3 Things I Noticed About An Empty Nest

I wrote this after my youngest left the nest in 2014. It’s 2017 and the nest is still empty, but we get visits now and then. We’ve planned trips to see both kids this fall and I’m looking forward to the moments we get to spend together. All in all, the empty nest is not that bad! Here’s what I noticed the first few months with no kids to take care of:
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Towels

Let’s start with towels. First off, we own too many of them. I gathered our towels into one room and separated the wheat from the chaff. I asked my son Robert if he needed any. I recall sending him off to college four years ago with a small set of matched towels. He’s survived with those two towels all this time? Plus, a beach towel of course — since he goes to UC Santa Barbara.

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

One of the most beautiful campuses ever. UCSB

Eighteen towels and two dozen or so hand towels and washcloths sit on his bed, awaiting his return Thanksgiving weekend. These 18 towels didn’t make the cut to remain members of our family — unless they commit to being shredded into rags.

images-3The next thing I noticed about my towels is that I’m no longer washing them every time I turn around. Raising two swimmers as well as overly hygienically-conscious kids, I believe they went through four or five towels daily — each — which never got a second use. I no longer have to hear the thump, thump, thump of my washing machine doing a jig with the over-packed, heavy towel load.

images-5Groceries

Have I mentioned that I raised two swimmers? We joined the Piranha Swim Team around 1999. I honestly believe that having my kids involved in swimming was the single best thing we ever did as parents. Sure, the kids worked hard. Yes, it was a time commitment. But, I will repeat, it was the single best thing we ever did. You can find a lot of my articles about the benefits here and here and here. Read what my friend has to say about swimming here.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

Robert and Kat a few years ago on photo day for the Piranha Swim Team.

So, what does this fact have to do with groceries? Well, it means I bought a lot of them. All the time. Robert drank a half gallon of milk a day and a box of Cinnamon Life every two days. Kat could eat whatever she wanted and she liked my sole, chicken and dumplings, meatloaf, and brown medley rice. At least I think she did because I was always cooking and buying more groceries.

Life-Cinnamon-Detail.sflbToday, my refrigerator is bare and I rarely cook. There’s no reason to buy more than three items at a time at the grocery store. When I enter the store, I don’t need a cart. I use the little hand-held basket.

images-4Dishes

 I cannot seem to get a load of dishes to wash for the life of me. My sink is empty. My dishwasher sits bare and lonely.

I guess that’s what they make Thanksgiving weekend for.

This is a photo of Kat. She didn't want to be a ballerina. She wanted to swim!

Why Kat joined the swim team. “I don’t want to be a ballerina!”

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10 Things to Know About College Recruiting–for Students and Parents

I wrote this post after going through the recruiting experience with my daughter. I’ve received a few questions about recruiting lately and realized now is a good time to repost this with some updated info. If you have any questions for me, please ask them! I’d be happy to help if I can.

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My daughter in a race as a Piranha.

My daughter started college a little over a month ago as a student-athlete for a PAC 12, D1 university. She signed her letter of last Fall and now she’s hosting recruits at her college. As exciting as it was to go through the recruiting process, it’s even better to look back on it!

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Three teammates from my kids’ club team on the blocks in yellow caps.

Looking back, there was so much to know. I’m sharing 10 tips on HOW to be recruited to help you and your swimmer wade through pools of confusion and make it less overwhelming. A lot of these tips can be used for your student-athlete’s sport — even if it’s not swimming. Have fun! Enjoy the recruiting experience — because it’s an exciting time in your swimmer’s life — and in yours, too.1554486_780165738665332_1948124021_n

  1. Join a USA Swim Club. If you want to swim in college and you’re swimming in high school — join a club team right away! Most swimmers at the collegiate level have been USA Swimmers for years. It’s rare for college coaches to recruit high school only swimmers. Click here to find a local club! usas_logo
  2. Go to practice! Every single day. College coaches will call your club coach and ask about your character and work ethic. If you’re trying to be the best you can be, your club coach will recommend you wholeheartedly.
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    Teammates racing.

