Thursday, August 05, 2010

8/5/2010 Safe swimming??

OK no more talking about how safe swimming is compared to running. First Julian bashes open his chin, then tonight I went for a swim and was attacked by the worst muscle cramps I've ever had. Alternately both calves, and various small muscles in my feet too. I was SO mad, I was gliding along so nicely, well on my way toward a nonstop 2000yard swim. Cramps really are dangerous; I was only a few yards from the side when the biggest one hit, and I had to work hard to get to the side. Dunno what it's about but I'm taking a hot bath, muscle relaxants, and going right to bed. It's Burn Notice* night anyway.


*seems I'm not the only Sharon Gless fan, she was nominated for an Emmy for her role on BN.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

8/4/2010 Tennis, anyone?

Yesterday after Julian and I were done at Urgent Care, we went back to the school where the Y daycamps are held (conveniently about a 2-minute drive away). Since the doc had said no swimming this week while his stitches were in, we had to make a change from Splash Camp.

Julian was very excited about Lego Bash'n'Bots, but I warned him this popular camp would probably be full, and it was. All that was open was Prince and Princesses (Prince and Princesses? Now really, do any boys join this one??), Hogwarts, and tennis. The Hogwarts camp director was there, a funny friendly guy, and we chatted up the Harry Potter stories (of which I'm a big fan). But when I offered Julian the choices, he said, "Tennis" right away. "You sure?" "Yup, tennis." OK! Tennis it is.

I realized in the middle of the day today that I wasn't even sure if he knew what tennis is.

But he had a great time today, happily describing the games they played and how to serve and that he beat his whole group in a running race. Uh-huh, I'd like to hear the rest of that story. The reason for my skepticism is well-founded: it happens that an old friend from Las Madres was in his group, and Julian claimed to have outrun him too. He cited their exact times in seconds, but I still find it hard to believe that Julian outran athletic and older Rylan (Gabriel's peer).

These sports camps typically do the specific activity in the morning, then other things in the afternoon. Ironically this afternoon was Swim Day for the tennis camp. But that was OK, the tennis camp Director told me that lots of kids don't swim, and they have other activities set up for them. He also told me at pickup today that Julian seemed to really enjoy himself and picked up the tennis part quickly. Tennis, so far, is a big win.

Splash camp, on the other hand....not so much. Gabriel said yesterday that the 45-minute lesson was "great" because half of it involved the kids floating around in life vests, which they could opt out of, and he did. Today he got lucky again because they were buddied up, and his buddy had to get out of the pool for some reason, so he got to get out also. He says he's not learning anything, and complains about having to "practice." That's the 45-minute lesson part; then they get lots of water free play time, which he likes.

Both Gabriel and Julian found the pool to be too cold for lessons, which means there's likely too much waiting. It's a large outdoor pool, kept to a typical temperature for a practice pool, which is great for actually swimming, but a little cold if you have to hold onto the side for more than a few minutes. The boys complained about the pool where I swim too, so I know how cold it is, and it's perfect if you're actually moving. On hot days it's actually a little too warm.

Talking with a coworker today who has 2 boys aged 10 and 12, and two Las Madres friends whose kids have finally learned to swim, I'm increasingly convinced that short intensive courses (every day for 2 weeks) in an entrepreneur's backyard pool with just one or two kids in the lesson is plenty -- provided the lessons are of high quality. Heck, I'll even take lessons of mediocre quality if they'd just teach them to use their arms!

Gabriel is at a level in which he is taught arms (at DACA that is), and he could benefit from plain old practice, but I gather he's not getting enough pressure from the Y camp to swim even from one side of the pool to the other, a mere 25 yards. I know he could be motivated to; he was very intrigued to hear that I usually swim a "mile" when I work out swimming. Somehow "a mile" sounded a lot more impressive than "1800 yards" (which is a bare minimum for any real swimmers).

Julian isn't even being taught to use his arms yet at DACA. From the brief stint we did at Water Babies last summer, in which they view arms as pretty important in swimming, I saw that he was quite ready to use them. Otherwise it's called "treading water." Even Katrina could benefit from arm practice now, though she's even lamer than her swim lessons, so she is getting a little out of them, but not nearly as much as she could.

