Swimming badge: The SUPERHERO SPLASH

I have to admit something: I hate taking my kid to swimming lessons. I want to love it. I want to feel inspired and excited by the process, and all the potential, but truth be told, I despise the whole thing. I don't have to go in with my oldest anymore, which is a relief (also an impossibility with another (younger) kid in the mix), and I've managed to read a few pages of a book every now and then. Or school through Instagram, or send a few long-overdue emails, but mostly, I just sit on the humid bench hating everything. (Mostly, I just want to trade places. He can sit on the deck, and I can swim. Wouldn't that be amazing? Half the pool for lessons, half for the parents to go for a dip themselves?)

My oldest is not (yet) a fan of the water. It's definitely gotten better. Tuesdays last fall would start at 7am with swim-dread and it would build and build until the 5:30 time slot and it would make the day unbearable. So far, that's subsided, which is a huge relief.

The thing is, I remember HATING swimming lessons. I loved swimming, I loved the water. At my grandparent's cottage, I'd be in the lake minutes after breakfast and would stay in until it was time to roast marshmallows at night, but I HATED swimming lessons back in the city. I'd always fail. I could never tread water. The other side of the pool was always so impossibly far away. Instructors were either too harsh or too chipper and no matter what I always wanted to impress them and always disappointed them.

It's such an intense situation—a tiny window, one-on-one, once a week, charged with expectations. It's such a lose-lose situation, really.

So I get it. Jack, I totally get it. But, as a wise dad friend of mine says, there are two things that are non-negotiable: swimming lessons and school. And so, we eat "bravery unicorns" on the way there, and celebrate with hotdogs afterwards (Side note: I distinctly remember getting McDLTs after my lessons at Norseman Pool!)

Mid-way through the term, my brilliant fella realized that "dunks" were the biggest point of fear, so he re-branded them, "SUPERHERO SPLASHES" and I can't even tell you what a difference that made. It was incredible. Thank god for marketing backgrounds...

Jack finished up last week and got a mama-made badge celebrating his superhero splashes, and my very brave, still-very-scared-of-the-water kiddo tried every week. Really, what more can you ask for?

AND my fella made him the most incredible book—photos of superheroes swimming, alongside photos of Jack in the pool. He just about burst when he saw himself next to a photo of Spidey and it's now fully in the bedtime reading rotation. I'm hoping this softens his memory of the pool, reshapes them even, so that instead of the fear, he remembers his bravery, his courage and the rush of pride in his accomplishments.

Here's to hoping. And to a summer of swimming joy...(it'll be warm enough one of these days, right?!) My goal is to make this summer all about having fun in the water. I want it all to feel lighter, and more playful. I want the pressure to be off. I'm so hoping we can find that, my kiddo and me.

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, June 3, 2019

700 swims later...

I pulled my suit on the other morning at the pool, only to find the top band had entirely unattached from the rest of the suit. The stitching had totally disintegrated. I was so frustrated—this suit was pretty much brand new, I fumed.

Except, then I realized it wasn't. It wasn't brand-new at all. I got it right after my son was born, which makes it over 4 years old now. My pregnancy had stretched out my former suit so badly, all the seams had ripped open (ALLLL of the seams, ahem) and this bathing suit was my post-pregnancy treat to myself. Except getting it meant:
a) going to a mall
b) going to a mall with a baby
c) trying on bathing suits a few weeks post-partum (in a mall, with a baby)

So, not awesome. I remember grabbing a handful of Speedos (my suit of choice...not sponsored, though I'll take a bathing suit sponsorship any day! Holy smokes, they're pricey) in a handful of sizes because post-partum body and the sizing on my last suit had been bleached right off of the tag. It was March, or maybe early April, so the selection was terrible and I bought the first suit I managed to wriggle into. It wasn't pretty. It was blue and green in some strange zig-zaggy pattern, but it was a flattering cut that wouldn't slip off my shoulders, or ride up my butt.

And then I wore this not-so-pretty-but-very-servicable suit 3-4 times a week (at minimum!) for four years (minus the few months I wore my patched up old suit when I was pregnant the second time). That's over 700 swims. And so, I forgave the stitching that had disintegrated and thanked this workhorse of a suit for its years (!) of service.

(A friend has a 45 Wears project on Instagram, a project that promotes wearing clothes longer and celebrating clothes that last. I think I should submit this suit - it deserves a mention 15 times over!)

