The Daughter Chronicles

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Everybody into the pool!

Yes, it's time to blog about Norah learning to swim! She's only been doing it since August, so it's certainly timely!

Yes, in August we decided to take Norah to lessons. She has always loved going in our pool, and I may have mentioned that early in last year's pool season (June, probably), she suddenly became scared of it. This was all part of her "I'm Scared Of Everything" Phase that she finally seems to be coming out of, and it extended to the pool, where she wouldn't even get in the water for quite some time (actually, she would put her feet in, but that was it). When we finally got her in the pool, she wouldn't leave the steps. Finally, we coaxed her out into the pool (with our help, of course), but she wouldn't jump in the pool, something she used to do. We want her to enjoy the pool (the only fun thing to do around here during the summer), so we thought it was about time, at the age of three, to give her some lessons!

I took her to lessons in August, when Mia went back to school. She claimed to be interested in it, but the first day was kind of a disaster. She cried the entire time and had no fun whatsoever. One problem was her distaste at getting water in her ears. That really bothered her, and it's kind of difficult to learn how to swim if you don't like getting water in your ears. So whenever she lay on her back and tried to float, she would scream bloody murder. In was an inauspicious beginning, to say the least.

She got a new teacher after the first week (for no reason other than a scheduling change, it seems - she didn't drive the first one off), but the screaming continued. I noticed something else, too, after a few lessons. She was in a class with two other kids, so she didn't spend all the time in the water with the teacher. When she sat on the steps by the side of the pool, she shivered uncontrollably. I tried to tell her to stay on the second step so that everything except her head was in the water, but she kept coming up onto the top step, which would make her cold all over again. She's a bit scrawny, so she couldn't stay warm. This was a problem because she would come over from her part of the lesson screaming but couldn't calm down on the steps, because she was shivering so much it would upset her. So she never stopped crying, and then it was time to go back out, which would cause her consternation once again.

This went on for four weeks, during which time I wondered if maybe I should take her out of the class until she was a bit older. I didn't want her to hate it, and maybe she just needed to grow up a bit before taking lessons. I stuck with it for two reasons, however. First, Norah is an odd kid - or at least I think she's odd, although all kids might be this way. She rarely throws herself with abandon into something new without knowing what she's doing. She prefers to sit around and scope out the landscape before getting into something. She makes sure she can do something well before trying it. This is frustrating because it looks like she doesn't want to try anything, but it's also somewhat neat, because she's very deliberative. So I didn't want to abandon swimming until I was sure she wasn't going to get it, and four classes didn't seem like enough. We also looked around for a swim cap, which we hoped would at least lessen the amount of water going into her ears. We didn't look that hard, but it was still tough to find one. That was weird. Krys finally got one, however, and we thought that would help. It didn't help as much as the other reason she finally broke through, though. One morning I took her to class and tried her with a wet suit on. I had seen them hanging by the pool and I had seem some other kids wearing them, but I didn't think to put Norah in one. The teacher said it might help her chilliness, so I put one on her. The transformation was rather amazing. She still shivered a bit when she got to the steps, but only a fraction of the way she did before the suit, and that calmed her down. At this time, it seemed like she had reached the point where she decided to learn, and suddenly, the water in her ears didn't bother her. I didn't even need to use the swim cap!

So, all of a sudden, she was fine in the pool. She started doing her "airplane" float well, and she started listening to the teacher more. After a few more weeks, she was going underwater much more to pick stuff off the steps. She learned how to pull herself out of the pool, although that's still a bit of a challenge. In December she moved up a level because she could float on her own. Yay, Norah! She discovered a new problem as she got her head into the water more - her hair in her eyes. It annoys her a lot, and when she rolls into her "airplane," she tries to get it out of her eyes, which messes up her float. I've toyed with the idea of pinning it back, but I keep forgetting. She's now working on rolling over on her own, which she's getting good at, and she puts her head underwater for longer stretches each time.

One thing still bothers her, though: jumping into the pool. Her teacher gets her on the side of the pool, makes her jump in, and then makes her turn around quickly and grab the side. She also makes her jump in and go into an "airplane" float. Norah, however, gets on the edge and just stands there, whining. She does not want to jump. I have a feeling it's because she just doesn't want to feel out of control, even for a second or two. She jumps off the balance beam in Little Gym, however, so it's also, I think, the fact that there's no solid ground for her to land on. Her teacher tried everything to get her to jump in, but Norah refused. Before every lesson, I would ask her if she was going to jump in, and she would say "yes." Then, she wouldn't jump. Oh well.

