Thursday, March 19, 2015

Baby Swim Joys and Fails

 Ray began baby swim classes two weeks ago. This past month, after literally a lifetime of disliking baths, he has finally started to show interest in water, splashing and smiling at bath time. I figured that it would be an excellent opportunity to begin classes at the YMCA.

Now, I'm a recent first-time YMCA member. I always felt a little nervous about joining the Y, convinced that everyone else there would be way more athletic and fitness-obsessed than I am. This winter, they had a promotion around New Year's that included a really affordable first month and waived all of the joining fees, so I finally made the leap to join the club. Then, I heard about the baby swim lessons, an awesome way for Rayden to get out and make friends while having fun! The Y would be a great place for him, as well!

For the most part, the little guy has loved the water during his first two lessons! The other kiddos range in age from 6 months up to 2 years, so the variety in their motor skills is fairly extraordinary. Ray is at the younger end of the spectrum, of course, but he likes splashing, watching the other kids, and trying to move himself through the water. He has been very independent lately (these days, he struggles against anyone who tries to cuddle him if he doesn't want it; he also tries to feed himself and moves himself by inch-worming his way around the floor in a desperate attempt at crawling, which is hilarious to see!). Naturally, he loves the sensation of propelling himself through the pool. We sing songs in class, too, and he loves the singing and tries to join in with his own unique noises. Unfortunately, though, for all of the awesomeness that is swim lessons, we newcomers manage to fail from time to time.

Fail #1: Swim Diapers. No, don't worry, I didn't forget the swim diapers! However, I didn't realize that every other infant and toddler in class would be equipped with his or her own adorable little swimsuit on top of said swim diaper. I had no idea they even made suits that small! And Rayden, with his incredibly impressive bowels, managed to poop before the lesson finished. The diaper kept it all in, thank God, but apparently, you can see right through those wet swim diapers and I was getting the stink eye from one of the other moms. Oops! Since we didn't have a spare swim diaper, and it apparently wasn't bothering him, I just let the little guy continue to play and splash for a bit longer before heading out. Plus, you know, the chlorine was working its magic, I'm sure. I figured, no harm done :) It got me to thinking that maybe that was why the others wore their mini swimsuits; what you don't know (or can't see) can't hurt you! 

Fail #2: Swim Trunks. After the diaper incident, I figured that we should invest in a pair of miniature boys swim trunks for the little dude. We shopped around a bit to no avail. Finally, I saw that Shopko was having an epic summer baby sale, so we found him a little Mickey swim suit for 1/2 off. Of course, the smallest size they had was 12months, so the shorts slide down his little butt just a bit and reach nearly to his feet. (Where the heck are these other mothers finding a smaller size suit?) Still, the little guy wore the shorts and we were feeling fairly successful all around for the second class. Much to our surprise, one of the other moms had her little man clad only in a diaper this time! She smiled at us, and we decided that maybe the other mothers at the Y aren't too hoity-toity after all.

Fail #3: Cold Water. Can't do anything about this one. The pool was super cold during our second class since they'd turned the temperature down for a swim meet the evening before. As a result, when the instructor suggested we just dunk our little ones into the water for the "Humpty Dumpty fell off the wall" game she likes to start with, Ray did not appreciate the burst of cold water on his tiny body (and I only dipped him in up to the waist!). As my son burst into his screaming wails, the other kids all played about as if the water wasn't 40 degrees. (Okay, so I exaggerate. It wasn't that cold, but the little man's skin is sensitive.) We quickly made our way out of the pool and bundled up, only to cower on the steps and watch the lesson while we gradually made our way bit-by-bit back into the water. He tolerated this more gradual approach but burst into tears again near the end, making him the only baby to date to cry in his class (much less twice in one 30-minute period). Awesome.

