Friday, December 28, 2012

Lesson from the holiday

Teaching the Christmas spirit.

It was important for my husband and I to take a big moment this holiday to teach our kids about the REAL meaning of Christmas.  The true Christmas spirit of giving back, of giving of your time and your smile to make someone else's day better.  I wasn't quite sure how to go about it since my kids are 6 and 4 and all they knew about Christmas was the that Santa brought them gifts.  But, I knew this was the year…the perfect time for their ripe brains and wide open eyes to see and feel all the joy of the holidays. 

So, I took to the internet and up popped some ideas.  The one that struck me was visiting a retirement home…I vividly remember visiting my grandpa in his retirement home, and he and his friends would be thrilled that I was there…nothing in hand, just the fact that I took the time to visit made their day.  I had tears in my eyes just thinking about it. So we made a plan that included the following steps:
  • called ahead to clarify visiting hours and let the home know we were bringing children
  • made some cookies, which we also cleared with the staff on our call
  • talked to the kids about it, so they were prepared and excited
  • kept an open mind as to what we would see
  • put a smile on our faces 

Everyone had just finished their dinner and were heading back to their rooms when we arrived.
And we had our bag full of cookies ready for delivery.  The first door we knocked on that got a response was Ellen's.  She wheeled up and opened the door, and her eyes immediately went to the kids and lit up.  She just wanted to shake their hands and she couldn't stop saying "Thank you."  She then asked if we would sing a song…so we did.  "Rudolph the red nose reindeer" was the kids choice, and she clapped along.  I snuck a look over at my husband and we shared a teary moment during the chorus.  We delivered more cookies and heard tons a great stories. We heard all about Charles and his heroism in the war (I saw his purple hear…amazing) and he played us a Christmas tune on his harmonica.  We helped another woman find her way back to her husband, and my patient 4-and-3/4-year-old answered everyone's questions without a skip...even when they asked him the same question two or three times.  

What a gift.  What an amazing night for us as parents.  A wonderful and magical dose of Christmas spirit….loving, caring and sharing with people we didn't know until we knocked on their door.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Summer on the Run: Blog 6 -- Incentives that help me run through the cold

Summer on the Run: Incentives that help me run through the cold            Dec 21, 2012 12:56 PM ET | By Summer Sanders

Continuing the Summer on the Run 12-week blog and video series, blog six. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.

I  don't have just one mantra because every day is different.
Lately, I've realized more than ever that life is short, and though sometimes I want to give in to the temptation to stay inside and skip a run, I know I can push through it. Once I'm done, I always feel so much better.
I'm not a cold-weather runner, so I struggle with the elements this time of year. This is my first time training for a winter half, so I'm dealing with all of it right now... 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A stress-free holiday

Ahhh. This is tough to do, yet we all seem to strive for it. I think removing stress from the holidays all comes down to one word: Procrastination. It doesn't work when it comes to the holidays. There are the few things I think you can wait until the last minute to do...aka Stocking stuffers, which you can pick up in any aisle lines even at the grocery store, but most work best when you plan ahead.

7 tips for a stress-free holiday
  1. Stay at home! But if you are traveling this holiday season and must ignore, replace with "fly with patience." We love waking up in our own home and encourage family to come to us for the snow and an idyllic white Christmas. We have traveled before, and it is so much more stressful getting everything organized, packed, wrapped and shipped.
  2. Make a list and check it 100 times. Write down everyone you need a gift for…and really include everyone. Then, write down what you are giving them. If you are at all like me, you will forget who gets the fuzzy slippers and who gets the picture frame.
  3. Buy a few extra gifts. Just in case someone slipped your mind or someone gives you a gift and you didn't plan on it, having backups is always helpful. Make it unisex cool and buy a separate one for a kid.
  4. Use your kids creativity. For the parents out there, take advantage of the precious artwork you were thinking of "filing away" and create a one of a kind gift for a grandparent who has everything. They'll cherish it.
  5. Buy decor late. If money is stressing you out, do what my mom did and make it a big deal to go out and buy your tree on Christmas Eve for a third of the price. Make it like you are "rescuing" this poor little forgotten tree. Think Charlie Brown's tree:) Then you don't have to worry about all those decorations weeks before hand. Same goes for wrapping paper, etc. They all go on sale the week of Christmas.
  6. Don't Do Everything your asked. While we're tempted to say yes to every party or outing, remember it's okay to stay in during the holidays. Don't loose sight of what is really important. Trust me, your friends will understand!
  7. Pull Double duty a fun way. Invite a few friends over to get your Christmas wrapping done together, or bake cookies for those exchanges. You'll get to spend QT with people you want to see, and you'll all get something accomplished. With the kids' asleep, you never know, a spontaneous party may ensue.
And to get a start on next year, think about applying tip #5 again right after the holidays. You can also get HUGE savings deals on decor after the holiday and get an early start on removing stress for next year. Just remember where you stash it so you can find it 12 months later :)