Then, last week, success! For some reason, she decided to jump in. We're not quite sure why, unless it was another one of those times where she had observed for long enough and then, just like that, decided that it was okay to jump. She jumped in and turned around in the water, grabbing the side like a pro! Yay, Norah! Then we encountered a different problem. She still wasn't totally confident about jumping in, so she would turn in mid-air and try to grab the side before she was actually in the pool. This led, inevitably, to her bonking her chin on the side. It wasn't too bad (no bruising, no blood), and it might have helped, as the next time her teacher wanted her to jump, she actually leaped out a bit and stayed facing front. It was quite the breakthrough!

The next level is jumping off the bottom step of the pool, going under briefly, and then rolling into an "airplane" with no assistance. She tried that last time and was pretty good at it (so much that she got a ribbon for it), but she's still not doing it consistently, so she couldn't "graduate." But at least she's enjoying the pool, moving forward, and won't (we hope) be too scared to swim this summer. That would be unfortunate!

Norah got a medal for floating. She doesn't look happy about it, does she????

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Fancy pix!

Over the Christmas holiday, we got family portraits done at Sears. My mom digs them, so whenever we get together, we try to sit for some photographs. The last time we did it was three years ago, so it's fun to compare and contrast! All the kids are cuter, of course, and I'm much fatter. Just ignore me and concentrate on the cuteness of the kids!

Man, I don't photograph well. I suck. But look how cute the kids are!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Norman Rockwell couldn't have painted it better

You may now commence singing John Cougar Mellencamp's "Little Pink Houses" in your head.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Next step: College!

On the night of 9-10 January, 2009, at the age of 3 years, 6 months, and 18 days, Norah slept successfully without a diaper. I have no idea if that's old or young for this particular milestone, but I don't care. This is when she did it. Yay!

We've been preparing for this for a while, and I think she might have been able to do it a few weeks ago. Occasionally she would wake up with a dry diaper, and we told her if her diaper was dry for a few days in a row she could wear her underwear to bed. She never quite made it two nights in a row, but last week, she told me she didn't want to pee in her diaper and was, essentially, holding it in. That was heartening. Krys noticed that her diaper supply was getting low, and instead of buying her a new package, she figured it was a good time to give sleeping overnight a try. She chose Friday night because she didn't want to change sheets on a weekday, and if Norah did wet the bed, she'd be upset and want Mommy to comfort her. But there was no need to comfort! Norah aced the test!

She's pretty pleased with herself, which is nice. We'll see if she'll keep up with the not peeing in her bed thing - I have a feeling she will, because Norah seems to be the kind of girl who won't do something until she makes up her mind to do it, and then she doesn't look back! But she still might have accidents occasionally. I don't care - although I haven't changed her diaper in a while, as Krys puts her diaper on at night and Norah usually takes it off in the morning, it's still groovy that we won't have to buy them anymore and we can get rid of the diaper pail in her room.

It's always fun for Norah to pass a milestone. And it gives us a chance to explain another part of Mia's condition - namely, why she still wears diapers. Norah is slowly figuring out what's going on with her sister, which is always good. Anything to help her get it!

I guess there's nothing left to do but send her off to college, right? I mean, all they require these days is that you don't soil the bed, right? Godspeed, Norah!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Sing along with Mia and Norah!

This morning, at two different times, first Mia and then Norah sang along to two different Foo Fighters songs.

Well, I thought it was cute.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Christmastime at the Burgas homestead

Christmas was especially busy this year, as my parents and my sister's family came out to visit us. But it was also fun, because we rarely get to see my sister's family, and as they have two children about the same age as Mia and Norah, it's nice when the kids get together. Norah, especially, was very excited about her 4-year-old cousin Lindsay showing up. Mia, as usual, can take or leave anyone (except possibly Mommy). She likes when they're there, but when they leave, she's not put out by it at all. So we've been having a grand old time doing stuff with the group.

My parents arrived on Monday, 22 December, having driven across the country to get here. My dad finally retired last year (yeah, not a great time to do it) and they enjoy driving to new and fantastic places in our fair country - this time they were jazzed to see Oklahoma City and Lubbock, Texas (you think I'm kidding, but if you knew my parents, you'd know I'm not). My sister and her family arrived by plane on the 23rd. My mom always likes to do a lot of stuff when she's here, and she had plenty planned out, believe you me. Krys took the entire week off (plus the first two days of the following week), so we had plenty of time to do stuff! My nephew and niece gave up naps long ago, so even the afternoon didn't daunt us! Norah has been slowly easing out of napping, and she's pretty well-behaved when she does miss it, so that wasn't a factor, either.

