And the taper paid off…

Grace started a taper about two weeks before JO’s. I would rather spend time with a million buzzing bees than a swimmer during a taper. The first few days are fine – it usually hits around day 5. Quite literally grace did not know what to do with her pent up energy. Usually a fairly calm person, Grace spent the days leading up to JO’s talking non stop. Mostly about clothes. Can we go to the mall? Can you buy me some Vans? Do you like this shirt? Can I borrow your Lululemon pants? I need a new bathing suit for summer. Around day 5 she started doing P90X. Dad advised her not to but she couldn’t help herself. Swimmers are true endorphin junkies. I now know why they say swimmer for life. They don’t know how not to swim hard.

Fortunately the taper paid off. The kids in Grace’s group all did really well at the meet. Grace had a solid swim in 100 back and then took off 3 seconds. In February she had shaved off a little over 3.5 seconds – since January she has dropped 6.5 in her 200 back. She was slightly disappointed to not make finals but next year she should do exceptional at the meet.

She is swimming 7 more events this coming weekend at our championship meet. The kids aren’t allowed to swim events they qualified for at JO’s. Grace is seeded first in several events having just barely missed the JO times. I am hoping that we can survive one more week of easy practice. She seems to have quiet down some which scares me. Perhaps lethargy is setting in!

Sarah is also swimming this weekend. I’m hoping her streak of amazing swims continues. I would love to see her get a JO cut for next year to boost her confidence.

This will be my final meet with double sessions. Oh, hold you applause. I will have triple sessions from here on out. Sophie will be the big 0-9 in April.

After this weekend the girls head to Florida for a visit with Grandma and Papa. Chris and are sneaking off to New Orleans for a few days. And then we begin long course!

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Going out with a bang

Sarah played in a soccer tournament this past weekend. We had committed her as a “guest” player for a team of kids comprised largely of girls from our summer swim team prior to her being diagnosed with severe inflammation in her Achilles’ tendon. She knew these would be her final few games until next fall when we could have her feet and ankles reevaluated by our orthopedic specialist.

Sarah wasn’t able to practice with these girls prior to the tournament. I never thought to ask the single most important question, the position they needed her to play. As fate would have it, they needed her on defense, a position I don’t recall her ever playing.

Aside from the fact that it was miserably cold, it was fun to watch her play. The kids and parents were very welcoming. She knew the coach and his daughter very well so she felt very comfortable with them. Sarah took on her position as if it were second nature. She communicated well with the other players. She played with heart and sole and a whole lot of scrappy. I hadn’t seen her this relaxed on the field in well over a year.

Even though Sarah loved her old soccer coach and team, it also had become a stressful environment. There was a lot of pressure on the kids. By the coach, the other kids and by the parents. Too much by the parents. They all envision their kids future collegiate soccer players. I saw them as a nice average group of kids. Which is why I suppose we didn’t fit in all the time.

Sarah has always been nicknamed scrappy. It suits her well. This past weekend was no exception. I’m proud of her for not being intimidated playing a new position and for working hard as an individual player and in an unfamiliar team environment. I saw her having fun. Something she hadn’t done with soccer in a long while. Well done Sarah. Well done. Lets put the cleats away now and get you better. And maybe consider defense in the future. She was a natural at it.

Somebody that I used to know…

Yesterday, Grace swam 100 Backstroke at JO’s.  She had a great swim – knocked off 2 seconds which moved her up 34 places.  Grace is a pro at big meets.  Generally I drop her off at the door for meets but this time she parked with me. Good thing too, the meet was at University of Maryland and I couldn’t remember where the parking deck was.  She, of course, knew exactly where it was.  Six hours later she got a good laugh when I got turned around and we ended up in a dead-end parking lot.  Sometimes I swear she is smarter than me.  I glanced at her on deck as she was preparing to warm up and I was struck by how similar Sophie looks to her.  The older Sophie gets the more I see Grace in her.  For some reason today though I saw Grace’s eight year old self on deck.  I think it was her smile.  While grown up, she is still a little girl.

