It’s my time

My favorite thing about swimming is that it is a sport that time means everything.
My least favorite thing about swimming is that it is a sport that time means everything.

I’m sure many of you are nodding your head in agreement right now.  When that time clock is on your side swimming is the greatest sport ever.  And when it isn’t?  Quite frankly it is hell.  With three kids swimming it is inevitable that one of them isn’t happy with the clock at any given time.

Sarah has spent the last few years in more of a love hate relationship with the sport in general.  She always swam as a secondary sport, soccer being her main sport.  She was forced into early retirement last year around this time due to some ongoing injuries.  We were able to convince her to add a few days to her swimming schedule and bumped her into the next higher group.  Sarah agreed to this – with one caveat – she would return to soccer.

Sarah has really enjoyed swimming this past year.  She has made some great friends and has done extremely well, dropping time like crazy and making tremendous improvements to her stroke.  That being said, she also has talked constantly about her return to the soccer fields.  I have spent the last year feeling like a complete fraud, basically nodding my head in agreement that she would return to soccer as a super star.  I knew better.  Not only has she been out of the sport for a year, she also was injured and in a boot, cast or brace most of the year before.  Competitive soccer isn’t a sport that a two year hiatus is good idea.  I knew that if she returned she would return at the rec level.  I also knew Sarah would not like that.  Sarah is a fierce competitor.

Despite my white lies about soccer I never lied to her about swimming.  I have told her every day for a year that if she continues to work hard she has as much potential as either of her sisters.

I envy the parents whose kids swim and are only motivated by their own times, regardless of how slow they may be.  Having two sisters – one older, one younger – who are making Junior Olympics, Zones and other age group qualifier meets, Sarah is not stupid.  She knows that she has never made a single cut.  Not for lack of effort and has had MORE than her fair share of close calls.  But we all know close doesn’t count.

I have spent many races praying to the swim gods for that child.  Just one.  One perfect race.  I never ask for too much.  The swim gods also never deliver.  I guess they too believe hard work trumps all else.

Last Saturday Sarah swim 100 breast and came with in a second of our Holiday Invitation and the JO time.  Again, close but not quite.  On Sunday she was swimming 50 and 200 breast, two more races I thought she had a shot to make.  Saturday night she had a horrible stomach ache and I knew several kids in her group were plagued with a stomach bug.  I was worried when she went to bed early that Sunday wouldn’t be.

She woke Sunday feeling great.  Chris took her to the meet, I was going to Sophie’s session.  Prepared with the timeline, meet mobile and several friends and coaches on deck all cheering her on I knew she was in good hands.  Come race time I said my final prayer to the swim gods.

Three texts hit my phone at once.  I almost didn’t want to know.  That is a total lie.  I was dying.

Sarah did it.  She made the JO cut in 50 breast.  And not by a tiny bit.  By a full second.  Everything came together for her.  The pride I felt was indescribable.   There are just no words.

I’m grateful that she finally believes me – that if you work hard you will achieve success.  Sarah has many more good swims in her and I believe that by March she will have a full compliment of qualifying times for JO’s.  I absolutely believe that to be true.

On the other hand, I have been carrying around some concern.  How am I going to respond when she wants to make a return to travel soccer?

On the way to swim yesterday she asked me “instead of going back to soccer I was thinking about joining the middle school track team, can I do that and still swim?”

While I am convinced the swim gods hate me perhaps the soccer gods love me.

Last weekend was indeed Sarah’s time.

You knew there would be days like this…

Grace and Sophie both qualified for a NAGs meet hosted by our club.  It is an honor to make the meet, the top 3 swimmer in each event are invited to compete for each club.  The meet is set up by age rather than age group.  Grace’s birthday is after the meet (today to be exact) so she was excited to swim as a 13 year old.  She swam 4 events (the max) along with 2 relays.  Little girl qualified for 100 fly and was quite proud of herself.

