of cloth so the kids made him a tie blanket as a special gift. We were only able to finish the small one but also have material to make a larger one as well and given his reaction to it, he will love the larger one!



Meet J


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Thursday, November 15. 2012

Over the past years, we have thought about having a pet but never really acted on it. S had done research on various breeds he thought might be a good mix for our family. We looked at websites, talked to dog owners and our friend C, our local "dog whisperer" but never really looked specifically to add a dog to our family. Then along came J.

Several weeks ago, C posted on Facebook that a dog he walked in his group walks was needing a home. S shared the photo and we both thought we should meet him. There was something about this dog, that pulled at our heart and had us wanting to inquire about him. S was heading out of town and we decided to wait until he returned. A week later, he called C and asked about J. Someone else was interested in J as well. A few days later, we got a call that we could meet J. He came for a few hour visit. J was a very timid dog. He seemed very nervous about everything but slowly he warmed up to us and found his way into our hearts. It was hard to return him to his owner and the kids were anxious to see him again. Because it was the week of Halloween, we decided to wait until the following weekend to see J again. It seemed like he would be anxious and nervous around costumes and the energy level that would be present in our home. He came for a sleep over the Saturday after Halloween. He was much more relaxed and settled into our home. It felt like he had been part of our family forever, not just a day. No time had been set for J to return to his owners house so S had a phone conversation with her and we were able to keep J as part of our family. We had been approved. The kids were very excited.

Over the past couple of weeks, J has become an intricate part of our family. His is a very playful one year old. He is a very large puppy and as a puppy has a lot of learning to do. We are all working hard with the training as he is a ball of energy and would prefer to drag you down the street after a squirrel than walk nicely beside you. He also loves to chew things. He has destroyed dog toys (2 stuffed animals, a tennis ball/rope toy, and chew toys) in a very short time frame and has chewed a ruler, chip clip, towel, the garbage, plastic jumping frog, a stuffed animal, ball, foam dart, hair bows, and drawstring from a jacket. J loves sticks of all shapes and sizes. He will pick them up on walks and bring them home. Because of his love of sticks, our home filled with lots of pencils for schoolwork has been a treasure chest for him and he has chewed many pencils. Hopeful this will encourage the children to put their pencils away,however, I am not holding my breath.

Adding a pet also adds chaos, extra chores etc to our days but J has definitely filled our hearts as well. We look forward to the many adventures we will have together.















Its the journey, not the destination that counts


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Thursday, November 8. 2012

This has been the theme of the last Language Arts unit for L. It seems like a very fitting one, especially for today.

Seven years ago, L announced to us that she wanted to be on a swim team. Trying to be supportive, yet realistic, we wondered how this would come to be since she could barely swim the length of the pool in freestyle, little lone any other stroke, did not like to be told what to do and thought most things that were repeated more than once were stupid and boring. How being coached how to swim laps for 90 minutes a practice seemed like a thing she wanted to do, we were not too sure. But she was determined, so we talked to the coach and he took her onto his team. She started off using flippers to keep up and within a few weeks was able to swim the length of the pool front and back and she hasn't looked back since. The repetition of swimming laps proved to be very therapeutic for our very energetic child and soon we were trying to figure out how we could get the calm she had after 90 minute practices on non-practice nights.

Swimming didn't come naturally for her. She worked hard to learn strokes. Worked hard to learn to dive off the blocks rather than falling in or looking like a frog in a slingshot coming off the bock. There were many DQ's, many times she was frustrated because she didn't do better, didn't make State or Regionals and many times she wanted to quit because her brother (or a friend) were able to swim faster despite her having swam longer. She was hard on herself and set very high goals (still is). She was her own worst critic.

Two years ago dance and swimming were competing for her time and she needed to cut back on her time in the pool to accommodate both. Last year, she decided she was going to quit swim team and focus on dance. After the first couple of practices of the season, she missed it so much that she talked with the coach and he agreed to let her attend one of the four practices so she could continue to do both. She was frustrated with her seemingly inability to cut time down yet didn't really see the correlation of one practice a week to that goal.

