Closing Time

This is one of my favorite Semisonic songs. It also very adequately sums up how I feel about the end of another summer swim season.

The season was a whirlwind. Most families that swim in the summer go to one or two meets a week. With three girls swimming we go to all of them. Plus all of our club meets. It gets exhausting. Most of the time the girls swam really well. And they tanked a few. It’s like this every year. I’m getting pretty good at handling the pressure. They still cry from time to time but in general they handle the competition with class. In the past I would get caught up in each race. Almost as if it were the last race they would ever swim. Now I realize the moment they are done with a race it is behind them. The important races are their future races. And if I am being honest I really hope the important races are not in the near future. Who needs to peak at 13, 11 or 9.

The girls have a lot to look forward to. Grace will be traveling to zones in a few weeks. The 6:30 AM practices for her won’t end until then. I admire her dedication and am proud of her for making zones at the bottom of her age group. I hope she does well. In the coming weeks we will also squeeze I. What I like to call “forced family fun”. We took the girls bowling yesterday. Grace somehow was able to bounce a ball from her lane into the lane next to hers. I guess dry land training has been paying off.

Once zones is finished we will be taking a much needed vacation which will include a visit to the University of Florida campus. Grace has dreams of one day swimming there. Which works out nicely, I would like to move to Florida. Our road trip will take us to south Florida for a week with Grandma and Papa. We need salt water and sand. Chlorine and concrete are banned from this trip!

As a new season approaches I can’t help but be reminded that:

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”

I can’t help but believe this coming year will have a lot of new beginnings.

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I’ll own it

I was accused yesterday of being a proud mom.  I’m pretty sure it was intended as an insult.  It didn’t have the desired effect.  I took it as a compliment.  I am proud of my girls.  They certainly aren’t perfect.  They get that honestly – I am as far from perfect as you can get.  But I try.  Well, not really.

Going into last nights meet I was proud of Grace.  She has developed a great attitude about summer swimming.  She has learned to enjoy it and not get caught up in who she is beating.  As a result, she has had one hell of a summer.  As a result of that, she qualified to swim 100 back and free at a USA-S sanctioned meet – top 8 in each age and stroke were invited to race.

Grace had her eye on the prize.  She wants a knee skin.  Dad told her she needed a AAA cut before she turned 14 and he would shell out mega bucks for the suit.  Grace was concerned she wouldn’t do well, that all the other girls would be in knee skins.  And they were, she was right.  But Grace was wrong – she did just fine in her rinky dink Recordbreaker.  She thought she would get the cut in 100 back.  She didn’t. But she gave it a noble effort and did make the Zones cut that was hanging over her head.  But before she swam backstroke she shocked herself by getting that AAA cut in 100 free.  She ran upstairs after the race and was literally jumping for joy.

Tomorrow we start a long 4 day weekend of JO’s and a summer meet.  The mood has already been set for Grace – she is fired up and ready to go.

Am I proud of her?  Hell yeah.  You are going to have to try harder to insult me.  I’ll own it.  And that knee skin?  Grace will own it too.  Not in time for this weekend unfortunately.  She will just have to own that pool in the suit she has.  Watch out world when she gets it.  It might not matter her faster but she wants it.

Me?  I would rather have new shoes…

Raised expectations.

Our summer swim league had its official start yesterday. We had an early morning wake up call for time trials. Grace actually viewed it as an opportunity to sleep in, she generally has a 6:30 AM practice on Saturday mornings so a 7:15 warm up time allowed her another 45 minutes of sleep.

Our summer swim league swims A and B meets. A meets are Saturday mornings. The 6 fastest freestylers and 3 fastest in the other strokes swim on Saturday. Everyone else swims on Wednesday evening. Each week you can swim a total of three strokes plus the IM. If you only qualify for two events at the A meet you can also swim the third plus the IM on Wednesday. With three kids being at the bottom of their age group I assumed that we would be swimming both meets. I had expectations that Grace would make the A meets. There are 3 girls that have swam together for years. Grace is the baby of the three and usually rides the #3 position with them when she is bottom of her age group. Every other year she has held on to the #1 spot.

Sarah and Sophie have always been wild cards. Last year, at top of their age group they made the A meets but were definitely fighting for their lives each week. I had no expectations for this year. I was confident both would make freestyle top 6 but I was otherwise pretty unsure. I signed up to volunteer at both A and B meets.

I knew all three girls had worked hard this year but I also knew their team mates had done the same. I preach to the girls that hard work pays off and that I don’t care where they place as long as they are constantly improving.

Going into time trials with no expectations is great. We left though with raised expectations. All three girls did amazing. Grace literally rose to the top, she placed first in back and free, second in IM and fly, with a shocking third in breaststroke. She swam her heart out. Sarah placed second in everything but fly, she was third. Little Sophie got first in fly and free! IM is a 12 and under event but she had a great swim!

Summer swim unfortunately IS somewhat about “place” and scoring for the team. That is the one part of it I don’t like. Sarah is very competitive and it sometimes brings out the smack talking side of her. She got her one shot at saying something stupid yesterday. I put the fear of an iPhone free summer in her if she did it again. I think she got the point.

I was really happy to see the girls swim so well! They have worked so hard this year and it is awesome to see it all come together. I’m glad they didn’t go in with high expectations. A few kids did and they left disappointed. We left completed excited to see what this summer will bring.