Grace had “decided” that her goal was to make sectionals before her 14th birthday.  In other words, last weekend.  The swim gods were not in favor of this idea.  She only had one best time for the weekend – in 50 free.  The rest of her swimmers were pretty average, some even sloppy.

It would be easy to say her head wasn’t in the meet.  That might have been the case.  Or she was too much in her own head to succeed in the meet.  I’m not sure we will ever know but she was fairly disappointed with her swims.

Talking to one of my favorite swim moms ever, we found ourselves asking the same question.  How is it that after all of the hours, days, weeks and even years of hard practice do kids still come and swim like they are 9?  In Grace’s case we certainly don’t blame her coaches.  They have worked with her for 3 straight years on her sloppy turns.  The coach before them still shakes her head in the summer when she sees Grace turn.  She is a far better long course than short course swimmer – further proof that the technical aspect of her turns are doing her in.

There are days when Grace asks herself “should I take up field hockey”.  There are meets where I ask myself “is there a field hockey taxi magnet”.  This was one of those times.

Grace came out of the meet saying she was never swimming backstroke again.  Freestyle has taken over as her lead stroke but backstroke has always been her “thing”.  She has a fantastic fly when she works on it.  Perhaps she is right, perhaps she should put backstroke on the back burner and start to work on her fly.  She was pretty adamant that she was done with backstroke.  I personally was just glad she wasn’t giving up swimming this week.

Practice last night was an endurance practice, all sets were freestyle.  Imagine my surprise when Grace did an hour and a half of slow, precise backstroke.  She has a travel meet this weekend and she is swimming 100 and 200 back.  Perhaps the swim gods will take mercy on my poor child and grant her a sectionals cut.  Nothing wrong with it 4 days after your 14th birthday.

Grace has been called “amazing Grace” in the past and she is nothing short of that.  She is truly a graceful person and to know her is to love her.  She has made me smile every day for the last 14 years and I love her to pieces.  I want the world for her.  And part of that is to learn from days like this.  Days were nothing seems to work.  If you can get up the next day and do it all again you will someday find success. I’m not buying that field hockey magnet just yet.  The sectionals cut is just a matter of time.  Literally.

Happy birthday Grace.  Thank you for making me smile.

birthday dinner

PS…Sophie also swam like she was 9.  Of course she is.  She had an awesome 100 fly.  And got a t-shirt.  That she wore for 48 straight hours.

April Fools

My morning ritual consists of two things.  Lots of coffee and looking at Facebook.  This morning I got excited – I thought we had skipped winter and moved right to April 1st.  Most of my friends were posting photos of cookies they had decorated, pumpkins they had carved or costume dress rehearsals.  I honestly thought I was being punked.  I didn’t know people actually did any of this.

I don’t bake.  So cookie decorating is out.  I don’t buy pumpkins any more.  I’m tired of getting a letter in February from my HOA advising me that I will be fined if I don’t throw away my rotting pumpkins and take down my Christmas lights.  I had to use a blow torch to thaw them a few years ago and vowed right then and there that we would not do outdoor holiday decorating again.  Costume dress rehearsal?  Sarah still needs a long sleeve black shirt and tights.  I’m screwed.

I blame my lack of holiday spirit on being a swim mom.  Last night, just like any other night, I sat at the pool for two hours while my kids practiced.  I wasn’t at home baking or spreading newspaper in preparation for a carving massacre.  I didn’t even feel guilty about it.  Until I woke up this morning.  I tried to quickly come up with something EVEN BETTER than carving pumpkins.  I thought about making orange scrambled eggs but we don’t have food coloring.  What to do, what to do..

Grace isn’t going trick or treating this year.  She is hanging out with friends watching movies.  I’ll drop her and several friends off and give her some cash so they can order a pizza.  Sarah is going to a friends house and trick or treating with them and having a sleepover.  By 7:30 AM I have officially been dismissed by 2 of my 3.

