I believe

I have a confession. I hate the “holidays”. I didn’t hate it when the “holidays” started on Thanksgiving and ended on New Years Day. I blame Target for making me dread the holidays. They take down the back to school display and put up Crapmas. Crapmas has replaced Christmas. It’s driven by am overwhelming desire to buy tons of crap as a means to show our love for others.

December is a tough month for swim families. We had three weekends of swim meets and we manage to sneak in practices even when the pool is closed. Mid December it dawned on us that we hadn’t put up a tree and the only thing on the mantle was a thin layer of dust.

I was able to get our tree up and threw a box of ornaments beside it. It became a work in progress, decorations were added here and there. Stockings were hung in the hopes that St. Nick would get her butt to the mall.

Personally, I opt to give each of the girls a wad of cash and be done with it. But for the fact that Sophie still “believes”. Chris and I have such a hard time with the charade. By some standards, we are considered “bad” parents. We don’t have an Elf. We don’t write letters to Santa. We don’t track Santa. We don’t oversell the myth. The legend. The Lie.

The other day at the pool I mistakenly got into a debate with a fellow swim mom. The long and short of it…her son was teetering on the Santa fence. Chris and I have been there twice. We can’t wait to go there a third time. For us it’s the end of a charade. For others, just the beginning.

This mom was willing to go to great lengths to continue the Santa facade. I don’t begrudge her that. But where I draw the line in the sand, she was willing to kick the shit out of it. She told her kids to tell any child that “didn’t believe” that they quite simply didn’t have god in their hearts and were going to hell. Awesome at its finest.

I have two non believers. One on the fence. When she asks I plan to give it to her straight. Is there magic in Christmas without Santa. I believe there is. As far as the parent who believes people who don’t believe in Santa are going to hell? Well, last I checked, yeah, umm, there is no such thing. Shocker that people hate the holidays huh?

Who has a Sharpie

A friend of mine, new to swimming, sent me the following message:

“Whats up with the writing on my kid with sharpie (a bad word in my house) for swimming?  You are the pro, what is the washable alternative?  Not sure how long i will find humor in “eat my bubbles” stamped on my baby girl.”

I literally laughed out loud.  I have a kid who is a writer.  Nope, not a blog or a diary or poet – she is a body graffiti artist.  Even at a very young age Sarah was enamoured with tattoos.  Grace, horrified by the thought of anything that causes pain, will never get one.  Of this I am certain.  Sophie is not big into audiences and doesn’t particularly care to be looked at, especially by people she doesn’t know.  I am guessing she will adopt the white t-shirt and jeans uniform as an adult.  Sarah, though, let’s just hope she has the good sense not to get her face tattooed.  I am not optimistic.

Before a swim meet I go through the checklist.  Suits, caps, goggles, snacks, towels, money….hand me the sharpies.  With a reminder that we do have other functions to attend that weekend so to keep the writing at a minimum.

Not only does Sarah like to write all over her body at swim meets, she is also MORE than happy to write on any one willing to allow their body to be used as a canvas.  I am thinking I may have to type up a quick waiver, Sarah can sketch out the artwork and then both swimmer and parent with sign off their consent.

On time I allowed the girls to draw on our car before a swim meet.  Sadly I didn’t pay attention before, during or after.  I drove around for two weeks with this on my back window:

car window  Go DOPHLINES.  Don’t let Sarah write on your kid.. Or make sure she uses spell check.



Singing is ruining my life

Grace and Sarah both participate in their school Chorus.  This takes place during the school day so it rarely impacts my life.

As the holidays approach, the schools like to do a chorus concert.  In the past they had one concert for our entire school cluster, four elementary and one middle school.  Justin Bieber draws less fans.  They wised up and did separate concerts.