     

  3. Register with NCAA Clearing House. If you have questions, ask your high school counselor. It’s something all athletes have to do who want to participate in college sports.
  4. Take the right classes, SAT or ACT, and get good grades. Again, meet with your counselor. He or she can make sure you’re on track and doing everything you need to do to be eligible.
  5. Make a list of the schools you’re interested in:
    Dream schools — where have you always wanted to go.Geographic location — do you want to be close to home? Or in an entirely different part of the country?DI, DII or DIII? There is a division, conference and school for every swimmer. Determine where you fit by looking at the NCAA Division results.
    Do you score points in the conference championship meet? When you have a list of schools, check out the results from their conference meet. Chances are if you’d finish in the top 8, you’re a good candidate for a scholarship.

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    A meet in LA during my daughter’s age-group years.

  6. Contact coaches and schedule unofficial visits via email. Start early, sophomore or junior year. Unofficial visits offer a chance to look at campuses and visit teams. It also provides an opportunity to practice meeting and talking with coaches. We made a few unofficial visits at nearby schools our daughter was interested in before she was being recruited. The coaches were very good about taking time to speak to her and one gave my daughter, husband and me a campus tour.
  7. Most schools have online questionnaires for athletes. Be sure to fill out the ones you’re interested in. You can follow up with an email to the coach that you’ve completed their questionnaire. Plus, when you email, tell coaches something specific about why you’re interested in their school. Ask them questions about what they look for in a swimmer, or what their time requirements are.
  8. Ask your club coach about the rules of talking to college coaches at swim meets. Rules change, but generally, a college coach cannot approach you  — until after you’ve swum all your events at a meet. Again, your club coach can help with this.
  9. Be polite. Return phone calls and emails. Once the official recruiting season begins, be sure to be respectful of all coaches and colleges — even if they weren’t on your list. You never know where or when you’ll run into these people again. Coaches move around — and they tend to have friends they talk to that are coaches!
  10. You’re allowed to take up to five official recruit trips. If you’ve talked to coaches on the phone or in person and they want you on their team, they’ll invite you for an official visit. You’ll stay with freshman or sophomore teammates and have a full schedule of events so you can get a feel for the school and team. Let coaches know right away if you’re interested or not in taking the recruit trip.

If you want more information, or have specific questions, I’ve linked several stories. Or, leave a comment and I’ll answer your question.

Here’s a great article about preparing for recruit trips from SwimSwam.

Two more articles: Swimming Recruiting – 5 Tips to Swimming in College and Quick Tips For College Swimming Recruits

Who knew youth sports was a $15 billion industry?

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My daughter racing, a few years ago.

Who knew that the youth sports industry in the United States has turned into a $15 billion a year industry? According to Time Magazine’s Sean Gregory, “Across the nation, kids of all skill levels, in virtually every team sport, are getting swept up by a youth-sports economy that increasingly resembles the pros at increasingly early ages.”

As a swim mom, I understand how easy it is to get swept up in kids sports. “Before Swimming” is how we refer to the years before club swimming took over our lives. “BS” we used to take ski vacations in Snowmass, CO and ski weekends in Big Bear. I took my son and daughter to youth tennis where they laughed and ran around with their friends. My son tried Cub Scouts and my daughter went to ballet.

They did a number of activities back in those days. Then they both fell in love with the pool. After taking lessons for water safety since they were six months old, my son around age seven was skilled enough to join the Piranha Swim Team. We were so proud! Then my daughter soon followed and every evening we found ourselves with other parents around the pool deck.

During my daughter’s high school years, I’d add up the costs of swimming just to see….I won’t give you a figure—but with dues of $160 per month, private lessons, and hotel stays at travel meets, and meals out, it added up. Then we came up with the brilliant plan of buying an RV to avoid the hotel costs and restaurants. Thing is….we never used it for a meet. It never seemed to be convenient.

