Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

Posts tagged ‘tennis’


smiths at Johnah

I.LOVE.VACATIONS. Not everybody is good at vacation. I’m really good at them. Super talented.

Scott used to be bad at vacation. We’ve been married long enough now for me to know that he needs to be mentally prepped for fun and relaxation. He has this hard wiring that makes him question whether vacations are completely responsible.


When there is a blizzard, and school is canceled, Scott makes someone in our family walk down the street to look at the highschool. He wants someone else to confirm that there are indeed no cars in the parking lot. He wants to make sure his worst fear has not come true: he didn’t show up for work.

Scott’s Amish attitude can kind of ruin your fun. Not any more. I’ve worked my powers on him. After many years, he finally gets it. Yes. Vacations are expensive, but the return they give you in precious memories, bonding and relaxation makes each vacation a worthwhile investment.

If I was 20-years-old and writing the script for my life, I would include vacations to tropical islands and interesting places overseas. We would take the kids to New York City, Spain, San Francisco and Amsterdam. But that isn’t the life we have. That isn’t the life we can afford. Our life, instead, will include chapters on vacationing in Branson, Missouri.

Scott and I never thought we were a good fit for Branson. Branson has a lot of entertainment that includes singing, plenty of thick make up and big hair. Truthfully, I’ve never even liked musicals. I’ve always thought “Wizard of Oz” would be a great movie, if we didn’t have to stop for all the singing. Get on with it already.

I’m not sure Scott and I really had a choice though. For some reason Branson had its eye on us from the start. We were given two nights to Branson on our honeymoon 21 years ago. We didn’t see any shows, but we played a lot of tennis and enjoyed the scenery. Then, my parents bought a condo in Branson. We have vacationed with Scott’s whole family there and my whole family too. That was magnificent fun. Now we spend every spring break with my parents in Branson, and our children love it. I guess Branson is kind of ours.

(On our honeymoon in Branson.)


One year when Zeke was much younger, he made a poster for a school assignment that told people who he was. The poster included a picture of Branson. He said, “I vacation with my family in Branson, Missouri every year.”

I read that and thought, “We do? Oh. I guess we do.” I guess if our children think their Branson vacations are as important to mention as the color of their eyes, the sports they like and name of their pet, then those vacations are important and special.

We were craving a vacation this year. This winter was especially hard for Eddie. He was sicker than usual. Some how he managed to knock out a really impressive wrestling season. It didn’t end the way he imagined it would though. Like all tough kids who end on a loss, he had a sore heart because of it. Eddie is nothing but resilient. On the way out of the Kohl Center at the State Tournament he said to his Grandpa Dale and me, “At least we get to go see Grandma and Grandpa in Branson.”

I love you, Branson.

I’m not sure my parents were planning on coming to Branson this year. They’ve been to Branson for 23 straight winters; now their bodies are starting to resist their sharp minds.

Nobody’s talked about it, but I’m pretty sure Grandpa made a quick decision when he heard Eddie use Branson as motivation for beating the disappointment of losing. I’m pretty sure Grandpa decided right then that one way or another he and Grandma would get themselves to Branson this year, even if they had to strap themselves to our van to get there.

We spent a week in Branson. We had some silly fun too. We always do. The drive down is always part of the adventure. Scott does 90 percent of the driving. He doesn’t really trust me. He doesn’t trust me because I do wasteful things. I’m careless with the blinker. He says I turn it on well before it’s necessary, thereby causing wear and tear. The blinker then needs to be replaced sooner than if I had used it more modestly, as Scott does. I guess I just thought blinkers grew on trees somewhere. I’m spoiled. I grew up thinking that I’d never run out of blinkers. It’s just another by-product of being a spoiled American. I’m not even going to try to make excuses.

I apologized. I said that we just come from two separate worlds.

Same thing is true for the brakes. Scott informed me on the way to Branson that it is not his fault that we are going to need new brakes on the minivan pretty soon. He walks or rides his bike to work, but he says when he does drive he uses the brakes spar-ing-ly.

I said, “You rarely use the brakes? I never considered the brakes optional.”

He told me that you just have to coast and only apply the brakes in the final moment before you stop. That’s how unspoiled people use the brakes. And, it was pretty obvious that I could learn a lot from Scott.

Scott got us to Branson in record time with little use of the blinkers or brakes. It was a fun week.

On the way down to Branson I was thinking about something my brother-in-law, Tom, said a few weeks ago. Tom had a surprise party for my sister. He gathered all the guests together and told them how much he loved my sister, Gail. Tom and Gail lost their son, Ryan, in a climbing accident two years ago on Easter.

Tom told the party guests, “You don’t wait until people are in a box in the ground before you tell them how much you care about them.” Tom has walked through fire. I believe what he tells me. His words were indelicate, but sometimes that’s how it is with the truth.

