Transition Hiccups

In a month and a half, our family will have been in our new location, five hours from what we all knew as home, for a year. After an initial adjustment period, for the most part, life has just continued on. The girls have adjusted to their new schools. We’ve made the house our own. We’ve started to venture out in our new surroundings to find our new favorite places and things to do. We’ve all made some new friends. I was warned by several swimming friends that the swimming transition might be the worst one, that a new club and new coaches would take a year to settle into for the girls. I expected that and prepared the girls for it the best that I could.

I didn’t worry about Sassy as much; her outgoing personality always seems to break the ice. After practicing so hard all year long, Sassy began to get her “BB” times and get hungry for more. When she realized how close she was getting to “A” times, she got even more motivated. This past weekend, she swam her very first “A” time in the 50 back, something she didn’t expect that she would do until she turned 10. Despite being the one in our family most vocal about not wanting to move, she has made the swimming transition look easy. A transition at 8 is easier than a transition at 13.

Because I know this, I worried more about Swim Girl, whose quiet and more introspective personality can be more easily misinterpreted by others. I also worried because her relationship with our previous club’s coach was such a strong one. He understood how she was feeling during a practice or after a race, without her having to say a word. He knew her well enough to know that she is a rule-follower and would never skip part of a set to appear faster than someone else. He knew that yelling at her was not the way to motivate her, and that it sometimes took a while for certain things to really sink in. She didn’t believe in shortcuts, and she proved that with her work ethic over the 4.5 years he coached her. He also knew how far she had come and how hard she had worked to get where she is today. Swimming didn’t come naturally to her when she started; but she had the love for the sport that others didn’t always possess. Despite coming in last and getting disqualified, she wanted to work harder and get better. She didn’t give up. She pushed herself and she achieved. It’s this history that her current coaches don’t know, and that she’s too shy and intimidated to share with them.

At the beginning of the short course season this year, Swim Girl was stagnant with her times. But over time, she began to drop her times across all her strokes. She went from a 2:28 in 200 back to a 2:15; from a 1:02 in 100 free to a 56; from a 5:53 in 500 free to a 5:32; from a 1:17 in 100 breast to a 1:12; from a 2:43 in 200 breast to a 2:35; from a 2:28 in 200 IM to a 2:19. Long course season started off with her swimming an Age Group Champs cut in the 1500 the very first time she swam it. The hiccup with her times didn’t last very long at all. She set a goal for herself, that she wanted to qualify for SCY Age Group Champs and make a Senior Champs cut (despite the times being more challenging to get in this state). She did both. One would think her confidence would be soaring, but it’s not.

It’s been good for her to be at a club with so many great swimmers her age. It has taken some of the pressure off, so that she’s been able to just concentrate on her technique and her times. She’s made some very good friends at our new club. But she has some lofty swimming goals she’s shared with me that she’s too afraid to share with her coach. She has questions she wants to ask about how to fix things that stay inside her head instead. She shuts down and stays quiet when she gets yelled at for going too slow, rather than ratting out those who skipped out on part of a set. So many of these kids have been with these coaches for years. They have the kind of relationships with them that she had back home with hers. She’s starting from scratch; and I can tell that it’s bothering her. They don’t know her history and she’s not quite sure how to establish a good relationship without that. As her parent, I feel like I need to help her; but I’m also wary of becoming “that parent,” and feel that at 14, she needs to take the initiative to speak up and communicate with her coach without my interference. I just hope that I can get her to start speaking up.

These are the things that make me miss the easiness that used to be home. In some ways, I’m glad we have an upcoming trip to go back and visit; but I’m also worried that the trip will just make us miss home that much more.

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All the Missing Girls

September 23, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Mental Strain for Mama 

When news first broke of the missing UVA student, Hannah Graham, I felt physically ill. There are entirely too  many children and young women who go missing in this country and beyond. It brought back Natalie Holloway memories from years ago, another missing girl, never found.  When you have your own children, it hits so close to home, especially when you see the Graham’s, the mental and physical exhaustion and the overwhelming sadness and despair displayed like a billboard on their faces. As a Mom of a daughter who will be in High School next year, I know how fast they grow up. Middle school has flown by; High School will too. And then my girl will be off to college, and I will worry endlessly because of the world we live in right now.

