Life as a Synchro Mum

synchronised swimming juniors

About to swim her solo at National Age Group comp 2013

2 years ago we set out on a journey that we had no idea would take over ours and Millie’s life. 2 years ago last week, Millie attended her first ever synchronised swimming lesson in Manchester. God knows why we thought it was a good idea to all troop off to Sale on a Saturday teatime, but off we went. M was soooo nervous but no word of a lie, within 10 minutes those eyes looked up at us on the viewers balcony, and we knew. We were going to be spending a LOT of time poolside!

Even then we didn’t have any concept of how life would change. I’ve mentioned Millie’s swimming on here several times but haven’t really wanted to go into it too much. I do all the proud mum stuff, but its her story really, not mine.

Within months, M was training between 5-7 times per week – sometimes we enforce a day off out of the water but you can bet your life there’s always some element of stretching, splits or dancing going on in her room.

10 months after starting synchro, M passed trials to be accepted onto the England Talent Squad which just blew our mind. She is also on the Development Squad for 2014 which makes us massively proud and makes her hugely happy.

This past weekend she went down to Sheffield to swim in the display at the #swim4Leukaemia fundraising event.

swim4leukaemia becky adlington

The Day Rebecca Adlington was lucky enough to meet the girls from Trafford synchro #swim4leukaemia

Here’s some of the stats of what 2 years in synchro has involved:

  • 74 Nose Pegs (with 20 more on order)
  • Approx 15 boxes of gelatine
  • 21 nights in Premier Inns
  • 250+ miles per week to training – This isn’t including the various trips to Leeds, Crystal Palace, Glasgow, Gloucester, Sheffield
  • 312 cups of coffee whilst spectating
  • 256 washed towels (ish)
  • 12 pairs of goggles
  • 9 Swimming Caps
  • 6 Sports Water Bottles
  • 17 Swimming Costumes
  • Millions of sequins
  • Even more tears (mostly mine)
  • milliearms

And its all been worth it! To see our nervous 9 year old turn into a confident, happy and ambitious 11 year old is fabulous. She works incredibly hard but also applies that to her school work. She gets digs from jealous girls who cannot deal with something ‘different’. She tells no-one in school what she is up to. She gets up at the crack of dawn to go training at weekends. She spends endless hours deciding on what music she would like to swim to next. She watches programmes whilst sat in the middle of the living room in split positions. She loves the girls she swims with – it doesn’t matter whether they are 10 or 18, they are all lovely.

Yes, its all been worth it – even today.

Today being the day that every synchronised swimmer gasped as they heard that Olympic funding for Team GB has been completely stopped.

Today the day that those young girls had their dreams and ambitions crushed.

Today being the day, that M went to bed asking what would all their hard work be for.

Today being the day, that the athletes that they are, decided to work even harder to get that funding back.

My Millie is one of those kids that we all talked about when we discussed the Legacy of 2012 – We can’t give up on those kids can we?

NB: Many Thanks to Martyn Bowes for permission to use the above swimming photos.

Food Technology – The start of a new era

There is great excitement in the Costello household this evening. Tomorrow sees the 11yo’s first ever practical Food Tech class (At school – obviously the 11 years that I’ve been trying to teach her in the kitchen don’t count!) She is beyond excited and has been rabbiting on about this day since Year 5 of primary school. No idea where she gets her obsession about food from. *cough*

I’ve had my instructions. I was given my shopping list. I have made her promise NEVER to be one of those kids that tells me at 10PM the night before that she needs 18 ingredients that we don’t have.

I can now reveal what they are making …what they had a 2 hour theory lesson to prepare for last week … what all the excitement is about … They are making (Cooking is far too strong a word for this…)

teaching children to cook

A HOT DRINK!!!

Be afraid Gordon Ramsey, be very afraid!

While I am freaking out slightly at the thought of her boiling a kettle (I know! Don’t judge) I’m still rather proud that she’s completely gone to town on her ingredients.

She’s an A* pupil all the way with this one.

Hot Chocolate

with Whipped Cream

With Sprinkles

With Marshmallows

With Gold Spray!