When all else fails, light the fire, turn on Christmas music, make some cookies and snuggle up. Life doesn't get any less stressful or relaxing.  Happy Holidays!!

Summer on the Run: Blog 5 - Reasons to get out there and run

Dec 19, 2012 12:50 PM ET | By Summer Sanders

Continuing the Summer on the Run 12-week blog and video series, blog five. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.

I run because it opens me up. It's me time, and every moment I'm out there is a challenge that I have to meet.

It's not easy. It reminds me of when I was swimming -- it's freeing, it relieves my stress and it gives me focus. Those good feelings are not tied to one sport. They are part of athletes' universal language.

Running also opens up my creativity.

I always have my smartphone on me, which is crucial when I run. I think of all kinds of ideas while I'm out there... Read the rest here on ESPNW

Source: via espnW on Pinterest

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Summer on the Run: Post 4 - Training with my girlfriends

Training with my girlfriends lifts me

Dec 17, 2012 1:33 PM ET | By Summer Sanders
Continuing the Summer on the Run 12-week blog and video series, blog three. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.

I'm inspired by my girlfriends, just as I'm inspired by professional athletes. I admire those who stick to their commitments and goals, especially when it's not easy. We're all so busy and have a lot of things in our lives that we need to balance.
I have been traveling a ton lately, so I jumped at the chance for a run with my girlfriends. One of us picks the day, another chooses the window of time and a third selects the place. It's best to go with the flow when you're planning to run with other busy people.
Read the rest HERE on 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Summer on the Run: Signing up to run with a smile

Summer on the Run is a 12-week blog and video series that follows former Olympic swimmer and avid runner Summer Sanders on her journey to train for Disney's Princess Half Marathon on Feb. 24. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, she will share training tips, and a little inspiration, as she gears up for the main event. Use hashtag #GoRun on Twitter to follow Summer and be part of the ongoing conversation.

Signing up to run ... with a smile

I started running as soon as I hung up my suit. The day after I retired from swimming, I ran with my best friend on Campus Drive at Stanford University; it's a 4-mile loop. I remember loving it from the very beginning. There was so much to see and take in, which was a huge difference from swimming, even at the Olympic level. In the pool, you can't see everything around you or take in the feel of a new place.
But I also remember that running didn't come naturally. Accomplishments are more worthwhile when you earn them -- when you have to work hard to really get something new. I stick to that when my kids, Skye (age 6) and Spider (4), tell me I'm sweaty after a run...Continue reading here at ESPNW.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thank goodness for grandparents

Ah grandparents. I will never forget the smell of Old Spice or the happiness I felt as I opened up my grandpa's car door during the summers when he picked me up from swim practice. he was always there and in my corner. He was the only person in the family that shared my and my brother's dislike for steamed brussel sprouts and would say it.  When my dad would make us eat them,  we would all laugh when my grandpa would say, "These damn things are just cabbages that never had a chance." I think my grandpa's presence in my life is the reason I cherish every moment my parents get to be around my kids and vice versa. 

There are so many things that grandparents can share with their grandchildren that you just can't give them. My parents teach my kids with a perspective and wisdom I'm haven't experienced yet, and nothing beats their "I want to spoil you at all cost" love.  I make it a point to schedule grandparent time so that they can build lasting memories together…and while it isn't easy living 1,000 miles apart, it is so very worth it. 

So as the holidays approach, and you begin to debate if it's worth the long ride or the hectic flight for such a short trip, remember that. If your grandparents are still alive, don't take them for granted. I never take for granted the fact that my parents are not only still around but still able to keep up with the little rugrats.  The memories of my time with my grandfather are a huge part of what I remember about my youth, and my grandpa's presence had a big affect on me. I want my kids to share in that revelry. We were so lucky to have my mom with us in London this summer, and I know that both my kids and my mom will never forget that special time they got to share together.