And so, I'm back to bathing suit shopping, which is still dreadful. Is a plain, solid colour suit so much to ask for? Yes. Yes it is, apparently. I have two issues (three if you count the awful change room lighting): 1). people swim-swim year-round. I get that fancy bikinis are more of a summer thing, but racing/swim-swimming suits aren't just a summer thing, and yet no stores carry them "out of season" and 2). WHAT IS UP WITH ALL THE SWIM-SWIMMING (as opposed to lounging) SUITS HAVING BOOB PADDING? Are people really so horrified by the potential of the outline of a nipple? The last thing I want is a pair of wet sponges dragging me down. Bah.

And so, I'm going to pull out my sewing machine and zip-zag stitch the top of my suit back together until I can find a workhorse for the next 700 swims.

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, May 10, 2019

A weekend of floating

Every minute of my days (and evenings) is accounted for—the overwhelming juggle of writing, swimming, taking care of my children, laundry, work-work, Love Lettering Project work, etc. etc. Every tiny window is spoken for, filled up. It’s why I love swimming. When I’m swimming, swimming is the only thing I can do. No getting distracted by an email, or a kid who wants socks on her hands, or a to-do list that has grown onto two pages. It is a 45-minute window painstakingly carved out in a day. My window. I love that window.

But one weekend earlier this year, I was gifted a swim retreat weekend. A whole weekend to just swim. And sleep. And write. And read. And swim some more.

I’d had one before – a swim weekend – a couple years ago when I was 4-ish months pregnant (maybe 5?). Back then I was so nauseous I could barely stand up without the world spinning. (I kept waiting for the nausea to ebb, but there it was, my constant, unwelcome companion for 7 straight months). The only time I wasn’t nauseous was when I was swimming, but I rarely made it to the 12-1pm lane swim window. I was usually dry heaving in front of the fridge, trying to figure out what I could eat without vomiting, or napping literally anywhere thanks to the anti-nausea pills that induced a Benadryl-like coma. That swim weekend, where I could sleep and swim and didn’t have to do anything but, was so glorious, even with the ever-present nausea.

BUT this time around, I was not pregnant or nauseous. I also swim regularly at a nearby pool that is open from 5am-11pm and usually have a lane it to myself. Even with these overall day-to-day life improvements,  my weekend away in my “swimming hotel” was still totally magical.

It was strange and wonderful not to have a single obligation for 36 hours. No dinner plans. No bruch plans. Literally nothing. I was floating through this huge expanse of time, swimming, writing, reading, sleeping, buying new lipstick (RED!), walking, happy hour-ing, sauna-ing, Netflix-ing, knitting. I didn’t even know how long I did things for. I did them until I didn’t. Time didn’t matter. There were no windows to fill, I just floated.

I only swam three times. Once a day. It didn’t have the manic must-swim-all-the-time energy of the last swim retreat I had, but I got to float for 36 hours straight and it was positively glorious.
And I wasn’t nauseous.

  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, March 13, 2019

On blogging and swimming and watching the moon set

I think about writing about swimming all the time. Every time I swim, I do length after length, telling stories and crafting sentences, but then in the time it takes to run to the shower, shower, dry off, moisturize (winter and chlorine are a punishing combination), get dressed and get home, the words have evaporated, as has the impulse to write anything down. And then I tell myself it doesn’t matter anyways, that my swims these days are routine and ordinary. It’s not like the summer where I find new, exciting places to dip. It’s the same pool, at the same times every week with the same losing-its-structural-integrity bathing suit.

But I read Kerry’s “back to the blog movement” post, the imperative of blogging, of writing in that meandering way that maybe leads to answers, or maybe to questions, or maybe nothing at all:

“…write your way toward any answers you’re seeking. So a random post about a missing hat, or another about how I was looking for a babysitter. These were posts I wrote because it felt good to be writing and employing the first-person perspective again, though I wasn’t sure what they all added up to. In some ways, it felt like I was learning to be a blogger all over, learning to be uncomfortable. Questioning what this space was for, what stories I was telling, and what my voice was. So what’s the point? There usually wasn’t one.”

And then I read the thoughtful response pieces by Julia and Melanie and decided mid-swim this morning that it didn’t matter that my swims were routine and predictable. Writing and swimming are my two very favourite things and being able to write about swimming, (and think about writing while swimming) is my happy place.

