Tuesday, 29 November 2011

A Ranty-Pants Post: My Thoughts on the Police Union Rant about Australian Swimmer Henrick Monk

I mean no offence by the following post, It’s my attempt to have a humorous look at rants and a chance to experiment with being a ranty-pants myself J

I have been following the story of the Australian Swimmer Kenrick Monk in the media. Kenrick Monk broke his elbow riding his skateboard to training. He made international headlines my lying about the incident and saying it was a deliberate hit-and run. Recently it was announced by the police that he would not face charges for his behaviour.

Personally, I think that that Kenrick Monk acted in a very impulsive and immature way. However I am not sure that formal charges would have any usefulness in fixing the damage that has been done by this lie or serve any real purpose. I believe he will be facing the consequences of this lie throughout his entire life. Apparently the Queensland Police Union has a different opinion and a representative of the union has stated.

"Swimming Australia now being caught red-handed being complicit in orchestrating Mr Monk finagling out of being charged by police, has to be the final nail in the coffin of Swimming Australia's fast sinking credibility," Mr Leavers said.

"The public rightly expect that no one should deliberately waste the time of police, whether they be wannabe B-grade celebrity athletes like this modern-day 'boy who cried wolf', Kenrick Monk, or just regular people.

The union rep seems to be saying, in a round-about and ranty way, that valuable police time had been wasted and this time would be better spent doing more important things.

I have been thinking abut this rant by the Queensland Police union representative and I have come up with a rant of my own....

....Recently a friend of mine was fined by the police for parking on the nature strip at the school. As is the case with many new schools in this area, there as been little planing for parent parking at drop-offs and pick-ups. When the 20 or so car-spaces are full, there is little choice for the other 600 or so cars, but to park on the nature strip. Parking on the strip  is not obstructive or dangerous (except perhaps to the grass).

Is this an example of a more useful way that police could be spending their time?? 

Instead of using their time prosecuting mums for parking on the grass to pick up kindergarten children, the police could be doing other useful things….. you guessed it, I have some suggestions.

My son Buster likes to help me open the petrol cap on the car and watch me fill the car with petrol. Last time he tried to ‘help’ Sirens sounded and a loudspeaker announced that I could remove my child from the petrol bowsers immediately. As I attempted to wrestle my scared and screaming child into the car the loudspeaker repeated this demand twice. I Immediately drove away (there was no need to pay, I had not pumped any petrol, we were only just opening the car petrol cap) giving the loudspeaker a gesture of my own!! Since this appears to be such a serious offence,  I suggest that  preventing underage petrol cap opening would be a  more useful way to spend police time.

Car-park mum' apprehended me in the car park to tell me my son has been rough with her children and other children at the preschool. I immediately went to see the teachers, who unequivocally said that this was untrue. Yes, there had been some small issues over toy sharing, but no more than many of the other 3 and 4 year olds. Again, I suggest that mediating toy disputes between preschoolers may be another useful way to spend police time!

Obviously this post has been very tongue and cheek. But my point is that although clearly, the union rep was very upset about Kenrick Monk ‘getting away’ with his lie. I believe there are more important things for the police union to be worried about than the credibility of Swimming Australia. Perhaps the rant by the union rep was almost as impulsive and inappropriate as Kendrick Monks lie…..

……Just as my rant is equally impulsive and inappropriate. But gosh, it felt good to write it!!

Monday, 28 November 2011

A Day in the Life of a SportyMum Part 3: The Afternoon and Evening Shift

We have finally reached the home stretch…

After school I grab the girls and head straight to the pool  for my eldest daughter, Flash’s swim squad at 4pm. The pool is a 30 minute drive from the school. While Flash is swimming, I sit in the café with my middle daughter Muscles and my son, Buster.

 I usually get them an ice block and go through Muscles spelling words (which are conveniently e-mailed to the parents by the teacher). I grab her school readers and Muscles reads to Buster and I. Buster’s attention span for that classic mono-tone, word-by word reading only lasts for about the first page, so I keep him occupied with my trusty iphone apps. Muscles seems to really thrive on the one-on one attention, as we chat about her friends and her ‘boy-friend’ (She has just turned 7 by the way).

I know most people do homework at home and I’m sure the staff at the pool café think we are just a little bit strange! I then  drive muscles to her to gymnastics training which starts at 5pm. It’s lucky the pool and the  gym are situated close together!!

Buster is getting pretty tired by this time and usually I end-up carrying him  back to the pool to pick up Flash. I feel like I’m getting some exercise in, lugging that lump around! Finally we head for home….This time it’s up to Flash to keep Buster awake! We do this pool-gymnastics routine 3 to 4 times per week!

I rush around unpacking bags, washing lunch boxes and organising Flash and Busters dinner. Flash never seems to run out of energy and Buster is excited to have his sister home. I get them to go outside and jump on the trampoline or ride their bikes or scooters and talk to the neighbor over the fence. Thank goodness for daylight savings! Their yelling isn’t so loud when they are outside!! I’m not so sure what the neighbors think though!

At 7.15pm, Grumpy Daddy arrives home with Muscles and the kids are running around again, pretending to do a long-jump competition in the kitchen, where I’m trying to get dinner ready! There I am again. In the middle of the familiar and almost comforting chaos!

After dinner, after its all cleaned up and the dishwasher is in action again, I get Flash into the bath. Most of her friends have showers. Maybe it’s the warmth of the water or the enforced opportunity for relaxation for Flash, but I find bath time quite special. I wash her hair and we talk about her day. Sometimes We’ll practice her times tables or her speeches. Then it’s time to get the little ones in the bath. Buster and Muscles love to play together in the water.

My mum usually calls on Skype at this time. We’ll have a quick chat and the kids will sing her a song they have learnt. Often my mum will practice the girls spelling words with them as well….one less thing I have to do!!

Finally its time to get the kids to bed! Grumpy daddy and I take it in turns to either be with the girls (who share a bedroom) or Buster. We will read them a book and then I like to sing to them and rub their backs as they get sleepy. By singing to them at night, I have been able to teach them the songs of my childhood. A favorite of theirs is actually  Madonna’s ‘like a prayer! At the moment they are right into Christmas carols. I feel like I am sharing a part of myself with them. Not ordering them around, driving them around or doing housework, but giving them a part of me that they will remember when they are grown.

If I haven’t fallen asleep as well, I get to jump in and have a quick shower. When they are asleep I do my blogging. I usually stay up far too late, but the opportunity just to ‘be’ without the children for a little while is quite addictive and I have trouble giving it up to go to sleep!

As I eventually fall into bed, it is in the back of my mind that tomorrow I have to do it all again. Sometimes this is a happy thought. Sometimes it is not….

*this seires of ‘a day in the life  posts’ are dedicated to by last boss. When I told him of my decision not to  return to work after my maternity leave, he simply replied “….so, what will you do all day??….”

Sunday, 27 November 2011

A Day in the Life of a SportyMum Part 2: While the Girls are at School

*this seires of ‘a day in the life  posts’ are dedicated to by last boss. When I told him of my decision not to  return to work after my maternity leave, he simply replied “….so, what will you do all day??….”

