Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Best $8 Lunch in LA

Kip and I don’t agree on much – when it comes to food.

I love tomatoes and mushrooms. He hates them.

I come from an English meat-and-potatoes kind of palate; he adores spicy anything and claims to have fallen in love with Tabasco sauce as a little Texan kindergartner.

He doesn’t like fruit or any kind of “mushy” vegetable which I find to be a total tragedy.

But living in a metropolitan area has expanded our culinary experiences and ushered in a little more dietary harmony. I have fallen madly in love with sushi. I enjoy most ethnic foods (as long as there are no mysterious pieces of meat or fat and bone in the sauce) and I tolerate much spicier food than I did six years ago.

But most importantly, Kip has discovered (as I have insisted all along) that avocados are heavenly in almost any possible dish or combination.

All this unnecessary blogging to lead into the amazing fact that we actually share the same favorite restaurant in LA and even the same favorite entrĂ©e there --- Chicken Tikka Masala at Akbar on Washington Blvd in Marina del Rey. It’s under $8 at lunch and by far the best Indian we have ever had – except maybe our friend Sanjeetha’s homemade Indian cuisine in Louisiana.

We try to squeeze in a lunch date a couple times a month at Akbar, usually while one of our kids is at an activity like soccer camp or girl scouts. It’s kind of a fun way to connect in the middle of the day, and makes the other kid feel special (or completely ignored if we get into talking with each other too much.)

And we really like supporting such a great neighborhood restaurant. The owner (who of course knows his biggest fan by name) has worked hard to keep menu prices low, despite increasing food and gas prices. So we want to make sure that our local friends don't overlook this little place.

Tell them Kip and Theresa sent you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Little Drummer Boy

Our son finally spent his birthday money from almost three months ago. With the help of his bargain-hunting dad, he found an electronic drum set for $50 on Craig’s list.

He has always been fascinated with drums, playing on the set after church, breaking wooden spoons on pots and pans. I’m glad he finally got a real set.

Yesterday Kip and I woke up to hearing him playing drums and our daughter playing the piano at the same time. She was picking out the Star Spangled Banner and he said he was drumming Star Wars, but it was beautiful.

about 16 months old

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


Long hair last week

Summer short hair this week

Beach Days

I have been enjoying the beach the past few weeks. The kids and I went twice last week with friends and again yesterday with our homeschool group.

It’s finally hot enough to enjoy being in the water, and my kids are old enough to really play in the waves without constant supervision. Unlike most of Southern California’s outdoor pleasures, swimming at the beach is seasonal, for most locals, because the water is only warm enough to enjoy for a few short weeks. But for the first time ever I have been actually getting in and enjoying it.

I think that might be one of the benefits of getting older. I spend less time sitting around assuming I can’t do something or won't enjoy something and I just try. My little sister told me years ago that my problem was that I was "just afraid of not having a good time." She might have been right.

Running the marathon was really great for me because I was able to accomplish something big that I had thought was impossible. I am so grateful to the friends who encouraged me and gave me that little push toward “going for it.”

Here is big news for me: I can touch my toes. I never could when I was a kid. But I can now. Maybe this time next year I’ll be able to jump rope more than 3 jumps in a row or cross the entire monkey bars.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Running like Jamal


Kip and I found a new and possibly dangerous way to amuse ourselves.

Saturday afternoon, with the children happily engaged at a special church event for kids, we decided to go for our scheduled 8 mile marathon training run. This would be the second longest run Kip had ever attempted, and I was anxious to see how he would do.

I was “planning” to drop the kids off at the church in the morning and go for the run from there, but nothing ever works as planned in our household if it involves getting up and going somewhere. So it was afternoon by the time Kip and I headed out the door for our run. And it was hot!

Kip really wanted to run along the beach, so I mapped out a run starting from the marina. We planned to run 8 miles, jump in the ocean and then walk/run the last mile back to the car. But it was hot and crowded, very crowded.

July + Saturday + Venice Beach = nasty crowds.

The first mile was start and stop, wait to cross the street, run, stop, wait.

I missed April mornings and 7 a.m. runs.

When we finally got to the stretch of beach front sidewalks, it was as crowded as I have ever seen Venice Beach. At one point I wondered out loud if we were seeing more people than populate the little town in West Virginia where we met in high school. (BTW -- I Googled it and apparently VB sees as many as 150,000 visitors a day on a summer weekend – indeed bigger than our little town of 10,000.)

