Inside Can be Fun Too

What have Claire and Molly been doing with all their free time now that they’re out of school for the summer? ¬†Besides playing in the rain, having friends over, swimming, and watching Jessie, here are a few pics of their indoor¬†activities so far this summer.


Rainy Summer Days

With all the rain we’ve been having lately, the backyard has turned into a water park for¬†the girls. ¬†Molly, in particular, loves going outside to play, especially when it is raining. ¬†She likes when it is raining really hard best of all. ¬†She and Claire will spend hours at a time out there just splashing around and playing with their toys.

They even set up a water park for their My Little Pony toys. ¬†The park is inspired by¬†Schlitterbahn and features a giant water slide with a big pool at the end of it. ¬†There is also a “natural pond”, which is basically a big puddle. ¬†And the Swamp of Doom in the muddy grass area. ¬†Claire made a map of the park and even added a snack stand¬†for refreshments (it’s alternately¬†a smoothie place, a fish taco place, or Benny’s Fish ‘n’ Chips).


Thanks For the Great Summer, Jackie!

Here is Claire’s note to her nanny, Jackie, who spent most of the summer with Claire. ¬†Claire loved having a nanny for the summer. ¬†She could have friends over, go summing, go shopping, cook, or just take it easy. ¬†Jackie took special care to make sure Claire had a fun summer and did not sit in front¬†of¬†the TV very much.

Front of thank you card
Inside of thank you card

We kept Molly mostly in her pre-school routine throughout the summer, although she did get to come home early some days and had the last week of the summer off with Claire and Jackie.

Jackie would later tell us that this card was the sweetest thing she had ever received, and it made her cry.

Our Day at Schlitterbahn

Today was not our first time to the Schlitterbahn, the amazing water park in New Braunfels.  But it was our first time to go with Claire fully able to swim and Molly kind of able to swim (both thanks to many hours at Emler).  Kit had the week off, and I took a couple days off too.  We departed our house a little after at 8:00 am on a Wednesday with the purpose of getting there before it is (1) crowded and (2) hot.  Or at least before it gets really crowded and hot.  Actually, Schlitterbahn provides lots of shade and of course water, but we still wanted to put things in our favor with an early start.

Water shoes drying outside
Drying shoes: the only picture we have from our wet day at Schlitterbahn.

We spent most of the day in the newer, eastern part of the park for a change, mainly Blastenhoff and Surfenburg. ¬†Claire was able to handle herself pretty well in the water, much better than last time we came a year or two ago. ¬†She absolutely loved The Torrent and found it difficult to leave. ¬†The Torrent is a large circular “lazy river” type of ride combined with a wave pool. ¬†Most people ride in a tube, but Claire and I¬†both favored a¬†free swim approach. ¬†We¬†also tugged Molly along in her tube. ¬†Molly was thrilled and all smiles until the the fifth time through, when¬†she said¬†did not want to go again.¬†¬†Claire¬†was a little bit heartbroken to leave her beloved Torrent.

The Torrent
Stock photo¬†of Claire’s favorite: The Torrent

Molly’s favorite was Han’s Hideout, a 4-story really drippy¬†pirate boat¬†featuring several small, kid-friendly water slides. ¬†Han’s Hideout was custom made for Molly. ¬†We all liked Kristal River and Kristal Cove, a basic wave-free¬†lazy river that we got to float or swim around many times. ¬†Molly even did a little bit of (closely supervised,¬†very brief) free swimming here. ¬†Kit is not a big swimmer but did her best to have a good time at¬†this crazy water park. ¬†She did get stuck with all the bathroom trips for the girls and tended to get stuck watching Molly play in¬†the little-kid areas, which is just not as much fun as¬†splashing around in the Torrent. ¬†Kit made sure we had a fully stocked cooler and a good picnic table¬†in the shade. ¬†We definitely got some smiles out of Kit¬†on Kristal River, too.

Han's Hideout
Stock photo of Molly’s favorite: Han’s Hideout

By the end of the day, it was finally hot and crowded, and we were all¬†getting exhausted. ¬†Claire started to seem¬†just a little less safe in the water by herself. ¬†We’ll have to come back next year when she is rested up to¬†take a fifth turn at The Torrent and Molly can do a little more free swim.

Too Cold To Swim!

Enjoying hot chocolate and warming up after a summer swim.
Enjoying hot chocolate and warming up after a summer swim.

We went for a swim today at the new Westenfield pool. ¬†It was just rebuilt from the ground up — a brand new main pool, a kiddie “beach access” pool, new changing facilities, plus lots of bench space and shade. ¬†I love this pool.

We took the girls there for the first swim of the summer. ¬†And this was the first family “free swim” we have done in almost a year. ¬†Both girls are a lot stronger swimmers than a year ago. ¬†Claire can fully swim on her own, even in the deep end. ¬†Molly can swim in short spurts on her own, and loved jumping into the pool from¬†the side. ¬†She did this over and over — just in, and then a short swim of 5 to 10 feet to me. ¬†We had the usual awkwardness of “who has Molly”, and traded off some so Claire and I could go swim in the deep end. ¬†Claire and I pretended to be a dolphin family (pod?) swimming in the deep end.

After a while, though, Molly was shivering. ¬† Then she was turning a little blue. ¬†The pool was too cold! ¬†That is not something we normally even have to consider in Austin in the summer. ¬†But there was poor slightly blue Molly. ¬†She was blue and cold, but she did insist she wanted to stay in the water and swim. ¬†Over her protests, we got her wrapped up in a towel and got home, where the girls put in try, warm clothes and enjoyed a hot chocolate to warm up. ¬†Yes, that’s right. Hot chocolate to warm up in June. ¬†There were no complaints form the kids over that!

