Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Thanksgiving for the Ages

What a weekend.   For some, there was probably a bit of turkey, some shopping, some football and maybe even hanging out with the family.  For me, there was some vomit, coughing, runny noses, and oh yes - I made pie.

The weekend started out promising enough, on Wednesday morning.  K made it through her preschool's Thanksgiving program (albeit in tears until she could come and sit on my lap), and we went home.  I made pies while she napped and B read on the couch.  Much excitement in the house, since it was also Hanukkah.   For the first time in a long time and the last time in about 70,000 (although I've also heard 78,000) years, Hanukkah was starting before Thanksgiving.  So B and I also put up our decorations and menorahs.  (The outside lights went up on Sunday, much to my neighbors' likely confusion.)

Wednesday was spent in relative peace, with candles and presents (although I can't remember now what we had for dinner.)  The girls each opened a present and Rob and I exchanged gifts.  Around 8:30, I decided to run out to see if I could find the early edition of the LA Times, to get my Black Friday ads.  I know that I've done it in years past, but apparently they don't do that anymore.  After trying 4 different spots and the newsstand, I went back home.

Turkey day dawned sunny and a bit chilly.  We settled in to watch the parade and spent the morning just hanging around the house.  Rob got up and hit the gym early and picked up the paper for me on the way.  When he got home, I decided to take quick run around the block and hopped in the shower when I got home.  Rob had the girls fed and at some point, my mom arrived and started to make her pumpkin cheesecake (gluten free.)

At some point after lunch, things started to unravel.  We tried to put K down for naps, and after about an hour and a half of her not sleeping, we gave up.  She came back downstairs and started to play, but quickly got whiny and weepy.  At one point, she said "Mommy, I don't want to throw up."  I had no clue what she was talking about, and when I asked her if her tummy hurt, she said "no."  We were still about an hour from leaving for Phil and Heather's house for dinner, but she was concerned about putting on her shoes.  As she sat down to put them on, I heard a noise and looked over.  At the same time, Rob asked for my help, B said "ewwww!" and ran away and K started crying.  Let the gastro-pyrotechnics begin.  K tossed her lunch and anything else she had eaten in the last few days.   I got her cleaned up (luckily, most of it went into the trash can or on the floor or blankie) and threw blankie in the washer.  She was then pretty unhappy for the next hour as we struggled with whether or not to go to dinner.  Deciding to go, we piled everyone into the car and crossed our fingers. 

About 1/2 way there, B made another "ewww!" noise, combined with "Mom!" and I turned to find my mom reaching for the bag to catch the next round of K's tummy turbulence.  (We started stocking bags in the seat-back pockets after a particularly nasty drive last summer, when both girls got sick in the back seat.)  We had unwisely decided to put B in the middle seat, which made it more difficult for my mom and I to handle K.  The drive to Phil's continued (they only live about 10 minutes away), and we tried to clean K up when we got there.  (Her new "My First (and only) Thanksgivukkah" shirt had now taken 2 beatings in less than 2 hours.)  Her poor cousin (who is about 18 months), wanted nothing more than to give her a big hug, which we couldn't let him do.

K was still a bit cranky, but we sat down to eat.  She had just a few tiny bites of carrot and maybe a piece or turkey before she started getting whiny again.  Everyone kept one eye on their plates and one eye on her, hoping that she wouldn't ruin dinner.  About 1/2 way into dessert, she went for round 3.  This time, I was ready.  I had a spare "sick bag" in the diaper bag, left over from last year's trip to the doctor for a stomach bug.  I kept it out and ready and she even pointed to it before she started to toss.  (Have I lost any readers yet, cause I realize this is pretty yucky.)  Ah, the joys of being "mommy."

Anyway, it was at that point that we decided to say our goodbyes.  K seemed to slightly recover for the ride home and then went right to sleep.  All good, right?  Nope.  Shortly after Rob and I went to bed around 12, K started to scream.  Unsure of whether she was sick again, or what was wrong, we rushed in.  She seemed frightened, and we figured that she might have had a nightmare.  (Monsters University before bed probably did not help, although she's already seen it about 20 times.)  I sat with her in the recliner for over an hour and she finally fell back to sleep.  I crawled back into bed around 1:30.   My alarm went off at 5, to get up and out for shopping with mom.  (No deals were that good, that I needed to be out at 4 a.m., or even the night before.)  Just as I hit snooze, K started crying again.  Another nightmare.  This time, I brought her back into our bed and snoozed just a bit more, before crawling out and leaving her with Daddy.

The shopping was uneventful.  Target, JoAnns and even Michaels were all empty.  Mom and I began to wonder where everyone was and what deals we had missed by sleeping in a bit.  Then we went to Kohls.  I'm not sure what people were there for and mom and I figured out that their prices were a bit inflated (we had seen identical merchandise elsewhere for a lot less) but there they were.   We finished up and headed home for a break, before heading back out to have lunch with Rob and the girls.  We tried to go to Macys, but things got a little crazy at the mall, so we went home.

Generally, I enjoy Black Friday shopping (for the people watching, of course.)  But this year, it just did not seem like there were as many deals.  And certainly not as many people as in the past.

Saturday was not too crazy.  We ended up going to see Frozen with the girls and things unraveled a bit again.  K, who is potty training, decided that she needed to go in the middle of the movie (of course), even though we had equipped her with a "pull up" for just this event.  She refused to use the Pull up and wanted to go out. (Which I guess I should applaud her for, right?)   At the end of the movie, B went home with Nana and Papa and we would retrieve her at our Hanukkah celebration Sunday night.  Except we didn't make it that far.

We came home and Rob ended up getting sick after we put K to bed.  I spent the evening wrapping presents and then crawled into bed.  Rob ended up spending the entire day on the couch, feeling horrible and I stayed in the kitchen baking cookies and keeping K entertained.  (She actually kept herself happy for quite a while, which was interesting to watch.)

In the end, the weekend unfolded in an unusual, unexpected and crazy way, which is normal for our family.  I'm crossing my fingers that I don't get sick, following K and Rob's pattern, simply because I've got way too much to do this week.   So, I'll be hanging out here at the office, hoping to avoid the germs.

I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday weekend with family and friends.  I'm looking forward to the middle of December, when things will hopefully calm down and I can take a breath.  Until then, Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mommy Failings

The past few weeks have been complete and utter chaos at my house.  Actually, the past few months have been crazy.  In August, our water heater burst and sent water into the walls of 2 rooms.  After the demolition crew came through, we had fans in our house for 3 full days, drying things out.  In the grand scheme of things, the amount of space actually affected wasn't too bad (nothing on the second floor and nothing in the kitchen or family room), but the disruption to life in general was crazy.  We had to wait around for the insurance company to come back and draft an estimate (the adjuster did not think that there was coverage when he first visited, so he did not bother taking any measurements or pictures to do an estimate.)  We even had one contractor come out, take measurements and then never provide an estimate.  Are you crazy?  (And that was one of the insurance company's "preferred" contractors.)

In the midst of this chaos, B had started school and K went back to preschool.  Labor Day weekend was spent in Anaheim with friends in town for the 1/2 marathon and more general upheaval.  Finally, after several weeks of sending documents back and worth and waiting, the insurance company made a decision - our loss would be covered.  yay!  Now what?  Well, now they send a check and we get repairs done.  More waiting.

All the while, Halloween is creeping up on us.  I'm spending most evenings trying to convince K to wear the Tinkerbell costume that B wore at this age, so that I don't have to make or buy another costume.  B has decided she wants to be a witch and we go to JoAnn's to pick out a pattern.  And then the guilt sets in.   The girls' playroom has turned into "The broken room" (K's term) and they cannot play there because we are worried about exposed nails or other debris from the cleanup.  Our dining room is a mess of things taken out of the playroom and life's usual chaos.  No room to set up the sewing machine.  The family room is now full of toys that were in the playroom, so no room to lay out the cutting board.  The calendar keeps ticking by...

At the end of September, I had to start planning K's birthday party.  Knowing our house was a complete mess, we opted for the out-of-house party.  It went off without a hitch, I think, and I was able to make the cake and get it to the party without spilling it. Yay for me.  Meanwhile, B's costume got shoved to the back burner again.

K's party was done and out of the way and I hoped to finally make some room and space and get to B's costume.  No such luck.  The flooring that we ordered (to replace the damaged carpet) had arrived and they scheduled us for installation.  The rooms had to be COMPLETELY cleaned out (by us), so ALL of the girls' toys, Mom's piano, the grandfather clock from Aunt Betty, and our dining room furniture ended up in the family room (with some on the back patio).  Depending on where you were sitting, you had an obstructed view of the t.v.  B's costume was once again set aside.

The floors took 3 days instead of 2 and the painter got started just as the floors were finishing up.  I'd like to say that I am 110% happy with the work that he did, but I noticed a large spot of blue paint on my white bathroom tile the other day.  Needless to say that there were more than a few spots where he was a bit sloppy.  Then again, he was on the extension ladder, reaching the vaulted ceilings, so I cannot complain too much, I suppose.

Thankfully, on Friday afternoon, things were finished.  The floors are done and the painting is done and we can move our things back where they belong. (Of course, now that the play room is all cleaned out and looking nice, I almost don't want to put the toys back in there.  haha.)  But B's costume had not even been started.