And then I realized that my ordinary, routine, predictable swims are also exceptional and revelatory. Two weeks ago, I was kicking with a flutter board and  three-quarters of the way to the deep end (that actually isn’t deep at all), I had a flash of my next novel project. The character, the plot, all of it arrived in a fully formed package. Just like that. I’m in the final stages of my novel about Amelia Earhart and was mostly convinced that I’d never had another novel in me again, but as soon as I was back in the water, letting my mind do that wandering thing I love so very much, this novel idea arrived. It’s only been two weeks, but I am positively smitten and spend every waking minute jotting down notes and writing scenes and figuring out who all these characters are…

And then, just this morning, I stepped out of the house in the -35 chill with a huge almost-full moon hanging low over the houses on the other side of the street. And then I watched this moon from the middle lane of the pool, hanging huge and round behind a hydro tower as the sky turned a deep purple, then a lighter purple, and finally a glowing mauve. I haven’t watched the moon set, especially while swimming in well, ever.

And so, blogging and swimming and swimming and blogging…here we are, with moons and new characters and the same routine over and over again.
  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, January 22, 2019

My fall swimming uniform (and some fall swimming-spiration)

I've been swimming. A lot, I guess, but in that utilitarian way that happens in every season that isn't summer. It's not to say that the swims haven't been great. I had an exceptionally good one the other day where I finally figured out what I'm going to make for a commission next summer. Another where I sorted out some key plot points in this final stretch of novel-writing (which of course features swimming!). 

As I've been plodding back and forth (in my heated, indoor pool), I've been living vicariously through some UK swimming pals – Katie and Manda on Team Mermaids who are still swimming in the 6 degree lido, and Jill Gregory Page who is doing 30 days of sea swimming, and of course Jessica J. Lee's Berlin swim-ventures.

I'm far too much of a cold water wimp to jump on board with winter swimming (or even fall swimming, let's be serious), but I do have a cold weather swimming uniform: my Kate Pugsley swimming sweatshirt from Simons, and I couldn't help myself but pick up some of her swimming washi tape!

(I cannot wear this shirt without 20-year-olds stopping me to ask where I got it. Sometimes multiple times an outing! It's my cool kid magnet).

Other swimmy goodness:

Look at these INCREDIBLE paintings by Vicki Smith. Aren't they just beautiful? There's a wonderful interview with the artist here. Thanks to the Jealous Curator for spreading the word (and it looks like Bau-Xi Gallery has a whole bunch of them!)

I just spotted Roosevelt's pool under the White House press briefing room. If anyone happens upon a teleporter and access to FDR, holler! And Kerry shared a tip about a former pool in the Club Monaco at Avenue Rd. and Bloor – the building was originally the Lillian Massey Department of Household Science and the pool and gym were the female-equivalent of the male-only Hart House (where the pool still exists and everyone can swim in). Thanks to Shawn Micallef's STROLL for the details.

  • Lindsay
  • Monday, November 26, 2018

AirBnB but for POOLS!

I never think anyone has an outdoor pool until I get in an airplane and then I'm pretty sure EVERYONE has an outdoor pool and HOW CAN I BE FRIENDS WITH THEM PLEASE? Look at all those tiny pockets of turquoise blue. Just glorious! (What I'd give for an outdoor dip during this mid-October heatwave!)

Cue Swimply - the Airbnb of backyard pools.

I feel a bit conflicted: the former lifeguard in me wonders about safety concerns, and what about chlorine levels...? But the swimmer in me can't wait to jump into someone else's backyard for a dip. (You KNOW we're going on a Swimming Holes We Have Known Swimply tour next summer!)

I chatted about it with CTV News. (You can read it here, just imagine it with lots of hand gestures!)

There are only 2 Toronto pools for now, but I have great hopes for next summer.

  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, October 10, 2018

STILL SUMMER (kind of) and a swimming highlight reel

It's 27 degrees out and the sun is blazing and there's no better place than the middle of a deep end, staring up at the blue sky and even though it's been two weeks, I'm still in deep denial that the outdoor pools are closed. But alas, they are closed and some mornings require sleeves and I am NOT HAPPY ABOUT IT.

It's still summer.

I think this might've been the best swimming summer I've had since I was eight. The railings in our backyard were always filled with drying towels, and I was constantly putting on a slightly damp suit, which feels gross, but is a sure sign of LOTS of swimming. My kiddos both fell in love with the water and we spent every weekend swimming, trying out new pools, tacking on picnics to afternoon dips, meeting friends and swimming swimming swimming, it was just the greatest.

Though I didn't get to swim with my swimmers, we managed to have docktails (well, rocktails as the docks were full of boating enthusiasts) and we traded summer swimming highlights.

