Sunday, July 27, 2014

Family Weekend at the Jersey Shore


This weekend we took a quick trip out to my Aunt and Uncle's fabulous place in New Jersey. 

My Aunt and I stayed up late the first night gabbing, we got to catch up with my cousin in between her work shifts, and L. got to hang out in the pool and ride his scooter around their backyard like a wild cat. On Saturday my Aunt and Uncle took us to the Point Pleasant boardwalk for the day. It was L.'s first time on any kind of ride and after each one he asked for another, even asking to go on the small roller coaster toward the end....







Thank you Mark, Laury, and Katie for the fun weekend getaway! <3


How about you? What are your favorite places to visit on the Jersey Shore? Favorite treats to eat? We were tempted to try a deep fried Oreo but ran out of room after lunch (probably a good thing!)

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Friday, July 18, 2014

BREASTMILK Official Trailer



Where was this documentary when I was breastfeeding L.?! I would have much preferred it to the class I took at the local hospital while pregnant. Although nothing could have prepared me for the utter shock of being caught off guard {read: topless} by an earthquake in DC while pumping at work.

What do you think, will you watch the movie when comes it out on DVD? All you pregnant Mommas out there might want to check it out!

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Survival Swimming Can Save a Child's Life


In the blink of an eye a child can drown. The pull of the ocean's current can be stronger than you think, pulling your child from your grasp, or they could fall into the pool in the second it takes you to lean over for a toy. How your child reacts in those first few seconds can make the difference between life or death. Survival swimming helps prevent drowning by teaching children how to react in situations where they find themselves alone in the water.

We live in Annapolis, the sailing capital of the world, and we are surrounded by water. Our home is a five minute walk away from the Severn, which flows out to the Chesapeake Bay. We also spend a lot of time around sailboats, pools, beaches, and lakes in Florida with family every year. Not to mention that a child can drown in the bathtub at home, or even a toilet. It's scary, especially in Florida, where each year "enough children to fill three to four preschool classrooms drown and do not live to see their fifth birthday."

What is Survival Swimming?

As parents, it's our instinct to protect our children. We make sure the pool at relatives' homes has a locked gate, we do a float test at the beginning of each boating season to make sure our kids' USCG-approved personal floatation devices (PFDs) work as they should. When Stephen and I first learned about survival swimming, we were intrigued because it was an additional step we could take to help protect our child. 

I wanted to write this post to describe our experience with the method and to share some of the lessons we have learned along the way in hopes it would help other parents who are curious. 

Although nothing can substitute for supervising your child in the water, I believe survival swimming can help prevent drowning. It improves a child's chances of survival if they are ever in the water alone. The method of learning survival swimming is not right for every parent or child as it is very different from traditional swim classes, but it's been a good fit for us.

The basic idea of survival or "self-rescue" swimming is that if your child ever falls into water, he or she can survive by either floating face up until someone rescues them, or looking for and swimming to a place where they can climb out of the water, like a rock or ladder.

But to get to the point where your child can do this in a life or death situation is not simple. The lessons are difficult on the parent and child in the beginning because the survival swim method is directly counter to more popular swim methods that teach young babies to enjoy splashing and blowing bubbles in the water. Babies can start survival swim lessons as young as 6-months-old.

Making It Through a Lesson

The typical schedule for survival swim lessons is to bring your child to the pool for a ten minute lesson 4-5 days a week for about 6 weeks, with sessions twice a year. Once the child has mastered the swim-to-float technique and can climb to safety on their own, only refresher lessons are suggested, so it's not as time-intensive. Each lesson is taught one-on-one with your child by a certified instructor.

During that ten minute lesson, the child will typically have their head under water and kick, flip over, and climb out of the pool (depending on the child's age). It's not easy to watch an 8-month-old baby emerge from the water screaming at the top of their lungs, but it is part of the learning experience with survival swimming. It gets easier. It also helps to watch and interact with the other parents whose children may have been swimming for longer, and to bring your child early to watch those children do well.

If you are not familiar with the survival swimming method it can sound strange to keep that kind of schedule. I mean isn't it easier for you to just go once a week for 45 minutes? Less time off work, fewer wet bathing suits to wash, towels to dry, etc.? The method works because it uses the repetition to teach children, who have short attention spans anyways, and without that repetition, it's not as effective. We know from experience (see "lessons learned" below). 

What Does Survival Swimming Look Like?

Below is a video of L. at age 3 swimming, so this is after 2 years of lessons. In the video you can see him get into the water from a seated position and climb out on his own. But best of all, you can see he loves the water and is happy...


To break it down a bit more, the child is taught to sit at the edge of the pool and put their feet in the water because it's not safe to jump in from a standing position (they can scrape their back, hit their head on the pool ledge, etc.). They put their arms up to help propel them forward into a dive....


After a swim, when the child gets to the edge of the pool (or a ladder) they are encouraged to climb out on their own by first getting their knee up on the edge, then pulling the rest of their body up. It's best to let them do this on their own as much as possible so they feel confident. L. has this down pat...


