Thursday, December 2, 2010

Starbucks Coffee Cup Quote

Next time Starbucks asks me for a quote, I'd offer this one for the married men.

"I am the type of person who has a deep need for authenticity and honesty in a relationship. I also have a high need for verbal affirmation. And when these two needs are at odds, I much prefer affirmation to authenticity." -- Theresa

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Malibu Half Marathon

Early morning sun heats up Point Magu before the races starts.
Kip and I ran the Malibu Half Marathon this morning.

It was my first half marathon, Kip’s first long distance race and our first time running in any event together; which also meant it was my first time not being dropped off at the start  or chased by my family support team with fresh Gatorade, encouragement and personal paparazzi.

But we managed to run the race in 2:22, which I thought was great.

The beautiful bluffs along the Pacific Costal Highway always make the Malibu Marathon a challenging course, but today the sun was out in full force. It was blazing by the 8:30 half marathon start and nearing 80 degrees by the time we finished.

Of course the route was also as beautiful as Malibu can be -- sun shinning through crystal clear waves, dolphins jumping, surfers surfing, clear blue skies.

At one point, as we charged up a steep bluff overlooking a gorgeous surf break, I turned to Kip and said, “I think I picked the wrong sport.”

(Kip has a couple surfboards in our storage area, testimony to an LA time before remodeling projects, late night band practice and weekend sailing. Maybe it’s time to get them out again and try. I think I am almost brave enough to give it another try.)


This morning, as we were rushing out the door at 6:30 a.m., I realized that we did not have any milk in the fridge for the kids’ breakfast. So we flew down to the convenience store and got milk before heading out to Malibu.

For some reason the chocolate milk looked appealing to me, so I ate frosted mini wheats in chocolate milk while Kip rushed us to Malibu. It was kind of gross, but I thought it might be the carbo boast I needed.

When we arrived at Zuma Beach to catch the bus to the start line, I immediately realized that the half marathon was going to be much more crowded than last year. The parking lot was full for miles and cars were squeezed in every free spot along the PCH. 

We were barely making the 7:30 “last” bus, but we somehow found a free spot and ran to the bus.

We made it. And just like the LA Marathon in the spring, it became apparent that marathon officials were going to hold the race and continue to run buses until the crowd was at the start line.

There was something funny about riding in a big yellow school bus with Kip. We met in high school and shared some high school experiences together, but I don’t think we ever road a school bus together back then.

back of the bus, self portrait, high school style


The race started at Point Mugu, a funny little campground squeezed between the PCH and the ocean. The last time we were there, our family left the campground in the middle of the night after a wicked wind storm crushed our tent and sparked the Malibu wildfires. That was three years ago.

But there was no wind or fire this morning, just thousands of half marathoners lining up to start.

The race itself was about 12 miles of hills and one final mile-long descent into Malibu. By mile 10 I was glad that it was just a half marathon. And by the end I found it hard to believe that last year I ran the same course, plus another 13.1 miles of Ventura farmland. Of course I had trained for a marathon that time and training seems to make all the difference.

So proud of Kip!! You can give me my sunglasses back now, Babe.


Despite fatigue, Kip and I sprinted to the finish line and arrived .001 seconds apart. We weaved through the customary reception of medals and food, bananas, chips and water, to get the real treat at Malibu -- the finisher’s beach towels which look better than any race T-shirt at summer social functions.

And then we wasted no time in trying them out. We headed straight for the beach to stretch, take pictures and relax in the hot November sun.
Refreshing cold water


My friend Kathleen finished a little later and the three of us slowly made our way back to our SUV, which we had so hastily parked along the PCH before the race. We walked for several minutes and slowly realized it wasn’t where we thought it should be.

We kept walking and apologizing to our friend who likely wasn’t planning on walking an additional two miles after the half marathon. And finally I laced up my running shoes again and ran off in search of the car.

Fortunately the car was still there, just parked much further away than we had realized in our rush to make the bus. I was so very grateful that it had not been towed.

