Monday, August 29, 2011

The first day of Kindergarten

The DAY was finally here: My daughter’s first day of Kindergarten. No more "sleeps", the day had finally arrived and boy was she ready. To prepare, I read a wonderful list of mom to-dos on school day, and the one that caught my eye was to get up 30 minutes before the house so you could get organized and maybe even enjoy a cup of coffee before the kids began to stir. Nice plan but 7 minutes before my alarm was to begin buzzing, in walked Spider. "Can I snuggle with you?" he said. And so we did, until I mentioned that today was the first day of school, at which point he leaped up and got very excited. Spider raced in and woke Skye. So the house was already up, and my alarm was now just going off.

Luckily the kids had gone to bed SUPER early, like 7 p.m., so they would be rested and have the best shot at success. And it worked! They had both picked out their outfits yesterday, and were thrilled to finally get to put them on. No tears, no complaining, just pure joy and nervous excitement.

To begin what will be their routine, I asked Skye and Spider to get her own breakfast going They love cereal, and they love it more when they do it "all my themselves". Whatever gets them eating!:) We all ate together, talking about how cool the bus was going to be and how much fun they were both going to have on their first day. Then, with teeth brushed, backpacks in hand, it was time.

Skye’s bus picks her up at the end of our street at 7:44 a.m., and we were right on time. No rushing, no yelling and happily, no crying. She was a little nervous just as we were leaving the house, which I recognized, noticing that she bent down and was touching her toes. So I asked if she thought she should go potty. She quickly smiled and with a sigh said, "No mom. I am just stretching." I giggled a bit.

We all made our way to the bus stop, and although I could tell she was still nervous, she never once got scared or broke her smile. She seemed to be soaking up the moment even more than me. And then, we heard it... "Bus! Bus!" Was shouted by the other kids, Skye gave me a quick hug and said, "Bye, I love you mommy!" She grabbed her backpack and walked to the back of the line. Not for a second did she think to cut the line.

She smiled and waved as she took those giant steps up into the yellow school bus. She sat in the second row and waved out the window to us. Blowing kisses, smiling and, I am sure, feeling like a very big kid. I didn't cry. I don't know why. But I didn't take my eyes off her. She was a big girl this morning, and she was so thrilled that I wanted to match her emotion. It was a magical morning. Honestly, one of my favorite moments as a parent thus far…Happy day my sweet little-big girl!

Summer Sanders on WhoSay

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Olympic Dreams Fulfilled 19 years ago…

On July 29, 1992, I walked into the Barcelona Olympic swimming stadium with much less energy than I was hoping for, but a ton of determination. And after eight swims in four events, on the last day of the swimming competition, I won an individual Olympic gold medal. I was 19 years old, and with every year that goes by, my Olympic memories mean more and more to me.

To be honest, I had to go online to research the actual date of the 200 butterfly. The experience was such a whirlwind, I couldn’t remember. I had hoped to write something about my 19th anniversary on the actual date, but by the time I got around to checking, the date had passed. Life is even busier now than it had been back then. In 1992, I was a junior at Stanford University. Stanford had so many Olympic athletes that they developed an Olympic quarter where those competing could take 8 units instead of 12 and still be considered "full-time" students. (All schools probably do this, I just wanted to brag about Stanford for a second…thank you) I was training for the Games, going to school, fulfilling sponsor obligations and on Wednesdays, talking to the media.

Nineteen years ago, I was still a teenagers with long scraggily hair (I hadn't cut it since the 7th grade when my mom convinced me to go with the "Dorothy Hamill" haircut.) It was bad, and I never cut it again. My hair was in rough shape to say the least, but it was perfect for tying in a knot. I had not quite grown out of my “baby fat” stage and had some serious shoulders. At the time, I don't even remember ever really taking in the moment of being a "gold medalist", I just remember feeling VERY relieved and wanting more than anything to be around my family.

Since, my medals have been through many airport screenings, and have brought grown men to tears. I have had neighborhood children knock on my door, asking if they can see them…to which I always say, "Of course." The most common comment after holding my medals is, "They are so much heavier than I thought they would be." And to my kids, they are the coolest ribbons won at a swim meet, EVER. They asked me just recently, "How can we win some of those ribbons?"

To me, my medals and my Olympic experience still symbolize years of hard work, not just by me, but by my family, teammates and coaches. They are so much more than just medals, and every year they become so much more. They have been with me during every step on my life during the past 19 years; they have made me a better wife, a better mother, a better friend and daughter.

Here’s to another 19 years! To Olympic Dreams fulfilled, and the Olympic hopefuls awaiting their opportunity…

Friday, August 12, 2011

A chance to carry the Olympic Flame

I will never forget one of the most emotional moments in my Olympic viewing history. It was 1996, and while I was working the Atlanta Games for NBC, I was not at the opening ceremonies. Rather, I was in my hotel room watching them on TV like 99.9% of the world. Everyone was wondering who the Torchbearers would be, and then our question was answered, it was Janet Evans! I will never forget the moment I saw my teammate from the 1992 Games run out of the tunnel and around the track, proudly, joyfully carrying the Olympic torch. But the moment that took my breath away was watching Janet pass the flame from her torch to that of Muhammad Ali!