Over these past few weeks, I have felt tremendous guilt over not being able to get her costume done.  I felt even more guilty last Friday, when we went to a Girl Scout event where she wore her "Alice" costume from last Halloween.  She SO proudly went around telling everyone that "My mom made this!" and I just cringed at the thought of not being able to make this year's edition.  (She was beside herself 2 years ago, when I made her a Rapunzel costume that she wore to meet Rapunzel at D-Land.)  As the guilt slowly ate away at me, B gave me an out.  I asked what she might like to be if I could not get her witch costume done, and she offered up several Disney princess options (the ones that sell for $80 at the Disney store.)  I was a bit hesitant to head in that direction.

Almost at my wit's end (and still waiting for the new dining room furniture to be delivered, so still no place for the sewing machine) we stopped at a costume store last Saturday.  Daddy needed a knife and a hat to complete his costume and I was looking for a hat as well.  We wandered down the kids aisle and B gravitated to a black and purple witch costume.  She started jumping up and down, very excited, telling us (pleading) how much she wanted that costume.

If the mommy guilt is one form of torture, then the flip side of that must be my hurt feelings when she told me how much she LOVED this witch costume and was looking forward to Halloween with it.  I had felt bad for so many weeks (inadequate, a failure, you pick a label), and then to have her stomp on that by telling me how wonderful that store bought costume was.     At the same time, I felt a bit lighter, knowing that her disappointment at not having Mommy make another costume was not quite as intense as it might have been.  So maybe I'm not too much of a failure?

Then again, there are almost NO decorations up for Halloween this year.  I've got a few things here and there that were either picked up or given to us after last year's holiday, so did not make it into the storage bins.  Otherwise, not really much on the decorating this year.  Coincidentally, I went to our storage unit yesterday to dig a few things out and came across my costume containers.  Carefully folded inside were the Indian princess, witch, Kermit and Sylvester costumes that my mom had made me. (Sylvester is still my all-time favorite.)  Some of them are starting to look a little old, but still so many memories.  I told Rob that maybe next year I will drag out the bins and let B pick one of my old costumes, if she is interested.  Then she could go around telling everyone that her No-Me-Na (their name for my mom) made the costume for me when I was a kid.  Wouldn't that be fun! 

So here we are, just a few days from Halloween and I'm almost over my guilt of not making a new costume for the year.  Soon I will start making cookies for the various baskets I deliver (neighbors and crossing guards and such) and maybe after that I can relax.  Of course, I have to get through Thanksgivukkah first.  I'm sure there's some guilt to be found somewhere in that.  We shall see.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Tough Parts of History

Teaching history can be tough, especially when the student is young.  We question how much information to give and what type of information to provide, depending on the age or maturity of a particular student.  "Experts" over the years have determined what details of various parts of history are appropriate for students through the years and have revised history books to reflect those "appropriate" aspects.  But how do you broach painful subjects when your kids ask questions.

I have often thought that the Holocaust would be the most difficult part of history to cover with B and later with K.  How do you explain that millions of men, women and children were slaughtered just because they were Jewish, like we are?  How do you explain that hundreds of thoughts of other people, fellow countrymen and women, just stood by and watched those who were Jewish be packed away in cattle cars, never to return?  How do you comprehend the enormity of 6 million?

Knowing how difficult the subject of the Holocaust will be to explain, I have often thought to leave that discussion for when B is older, and for now to generally avoid those "difficult" times in history.  Perhaps easier to explain are those times well past, such as the American Revolution or even the Civil War, which can be sanitized to better explain to younger children.  Despite hoping that those days of difficult explanation were still a ways off, we encountered another one today.

I was born in 1974, in the waning shadow of the Vietnam War.  My sisters, born 1 and 2 years before me were also in the shadow of a conflict that almost tore our country apart.  My father, a Marine, had served (I believe) two tours in Vietnam, before coming home to meet and marry my mom.  I do not know much about his service to our country, other than that he did not like to talk about it.  When the Vietnam War Memorial was completed in 1982, I remember my sister asking my Dad if we could go to Washington D.C. and see it.  He said "no" and gave no reason.  I recall her asking a follow up question and recall that his reaction was such that we never brought it up again.

Once when we were kids, he pulled out a box of slides and fashioned a screen of sorts with a white sheet.  Not knowing what was in store, we curled up on the couch and took an all too brief walk with him down memory lane.  There were not many details and the names and dates have all been all but lost with time.  He never wrote anything down, and only this once let his guard down for the briefest moment to let us peer in.

After his death, we sometimes heard stories from friends or family of how troubled he was, or odd things that he did or said that made people wonder.  We learned that shortly before he died, he was seeing a psychiatrist through his job, something that was almost unheard of at that time, in rural Ohio.  The details of those visits also lost to time and the doctor-patient privilege.  One relative told a story of finding Dad walking in the woods behind our house, talking to someone or something that was not even there.  He never shared his combat or service experiences with us and we were left to wonder how those experiences shaped him.  My own education about the Vietnam War is limited to what I learned in school, in those books that "experts" have drafted, and what I've read or heard from other sources.  To say that it was a troubling time for those who lived through it would be a massive understatement.

A few years ago, Rob and I took a trip to Washington DC while B was at Cousin's Week.  We had K with us, but she was about 10 months old and not likely to remember much of the trip.  We found ourselves at the Wall and I couldn't help but wonder what my Dad would have thought of it.  Would he see too many names that he knew, boys that had not made it home?  Something else I will unfortunately never know.

Today we introduced B to this troubling time in history.  The introduction was deliberate, in that we knew the Wall would be there and both Rob and I wanted to see it.  B had heard about it as well and asked to be taken to see it.  The Traveling Wall, an 80% size replica, is at our local mall for 4 days.  Local Veterans groups helped bring it here and Boy Scout groups are participating in reading all of the names over the 4 day period.  We struggled to explain this small piece of history to B.  She asked questions, curious about its important and place in history and we tried to give as much information as we thought appropriate to an  almost-8-year old little girl.  Was the spirit of a grandfather she would never know walking there with us?

The questions were not about the conflict itself or about what led to the U.S involvement.  She asked about the Wall itself and the names found on it.  She asked about my Dad and how he came to be in the War. Unfortunately, there weren't many answers for her to those questions.  As we walked away, Rob tried to explain why the Wall was so important to some, and that when those soldiers fighting in Vietnam first came home, they were not welcomed as heroes because the conflict was so polarizing to the people.  These were things that she could not comprehend.

This is the difficulty with history.  To a 3rd grader, things can sometimes seem so black and white - a soldier returning home from war is a hero and should be treated as such.  Someone fighting and dying for our country a hero as well.  She tried to rationalize these feelings into solutions to a problem long past and offered reasoning for something that may never be explained.  Finding it too difficult to explain to her at this point, we quietly walked away and headed back to our daily lives.  I am hopeful that she will remember her visit to the Wall and when she is older, will be better equipped to understand some of the more difficult aspects of this part of history.  Then again, this might be one of those things that we may never fully understand, even the adults.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mental Meanderings on Monday....

For some of you, it is already Tuesday, so forgive the lateness of the hour.  Much on my mind these past few days, some of it humorous and some sad; some that makes me laugh out loud and some that just makes me shake my head.

It is funny to me, sometimes, how certain things that I was taught while growing up have stuck with me.  I'm not referring to lessons taught by my parents or by "life" in general, because certainly one would hope to learn from life's experiences and to take our parents' advice to heart.  No, I'm referring to something more specific, and possibly more ingrained in my head.  I'm talking about things I learned on the Court - both volleyball and basketball, that were drilled into my head over the many, many years I played. (How many years?  Well, at the risk of dating myself, I started playing basketball in 5th grade and played through college - so that is ... carry the one... add two.... 12 years of organized ball.  For volleyball, it was a few less because I didn't start playing until 7th grade and was cut from the 8th grade team.  Yes, cut.  From the team. I was seriously gangly and uncoordinated and that's a whole other Oprah.)

But I digress (as usual.)  An example of something taught or learned on the court that has stuck with me.  Class.  I can see you out there scratching your head and trying to figure this one out, so I will help you along.  My high school coach, who is a prince among men (and has a pretty darn good win/lose record under his belt) always said that "Class shows."  What did he mean?  He meant that even on the court, in the heat of battle, class shows.  If you are seriously dismantling the other team, you don't leave your starters in.  If you are up by 20 points, you pull back the full court press.  That is not to say that you roll over and play dead, but you try not to beat up on the other team when they are bruised, bloodied and barely making it down the Court.  This little lesson came to mind last week during my rec league game.   (That is right, I said "rec league."  Although we pay referees to keep the peace, we play for nothing more than a t-shirt and the ability to say that we "won" the Burbank women's summer (or winter or whatever) session of the league.  Seriously.)   So we are playing this team that always gives us a hard time, and they are up by 20 or 25.  And they start a full court press.  In a rec. league. game.  In.  Burbank.  Yup, class shows.