It was hard for me to pick just one, but my highlight reel includes:
- Swimming on the Island (and not just going in for a dunk, but swim-swimming for 45 minutes!)
- My roadtrip to the Elora Quarry
- Lake swimming with loons (and with both of my kids!)
- A swim at Smythe Park pool late in August, where I had the entire 50m pool TO MYSELF for 45 minutes (!)
- And the (re)discovery of the Giovanni Caboto oasis, once on a Sunday at noon with my kiddos, where it was so empty and lanerope-less that I borrowed a pair of goggles from the lost and found and swam some impromptu lengths, and then for the rare unicorn that is a mid-week morning swim. It was my baby girl's first day of daycare and I celebrated with an entire fast lane to myself, while dragonflies flew over the turquoise blue. It was a wonderful start to a late August day and a perfect reclamation of time and headspace after a childcare-less summer.
- AND hearing about/seeing all the amazing swims people have gone on on Instagram and Twitter!

I have since put away the mountain of towels, suits, swim diapers, flip-flops, bucket hats and plastic floating zebra that has lived by the front door for the last two and a half months. It's now just my indoor pool gear—a boring one-piece, a flutterboard, shampoo, googles. It looks empty, that corner and makes me inordinately sad. (Maybe I should stick a pumpkin there?)

To fill the void, I'm reading Kerry Clare's beautiful ode to swimming and making plans for next summer including actually making it out to the east end for pool and lake swimming, more roadtrip swims, and, hopefully a trip to my favourite river.

In the meantime, if anyone has a pool/access to a hotel pool, holler! My suit is waiting by the door.
  • Lindsay
  • Monday, September 17, 2018

Two new badges for my two little swimmers

I still have all of my Brownie badges—one where I helped make a campfire, another where I got to teach some sort of folk dance all of the other Brownies. Even a sports one, though I’m pretty sure I didn’t deserve that one.

But sadly, I don’t have my swimming badges. Those were hard one, especially my red badge that I had to take three or four times over because I just couldn’t tread water. And my Green badge—I still remember how cold the pool was that summer. My teacher was Greg and he was a hard-ass and we were all scared of him, and we all thought had failed until that last triumphant moment on the very last class. For my White badge, I had to do butterfly, which kept me away every night for two weeks. After I got my Blue badge, my pal Peter’s mom told my mom how graceful my backstroke was. I've never forgotten that.

Kids still get badges, but not for the preschool round of lessons, which is a shame because I'm all for getting kids hooked on the reward of getting badges early! But that's never stopped me before (see Exhibit A and B). I commemorated my son's first ever round of swimming lessons with his Inchworm Kick badge and his bubble blowing badge.

For the record, the baby should've passed Guardian 1—she actually did everything to pass her level in the first class—bubbles, head dunking, kicking, the whole nine yards. She is fearless and brave and loves the water more than anything. 

Though truthfully, I don’t actually care of my kids pass swimming lessons or not at the moment (will this change as they get older? Maybe). But at this stage, it's all about falling in love with the water, figuring out how their bodies can move in it, learning to trust that the water can hold them up. 

But I'm all about celebrating everything, so I made them both badges—one to commemorate my son's new found love of the water and his bravery during his first round of parent-free swimming lessons. And the one for my daughter celebrates her bubble-blowing and head-dunking— my braveheart water baby who astounded me with her courage.

And then we had chocolate sundaes with smarties on the porch (which I regretted two minutes after it was done because of the sugar madness), but it was still felt like an important thing to commemorate and celebrate.
  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, August 28, 2018

10 (!) days left: make it count with a dip and a picnic

There are only 10 (10!) days left in the outdoor pool season. It’s time to make everyone of those days count. So may I suggest a day at the Alex Duff pool followed by a picnic at Christie Pits?! 

(If you’re not organized – because who is? It's late August – you can always pick up picnic supplies at the north east end of the park at the best grocery store in the city. Fiesta Farms!)

I've written about the joys of the Alex Duff pool before, but a quick recap: there's SO much deck space, a shallow-shallow pool for kids, a shallow pool for slightly bigger kids, a deep end with a twirly slide and diving board AND a permanent lane swim lane set up. And there’s a universal change room, and a whole area for stroller parking! And then, when you're done, there's a ginormous, gloriousness of Christie Pits waiting for you and your picnic blanket!

Go! Go!! Swim and picnic the last 10 days away!

(PS: may I recommend the revelation of the summer and the best pre-post swim snack I've ever had? The Meat Roll-up: cheese, a pickle, a smear of mustard wrapped in salami (or more deliciously bresaola, basil leaf option!)

