Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Swimming Lessons

I have a theory that if you put a 7 year old in a swimming pool or a lake, you can stand back and watch him or her learn to swim. Throw that child a few pointers about kicking, stroking, and breathing and watch a swimmer materialize before your eyes.

I had the opportunity to witness just such a thing when I went to Ponderosa Hills pool with Athan, Leon and Aliou. Our hosts were Jenny, Kyle, and Candice, and when we got there at 10am, we had the entire pool to ourselves. The kids stayed in the pool for the next 2 1/2 hours, only emerging a couple of times to scarf down a fat pretzel, a bite of beef jerkey, or sip of melted yogurt before getting right back in the water.

Veterans Kyle and Candice were great instructors and life guards and undoubtedly the models for some of the things the boys learned. Jenny and I took turns getting in the water with the kids while the other one stayed on deck with an eagle eye watching their playful antics. Jenny pulled the boys on water boards for thrilling trips into the deep water and had a pool bottom "tea party" with Candice. I tended to put on my instructional cap, offering suggestions for improving mobility in the water. The main lesson of the day was cupping one's hands for greater traction during dog paddle and crawl stroke and looking at the sky while floating on the back to improve buoyancy. They all enjoyed learning how to do the dead man's float and diving from a kneeling position on the deck.

Athan probably had the most remarkable growth spurt when he discovered he could dive in and swim ALL the way across the pool. After about 10 of these trips, Candice led him to the deep end (with our permission) to try his new found skill there. He was glowing with pride, swimming beside the elegant mermaid Candice.

Aliou had a blast kicking, floating, and diving on water toys, but also demonstrated a very skillful back stroke.

Leon was an ever-eager student, who despite chattering teeth, continued to practice his crawl stroke all morning and finally mastered a pretty good dog paddle that took a little less energy and moved him more swiftly to where he wanted to go. His back float is also superb!

Kyle, the oldest of the bunch, showed everyone how to do flip dives off the side and handstands on the bottom, which they tried again and again. He was also a pair of 3rd eyes, keeping watch on 3 rambunctious 7-year-olds who were mastering the ability to swim.

Sadly, I forgot the camera, though I'm not sure it would have been easy to replace the eagle eye with a camera lens with everyone shouting "Watch this, Dearma!" Jenny and I agreed that being ultra-alert for 2 1/2 hours was exhausting. I don't know about her, but I took a nap when I got home.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Planting Pleasure

When I asked Culley if there was some kind of service I could do for his birthday, he said he'd like to have the planters on his deck cleaned up and replanted with annuals and some more perennials.

WOW! I thought, is this a gift for him or for me? Planning, shopping, and planting a little deck garden sounded like a lot of fun.

First, I drew a diagram of the deck and the placement of all the planters with their existing perennials, and then I set my mind to dreaming. I was thinking about color, seasons, deer, and children, all of which had to be factored in-- deer-proof stuff for the patio, flowers Nell could pick, spaces for the fairy gardens she and Huck like to make, plants that would bloom until Thanksgiving and ones that would return next spring, textures that would be pleasing against the oak backdrop that surrounded the deck, and colors that would be complimentary. I made lots of notes . . .

And then I went shopping and filled Cindy's truck with six packs and quart pots. I couldn't find the bulbs I wanted, but I would plant those later in the fall. At the house, I spent several hours cleaning up the planters, turning the existing potting soil and adding new soil to many of the planters. Then Cindy joined me, and we got to work planting. It took us 2 days. The work was such fun that at one point, Cindy said, "Why don't we do this for a living?" I was on exactly the same page. There could not be a more pleasant past time than working in the dirt with a passel of plants.

We filled the deck and patio with lavender, society garlic, petunias and zinnias and ganzia, coleus and baby roses, star jasmine and even a Japanese maple, to name a few. I'm looking forward to watching this garden grow, sure that in a month or so my dreaming will be realized.

Thanks Culley. This was a mutually beneficial exchange.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Clare is 2

Clare relished every minute of her 2nd birthday, reminding us all to slow down and savor time. She patiently awaited the older children who had to be called from play far and wide to come sing. She glowed after blowing out her candles, never for a minute realizing she'd had help from Dearma who was sitting behind her. She allowed the first piece of cake to go to brother Athan without a word of complaint, and he dutifully stood by to assist with present unwrapping--the hard stuff like breaking apart plastic ties and packaging. Clare carefully pointed to each letter of her name on every envelope and then studied each card as if memorizing the words. The time she took with each gift was the ultimate gift to the giver, topped off by the sweetest "thank yous" ever spoken. Once all the gifts were opened, she marched down to the lake--in her distintive deliberate stride-- to try out her new pink inner tube, a gift from Yay-yay, also know as Granddaddy.
Happy Birthday, Clare. We will savor your 2nd year in the style you so beautifully illustrated.