Category Archives: Maria

Coach-less in Singapore

One of our biggest fears and concerns about our two year stint here in Singapore was wrapped up around our swimming.

Maria has been swimming competitively since she was 9, and Shane and Cale since they were 8.

Cale holds the Minnesota state record for 9/10 year old boys short course 50 Backstroke, and Shane holds 13 Minnesota State records (two of which have been since broken), and several Central Zone records. They have put in hours and hours practicing, sacrificed weekends to swim meets.

HASA (Hudson Area Swim Association) has a dynamic swim coach duo, husband/wife team of Bob Young and Jen Ridge. We were so happy when they decided to move to Hudson Wisconsin to take over our team.

Bob&JenPosingAt States

They changed our little team in one short year, changing the workouts and adopting the USRPT method of the Andrew family. To say that the thought of leaving Coach Bob and Coach Jen was the hardest thing we had to do is an understatement. They are not only our coaches, but have become our family as well.



For the last year we have trained under the famous David Lim and Swimfast Aquatic Club, but we have recently made the tough decision to leave the team and go independent. We are coach-less.

Since August, Shane and Cale have been training independently, using a workout that is emailed to us daily by Coach Bob. We have a wonderful training pool that we go to, and the boys have found their own motivation and discipline to push themselves. It’s remarkable really, to see these two young boys work so hard without a coach to push them.

To keep their technique in line, we use a device called Blue Core Swim.

Maria no longer swims competitively. She didn’t have a great experience with the high school program at the Singapore American School, and has decided not to swim this season, her sophomore year. I think that when we get back to the states and our coaches that she will get back into the water. For now, she comes to the pool with us two or three times a week and works out with the boys. She is a huge distraction to the boys, with her silly conversations, jokes, and her contagious laughter and goofiness. That girl brings joy and sunshine everywhere she goes.

I am so proud of and impressed with my three kids. This transition to living in Asia, trying to navigate the swimming world here … well, they have really stepped up to the challenge. We have so much to be thankful for, so many blessings. But we just cannot wait to get back to Hudson to be with our coaches and get things back to normal for the kids and their swimming.


Swimming in the USA, Summer ’14

This past summer, the kids and I traveled to back to the USA for eight weeks, our plan was to visit family and friends, but our main goal was to re-connect with our Hudson Wisconsin coaches and compete in some competitions. Our transition to swimming in Singapore has been difficult, and the kids were desperate to get in the water with their coaches Jen and Bob.

With such a short time frame to work with, we decided to schedule in as many swim competitions as possible. We landed in Minnesota on June 7th, and the boys were at the University of Minnesota at 6:30 am on June 8th. They were exhausted, jet-lagged but thrilled to be back in familiar swim territory with their Minnesota teammates. I knew better than to sign up Maria to swim, that girl was all about seeing her friends, and me? well, I was so jet-lagged it was a miracle that I didn’t fall asleep in some random stairwell somewhere in the Natatorium.


The rest of the summer went much the same way … early morning swim practices and afternoon swim practices as well. If the kids weren’t at practice, they were busy with friends. Weekends we were at competitions. It was a rush of busy-ness, and the kids were totally in their element. I loved every single second of it!!

Our second meet was at the University of Iowa for a “Swim Pink” fundraising meet for Breast Cancer.

Shane @ Swim Pink

Here is a selfie of Tina and I .. she is mom of Michael, and she is the ultimate swim mom, full of grace and humility, despite her son breaking 70+ USA National Age Group Records.


From there we went to Eau Claire Wisconsin,


Shane and my dad chilling out poolside between races:

My boys!

then back to Iowa for Speedo Sectionals,



back to the University of Minnesota for the State Championships,


and then to Oklahoma for a zone meet. Shane did well at all of his meets, but his 100 Freestyle win by out touching his competitor was the most exciting for me. It was such a close race!


Shane earned the High Points 2nd Place Award for the 13/14 boys, representing Team Minnesota.



