Sunday, November 10, 2013

Florida BMX: The season begins

While tracks nationwide are winding down, Florida's season is just beginning. Yesterday we attended our first SSA race in two years. What's the SSA?, a California friend asked.

Good question!

SSA is short for Sunshine State BMX Association. State racing in Florida offers the most competitive scene outside of nationals. Nothing's better for a little Grands prep. The track and competition at Riverview did not disappoint. A fairly technical track, super fast starting hill, and 113 motos made it all worthwhile. Our friends in attendance, and the great announcing (Pump pump! Pump pump!) were added bonuses.

The boys' team mate and friend Meredith Lidstone missed the race
because of work, but cut out just in time to watch mains.

After a shaky weekend at the Disney Cup, we came to Riverview seeking reassurance. Both boys needed the competition this venue offered, and they both accomplished their missions. William, loving the fast starts on the steep hill, rode away with wins in both 12 cruiser and expert. He rode with confidence and determination, and never faltered.

Wyatt, growing stronger each lap, had to go all three rounds in both 10 cruiser and expert. We watched as his third round of cruiser came and went, with no Wyatt. Immediately after, he came riding toward us, a distraught look on his little face. Somehow, even though he was standing in staging, he missed it. That was a first! We told him to shake it off and get ready for his final qualifier in 10x. He did, and he nailed it. When his main rolled around, you would have never known he had to go three rounds. He shot out of the gate like a bat out of hell, finishing a strong second.

We gladly opted out of today's race, choosing instead the comforts of home. This morning, after a good night's sleep, Wyatt shared with us his discovery.

"I've learned the secret to my success."

"Oh? What's that?" I asked.

"All I have to do is clear my mind, and then get really angry."

Whatever works!

See you in Tulsa,


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

An Electrifying Weekend at the Derby City Nationals

"Genuis unrefined resembles a flash of lightning, but wisdom is like the sun."*

"Where ya from Billy Bob Jim?"

"Alaska. Fairbanks."

I heard the small, familiar voice from across the pits. Cool as a cucumber, he looked like a minion relaxing in a yellow Dans Comp rain slicker. His friend and team mate Carly sat next to him, as he spun a tale for her aunts.

"I'm 12, and extremely gifted. I've graduated and will be heading to college soon."

At that, I intervened. "His name", I said, "is Wyatt! He's 10, from Florida, and in the 5th grade!"

Carly, Wyatt and William smiling through the rain.
Mildly surprised that he could spin such a tale, one auntie asked, "So, he hasn't graduated?"

The first rain delay on day 2 of the Derby City Nationals clearly brought out my youngest child's creative nature.

We all breathed a sigh of relief as the sun came out and the track was uncovered.

Our sunshine didn't last long.

As semis came to a close, the sky began flashing. Mains thundered on as the skies grew darker. Vann decided to walk with William to staging for his cruiser main.

While Wyatt and I headed to the first straight to spectate, we couldn't help but overhear talk around us. No one could believe the race was continuing in the lightning. Rain is one thing, but I don't know of a sporting event that carries on in such conditions. I was pondering this when it happened. The sky suddenly cracked and my ears buzzed. Wyatt was faster than me, and ran for the tents with me on his heels. A sit rep was issued upon our arrival. Frightened faces told us it had struck just beyond the tents in front of us, splitting an unsuspecting tree.
Photo credit: Mike Carruth

One of our older Felt riders had been warming up in the parking lot when the lightning struck. He felt the surge of electricity through his hand that rested lightly on his brake lever. I heard several accounts of buzzing ears and small jolts. As far as I know, no one was seriously injured, but it wasn't over yet.

As the skies opened up, officials rushed to cover the track. Several riders, including William, were trapped under the staging tent, as the rain and lightning continued. Under the pits, it was standing room only as we huddled together in ankle deep muddy water.

A brief video of our situation, compliments of Meredith Lidstone:

At last I saw Vann and William running towards us carrying William's cruiser. He quickly tossed it in the trailer, said it was time to make a break for it, grabbed up a petrified Wyatt, and the four of us ran.