When we got home we decided to take the kids swimming, so instead of hitting the showers and bed, we dipped into the pool. It actually felt good to stretch in the water and I’m betting it will make recovery easier tomorrow.

And what is next? I’m probably going to run the LA Marathon in March. Kip says a half was good enough for him, but he might change his mind when he forgets how difficult it was today. I know I always do.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Open Window Distractions

I start most "school" days with a plan, but we have a problem.

We are distracted.

Window staring is the worst.  I personally have a highly evolved skill of staring, not only out the window, but at the ceiling and even at an actual blank wall for minutes, even hours, if inspired.

I'd like to claim that I'm involved in Zen-like peaceful meditation, but the opposite is true. My mind is not empty. I am not still. I am racing with thoughts, ideas, scenarios for apocalyptic movies starring ME as the hero. My overactive imagination is so busy that it shuts down my body and I stare.

My kids are the same.

Every open window is a distraction. Birds are interesting. So are the cars that drive by.

And nothing evokes the magic of the Great Outdoors like actual “school” work. Math worksheets entice squirrels to come up to our porch, draw their little rodent paws across their chests in an eerily human posture and whisper with their shiny black eyes, “Feed me, please.”

We feed two neighborhood squirrels: a skinny, formerly saber-toothed she-squirrel named “Toothy” and “Bruce” a big, fat he-squirrel whose cropped tail makes him look more like a beaver.

We feed Toothy because she is our walking, scurrying miracle. When she arrived several weeks ago she was nearly starved to death. She had patchy fur, a sparse twitching tail and a grossly misshapen face from two odd, overgrown teeth protruding from her lower jaw. She looked like a harelip squirrel.

So the kids and I talk about harelips and wonder if the condition occurs in squirrels. We Googled Smile Train and watched tear-jerking videos of compassionate doctors repairing harelips in third-world children. We talk about health care in third-world countries.

We talk about how people are doing small things to make a big difference in other people’s lives globally. We discuss the great questions of civilization.

And then it's lunch time and Bruce comes around.

We don’t actually like feeding Bruce. He is a fat little guy who bullies Toothy into giving up her factory-shelled walnuts. Sometimes we throw him a nut or two to distract him while our little squirrel nourishes herself.

Toothy is doing better now. She doesn’t have to cock her head to one side to painfully choke down her nuts. Her superfluous teeth fell out, and she almost looks normal now.

But the kids wonder where she lives.

What does her nest look like?
We look in the palm trees. We Google “where do squirrels live.”

My daughter disappears into her room to finish her lesson on negative and positive numbers --  added and subtracted, multiplied and divided.

It sounds easy enough until I have to explain how a negative number divided by a negative number becomes a positive number – every time. It is not enough to know that it happens. She has to know why and in what real life situations. I didn’t buy the teacher’s guide.

It comes down to a comparison with “I don’t have no cookies,” and she accepts that for now. I return to focusing on my son and his times tables. He has gone to wash his hands and returns 10 minutes later with a bubble delicately balanced between his thumb and forefinger. He is grinning.

“Look Mom!”

He explains how he did it.

I try to listen and not be irritated because I really had planned on him learning his times tables, maybe just one of them, this afternoon.

I had also planned on writing a little this afternoon. But of course, five minutes into the writing project my thoughts are interrupted by something important like a sudden need to fold laundry or update Facebook with a pithy little status about feeding saber-toothed squirrels.

I know that planning and taking deliberate steps toward a goal yield success. So I worry that all this distraction is hampering my children’s overall education.

There are those comforting unschooling “folktales” about children who follow their passions and arrive in adulthood with their creative energy and self motivation uninhibited.

But then there are also people who can’t keep a job because they are bored and distracted. Somehow I am hoping this is different.

Currently my favorite absolution on distraction comes from the highly imaginative writer, Norton Jester, who wrote The Phantom Toolbooth.

