Thursday, September 04, 2008


Every Wednesday at 11:00 a.m., for this entire summer, Calvin has come to give the boys swimming lessons. I first met Calvin in my Intro to Sociology class a couple of years ago. He was a sophomore and in a big lecture class of 250 he stood out. He's smart. Turns out he's a fine swimmer too. Big time. I had Calvin in another class this past spring-- the spring of his senior year. Captain of the Lehigh Swim Team. President of the Black Student Union. Star Student. Late spring, as graduation was approaching, Calvin was winning every student leadership award that's given out. He's staying at Lehigh for the next year, getting his MA in Political Science, and applying to PhD programs. This is the kind of student you love to love. There aren't many like him, but when they come along... well... it sounds cliche but it is true: they are the ones that make the whole thing worthwhile. And now that I have kids of my own --- now that I have black boys of my own --- when a black male student like Calvin comes along I can't help but think of him as more than simply an exceptional student-- Calvin is the kind of role model I want in the lives of my sons. He's that good. So we got to talking. And in addition to having a genuine academic/intellectual/sociological interest in the development of young black boys, Calvin also has some experience teaching swimming. I had been looking for some sort of way to get K & O into swim lessons of some sort. But I had been having no luck because of the weird situation we had on our hands--- at age just barely 4, K & O had never had a swim lesson in their lives but were unusually good strong confident swimmers. Swim centers I'd looked into wouldn't take them into group lessons because their swim skills were way too advanced for their appropriate age groups, but their social skills were way too --how shall we say it... um, unadvanced...-- for their appropriate swim skill groups. Calvin agreed to come to the house once a week this summer to do private lessons at our pool. And more importantly (from my perspective at least), he agreed to build a relationship with my boys. I was pretty up front with Calvin about it-- yes, I wanted them to learn something about swimming, but my not-so-hidden agenda was just to get them around Calvin on a regular basis. By the third week Calvin was their hero. And they were doing the freestyle. And now, as the summer is ending, they consider Calvin their "Swim Teacher" as well as their great friend. Kyle has already announced that Calvin will be getting an invitation to his 5th birthday party (that kind of says it all). Oh, and in addition to the freestyle they're also doing the back stroke, and treading water, and flip turns underwater off the pool wall, and they are both diving beautiful perfect 10 dives into the deep end. Calvin has suggested we continue the swim lessons through the school year. He's looking into using the Lehigh pool once it gets too cold to swim in ours. It will be nice for the boys to keep swimming through the winter this year. It will be even nicer to watch them continue to build their relationship with Calvin. Anyone who knows anything about the studies that have been done on black boys knows that all the research evidence points to the same thing: the importance of the relationships between black boys and older black male role models in their lives. Finding those role models, however, is sometimes the tricky party-- especially in situations like ours; we want there to be an organic glue holding the relationship together... not some kind of fabricated pseudo-relationship based on emphasizing black role modeling. So, right now, for us, the best part about the boys' relationships with Calvin is that it is organically bound together by a shared genuine interest: swimming. And just for the record... just in case one (or both) of them ever are superstar swimmers... Calvin was K & O's first Swim Teacher. You read it here first. Summer 2008.


Anonymous said...

Such a sweet post! I wish there were more Calvins in the world for young black boys to look up to.

Mary said...

That is wonderful that you found somebody that could be a great role model to Kyle and Owen!

Could you do a video of their new swimming skills?

T and T Livesay said...

hate not having internet -- still checking on you whenever I can --- your boys are destined to be crazy fast swimmers some day (coming from a former crazy fast swimmer herself)


Rose said...

OMG...does the boy in the right ( can't figure it it's kyle or owen) actually have a SIX PACK ABS??!

Anonymous said...

what a great picture! what handsome boys.. (all of them) :)


Anonymous said...


Didn't know how to go about sending these recipes, but love to share them. I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

"Watermelon Muffins"

1 1/2 c. flour
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 c. milk
2 tsp. baking soda
6 Tbsp. butter; at room temperature
1/2 c. watermelon juice
1 tsp. baking powder
1 pinch salt
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 c. watermelon pulp
1/2 c. raisins (I usually omit these as I don't care for raisins)

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in large bowl. Cream butter and sugar; add eggs. Whip in milk, juice, pulp, and raisins. Add wet mixture to dry ingredients; blend just to incorporate. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Transfer to wire rack; cool. Note: A few drops of red food color can be added for more watermelon color. Yield: 12 servings

"Sweet Potato Muffins"
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
2/3 c. sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. sifted all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 c. evaporated or regular milk
1 1/2 c. peeled finely shredded sweet potatoes
2/3 c. chopped walnuts or pecans

In a large mixing bowl with hand-held electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until well blended. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir into the butter mixture alternately with milk, mixing just until dry ingredients are moistened. Stir in sweet potato and chopped nuts. Spoon batter into greased muffin cups, filing about 2/3 full. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until centers spring back when pressed with fingertip. Cool in pan on rack for 5 minutes. Remove from pan and serve muffins warm. Makes about 1 dozen.

I have some more to share, but don't want to keep taking up your comment space.

I would love to keep trading recipes off and on if it is alright with you all as I am always looking for new and interesting things to feed our family. If you would like to communicate the recipes by email that would be wonderful. My email addy is:


Anonymous said...

FANFREAKINTASTIC!!!! I love this blog. Hopefully, K & O will grow up to be great black men and continue the lessons of Braydon and Calvin :)!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this Heather. It's really great to hear about young black men who are doing some really great things in life. Calvin sounds like a very ambitious, focused quality person. I do not think it is coincidence your paths have crossed.

Jess said...

LOL about the K&O quotes below. I like the typo here about "the tricky party" -- are y'all the tricky party of five?

alex said...

yeah - calvin's surely awesome!