I make a deal with  Buster that we need to do ‘our’ jobs first, and then I can play with him. So he ‘helps’ me get the dinner organized in the slow cooker and even helps put the washing in the machine and turn it on. So far he has never tired of pouring in the powder and pulling that big button!. I start cleaning up so I can vacuum, Buster gets bored and goes to make a mess play in the toy room.

I’m willing to admit here, that I’m not a good housewife and I absolutely suck at cleaning and housework. I just really hate it! I often feel resentful that I have a PhD, but spend my life scrubbing the toilet!!. OK I’m exaggerating here, but you get my point J….I am not house proud and I end-up doing the absolute minimum to keep the house clean and livable. To force  myself to do these jobs I have a roster of sorts for the housework. I have a particular job to do each day of the week. I find this works for me because I don’t have to think about what needs doing and eventually finding an excuse to procrastinate. I have learnt that I’ll start to feel about down on myself when things like the folding starts to pile-up as I feel like I’m letting everyone else down. So I find the best way is to just get it over with.

Bizarrely, I even  feel bad that I do the house work mostly when buster is about. I used to do all the housework when he napped, but he gave his nap away at the beginning of the year. I feel a little guilty in that I think that I should be spending more time with him. I admit that sometimes, even scrubbing the toilet seems more attractive than playing endless games of Thomas the Tank Engine….. But, I tell myself that he benefits by learning that jobs need to be done, which I think he seems to understand, and sometimes he needs to occupy himself….at least for a little while…

But soon, he is begging me to build him a marble run and then and play Skylanders, a wii game I’m a little disappointed with, as there is too much fighting. It’s then time to get us both ready for his swimming lessons…because we are both still in our pajamas!

I take him off to swimming, where I get a precious 30min to check twitter and email on my phone! Then as his weekly treat, we go to what he calls ‘Old MacDonald’s Farm’ for a happy meal, a play, and a coffee for mummy. Buster  likes to order and pay. Luckily, the lady knows our order by heart so she doesn’t need to understand anything but a nod from me! I have my coffee and skim through the paper while Buster plays in the playground. I love watching him play and interact with the other kids. On many occasions he seems to lead the play as he pretends to be a pirate, a space man or Ben10. The other kids seem to play along even though they must have trouble understanding him.

We get home and Buster is tired and has a rest by watching some TV. I rush around packing the bags for the afternoon activities. I try and remember all the bits….swimmers goggles, clothes, towels, leotards crocs, jumpers……. If anything is forgotten I will not be very popular! I also get afternoon tea organised and packed as they need to eat it in the car on the way to swimming. I remember that I haven’t had lunch and heat up some soup. I also chop up all the veggies for dinner later, pack the dishwasher and get it going.

The girls have their school assembly today, I don’t really feel like going as buster is tired. I also don’t really like going to the school much anymore….But, Muscles class is doing a performance she desperately wants me to see. I bundle a complaining and resistant Buster (“…stay home mummy…”) into the car and drive to the school, constantly poking him to keep him awake. They say it’s dangerous to drive with a mobile phone. luckily they can’t legislate against driving with a grumpy, demanding 4 year old…or less I’d never be able to drive anywhere!

I am glad I have come to the assembly, because this is the face that needs to see me there! The reason I have chosen to do what I do. Even though I sometimes think I am being the most useless mum ever, this smile is the reason I keep going, the reason I just don’t just pack it all in and give up......

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A Day in the Life of SportyMum Part 1: The Morning

*this seires of ‘a day in the life  posts’ are dedicated to my last boss. When I told him of my decision not to  return to work after my maternity leave, he simply replied “….so, what will you do all day??….”

My 4 year old son, Buster, has woken several times during the night (as he often does) calling for me, or screaming. Each time I calm him down and sooth him back to sleep.

At sometime around 6am, somewhere in my dreams, I hear “Mummy… I NEEEED you” instinctively, my eyes reluctantly half open and I stumble into Buster’s room and take him into my bed for a delicious baby boy cuddle (I know he’s four, but don’t tell anyone, he’s still my baby boy). Buster is very affectionate and I know he enjoys his mummy kisses and cuddles too! It’s also a chance to close my tired eyes again and to convince myself, slowly this time, to let go of that blissful sleep and wake up.

One by one the girls come into the bed for cuddles as well and we are soon joined by Sporty the cat. We cuddle talk, tease, tickle, giggle and scratch sporty under his chin. These are the moments that I just love, when we are all together. These moments make everything else worth while and they are the moments I hope my kids remember. But, the moment is over too soon. The kids get restless and GrummpyDaddy gets squished out of bed and hobbles off to make the coffee muttering something like “…wishing children …sleep…not fair…too early….”. I. Need. My. Coffee….It’s a loosing battle to stay in bed to enjoy it though. The kids start to wrestle and jump on the bed, the doona goes flying, It’s time for Sporty and I to make our hasty retreat!

I attempt to get a response from the kids to the question “..what do you want for breakfast…?” But they are running around the house playing a make-believe Ben10 game, at least I think it will be once they sort out who gets to be Gwen, Ben and the evil alien. So, whilst stubbornly ignoring the 10th  Whining utterance of’ “muuuummmm, she said.….”, lunches are made and packed for school and work. GrumpyDaddy is English and loyally follows his families tradition of a hearty breakfast. Eggs are boiled, poached, or scrambled and baked beans warmed in the microwave. You can smell the heavenly aroma of toast and more coffee. We then attempt to convince the kids to come to the table  and eat breakfast. Buster of course refuses to eat anything and despite all the food on the table, keeps repeating with increasing urgency “…some-ning eat mummy…’

With breakfast half-eaten they are off and running, doing head-stands on the couch. I manage to wrangle the girls into their school uniforms and practically have to force them to wear jumpers if it’s cold and rainy outside. I brush their hair amidst cries of   “….OWWW…MUUUM….OWWWW…” The girls employ the tried and true tactic of ‘passive resistance’ during this entire process. Meanwhile, Buster shouts at me to get my attention and repeatly insists that I play with him, or find a lost toy he desperately NEEDS….NOW!! One of the girls will undoubtedly ‘suddenly’ remember something urgent that needs to be taken or done for school….It is all and all out chaos!!!  I wage an internal battle with myself  not to loose my temper and I repeat to myself  ‘stay calm, they will be gone in a few minutes’ (sometimes this doesn’t work and I loose it….the kids look at me as if I have gone completely mad, and then go back to ignoring me anyway….and I end up feeling guilty for the rest of the day). Finally, their shoes are tied and they are ready. Muscles gives me a kiss and a cuddle goodbye. I then have to chase Flash around the house for the same privilege (Even though she doesn’t admit it, I know that she really does like a kiss goodbye…but she puts up a fight!)

GrumpyDaddy usually drives the kids off to school and then heads to work. I stand at the door and wave good bye and for the next 8.4 seconds I breath in the peace and quiet……. Until I hear  “…Mummy…play now???”

