Saturday, June 28, 2008

Pride

Subtitle: More braggin' on my kids

I know my daughter isn't the first kid on the planet to win a blue ribbon at a horse show. And Aidan isn't the first kid to improve his times at a swim meet.

But, to me, it feels as if they are.

I guess all parents feel that way. They are the first kids on MY planet to do so!

Bridget had her final show of the Summer Nights series at Hidden Lake on Friday. It's a four-show series, and we skipped the first show due to the tough times she'd had with horses and lessons. Shows #2 and #3 were huge successes with 3 and 4 first-place wins, respectively.

Last night? Not so much, but I don't mind a few "life lessons" on the road to victory. It was just proof to Bridget that not every day can be YOUR day. Especially in a sport where the outcome is subjective. There are several little girls from a barn in Oklahoma that have competed against Bridget throughout the series and for example, last week NONE of them placed well at all. Didn't even get the 2nd place ribbons. THIS week, they ALL did well, and Bridget got 2nds and 4ths. Different judge, different results.

She was a little mopey about it, but knew she'd done her best, so not too depressed. She even told me that I wasn't allowed to take any photographs. Guess if it isn't a BLUE ribbon, it's not worth documenting?

But, in the end, she had her victory. Her two good weeks garnered her enough points to be named the "Series Champion" at her level, and came with a choice of pretty nice prizes. She wisely chose a new pair of boots.


Took her to the local tack shop today to get the boots. Ray and I had spent considerable time teasing Bridget that we would enter and loudly proclaim "We're here to collect the SERIES CHAMPION prize for BRIDGET GLYNN!" She almost didn't want to go for fear of embarrassment. The tack shop was hosting a fundraiser for paralympic dressage rider, Lynn Seidemann while we were there. What a neat and gracious lady! She let Bridget try on her silver medal from the Athens games, talked to her about fear and how to overcome it, and autographed one of her show ribbons.

This is Bridget wearing Lynn's
silver medal from the Athens

games
















Bridget and her "barn buddies" (hi! Kirsten & Jillian!) pose with Lynn Seideman who signed their show ribbons







So, all in all, with the tough times, the wins and losses, it's been a pretty good month for Bridget.



On to The Boy.

Man, oh man, that boy-child of mine makes my heart sing sometimes. Today was one of those days.

Let me back up a bit an explain the swimming calendar. There are two "seasons." Short course season (25 yard pools) is in the winter and finishes in March. This is GOOD for Aidan because his birthday is right after short-course ends. Add to that, the fact that there are 2-year age groups in swimming. 9-10, 11-12, etc. This spring, he finished his short course season as an "old" 10 yr old (the eve of his 10th birthday), and so finished champs with a whole slew of top place medals.


Then he turns 11. And long course (50 meter) season begins, competing against 12 yr olds.


We talked a LOT about what a demoralizing season this would be, and how he needed to use this training time to build, and expand. Do distances he never did before, swim strokes he didn't like. All because he was pretty much going to be at the back of the pack anyway, so why not.


Like Bridget with her riding, there were a lot of tears. Threats to quit. Negotiations about skipping practices. Loss of confidence.


Today was one of those days I can draw on and say, "Remember that meet in Mansfield? How you made all your goals and picked up some new BB times, even in events you hadn't swam ever? Remember how it made you feel?"

Gawd, I hope he remembers how he felt. I sure remember it.

He swam 4 events, and dearly needed to pick up 2 BB times to qualify for champs. It's his last opportunity, he'll miss the next due to being at Boy Scout Camp.


I could take you through it, race by race, but suffice it to say, he picked up three BB times, and even one in a distance event which he'd never done before. He improved his times in every event, which is a rare thing for any swimmer.


The final race of the day, 50 meter free, I was almost willing to let him scratch, just to get home early. He already had a BB time in this event, had 3 successful swims under his belt, was killed by the 200 back, and I'd been there for 4 hours, sweating in the stands.


Then the seeding sheet was posted. Two kids he's been chasing all season, Cole and Aaron, were coincidentally placed in the lanes on either side of him. Out of 85 kids from a dozen teams, his buddies are seeded next to him. These are nice kids. We carpool with them. I love their mommies. But I wanted my kid to beat their kids in the worst way. Me? Competitive? Ha!