Well, there you have it. Swimming has certainly had its ups and downs so far, but I hope he comes to love the lessons. I remember enjoying swim lessons as a kid at the local high school pool; it was so much fun learning to dive and mastering the strokes (I use the word "mastering" lightly here; there are legitimate swim pros in my family, but I am certainly not one of them!). By summertime, the little guy's swim trunks will likely fit a bit better and he'll be ready to explore the real water as we move up to Lake Superior! Just kidding! I don't think that big freezer of a lake is appropriate for an infant, but there are many lakes and pools to be explored in WI and Northern MI, and we are bound to have a fun and adventurous summer. Bring on the sunshine and warm(er) water!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Writing for Writing's Sake

Since my last post was about the perils of the publishing world, I've decided to make this one about my reasons for writing that are not related to publishing.

As some of you may know, I've been writing stories since I could hold a pen...or, at least, pretty darn close to it. I remember one of my earliest stories was about my younger sisters being chased by a vacuum. (Sorry, ladies!) I also recall a story about a girl who wants a world without rules and finds herself trapped aboard a lawless pirate ship until she confesses that she does indeed need law and order in her life. It certainly wasn't Pulitzer Prize-worthy, but, as I look back on that tale now, it seems like it has the potential for more than a middle school writing assignment...however, I really should finish the novels I'm already working on first!

If I had to label it, I would say that the greatest joy of writing is the ability to bring other worlds to life. One of my students told me the other day that she loves reading because "you can have an adventure anywhere!" I told her that this element carries over into the writing realm, as well. Any time you desire, you can visit real or imagined lands; you can also transform into anyone you like, temporary though it may be. This probably makes me sound ridiculous, but it is beautiful in a way, too
: to be able to travel to another life or universe without leaving the security of your own little slice of the world. (Insert inspirational image...or three.)
For me, the main blessing of writing is that it has always helped me to organize my thoughts. As a kid, I was hopelessly shy. My middle school teachers are shocked today when they learn that I stood in front of a classroom of high school kids for two years. Part of the reason that I wasn't very outgoing and quick to talk was because the words always seemed to come out wrong. In front of family and close friends, I was just fine. However, if caught off guard or in front of an audience (however small), a jumble of word vomit would shoot out of my mouth and I would then panic, making it even worse until I sounded completely incoherent. This situation kept me from raising my hand in class, participating in games and sports where you had to call out across a field or court, and attracting too much attention in any situation. Being able to write down my thoughts and feelings made the world a much better place. I think the first time I realized that by organizing and writing my thoughts I could do just about anything was when I was selected to give the salutatorian speech at my 8th grade graduation. I reordered those words until they were perfect and memorized them until I could say them with my eyes closed (even though I would clutch my notes desperately when standing in front of hundreds of my peers' closest family and friends on the big day). That was just the starting point, but I became more brave and willing to improvise as the years went on. Now, I'm to the point where I'm no longer frazzled by those awkward "get to know each other" games in small group settings and I'll even seek conversation with strangers in supermarkets or long lines. I feel that my words are my own now, and I control them in my conversations as well as in my novels. In both situations, anything is possible.

Coming from that experience, I feel almost a physical pain when my students tell me that they hate writing. I think to myself, How can you possibly hate imagination and thought? Because that is basically what writing is. Sometimes I tell them this, and they brush me off. Other times they give me excuses, such as fears that their spelling sucks or that their grammar is goofy. Those excuses don't fly with this English teacher. I tell them to forget about the miniscule details of punctuation, spelling, and vocabulary; for now, just write! It's amazing what your average middle school or high school student is capable of when they let these fears go. I mean, just think of how fearless teenagers are in a typical situation. (I don't know about you, but I jumped off a railroad trestle over a lake as a teen; we tend to do stupid stuff at that time in our lives.) I tell my students to focus on emotion and content first; you can always go back and revise the crap out of what you write. I know I do that with everything from story-writing to emails for my students' parents. Worse case scenario, someone else can help you perfect it. Now, this writing inspiration certainly doesn't work for everyone, but it can be an uplifting experience. An element as simple as a pen to paper (or, more often nowadays, finger to keyboard) is capable of not just organizing thoughts and changing the life of a shy little girl, it holds the possibility for the creation of alternate experiences and realities that truly are endless.