In the photo below L. is doing the float and breathe technique, or the "starfish" with my Mom. This is the most crucial life-saving aspect of the survival swimming method because it teaches children to take a break and breathe until they can find an exit from the water or be rescued.


It's not fancy, he is just floating in the water like we as adults do, but for children, it can be scary to trust this position. For L., this has been the most challenging. Check out these short videos on the ISR website that show the amazing swim-to-float sequence that teaches children to flip themselves into a swim-to-float position.  

What Lessons Have We Learned As Parents?

Start Them Young
We should have listened to the advice of others and started L. with lessons at 6 months old, or even 9 or 12 months old. I was so afraid that he wouldn't love the water and would fear it if his first experiences with water were not happy ones, that I put it off until he was 2. This made it harder on him. 

If you are at all interested in survival swimming, find an instructor near you and sign up early as there is so much demand for these lessons, many parents find themselves on waiting lists for more than a year.

Go More Often
With our schedules, we couldn't manage taking L. for the full 4 days a week the lessons were offered during any of the sessions. It put him at a disadvantage, but it was better than nothing. If we could do it all over again, I would have tried to adjust my work schedule and at least get him in all 4 days the first two weeks of the sessions, then do 1-2 days a week. 

The whole point of the ten minute sessions multiple times a week is to make what the kids are learning routine through repetition, repetition, repetition. It is crucial for them to call upon what they learned in a life or death situation.

Learn the Techniques Yourself
It's advantageous to pay attention to the techniques your instructor is using with your child and to have a conversation with your instructor about how you should be working with your child when you're at the pool on weekends, out in the open water on holidays, etc. Granted you helping your child isn't going to be as effective as a trained instructor, but it helps.

We have a game we play to make it fun so that when L. first gets into the water wherever we are we play the role of his instructor and he goes through his routine for a bit, and then he goof around and do what he wants for fun. It works so well that he usually wants to keep doing his routine longer, so I say go for it.

Make a Go Bag
The "starfish" go bag is a must for keeping organized, especially since if yours were like ours, lessons are early in the morning. I described how I made one in an earlier post, but basically, just grab an old canvas bag and a Sharpie marker and write a list of each item your child needs for class so whether it's you, your husband, or someone else taking your child to his or her lesson, they have everything they need.

Our go bag list included ear plugs, goggles, socks to wear in the water, two towels, a check for the lesson, a dry outfit to change into, and a wet bag to put all L.s wet gear when finished.


What's Next for Us?

Tracey, our amazing instructor in Annapolis recently relocated, so there aren't any options near us anymore. There is a possibility an ISR instructor from Virginia will be coming up to give a few lessons this summer, so we're hoping that works out so he can help L. strengthen his roll to the float while swimming. 

L. was at a disadvantage this past session because we could only manage to get him in for lessons once a week, which wasn't enough repetition for him. And despite my best efforts to help him with the starfish during a recent trip to Florida with daily swims, it still needs some work, so that's next for us. If we can't find an ISR instructor, we will go with a traditional swim method as he has a strong basis so should be a quick learner.

Please let me know if you have any questions about survival swimming or if you'd be interested in sharing your own story with me to post here on the blog for other Jes' Delights readers as I'd love to share as many experiences as I can. I'm especially interested to hear if anyone has been involved in the CrossFit Kids survival swimming mission!


Disclaimer: I am not a certified swim instructor or water safety specialist and all opinions expressed in this post are from the point of view of a parent and based on my experience with my own child. The information and photos in this post should not be considered instruction or advice. Please consult the Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) website for detailed information and for locating a certified instructor near you.


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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Miami's Monkey Jungle

Monkey Jungle is a wildlife park out in the farmland of Miami, Florida that's a hit for the whole family. At this park, Macaque monkeys run around and the humans are caged in, so you can walk through and see the monkeys interact in the "wild" and even feed them. There are also enclosures for the other primates, and entertaining educational shows presented by trainers.

Welcome to the jungle...


A Java Macaque monkey...


L. loved running around watching the monkeys with his grandparents.


Our little friend waiting on his treats... Watch out, they bite!


The white handed gibbons were my favorite. They whipped around, swinging around so quickly that it made me dizzy to watch. 


During the wild monkey swimming presentation we learned what lengths monkeys will go to to avoid getting wet. Apparently not even 100 degree weather and hard boiled eggs (their fav!) are enough to convince them to go for a dip in the pool. This guy delicately balanced on his toes and tail to dunk just his head in the water to retrieve a mango.


King the Gorilla was impressive. My Dad reminded me that when he took me and my younger sisters there as kids my sister convinced him to buy her a boom box because King had his own. Although he didn't have his boom box that day, I was surprised to see his trainer used a clicker with him. It was funny to me that a training method I once tried to condition my black lab with for a psych project could be used to successfully train a 400 pound gorilla, but I guess this says something about my skills as an animal trainer.


The show stealer was Mei, the orangutan. These apes do not have tails, typically live alone, and eat mostly fruit. Her expressions were incredible...


Where do you like to take the kids when you're in Miami? What do you do when the weather keeps you indoors? Please share by leaving a comment below, and thanks for stopping by the blog!

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