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They Done Good

One of the challenges of being a swimmer is that swimming is not a seasonal sport.

It’s a year-round, full-time commitment once you really decide to commit.

The  year is broken into two main seasons (in the Northeast, anyway).

September through March is known as short course season. That’s because all meets are held in a 25-yard pool.

Most teams have about a two week break at the end of March or beginning of April, and then you move into the summer season, which is called long course. It’s called long course because you swim in a 50 meter pool. It’s also called an Olympic distance pool (cause that’s the distance pool used in the Olympics).

After long course season, you might get a little longer break. Like close to a month.

So out of every 52 weeks,  you have a total of 5-6 weeks off.

By the time you get to  the end of long course season, you are fried.

Which is why I didn’t give you a recap of our trip to Zones yet.

Because when we got home from the meet on Sunday night, I was shot. And I wanted a couple days where I didn’t even think about swimming. At all.

To be honest, I’m still kind of in I-don’t-even-want-to-think-about-swimming mode.

But I do want to let you know about our trip.

If you missed the first post before we left, in a nutshell, Zones is short for Eastern Zones Long Course Championships, and it’s a big, intense meet for the top swimmers on the East Coast in Richmond, Virginia.

There are teams from Virginia all the way up to Maine who attend the meet. It’s a four day meet, and if you are involved in swimming at all, you know how tiring these are for not only the swimmers, but also for the family members who attend them.

If you are not familiar with swimming at all, all I can say is that they are grueling. And that is no exaggeration. Each session, from the time you get your swimmer there for warm up until you leave the pool is at least five hours long. Usually closer to six hours.

The pool area is well over 80 degrees, the stands are even hotter and filled to capacity, and people are often douchebags in the stands. Of course it’s fun to watch your kids swim, but in a session that lasts four hours, your kid probably swims for a total of less than five minutes.

However nervous your kid is, you are ten times as nervous. You leave each session of a meet like this feeling like you’ve run a marathon. I’m not really kidding.

If you have more than one kid swimming, you are stressed out about both of them doing well because when one has a good meet and one has a shitty meet, that is no fun.

And if you have to bring along younger siblings who are hot, tired, thirsty, bored, have no desire to watch the meet and who have to sit around for 4+ hours,  that does not help.

At all.

So I had four days of that, and then two days of driving at least eight hours in the car with four kids ten and younger.

It was a long week.

There was not much personal space.

In fact, there wasn’t any personal space.

So it was definitely not a vacation. Not for me, anyway.

But I will say that breakfast was included at our hotel and there was free coffee available 24/7. It was pretty awesome to just walk downstairs and have breakfast waiting for us. And I absolutely needed the always available coffee.

The families from our team stayed in the same hotel, and one of my friends has five kids roughly the same age as our five younger ones, so the kids were ecstatic to have five consecutive days of playdates with their buddies.

They had lots of fun in the hotel pool and hot tub.

They enjoyed having the freedom to go to their friends’ rooms on their own.

Number 6 especially enjoyed having his own key. He also learned how to sweet talk the hotel concierge into giving him extras.

When I got home and cleaned out my purse, I found these:

Whoops.

The kids were a little crazy at times. There was a lot of whining, a lot of arguing, and a lot of crying. There may have been a few complaints by other guests at the hotel about some blond kids running in the halls early in the morning.

But there was also a lot of laughing and fun. (But more whining than fun).

So there was the management of Number 5, 6 and 7.

Then there was the swimming part. Which was, you know, the reason we were down there.

Number 3 stayed with the CT team in a different hotel. So I only saw him at the pool.

I talked to him for a grand total of approximately 90 seconds  between the time I dropped him off at the bus on Tuesday morning and the time I picked him up from the bus on Sunday night.

That was just what he needed. He needed time away. He needed a little space from Number 4. He needed to do his own thing.

Four years ago he was so crippled by anxiety he wouldn’t even walk into the locker room alone at an unfamiliar pool.

Last week he hopped on a bus and drove 400 miles away with a bunch of kids he didn’t really know, slept in a hotel with two other swimmers he hadn’t ever met before for  five nights, and had almost zero contact with me the entire time.

He swam really well. But I was sure he would.

When I picked him up on Sunday and asked him if he was bummed it was over or if he was happy to be home, he said, “I wish we could have hung out for three more days. It was so awesome, Mom.”