Apparently he wrote that book when he was supposed to be working on another project. Ironically his little escape became his greatest work. He has been quoted as saying “I find the best things I do, I do when I'm trying to avoid doing something else I'm supposed to be doing.”

So yes, we never get as much done as I plan. But I’m hoping that my kids schooling experience is better because of the distractions and not in spite of them.

Three hours later, my daughter returns from the bedroom, half-finished math assignment in hand.
“Mom, I just wrote the best song!”

More Distractions

And now more distractions to entertain you and keep you from what you should be doing.

He was suppose to be coping the paragraph from the whiteboard behind him. I left him alone and found him like this 10 minutes later. It's a Cheerio map to the treasure.
What do you do when you find your kids and their friends walking on the wall?

You try it too!

How much time can you "waste" on time lapse photos of the electric trains in the night? When was bedtime suppose to be?

And since when does "clean up your toys," mean wash and dry the entire army?

And if all else fails, quick, find a tree and climb it before you get too old.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Clay Confessions

I have a confession to make.

Once a week, I leave my kids and husband at home to eat dinner alone (which I leave in a nice warm crock-pot) and I go out and play with clay. And it is my favorite night of the week.

I started going to a ceramics class a few months ago. It’s something I have always wanted to do; I just never made the time to take a class. It always felt kind of frivolous and impractical.

Maybe I felt a little guilty taking time away from the family to do something fun. Maybe I was just afraid to try something new.

Whatever my objection was, I got over it late one night when I was alone and feeling sorry for myself. I decided if my husband can devote a night or two to playing guitar every week, I could try an 8-week clay class.

So I signed up for a ceramics workshop through our city’s parks and rec and almost immediately realized it would take me much, much longer than 8 weeks to learn how to make anything on a potter’s wheel.

And that is the problem with learning crafts as an adult. Everyone understands why something looks crappy when a 7-year-old makes it. Not so much when an adult throws a bumpy, lopsided “mug.”

“Oh, you made that?” They look suspiciously between me and one of my kids.

As one of my new ceramic’s class friends gently put it after glancing at my first “box,” "Nope, not a Christmas present yet.”

But somehow I refused to give up, to fail at throwing pots. If I can train and run a marathon, I can take a piece of raw clay and fashion a useful dish – maybe even something beautiful.

Several months into this adventure, my mugs still look pretty lopsided and “unique,” but my family loves them. And in their own way, I think they might look forward to Daddy night once a week anyhow. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

C3PO and Other Halloween Tales

When our son decided to be C3PO for Halloween, we probably should have thought about it for a minute before heartily supporting the idea. Maybe it was his cute rendition of the robot’s walking style.
”Wait, wait, for me!”

Maybe it was the fact that he picked something unique and representative of his current interests. Whatever it was, we said, “great!”

And then I started looking for a costume.

Nothing at Target.

Nothing cheap on-line.

So, no problem, we decided to make a C3PO costume.

First there was a box and some leftover wires for hanging out of the box. Then there was an idea to spray paint it gold, and one thing led to another and I was running out to the grocery store at 10 p.m. to buy 7 more 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke and other assortments of soda. This gave us the golden body, arms and legs. But the C3PO head was missing.

I started shopping around at Halloween stores. Nothing. I called a half dozen other stores around LA and slowly realized that the only way to get a C3PO head was to order it on-line. And it was Thursday. I refused to pay $30 overnight shipping for a $6 plastic mask. 

So then we began to brainstorm how to create the same look. I found a white vinyl mask at Goodwill, which we cleaned up. Kip spray painted it and used a Dremel tool to fashion two spray paint tops into C3PO eyes. And finally, late Thursday night, we had a C3PO costume.

Our daughter wasn’t so difficult this year. She found a very authentic pair of 80’s punk rock pants at a thrift store. Then she added a pink feather boa and decided to be a rock star.