Tonight I had the opportunity to have several of my past sporting lessons come roaring back to mind.  I was picked up last season to play volleyball, off of the "free agent" list.  Last season it was the "non-comp" league which meant only underhand serves (who even remembers how to do that?) and lots of slop.  Lots of slop.  This season, there were not spots left in non-comp, so the Rec League office encouraged our team to move up to competitive.  Different night and we get a referee, and we get to serve overhand.  To say that we have been sorely over matched in the games I have played so far is an understatement.  We have several players on our team that, although they try very hard, probably are completely out of their element.  I'm worried that one or two of them will end up with a six-pack across the face the way some of our opponents hit.  Tonight our problem was communication.  It was drilled into me at an early age that the setter always has the second hit, unless they call for help.  If you are a hitter in the front row, you would be getting into position to hit and staying out of the setter's way.  If you are in the back row, you should be setting up to cover any block that comes back over, or again, getting out of the way.  This is something that people who have been playing "rec league" ball simply do not understand.  We've got people standing there watching the ball drop, out of position, not taking the second hit when they are in the setter's position and I'm just standing there, listening to 10 years of coaches' comments and yelling going through my head.  Coach Bartlett (high school volleyball coach) came to mind when I served one in the net.  She always said that if you are going to miss on a serve, miss long because at least then you've got the possibility that the other side will play it.  If you serve it into the net, you've taken away that possibility.

Funny how life keeps circling around.

I spent the weekend in Vegas, hanging out with about 250 rabid scrapbookers.  I know some of you are wondering what that means, but some of these women really could be described as "rabid."  You would think that the teachers of the classes hung the moon and stars and if you don't sit close enough to them you will somehow miss out on the star shine or sparkle.  Crazy.  Women fighting over seats in a room and piling into huge lines (seemingly on the verge of pushing and shoving) to spray alcohol ink on a piece of paper.  You have to view these things with a bit of levity and a smile, lest you run the risk of becoming embroiled in the passion.  It really is funny to watch sometimes.

I'm sure there were other things I wanted to comment on, but as the night gets longer and I've got work in the morning, I should go.  More meanderings later.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Falling into Fall?

More like crashing headfirst into Christmas.

At some point last week, I started to rethink my commitments for the remainder of the year and wondered if I had over committed myself.  As one of my events finished up last Thursday (an apparent success), I felt some weight lift from my shoulders.  I thought "I can do this.  I can get it all done."

Then came Yom Kippur and 2 days spent in Temple (mostly) or hanging out at home while the little one napped.  This week I am headed to Las Vegas for a 3 day scrapbooking event.  Keep your snide comments and snickering to yourself.  It is quite the "event" and has a waiting list each year.  I myself spent several years on the waiting list before finally cracking the code to get in.  I signed up for it AGES ago, not realizing how much my life would spin out of control between then and now.

At some point in early Spring, I committed to doing a card swap with some of the ladies who will also be attending the event this weekend.  For those uninitiated in the paper crafting arts, a card swap is where I make a number of cards - all the same, and various other ladies all make a number of cards (the same) for different occasions.  We swap them out and come home with a selection of cards.  Hopefully cute and crafty and hopefully usable.  I myself, feeling quite ambitious, signed up for 2 spots, meaning I would have to make twice as many cards.  At the time I did it, there were only 10 or 12 ladies signed up.  Now there are 28 "spots" for which I must make 28 cards... times 2.  Sitting at my work table last night, furiously gluing pieces together for card design #2, I again questioned my sanity.

I am one of 2 homeroom parents for B's class.  We will be putting together a Halloween "thing" (it's not a classroom party) for her class in the next few weeks.  Before we get there, the teacher's birthday is this week.  We're planning something for next week.  I'm copying and stapling and stuffing in the meantime.  (papers, that is.)

K's birthday is just about a month away.  The location of her party is set, but I've got to start making invitations and thinking about the cake and party favors and.... oh - you mean I'm supposed to get my own child a gift, too?  oy.  In the meantime, you can find me in Vegas at the pool, drink in hand.  This will all fix itself while I'm gone, right?

Next week is my birthday.  Moving on.

In November, I'll be installed as the President of our local Bar Association.  For those of you who aren't "in the know," this does not mean that I'm hanging out at my local watering hole. (I wish!)  Bar Associations are groups of attorneys, usually organized in various geographical areas. (Ho hum, I know.)   When I signed on for this stint, last year, I did not think about how much would be going on around here in October and November.  yikes!   So, I'm installed in November and during December, we have to figure out most of the calendar for the following year.  It should be a breeze by then, right?

Did I mention that Hanukkah was early this year?  It starts the night BEFORE Thanksgiving.  Yes, there may still be some "Black Friday" shopping for me, but I will have already had to cover 2 nights of Hanukkah by then.  And if that's not enough, B's birthday is December 2.  That's right, I've got Hanukkah, Thanksgiving and B's birthday... ALL IN THE SAME WEEKEND!  (Well, technically, I think her birthday is the Monday after, but what's another day?)  Someone get me a drink!  We're still in negotiations about B's party - location, number of friends, etc.  I hate to disappoint her by not having something on her actual B-Day or the closest weekend, but at the same time, everyone will be with their families or out of town.  We will have to see how that one pans out.

As if that was not enough, I'm also fairly active on the Parent Council for K's preschool.  There will be a Thanksgiving "feast" in there somewhere for the little ones and a Hanukkah Pajama Night, so that should keep me busy.

What do you mean I still have to get dinner on the table every night?  What do you mean I still have to go to work every day? 

Needless to say, things will be a little crazy in the Cohen house for the next few months.  It's a good thing I thrive under pressure.  Oh wait - did I just say that out loud?  So maybe I don't "thrive," but I tend to do o.k. when I'm juggling a few things.  I like to make lists, so that helps.  Right now I have a stack of things on my desk, each marked with a post it, and stacked in the order that I need to complete them.  We will see how that goes.

In the meantime, I'll be sitting at my work table tonight, trying to finish up those cards and then pack my stuff for this weekend.  I head out Thursday morning.  Think Rob will be able to hold down the fort while I'm gone?  At least for a few days, I'll be lost in something that doesn't have a deadline.  Of course, come Monday morning, it's back to the whirlwind.  But I'm looking on the bright side.  By the time Hanukkah is over, I'll be able to sit back and coast in through the New Year.  One can hope, anyway.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Master Manipulator

There's a new sheriff in town.  She stands about 3'3" and has long, soft, brown hair - usually worn in 2 braids or ponytails and is almost 3.  She adores Hello Kitty and can often be found wandering around with her second in command, "Blankie."  Shortly after she started walking, she found that she could clear off the coffee table with one sweep of her arms when she was upset.  Now that she is older (and wiser?), she screams or stomps her feet and more recently, she has begun to throw things. 

Rolled into this delightful little package, who mimics her older sister faster than reruns of Seinfeld hit syndication, is a splash of attitude and even cunning.  She has become, by accident or design, a master manipulator.  Or at the very least, is working on it. 

This morning, I asked her to stop kicking something on her dresser where the changing table is.  Her response of "it's mine" led to a discussion that although the Hello Kitty humidifier is in her room, it is not "hers" because I bought it.  (Yes, there should be more than a few of you out there shaking your heads because you have either had this very same conversation with your own children, or your parents had it with you.)  As we walked out of her room and headed downstairs, she continued to say "it's mine" and I continued to say "no it is not."

In the kitchen, finishing up getting ready for school, we started to put breakfast together.  She asked me for something and I said "no."  Her response?  "But it's mine."  I immediately said (in a stern, "mommy is serious" type voice) "I don't ever want to hear that 'it's mine' stuff again."  About 30 seconds later, I look down and she has her head bowed with her hands over her eyes.  Quiet sniffling sounds waft their way up to my ears and I ask her if she is crying.  After she says "no," she adds "I'm sad."  (This is also a recent tactic of hers, to tell me that she is sad or that I made her sad after she has gotten in trouble for something.)  When I asked her why she was sad, she had a response, which I can't remember now but will hopefully remember at some point today and will update this. 

With her morning cup of milk and some redirection, the sadness over being told that she cannot use the "it's mine" phrase any more had disappeared.  We finished getting ready for school (Hello Kitty socks, shoes and all) and headed out the door.  Another morning in the books.

I have to laugh (or at the very least, smile somewhat ironically) that my second child is already such a manipulator at the young age of 1-month-shy-of-3-years-old.  You may laugh and think that I am making this up, but she really does manipulate.  Which means that Daddy and I have to stay on our toes to keep up.  Of course, for as much as we struggle with B, she is a transparent as the day is long.  She has difficultly keeping secrets (good or bad ones) and usually schemes about ways to get friends to participate in plays, rather than ways to get away with something or dupe Mommy or Daddy.  So things with the little one will be even more interesting as they get older.

In the meantime, I'll just keep telling her that if my money paid for it, it's not hers, it's Mine!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Thoughts from the Trail - a Finish Line in Sight

Just me and 18,000 of my closest friends.  Out for a jog.  At the Happiest Place on Earth.

A friend posted on my Facebook status yesterday, something along the lines of "of course your first one would be at Disneyland."  Am I that predictable?  When I was in college and trying to figure out where to go for law school, I checked out the weather and the "scene" for my choices.  As some of you know, I ended up in Malibu California.  My response to anyone who asked "why?" was the same: "if I'm going to put myself through 3 years of Hell, I might as well do it somewhere with a nice view."  The same thought process applied to my decision to try and run a 1/2 marathon - if the first few miles are through Disneyland and California Adventure, it can't be all that bad, right?

