Saturday, August 28, 2010

Fishies in the Water

I don't know that I've posted much about it, but for the past year and a half or so, the kids had been taking weekly swimming lessons at a swim school in a neighboring city. It seemed like every time I put them in lessons in the summer, it took them a week to warm back up to the water and I just wanted them to have exposure to it every week.

But it turns out that weekly swim classes, while convenient, make for painfully slow progress. And this swim school was particularly adamant about the kids being able to kick well, including dolphin kicking, before teaching them to do anything with their arms. So after a year and a half, I felt like they still didn't know how to swim and decided it was time for something new.I'd gotten recommendations from several friends for a woman who teaches swimming in her backyard pool. It was closer to the house than the swim school and we were able to schedule convenient lessons...four days a week for two weeks...with one of her four 20-something sons.The very first day, I knew this was going to be something I enjoyed a lot more than the swim school. First of all, I got to sit outside in the sun, in a chair. The swim school was indoors with a big window separating me from the pool and really uncomfortable benches to sit on. Besides that, the first item on the agenda was to show the kids how to use their arms to swim freestyle!The second day or so, they were taught side breathing...and I realized what a disservice had been done by letting the swim school teach them to breathe using "pop-ups". It's so hard for them to breathe while keeping their heads in the water now! I think that part was pretty confusing for them for a while.But after the first two-week session, I signed them up for three more weeks. They had one week with a former Olympic swim coach from Moldova and one of their first teacher's brothers. Then another two weeks with their original teacher...with the very last day with the owner herself.They loved it and although they hardly look pretty swimming in a pool, they can now swim a few laps and even do a little backstroke. Smunch still lacks a lot of confidence in his abilities and stops at the side a lot. Mam, on the other hand believes she can do just about anything and outperformed him in stamina, even if her technique was a little more roughshod.Yesterday was our last class of the summer. I'm ready for it. And I don't think the kids will have any problem getting back in the water next year...hopefully in this very pool.

Bring on soccer season!

School Again

I feel fortunate to have kids who actually seem to like school. I didn't hear a single complaint about going back. Mam was excited to start first grade and play on the "big playground" with Smunch. And although Smunch's best friend wasn't in his class this year, he was excited about his 3rd grade teacher...who is possibly one of the nicest individuals on the planet.

Mam doesn't know this, but her 1st grade class, with a team of two teachers, would probably be the most requested class of know...if schools took requests. I honestly hadn't considered the possibility that she would be placed there, but I was thrilled nonetheless.
Daddy joined us for the big walk to the first day of school. I'm so glad my kids don't complain about the walking, or really acknowledge that there might be alternatives. Honestly, if I had to drive and find parking, it would probably take longer than the walking, especially on that first day.I've never had to see off two children at the same time on the same playground. I wasn't quite sure what to do and I didn't get all the photos I would have liked to get.And, so far, both of them seem thrilled to be back in school. I'm thrilled too! Gone are the long days of squabbling. I can work in peace...for hours. I can schedule appointments on any day at any time before 2 o'clock. It's an amazing amount of freedom. I no longer have to rush to be back at school by 11:30 for kindergarten pickup.

I do wonder if, in a couple of weeks, I'll start missing having my little kindergartener around. But since she often insisted on watching TV, I'm glad to have her in school instead. It isweird though to see her sitting at a desk of her own, looking so very grown up.

Supplies Overlord...or Overload...or Something

Unlike most parents at our elementary school, I spent time over at the school every single day for the week before school started (except for that Friday out with my mom). I'm sure the kids had already had their fill of the playground, long before that first bell rang.

On the upside, I got early access to class lists and already knew I was happy with where the kids had been placed. Most parents were left to be anxious about that for several days after I knew. On the downside, every time I looked at this:I was overwhelmed by the feeling that I was just one tiny person in a vast sea of school supplies.

A couple of the third grade teachers, who are oh-so-particular, decided they wanted their supplies earlier than my promised Thursday delivery date. I made no promises, but since I have reason to want happy third grade teachers this year, I was compelled to go in by myself and sift through the third grade supplies. I was lucky to have a good friend join me for part of the morning because it was a ton of stuff to go through. I arrived around 9. We had it delivered around a couple of very happy and appreciative ladies.

Naturally, the third teacher on their team noticed us delivering supplies. I didn't have time to deliver hers, but by that evening, I had an e-mail requesting her supplies as well, please. I went back to deliver those on my own the next day.

Wednesday, a small team of volunteers came and we opened all the boxes to make sure we had everything for each grade. Naturally, we didn't. But at least we knew what we didn't have. It was a job made difficult by the fact that the janitorial staff chose Tuesday afternoon to wax half the room housing the supplies, giving us very little room to work in.We basically had that little corner back there where all the supplies are stacked.