So I couldn’t be happier for him. It was a major self confidence building experience for him.

I was much more stressed out about Number 4.  Trying to make sure she got a decent night’s sleep every night in the hotel room with three younger siblings was a challenge.

And I was not sure how she was going to swim.

Actually, that’s not true.

I was sure she was going to swim like crap.

Two weeks before Zones, she had a very disappointing meet. It was the championship meet for the season, and she did not have the times either one of us expected she would. She spent the last night of the meet crying in the car for a good hour or so.

She was determined and convinced she was going to swim much faster this past week at Zones.

I was not convinced. I was afraid she was putting too much pressure on herself.

It is typically difficult to swim well at a meet like this for younger swimmers, especially only two weeks after a big championship meet.

So I was expecting her to be disappointed. I was expecting lots of crying and drama. Again.

Of course, in true Number 4 fashion, she totally proved me wrong, and she kicked some serious ass.

She swam better than I would have ever anticipated. And I’m her coach.

She walked away from Zones with huge drops in times and a fifth, a third, and a first place medal.

She said she had something to prove to herself, and she had something to prove to everyone else.

And she did it.

I was blown away by her.

Again.

And that sums up our trip to Richmond.

Exhausting, exciting, challenging, surprising and 100% rewarding.

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Next Stop, Richmond, Virginia

Number 3 and 4 first joined the swim team six years ago.

They swam on the town team which only swims in the summer and practices in the lake at the town beach. It’s a rinky dink little team, but it was the perfect introduction to swim team for them. They both loved it.

Of course, growing up a swimmer and swimming all the way through my senior year in college, I was  pretty psyched when they asked to join the swim team.

It’s hard not to live vicariously through them. Too much.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t doing that at all.

It’s also hard to balance their desire to do well and win and be the best with the knowledge that the burnout factor in swimming is very, very high.

There aren’t too many kids who are ranked among the top swimmers in the state as ten-year-olds who are still swimming when they are in high school.

So it’s a fine line.

Pull the trigger too soon and you risk them falling out of love with the sport before they really get to the good part. The part where they learn all the important life lessons that have both gotten me through some of the darkest times of my life and also given me the closest friends of my life.

Anyway, here they are after a meet that very first season.

Number 3 had just turned seven, and Number 4 was five years old (two months away from six).

They both exhibited natural talent and ability early on.

And now, six years later, here they are.

(Number 7 is the age now that Number 4 was six years ago when they first started swimming 🙂 )

Both Number 3 and 4 had great seasons this summer.  And they both qualified for a big meet in Richmond, Virginia this week called Eastern Zones Long Course Championships. It’s a four day meet where the top swimmers from states up and down the East Coast will be swimming.

They both set goals to make it to this meet this summer, and they both did it. I am so proud of them!!!

So, with the knowledge that they are swimming in some relatively elite circles at a fairly young age (which increases the pressure they may put on themselves), we are headed off to Richmond, Virginia tomorrow where I get to watch the two of them swim not as their coach, but simply as their mom (which I am very much looking forward to).

I drop Number 3 off with the other swimmers from CT who are 11 years old and older at 6:45 a.m. tomorrow morning (they all ride together on a coach bus and stay in a hotel together as a team) and then I’m making the 413 mile trip from Connecticut to Virginia with Number 4, 5, 6, and 7 (because the swimmers who are ten and under have to stay with their parents).

It’s gonna be interesting, no doubt, and if I survive the drive and the next six days with those four in a hotel room, I’ll be sure to keep you posted.

Wish me luck!

 

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If You Are Looking For A Fun (And 100% FREE) Spring Break Activity For Your Kids, Read This!

We did something awesome today!

If you follow NYAM on Facebook, you may have seen my post a couple days ago asking readers to share some of their stay-at-home-for-spring-break-plans.

I thought it would be fun to compile a list of activities and ideas for those of us who aren’t off to Disney or somewhere tropical. (I know I’m especially in need of them since we are heading into the second week of a short break from swim team and my kids are already off the walls).

Then yesterday, I saw a post on Facebook. A friend of mine turned 50, and her daughter wrote her a message. It said something along the lines of, “…Happy Birthday, Mom! Thanks for taking me on lots of crazy adventures!…”

And I thought to myself, what a great thing for a kid to say. And what a great memory to have.

