Sunday, August 31, 2008

Really Living

On occasional Saturday evenings, a friend and I take a break from our lives and hike down to Black's Beach, a secluded and mostly unmanicured (read: more natural) stretch of beach that nestles between the sea and some magnificent sandstone cliffs. We walk, and sometimes swim, and sit on our towels and talk without the interruptions of everyday life.

Last night, we discussed how the modern world of technology, the recording of our lives, through blogs, and digital photography and social networks is causing so many people to spend more time recording life and less time actually living it. We theorized about the effects of this kind of lifestyle on society.

I admitted that the time I spend blogging, while helping to keep my family and friends in touch with our lives, and letting me off the hook when it comes to writing individual emails to folks, does take up a good amount of my free time that could be better spent watching good movies with the hubby or sitting outside enjoying a warm dark evening with a glass of wine.

But I defended my digital photography and photo shopping my photos as a pastime I would call "living" because of the amount of pleasure it gives me, and an investment towards future pleasure because I know how poor my memory is and I don't want to forget my kids' childhoods.

Then, we realized the hour was getting late, the sun was getting low in the sky and if we were going to swim, we should swim.

My friend, Karin, had brought her surfboard and when we had gotten out to the breaks, she handed me the board's leash and told me to attach it to my ankle! I nervously did as I was told, and just as I got it attached she said, "Get on! There's your wave!" I think Karin wanted to remind me what really living could feel like. I looked over my shoulder to see a wall of water coming at us!

I assumed one could just lay on their belly on a surfboard and relax, but I immediately flipped over and had to hop back on again, unbalanced, legs akimbo, cheek against the wax, trying to get my bearings. Karin yelled, "Paddle your arms!" and I wasn't even able to try before the wave lifted me up and pushed me forward. I held on for dear life, belly flat on the board, grin across my face and raced all the way to the beach!

It was completely and absolutely exhilarating!

And it turned out I was lucky for my first wave because I had a lot of trouble catching a second, but in time I was able to balance easily and learned to tip forward and back to stay right on the crest of the wave so I could keep moving.
In between sets of waves, time slowed down and the the color of the sunset on the water was an astounding gold and dark blue. Looking back at the beach showed the last glow on the walls of the golden cliffs. The sun had already set and things became even more ethereal and beautiful. It was so quiet and peaceful and lovely.

A sea lion swam for a bit only 20 feet from me, and at one point, while I lay mesmerized on the board, staring into the fading light playing on the water, a flock of about 100 black birds flew just a foot or so above my head, low over the water, out to sea and into the pumpkin-colored sky. I felt like I was one of them for a moment and then they left me behind.

Someone seemed to have turned off the waves, and after drifting for another while, we turned back toward land to find our towels in the dark.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: That Time of Year

Check out more Wordless Wednesday Participants here and here.
If you are just stopping by, I am a mother of three boys, two of whom are twin toddlers and one very bright, very hyperactive almost-first grader! I love photography, theater, my sweet hubby and raising up my boys. Come back some other time and hang out a bit!

PHOTO ESSAY: What I Did On My Summer Vacation or "This is boring and walking is tooooo haaaaard!!!!"

Some of my best memories of growing up were the vacations I took with my family. We were the ones who would load up the back of the station wagon with big canvas tents, sleeping bags and coolers, always leaving long skinny space in the back of the station wagon to curl up and sleep at night, because you were allowed to do that back then.

I have very peaceful memories of laying back there, listening to my parents talking quietly, my brother asleep on the back seat and me in the far back looking up through the windows into the night. The reflections of the streetlights on the car windows looked like jellyfish tendrils passing our car from one streetlight to the next, on down the highway.

My parents made a vow that they would take us somewhere every year, even if that meant camping. And we traveled all over this great country, down south, out west, the east coast. It really instilled a love of travel in me that I want to pass on to my children.

But with twins, you often get into the habit of staying home too much. That “not being able to do some things because I have a baby” goes on a lot longer with twins than it does with one baby, and you begin to develop a habit of staying in because its easier than taking everyone out somewhere.

But we have been getting better at it, and we have all gotten better at moving as a group through public places without losing each other; or having to bring a diaper bag the size of a suitcase with us.

So, it was time to try a vacation together.

