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The Adventures of Maggie

A continuing saga

Sunday, March 6, 2005; Page W08

Previously: When they were a coaching duo at Catholic University, Maggie and Mike Lonergan shared child-care duties. That's all changed. To catch up on earlier episodes, go to www.washingtonpost.com/adventures.

Episode 12

Jack lonergan steps off the school bus on a frigid Thursday afternoon in Bowie. Moments later his aunt Kate Cruz pulls up in a warm SUV.

The Adventures of Maggie
The Adventures of Maggie
(Photo by D.A. Peterson)

"So, how was school today?" Kate asks. "Did you think of any more a-n words?"

Jack squeezes his eyes shut and remembers the words that he and his mom came up with this morning before he left for kindergarten. "Stand, land, fand . . . "

His mother, Maggie, who is visiting a new recruit while Kate picks up Jack, calls her older sister a "godsend." Last summer, Kate moved into the Lonergans' house in Bowie. Her husband, Angel Cruz, a Navy officer, had been living there for nearly a year while working near the Pentagon. Kate has played surrogate mom to Maggie's kids, Jack, almost 6, and 4-year-old Margaret. She picks them up after school, takes care of dinner and helps with homework.

Kate, who doesn't have children of her own, says she enjoys spending time with her niece and nephew. That has allowed Maggie to juggle the duties of parenting and coaching the women's basketball team at Catholic University without much help from her husband, Mike, whose job as an assistant men's basketball coach at the University of Maryland is even more demanding than her own.

Maggie says she and Kate have always been close, despite being five years apart in age. As a kid, Maggie remembers following Kate around. "I thought she was the world."

They don't always approach parenting the same way, however. "Kate will take them to McDonald's any time they ask," Maggie reports. "She spoils them a lot more than I do." Not that Maggie complains, "because I need her so much right now." And she won't have her sister's help much longer.

"Kate Pack Out." This distressing bit of news is scrawled on Maggie's kitchen calendar. Kate is moving back home to Florida in two weeks -- before basketball season ends.

What's Maggie's plan? At the moment, she says, she doesn't have one.

Maggie isn't necessarily opposed to a nanny, although she'd much rather leave Jack and Margaret with a relative or someone she knows well. She recently suggested that her parents, who live in Pennsylvania, move down to Bowie to help out. Maggie's father liked the idea, she says. But her mother was another story. "Are you crazy?" Maggie remembers her demanding.

Maggie says she even asked one of Catholic University's most diehard basketball fans -- a family friend and frequent babysitter for the Lonergan kids -- if he wanted to move in and take care of Jack and Margaret. He didn't.

Whatever arrangement Maggie comes up with to get through this season probably won't address the more difficult question: What will she do next year? "I can't see myself not coaching next year," she says. "You know, I love my team." But, she adds, "I've got to make sure that my children are taken care of, obviously."

All the what-ifs have only been compounded by an unexpected development. Mike was recently asked to interview for head coach of the men's basketball team at the University of Vermont. The Lonergans have no idea whether he's a serious candidate, and Mike says that he would take the position only with Maggie's blessing.

"He hasn't been offered the job, so I try not to think about it," Maggie says. "I've still got a team to coach.

-Tyler Currie

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