After a few minutes we were walking more than running, so Kip chose to run on the parallel bike path. I would have joined him but I was being idealistic, it says no pedestrians! Besides, I always hate the runners who block the bike path, particularly when my kids almost run into them.

So I picked my way through the crowd, trying to run politely through, watching Kip run the bike path.

And then the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack started in my MP3 player.

I was in Mumbai! I had a new game! If you have never tried to walk through Venice Beach on a summer Saturday or listened to Slumdog Millionaire, you might not understand this, but if you have done both, particularly at the same time, you know. It's fun.

I ran through the crowd, dancing through spaces between clusters of tourists, skateboarders, people with dogs, people with kids, Rastafarians selling CDs, freaks seeking a crowd, “doctors” selling pot, the regulars who arrived in 1969 and never found their way home, the gawkers who just flew in.

Walk, run, sprint, dash, stop.

I felt silly and eventually ended up on the bike path with Kip, but the crowd running had inspired me.

When we looped under the Santa Monica pier, I convinced Kip to listen to the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack on his MP3 player and race me a couple miles through the thick Venice crowd.

That was even more fun, not just picking through the crowd, but picking the fastest way through the crowd. It was exhilarating. And I won.

By the time we got to our 8 mile end, neither of us really wanted to jump in the ocean. Kip was too tired and I was too thirsty. We ran/walked back to the car which felt alot further than a mile away.

I don’t think that I want to run in the middle of the day anymore, but it felt great to be doing long runs again. I’m looking forward to doing 9 miles next weekend, and I’m pretty sure Kip is going to hang in there for at least a few more weeks.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Summer Fun

Walking the line

After soccer camp last week I reluctantly succumbed to summer fever and told the kids we could have a break from “school,” until they returned from their grandparents’ houses in August.

Since then we have slid into full-blown summer mode -- staying up late watching movies, swimming at the pool, going to the beach, hanging out at the park with friends until early evening, talking for hours in the hot tub.

But it's not all laid back and relaxed.

Saturday we joined thousands of other Angelenos fleeing the heat and hit the beach for a typically overcrowded July afternoon. It took us over an hour to find parking since several of the regular lots were full and others were charging an unbelievable $25 for a couple hours parking.

By the time we unloaded onto the sand, a chilly sea breeze made it almost unbearable to peel off the beach towels and dip into the 66 degree Pacific. Fortunately the kids and Kip were more adventuresome than me and they enjoyed themselves.

Kip gave our son his first LA surfing lesson, standing in the shallow surf, launching him into the waves. He stood up a few times, very proud of himself. I wish I had a picture of that.

Star Wars Marathon

Fighting the dark side at DisneyLand

My daughter asked if we could watch Star Wars. She knew some of the story line from cultural references, playing with friends, etc., but she had never seen any of the movies. In fact, I hadn’t seen all of them either.

I actually grew up in the Star Wars era, playing with all the action figures and plastic star ships with the boys at recess. I remember trying to tie my hair into two knots like Princess Leia.

But my parents, perhaps more wisely than me, thought the movies were too violent for children and didn’t take us to see them. I didn’t see the original three movies until I was a teenager, babysitting for someone who owned the set on VHS.

So when my daughter asked to see the movies I thought it would be a good time to watch them together and discuss. So we did. We went on a Star Wars marathon and saw the first four movies in less than a week.

I have so much I could say about our inevitable family conversations, but my favorite two comments were “What is Yoda? He looks like Grandpa Jerry, because he must be as old as Grandpa Jerry!” (BTW – this ancient grandpa that they speak of is barely 55.)

And the other was from our 10-year-old daughter: “I’ve noticed that in movies and Bible stories, the main person usually gets a choice at the beginning of the story. And things go well for them if they grab that opportunity and do the right thing.”

She was mostly talking about Anakin and his ultimate decision to join the dark side. I had never seen the third movie, and I think if I had seen it before we watched it together, I would have suggested we wait a few years. It was really dark.

Our daughter cried after it was over. She kept saying, “But he was such a cute little boy!”

When you grow up, you somehow learn how to numb yourself to the pain of seeing someone you love self destruct. But when you are 10, it’s kind of jarring. Some people choose death over life.

I’ve been to a few murder trials and it seems that when the Anakins of this world plunge into darkness, usually only their mothers and lovers are left, like Padme on her deathbed, to plead “He has some good in him.”