We want to become a camping family and take our boys to nature as often as possible, but we weren’t ready for cooking over a fire with wandering toddlers around or not having access to bathtubs quite yet.

So, we rented a cabin at Evergreen Lodge just outside of Yosemite National Park for three nights. It was a lovely old-fashioned Yosemite experience that reminded me a little of what those family resorts in the Catskills must be like minus the talent shows and dance lessons.

It was a little neighborhood of cabins in the forest, some as old as seventy-five years. There was a Rec. Room and a Lodge, where you could find internet access (at times) and shelves full of games and toys for the kids. There were ping pong tables and carved animals to climb on. Noah learned how to play Battleship (and won!).

We went on a little adventure each day that usually culminated in throwing rocks into water. We rarely hiked over a mile, but were able to find wild streams to wade in, lakes to swim in, tunnels to explore, forests to have picnics in, and meadows to wander through.

It was so wonderful being a family unit for once! We spend so much time splitting up the kids, one of us taking Noah out somewhere, or the other taking the twins on errands. And the kids just loved it too. Noah did find the walking “too hard!” and Luka burst into tears every night when we pulled up in front of the cabin instead of his house, but hanging out around the rivers and lakes and all those rocks? They loved every minute of that.

We are thinking of trying our luck at real camping next summer. With tents. Without bathtubs. Without walls.

I think we just might be able to handle it.

Just maybe.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Child of Passion

It's all just getting a little too crazy now. Luka, the younger of my twin sons, we believe was a child of passion and it shows.

Yes, we had been trying to get pregnant (and trying to stay pregnant) and so there were charts, and temperature taking, and little x's to show just when... well, you know. And after I became pregnant with the twins, we decided it was very likely that they were conceived on completely different days!

This is based on very odd pregnancy test results, measurements of embryos, a conception date that just did not fit in with my "like clockwork" rhythms, and the fact that, given the kids measurements which made one look five days older, and going back and looking at the charts and the days... and those x's five days apart...

Well, lets just say we believe one twin was conceived by procreation and the other by... recreation! One was planned, and the other, thanks to a second egg that perhaps wiggled free, was a love child!

And we are dead sure, Luka is our child of passion.

He did, after all, hang out in the womb for more than an hour, happy to enjoy all that room after he kicked out his bigger brother. He also was the baby who always measured five days smaller.

And passionate he is. He lives life on the edge.

The edge of the table, the edge of the back of the couch, the edge of the stairs on the wrong side of the banister. And because he likes to live life like a daredevil, he has already been to the emergency room twice with head wounds, once that required stitches, the other: close observation of his mental state. Ha!

Well, life just got a little crazier in the last 3 days.

It started when he was protesting a nap and fell out of his crib. He was shocked to find himself on the floor of his room with nothing penning him in. The light bulb went on and suddenly he is out of his crib whenever he sees fit. And the baby gate that once kept him from freely roaming the upstairs? Yeah, it looks a lot like a crib rail and is easier to dismount from.

So now, he has the run of the house and has taken to fleeing up the stairs and pelting those down below with hard toys and books from Noah's bedroom thrown off the balcony above our living room. And he has good aim, let me tell you!

His passion manifests in other ways, too. He has discovered the joys of saying, "NO!" and follows that up with a punch to the face. If you say, "Luka, no hitting!" he will instantly kick you in the shin. Five times. If you say, "No kicking!" he will then blow raspberries in your face and run away.

And time-outs in his crib? Yeah, not workin'

The saddest victim of his new found aggression is poor mild-mannered Ethan. When I hear Ethan crying I must now come running as fast as possible because I often find him sitting on the floor with Luka standing behind him hitting him over and over again on the head with the stick from some toy. God forbid Ethan learn how to move away.

"Luka! We don't hit our brother! You need to be gentle! You hurt Ethan.
Look at him crying. Can you say, Sorry Brother?"


He has also taken to biting Ethan when he won't hand over a coveted toy. I kind of miss the days when he used to grab Ethan by the hair and drag him down to the floor to steal his toys.


When folks ask me if the boys are twins, and I say they are, it is often followed by a question like, "So, do they have a special bond, a unique relationship with each other?"

Yeah, lady. Unique. That's one way to put it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

So What Does THIS Tell You?