Then I thought about the fact that my kids are already bordering on TOOC (Totally Out Of Control) and it’s only the first day of spring break. With eight days left to go and no swim practice next week to help tire the kids out, I’m not sure we can handle too many at-home, creative activities.

So last night after reading my friend’s birthday message from her daughter, I decided this spring break is going to be the spring break of crazy adventures.

But they have to be crazy adventures that don’t really cost much because I just blew a shit ton of money sending Number 4 to Zones, and the crazy adventure bank balance is in the single digits.

One of the first suggestions someone made when I wrote that post on Facebook looking for stayacation ideas was geocaching.

I had never heard of it before. Am I the only one??? How did I not know about this?

I Googled geocaching right away, and it looked like a lot of fun. Plus it’s totally free, so giving it a try was a no-brainer.

If you are clueless like me, geocaching is basically a real-life treasure hunt. Geocaches are hidden containers that can range in size from something about the size of a film canister to a larger Rubbermaid container. They are waterproof and contain a log book, and some contain “treasures.” (I think treasures are usually more for fun and they aren’t really anything of much value).

There are millions of caches of various sizes hidden all over the world!

Last night I downloaded the app. As soon as you open a (free) membership, you can see where caches near you (and anywhere) are hidden. All you need is a phone with GPS.

Caches have descriptions, and many have hints, so some are fairly easy to find, and some are super difficult.

As luck would have it, there was a cache two miles from our house that was originally hidden by a seven-year-old (with the help of her parents), and it was intended for young geocachers.

So it was perfect for us virgins.

Last night I told the kids were were going on a surprise adventure, but I wouldn’t tell them what we were doing or where we were going. This morning, I pulled them all into the kitchen and explained what the plan was.

They were mostly excited. One may have been a little less than enthused, but he eventually came around.

We loaded in the car and I assigned Number 3 the role of navigator. He sat in the front seat with the phone helping to guide me. We ended up at the nature center in our town.

Here is the kicker. We have lived in this town for eight years, and in those eight years, I have never been to the nature center. I didn’t even know there was one!

So not only did we go on an adventure, but we visited a (really cool) resource in our town that I  had never even seen before!

We got to the nature center, got out of the car, and started walking. The app’s description of the cache gave us a clue which direction to walk in.

As you walk, the app has a built in compass, and it tells you how many feet you are from the cache, and it points you in the correct direction.

Once you get within thirty feet or so, you just have to start looking all around.

Number 4 was the first one to spot the cache hidden in a hole in a stone wall.

Everyone was pretty psyched. Except Number 7 who wanted to hold the cache.

Inside the box were a bunch of little “treasures” — mostly pencils, some little trinkets, etc.

Number 3 and 4 weren’t impressed by the contents of the cache, but we had discussed before we got there that there may not be anything at all inside and that the excitement was in locating the cache itself.

The little kids were pretty psyched, though. Number 7 had brought along some things from home to trade for items in the cache just in case. She and Number 5 and 6 traded some Shopkins, a small toy ladybug, and a Matchbox car for some stickers, balloons and a pencil.

But here is the cool thing. Inside the cache is a log book. And when find the cache, you are supposed to fill out the log book and place it back in the box.

The girl who had hidden the box had written a message in the log book last year:

She came back to update the log book and maintain her cache. And read that last line — she is 18 now! The box has been there for twelve years!

That’s so cool!

So I left a message in the log. Number 4 wanted to write one, and so did Number 6.

 

Number 6’s message: Hi, I’m (Number 6) and I liked the geocaching a lot. Bye bye Guys. Have a nice day!

How cute is that?

We finished up our log entries, and then we explored the nature center a little more.

We found a pretty cool tree and swing. We spent some time there.

We did a little more exploring.

There were a couple bumps in the road along the way.

But overall, we had a great time, it was definitely a little adventure, and the kids were bummed when I told them we had to leave.

Number 4 said to me later this afternoon, Mom, today was a great day. If every day of spring break is like this, it’s gonna be an awesome vacation!

Ha! And it was totally free and two miles from our house!

Will I be able to make the next eight days as fun as today was?

I don’t know.

But I’m up for the challenge!

Where in the world will Not Your Average Family go tomorrow?