  • Lindsay
  • Friday, August 24, 2018

The very best Toronto swim I've ever had

I grew up a short bike ride from Lake Ontario and we'd go to the Island every summer. We were swimmers, my whole family, but never once did we venture into the lake. Growing up, we were told you'd grow an extra leg if you ever set foot in Lake Ontario.

BUT the water quality has totally changed since the 80s and there are the most beautiful blue flag beaches, and so, with tips from Toronto walker/swimmer/ Shawn Micallef, my family took the Hanlan's Point ferry, then walked and walked (and somehow got the baby to sleep), following the signs for the clothing optional beach. We ducked under a beautiful wooden arbour, then dragged the stroller through the sand (stroller was great for hauling all of our stuff and for doubling as a crib for the baby, but not ideal in the sand!). I had no idea there were dunes on the west side of the island, but there we were, in thick rolling sand. It felt like Sandbanks-lite. And then, poof, a lake that looked like an ocean, clear and blue, and stretching on for forever.

It was actually breathtaking. I had the seize the moment (the sleeping baby moment) and I hopped in. There wasn't much shade, so we set the baby up under the shadow of the lifeguard tower and got to work: my fella was skipping stones, the kiddo was looking for perfect rocks and I went swimming.

There's a huge sandbar so I swam out to the buoys and could still stand (!) and I swam and I swam – stroke-stroke-CN Tower, stroke-stroke-neverending ocean-like horizon. It still astounds me. It was hands down the best swim I've ever had in Toronto. The beach was nearly empty. We were right on the line between the clothing optional beach and the clothing mandatory beach and there were maaaaaaybe five people for as far as we could see.

I swam and swam, then laid on a towel and the kid piled rocks on me. When the baby woke up, we wandered over to Gibraltor Point for a picnic and let her get her feet wet, 'cause the only person who loves swimming more than me is Claire.

We then walked to Centreville and took the kids on their first amusement park ride – a twirl on the 112-year-old carousel! The kiddo named his lion "Nana Ruth" and the toddler hopped on a pig and was the happiest I've ever seen her (roller coasters, watch out!)

Some tips:
- Pack chips. We didn't. I still regret it.
- We took the UP train and walked from Union Station - it was a DREAM compared to the last time I did a trip to the Island with a stroller that involved a bus, two subways, and LRT, a ferry and too many stairs/broken elevators to count...
- If you can, go mid-week.
- If you're sans little kids, rent one of the multi-person bikes!
- A pal noted the water taxis are amazing if you have kids who can't handle lines (or if you're the kid who can't handle lines, no judgment!)
- If you do take the ferry (which I LOVE - the orange ceiling of stuffed-together life jackets, the view of the CN Tower from the upper deck, the sunscreen coated kids, etc etc), make sure you hop on Jack Layton's tandem bike. Makes me happy-teary every time.
- The walk from the Hanlan's Point ferry terminal is a bit far for young kids – it's about 1km, worth it, but I'm glad we brought the back pack carrier for the kiddo and the stroller for the toddler. I've heard there's a great swimmable beach really close to the Ward's Island ferry terminal - I'm going to try it next time!

I can't wait till the kids are old enough to get the four-person bikes!

  • Lindsay
  • Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Summerary: the most perfect swim AND 2018's most perfect docktail

Every summer I have THE swim, the one I will remember in the heart of February. This year, the lake at the cottage we rent for a week every summer was still as glass after days of wind and whitecaps. The sun was shining and when I was halfway down the lake, I heard a loon call, and there they were, our family of loons (an asylum of loons!), not far from where I was swimming.

Confession: I was a bit terrified. They are such big birds and their beaks are so sharp and they swim so fast, but it also felt pretty magical to be sharing the water with them.

The other banner swim happened on the one night my fella and I managed to get down to the dock after the kids were asleep. We were sitting with docktails (recipe below!) and all of a sudden, a rainbow appeared over the lake, so OF COURSE I had to jump in for a late night dip.

I love the pace of cottaging. I love that time somehow bellies and slows down in a way it never seems to in the city. I managed to read 6 (!) books, between the dock and sitting outside my 3.5-year-old's room waiting for him to stop talking about frogs and GO TO SLEEP ALREADY. I swam every single day and jumped in and jumped in and jumped in again. I really feel like I'm making up for so many years hanging off ladders. The joy of jumping in has not dimmed in the last three summers, not one bit.