I just ran across this article that states that a non-partisan group that tracks campaign money was pretty shocked to discover that of all the military serving over seas at the time they made a campaign contribution, deployed service men and women have contributed almost SIX TIMES as much money to the Obama campaign as they have to the McCain campaign!

That is a huge shift from 2000 and 2004 when the deployed military substantially supported the Republicans.


In the words of an old colleague of mine, "I'm not sayin'... I'm just SAYIN'!!"

And, what do you think of those Obama posters by Shepard Fairey? I love his old propaganda style!
I also ran across this fun website which makes some fun parodies of his artwork. A few of them are real groaners but some of them were laugh out loud funny! Check them out here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Still Playing With Last Year's Halloween Costume

I've got you in my grip!

Just a shy guy under that mask.

Okay, maybe not so shy.

Some people say the most fearsome aspect of Darth Vader were his deadly feet.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Send In The Clowns

Noah and I have been talking about circuses for a couple years, but he has never been to one, so when I saw the Ringling Brothers were coming to town, I decided it was high time.

I picked a day when Michael could stay home with the twins and we got tickets for a matinee at the San Diego Sports Arena, which is now rather oddly named the "IPayOne Center".

After purchasing the tickets, I surprised Noah with the news that we were going to a really great circus and the questions about what we would be seeing began. So I went to YouTube to show him videos of the show, and was rather dismayed to find that most of the videos were about some allegedly horrible treatment of the animals by the circus staff. Apparently they have had a few deaths of young elephants, stemming from a drowning, and broken bones from falling off a pedestal during training. It was interesting... upon our arrival, we were immediatly offered a flyer touting their Center for Elephant Conservation.

We really did get a lot of entertainment for our money. They keep the ticket prices really reasonable because they sell stuff inside the arena for ridiculous prices. I had promised Noah some cotton candy because, well, its the circus, and its only right to eat cotton candy. But when I found out the bag cost TEN DOLLARS, even Noah completely understood why I balked. "But it comes with this foam circus hat!" the guy says. Can I get it for cheaper without the hat? Uh-uh.

I promised Noah lunch out with Mommy after the circus instead.

The coolest thing about the event was that if you showed up an hour and a half before the circus even began, you got to walk around outside and see the animals up close, and then go inside and go down on the floor and see jugglers close up, stand at the feet of tall guys on stilts, get your pictures taken with the clowns, and even try on circus clothes! It was a really wonderful experience. We had had a blast before we even found our seats!

The show itself was outstanding. Coming from a theater background, I know what it takes to produce a play in one theater, how much more it takes to put that play on tour, but THIS!? Just moving the animals alone... building the stables, laying down the sawdust, transporting and delivering food for the animals, tearing all that down and moving on... plus the show itself, with so many life threatening acts that require safety precautions to be checked and rechecked again and again. Plus costumes... the hanging, focusing, removing of lights, the construction, tear down and storage of sets...


I asked Noah if he were to run away with the circus, which job he would want. He chose the "confetti shooter". I'd want to be a clown. That could put a chink in my marriage, though. My husband thinks clowns are evil.

And the calibre of the performers was very high. All kinds of acrobats. The act that really astounded us both was when they brought out this spherical cage, and they put four motorcyclists into it. They rode so fast that they would do "loop the loops" upside down and not crash into each other. Then they added another cycle and another until there were seven! And the cage was pretty small! Here is a video of the act. You can see it pretty well. Check out the guy who leaves the formation to drive on a perpendicular axis to the others (is that mathematically correct?). You might want to turn down your volume before watching the video but its a great feat!

The show was so great that if they added a few other spectacular human events, they could probably forgo the animal acts. I know those are old-time circus fodder, but I think we are getting enlightened enough to let go of that kind of entertainment in exchange for letting those animals live a life more closely resembling their natural lifestyle. Even if they are being treated with the utmost care, which seems to be in question.

If they did that, I think they just might possibly qualify to be the Greatest Show on Earth.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Water Boy

Going to the pool with three non-swimmers is quite a challenge even for two adults.

