Molly and I had the morning together while Claire finished up a sleepover at a friend’s house. I asked Molly what she wanted to do, and we ended up combining the top two things on her wishlist: going for a bike ride and going over the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge in downtown Austin.
In a hilarious turn of events not well captured in photographs, Molly ended up riding her bike right past an active film set on the bridge. The crew yelled, “We’ve got a biker! Heads up!” Molly was not the only such biker, but she was the funniest by far.
Here is our route for Molly’s ride.
Molly is really motivated to ride her bike but is so far frustrated with the process and thinks the training wheels aren’t working right.
Almost every weekend this summer, the girls andI have gone to our favorite hangout: Barking Springs. A cold, rocky, slippery, green water paradise downstream from Baron Springs pool, this shallow swimming spot is a favorite for dogs and all kinds of people. We walk over there and join the families, dog owners, slackers, fitness nuts, teenagers, and people on dates for an afternoon of splashing and floating in the water, and trying not to hurt ourselves or drown. We had a 100% success rate this year on not drowning, but we did see a couple of other people almost drown, including a toddler in a floaty that got away from her parents, so that was a disturbing lesson to see in person. Within five seconds on trouble, about a dozen people were scrambling to help the bobbing toddler, and they got her out safely. One of the great things about Barton Springs is that everyone is nice and in a good mood. You just can’t help it there!
The we run things is to go to the flat cement part on the west side of the river and wade into the current coming from the waterfall. We float downstream for a while and do it again, trying not to trip and kill ourselves in the process of getting out of the river. Sometimes we invite a friend of Claire’s to come along, which makes it even more fun. Managing three kids at Barking Springs is not easy, but it does make the day more fun.
On the walk home, we always stop by Sno Beach, a snow cone stand that makes the best snow cones in town. It makes for the perfect summer day.
This Father’s Day was broken up into three distinct parts. First there was the part where we took the girls and Uncle Bob to Austin Java for a nice breakfast. This was the part before the whole family had all fallen into Ladybird Lake. Then came the part where Bob left for Corpus Christi and the rest of us went canoeing on Ladybird Lake, tipped the canoe, and the whole family fell into Ladybird Lake with all our clothes and possessions. The third part was when we and ruminated on everyone falling into lake, who reacted which way, what it meant for our upcoming boating trip to the Pacific Northwest, and so forth. The discussion also touched on whether this was the best Father’s Day ever or the worst.
We had decided to finally go canoeing on the lake for Father’s Day. Everyone liked the idea. After breakfast with Bob, we all geared up in sunscreen, water shoes as available, and hats as available. Claire did not have good water shoes, so she wore her waterproof pink and yellow Crocs sandals. I got to wear my cowboy hat, which I had purchased late last summer as the “perfect sun hat” since it was light, waterproof, and has good sun coverage all around.
Being the honorary father of the day, I picked Zilker Park Boat Rentals for our put-off point since I always liked that little shady spot just downstream from the Barton Springs Pool. Thinking we were being overly careful, we left our cell phones in the car, and I left the car keys in a little plastic box at the rental dock. (You know, just in case. Not that anything would happen.) On the canoe, we took only a small bag with Molly’s diapers, wipes, and some bottled water. The dock guy gave us all oars, including one for each of the girls. The instructions were to keep the girls sitting on the floor in the middle of the canoe.
We rowed down the stream to Ladybird lake, then upstream toward the Mo-Pac bridge. It was great. The weather was warm but pleasant, the kids were having fun. We counted turtles, dodged a seaweed-like stringy plant growing on the water, and just enjoyed the day. We looped under Mo-Pac bridge feeling relaxed and confident and headed back to the springs. Kit and I took off our clumsy life jackets but left them on the girls, just in case. By now Molly was sitting on Kit’s lap and “helping” row the boat. I had to row a little harder to make up for Molly’s “help” but sort of enjoyed the physical challenge.
Then it happened. If you ask Molly, she dropped her oar. From my perspective, I would swear I saw her throw it clear of the boat. It does not matter, really. Molly’s oar went over the left side of the boat. But the missing oar did not in itself cause the canoe to tip over. It was the fact that we all suddenly reached to grab the oar at exactly the same time that tipped the boat. It did not take much. The boat just tipped to the left and spilled us all out into the green lake, full of turtles, fish, weeds, birds, probably snakes, and now two adults and two kids.