Wouldn't it be funny if Julian really got into tennis. We'd have a great story to tell about how it got started.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

8/3/2010 Chin-bonk

"I think he needs stitches," said the Splash Camp director. I didn't know how to answer; the camp director sounded so young and unsure itself. The camp director continued, "He's sitting next to me, he isn't crying and it's not bleeding...but I think he needs to be seen."

I called our pediatricians, whose phone-answering medical assistant wouldn't tell me anything until I'd gotten to Julian and had a chance to look myself. As if I'm any expert. I had to wait almost 10 minutes on hold when I did get to Julian and see his wound (and agreed with the young camp director). Then it took 2 minutes to drive to a nearby urgent care center.

He'd jumped into the pool in a strange way, trying to do one of his spin-things as he jumped. Apparently he'd rotated just enough so that if clearing the pool edge was in question, his chin would be the first to get it. And did. So, urgent care clinic, here we come.

Band-aid in the waiting area.

The doc (P.A.) stitches him up, after slathering a numbing agent across the wound and then injecting it with Novacaine.

Six in all, though the doc used small stitches and very thin suture thread so as to minimize facial scarring.

Julian never cried or complained through the whole thing, quite the trooper! My guess is that the pain and discomfort comes later.

Someone had to break the impasse -- so far, we've had no broken bones, no casts, not even any stitches! It had to happen sooner or later.


Monday, August 02, 2010

8/2/2010 Swim Camp

Somehow before the summer, in my ongoing aggravation about slow swim learning, I decided to sign the boys up for Splish Splash camp, a weeklong Y daycamp that would emphasize swimming every day. Learning by immersion, sink or swim, one lesson every day -- maybe that would give them the jump-start (or "sink in") they'd need to kick off actual swimming. I've been discouraged again with the slow progress at DACA, which Gabriel has now quit and the other two only have one month left of, and hoped that the Y camp would kick-start things.

No dice. The boys reported today that they were split into very broad groups, by kids saying if they could swim or not, and then had what they described as a lame 45-minute lesson. I ignored complaints about cold -- they're used to absurdly warm water in training pools -- but they both said they could do way more than the class offered. Both said their DACA classes were way better. Damned with faint praise, again.

The rest of the day camp was a regular old fun day camp, but the swim lesson part of it seems sounds like a bust. Again. Like I should be surprised? It's so freakin' difficult to find good swim lessons! Or even bad ones -- just lessons in which they're actually taught to swim!

After picking the the boys up from camp, we zoomed home to get ready to go to, of all things, a swim lesson at DACA. This time just Katrina and Julian.

Julian had a great time in his "red ribbon" class, but once again I found myself quelling irritation that he's in a group of other kids who I see as holding him back. The teacher had to give extra attention to teaching very basic skills like diving. I thought at his level we were sort of beyond this broad differences in skill.

Now, in fairness, Julian had no idea how to dive either his first day, but after just a few lessons, he can dive far more confidently than today's classmates. He leapt to volunteer to go first, anxious to show off his "flip" (meaning, he can't dive straight and ends up flipping underwater):

This tells me the classes just aren't structured right, if skills that can be learned quickly (diving) are mixed in with more fundamental ones that tend to group kids together (errr...swimming?? oh no never mind, that's not until 3 levels later.)

Once again, I found myself watching his class with a mixture of irritation and pride. I remember my one and only experience Momma-bearing, when Julian was in a lower-level class, low enough that you could still get cryers in it. One day, Julian's poor teacher was completely consumed dealing with a new cryer, and I counted the number of turns he had, four, all being pulled around on a barbell. That was too much...or rather, too little. I asked (complained), and he got moved to a class with peers more in keeping with his level.

Again today I found myself wanting to goad the teacher, "can we dispense with the preliminaries and move on to SWIMMING?!"

And this was in the good class today!

He had a new teacher today, who overall was pretty good. Julian's still learning how to dive for sink rings.

