Category Archives: Briony

swim team

First of all, we got the girls’ swim pictures back.   I love the picture the photographer took of the pair of them together.

I think that one is going up on our wall somewhere.

I am also very humored by the team picture.

Notice any one swimmer looking different from the rest?

Why Bri is raising her hand is anyone’s guess!  But I think it’s pretty funny.

Swim season is over, and we haven’t gotten the results of the last meet, but I’m so proud of both girls.  Bri could swim a length of the pool at the beginning of the year and not much more.  By the end of the season she had managed to compete breaststroke, backstroke and butterfly without being disqualified.  Swimming a 25 butter is no joke!  Her fastest time was 32 seconds for the 25 free, which is not bad at all.

Isla drastically improved her swim times.  In freestyle, she came with a 27 s PR for the 25 free, and finished with a 19 s PR for the 25 and 46 s PR for the 50.  She improved her backstroke PR from 34 s for the 25 to 52 s for the 50.  She improved her breaststroke PR from 34 s for the 25 to 1:01 for the 50.  She went from being DQ’d in the butterfly to swimming 23 seconds for a 25 butter.  And she swam 1:45 for the 100 free and 1:54 for the IM.  She learned how to do a freestyle flip turn and did it in most of her meets.

Both girls had a blast and loved their wonderful coaches.  Swim team is intense in the summer, but it’s one of the most fun things we do.  For about eight weeks, it seems like we’re constantly at the pool, but the girls (mostly) love it, and I really enjoy watching as well.

 

“Shark showdown” time trial

The girls had their first “swim meet” yesterday.  It was really a time trial, but they typically run a pre-season time trial like a real meet to let the organizers practice everything.  They actually let parents enter briefly while their kids swam, which sounds like it would be a disaster, but worked fine.  Masks all, despite being outdoors and fully vaxxed, but I will not complain further.  Having just had gum surgery the day before, I missed most of it, but Jonathan took some videos.

Below, you can watch Isla win her heat in to the 50 yard backstroke in 52 seconds.  (She finished midpack overall.)  I love watching her swim!  I always sort of flailed around in the water (still do, really).  She is just so elegant.

Bri is in the far lane and was the slowest of the 8 and under swimmers, but I’m still so proud of her.  What a great 25 back for her!

The girls did all four strokes in their meet, as is customary out here.  Bri’s butterfly frankly was not even distantly recognizable as butterfly, but other than that, it went great.  (I told Bri my only goal for her in butterfly was that she not drown.  Mission accomplished!)

little kid activities

A little piano duet with the Bri-ster.  Gotta love her facial expressions!  We are working on the “B” book from Alfred, and it’s going well, though lessons can be challenging at times to say the least.  My kids’ teachers tell us they are little angels, but that is certainly not what we see at home.

Swim team has started, and both girls are swimming this year.  Initially, I didn’t think Bri was ready.  I watched the last swim lesson before swim team started, and she just didn’t seem like she was swimming well enough to me.  However, we had fantastic weather that weekend, so we decided to go to the pool (which is heated).  I swam with Bri, and she was actually considerably better at swimming that I’d thought, so I e-mailed the coach and asked what level of skill he was looking for.  Answer: 25 yd of free and back, and minimal ability at breast and butter.  Bri would drown quickly if she had to use butterfly to stay afloat, but otherwise I thought she met the criteria.  The coach said she could show up and see how things go, so I sent her on Monday.  Unfortunately, it was in the 50s and drizzly.  I watched her a little bit, and she seemed slower than the other kids and also younger than most of them.  What made me decide to skip it, though, was that she was crying at the end of practice because was cold.  I e-mailed the coach and told him we’d decided not to do it, and he e-mailed me back and said she’d done great and should come back and it was likely the cold weather that made it hard.  I ended up sending her back on Wednesday (with her full buy-in) with her sister’s deck coat and a spring suit.  She did great!  Since then, I’ve been sending her to most of the practices (which are every day) and just skipping if it’s unusually cold, and she’s been having a great time.  Deck coats are the best thing ever, by the way, at least if you live in the chilly Pacific NW.  Their first “meet” (which is only a quasi meet due to ongoing ridiculous Covid restrictions) is June 12th.  I’m excited for her!

piano lesson update

Bri finished the final song of Book A of Alfred’s Prep Course, which is targeted at the “youngest” learners.  I’m proud of her!  I’ve spared her the metronome thus far, but I think she does a pretty good job keeping in time.

Alfred has about a million books at each level.  For B, I’m planning to buy the lesson book, the theory book, and the solo book.  For A, we did the lesson book and the Christmas book.  I think it’s helpful to have an additional book beyond the lesson book, just to slow the rate of new material and increase in difficulty a bit.  Since it’s not Christmas time, we’ll do the solo book this time.  I skipped the theory book for level A, in part because Bri couldn’t read when we started, but I think it’ll be helpful as we move on to level B.  We do have a few more Christmas songs to learn before we start the new book, though.