Monday night was Sarah’s.  This involves me coordinating getting two kids to swim practice and one to the school for warm ups.  While they don’t have heat sheets, they do have warm ups.  And programs.  I am good at creating my own time line.  I have each song five minutes which also allowed for transition between the band and the chorus.  The concert was going to last an hour.  I was glad I had taken a proper shower and dressed nicely, I don’t see these people often and I like to impress from time to time.

Wednesday morning, Sarah had to be at the school at 6:30 AM for a chorus field trip.  While we are used to early wake up calls courtesy of swimming, we don’t actually like them.  I suppose it was good practice for next year when she is in middle school.

Grace’s concert was Wednesday evening.  Sarah had soccer, Sophie swim and Grace chorus.  And dad is in Chicago.  Good times.  I coordinated rides to practice for Sarah and Sophie.  Along with a ride to chorus for Grace.  I had figured out a way to get Sophie and then get to the school in time to watch Grace’s performance and then pick Sarah up.  I swear moms should all be awarded Masters Degrees in logistics.

All was going according to plan and I had just arrived at the pool when I got a call from Grace.   I could not understand a word she was saying.  It was clear she was sobbing.  I had to hang up and have her text me.  She could not find the school issued top she was supposed to wear.  I suggested she wear any white top and that the school would have extras.  She insisted they wouldn’t and that the whole school would think she was an idiot.  My best friend, who was her ride to the school, also tried to calm her down.  Grace was not budging. She was NOT going.

She cried most of the evening, upset because this would impact her grade and because she was embarrassed.

I emailed the teacher.  I considered saying she was sick.  Grace and I neither one can lie.  I told him the truth and if he opted to give her a bad grade for missing a mandatory concert, I would accept it.  He responded that he understood and thanked me for my honesty.  My faith in humanity is solid.

Adolescence is a bitch.  I am intrigued by a child who is perfectly fine competing in a swim suit in front of many hundreds of people she doesn’t know yet the prospect of wearing the wrong shirt in front a hundred that have known her since she was six is terrifying.  Kids at this age just want to blend in.  I would think that a swimmer would have all the confidence in the world but when you cut to the heart of it, they are no different from any other kid.  I calmed her down and the teacher was understanding.  Life will go on.  She trashed her room looking for that top though, that will make a nice after school activity for her to clean it up. This too shall pass.  Tomorrow will be a whole new set of crazy.

For the record, I did shower, and looked cute.  What a waste…


What not to wear

I am always shocked by what people wear to swim meets.  I suspect many of the fashion victim must have boys.  I spend my time in the closet trying to avoid the “is that what you are wearing” look from my daughter.  She has learned not to ask, now I just get the look.  I personally think I am pretty fashionable.  Most of the time Grace is wearing something of mine.  If I am not on the mark I am pretty close to it.

I always wonder what people are thinking when they get dressed for a swim meet.  The “I just rolled out of bed” look is actually perfectly acceptable at a swim meet.  The “I am having dinner later in Georgetown” look?  Not so much.

The bottom line, dress for comfort.  It doesn’t matter how cold it is outside, it will be warm – no hot – inside.  When I shop, I have swim meets in mind.  I like Cotton layers.   I usually wear a pullover hoodie, I can fold it up and use it to cushion my bum during meets.  Tank top, followed by lightweight long sleeve t-shirt and a hoodie.  I am a big fan of leggings and ballet flats.  Here are a few simple rules.

1.  If you are going to strip down to your tank top, wear an appropriate bra.   Support matters.  Tuck the straps in.  Look at your self in the mirror in just the tank before you start layering.  Shave your pits and wear some deodorant, especially if you plan to throw your arms in the air and yell.

2.  Make sure the tank covers your butt crack.  This is so easy to do.  Sit down in a chair and bend forward, elbows resting on the top of your legs.  Reach around with one hand and feel the base of your spine.  Or get a kid to take a photo.  Because that is exactly what the person behind you is looking at for the next four hours.

3.  Time to layer up.  Make sure that you can take off your next layer without looking like you are taking off a straight jacket.  If you can’t get it off with out elbowing your neighbor, don’t wear it.