Thursday, 24 November 2011

When Dean Martin is Preferable to Kyle Sandilands

When I was a child, my mum and dad would play Dean Martin in the car on road trips. That’s right Dean Martin, the man who sings…

”When the moon hits your eye like a biga pizza pie its amore….”

perhaps it was the only cassette tape they owned, as I don’t know what other reason there could be to subject us to this torturous crooning, over and over again.

I remember my friends drawing pictures of the ‘KISS’ logo and talking about the songs they liked and listened to on the radio. There was never much I could contribute to the conversation with my extensive knowledge of Dean Martin lyrics.

Now that my children have outgrown the wiggles Hi-5, The Fairies and Playschool (thank you god!) I now get to introduce them to some real music. I started off by playing compilation CDs I’d made when NAPSTER first emerged, before people realized it was illegal and immoral that is…When the girls got their iPods, I’d pre-loaded them with a selection of my favorite 80’s music. And then I heard them happily singing  ‘Livin on a prayer’  and I thought “…O’no!! Bon Jovi  is the new Dean Martin”. I’m doing to my kids, just what my parents did to me!!!

So, I tried to turn on the TV music channels for them to watch. As a teenager, I vividly remember late nights and early mornings watching rage. No Saturday morning would be complete without watching my fill of  ‘Video Hits’. But OMG! Have you seen what music video’s are like now!! There are gangsters, often topless, adorned with gold, jewels, expensive cars, mansions and pools. To complete their collection of possessions, they are then surrounded by a harem of nearly naked gyrating women! Some of the videos must come close to porn. I could never leave that on the TV and have my 8 and 7 year old girls see images like these. This is not how women should be treated. I don’t ever want them to think this is the correct way to behave!

I have since turned to radio. We spend a lot of time in the car, so that is where we listen to the music. It has taken me some time but I have adapted to some of the songs and the kids each have their favorites. I am sometimes astounded listening to the kids sing because they have absorbed much more of the lyrics than I have.…although I wonder at the political correctness of the kids belting out Katy Perry’s TGIF lyrics abut a menage a trois and I feel the compulsion to turn off the song that goes  “…she sounds like sex on the radio….”

When the DJs or radio show hosts also get into the action, I just have to turn the radio off all together and listen to the CD of Hannah Montana for the 5263574th time. But this is preferable to what is said on the radio. Kyle Sandilands, a high profile radio host, recreantly delivered this outburst about a female journalist who criticised his new TV show. He said on air…

“You’re a piece of shit. This low thing, Alison Stephenson, deputy editor of news.com.au online. You’re supposed to be impartial, you little troll…. You’re a bullshit artist, girl. You should be fired from your job… Watch your mouth or I’ll hunt you down.”

 He also called The journalist a “fat bitter thing” and attacked her hairstyle and “small titties”

I am very glad we were not listening to the radio at this time, but we easily could have been. I have also heard this man say many, many, mean, derogatory, crass, sexually explicit and misogynistic things. Usually I can get my fingers on the button before my little ‘sponges with ears’ pick the whole thing up.

It seems to me that the  pervasive culture of the music industry is actually very sexual and even misogynistic. If people in the industry believe it is appropriate to say things like this about women, include things like this in their music and their videos, than parents and teachers  face an uphill battle to teach children respect and equality.

I feel very proud that some of the people I follow on Twitter have been instrumental in getting this Kyle Sandilans story into the general media They have even succeeded in the major sponsors of the radio show pulling their adds. Effective immediately. You’ve just got to love twitter for giving people a voice and people power!!

As for my grand plan to make sure the girls are up to date with the current music trends…..Perhaps I should go and borrow my Mum’s Dean Martin Cassette instead!!

Digital Parents Blog Carnival

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

My Beloved Slow Cooker

I get the impression that people tend to either love, or hate slow cookers or crock pots….But I am definitely in team slow cooker!

 I received the slow cooker as a Christmas present from my Mum about 2 years ago, just prior to the start of my weight loss campaign (you can read how I lost 30kg here). Initially I thought it was too old-fashioned and  It took me a little while to get going, with more than one completely failed experiment!! But now I am in love!

I think there are tremendous health benefits to using the slow cooker. I love that the slow cooker enables you to make tasty, health meals based on vegetables and meat with little added fats and extra, empty carbohydrates. I often adapt most recipes I find to replace half the meat content with vegetables such as carrot, celery and onions. I mostly use tomato based sauces which are high in the antioxidant lycopene. I also tend to use a variety of spices such as paprika, cinnamon and turmeric and others which are also a good source of antioxidants.

 Using the slow cooker also fits well with my family’s sporty schedule. Often we arrive at home quite late from swimming, gymnastics or soccer training. To open the door and have the yummy smell of dinner waiting for you is a such a comforting feeling. In winter I’ll often set up the bread maker to have fresh hot bread ready at the same time. When the kids and I walk through the door, half frozen and wind-blown from being out on the soccer field, the aroma takes our breath away!

I usually prepare the meals for the slow cooker straight after I have got the girls away to school. Buster (4) just loves to help me. He takes his job very seriously and is the official adder of ingredients to the cooker and the official stirrer, but his favorite job is using the pepper grinder…I think it makes him feel all grown up, like mummy and daddy!

On Swimming nights, my daughter Flash (8), Buster and I arrive home from swimming training at about 6pm and Flash is ‘starving!’.  However, my other daughter, Muscles and GrumpyDaddy  will not arrive home until about 7.20pm- as muscles has gymnastics training most nights until then. If I don’t get food into Flash, she’ll most probably die J (according to her). To stop her incessant asking for food and her filling up on snacks before dinner I just usually give her and Buster an ‘early dinner’ The slow cooker makes this possible as I just take out her portion and serve it with some pasta, bread or rice from the rice cooker. The slow cooker keeps the food nice and warm for the rest of the family to have dinner later.

I find that the tender meat and vegetables from the slow cooker are very easy for the kids to eat and I know they are getting essential of iron from the meat and vitamins, minerals and antioxidants from the vegetables. To boost the vegetable content I usually add green vegetables to the slow cooker about 30min-1 hour before serving and I turn it up to high. Typically I’ll add broccoli, sliced zucchini or mushrooms (Flash’s favorite). Adding a cup of small diced frozen vegetables at this time also adds colour and interest to the dish. I also like to stir trough fresh herbs from my little herb garden just before serving to freshen up the dish. Typically I would use baby spinach, Italian flat leaf parsley or coriander. Fresh herbs such as these are reportedly high in antioxidants and vitamins.

Often, coming home from a hard day of child wrangling , I am just either too exhausted or just couldn’t be bothered to start a full dinner from scratch. Having dinner prepared in the slow cooler, ready to eat is the perfect antidote to stop myself from the temptation of ordering takeaway meals. If I could nominate the thing that has made the biggest contribution to turning my families eating habits healthier and helping me loose and maintain my weight, I would defiantly say it is my beloved slow cooker.

