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.

 

 

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Singing is ruining my life

Grace and Sarah both participate in their school Chorus.  This takes place during the school day so it rarely impacts my life.

As the holidays approach, the schools like to do a chorus concert.  In the past they had one concert for our entire school cluster, four elementary and one middle school.  Justin Bieber draws less fans.  They wised up and did separate concerts.

Monday night was Sarah’s.  This involves me coordinating getting two kids to swim practice and one to the school for warm ups.  While they don’t have heat sheets, they do have warm ups.  And programs.  I am good at creating my own time line.  I have each song five minutes which also allowed for transition between the band and the chorus.  The concert was going to last an hour.  I was glad I had taken a proper shower and dressed nicely, I don’t see these people often and I like to impress from time to time.

Wednesday morning, Sarah had to be at the school at 6:30 AM for a chorus field trip.  While we are used to early wake up calls courtesy of swimming, we don’t actually like them.  I suppose it was good practice for next year when she is in middle school.

Grace’s concert was Wednesday evening.  Sarah had soccer, Sophie swim and Grace chorus.  And dad is in Chicago.  Good times.  I coordinated rides to practice for Sarah and Sophie.  Along with a ride to chorus for Grace.  I had figured out a way to get Sophie and then get to the school in time to watch Grace’s performance and then pick Sarah up.  I swear moms should all be awarded Masters Degrees in logistics.

All was going according to plan and I had just arrived at the pool when I got a call from Grace.   I could not understand a word she was saying.  It was clear she was sobbing.  I had to hang up and have her text me.  She could not find the school issued top she was supposed to wear.  I suggested she wear any white top and that the school would have extras.  She insisted they wouldn’t and that the whole school would think she was an idiot.  My best friend, who was her ride to the school, also tried to calm her down.  Grace was not budging. She was NOT going.

She cried most of the evening, upset because this would impact her grade and because she was embarrassed.

I emailed the teacher.  I considered saying she was sick.  Grace and I neither one can lie.  I told him the truth and if he opted to give her a bad grade for missing a mandatory concert, I would accept it.  He responded that he understood and thanked me for my honesty.  My faith in humanity is solid.

Adolescence is a bitch.  I am intrigued by a child who is perfectly fine competing in a swim suit in front of many hundreds of people she doesn’t know yet the prospect of wearing the wrong shirt in front a hundred that have known her since she was six is terrifying.  Kids at this age just want to blend in.  I would think that a swimmer would have all the confidence in the world but when you cut to the heart of it, they are no different from any other kid.  I calmed her down and the teacher was understanding.  Life will go on.  She trashed her room looking for that top though, that will make a nice after school activity for her to clean it up. This too shall pass.  Tomorrow will be a whole new set of crazy.

For the record, I did shower, and looked cute.  What a waste…

 

What not to wear

I am always shocked by what people wear to swim meets.  I suspect many of the fashion victim must have boys.  I spend my time in the closet trying to avoid the “is that what you are wearing” look from my daughter.  She has learned not to ask, now I just get the look.  I personally think I am pretty fashionable.  Most of the time Grace is wearing something of mine.  If I am not on the mark I am pretty close to it.

I always wonder what people are thinking when they get dressed for a swim meet.  The “I just rolled out of bed” look is actually perfectly acceptable at a swim meet.  The “I am having dinner later in Georgetown” look?  Not so much.

The bottom line, dress for comfort.  It doesn’t matter how cold it is outside, it will be warm – no hot – inside.  When I shop, I have swim meets in mind.  I like Cotton layers.   I usually wear a pullover hoodie, I can fold it up and use it to cushion my bum during meets.  Tank top, followed by lightweight long sleeve t-shirt and a hoodie.  I am a big fan of leggings and ballet flats.  Here are a few simple rules.

1.  If you are going to strip down to your tank top, wear an appropriate bra.   Support matters.  Tuck the straps in.  Look at your self in the mirror in just the tank before you start layering.  Shave your pits and wear some deodorant, especially if you plan to throw your arms in the air and yell.

