Like A Fish: A Review of Goldfish Swim School

 When you enter the school, it feels like you're on an island getaway, which is the perfect antidote to winter swim lessons

When you enter the school, it feels like you're on an island getaway, which is the perfect antidote to winter swim lessons

If I was to describe our youngest child in a sentence, I'd probably say something like she does life her way. And by that I mean she knows herself, what she likes, and how she wants to get things done

It serves her very well in her day-to-day, and we couldn't be more proud of her confidence, but sometimes she needs a nudge to help her see things from a different perspective. How we deliver that nudge determines how well it will be received. And trust me when I tell you she has given us plenty of opportunities to practise our delivery.

In the past year or so, I've spoken a lot about being in the sweet spot of parenthood with our four kids. They're all school-aged now. They can eat, dress, and participate in extracurricular activities independently. We've finally retired the bulky baby gear like diaper bags and strollers, which means vacations actually feel like vacations — except when it comes to being in the water.

Our little dynamo decided at some point in her early years that swimming — without clinging to a parent the entire time — wasn't going to happen. So my husband and I always end up at the bargaining table with the winner staying dry and the other getting into a bathing suit for the hotel pool. We've tried swimming lessons and made very slow progress — as soon as there's any mention of going underwater or jumping in, she holds her ground (literally). 

We are in the planning stages of our annual summer road trip, and this year's journey will take us oceanside. All kidding aside, water safety and swimming skills are extremely important to us. We want all of our children to feel confident around the water. So when the opportunity came to try a new swimming program, we crossed our fingers and went for it.

Goldfish Swim School has just opened its first Canadian location in our town. The program has been successfully running in the U.S. for several years, and they've established very family-friendly systems and a program that has thought of everything. I booked an appointment to go and see the facility without her, and as soon as I walked in I knew she'd be easy to convince. It's designed with kids in mind and so well-suited to the age they teach (infants to 12 years old). 

When we arrived for her first lesson, I watched her face light up with excitement. She could see that the space was built for kids her size and she immediately felt comfortable. When I say they've thought of everything, I'm not exaggerating. Instead of being in a chaotic, open concept change room, each family can use a gender-neutral room with plenty of space and hooks to keep things off the floor. The temperature is perfect and keeps the shivering at bay. Cold and swimming lessons do nothing to convince a kid that it's going to be fun

 The change rooms are fantastic for privacy and usability. 

The change rooms are fantastic for privacy and usability. 

After getting though one day of lessons, she wanted to head into the change room to get herself ready independently. Like I said, she likes to do things her way. There are plenty of large cubicles in the main area to keep things dry and safe until the end of the lesson. 

The head lifeguard comes out and calls the students in for their lesson, by leading them through the open concept shower area. Swimmers take a shower before entering the pool, and parents can observe from the other side of the glass (where it's warm and dry!). 

 She felt so grown up doing this on her own

She felt so grown up doing this on her own

Then it's time for parents to head to the observation area and make themselves comfortable (did I mention that you're still completely dry?). There are snacks and coffee/tea/hot chocolate available for parents, and free wifi too!

 Comfortable seats, coffee, groovy tunes and free wifi. It's a parent's paradise

Comfortable seats, coffee, groovy tunes and free wifi. It's a parent's paradise

The pool itself is heated to a balmy 90 degrees and is one consistent depth of 4ft, which helps to keep the nerves calm (for her and me). She was immediately comfortable because she knew she wasn't going to be swimming in the deep end. And the side-to-side lanes are much less intimidating than being in a more open space. Each lesson (after your child's appropriate level has been determined) follows a step-by-step program with specific swim requirements. And parents are invited on deck for the last few minutes to hear about those skills and observe their child demonstrating something (s)he's been working on. 

swimsix.jpg

In addition to your child's swim instructor, there is also a qualified lifeguard on deck for every four kids, which provides a safe level of supervision for everyone in the pool. It also meant extra high fives and words of praise for my kid and she just loved hearing that she was doing well. She absolutely thrived in the lessons and counted down the minutes until the next one. 

 It was so wonderful to see her confident and happy in the water

It was so wonderful to see her confident and happy in the water

What I noticed more than anything else was how the set-up of the program at Goldfish Swim School really encourages and fosters independence. I think she easily made progress in the program, because she felt like she was in charge. It suits her personality, but would also work well for kids who need some extra support.

 Taking care of business on her own. She also loved using the automatic bathing suit dryers

Taking care of business on her own. She also loved using the automatic bathing suit dryers

We started out at the school in one of the Jump Start Clinics, which allowed us to come every day for a week and really get comfortable. It was perfect for figuring out whether this program would work for us longterm. The program is set up as a month-to-month payment and it's a perpetual lessons model that let's you choose a schedule that works for your family (including easy to schedule make up lessons). 

We are officially counting down to the start of our summer vacation now and it feels like we'll be at a new level of independence this year. We feel confident that with continued lessons, we'll have taken measures to make sure our kids are safe and happy in the water. And knowing that makes our time at Goldfish Swim School time well spent. 

