The last thing we expected when we moved to Texas a few years ago was to end up with a pool, but there it was, beside the perfect house. Andy was a little reluctant about taking on maintenance, but with the help of "pool school" conducted by a local company, he soon learned the ins and outs of chemicals, taking a water sample to them each week to see what was needed to keep the water clean and sparkling.
Early each morning, the pump comes on, activating the "bubblers" in the shallow end and the spa that keeps the water circulating, creating a waterfall over the edge. A small "robot" efficiently cleans the bottom of the pool of debris, even picking up toys and goggles. I've come to enjoy the sound of the water burbling peacefully throughout the day and the waterfall it creates over the edge of the spa.
Our pool has become a huge magnet for our daughters and their families. Now that warm weather is here, they are in the water nearly every day. Lena and Booker are like fish, easily diving under to retrieve toys. They float around on the rafts and other inflatables we've accumulated and have water fights with foam shooters. When our granddaughter and her BFF Olivia were here for an overnight, I let them skinny dip after the sun went down and loved hearing them make up games about a unicorn that lived in an underwater cave. Noah is still learning to swim, but just this week he got brave and dunked his head underwater. His favorite activity is leaping off the side into the arms of a waiting adult.
As for me, I tend to burn to a crisp in the hot Texas sun, so I usually don't swim until sundown when the temperature has dropped to a more tolerable level. Being in the water is a good remedy for aches and pains and very relaxing. I have yet to convince Toby that being in the pool is fun, but I'm working on it. We'll probably swim well into the fall, when we'll deflate the toys, put away the chair cushions, get ready for colder weather and look forward to spring.
He's a bundle of energy from dawn to dusk - a huggable, kissable ball of fun. That's our Noah Paul, named for his two great-grandfathers. Noah, who turned four in March, adores his Mommy and Daddy, big sister Lena and his cousin Booker, who he follows around like a puppy. He has a special relationship with his Papa (my husband Andy). Read: when Papa is in the room, I am chopped liver. Andy and I have been taking care of this little guy since he was three-and-half months old. We moved to Texas just a few weeks before Mom came to the end of her maternity leave, so we've been through bottles, high chairs, sippy cups, diapers, cribs, crawling, walking and running as he grew.
Now he's a big boy in preschool. In the morning, we feed him waffles, fruit and sausage while he watches his iPad, get him dressed and make sure his school bag is packed. When 4:30 comes, we pick him up from school to spend a couple hours at our house until a parent arrives home. Noah has a snack (sometimes several), puts 48-piece puzzles together with amazing speed and plays outside. Now that summer is here, he can't wait to get in the pool. Noah loves to play on the tanning deck where the "bubblers" are and get in shoot-outs with his foam-rubber gun. He jumps off the side to me over and over until he's exhausted.
Language came late to Noah, in spite of years of speech therapy, but now he's talking a blue streak. His favorite word is still "no", but now he's adding new vocabulary at an amazing clip. Noah loves to jump on Papa and get tickled, laughing uproariously. He loves our dachshund Toby and gets down on his level to talk to him and pet him. To him, everything is a new adventure and we love sharing it with him. Now, if he just wouldn't grow up quite so fast!
One of the best parts of getting older is seeing the wonderful mothers my daughters have become and watching them juggle jobs, husbands, kids and other parts of their lives and admire their energy.
Alison has been the solid support behind her husband Matt as he enters the second year of his recovery from a successful stem cell transplant to treat a Stage 4 lymphoma. She's had to become the primary breadwinner for their family of three and works hard at her job as a manager at World Market. In Booker, Alison has raised a son who shows compassion toward others and is sensitive to their needs. He's also smart, observant, and funny as can be with a goofy sense of humor that reminds me of my son Peter.
Hannah keeps many balls in the air in a very demanding job with AT&T, raising Lena and Noah, and for the last several years, meeting the increasingly complex needs of her mother-in-law. She managed Annie's finances, prescriptions, living arrangements and much more, especially during the final months of her illness. Hannah has also provided unstinting support to a friend with a serious chronic illness. With her husband Reagan, she's raising two very smart kids and providing them with as many opportunities as possible.
I'm so proud of these two women and glad to be their mother.
The past couple summers, I have missed being able to grow herbs and tomatoes. I tried putting them in containers, but they didn't do well at all. So this year, I talked my son-in-law Matt into building a standing planter box, since bending to the ground for gardening is difficult these days. I found a pattern with video instructions on YouTube (where else) and he agreed to help. Off we went to Home Depot to gather the necessary materials: treated lumber, deck screws, and hardware cloth. I borrowed some tools and a set of saw horses from my other son-in-law, Reagan and Matt set up shop in our garage, where his tools have been stored, He cut all the pieces according to the pattern, then moved the partially assembled sections to the backyard where he put them together and attached the legs. I helped him secure the hardware cloth across the underside and he "pictured-framed" it in place. Andy helped us move it to a spot against the fence where it would get lots of sun and be within reach of the hose. Then I went out and purchased 14 cubic feet of raised bed planting soil in bags.
Andy and I laboriously transported the soil in my little garden cart in several trips back and forth to the garage. Then I laid down a layer of landscape cloth in the bottom of the planter to help keep moisture in. We emptied the bags into the planter and smoothed out the soil. Now came the fun part! At our local nursery, I bought thyme, Italian parsley, tarragon, basil, sage, Greek oregano and curly parsley plants, as well as two kinds of tomatoes, cucumber, eggplant, red, green and poblano pepper plants and just for fun, a few strawberries. Then I planted them in neat rows and mulched between the plants. Growing anything in the Texas heat is a challenge, but I hope with consistent watering, my new babies will grow happily in their raised bed. Many thanks to Matt for taking on this project.
P.S. I've already promised the first strawberries to my grandchildren, so wish me luck!
My friend Annie Ruth Francis passed away recently at the age of 85. She was actually more than a friend- we were both grandmothers to Lena Rose and Noah Paul Francis. Annie had moved from her long-time home in San Antonio shortly before we came to Texas for the same reason: to be closer to our grandchildren. She loved picking Lena up from preschool and often had her stay overnight. Then came Noah. While we cared for him most of the time, she would beg us to leave him with her for the day. They'd play together on the floor, she'd fix his lunch and snacks and teach him to climb up on the bed to be changed. He seemed to tame his wild child tendencies around her and was sweet and loving. Annie was crazy about these long-awaited grandchildren, as well as Alison's son, Booker, her third "grandchild".
Spine surgery and a host of other ailments eventually meant that she was no longer safe behind the wheel, so I became her escort for lots of medical appointments, tests and trips to the hairdresser. Annie loved to have lunch afterwards and we'd discuss the antics of our grandchildren over enchiladas. She'd never let me pay and insisted on pressing a check (which I never cashed) into my hand on each trip. I always told her that since my own mother was gone now, I was happy to do these things for her instead.
Then one day the sad diagnosis of stomach cancer came, explaining weeks of mysterious symptoms. Medical care became hospice care, first in her home with the help of several relatives and then in a nearby nursing home. I'd take her flowers or a slice of homemade banana bread and show her photos of the kids on my phone, which always brought a smile. A stroke mercifully ended her suffering. Annie's funeral at her church of sixty years in San Antonio was filled with the gospel music she loved, such as "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," and an exuberant Baptist sermon with the "call and response" typical of her congregation.
Although Annie and I could not have been more different in personality and background, we happily shared one of life's blessings: the love of our grandchildren. I'll always remember her saying "Come here and give me some sugar" as the kids rushed to her arms. Rest in peace, Annie.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.