On the way back from Barking Springs, the girls convinced me to do the rope swing into Barton Creek, and Claire got a slow motion video of it. There was a large turtle nearby, and I was afraid of landing on it or getting snapped by it. But there was no such trouble. I think I scared it away since, to the turtle, I was basically a giant monster falling out of the sky.
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.
With a swimsuit and red cowboy boots, Molly keeps it real, Texas-style!
After several years of swimming, Claire has finally graduated from Emler Swim School. She knows all the strokes, and they have nothing left to teach her. Claire can really, really swim now. Mission accomplished.
Elmer has been a major part of our routine over the last few years, ever since she started there back in 2011. Claire has gone to countless classes there. She had a birthday party there. Elmer even became a fun part of our Tuesday routine for a while, back before homework took over all weekdays after school. Since then it was a major part of our Friday nights routines, along with meeting Maddie and Kamile’s family at Jason’s Deli across the street before swimming.
Molly still has time left at Elmer, but it won’t be the same without Claire diving in too. Seriously, though, they taught Claire a lot. That girl can swim.
To celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday, the family met up at his favorite place: Siesta Key, Florida. Phil and Noni flew in from Houston, Uncle Tim and Aunt Cindy came down from DC, and Kit, me, and the girls flew in on on our first family flight since last summer to the two Washintgon’s.
What you’ll find below is lots of pictures of this great but brief family gathering. We all stayed in a cozy off-the-beach house together. We had only one full day all together, and a couple of nights, but it was really amazing to have everyone together, especially for an occasion like my dad’s big birthday. His official birthday meal was a “taco bash”, which meant a huge volume of taco meat, shells, and fixings delivered to enjoy on the sunny patio, truly Phil-style.
A few quick notes, and then on to the pictures…
- Claire was fanatical about swimming on the beach. She was brought almost to the point of tears when we had to leave each night.
- Molly was fanatical about the beach toys that came with the rental house. Her favorite was her little plastic beach wagon, which is featured prominently in the pictures. There was also a little plastic dinosaur, which Molly named Rexi. Molly built entire sand castles for Rexi and carefully took him around everywhere. Tragically, at some point Molly lost Rexi to the sea. She handled it pretty well, and we hoped that a mermaid might adopt it.
- Molly also had a project make the ocean “less deep” by dumping one tiny shovel-full of sand at a time into the ocean. She got her little scoop of sand from a spot about 20 years inland and carefully carried each scoop to the sea, making sure not to spill any until she actually got to the water. She did this for nearly two hours.
- Besides Rexi, we also lost two pairs of goggles (mine and Claire’s) during the trip, plus Molly’s at home just before the trip. When Claire lost her goggles to the sea, she was in a near state of panic because it meant lost ocean swimming time. After some negotiation, Molly kindly agreed to share her replacement goggles with Claire.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
The day after school ended, Claire got to go to a birthday swimming party for one of her friends. She started off summer break in style, jumping off the diving board with her friends over and over.
Originally, this was going to be a bad weather make up day due to several snow and ice days this winter. But the AISD Board of Trustees and the Texas Education Agency basically would take action and “designate March 3, which is already a regular, full instructional day, to serve as a bad weather make-up day.” Huh? I heard the Texas state legislature was also somehow involved in this scheme, which requires me to hire a sitter for the day. But it works for the kids and the teachers, and they do deserve a Friday off!
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.