Suzanne Tobias

July 17, 2012

Summer games have already begun at neighborhood pools

We’re a little swim-crazy at our house these days.

We’re a little swim-crazy at our house these days.

My son, Jack, just completed his second year in a summer swim league, having achieved personal-best times at championships and learning, unequivocally, the value of regular push-ups, good goggles and two-a-day practices.

No matter how often we clean, our house retains the faint scent of sunscreen and chlorine, and damp towels drape across most available surfaces — hampers, chair backs, Jack’s upper bunk.

As the London Olympics approach, we have penciled swimming events onto our family calendar, eager to watch Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin and others.

I’m new to swim culture — the competitive sort, anyway — having spent previous years as a dance mom in the familiar confines of my daughter’s ballet school. I didn’t know heat sheets from flip turns, or the order of the individual medley.

Faced with having to sign up for volunteer shifts at Jack’s first meet, I frantically texted a friend whose kids have swum for years:

“What the heck is ‘clerk of course?’ ” I typed. “What’s bullpen? Heat bench? Hurry! What job should I take?!”

“Not clerk of course!” she replied quickly, thankfully. “Try for timer or place judge.”

She figured the right spot for this newbie would be planted at one end of the pool, not trying to herd 6-year-olds toward the medley relay. And of course, she was right.

Two short seasons later, I’ve learned some tricks and gotten to know some wonderful people. I’ve discovered that swimming is not about making the Olympics, but about making friends, working hard, pushing yourself and cheering others.

I’ve learned that kids in the pool can’t hear us screaming, but we do it anyway. We yell their names and wave our arms and encourage them to kick-kick-kick-kick, or pulllll, or gliiiiide, or simply “Go!”

We buy caps and suits and goggles and Swim-EAR. We sweat in the sun. We stand at the results wall and jot down times. We scrub Sharpie numbers off little arms — or just let them wear off in the pool.

It’s crazy fun, and worth every waterlogged minute.

Bucket list update

Last week in this space, I bemoaned my children’s dwindling summer break and praised my friends Lacy and Kenton Hansen for spending their season checking items off their summer bucket list.

Since then the Hansens have accomplished my favorite item — “Buy something over and over in a disguise” — by strolling into the same Wichita convenience store three times to buy temporary tattoos.

Their final visit featured 8-year-old Judah on his father’s shoulders, wearing a hat, tie, fake mustache and black graduation gown and pretending to be a really tall man.

If you want to follow the Hansens’ bucket list and see how one family turns silly challenges into lifetime memories, I highly recommend bookmarking Lacy’s blog,

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