There’s my girl. Look forward to many more updates on the life and times of a school girl cookery lessons – Not least the week when they make trifle using Angel Delight instead of custard. I think the cat may eat that week’s installment ;-)

Where have I been? Warning: Overly proud parental post

Regular readers (yep, I think I’ve got a couple!) may have noticed that blog posts have become a little bit sparse over the past few weeks. I know I’ve tended to have gaps between posting from time to time when life gets a little bit more crazy than usual but on this occasion there’s been some even more crazy than usual weeks.

At the beginning of December, we trotted off to Gloucester with Millie for her first ever National Age Groups Synchronised Swimming competition. We had been warned that this was a big comp and to expect a whole different atmosphere than previous comps – even so, we were taken aback by how professional the set up was. Not surprisingly, Millie was really nervous – competing at a national level when you are only 10 and been doing the sport for only 10 months is rather daunting.

We realised (as did Millie) that this was a great chance to see some amazing swimmers and tried not to put pressure on what her results might be. But she did brilliantly! She came second in her age group for individual figures (imagine loads of girls doing slow, silent shapes in the water in front of 4 sets of 4 judges – simply terrifying!), got a silver medal with her 12 and under team routine and gained an invitation to try out for the England Talent Squad.

So last weekend, I found myself driving down to Crystal Palace with Millie, her friend, who had also been invited down for the trials, and her Mum. We dropped the girls off on the Friday morning and had no contact until we were to collect them late on the Saturday when their fate would have been sealed. We had 2 days to ourselves which should have been bliss and we made the most of our shopping/chatting/eating time but we were so on edge wondering how our girls were getting on. Definitely one of the most stressful parenting experiences so far knowing how rigorous the tests were that our girls were being put through.

Saturday came and we counted down the hours until we could collect them – best scenario would be both girls to get onto the squad (Jessie is 2 years older than Mil so looking to get onto a higher level so they weren’t even competing for a place against each other). It may be a miserable journey home Up North if only one got through….

4PM and we arrive, just wanting to get our hands on our babies. By this point, we weren’t even bothered about the outcome – just wanting to know they had survived. But it was fantastic news, they both got in!
2 happy girls and 2 very relieved mums and one enormous journey home.

And so our next stage begins… we carry on with training in Trafford with added training in London knowing that MIllie is delighted to have been chosen to be potentially a future star of the England Team. Well done Millie, (and Jessie) your hard work has paid off and we are VERY proud of you! xxx

Food for an athlete: Snow Topped Maple and Pecan Flapjacks

I’m sure I’m not the only mum around, who is on a constant quest to find nutricious food to fill their family THAT THEY WILL EAT! We have the added pressure of Miss M who does long periods of exercise at synchro/swimming at least 5 times per week. I farily renowned for always having some food item in my handbag but it seems at the moment that I never have the right thing or not enough of it.

I know that oats are very good for releasing energy slowly and had it in my mind to conquer flapjacks once and for all. My last few attempts were considerably short of successful, which by process of elimination, I put down to using the wrong type of tin. I went out and bought a silcone ‘tin’ with a solid surround to help the flapjacks hold their shape and set to on my mission to get the Costellos eating flapjacks.

I will admit to the tin hanging around the house for a few weeks, then last week the people at Sainsbury’s Bank Food Blogger’s Network emailed to challenge me to take on their flapjack challenge. I had to bake flapjacks using their ingredients and they would send me a voucher to cover my costs. Challenge on!

I’m not a massive fan of overly syrupy flavours so decided on maple syrup with pecans. I’m no fool though, and realise that on their own they don’t look immensely appealing to the kids – so sprinkled grated white chocolate on for that snow-topped effect. They are fantastic! Still squidgy and chewy but solid enough to hold their shape. Tasty with the added maple syrup but not too sweet due to the nuts.

Here’s how you can make your own:

Ingredients

  • 250g Porridge Oats
  • Large handful Pecan nuts chopped as small as you like
  • 130g Butter
  • Good Glug (about 4 tbsp) maple syrup
  • 100g soft brown sugar (I used dark)
  • 100g White Chocolate – I blitzed it in the food processor but chopped finely or grated is fine

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C
  2. Put sugar, butter and maple syrup in a pan and warm gently until all melted and mixed together.
  3. Take off the heat and add the oats. Mix together.
  4. Add the pecan nuts – I added about 1/3 of the white chocolate and mixed this through too at this point but you can leave it all until the flapjack is cooked if you prefer.
  5. Grease the silicone ‘tin’ if you have one – Mine is a 9″ square so the flapjack mix isn’t that deep.
  6. Fill the ‘tin’ and press down so the mix covers the bottom equally.
  7. Cook for about 15-20 mins.
  8. When the mix is still hot and still in the ‘tin’, cut into rectangles (I got 12 out of mine) and sprinkle the remainder of the white chocolate over the flapjack.
  9. Leave to cool – then devour!

