Archive for July, 2014

Samanthaism #: It’s a fish!

Sunday, July 27th, 2014

Sometime a year or more ago, when we were still nursing, I enjoyed singing Karen Carpenter’s 1970 ballad “Close to You” to Sam and Cate. Their eyes were so very blue as infants, that the song seemed apt:

On the day that you were born
the angels got together
and decided to create a dream come true.
So they sprinkled moondust in your hair
and golden starlight in your eyes of blue.

* * *
A few weeks ago, I showed the girls a new episode of “Blue’s Clues,” called “Pretend Time”, in which Steve finds gear in order to play rocketship with Blue. Cate and Sam had never seen “pretend” illustrated so concretely, and they ramped up their pretend play soon after.

Sometime last week, Sam and Cate put beach baskets over their heads. When I asked what they were up to, Cate said they were “playing rocketship.” To build on their concept, we got out potholder mitts and backpacks. I also showed them the trailer video on YouTube of modern astronauts on the International Space Station, which they begged me to show them over and over again.

I also showed them photos of Apollo astronauts working on the moon. In one image of Alan Bean, you can not only see his boot prints on the surface of the moon, but also gray moondust all over his boots and spacesuit.

I pointed out the moondust, and asked Sam and Cate if they’d like to have moondust in their hair. They giggled and said, “No!”

* * *
During dinner Thursday evening, Sam started singing a little song:

On the day that you were born,
the angels got together,
and then they lined up
to go somewhere…

Intrigued by her new lyrics, I asked Sam if she knew what an angel is.
Without hesitation, Sam said, “si.”

So I asked her directly, “what’s an angel?”
Sam declared confidently, “it’s a fish!” She went on to explain that “it’s blue and it swims in the water!”

Of course! We’ve encountered “angel fish” in both books and aquaria. At which point it occurs to me that all this time, Sam and Cate thought the Karen Carpenter song was about blue fish sprinkling moondust in hair. Hee!

Are we swimming yet?

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

As I’ve mentioned, Bill and I are determined to teach our girls how to swim. The big challenge to master this summer is submerging: girls going under water, on purpose, and coming back up without taking on a ton of water.

Starting at the end of April, I showed Sam and Cate how to hum for the fishies. Over ten weeks, we’ve practiced in the bathtub, in the condo pool, and in Bellaire’s family frog pool. Cate got the hang of it pretty quickly, practiced on her own as well as with Baba Jean and Nane, and soon figured out how to blow air out her nose without humming.

Sam got water up her nose several times early on — she hummed only until she put her face in — which diminished her enthusiasm for practicing. The few times she’s gone underwater in the last two weeks, she’s brought up a noseful of water, sneezed, and declared knowingly, “I did not hum!”

Two weeks ago, I decided to attempt pushing them toward the steps and letting them clamber up on their own. Cate was ready and did all right. Sam said she was ready, but got a bunch of water up her nose, and did not enjoy it at all.

[condo videos here]

This week, we’re turning the corner. Saturday afternoon, armed with bar floats, they figured out that kicking their legs would actually propel them through the water.

Tuesday afternoon, while swimming with Baba Jean and Nane in the condo pool, Sam went all over the big pool supported by our new bar floats. She has the upper body strength to transition herself from two floats to one and back again, all in a controlled fashion.

Baba Jean shadowing Sam with bar floats

Nane shadowing Cate with bar floats

Meanwhile, Cate abruptly leapt from the pool step, plunging into the water in front of me, trusting that I would catch her. Startled, I scooped her up and planted her feet on my knees. Even before I could interrogate her to make sure she was ok, Cate yelled, “again!” and lunged away from me back to the steps.

I interrupted her to put some goggles on her, after which Cate insisted she go again… and again. Cate “swam” to me and back to the step 8 or 10 times before I insisted she rest.

This Saturday afternoon, Emily invited us to swim near her sister’s house, and Cate plunged in again. This time, I caught her on video:

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At one point this afternoon, Cate tugged her goggles down over her eyes and plunged off the step into water well over her head, with no one in line to catch her. After one of us easily scooped her up, I challenged her, “did you forget to ask if a grown up was ready?”

C replied, “Well, I didn’t ask because there wasn’t anyone there.”

Hmm. Toddler logic is sometimes scary.

Here’s Sam, around the same time:

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Initially, Sam insisted that Dad walk her back to the step. In order to be very clear that she did *not* want anyone to throw her at the step or abruptly submerge her, Sam asked Bill to “cuddle me back to the step.”

Later, Sam spotted bigger kids going off the diving board, and she wanted to try that, too. After we explained that she had to learn how to swim to the side before she could go off the board, Sam got serious about figuring it out. Her approach was much, much more cautious than Cate’s, but within 5 or 10 more minutes, Sam got the hang of taking a breath, closing her mouth, and holding it as she gingerly lowered her face into the water and reached toward me. Hooray for Sam!

Before we were done, Sam talked me into taking her over to the diving board. She isn’t yet comfortable jumping to me from the side of the pool, so it’s no surprise that once on the board, she was too nervous to do more than check it out and climb down again. We told her it’s ok, we have lots of time to practice swimming and can do the diving board later. Nonetheless, Sam insisted on climbing up onto the diving board three times, determined to try to convince herself to jump.

Cate on the other hand, walked directly to the end of the board, stopped only briefly to make eye contact and size up the jump, and stepped right into the deep end, where I caught her. As we reached the edge of the pool together, Cate insisted, “help me up!” and “I want to go again!” And she did, three more times.