Thursday, a large team of volunteers came and helped divvy everything up into supplies for each classroom. More things were missing and I'm not sure why. Who would steal 50 packages of colored pencils?? But everything got squared away. My little micromanaging brain had a moment of panic when I realized that I really didn't know who took what where, but I'm so appreciative that we have such a great school community where I could recruit 16 volunteers without much effort, that I had to let that little aspect of the process go.

I've spent the past week retrieving missing items and dealing with botched orders, but I think my job is nearly at an least mostly. I still have two quarters worth of baby wipes to purchase, after all. But I'm fairly happy with how things turned out. Unlike my last big PTA project, I feel like this one was a success, as far as it went.

I have some ideas about how to improve the process. I'll be happy to share those with next year's school supply chair!

Welcoming the Newest Family Member

If you look back a couple of posts, you'll notice my last post about San Diego mentioned an impending new addition to the cousinhood. As I wrote, I had no idea that the new addition would arrive the very next day, on August 21st. So, SPENCER! is now a proud big brother.Lucas, who will doubtlessly be known as LUCAS! before too long, followed the family trend of arriving a little before expected, but weighed in as the most monstrous baby my sister and I have produced thus a whopping 5 pounds 11 ounces.

Everyone sounds happy and healthy. Oh, Aunt Karen, if you thought the first one was an adventure, you ain't seen nothin' yet!

One Last Hurrah

My mom works at a church as a bookkeeper and apparently this job has its perks because she called one day to say that she'd gotten some killer coupons to go to a local theme park and was excited to get together with me and take the kids. It is not at all surprising that she'd call me about a coupon. My family on her side is nothing if not thrifty, but I was a little surprised that she'd want to do anything with the three of us, much less go to an amusement park.

You see, over the years, I've devolved from being "the good daughter" to being the "unappreciative and unhelpful" daughter. Nevermind that I had two small children who seem to need an inordinate amount of attention and about whom I was admittedly a spaz after spending almost 6 months in the NICU. That's my excuse for my reputation anyway. And I'm sticking to it.

In my entire childhood, I also remember going to amusement parks maybe two or three times with my parents. Ever.

Anyway, my mother has become a very busy person in her golden years and since the kids had a week of camp (Mam at YMCA Art Safari camp and Smunch at Lego Engineering camp) and swim lessons to attend, we found that there was just one day when we could all go to the park. Fortunately, that part worked out well. We arrived on the Friday before school started, just as the park opened, which wasn't until 11am.

Mam immediately wanted to go on The Banana Split ride. Smunch wasn't so sure. It's one of those rides that's usually decked out like a pirate ship where it swings like a big pendulum. At first, Mam and Gram were going to go alone. Then Smunch changed his mind and we all went. Mam and Gram did well. Smunch and I were kinda horrified. I remembered something. I'm not at all thrilled by thrill rides. And apparently my son isn't either.

He and Mam both liked this one though. It's like a Teacups ride, with the teacups dressed up as garlic blossoms.Because there was no line, the kids stayed on for a second round while my mom and I couldn't get off fast enough!Mam wanted to go on the Mushroom Swings. Smunch didn't dare, so we watched Mam and Gram from the sidelines. The watching didn't make him want to do it any more than he had before.Smunch, ever the cautious child, was even too scared to go on the ferris wheel with me. So Mam and I did that while he and Gram went to ride the monorail.After that, my mom gave each of the kids $5 to spend on whatever they wanted. I approved this idea. After all, my mom was very good at teaching us how to manage money. And this would probably be a good lesson for my kids. They're certainly old enough. Of course, it meant that Mam bought almost $5 worth of cotton candy and Smunch bought at $3 lollipop that he has barely touched since. Mam certainly found other things she could spend her money on and I felt a little badly for not encouraging her to shop around, but I suppose it was a good lesson to realize she'd bought cotton candy and now couldn't afford a "mood necklace". She bought a small lollipop and owed my mom 20 cents in the end. Smunch held on to his extra $2.

By the time we were done in the gift shop, it was already 4 o'clock. I'm not sure where all the time went, honestly. We took the kids to the water park portion of the park and stayed there until they turned the water off and closed the park at 5.

Such a nice day. It wasn't even sweltering as that particular park often is. And who knows? Maybe my least the part fueled by my reluctance to "share" my kids with my mother when they were fragile on the mend...

Friday, August 20, 2010

Brace Yourself

And so it begins...

The Return

Remember those school supplies I mentioned? This is what I returned to.All those paper towels and such are the things I've been schlepping from Costco all summer long. The boxes are the ones that were delivered in my absence. All these things have to be divvied up an delivered to the proper classrooms. So what did I do?Took Smunch to a baseball game, of course. He opted to skip going to a game in San Diego in favor of watching his second place Giants play the division-leading San Diego Padres in San Francisco right after we got back.

