Disneyland Family 5K -2014

Disneyland Family 5K -2014

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!