Sophie wakes up just as the other two are leaving.  She is in 4th grade this year and her school party is at 1:30.  She hadn’t said too much about it but as she woke up she asked if I would come to her party!  I won’t lie.  I loathe school parties.  But I was thrilled to be asked.  I wouldn’t miss it for the world.  Today is her best friends birthday.  Sophie has been invited to her house for pizza and trick or treating.  Sophie asked what time she was supposed to be there.  And then said “you are coming right?”  Yes Sophie, I’m all yours.

Admittedly, I am not super mom.  I don’t do crafts.  Or bake.  But I am there for the kids when they need me.  I also will let them go when they want to.  My feelings aren’t hurt that Grace and Sarah  are off doing their own thing.   Maybe I’ll get a photo of them tonight that I can post on facebook.  Maybe I won’t.

I did talk Teddie into trying on his costume for me.  That must count for something.  Happy Halloween.

teddie cat

Fix the flaw

Piggy backing on my previous post, Grace was DQ’s for the first time in a really long time at the meet last weekend. She was advised, not so kindly to “fix the flaw”. Grace was pretty adamant there was none and that it was a bogus call.  I watched the race and my assessment on her turns is the same as always.  She has a cute “beast mode” face.  I have no idea what I am looking at.  And I was trained in stroke and turn.  I will stick to timing.

Grace went to practice Monday and unbeknownst to her, the coaches were watching her fly with a very critical eye.  They didn’t want her to know, they were hoping her turns would be perfect.  They weren’t.  Two coaches, who both know her well, saw something they described as “a funny thing she does with her feet”.  Neither actually saw it as an alternating kick or a DQable offense but both of them agreed that in a race a turn judge could see it as an alternating kick.  Once they made her aware of it, she could actually sense what she was doing wrong.  I guarantee her fly turns next meet will be amazing!

Speaking of fly turns, or turns in general, Grace immediately signed up to do 400 IM at a meet her group is not attending.  They are going to an out of state meet the weekend before and entries have already been turned in for it.  She is going to this meet and just doing the IM.  She gave her coaches a pass and told them she didn’t need them there, that a coach she knows well is attending and she is comfortable with that.

I’m proud of her for being open to fixing a real or perceived flaw.  I’m even more proud of her for deciding to prove herself in the race.  In the end, that DQ will do her a world of good.  Her head will be in it to win it next time.

I hope the critics are watching.  And if she DQ’s again I’m going to need a whole bottle of wine.

Dairy Queen Anyone?

Be careful what you wish for…I couldn’t wait for Sophie to turn 9 so she would move out of mini’s and into age group swimming.  The mini meets are typically held on the weekend before or after our age group meets so we were losing two weekends a month.  While we bought ourselves a weekend the one we were losing turned into an even longer meet, we now have three not two sessions per meet.  In other words, an all day AND night affair.

Having three children, I often joke that I have an “on the job training MBA in logistics”.  Swim meet weekends tend to require a lot of forethought.  Fortunately our first meet was only ten minutes from the house.  We divided the three daily sessions up.  I took the first and third on Saturday, Chris the middle.  On Sunday we flip flopped that.

Sophie had the first session both days and had six amazing swims.  She dropped more time than we had expected in every event!  She has always been a bit of a one trick pony, fly is her thing – this weekend her free and back made noticeable improvements.  She didn’t swim breaststroke but its a safe bet she still has room for improvement on that.  She ended up with an amazing second place finish in 100 fly and came out the top 9 year old which will put her into our NAG’s meet!  It’s a big deal.  Because you get a bag tag and a t-shirt.  I’m glad my 9 year old is excited simply by a bag tag and t-shirt.

Sarah, who has never made a qualifying meet but is desperate to do so, proved herself a worthy competitor.  She too had six incredible swims and came really close to two JO cuts.  By March I have no doubt she will.  Sarah is slightly more simple than Sophie in her approach.  She asked if I would get her a king size pack of Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups when she made those cuts.  I was happy to agree.

