It's been awhile. Somehow when I have the most to say, I'm unable to find the time and peace of mind enough to say it. And then there is so much I want you to remember, it's hard to know where to begin...
We spent the summer at the beach or in the pool. You've both always loved swimming and this summer we thought we'd put the swim lessons we won at a silent auction to good use and get Pia swimming properly: head under the water and everything. I don't know what it is, perhaps that we obliged for too long, but Pia has never put her head under the water. Be it a cup of water from the bath, or a shower, you have never wanted it. Then of course, Rafa, you have followed with a similar fear of getting your face wet.
Pia, you swim for hours in a purposeful doggy paddle without ever putting your head under the water. It's ok for our little pool, but we knew you needed some water safety living in Florida. We also thought that once you learned, you would love it, but we didn't know how to get you there. We asked a lot of people before scheduling the swim classes, but everyone said the same thing. One week, every day for 30 minutes and she'll do it. And so we made the call.
I got a call at work on the first day of your swim lesson. Papa was frantic. "She's crying, what do I do?" He couldn't watch so he had gone inside, but even then I could hear your frantic screams in the background. "Everyone says this is the way they did it, and it's not easy. Let's just see." I told him. I got off the phone and called the mother of the founder of the swim school who ran admissions anyway. She laughed and told me everyone goes through this, there will be tears, every day maybe, but we'll get through it.
I got home at 7pm and you were still crying about Matthew the swim instructor. We talked a lot about why it was happening, what was going to happen and the outcome all morning. By noon you were bursting with anticipation. You were crying sporadically and so scared, but I promised we could do it together, and so you were brave. I also gave you magic scuba goggles that helped keep your eyes dry under the water. That made you really brave. Brave enough to do it, crying, and brave enough to loudly and assertively ask Matthew to leave, NOW, after each go. "I don't need to learn to go under water" you told him with confidence, "I'm going to be a scientist!"
The goggles helped, and the cuddles in between each dive. You hadn't really stopped crying, but I could tell we were getting somewhere. I still took Matthew aside after and asked him to please take it easy, be more friendly with you and then called his mother to say the same thing.
Another pep talk and by day 3, you were ready for him. All day. It consumed your morning just counting the hours until he would arrive. It seemed ok when we sat together at the pool and you didn't cry once. You were nervous, but you allowed yourself to be pushed under water and you swam back up. You straightened your legs when he told you to kick straight and pulled yourself out of the pool all on your own. Every time he asked you to do something, you answered, "OK, and then you go away?" It broke my heart and made me chuckle all at the same time.
Gradually you went along with the motions and after day three, it seeemed better because you could see the end. By the last day, you were doing all of it on your own. You jumped in, you would dive to the bottom with assistance and kick straight legged and looking down until your head bumped the side of the pool. When Matthew left, you didn't get out of the pool. You stayed swimming all afternoon. You kept asking me to push your head under the water so you could dive for toys.
The next day I took you to the pool store and got you the diving toys you wanted. We dove for toys all day again, and you learned to use the wall to walk down to the bottom all on your own. In another day, you were diving down all on your own. And then you really couldn't get enough. We had a hard time making it to the beach with the pool right there. Rafa enjoying endless walks along the seating ledge and Pia diving for toys he throws in.
It would be good if it ended there. It didn't. Every single day, you asked if Matthew was coming. No, I reassured you. We talked about why he came, why he doesn't need to come anymore, and about how much fun you were having in the pool. You would agree, but the next day the same. We traveled and it seemed to cease. Then you went swimming with the family and it started back up again. I was traveling for work, and everyone was on edge by this Matthew that brought you to tears randomly every day.
When I returned, we talked about it. And you seemed ok. But then it became a household name. You said it every day. So much that it went like this most of the time:
Pia: "Mama, I don't want Matthew to come!"
Rafa: "He's not coming Pia."
Then Matthew morphed into something scarier. He was in your dreams. He was the shadows passing by. After a month of holidays we returned with Matthew still very real in your world. School started, a new nanny, and there we were. Every day you mention him. You know he isn't coming and yet you can't seem to shake the thought of him. He is your anxieties personified.
You still love swimming, more than ever even. You dive, you jump in the pool you swim until I pull you out each afternoon and so... Maybe it's just ok. No matter what, we'll get through it together. We always do and always will.
I love you, (And Rafa loves you too because you spared him the anxiety of having to go through swim lessons this year. He's hoping you'll teach him yourself next year... me too.)
In July we all packed up bags and took a long flight over to San Francisco. Your mama has a soft spot for the West Coast, and that particular spot on the West Coast boasts a lot of things that could easily win each of us over...
Like real live sea lions hanging out on the pier for my little Marine Biologist:
Or endless bubbles and kites for my little explorer:
A giant chocolate factory for... well, who doesn't win on that one, really?
Famous sour dough bread for the Opa in us all:
And the biggest Chinatown in the world to make Papa happy:
We did other things too...
Like explore our new hotel and kids club
And the CSA (which was almost worth the trip in and of itself)
Rafa fell asleep anywhere we'd let him
And sometimes even when we wouldn't
Eventually we all hoped into the car again to spend the rest of the holiday in Half Moon Bay. I could have stayed forever.
We called whales... they came.
We called seals... they came.
We were pretty much Mother Nature herself so we decided to go for a hike. Rafa you were in your element of course because it was all a giant bear hunt.
It was every bit as beautiful as I remember and you guys lasted the whole hike, which means it must have been REALLY good.
You only stopped to hug a tree once in awhile.
I guess a little West Coast will do that to anyone.
Shortly after we returned from Europe, your Auntie Tara married Uncle Brad in a beautiful fairy tale wedding, celebrated under the oak trees of a Charleston plantation. Pia, you were a flower girl. No, not just a flower girl, but a lead flower girl and you were so excited you had been looking forward to the day for months, almost a year. I think it surpassed your expectations. It did mine. It was magical.
Rafa, you almost made it down the aisle, but the pressure was too much and the auoogah car was just outside the church doors calling your name, so you bolted out instead of in at the crucial minute. Pia, you walked like a princess leading Bam Bam and Elise with a basket of flowers and stood next to the bridesmaids at the alter through the whole wedding. Though you may have thrown your basket around once or twice when you were up there, for the most part you were a perfect angel. And Brad and Tara were charming and beautiful and there was hardly a dry eye in the place.
It isn't hard to see why...
(Beautiful photos thanks to Shannon Michele Photography of Charleston)