When people learn I grew up in California, they assume a few things. Among them, I must’ve lived close to the ocean and that I must love the water.

Not so much on either point.

I am not fond of spandex. I’m not a great swimmer. Give me a mountain meadow any day, for reals.

But my children . . . ah, my children. I blame their land-locked, long-wintered upbringing for their water mania. And so it was that visiting Cousin Kathy and her POOL! was the most highly anticipated part of the trip. We had to survive 2 full weeks in Salida before that could happen, though. Graciously, generously, the Boyd’s and Blocher’s offered their pools for our use.

Yes, our.

Normally I put Jac on pool duty when it comes up.  I’m much more comfortable worrying and fretting and watching for drowners from a deck chair.  But with Jac sick, I couldn’t be red-shirted.

You cannot fathom this sacrifice, children of mine.

We swam.  A lot. Cinday was in the pool more than I was and watched and encouraged and coaxed each of the four oldest in turn.  Allie and Chelsey each took turns and dealt with choking and tears.

Okay, it wasn’t that bad.

Max dubbed himself “Mommy’s little Olympian” after he just miraculously seemed to put all of his knowledge together and just went for it. Over and over and over again.  His stroke is long and powerful (though he hasn’t quite mastered breathing mid stroke . . .) and he was anxious to dive and stay in the deep end.

Philip, God love him, finally figured out that having his head under water wasn’t going to kill him if he didn’t breathe in.  He even worked up the nerve to dive off the board at the Boyd’s and loved it.  But without any meat on his bones, he couldn’t last long in the cool water and would end up a hunched up, goose-fleshed, shivering wreck.  He perfected the “Tuolumne Style” dry of lying on the hot concrete but would do it with his face pressed nose flat on the cement. To each his own.

Tess was desperate to really, really, swim and tried so very hard.  but she never quite grasped it.  She can make some forward motion, for sure, but it looks like she is drowning.  And she never – not once! – stopped talking.  “Mama! Watch me! I can-” she’d yell as she did a labrador retriever style entrance into the water, splash and flail and then claw her way to the surface, “swim all the way-!!!” Splash, splash, splash! “to you!” Gasp! Pant! Cough! While her brothers wouldn’t step near the water without their “trusty” nose plugs and goggles, she was a free spirit and ended up with very red eyes, skin-less fingers from the pool edge and some pretty serious chlorine hair.

Ellie was timid.  It took her some time to warm up to things but Mama Syd had purchased a Puddle Jumper and before long it was sought after by Tess and Philip and we’d have to coerce Ellie into sharing.  She mastered kicking – without splashing! – and would paddle about busily and quietly while everyone else hollered and thrashed.

And Gemma? Gemma thought it was all nonsense, opting instead to enjoy her private hot tub with a hose at Phyllis’. Once we got to Temecula, she was put in a floaty and decided that was pretty sweet. And the lake has been a different story altogether for her.

But that’s for another day.

Thank you, CA friends, for your pools, helping hands and putting up with my South Dakota tan. Love you!