Grace had the latest sessions.  Sounds great in theory but she tends to swim better in the morning.  Grace had her eye on a different prize.  She wanted to make sectionals.   She also had a different carrot…she wants a $400 competition suit.  As much as I would like to see her make sectionals I much prefer the Reece’s Cup as a motivator.  Her coaches had tried to forewarn her that the sectionals cut, well within her reach this year, was not in the cards this particular meet.  The kids are deep into their training and in no way tapered or rested for the meet.  Saturday she had three great races.  She was disappointed in each of them.  Even though she knows better, hearing that her sisters had dropped 10-20 seconds in a few of their individual races, she had a hard time accepting her 1-2 second drops.  By the time she got home she had cheered up and was pleased.  She didn’t get the sectional cut in 100 back.

I think she went into day 2 knowing that the 200 back wasn’t going to happen either.  Oddly enough, her head and heart seemed to be in a much better place.  Her session belonged to dad.  I had put in my time.  She asked me to come back and watch her 200 back.  I wasn’t about to turn her down, it was the first time any of my kids had asked.  I can’t say I would always do it but I sensed she wanted us both there.  She swam the race well.  She didn’t get the cut but shaved off time and looked great.  Immediately after her race a dad that we have known for years stopped me to tell me everything she had done wrong.  I wasn’t sure what to say.  So I said “I have to go time her 400 IM” and walked off.

Grace had never swam 400 IM.  Much like Sophie, she isn’t known for her breast stroke.  He hasn’t swam a 100 in it in almost two years.  But she had worked very hard in practice preparing for this race.  Grace executed the race very well as far as I could tell – I like timing, great view.  She seemed to pace it well and was able to turn it on for the final 100 in free.  She got the JO cut in it the first time she swam it.  She was pleased with her time, said it wasn’t that bad of a race and even said she thought she could do it better next time.

Despite the fact that I was right there on deck, I somehow managed to miss the curse of death.  The raised hand.  Grace got DQ’d in the race.  I was shocked, as were her coaches.  I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know enough about swimming to know if it was bogus or not.  It also happened at the far end of the pool.  She was DQ’d for alternating kick in fly.  Her coaches were dumfounded, this is not something they had ever seen her do.  They attempted to over turn the ruling.  And you already know that it didn’t happen.  It never does.  I didn’t expect it to.

I also didn’t expect the meet referee to approach us after the meet.  Her daughter swims with my girls both summer and winter.  The meet referee has been stroke and turn for probably 75 of Grace’s IM’s over the years.  She is familiar with how Grace swims and knows Grace quite well on a personal level.  I honestly thought she was coming to cheer Grace up.  Instead she told us that she had the option to overturn the ruling and despite not seeing the turn chose not to.  She also told Grace “fix the flaw”.  And then she turned around and went home.  Grace was pretty hurt.  She didn’t expect the ruling to be overturned because the ref was a personal friend of ours, she just expected some sympathy – a pat on the back for completing a hard race.

Sometimes you find out who your friends really are simply by how the react when your child does well or poorly.  In her 200 back she had done well and been criticized.  Her IM was obviously a loss given that her time didn’t stick, yet a friend couldn’t show

When they were little we would joke that a DQ earned them Dairy Queen.  We may have to revisit that ritual.  I visited a glass of wine when we got home.

Our club swim season is now in high gear.  Between the three girls we are at the pool five days a week.  I was excited to have Sarah and Sophie in the same group this year.  That excitement was short lived, Grace is now in two groups!

That being said, I made a commitment to spending less time at the pool this year.  I worked out some carpools that I call “nice to have”.  I don’t like carpools where I am dependent on someone, or that someone is dependent on me.  With three kids I have enough to worry about.  I am very fortunate to have a friend who feels the same way.  We have been taking turns driving – both of us are totally flexible which keeps the peace.

This has given me some new found freedom in the evenings.  I haven’t found proper use for the time though.  I am actually a little bored.

I’m not embarrassed to admit it.  I like hanging out at the pool.  Most of the people there are pretty cool.  I’m able to avoid those who aren’t.