4.  Wear any pants/shorts/leggings you want.  Watch the butt crack and watch the camel toe if you are in leggings.  Other than that, anything works.

Finally, chose shoes that are comfortable.  I often go with flip flops or ballet flats.  Leave the steel toed work boots at home.  There is a very good chance that at some point in the day you are going to kick someone.  Be kind.

Please don’t pick your toes.  It is creepy.  If you wear flip flops in the dead of winter you will probably figure out you need a pedicure.  While there is lots of time at a swim meet, this is neither the time nor place to do it.  Don’t laugh, my friend sat next to someone painting their nails at  swim meet.  She didn’t enjoy it.  A few months ago she sat next to me right after I had taught a spin class.  She says she is sensitive to smells.  Fortunately I had followed my own rules and threw on some deodorant.  Perfume at a meet?  Oh please don’t.

I’m thinking about getting a swim mom t-shirt.  Because that isn’t painfully obvious.

My go to store for swim meet apparel?  Lululemon.  While you are there, pick me up something too.  I will take one of anything.

Simple thoughts

We have been around swimming for a while now.  Grace started when she was 6.  She is now 13.  All three girls swim year round.

I admit when we first started out, I didn’t know anything.  Sometimes I think ignorance is bliss.  Grace was this adorable, toothless first grader running around in a swim suit in the dead of winter.  She liked the ring pops then.  Somethings don’t change.  She still likes them.

It was fairy easy for me to be uninvolved in swimming.  I had a 2-year-old.  There is nothing worse than a bored two-year old at a swim meet.  Ask anyone.  Just don’t sit next to one at a meet.  I let Chris handle things.  It was a great sport.  She was having fun and getting exercise.  I was potty training Sophie.

As time went on I became more involved.  When we joined a summer swim team for the first time I had that ah-hah moment.  Everything started to make sense.  Once I understood the “competition” aspect of swimming though, I will admit, I got sucked in.  A little more than I needed to be – and that is when the sport started sucking me dry.  And then I made the decision to find peace and back out.  The crazy swim mom still comes out from time to time.  But I have learned to keep it in my head.  Supporting other people in the sport has become easy for me.  The success of others has no bearing on my kids success and the moment I figured that out, life became simple (albeit quite busy) once again.

Now that I am totally perfect though, I would like to ask others to try a little harder.  Lots of crazy behavior came out the last few meets.  I should ignore it but I can’t.

Parents, don’t TELL your kid they WILL make finals.  Or that they WILL make a qualifying time.  Even when it seems to be a foregone conclusion.  Grace was seeded on 200 backstroke such that not making finals was almost impossible – one simple glide and a DQ cost her the finals.   Another event she felt was a total long shot she qualified for the A finals.  No one has a crystal ball.  I would sell them at meets if they existed.  There is no telling how your child or any other child will swim at any meet.  A fellow swim mom told not only her child and anyone that would listen that her swimmer would make finals in all three events.  So did the child.   It didn’t happen.  My kids felt sorry for the child because she was sobbing.  Adults felt sorry for her.  It isn’t fair to set a child up for failure or disappointment.  Sometimes it just isn’t in the cards.

Crying on the deck.  If you have a 12 or 13 year old daughter you will understand this.  Put a group of them together and one of them is going to cry at a meet.  The others watch it enough times and they feed off of it.  They start doing it too.  I watched Grace go from a non crier to a full on sobbing, emotional wreck in the period of three months.  The final straw for me was seeing her cry after getting a best time.  She won’t do it again.  She can cry as often as she wants.  Just not on the pool deck begging for attention.  As a parent, I know the difference.  I am a girl too you know.