Kit, who cannot swim and was not wearing a life jack, was initially panicked, especially for Molly, who was in the water next to her. Kit managed to tread water with floating by her in her little life jacket. It was briefly pretty scary for Kit and Molly, our two non-swimmers. Claire, who had a life jacket and could swim, was as cool as a cucumber. She just floated around with a small grin on her face. Kit said I seemed panicked, but I do not remember that. I remember thinking, hmm, did that just happen? Are we really in the lake now? I guess we better do something about this. The water feels refreshing.
Within what seemed like 10 seconds, a gaggle of lake-goers showed up to help. They were mostly on kayaks and those flat boards that resemble surf boards. A dad with his own family showed up and let Kit and Molly grab onto his board, which was as stable as land, as he said. He helped calm Kit and Molly. Claire used the board as a base but would sometimes shove off to swim around just for fun. A kid 20 yards aways yelled, “Is this someone’s cowboy hat?”, waving my hat in his hand. We were still missing one of Claire’s sandals and the diaper bag.
Meanwhile, another dad was helping me out with the canoe. He knew exactly what do to with a waterlogged canoe, and I just followed orders. I swam the bloated canoe over to the edge of the lake, maybe 20-30 yardsaway. There was no “shore” per se, only a less deep area near the tree-choked edge where we could touch the bottom. I got my footing either on loose rocks or maybe turtles. I never got bit, so I am guessing they were rocks. The water weeds were thick here, and I was swimming around in them up to my shoulders. It reminded me a little bit of the garbage compactor scene from Star Wars. The other guy said I should just flip the canoe over to dump out the water, and then flip it back over. This was not as easy as it sounds, and it took all my strength. We flipped it twice before it was lake-worthy. When I loaded back into the canoe, the helper guy looked at me and make an “ick” look on his face. I was wrapped in those long green water weeds, which I had to unwrap from my arms and torso.
I paddled the canoe back to the family, who were still surrounded by friendly helpers. I was instructed to stay in the boat as ballast while Kit and the kids loaded up. Their spirits were good now, having calmed from the initial shock. Claire was happy as always. The girls were lifted into the canoe, and Kit had to pull herself in, which would later leave terrible bruises on the backs of her legs. Someone had produced our diaper bag, which was full of soaking diapers and now weighed about 50 pounds. Someone else had found Claire’s missing Croc sandal.
From there, we said our thanks to our helpers and paddled back. I told the canoe rental guy we tipped the boat when our kid dropped her paddle. He said, “Did you all reach for it at once?” He reduced our rental fee to half since we “were out of the boat for some of the time.”
There was a discussion on the way home that this demonstrated the importance of water safety and life jackets. If Molly in particular had not been wearing a life vest, we probably would have been diving down to pull her up from under the green water. And we were lucky that Ladybird Lake is nice and warm, something like 70 degrees, where you could swim all day if you wanted to. When we visit Anacortes, Washington in a couple months, the water will be much colder and more dangerous. You cannot necessarily doddle in the cold water waiting to be rescued. We would also learn after the fact that canoes are notorious for tipping, and a kayak would be a better choice for stability.
Still, it was a great Father’s Day, probably the best ever, and definitely the most memorable. Plus a little kick in the rear over water safety is a good thing too, maybe a blessing in disguise.
Claire has been going on a field trip every Friday for summer camp. She has hit the zoo, parks, museums, a restaurant kitchen, and even a recording studio. But all the parents were the most excited about this week’s field trip to the Austin City Limits theater, which in just the next few weeks will host the likes of Crosby Still & Nash, Tony Bennett, Norah Jones, and the Go-Go’s.
At the ACL theater, apparently the kids got a back-stage tour and a short performance by an unnamed guitarist who played a few silly songs, including a mixed up version of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”, like “Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you pizza.” And then all the kids wold roar that he got the words wrong. It sounded pretty funny.
As she had a few years ago for the Peachtree Road Race, Kit convinced me to go run in the Capital 10k fun run today. I only registered yesterday at the “last-minute” registration at the convention center. I was not really in shape to run the full 6 miles, and our morning was squeezed for time, so I decided to take advantage of the fact that our house was almost exactly along the half-way point of the course. The plan was for Kit and the girls to drop me off at the starting line, drive back to our house, and wait for me in the crowds along Enfield Road. I would run the first half of the race, bow out at our house, and get on with the day. This was a good plan. Only later would I find out that our house, besides being almost exactly half way through the course, was also located almost exactly at the highest point on the course. So I would be running mostly uphill for 3 miles. Believe me, that last stretch burned!
