November 30, 2008

The Return of Pumpkinhead

One of my favorite nicknames for Elena is ‘Pumpkinhead’, because she had such a comparatively large melon when she was born. I know that’s not unusual with babies, but the moniker stuck.

I have two pictures now of my beautiful, beloved Pumpkinhead, and you can see how much she has changed in a matter of 12 months.

And just because I can….below is one of my favorite recent pictures of my brother, Steve-o.
Good luck on your exams and an early-but-happy birthday, my brotha!

November 29, 2008

Lady E. Loves the Liquid Life

We took Elena to the beach a few times this past summer. As soon as she saw the sea, she would make a beeline for the water and -- not realizing that she couldn’t float – quickly face plant into the sandy shallows. It was HILARIOUS. But it also made us realize that it might be a good idea to start her toddler swimming lessons.
Naomi and I both love the ocean and water in general: swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and camping near the coastline or riverside, as much as we can. Given these predilections, we decided a few months ago that Elena should try baby-oriented swimming lessons to see if she really enjoyed the water. We thought it would also be a fun way for us to interact with her in the liquid realm while the weather is cold.

To find the right venue, we asked a number of our friends and co-workers which pool in Hiroshima offered the best lessons for our needs. We eventually found a fine swimming pool with a very reasonable fee and great access where we could take lessons about twice a week. Naomi and I each take her once a week, usually for about an hour in the section that is reserved specifically for the kiddie lessons. To our great delight, she has literally taken to the water very naturally.

I’ll describe a few things about the baby swimming lessons. First, the instructors are nice, i.e. very patient, and they give us good advice, like:
- always smile and show how fun being in the water can be.
- make sure to keep a good, reassuring grip on the child, with Elena’s face close to your own and maintaining eye contact.
- swish her around gently, she ain’t a navy reserve diver yet.
- blow bubbles in the water and cackle maniacally. This is just for all the Japanese mommies in the same class, pure entertainment…but it also shows the rising daughter she can’t inhale water and she has to exhale.
(This pic is not Elena—it is ‘borrowed’ from her swimming school’s homepage because I don’t have an underwater camera!)

There are many more tips, but you get the drift. The idea is to get the baby comfortable in the wa-wa, then worry later on down the line about actual swimming.

We are still at the stage where she is happy simply clinging to my arm, being guided through the pool’s many distractions (water slides, sinking rings, and hairy daddies), chasing the multicolored floating balls, and jumping off the side of the pool on her own while I wait with outstretched arms. She only recently became comfortable enough to be able to step off into the deeper parts without touching bottom…mentally a great leap. That’s pure faith in action.
And another marvelous thing is that the blowing bubbles exercise we practice every week at the pool is something she enjoys doing in the bathtub at home. Just like Dad!

Who enjoys the swimming lessons more…Elena or me? I will take the Fifth Amendment on that one. All I know is that we’re both worn-out and happy at the end of the lesson. And I am relishing our rising daughter’s introduction to the life aquatic.