2.  Make sure the tank covers your butt crack.  This is so easy to do.  Sit down in a chair and bend forward, elbows resting on the top of your legs.  Reach around with one hand and feel the base of your spine.  Or get a kid to take a photo.  Because that is exactly what the person behind you is looking at for the next four hours.

3.  Time to layer up.  Make sure that you can take off your next layer without looking like you are taking off a straight jacket.  If you can’t get it off with out elbowing your neighbor, don’t wear it.

4.  Wear any pants/shorts/leggings you want.  Watch the butt crack and watch the camel toe if you are in leggings.  Other than that, anything works.

Finally, chose shoes that are comfortable.  I often go with flip flops or ballet flats.  Leave the steel toed work boots at home.  There is a very good chance that at some point in the day you are going to kick someone.  Be kind.

Please don’t pick your toes.  It is creepy.  If you wear flip flops in the dead of winter you will probably figure out you need a pedicure.  While there is lots of time at a swim meet, this is neither the time nor place to do it.  Don’t laugh, my friend sat next to someone painting their nails at  swim meet.  She didn’t enjoy it.  A few months ago she sat next to me right after I had taught a spin class.  She says she is sensitive to smells.  Fortunately I had followed my own rules and threw on some deodorant.  Perfume at a meet?  Oh please don’t.

I’m thinking about getting a swim mom t-shirt.  Because that isn’t painfully obvious.

My go to store for swim meet apparel?  Lululemon.  While you are there, pick me up something too.  I will take one of anything.

Grace and Katie

Katie Ledecky

Katie Ledecky

This was taken at The Tom Dolan Invitational.  Katie has been at the meet all weekend, swimming six individual events and a few relays.  She has also been around for all of the sessions, signing autographs and having her photo taken.  I think it is amazing that she is so accessable to all of the kids who admire and respect her.  She is a class act!  Our kids are very fortunate to have such great role models!

It costs FIVE DOLLARS

I think we are lucky, we never pay to watch swim meets in our area. I know from talking to other parents that many places you have to pay to get into the meet.

Grace is swimming at The Tom Dolan Invitational. I stayed home with my cuddle bugs today and sent dad. He just called me annoyed that he has to pay five bucks to get into the meet.

Last weekend we used about $85 in gas.  Spent nearly $60 on meals.  Another $50 on tolls.  Oh and a pair of goggles at the meet for the low price of $22.

Pay the $5.

This morning when Grace was leaving for warm ups I handed her a $5 out of his wallet.  I debated giving her the two that were in there but at the last minute decided to be kind and leave one *just in case*.  That very well may be the best decision I have made all year!

Go Grace go.

She met Katie Ledecky after warm ups and got her photo taken with her.  Very cool.

Should I take a shovel?

Day three.  Chris and I switch roles.

I was more than happy to go to the mini meet.  The reality of swimming 200 IM and 200 fly was starting to sink in and Grace was not happy about it.

I made the mistake of getting her a ride to warm ups to buy my husband an extra hour of sleep.  My friend ended up getting lost.  Grace pulled out her iphone and was able to use GPS to get them to the pool.  She might get lost in her 200 backstroke but not driving to a meet!  Sophie and I were off to the other side of the planet.  It certainly seemed that way.

All day Saturday Chris and I debated who was at the worst meet.  After switching roles on Sunday it was clear we both were winners.  Or losers.

Sophie had three solid swims.  Once again the heat winner cap magic worked.  Sophie fought hard for the cap in 50 free.  She also swam a consistent 50 fly from two weeks prior.  I was petrified she would add time and cry.  She is 8. Dodged that bullet.  Sophie reconnected with an old friend (can you have an old friend at 8?) who was swimming for our club at another site.  We made lunch plans for after the meet in January.  She has also made some really nice friends in her group and is really enjoying.  I can’t believe this is the same kid who cried before, after and during every meet two years ago.  I hate to jinx myself but we haven’t seen the tears in a long time.