First, we celebrated Christmas. That's the thing to do on the 25th of December, right? Everyone was staying at a time-share a few miles away, so we didn't have people waking us up early and forcing us to open presents. Norah hasn't reached that point yet - last year, we're not sure if she knew she would get presents, and this year, she knew but she didn't go nuts about it. My family showed up about 9.30, which is a fine time to begin opening presents. The last time they were here, my mother was the impatient one, so we were glad she wasn't around early to bug us. I captured most of the present-opening on video, but my mom got some good pictures as well (our camera is broken). Matthew, Lindsay, Mia, and Norah all got cool stuff. We were trying to limit what our kids got, because they have enough crap already and we don't have a ton of room. I think Krys did a good job shopping for them - Norah got a really nice wooden doll house, while Mia got an easel that has a chalkboard on one side. They got some other stuff, too, but those were the big ticket items. We're trying to get them books and puzzles - stuff that's fun but also helps their brains. It helps that they both really like books and puzzles. We had a nice dinner, and then it was time to go out!

Yes, we had something to do! So spake my mother, and so we must obey! We went off on Christmas night to see the Christmas lights at the Mormon temple. Mesa is a big Mormon stronghold (Arizona as a whole has a lot of Mormons, but Mesa is one of the more popular towns), and the temple in the center of town always puts on a huge display. We went a few years ago, but it's always nice to go back. The weather was pretty chilly (contrary to popular belief, it's not always nice here during the winter), and while we were there, it began to rain just a bit, but it was still nice. Norah and Lindsay, who instantly became best friends, had a grand old time, but Matthew, a typical boy, wasn't interested, while Mia was just happy to be out and about with everyone. The most important thing about going to see the Mormon lights is avoiding the Mormons wandering around. They have nicely-dressed young men (very few women) standing at strategic points around the grounds, and they're always ready to explain how you too can become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. You must not look at them directly!!!! (I don't mean to offend Mormons; I'd write this if it were any evangelical sect.)

Friday was another day for action! My mother had gotten us tickets to see "The Nutcracker" in downtown Phoenix. I had an opportunity to get out of it, but I foolishly said I would go. Why would I not want to go? Well, I've seen "The Nutcracker" more than a few times, and I wanted a bit of time away from the children. But when my mom asked me if I wanted to skip the performance, I said I'd go. Why????? Oh well. My mom bought special tickets for Mia up in the balcony (although they called it a "loge"), and I went and sat with her while the rest of them sat down on the floor. After the first act my dad came up and sat with us. It was actually nice - we had a good view and plenty of room. Mia had a good time, but she got a bit bored in the second act, when you get the seemingly endless ballets. According to Krys, Norah had a grand time. She clapped happily after each dance, and kept telling Matthew to be quiet (Matthew, true to form, didn't like the show). Norah adopted a true matronly attitude with Matthew throughout his time here. She would tell him to be quiet, tell him to stop taunting his sister, and chide him when he took his sister's toys away from her. It was quite humorous. Matthew was writhing in his seat and whining, and Norah wanted to hear the ballet, confound it! He didn't listen, but it was still funny. I'm glad Norah got a chance to see it, because she dug it, but I wish I had taken the opportunity to skip it.

Saturday was another big day. We went up north to the Verde Valley and the beautiful town of Clarkdale. There you will find the Verde Canyon Railroad, which takes you through all sorts of nature. Who doesn't love nature? We've been wanting to go on the train for a while, and we'll probably go back in the autumn (when the leaves are supposed to be spectacular), but my mom also wanted to go, so we were off! It's far colder up there than here in the Basin, but most of us braved the outdoor car, because that's where you see everything! Norah and Lindsay had a grand time playing with each other, and Mia sat with Krys the entire way up the valley (the railroad stops at a ranch called Perkinsville and then comes back), having a wonderful time hanging out with Mommy. My mom offered to sit with Mia at one point, but Krys was happy inside. Finally, toward the end of the trip to Perkinsville, Krys came outside and we hung out on the car. When we stopped for a time (for the engine to switch ends), we brought Mia out onto the outdoor car so she could check things out. She had a swell time sitting on the bench looking around. Norah and Lindsay were also outside, cruising around playing with each other. Matthew hung out with either his father or his grandfather, looking at the scenery. On the way back, we hung out inside more often because the sun was going down and the car was in the shade more often, but I still was outside for a good amount of the time because something strange happened on the train. Behind us was a family with a grandmother and two kids about our kids' ages. Krys said at one point on the ride up the valley, the grandmother walked by our little group, said something about introducing her kids to ours, and then left them there. Their parents were still there, but they ignored their kids almost the rest of the time. I was inside a few times, and the kids were ... not being annoying, exactly, but they were being kids. The girl was playing well enough, but the boy was being a boy. Again, not bad, but just boy-like. At one point I checked out the parents, who were stretched out on their seat, not exactly asleep, but definitely relaxing and ignoring their children. Krys didn't mind, except for the fact that their kids were blocking the aisle quite often and when people walked by, they gave her dirty looks. What was she supposed to do about it? We found it odd, because if our kids were playing with others, we'd probably at least chat with the other parents. I get that they were happy that they got some time to themselves, but you know what? don't have kids if you want free time! Or, you know, hire a freakin' babysitter.