Two years ago in November we lost our family dog MoJo.  He was a 15 year old Rhodesian Ridgeback.  Cancer and old age got the best of him.  Losing a family pet is devastating and we spent the last two years in the “we are never getting another dog” stage.  The grown ups did.  The kids, they wanted one right away.SONY DSC

After some family negotiations, we were able to convince dad that a new dog was just what we needed.  On Sunday we adopted Teddie.  He is a one year old Shishon (Bichon/Shih Tzu Mix).  He is absolutely adorable and is the perfect fit for our family.  He needed us.  And I realize now that I needed him.  He makes me laugh and is great company.  He loves to ride in the car and keeps me company on the rides to and from the pool.teddy

The kids are thrilled to have them.  In the past, my girls were very slow to come upstairs after swim practice.  Little did I know a white fluffy puppy was all I needed to motivate them to hurry.

Our first meet is next weekend.  I actually miss swim meets.  I have two days of triple sessions.  Remind me next Sunday night that I said that.


The MOTHER of all meltdowns

After a nice vacation the girls were excited to get back in the pool. Or so it seemed…

Grace’s group got back in the pool the week school starting. I’m not one to sit and watch practice. I’ll generally run errands, sit and chat with friends or read a book. Because the season had not officially started the practices were being held at the outdoor pool. Because I do love the sun I opted to sit pool side reading a book the first two nights. By night three I realized that my leisure time at the pool was going to prevent me from cooking dinner and I opted to do some grocery shopping. I was gone exactly 48 minutes.

When I made it back to the pool I immediately noticed that Grace was out of the water – sitting in a chair with one of her coaches next to her. It was obvious that she was crying. Actually sobbing. Hysterically. My first thought was that she had gotten hurt.

I was wrong. She was actually 45 minutes into a complete and total meltdown. My arrival actually triggered part two.

I knew Grace had a lot on her mind as we were approaching the start of a new season. I had actually warned her coaches the day before that her head was in a funky place. Two of her best friends has left our practice site. One had moved to Virginia, the other stayed with our club but changed practice sites. She was really upset that they had both left. Grace is also the oldest and fastest girl in her group. Her lane and the lane next to her is entirely boys. (I was surprised to learn that to a13 year old girl this was a bad thing!).

Because Grace is older for her grade she could technically move up to the high school training group. There are a lot of advantages to moving up. The disadvantage to being in this group is that she would be in it for the next five years, until she graduated from high school. The group has three girls who are all seniors and it too is made up primarily of boys.

I’ll admit, I had spent some sleepless nights worrying about where Grace would fit in in the coming years. I didn’t know she had too.

During the nearly hour long meltdown, Grace ran through an impressive list of concerns.

She was sad she couldn’t “hang out” with her friends after school. She wanted to participate in a “cool” sport. She wanted to run cross country. Do poms. Play lacrosse. Have healthy hair. Wanted skin that wasn’t dry. Didn’t want to smell like chlorine. Thought she should write a book. Thinks she will never be good enough.

Her coach handled it like a champ. All the while correcting her grammar here and there. I reassured her that everything in life sucked from time to time. Sometimes I wanted to do poms rather than being a parent. As a matter of fact, I need to be my own side line cheerleader more.

By the time she had mellowed out and finished her sobfest there was only 15 minutes left in practice. I suggested we cut our losses and go home. She hopped in the pool and completed her practice. With a smile on her face. Her heart still heavy…

She has since added two practices with the next group up. She is enjoying being pushed but still quite lonely. She is one of the few female swimmers in her age group at our site. She doesn’t have anyone she is trying to beat. Or anyone trying to beat her. She thrives on having both. While she needs girls to push her competitively, she needs friends more. Swimming is a very isolating sport. Some kids thrive in the solitude. Others like Grace need friends to go to the mall with after practice.

She is hanging on right now. She is working hard and has some lofty goals. I’m hoping that a few good races to kick off the season will fuel her for the time being. That being said, I’m kidding myself if I don’t accept that change may be on the horizon for us.