Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Disneyland Family 5K -2014

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?