 Showing off one of her new skills

Showing off one of her new skills

Because I'm a local parent and blogger, the wonderful staff at the Goldfish Swim School generously invited my daughter to enjoy a week in their Jump Start Clinic in exchange for my honest review. I was not otherwise compensated for this post and my opinions are genuine. 

For a review by my dear friend about their experience with her extraordinary kiddo, click here (there's an adorable video that you'll want to see!)

A Year Of Music 2017: One Concert A Month

 Mac Demarco at Danforth Music Hall (photo credit: Louise Gleeson) 

Mac Demarco at Danforth Music Hall (photo credit: Louise Gleeson) 

As we head into a new year of music, I'm so happy to share my personal playlist of favouirte tracks from last year's one-concert-a-month artists. 2017 brought a lot of nostalgia and reflection about our <ahem> age, even though we do our best to ignore rules about what music we should be listening to...but more about that later.

Like I was saying, 2017 was a fantastic throwback year for us. We kicked it off with Matthew Good's Beautiful Midnight album from 1999. The show was a run through of the album and we enjoyed his soaring vocals and witty candour about taking his kids to Disneyworld — because oh-my-god-you-guys he's doing that kind of thing now, too. 

Feist (FINALLY!) returned to the stage with a show at Massey Hall and it was incredible: goosebumps, tears and laughter. Her newest album has been playing on repeat here, and the song I included on my playlist is my new personal anthem (the video I snuck because we had amazing front row balcony seats is below). Actually, all of the songs on her new album, Pleasureare relatable (seriously, if we're of a similar age grouping, go listen to Any Party right now and just try to keep yourself from nodding in agreement). 

Feist, Baby Be Simple, at Massey Hall, Toronto, 2017

Massey Hall was the venue of the year (which is what will make 2017 one of our most memorable). We saw Alt-J (from amazing seats in the gallery), Grizzly Bear (my ears were ringing for two days afterwards), Jenn Grant (another Canadian songbird), Joan Baez & The Indigo Girls (please let me be half that amazing when I'm in my 70s), Wilco (so many guitars), and glorious, glorious PJ Harvey (another gobsmackingly nostalgic show for us). 

 Jenn Grant at Massey hall (PHoto credit: louise gleeson)

Jenn Grant at Massey hall (PHoto credit: louise gleeson)

Shows like Charlotte Day Wilson, Alvvays, and Mac DeMarco were great for people watching, since we're pretty close to being old enough to parent most of the kids that were in the crowd (kids! put those lighters away! fire is dangerous!). Sidebar: I'm so lucky to be on this concert tour with a partner who treats music with so much care and reverence. He's always looking for and reading about new bands. And neither of us worry about being too old to be at these shows. Maybe the kids think we're important music journalists, who knows

Another highlight moment for me was being invited, as one of her long-time fans, into Canadian songbird and über-talent Sarah Slean's home for her new album launch (read about my other-worldly experience here). I was so nervous, I had to call three friends from my car for pep talks before I could muster the courage to go into the party. Her album Metaphysics makes me cry (just like all the albums before) and it was lovely to be able to end 2017 with another full scale concert in December. Sarah's talent is extraordinary, and we are so lucky to call her ours. 

 Canadian songbird Sarah Slean (+ me!)

Canadian songbird Sarah Slean (+ me!)

We also had tickets to see The Cranberries in September, but the show was cancelled due to Dolores O'Riordan's health problems at the time. It was devastating to learn of her death earlier this month. The music she created is such a part of my history and coming of age — I've included one of my favourite tracks in this playlist to express my deep respect for her talent. 

This past year also gifted us with a lot of time spent with our siblings at various shows. All of them were memorable, but Wolf Parade and my first listen of I'll Believe in Anything were a highlight for me. I was going through a stressful time and the band's poetic lyrics and beautiful harmonies surprised me. Make sure to give that track your ear.

Here it is: 2017 in a personalized playlist. There were big venues and small bars; full bands and string quartets, old bands and new ones, and so much incredible Canadian talent (k d Lang left us speechless).

I hope you find a song that speaks to your heart, too. 

1) Matthew Good + Strange Days; 2) Wilco + Misunderstood; 3) Sarah Slean + Book Smart, Street Stupid; 4) Constantines + Young Lions; 5) Weaves + Scream (feat. Tanya Tagaq); 6) PJ Harvey + To Bring You My Love; 7) Charlotte Day Wilson + Work; 8) Mac DeMarco + Watching Him Fade Away; 9) Timber Timbre +  Hot Dreams; 10) Hannah Georgas + Don't Go; 11) Joan Baez + Carry It On; 12) Indigo Girls + Everything In Its Own Time; 13) The Cranberries + No Need To Argue; 14) Jenn Grant + Lion With Me; 15) The National + Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks; 16) Grizzly Bear + Knife; 17) Angus and Julia Stone + A Heartbreak; 18) Alvvays + Forget About Life; 19) Alt-J + Every Other Freckle; 20) Wolf Parade + I'll Believe In Anything; 21) Feist + Baby, Be Simple; 22) k d Lang + Wash Me Clean; 23) Skydiggers + Pull Me Down

 

Back To The Beginning

 Our first glimpse of our firstborn

Our first glimpse of our firstborn

I counted down to the moment of our 20-week ultrasound with so much trepidation and excitement. I wanted nothing more than to see our baby and know that everything was okay. But I also wanted my husband to be able to see him/her, too. I knew it would help him feel like he was more a part of what was to come. 

