Monday, June 29, 2009

Wild monkeys

My kids are wild monkeys today.

We didn’t get a good start this morning. Everyone slept in after a very active weekend. Somebody wanted French toast for breakfast, and before I knew it was 10 a.m. Kip was scrambling to get out the door for work and I was frustrated that we were going to miss our new PE class that I enjoyed so much two weeks ago.

Should I go even though we are going to be really late? Should I stay here and get some school work done here.

While I deliberated someone slammed someone else’s fingers in the door and there was howling and name calling.

I decided it was time to wear them out.

Since we were all laced up to run around the park, I grabbed the basketball and ran them down to our neighborhood park where I insisted we each make as many baskets as our age.

This was met with grumbling, which I responded with coach like commands to “Fine then! Run around the court.”

I am so NOT a PE teacher.

It took about 20 minutes, but eventually the 10 year old made 10 baskets – she had to run around the basketball court several times in between. And the 7 year old made his 7. (He made up to 10, just to show he could.) And I quit at 10 too.

Then we ran a half mile around the park and back home.

The exhaustion made for nice quiet attentive listeners to our new read-aloud book, Carry On Mr. Bowditch – the biography of 18the century naval navigator Nathaniel Bowditch.

And then we hit the math books. It seemed that all happy exercise endorphins disappeared in the face of division with decimals. And as I was staring into my daughter’s deeply frustrated face, I realized that this was a case of “I understand how to do it, but I refuse to do it until I understand why.”

I’ve been here before, frustrated child punching angry pencil holes into her math book, scowling at me like I invented math as a punishment. And I hate it more than she does.

I know from the past 6 years of homeschooling/parenting that I have a couple options --- get mad and threaten to send her to school, block out all distractions and focus on her until we come to a breakthrough or take a break.

Sometimes a break is good medicine, but today I opted for focusing on her and pushing through. It was difficult, but when the light bulb went on, it was totally worth it.

But I was exhausted.

That is the hardest part about homeschooling for me. My kids are not very independent, so I find that sometimes I am completely exhausted at the end of the day.

For them to shoot baskets, I’m shooting baskets. For them to fall in love with history, I’m reading the historical biographies out loud. I’m trudging through the math with them. And when it’s time to read with the 7-year-old, I’m gently pushing him to try another word, painfully, slowly decoding each little one.

We stopped for lunch and my son argued with me about whether or not he was going to eat the three little carrots from dinner last night that he was “sentenced” to eat before consuming anything else.

No, they are not moldy.

You know what, I can see them shoved under the plate. You are still going to have to eat them.

After lunch it was back to wild monkeys running through the apartment.

And just as I was about to lose it totally, I heard my daughter singing as she skipped through the hallway…

“Every good and perfect gift comes from yooooooou…. “

It’s our wedding song.

It comes from James 1:17 – “Every good and perfect gift is from above ….”

I don’t think she even knows that I walked down the aisle to it. She has probably heard it on an old CD or in church. But along time ago, in a far away galaxy, Kip and his band played that song as my dad and I entered the church together, on the verge of a new life.

At the time we wanted to include a song in our wedding ceremony that recognized God as on the one who gives good gifts – like friendship, joy, romance, marriage, children, basketballs, math, carrots …. Everything good.

So I get it --a little divine inspiration to re-boot the day.

Thanks, God. But do I have to finish the carrots?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Running Again

I ran today for the first time in a week. The cold knocked me down pretty hard over the weekend, and I guess I have been reluctant to get out and run. But this morning I cranked out a 30-minute run up our hill and around the park, despite the uncomfortable tightness in my chest that I feel when I run with a cold. But it was totally worth it.

I am always amazed at how great running makes me feel. Running days I feel more energetic and positive all day. Those endorphins are reason enough to run.

I know that training for the marathon helped me make running and exercise in general a priority, so today I began looking at the two fall marathons in our area – Long Beach and Malibu. If I start training now I will have ample time to train strong and slow, like you are suppose to.

But this time I have a new goal.

I don’t want to just survive. I want to improve my time.

I found myself looking at Boston Marathon qualifying times, and after doing the math, decided that even if I wait another two years until I cross into a slower qualifying category, I will probably never be able to pull it off.

For a 35-year-old woman the qualifying time is 3 hours 45 minutes -- 51 minutes faster than I ran last month at the LA Marathon. I would have to run 2 minutes faster every mile to qualify for Boston. It’s probably not going to ever happen, but I’d at least like to see if I could do better than last time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More feelings about blogging

I’m feeling weird about blogging again.

It’s nothing new, just the same concerns and arguments all over again. The purpose, the need to have a blog, is something that I don’t actually understand, yet.

I am afraid to analyze it too much. If I need to write, why not keep a private journal, or one that only my closer family and friends have access to? Why can’t I just make stuff up and write fiction (not a blog of course)?