Grace decided to bring her A game.  She swam 200 IM and knocked several seconds off her best time.  She had a quick turn around for 200 fly.  She was listed on the psych sheet as a No Time.  In reality she had swam 200 fly once.  About two years ago.  Because it was with a different club it didn’t automatically pull up.  We could have fixed it but she decided No Time looked a lot better than her real time!  She was dreading this race.  I was nervous for her.  I got a text from Chris.  “Holy crap you are a flyer”.  I immediately knew it was intended for Grace not me but I also took it as good news.  She had a solid swim and at this point had earned two spots in finals.  She swam 50 free, knocked half a second off and rounded out a triple header for finals.  I sent her home for a nap with our friend.  Who again got lost.  If Grace didn’t hate me for the two 200’s this would seal the deal.  Lost twice and swimming everything twice, what a day.

Sarah had the second session.  She brought her usual fire and determination.  And a marker.  She loves to write on her body.  It makes her easy to pick out of a crowd.  Sarah once again got to race a good friend.  Win or lose the race, Sarah gives it her all.  She had three great races and continued her streak of solid performances.  I need to look at her times from last year, I can’t seem to impress upon her how much improvement she has made.  She has had some significant time drops this year.  Sarah is proof that hard work pays off, she has upped her commitment to practice and it shows!  Several of her friends from school that swim for another club were also at this meet.  They all cheered each other on.  I am always happy to see that.sarah 3

We all reconvened at the house and I was taking  Grace to finals.  I considered taking a shovel along.  I wanted to give that deer a proper burial.  You know you are starting to lose your mind when you are starting to worry about the road kill.

Sophie offered to go back with me.  I took her up her offer, she is a fun date.  Chris and Sarah went for a daddy date birthday celebration.  Grace swam her IM.  Luckily she had gotten a good time that morning.  Her 200 fly was a solid swim.  She gained two seconds from morning.  She swore she gained 20.  Clearly I was not the only one losing their mind.  I spent a good fifteen minutes trying to convince her otherwise.  She opted to use her 50 free as a warm down.  At the crack of 10 PM we were out of there.  I swear the pool stole my soul.  And all of our minds.

We waved a sad farewell to Bambi.  And headed home.  The right way.

On the way home I swore I would never go to that meet again.  Sophie was sad, she said “but mom, you won’t let me swim at it next year when I am 9-10”?  Grace reminded her this was the third year in a row that I had sworn to never go back.  Of course she is right.

For now, we take a break from meets.  Until Saturday.

 

A Tale of Two Cities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wake up call in ten hours.

T.G.I.F.

Whoever created this saying was clearly not a swimmer.  On a swim meet weekend Friday night usually means “drive your ass to a swim meet for one freaking event” – aka 500 free in our case.

In the past, Grace hated 500 free.  I had for a long time encouraged her to do it and she refused.  She now asks to swim it.  I was thrilled she wanted to do it and decided it was a sign of maturity.

I was feeling some mommy guilt because it was Sarah’s birthday.  She, along with three of her soccer teammates, had won an contest.  The prize was a dinner date with the soccer coach.  Imagine my surprise (relief) when her coach chose the night her birthday to take them to the Melting Pot.  Sarah was thrilled to spend her evening with her coach and teammates.

I convinced Sophie that she would enjoy going with me.  And then she changed her mind.  I am grateful for good friends who will throw in a frozen pizza, rent a movie and take on an extra kid for a few hours.

Grace and I were on our own.

We had a pleasant drive there.  Unfortunately, someone had hit a deer on the road outside the pool complex.  Recently.  It wasn’t a pretty sight.  I convinced Grace to stop thinking about it.

The pool was not crowded, parking was a breeze and the air temperature inside was tolerable.  No one even minded when I walked down on deck and talked to the coach and hung out with Grace.  Normally this is something I do not do and it annoys me when others do.  I went down to time and they didn’t need me and Grace’s coach told me to hang out, they were bored.