After the train, my mom had made reservations at a ranch for a barbecue and some kind of cowboy show. I wasn't too happy about going, because she said the entertainment wouldn't be over until 9 o'clock or so, and it's a two-hour drive (at least) back to the Basin, so our kids would be exhausted. I would have been happy to go to dinner, and given what happened, I would have rather stayed for the entertainment as well. While we were driving from the train to the ranch, my rear tire exploded. I knew my tires were getting worse, and I was planning on taking my car in for servicing before our trip north, but I didn't get a chance. And now I was paying for it! Luckily, I was able to pull off the road, and the menfolk (me, my dad, and my brother-in-law) all helped changing the tire. In our van, the spare is underneath the rear passenger seat, and you have to lower it onto the ground and then slide it out from under the van. It's very weird. We stopped at a tire place on the way through town, and I got some air put in it, and then we headed home - I wasn't about to go to dinner with a spare, given that I had to drive home slowly and it would take a lot longer to reach it. I left Clarkdale at 6.10, and although we stopped a few places (once to check the air, once so Norah could go to the bathroom), it still took us 3½ hours to get home. I drove 45 mph the entire way, and that was no fun - I-17 is a busy highway and it's two lanes both ways all the way down into the Basin. But we made it.

The next big thing on the agenda was a visit to the zoo. I skipped it because I've been to the zoo and don't really need to go back. Also, both girls wanted to spend some quality time with their Mommy, and my sister, my mom, and my brother-in-law all went, so they could handle four kids, right? Krys said they had a wonderful time at the zoo. By last week the weather had brightened considerably, so it was a swell day, and Mia had a groovy time petting various animals. Apparently one of the volunteers who works with the goats is in a wheelchair, so the goats were very comfortable coming up and rubbing all over the chair, which delighted Mia. Norah, meanwhile, rode the carousel gleefully. It's nice that she seems to slowly coming out of her "I'm scared of everything phase" that she's been in for nine months or so. She's still scared of a lot, but she's getting better. The next day (Tuesday the 30th), Norah went with her aunt and uncle over to their time-share and swam in the heated pool for a while. She's doing very well in swimming lessons (and one day I will write about that here), so it was nice that she could get in the pool before summer. She had a bit of a meltdown at dinner that night (she was tired), but she still had a wonderful day.

My sister and her family left town on the 31st, but my parents remained until Monday the 5th. We didn't do much the rest of the week - Krys went back to work, Mia went to horse therapy, Norah got ballet shoes and tap shoes for her new dance class at The Little Gym - but it was nice to relax after all the activity. Norah loved having someone her age to play with. We have been thinking about putting her in pre-school even though it's a ton of money, and this clinched it. She needs friends, and it's tough for her with only Mia around. Mia, meanwhile, liked saying hi to her cousins and playing with them in her limited capacity. I think they understand a bit more about why she can't do everything they can, and they were patient with her (or ignored her, which is fine, because I wouldn't expect them to be able to be patient with her very long). Norah, as I mentioned, was also quite the little mother, and it was fun to hear her use more complete sentences, as she seems to be a bit behind in her speech. I asked my sister about Lindsay and when she started speaking better, as she turned in July and speaks very well, while Norah still doesn't use sentences terribly well (granted, she's a year younger, but it's never too early to worry about these things). My sister said that Lindsay had someone to model (i.e., Matthew) and that Matthew himself took a while to speak well. I figure Norah is not as accomplished as some others because Mia doesn't speak terribly well, and therefore she's learning as she goes along. Just spending a bit of time with Lindsay helped her immensely, as she is starting to use many more sentences. Just another reason to get her into pre-school.

So that was our Christmas holiday. It was a lot of fun to see the family, because we don't get to all that often. We wish we lived closer to them, of course, and we still may if we can. But until then, we just have to appreciate the time we do get to spend together. I guess that's enough.