Please see some of my favourite recipes here in the slow cooker recipes tab.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Buster’s Speech Assessment

Well, today was Busters assessment by the Speech Pathologist, to decide on his treatment plan and the way forward. I guess I’d have to say the results of the assessment were mostly good. However, it doesn’t really make me feel happy, In fact I think I need to go and have lots some chocolate!

I suppose it comes as no surprise that Buster has been categorised as having a severe speech dysfunction. Dispraxia (childhood apraxia of speech) is suspected but more tests will be required to determined this for sure, (actually I don’t really care what name they call it, I just want them to help him!). Also, not surprisingly (to me anyway), there was no sign of intellectual or cognitive delay, nor was there any evidence of Autism. Actually, I have been stopped several times by complete well meaning strangers and been asked If Buster had autism. This really annoys me, not because I’m worried that they think he has autism, it’s just none of their business!

The speech pathologist and her assistant were wonderful with Buster. They made him feel at ease, they didn’t pressure him or make him feel stupid or inadequate. Buster himself was amazing! He concentrated completely for 45 minutes. He had the speechies wound around his little finger with theatrical displays and pantomimes to illustrate the difficult (for him) words they were trying to get him to say. If it were possible for me to love Buster more than I did before, than I would love him even more after that session, I was so proud of him.

They recommend I get a referral to a ENT specialist just to rule out any structural abnormalities. They will also call Busters teachers at his pre-preschool and explain to them his speech difficulties. I hope this will help the teachers understand the reasons behind his behavior a little better.  The best part though, was that near the end of the session the speechies were able to get him to say words and sounds that he has never said before. The speechies have said this is a very promising development as it means that speech therapy should be able to work well for Buster.

Although I already knew, it was not easy to be told that your child has a serious speech problem. It seems that both he and my daughter Flash (you can read her dispraxia story here) need to be taught the elements of speech that come naturally to most children. I guess it could have been worse. I distinctly remember being told that flash may never speak fluently. So I guess today’s assessment was an improvement upon that.

Buster has a follow-up appointment for more testing on December 15. I am feeling impatient that they just can’t start giving him speech therapy NOW, especially after we have waited such a long time for him to be assessed. However I am trying to focus on the positives. I am really hoping that this is the first step in the journey of learning correct speech. I just so very dearly want for him to be understood and have all that frustration taken from him….my beautiful little boy….

Monday, 21 November 2011

Video Games

Now, I can tell that you’re thinking you know what this post will be about …

 “the SportyMummy banging on about the merits of exercise and the evils of video games…. “

Well, I’m going to surprise you by telling you that I love video games and  love the time I spend with my kids playing them!

….As I am typing this, my daughter flash has a friend over for a play, It is a rainy, windy, dark and cold afternoon outside. Inside the girls are playing a dance game on the wii. They are having so much fun! They are singing, dancing, talking and laughing. Even Buster is doing a performance for the giggling girls! They are also puffing and sweating. They will do other things this afternoon, like going through their trinkets precious possessions in the bedroom and making some Christmas craft. But for now they are really having a ball playing a video game!

Muscles, Buster and Flash Performing Eye of the Tiger!

My son, Buster received the wii for his 4th birthday. We have all really enjoyed playing the active sports games. Although I know it doesn’t begin to compare to the real thing, a game of real tennis is extremely difficult with Buster. At 4, he rarely makes contact with the ball ands ends up mostly chasing the balls and getting frustrated. When we play tennis, squash or table tennis on the wii, we can have a great game together and he is actually quite competitive!  It actually makes him more keen to try out the games in real life.

It’s not only the sports games we have enjoyed. The kids have really enjoyed playing Sonic the Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot and Harry Potter games. I don’t buy games where violence, fighting or shooting are main aspect of the game.  

Honestly, I really love sitting with them and together, playing a game where it is our common focus to beat the game. We discuss strategy, compare characters and options. We figure out puzzles together and we all whoop and cheer if a boss level is defeated or a secret treasure is discovered. It opens up whole new worlds for us to explore. As we are working together, as a team, it seems to generate a real sense of closeness between us.

When the girls are at school, I’ll often play a video game with Buster for an hour or so. At the moment he loves to play with me and doesn’t play the games by himself. He is very verbal when playing the games as we talk about what’s going on in the game and it makes him so happy. I am happy too. Playing video games is something I have previously enjoyed as a teenager (yes, I admit it , and as an adult….I’m a bit of a geek!) and I think Buster can also tell that I am having fun. The time seems to fly by, I am really there in the moment with him. When I play with him on the toy room floor, he likes to drive his cars or play with action figures, build train tracks and play trains, or play play-doh. As poor old buster is the third child, the novelty of spending my day doing these things has well and truly worn off! For busters sake, I do  play with him, but honestly I find that the time can really go very slowly, My mind often wonders, I often have to try stiffeling yawns and force my self not to make excuses to check the computer or my phone, or perhaps even scrub the toilet! (I hope I’m not the only mum who feels like that…).

In my experience, I have found that playing video games has some very positive aspects for my children.

  • My girls spend many hours a week participating in and traveling to organized sport. They do this after a full day at school, and then have to do their homework. A large part of the weekend is devoted to competitions. My kids need some downtime but they soon tire of TV and resort to couch jumping or wrestling. Playing video games seems to give them a bit a downtime, which I think is essential to them to recharge.
  • Video games seem to demonstrate that you can get better at a certain task with practice.
  • Video games give them the opportunity to experiment with  risk taking with no real penalty.
  • Video games often operate in a very sequential fashion. First you need to do ‘this’, and then you can pull that lever and  go ‘there’. This is good practice for problem solving and story telling.
  • You often need to think about how to use the tools you have at your disposal often engaging the kids in lateral thought.
  •  You often need to make decisions on weather to buy upgrades offered now or save your game ‘money’ for better upgrades offered later. Illustrating concepts such as money and savings.
  • I often use examples form video games to help me explain  a concept in real life that the kids are struggling with.
Of course I believe balance and moderation is essential  for playing video games. The girls only usually play video games for an hour or two on weekends or school holidays, as they do not have time during the school week. Often they only want to play the games on rainy, or cold days. I always make a point of doing lots of fun outdoor activities with the kids, like bike riding, bouncing on the trampoline , bush walking and going to the playground.

 I truly believe in the huge benefits of sport and physical activity for kids. But in my opinion there is a place for video games in my family, as long as they are used to complement their physical activity, and not take the pace of it. I believe it is my job as a parent to ensure that this does not happen.

….Actually, The rain has now stopped and the kids have finished their dancing game. Impatient to get outside, they have used a towel to dry the trampoline and they are outside, bouncing, laughing and  having a fantastic time.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Sport and Dispraxia

I have just read the most inspirational article on the Apraxia-kids website. The article was about Luke Farrell, an Australian Triathlete who also has dispraxia. It is a story full of fight and hope for other suffers of dispraxia and their families. You can read Luke's story here.