The Hannah Graham case bothers me, in particular, for so many reasons. I can identify with her as I was once a college student as well. Those four years are when you taste your first bit of freedom and independence. The sudden independence can sometimes result in making poor decisions. I remember walking home by myself from work in the city of Pittsburgh, late at night sometimes. I remember getting tired of being at a party and walking down the hill to  my dorm, by myself. Those decisions were not in my best interest. I should have had a friend with me, or called for a shuttle. But I didn’t have a cell phone back then, and I didn’t really think about it being unsafe. I shouldn’t have had to worry. A woman should be able to take a walk without expecting to be kidnapped, assaulted or killed.

The most disturbing thing about Hannah Graham’s disappearance is that there are so many people who are blaming her for whatever has happened to her. There are tweets about her being dressed inappropriately; posts about her being drunk and stupid, and all kinds of other blaming language that makes me absolutely sick. Blaming her for the situation she’s in because of her outfit is insulting to men too. Should men really have NO control over their desires when they see an attractive woman wearing a crop top? Making these kinds of statements is insulting to men and women alike.  Young women AND men should also be able to make a mistake with their alcohol intake without paying with their lives. It is a sad state of affairs when one night of overindulgence turns into a missing persons case. When I taught Sexual Assault Awareness seminars at the University of Pittsburgh and surrounding schools, I used to tell the attendees that a woman wearing nothing but cellophane is certainly asking for attention, but NO ONE is asking to be raped.

There are also those trying to turn this into a race issue. Two of the missing girls from this area are black. This is a missing girl problem, not a race issue. I don’t care if the perpetrator is white, black or purple. I just want him/them caught and the girls to come home.  And if the last person who was seen with her is now on the run, it doesn’t look very good for him. Why didn’t he just tell police what he knew? His behavior alone makes him look guilty. If he has nothing to hide, then why lawyer up, refuse to talk, and leave town? Innocent people don’t act like this. And if he truly is innocent and just scared of being blamed for something he didn’t do, then he should want to help police with whatever information he may have that may lead to the right person. I don’t understand that behavior; and I really don’t understand a lawyer that could advise him otherwise, unless of course, he’s hiding something.

Hannah is not the only girl to go missing from the Charlottesville, VA and surrounding areas either. Over the years, many women have gone missing from this area, their bodies never found (with the exception of Morgan Harrington, who should have been able to attend a Metallica concert without paying with her life).  A quick Google search for “Route 29 stalker” turns up some truly scary stuff.  Why are women going missing from this area, and why can’t they find the person/s who’s doing it?

The video surveillance they have of Hannah Graham on the night she went missing is disturbing too. In one, she’s walking right to left along the mall. A man standing in a doorway seems to spot her and he slowly moves out into the crowd and starts following her. This is the man who has supposedly come forward to identify the person of interest. Perhaps someone should be taking another look at him. In addition, you have the person of interest, Jesse Matthew, who you see walking left to right, crossing the mall and then falling in step behind her as well. In other videos he’s seen with her. What if they guy in the doorway is acting as a spotter? Why have the person of interest AND his two roommates vanished into thin air? What if this is part of a human trafficking ring, now on the move because the police began sniffing around? Human trafficking is this country’s dirty little secret. Where I moved from, in recent years, multiple rings were broken up. My hometown was forming a task force to combat Human Trafficking. Human Trafficking’s presence would certainly help to explain all of the people who go missing, their bodies never found.

I think the most disturbing thing of all though, is that on a personal level, there’s yet another instance I need to talk about with my girls. There’s another case out there that lets them know that this world is not the innocent and safe place I’d like it to be for them. In today’s society, you have to be mistake-proof; because a single wrong turn on a street could mean you’re gone. One too many drinks can mean you’re vulnerable; and accepting a drink from someone can make you even more so. I hope and pray they find Hannah, and all of the other missing girls alive somewhere. The Cleveland case gives me some hope, although the torture those poor women endured is just beyond comprehension. Keep your eyes open for things that don’t seem right. Report things that give you that funny feeling; and maybe, just maybe, we can make this world a safer place for ourselves and our children, and bring girls like Hannah Graham home.

If you haven’t already, check out “Help Save the Next Girl.” 

Recognize the signs: HumanTrafficking.org

Missing Persons List: do you recognize anyone?

Have you seen this guy or the car he’s traveling in?

JMPoster

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On the Verge of Cyber School

I taught for five years, so I never wanted to be THAT parent. . . the complaining one. But lately, my concerns feel like they’re bubbling over, under pressure, to the point of explosion. In fact, it’s getting so bad that I, the person who swore I would NEVER consider it, am actually starting to research home-schooling and cyber schooling. Former public school teachers don’t usually go there. This one is about ready to go directly there.