* * *
Neither Bill nor I actually remember learning to swim. So while I trust that we’re capable of teaching them, I admit that at the beginning of the summer, I couldn’t visualize just how it would unfold. Nonetheless, we’re getting there!

Pool 6.0: semi-independent with bar floats!

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

Saturday afternoon, Gram Nancy invited us to come enjoy swimming and a picnic dinner at the River Plantation club pool. The Odales were in town and the Friedmans came, too.

We haven’t seen Bill’s sister, Barb, and her family since Christmas, and the kids all seem so grown-up now. Jordan, the youngest, will be 13 in a few weeks, and Jeremiah earned his lifeguard certification this summer. All three of the kids swim like fishes!


Sarah, Barb, and Jordan

Gram Nancy

Suzi’s daughter, Addison, will be 4 in September, and has been learning to swim at Houston Swim Club (HSC). Addi showed me how she can blow bubbles and swim underwater. She also brought a really clever pair of bar floats — constructed from PVC with old-fashioned rope floats at each end — that are part of the HSC curriculum.

Sam was eager to try Addi’s floats (“Please, I use your floats!”) and when she got in the water and tucked them under her armpits, a remarkable transformation occurred. For the first time, Sam was totally stable, floating independently in the water. Within a few minutes, she got the hang of bicycling her feet, and was self-propelled. She wore herself out, kicking to the deep part of the pool and back again. We have never seen Sam so happy in the water!

After dinner, Cate wanted a go. She, too, quickly got the hang of propelling herself through the water. But where Sam was quietly studious in her endeavor, Cate made up a mantra to sing, “I can go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth!”

After that, Sam wanted to go again. And when Aunt Betty let us know it was time for them to go home, taking Addi’s floats with them, Sam tried to hustle away to the deep end of the pool again.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

Get the Flash Player to see this video.

We’ll find out tomorrow, when HSC opens after the holiday weekend, how much they extort for their bar floats. We may just knock ’em off and make our own. Either way, we can hardly wait to see how quickly the girls progress with them. What a great teaching tool!

Scruffy hospitality

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

There was a time — years ago, before infertility and depression and clutter and sleep deprivation and our high-maintenance cat — when we used to have people over to our house, maybe not all the time, but often enough. I really like visiting with our friends and family, and feeling connected.

There were lots and lots of dinners and occasional birthdays. We used to enjoy hosting New Years. There was wine and beer and sometimes there was even music and dancing. But for at least four or five years, that has all seemed Too Hard.

We compensated by taking our visits out, and meeting friends or family at restaurants. We recently enjoyed a delightful dinner with Bowie and DJ at a nice local restaurant, and I hope we’ll do that again sometime.

But I finished at Central Houston on March 31st, and Bill left GE on May 29th. So we’re again an income-free couple, and there’s no place in our budget for nice restaurant meals. We’re going to need less-expensive ways to connect with people.

A few weeks ago, a friend shared an inspiring blog post, from a young Anglican priest in Tennessee, which argues that scruffy hospitality creates space for friendship. He observes that unwritten expectations about being an excellent host sometimes prevent people from welcoming friends in their home.

That’s certainly been true for me. Most recently, our friends the Norburys and our cousin Sharon came to Houston, and we didn’t host them at all. These are some of my favorite people and I couldn’t get it together to host them. That bums me out.

The priest goes on to write:

“Friendship isn’t about always being ‘excellent’ with one another. Friendship is about preparing a space for authentic conversation. And sometimes authenticity happens when everything is a bit scruffy.”

That sounds plausible to me. So many of our friends are such excellent hosts, and I long to be one again, too. But in the meantime, I’d like to either get the table clear enough for people to eat at it, or screw my courage to the sticking place and invite folks in despite the clutter. I hope you’ll come!

Fun night with Kimbros!

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

Early in the week, Rachel texted me, inviting us to come play with them at their neighborhood pool. We’ve been trying to meet up for months, and we all love to swim, so I accepted eagerly.

Afternoon thundershowers moved our picnic dinner inside, where Eleanor and Thomas did a super job of entertaining Cate and Sam. I’m struck by how all-grown-up E and T both seem. Going forward, I hope to do a better job of meeting up, or I fear they’ll be off to college before we see them again. We must get organized to hire Eleanor as a parent’s helper!


Rachel and Eleanor

Rob with Sam in a costume Eleanor shared for the night

When the weather cleared after dinner, I was too tired to schlep girls to the pool. Rob graciously volunteered to stay and host our low-energy crew while Rachel took E & T for a quick swim. Cate and Sam seemed delighted alternately to graze through dinner items and run amok in T & E’s playthings.

Cate and Sam happily ran amok

While Friday Thursday night may not have gone as I or Rachel envisioned earlier in the week, we enjoyed visiting, and I hope we’ll try again soon. I also want so say a special thank you to Eleanor and Thomas, who sorted their toys in advance, identifying age-appropriate items for our girls and stowing others safely behind doors. That was really thoughtful!

Mail from Sharon!

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

One day after breakfast, we emptied the mailbox and found an envelope addressed to Sam and Cate. It was a letter from Aunt Sharon — who departed Houston for Greensboro, North Carolina at the end of April — and it included a tiny knit (crocheted?) butterfly finger puppet. Much delight ensued! Thanks, Sharon!

Cate, Sam, and a heap of new mail

Cate holding the letter

Sam with a butterfly on her finger