Aidan's best time in this event is 35:47. His goal for the meet was 35. That boy of mine beat both those kids by pretty much a body length and turned in a 34:18. It was a thing of beauty. Sorry, Cole, sorry Aaron - you both swam so hard! I promise not to gloat, and so does Aidan. It was fun to see the three of you racing together (how often does that happen?), and somebody had to win.

video



Yes, I'm proud. Yes, I'm bragging. I know they're not extraordinary (well, maybe a little, sometimes?), but they're mine, and I see how hard they work and the fears and obstacles they overcome, their perseverance, their heart.

THAT's what makes me proud.

.








Monday, June 23, 2008

Triple Sweat

A Day in the Life of a Stay At Home Mom

No wimps need apply!



Dave Eggers said in You Shall Know our Velocity, "It's not the first sweat that stinks, but the second."


Awake at 6:30. Make some tea, check email. Rouse The Boy, inquire of the breakfast request (Pancakes? Eggs? French Toast? ANYthing to get some meat on his bones).


Make breakfast. Call upstairs for Aidan. Once more. Again. Go upstairs. Shake him awake again. Hug the sweet kid as he sleepily stumbles his way downstairs. He may be hard to wake, but he doesn't complain about getting up to train.


Pick up 3 other boys and head to Carrollton where the kids actually get to swim in an outdoor pool. They like to arrive early so they can play in the park. So nice to see them playing in the sunshine, acting like KIDS, this group of young swimmers who seem to only train and train and train.


I've got 2 hours to kill while they swim a few miles. Fortunately, the park is lovely, with a nature area, a rookery (bird sanctuary), and lots of trails. I do about 3 miles. It's at least 90 degrees. First sweat. And I mean sweat. I sweat for at least an hour.


Pile the boys back into the car and hit a bagel shop on the way home. They all share a table and trade stories of exploits while I sit nearby, eavesdrop and pretend not to know them.



At home, and endless list of projects awaits. I decide to tackle erecting the new gazebo on the back patio, we lost the old one in a storm. In March. Yeah, I'm behind on my chores.



The instructions call for "4 adults and a step ladder." I figure I can manage it with a little help from Aidan now and then.



It's nearly 100 degrees. Frequent visits inside the house enable me to cool off, feed hungry kids, check in w/ Ray, who's working at home and trying to tune out all of us. Not an easy job.



Thus begins the 2nd sweat. I think it's the worst. It's prolonged. It requires perseverence. I am soaking, dripping.



Finally, I get the gazebo up, with Ray's help towards the end. I string the fairy lights, run the power, set up all the citronella candles, throw away all the trash, put away all the tools. All jobs I wanted to leave until tomorrow, but it is SO NICE to reclaim the patio. We will dine out here tonight.



Back inside to cool off and get ready for the Next Event: more swim practice. Aidan has an "abreviated" 75-minute practice, right before Bridget's. (yes, he has "two-a-days") We live too far from the pool for me to run back home and get anything done while they swim.



Alas, the kids want to PLAY TENNIS while they're waiting for each other to finish. First, I have to play with Bridget while Aidan swims. Then, I have to play with Aidan while Bridget swims. Then, I have to play with them BOTH when neither swims. All in all, I play tennis for over 2 hours.



This is the third sweat.



So far, nobody complains in the car on the way home. Could it be my Secret deoderant?







.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Sweep!

Not just ONE blue ribbon.....




Or even two or three......



Little Miss swept her class this week! She gets to finish the series next week and then she's being booted up to the next division! Go Bridgie!



Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Locavorism

Anyone heard of the term "locavore" ?

It basically means eating what is grown locally and (by default) in season.

I think one could say that the movement was pioneered by Alice Waters (Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA) who initiated the idea of restaurants serving foodstuff that was produced by local farmers. Her ideas gave new life to small growers in northern California, reintroduced the ideas of farmer's markets and brought the absolute freshest, healthiest foods to the table.

It's caught on at the most "local" level possible. Many people are realizing that most fresh produce has travelled farther than they ever go on a vacation just to reach their table. Do you realize what kind of a "carbon footprint" this creates? Think about what it does to small American farmers!

Ray and I recently read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver in which she chronicles her family's efforts to eat only items that came from within 100 miles of their home. On an extreme and basic level, this is probably more than most of us are up for. Especially me! It involves primarily shopping at farmer's markets and ferreting out local farmers who keep livestock, etc. In some geographies, this is probably more possible than others. On top of all that, one would need to learn preservation techniques such as canning, smoking, freezing, etc. to have a wide variety of nutrients through the lean winter months.

