Friday, May 24, 2024

Zoë is 9!! And our very first swim meet!

It's the beginning of birthday season at our house. In the next six months we will celebrate all eight of our birthdays, a statistical improbability

Zoë opened her presents right around noon—soon after the kids got home from their swim practice. 

She started with opening a picture Alexander drew for her. Then she opened a book Auntie K sent...apparently for me...which made sense because it arrived right around Mother's Day...but then we were texting and she said, "I was thinking for Zoë's birthday. I wouldn't send the worst A B C book."

And I thought, " this book is for Zoë, not me."

And it was fine that she wasn't sending The Worst Alphabet Book Ever because we have that on our shelf already (Uncle David sent it a few years back, I believe) and I told her that on a phone call we'd had earlier in the week...but that conversation happened while I was on the pool deck, so things were loud, anyway...that was a series of miscommunications.

But that doesn't matter because Zoë thought All My Friends Are Dead was hilarious.

She read it aloud to her brothers after she finished opening gifts and they chuckled here and there. When she was finished, though, all three of them threw their heads back with deep guffaws, reminding me quite a bit of Statler and Waldorf.

Here we'll take a brief break from Zoë to discuss how hard birthday season is for Phoebe. It was difficult last year. And It's so far been difficult this year. Phoebe wants to know if everything is "for meeeeee?"

Birthday cereal for breakfast!

"For meeeee?"

Well, for Zoë, technically.


But she's going to share with everyone.


Rachel's making a cake.

"For meeeee?"

No, for Zoë.

"Oh, not for me..."

It's time for presents!

"For meeee?"

No, for Zoë.

The response to the present thing was a sudden and passionate barrage of tears. Here she is sitting stoically on Daddy's laps while watching Zoë open all of her phenomenal gifts:

Here's Zoë opening up a set of watercolour paints:

That perked Phoebe up (she was excited to paint with Zoë later):

It's always good to learn how to be happy for other people.

Zoë has been interested in rubber band bracelet making lately, so we got her a kit.

She also got a fox towel, which will be useful this summer; a fox duvet cover to big-girl-ize her bed (rainbows and unicorns are out); a watercolour how-to book; and a book of happy observations (to inspire poetry and/or just a close observation of the world).

Here's Phoebe resting on the freshly-stuffed duvet cover and fox towel:

Rachel whipped up a small (10-serving) cake in the afternoon, which we ate in lieu of dinner before heading off to our first swim meet (to be fair, we packed a dinner for the kids and the rest of the family ate before they came...a little bit later). 

We're planning on having a celebration for Zoë and Benjamin in the middle of our beach trip. And then probably will have a little celebration on Benjamin's actual birthday. And then both Benjamin and Zoë want a friend party this year...which seems fair because Benjamin hasn't had a party since he turned five and Zoë has never had a party. 

So there is a lot more cake in our future.

Here's Phoebe asking once again if that cake is for her (it's not).

And here she is moments after asking whether she could help put candles in...and being told no...and then saying, "Okay, Daddy." Clearly her mouth said something her mind and body had no intention of following through with.

She did a good job sticking in the candle she grabbed though!

Here's Zoë with her quick-cake:

Here she is laughing because none of our fire-making tools would make fire.

Daddy broke out the blow torch, which worked...scarily well. He could light two candles at once.

Here's Zoë—officially one year older:

Here's Phoebe asking, "Is that for meeeeee?"

It was! Because Zoë had already gotten the first piece. Phoebe had wanted to help Daddy cut the cake. He'd told her no, but when he had her piece of cake on the cake server, he offered it to her and said, "Here Phoebe, take this."

She completely misunderstood what he meant and instead of grabbing the whole cake server to help put it on her plate, she said "Okay," grabbed the cake with her hand and plopped it on her plate.

After cake, we rushed around getting the last-minute things we needed for the swim meet. We gathered at 5:00 for pictures. Alexander is in the front row (he's in the "Future Barracuda" program, so he's not competing yet), seventh from the right. Zoë is kneeling in the second row, first person on the left. And Benjamin is in the the back, on the left...I'm not quite sure how to explain where he is. He's, like, okay, so...there are some bigger boys standing on the ground on the left. Benjamin is taller than those big boys because he's standing on a chair. So, there's two blond kids kind of high up on the left. Benjamin is second from the left.

It was my first time being a stroke and turn judge and—let me tell you!—I just about thought I was drowning, myself! There's so much to keep track of (and I was only watching two lanes)! But I think it went alright. Hopefully next time will be better, though our next meet will be an actual meet so there will be another team there (this week's meet was technically a "mock meet," where our team just threw our own personal swim meet to practice for official meets).

Benjamin and Zoë did great for their first meet! Zoë swam 25 back, 25 free, and a freestyle relay. She did great! Here she is just finishing up one of her races (picture courtesy of her older sisters):

Benjamin swam 50 back, 50 free, and a freestyle relay. He was excited that all of his times were under a minute—and for his first meet that was a pretty good goal. 

I grew up doing competitive swimming and things worked...a little differently than I remember them working when I was a swimmer. I'm still trying to wrap my mind around weekly swim meets between two teams (rather than ~6 teams), taking place on a single evening instead of lasting a full day on Saturday (and often stretching to Sunday), and practices only being held four days a week instead of five, and lots of other little things...

But even with all the differences, I certainly gained a measure of appreciation for my parents—but most specifically my mother—who played the role of swim team parents for years and years. 

I have a few memories of my dad barking orders in—what they call here—"the bull pen," and what I believe we called "staging" in Canada (but I'm not sure I remember quite), as he helped wrangle all the kids into events and heats and lines. 

My mom did all sorts of things—she was a timer, she was a runner, she worked in the records office, she trained to be a stroke and turn judge. My mom—who can't swim to save her soul—was a swim meet official! She dealt with all the noise and the chaos and the splashing...for years! 

So surely I can figure out how to be a stroke and turn judge as well. 

Here's Zoë at the end of the evening:

Oh, Zoë got a birthday announcement over the intercom, which she was both thrilled and embarrassed about! There were two kids with birthdays today...and I felt a little silly about it, too, because the head official, who I was working beside today, and I were talking and our conversation went a little like this:

"Oh, you homeschool your kids? I homeschool my kids, too!"

"That's my Ben up on the block."

"Oh, nice! And, uh, that's my Ben up on that block."

"It's Ben's birthday today. He just turned 11!"

"Well, happy birthday to Ben! It's my Zoë's birthday today as well! She turned 9."

"Oh! Well, happy birthday to Zoë! It's really the worst birthday for a swim kid because it makes them the very youngest of their age group, so I kind of feel bad for them!"

That was before the announcement wishing Zoë and Not-Our-Ben a happy birthday, but it was a rather surreal conversation to be having. How closely could our stories even align?!


  1. Barracudas!! When you were Marlins, didn't you swim against Barracudas? I think so. But I can't remember what city they were. HB 2 Z!!!

    1. Burnaby has a Barracuda team! :) I just looked it up online. Also (you'll find this interesting) PoCo has made their outdoor pools FREE (I think that's pretty cool). Thanks for all your hard work over the years!