Last weekend after Sophie’s meet, Grace reminded me that when she was 8 I HATED swimming.  I stopped her.  I am not sure hate is a strong enough word for how I felt about swimming.  I laughed and told the tale of the last meet I went to for two years.  Grace was not quite 8.  Sarah 5 and Sophie was 2.5.  Like idiots, we decided the whole family should watch Grace swim, the meet was at our home pool – close to home.

I over estimated the entertainment value of swim meets and under estimated the need for entertainment and snacks for Sarah and Sophie.  In fact, I brought none.  I over dressed for the meet, assuming that since it was cold outside I would need to wear heavy clothing.  Chris being the swim dad that he is – immediately volunteered to time.  Leaving me with two small children, no cash or heat sheet and wisely no car keys – I would have bolted had transportation been available.

It was the longest 3 hours of my life.   If you have even taken small children to a meet you understand how I felt.  If you have ever been kicked by a bored, hot, hungry small child you also understand.  It was miserable and I missed all of Grace’s swims, I had no idea what she was swimming, let alone heat or lane.

I didn’t go to another swim meet for two years.  It was that bad.  Before you judge me, I went to soccer games, Girl Scout camping trips and was room moms.  I just was noticeably absent from swim meets.  So was Grace.  She didn’t compete at an indoor meet for nearly two years.  During that period we joined a summer swim team.  A few things happened.  I learned about swimming and came to understand it.  My kids also got older and more manageable.  By the time Grace returned to year round competition I was a full-blown swim mom.   I actually enjoy going to meets.

As I looked on deck yesterday and saw Grace I was overwhelmed with a sense of pride.  She has great coaches and wonderful friends.  We swim in a very supportive environment and it makes life so much better.  Grace tends to get very serious during meets but yesterday she was being goofy and having fun.  It reminded me of someone I used to know…her 8 year old self.  I am glad that she has matured but also love the playful side of her.  She is still a kid at heart.

It’s been nice knowing you!

This weekend was our local Mini Champs meet. Sophie got it in her head that this was her farewell tour. She ages up in April – this was not only her final mini meet but the final mini meet for our family. We have had a “mini” for 8 consecutive years.

I wasn’t going to the meet Saturday – dad was going, I had to work. After teaching two classes I was besieged by mommy guilt and decided to go. Any sense of melancholy over this being our babies last mini meet was immediately squashed upon arrival at the pool. The parking lot was full. After parking and taking a long hike to the pool I remembered why I don’t like mini meets! The older kids generally have one parent spectating. The 8 and under crew brings every relative in a 100 mile radius. The parking lot may have been at capacity – the pool was beyond capacity. I was very grateful that I was volunteering on deck the following morning as a lane checker. Sophie had three very consistent swims, she took a few seconds off her IM – despite losing her goggles on the dive.

Day two we were sure to get to the pool plenty early. Sophie asked to be dropped at the door. It almost made me sad, up until now she had always wanted to walk in with me.

Turns out lane checking is even worse than sitting in the hot crowded stands. Cat Herding is an easier task than Kid Herding! I had several criers, a hyper ventilator, two over bearing coaches and no less than ten kids who weren’t sure of their first or last name. I asked “are you Anna” and got the sweetest reply. She said “no, my name is Anna”. Got it. And I picked this week to give up wine?

Sophie swam fly in the A relay and earned a nice fists place medal. She had another day of consistent swimming. A few small time drops, earning three medals and two ribbons. All I had hoped for was that she didn’t tank at her last hurrah as a mini.

When we walked out the door I was immediately regretful for complaining about the early warm ups. We were out by noon and greater by a beautiful spring day. My baby girl and I skipped to the car. We celebrated with a lunch date – just the two of us. We then went for a hike, ending the hike at out favorite winery. The kids ran around and played soccer with other kids. This also ended my ban on wine, some days are meant for a nice glass of wine with friends.

I thought I would be sad. I wasn’t. I am proud of how far Sophie has come. She is no longer that little girl who cried before meets and needed her hand held in the parking lot. She is competitive, strong and most importantly -happy – in the pool! Bye bye minis. We are outta here!

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Let it snow – or not

Like most of the East Coast we are expected to get a “school halting” snow tonight, well into tomorrow morning. Most of my friends are hoping for the snow. I need new friends.

