Friday, July 25, 2014

Big Swimmer

Way before summer began, I started researching local swim teams/clubs/organizations with the thought that Kennedy might really enjoy trying out swim team for the first time this summer. Well, little did I know - swim is just as intense as every other sport available to our poor children these days. I say poor children because merciful heavens it's hard to be a kid and just play something for fun anymore - it's all gotten so off the chart crazy and sadly I don't thing the parents help the situation very much. Newsflash: your kid is probably not going to be an Olympic athlete & they likely aren't going to go pro either. Just keepin' it real folks. Add to the insanity that is children's sports, living in a super urban and super large city and you get an epic level of insanity. Seriously.

It became apparent rather quickly that our options were limited. In order to do a neighborhood swim team you have to join their "clubhouse" and on top of that fee you pay the swim team fee. In order to do an aquatic center it's the same - you pay the aquatic joining fee, a monthly fee, and a swim team fee. Really? No thanks. Our only viable and affordable option really was to swim with the YMCA which I was happy to do since we're already members. I already pay a monthly membership fee so we would only owe the swim team fee. Perfect! I researched our options within the Y and learned there was a competitive team and a recreational team. We're beginners in the swim team arena (both Kennedy and I) and so I felt excited about the recreational option. I emailed the director and was really excited about the potential of it all working out perfectly. 

Well, y'all: when she emailed me back about all the specifics of what was involved in getting her registered and on the team she specified that we would ONLY be able to register IN PERSON at their specific Y (there are oodles of branches in Charlotte) and that the Y opened on that day at 5:00 AM. I kept re-reading all her detail and was like "hmmm, wonder why she specified the Y opening time. Surely people don't arrive at 5 AM to get their kid registered for swim, right?" Because I'm familiar with the level of crazy we Mom's and Dad's can get thanks to my regular involvement in the large consignment sale circuit, I figured I'd better ensure I knew exactly what was up and emailed her back. I believe my words were something similar to this. "I need to know what level of crazy we're talking about here - are there people there when the Y opens?" Her response was quick and it was short and sweet. She stated that people would be arriving at the Y at 4:30 AM and that they'd be waiting outside when the first Y employee arrived to open the building that morning. Each person in line would be handed a number and last year the elementary recreational swim team spots were filled within 8-10 minutes. Are you freaking kidding me? There are no words. No.Words. Who are these people?!?!? True story - I was literally embarrassed to even be considering such nonsense. I will say that I was mildly comforted when she assured me that I would only need to do this one time as once we were "on the team, we'd be allowed to priority register for all consecutive seasons". When Tim got home from work I told him all about my research and then said "is this crazy...what should we do?" Well, financially this was our ONLY option and I really had heard great things about their swim program. After talking with a friend from church who was also interested in signing her daughter up, we decided to take the crazy plunge together and I set my alarm on registration morning for 3:45 so I could get there in time to get my baby girl on that blasted swim team. Kennedy, one day when you are reading this - I hope it further solidifies how much your Mommy loves you because oh my word it was brutal and crazy and I'm glad I won't have to do that again anytime soon. I would like for y'all to know, also, that when I got there - I was not the first and my friend I just mentioned who by the way was directly behind me in line claimed the LAST elementary spot. Shew! 

Now that we are done with swim team for the summer I can laugh about it all but I literally shared the process with no one except for family until now because it all just seems so absurd. Oh the things we do for our kids. I will say I was thrilled with the entire experience. Her coaches were so awesome and her skill development from the first meet to the last was insane. I mean she is a straight up confident swimmer now which is awesome since she has a little brother and sister who love the water and need not only a life jacket but Mommy at an arms length in the pool at all times. I hope swimming is always something she does because a. it's so good for you cardiovascularly b. it's a life skill c. you can get a job as a teenager as a lifeguard or a swim coach and I always thought that would be a super awesome way to spend the summer as a teenager d. I did not learn to really swim until I was an adult and it was SOOOO difficult - I don't want any of my kids going through that. I started this blog at the same time I was learning to swim/training for my first ever triathlon. Just to remind you of my horrific learning experience I stole a little excerpt from that first blog post about learning to swim: My very first swim lesson was last week at the University of Kentucky pool and lets just say I was the only "swimmer" (if I can even call myself that) who was wearing flippers and utilizing a kick board. Twelve year old little girls were swimming laps around me and I am fairly certain that the others utilizing my lane (the special shallow one for remedial students like myself) were there for fun and might have been laughing at me despite my efforts. The coach was extremely nice and supportive but I just know she was thinking "Oh my God have we got a long road with this girl". The swimming cap was squishing my brain and in turn making it extremely difficult for me to comprehend and complete her commands (that is what I am telling myself so go with me on this). I swallowedSOOOOO much water and coughed it back out that I had sore throat that lingered for 3 days. I almost emailed the coach to see if that was normal for a first timer but I decided it not in my best judgement to do so less she think I am a wimp. I swam (again....if you can call it that) for an hour and promised to be at every training session that I could - Lord knows I am going to need it.
I am so thankful this will not be something Kennedy ever experiences. 