Going away without Mum and Dad

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how quickly the Costello girls are growing up. Those reminders just keep coming thick and fast at the moment. Tomorrow is the Open Evening for the High School that we hope M will attend. How did I get so old, so quickly? I know that a lot of teachers that taught me (and Mr Costello) are still there so part of me is a little bit quibbly about going back into the school, even though I liked school.

But that isn’t the biggest event happening in M’s life this month. Oh no, we can go one bigger – she is going to stay in a hotel without us, in a room with 2 other girls. Eek! It is part of a synchronised swimming competition in Glasgow where the team have to stay together and the parents aren’t allowed in the same hotel. M is a teeny bit nervous, if I am honest, so am I, but my sensible head knows that it will be a fantastic experience for her and she will have a ball.

It has brought back memories of when I went on my first trip away, without my family. A school trip in year 8/9 to London. We did the usual sightseeing tours around London but what really sticks in my mind is the staying in a room with 3 other friends and the fact that school arranged for us to have tickets for the Mousetrap. The Agatha Christie production that is the world’s longest running theatre show. Even at the time, we realised that this was something special – the fact that it is still running now, a couple of years *cough* later is amazing. I’d love for my girls to have the experience of seeing it.

The trip lasted for 3 days, and I remember how exhausted we were each night but what a special bond the 4 of us sharing that room had. We are now approaching 40 and still talk about that trip. There were other girls that chose not to come on the visit to London, I wonder if they ever regretted it and if they would chose differently for their children?

And so, we start to get prepared for a new chapter in M’s life. We would love for her to be sharing our room in our hotel, but we are going to have to be brave and let her be free and start her journey into growing up. Sniff!

Our Olympic Adventure – London 2012

Well, we are back! We have had amazing time (if you ignore the force 8 gale on the ferry on the way back). We may have been in a different country but we still got caught up in the excitement of the Olympics like everyone else.

You may remember ages ago that I posted about us fulfilling a life long dream and actually getting to go to watch the synchronised swimming at the Olympics. Well, here’s a glimpse of the amazing weekend we had …

Saturday afternoon: We made our way to Biarritz airport which is only 10 minutes away from our campsite. A tiny airport which was just right for a mother travelling with her daughter on a plane for the first time. Millie was dressed in her Team GB gear – we had a lovely send off from the campsite – Loads of Dutch people were fascinated about our adventure.

We arrived safely at our hotel, had a lovely meal (have you ever sat and had a meal with your child? Highly recommended!) and went to our room where we turned the tv on. Bliss! After 2 weeks without tv and missing most of the Olympics, we were both hooked within seconds. And what a night to watch – that was the day Team GB won 6 golds. Everything we watched in the athletics, we seemed to win. Fantastic!

Next day and we set off bright and early, arriving at the Olympic park just before 11. The atmosphere around the Stratford was so friendly. There were volunteers EVERYWHERE, all intent on making our journey as smooth as possible and keeping everyone cheerful. They did a wonderful job. We saw a group of 6 volunteers who spent the whole day going round singing songs – the morning had them singing ‘I’m singing in the rain’ by late tea-time, they were singing to people putting their rubbish in the bins! Brilliant.

 

We weren’t allowed into the Aquatics Centre until 1.30PM so we had plenty of time to mooch around the Olympic Park. We booked tickets to go up the Orbit at 6.30PM (the ugly looking red twisty tower), did some souvenir shopping (a Team GB towel and a Wenlock for Violet) and had a picnic.

 

 

 

And then it was time to enter the Aquatics Centre. It was so much more special than we expected. The music was loud and added to the excitement. We could watch the divers practising for the nighttime session so we felt extra lucky.

 

Team GB

 

 

Before we knew it, the synchro started and off went the technical duets. There were 24 countries taking part who all had to complete the same set of figures in the same order. The ones that stood out were the Russian pair, the Chinese duet and of course Team GB – the crowd went berserk waving flags, standing, cheering and clapping.