The craziest thing of all to me though is scratching an event.  Not because the event immediately following is one you are hoping to get the Olympic Trails cut in and you don’t want to be worn out.  We will revisit the art of scratching if that is an issue.  I watch two TOP swimmers scratch their TOP events recently.  One because she was seeded to come in second.  Against a 14 year old who literally sets National Age Group Records.  Second against her.  My daughter is happy to come in top 100 at the bottom of her age group at this meet.  The second scratched because she was afraid she wouldn’t get a best time in her top event.  But she was fine swimming another event twenty minutes later (and for the record DID NOT get a best time).

Why does this affect me?  I don’t ever want my kids to think it is acceptable to give up because they aren’t going to win.  I don’t want them to think not doing your best every single time is a reason to walk away from a challenge.  That anything is guaranteed.  These are life skills, not swimming.

If being second isn’t good enough what is the point in swimming if you are 100th?  Or don’t even qualify for the meet?  Should we quit now?  Some of these kids need managers at 14.  If they ever do go all the way interview with fellow swimmers will be interesting.  Don’t be a prima donna.  Even if you are awesome…especially if you are awesome.

My kids can scratch at a meet for one of two reasons.  One, we are holding a bucket up to catch the projectile vomit or two, we are holding the broken appendage together until we can get to the hospital for a cast.  Or some variation of that theme.  If they can warm up, if they can swim the next event or the next day they will swim all of their events.

I will give credit where credit is due.  We have amazing people in our group.  I got a text from a family that was at another meet.  They were following the meet on meet mobile and sent Grace a congrats five minutes after she swam.  Their daughter, the underdog for years, got several sectionals cuts this weekend.  I watch and learn from the best.

We need to raise our children to be good people.  They aren’t swimmers.  They are kids that swim.

Grace and Katie

Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky

This was taken at The Tom Dolan Invitational.  Katie has been at the meet all weekend, swimming six individual events and a few relays.  She has also been around for all of the sessions, signing autographs and having her photo taken.  I think it is amazing that she is so accessable to all of the kids who admire and respect her.  She is a class act!  Our kids are very fortunate to have such great role models!


I think we are lucky, we never pay to watch swim meets in our area. I know from talking to other parents that many places you have to pay to get into the meet.

Grace is swimming at The Tom Dolan Invitational. I stayed home with my cuddle bugs today and sent dad. He just called me annoyed that he has to pay five bucks to get into the meet.

Last weekend we used about $85 in gas.  Spent nearly $60 on meals.  Another $50 on tolls.  Oh and a pair of goggles at the meet for the low price of $22.

Pay the $5.

This morning when Grace was leaving for warm ups I handed her a $5 out of his wallet.  I debated giving her the two that were in there but at the last minute decided to be kind and leave one *just in case*.  That very well may be the best decision I have made all year!

Go Grace go.

She met Katie Ledecky after warm ups and got her photo taken with her.  Very cool.

Post meet stress disorder

I have a love hate relationship with swim meet weekends. I love seeing the girls compete, especially when they do well. I know they are going to be long weekends with lots of swimming. Afterwards, we are all exhausted.

No matter how much I prepare I usually find that my house looks like a hurricane went through it by Sunday night. There isn’t a clean towel in the house. The refrigerator is bare. And I feel out of touch with society.

Come Monday morning I am anxious to get out and about. To breathe in fresh air and to talk to people who aren’t swim moms. I mostly am excited to get to the gym.

As a group fitness instructor I am very active but am also happy to take the two days off for a swim meet weekend. I don’t work on Sunday and usually end up not working on Saturday either. It isn’t the lack of exercise that kills me, it is the lack of movement. I truly don’t know how people sit all the time. My whole body hurts after a long swim meet weekend. From doing nothing.

I usually go to meets prepared. With books to read and other activities to pass the time. Instead I stare at the clock on the wall.

I teach yoga and we do childs pose in class. It is such a relaxing pose. I spend several hours in the “mental” version of childs pose at meets. I don’t know where I go but my brain literally shuts down and I stare into nothingness and think about nothing. I think I might start doing other yoga poses in the middle of the meets from now on. I bet I could get people to join in. A lot of people at meets could use a little more peace, love and understanding. At the very least I am going to start doing laps around the building in between swims. I am sure I would come out of these weekends feeling a lot better.