One thing that really stood out about this story was that it appears that Luke did not receive the early diagnostic and intervention services that are available to children today. Despite this, Luke appears to be extremely successful in both an elite level in sport and at school. This is reminiscent of my own mother’s story, She probably had dispraxia as a child, but there were no early intervention services available. I’m not even sure if the condition was even known of then!

Fortunately my daughter, Flash (8), also diagnosed with dispraxia, received fantastic early intervention in speech therapy and language preschool (see my dispraxia family curse post). Just this week Flash presented a 2 minute speech to her class as part of the year 2 assessment. We wrote her speech together and have practiced it together for about 2-weeks. I was very anxious on the day of her talk to find out how she went. Her teacher seemed almost blasé (in a good way) in telling me that Flash had done a wonderful job, she had a “lovely sing-song voice, was very clear and articulate”’. Well, I used all the self-control I had to hold back tears…tears of happiness. What Flash’s teacher does not realise, is that;

 When Flash was 3 and 4 years old, we were not sure that she would ever speak clearly in full sentences.

Now, the fluency of her speech  is just taken for granted. That makes me feel like the happiest and proudest mum in the world!

On Tuesday my son Buster (4) will go to his first assessment for speech and language intervention (after 9 months on the waiting list). I had been working with him myself using the techniques taught to me by Flash’s SLP. However, is had came to a point where he really required professional help outside the family.

 If you could imagine what it is like for Buster at his main-stream pre-pre-school. He is extremely outgoing and sociable and even though he desperately tries, he just can’t, for the life of him, make himself understood. He has great difficulty asking for a toy or a turn. He cannot tell the teachers if he has a problem. He knows that other kids laugh at him, but he just doesn’t know why. He tries to tell the teachers and the other children his own stories, but they just can’t understand and turn away. He can sometimes push the other children, or grab for toys. However the teachers assistant assures me he does this no more than many of the other children.  I know in my heart of hearts that he does not intentionally mean to hurt them. He just can’t express himself in any other way. He finds pre-school tiring and frustrating, I am tempted not to send him, but every week he so looks forward to going!

His physical activities are a completely different story. Buster participates in kindergym and swimming. You do not need to speak fluently to do well in these things. At these lessons he is just like everybody else; a level playing field. He is perfectly able to follow instructions and learn. Like my other children, Buster even seems to excel in these activities. This gives him the self confidence he so desperately needs for school. I know this was the same for Flash. I believe that her participation in sport and dance gave her the confidence and the attitude that helped her through the same  pre-preschool. From the Apraxia-kids article, it seems it was the same for Luke Farrell. His success in triathlon has helped give him the strength and self confidence to tackle the other hurdles in his life.

In the examples above, all have been good at sport. However, I suspect the same is true of any activity a child excels in. If you can find what a child is good at or enjoys, then you have a way of boosting their confidence and belief in themselves. I think this is especially important for a child with special needs who may struggle on a daily basis with activities that are taken for granted in other children. Building up confidence with activities such as sport, chess, drama, art, music lessons or building model railways, may give a sense of accomplishment and the attitude to help them succeed in other areas.

I so hope that Buster’s enjoyment of sport can make-up for his difficulties at school. The story of Luke Farrell.and my own daughter have given me hope that  Buster will finally express himself so that others can see what I can see. A special, beautiful, kind, affectionate and funny boy, who comforts others and loves to make others laugh. A boy who is loved deeply by his SportyMummy and his entire family.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Beginning of our Swimming Journey

All my children love to swim, They love to jump and spin and summersault. Dive and do hand-stands and play tips (tag). There is a real feeling of freedom in the water, a youthful exuberance seen even in the dads piggy-packing their kids in the water.When on holidays in Sydney this spring, my kids played and swam in the water, even though it was still sooo cold. The locals looked at them like they were completely bonkers!

My children have had lessons since they were babies. We had our lessons through the Kings swimming schools. For beginning swimmers, I have found this program exceptionally good. There are 12 levels, all with specific skills that need to be performed correctly to move to the next level. There is an emphasis on safety and correct technique, right from the very beginning. There was one particular teacher, a late middle-aged lady (who had quite old-school teaching methods) that seemed to see some potential in Flash, even as a 3 year-old. She would work flash hard! I can still ‘hear’ her shouting flash’s name so loudly, the entire pool full of people could hear. She was a remarkable teacher, and I credit her with Flash’s swimming style today. She told me then, that she had seen a lot of young swimmers in her time, and to make sure I was available for the 2020 Olympics!!

 The girls in their early days of swimming

Flash worked her way up to level 9 in the Kings program. Then, early this year, Flash had her first school swimming carnival. She won her 50m freestyle event and also broke the school record. I had no idea that she could swim like that. At her Kings lessons, she had about 10m to swim in. I’d never seen her swim 50m before and I was in shock. Flash then went on to win the zone school 50m freestyle and came 4th in the state carnival.

Flash really enjoyed the swimming racing, unfortunately our Kings swim school did not allow their swimmers to race in the local meets until after graduation. We moved Flash to another pool and she was soon selected to join the swim squad, and then the development squad.

Now along with Speedy she is a top ranked swimmer for her age in the ACT. Flash loves to race. She also loves to train. Her squad trains 3 times a week, but she is busting to train more. She trains with older kids and they seem to have taken her under their wing. I often see them dragging her around the pool by her foot, all of them in peals of laughter!..... after her last training session she asked if she could have a phone like the big kids…”not until you can pay for one young lady!!” was my hasty reply! Because she is the youngest in her squad, she has to swim as fast as she can just to keep up with the big kids. Some days she is absolutely exhausted (especially butterfly weeks) but she loves it!!

Our one frustration with swimming is that, because of her age, she can’t compete in the ‘main’ meets, only the ‘development ‘ meets. Main meets start at 10yrs. Although Flash makes some of the qualifying times, it doesn’t seem fair to race against kids 2 years older than her. It would feel that I am pushing her too hard and setting her up for failure. Also the championship races are only 50m. Flash seems to excel at the longer distances. I hope she does not tire of swimming before she gets a chance to really race.

 Flash, ready to race in the green cap

Early next year she will need to choose weather to do the major swimming carnivals, or the major athletics carnivals. Unfortunately they are on the same days. This is a tough choice for a girl who likes both swimming and athletics! I plan to keep this blog updated with her swimming journey, which has only just begun!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

It’s My Party I’ll Dance If I Want To!

I have taken the title of this post from my son, Buster's (4) favorite song (Tonight, by Hot Chelle Rae). He was belting  out the chorus in the backseat today, not even caring that he couldn’t say the words!! I thought it was a great metaphor for the last two days…..

So, yesterday I was confronted in the parking-lot by one of the school mums (car park mum). She told me that I had to stop writing things on the internet. She said that my Blog was making me appear mentally unstable….(There seems to me to be an awful lot of Blogs on the internet. I’m wondering if she would class these authors as unstable also??).