I can honestly say I enjoyed the meet.  We were being silly and laughing.  I can’t believe I am going to say this, we were having fun.  Grace was teasing her coach about being so quiet and not yelling when they swam.  We were making fun of the whistler dude and all the other odd things coaches and parents do during meets.  Finally it was Grace’s turn to swim.  Her coach decided to do all of the things we made fun of.  He yelled her name, whistled and yelled some more.  I literally thought she was going to fall in the pool she was laughing so hard on the block.

She had a good swim and got a best time.  Her turns were awful and her coach said if he didn’t want to go home he would deck enter her in the 1650.  On one hand I would have loved to have seen her reaction.  On the other hand, it was past my bed time.  We were out of there.

I was hoping the deer carcass would be gone.  Instead it had been hit a few hundred times.

I left with a false sense of security.  Thinking the meet would be a pleasant one.

I didn’t realize this until Sunday night but I am pretty sure Grace only swam the 500 free as punishment to me for putting her in 200 IM and 200 fly as back to back events on Sunday.  It took four hours door to door for a race that lasted less than six minutes.  Cost me $5 each way in tolls, dinner for her and $12 in gas.  Why was I laughing?  Was she getting the last laugh?

Day two starts in ten hours.

pool 1

The big 1-1

Moving on up.  Age groups that is.  Sarah turns 11 today.  Sarah came into this world bright red and screaming.  She had this crazy patch of red fuzz on the top of her head.  She looked a little like a rooster.  She tells the story that she looked like a chicken.  I have to correct her.  Roosters are much cuter than chickens you know.  She aslo was my Sarah Bear and Kitty.  Sarah Bear is a required nickname if your name is Sarah.  Sarah is very cold natured and she is a cuddler.  She likes to have her back rubbed and I swear she purrs like a kitty.  There is an animal connection with her,  she has always said she wants to be a marine biologist.

The red hair disappeared shortly thereafter but Sarah will forever be my closet redhead.  She has spunk, determination and her competitive nature is fierce.  She will set the world on fire.  Maybe burn a bridge or two as well.  Most importantly, Sarah is a strong child.

Last year we lost our family pet the day before Sarah’s birthday.  It’s a day I will never forget.  Sarah was just a day shy of 10 but showed a level of maturity that I didn’t even possess.  She was very close to MoJo and when we decided it was time to give him some peace she made the decision to go with me.  Chris was out-of-town and we knew MoJo was in pain.  She and I sat and comforted MoJo until the end.  Although it was a very sad day for us, Sarah was my strength that day.  It will be years before she will ever understand how much her being there meant to me.  And how much respect I gained for her that day.  We butt heads because of her strong will but I hope she never loses it either.  It will serve her well in life.

We have a swim meet this weekend and Sarah will be swimming with 11-12’s since the meet starts on her birthday.  Most kids would be disappointed.  Sarah is thrilled.  Her best buddy on the swim team aged up a few weeks ago.  It is a tradition that the birthday kid brings donuts to practice.  Sarah’s coach had all the kids sing happy birthday to her and then he threw her in the pool.  She almost looked embarrassed, a year ago she would have thought this was the coolest thing ever.  I think secretly she thought it was this year too!

Swim fast Sarah.  We love you.
MoJo, we miss you.

Who is going to hate me tomorrow?

I always joke that I am not doing my job as a parent if my kids don’t hate me at least once a week.  It’s not a hard goal to achieve.

I have been reading a great book that was given to me in August.  The Underwater Window.  I have been waiting for the perfect time to pick it up.  For several months now.  I was on my way out the door for a long indoor soccer practice and as a last-minute decision, grabbed it.  I am half way through it, I can’t put it down.