A couple photos of Maria ( who gave permission to post photos as long as you cannot see her face. Really Maria??) and Cale:






And finally, one last selfie! Wendy and I were supposed to be taking pics of our daughters posing together, but we were sneaky and took a selfie of ourselves instead. We’re like that!


SAS Math Excellence Award

Each teacher at the Singapore American School is allowed to award two exceptional students at the end of each year. Maria was surprised and honored when she was recognized by her math teacher!



This has been one heck of a year, a lot of ups and downs, adjusting to a new school, a new culture, a new country. Trent and I couldn’t be more proud of our beautiful daughter! As I write this post, Maria is taking a final, finishing up her freshman year. She is already thinking about colleges, (leaning towards Duke) , and while I am so excited for her and her future, I am sick to my stomach when I think about her leaving. I will continue to treasure each and every second that I have with my amazing Maria!!


English class

Maria loves her english class. It’s her favorite subject, her favorite class. And it shows consistently in her work. She has a terrific teacher this year, who totally appreciates her effort. Here are some snip-its from him on some of her work.




And of course, you cannot help but love anyone who sings to Maria, as we all have done throughout the years. This teacher even goes so far to sing to her in his comments!! Love that!


Western Australia Long Course Swimming Championship

Last week I took the kids out of school so that they could compete in Western Australia’s Long Course Swimming Championships.


All three kids qualified, and since I am THAT mom, you know, the one who thinks swimming is as important as school, (if not more important)  we took off Sunday morning for a 5 hour flight to Perth Australia.  Trent couldn’t make the trip because he was headed to Hong Kong and then Bangkok instead for work.

The kids haven’t been training regularly, as they missed 12 days of practice for our Christmas vacation,  they weren’t tapered, and honestly, I wasn’t even sure if their coach here in Singapore knew they were competing, so I wasn’t expecting too much at this meet as far as times go.  I was hoping that the kids would gain valuable racing experience, and make some new friends along the way.  When we lived in the states, I could say that we were in a swimming routine.  We knew most of the kids at the meets, we were familiar with the pools, were feeling pretty comfortable.  I was thinking that this would be a great learning experience for Maria, Shane & Cale, by getting them out of their comfort zone in a foreign country, where they don’t know anyone, are unfamiliar with the Australian rules and ways of doing things, didn’t know the pool, etc.

To say this experience far exceeded our expectations  would be an understatement.  My kids stepped up to the challenge, and loved every second of this adventure.

Cale is the only one who was nervous, which in turn effected his races.  But while he didn’t have any standout swims or massive time cuts in any of his six events, he was right on where he should have been, at or about his previous times.  Couldn’t ask for more!!

Maria had three events and cut time in two of them!  But only having three events over a four day meet meant that she had a lot of down time, where she was just sitting around, waiting for her brothers to swim.  At first, she used this time to do a little homework, do a lot of reading, do a little people watching, and do a lot of boy watching.  Everyone knows swimmers have the best bodies, but add to that the bronze tans, the highlighted hair, the accent, and super casual, laid-back attitude, and wah-lah, you have the Australian swimmer.


On the third day she realized how nice the kids were, and began to make friends.  And since all the kids were interested and curious about the Americans at the meet, it was easy to make friends.  She left that meet with many new friends, and I am confident that she will continue to keep in touch with them.    And now I have a bargaining chip with her, since she desperately wants to return to Australia in April when we go for the National Championship meet.  She hasn’t qualified yet, and might not since she’s thinking of dropping swimming for a bit to try out for a school play.  Should I bring her with? I will use this April meet and work it best that I can, and then yes, I will probably take her with.   Remember, I am THAT mom, who believes that not all learning happens in the classroom.

Shane had 9 individual events to swim, and he swam fast enough in the prelims in the morning to qualify for the finals in the evening.  We would try to rest in the afternoon, between sessions.  He was pretty amped up, he was cutting time and doing well.   He quickly became the swimmer who everyone was watching, the 13 year old from America who swam fast.  The fact that he always wears a headband also makes him stand out, and at one point he was being interviewed for live streaming on the internet, and he was asked about those headbands, and why he does it.  He said, “Well, Ryan Lochte has his shoes, and I wanted something of my own”.   Love that!