Unless of course he happens to be Michael Jackson, but that is another tragic story.


With the June gloom officially gone, the sun is rising early into a cloudless summer sky, and the summer running is hot even at 7 a.m.! It makes the relatively cool mornings of my LA Marathon training seem like vacation. But in a way it’s all easier now because I know I can do it.

Sunday morning Kip and I ran 6 miles together and I decided to work out a marathon training schedule to prepare us for the Malibu Marathon in November. It is a little over 18 weeks away, perfect for training.

Of course there are a couple of trips planned in between now and then, not to mention soccer season. And I know that it will be an uphill battle to get those training sessions in. So I decided to just try and keep the schedule for the next few weeks. If I can be faithful to it through the end of August, I’ll sign up. That is the plan at least.

For "cross training," Kip and I rode scooters today with the kids, a mile down the hill to a little church VBS camp that the kids were attending. And then we rode back up the hill. I’m not sure “rode,” is the write verb. It was more like “kicked,” the scooters up the hill.

And then this afternoon my friend Jon brought some of his new toys to share with everyone at "park day."

I tried walking a slackrope, which is like a tight rope, and reminded me of being a kid, tying jump ropes to kitchen chair legs and trying to walk across. This worked much better though and was actually really fun.

And then I got talked into playing Frisbee and realized that I had never really tried to play before. I guess I have always been a little afraid of the Frisbee, ever since that getting-hit-in-the-face incident in second-grade. (I really shouldn’t have been pretending to be a Frisbee catching dog.) But this time I tried and actually caught a couple -- with my hands.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Is School Cool?

A few days ago my son announced that he had heard that kids who go to school get a summer break. He wasn’t sure what that meant, but was hoping it would somehow work in his favor.

We homeschool in California. Your whole life is a summer break. What do you want a break from? Park day? Listening to audio books? Me reading to you about airplane engines? Playing math games on the computer? Surely you don’t mean that hour a day I sit next to you while you work on a couple math worksheets and phonics practice?

But I decided to give him a break of some kind anyhow.

This week while his sister is continuing to do her homeschooling lessons, he is going to soccer camp. But unlike the last one, this one is morning and afternoon and he is actually ready to go to sleep at bedtime. And not only is he learning soccer skills, he is experiencing a little bit of “school culture” too.

Everyone follows the coach.
Everyone takes a bathroom break at the same time.
Everyone obeys the rules together.
When I went to pick him up, he waved good-bye to his group and a chorus of 10 little voices said good-bye to him -- after the coach directed them to do so.
He loved it.

It made me wonder if he might love school too.

And I realized something else.

I like getting him ready for camp every morning -- packing him a little lunch, making sure his long soccer socks are clean and ready for him to find. I even like driving him to the park and listening to him on the way there.

Maybe I’d like being a school mom too.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Monday Morning Madness

Monday morning after a long weekend is like Chem Lab 101 at my house.
Throw together four different people, mix, add water, a little heat, let the smoke clear and walla – we have two happy morning people excited about a new week and two sleepy heads dreading the morning.

This morning I got up, looked at my marathon finishers’ medal hanging from my dresser mirror and thought, “I didn’t get that sleeping in.”

So I was up and running, literally, along with my beloved sleepy head who didn’t say much through our “quick” 40-minute morning run.

Our son jumped into the morning with similar gusto. He is starting a week-long soccer camp today and was excited about doing it without his sister.

He was animated at breakfast, thanking God for creating the world, including Africa, America and Italy as well as the core, crust and mantle.

But my daughter arrived at breakfast looking like a fluffy bunny with sleepy eyes, complaining about the cold morning air, scowling at the Cheerios. She just went back to bed for a mid-morning nap.

Aren’t genetics great?

Fouth of July Weekend

Friday afternoon we drove down to San Diego for Beautiful Criminal’s second gig at the San Diego Fair. The drive took a whopping four hours, in nasty Southern California holiday weekend traffic. But the show was totally worth it.

I enjoyed not only the guys’ music, but also having an opportunity for the kids to participate in their dad’s show. (We ran the merchandise table while the guys played.)

Often band shows mean time away from Kip or getting a very late night babysitter, which can be fun but stressful for me. So I particularly appreciated the "family friendly" aspect of these fair shows.