For me, blogging is my voice. As a SAHM I often turn to social media for adult interaction during the sometimes, very long, and often lonely days. Reading about others experiences on their Blogs and on twitter has really made me feel less isolated and alone. Reading about others has also helped me support and validate my choice to be SAHM. Over the past two weeks I have had readers from all over the world look at MY Blog, MY thoughts and MY stories. Maybe some of these readers are struggling with issues of their own, maybe they are interested in what other sporting families get up to. Maybe there are some readers who are also dealing with apraxia and can take some solace in the fact they are not alone. Maybe some readers are dealing with passive aggressive bullies in the workplace or at school. Maybe some of the readers are also SAHMs looking to be part of a wider village of other carers who are also at home, with feelings of isolation, looking after children.

I have two main aims for my blog, My first aim  (regardless of its sport-centric focus) is to present reason, balance, humor and food for thought. If my experiences can make a reader think or help a reader out, or even show them that they are not alone on their journey, than I believe I am on my way to accomplishing my first aim.

Before commencing my blog, I researched the topic and read plenty of advice offered by other bloggers. One common piece of advice was to choose your blog topic and write something that you are passionate about. For me, choosing a topic was easy, because I am passionate about my children and sport. I came across other youth sports blogs before starting my own, so I knew that I wasn’t the only one feeling this way about kids and sport. There are also thousands of bloggers out there who write fervently abut their children, and I have  learnt so much from reading the stories of others. I am hoping that others may be able to learn from my experiences in my blog.

My second aim for my blog is to record the journey of my children’s participation in sport. For that reason I am relaying personal stories and feelings. These stories are a true and honest account of my life. If I appear unbalanced, then so be it! Perhaps it will make reading them more interesting!

I’d be lying if I said that I feel a little uncomfortable knowing that there are people out there who don’t like my blog, reading my blog. I have to say that in the dead of night I have contemplated giving this blog away altogether. But that feels like I am being told what to do by someone else. I have received advice from other bloggers to ignore the detractors. That’s exactly what I plan to do! These people are just a very, very tiny part of my story; Just a hurdle to jump for my blog and myself. I intend to continue to write  posts about my family and their journey to their dreams. So here it remains. My SportyMummy Blog in full and glorious defiance!! This is MY Blog, MY Story, MY voice!...MY party..Just watch me dance!!!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

My Response to Mia Freedman’s Cadel Evans Comments

*I realise that this is a bit late, but because I have only just started this blog, I still feel the desire to make a comment  because I still can’t believe what happened!

Firstly, a bit of background: The Australian Cyclist, Cadel Evans was the first Australian to win the Tour of France, the worlds most prestigious cycle race. Many bleary eyed people (myself included), who had little sleep for the past 3 weeks, were on an absolute high! I believe the general mood was of celebration, admiration and pride. Soon after the Australian National Anthem was sung on the Champs–Elysees. A prominent social media commentator appeared on the Today breakfast news show and declared that she did not care that Cadel Evans had won the Tour, and couldn’t understand why anyone would care. Here is the link to the segment on youtube:

It definitely makes for interesting viewing!

There is so much I’d like to write about this, but I have decided to cover four important points.

1.  Mia Freedman received many abusive, derogatory, crass and personal messages from people who did not agree with her point of view. She appeared visibly shaken in a vlog televised on Mammamia Sky soon after. I believe there is never a reason to personally attack anybody online, or elsewhere, because they hold a different view than you. Of course there is a place for disagreement and controlled arguments, but this is far different from Hate and abuse. In this respect I am behind Mea Freedman 100%. No one should have had to weather that storm of personal  abuse. No matter what their opinion.

2. I have enjoyed reading Mia’s columns in the Sunday newspaper magazine and ironically, it was reading these articles that sparked my curiosity to start a twitter account. In fact, Mia’s twitter feed was one of the very first that I followed. I was surprised however, to discover on my time line, the morning of Cadel’s victory (Australian time) this tweet from Mia Freedman:

“I'm not going to be popular when I tell @karlstefanovic on @thetodayshow that I don't care about Cadel Evans.”

It seems to me that Mia acted in a clearly premeditated fashion. Was this a deliberate attempt to generate controversy and publicity that went a little too far? Did she really expect hordes of disenchanted women to grab there pitchforks and protest with her about the men in their lives taking over the TV to watch sport??  Did she truly missunderstand the undercurrent of support and pride for Cadel Evens that day? I truly believe (apart form the hate and abuse) that she ‘made her bed’ that morning .

3. In the interview, Mia seems to try and make the point that Cadel, or any sportsperson, should not be called a hero because “it’s not like Cadel has saved any lives” I do not agree with this statement. The Today show host Karl Stefanovic made a very good point when he said Cadel’s victory would inspire children to rise above adversity to achieve. I have read many blogs by current athletes that can pinpoint watching another athlete achieve, and want to emulate their successes by becoming an athlete themselves. For me it was watching the Australian Cycling pursuit team in the 1984 LA Olympics.

 I have seen my children stick their heads down and their bottoms up in the air, to create the perfect streamlined position “to be like Cadel”, going down the mountains. From my perspective, on my morning runs around the time of the Tour. I would image that I was Cadel Evans climbing the Alps in the Tour. Although I really was ‘hurting’ running up my own slight incline, seeing the images of Cadel ‘s dogged persistence in those Mountains in my head, motivated me to keep going! Surely we can’t be the only strange ones. Surly Cadel’s efforts have ignited passions for sport all over the country, that have resulted in ordinary people getting out and doing some exercise. Isn’t this the current health message that the Australian Government is trying to spread in order to decrease the incidence of weight related health issues? Perhaps Cadel’s example has managed to lengthen  lives or even save them by motivating people to exercise

4. It appears that the major point that Mia wished to make was that other professions such as scientists, and doctors for example, should also be regarded has heroes and reap public adulation in the same manner as the sporting personalities.  I believe this message was a little lost in the original interview amidst banal criticisms of Cadel and sport in general. However, I believe that the people who work tirelessly to help others in any profession should be recognized. However, there is an old saying…

“blowing out someone else’s candle does not make your candle burn any brighter. “

I believe publicly testifying that you feel  ‘Blah’ about Cadel for his achievements on the bike, the very morning he made them, was not the best way to make a point about other members of the community being recognized.

As a former cyclist and scientist myself, It was a complete surprise when I saw the comments Mia Freedman made about Cadel on the today show. Enough time has passed to remove the almost raw feelings of shock I felt from her comments, especially since I quite admired and respected her other work. I hope the haters have learnt that there are better ways to present your opinion than being nasty and abusive. As for Mia Freedman, I hope she can get her message across that other members of the community can be recognised, and called heroes, without raining on a sporting hero’s parade.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Why I’m Not a Kids Sports Committee Mum….. Yet!

The thing about kids sporting clubs is that they are organized by volunteers. These wonderful people do a fantastic job administering the club, setting up, packing away, fund raising, scheduling competitions and training times. There are countless tasks they perform and these are often thankless tasks as well. Many of these volunteers forgo precious family time to work on behalf of their club. They do this so that the children in the club can get the best possible experience of being involved with a youth sports club. The simple truth is that there would be no youth sports clubs if there were no parents on the committees.

