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.

 

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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.

Really Grace, you too?

Grace woke up the day after I took Sarah to the Doctor, complaining of acute chest pain.  I usually know when my kids are sick, their coughs keep me up at night.  I hadn’t heard a peep from her roon, quite close to ours.  I agreed to let her stay home for the day.

I had to teach a few classes so left her home.  I got a call from her begging me to sub out my yoga and to get her to the Doctor.  She is not one to want to go to the Doctor so I obliged, subbed the class, made and appointment and raced home to pick up Grace.

She was pale and very quiet.  If there was any doubt before, I was certain now that she needed to see the Doc.

Our pediatrician spent a sizeable amount of time listening to Grace’s chest and back.  She listened to her lungs and heart, each enough times to cause some concern.  She then looked in her eyes, ears, mouth and nose. quietly she put all of her instruments down and with two fingers pressed on an area about an inch from Grace’s armpit.

Grace, all five feet and seven inches of her, almost threw her Doctor across the room.  The source of pain had been located.  Little miss sunshine had sore muscles.  Turns out she has been doing push ups and crunches a few times a day to increase her strength.  Grace out her head down and a small smile crept onto her face.

Turns out, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  She too had been google searching her pain.  She missed the diagnosis target by a mile.  She thought one of the following (and in no particular order):

Heart Attack
Lung Cancer
Asthama
Pneumonia

We left giggling and decided to celebrate with a lunch out.  She asked me not to tell anyone.  She must have known that wouldn’t happen!

It’s a disease?

True to form, Sarah has been complaining of foot pain lately.  For some reason every spring she has managed to injure a body part.  We have been through two stress fractures and one pulled tendon in the knee.  This time around she was having ankle pain which I was attributing to the Achilles tendon.

I feel like I have earned an MD since having kids.  A google MD that is.  After complaining about the pain for a few weeks I decided to take her to our orthopedic specialist.  I say “our” like we own them.  We might.  When we leave they say “see you in six months”.  When your kid has the nickname scrappy it is bound to happen.

After a few X-rays it was determined that Sarah has Sever’s Disease.  I gave an air fist pump and Napoleon Dynamite style “YES!’.  I hit the self diagnosis jackpot.  Love google.

Sarah’s eyes got enormous….I HAVE A DISEASE?  Sounds frightening doesn’t it?  It is actually quite common amongst active kids.

Sever’s disease, also called calcaneal apophysitis, is a painful bone disorder that results from inflammation  of the growth plate in the heel. A growth plate, is an area at the end of a developing bone where cartilage cells change over time into bone cells. As this occurs, the growth plates expand and unite, which is how bones grow.

Sever’s disease is a common cause of heel pain in growing kids, especially those who are physically active. It usually occurs during the growth spurt of adolescence, the approximately 2-year period in early puberty when kids grow most rapidly. This growth spurt can begin any time between the ages of 8 and 13 for girls and 10 and 15 for boys. Sever’s disease rarely occurs in older teens because the back of the heel usually finishes growing by the age of 15, when the growth plate hardens and the growing bones fuse together into mature bone.

Sarah is going to live.  No need to send flowers.  But it sure makes the painful decision not to play soccer in the spring seem like a brilliant one.

We decided to push the “no weight-bearing activities” treatment plan a little.  She won’t practice futsal but will play her last three games.  She is willing to deal with the pain, knowing it will be the end.

We did get some good news.  Sarah, the smallest on the growth scale of the three, may end up the tallest.  The upside of large growth plates at 11?  Lots of growing left to do.

And once again, thanks to Sarah, we have met our annual deductible by February!  I love my scrappy girl.

Decisions, indecisions…

Sarah has spent the last two weeks in a period of indecision. She has been struggling to decide if she wants to return to her soccer team for the spring season. It had already been decided this would be their last season together as a team. Sarah has been with this team for over four years. She had created a lot of found memories with this group of girls.  Her coach is the only soccer coach she has ever really known.  The dynamic of the team has changed somewhat over the years, kids have come and gone. Despite that, it seems like they have been together forever even though Sarah is one of two girls from the original team.

I was really surprised by her indecision. Sarah is anything but undecided. The final outcome though didn’t surprise me at all.

Sarah wanted to ride it out to the end. She wanted the final hurrah. It saddens me that this dynamic group of strong, independent fierce young girls will no longer be battling it out on the muddy fields. It seems unimaginable not to have our twice a year-end of seasons together. No more bon fires, hay rides or trips together for soft serve ice cream after a game in the hot sun.  This final season was sure to be fun.  Right?

