Trial by fire (and water and cleats)

Growing up, I wasn’t exactly what you’d call an athlete. In fact, I’d bet that “athlete” and I were never even in the same room together, much less the same sentence (although my dad always said I had the best practice swing of anyone on my 5th grade softball team). While Nick has many amazing qualities, being a stellar athlete doesn’t really rank among them. And so it has come as quite a shock to us that both Ella and Annie are not only interested in sports, but actually have some skillz (yeah, I added the z. All the cool kids are doing it).

Prior to this year, the girls had been involved in after-school activities that took up relatively little space: a thirty-minute swim lesson here, an hour-long gymnastics or art class there. We knew it was only a matter of time before we joined the ranks of parents carting their offspring to and from numerous extra-curricular activities, banging around town like minivan pinballs, but we didn’t anticipate that we’d be thrown head-first into the mayhem as swiftly as we have this year.

Ella has long loved to swim – she’s just always been a mermaid girl – and decided that she wanted to try out for the swim team. When she made it, she informed us that she’d only attend one or two of the five (weeknight) practices that are held each week, and we thought that seemed reasonable. Once she began chatting with one of her best friends (who is also on the team), however, she allowed that perhaps she’d like to swim three nights a week — maybe Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, with meets on Saturday afternoons? That’s a lot, but we can handle it. Suit up, kiddo. Let’s do this.

swimming first time
Her first practice, they swam at least 25 laps (I lost count after that). Not lengths, but laps.
I would have drowned.

Annie is a bit too young for the swim team, and when asked what activity she’d like to try this year, she mentioned art and swimming. As it happened, both occurred on the same days at the exact same time (what were the odds?), so we presented her with a choice… And she chose soccer.

9.17 first soccer practice
At her first practice, turning around and being goofy (who, Annie?) to Ella and me (reading, natch, Harry Potter).

Yes. A child of mine, who grew in my womb and is 50% me, chose a sport over an artistic endeavor. No one is more astonished than I.

As luck would have it, soccer takes place on Tuesday evenings and Saturday mornings, which fit in nicely with Ella’s swim schedule. In case you haven’t been playing along, I’ll help you out: swimming and soccer take place Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. But no! After only one swim practice, Ella declared that she would really like to swim on Thursdays, too… So… Mmm hmm. We have something on the schedule every single weekday evening, plus all day on Saturdays.

Again, I know this is hardly unusual. I always understood, on a theoretical level, that the older your kids get, the busier you become. (Which would explain why friends with older kids would have more difficulty attending a Moms Night Out gathering than friends with toddlers, something that always baffled me when the girls were younger… But you’ve got grade-schoolers! There are no diapers to change! They sleep through the night! They can clear their own plates! Surely you have more time on your hands now! I know. Kick me. I deserve it.)

It’s just that we’d thought we’d get to dip a toe in – gradually ease further down, you know, as we got used to things – not that we’d be pushed off the dock with our clothes still on. Because that’s kind of how I feel right now: disoriented, shocked, and wondering if I actually remembered underwear this morning.

It so happens that both soccer and swimming are from 6:00 – 7:00, which is perfect, because no one ever dines at that time. At the parent information meeting, Ella’s swim coach sagely warned us not to feed our kiddos too much before practice, or else they’d see their meals again in the pool – so she eats her dinner when she gets home around 7:30 (except on Thursdays, because practice is a half-hour later, and 8 p.m. is just too late for dinner, so on Thursdays she eats at 5:00. Got that so far?).

Annie, on the other hand, would be ravenous if she didn’t eat before soccer… Which means that dinner for the girls is at 5:15 on Tuesdays, while Nick and I scarf lukewarm leftovers down while standing up before the girls head to bed. Some nights, we eat together when Ella gets home. Some nights, Annie eats at home with one of us while Ella swims. Some nights, Annie eats at the pool and Ella – and we – eat later.


On top of that, I teach piano three afternoons a week – once from home and twice not at home – which means that our babysitter is here to shepherd the girls through homework and snack and make-sure-Ella-eats-at-5:00-on-Thursday-or-else-she’ll-vomit-in-the-pool before Ella’s friend’s parents pick her up for swimming (we carpool, because two nights a week is enough, thank you very much).

9.30 homework prep
I’ve taken to leaving at least five piles of notes when I head off to piano. Everything is more fun when it’s on a dry erase board.

Never before have I had to be so organized, and while it’s a bit torturous and more than a bit exhausting, I think it’s actually been a good thing. At this rate, I’m pretty sure I could end the government shutdown by tomorrow afternoon. Just give me a dry erase board and I will have us up and running again.

This could all be just complete insanity if the girls weren’t thriving and loving it so. Ella is learning about stuff I didn’t even know existed – flip turns and two-hand-touches (so you don’t get disqualified) and no breathing in the yellow zone (have you ever noticed how Olympic swimmers just power through at the end of each lane? No? Neither had I). She’s even decided she wants to be Missy Franklin for Halloween.

9.18 swimmer girl
No more cute tankinis and wild hair; it’s all performance suits and swim caps and goggles that “pop” when you put them on. I’ll posit again: When did she get so old??

Annie comes home from school every day asking if it’s Tuesday, because she cannot wait to get back out on the field. Turns out, she’s a got a fierce competitive streak (Annie? Never…) and rocks at defense, and she even scored a few goals last weekend, too – but more than that, she just thinks it’s a blast.

9.21 annie soccer
Pouring, but not one complaint. You’re sure this is my child???

As a result of all of this extra activity and later-than-usual bedtimes (which happens when you’d normally hit the hay at 8:15 but you don’t eat dinner until 7:45), both girls have been just bushed. Prior to this school year, I could have counted on one hand the number of times Ella had slept past 7:30 (yes, I mean that literally; girl cannot sleep in to save her soul). Since this mania began, I have had to awaken her a few minutes before 8:00 so that she makes it to school on time. Of course.

This past Friday, Ella didn’t swim, and we all enjoyed a leisurely night of pizza and television (Cake Boss, duh). After putting the girls to bed at a reasonable hour, Nick and I rejoiced that finally, on Saturday, everyone would be able to sleep in as late as necessary (well, as much as one can when soccer begins at 10:00).

Which meant, naturally, that both girls were not only wide awake but singing through their walls to one another at 7:15.
Of course.

5 thoughts on “Trial by fire (and water and cleats)

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