The greatest swimmer was passing the torch to "The Greatest of All Time.” My emotions ran away with me in that my, my eyes filled with tears and my entire body was covered in goose bumps.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt so proud to be an American and an Olympian!

The Olympic Torch Relay is the journey of the Olympic flame from the home of the Games, Athens, Greece, to the host city, spreading the Olympic Fever along the way. Even Olympians follow the torch's progress, and are emotionally moved by it.  Thinking back to my first trip to the Olympics as a spectator, the 1984 Games in L.A., I cannot imagine how it would have felt to have the opportunity to carry that flame. That trip sparked my Olympic dream, and if I had been nominated to run the torch, I would have been…well, words cannot describe how emotional and excited I would have been! This year, a few special teens won’t have to wonder.

But you do have to act fast. Go to and follow the steps to nominate a teen to carry the Olympic torch in London. Eligible teens inspire others to make a positive difference through healthy active living, community involvement, environmental conservation, or motivation. This is a once-an-a-lifetime opportunity like no other, trust me. Just like an Olympian, never former never past, once an Olympic Torchbearer always an Olympic Torchbearer! Click Here to submit your nominations, deadline for entries is Aug. 15, 2011.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Kill 'em with kindness

Growing up, when my older brother would pick on me or mess with me, my parents would say, “Kill ‘em with kindness.” Without really knowing, I believe it became my mantra. And, although it does seem to fit better in the life of a second grader, I find I am using it now more than ever.

It is interesting how there are days when, across the board, people are just grumpy. Is it the cycle of the moon or something? I have yet to put my finger on it, but my mom and I experienced it last week, big time. We started our day with two very tired children, lots of luggage, and a traffic jam on the way to JFK. We managed to get to the airport with ample time…phew…we always plan to allow plenty of travel time. But then we met grumpy guy #1…the sky cap. No smile, No hello. In fact, I was worried about giving him our bags for fear they would end up in Istanbul instead of Salt Lake City. But, I smiled at him, tried to cheer him up, and handed him a tip and a thank you with nothing in return. (btw, one of our bags didn’t make it….hmmm.)

The rest of our travel day was similar, and we had to pull out the “kill ‘em with kindness card” a few other times. Grumpy guys #2 and #3…the fight attendants. Again, my mom and I just smiled and said, “Thank you.” Upon meeting semi-grumpy flight attendant #2, I asked him his name. His response was a stern, “Why do you want to know?” I was somewhat shocked and amused, but said, “My son wants to ask you for his drink, and we wanted to refer to you by your name.” Oh, he replied and then smiled. (yay smiles!) However, there was no getting to grumpy flight attendant #3; he was way too into his grumpiness. My mom and I would look at each other when he was over the top and almost giggle…I mean, what else can you do.

It wasn’t until dinner that night, when our server never cracked a smile…which was actually quite amazing as I never even saw his teeth when he spoke, that I turned to my mom and said, “Is it just me or are people grumpy today?” She felt it too. Throughout dinner we were as polite and kind as we could be, even when he messed up our order. Our kindness finally forced him to give in and show us his pearly whites, just for a second, but I’ll take it.

People just seemed more stressed now. Everyone is busy, and life just gets crazy. But if we all just take a second and put some positive vibes out into the universe…give a random smile to a stranger…it makes a difference. So be positive and happy and “Kill ‘em with kindness”! Besides, being grumpy and mean takes too much energy.

Friday, August 5, 2011

New York keeps getting better and better

The last time I was in NY with the kids for an extended period of time was 2009, Oct. 13-Nov. 19for Celebrity Apprentice. We stayed at the Trump International, which is right across from Central Park at Columbus Circle and an amazing location, especially with kids. My mom and a babysitter took care of the kiddos while I worked from 5am-11pm, and although all parties enjoyed it, there was nothing easy about it at all.

This past week, I was working in the city once again. The moment I got word that it was official, I called my mom and asked if she wanted another trip to NYC with the kids. She LOVES New York and jumps at any chance to soak up city life. I barely finished the question before she enthusiastically replied, "OF COURSE!" (My mom is a mazing.)

This time, I enlisted the help of some amazing resources…my twitter friends @Mommypoppins, @NYCityMama and more helped out by answering my questions about where to go and what to do in NYC with my kids. We went to the splash pad at the awesome playground at the south end of Central Park. They went to the Central Park Zoo. They even got a chance to see Mary Poppins on Broadway. They took two pedi-cab rides….one with a guy named Yaya, another with a guy named Stephen. Stephen gave them fun nuggets of Central Park knowledge. It was pretty cool to come back to the hotel and hear the kids say, "Did you know that there are rocks older than dinosaurs in the park? Do you know how many trees there are in Central Park? 26,000.” They were exploring and learning and the week flew by. The kids didn't want to leave.

My days were long at the studio, but every night I would come back, put the kids to bed, and ask my mom about their day. Every single day my mom would list all the funny things the kids said, describe their adventures, and finish it off with, "They were so good. This trip is SO much easier than last time." It is truly amazing the difference a year and a half makes. Makes me think that they will remember this trip even more….soaking up the hustle and bustle of city life, the lights and sounds of Broadway, and the thrill of Mary Poppins flying "right over their heads!"

I welcome my next job in NYC and so does my family.