We made it to the car, soaked to the skin, but safe. At the hotel and finally dry, we were all too tired to eat.

It was then I realized that I was livid. Our safety had been compromised. Had the race been postponed when the inevitable storm approached, when the first flashes were seen, we would have been safe away before lightning began striking within yards of us. 

I combed the USABMX rulebook for anything concerning weather. This is all I found:

Once a race has begun, meaning the first gate of the first round of motos has dropped, the track operator, due to inclement weather or other extreme circumstances, may postpone that race.

That is ridiculously vague.

Here's what the National Weather Service has to say about lightning during sporting events:

The National Weather Service recommends officials of organized sports have a lightning safety plan they follow without exception. The plan should give clear, specific safety guidelines to eliminate errors in judgment.

In general, a significant lightning threat extends outward from the base of a thunderstorm cloud about 6 to 10 miles. Therefore, people should be in a safe place when a thunderstorm is 6 to 10 miles away. Also, a plan’s guidelines should account for the time it will take for everyone to get to safety. Here are some criteria that could be used to stop activities:

  • If you see lightning. The ability to see lightning varies depending on the time of day, weather conditions, and obstructions such as trees, mountains, etc. In clear air, and especially at night, lightning can be seen from storms more than 10 miles away provided that obstructions don’t limit the view of the thunderstorm.
  • If you hear thunder. Thunder can usually be heard for a distance of about 10 miles provided that there is no background noise. Traffic, wind, and precipitation may limit the ability to hear thunder to less than 10 miles. If you hear thunder, though, it’s a safe bet that the storm is within ten miles.
And then the kicker....

No place OUTSIDE is safe in or near a thunderstorm. Stop what you are doing and get to a safe place immediately. Small outdoor buildings including dugouts, rain shelters, sheds, etc., are NOT SAFE.

To read more, visit

For the safety of all riders, their families, volunteers, and officials, I am urging USABMX to immediately address this issue, and implement strict safety guidelines in the event of inclement weather.

There were some things I saw and heard this weekend that prompted what I have to say next.
THANK YOU, Carlos Perez for being a team manager and leader who cares more for his riders than winning a team sheet. While we are grateful for the support of our sponsors, it's the people on our team and leading our team that mean the most.

See you all INDOORS at Disney!


*- Franz Grillparzer (Austrian poet)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Governess of Grub: trying to feed hungry, young athletes

I can't wait for school to start, but not for the reasons you might think. In summertime I lose control; control over all things dietary.

The boys returned from Ohio Dreams yesterday. Florida week is so much fun for them. They're even ok with the 15 hour bus ride, which includes no less than six stops at McDonald's. Call me crazy, but knowing my kids are eating at McDonald's gives me complete anxiety. If you really have to ask why, just read 8 creepy mystery ingredients in fast food for starters. I would rather have the option of packing them a small cooler loaded with enough fruit, nuts and turkey sandwiches to get them to Ohio. Heck, I'd do it for the whole bus!

Wyatt will eat anything. William is my picky eater. It's not all his fault. He's allergic to eggs, and all shellfish-- the ultimate curse for a kid whose family hails from the Gulf Coast.

Last year at camp, William sustained himself on Ramen noodles from the camp store. I had high hopes that he would eat the allegedly improved camp food this year. Alas, no. His choice of sustenance? Oreos and Twizzlers.
Getting the boys started right today.
In three short weeks, the start of school will be upon us, and I'll once again have strict control over food consumption. Turkey and lettuce sandwiches, fresh fruit, pretzels, and a cold water, with sometimes a chocolate milk mixed in, is their typical lunch. Sure, it would be easy to let them eat the lunch the school provides, but seriously, have you smelled that stuff? I wouldn't eat it, so why would I make them?

Peanut butter has always been a huge staple in our house. With a good balance of protein, fat and carbs, it's a high energy food that helps to keep us full. Recently, our favorite BMX News correspondent shared some information that made me want to retch.