I don’t mind when the kids are home, mine are finally at the self sufficient stage of life. They sleep in and make their own breakfast. I haven’t trained them to clean up yet. Baby steps.

If my kids are going to get a bonus day off why can’t it be 70 degrees and sunny? That sounds perfect to me. Snow day? Painful. I don’t like snow. I am not afraid to say it. Don’t believe me? Ask anyone.

I’m the mom everyone judges. We don’t flush ice, sleep with a spoon or wear our pajamas backwards as kids seem to believe will magically ensure school will be cancelled. My girls are staying up late and watching dance moms. The later I let my kids stay up the more likely we are to have school. Next week my friends won’t be able to eat soup for lack of spoons and my kids all night bender on a school night will be but a distant memory.

As a yoga instructor people often tell me they find yoga boring. My smart ass retort? There is something wrong with us if we won’t allow ourselves to be bored from time to time. I like to explore my boredom on a warm beach. Not on my couch.

It doesn’t look good. The upside? I can sit around all day in my Lululemon yoga pants all day. That will give me a little status quo in my day. Namaste. Let it snow.

Can’t believe I am saying this

Day two with the teenager was a walk in the park.  It was just last year that I was always nervous when she swam.  Up until recently Sarah didn’t really care about swimming, she just did it for the socializing and she enjoyed the exercise.  Sophie was 7…if we could get through a meet with her with no tear we considered it a success.  The tide has shifted and all three girls are very focused on their races and success in the pool.

This isn’t to say I don’t care about Grace’s swimming any more.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I am in awe of her dedication and focus to the sport.  She has been swimming consistently since she was 6.  It hasn’t come easy to her all the time either.  She has weathered unpredictable coaches, long plateaus and years of girl drama.  And still loves it.

Grace is becoming a young woman.  She used to need pumping up before meets and lots of encouragement.  She has found that inner fight on her own.  As well as inner peace.

Going into this meet she only had one JO cut and about 7 she was close to.   She had to pick five events and struggled with which five to choose.

During the morning session she swam 50 and 200 free.   While she didn’t make the JO cuts she took time off in both events and was pleased with her results.  After a quick rest at home we went back to the pool – stopping at Starbucks for her “go-go juice” – some kind of soy vanilla frozen thing.  She was concerned about how she would do in the afternoon session, she had 200 IM, 200 Back and 100 fly in pretty rapid succession.  Her coach and her dad suggested scratching one of the events.  She was furthest from the JO time in 100 fly but it was the last event and the one she most wanted to swim.

My advice is always different.  I am not a swimmer – I was in sales in my professional career.  My motto?  Simple, throw a lot of shit against the wall and see what sticks.  Simply put, swim your heart out in all three races and see what happens.

Her IM – the race she debated scratching was awesome.  She only needed to take off a second for the JO cut.  All was going well until she hit breaststroke.  I think she was tapering or something.  Not her best performance.  She added a second.

This is when I usually get really nervous.  But I didn’t.  Her next race was 200 back and I knew she would get the JO time.  She had swum it twice recently, once getting an oops DQ and once slipping on her start.  She had run through her excuses and it was time to swim it well.  And she did, taking of almost 4 seconds and getting her time.

She warmed down for 6 minutes and was back on the block for 100 fly.  She had a great swim, took off enough time to qualify for Dolan but missed JO’s.  And just like that we were out of there.

She was thrilled with her swims.  Having two JO times she gets her bag tag and t-shirt but also gets to swim at Spring Champs.  She swims great when rested and is excited about both meets.

After the meets they get a two-week break and we head into LC season.  Grace loves long course and is excited for the change of pace.  The car ride home was lively conversation.   About shopping.  Teenagers are great.  Did I just say that?

Girl on fire

This weekend is our February Qualifier meet for Junior Olympics.  We once went to a qualifier that they called Last Chance Meet which I always found humorous, especially if you kids are 9.   This meet was a little different than usual meets, instead of the kids swimming two sessions on two days they had two sessions on one day.  The 12 and unders had two sessions Saturday and the older kids are swimming today.