I think Tom and Ryan would say the same thing is true for adventure. You only have one shot at adventure on Earth. I’ve passed up a lot of adventures. I’m going to try to stop doing that.

Our whole family went zip lining in Branson. This was a 3 hour adventure that involved crossing rope bridges and riding zip lines above the trees. We also had a pretty sweet jeep ride through the woods. I shocked my family when I told them I would be joining them for the fun. I think it made them happy.

I couldn’t get the timing down right on the zip lines. Your brake system involves pressing down on the cable above you with your gloved hand, and we all know I sure don’t know how to use the brakes. The first run I pressed too hard. I was so scared, and I wanted to slow down. I slowed down enough to stop completely before the landing. The guide had to reel me in to the tower. That’s annoying for everyone who’s waiting for the whole group to finish so they can move to the next line.

I didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. The next time I didn’t apply any brake at all. I made such a fierce landing, with such velocity that Scott said both towers at the start and end of the line were shaking. The guide seemed to laugh a bit nervously when I exploded on to the scene and almost knocked him off the tower.

I jammed my ankle and my knee on that landing. Eddie says you can’t jam your ankle and knee. I beg to differ. Mine were jammed. My ankle was swollen. I know because I kept inspecting it, and I was sure to show it to anyone who was interested, or sort of interested, or not interested at all.

I had to limp quite a bit for the next few days. People asked me if I was hurt. I told them, “Oh, it’s no big deal. Just a zip lining injury. I’ve had plenty of worse injuries. It’s just something you get used to when you live for adventure.”

smith zip line

I was a little proud of myself after we did the zip lining. Especially when I saw some other moms who stayed on the ground to take pictures of their families. Another lady in our group made me look super athletic. As soon as she started down the zip line, she would start flailing her legs and bicycle kicking in a state of panic. It wasn’t pretty. She quit after the second tower.

zip line

It was an incredible week. We shopped, hiked, saw some shows, played Trivial Pursuit, tennis and cards, and ate a lot of junky food. It was so fun.

Did you know that people get depressed reading about other people’s vacations on Facebook? That makes me feel badly. Everyone has their own cool story to tell. Our story isn’t special, it’s just ours. If you need proof, I can tell you all sorts of things that will not impress you.

Let’s start with Eddie. Eddie’s 17 now. He’s old enough to pack for himself, isn’t he? Well, he had a duffel bag when he left the house. I’m not sure if he had a giant teddy bear in there, a coffee maker or a 8 loaves of bread. What he didn’t have was clothes that he could actually wear. He spent the whole week in Zeke’s sweat pants. We called them his sweat capris. He wore mismatched socks and my very mom-like tennis shoes. He only brought a pair of Crocs. Mismatched Crocs.

We made Eddie go with us to buy him a pair of tennis shoes. It was probably his least favorite part of our vacation. He and Zeke found ways to entertain themselves. I really think they make these looks work.


Our family also doesn’t always get along. We have our fights. The boys fights get a little crazy. One day they were doing a work out. They finished their workout with some wrestling in the grass. As is their habit, someone lost their temper, and the wrestling turned into a precious and loving fist fight. Olivia came running back to the condo to tell me the boys were trying to kill each other. Turns out they were scolded by an employee of the development. That sounded great to me. I hope that guy scared them too. If he could help me figure out how to set them on a path that doesn’t involve a future in MMA fighting, I’d be mighty grateful.

I did my best to punish the boys by playing a nice April Fools joke on them. We told them that the condo develpment managers were going to kick their Grandparents out of their property because of the boys misbehavior. That was mean. I saw some serious fear in their eyes.

Yep. It’s real life on vacation, but it’s still just so good. I love hanging out with these people. I love these people. I’m so grateful to have the luxury to hang out with them in such a fun place. We’re going to do it now; when we’re in a box in the ground, it’s too late.


fus ball smiths


How I Like to Party

It occurred to me that I could write up a decent list of things I have learned about raising a chronically ill child. On the list would be this, “Don’t feel guilty that you don’t have a social life. Don’t feel guilty that you don’t want one.”

When your sick child is home, missing out on fun and not being a part of typical rights of passage, the thought of leaving him so you can hang out with other adults for the purpose of having a good time is appalling. Over the years I may have dabbled in some guilt over not having an impressive social life. Like when I go outside at night and realize I have forgotten what stars look like; I’m rarely out past dark. I don’t feel guilty for long. When I break it down in my head, I realize 100 times out of 100, most moms and dads will choose their suffering child over fun.

