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.

 

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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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.

Girl Power

The countdown continues. Sophie swam at her second to last “mini meet”. Mini Champs in April will be our forever fond well to the 8 and under set. Sophie will be 9 in April.

This weekend the kids swam in a “gender blender” meet. In other words, girls vs boys. Sophie was excited, there were a few boys she was ready to have a showdown with.

Saturday she was swimming 50 fly as one of her events. She was going for the JO cut. I was pleased that both Sarah and Grace came to cheer her on. Grace may have done it to get out of her 630 AM practice and Sarah may have come for the donuts, I will never know for sure. But they did come to cheer.

Sophie had a good day, three best times, including a two second drop in her 50 fly. She missed her goal by a second but has one more meet – and two more years – to work on it.

After the meet Sarah went to lunch with dad and I took Grace and Sophie. I decided to go ahead and talk to Sophie about the white elephant in the room, she beat Sarah’s best time by .20. I told her if she had any thought of celebrating this was her moment. She laughed and said “I don’t care about Sarah – I beat every boy but one – and I beat all of them in my group!” Apparently 8 year old boys like to talk smack.

Sunday she tanked. I guess she did what she wanted to on Sunday. She did take. Post meet nap, something she hasn’t done in a while.

We later learned the girls out scored the boys. For the first time ever! Go girl power. Better showdown than the Super Bowl. If you are an 8 year old girl.

Sarah congratulated her on her swim. I suspect her 50 fly at the February meet will be amazing. I saw a little spark in her eye. But no fireworks in the house. Thank you for that swim gods!

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.

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Can I move down a lane?

Grace swims in a group of about thirty five. At the beginning of the season her coach had made lane assignments. Over time the kids were moving into different lanes to swim with their friends. Skill became irrelevant. The kids were having fun though.

The coaches decided to take matters back into their own hands and recreated lanes based entirely on times achieved during meets, using splits and various other techniques.

For a variety of reasons Grace ended up at the end of her lane. Primary reason, she landed with a group of kids who are fast. And that don’t put a lot of effort into practice. She found they wouldn’t let her pass them and she wasn’t getting out of practice what she was hoping to put into it.

She found an easy solution. She asked to move down a lane so she could lead the lane. She was concerned her coach would be upset. He wasn’t. He thought it was a great idea. She has found practice is more challenging since moving down a lane. I applaud her for advocating for herself and taking a risk, then making it work.

As a parent I have learned that in group setting I prefer to be a follower. There are too many Super Moms in this world and I am more than happy to let them have the title. I really don’t feel like putting myself out there as a leader anymore. My kids are better people than I am, they have learned that being a leader makes you a better person.

At least I am a good listener (eavesdropper). That is a good life skill right.

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.

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…