I am afraid I may be trying to clarify my identity….create my own reality show with me as the star and editor. This is who I am. Seriously, I’m 33, why am I still having an identity crisis.

Maybe it’s a middle child thing, a wife-of-the-rock-star thing.

Maybe I just like to write and the best material is all around me!

When I was thinking about starting a blog, I talked about it a bit obsessively around my friends. One of them complained that her friends’ blogs seemed like perfect little scrapbooks of family life. She said, “If you do it, make it real.” I took that to heart. It’s what I always wanted to read.

I have dozens of half written journals from the past 16 years or more. Journals I used for a few weeks and then quit. I’m not sure why I always started a new journal, maybe I would get one for a birthday or Christmas, or maybe I would buy one feeling I needed a new start. Anyhow, I have several of these.

When I reread them I’m struck with two thoughts 1) this is really great writing and I wish other people could read this and 2) OMG where do I hide these!

But I guess I’ve always believed that honesty brings healing.

I’m in process.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Travel Log Blog

My mom wants to know what I have been up to.

That’s what she said when I talked to her yesterday about my disappearing blog.

And I can understand. I have my daily blog diet too.

So, Mom, this is for you and all my friends and anonymous stalkers.

Starting with last week ….

On Monday the kids and I tried a new exercise class offered by a homeschooling dad with a passion for martial arts and parkour. I can’t quite describe the class except to say that it felt like being a kid – running around the park, jumping, squatting, kicking, crawling crab-style up and down the hill, walking tight rope along the curb. I was laughing most of the time.

Unfortunately I did not feel like a kid when I was still sore on Wednesday. But it was awesome. I can’t wait until next Monday to do it again.

My 7-year-old son must have really enjoyed it too because he was doing some of the exercise “moves” on the dance floor at Kip’s concert Friday night.

On Tuesday I took the kids to San Diego on an Amtrak train trip organized by another homeschooling mom. For $8 each we rode from Union Station in downtown LA to the famous Santa Fe Station in San Diego and back.

The kids never get tired of that trip. We have done it a couple of times now. Not only is it fun to ride the train, but there is always a great group of kids to turn the train car into a party on rails.

When we got to San Diego, a couple of moms, our kids and I walked over to the New Children’s Museum where our kids discovered the joys of painting a car, pelting each other with giant tire-shaped pillows, dancing in a “port-o-party,” etc. The whole museum felt like it was an expression of creative experimentation. It reminded my 10-year-old of Odyssey of the Mind, a club where kids are encouraged to come up with creative solutions to problems.

Pillow fight room

painting a car ... again and again and again

On Wednesday I spent most of the day (other than the normal parenting/housekeeping chores) doing research, trying to decide where to go for our 15 year anniversary "honeymoon" week in August. (My very generous parents are taking the kids!) I’ve basically narrowed it down to a rustic bure in the South Pacific or a resort in Mexico. I’m having a hard time selling Kip on spending money to sleep in an un-air-conditioned hut under a mosquito net. I guess I just have fond childhood memories.

While I was doing this the kids were going through their bedroom, purging under-appreciated toys until the foyer was full of Trader Joe’s bags ready for our HomeSchool LA garage sale on Saturday.

Wednesday evening the kids and I went to our friends’ house for dinner. Jon, who ran the marathon with me, and his wife Cindy have a regular potluck dinner at their house now. So a couple times a month we get together and enjoying great food, conversation and friendship. I love it. I think it feels very natural for me because most of my life I have been a part of church communities which had, or tried to have, similar small groups.

Thursday was our 15-year anniversary and we celebrated by going for a sunset sail just outside the marina. Kip was extra romantic and decorated the boat with rose petals. We went out for dinner and even spent the night on the boat.

Friday we went back down to San Diego, this time with Kip for Beautiful Criminal's concert at the San Diego Fair. Usually when we go to the fair we make it an educational trip, spending most of our time at the free agricultural exhibits.

This time we walked in through the entertainment gate and my kids realized the fair has rides! So I reluctantly bought a bunch of tickets and they had fun. The San Diego fair is bigger than any of the rural county fairs I remember as a kid, but it’s still smaller than the LA Fair and comfortably less crowded.

The show was over after 11 p.m. and we didn’t get home until 2:30.

Saturday Kip got up at the crack of dawn and headed to Catalina Island with a couple of guys, one of whom was participating in a paddleboard contest. The kids and I also got up early and helped with our garage sale to raise funds for HomeSchool LA.

By Saturday night the cold that I had been ignoring hit me full force and I crashed pretty hard. We didn’t make it out to do anything else until Sunday evening.

Sunday it was Father’s Day and I got to talk to both my dad and father-in-law. By evening I was very happy to have Kip back. His little sailboat made it back home about 10 hours after he sailed away from Catalina Island. He was exhausted and sunburned but had new stories to tell.