As the last week up to the run was upon me, I started to feel nervous.  Did I train enough?  Was I prepared?  Am I nuts?!?!   Our friends from Australia left last Wednesday and arrived in Anaheim Thursday morning.  Since they came all this way, there was no turning back.  We packed up the girls and headed down Friday morning, working our way over to the Disneyland Hotel for the expo.  It was crazy!  There were people everywhere, standing in lines to get their bibs and in lines to change corrals and in lines to buy things.  (Rumor has it that the check out line for "official" runDisney merchandise was close to 3 hours.  3 hours to buy a t-shirt?!?!?!)  Can you say "rabid" fans?  New Balance was there selling sneakers with Mickey on them.  (Someone told our friend that he "missed out" on getting them last year at the expo (for $120 a pair) and bought them on eBay for $500.  Running shoes?

We fought our way through the expo, picked up our gear bags and shirts and walked around a little bit.  The line for official merchandise scared us away, so we did not bother looking.  We ended up spending part of the day wandering around D-Land before having dinner with the family and our friends.  Bedtime came early on Friday night, as B and Rob had an early Saturday morning for the 5K.  K and I would not be joining them - we like our sleep!

The 5K went off without a hitch and Rob said that he liked it well enough to do it again.  I might even join them this time, if we can get K to do it (she was a bit young this year.)  She did "run" the 10 yard dash and got her very own medal.  (I say "ran" because she really ended up walking most of it - and held my hand.  It was only when she saw Donald at the finish line that she kind of took off to try and catch him.)

As you might imagine, the day and a half of build up, of shorter races and various run-themed events taking place around D-Land, all combined to cause my stomach to knot and for me to again question my sanity.  But I pushed through.  At 3:45 a.m. on Sunday morning, my alarm went off.  I got ready to go in my specially designed Tigger running gear (I put it together myself) and tried to eat a banana.  Bad move - the banana was NOT any good.  I grabbed a Clif bar from the goody bag, a bottle of water and headed off.  I was supposed to be in my corral between 4:30 and 5 a.m., for a race that started at 5:30.  As I headed through Downtown Disney, I joined the mass of people flowing along, many in costumes of various characters.  When I finally made it to my corral ("F"), it was a sea of humanity.  Then, I waited.  And waited.  And waited.

The race officially began at 5:29 with the wheelchair start and 5:30 with the "elite" runners.  Our friend Stuart was in corral "A" that started 5 minutes later.  His wife Sarah, just 5 more minutes behind, in corral "B".  If you are wondering why I was at the back of the pack in "F", it was because I had no clue what my time might be and so I guessed.  I did not realize how such an estimate would impact my morning.  By the time the other corrals started ("E" seemed to go on FOREVER!), and my corral's turn came, it was after 6 a.m.  I had told Rob that I expected to finish between 2 and 2.5 hours, based on my training times.  I forgot to account for the late start.

I wish I could share with you all the fun of the race course, as we wound our way through California Adventure and over to Disneyland and out onto the streets of Anaheim.  The route itself may still be visible on the runDisney website, but it would not tell the whole picture.  I stopped for a picture with Phineas and a Fireside girl (from Phineas and Ferb - the girls would never forgive me if I hadn't), and later, a quick picture with Snow White in Disneyland.  By the time I wound my way out of the parks, almost 4 miles had passed and I was feeling good!  The crowds had not really thinned, but I had found a guy running along as Piglet, and we seemed to be running about the same pace.  Concerned about the heat, Disney seemed to have water and Powerade at each mile, which was good.  Somewhere along the line, I tried some energy "goo" (yes, that was the name of it), and let's just say that it was gross and leave it at that.  Luckily, I got it at a water stop, so I was able to wash the taste away.  Yuck.

As the sun went up into the sky, the miles clicked off and the race wound past the Honda Center where the Anaheim Ducks (hockey) play and then around to the Big "A" where the Angels (baseball) play.  We ran into the Stadium and around the warning track, to the cheers of quite a few Boy and Girl Scouts. 

By mile 6 or 7, my Nike App was running away with itself, quicker than Disney was ticking the miles off.  By mile 12, my App was saying that I had already run 14 miles.  As I neared the finish, one of the clocks on the mile marker showed a little more than 2 and a half hours.  Knowing what my pace had been all along, I could not figure out why I seemed to be moving so slow.  More on that later.

Rob and the girls were on the sidelines about 300 yards from the finish.  I heard "Mommy!" before I saw the little blond head bouncing above the fence.... and the little brunette closer to the ground next to her.  Kisses and high 5s around and I was off to finish.  Rob had the camera out and was trying to take some pictures (he didn't get one of my stripes, unfortunately), and it wasn't until I was 1/2 way to the finish from where they stood before I realized that I hadn't given him a quick kiss.  (Yup, I'll be that wife, forgetting to thank her husband at the Oscars.)

At 2:45 or so, I crossed the line.  (That was my net time - I'm not sure what the "official" Disney clock said, but remember it took me over a 1/2 hour just to get out of the corral).  I was exhausted.  I was hot.  I was tired and I was hungry.  I got my medal, stopped for a 'finisher' picture and wound my way through the crowds to find my family.  Stuart and Sarah had finished long before me (Stuart was done around 1:26 and Sarah somewhere around 2:00 or so) and we would meet up later.  I borrowed a phone from a kind stranger and called Rob and then made my way over.  The caged animals (otherwise known as my girls) had driven Daddy to his second-to-last nerve, but they were hanging on.  Back to the hotel to shower and pack up, check out, and then back to D-Land for a few more rides.

By lunchtime, I was hanging on by a thread, exhausted beyond belief, but happy.  I had done it.  I had trained for and ran and finished my first 1/2 marathon.  As crazy as it seemed to me just a few months ago, I was also sitting there considering my next one.  The where, the when and the logistics.

As part of the weekend's festivities, Disney offered the option of the "Dumbo Double Dare" which was to run a 10K on Saturday morning and the 1/2 on Sunday morning.  I saw many who took advantage and gained a second medal.  There was also the "Coast to Coast" challenge, taken on by many, which includes running a 1/2 at Disney World in Florida and a 1/2 in California, both in the same calendar year.  Rumors have already started to float around among our Australian friends about a Coast to Coast in 2015.  We'll see how that goes.

In the meantime, I've got my eye on a few races that look interesting.  Anyone up for a nighttime New Year's run through Downtown LA on January 4?  How about something a little closer to home (Santa Clarita) in November - a nice family race through local trails.  I'm keeping my options open.

The knees aren't screaming quite as loud in protest as they were yesterday, and you can be sure that I am grateful for the opportunity to run the race, and for the fact that I am healthy enough to have attempted it.  So who's with me for next year?  Tinkerbell in January, perhaps?  See you on the trails!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

That's Not Fair!

It's hard as parents when we see our children dealing with the concept of fairness.  It is difficult to explain to them that sometimes things do not work out the way they want, and sometimes, sadly, "life isn't fair."  Perhaps they do not get picked for a part that they want in the school play (we've had that conversation with B before) or perhaps a friend gets a toy that they themselves really, really wanted, or even that the teacher does not give them a score that they feel they earned.  The world is full of little things like this that remind us that no, things aren't "fair."

When a fellow classmate of mine told our Contracts professor "that's not fair," during a review of a case, the professor replied "Fair is a 4 letter word."  He meant that he lumped "fair" in with all of the other "bad" 4 letter words (I'll let your imagination run wild here), and therefore did not believe in "fair," particularly in the U.S and California court system.  He meant that as lawyers, we were to throw out our own beliefs in what we thought was "fair" or "unfair" and instead just read the law and apply the rulings.

Try explaining that to a kid.  Generally speaking, things with B have gone fairly smoothly, and she typically does not dwell on things that she thinks are "unfair."  (Although she has mentioned that it's not fair that K gets to do certain things from time to time.  When those comments start, we remind her of all of the fun things that we did with her before K showed up and remind her that it's not "fair" that K missed out on those things.  We ask if maybe we should play catch-up by leaving B at home the next time.  That usually ends those conversation.)

The difficulty as a parent, I think, comes when we deal with situations that aren't "fair" to us, as adults.  It is one thing to explain away a difficult situation to our child, by saying "well, sometimes life isn't fair," but what do we do when it happens to us?   Right now, I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach, just rolling around and boiling, that makes me want to scream.  I want to yell and rage... it's just not fair! 

What is not fair, you ask.  Well, each year at B's school, the PTA auctions off 2 sets of front row seats for the various grade level plays.  For the 1st and 2nd grade years, we bid on those seats and we won.  The auctions are held during Back to School Night.  This year, I placed my bid as usual, on one of the sets.  As we were leaving the school, I checked back and saw that no one had outbid me, but that someone else had bid on the second set.  At the PTA meeting this morning, I checked in with the coordinator and she checked the sheets for me.  While no one had outbid the other family, someone had doubled my bid! 

My initial reaction was that of my almost 3 year old.  I wanted to scream!  I wanted to cry and stomp my feet and throw myself on the ground in defeat.... how could they do that!?!?!  How could someone do that, leaving the other (lower) bid alone and doubling my bid?!?!?  ARGH!

I'm trying not to take it personally (I hope it was not a personal thing) and at the same time, I'm trying to stop my brain from working out possible solutions.  At the end of the day, the family that outbid me for those seats did so "fair and square," even if they left the other sheet alone (with a lower bid.)  It's like losing an eBay auction at the last second to the person who "lays in wait" for the auction to be ending, before swooping in to steal something.  I can't fault the family who won, since they probably were at the school later than we were and signed it as they left.  (The "back to school" part is done in 2 sections, so that families with 2 kids in school can visit both classrooms.  Since we only have 1 there right now, we go to the first session and then head out, back home to relieve the babysitter.)  They won, we lost.  Move on, right?