From the Time article called “How Kids’ Sports Became a $15 Billion Industry:”

“The cost for parents is steep. At the high end, families can spend more than 10% of their income on registration fees, travel, camps and equipment. Joe Erace, who owns a salon and spas in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, says Joey’s budding baseball career has cost north of $30,000. A volleyball dad from upstate New York spent $20,000 one year on his daughter’s club team, including plenty on gas: up to four nights a week she commuted 2½ hours round-trip for practice, not getting home until 11:30 p.m. That pales beside one Springfield, Mo., mom, who this summer regularly made a seven-hour round-trip journey to ferry her 10- and 11-year-old sons to travel basketball practice. Others hand their children over entirely. A family from Ottawa sent their 13-year-old to New Jersey for a year, to increase his ice time on the travel hockey circuit. A sponsor paid the teen’s $25,000 private-school tuition. This summer, 10 boys from across the U.S. stayed with host families in order to play for a St. Louis–based travel baseball club.”

I enjoyed reading the Time magazine article and I agree with most of the parents who are interviewed. If your child is passionate about their sport, it’s natural to do everything you can to help them out. My life soon got absorbed by the team. I was writing the newsletter, press releases, fliers to hand out at schools. Soon, I was serving on the board, planning banquets, fundraisers, organizing goodie bags and buying year-round gifts. I remember breaking down in tears when I had to chase one parent down to do a minimum of a few hours volunteering at a meet—and he refused. He refused loudly and rudely. But then, I also remember early on when our family was asked to help at a meet with set-up and tear-down and we told the president of the team, “Sorry, but we have a life.” I guess we did, but that was “Before Swimming.”

I don’t regret a moment of my swim parenting days, though. I’d do it all over again.

Are you involved in the $15 billion youth sports phenomenon? What sports do your kids participate in and how involved are you as a sports parent?

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Third place relay at Junior Olympics, 9-10 age group.

 

Remember It’s Their Sport–Not Yours

 

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My son and teammates in the pool.

We all know helicopter parents are out there. Some of us may have been former ones ourselves or we may know friends who are overly involved with their kids. We see them at practice, meets or games—whether it’s soccer, baseball, football or swimming. They hover in the classrooms, waiting to talk to the teacher every day before and after school to make sure their child is adequately challenged and grades reflect that.

Here are two excerpts from articles I found helpful, the first written by a youth football coach and the second from a sports coaching and parenting expert.

From GridIron Now, A youth football coach’s advice for ‘helicopter parents’ By Dan Hancock:

It’s not the first time in my many years as a coach that I’ve dealt with a “my kid only” parent. On this occasion, though, I was amazed at how truly focused this parent was on his child only and not the team. I’ll skip the gory details and say that I removed the family, and consequently, the player from my team.

My job is to do what’s best for the team. This may mean putting a player into a position that he may not like if it helps the team. It also may mean removing a player from the team if effort is not given or respect not shown to the coaching staff.

I’d like to offer parents with kids playing youth sports advice from a coach’s perspective: Be supportive. Period.

Of course you want to see little Johnny score every touchdown, but it takes a team to get in the end zone. If your son or daughter is not playing in the position they want, or receiving the amount of reps that either of you find sufficient, be supportive. Work harder.

Talent and ability never goes unnoticed. Talking about ability does little come game day. Playing time is earned in practice.

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My daughter racing.

Here is an excerpt from David Benzel’s article that explains the only thing parents need to ask of their child. He’s an author and founder of Growing Champions for Life. Go check out his website and blog. He has so much valuable information and books and workbooks to order for you and your kids. USA Swimming has partnered with him to help swim parents, and he works with many other sports, too.

There’s No Strings Attached Parenting in Youth Sports

To see it we’ll have to go back to the early days when our child was in T-Ball, Guppy swim class, Tiny Mites football, or half-court basketball. In those days, we gave our parental support with no strings attached. It was an unconditional gift given for the sake of an experience we wanted our child to have. They were not expected nor required to do anything but have an enjoyable time playing the sport they loved.

Then things changed…

As we invested more time and money we expected them to learn and improve. And when the dollar figure got high enough or the miles reached triple digits, we expected maximum effort and peak performance every time!

Unfortunately for our children, what starts out as a gift suddenly appears to have strings attached and comes with the message, “You must perform well for me to feel good about the money and time I’m spending.”