I had always thought I would teach my babies to swim when they had that natural ability as newborns, but just never got around to it when Noah was born, since we did not have easy access to a pool. I vowed to do it with my second child, but my second turned out to be twins, and we came down with that post-twins housebound syndrome, where you begin to think its just easier to stay home. That "stay in your house and nest" instinct lasts SO much longer with twins than it does with singletons, and you can find at age two you have done very little in the outside world and must throw off those self-imposed shackles.

So, in order to get to the local pool more often, I need Noah to swim safely on his own. He did well last summer with a private instructor that his Mima got for him for a couple lessons. Whenever Michael or I suggested he try to float or blow bubbles though, he would offer up a cheerful, "no, thank you!" Its amazing what they will do for a stranger that they won't do for you.

So, while we are between school years, I enrolled him in a swim class. He spent the morning of the first day in tears begging not to go, but as is usually the case with these things, he couldn't wait to get back to his second lesson. We are halfway through a series of 8 classes before he moves on to the next level, but our trip to Yosemite might make us have to wait for another time to continue.

Until then, I have fantasies of laying on a poolside chaise lounge reading a good book, paying little attention to my three boys who are happily playing Marco Polo and seeing who can make the biggest splash when they jump in.

Yeah, that's gonna be nice.
Oh, by the way... if you talk Noah, don't tell him you saw these pictures on my blog. He wants to surprise you in person with his mad skillz!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Little Refreshment with Twin Toddlers

On her way out of town last week, my mother asked that I post more videos of her lovely grandchildren here on my blog so that she could watch them grow and change and learn many wonderful new things as the weeks go by...

And so a little gift from me to you.

We pick up on a warm August day in San Diego, just after the Wonder Twins have asked for some afternoon refreshments: crackers and juice. Their little eager selves have just climbed into their seats at the table.

Unfortunately, Luka was really hoping for the "Dora the Explorer" cup which was dirty in the sink, and Ethan had just caught me adding water to his sugary juice. Both were pushing their cups away with disdain, and so I put them over on the kitchen counter instead, and picked up my camera.

So, for your viewing pleasure, I bring you a little slice of life from our home to yours.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

First Opinion

A couple weeks back, Michael and I went in with Noah to see a psychiatrist to find out if he felt Noah might have ADHD.

He was a relatively young man who came out and greeted us with a walking cane. He spoke softly and greeted Noah warmly and lead us slowly back down a long hall to his office. Oddly, I was reminded of the scene in Willy Wonka where the kids and their parents get led into the Chocolate Factory for their big tour and Mr. Wonka's cane gets stuck in the ground... he begins to teeter forward and ends up doing a quick somersault and rebounds with lots of energy.

The soft spoken psychiatrist did not do that. He just kept walking slowly down the very long hall.

He asked us a lot of the usual questions, and had a few for Noah as well. He asked Noah to draw a picture for him of a house, a person and a tree.

Then, he had Noah perform a few physical tasks. He had him sit in a chair with his feet on the floor and his hands on his knees (I guess to see if he could sit still while we stared at him) and then he asked him to stand up, put his arms out, open his mouth and stick out his tongue as far as he could and stand there.

Noah made a little sound and the doctor said quietly, "Notice the grunt?" and "See how his toes flex?"

He did make a grunt, but it seemed to me he flexed his toes (in his sandals) to keep his balance.

The doctor wiggled Noah's arms and told him to keep them floppy. I believe he was looking for tense muscles.

After we all sat together again, across the desk, the psychiatrist declared Noah as having moderate ADHD. He suggested we go talk to a behavioral therapist before considering drug therapy.

Back home, we digested the news for a few days.

Neither of us are completely convinced about the diagnosis, though we are not in denial, either. It was just a very quick appointment, much of it spent talking about insurance and such. We both agree that there is a very good chance this IS what Noah's problems amount to, but it could also be attributed to "typical boy behavior" that has stronger tendencies than many other boys. It could also be attributed to first time parents not making the best parenting choices and realizing too late that other tactics and more consistency are called for.

So, I think we may take him to the behavioral therapist and see what he/she thinks as well. He also begins first grade soon, and will be with another teacher. It would be interesting to see what her opinion is. ADHD or lack of maturity and self control.

Don't think I am saying "my child does not have ADHD". He probably does. But I don't think these things should be jumped into lightly, nor should you allow one person to put a lifetime label on your child.