Just sleep on it

Thursday night I left the pool pretty fired up. I felt like Sophie was being caught in the crossfires of being good but not quite good enough.

Friday rolled around. Sophie refused to go to the advanced juniors practice. The coach had not told her what practice to attend and being a quite literal kid who is only 8 was concerned that she should not go to the practice. The head coach is not there on Friday nights. Sounds totally stupid to a grown up. Makes perfect sense to am almost 9 year old. After a battle of the wills (mine) and a few tears shed (hers) it was decided we would stay at home.

Thirty minutes later she got it together and asked to go. It was too late to go to the advanced juniors but we had plenty of time to make juniors. Should come as no surprise – I took her.

It was her first Friday night practice in either group. Attendance was light and there was a great deal,of stroke work with juniors. She got a lot out of practice and enjoyed it.

We showed up this morning for the 7 am practice and she did advanced juniors. After practice I talked to the coach and worked out a fantastic “time share” program for her that will have her in the group full time sooner than later.

I apologized for being rude in our previous conversation. He assured me I wasn’t. This means one of two things. Either I still can pull the bitch card some day. OR being nice pays off. I really respect our coaches. I’m hoping to leave the bitch card unplayed.

The most important thing of all – Sophie gets to practice with the advanced juniors on Tuesday. Her birthday. Traditionally birthdays in the group are celebrated with donuts. That is what really matters. Oh and I can sleep well tonight. No worries. For now.

Where was I?

You might think I dropped off the face of the planet.  Grace and Sarah both swam Friday, Saturday and Sunday of their spring champs meet which was actually the same weekend that spring break started.  They both had an amazing meet with impressive time drops.  More importantly, so did all of the kids in the two groups they swim with.  I love to see success as a group, it means the training is working!  I always trust our coaches training programs – the intensity leading up to the championship up to the meet and the taper are the critical components.  It’s exciting to see it come together.

We then took two weeks off from the pool.  The girls spent a week at the beach with Grandma and Papa in Florida and Chris and I snuck off for a weekend away in New Orleans.  It was the perfect time to get away, Maryland got a rare late March snow on the day we got out of dodge.

Last week the girls went back to school but were still out of the pool.  It was really odd, we didn’t have any activities after school.  We are at the pool seven days a week.  Eating dinner while the sun is still shining is a rarity for us.  The house was cleaner, dinners were prepared from a recipe, homework was done early and we had a lot of down time.  I won’t lie.  I was a calmer person.  We literally had three extra hours every evening.  I also was bored.  Really, really bored.

When you are used to a fast pace it is hard to slow down.  As much as I enjoyed the week of living like normal people I was glad it was over. We have learned to love our crazy life.  My kids need the physical activity to stay sane.  By day 14 they reminded me of those little bouncy balls you can buy for a quarter out of a gumball machine.  Not one, more like a million.   Bouncing around my house.  I get it, I feel the same way after a few days of non activity – you know, swim meet weekends!

Long course season started Monday.  Grace and Sarah went back to their same practice groups.   Sophie will be 9 in a few weeks and is caught in between Juniors and Advanced Juniors.  She did her first Advanced Juniors practice last night and quite honestly got her ass handed to her.  It was a hard practice.  But she didn’t give up.  Later I asked her what she thought.  She said it was really hard.  I was very concerned it might be  too much for her but Grace jumped in and asked if she wanted to go back.  Sophie said, why wouldn’t I?  She isn’t backing down from a challenge.  And I was all set to let her.  I thought I knew everything and here I am starting over.

Now I need to convince the coach to take her on.  You know the one, the one I convinced to take on Sarah?  Same one.  He had success with her…I’m out of kids to be his project.  I don’t think he is too sad…Once I have convinced him I’ll go back to being my low maintenance self.  It’s his fault for being such a great coach.

Set me free why don’t you babe

Get out of my lane why don’t you babe?

As we move into the spring long course season our club has started to rearrange the groups. Kids who are going to high school will start to transition to one of the two groups intended for the kids who are no longer in middle school.

Several of the kids in the group are younger than Grace but a year ahead of her in school. Grace has an early November birthday. She started school in Ohio and the cut off was in August. In Maryland the cut off all those years ago was November 1st and as such, many parents with kids born in November pushed for their kids to start school early. It wasn’t an option for Grace. She is one of the older kids in her Grade. This had been a positive experience for her.

One of the girls who is moving up is a few weeks younger than Grace. She has been telling Grace daily that she HAS to move us. It has become annoying for Grace. Actually, it is making her mad. The kid is being quite mean about it.

Even if Grace wanted to move up, she couldn’t. Grace has one more year in middle school and can’t even get to the practice. Not that it matters. She isn’t moving up. She likes her group and wants one more year there. Grace will be 18 her senior year of swimming. She has plenty of time to be a high school swimmer. When she is in high school. I finally went to the coach and told him to put an end to it. He wasn’t too happy to hear about it.

Grace can swim in minis for all I care. But it is no ones business other than hers, mine and the coaches. This kid needs to move along. And shut her trap.

I have a dad trying to figure out which group Sophie is heading to. I’m having fun ignoring his prying questions. Next person that worries about my kids can pay my swim tab – then they can have a say.

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.

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?

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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