We visited my beloved grandparents' dear friend from 50+ years ago and hung out with the loon family (I know I'm anthropomorphizing, but we watch the two baby loons learn to dive that week and I full on cried on the dock, cheering them on. They were so little, but so brave!) and caught frogs with my kiddo (he named his favourite frog "Manny Merman"), and my 16-month-old tried to launch herself off the dock every second of the day. Claire's love of the water truly astounds me – she is the happiest when she's in the water, splashing in the shallows, paddling off the dock. Swimming with her was so wonderful, and even Jack got on board and the highlight of my week was swimming with both of them in the lake at the same time. A family swim – it was actually a dream come true.

When I wasn't swimming, or reading, or frog catching, or trying to keep the baby from launching herself into the water, I was on the water. We went on our first family canoe ride with the four of us. It was great until we ran out of snacks and the baby's foot got tangled in a spider web. And I took a kayak out for a spin and I tried standup paddling boarding again. I tried it last year and didn't get what all the fuss was about, but I tried it again one afternoon when the lake was perfectly still and I needed to escape from the neverending frog catching/minnow hunting. It was so meditative, and I loved being on the surface, without being IN the water. It was like canoeing, but vertical. I loved the perch of it. I paddled all over the lake, along the far shoreline. It was one of my very favourite afternoons.

We lost power on our last day, and woke up to thick fog and still no power. So we packed the car without coffee and ran down to the dock for one final swim. The air was thick and grey and we couldn't even see across the lake, but we swam and arrived back to the city with hair still damp with lake water.

Jack has been talking about "The Summerary". It's unclear what he actually means, but he's described it as: "a swimming pool with a library, kind of like France, and a cottage. There are frogs, but no minnows" And so, this year's docktail is....THE SUMMERARY:

To make two perfect "Summerary" docktails:
2 spears of cucumber
juice from 1 lemon
2 oz Bombay Sapphire gin
1 oz Hendricks gin
mix with ice
top with tonic

Serve on the dock next to a family of loons while the kids nap. Best enjoyed on slightly damp towels, preceded by a leap in the lake.

  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, August 9, 2018

Goodbye, Guardian Swim, Hello ALL OF THE FEELINGS

I have been dreaming about the day when my kid goes to swimming lessons and I sit on the deck WITHOUT a suit on since his first Guardian swim class three years ago. Kerry wrote about her farewell to Guardian Swim a while back and it has been my touchstone for all those days bouncing around the shallow end making starfish and singing Ring Around the Rosy. I love swimming, (CLEARLY), but I hate Guardian Swim, a semi-free-for-all with barely-there instruction and teachers who insist you dunk your clearly petrified child under water or tell your 5-month-old to kick his legs (psssst, he doesn't know what his legs are...)

BUT, this week, it arrived. Solo swim classes. I brought a book. And no bathing suit. I was so excited.

And then my little guy walked onto the deck, looking so small against the backdrop of the pool. He followed his teacher, "Coach Brian" as he's known around here, into the shallow end. My first-born is hesitant around water (unlike my running-off-the-dock-at-any-given-chance second born), and to see him stand on the water table and blow bubbles, his small hands on his small hips, so clearly nervous and so clearly brave cracked me open.

Usually when we are swimming, our bodies are touching. I'm holding him under his arms, or he's balancing on my hip. We blow bubbles into each other's bubbles. We chase after toy zebras together, his legs kicking. It made my body ache, seeing the water up to his waist, blowing bubbles with an entire shallow end between us.

I was back in Parklawn Pool, and it was 1984 and I was standing on the table in the shallow end, desperate for my Yellow badge. I too was terrified, but also trying to be brave. I was him and I wasn't him at all.

I tried not to look so he wouldn't see my fear, or delight, I wasn't even sure what it was.

I opened my book and pretended to read, watching him out of the corner of my eye. I'd read a word, then glance up and he'd be kicking with a noodle. I'd read another word and glance up and he'd be giving Coach Brian a high five.

I've felt shades of this before, this heart-bursting, teary pride and clear distinction of him being his very own unique person in the world. It happened first when he ran into his classroom at daycare and was swept up in a hug by his caregiver, Yordanke, and again when he's played soccer with a skill I can't quite fathom and gone to birthday parties and fallen in with his pals with such ease and joy. But this was different. He looked so vulnerable in his little green whale trunks, his shoulder blades so tiny and delicate. This was so visceral.

I swam in the very same pool the day I gave birth to him, just hours before, though I had no idea then. I told him that on the way home. "Did I like Smarties when I was a baby?" was his response, eating his swimming bribe, I mean reward—one red and one orange Smartie.