The road to that grainy snapshot of our firstborn was not an easy one to travel. Or at least it didn't look the way we thought it would. It was much longer than we had imagined, and it was scary with all its unexpected interventions. Still, we knew we were among the lucky ones. 

Each symptom and change to my physical body took me on a wild ride from elation (that I was having symptoms) to terror (that something might be wrong). I had to use a lot of self-restraint to avoid calling my midwife every time I felt a twinge, and many times I called her anyway. I peppered her with questions when I did see her, and I scoured the internet between appointments — I don't know what I would have done without the pregnancy boards I found online. 

Lately, I've been trying to reach a goal of organizing all the photos and other sentimental scraps I've been collecting since the beginning of our story. There are bins of loose photos and papers tucked into different hiding spots in our home. These beautiful reminders have followed us to five different houses, and I want them to be carefully preserved.

Last week, I found this photo of the guy who held me up through all my worries (never getting frustrated with any of them), and I cried. I felt all those emotions again, and it reminded me about something he wrote to our baby-to-be. I had been writing in a journal once a week throughout the pregnancy, and sometimes he would surprise me by leaving a note there. 

It has been a few days since we saw you for the first time. It has taken some time for me to fully take in those beautiful, grainy black-and-white images. The first thing I saw were your tiny little legs kicking and then your fingers dancing and reaching across your perfect, little face. My eyes couldn't leave the screen, as the technician scanned quickly back and forth taking her measurements of your petite frame. It was such a relief and such a wonder. I still can't believe you're in there. Part of me thinks you're just going to show up at our front door; a package brought by the stork! Now that I have seen you, I can't wait to hold you. I love you, baby. 

We didn't know we were having a daughter. We wanted to be surprised. But so much about what he wrote that day is a perfect description of who she is, and I must have read it at least 10 times while I cried some more. Those days were magical and they changed us in so many ways. We often joke with each other about the ageing and worrying that comes with parenting, but there is nothing we would change about the gifts we've been given. We are always grateful. 

When I was asked to contribute to a pregnancy by the week feature for Today's Parent magazine, it was such a wonderful chance to experience those early days again. I contributed weeks four to 10, which are often the ones that bring a lot of worry. But, parents-to-be, those days bring a lot of wonder, too.

You can explore the newly launched feature here: Pregnancy By Week

 

I Knew I Loved You Then

 Young kids in love

Young kids in love

He's in the driver seat, and I turn my head just in time to see his shoulders lift and his face shift to annoyance — but I'm not fooled. Even though I'm breaking the driver-gets-to-choose rule, he doesn't touch the dial. 

My sentimental attachment to things is something he accepts about me. It's everything he dislikes about pop music, but he lets the song play itself out and keeps the groaning to a minimum, while I belt out the words.

It's the words in the uber-saccharine song that have captured my heart, after all. And I remind him every time it comes on. The story of two young people caught off guard by a meeting and dancing the night away. It's simple and predictable and the kind of song a very young version of me would have played on repeat. I know better than to be wooed by a cliché, but I feel an affection for its lyrics anyway. It reminds me of a memorable night at the beginning of our own story. 

At our wedding, my sister told that story. It was about a huge party we all attended the night she met him for the first time. For our group of friends, it was the party of the year and I was nervous about how our new relationship would play itself out in front of everyone. I was also young, inexperienced and had too much to drink before we even arrived. She told our wedding guests that it was a funny story, but also a special one. She said watching how he cared for me that night showed her that nothing mattered more to him than making sure I was okay. 

We had only known each other a month or so by then. He led me out of the party, got me home safely, made sure there was someone there to stay with me, and told me he'd see me the next day when I was feeling better. I cried as I said goodnight and apologized for ruining his night, before it had even begun. I was still learning about love then and was sure I'd shown him a side of myself that would make it easy for him to walk away. He leaned into me and whispered, "When you love someone, you have to take care of them." I already knew I loved him, but I hadn't known he felt the same.

It's been decades since that night and he has never wavered in the words he shared with me — even though years of marriage and all the challenges that come with sharing a life have given us both ample reasons to forget

We're like any other family; there's no such thing as perfect. We've each had heartaches and disappointments. And we've also been through experiences together that we dealt with in our own and often differing ways. All of it has changed who we are, because that's what life does.

But I believe the heart of our relationship is still as simple as the song. We are older and wiser, but have never let the picture of who we were at the beginning get too blurry: two kids with a pure and simple understanding of what it means to take care of someone you love. It's not grandiose; it's not complicated; it's not too much to ask. 

The song is coming to a merciful end, and I watch his hand move towards the dial before another syrupy song has a chance to assault his ears. He'll probably put on some shouty rock song that will make me want to cover mine. 

"Thank you," I tell him. And I know he understands — it's for so much more than the song.