Despite it being the last season, the coach was adding players to the roster, increasing the number of practices and stressing the level of intensity and commitment required for the last season.  We went from one to two and finally three practices or games that conflicted with swim practice.  Because Sarah was still able to get her swim time in we always went to the soccer practices.  When the coach added the last practice time Sarah was truly conflicted.

Yesterday was D-Day.  Having played a pretty decent Futsal game on Saturday even scoring, I was fairly certain she would decide to continue playing soccer.

I sat her down at noon.  We had a mandatory team meeting at 4.  I needed her decision.  She looked at me and for the final time said “mom, I don’t know what I want to do”.  I refused to make this decision for her so I said “Sarah, skip spring and let’s regroup in the fall.”  Her response.  Fine.  I typed an email to her coach and handed her my phone.  I asked for her to read it.  She added one line:

This is Sarah.  I will miss everyone.  I hope you have a fun season.  Love ya.

And then looked at me and said should I hit send.

I had to hide my emotion as I said yes.  That was the response I needed.  She needed to hit send.  And she did without hesitation.  It was heart breaking but also a total relief.  The decision was made.  By her.

I have had some time now to think about it and I think we are both mourning the loss of what no longer is.  The team she knew and loved has grown from baby faced first graders to preteen fifth grader.  They have grown, matured and become so much.  I will forever be grateful to her coach and the wonderful group of girls and parents for all of the wonderful memories we have made.  But it is time to move on.

We are looking for a new team in the fall.  Sarah will be in middle school.  She is such a strong young woman.  But also my baby.  I will always protect her and I think this break will be good for her.  She needs to be Sarah the soccer player, not Sarah, one of the many Red Hots.  She is ready to stand on her own.  I am proud of her.

SONY DSC

 

Not sure what to do with this one…

Sarah is playing indoor futsal.  Her soccer coach decided to do this rather than indoor soccer.  Sarah is not a huge fan of it so far.  There practices and games are on a gym floor and it involves more bouncing than indoor soccer.  It seems to be kind of hard on the body.

Her coaches last season with the girls is the spring season.  We just got the email with the practice days, times and fees for spring.  As a parent I have learned to ALWAYS ask my kids if they want to continue something before I pay for it.  I made this mistake once.  You don’t make that mistake twice.

I asked Sarah if she wanted to play the spring season.  Her response took me by surprise.

Sarah is all or none.  She IS or IS NOT going to do something.  Adamant, forceful, determined, firm, tenacious, stubborn and relentless are words I would use to describe Sarah.  I am pretty sure I have never heard her speak the words I don’t know.

Her response, you decide.

I went to her coach and explained to her what happened.  She agreed to give Sarah a week.  We are on day 5.   She will not commit to me if she wants to play or not.  I don’t care either way, I want her to be happy.  I can’t make this decision for her.  She has to decide.  Today I decided to ask her to list the pros and cons of continuing to play.  Pros – she sees her friends.  Cons – she can’t commit fully to swimming.

She has two more days.  I don’t have a clue what to do with a “you decide”.  It isn’t in Sarah’s character to be non committal.  I should be able to read what it really means.  I can’t.

 

Staying on top

Staying on Top
If your son or daughter is among the Top 16 when they are 10 years old, shouldn’t they be in the running for a national championship when they turn 18? In fact, quite the opposite is the case. Improvement is not a steady positive slope, especially for swimming prodigies. A study by USA Swimming using the All-Time Top 100 swims in each age group found that only 10 percent of the Top 100 10-and-Unders maintained their status through age 18. Only half of the swimmers among the Top 100 in the 17-18 age group had made any top-100 list when they were younger. “Those winning races at 10 probably won’t be winning races when they are 20,” says John Leonard, the executive director of the American Swimming Coaches Association. “This is one of those things that is obvious to coaches but can be a mystery to parents.”

 

I just read this on our LSC website.  I am always intrigued when I read articles such as this.  It seems clear that success in the older age groups has very little to do with being top dog at 10.  Yet so much emphasis is placed on those younger swimmers who are at the top, even in the LSC.

I personally am thankful that there isn’t pressure to succeed placed on my kids by anyone but mom and dad.  They know we are pushing them to THEIR very best and aren’t measuring their success by the success of others.  Their egos are fairly in check and they don’t believe success is guaranteed.

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.