Let’s start with the gym teacher. He’s the typical male middle school gym teacher, also the head football coach. I’m told by many parents that my kid just needs to get through his units. I had hoped for better than that. We pay a lot of school taxes. He’s the type of coach from the Grease movie, the one who drives the golf cart around sitting on his unfit butt, while he yells at the kids to do things their growing bodies shouldn’t be doing. Swim Girl has had to suffer through her second year of him this year. Last year, she ended up with a knee injury and months of physical therapy. Mind you, her injury didn’t result from her year-round swimming, but rather from gym class. Take a second to chew on that.

This year, this “teacher” (I use the term lightly) has had them doing a muscle “endurance” unit involving resistance bands. That’s all fine and good if the bands are the proper resistance and if he’s insuring that the kids are using proper form. However, neither of those two things are happening. This week, just days before her LSC Elite Meet, she has a giant knot in her shoulder muscle, resulting from his carelessness and lack of proper instruction and supervision. Both her coach and her PT were shocked at the obvious trauma to the muscle.

I don’t EVER do this, but today I wrote an email to him. I was extremely polite, and told him I would like her to avoid doing any exercises that could further injure her shoulder until . I told him that both her swim coaches and her trainer/PT told her she has a knot in her muscle and that she should avoid aggravating it any further. I offered to send in a lighter resistance band for her if he doesn’t have a light enough one. I avoided chastising him about the fact that when my daughter asked him for a study guide today, he barked at her “get it later” despite the fact that she was in gym class right THEN; and asking for a study guide would imply that she actually cares about learning and would like to study. The reply I got from him makes my freaking blood boil. There is absolutely ZERO concern for her health and well-being from her so-called “wellness” teacher. There was nothing other than a terse response, a statement to tell me that “the unit is now over” (because I guess that’s supposed to make me feel better), and then incorrect usage of the word “suffice.”I don’t know which part annoys me more. I was an English teacher; it’s probably the “suffice” part.

In the past month, my daughter has waited almost a month each time she takes a math test to get her grade back. It’s difficult to learn from your mistakes when they’re not even fresh in your head anymore. This, mind you, is AFTER Mr. BBM and I have had a conference with him.  Another teacher has spent class time talking about murderers and rapists and how if they get a good lawyer, they’ll likely get off and get away with it. Nice. And yet another teacher has told her about how her father held a gun to her baby sister’s head when she was a kid. Because that is totally school appropriate. I’d LOVE to call them all out on all of this stuff, but I also know what that could mean for how my kid is treated the rest of the year. I have no expectation of professionalism when these are the daily occurrences.

I live in the district that has the highest test scores in the county, that does quite well when compared to other schools in the state and country; and here I am, seriously considering pulling my kid out of school. I was (and am with Sassy) so happy with the elementary school. I was even happy with the first year of Middle School. Is this year just a fluke? Do we just have “to get through it”? Will it get better? I thought being in the Gifted program would change things a bit. I thought she would be academically challenged. Instead she has read over 1400 pages this quarter (none of it at home) because she finishes everything early in school and has nothing to do.

The only thing holding me back from pulling her now is her art teacher, who happens to be amazing. But it’s becoming more and more difficult to ignore the inappropriate things that are happening in her school. I send my 12-year-old into their care every day; and I do not appreciate them discussing things in class that I would never consider discussing in front of her at home. If you’ve decided to home school or cyber school, I want to hear from you, and I want to hear all about it.

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The Justin Timberlake Hangover

When Mr. BBM suggested we go to the JT concert for our anniversary, I was kind of surprised. I had imagined a weekend away, somewhere quiet, where we could catch up on sleep. Exciting, I know. But with a 12, 8 and 2-year old in the house, quiet and sleep are two things that are in short supply.

I spent weeks planning my outfit for the occasion. I haven’t had a night out in a big city in a long time. Clearly all the other chicks there thought high black boots were the way to go too. At least I knew I was still somewhat “with it.”

So we went to the concert and had an amazing time. There’s something about being a woman and knowing you’re breathing the same air as JT. It is instantly exhilarating. I couldn’t help thinking as I screamed, “Oh My GOD, he’s coming right here!” that perhaps this is not what Mr. BBM had in mind for our anniversary. Me, him and JT. . . and me screaming with utter joy when the stage began to move and he got closer to us by the minute. I left that concert completely “love-stoned.” No joke. Minus the beer-soaked jacket thanks to some klutzy girl sitting behind me, it was a night I won’t soon forget.

But instead of just enjoying the concert, there was this nagging feeling deep inside. I should have pursued a career in the music industry. I should have been a performer’s manager. I should have been a back-up dancer. Heck, I’ll be the girl that stands on the side of the stage and hands the man water when he needs it.