Stay tuned to find out!

 

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My Daughter Is My Hero

Number 4 left for the Eastern  Zone Swimming Championships (Zones) last Wednesday.

If you missed the post last week, this was the first goal in a series of goals she had set for herself last year. And for the last six months, she worked her butt off, never losing sight of her goals.

The first goal was to be the fastest swimmer in her age group in the state in one of her events.

The second goal was to make it to Zones.

The third goal was to finish in the Top 10 at Zones and make it up onto the podium.

Two weeks ago, at a different swim meet called Age Group Championships (basically like state championships for younger swimmers), Number 4 officially qualified for Zones.

But she just missed out on that first goal of being the fastest swimmer in the state in one of her events by .08 seconds.

Eight hundredths.

It was a great race.

So she just missed goal  #1.

But goal #2 was crossed off the list.

That left goal #3.

She spent the last two weeks barely able to contain herself.

MOM. I’M GOING TO  ZONES IN SEVEN DAYS.

MOM! I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M ACTUALLY GOING TO ZONES.

MOM!!! IT’S ONLY  THREE DAYS UNTIL ZONES!

MOM!!! I’M GOING TO ZONES TOMORROW!

MOM!!!!!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE I’M GOING TO ZONES IN 40 MINUTES!!!!!

She was literally squealing for  ten straight days, with the decibel level increasing with each passing hour.

Last Wednesday the day finally arrived, and Number 4 boarded the bus and hit the road with the Connecticut team.

She was SO HAPPY and SO EXCITED.

Seeing her get on that bus was one of my most fulfilling parenting moments to date. For real.

My husband and I headed up to the meet on Thursday night.

She had two events on Friday and one on Saturday.

I didn’t think I was going to be nervous. I wanted her to swim well and be able to check off that third goal, but getting to the meet was the big accomplishment, and I really just wanted her to soak in and enjoy the whole experience.

I was okay until about five minutes before her first race.

And then I started sweating.

She was having so much fun at the meet. I knew she’d be okay however she swam in her races.

But when your ten-year-old kid works her butt off and does it all on her own, when all the motivation is internal, when she’s focused and disciplined and has gotten up every Saturday morning at 6:15 a.m. for the last five months to go to her sixth practice of the week because she knows that’s what it’s going to take to achieve her goals, well, you want things to go her way.

Her biggest chance to get into the Top 10 was on Saturday. Her last event. It was her strongest one.

So my goal for her on Friday was to have at least one good swim so that she’d go into Saturday feeling positive and confident. That’s all.

Her first race was the 100 IM (one length of each stroke).

She went into the meet seeded 10th. She had a chance to squeeze into the Top 10 if she swam well.

She was happy going up to the blocks. She didn’t look nervous. She looked like she was having fun.

But she had even more fun when she touched the wall with a best time and finished in eighth place overall.

YES!

She made it onto the podium in her first race. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!!

The CT coaches bring fun hats, sunglasses, ties and wigs for the kids to wear at the meet.

She was ecstatic.

I was ecstatic, too. And relieved. It didn’t matter what happened now.

She had done it.

In her second event on Friday, she swam well, but she finished 14th. It wasn’t a surprise. She finished about where we expected she would.

She was going into her last event the next day feeling happy and confident.

I was nervous for this one. She already had a medal and had gotten onto the podium, but this was her best event, she was seeded seventh going into it, and I was just really hoping things were going to go her way.

She came up about a body length behind everyone on the start. (Note to self, fix Number 4’s damn backstroke start).

So she had quite a bit of ground to make up.

Just as she had done two weeks earlier, she made up for lost time with every length she swam. I was alternating between watching her and covering my eyes, peeking through the cracks in my fingers.

She had a great finish, and she ended up….

in sixth place!

YEEEESSSSSS!!!!

She had done it again!

 

But there was more.

She did a best time.

Not by a lot, but by a couple tenths.

She dropped her time from a 1:07.67 to a 1:07.45.

And that new time? The 1:07.45?

It’s the number one time in the state for her age group.

Goal Number 1. CHECK.

She did it.

She did it all, checked every goal off of the list, and I am so, so, so, so, SO proud of her.

Dream, believe, achieve.

Sometimes you inspire your kids.

But other times?

Other times, they inspire you.

 

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