Now for the pictures! This first group of pictures are from her first practice. She was SO excited about this adventure I just can't even tell you. She did great, but we'd regressed quite a bit since last summer and I almost jumped in several times to "save my baby" despite there being lifeguards posted on every pool corner. Sad but true. 

The first practice was basically an assessment for the coaches to see what level of skill most of the kids had. Although Kennedy could dog paddle from one end of the pool to the other, she really couldn't stick her face in the water without holding her nose and knew little to nothing about the individual strokes and associated technique/form. They practiced for a few weeks before having their first meet and I was so sad to miss her first meet but I was busy meeting a sweet little new baby of a friend in KY (more about that later). Her Daddy took her to her first meet and because he knows his wife well he took lots of pictures and even some video so I didn't feel like I totally missed out. 

According to Tim, although their first meet was super rainy - all the kids were troopers and swam through their shivering. 
They swam against the Siskey YMCA team. Kennedy swam freestyle, backstroke and freestyle relay. For memory sake, I kept all her times as they emailed them to us after each meet. Here's how she did at her first meet (5/31): 
25 M Freestyle ~ 43.11
25 M Backstroke ~ 45.97

I was really excited the following weekend that I was able to go to a meet and see how it all worked plus be there to cheer her on. 

 My sister was in town and when she came with her daughter to watch, she brought Avery along which I learned was better left un-done because she proceeded to complain and ask for snacks the remainder of her time at the meet. I will say she cheered for Kennedy though and that was pretty sweet. 
 I was really thankful for Mary-Anne since I'd missed the first meet, she was kind enough to kind of show me the ropes during this one. 
 Getting a little pre-backstroke pep talk from Coach Anna. 
 She did awesome at this meet for her backstroke - she won her heat and was thus rewarded with a Heat Winner Tattoo. =) Gigi and Grandaddy were able to see her swim at this meet too! 
 Getting ready for her freestyle relay.

 It is at this point and this picture that I'd like to kindly remind you of how she wasn't putting her face in the water when we started swim team. This is what I call progress people! 

Morrison vs. Simmons Y results (6/7):
25 M Freestyle ~ 38.42
25 M Backstroke ~ 37.69

The next few pictures are just some pictures I snapped at one of their practices but they ended up being some of the better ones I got of her swimming the entire season. I've lots of good pictures of the other kids (go figure!)

 Our next meet was against the University City Y (6/14): 
25 M Freestyle ~ 43.06
25 M Backstroke ~ 1:01.78

My sister took Kennedy to her next swim meet because I was surprising Tim with a trip to the White Water Center. She took this picture with her phone and I think it's so cute - she looks so professional. 

Lake Norman Meet (6/21): 
25 M Freestyle ~ 35.49
25 M Backstroke ~ 46.77

The Championship Meet (6/27) was between all the Y's and ended their season. 
25 M Freestyle ~ 30.22
25 M Backstroke ~ 53.19

The evening after their championship meet they had a banquet where awards were passed out and afterwards was a "pool party" complete with the whole Y pool reserved to just the team and their families. Tim and I even went down the big giant water slides! Fun times. 
Above are Kennedy's swim coaches Anna and Adri. Adri actually taught Avery's swim lessons this summer too - a blog on that to come. 
Kennedy loved swimming. Like, LOVED it. My Mom always says that she knew soccer was my thing because she saw me light up when I played and I was always wanting to practice at home and was always excited for games and practices. I've been counting on that type of reaction as a means to help me with each of my chose a focus for them (because let's be honest - I'm going to have 4 kids and they can't do it all!) Well, Kennedy has now done ballet, gymnastics, soccer and swim and her excitement for swim exceeded all I've ever seen before. We'll see...only time will tell but I'm thinking we've got a swimmer on our hands and Tim and I both really enjoyed watching her. It was an intense June with all the practices and meets, but we made it work and I'm glad we did. I'm hoping to do some lessons during the fall/winter, but we'll see how I do after the new baby arrives. If nothing else, I feel confident we'll be back out next summer on the team again. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

My most beautiful works of art!

 These three - I could have created nothing more wonderful, more beautiful, or more amazing than these three. On Mothers Day weekend (Saturday morning) we had brunch at a local restaurant called Toast and then spent some time trying to get some pictures. Although it's super hard to get them all looking at the same time, I love pictures that include all three just because it reminds me of how blessed I am. I honestly feel there is no greater calling, no more challenging role in life than being a Mother. I also feel that I was created for this - to bring them into the world and then love them to the utter ends of my being and then cry out to the Lord to enable me to love them more. They exhaust me, inspire me, love me unconditionally, challenge me, and mostly encourage me to be the best me I can be and I am forever grateful for this time with them and just for the ability to be their Momma. 