I shook my head and tried not to cry.

He has swimming lessons again next week, and I will bring my book and try to read, but I know I will probably just stare at this beautiful, incredible body that once did flip turns inside me while I swam, flutter kicking against my ribs, and I will burst with pride and ache with nervousness, that line between us still a bit blurry.

One day this line won't be blurry and he will swim and I will read, but now that I've graduated from Guardian swim, I'm no longer in a hurry.

  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Bits and buoys and the best swimming summer since I was 8

There's still a solid month left, but I'm going to call it already: this is hands down the best swimming summer I've had since 1988. I've had such incredible swims in all sorts of different pools, and lakes, a veritable swimiraclea quarry even. My baby girl is ALL about swimming, my kiddo is on board and practices front crawl in his bed instead of sleeping. It is the best. Just the best. More on some spectacular swims I've had and places to jump in soon, but in the meantime, I'm celebrating the renaming of the Regent Park Aquatic Centre after the wonderful, generous local councillor who was a huge supporter of the centre. It's now the Pam McConnell Aquatic Centre. Even typing that out makes me a bit weepy.

In other public pool news, I'm *still* thinking about Katrina Onstad's piece about public pools in the West End Phoenix: "A public pool on a summer day feels beautifully optimistic," she writes. "Today's pools feel inclusive, and provide a kind of informal social infrastructure."

What a beautiful homage to public pools – their imperfections and beauty and necessity.

This swimming article in the New Yorker by Carolyn Kormann made me want to swim every pool in Toronto in a day (though it'd definitely take more than a day...Toronto has 58 outdoor-run pools!)

"As I marked the locations of Manhattan’s pools on a map, a constellation emerged: the people’s moat, a secret waterway, a liquid realm. Among the honking taxis, flashing lights, and fretful pedestrians, I would swim." Read the whole article here!

And though I don't have any plans to head west any time soon (sob), if you do happen to be out near Edmonton, please swim at the Borden Park Natural Pool and let us know how it is!!!!

"It’s the first pool of its kind in Canada and only the second one in North America. It’s modelled on natural swimming pools that are popular in Germany and Austria. Instead of chemical disinfectants, dechlorinated water is cleansed and purified though a series of sand and gravel filters and by the natural interactions of plants, algae and zooplankton." M

HOW AMAZING IS THAT? You can read more about it here!

Last thing, because this swimmer needs to hang her suit up to dry: here's 49th Shelf's amazing #swimlit list. If you can't be in water, you might as well be reading about it, right?
  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, August 2, 2018

Roadtripping: The Elora Quarry

After last year's cold, thunderstorm-y and small baby-filled summer, I've decided to stuff two summer's worth of fun into one. I don't think I've slept since mid-June, but I kind of don't care. It's all fun all the time full steam ahead until the pools close, (and even then, I'm not sure it'll stop!)

And so, in the spirit of ALL SUMMER ALL THE TIME, on Friday we packed a picnic, and a pile of towels and drove up through Guelph to the Elora Quarry. (I realized on the drive up that the last quarry I swam at was 8 (!) years ago in Nebraska!)

The 1.5h drive is so southern Ontario – the sprawling lanes of the 401, then moving on to small highways and fields of what might be wheat, and small towns and smaller towns, and roadside signs for eggs and strawberries. You have to drive through the adorable little town of Elora, but we didn't stop – there was a quarry to get to!

We pulled in with a screaming baby (not ideal), but I got to nurse her in the parking lot with a view of the quarry (totally ideal!). The lot is perched at the top of the quarry, with 40 foot rock faces plunging down to the almost-Lake Louise green water below.

The walk down to the water is beautiful – all trees and more trees, shading the walk (Apparently there is a hiking loop around the water).

And then just like that, the trees end and give way to a beach. It's not a huge beach, and there is very little shade, but it's a beach! And there is water! And we met up with our pal and her kiddos and it was so perfectly summer, I still have to pinch myself.

We got there at 11:30am and the beach was already starting to fill up. We spread out our towels and picnic blankets, and changed right there (though there are changerooms, bathrooms, too, but I was too lazy to walk back, and put my patented went-to-dance-school-quick-change skills to work).

There's a little roped off shallow end off the beach that is perfect for little kiddos. It's pretty rocky though (it is a quarry after all!) and I know my 3.5-year-old would've wanted water shoes if he had been with us.

On the far side of the rope, it's still pretty shallow for a few more feet and then it just drops off.