I settled on a Sacagawea costume, about 5 minutes before we headed off to a fabulous homeschool Masquerade Ball Saturday night. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of the Masquerade Ball, but it was lot of fun and certainly showcased the LA homeschooling community's flare for creativity.
Winning most creative costume at the Cub Scout Halloween bash on Friday night, day one of our three-day celebrations.

Most creative trophy
We had an extra friend for the Halloween weekend. One of my best friends had an opportunity to get out of town for a weekend, so we said, sure, we would love to have an extra kid for a few days. Actually I was a little concerned about candy consumption because sugar used to be a big taboo for this kid.

But when I asked her mom how they were handling Halloween candy this year, she said, "I'm sending her to her friend's house." Thanks. : )

She was the happiest Goth I have ever seen.
C3PO and our serious rock star
I'm Sacagawea, not Pocahontas. He is C3PO, not the tin man. And she is a rock star, really.
On Sunday the kids dressed in their costumes for a third day in a row and we went to the Costume Carnival hosted by the Oasis. It was all-out fun with music, food, an inflatable obstacle course, rock wall and mechanical bull. It was totally free and also a little crowded, but still some of the best not-exactly Halloween fun this side of town.


C3PO sheds his constrictive shell and ascends the inflatable rock wall.
That kid was loving the upside down jumpy thing.

Racing through the obstacle course.

Kip, being an incredibly good sport, holding bits and pieces of the kids' costumes while they played.

Sacagawea getting in on the obstacle course action. It's really nothing after scaling the Rocky Mountains with a baby on her back.

This little cutie rode the mechanical bull like it was a penny pony.




No hands, Mom!

Then, despite being exhausted after days of costumed fun, and for Kip, running 13 miles in marathon training on Saturday and playing guitar at four back-to-back church services on Sunday, we took the kids trick or treating.

And finally the trick or treating. Everyone loved C3PO's costume.

I'm hoping this wasn't a bad idea.

And then they ate dinner.

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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tim is a Married Man

A little over two years ago, my brother Tim announced that he had met the woman he was going to marry.

We didn’t believe him, of course. He had just met Heather.

But he knew.

And of course he was right.

On June 7th they got married on the beach in Santa Monica and I had the honor of being my brother’s attendant, his “best man.”

It's not just that I'm freezing. I'm hanging on to the rings for dear life. I don't want to drop them in the sand.
 I love how Tim is always amusing Heather. It seems like she is always laughing with him.

My entire family was in town for the occasion - my sisters, their husbands as well as my niece and nephew. All of my dad’s siblings were also there – his two sisters, their husbands and his brother and his wife, and several of their kids.

The wedding ceremony was simple and beautiful. We gathered at the end of the boardwalk and listened to them exchange vows to the backdrop of a dramatic cloudy sky.

And the reception afterward was supurb.

If you know Tim at all, you know he loves to throw a party. The food was exquisite, fitting the wedding of a rising chef. And there was wine and dancing too.

Our family comes from a long line of Baptist types, so the wine and dancing was a little new for us. My sister broke the ice with dancing at her wedding last month, and my parents even took dancing lessons to make sure they were in step for that one. So they were ready for the Beatles and Carpenter songs.

My sisters and me

It made me think of all the times Jesus described the Kingdom of God like a party – like a wedding reception. It’s kind of a hard concept to get unless you have ever been to a real party where everyone is completely enjoying themselves. And this was certainly that kind of party.

So congratulations to Tim and Heather!

Here are a few more pictures. Thanks especially to my sister Serenity who took most of these pictures!

Before the Wedding

My son getting ready to sweep up the sand before the wedding.

My mom and Kip's mom enjoying a moment before the wedding.
Getting ready ... That is my sister Kiesi and her family. Aunt Candy with the camera.
Kip and our son

The Wedding

Dad escorting me down the very long "aisle" boardwalk. I remember this from 16 years ago.

Watching the bride walk down the boardwalk.

Heather and her dad

Do you ....?

They do!

The three sisters and a very happy brother

Happy, freezing, but happy
Mom and Dad, a little windswept
The Married Couple