"Apparently it is approved by the FDA on average of 30 insect fragments, including rodent hair per 100 grams of peanut butter." - from 10 Disgusting Fast Food Facts

I've had the heebie jeebies, and can't help but think there's a rat in our jar of Jif, ever since I read this. When your creamy suddenly gets crunchy, what do you think you're crunching on? I've decided to go the au naturel route, and hope for the best.

It's gluten-free and GMO free, but is it rodent hair free?
Sadly, I've come to the conclusion that, unless it's grown in our backyards, we don't really know what we're consuming. We can, however, maintain a certain level of control in what we offer to our kids. I'm no expert, but I do follow certain guidelines.
  • We eat home cooked meals that don't come from a box.
  • I shop the perimeter of the grocery store with few exceptions.
  • Our house is always stocked with a variety of fruits for snacks.
  • If we have sweets, I almost always make them myself.
  • Sodas are for special occasions only, not for drinking around the house, or at a race.
Our diets certainly aren't perfect, but I feel that Vann and I are doing our best to fuel our young athletes, and our best is getting better all the time!

Happy eating!


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

To Friendly Moms Everywhere

Moms should be friendly.
My mom is very friendly.
Friendly moms are great.
-a haiku by Wyatt Parker (May 2013)

BMX moms are a different breed. We've traded our Mother's Day mimosas and freshly corsaged sundresses for energy drinks and moto boards. Mother's Day 2012 was celebrated in Powder Springs, Georgia. Standing in the mud, as the rain poured down, my friend Ellen cracked her car window. "Happy Mother's Day", she uttered quickly, and rolled the window back up. We left before the announcement was made that the race would be cancelled, not wanting to risk an injury a week before England. On Mother's Day, there was no place I'd have rather been than with my boys, even in the rain.
This Mother's Day, we'll spend at the Tarheel Nationals in Charlotte. I'll be surrounded by some of my favorite BMX moms. There will be hugs and laughter, wounds to mend, and food to fix.
Me with some of my favorite moms!
Whoever thinks Mother's Day is about spa treatments, champagne brunch and afternoon naps, is sorely mistaken. It's about the kids, and that's all there is to it. I can still recall my sister complaining to my mom on a Mother's Day more than thirty years ago. "Why do we have to have Mother's Day anyway? Why isn't there a Kid's Day?" My mom responded with a long drawn-out sigh. Everyday is Kid's Day, Wendy Ann.
Moms don't get the appreciation they deserve, but that's part of it. Just remember, we're in this together!
So, here's to you, ladies!
Here's to you, Julianne, for endlessly driving all night to get to the next race, not just your kids, but everyone else's too.

Here's to you, Ellen and Pam for being my entertainment, confidantes and pick-me-ups during a long day. 

Here's to you, Mady and Josette, mothers and caregivers to us all.

Here's to you Misty and Kristy, two lovely BMX moms who don't know each other, but who are so much alike with your inner beauty and love for animals.

Here's to you Meredith and Karen, mothers to dogs and cats, who don't need children to be nurturing.

Here's to you, Christine, who is stronger than us all.

Here's to my mom, Mignon, who without, I would be nothing.
Here's to you, Vann, for making me who I am.

A mom.

Happy Mother's Day!


Thursday, May 2, 2013

Oh, Brother!

More than ten years gone, I still remember the feel of the cold, smoothness on my belly in the ultrasound room. Twenty weeks along with my second child, I stared anxiously at the screen as it searched...

The probe came to a stop as the tech said with casual certainty, "It's a boy".

I sobbed.

The tech, with a look that said here we go again, summoned some empathy. "Oh, you wanted a girl?"

I looked at her, confused at first, but as realization dawned, I shook my head and smiled. My tears were of joy.

My sister and I grew up the worst of friends and the best of friends. I was her pest, and she was my idol. When William was born, I wanted him to have the same. I wanted him to have a best friend and a pest. I wanted him to have a brother.
I realize I might catch some heat for this. Of course I know brother-sister relationships can be wonderful and meaningful, but they're different, and we all seem to get what works best in our own lives.