I'm not up for that. While I do enjoy the kitchen arts, I don't know that I want it to be my full time job. I HAVE, however, gotten in the habit of visiting the weekend farmer's market while Aidan is churning laps. Texas isn't all that bountiful, but I can sure incorporate a LOT of fresh local tomatoes, onions (many varieties!), potatoes, peas, beans, and beets into our diet. I found fresh lima beans at the farmer's market last weekend. Bridget LOVES lima beans, and until now, had only ever had them from a freezer. They were GOOD! I often get my eggs from a lady down the road who keeps chickens, and I am looking for local milk. We're getting the supplies to make our own soft cheeses. I even think I know of a neighbor who occasionally has freshly slaughtered beef to sell.

I know it sounds weird and tree-huggerish. But there is something that speaks to me about synchronizing with nature's rhythms and my local environment. The native Americans seemed to get along just fine without bananas (which come from South America). OK, so I'm not willing to give up proscuitto. Or olive oil. Or mayonaise. A whole host of things. But I CAN try to help the economy, enviornment, farmers, etc. by now and then stepping off the Convenience Foods Carousel and making more of an effort.

So far, it's been worth it. I roast, then puree tomatoes, garlic and onions from the farmers market and have the tastiest sauce that I use as dip, sauce, marinade, etc throughout the week. Ray recently recycled a ham hock into a pea soup and used something he found at a local market called CREAM PEAS. Never heard of 'em. I tell you, this pea soup tastes like it is FULL OF CREAM. Not a drop. Hooray for experimentation!

We are considering, considering, mind you, growing some of our own stuff. My idea was a small bed near our driveway. Ray's idea was the back acre. We'll see. My track record as a green thumb is pretty dismal. But I'd like to try to manage tomatoes, beans, lettuces, root veggies, more herbs than I currently grow, squash, and maybe even some cutting flowers. The beauty is hard to resist.

I like the idea, the idea, mind you, of getting more in touch (literally!) with my food, and helping my children to understand where their food actually comes from. So few people understand the origin and cycle of soft spring greens, the sweet summer fruits, the harder vegetables of fall, the roots of winter. There is something primal in me that longs for this, and wants to instill it in my children.

Meanwhile, I will continue to visit the farmer's market, ask the produce guy at the grocery store "what's local?", and even go knock on the door of the house down the road that has the terriffic garden and ask to buy their surplus.



Nature can't be wrong. I think it'll be worth it to listen to her music and dance her dance.





.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Bragging on my kids

I'm so proud of my kids.



Aidan is off this weekend competing in a swim meet 8 hours away from home. It's up to him to be where he needs to be, eat well, rest enough, etc. and so far he's doing well. Improved his times in all events today. Gotta love text messaging! I miss being there to see him pour his heart into each and every race and be rewarded by making his goals, but he's growing up and this is a good opportunity for him.


Last week, he graduated from elementary school. Boo hoo, my baby! It was a nice ceremony, and made the kids feel special.


Yesterday, Bridget had a horse show. She's had a rough time of it lately. A couple of hard falls and her confidence has been shaken. She has 3 trainers and they all bring something different to Bridget and have allowed her the fear, but have kept her facing forward and trying to overcome it. There have been LOTS of tears in riding lessons these last few months. I've backed off and remind myself daily that she needs to do this at HER pace, not mine.

The last couple of lessons, there's been no crying. Maybe some nervousness and attempted negotiation in the car on the way over but by the end of the lessons she is smiling and asking to have one more turn.


Whatever her trainers are doing, it's working. She was nearly flawless. Took 3 firsts and a 2nd. Got "Grand Champion" (first overall) in her division for the first time ever.


















We've got 2 more horse shows and swim meets this summer, I hope it keeps going so well!



Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Raising a Foodie

We used to have a saying when Bridget was a baby:

Keep your fingers and toes away from the baby's mouth!


From Day 1, that kid loved her food. Was joyous at mealtimes, has been adventurous about new tastes.


Bridget discovers ranch dip:



Bridget has perhaps one of the most refined palates of any 9 year old I know. She's completely open-minded when it comes to food and can taste and articulate the differences between various types of tuna sashimi.