Let’s examine the silver lining here. If my life had taken a different path, it’s likely I would have put my husband through all sorts of social anxiety inducing parties and get togethers he would not have chosen on his own. We both like people a lot. I just happen to enjoy them in much larger doses. Instead, we live pretty quietly. Turns out I like this too.

Just a few times a year though I get a little antsy for something fun. Coincidentally, that urge usually hits me around my birthday. Two years ago, when I turned 40, I emailed Scott an invitation to send to some of our friends. It was an invitation to my Birthday Party. I thought it may be more socially acceptable to make it look like the invite came from him. You know, so maybe someone would think he planned the party.

It didn’t work. Our friends know Scott a little too well. I did have fun dramatizing my surprised and bewildered response to all the fuss everyone put in to the party I planned for myself. I still can’t believe they went to all that trouble. I just don’t know what got into them.

I got another goofy idea in my head this year for my 42nd Birthday. When I first conceived the idea to have fun, I knew I just wanted to laugh and be silly. The most fun thing I could think of was having a big dance party. Dancing to “Can’t Touch This” with my husband and friends sounds SO AWESOME!!!! I don’t want to brag, but I have mastered some pretty classic 80’s dance moves. It’s a shame I don’t have more opportunities to bust these out. And frankly, a real loss for those who don’t get to see them.

Can you believe that not very many people in their 40’s think that a dance party sounds fun? What’s wrong with them? I Googled, “40 something-year-old dance clubs”. I got nothing. I know. It’s crazy. That’s a million dollar idea right there. If you run with it, I expect to get a cut.

So, scratch the dance party. What else is fun? Scott and I have never claimed to be very sophisticated. I remember going on a trip with Scott to the Caribbean. It was a trip I earned. We were with hundreds of other couples who were with the same company. That’s the week that something became clear to me. After a week of hanging out with sophisticated couples who were sipping fancy umbrella drinks, lounging for hours by the pool and attending black tie only cocktail hours, I told Scott, “Can we just be honest about something? I think we both know that we’re just pretending to be adults.”

We spent our week in the Caribbean figuring out how to make the best use of the free continental breakfast (you can actually get two meals out of that deal), playing ping pong, tennis and racing each other in the pool. It was a slice of heaven.

I knew for my party, sitting around drinking cocktails could not be the main event. So I picked something almost as glamorous, mini golf. It was a competition. Because if it wasn’t, can you tell me what would be the point? We split up into teams. We played mini golf, shot hoops and played trivia at dinner for the final round. Scott and I were a team. We didn’t win, and that still hurts. I can’t talk about it right now. Just give me some time.

Here’s what a group of good sports looks like. I really need a new camera:

golf group

These guys were too good at this game. I’m not inviting them next time:


We ended the evening at a restaurant. I was excited to eat out, because it happens infrequently. The waiter was a super nice young man. He was also funny, but maybe he didn’t mean to be? He spilled water all over our table, but didn’t come back to clean it up. Scott and two other people in our group ordered hamburgers. They looked so delicious on the menu. When they were delivered they resembled ashes on a bun. I noticed the woman in our group who ordered the burger immediately and nicely asked to have it returned and replaced with something that was edible. Scott and the other guy who ordered the burger must have silently decided to celebrate guy code. They didn’t return their burgers. They toughed it out. I think they thought it would be okay if they just drowned it in enough ketchup. That might have worked, except for some reason the ketchup tasted exactly like a strong glass of Merlot.

I really can’t recall a time that Scott has ever complained about his food in a restaurant. That’s usually my deal. But, that Merlot flavored ketchup really threw him. He hasn’t had a sip of alcohol in 20 years, that’s not the way he wanted to break his streak.

When we were leaving, the waiter handed Scott the black leather thing they give you with your receipt and change. He looked Scott in the eye and said, “Here you go. Here’s your change. It’s 26 dollars.” He said it slowly and clearly. It seemed unusual that he was making such a point of it, especially since there was only 21 dollars inside.

The waiter bid us good bye. He said, “Be careful folks. It’s really getting shi**y out there.” I was surprised. I like to keep my eye on the forecast. I thought the weather was supposed to be fine. When we went outside the weather was calm; just the way we left it. It made me wonder if we weren’t on a hidden camera show while we were eating.

That waiter was a nice kid. I’m not complaining. I actually should thank him, because sometimes I run out of things to blog about.

The night was a success. My fun cup is full now. I’m probably good for another 10 – 12 months. I did think about something when we were playing mini golf. I wondered if Scott and I will ever officially grow up. It feels like I’m always going to like playing more than doing grown up things like going to cocktail parties and talking about property taxes and riding lawn mowers. I didn’t see any elderly couples at the mini golf course though, so I’m not sure if this is done. Maybe I just have to get to a certain age before the “likes boring stuff” gene activates. I’ll let you know.

mini golf

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