At the same time that my rational brain is saying "it's over, just deal with it," the other side of my brain is kicking me for not going back at 7:10 p.m. last night (the auction ended at 7:15) and standing over the sheet to beat out any last minute bids.  (If it was that important to me, I would have, right?)  That same part of my brain is wondering what kind of "wheeling and dealing" I can do to get more seats.  Maybe I can offer to "buy" an additional set of seats at the same rate as the highest bid?  Or maybe I can offer to buy some second row seats?  Anything?  Buehler?   The money goes to PTA, it's for a good cause, right?

For those of you sitting there wondering what the big deal is, I will tell you that things can get pretty crazy when you're talking about premium seating at a grade level play.  School starts at 8 and parents can start dropping kids off at the back playground at 7:30.  There are parents who drop their kids off as early as possible and then sit in the Multi-Purpose room to wait for the show (which starts at 8:30 or 9), snapping up those seats.  By show time, it is standing room only and if you are an unlucky parent who decided to come just before show time, forget it.  You're watching from Siberia at the back wall.   For parents like me who are forever trying to capture every single memory on film, it's torture to try and watch a performance from the back row, hoping to get just 1 or 2 good pictures.

So, this year I lost.  I must pick up the pieces of my shattered day and move on.  At least, that is what I keep telling myself.  It's not like there aren't other front row seats (how early will I have to get there - or send Rob- to grab those?) or second or third row seats on an aisle, so that I can still get good pictures.  I just wish this feeling in the pit of my stomach would go away.  I just wish that little voice in my head would stop screaming "but it's not fair!"

Now I know how my kids feel.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Open letter to Gap Kids, Children's Place and Macy's.

I had a rough time at the mall last weekend.  I was school shopping for my 7 year old who is starting school this week, going into the third grade.  She is active and loves to run and play, climb the monkey bars and get dirty. She trashes sneakers in a matter of months (to the point you can see daylight through the soles of her shoes.)  Despite an intense love of pink and purple, she is not a "girly girl" by any means.

She has inherited my small waist (well, mine used to be small) and long legs.  At some point, I'm sure she will begin to see the "Wolf butt" that some ladies in our family get... She may already have it.  We have a rough time finding pants long enough, with a waist that doesn't fall down, but still fits over her legs, without being too tight.  Skirts are fun to shop for...most start out on the wrong side of "short".

These days, clothes shopping is a challenge for me.  I might be crazy and am quite possibly the only parent of a young girl out there who thinks this way, but my 7 year old does not need to wear leopard print clothing.  She also is too young to wear "skinny" mini skirts that don't have built-in shorts.  Really, would you let your daughters wear this crap?  This may be an old fashioned way of thinking, but I have to wonder, who thinks these clothes are appropriate for young girls? Really, do these designers have daughters of their own?  Would they let their children wear this stuff?

I realize that you need to appeal to a broader audience.  I realize that it is cheaper to buy fabric in massive quantities and then build all sizes of a particular design.  That being said, do you really think that a child of 4 or 5 should be wearing the same things as a child 12 or 14?  Kindergarten to eighth grade is a huge jump!

What happened to simple jean skirts and bright colored t-shirts, knit skirts with leggings and a sweater, or *gasp* overalls?  Am I really that outdated?  Worse yet, is my view of today's culture and fashion that naive?  My daughter is not a high fashion model.  She's not Suri Cruise.  She does not need to wear high heels to school, she needs sensible sneakers or lace up boots that will survive the beating she gives them. She does not need short skirts or skinny jeans or "jeggings".  She needs practical, well-made clothes that she will grow out of before they wear out.  Am I the only parent out there thinking these things as I wander the aisles of children's clothing stores?

I ask again, who designs this crap?  Yes, I get that everyone wants to be "cool" and fashionable, but do we really need to foist these labels on our 7 or 8 or 9 year olds?  Can't we at least wait until they are teenagers?

B still loves Hello Kitty and last year she picked out an HK backpack.  It nearly broke my heart when she came home after just a few weeks of school and told me that someone in her class had called her a "Baby" because "Hello Kitty is for babies."  Who gives these children these ideas?  (Of course, I'd love to have my own conversation with that kid, while wearing my HK shirt, holding my HK purse and my phone - that has an HK cover.)  But I digress.

Sadly, B does not understand my motivation as we struggle to shop.  She sees things that she thinks are cute or that she has seen friends wearing and I see a little girl trying to grow up waaaaaay too fast. I cringe inside when she tells me that she can't wait to be older, so that she can go, and do, and see, and wear....  I want to shake her and tell her that it is not all fun and games as we age, and there are so many things still for her to learn.

I struggled with popularity and body image in school, sometimes because I wore hand-me-down clothes and sometimes because we could not afford the brand name or designer labels.  We shopped at the bargain stores.  I don't want B to have to worry about those things, but at the same time, I want her to take her time growing up, and stay a kid for a little longer.  Is that wrong?  Why should we let these clothing designers and stores push our kids to grow up too soon?

Well, we shouldn't.  And I, for one, am trying not to.  Right now, I'm not the coolest mom on the planet, and I probably looked like an ass, chewing out the sales clerk because the clothing in her store was not appropriate for a 7 year old.  But I did not buy their trashy clothes and I did not cave to B's whining and begging.  My little girl will stay "little" for just a bit longer, if I can help it.  And she will start school this week in age appropriate clothes that will hopefully withstand the beating she will surely give them.  If not, you can bet I'll be back here, ranting about that next.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thoughts from the Trail - 4


There are T-minus 22 days left before my big run.  At 5:30 a.m. on September 1, I'm taking a huge leap of faith that my battered body and "old" legs will carry me over a 13.1 mile course through Anaheim.  I can only hope that there is enough Magic at Disneyland to make the feet pick up and step back down enough times to get me from start to finish.  I repeat... ugh.

Before you tell me that I'm not "old," I will first remind you that I said my legs were old, and then I'll explain.  I started playing basketball when I was in the 5th grade.  That does not consider, count or include the countless playground games played before 5th grade, nor does that consider, count or include the usual running around and daily activity of a very active kid (with cousins to chase around on a regular basis.)  Basketball in the 5th grade (and various camps during the summer) was in addition to gym class and was followed by basketball in the 6th grade.  There were try-outs and a tournament and the winner of the class tournament got to play against the teachers.  Because I was in Mr. White's class and we had Anita Jurcenko, our team won the tournament and got to play the teachers.  For those of you who did not grow up in Jefferson, OH and have no clue who Anita J. is, just think "superstar" or quite possibly, the Michael Jordan of girls' high school basketball in Northeast (or perhaps even the entire state) of Ohio.  To say that she put her mark on the sport in the early 90s is an understatement.  But I digress...

In Junior High, I was a 3 sport athlete - volleyball, basketball and track.  I ran, I jumped, I ran some more.  Daily practices or games or meets and lots and lots of exercise.  Transition to high school and four solid years of 3 sports.  This amounted to essentially a year 'round beating up of my legs, from August (pre-season for volleyball) through June (post-season for Track) and then through the summer (open gym for basketball.)  Injuries ranged from twisted ankles to bone spurs behind my kneecap (still there) to "patella femoral syndrome" and "jumper's knee" (or are those the same things? I don't remember.)   Recruited to play hoops in college, off I went with my knee brace and ankle braces in hand.  

Officially, college basketball practices cannot start until the end of October.  "Unofficially," your attendance was noted from Day-1 in the big gym and if you weren't there, seniors gleefully broke down your door.  (Or you just did not make the team or get to play.)  August and September open gyms made way for October practices and games, season through March and then spring work outs.  Two more years of abuse on the ol' knees before one gave out.  Luckily, no torn ACLs or MCLs, and no reconstructive surgery, just massive bruising and pain that no one could explain.  Just an orthopedic doctor telling me that he could scope the knee, clean up the bone spurs and relieve the pain but given my then-current rate of activity, I'd be back to see him in 5 years.  A lack of decent insurance might have played into his apathetic view of my recovery, but I had no surgery at the time.  That fall, I switched to volleyball.  Different movements, less pain, still bad knees. 

Throughout that time, consider the constant movement and pounding that my knees took every day in practice. (Of course, this is nothing compared to the pounding that pro athletes take, but now you might understand a little bit more why many of them are wandering around with canes or need assistance getting in and out of chairs or cars.)

Fast forward 17 years since graduation, years which found me playing lots of beach volleyball (working in sand is so good for your vertical!) and indoor leagues and most recently (within the last 2 years), back to volleyball and basketball after taking a brief hiatus to have kids.  The wear and tear on my knees over the last 25 plus years has started to take its toll.

So for some strange reason, I decided to run a 1/2 marathon.  Something I've never done before.  Yes, I ran track in high school, but I rarely ran more than a 400 meter dash at once.  (Coach Locy convinced me to run the 800 once.  I won that race but never ran it again.  I hated it.)  The idea of running miles, one right after the other, frankly turns my stomach.  Not because I don't like running, but because I don't like running long distances... because it can be so boring.  I thought the Disneyland one might be a way to get around that boredom factor.  After all, I'm running down Main Street U.S.A., right?

