Sometimes it pays to be crazy

I pride myself on being that “normal” swim mom but I may have to  table that for a moment.

We have a crazy swim dad. He registers his son in meets that our club is not attending, he watches practices and has his son attend multiple practices in the same day.  He has been asked many times to refrain from doing these things.  He smiles, nods his head in agreement and then does it anyways.  The kids think he is nuts, he has this angry stance he assumes for an hour and a half while watching practice – it is creepy.  He even instigated an argument with a parent from a competing club.  Yet his son continues to swim.

Meanwhile, we are still waiting to find out if Sophie can swim in the summer session with our club.  The summer session is designed for kids who want to participate in long course meets.  Sophie does.  It’s emphasis is kids who have made JO cuts.  Sophie has.  She is the slowest swimmer in the group by the smallest margin you can imagine – there are several kids in the group who are barely faster than her.  She makes the intervals, completes practice and doesn’t complain.  She is also the youngest – she just turned 9.   And let’s not forget her sister Sarah is also in the group.  We are obviously committed to the group and practice.

The session starts today.  Sophie swims Sunday in the Maryland State Champs meet.  She has been granted permission to swim this week in preparation for the meet.  But if there isn’t space for her, she won’t be able to swim JO’s.

Needless to say, I am not happy.  Swimming is a sport about individual goal setting.  Those of you who have followed my tales of swimming know that Sophie’s only goal last year was to make a 9-10 JO cut at the age of 8.  She fell short of her goal by a few weeks but nailed her 100 fly at the first long course meet.  She is proud of her accomplishment and can’t wait to swim at the meet.  I don’t have the heart to tell her that there may not be room in the practice group.  Instead of being crazy I have decided to be proactive.  I will make it happen, there are lots of options to explore.

In the end, I am disappointed that my daughter wasn’t welcomed to the group with open arms.  Swimming is about setting goals.  When a young 9 year old sets a goal and accomplishes it we owe it to them to see it through.  I guess that is my job.

I’m sure I will regret putting this out there – we are really happy with our club and this is the first time I have been disappointed in them.  I couldn’t sleep last night, this weighed heavy on my heart.  I need sleep tonight so I am putting my feelings out there.

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Do they not have the internet?

Last evening after practice two of the coaches came upstairs to talk to parents. Our pool is actually downstairs from the main lobby and the club has wisely (very wisely) adopted no parents on deck policy. The coaches also wisely (extremely wisely) duck out a back door some evenings. They all have full-time jobs and families and like to get home. They also make a point of coming upstairs and chatting with parents several times a week. Last night was one of those evenings.

They were surrounded by parents with questions about this weekends meet.

What time is warm-ups?
Which pool is hosting the meet?
Is there positive check-in?
Is 200 free first or last?

I was unfortunately sitting way too close and overheard all of this madness.

The most reliable source for all of this information is the meet announcement. Which is online. Everything you could ever want to know about the meet. You can pull it up on your phone. Your ipad. Heck you can even print it on paper on highlight information that matters to you. The club also emails everyone attending the meet ALL of this information the night before the meet starts – that would be tonight.

These are not parents that are new to the sport, most of their kids are in the advanced groups.

When everyone had their fill of stupid questions I asked the single most important question of all. Do you want your usual order from Starbucks.

Coaches aren’t complex creatures. Ask them the important questions. Ask your kids first though, they probably already know the answer. Grace had already gotten their coffee order. We are professionals at this. Watch and learn people…

Does Ryan know what Ryan would do?

I am a reality tv show junkie.  Of course I watched “What would Ryan Lochte do?”.  I was 30 minutes of my life I will never get back.

I’m going to be honest with you.  I know he went to the Olympics.  More than once.  I know he won medals.  More than once.  Beyond that I really don’t know too much about him.  Other than the fact that he is crazy hot.  After watching the show, I still know that.  Any nothing else.  I can guarantee that Ryan doesn’t even know what he would do.   The show literally made my brain cry – can he really be that dim-witted?

I can’t wait until next week when it comes back on.  I have wised up, I will just watch it on mute.  I can pretend he is saying intelligent things.  Shirtless.  I also think he should go on the Bachelor.  And Survivor.  Amazing Race too.