L has been continuing to play on her own, but I’m continuing to hold off on lessons for now, since swimming and school are taking up so much time.  I’m planning to restart lessons this summer, and hopefully we’ll make some good progress.

eyeglasses

I took the kids to the eye doctor for the first time in two years recently.  Recommendations are to take a child every two years if they have no vision correction, and I’m here to say that I should have taken my kids sooner.  L’s eyes have actually gotten quite bad, to the point that it was obvious to H and I even without the eye doctor to tell us.  We had delayed due to Covid and due to a change in insurance which meant we had to pay out of pocket at the optometrist we’ve been seeing for years.  (VERY expensive.)  I managed to find a new optometrist that will take our insurance, and we finally got out there last week.  L couldn’t even read the top line of the eye chart.  I was also dismayed to find out that B has slight astigmatism in one eye, and her eyes are 20/25, 20/20.  The eye doctor has recommended glasses for her as well.  We went ahead and ordered glasses for L, but I’ve been hesitating for B.  Glasses are just such a hassle, and I’d like to spare her one more year of having them.  On the flip side, though, the optometrist warned her worse eye could become lazy and deteriorate, so I guess we should probably get them.

Then last night, I caught B reading her book under the covers in the dark.  Much like I used to do at that age.  Arghh!  My poor kids and their bad vision genes and excessive reading habits.

Do your kids have glasses?  Do you see an optometrist every year?

kids activities

What activities are your kids doing now?  How are they affected, if at all, by the pandemic?

L is currently taking contemporary dance.  Last year, she did ballet and jazz.  She did ballet with Pacific Northwest Ballet, the premier ballet school in the area.  She’d previously taken classes at a local dance school that emphasized competitive dance, but their timing didn’t work for us last year, so we switched to PNB, as I figured we could see what it was like.  Our experience was somewhat mixed.  Like most flagship dance schools, they don’t allow parents to watch the classes, so I really have no idea how the classes compared to the other school, where I’d watched for years.  (More importantly, B could watch, which kept her entertained when my nanny or I was waiting for L’s class.)  Then, because of the pandemic, the end-of-year performance was canceled, I really have no basis to compare.  Last year was a very tough year for us between my pregnancy complications and then S’s early birth.  One thing about PNB is that the put a lot of emphasis on hair, of all things.  Hair needed to be in a perfect bun, including bangs.  Now, I can put L’s hair up no problem, but it was very tough for Jonathan, and there were times when I really needed my sleep on Saturday morning.  L also didn’t appreciate all the bobby pins and hair spray just for a dance class.  Finally, it was more expensive.  This year, when they announced their classes would be online for the 2020/2021 school year, we decided to switch back to her other school, which we knew was more motivated to do classes in person.  If L had shown a particular passion or precociousness for ballet, we likely would have continued to take classes at PNB, but while she enjoys it, I don’t think she loves it.

This year’s contemporary dance class was initially online, but went in-person sometime around Christmas – I don’t remember exactly when.  The kids wear masks and are spaced apart.  I was at first very nervous about an in-person dance class.  School seems unambiguously worth the risk, but a dance class is harder call.  However, it turns out there are only three kids in her class, one of whom is in her pod at school, so I’m really glad I got over my concerns and sent her in-person.  I really like her dance school, and I am worried they are going to go out of business.  They MUST be struggling.  Normally her class would probably have 18 kids in it and would sell out months before it started.  And now there are three?  What a disaster for them.

In addition to dance, L is taking swim.  Swim is five days a week for an hour, though L skips one day for dance.  I am really proud of L for working so hard at swim.  We took the winter off, but she swam last summer through Thanksgiving, and just started up again.  It’s obviously great exercise.  I know it’s a challenge for her – she’s not a natural athlete, and working out several days a week isn’t easy for anyone.  But I see her building strength and technique, and I think it’s character building.  She is REALLY missing swim meets, which have been on hold due to the governor’s restrictions.  L hasn’t had a chance to complete since 2019 – just practice, practice, practice.  Not even a time trial.  Hopefully they’ll have swim meets this summer.

B is doing soccer on the weekend.  While L has declared she hates soccer (and so is no longer doing it), B seems to really enjoy it.  It’s a really low-key once a week program on Saturdays, but it seems to be going really well.  We had a negative experience when she first tried soccer, but things have been much better this year.  It really helps that they have separated out boys and girls.  She had an awesome coach in the fall, and I hope she gets to play for him again.  The governor had forbidden soccer games in the fall (which I think is stupid since games don’t require more contact than scrimmage during practice and it’s outdoors), so we’re still waiting for B to get a chance to play her first soccer game.

B takes swim lessons twice a week, and it is extremely slow going.  Recreation in pools was forbidden by the governor last summer, so neither girl has had a chance to just play around in a pool since 2019.  (Lap swimming is allowed, which is great for people who already know how to swim but not so great for kids.)  I think that’s a huge loss, and I sincerely hope that’ll be changed this summer.  For now, B is making slow progress.  I think at this point, she could keep herself afloat briefly at least, if she were to fall in the water inadvertently.  One thing I think is interesting is that the instructors now wear waterproof masks during lessons.  Necessity breeds invention I guess.

