Gaining sight? Finding perspective?

Sarah’s soccer team has been going through a lot of transitions in the past year. At the beginning of this year they moved from a recreational league to a slightly more competitive league. The girls practiced twice a week instead of one and were expected to work daily on foot skills and conditioning. They lost every game but one.

For the winter season they opted to play Futsal instead of indoor soccer and will return to the same outdoor league come spring. The coach has decided spring will be her last season with the girls and is working with the parents to find the right transition into fall not only for the team but each individual girl. She asked us to consider as a family the following:

1. Are you willing to commit to five practices a week?
2. Are you willing to travel one weekend a month to tournaments?
3. Do you want to play soccer in college?

And the question not asked? As a parent are you willing to pay in excess of $5k a year to play soccer?

I will make it easy. No. To all of the above. Especially the question everyone is dancing around. A select group of parents are driving this increased level of commitment.

As much as I grumble about the cost of swimming, I spend less than that on all three girls swimming in a year. Yes, we are at the pool 7 days a week. Yes we travel occasionally for a swim meet – more often than not we don’t. But all three participate in swimming for less cost.

If asked to commit to one sport, Sarah would chose soccer over swimming. The problem is, I can’t commit to the expected level of commitment that a select few parents have decided we need to have if the team is to move forward as a group.

I decided not to react. Surely other parents would feel the same way I do. One can dream right?

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Better than believing

Chris and I decided that rather than play the Christmas game, we would get out of dodge. We surprised the girls with a three night trip to New York City. His mother was more than generous, she bought us tickets to see the Rockettes perform on Christmas Day. My parents clearly know how to make any girl happy, they provided the shopping money!

We spent Christmas Eve in a hotel, somewhat unorthodox I know. After a dinner at an Irish pub we walked in the snow to a nearby Target. Apparently not an unorthodox tradition. The place was hopping. We bought all of the random necessities, gloves, hats, milk and coffee.

The girls crashed but not before Sophie left a note in our window. She needed Santa to know where we were. I won’t go overboard preserving the myth but I also won’t stop Sophie from enjoying her childhood memories. Sarah and Grace dutifully did their parts.

Santa was able to quietly sneak in and out of our room that night. I will admit, he is a stealth “guy”.

Thanks to the hotel supplied white noise and black out curtains we slept fairly late in the morning. The girls checked out their Santa loot and we enjoyed a leisurely morning. We made our way into the heart of a city that literally never sleeps. Or at the very least has a 24 hour Apple store! After a little adult self gifting we sat down to a wonderful Italian meal before the show. The Rockettes performance was amazing. Radio City Music Hall is beautiful and our seats (7th row) were incredible.

Our return to the hotel was something out of Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Although it only involved trains, trains and sprinting to the platform. At 10 PM it dawned on us we hadn’t had dinner. The perfect Christmas dinner? Dominos Pizza.

We spent the next day shopping with the girls. The had a great time picking and buying their own gifts. Nice weather would have been great. Instead we got sleet. We still had a blast!

On our way home we all agreed this was the best Christmas ever. We threw convention out the door. Spent Christmas in a hotel, ate pizza and let the girls do their own shopping. And in the process made lots of wonderful memories.

I approached this holiday with a sense of dread. I will close out the year with great memories and a different sense of the meaning of Christmas.

Hope you all had a great year. 2013. On your mark….

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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!

It costs FIVE DOLLARS

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.

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.

 

A Tale of Two Cities

Actually two states.  Saturday morning.  7 AM warm ups.  One an hour away in Maryland, the other an hour away in Virginia.  Stop right there if you are jealous.  This is just the beginning of the fun.

Chris took Sophie to her mini meet in Virginia. Who came up with the idea of 7 AM warm ups for minis?  This person sucks.

I took Grace to her warm ups.  Bambi was still there.  Looking really rough.

Sophie was out for blood at the mini meet.  They gave caps to the heat winners.  Last year Sophie did really well at the meet.  But no caps.  She was bound and determined to get the cap that she felt was rightfully hers.  And that she did.  A yellow one, her favorite color.sophie cap

I miss the simpler times of swimming.  When being a heat winner held some prestige.  Chris was texting me updates and I was texting him updates.  While Sophie was busy having a great time winning caps, Grace was hard at work swimming pretty half assed.  She swam 100 fly and added a second.  About two tenths too much to get her into the finals.  She then swam 200 backstroke, her event.  She had a goal in mind.  For the first 100 she was well on her way.  Well, her first 90.  Then she decided to glide into the wall.  Swimmers are taught to keep swimming, hoping that perhaps the refs won’t see the offense as critically as the swimmer.  Or even better yet, the won’t see it all.  OR they are standing right on top of you on the pool deck and they shoot their hand straight in the air.  As was the case in this event.  Backstrokers have it hard.  She held it together pretty well for the next 25 but at the turn she could see me.  I kept cheering for her and she started to cry.  Crying during a race makes no sense.  Two days later.  At the time it is a very natural reaction.  At the 175 mark she looked me straight in the eye and said “AM I DONE”?  I nodded yes.  “ARE YOU SURE?”  Yes.  At this point she was laughing.  She had blown the race and forgotten where she was in it.  I didn’t care that she got DQ’d, nor did her coaches.  But it was a great teachable moment.  Think about your race.

She got it together and soon after pulled out a respectable 200 free.  One that earned her a spot in finals.

Sarah’s session was up next.  She had a ride there.  I drove Grace home for a nap.  Then I drove back.  An hour each way.  Two more trips on the toll road.  The roadkill was still not cleaned up.  I needed a new route.

Sophie’s meet ended and Chris took her home to chill with Grace.  Sarah swam next.

The pool was not crowded for the 13-14 and 15-18 session.  I was still enjoying the meet.

Whoever got the bright idea to put 9-10 and 11-12 together though should be looking for a new job on craigslist.  When I got back I parked very far away.  The seat I had saved for myself with a towel and been reduced to half its size.  It was ridiculously hot and there wasn’t even standing room.   The fire marshal showed up at Junior Olympics at this same pool last year.  This was worse.  People were cranky.   I don’t know why, they all got to sleep in, I was up at 5:30.

Sarah swam three events.  All three she did a great job on.  Sarah is a nice middle of the pack swimmer.  This was her first meet as an 11-year-old, her birthday was the day before the meet started.  She got best times and swam with a lot of heart and determination.  I wish Sarah would take swimming on full-time, she has a lot of potential.  She is a wicked fierce competitor.  She may not win her race but she gives it 100%.  And then some.  She is thinking through the race and doesn’t make mistakes.

Her last event was 50 fly.  Her last time swimming that was 2 weeks ago when she went head to head with her baby sister.  This time she went head to head with her swim BFF.  They stayed together the entire race.  Until the end and Sarah’s friend out swam her by a few tenths.  Sarah knocked a half a second off her best time and was elated!  And speaking of exciting, they had nachos at concessions.  Sarah wolfed them down.

On the way out she told me that she loved racing her BFF.  That her friend pushed her to swim fast and they were both happy to get best times.  A kid that loves to compete and can handle the competition?  Go Sarah.

We passed our little friend on the way out.  May he rest in peace.

Chris took Grace back for finals.  She swam a nice 200 free.  And the day was done.

Total trips back and forth to meets at this point?  Eight.  My E-Z pass bill was going to be more than my mortgage.  Grace was begging to bag the last day of the meet.  Sophie wanted another cap.  Sarah?  She wanted nachos.

Wake up call in ten hours.