Once exposed to honest-to-goodness real mozarella cheese, she now says that "string cheese tastes like soap!"

The fault is entirely mine and Ray's.


I taught her how to make macaroni and cheese from scratch and now she refuses to eat it from the box. "I want the kind where you make a roux, then a bechamel sauce, Mommy!" she insists.


She sometimes has a hard-boiled egg in her lunch. Rather than our everyday kosher salt, she prefers to season it with pink salt crystals from the Murray River in Australia. And a pinch of smoked paprika that Ray brings back from Budapest.


The thing is this; she knows the difference. I hope she doesn't turn up her nose at regular mac 'n cheese at somebody's house one of these days. Or request that the fish sticks be breaded with panko.


Once, when she was four, we gave her a sip of a very nice sauvignon blanc. "What do you think it tastes like?" Ray asked. "Um..... THAT!" she said, pointing to a picture of an apple, plum and pear. Is she the next Andrea Immer ?


She and Ray were discussing the latest delicacy he'd packed in her lunch which involved bleu cheese. She said her classmates had turned up their noses at the smell and she just mutters, "They don't know what's GOOD!"
Have I raised a monster? Or the next Food Network Star?


She fantasizes about having her own cooking show. She's gotten into the habit of setting up the video camera in the kitchen when she cooks, and tells the audience about every step she is doing. If I pass through, she hollers "get out of my shot, Mom!" Unless she is actively recruiting me as sous chef. She plays her little radio in the background (Disney AM), and calls her show "Bridie's Rock 'n Roll Kitchen." One day, I'll let her record for real and upload the show to the blog.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I'm a Quitter!



I have once again joined the ranks of the unemployed.



I actually QUIT my job.



For an organization founded by MOTHERS, they have proven to be surprisingly inflexible about the demands of my personal life (read: motherhood).



Between the commute (= time + money), the childcare costs, and the fact that I haven't prepared a meal for my family in months, it just wasn't worth it. Most non-profits I've been involved with understand that the low pay means a certain amount of flexibility to manage your personal life in the most low-cost way possible. Not this one.



It's really too bad, because I liked the job a lot, and felt I was pretty good at it. Was told I was good at it too.



But alas.... they don't do telecommuting. They don't do part-time. They won't let me be a consultant.


Sigh.





My decision was reinforced this week twice. The kids come home to an empty house and have an hour or so on their own before they have practices, lessons, etc. w/ a rotating plethora of transport modes. Aidan came home to find his baby gecko (birthday present) dead. Called me sobbing hysterically and there was not a thing I could do. A few days later, Bridget got herself worked into a puddle of tears over the whole horse thing (being scared lately) right before her lesson. Again, not a thing I could do but try to calm her down and make a call to the riding instructor to warn her.


Sigh.


So....




Now I can:
  • resurrect Fergus, my dormant sourdough starter and start baking fresh bread again

  • finish stripping the wallpaper from Aidan's bathroom

  • paint the guestroom

  • cook fresh & healthy meals for the family

  • get back to regular exercising

  • invite people for dinner

  • fulfill my carpool obligations





Now why can't I get paid for any of that???

Sunday, June 1, 2008

A Walk in the Woods

Spent a GREAT day yesterday in the company of JANET! Thanks, girlfriend, for including a stop in Flower Mound in your summer travels!


We had a great time hanging out in the pool, carting the kids around (Janet's a Good Sport), cooking, eating & drinking good wine.



Went for a lovely walk in the woods, led by The Intrepid Explorer, Aidan. Scamp always on his heels. I think I'll send Scamp with Aidan on his forays into the woods more often, they seem to enjoy each other's company.


Lots of things to see, lots of wildflowers (which didn't photograph well w/ the camera I had with me), turtles, snakes, frogs, etc.




We had a real treat on the way back home. Passed by the neighbor's house and got to go visit their newly born foal, Belle. There is nothing more absurdly cute than a baby horse. The bristly mane, the little whisk broom of a tail, the long, long legs. Did you know that when a baby horse is born, it's legs are almost as long as they are ever going to be? It's never more apparent then when they try to eat grass - their neck isn't long enough to get their head down that far.


Stinkin' cute! She is an arab, and will probably be very dark, almost black. With two white feet in the back. I am looking forward to seeing this little girl grow up!