I’ve also resumed piano lessons with B.  Both girls have been back on school full-time since February, and it is honestly so great.  Among other things, it has given me more time to do things like teach the girls piano.  L is so busy, we’re taking a break until summer, but I’m enjoying teaching B.  We’re continuing to use the Alfred series, and she’s got a few more songs left in Level A of the “Prep Course.”  I think the so-called prep course (A, B, C, etc.) is perfect for a Kindergartner or first grader, and probably some second graders.  The Basic piano course (1A, 1B, 2, etc.) by Alfred is better for some second graders, and third grade and up, in my opinion.

Isla is interested in trying Irish dance, and H would love both girls to try basketball, as that was his favorite sport.  It’ll be interesting to see how their preferences develop as they grow older.

extracurriculars

I spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about my kids’ activities, and Covid is not helping.  Last year, L took ballet one day a week and jazz dance one day a week.  Then, during the summer she did swim team, after a Covid delay.  I also have been teaching her piano since school got cut.  So, in summary, during the school year, she did dance two days a week plus piano.  In the summer, she did swimming four days a week plus piano.

L’s ballet school promoted her from pre-ballet to Level 1.  (I’m sure this is standard unless the child is really struggling for some reason.)  Level 1 ballet meets twice a week for an hour each time.  They are doing virtual classes this year, but it’s still a really big commitment.  L used to want to be a ballet dance but has been rather lukewarm on it lately.  I’m not a huge ballet fan myself, but I don’t want to influence her interests and choices.  I initially thought she should stick with ballet this year since twice a week isn’t too much time and the online aspect makes it much cheaper (cost cut by more than 50%) and saves us a lot of driving.  But L said she doesn’t want to do it.  I am 100% sure I could convince her to do it  – not make her, but make her want to do it, but I haven’t done so.  I feel like if she tried it one more year, she’d start learning more advanced skills and maybe like it more.   L has been more enthused about swimming lately, which I think has a lot to do with the fact that swimming is in-person.  We had been talking about having her do swim team for a couple months in the fall, but they meet five days a week, so I think it is really not feasible in combination with ballet.  But what do I know?  And she could go to swim three days a week or something.  (There are no meets, so I don’t think it’s a big deal to not attend all the practices.)  However, because of Covid, swim lots are very limited, so it’s harder to be casual about it – planning and financial commitment is called for.  L is already signed up for contemporary dance at another dance school where she originally studied ballet, but that class is on hold indefinitely, until the governor moves the county to Phase 3.  My assessment is that this will not happen before the new year.  But again, what do I know?

I have all these conflicting desires for my kids.

  • I don’t want them to be overscheduled
  • I want them to participate in the arts – dance or music being the most obvious choice
  • I figure if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it well, which means time commitment
  • I am turned off by ballet, the obsession with thinness, what it does to women’s feet, and generally I find the traditional ballets uninspiring
  • I feel like ballet is a really good basis for doing other types of dance
  • I don’t know enough about dance to provide any kind of support at home, like I can with piano, soccer, swim, etc.
  • Team dance (the alternative to ballet) requires a five hour a week time commitment.  I think that’s too much at age 8/9
  • I want L to experience team sports, but she’s really turned off by any sport in which she might get hurt, like soccer or basketball
  • I think it’s really important for the girls to be involved in athletic / fitness activities.  My kids, especially L, would much rather read or sew than move their bodies.  L takes so naturally to things like piano, sewing, reading, origami – things that involve focus and sitting still.  She doesn’t seem to have as much natural aptitude for soccer, dance, etc.
  • I think you can become very good at anything, including things for which you have no natural aptitude, with consistent practice over a period of years
  • But it’s nice to do things at which you naturally excel and enjoy

Bri did soccer once a week for a few weeks last fall.  I was hoping she’d be able to do junior swim team this summer, but between the baby and Covid, I just wasn’t able to get her into lessons to make that final leap in skill level.  She took swim lessons twice a week this summer, and she appears to be ready for junior swim team.  (She can swim a length of the pool freestyle fairly comfortably.)

Right now, I’m leaning towards signing up L and B for swim for September.  That would be 3:30 to 4:30 for L, five days a week, but I figure we’ll give her at least one day off.  I’ll continue to teach her piano, and we’ll hold off on dance (unless the dance class she’s signed up for starts) until October or November, at which point we’ll sign her up for some kind of virtual dance class.  L will do swim twice a week from 5:30 to 6 through September.  I worked very hard with Bri, in addition to her lessons, this summer, and doing at least a month of junior swim team should solidify the skills she learned.  The swim place is ten minutes from my house.  It’s an outdoor, heated pool.

I’m just tempted to put L in ballet.  It IS remote, and with no school, I do think she has time.  Such a hard call!  The tough part about ballet is that you’re committing for the whole year.  In a couple years, I’m sure L will make up her own mind about what she wants to do, and I won’t have enough influence.  But for now, I feel a lot of responsibility because she still listens to me.

I’m sure this is more detail than any of you cared to read, but I’m curious if anyone else is struggling with these types of decisions for their kids, and what you’re doing.