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My daughter with her first medals.

Finally, here’s an excerpt from a helicopter sports article I wrote for SwimSwam this week:

 

What could possibly go wrong with ensuring our children’s lives are smooth and saving them from costly mistakes? Studies show that kids of helicopter parents often suffer at school and in the workplace. By hovering over our children and never letting them learn from their mistakes or face consequences, we can stunt our kids’ growth. Here are traits children of helicopter parents may share: acting out in the classroom, anxiety, difficulty making decisions, lack of “adulting” skills, and struggling in college and at work.

I’ve never heard of a parent who wants their kids to fail in life. That’s obviously not our objective when we help finish homework and drive forgotten lunches and papers to school. We’re just trying to help with the best intentions.

We should take advantage of the pool and swim team as a unique world within itself where our kids can practice skills for “adulting.” There are many life lessons inherent through years of swimming—we just need to let our kids experience them.

Kids gain so much from sports—from time management, good sportsmanship to being physically fit. They also have fun with their friends. It’s wonderful to encourage sports, but we need to always remember it’s their sport, not ours.

Do you know any helicopter sports parents? What have they done that bothers you the most?

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8 and under girls holding the team’s trophy after breaking a team record.

10 Things I Noticed About Summer Vacation

 

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Waffles on our morning beach walk.

 

ONE
I was stressed the day we left for vacation. Had I packed everything we needed?

TWO
VRBO disappointed me. The condo was way smaller than it looked online. I didn’t realize there was only one window that looked out into a parking lot and no ocean breeze because it was on the wrong side of the building.

THREE
After three days, I relaxed. We aren’t moving into the condo for good. It’s only a week and we can make the best of it. With my glass half full, I can say it’s clean, comfortable and we love the location a block from the beach.

 

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The marina in Santa Barbara.

FOUR
We are outside every day enjoying the fresh air. It’s such a big deal to be out of the AC of home where it’s 115 degrees and more.

FIVE
Sailing was exhilarating, breathtaking and yes—filled with fresh air.

 

 

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Sailing.

SIX
We love Carpinteria because of friends. Dinners al fresco, walks along the beach at sunset, and swimming are all better with friends. We’re fortunate to have best friends who love to entertain and cook for us. We’re even more fortunate they didn’t get tired of us after a week.

SEVEN
Morning beach walks are the best. They’re better than my walk around the neighborhood and park at home. Waffles the pug loved his beach time and playing with new friends.

EIGHT
I loved having my daughter join us for vacation. I hope it’s a tradition she continues for years to come.

NINE
Swimming helped me relax. After swimming masters with my friend and her daughter as a coach, I felt good for the rest of the day.

TEN
Why don’t we live in Carpinteria? Why was our vacation so short?

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My daughter lap swimming.

How parenting is like being an athlete

Letting my kids play and be kids.

I read a post on Facebook on our swim team’s site that had some great advice for swimmers but I believe it extends to success in other aspects of our lives as well, including parenting.

Here’s what I read on the Piranha Swim Team’s FB page:
“The path you take to get to the next level is a unique experience and may be longer or bumpier a ride at times than others. Common denominators of athletes with long term success: aiming high but with realistic steps, not reaching a goal results in more determination, focusing on your own progress compared to you and not others, and believing in your support system, training and team. Patience and perseverance will be rewarded at sometime when you do these things.”

How do those points apply to parenting? Substitute being a parent for the athlete.

We can aim high but with realistic steps. As a parent, my objective is to raise kids who become independent, successful, happy and kind adults. For example, to raise a person who is independent doesn’t mean throwing a 10-year-old out into the world to fend for themselves, but to allow them room to fail and learn from their mistakes. It means teaching them the skills they need to function on their own, like cooking, cleaning, living within a budget, etc.