Let's face it, life is just better with grandparents. Their hugs and their love and their stories are unmatched.   

Monday, November 12, 2012

Not going to Africa: Making the decision

I have never been good at making decisions, but I generally go with my gut. Just this Friday I was all packed and ready to take a trip with my charity, a trip I had been looking forward to for more than six months, when I was faced with a decision...

You see, I was supposed to go to Africa to work in the field with Right To Play. The last time I visited Rwanda was 1996, and the country I saw was in the ruins of war and despair.  I was so excited to see how this beautiful country had put itself back together, and to learn about the the role our Right To Play programs were playing as part in its development.  But nothing went right. I spent the night before my flight comforting my son, who was up with a stomach bug. And while I felt bad for him, I was also relieved he got sick while I was home and not at some point during the next few days because I wouldn't have been there, and I would have felt awful.  For my first two trips to Africa with RTP, I wasn't married and I didn't have kids, so it's a whole different emotional ball game now.

The next hurdle was the weather. Over night the weather turned, and was snowing heavily for my departure. Not necessarily dumping, but definitely Salt Lake's first real snow accumulation of the season. And that's when I first got the feeling that this travel schedule of mine was not going to run smoothly. But I said goodbye, all be it through tears, when my husband and son dropped me off at the airport. (I made them drive away while I stood and waved until I couldn't see them anymore.) Then I tried to be proactive.  I asked if I could start looking for alternative flight plans, but everyone assured me I would be ok, that "No plans are delayed yet." And there it was, that feeling again.  You know the one, it's the same one you get as soon as a commentator says, "He hasn't missed a field goal this season inside 40 yards."  But we were, in fact,  early boarding and pushing back from the gate so I chalked it up to nerves. Then the deicer issues began, and tick-tock….after almost 2 hours delayed...we finally took off.  My plane pulled into the Seattle gate as my Amsterdam flight was pushing back.  And that was it.  That was my only way to Africa Friday and it was only 1:48pm PT.  It was completely out of my hands.  

To make matters worse, I wasn't feeling well and was super worried about getting really sick on either of my two remaining 10 hour flights. So the decisions started to pile up. Do I stay over night in the airport or at a close hotel and take the 1:20pm flight tomorrow, getting me into Africa on Nov 11th at 8pm?  I could get on the first leg of my flight, but the KLM leg (my second 10 hour connection) would have to settled at the counter in Amsterdam, and with the way this trip was going, THAT was unsettling.  To top it off, due to the whole day delay, my 4 days on the ground had turned into just 2.5 days.  I wanted to go so badly, wanted to see those kids in Kigali and Kuvoa, but when is too much, too much? And that's where my wise husband brought me back to my own reality.  I love my charity and wanted to be there to support their efforts and be a part of it all, but my main happiness is my family. And 48 hours of flying wasn't worth getting only 60 hours on the ground if it meant my health. My one girlfriend put it best when she said, "I know you must be so disappointed, but it looks like the stars weren't aligned for this trip." And they weren't so my heart still aches a bit.  But I know the amazing Athlete Ambassadors making the trip -- Heather O'Reilly (@HeatherOReilly), Heather Petri (@PeteIsAGirl ) and Natalie Coughlin (@NatalieCoughlin) -- will soak up every second of their journey and pour it into my waiting heart when they get back. 

In the meantime, I will consider these 5 unexpected days at home as a gift.  I will snuggle when asked, cheer at every event that I would have missed, and trust that that is exactly what Right To Play is doing for so many kids around the world. Until next time Africa. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What our kids hear about the world & how they feel

Recently, as I was cruising through twitter, I stumbled upon the video of a 4-year-old little girl who was crying about the Presidential Election. Reactions to it are varied, but I found it to be precious, authentic and real because I live with a 4-year-old who listens intently to everything, is super curious, and feels deeply.  How many parents are wondering, just like me, whether they should tell their kids about major events or asking themselves, "Can they handle it?" 

I can't imagine what is was like for parents in 2001, trying to explain the terrorist attacks to their children. Our kids are smarter than we give them credit for, but their emotions are often a little more extreme or off balance. They feel more compassion, happiness, excitement, and sorrow. For example, I find that with my kids, they either feel too much or they don't feel enough compared to my own adult reactions. 