Make Sophie Stop!!!

It’s hard to believe it has been nine years since our family became three beautiful little girls.  Sophie can’t possibly be nine.  She agreed to be my baby forever.  We are going to be old when she graduates from college, we tell her all the time that it will be a smooth transition, one day she will live with us and the next us with her.

Sophie was our easiest baby.  Not because she was easy but because we had finally figured out what we were doing.  Or we were too busy to care.  Regardless, from day one Sophie was on the go with us.  Which is kind of funny because she would prefer to be at home over anywhere else.  She is quite content hanging out with dad on a quiet Sunday afternoon.  I guess we wore her out early on.

Sophie is a happy kid.  She expresses herself by singing and dancing.  People often ask “where does Sophie dance”.  I try to explain that she is in a home school program for dance.  Ok, YouTube taught her.  Mother of the year I have never claimed to be.  I signed her up for hip hop once, she quit.  She didn’t like “doing” the choreography of other people.    She looks pretty good to me.  I guess that is because the rest of us really suck at dancing.

She drives Sarah and Grace nuts.  They can’t hear Full House over her singing.  They can’t see it either because she is dancing in front of the TV.  It all annoys me because they are in MY family room and not THEIR playroom.  Truth be told, I don’t want to see Full House – it is a painful reminder as to how badly I dressed in the early 90’s.  If only I had a spiral perm for every time I hear “MOM, MAKE SOPHIE STOP”…For a while I took Sophie’s side – how do you tell someone they are too freaking happy and that all of their singing and dancing and joyous crap is annoying?

The other day I was sitting at my desk doing some work.  Soph was behind me, doing one of her many interpretive (ok performance art) dances.  Suddenly, out of no where, she kicked me upside the head.  I couldn’t help myself, I told her to stop dancing.  I thought that would slow her down.  It didn’t.

The very next day she kicked the crap out of the coffee table.  Bruised her foot really good.  Like all good parents, we took her hiking.  We had planned a nice birthday celebration for her, complete with a hike and a trip to our local winery.  (Everyone hosts their kids 9th birthday at a winery right?).  Surely this would slow her down?

She tried to swim the next day.  Not because she wanted to but because it was her birthday.  Tradition with our club is that birthdays are celebrated with Donuts, and the birthday kid gets thrown in the pool by the coach.  The pain was an easy sacrifice.  She made it 59 minutes out of a 90 minute practice.  When she got out her entire foot was bruised and swollen twice its normal size.  That slowed her down.

An X-Ray the next day revealed two of the tiny bones in her foot were broken.  The Dr felt that once the swelling went down she would be able to get back in the water.  That slowed her down even more.

The next day after school she was doing cartwheels.  She went to swim that evening.  I want to be nine again.  At least I can still do a cartwheel.  Happy birthday Sophie.  Never stop being happy.  Just don’t kick me in the head.

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It’s a rough life

This morning most of our community woke up early to participate in the annual 5K that is run through the neighborhoods.  Those that don’t run make signs and cheer on their neighbors, friends and classmates.  Grace expressed an interest in running it a few weeks ago.  Start time?  8AM.

Grace instead rose before the sun.  She had a swim practice at 6AM.  Had she pressed the 5K I would have allowed her to skip practice and run the race instead.  She didn’t.

Last night my husband asked me if I remembered when I became a swim mom.  For a while I was a mom who drove her kids to swim.  And then one day I accidentally fell in love with the sport.

I remember the moment.  I was watching Grace swim a long free style set and thinking how mundane and boring it must be to be a swimmer.  And then I realized I was jealous.  I’ll never understand the 2 hours that a swimmer spends completely inside themselves.  No music, conversation, road noise, change in terrain or people watching.  I was always a runner and these were the things that kept me going.  A swimmer keeps going without any of that.  It is just them.  Pressing on.  It’s the solitude of a swimmer that I respect the most.