Yes, we want to aim high and we have great expectations for our kids. But we need to keep in mind that any goal is the result of small steps along the way. My husband once told me, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

IMG_7214Not reaching a goal results in more determination. That was true for both my kids. I think swimming helped them develop this trait which can be called “grit.” My daughter would get frustrated when she missed a cut for the next level, like junior nationals, and somehow she’d turn that into motivation to try harder the next time. In parenting, we can have days where nothing seems to go right. It’s knowing that the next day will be full of promise and new opportunities that keep us slugging along.

Focusing on your own progress and not others. When my kids were young they were in a small private school and the parents were competitive, as were the kids. It’s natural to compare how your child is doing grade-wise or in sports to other kids—even how well liked they are. I remember Valentine’s Day in my son’s fourth-grade class when boys and girls came in with elaborate gifts. It was painful for me to see presents stack up on a couple kids’ desks, while several kids had nothing, including my son. Finally, a present or two arrived from his friends.

Believe me, nothing good comes from a parent comparing their kids with others whether it’s their grades, test scores or athletic ability. It puts pressure on your own child and can encourage feelings of jealousy or disappointment in themselves.

Believing in the support system, training, and team. Our families and friends are our support system and my husband and me with our kids make up the team. I trust in our day-to-day “training” to reach our goal of parenting happy, successful and kind adults. Together we’ll get there. Mine are well on their way. Remember to have patience and persevere when things are less than perfect or downright difficult. Also, everyone’s path is different and some people’s journey to the next level may be bumpy while others are smooth.

How do you view the journey of parenting?

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How to Raise Successful, Happy Kids

 

 

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What I neglected to teach my kids, they learned from swimming.

Yesterday, while driving to the mountains to escape the summer heat of the desert with a friend, we talked about how different our childhoods were and how our parents were much less hands-on than we have been with our kids. It was fun to reminisce about the good old days. It’s also kind of sad to think about how sheltered our kids are today and that they didn’t get the chance to ride their bikes for miles and miles and play in the street with neighborhood kids.

For example, we both recalled our first day of kindergarten when our mothers took us to school. The second day, we were walking on our own! Our kids were chauffeured everywhere, every single day by good ol’ mom.

Here’s an interesting article that gives nine somewhat scientific steps to raising successful kids. There are some good tips in it and I agree strongly with several–like kids need to play outdoors more and have chores. Here’s tip number three from “Want to Raise Successful Kids? Science Says Do These 9 Things:”

 

“3. Send them outside to play
This research applied specifically to boys, but it’s common sensical for girls as well. In short, smart parents will advocate for their kids to get a significant amount of unstructured recess time during the school day–and never to have recess withheld as punishment.

Unfortunately, researchers say we’re more likely to do the opposite in schools now: overprotecting kids, trying to keep them safe from all physical dangers, and ultimately inhibiting their academic growth, because lack of physical activity makes it harder for them to concentrate.”

I had a ton of chores growing up. I’d cringe coming home from school or on weekends to my mom’s difficult-to-read handwriting filling every line on a legal yellow pad with chores to do before “we played” or “watched TV.” We had to weed the garden, sweep the steps, vacuum the entire house, cook dinner, clean the game closet, etc.

I wasn’t as good as my mom at making my kids do chores. They were so busy with school and the pool that I felt they didn’t have the time for more work. I know that was a mistake. I had attempted having them do the dishes every night, but that turned into more trouble than if I did it myself. Also, my daughter developed a unique allergy to dishes. Her legs and arms would break out in blotches whenever it was her turn. I couldn’t let her off the hook while making my son wash dishes, right?

Another thing that’s not on the list but should be is letting my kids fail and suffer the consequences. It’s a nice reminder to let kids fail while they’re young and you’re not paying $30k for a year of college. Consequences are what make them steady, reliable adults. I should have let my kids fail when they were younger so they could learn the consequences. I took way too many trips to school with forgotten homework or lunches.

All in all, despite me, they’re happy and hard working. I think that swimming taught them about hard work since I failed in the chore department. Also, swimming taught them how to turn a missed goal or failed swim into motivation to try harder. So, despite my not being a perfect mother, letting them experience life with the swim team taught them life lessons that I neglected to teach them.

How do you parent differently than your parents?

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Ribbons and medals received for hard work from her coach.