Thus, as Sandy was hitting the east coast, I had to determine how to approach it with my 6-and 4-year-olds. I decided to turn the TV on at dinner so that we, as a family, could watch what was happening to our friends on the east coast and to a city we've spend so much time in.  I lived in NYC for 8 years and our family has spent months at a time in the city. The coverage captivated Spider for quite awhile and he listen intently to our conversation, then he said "Can we turn this off, it's scaring me!" So I asked him why he was scared, and basically he was convinced Sandy was coming to Park City.  Once I assured him that Sandy was not coming to, as he calls it "our town in America", he became more curios. He was listening to the reports as we started cleaning up, and later announced to the family that "Sandy was heading to Canada."  He talked about Sandy at school and corrected his friends, who were convinced Sandy was a person, by telling them it was a hurricane that turned into a cyclone. 

His absorption of the situation was amazing. I am consistently in awe of the way kids handle information with such a pure level of intrigue and interest. It warms my heart that they have the desire to learn, and breaks my heart when they feel so much emotion when trying to digest the information.

So as events occur within our world, from presidential elections to natural disasters, think about how you share it with your children. They are more acutely aware of what's happening in their surroundings than we give them credit for.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Trick-or-Treat for a cause

Get your coins ready...

Every year my kids get excited about 3 things when it comes to Halloween.
1. Candy
2. Costumes

When they come home with their orange boxes, (this year there's a whole new group of character boxes) a huge smile accompanies the joy in their voiceS when they tell me all about helping kids around the world.

I love that this spooky, fun holiday means something more to my children than how full their candy bag is at the end of the night. It's a great way to reinforce that giving back can be fun and rewarding, building a habit of philanthropy for a lifetime.

But parents, you have to be prepared too! Last year, many houses did not know about Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF or what the UNICEF orange boxes were all about, and we often left houses with only candy.  And like most little ones, my kiddos were a little too shy to explain or ask for change to fill their box. So parents...grab your loose change or a few dollar bills, and have it ready next to your candy, so when you see those UNICEF boxes accompanying the Halloween bags, you can drop a few coins in it as well. You can also create your own coin canister for your kids or to leave outside your house while you trick-or-treat, to give or take donates at your door.

Because while candy makes any kid happy on Halloween, what really makes my kids and lots of others smile is when they hear their boxes go ching-ching because they know they get to go back to school helping others. 

Happy Halloween

If you Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF and want to share you photos, tag them #ToT4UNICEF or upload them to the Unicef Facebook Page.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Flying with Kids

After spending a very travel-filled summer and fall that included planes, trains and automobiles, international travel that involved living out of suitcases for six weeks, and more than one coast to coast trip with a 4-year-old and 6-year old, I've learned quite a lot about traveling with children. Probably enough to write a small novella about it actually, but I'll start with a few simple tips that just might come in handy before the holiday travel season begins.
My frequent fliers

On paper, most trips look like amazing opportunities or exciting family time, but as a parent there is usually a lot of worry that it could be way too much work or chaos for one set of parents to handle. So, I tried to be prepared.

My Tips:

- Take home with you. Carefully choose bits from home that your kids have come to expect to keep them comfortable and entertained -- Books, workbooks, cards, small games, crayons, colored pencils, stuffed animal, pillow, etc.

- Let your kids pick out their clothes. If they have input and are in control of their wardrobe, you can always go back to it when they have trouble putting their outfits together.

- Gadgets are king. When it comes to filling time, covering delays, or soothing sleepy kids, DVDs, iPads and smartphones or handheld gaming devices can be lifesavers. I often download a few movies and play them on my computer with a dual headphone plug.(Just don't forget the chargers)

- Give them responsibility. Let your kids carry their own backpack or roller bag, and give them each a game and snack to include. Tell them you need their help. They'll love being able to be big kids and participate, and it'll make things easier for you.

- Mentally prepared your kids. Let them know exactly how long it is going to be and let them know how great they are doing during the flight. It is SO tough for them to have to sit still, so rewards during the flight are also a great idea.

- Bring snacks and treats. Use small containers and/or ziplock bags, and pack your favorite finger foods for travel. Cut up fruits and vegetables so they're finger sized. Have salty and sweet options. Bars are also good. Because trust me, hungry kiddos are grumpy kiddos. Also pack their favorite treats as rewards for being good, they can be great motivation.

- Get psyched. Build up the positive during the weeks leading up to the big trip. Make the flight one of the BEST parts of the trip by reminding them they get to watch movies and carry their own backpack, but be honest, don't give them false hopes…they will remember.

