We've been going ice skating twice a week for a month now. The ice rink is at a community center and we walk past the pool each time we go. Amanda has asked every time, "Can we go swimming?" I wasn't going to take them when it was so cold outside but figured we'd go when it started to warm up and they took the ice off. I figured that would give me plenty of time to figure out exactly how I was going to manage them all in and out of the pool. Mike said that he would come with me to help but things kept coming up and we'd miss the day that he was available. Meanwhile three weeks passed and twelve times (at least) I heard, "Can we go swimming?"
Much like taking them skating in the first place, I knew I had to figure out a way to do myself. So, yesterday we tried on swimsuits and got them packed up to go this morning. I packed everything into a large wheeled suit case. It's called a suit case, of course, because we put our swim suits into it. :) I packed a life jacket for Ana and had her practice wearing it, Amanda's life jacket/arm floaty thing from last year, a wrap to wear Tali, three small towels and two pool noodles- plus the regular diaper bag with wipes, diapers, an outfit that fits both little girls, toasted O', frozen pancakes, cups for Ana and Amanda, and some apples. I wore my suit under my clothes and brought dry underclothes. I also had baby wash, conditioner, hair lotion and body lotion.
Our neighbor is borrowing our double stroller, so I wrapped Tali and my front with a second wrap, held hands with Ana and pulled the suitcase. Amanda carried the noodles and pushed the handicap door buttons. We used the family locker room which has private showers and large private changing rooms - except that the doors are two feet off the ground. Hmm. That's where the big suit case came in handy. I opened that suit case up and blocked the door so no one would escape and no one could see us all sitting on the floor. Amanda was excited and tearing her clothes off. Ana was trying to do the same and wanted help. I got Tali into her swim diaper and skipped getting her into a suit. Once I got myself undressed, her onto my back, I could help the other girls. There was quite a bit of whining and complaining going on at this point. Mostly from Christiana. She didn't like being in her swim suit or wearing the life jacket.
Lots more fussing and whining came as I got the little girls showered. I've been told it's very important to saturate their hair with fresh water to keep it from absorbing the chlorine water. Then I put on their Lycra swim caps to keep the hair wet, knowing that they wouldn't be spending much time underwater.
There are two pools at the center- a lap pool and anactivity pool. The activity pool is very warm and not deeper than 3'2". It's pretty small and has a zero depth entrance like a beach. Amanda was so excited. Christiana was miserable. Tali was hanging out. I finally took off Christiana's life jacket and had her sit in my lap in the very shallow part of the pool. I thought I might be able to avoid getting Tali and the wrap wet. Christiana was quiet sitting on my lap. She still wasn't really having an fun.
Pretty soon I could feel Tali reaching for the water and kicking it with her foot. Since Christiana wasn't really into it, I thought I try her on my back. However, Tali was not happy about being put down so I could get Christiana on my back. Lots of crying and fumbling, but I finally got Ana on my back and took Tali into a little deeper water. Amanda was enjoying herself but staying close to me. Tali could stand up in the water but kept trying to crawl and touch the bottom of the pool. When I put the pool noodle under her arms I could keep her from getting her face into the water. It was tricky to make sure I was keeping Christiana's face out of the water too. It hurt my back to be leaning forward to keep her out the water while holding onto Tali. At some point, Amanda asked to take of her life vest too. She is really so much more comfortable in the water and she was really working those pool noodles. Yeah!
And then...I had a stroke of brilliance that saved the day and all future swimming trips. I thought of strapping both girls on my front facing outward. I went to the edge of the pool, to execute my new plan. Christiana was upset about being taken off my back and Tali wasn't happy about getting out of water but it was worth it! I sat on the floor with a girl on each knee, found the center of the wrap and put it across both of their bellies. One side went behind my back, over my shoulder across Ana's shoulder and between Tali's legs. The other side went behind my back over my shoulder, over Tali's shoulder and through Ana's legs and they were tied together behind my back. That was so much more comfortable. I could lean back on my hands and just let them kick. Of course, by this time we had been in the water for close 45 mins and we needed to get out before they started to get really crabby since we still had to get through showers and dressing.
It's amazing how much heavier two babies and a wet wrap are when you get out of the water. We must have looked like some kind of crazy octopus. I was relying on the wrap but also holding onto the babies while Amanda carried her noodles. Amanda did so much better in the shower. She went right under the water while I was untying the babies. We just used the soap from the pump on the wall to wash everybody off. The little babies were fussing but some how I got everyone stripped of their suits and washed off. I had to leave my suit on because we didn't bring a towel big enough since I hadn't planned on getting myself or Tali wet. We left all our stuff in the shower stall and headed back to the little room to dress. I got Tali lotioned and dressed and myself dressed first and got her on my back and she was content. Then I could lotion the other girls and get them dressed. I took out Amanda's two braids so that her hair would dry a bit more.
Amanda was anxious to go see the ice rink. Christiana was pretty fussy at this point. I went to go wring out our stuff with her following me and whining. Amanda was chatting with a lady in the locker room. We got all our wet stuff packed in plastic bags and pool noodles secured to the suit case. It has clips along the sides. Very handy! Amanda carried the diaper bag with the food and we went out to the tables near the rink where it is our custom to eat a snack. The bigger girls munched while Tali nursed. After every one's tummies were full, we headed home. It's always so nice to be greeted by Mike who's home for lunch. He helps get everyone in the house and settled for naps.
All in all, it was a big success! There are just a few things I'll do differently next time: bring a robe so I can shower off too, lay down a thin fleece blanket on the floor of the changing room so the girls can snack while we're dressing and undressing, and leave the life vests at home. And of course, put the little girls on front from the start.
As Amanda looked out at the rink while she was eating her snack, I asked her if she was sad that we didn't go skating. She said, "But we got to go swimming!!"
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6 years ago