Nanny High Rollers

Today I got a call that we had a special delivery. ¬†Would¬†I be home between 12:00 and 12:15 to collect it? ¬†At first, I thought this was a trick or a joke. ¬†But I said yes and prepared myself for anything. ¬†I mean, normally you don’t have to be there to receive a normal package. UPS or FedEx don’t call ahead to let you know they’re on the way.

So at 12:15 I found myself signing for¬†a box of homemade chocolate chip cookies, still warm from the oven. ¬†They turned out to be from our nanny agency. ¬†We had hired so many babysitters over the summer that they thought it necessary to thank us by having a batch of homemade cookies delivered. ¬†Sure, it was nice to get the very, very yummy cookies. ¬†But it was a shock. ¬†I can honestly say this is the first time I have been treated like a “high roller”, with unexplained gifts of appreciation like this. ¬†Of course it makes sense now that babysitters would be what pushed us over.


Had we really been using that many babysitters?

Yes.  Yes, we had.  With Claire out of school and in lots of half-day camps, we had been burning through the sitters and camps.  It is nice (on the wallet) to have the kids back in school!

But Claire loved some of her sitters.  She would just play Legos with the best of them for hours, literally like 4 hours of straight Legos.  Lots of the sitters were  interesting people, too.  There were a couple of real musicians who had shows that night.  There was a screenwriter.  A police trainee.  Even some career sitters.  In the end, some great afternoons for Claire and some warm cookies just might be worth the small fortune we paid for then.


End of Summer Party

With sumer dragging on and Claire not having seen much of her friends the last couple of months, I felt like she could use a little lift before school suddenly started. ¬†We decided to have an end-of-summer party to match Claire’s beginning-of-summer party. ¬†Claire invited a small group of friends over to celebrate basically going back to school and being together again. ¬†Really, it was just a glorified play date.

The party featured a small inflatable pool with the world’s smallest water slide, water sprayers, and water balloons. ¬† Yes, school is starting, but it is really still summer outside. ¬†Claire had also wanted to do a lemonade stand, and she happened to have a workable cardboard lemonade stand that she had made with her favorite summer sitter, Julia. ¬†The girls set up shop on our front curb. ¬†The lemonade, made from a mix, was $.50 per cup — or free if you don’t have any money or too large of a bill to make change. ¬†Claire’s friends were really good at hailing cars, bikers, and walkers. ¬†It helped that the weekend exercise types were out in force. ¬†The girls ended up selling about $12 of lemonade in about 45 minutes. ¬†They split up the money and resolved to donate part to a cause of their own choosing. ¬†One friend was going to donate all her money to the Philippines. ¬†Another’s went to the pet shelter. ¬†Claire is saving hers for Winter the injured dolphin, who is featured in a favorite movie of hers.

The girls also put on an impromptu show when the various parents came for pickup.  It was sort of a very disorganized Hawaiian luau of sorts.  It was fun, and the parents clapped, etc.  Then the kids ran and hid to try to avoid going home, if only for a few more minutes.

The girls happily included Molly in the water play, the lemonade stand , and the show.  They all think Molly is adorable and want a little sister like her.

Summer Break 2013

A few quick notes from summer 2013.

This was Claire’s break between first and second grades. ¬†Only Claire’s schedule changes for the summer so far. ¬†Molly does not have a summer break, being a full time pre-school student.

We decided to try out several different camps this summer for Claire to see what worked best. ¬†Some full day camps, some half day with a sitter the rest of the day, some in between. ¬†We basically have to experiment since up until now we mostly just used the good ol’ day care.

Over the summer, Claire’s weeks were split up like this:

  • Four full day camps
  • Four half-day camps, usually morning with a sitter after lunch
  • Most of the camps were art-oriented, at Claire’s request, with a week of gymnastics, a week of cooking, and ¬†a week of science.
  • Two weeks of vacation with the family to see family in “both Washington’s” — Washington DC and Washington state

To be honest, I think the summer was a little tough on Claire, who went from camp to camp on an irregular schedule and did not get to see a lot of her friends, some of whom were out of town for cooler climates or otherwise out of touch.

I know the summer was tough on me. ¬†The camps all started at 9:00 or 9:30, while my daily call for work was at 9:00 am. ¬†So I would ¬†drop Claire off an immediately get on a meeting on my cell phone for the drive home to work. ¬†And I would have to pick Claire up at odd times in the middle of the day (12:00, 1:00, 3:00, whatever). ¬†This is on top of Molly’s pick up and drop off at different times and places. ¬†This got old week after week.

On the plus side, Claire and I had a little time together each morning after dropping off Molly and before her camp started.  We would get breakfast and do a little studying to help keep Claire sharp over the summer break.  We would have a Smoothie and a bagel at Panera and then have Claire read or do some writing.  That was pretty sweet.

Since most of the public pools are only open when school is out for summer, I resolved to take advantage of the limited swimming time we had available. ¬†The plan was to take the girls swimming every Friday after school/work. ¬†We always went to the little circular pool at West Austin Park. ¬†We packed a picnic or picked up something from a drive through (not as much fun!) then swam for an hour or so before heading home to see Kit and go to bed. ¬†This was a fun time for us all, except it got a little frustrating for Claire at times since I had to be 100% “on” Molly, who cannot swim, so I could not really play with Claire or even just swim with her. ¬†I did not have any free hands or attention while trying to keep Molly alive and what not. ¬†I basically stood there holding Molly while Claire entertained herself. ¬†I think Claire liked the picnic best or those rare moments when I could actually play with her too. ¬†Anyways, the goal was to do the swimming thing every¬†Friday, which turned out to be 4 or 5 times total, with traveling, guests, other engagements, etc. often intervening.

So there you go — a sunny, fun-filled, stress-free summer! ¬†Well, it was sunny anyways. ¬†And intermittently fun and stress-free.