- Fallout guy. If all h-e-double-hockey sticks breaks loose with the kids, use the he pilot as the authority...let him be the bad cop. Tell them the pilot will be upset and talk to them over the loud speaker if they don't get it together. (Not sure how much longer this will work but for now, they believe me.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's good to be 40...reflection

I will never ever forget the sign out in front of my friends' neighbors yard 15 years ago. It read "Lordy Lordy Look Who's Forty, Happy Birthday Russ!" It made us giggle. Back then it seemed like forever until we would be 40 ourselves. Well, forever is here.

I remember my dad's 40th birthday party. I was only there for a second, as it wasn't suitable for us kids with its "Come dressed as your suppressed desire" theme (keep in mind this was 32 years ago), and at that time 40 seemed SO old. But now that I am here, it doesn't feel that way at all. Did my parents feel this young? Do my kids think I am SO old? Reality is, the answer is probably yes to both.

I cherish every decade of my life for different reasons. In my youth, I was focused riding a bike and my 10th birthday. In my teens, it was my first kiss, high school dances, swim meets, and my Olympic dream. Through both stages, I was fairly awkward and a bit shy, and suffered plenty of highs and lows.

My twenties, however, were super fun and centered around self discovery and career exploration. Oh how I loved living in NYC. My girls nights out were paramount, and I felt very free and confident.

But my thirties were really the time when I became me. I thought I knew who I was in my 20's, but I didn't. Nor did I have the guts to really be who I am, to stand tall in my beliefs, and truly know what love and friendship were all about. my thirties brought me motherhood. I always thought I would be a young mom, but I am glad I waited until I was a bit older. I've loved every birthday from 30 up.

Now my forties are here! And this might be kind of weird, but I am so proud to be 40. I love the sound of it and the image that goes along with it. I feel like today's 40-year-old is different than the 40-year-olds of my parents generation. More of us are living truly active lives...just like Sunday when women in their 40s were lining up at the start of the marathon with me. I feel like we have a pretty good handle on health and happiness. On the other hand, it does make me contemplate the fact that I have lived almost half my life. But when I sit down and let that soak in, I can honestly say I am truly content. I am happy and blessed and thankful. Maybe 40 is really the reflection number. It's when you take a step back and look at your world for a second as a painting of your experiences, you soak up everything and everyone that is in it. What a picture it is!
Sweaty Happiness 40th

My 40th birthday celebration theme was "Sweaty Happiness" because my friends and I are started out with a fun run and followed it up with pizza, beer, birthday cake and Thursday Night Football. Ahhhhhh, it's good to be 40.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

PaceClub: Swim Lessons

Each month I contribute an Athlete Blog to SpeedoUSA's Pace Club website. Full discloser, Speedo and I are partners, and my contributions are part of that partnership; however, the content shared is my own and I want to make sure that anyone interested in the topic or my take has the opportunity to see it and share it. So I will be posting an excerpt from each post on my personal blog as well. 

Here's an excerpt from my latest blog:


One of the greatest gifts you can give your kids is the gift of swim lessons. When you teach a child to swim, it is literally the gift that keeps on giving. It’s a lifetime present.

I started my kids early in "mommy and me" classes when they were each about 6-months-olds. My daughter hated every second of it, but my son, he couldn't get enough. With my daughter, I took my own advice and pushed through tears and tantrums, and now I have a 6- and a 4-year-old who are both fish! Starting your kids early is so important. And even if they cry, (I cried until I was 3) make sure you follow through. The great thing about swimming is at its core, it is all about having fun, but it is also about learning a life skill. By 2 years of age, kids should be able to float on their back when they are in the pool, which is a skill that can save their life. So look for an instructor that understands both.

. . . Read More

Monday, October 1, 2012

Let's Move: Dream Big, Achieve Success

Recently, the 2012 U.S.. Olympic Team visited the White House. While I wasn’t able to attend the reunion, the event reminded me of just how special Olympic moments are. I remember my own experience as a visiting athlete to the White House in 1992. The day of our visit it rained, and the BBQ on the lawn simply migrated into the White House, where Olympians wearing our medals wandered around (probably driving the Secret Service crazy) celebrating being able to visit the symbol of the great country we just represented. I had that same feeling, that sense of honor and pride as part of the First Lady’s delegation this year. Being able to share the Olympic experience with the First Lady of the United States and support her Let’s Move! initiative was amazing...

My kiddos greeting the First Lady :)