Shane cut time in every event, achieved two more Speedo Sectional times (bringing the total to 4) and he broke a Western Australia All Four Corners Record in the 200IM.   He ended up with four 1st place finishes, two 2nd places, and two 3rd places, all in the 13 year old age group.  His 50 Breast stroke was classified differently since it was only a 50, and he made it to #14 overall, from kids aged 13 to 22.


An unexpected bonus for us was that we got to meet James Magnussen, Australian Olympic swimmer and the current world champion in the 100 Freestyle.  Remember at the 2012 London Olympics when Nathan Adrian won the Gold medal in the 100 Freestyle?  Well, James Magnussen took the 2nd place Silver medal, he lost to Nathan by .01 seconds.  Yes, that’s the swimmer we met.


Maria and I met him while the boys were swimming, literally in the water swimming.  Most of you know that at swim meet you will sit for hours and hours, waiting for a 30 second or 1 minute race.   Then you will wait hours and hours more for the next 60 second race.  Well, after waiting and waiting, my boys were finally up next, and heats right after each other, and I had to make the choice to watch my boys swim OR meet James Magnussen.   What do you think I did???

Of course, I met James!!  I was so excited and frazzled, feeling guilty for not watching my boys, that I completely forgot that I wanted to get a “selfie” photo, and instead got this one:


Nice mention about Shane!

Hudson Schools : End of the Chapter

Today was the last day of school for Maria, Shane & Cale.  But it was also their last day of school in the Hudson (Wisconsin) School District.  It was bittersweet … the kids are feeling a bit blue and sentimental on leaving Hudson Schools and their friends here, but at the same time are very excited to attend Singapore American School.


Maria started kindergarten in Chicago, but we moved over Christmas and she finished that year in Hudson.  So she has had 9 years in this school district, more than we thought she would get.  The boys have had all of their 7 years of schooling in this district.  We always knew that there could come the time where we would maybe move again, and we always said that we would not move when the kids were in junior high or senior high.  It’s just too hard on the kids to leave their friends behind, to try to fit in and make friends at a new school could be traumatizing.   This opportunity we have to make an international move is too irresistible.  And so here we are, pulling the rug out from under our kids, right smack in the middle of their junior high and senior high school years.

All three kids attended Houlton Elementary … the “country” school in our district.  With only two classrooms per grade, and a student:teacher ratio of 15:1 being the norm, it was a fantastic experience.  My kids thrived at Houlton Elementary, and will always name their teachers from this school as their favorites.  (Natalie Thorson, Tess Rizzardi, Mary Wicker, Lisa Wasson) .


Today the kids finished up their years at the Hudson Middle School.


I can hardly believe that Maria had her 8th grade “Fare Thee Well” ceremony yesterday.  Where has the time gone?  My baby girl is now a freshman!  She will complete at least the next two years of her high school experience in Singapore.  How is my teenage daughter feeling about all this?  She says she is very excited and looking forward to it.  But the idea of starting a new school in a new country is very romantic … it sounds wonderful, but realistically it will be very challenging.  Maria is very smart, and excels in her studies, and is extremely outgoing.  I have no doubt that she will do well in class, and make lots of new friends.  We will work hard to continue to nurture her relationships with her American friends.    With all the technology the kids use these days, it makes the world seem a lot smaller.   I am so thankful for that!!   Maria will be encouraged to use technology to stay connected with her friends here in Hudson.  Facebook, Instagram,  Facetime,  Skype, texting, emailing …  the tricky part will be the 13 hour time difference.  Here is a picture of Maria (in bright pink) with only a few of her girlfriends.