Sophie swam 100 fly in the morning and 50 fly in the afternoon.  She had never swam 100 fly but based on her 50 fly times the coaches thought she had a legitimate chance of making the JO cut.  She needed to take 1 second off her 50 ly in the afternoon to get it.

I was very proud of Sophie – she never doubted herself or her abilities to swim 100 fly.  The only mention of nerves came as we were walking into the pool, she said “I have butterflies for butterfly”.  I gave her a quick kiss on the top of her head and she went on deck for warm ups.  I was a nervous mess.  I paced for two hours until she swam.   Sophie hopped onto the block like a total badass.  She was the only 8 year who swam.  The other kids ranged in age from 9-12.

She had a beautiful swim.  She fell just short of her goal of 1.30.69 – but still clocked an impressive 1.33.69.  She was ecstatic.  We left, she came home and napped.  Despite not making the JO cut, she did make the Dolan time for next year.

For the afternoon session Sarah and Sophie were both swimming.  Sophie had 50 fly and Sarah’s coach had put her in three events.  I was appreciative of his putting her in the meet, they kids were supposed to be close to the JO times and having just turned 11 late in November Sarah really didn’t have a shot.  Sarah’s coach picks her events and as luck would have it, she ended up in 50 fly as well, same heat as Sophie.  Lanes 3 and 4.  I use the term luck here, people often forget there are two kinds of luck.  Good luck and not so good luck.

Sarah actually figured out Friday night that they would be racing one another.  She wasn’t happy.  She isn’t the kind of kid who gets over things quickly.  She had almost 24 hours to stew over this.  Or perhaps brew.

We opted to take one car, a risk I know, to the second session.  Both girls were on edge.

Sarah swam 200 IM and 50 breaststroke.  After watching her two races I had already determined who would prevail in the sibling showdown.

When it came time for the two to race my heart was literally racing.  I really wanted Sophie to get her cut and I also wanted Sarah to win.  This was the best possible case scenario for me.  (Yes it is about me, I have to live with them!).

Unfortunately, nerves got the best of Sophie and she lingered on the block.  A painfully long time.  There is no room for error on a 50.  Sophie’s race was over before it started.  Sarah however was ready to take this heat down.  In flames.  She destroyed the heat and took off 3 seconds, swimming a 35.59!  (Sarah doesn’t even like fly for the record!).  Sophie added a second which was impressive given her start.  Had she nailed that start she would have made her time, there is no doubt in my mind.  The awesome news is she has two more years to hit it!

Sophie cried for a moment.  I was very happy that she knew what she had done wrong.  Sarah made sure that Sophie knew she beat her.  And then apologized.  It was a peaceful ride home.

Sarah was the dark horse of this meet.  While she didn’t make any qualifying times at this meet, I do see them in her future.  I thought her coach put her in the meet to be nice.  I was wrong.  He put her in because he believed in her.  I asked him to take a chance on her at the beginning of this season and he did.  He let her in the group and she struggled for a bit.  She now belongs there.  Her future is bright.  Sarah is a competitor, once she knew she had her sister in that 50 fly she took on everyone else.  She handed in three brilliant swims.  Sophie two.  After 5 swims at a qualifying meet, none actually making the cut, I left full of pride.  It was a great day.

 

Did someone say showdown?

This coming weekend is our February qualifier meet for kids who are trying to make JO cuts.  Twelve and unders have a double session on Saturday, and the older kids a double session on Sunday.

Grace decided to make life difficult.  She is less than half a second from the cut in 7 events.  She can only swim 5 at this meet.  In the end it is a roll of the dice deciding what to swim.  I am not worried about her, she has been working her tail off in practice and she will do well.

As luck would have it – I have two kids who are under 12 so they are in the same meet.  This rarely happens.  Sarah and Sophie are both swimming Saturday.

Sophie who is 8 is taking on her first 100 fly.  She was willing to give it a shot and even if she doesn’t get the JO cut she will be close.  Keep in mind it is a 9-10 event!  I was happy she was agreeable to swimming it, 100 fly is something a lot of kids are afraid of.  She is nervous but also excited to give it a try.