Anyways, Kit and the girls were a welcome sight at that highest point. Claire, as always, had made some friends, and the girls had managed to borrow some pom-poms from someone nearby. I decided that I did, in fact, want to exit the race at our house and suggested maybe next year I could run the whole thing, when I was better prepared and we hopefully did not have haircuts and furniture shopping to deal with that same morning.
With the nice weather, everyone in a good mood, and a little time on our hands today, we decided to go out for lunch South Austin style. We went to the South Congress Ave. trailers to eat. It was a little awkward feeding Molly out among the wind and crowds on a picnic table, but everyone had a good time, as you can see.
This was a great Christmas, especially for Claire. My brother Tim and his wife Cindy came to Texas for the holidays along with my parents. Everyone came to Austin, and we hosted everyone for Christmas for the first time. Tim and Cindy really hit it off with Claire. Claire had countless games and jokes with them all through the two days they were here. She started things off by showing them her very favorite new show, a Pixar animated short film which Kit had recorded, called One Man Band. She tried to get them to laugh and scream at all the funny bits.
Claire was pretty bummed out when they had to leave. “When are we going to see Uncle Tim and Aunt Cindy again?” When they were actually leaving on Saturday morning, Claire wanted to avoid an extended goodbye. “If your’e going to leave, then just leave already”, she said disappointedly. Later we told Claire we might go visit Tim and Cindy some time, and she said, “I really love that idea. And that’s a fact!” She was really sad to see them, and her grandparents Noni and Phil, go. She loved all the fun an attention. And the presents.
As Cindy noted, Claire is the perfect age for Christmas. At four years old, she loved every present she got. There was no complaining about not getting the “right thing” or not getting enough. And she just loved having all the fun people around to entertain.
This was the first year that Claire was really aware of Santa Clause. She said in a matter of fact way that Santa was going to come by at night and drop off some presents. She wanted to know if Santa was coming to our house “first” or not. On Christmas morning, Claire showed up in our bedroom about 6:15. She was concerned because she did not hear Santa Clause during the night, and she thought maybe he had skipped our house. Kit went back down to Claire’s bedroom, pointing out the stuffed stockings on the way down, and Claire was relieved to her that Santa had actually showed up. Kit snuggled with Claire until the “morning light” came on. The morning light is a small light we set up in Claire’s room, and it is set on a timer to turn on at 6:45 to announce the start of the day (ie, when she can come get us). Claire patiently watched the morning light until it turned on, then she and Kit came back up to get me and start Christmas. All the other family members were rousing around that time as well, and we got started on stockings right away. Claire was thrilled with just the stockings, and did not mind taking a long break for everyone to get dressed and freshened up before opening the presents.
At three months old, Little Molly was not as excited about Christmas. In fact, this year, she could not tell Christmas from the Fourth of July. She was a little worn out from all the excitement of entertaining her aunt and uncle and grandparents on Christmas Eve, and she slept quietly upstairs almost the entire Christmas morning, through all the gift exchange. She did not have a chance to appreciate her many presents, including one from Santa. Molly’s time to enjoy Christmas will come soon! You could say she was the big present to us this year.
Now this post could go on and on about all the fun of Christmas 2009. But I better just jump to some highlights…
Not to be too materialistic, but this is always interesting later… Here is a partial list of presents Claire received this year:
A Band in a Box (from Santa), featuring a tambourine, a snare drum, maracas, and a harmonica.
Claire gave lip balm to everyone for presents. She (and me and Kit) made up special lip balm packets from a kid-friendly “make your own lip balm” kit.
Christmas dinner was Texas style, feature BBQ beef brisket, black beans, cole slaw, and apple pie. (I was a little turkeyed-out from Thanksgiving)
Tim and Cindy went running on Town Ladybird Lake and tracked down an award-winning public bathroom that Kit had read about.
In the late afternoon after nap time, we loaded everyone up — all eight of us — in the Honda Pilot for a driving tour of the neighborhoods and houses we are considering to move into next summer. We also drove by said award-winning bathroom.
Claire noted on several occasional that the day after Christmas is Boxing Day. And then Kwanzaa comes next.
Claire, my dad, and I went to Zilker Park in the afternoon to let Claire work off some energy. The playground was full of happy little kids her age, some trying out brand new bikes. Claire came home and had a good hard nap. We repeated the same exercise on “Boxing Day”, and Claire once again had a good hard nap.