One new classmate was not only 10 minutes late (that's really late for a half-hour class), but she had no goggles, looked like she was about to cry at first, and then was constantly chided and helped by her mother, including being helped with climbing out of the pool. Julian is substantially shorter than both girls, and has longer clingier swim trunks to handicap him, so struggled mightily to get out to the side. But I stayed out of it, and he did it.

I wasn't even trying to catch this, but she also gives the girl instructions during class to kick. Later, off-camera, she admonishes her daughter not to let go of the side. I did nothing to support her cause, motioning to Julian to let go if he caught my eye, not that he needed any extra encouragement. He likes letting go and practicing treading water while waiting his turn (a long time while the teacher had to persuade the girl he was working with to let go of the rope and dive for a ring -- which Julian can't do either but he certainly tries hard and eagerly).

I've had it. I'm really tired of being frustrated about swim lessons. I never felt that way at Water Babies, but I feel that way all the time now with all the other classes.

I'm no expert on teaching kids to swim, but I am now an expert on sitting on the sidelines and seeing nothing happening that easily could. I'm really quite certain Julian could easily be taught freestyle -- he's strong and confident and willing and eager. TEACH HIM, already!! I'd do it myself if he'd listen to me!

Fortunately I have some friends who share the same frustratins and have invested far more time and effort into their kids' swimming than I have, and have finally found good lessons, mostly private and semi-private ones taught by entrepreneurs in their backyards. Next summer I'm going straight to them.

My boys' swim lessons do show to some extent, but they should really be far, far more capable than they are given the time and effort they've put in already. I'm no expert on teaching kids to swim, but for the life of me I just can't summon enough creativity to explain why not to teach a capable willing 6-year-old to use his arms in the water. Try as a I might, I just can't craft a reason against it. At no time in my swimming education do I recall being deprived of this resource.

I do love Y camps; nostagically I learned to swim at a Y sleep-away camp, but now even beloved Y campsfall into my general umbrella of disgust at kids' swim lessons. I'm not an instant-gratification kinda gal; I know it takes a lot of time and build-up to learn to swim, but lost opportunities irk me, and this is one. Indeed, I blame the boring classes on Gabriel's lost interest -- he's actually a decent swimmer, and swimming fits well with his physical abilities, but he doesn't like swim classes. I can't blame him. Neither do I.

After this month, that's it for conventional swim lessons. Next summer, it's time to bring in the big guns!

After class, back at home, Katrina had a great time running around the front yard, chasing Gabriel's remote-control truck, teasing Dad about the mushrooms growing in the lawn, and just generally being silly. We use our front yard like this, in small short little snippets, all the time now. Before landscaping, months would go by and I just wouldn't make it near this area. Now it's fun to see what's bloomed, what's growing, what needs to be cut back, how things look. It's not perfect and now that it's there, there are things I'd do differently, but still -- WHAT a difference! It's FUN to be out there, instead of cringe-inducing!


Sunday, August 01, 2010

8/1/2010 Three Moms

I had a nice time catching up with friends at a Las Madres picnic today. I've been so out of touch, now that I've been working for 6 months. But these things always remind me what friendship and community is about.

One thing that was fun was trying get an update for this series of photos. Today's shot was taken in the same park, but a different spot.

September 2006. Left to right: Stef, Noemi, Betsy. Our babies arrived Nov.9, Oct.5, and Nov.15, respectively, all full-term.

June 2007, about 10 months later.

June 2009, two years from the last photo. We missed 2008 somehow. Our babies are 2-1/2 now.

August 2010. Another 14 months and now age 4 is coming up. It wasn't clear we'd be able to carry them for the photo -- this will be the last time!

Yay, later Sonia sent me this photo she took with her super-duper-uber good camera.

After all the park play, we got home and had another playdate. We don't have a lot, but the ones we do have are all arranged by Dave! A coworker has a son who's one year and grade older than Gabriel who visits in the summer, and they've gotten to be friends. That was nice.

Back to it tomorrow -- and then some. Day camps mean lots of preparing their things, lunch-making, a big break in the usual dropoff/pickup routine. I thought I'd be more excited about it, but I'm semi-dreading it. Especially after a weekend filled with lots of fun and great kid-time.