We had great seats, Timmy was pitching, we got to see Buster Posey hit a home run and Andreas Torres make a spectacular catch. But it was a miserable game. For the first time ever, Smunch asked to leave during the 7th inning. Final score 8-2. The highlight might've been having Amy Gutierrez, the sportscaster for CSN broadcast from our section. And really? That's not very exciting!Fortunately, I didn't face the mountain of boxes at school on my own. A good friend came on Monday and helped me meet the request by the 3rd grade teachers to get their supplies early. Then I went on my own on Tuesday to deliver supplies to the last 3rd grade teacher. My army of volunteers showed up on Wednesday and Thursday and the job was quickly dispatched...despite a lot of glitches in the order. Many odds and ends to tie up. May I feel less need to volunteer this year!


It's always hard to leave San Diego when the kids have so much fun with their cousin. Having never had cousins near my own age, it always floors me what a great time they all have together, even if Smunch is often left the eldest and a boy who is quite different from his cousin. It's still a trip they look forward to with a lot of excitement. And next time? There'll be another cousin to be excited about.What chaos awaits!

Mission Bay and Cupcakes with a Side of Baseball

Initially, we'd thought we might head out to some waterslides on our last day in San Diego, but upon further investigation, there was so little than SPENCER! could do in a place like that that the kids reconsidered and decided to spend the day with their cousin rather than doing one of their very favorite things. It was a sweet moment. So, instead, we joined Uncle David and SPENCER! at the park at Mission Bay while Aunt Karen went to an appointment nearby.I hadn't seen a dome like this one since elementary school. The kids loved it, especially Mam. SPENCER! was pretty excited too.Mam was also very happy to pose on top of this climbing structure.After spending some time at the park, we headed for lunch. About that time, I started fielding phone calls from the shipping company that was delivering the school supplies I'd ordered for the kids' school at home. The delivery guy was at the school, but no one else was there to let him in. Greaaat. So I ran around like a crazy woman for a few minutes, taking calls on my cell, taking calls on Daddy's cell, getting access to my e-mail on Daddy's iPhone, looking up the principal's cell phone number. After a slightly frantic 15 minutes or so, it was all taken care of. We had lunch, then went to the pool in Aunt Karen's neighborhood. I didn't take my camera, so no pictures, but it made for a mellow afternoon.

And after dinner, we visited this rather fantastic place:Because what could be better than a combination of cupcakes and baseball? And oh, they were fabulous!I hadn't even intended to get one for myself, but it was oh-so-good! The kids agreed.

Monday, August 16, 2010


I was feeling far too lazy to organize a trip to the beach the day after our safari adventure. I suggested a day at the pool instead of packing another lunch and trekking out across the sands of Torrey Pines State Reserve. But, Daddy really wanted to go. He loves taking the kids out in the waves. And the beaches up here in the frigid north just aren't that inviting.So, Daddy did it all. He got most of the lunches together and packed for the short trip to the coast. The kids objected. They somehow got their hearts set on the pool. As you can tell from the photo above, they were devastated to see the ocean instead of the poolside.Mam managed to scare the living daylights out of me by zipping a quarter mile down the beach in the moment that my back was turned, but other than that one heart-stopping moment when I thought maybe she'd been dragged under the waves, it was a peaceful, sunny, sandy afternoon. Smunch prided himself on digging a 50-foot trench and then retired to our "cabana". Mam and Spencer spent a lot of time in the water, but also played in the sand. Mam was filthy by the time we left.And Aunt Karen got to relax.But most importantly, Daddy got to play. With his kids. At the beach.

On the Wild Side

If you live in California, you already know it's been an exceptionally cool summer, temperature-wise. That was the case in San Diego as well, so it made for an excellent summer to go to the San Diego Wild Animal Park...which has recently been renamed the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. We decided to give Aunt Karen and break and took SPENCER! with us while she and Uncle David went to a doctor's appointment and hung out at home.

It made for a long, fun day at the park! We started off in the lorikeet enclosure.Then we headed to the tour of the Serengeti, my favorite part of the park and the most Safari-like.Our own little animals were pretty happy and cooperative too.So many things to see and so little time.One of my other favorite parts of the day was when Smunch and I got to spend some time in the aviary while Daddy took Spencer and Mam to try and find a missing baseball hat. Usually, we just walk through the aviary and see a bird or two, but when you really spend some time in there, you get to see how cool the birds actually are.And with my modest background in raptor rehabilitation, I was thrilled to see the little burrowing owlslooking as irritable as ever. And my first glimpse of a California condor in real life. How very cool!Speaking of cool, we didn't leave the park until almost 5:30 and Aunt Karen had dinner all ready to go when we got back. How awesome is that?