My children and our family have reaped many benefits being involved in youth sports clubs. I am thankful for the tireless efforts of the individuals who make these clubs possible. Now that Buster is 4 and becoming slightly more independent (although I still carry him around on my hip at most Little Athletics meets). I am feeling the moral obligation to contribute to the organisation and running of the sporting clubs my family are involved with…..but there is one major hurdle……

I suck at committees!! There, I’ve said it! If there is such thing as an anti-Midas touch, then, that’s what I have when it comes to committees! I don’t know what is about me and committees. I honestly have the best of intentions, but everything just goes ‘pear-shaped’. It’s like I’m too enthusiastic, or I try too hard. I manage to completely alienate everybody and it has just never worked out!

My first experience with committees was at our playgroup. I thought that I should do my bit and contribute to the playgroup committee, so when I turned up to the meeting and was presented with a 20 page document entitled ‘minutes’…well….you could have knocked me over with a feather….In my naivety I thought “this is a play group..what more is there than a biscuit and cup-of-tea roster”…how wrong I was! Lesson number 1: never assume anything!

I by no means aim to degrade the fabulous work that a committee does, however in my personal experience, committees seem to be loaded with committee people. Committee people are extremely efficient and hardworking, but also seem to have a very high appreciation for detail and correctness. I think I am more of a ‘big picture thinker myself!’

When my eldest daughter reached pre-school. I was the enthusiastic newbie mum. I had read somewhere that if a parent is involved with the child’s school, than the child is more likely to be successful. So that’s what I did! I turned up to the first committee meeting and somehow, although I’m not entirely sure how, I ended up with the vice-presidents position. Lesson number 2: never just go to a committee meeting  if you don’t want to walk away with a position!

So, just when the president decided to take a 3-month overseas holiday, I decided the right thing  to do was to stick up for the poor young mum in her early 20’s that had volunteered as a fund raising officer. She was trying to suggest ‘new’ things such as a ‘family fun day’ and (heaven forbid) a Krispy Crèmes stall. This was all too much for the committee stalwarts who would rather carry on as they had done for the past 10-years with lamington drives. In defending the new, young mum against the bullying behavior, I was also targeted  for bullying, I received abusive emails and phone-calls. I even once had a chair thrown at a meeting and the doors slammed. I vowed never again!! Lesson number 3: learn from past experiences.

Now, when I check my in-box I am confronted with guilt, as the various committees of the sports my children play are literally begging for more parental help. I am happy to help out by baking goods, selling raffle tickets, and actually helping the kid s out and doing time keeping and other such  duties at the meets. Because my children are so involved with these clubs, I really feel that I should be doing more for these clubs myself. In a way, giving something back to these clubs that we have so enjoyed being a part of…….. I am almost thinking about joining a committee!!

GrumpyDaddy, is horrified. He remembers my past experiences with committees and definitely does not want to re-live the drama. (I also suspect he does not want to be left looking after the kids while I am off doing committee stuff!!).  I am myself conflicted. Should I learn from my past experiences and resign myself to knowing that committee work is just not for me? The alternative is to try and let go of the past and give a new committee a try. You never know, perhaps involvement will open new opportunities for self fulfillment, new friendships, demonstrate to my kids that I am interested in them and their activities. Perhaps I will be surprised? Or perhaps I will be learning another lesson…. lesson number 4: I told you So!!

I am wondering what experience other readers have had with kids sport parent committees and if you would recommend joining one? Please let me know what you think in the comments.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Friendly Competition

Today was the ACT little Athletics annual multi-event carnival. The kids in the under 9’s compete in 4 events and are awarded points based on their performance. Today, Flash competed in the 800m, long jump, shot-put and 100m.

There is another little girl in Flash’s age group, but a different club, called ‘Speedy’. For the past several years Flash and Speedy have taken it in turns to win their various events at the state level little athletics carnivals. Interestingly, speedy is also a very good swimmer and the girls have a fierce rivalry in the pool as well as on the track.

Today, GrumpyDaddy was doing our parent duty in the long-jump pit. Also on duty was Speedy’s Dad. Speedy’s dad told GrumpyDaddy that his daughter has singled out Flash as her main competition and trains not only to do personal bests, but to do well when she competes against Flash. Flash is also motivated to do well when she competes against Speedy. Importantly, The two girls have also struck up a good mutual friendship, they chat and play hand-clapping games while waiting for their events to start. Both girls are happy to see each other, are full of smiles and are not mean or spiteful to each other in any way.

In the first of  the day’s events Flash won the 800m convincingly in 3.05, taking out a lead of almost 40 points on Speedy.  Flash really seems to be developing into a very competent longer distance  runner. Interestingly, in swimming, Flash has the upper-hand in the longer distances as well. Whereas, Speedy can usually beat Flash in the sprint events.

In the long jump, Flash leaped a personal best of 3.29m. Can you guess the distance Speedy jumped??….3.29m exactly!! For the second jump Flash didn’t jump as far. However, speedy managed to jump another personal best, and further than Flash’s distance. With that terrific jump, Speedy was able to make about 10 points back on Flash.

Next came the shot put….Flash has issues when it comes to the throwing events. Last year she was competitive, but this year she had had several fowl throws. This has put a very large hole in her confidence. On her first throw, Flash made yet another fowl. When it came to do her second throw, she just plopped that dammed shot- put out there, right in front of her, as she was so concerned about throwing another fowl. Speedy however threw a personal best and took the lead in the point score.

In the 100m meters the two girls were in the same heat. I thought this was great because when they race with each other it really brings out the best in Flash. Flash ran a PB of 15.7 seconds. Speedy, however just pipped her across the line in a time of 15.3 seconds (also a PB!).

Speedy ended-up winning the overall point score and the gold medal. Flash finished up with the silver.

Directly after the carnival, Flash was in a very stroppy mood. She was very disappointed with her shot-put result. I also think that tiredness was a major contributing factor. After a rest at home though, she told me she was very proud of her achievements, She realised that she managed to get 3 personal bests today, and can’t wait to race Speedy and the other girls again!

I am truly glad that Flash has Speedy to run and swim with. Although flash was  initially disappointed today, I believe these experience will teach her valuable lessons and build her character. She will learn that it takes hard work and training to do well. She will learn that you can’t win all of the time and be good at everything. That each individual has their own strengths and areas to work on. It will also teach her valuable life lessons in sportsmanship and being a good winner and looser. It is also a good lesson for me to practice what I preach!! Hopefully the girls will continue to push each other to do their very best in swimming and athletics in the years to come.....

.....and I'll be there, in the shadows, to support her all the way!!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Sibling Rivalry

My girls Flash and Muscles were born 18 months apart, and are 1 year-level apart at school. On occasion, they can be the best of friends. Sometimes it seems to me that they are mortal enemies! However, there is no doubt in my mind that my children love and care for each other very deeply and sometimes appear lost without each other. If one of them is lost or injured, the other will also be shaking with fear or crying in sympathy.