The race information includes a training program which has 2 short runs each week (on Tuesdays and Thursdays) and a longer run on the weekends, alternating each weekend between a steadily increasing distance and a "maintenance" distance.  This past week, I was on vacation.  It goes without saying that I missed both the Tuesday and Thursday short runs.  Yes, I walked ALL over Chicago, pushing a stroller with a 2 year old most of the way, but no runs.  Saturday, I was supposed to do a long 12 mile run.  Did not happen.  I came home on Monday and on Tuesday I did my short run.  It hurt like hell.  I was supposed to run again last night, but the cold I brought home from Chicago (don't ask) decided to manifest itself in a pounding headache.  The idea of pounding feet was not pleasant.

This Saturday is supposed to be a short run and I anticipate getting that done.  But I'm starting to panic.  Next Saturday is supposed to be my last long training run, 14 miles.  But I did not do the 12 miler last week to build up to it, and I am signed up to run a 5K next Saturday (the Foam Run - should be fun.)  But like I said, I'm starting to panic.  Am I going to be ready to do this?  We have friends traveling from Australia to run this race with us (the whole crazy reason I even signed up for this thing...) and I don't want to let them down or embarrass myself.


Ugh, ugh.

Ugh, ugh, ugh.

In my mind, it all works out.  In my mind, I am able to run the entire course without having to walk (although by no means setting any records), and I finish to the cheers of my little girls and hugs all around.  (And after all, isn't visualizing the result you want half the battle?)  I tell myself that my short training runs still do good, even if they aren't the full distance I have to run.  I tell myself that the start of the race through Downtown Disney will distract me to such an extent that I'll be on mile 2 or even mile 3 before I realize that something hurts.  That is what I tell myself.

We will see what happens.  Like I said at the beginning, I still have 22 days.  That should be plenty of time to convince these old knees to take a few more steps, run up a few more hills, a few more laps around the track - if for no other reason than in the end, I will get to run through Sleeping Beauty's Castle on my way to to the finish line.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Are Family Vacations Overrated?

When I was a kid, we went on one vacation.  No, I do not mean one vacation each year, I mean one vacation.  One. 

As I got older, I often wondered about that one vacation.  It was the summer between second and third grade for me, the summer of 1982.  (Coincidentally, that is the same age that B is now - between second and third grade.)  We packed up the car one morning and drove east, to Gettysburg PA.  We spent a few hours wandering around a small museum or two, looking at more guns and ammunition than I care to remember.  Dad took picture after picture of the cases of guns and ammo and in one - a wooden leg.  We wandered a bit of the battlefields, but honestly, to an 8 year old girl, there was not much to catch my attention.  From Gettysburg, we drove down to Washington D.C., stopping to spend some time at Monticello.  I liked the house and the grounds and would have loved to see the second floor, but it was closed to visitors.  We were told that was because of the steep, narrow steps.  The lure of the unknown, I still think about that second floor today. 

From Monticello into D.C., where we saw the lobby of the hotel where Dad's Aunt Elinor lived, and one part of the Smithsonian.   When I first told Rob this story, he asked "Did you see Kermit?"  No.  "Did you see Fonzie's jacket?"  No.  "Did you see Dorothy's ruby slippers?"  No.  "Did you see Howdy Doody?"  No.   Those were the things that captured his imagination when he visited as a child, and he still remembers today.  Those were not the things that we saw.  I do not recall which part of the museum we saw (anyone who has visited knows that there are many buildings), but I remember an airplane or two and possibly tractors or cars. 

From D.C., we drove down to North Carolina to see our Aunt Edie, who was stationed there in the Air Force.  We spent at least one night on her floor.  We also stopped in to see our Uncle Randy, who was in Virginia, somewhere near Dulles - I remember hearing plans go over all night, while we slept on his floor.

If you are wondering why I remember so little of that one trip - one whole vacation for all of my childhood years, I think it is because I only remember what we did not see, rather than what we did see.  The vacation was my Dad's plan and I remember doing things that he wanted to do and seeing things that he wanted to see.  We wanted to check out the D.C. Zoo and did not.  I'm sure we would have loved to see Kermit or Fonzie's jacket, but did not.  To a child's mind, those were the problems with that vacation.

(One caveat as I write this - I think there may have been various other trips, to family reunions - I remember one long drive to Lima, OH in particular) and long weekends in Wooster at our Aunt and Uncle's house, and there may have been a trip to Florida - but if I was too young to remember - which has to be the case, since I cannot recall specifics, then it does not count.)

I now get to consider and experience vacations through my "parental" eyes, trudging through the airport with two children and all manner of car seats and strollers, treasured teddy bears and blankets and back packs full of snacks and gadgets to distract.  I attack each city we visit with a mind to see all that we can in the short time that we are there, to soak up the history and culture, while tuning out the cries of "I'm hungry" and "I'm tired," usually because it is a city I've never been to and long wanted to visit.  Through this, I wonder if the "vacation" has not become overrated or maybe just can no longer live up to the hype.

B has it very good.  She has seen more places in her 7 short years than many people get to visit in a lifetime.  We have dragged her across ancient ruins, in and out of museums, up waterfalls in jungle rain forests and across sunny beaches.  K climbed that jungle waterfall too - in a baby carried on her Daddy's back.  As I consider those vacations through my girls' eyes, I wonder if they will someday look back on them as I look back on the one vacation of my childhood - remembering not what we did do and see, but rather what we did not do.  (I'm sure if you ask B today, she will tell you that we did not go to the pool or the zoo and that she did not get to go swimming on this last trip, despite having her suit "at the ready" at all times.)  However, she does remember the Eiffel Tower in Paris and Big Ben in London and the Coliseum in Rome.

When I say that family vacations may be overrated or there are arguments against them, it is said after coming home, emptying the luggage and facing piles of laundry.  Exhausted from dragging kids through the airport, juggling luggage and having a little one sleep on my arm for four hours.  I have to take a step back and wonder if it was worth it.  Will my girls remember their first trip to Wrigley Field, or will they remember that we bought popcorn and did not get a chance to eat it.  (Side note - to the people that put cheese popcorn into your caramel popcorn "Chicago style" - you are strange and it does not taste good!)  I think the girls had a good time at the baseball game, but I also think that they were "done" with the experience after an inning or two and were not as "in" to the game as Daddy or I was (watching the Dodgers beat the Cubs.)  Of course, we did not have to travel to experience a baseball game with board children wanting ice cream or cotton candy or hot dogs or souvenirs... that happens fairly regularly right here at home, in Chavez Ravine.  You will probably find us there about a month from now when Hello Kitty once again throws out the first pitch.

As parents, we are not in the unenviable position of having to give serious thought to our travel plans before making those plans or taking that trip.  We get to balance the fun stuff (pools, beaches and ice cream) that our kids want to do with the "fun" things we, the adults, might want to experience (baseball games, museums, history, ancient ruins, touring the Effen vodka factory or local vineyard).  We have to plan our lodgings with the kids in mind - gone is the jacuzzi suite in favor of the "family" suite with pull-out couch.  We are no longer able to take "red-eye" flights and a drive that once took 5 or 6 hours with 1 quick stop (or no stops at all) now takes 7 hours, with a stop for lunch and to "stretch our legs." 

We get home from all of this, wondering if our children will remember anything of the trip 5 or 10 years from now, and questioning whether or not it was even worth it to leave home.   At some point, the key chains and chotchkes will get lost.  The t-shirts will no longer fit or will be worn down to rags and have to be tossed.  What will be left?  Pictures, of course (especially in my house where nothing goes undocumented with pictures), and the memories.

In the shadow of this realization, I revisit the issue of that one vacation of my childhood.  I doubt that my parents were actively trying to keep us from seeing the world (or our little corner of it) or made some overreaching declaration that we would never vacation as a family.  I'm sure that expense had a little bit to do with it - travel for a family of five is a substantial expense, even if you are sleeping on your relatives' floors every night.  But I also wonder if the stress of the planning and the stress of the execution played a part.  At some point, did they decide that it was easier to just stay home and have 1 and 2 day trips, rather than a big "blow out"expedition to parts unknown?  I'm not sure. 

I do know that I have seriously considered waiting until K is a bit older before taking our next family trip.  Then again, considering that we've already climbed a waterfall with her strapped to Daddy's back and trekked through a jungle full of ancient ruins with her in a stroller, and considering the fact that we dragged B all over Europe when she was 3 and a half, why stop now?  Bring it on.  But maybe for the next one, I'll bring a nanny to hang with them at night.  That way I can get at least one trip to a winery or vodka factory under my belt?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Thoughts from the Trail -3

Saturday, "recovery" run.  Training schedule says 3 miles, Uncle Ray (who has probably run more marathons than I have years behind me) says to kick it up to 5 or 6 miles.   I decide to drive to a different starting spot (rather than tackling the hill right outside my door or having to charge up the hill to get home at the end of the run) to see what the trails look like from that part of town.

Had to do Thursday night's 30 minute (easy 3 miles) run on Friday night.  So Saturday morning probably wasn't a good idea?   Shins are KILLING me!

First thought out of the gate:  "OMG, What the heck was I thinking ?!?!?!"

Second thought:   "Maybe I can run the 1/2 marathon without training."

Third thought:  "There's a breakfast place around here.  No one will know if I just go there instead of running.  I'd be home about the same time, right?"

The trail itself was the same as others - a paseo along the "river" or wash which meanders through town.  Past a park and over an old railroad bridge to a fork in the road.  For you Muppet Movie fans out there, no, it was not an actual fork in the road.  And if you're an Anglophile, perhaps the term "roundabout" is more appropriate?