Claire’s night ended watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on her little potable DVD player. Gradually five or six of us ended up watching over her shoulder. Claire played her tambourine to the show’s music and distributed her other instruments to the rest of us for additional percussion. We did not sound good, but it was fun.
Claire, of course, did not really want to go to bed on Christmas night, especially since she had so many people and toys to play with. But she was pretty zonkered out and fell asleep quickly.
Molly was wiped out by the whole experience as well, or maybe she was just being her usual sleepy self, and slept through much of Christmas and Boxing Day, including some three-hour haps.
Kit and I were pretty wiped out too. We had prepared to host Christmas and did our shopping in about the day and a half before Christmas. Actually, Kit was wiped out from working 15-hour days, and I did most of the shopping and prep work. (I had been up in Washington DC for a surprise visit for Tim’s 40th birthday party. A big blizzard had hit DC, and I was stranded there an extra day, not leaving much time to prep when I got back.)
Kit’s parents will come up to Austin to celebrate a late Christmas next week. They will certainly bring more entertainment, fun, and toys for Claire and Molly, and some much needed baby siting for me and Kit!
One of the best things about our new house in Austin is that, by complete coincidence, we are just down the street from some friends of friends names Paulette and Richie. Paulette and Richie are always having their adorable grandkids over to their house. Coco and Zoey are about six months younger than Claire, but they are loads of fun. Claire has been invited over many times to play on Sunday afternoon. The afternoon is a dream for Claire, who gets to go nuts with the other girls. There are games and books and snacks. But mostly there is running around and yelling and just being silly. It is probably the most fun Claire has all week.
Paulette and Richie are also very nice. Paulette jokes that, since they live a half mile down our street, I should just pin a note to Claire and send her down on her own.
About a year ago, Claire was having an awful time with her baths. Every night was a trial of patience and nerves. Since then, things have gradually gotten a little better, but no more so than since the move to the new house in Austin. Now the only problem is getting her out of the bath! Maybe it is the new fresher, nicer bathroom with the sunroof, or maybe the just general change of scenery. It really seemed to pick up after our trip to Barton Springs, for whatever reason. Anyways, she loves her baths now.
Claire has also gotten a lot more adventurous in the bath. She is now swimming, splashing, sticking her face in the water, blowing bubbles, and playing with the drain. She may be getting a little too comfortable. She insists that it is really not dangerous to run and jump in the tub. I finally told her that if she slipped and fell, she might have to go to the hospital and get a cast like with her bounce house accident. Yes, I pulled the bounce house card. I felt a little bad using a scare tactic, but it is an honest argument, and it did the trick. No more running and jumping in the tub!
Not long ago, Kit’s job search from Dallas was not going so well. We were afraid Kit would be unemployed, and we would be forced to move to Richardson for the lower rent, where Kit would be a stay-at-home mom with a hard earned but unused MD and PhD. Or we would move somewhere random and presumably cold (Duluth or Scranton come to mind) just to find a place that would hire her. The job market out there is tough now, even for doctors!
But here we are moving to Austin, of all places, where Kit has landed a sweet job thanks to her friend Chrissy from the residency days. Chrissy recommended Kit to her group in Austin, and by some small miracle (actually a big miracle to us), they hired her. We always had our eye on moving to Austin or San Antonio, but we never really thought it would work out. But here we are with a good job lined up for Kit. We are very lucky indeed.
Even though we are happy to move here, Claire had to leave behind some great school friends (Katherine from her Dallas preschool was her best friend!) plus a great baby sitter who we only used once before we left. Claire of course has a new bedroom that is smaller than her old one in Dallas, but it actually works better for her age. She will be starting up at her new preschool soon, which we were also extremely lucky to get her into. Many of our other preschool choices were unorganized and chaotic, and one seemed to be run by a teenage girl in a swimsuit with no shoes. But by another miracle and some good timing, we got Claire into an excellent day care which normally has a two year waiting list.
So far to Claire, Austin has meant a lot of fun, especially in the water. In the first weekend alone, we went swimming or splashing on three different occasions: Barton Springs, the splash fountain at Auditorium Shores, and Chrissy’s backyard for the Fourth of July. You just can’t help but run out and get wet around here, especially with a little kid and temperatures over 100 degrees most days.
Now the real adventure begins as Kit settles into her new job, Claire settles into her new school, I move back to full-time working at home, and we all prepare for the new baby. These are huge life transitions, and they will bring challenges for us all. But for now, it looks like we have things on the right track.