In the afternoon Sarah is swimming 3 events and Sophie 1.   The inevitable has happened – they are both swimming 50 fly.  That isn’t the good part.  They are seeded next to each other.  Not one single kid could fill that .18 gap between the two.  Not a single kid.  Shit.  And don’t forget, the 8-year-old is faster than the 11-year-old.

I would love to tell you that these two don’t compete.  That would be complete bullshit.  Sarah and Sophie are in competition with one another even in their sleep.  Their lives are a constant battle of who is cuter, smarter, faster and right.  “No you aren’t” isn’t the most common phrase spoken between the two.  When they are actually speaking to each other.  It isn’t love – hate.  It might be a stretch to call it  like – hate.

You are probably wondering what things are like at my house right now.  I am glad you asked.  They are wonderful.  Because I haven’t told them.  Denial is bliss.  I don’t plan to tell them.  They will figure it out Saturday.

They are both fierce competitors with something to prove.  This is an individual sport.  They can fight it out in the pool.  I don’t think it is going to be pretty.  But I do expect it to be gloriously awesome.

I think we will take two cars though.   Just in case.

 

 

Getting a kid to believe

I have always wondered…How do you get a kid to believe in themselves.

I just figured it out.  You don’t.

They do.

I tell my kids on a regular basis how awesome they are.  And they barely believe me.  And then something just clicks for them and they believe it.  Because they believe it.  I think it is important that I help my kids understand their self-worth but the worth that defines them is theirs.  Not mine.  From time to time I see self-doubt in my kids.  I want to fix it.  I have learned not to…they can.

At least today that is how I feel.  I can’t fix everything, or make everything perfect or even make my kids good at everything.  But I love them.  Even when they eat too much chocolate and go to bed without cleaning the kitchen because they have a tummy ache.

Hope your day was filled with love.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

Watching greatness

My girls swim at an amazing facility. When we first started swimming there we were really impressed with it. But all things that are shiny and new become dull and boring after a while. When you look at something long enough you start to take it for granted. It isn’t until we host a meet that we are reminded how lucky we are. Or when we go to a meet at a pool in dire need of being renovated. Or torn down. I sat in a downpour at a meet recently. It was an indoor pool. Leaky roof. We are spoiled.

This past weekend, Metros were held at our pool. The very one I spend 7 days a week at. Because we were hosting this large meet, our kids did not have Friday or Saturday practice. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have stepped foot in that building. But these were not normal circumstances.

Jack Conger, who swims for our club and made it to Olympic trials, was making a stab at the 500 free record – the oldest record on the books. The record had been set 30 years ago and last year Jack missed it by 1.12 seconds. We were hoping he would get it at preliminaries, I was anxious for him. He missed it by 4 seconds. Pressure was on for Saturday night.

Katie Ledecky swam five heats later in the women’s 500 free. While she swims for a competing club, we absolutely adore our local Olympic hero. While I have been at many meets she has swam in, I have never watched her swim…You see, she used to just be a normal kid who swam really fast. They are a dime a dozen in DC metro. While I never noticed her two years ago, I found myself excited to watch her swim up close and personal. In the very same lane my kids swim in night after night. The middle lane has always been special but I will look at it a little differently from now on, especially when my kids get to race in it. Seeing Katie swim was amazing. She is beautiful in the water. She lapped all of the fast kids.

My girls who are convinced the pool is their home tore off downstairs and had Katie sign everything and anything they could get their hands on.

Katie is the queen of awesome. She swims for a competing club remember? Yet she signed RMSC caps, t-shirts and swim bags. She even posed for a photo with the girls. Actually, she took it! She is a role model both in and out of the water.

Night two? Finals. Jack came back with a vengeance. Lots of records were set. The biggest, Jack broke that 30 year old record. He posted am impressive 4.13.87 on 500 free. I missed it – but I did get to see Sarah score at her second to last Futsal game. It’s all good.

It is a honor to see these kids in our pool. Katie, a sophomore Olympic gold medalist and Jack, a senior with a bright future. My girls were on cloud 9.

I won’t look at our pool the same for a while. The future of greatness might just be practicing in that lane.

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