I took the path to the left and ended up on the road less traveled.  Literally.  It turned to gravel right under the freeway overpass.  While I still have not figured out where the bikers went who had gone past me, I decided to turn around and head back to the more traveled parts of the trail.  It was a struggle, because of the heat and the sun and the worn out legs that decided they just did not want to do more.  In the end, I think I logged about 3.5 or maybe even 3.75 miles.  I stopped at Jamba Juice for breakfast for everyone on my way home.

Later that day, I ended up at the runner's store to buy new shoes.  No, my paltry 3.75 mile run did not wear them out, but they are breaking down.  I've been told by several runners (who apparently are "in the know") that I would need new shoes before the "big event" Labor Day weekend.  So I decided to get them now and break them in a little.  We'll see how that goes.

This Saturday is supposed to be 12 miles.  UGH!   I'll be back home celebrating my friend T's wedding, so I'm not sure how much much running I'll get in Saturday morning.  Does chasing a 2 year old flower girl down the aisle while wearing 4 inch heels count for mileage?   The mid-week runs may suffer as well this week, as life-as-usual in the Cohen house is giving way to some travel and tourism in the Midwest.  I'll probably post something about it here in a week or two.

In the meantime, happy trails!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

In Defense of the High School Reunion

A few weeks ago I went to a high school reunion.  Not mine, but Rob's.  His 20th.  We went with his brother and his wife, and our friend Alyse and her boyfriend.  The 6 of us see each other on a regular basis, so you might wonder why we would shell out $60 or $80 for a hotel buffet dinner and $8 for each watered down drink or glass of wine, when we could BBQ at home much cheaper.  Curiosity, maybe?  A night out away from the kids, perhaps?  Off we went.

Rob and his brother will both tell you that they were not "popular" in high school, although they played baseball and knew many people in their class.  They will also both tell you that there weren't many sets of identical twins wandering around the halls of their high school, so they were easy to pick out.  (If I had a dollar for every time someone comes up to us in the San Fernando Valley and says "you're one of the Cohen boys, aren't you?"...)

At one time, Rob told me that he thought there had been about 500 in his graduating class.  Last night, figures of 800 or 900 were thrown around.  I'm not about to go count all of the pictures in his yearbook, so let's just say that it was a big class.  Despite the large number of graduates, only about 60 people showed up for the reunion.  Disappointing?  Surprising?  Hard to say.  Definitely interesting, when you consider that at least 1/3 of the attendees were spouses or guests and not actually graduates.  If you stick with a conservative estimate, that 45 were alumni and say there were 600 in the class, that's about 7 and a half percent.  Where was the rest of the class ?!?!  Funny thing, knowing Rob for as long as I have, I actually know where at least 3 other graduates are - one is in New Jersey, 1 is in Germany (obvious why they did not come) and 1 is in the Valley somewhere - we're just not sure why he did not come.  (We see him fairly regularly too.)

On the drive home, we started to talk about why the reunion was so poorly attended and why people don't want to go to high school reunions.  It seems that three reasons seem to come up when anyone talks about high school or their reunions.  The first (and probably easiest) answer - Facebook.  Some people think that connecting on social media eliminates the need to connect on a personal level.  They believe that they know all that they need to know about their classmates from being "friends" on Facebook and do not need more information.  The second, "high school sucked."  I heard it more than once, people had a miserable experience in high school and do not want to dredge up old memories by having to face the people who tortured them.  Tied to this is the sentiment of "I did not want to talk to you then, why would I want to talk to you now?"  Or perhaps, "you were a stuck up bitch and treated me like shit then, why would I give you the time of day now?"   The third one is fairly common as well - "If I really wanted to see you/ talk to you, I would have remained friends with you and we wouldn't need to come to the reunion to catch up."  More on that one later.

Perhaps it is a geography thing, or maybe it comes from being raised in a small town, as opposed to the "big city," but I'm not sure I buy any of those reasons to avoid your reunion.  Then again, maybe it is because I spent 12 or 13 years in school with many of my high school classmates, and we basically grew up together.  That would certainly be a different experience than those in a big city might have had, with only 2 or 3 friends moving from elementary to junior high and then to high school together. 

As for Facebook, I think I'm friends with about 75% of my high school class and some older and younger friends as well.  We comment on each other's pictures and extend birthday greetings, but if prompted, I probably would not be able to tell you what many of them do for a living. I do not feel as if I interact enough with them on Facebook to preclude the opportunity to see them in person. I also do not believe that we should allow ourselves to become so dependent on social media for interaction, that we eschew personal interaction. Did you see the Bruce Willis movie, Surrogates? Society had evolved and devolved to such a point that humans stayed hidden in their homes and had robots that went out into the world and did everything for them, and lived their lives. Is that were we are headed, if we rely on social media to connect us?

I also don't accept the "high school sucked" reasoning, if for no other reason than that we were all morons in high school.  We were idiots- still teenagers, with no clue how the world worked. We thought we knew everything and we strutted around like we owned the place, while inside, we were geeks and nerds, praying that no one saw the real us.  If you think about where you are right now, at 37 or 38 years old, you think back and realize that you knew absolutely nothing about life when you were 17 or 18.  Think about all of the living you have done since then and then realize that you can forgive yourself for acting like a bonehead back then.  Having kids throws this into even greater perspective, when your kids start acting like boneheads and you ask yourself "I was not that big of a moron, was I?"  Odds are, you were.   So to those who say that high school sucked, I say that everyone in your class would probably agree.  Unless you were the Homecoming Queen, in which case, everything was probably "platinum" for you.  Then again, you never know.  I had an interesting conversation with a guy in my class, at our 20th, in which he admitted that high school was rough for him.  He was incredibly shy and struggled with relationships with girls (even just as friends) and really did not have a good time.  My friend and I surprised him when we told him that we both had crushes on him at some point in high school.  All we saw was a cute guy who played sports and was "popular" and hung out with other "popular" kids.  So you never know how someone else might have viewed that particular life event.  Of course, by now, we have probably all seen Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion. (OK, anyone born in the 70s has seen it, as a way to relive our youth in the 80s.)  But you get the reference - high school was a hierarchy and every group had its tormentors and tormented.  Maybe.

The final reason, that if I wanted to be friends with you, I would have kept in touch, might work better for those who stayed close to home, rather than those who packed up and moved out, but even then I'd argue with the theory.  One of Rob's best friends, who he has known since they were both 3, disappeared from their lives for a few years after high school.  They randomly reconnected at a college graduation.  People grow and move and in some cases, lose touch where they don't mean to.  Although I have kept in touch with my "best friend" from high school and a "best friend" from college, I have lost touch (or at least not kept in close contact) with some that I considered very good friends.  Some of that might be because of geography and some just because of "life".  But that does not mean that I wanted to lose touch with those people or that I actively chose not to continue a friendship.  Perhaps a reunion is a way to renew that friendship and see if it can survive the trials and tribulations of being an "adult" (with kids, a mortgage and jobs.)

I went to my 20th last year.  Having see the misery etched on Rob's face, of being stuck in Ohio for a long weekend 10 years prior, I left him at home.  My best friend and I made a weekend of it, meeting up with other friends to play golf, check out some local wineries and attend the reunion.  Of a class of 150, about 27 graduates were at the dinner.  (I counted people in the picture.)  I think there were a few more who came and went before we took the group shot, and there were a few more who met us at the bar later, having missed the dinner. That is about 18%.  Better than Rob's class but still not good.

So what does it take to get people back together after all those years?  I don't know if there is an answer.   I do know that there were some who I missed seeing at my 10 year reunion and wished that they had been there for our 20th as well.  As luck would have it, those who were missed at the reunion are also those who are not on Facebook and so as a class, we seem to have completely lost a connection to them.  I would be curious to talk to them, to see why they have avoided reunions (so far), whether it was because they hated high school or didn't want to come back to Ohio.  For some, I remember them being popular or rolling with the "in" crowd, so it would be interesting to know why they did not come back.

At the end of Rob's reunion (which found the 6 of us down the street at a bar drinking Scotch and having dessert), the classmates in our group decided that they probably would not go to their 30th and would instead just all get together informally.  I shook my head and smiled.  I've got a year on them and I'm already looking forward to my next one (not that I want the years to move any quicker, just looking forward to reconnecting with some of those old friends.)  I can't wait.

Thoughts from the Trail - 2

More thoughts as I run around town.

Saturday I ran 11 miles.  Ugh.  Part of the problem I am having is finding places to run.  Valencia has quite a few miles of great paths and trails, but as I found on on Saturday - they don't all connect.

The brain is an interesting thing and I think nature finds ways to stick it to us and laugh.   My creative brain works best sometimes when I can allow it to wander.  As one might expect, the best time for my mind to wander is either right before I fall asleep or when I'm out running.  Neither is conducive to writing down my great, earth-shattering thoughts, which is why I think Nature is laughing.  Just before I go to sleep, I don't have the energy to get up, turn on a light and write things down.  I do have a pen and paper by my bed, but don't always take advantage of it, telling myself that I can remember these things in the morning.  Of course I can't, but that's another story.  When out on the trail, I am completely stuck.  No pen and paper in a pack or taped to the water bottle.  No handheld recorder to capture my thoughts before I forget them.  Just me and my thoughts, trapped in my brain and likely forgotten before I hit the turn and head home.  grrrrrr.