We are taking the information, the opinions and evidence we have so far, putting it in our pocket, and moving forward.

Monday, August 4, 2008

PHOTO ESSAY: The Splurge: or Why I Am Frugal All Year

Tuesday will be Michael's and my eighth wedding anniversary, and in what is becoming a tradition (YAY!) Michael's mom came down to spend the night with the kids so we could go out for a weekend night on the town!

This year was awesome (especially in light of last year's event, rolling into a little bed and breakfast town just as the shops closed up, Michael trying valiantly not to vomit all night, etc.)! We stayed in the city this time, and got a half price deal on an awesome hotel in the Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego called the Hotel Solamar. We checked in to find a big room with the chocolate and blue design scheme I love so much, and a funky little bathroom.

They teased us with one of those nasty little snack drawers full of imported chocolates and tins of pistachios and such, for which they charge you an arm and a leg if you succumb. Our room looked down on the "JBar", a rooftop bar with a pool, lots of cushy chairs, cabanas and fire pit bowls. We had a couple glasses of wine before heading down to the street to walk to our restaurant for dinner. Its a good thing we chose a place within walking distance because the wine kicked in for both of us right away.

Candelas was so romantic, with its dark corners and dozens of candles and eclectic music. I had the Sea Bass after an amazing four cheese soup, and Michael had baked eggplant. Luckily, a portion of Michael's dinner was undercooked, because in apology, our server brought us an amazing dessert, Pastel de Tres Leches. Yummmmm...

After dinner we hung out in the lounge at Candelas, on their dark corner sofas, soaking in our lack of responsibilities. It was so nice not to feel like we had to hurry home. When we were done lounging, we headed back into the streets. It was dark now, but there were thousands of folks wandering the streets of "the Gaslamp" eating in the outdoor cafes, standing in line for bars. At street corners, waiting for the light to change, there were dozens of people on each corner waiting to cross. I haven't smelled so many clove cigarettes since about 1992.

Eventually, we headed back to the hotel and spent a little time at the JBar, but it was a bit too crowded and seemed like too much of a singles scene for us old married folks. So we headed up to our room for a little alone time.
I don't really have any pictures of that.

The next morning we headed down to breakfast at the JSix restaurant, and OH MY I had some of the finest french toast Evah! It was nice and crispy with lemon cream heaped on it and lots of berries.
I couldn't stop taking pictures of the lovely decor, and our waiter insisted if I liked photography, I should check out the "wall of fezzes" around the corner. You know I just had to!

We took a bit of a spin around the neighborhood to walk off breakfast, and even found a little mini farmer's market where we bought a loaf of Challah from an Austrian bakery for Michael's mom, but the town itself looses a bit of its magic in the harsh light of day.

We came back and checked out of the hotel, headed home to the kids, and were greeted with lots of hugs and kisses and relieved looks from Vera (just kidding, she is a pro!). It's almost single-handedly because of Vera that I still have my sanity, sometimes.

It was just so lovely, romantic and rejuvenating. And my hubby didn't miss a chance to keep reminding me how much I am loved and cherished. But then, we don't need a nice hotel and candlelight for that. He is always good for keeping the love flowing.

That's one of the reasons I married him.

Happy Anniversary, Sweetie. I love you, too.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Okay, Who Flagged Me!??

So, I go to write you guys one of my most beautiful, heartfelt posts (okay, just an update, but it COULDA been!) and when I log into my blog, I get this message...

Your blog is locked

Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. (
What's a spam blog?)

Since you're an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerely apologize for this false positive.

You won't be able to publish posts to your blog until one of our humans reviews it and verifies that it is not a spam blog. Please fill out the form below to get a review. We'll
take a look at your blog and unlock it in less than two business days.

If we don't hear from you, though, we will remove your blog from
Blog*Spot within a few weeks.
Find out more about how Blogger is fighting spam blogs.

So, I go to one of the links which leads me to a description of what the elements of a spam blog are. It says something about writing that goes on and on and says nothing, really.



It also says that they tend to contain lots and lots of links pointing to one particular web page. Since I don't have that, I have to believe they were insinuating the former.

Again, "harumph"!

Well, at least my blog has now been released from its chains and I can supply you with more of my going on and on and saying virtually nothing.