We played with the kids in the shallows for a while (marvelling at our baby's deep insatiable love of water!), and then I took off for a swim around the quarry, dodging a flotilla of blow-up unicorns and swans and hippos and flamingos. It's not big – it maaaaaybe took 10 minutes to swim the circumference, but it's so lovely. The water is thick and green in the sun, and there are weeds along the very edges, but not in the middle. Doing a back float right in the centre, with the rock faces towering above is magical.

I could've floated in the centre of that quarry all day.

After we swam and splashed and splashed and floated, we picnicked, (because OF COURSE WE DID!) and I'm not sure there's anything more delicious than post-swim farmer's market cherries and handfuls on handfuls of popcorn, even with handfuls of sand mixed in!

I didn't ever want to leave, but baby naps and daycare pickups, etc etc, and so we hit the road...

Stops we couldn't make because the overtired baby was finally asleep, but I wish we had:
- there's a side of the road flower stand on the 86 near Ariss – bring change/small bills!
- there's a chip truck right across from the parking lot at the Quarry. I will dream of those too salty chips until I can actually try them
- ice cream in Elora. Dang sleeping baby...

Practical details:

*The maximum capacity is 1,300 which seems IMPOSSIBLE, but there you have it. It sounds from the website like that happens sometimes, so go early if you can. It's open from M-F from 11am-8pm and on the weekends from 10am-8pm.

*It's open till Labour Day (though I've been warned it gets a little funky come mid-August).

*The park fees are here.

*We took our own PFDs, but apparently they have a lifeguard loaner program with a "small refundable deposit" - ask at the gatehouse when you park!

*No booze or dogs!

*Here's the official site

*Also, there's tubing down the Elora Gorge which everyone raves about, so if that's your jam, here's how to get there!
  • Lindsay
  • Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Swimiracle

Last year, every time I figured out childcare and the delicate timing between breastfeeding and napping a 4-month-old, I'd arrive at the pool to locked doors. I swear there were thunderstorms every other day last summer. But somehow, last week, I managed a veritable swimming miracle—a swimiracle, if you will.

The sun shone all day, like it has been every day for days and days, but clouds started rolling in around 5, and I started realizing the swim I had been looking forward to all week (okay, ALL YEAR) was probably not going to happen. I got grumpier and grumpier. I may have even thrown a mini-tantrum. But then, after dinner, the skies starting clearing up, and the sun started shining. I decided to chance it, my terrible thunder stormed track record be damned.

The drive to Smythe Park Pool is a strange one – you take a barely marked winding road off Scarlett Road and then there are trees and more trees, and even more trees, and then a Canada Goose settling down in the centre of the road. And then all of a sudden, a pool. A 50m pool – a rare unicorn in west-end City-run pools.

The changerooms were grimier then most making flip flops essential, BUT the pool was huge – 50 metres seems extra big when you're used to 25m – and it was mostly empty, with trees overhanging and planes flying overhead.

It had just opened after being closed for the earlier bout of thunder. How did I manage to catch this open window? I didn't have time to hesitate, there was 50 metres of turquoise perfection to swim through. Not even the belligerent intoxicated man could ruin my bliss (and thanks to the guard who could see what was happening and intervened quickly!).

My fast lane pal, who tipped me onto this pool, wasn't there, but another fast lane pal was, and I even heard one swimmer say that the three of us in the centre lanes were professional swimmers. Not even close (it might've been our bathing caps more than our swimming that tipped him off), but I'll take it!

The radio was blasting Wish You Were Here, the music was tinny and a bit staticky, like every on-deck radio should be. It is not a fancy pool, but it is a wonderful pool (with the most expansive interlock brick deck!)

I haven't been swimming in a 50m pool since university days (when I fell in love in the fast lane) and it is such a different pace. It's long when you're used to turning around every 25m, getting the push off the wall. My thoughts felt bigger somehow. Not that I was able to hang onto any great insights, but it felt good, having the time to let my thoughts meander.

I even saw some sort of bird of prey being attacked by a red winged black bird as I swam. The week-long heat wave broke mid-swim and the clouds started collecting in a dark grey mass over the northwest edge of the pool.

The minute the 45-minute length swim was up, the rain started. It was pouring by the time I got home – lightning, thunder, the sky the colour of Orange Crush, the works. I still can't believe my luck – that the rain and thunder held off until I had gotten my swim in, but it did and it felt like confirmation that last year's rained out stretch is firmly in the past.

  • Lindsay
  • Thursday, July 12, 2018

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