For the early practices we use a side door, it is propped open with a large rock.  It’s a short walk down a dirt hill to the door.  From my parking spot looking down I see right through the door to the starting blocks.  A few kids were already in the pool and all I could see was small movement of the water.  It was dark outside but the flourescent lighting made the water glow.  I felt like I was looking into the window of a swimmers soul. A place I’ll never go but always respect.

By the time Grace crawled back under her covers for a quick catnap most of her friends had finished the 5K.  Photos were all over facebook of families and their triumphant runs – medals around their necks.  Grace didn’t get a medal today.  But she made the choice to go to a mundane, boring practice today.  She gets gold in my heart.

 

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.

Not two seconds…two minutes

That is what Sarah took off her 500 free last night.  Ok, she hadn’t swam it in 18 months BUT it was still a remarkable swim.  She started swimming 500 free when she was 9.  I applaud her bravery and never discouraged her from doing it.  I also felt guilty making other people watch it.  Not really.  She has been begging her coach this year to let her do it but he told her she couldn’t swim it until she fixed some things in her stroke.  This coach is brilliant – he figured Sarah out pretty quickly.  She did exactly what he asked and he put her in.  A two-minute time drop is awesome.  Aside from the luck factor of having not swam it for a while, she really did race it well.  She proved herself worthy of the race – in the past she had just been willing.  I admire and encourage her to swim brave.

She has decided not to swim it again for another 18 months.  Another two-minute drop and she will beat Katie Ledecky.  I like her reasoning.

Grace swam 500 free as well.  She doesn’t like the race as much as Sarah does.  She actually hates it.  Love hates I think.  She dropped 15 seconds in a matter of a few months.  She missed her AA time by 1 second!  She also beat someone who talks a lot of smack about being faster than Grace.  She took her by a nice margin.  It’s a great way to shut the haters up I suppose.  If she really weanted to put herself out there she would take on 200 breast.  I think she will be a NT forever in that one.

Sarah is at the pool right now.  Think good thoughts, she has had such a great short course year and her confidence has sky rocketed.  I would like this to be a great finale meet for the year.

Grace is going after the 200 fly tonight.  I have butterflies for her.

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 totally a diet…

I was talking to a group of moms the other night at the pool and a friend slid me a cook book I had asked to borrow – it had some great nutritious and healthy recipes I wanted to look at.  It didn’t take long for the conversation to turn to why I was borrowing the book.

My response was simple.  I put my family on a diet.

The word diet has apparently become taboo where children are concerned judging by the looks on the faces of a few of the moms.  I never got that memo.  They were shocked.  Maybe even horrified.

I’m unapologetic.  I work in a gym, am fit and a healthy weight.  But my diet has gradually turned to crap.  Literally.  We eat crap…We are busy.  I swear kids in sports eat worse than kids who are home more.  I barely have time to shop for food, let alone cook it.  I am guilty of doing everything I said I would never do.  We eat out, frozen meals and pizza.  I somehow convinced myself this was ok.  We were eating the good crap.

My youngest carries belly weight.  It isn’t baby fat anymore.  It is the chips with cheese and salsa.  Plain and simple.

The worst part is – I know better.  I know exactly what to feed myself and my kids.  But I don’t.  I am not proud of that.

I revamped our diet.  Eating healthy has a reputation for being expensive.  It isn’t.  The food I have been buying lately- the good food – isn’t cheap.  But neither was the junk food.  Feeding my family at Chipotle is an easy $50.  After two weeks I actually found that I spent less by cooking food with simple ingredients.  Two of my kids haven’t complained at all.   Grace even commented that she preferred everything I have cooked in the past few weeks over what we have eaten in the past.  Sophie loves healthy food.  She also loves the junk.  Sarah is struggling.  But I give her mad props for trying.  She is a work in progress.

The unexpected results?  I have lost 4 of the extra 5 pounds that I have been carrying around for the past two years.  I am sleeping great and feel fantastic.

I don’t know why it would be considered a bad thing to put my family on a diet.   I suspect there must be a more politically correct term for it.  I am not interested in what that may be.  I am only interested in keeping this up.  It isn’t easy but it also isn’t that hard.

On the way home from practice Sarah wanted to know when they would be done eating this healthy stuff.  My work here has just begun.

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?