It’s a chlorine induced hangover. I am not giving in anymore. But I am having my glass of wine on Sunday night!

Should I take a shovel?

Day three.  Chris and I switch roles.

I was more than happy to go to the mini meet.  The reality of swimming 200 IM and 200 fly was starting to sink in and Grace was not happy about it.

I made the mistake of getting her a ride to warm ups to buy my husband an extra hour of sleep.  My friend ended up getting lost.  Grace pulled out her iphone and was able to use GPS to get them to the pool.  She might get lost in her 200 backstroke but not driving to a meet!  Sophie and I were off to the other side of the planet.  It certainly seemed that way.

All day Saturday Chris and I debated who was at the worst meet.  After switching roles on Sunday it was clear we both were winners.  Or losers.

Sophie had three solid swims.  Once again the heat winner cap magic worked.  Sophie fought hard for the cap in 50 free.  She also swam a consistent 50 fly from two weeks prior.  I was petrified she would add time and cry.  She is 8. Dodged that bullet.  Sophie reconnected with an old friend (can you have an old friend at 8?) who was swimming for our club at another site.  We made lunch plans for after the meet in January.  She has also made some really nice friends in her group and is really enjoying.  I can’t believe this is the same kid who cried before, after and during every meet two years ago.  I hate to jinx myself but we haven’t seen the tears in a long time.

Grace decided to bring her A game.  She swam 200 IM and knocked several seconds off her best time.  She had a quick turn around for 200 fly.  She was listed on the psych sheet as a No Time.  In reality she had swam 200 fly once.  About two years ago.  Because it was with a different club it didn’t automatically pull up.  We could have fixed it but she decided No Time looked a lot better than her real time!  She was dreading this race.  I was nervous for her.  I got a text from Chris.  “Holy crap you are a flyer”.  I immediately knew it was intended for Grace not me but I also took it as good news.  She had a solid swim and at this point had earned two spots in finals.  She swam 50 free, knocked half a second off and rounded out a triple header for finals.  I sent her home for a nap with our friend.  Who again got lost.  If Grace didn’t hate me for the two 200’s this would seal the deal.  Lost twice and swimming everything twice, what a day.

Sarah had the second session.  She brought her usual fire and determination.  And a marker.  She loves to write on her body.  It makes her easy to pick out of a crowd.  Sarah once again got to race a good friend.  Win or lose the race, Sarah gives it her all.  She had three great races and continued her streak of solid performances.  I need to look at her times from last year, I can’t seem to impress upon her how much improvement she has made.  She has had some significant time drops this year.  Sarah is proof that hard work pays off, she has upped her commitment to practice and it shows!  Several of her friends from school that swim for another club were also at this meet.  They all cheered each other on.  I am always happy to see that.sarah 3

We all reconvened at the house and I was taking  Grace to finals.  I considered taking a shovel along.  I wanted to give that deer a proper burial.  You know you are starting to lose your mind when you are starting to worry about the road kill.

Sophie offered to go back with me.  I took her up her offer, she is a fun date.  Chris and Sarah went for a daddy date birthday celebration.  Grace swam her IM.  Luckily she had gotten a good time that morning.  Her 200 fly was a solid swim.  She gained two seconds from morning.  She swore she gained 20.  Clearly I was not the only one losing their mind.  I spent a good fifteen minutes trying to convince her otherwise.  She opted to use her 50 free as a warm down.  At the crack of 10 PM we were out of there.  I swear the pool stole my soul.  And all of our minds.

We waved a sad farewell to Bambi.  And headed home.  The right way.

On the way home I swore I would never go to that meet again.  Sophie was sad, she said “but mom, you won’t let me swim at it next year when I am 9-10”?  Grace reminded her this was the third year in a row that I had sworn to never go back.  Of course she is right.

For now, we take a break from meets.  Until Saturday.