That day in the ultrasound room, little did I know how different my two boys would be. Polar opposites, in fact. Mr. Brown-Eyed Business meets Mr. Blonde Comedian.

In the past ten years, Wyatt has led a life in a shadow of hand-me-downs and sibling achievements. He's been his brother's rock, never wavering from his side, even if he gets rolled under the bus.
This past year, however, Wyatt has blossomed. His talents shining through to the extent that a friend dubbed him "Renaissance Boy". Between tickling the ivories, exploring photography, and achieving "gold" status in swim, we wondered what would happen with BMX.

Wyatt moved up to the expert class this past February in Louisville, after achieving his 4th and 5th national wins. Any BMX parent understands the struggle that follows.

Our spring has been crazy, attending nationals in Tampa, Dallas, Atlanta and Monroe. While William has chalked up at least one win a weekend, Wyatt has faltered and missed mains, his frustration peaking in Atlanta. "I'm sick and tired of losing!" Hearing that from your child, and seeing his pain, knowing that he is at a crossroads, is quite a helpless feeling.

Fortunately, Wyatt had someone to pick him up. His best friend. His brother.
Wyatt made a decision, and William was bound and determined to help him. He would train, and train hard. It didn't matter if he had already swam 1400 meters, he would do sprints. He would train day in and day out until Monroe.

The Cajun Nationals arrived, and Wyatt made his mains in 9x both days, accomplishing more than he thought he could. The biggest surprise came too! Wyatt was invited to join his brother on Factory Felt. William has even offered to let Wyatt wear his jersey in Charlotte if his isn't ready yet.

At twilight yesterday I heard the click click click of the jump rope skipping on the driveway. William's voice boomed, "Push-ups! Go!" as Wyatt hit the ground. Later I found the work out William had made for his brother.

I thought about that day in the ultrasound room. I hope it's like this always. I hope they will always be there for each other.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Magic People

If we are lucky, a person comes into our lives to guide and teach us. Not in the way of a parent, sibling or child, but someone more unexpected. Someone who's there because chance led them. If we are even luckier, we recognize that person, and know they are magic.

Aunt Kathy helping me reach a parrot,
with her daughter Jennifer, and my sister Wendy.
Parrot Jungle 1976
A good bit of my childhood summers were spent at my Papa's South Florida home. Everyday the pool water churned, full of my cousins - kids ranging in age from three to thirty-three. Rowdy as we were, it was easy for a small child to get left behind when the call rang out that it was time to dress for dinner. One particular day, after everyone had scattered to their showers, my Aunt Kathy returned to the pool, most likely to gather wet towels and empty soda cans. A shadow on the bottom caught her eye and she dove in without a thought. She dragged me up and brought me around. I don't remember this. I only have the story she told me, but surely this was when Aunt Kathy became my magic person.

During my teenaged years, Aunt Kathy, Uncle Lynn, and my cousins Jennifer and Chris would often visit my dad's house on the water in Ft. Walton Beach, where we would swim, tube and ski all day, and barbecue and play cards all night.

The Billy Bowlegs boat parade heads through Santa Rosa Sound.
It was tradition in our family to participate in the annual Billy Bowlegs boat parade, but some years there were too many of us to fit on the boat, so Aunt Kathy and I would volunteer to stay behind. As the others, decked out in pirate attire, left on the boat to join the parade, we decided to take the long swim across the Sound to watch from a sandbar. To make our swim easier, we perched a box of wine atop a yellow raft, and carried it along with us. We laughed and squealed when something slimy brushed our legs, and struggled to keep our wine afloat in the wake of passing boats. We made it to the sandbar as the first pirate ships were passing. As their cannons blasted, we talked and laughed, and drank salt water tinged white zin from the box. My mom wouldn't of approved.

During that time of my life, as a wild teen who never quite lived up to expectations, I felt judged by most adults. But not by Aunt Kathy. She made me feel like I would be ok. That I was ok.

