I'm convinced there's no piece of childhood summer that carries more magic than the watermelon. Without it, summer has not truly begun. There's just so many memories attached--just the smell makes me seven again, sitting on the back deck with a green and red smile of melon, juice dripping down my chin, trying my mightiest to spit black seeds further than my brother. I even lost a tooth in one once. When I realized it, I frantically sorted through my little white seeds looking for which one was really a tooth. Don't remember that I found it, either.

I still remember the sight of mom spreading out the paper bags to catch the juice, getting the biggest chef knife and working on a melon with her ninja-machete skills. She'd start telling about when she was a kid and laughing at the slipperiness of the task at hand. Dad would start in with stories of his own as we were shooed out the back before we made a bigger mess in the kitchen.

Watermelons somehow got my parents talking. Acquaintances of my parents in their current era selves would never guess the hardship and poverty either grew up with. Mom talked about her childhood far more often than dad. Her adobe New Mexico home with four brothers and as many girls has happier stories, despite the hard work in the chile and onion fields that was part of meeting their basic needs. Dad's nomadic childhood involved six rapscallion kids with on-and-off-again parents and their addictions.  But for both of them, one of the joys of summer would be the day mom or dad brought home a watermelon.

Recently, Charlie lectured me that I needed to 'bwing home a watermewon fwom de stow de next time dat you are dere.' Who could refuse such an order? Since this is the week we have two bonus children, the timing could not be better.

Yesterday evening, as we dragged in groceries and luggage from our recent weekend at Oma's, I suddenly felt an attack from behind. Dixie was crushing me, jumping up and down and squealing about how I was the best mommy ever. Charlie was in bed already, but saw it there on the counter this morning and ran in for a rare mommy squeeze. Like most childhood magic, the rarity and anticipation sometimes eclipse the event itself.

BLTs and watermelon seemed like the perfect lunch for five children, so I sliced melon while the bacon sizzled and the toast toasted. Little hands grabbed pieces and got shooed out the back door before they made a bigger mess in the kitchen. Within a few minutes, all the seeds were spit, all the rinds in the trash and their arms had trickles of pink juice tracing up to their elbows. Mommy had told her stories and the sweet crispness of this fruit was certainly worth the anticipation and the mess.

Summer has officially begun.


Swimmers! We Got 'EM!

One of the things I've felt guilty about for awhile is that my girls are 8 and 8.5 and can't swim. In fact, at the end of the school year, the girls had a trip to the municipal pool as a reward and it was terrifying to send two almost-swimmers in amongst the hordes.

Two summers ago, Dixie could swim from me to the edge and Melody was almost there. I knew we were one summer away from little froggies.

Then we moved to Small Town, Texas, where I teach roughly 9% of the elementary-aged population in town. In suburbia, I could drive ten miles to a pool where I was far enough away to not risk running into my students. Here, that's not possible. (One of the ways the kids entertain themselves in Wal*Mart is by counting how many students we run into. We average 8 a trip.)

My students are not seeing me in a swimsuit. I am not seeing them in their swimsuits. This is simply not happening.

Also, last summer was crazy busy with traveling, not to mention record-setting heat. In a summer with nearly 100 days over 100 degrees, we were not going outside to get in warm water.

So this summer, I planned swim lessons for all three kids. I knew the girls needed just a little technique and encouragement to be swimming merrily along, but didn't realize how good they'd get and how fast.

By the end of Monday's 40 minute lesson, they were both swimming about fifteen feet independently. By the end of Tuesday's, they'd figured out how to swim on stomach and back and how to come up for air. Wednesday, they took their first dives in from the side, then both braved the diving board. Today, Melody did a forward flip off the diving board, landed in a relatively-coordinated fashion, and swam to the edge. Dixie is still getting the nerve up for that, insisting that she will conquer it tomorrow.

My girls can swim!

As for Charlie's progress--well, he's no longer clinging to the side in desperation. That's about all I can say about him. Can't win them all, right?

But the best part? I made a new Mommy Friend!