At the end of last season, L and her friends R, L ,Ke, S,and Ki decided to join the neighborhood high school team as underclassmen. They went in hoping to gain experience for when they were freshmen. The last 2 weeks before school started, they were up at 6:00am every morning for a 2 hour swim practice. I thought for sure that my non morning person child would want to quit. She never complained. After those initial 2 weeks, R and L got moved up to the varsity practices as they were a harder workout and more hours per week. L had conflict with dance and was on the cusp for race times to place her in those practices and had not stood out tot he coaches as having the ability to keep up. After a week or so, it became clear that the junior varsity practices were just not challenging. Being new to the team and high school sports, we were unsure how to get what she wanted, a more challenging practice. She was getting very frustrated with the non-challenging practices and was seeing her friends enjoy the experience she had hoped for. Then a few weeks later, Ke was moved up to varsity and once again L felt frustrated as she wanted so badly to have more challenging practices. Her dance schedule meant she missed 2 of the practices but since they practiced more, it was still more time in the pool per week and definitely a more challenging. She asked her coach what it would take to get onto varsity once again (she/we had asked without any response previously) and he told her she could try it for a week and he would provide her with feedback at the end of the week. He never directly provided the feedback but she remained on the varsity team. She finally got the more challenging practices that she had hoped for but it was 2/3 of the way through the season.

Throughout the season, she has had obstacles she needed to overcome. She has a hip that "pops" out and has been problematic in dance and swimming the past 6-8 months. When she finally shared what was happening mid September, we were able to get her into therapy/chiropractic to address the issue (her hip bone doesn't sit completely into the socket and this was an issue as an infant/toddler as well)and it is slowly giving her less trouble. Her allergies that have not bothered her since she was a preschooler came back in full force this fall. Bronchial spasms resulted in "coughing fits" during practice that often forced her to exit the pool and not win favor with the coaches. Two weeks ago we were able to address the issue and the coughing has been reduced although it remains an issue.

At the beginning of the season, when the practices were so frustrating for her, we had told her to set her own goals and work for them on her own. Spending time practicing alone (which is never fun), talking to her coaches from B and working on her own. She set goals, talked to her coaches and was allowed to practice with her Y team one day a week. She wrote down two goals on her white board. 50 Free:sub 30 seconds and 100 Breast sub 1:25:00.

She has thoroughly enjoyed the high school team experience. The girls on the team are very encouraging and accepting and it has been a very positive experience. L has gained confidence and really grown a lot the past 3 months.

About 6 years ago, L swam in her first sectional swim meet.






Tonight she swam in her first high school sectional meet. This was the preliminary round and the top swimmer's advance to the finals and then compete for State spots. She didn't win any of her races but just as the theme of her LA unit states, its the journey not the destination. She has learned so much in the past few months. She has learned to ask for what she wants/needs, to make her voice heard, to believe in herself and her abilities and to see that she has skill and talent even when no one else seems to see it. She learned to set goals and find ways to achieve them, to find joy in the experience even though it wasn't quite what you had hoped for. She learned to admit that this was not what she was hoping it would be ("this is the worst experience of my life" after a series of heartbreaking frustrations) but instead of merely enduring it or quitting, she pushed aside the frustration, found a new determination and set forth to meet her goals finding her own way to do it.

I am so proud of my girl. As I stood at the back of the crowd and watched, I saw many parents cheering loudly for their daughters that were the winners, broke records or advanced to preliminaries. For me though, it was more about the fact that L was even there. She had been dubbed by her coaches as not having what it took to be a varsity swimmer. Her season should have ended 2 weeks ago when the junior varsity finals were over. There she was holding her own at the meet having not had the same training (since she didn't have the same vigorous training for the entire season). She met 3 goals tonight. She didn't finish last in her events. She swam in 2 events and got personal records/personal bests in both and also broke the goal she set at the beginning of the season for her 100 Breast. What an incredible way to end her first high school season of swimming.

What a journey this has been L. Swimming has certainly been a big part of your life for the past 7 years and I look forward to seeing where it will take you in the future. So proud of you girl!!!

Random Laundry Thoughts


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Sunday, October 21. 2012

Recently, I have been feeling like I am constantly washing towels. Towels do not dry in our home because of the dampness so need to be laundered. In a family of 6, just the bath towels are a lot but when you add in the pool towels in this swimming family, well things add up. I decided to count the number of pool/beach towels we used in a week. This past week (7 days) we have used 20 pool towels. Three of the kids have swim team 2-3 nights a week, L has practices for high school and I teach one day a week. I had the realization that I was feeling like I was constantly washing pool towels because I was!! Wonder how its going to feel now that I have started an adult fitness swim team and an teaching 1 more day a week in the pool?



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