 

 

 

It must have been an amazing experience to perform like that in from of a home crowd. I’m not sure that I could ever watch someone I know taking part though, it was so nervewracking and we didn’t even know the athletes.

 

After the 2 hours, we came out to glorious sunshine and met up with some friends who were watching the 100m final in the stadium that night. When we separated, it was time to go up the lift of the Orbit. The view from the top was fabulous – a 360 view across the whole of London and we looked straight into the stadium to see Mo Farah getting his gold medal from the night before. We could hear everything, people at the top were singing along with the National Anthem and broke into applause. The timing was perfect, just 10 minutes later and it wouldn’t have been as special.

After a long walk down to the bottom of the Orbit, it was time to make our way back to the hotel as we had a 3.50am start the next day to get our plane back to Biarritz. Our feet were killing, we were exhausted but so happy – we had an amazing time and will remember how lucky we were for a long long time. Thank you to Swim North-West for our tickets (we couldn’t believe we were only 5 rows from the front) – you have helped to keep a 10yo very enthusiastic about the sport she loves and works really hard at.

A Wet Weekend

A bit of an update on the Great Swimming weekend … You may remember from this post, that this was the weekend that hubby and middle sister were due to compete in The Great North Swim in Windermere.

Mother Nature obviously had other ideas and yesterday gave us weather more like November than June. People were talking about a month’s worth of rain in one day – all I know is, I got soaking and freezing about 15 times. About 2PM, we heard that the Friday swim had been cancelled but the Saturday waves were still going ahead. I have to admit the thought of heading up to The Lakes in torrential rain and 40MPH gusts in a caravan didn’t exactly appeal to me or OH. Our main worry was, what were Vi and Baby T going to do in that weather (Baby T is STILL not walking and muddy, rainy grass wouldn’t stop her wanting to crawl) So, imagine the relief when at 4.45PM I got an email saying all Saturday’s swims had been cancelled – Phew!The competition is still on between Maz and Derm – we still don’t know who would have won. Watch this space!!!

This meant that all 5 of us Costellos could head over to Manchester Aquatic Centre today to watch Millie in her first Cheshire County Synchro Comp. I’d been watching for nerves all day but the going was good and she was giddy with excitement.

Before we set out, I had to set to on THE HAIR! Don’t know if you know, but synchronised swimmers paint gelatin on their hair before each swim and it sets rock hard. Its one of the worst jobs I ever had to do and gets everywhere. We were brave and added a bit of glitter to ours for extra sparkle.

I’m not going to bore you too much but I will tell you that she got some medals. She absolutely loved the day and it was so lovely to hear all the girls cheering each other on. I’ve never seen as much sparkle and sequins. (I stayed up late last night sewing sequins on a headdress that I couldn’t even remember seeing her wear today!) We have to work on the nerves but the main thing is, she enjoyed herself and she’s got yet more medals to take into school assembly on Wednesday.

 

Our day wasn’t quite finished at that point though. When we got home we had to get the gelatin out of Mil’s hair (really hot shower – we’ll do it at the baths next time!). We were also greeted by a lovely blocked drain – as we were leaving the house in an almighty rush this morning, I poured the pan of gelatin down the sink by mistake. Here’s a beautiful pic of where it collected and solidified – you learn something new every day! Sorry, I promise never to show you any pics of blocked sinks ever again.

With one of her 3 medals - Well Done Millie!

The Costellos v’s The Coles – The Race is on!

We are not a particularly competitive family but once a year an event happens that gets us all excited. Its the Great North Swim in Windermere where hundreds of swimmers of all abilities swim a mile in the Lake – some for charity, some just because they are crazy!

My husband and my sister are two of those crazy people. Its the second time that they will be swimming against each other and neither wants to tell the other how fast they are likely to be swimming.

We make a weekend of it, staying up in Ambleside and the rest of the family join us on the day, cheering them both on.

But who do I cheer for? Who comes first … husband or sister? As fate would have it, I don’t have to choose. On Saturday morning I will be driving from Ambleside to Manchester as Millie takes part in her first real synchronised swimming comp. Think routines, gelatined hair and sequins. Its all going on!

So good luck Derm and Maz (in strictly alphabetical order!) Hope the swim goes well and the best person wins (EEK!) or you both get identical times. xxx