We don't eat out much as a family of 5: #1 due to expense but #2 because dinner out with that many little ones can be difficult and at times embarrassing (you fellow parents feel me). I cook a, A LOT so I really just wanted a nice meal out where it involved zero work on my part and being surrounded by those that I love the most. The kids did really well...I think we only had one spilled drink and about a few dropped biscuits ;). 
 Tim made sure that I felt incredibly special and loved this Mother's Day. He not only took to Facebook with some compliments that made this Momma blush, but he also created an incredibly special video montage of all the kids from birth to present with little clips of them saying why they loved me. True story - I did the ugly cry when I watched it but I will treasure it forever and always. At times I feel completely unprepared and overwhelmed at the thought of adding another child to this family, but during the video I was struck head on with just how fast it goes by and how the very phase that you thought you'd not make it through fades and you're on to the next. I'm sure we'll be going out as Taylor party of 6 before I know's all so fleeting!  

 Thankful for a morning out with my crew - a yummy breakfast and even better company.
 After our brunch, we loaded up and headed half way to Tim's parents house in WV. Nana and Pawpaw were going to keep the "littles" for us so that we could get some major painting projects done during the week. Greyson adores his Pawpaw...once he was in the picture, the rest of us vanished!

 In honor of Mother's Day,  I got a picture of Tim with his Mom but Avery was glued to Nana and decided to bomb our photo :). 
 We drove straight from meeting the Taylor's to meeting my Mom at my sisters with my big girl who enjoyed a night out to the Charlotte ballet company to see a performance of Sleeping Beauty with her Honey. 

 In re-capping this weekend I realize it couldn't have worked out more perfectly: I got spoiled, we got time with Tim's Mom...time with my Mom and then a few minutes to capture some pics of one of my other favorite Mom's - my sister. She works so, so hard. Her kids will probably not understand her sacrifices and her effort until they are much older, but one day they'll know how much she adores them and how on a lot of days they keep her putting one foot in front of the other. 
~Love this~
The only thing that could make next year even one teeny tiny bit better than this year is having another jewel in my crown of Motherhood ;). 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Can I just say there is nothing better than fresh produce? There is nothing better than fresh produce! I'm talking - straight off the plant fresh people. I've always loved to go and pick our produce, but when I was a working gal...there just didn't seem to be enough hours in the day so we picked strawberries in Kentucky but I don't recall straight up picking anything else. Well, I'm happy to say that now that I've got a wee more time on my hands (thank you Jesus and Tim for making that possible) we take FULL advantage of whatever is in season and which farms offer "you pick". This was our second time back at Springs Farm in Fort Mill, SC and the kids loved it just as much this year as they did last year. The berries were a bit more tart this year than last year, but still delicious. On to some pictures! 

I had to post this picture because it was the first one I took that morning and I mean, it just makes me laugh. Typical never know what this girl will give you when you get the camera out. 
 Upon my begging, she bounced back. Stinker. 
 We were on a reduced working "crew" this year because Kennedy was still in school and Ellie was at daycare because that girl is not trying to sit in her stroller and if we had a hard time teaching Avery and Declan how to choose appropriate berries, know. Greyson picked not a single berry. He was too entranced with the bags of rocks that were holding down the plastic tarps...BOY. 
 Declan and Avery picked some duds and did some playing, but overall they did a really good job and were good helpers. 

 Honey has LOTS of experience with produce picking as her Mom was a total pro and workhorse at both picking and preserving anything. Truth be told - that woman was a workhorse in EVERY.SENSE.OF.THE.WORD! Anyhow, Honey makes anything better if her grand babies have anything to say about it. 

 Seriously...Avery's expressions: can'! 
 Rocks are cool!!!! Even when I'm wearing my big sisters pink boots, I'm all boy :)
 So, clearly in our "collection" of hand me downs we did not have any boy boots and although it wasn't nearly as muddy as last year - I didn't want to ruin tennis shoes. Pink boots it was and he didn't care. cute is that? 
 The bounty:

 The kids totally approved. 

Melissa and I made strawberry preserves with some of our berries and although it turned out absolutely delicious, I learned a valuable preserving lesson. Ready for it? Not all packaged pectin's are created equal. Who knew, right? If you knew, don't tell me because then I'll feel even more special than I already did/do. For those of you who didn't know...there is a line of pectin specially formulated for freezer jam and said specially formulated pectin doesn't withstand the standard cooking/preserving method. The result of using such pectin in the standard cook method is what I have decided to lovingly call strawberry compote. Don't y'all think that sounds better than runny strawberry jam...liquidy preserves....strawberry syrup (kind of)? Me too. For some odd reason I have not one picture of our jam making process or our finished product. It could be because my pot (which as it turns out what not big enough) of preserves boiled over and then proceeded to cake up and burn on the stove top which meant we were running to open every window and turn on every fan so that our preserve making day didn't turn into that day where we tried to make jam and set the house on fire. Also...true story: I just found sticky strawberry substance under my oven drawer....YESTERDAY. Sigh. Anyhow, I've given several jars of my compote away with my favorite pancake recipe and it's gotten rave reviews so thankfully we lived, we learned and we still made yummy strawberry stuff. Looking forward to next year already. Next up, blueberries, peaches and apples oh my! Mmmmmm....