In some ways my girls are very similar; such as their love of sport, competitiveness and aptitude. However, my girls look, behave and act in completely different ways and each has a very separate, strong and unique personality.

A PE teacher at the girl’s school once told me that Flash had enormous athletic potential. She went on to say that there was one other child at the school with similar potential, a little girl in kindergarten…you guessed it…Muscles. The teacher had not realised that the two girls were sisters!

I find one of the most challenging aspects of being a parent of 3 is making sure everyone gets the attention they require. On some days I feel like I have given so much of myself to my children that I have NOTHING left of ‘me’! But even when I give everything I have, it does not appear to be enough. The girls especially, compete for my attention. No matter how many times I tell them I love them all, exactly the same amount, they seem to be convinced that they need to compete for my love as well. I tell them my heart is big enough for all of them but they don’t seem to believe me. I find this almost soul destroying, because I am always, acutely aware of giving my children equal and appropriate treatment.

While sport in general has been a fantastic experience for my family I sometimes can’t help but think the sibling rivalry feeds off their sport. In athletics both girls are high achievers in their club. The club keeps updated records information. Previously there were congratulations all-round when one of the girls set a new club record. Now Muscles seems to be taking records previously held by her big sister. I don’t tell them who’s record they taken, however, GrumpyDaddy appears to delight in keeping such statistics in his head. He happily informs the girls, other parents and neighbors within the girls ear-shot! I’ve attempted to impress upon him not to do this as it seems to make Flash feel insecure and cause the rivalry to worsen.

In general Muscles is supportive of Flash’s achievements however we often describe her as ‘me-too-girl’ because she is always striving to get everything and be everything her big sister and little brother are. Flash seems to be insecure about her own achievements and seems to belittle the success of  her sister’s.

I wonder how the parents of successful, high profile, sporting siblings such as tennis’ Williams sisters or the cricket Waugh brothers or the cycling Mears sisters, have dealt with their situations.

In a practical sense, it seems to help our family to have the girls participating in different sports. Flash does swimming, whereas muscles does gymnastics. However this puts an awful strain on family scheduling, especially when the training or competitions are in two different places at the same time.

I do realise that I’m not Robinson Crusoe here, and this is probably some sort of rivalry or competition between most siblings. So, rather than looking at sport as feeding their sibling rivalry, I will look at sport as a unique opportunity to build upon the character of my little girls. Part of my aims as a parent are to develop the qualities of good sportsmanship, kindness, appreciations of others achievements and humility in my children. Demonstrating these attributes through sports and using famous athletes that the girls look up to, as an example, is a unique opportunity to build upon the girls character. Not only will teaching these qualities help their sporting rivalry, but it may also lead the girls to understand that they also do not have to be rivals for my attention and my love.

Off course I will continue to reinterate to them that they are not competing against each other, but trying to do their individual bests. I will constantly tell them that I LOVE THEM NO MATTER WHAT! Maybe one day this will sink in. Maybe one day they will be mature enough to understand this. In fact, as I write this, all three of my children are in their bedroom practicing a xmas concert and singing ‘Jingle bells’ together….which I will no doubt be ‘forced’ to listen to later J.

Flash has an ACT Little Athletics carnival on tomorrow at the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport). I can guarantee you that her sister’s voice will be one of the loudest in the stands, as we all cheer her on! I will keep you posted on the sibling rivalry and  the results of the multi-event carnival.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The Trouble With Athletics

I love Little Athletics. I love that, for us, it is a family sport. I think it is great that the emphasis is on participation and doing ones personal best rather than competing against others. At our club, the atmosphere is welcoming friendly and supportive. But I think there needs to be more to athletics at a junior level in Australia in addition to Little Athletics.

My girls Flash (8) and Muscles (7) seem to be quite good at the running and jumping events. Indeed Flash was nick-named ‘Flash’ by her kindergarten teacher when he saw her run. Muscles was later known as ‘Flash Junior’ Both girls have been awarded age champions at their little athletics club. Flash was also club champion in 2010 and was also very successful in her first year of school representative sport.

This is Flash’s fourth year in Little A’s and Muscles third. In that time they have not really been shown the correct technique for elements of the sport such as starting, running, sprinting or long jump. They just go out there and do it! In all the other sports that my children participate in; gymnastics, swimming and soccer, there is streaming into ‘development programs’ for those children who show potential or enthusiasm for the sport. In these development sessions, there is a very strong emphasis on developing correct technique from the very beginning.

I have developed a love of the sport of running, and in my over boffin-ish way have read everything I could get my hands on to do with running techniques, to help myself be a better runner. I love the running magazines and websites. I love reading athletes own blogs. I have learnt that technique can have a huge impact on running speed, endurance and injury prevention and overall performance.

I worry that my girls and the other kids in little athletics are practicing their own ‘way’ of running week-after week. I am concerned that bad technique will be so ingrained that it will be extremely difficult to correct later on. Incorrect technique may also attribute to injury issues. If correct technique had been learnt from the beginning, it would become second nature. The athletes blogs I have been reading often focus on the difficulties of changing their technique. I wonder if this could be minimalised or prevented by knowledgeable and informed best practice coaching at a junior level.

From a grass roots level it is my opinion that the way Swimming Australia oversee the sport of swimming, right down to the club level, is very organized and thorough. All swimming clubs are under the umbrella of a their state swimming association, which is in turn  overseen by swimming Australia. There are different streams of competition and training catering for those who are beginning, or wish to participate recreationally, and those who are high achieving.

 There just does not seem to be the same level of cooperation and cohesion existing within the Little Athletics clubs and Athletics Australia. It seems to me that Athletics Australia has assumed all junior athletics can be handled by Little Athletics. However, the focus of little A’s is participation and personal bests. There does not appear to be pathways in place for talented or achieving athletes to move to the next level. Other sports in Australia start these pathways from a young age and perhaps starting at a young age is necessary for success. Athletics has a low profile in Australia, particularly compared to swimming. Our swimmers are extremely successful at an international level, particularly if you take our small population into account! Although there are obviously many complicated reasons for swimming’s success, I can’t help wonder if the lack of junior  athletic development plays a role.

I think Little Athletics is fantastic in terms of a fun, inclusive and recreational sport. However, like other sports, I think there needs to be some talent identification and the option of ‘streaming’. Then, talented or enthusiastic young athletes can be mentored and coached with the ultimate aim of high level competition in the sport. I think a good solution would be for little athletics to stay hoe it is, but for Athletics Australia to have a greater role in talent identification, coaching and mentoring.

I have read recently that little A’s and Athletics Australia are going to attempt to forge closer ties. I will be very interested in the outcomes. However, it may be too late for my girls. Although talented in athletics, they put so much time and effort into training for their other sports that when given the choice, the other sports will take priority. With no obvious pathway to higher levels, my girls are quickly tiring of athletics. I wonder if athletics is losing other talented young athletes for this reason.