After the concert we met up with our friend Suzanna and her husband Jason, who just got married last month in La Jolla. They shared their favorite Carlsbad Mexican restaurant with us and we had a very late night feast before heading back up to LA.


I felt that we should do something meaningful to commemorate our nation’s birth, our history, our freedom. The kids and I have been studying American history this year in “school”, and we have just made it through the American Revolution. But I was exhausted from our San Diego night and so we pretty much did nothing significant most of the day.

Saturday night we went to our friends Jon and Cindy’s house for an awesome Fourth of July party, complete with BBQ, pool party, fireworks, lots of music and even late night Michael Jackson tribute dancing.

I was having too much fun to get any party pictures, but that might be a good thing.

was another rest day as we spent most of the day cleaning up and relaxing, playing Yahtzee with the kids on the porch, going to church in the evening.

Once again I’m thankful for a great family, wonderful friends and a great country to live in. I know that I have been given a lot in life and I hope that my life gives back.

BTW -- I do have pictures of the San Diego show on my camera, but sadly, it is not letting me retrieve pictures. Maybe by tomorrow I'll have it figured out.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Coffee Cup Philosophy

If Starbucks asked me for a coffee cup quote this morning, it would be .......

I'm like most people, I think. My self value system is based on what I do. Which is unfair because who knows now what they have accomplished. Doesn't it take a lifetime to see clearly?

-- Theresa (Friday Morning Philosopher)

Kip said he'd get a magic marker and write in on a cup for me, drop it in the stack at Starbucks. That's why we are friends.

Beginning of summer ?

Is it really the beginning of July?

It seems more like the beginning of summer rather than the middle, but that might be due to the extended June gloom that has hovered over our part of LA for the last month. I have actually been wearing a sweatshirt more than shorts. But it’s finally warming up and beginning to feel like summer. Yeah!

Beach Days

The kids and I have started going to the beach every Tuesday afternoon where we meet with a random group of other homeschooling families for “beach day” -- a nice new variation of the now established weekly homeschooling tradition of “park day.”

It is especially fun for my 10-year-old because I let her swim further out when she is with friends, which means I don't have to get in the water. (California water is just too cold for me.)

Summer Camps

The kids went to a VBS/ Soccer camp last week and really enjoyed it, so this week I signed them up for a couple more similar programs. It is a new experience for me to drop them off at a park or church and come back a few hours later. But I think it’s good.

I had thought last week might be a little glimpse into what it would be like to be a “school family,” with getting up early and pushing everyone out the door by 9 a.m. And in some ways it was. But it certainly demystified any illusions I had about what I could do with 2-3 hours of “alone” time.

I had thought I would reorganize every junk drawer/closet in our home and maybe re-write my abandoned screenplay. But I didn’t.

I spent a couple days running errands, doing the household chores that keep the family going. The other three days I spent time doing things I can’t do as well with other people around: reading, writing, and just being quiet.

At first it took time to adjust to not “doing” something during daylight hours. Sitting behind the couch in the middle of the morning “being still” doesn’t make me feel like a productive citizen, but once I came to terms with my own need for silence and stillness, I was really grateful for the time.

I also started re-reading Bruchko, a biography about missionary Bruce Olson who, as a teenager, left his middle-class life in Minnesota and walked into the jungle where he completely assimilated into a tribal community.

My dad read the book out-loud to our family when I was about 12. And I read it myself in college, but I have not read it since then, so I wanted to re-read it and see if my reaction to the story has changed in response to my own life experiences.

For the most part, I still find it very inspiring. There is something about this man’s lack of conventional religious structure and deep personal faith that still speaks to me. More thoughts on that later …

Homeschooling on the Run

A few people have asked me if we are taking a break from homeschooling for the summer. Not really. We are trying new things, improvising old. But we kind of do that continually anyhow.

One new thing we have recently discovered is an audio-based spelling program produced by the Institute for Excellence in Writing. We have not been doing any kind of formal spelling program in more than a year, but we might stick with this one.

Because the program uses study cards and CDs, my daughter discovered she could “do” spelling lessons while we were running errands. It must seem like a game to her because she seems to really enjoy it and often does several lessons at a time. My son created his own way of participating. He writes the first letter of every word in a notebook.

Spelling on the way home from the beach.

Our 7-year-old recording his first album at a "Rock star party," part of a bring-your-kids-to-work day at Kip's day job. I'm sure this will only further confuse this kid's understanding of his father's profession. Is he a computer engineer or a rock star?