There truly is a point when your body says "please, stop!" and your mind takes over and tells your body to keep going.  I hit that point on Saturday.

There is also a point sometime after your mind has told your body to keep going, where your body says "no, really, please... stop!" and your mind tries to say "keep going."  Your body then says "f-u!" and stops.  period.   I hit that point on Saturday too.

The interesting thing about this past Saturday's run is that from a cardio standpoint, I felt fine.  I wasn't gasping for air and didn't feel too out of breath.  I managed to keep a pretty consistent (and what I thought was a good) pace for most of the run.  It was only after my body truly gave out (shins and knees) that I had to slow it to a walk for the last 1/2 mile back home.  So I am not so much worried about having the stamina to complete a 1/2 marathon - I'm worried that my legs will support me for the whole race.

We mock whatever marketing person decided to start a campaign in which our town, Valencia CA, was referred to as "Awesometown."  Friends who do not live here but have heard of the campaign or seen ads and other marketing, mock us for living here in "Awesometown."  But as I was running on the trails on Saturday, I caught a glimpse of why Valencia has that cheesy name.  In the early morning hours (7:30 a.m. is EARLY for me), I passed quite a few people running the trails.  Almost every single one of those people that I passed (and even some of the bikers) either said "good morning" or waved.  I'm not counting the older woman who was wearing oversized sweats and really big glasses, looking like she was hiding from someone and not at all pleasant, and I'm not counting the shirtless high school boys who went flying by, but other than that, almost every person greeted or acknowledged me in some way.  I thought that was very interesting.  I grew up in a small town where everyone pretty much knows everyone else (and everyone else's business) and I'm not sure I would have gotten the same greetings and acknowledgment if I were running there.  I may have to test that theory when I go back for my friend's wedding, if I decide to run (rather than skip my training runs that week.)

I went back out last night for another shorter run.  Aside from technical difficulties (stupid Nike app....grrrr.), it did not feel too bad.  My shin splints kicked in quicker than they had last week, so it's back to the stretching and icing and trying not to aggravate things.   I laugh sometimes because I wasn't that big of a fan of running long distances as a kid.  But I could do it without a lot of physical problems.  Now I sometimes find myself wishing for those "carefree" (or maybe "pain free") days of my youth.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Women we can look up to.

I have two daughters.  Right now, they are the sweetest, most loving little things, who melt my heart with a smile or when they tell me I'm pretty (like K did this morning.)  I dread the days that are absolutely coming, when puberty hits and I am no longer the queen in their eyes, but the enemy, the one who "just doesn't understand," the one who is crushing their dreams and spirit by the simple act of saying "no" to something they "really, really" want.  I dread those days.

At the same time, I question the state of the world that I am introducing them to.  Have we, as a society, come far enough to accept them as equals despite their female status?  Is the world ready to allow them access to all of the opportunities and avenues that I want open for them?

This subject came to mind this morning, after reading an article posted on Facebook about the 4 newest admittees to the NASA astronaut program.  NASA only selected 8 into the newest class.  Of those 8, 4 ARE WOMEN.  Yes, you read that correctly, 50% of the latest class selected are women.  They were selected out of 6300 candidates.  They were NOT selected based on their gender, but rather based on their abilities.  Several are accomplished pilots, several are certified scuba divers and all have advanced academic degrees.  In a society where we make up half the population, shouldn't we be taking half of the jobs or opportunities?  Such is typically not the case.

As my girls get older, I want them to get more from me than my love of reading or my ability to wrap a gift and square the corners and tie nice ribbon.  I want them to get more than height or blond hair (for B) or blue eyes (for both.)  I want them to understand that they can do whatever they set their mind to.

I got a few things from my mom and other women in my family - I can bake and cook and I was taught to sew as a kid.  I inherited a creative gene from several sides of the family.  I was also never limited in my dreaming of what I would become and I was never told that I could not do something because I was a girl.  I was introduced to my grandfather's wood shop at a young age and could throw around a bale of hay just as well as the boys.  My mom had a similar experience - she was taught to change a tire on the car, and check and change the oil before my grandfather would hand her the keys, something most kids (boys or girls) would be clueless to do today.  Perhaps it was because my dad really wanted boys, or maybe it was by design, but gender lines were not drawn in my childhood.

I want that for my girls.  I hope that the society they grow into accepts them for their brains and abilities, for their creativity and charm before they are cataloged based on their gender or their looks.  I want their accomplishments to speak for themselves before they are pigeonholed by their sex.  I hope.

This society will not be created overnight, and it will take more work.  Work that has begun already and is being carried out by these 4 women, recently chosen by NASA, and others in other professions like them, blazing the trail for the little girls who watch from the wings.  Once upon a time, women were told that they could not be lawyers or judges and now we can.   Many women in my profession still get penalized for wanting to be wives and mothers as well as attorneys, getting passed over for partnership track or losing choice assignments, but we soldier on. 

Our girls will grow into the society that we give them.  And while we are working on world peace and cleaner drinking water and maintaining green spaces to play in, let's work on gender equality - heck, let's work on taking gender out of the equation and focus on equality.  Let's give them a society that will encourage those dreams and help them believe that they can be anything they want to be, even if no woman has ever done it before.   Brooklyn for President, anyone?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thoughts from the Trail....

I went running on Saturday as part of my training for the 1/2 marathon I signed up for.  Yes, it is hot outside.  Yes, I am crazy for running in this heat.  I try to work around it by running at night after the kids go to sleep or first thing in the morning before it gets too hot.  This past Saturday, I was out at 7:30 a.m.

It was a big one on the training schedule, 9.5 miles.  I started out feeling pretty good and planned to run some paseo trails and some of the distance at the local high school (rubberized asphalt track.)  The concrete sidewalks are bad for my shins, so any break I can give them is a good one.

As I hit the paseo (asphalt - better than concrete), I was amazed at how many people were out.  I also noticed how easy it would probably be to dump a body out there and wondered if anyone had done so recently.  The paseo borders the "wash" which is actually part of the Santa Clara River.  It's usually dry, with trees and random grass growing in it.  Very rarely will there actually be water.  It is kept fenced off because there will be flash floods from time to time.  (A few years ago, during a particularly rainy season, some homeless people had a little village set up in one area of the wash and it got.... washed away.)  In any event, it is an interesting border to a decent place to run.

I kept up a steady pace of about 10 minutes per mile and passed some runners and walkers, while others passed me.  There seems to be some type of etiquette regarding acknowledging your fellow runners and walkers, but I think I am still on the outside of that club and have no idea what it is.  Some would wave, some would say hello (seriously, how can you talk when you are running?), and some would smile and nod.  Since I had my headphones on and the music cranked up, I stuck with the smile and slight nod.  (Could not break form to wave... duh.)

One gentleman had me cracking up.  I saw him a few hundred feet ahead of me around one turn and he was walking, not running.  An older gentleman, but he was keeping up a pretty good pace.  I followed and slowly gained on him, never really increasing my pace.  When I was about 20 feet behind him, another runner came up on our left and passed us both.  (She was running much quicker than I was.)  It seemed like he slightly increased his pace.  I found myself having to push a bit just to pull even with him, when it seemed like he sped up again.  Then I had to pour it on to go around him (and he was walking.)  I had to smile.  Maybe it was my imagination, but it seemed like he did not want to be passed, and so tried to speed up so that I could not pass him.

Side rant - there were no water stops along the way!  I have to figure something out, as far as these longer runs go, for water.  I got to the high school expecting to find a water fountain near the track, but no such luck.  Which is probably why I hit a massive wall, right around mile 8 and had to slow down.  I was parched by the time I got home.  I could actually feel my body shutting down the closer I got home, as it got hotter and I had been out longer.

Another side rant - to the person who did not clean up after their dog, shame on you.  You could have at least had the decency to "curb" the dog, so that it would poop in the brush or dirt on the side of the sidewalk, rather than actually on the sidewalk.  That is just plain lazy.  And gross, but lazy.  I do not usually wish bad things to happen to people, but to the person who owns the dog that did that, I hope you step in a particularly large pile of fresh poop when you are dressed up nice to go somewhere, and I hope it tracks into your car and the smell never comes out of the carpet.

One final thought.  After running 9.5 miles, it was probably not a good idea to go up to Griffith Park, where we had to park a mile down the hill, and hike up it to the Observatory pushing the stroller, and then walk back down hill, restraining the stroller with K in it.  Also probably not a good idea to then go to the Hollywood Bowl that night, where we had seats in one of the upper levels, which required walking up the hill to the entrance and then up the hill to our seats, only to then have to walk back down the hill at the end of the show, carrying K, because she didn't want to walk with all of those people.  phew!  Needless to say, my knees were not working very well on Sunday.  Good thing I did not have a basketball game that day.

Oh - one more thing.  I'm starting to wonder about this whole "running" thing and maybe it's a cult.  I have always been a short distance runner.  100 m hurdles, 400 m dash.  I reluctantly ran the 800m a few times (very reluctantly), but was never much of a fan of distance running.  As I'm training for my first 1/2 marathon, I find myself wondering about signing up for another one.  Why is this?  What is this strange desire to run another race?  I call it strange, because I am not particularly fond of running in the heat, or of getting up in the morning to run when it is still cool.  So why on earth am I considering signing up for another race?  Maybe it is because I like the shoes.  It remains to be seen, I suppose.