Today the boys finished up their 6th grade year, the first year of junior high, with a field trip to the Minnesota zoo.  I was invited to be a chaperone, and I have learned that when the kids want me to participate, I drop everything and go.  I had 8 boys in my group, and I loved every single minute of it.   We spent a lot of time watching the monkeys, (here we go with the monkeys again) , in the food court and then the gift shop, where all the boys bought the 7 foot long stuffed snakes.  They proceeded to wrap the boas around their necks or smack each other non-stop with them for the rest of the day (but wisely refrained from belting me with the plush critters).    When I say these boys had swagger, it is an understatement!!     Here is a pic of some of their friends.  (yes, they were drinking mountain dew, yikes).  Shane, Cale, Cordell, George, & Cole.


Shane & Cale are very much looking forward to their adventure in Singapore, and will also use technology and social media to stay in contact with their Hudson friends.    These kids aren’t as much into it as much as Maria and her friends, so it may be a bit more challenging to stay connected, but I feel confident that these boys will make it work.

Trent and I pray that Maria, Shane & Cale are able to make this transition to a new country & a new school easily.    Sometimes I worry about this move … my kids are excelling in their school work, have wonderful, kind, like-minded friends, and are in every sense, thriving in the Hudson School District.    Why would I mess with such a good thing?

And with that,  the Blinkman kids closed this chapter of their lives, ready to move forward to the next chapter.   Singapore American School begins August 12th  for them.  Our very short summer begins tomorrow, and we will kick off  Summer ’13 at Valley Fair Amusement Park!    Stay tuned!!


Maria’s Blue Eyes, Part III

This should be the final update about Maria’s eyes, as Maria’s eye condition has begun to heal and recover nicely.   At this moment we are feeling so blessed & fortunate that we have a happy ending to this story.  We knew there was something very serious going on with her eyes, but until yesterday, we really didn’t know how close we were to a much different ending to this chapter in our lives.

At our appointment yesterday, we learned that Maria’s vision has greatly improved, and the white spot is considerably smaller.   Dr. Lang gave us the newest results from one of the biopsies (Maria had four cornea biopsies done last week, each to test for different things, each with their own time frame), and it was quite shocking.

The most recent culture result came back positive for Pseudomonas … a very nasty bug.  A true “superbug”, no kidding.  He said this particular superbug will eat through the cornea within 48 hours.    When I brought Maria into the clinic last Thursday, she was probably 12 to 24 hours into this window.   This completely stopped me in my tracks.  I just couldn’t believe it.  I still cannot believe it.  How could this have happened???


Here is what Dr. Lang believes happened to Maria:  She did in fact have a severe allergic reaction to the environment on Saturday.  Despite antibiotic & steroid drops, the overall health of her eye was poor, and left her with zero eye-immunity. As a result she was susceptible to other icky things, and unfortunately, a superbug got her.   Pseudomonas is resistant to most antibiotics & treatment!   Dr. Lang, a self-proclaimed “eye dork” said that this is extremely rare & it was pretty exciting to see this, that he’s only seen it once or twice in her career.  (Do a google on pseudomonas and check out some of the images, but I warn you, be prepared to lose your appetite.)

Ok, pick me up off the floor now, because I cannot catch my breath.   He then went on to tell me that the antibiotic drops that he had her start taking Thursday IS effective against this superbug, and her eye is well on it’s way to recovering!!  Praise God for a clinic that could squeeze us into their busy line-up, for a knowledgeable physician, for access to antibiotics, and a daughter who follows directions and used the drops religiously!!

Now I’m dancing all over the place, jumping for joy!!  Maria only has to put drops in her eyes four times a day now, for the next two weeks.   No contacts, no make-up (um, for a teenage girl, that is asking the impossible), she can return to swimming (as long as she wears goggles all the time).  The infection will continue to resolve, and with continued treatment & care, the white spot will slowly diminish in size and hopefully go away all together.   At worst it won’t go away, but will be a small white scar, serving as a reminder to how close she came to losing her vision.

Thank you for your continued prayers, phone calls, texts, and emails!  We are feeling blessed and grateful!