We spent the night in Philly and came home to our three awesome kids. Little Man followed me around 24/7 and kept hugging me and kissing me. Parting so I could go to the bathroom was almost too much for him. The girls picked up right where they left off with the sibling rivalry and non-stop arguments. Mr. BBM and I couldn’t help but look at each other occasionally and mouth, “let’s go back.” We rarely get a minute, let alone a night, to ourselves. It truly was amazing.

Days later though, as I drop off the dry-cleaning and pick up ingredients needed for dinner, organize Little Man’s toys and go about the business of laundry, the feeling lingers. It’s clearly a JT hangover. The concert was incredible and I can only imagine how cool it would be to be a part of it, day after day, night after night. Can you imagine what it would feel like to be a part of putting on that production? To be a dancer within feet of such an incredible celebrity? To be one of the behind the scenes people who makes it all happen?

Swim Girl and I were having a conversation in the car the other night about it. “Do you wish you were doing something different?” she asked me. It’s a tough question to answer. I think every stay-at-home mom who made the choice to put career aside for her kids would jump at the opportunity to do something extravagant, to go on a worldwide tour. I’ve been thinking about my choice a lot lately. There are things we’d like to do with our house, places we’d like to travel, but we can’t right now. I would never want anyone else raising my kids. We’ve certainly made the sacrifices so that I can be home when they get home from school, so that none of them ever had to go to a daycare setting. But it also meant putting aside the dream of being a big-time magazine editor or writer, navigating the streets of NYC with ease. Also, that whole dream of being the next Madonna, but better and without the gladiator boob contraptions.

So I have it all figured out. JT needs to hire and train me as a back-up dancer (social media genius or even as security!). I’ll need a bus all my own, equipped with enough beds for my family, and internet access so Mr. BBM can work from the road. I also need a nanny. I’ll home school the kids during the day; we’ll travel the world and consider that a year-long field trip. At night, I’ll pop my strawberry bubblegum on stage while my kids chill in the trailer watching Disney movies or finish up their homework. Yep, I’ll be “That Girl,” the one who has it all. Who says I can’t?

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Useless

September 24, 2013 by · 4 Comments
Filed under: Mental Strain for Mama 

The other night, we took my Mom out for dinner for her birthday. My sister, Mom and I went for manicures and then waited at the bar of the restaurant for the rest of our crew to show up. We got in a conversation and somehow, my volunteer position as the President of my daughters’ swim club came up.

“Yeah, you should quit that,” my sister said.  “Little Man is little and he needs you.”

“He gets me,” I protested. “It’s a lot of work, but I do it at home and it’s not like Little Man is being neglected.”

It wasn’t the comment that bothered me, as much as the fact that my Mom and sister had clearly had discussions about how my volunteer position should be eliminated. This is my third year as Co-President along with Mr. BBM of a thriving USA swimming club. In one year, we moved up almost 400 spots nationally. We added 15 more kids to our roster this year and had to turn many away because we simply don’t have the lane space. This past summer, we had enough swimmers in attendance at Junior Olympics to have relays in three age groups. And the relays did well. Twelve of our girls came home with medals; two of our swimmers made the Zones team. In the relatively short time of our tenure, we made major changes to our staff, applied for and received 501c3 status in less than six weeks (which our accountant says is virtually unheard of), and frankly, I’m just getting started.

What bothered me is that it was implied that because there’s no payment for what I do, there’s no value. I disagree.

Yes, I sometimes complain about all the work because there is a LOT. OF. WORK. I spend a minimum of 40 hours per week updating our website, sending out emails, sending in meet entries, and doing things to make our club a better place to swim. I’m tireless in my efforts; and yes, I sometimes get very frustrated with circumstances and people. Because OH. MY. GOD. can people be a pain in the butt sometimes.

But when I’m at the pool, and I see our coaching staff working together so well, and I see our swimmers achieving things they wrote on their goal sheets at the beginning of the year, it makes it all worth it. Every. Single. Moment.

Worth it.

Selfishly, I want this club to be the most amazing place to swim in a 100 mile radius for my kids. I want college coaches to take notice of the swimmers we’re churning out.  I’ll stop at nothing to make it that way. But the pay-off is that this year, we have 99 swimmers that are benefiting from our amazing coaches. These 99 kids are all “my kids” in so many ways. Their successes and achievements are my successes and achievements. And just because there’s no payment for what I do doesn’t mean that it’s useless or lacking value.  I do what I do because it’s a labor of love.

And it’s worth it. . . for my kids and for every other kid who swims at our club.

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