By observing my Aunt Kathy and Uncle Lynn, I learned that marriage could be happy. They spoke to one another with love and kindness. They never screamed, and were never condescending. If hurt or angry, they forgave, because no one is perfect. This was a lesson I couldn't find in my own home, and one I needed desperately.

When I did marry, Vann grew to love Aunt Kathy too, seeing her magic as I did. When Aunt Kathy and Uncle Lynn would visit, they'd bring us plants from their garden. We'd eat crabs, grill steaks, and play cards all night.

In the midst of my young marriage,  Aunt Kathy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. At the time, I didn't think much about it. In our late 20s, busy having babies, we had other things to think about.

Life continued much as usual. Aunt Kathy and Uncle Lynn had their own grandchildren, and began new traditions, each year taking them to the mountains in the fall, and the beach in the summer. Aunt Kathy would occasionally fall ill, but always carried on. She enjoyed her job and her zumba class, doing everything in her power to keep going and stay healthy. She didn't want to miss a thing.

Aunt Kathy on the trampoline with her grandsons and grand nephews
Easter 2005
After I lost my mom, Aunt Kathy helped fill the hole in my heart. She and Uncle Lynn were always there for Vann and me, and our boys, loving them as their own. Their love and support was endless, and several times they travelled to watch the boys race. They joined us in Louisville for NBL Grands the year William won a title, their very presence calming our nerves and bringing us joy.
Aunt Kathy and me, Louisville 2009

Cape San Blas, 2012
Last summer our families spent a wild week at the beach together, treasuring each moment of life. Aunt Kathy soaked up every laugh and every smile, with the people she loved. If she was in pain, she never once complained, as her young grandchildren climbed in her lap.
Aunt Kathy and Wyatt
Cape San Blas, 2012
Even as her body began to fail, she never wanted to give up her fight. Last week, however, it all became too much. She told her family and friends goodbye, and made my uncle promise to continue the traditions they began. Last night, her pain ended, and she is at peace. When I spoke with Uncle Lynn he said, "don't forget me, I'm still here." How could I ever?

No one ever has shown me such strength and love. As her spirit flies away, her magic remains in my heart.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Training's Unexpected Silver Lining

December was a month of rest, sprinkled with holiday merriment, while the bikes collected dust in our shed. The BMX break gave me time to hover over the piano as Wyatt prepared for his big recital, and spend hours baking pecan sandies, peanut blossoms, and tea cakes that disappeared faster than I could roll out the dough.

Wyatt performs on the Rodrigue Steinway
Photo credit: Elizabeth Janke
A long time ago, I was somehow designated the one in charge of training. This sounds easy, but really it's a big commitment. Find the program, implement the program, nag the kids, train two boys who are on completely different levels... Good times! Since Wyatt has taken such an interest in swim, BMX training has whittled down to one. December 31st,  William's new regimen began, with mom at the helm.

Like any mom of a middle school aged son, I fear the day that I'm no longer cool to hang out with, and my words are no longer wise. Answers to questions become vague and repetitive...How was your day? Same as yesterday.

As our first week of training came to a close, I realized something. My son and I talked more that week than we had the entire month of December. For ninety minutes, six days a week, he's mine.

Between sprints I hear all sorts of plans: Dad said Wyatt and I can build a pump track in the yard this summer! I might hear about new bike parts: I'm doing away with the red. I'm going all silver... What do you think? He has grand ideas too: Wouldn't it be cool if I could go to school with all of my BMX friends? 

My favorite training day is when we head to Doak Campbell, home of the Florida State Seminoles. There, it's just my son and me, with the ghosts of sweat, fear and hope laying heavy in the air. As he climbs repeatedly to the top, I watch his legs tremble, and I know he's giving it all he's got.

Some mornings, I drag William out of bed early to train before school. These are the times I have to get ugly. I thought you said you could do pull-ups! What do you call those? Give me five more! That's IT! I'm DONE!

Then a tired voice says, "Wait Mom!"

I finish with the same speech every time...

Do you think I'm out here for MY benefit??

Well, maybe I am.

Happy BMX New Year!