It is a great book and it has my wheels turning.  In particular, I have been thinking about when all is said and done, which one of my three girls is going to hate me for making them swim.  I hesitate the word make but in essence I suppose I make more of the choice than they do.  I make them go to school, do homework, clean their rooms and eat nutritious food.  If it were up to them I am sure they wouldn’t be quite so “passionate” about any of these endeavors.

Grace has been swimming since she was 6.  She is 13.  She took the sport on seriously a year ago when she shifted to a five-day a week, mandatory practice group.  It was her choice to join this group and at any point if she wanted to be a less intense group we wouldn’t have a problem with it.  I don’t think she will.  She never asks to skip practice and never complains about it.  I am sure there are days she would rather not go and Saturday mornings she would much prefer to sleep in.  She has accepted that she is in a small group, that which the terms are not negotiable.  She likes her coaches and her friends in the group, I suspect she would be lost without them.  Grace swims for prestige.  She likes to go to the big meets and wants the jackets to prove it.

Sarah’s group has a minimum of three, maximum of five practices.  She usually does three, sometimes four on weeks where there isn’t a soccer practice.  She grumbles often about going.  She also grumbles about going to soccer.  But given the option to quit either, she is steadfast in her refusal.  I have come to the point where I expect the negotiations.  I barely respond to them.  Sarah is motivated by recent success and last night had the choice to skip.  She opted to go because her friends were going.  And then complained about it on the way there.  Sarah swims for the social aspect of it.

The mini’s have a maximum of four practices a week.  They like them to attend twice a week.  Sophie has negotiated a 5th day with the group above hers – one she isn’t old enough to be in.  She hangs tough with the middle of the pack in the more advanced group.  Most of the practices are an hour with a lot of instruction at the wall.  When she turns 9 in April she will advance two groups, the same that Sarah is in.  I have already told her that we only want her in the pool three days a week, practice is intense and 1.5 hrs.  She is already protesting that she needs to practice more.  I am seeing signs that she is a little too concerned with her success.  Can an 8-year-old be too driven?  She is my numbers guy.  Knows hers, her friends, and everyone elses times, along with all important qualifying times for when she is 9.

All child athletes do, but swimmers in particular, they give up a piece of their childhood.  If they are lucky they will swim in college.  They all dream of going all the way but the reality is most of them don’t.  I don’t want my kids to regret the missed sleepovers, summers held hostage by the pool, and weekends spent at meets.  I go out of my way to ensure that my kids have a fun life outside of swimming.  We squeeze in two family vacations a year, host sleepovers every chance we get, take road trips and spend time as often as possible outside, more precisely not at a pool.

This moment will pass but every now and then I feel a twinge of guilt that they are in love with a sport that is more of a life than a hobby.  I remind the girls often that they are not swimmers, they are kids who swim.

I went to parent teacher conferences the other day.  Every parent wants to hear that their children are amazing.  And mine were!  But the reasons why surprised me.  All three of my girls were described as focused, driven, hard workers and all three were pegged as true leaders.  As a matter of fact I had not one but four of the teachers at the middle school tell me this about Grace.  One who doesn’t even have her in class interrupted my conference with her math teacher to tell me what a great person she is and a natural leader.

The most interesting thing of all, every teacher was so impressed that the girls swim.  Either they swam themselves (one a collegiate swimmer), their kids swam or they had  swimmers as students in the past.  Their messages were all variations of the same theme, that the swimmers they knew over the years were all amazing people.  It is a tight community and an elite club.  I was proud to be their mom.

Every parents worse fear is that they won’t raise children who are good people.  I am no exception.  I admit, I use swimming to help mold them into better people.  I like the discipline, focus and determination that swimming provides.  I think the physical exercise, emphasis on health and endorphin release is also a critical component in raising children.  I’m just hoping that in the end they think it is all worth it.  And they don’t hate me.  At least for the swimming part.  I wouldn’t be doing my job as a parent if they didn’t hate me from time to time.

Sarah went to bed mad at me tonight.  Called me a Tiger Mom.  Like it was an insult.  Story to follow tomorrow.