Today was Monday and the kids started a soccer camp. After running errands I was actually home alone for about an hour and a half. It was very … different.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Blog is Back

I killed the blog yesterday.

And I am not really sure why. The truth is I just got mad and deleted the whole thing.

Thursday night Kip and I had an absolutely incredible 15th anniversary date.

We took the sailboat out and watched the sunset, had dinner, walked and talked in the moonlight for hours, even spent the night on the boat in the marina. It was perfect.

Then, the next day we came home and Kip read the blog entry about our “bet.” (It's gone now.) He was kind of embarrassed and very gently told me it was “horrific."

I felt awful, devastated, actually.

Up to this point, blogging had been really fun -- overcoming the fear of rejection and discovery and being authentic, at least more authentic than I have been in the past. But suddenly I felt that I had crossed some deep and important boundary without realizing it.

At first I was surprised by his reaction to what I thought had been a hilarious story. And then I was horrified.

And then I got really mad, not really at Kip, but maybe a little at him for making me feel bad, even though I knew I had no right to that feeling. But mostly I was angry with myself for creating the situation.

And I was frustrated with the very nature of writing a living memoir. Good writing is genuine, wrought with real conflict and dripping with emotion. Anything else is boring. How can I write well if I can’t write real?

It was a depressing reality check.

I saw no reason to continue.

I deleted it all.

But here I am.

I guess you can undelete in up to 90 days. They know us bloggers.

It took me less than 90 hours.

Last night at Kip’s concert, a couple came up during the break to talk to the guys. They bought a CD and wanted to know all about the band. Someone mentioned that Kip and I had just celebrated our 15 year wedding anniversary. The woman gave me a one-over look and said briskly, “Yeah, we will be at two on the 23rd.”

For some reason I shrugged and said, “It gets better.”

She hugged me and said, “Thank you SO much for saying that!”

I guess I need to figure out this blog thing, because I really do like telling our stories. When it comes to marriage I want people to know our struggles so they can enjoy our victories. I just need to figure out where the boundaries are because I’m not really ready to delete it all yet.

Enjoying the sunset together Thursday in Marina del Rey

We saw the whale hanging out in the marina. Can you see him?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

A Wedding, A Road Trip and Really Good Friends

It's been two weeks since I updated, so I'll do my best to capture the highlights.

After the Marathon

I spent a few days after the marathon recovering and basking in the glory of post-marathon happiness. I started looking at other upcoming marathons, planning to make better time, wondering if I could break other people’s record – like Sarah Palin who finished the Anchorage Marathon under 4 hours. I have a thing for Sarah Palin -- mostly to annoy people who hate her. But that is another story.

Suzie's Wedding

Suzanna, Claire, me and Sanjeetha

Jimmy from Morgantown

Our good friend, Suzanna, from our early Morgantown days, got married in La Jolla on May 30th. The wedding was amazing down to every detail. But probably the most meaningful part for me was reconnecting with a small group of friends that Kip and I have known since I was 20.

Long after the wedding reception, several of us lingered in the hotel, catching up on a decade of life. We talked about unplanned pregnancy and infertility, of marriage and betrayal, of careers come and gone, of disillusionment with churches and spiritual leaders, of new hopes for the future.

Through different circumstances we have all seen our expectations dismantled, not so painfully for me, but still different from what I had planned. And yet in our own way, we are all more deeply rooted than before in our belief in a good God and a lifelong pursuit of knowing Him.

It is always easy to tell a faith story after the fact, when all the messy details are cleaned up and the reward of a happy ending has come around. But a few of my friends weren’t there yet, and I deeply appreciated their honesty as I could tell they were walking forward, one step at a time, not looking back.


After the wedding, Kip and I brought our good friend Sanjeetha and her son David back to Los Angeles with us. Kip took the day off from work and spent the day cooking up a feast of Indian food. About mid afternoon he realized how much food they were making and started calling friends, inviting them over for dinner.

We ended up with quite a neighborhood party, with friends and neighbors gathering around to feast on the best Indian food ever to cross our dinner table.

Road Trip

Near Big Sur

I love this road. I've been up it a dozen times now. It never gets old.

A few days later the kids and I took Sanjeetha and David up to San Jose area to stay with her cousins. We took the Pacific Costal Highway for an 11-hour scenic trip from LA to Monterey. The three kids in the back seat were amazingly patient, but Sanjeetha and I still laughed about how different times were from some of our other road trips a lifetime ago.

Another road trip, a dozen years ago, with Kip, Sanjeetha, Suzanna, Edgar, Senthil and me. And yes, driving on the beach in Florida with Kip's parents' minivan might have been a bad idea. I don't think this old van made it all the way home. I wish this picture was clearer -- darn film cameras. It was taken during the height of our grunge days. Kip, who is on the roof, has long hair and a scruffy beard and I am wearing frumpy men's clothing. Some things do get better with age.