Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Beyond skinny genes

Get it? Ha ha. Mom, Dad, which one of you is going to take responsibility for passing on a bad sense of humor?

I've always been intrigued by genetics and what gets passed down from parent to child. The other day, I was looking at a photograph of Toby's maternal grandmother with my mom and we both turned to each other and said, "That's Lucy's nose." It's amazing to me that a specific feature can be passed down four generations (if not more).

Even more interesting is noticing personality traits that have been passed down. All three of our girls have decidedly different reactions to similar events and circumstances. Of course, this makes it hard to perfect the art of parenting. (I love John Wilmot's quote, "Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children. Now I have six children and no theories.") There has long been a debate between "nature vs. nurture" when it comes to analyzing children and the adults they come to be. As a parent, the differences you notice between your children from day one make a strong argument for "nature", but an interesting article I read recently states that only "[a]bout one-fourth of the variation in life experiences — from strictness of parents to difficulties with friends — can be traced to genetic origins." (click here for full article.) Yet the article also argues that it's more complicated than it looks on the surface because "we tend to think of the environment as something that just happens to us, but in fact animals actively seek out surroundings that are compatible with their genetic predispositions."

As time goes on, I'm curious to see what surroundings the girls seek out as a result of their predisposition toward those environments. Toby and I have pretty different personalities, but when I think of the environments we sought out and predispositions we might pass on, I can't help but consider how we met in Ecuador. Images of riding on top of buses, hitchhiking in the back of pick up trucks and swimming in a muddy jungle river flash in my mind. Maybe I should start suppressing the travel gene now?

One Liners

It occurred to me recently that if I should save some of my Facebook status updates in order to remember some of the cute things the girls do that I write about only there. This will be boring for 99% of you since you've read it already in your Newsfeeds, but since the idea of a physical memory book just makes me laugh at this point, these entries are for the girls to read in about 10 years or so. I wish that Facebook would make that a feature on their site. It'd be cool to have a running one-liner diary/blog where you just keep all of your status updates. Instead Facebook decided to update themselves in a way that does absolutely nothing for the user, but that's probably another entry in itself. At any rate, I thought this was pretty cute last night:

Kita Murdock is listening to Noni "read" her Babar book to herself. "Elephants. More elephants. More elephants. More elephants..."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

And it's on to moustaches and boyfriend jeans

I have never considered myself a trend setter, but before I moved to Los Angeles, I at least thought of myself as a few steps above mom jeans. (OK, OK, maybe a few is pushing it. I know I have worn nothing but jeans and t-shirts for the last...lifetime...but hey, those are Lucky jeans and they're at least moderately stylish. Or I thought they were last year anyway.) The thing is, living in Los Angeles, you are constantly reminded of how completely unstylish you are. I have yet to buy myself the right pair of Uggs to wear over my skinny jeans, but already the city has moved on to the next trend: super baggy, ripped up boyfriend jeans. Worn with flats. I knew this was coming of course. Those hours with Star magazine while on the bike in the gym have to pay off somehow. And yet I have yet to run out and buy myself some stylishly unflattering baggy jeans. Toby would point out the environmental unfriendliness of fashion, but mostly it's also just too expensive to keep up with the trends.

So of course I was thrilled when I noticed a new trend that is both carbon neutral and free: the moustache. It's popping up on guys all over Los Angeles. I'm not just talking about older guys who have been sporting one since they came into fashion in the 70s, but young, trend-setting guys. Guys that are just barely old enough to grow one. And I'm assuming that not every young guy in this area is trying out for a role on a Western film.

I think it's going to take a while for this trend to catch on completely. When I posted about my observations on Facebook, the responses ranged from a whole series of "yuck" to one lonely "I think they are HOT!". But still, I'm predicting the moustache is going to be here for a while. The only question is, who's going to be the Tom Selleck of this generation?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Update: My little mermaid

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Lucy learning to swim. I wrote, "I just want her to be able to swim to the side of the pool if she falls in. Though I'll admit that what I'd really love is for her to jump into the pool fearlessly once again - only this time to resurface from her jump and swim to the other side." My friend Erin read my post and wrote a response, suggesting that we try The Jim Herrick Swim School ( instead of the Y. We made the switch. Lucy's had all of three twenty minute lessons there and I swear I should be their new spokesperson. Today I watched her swim from one side of the pool to the other, lifting her head up to breathe, with no help at all from the instructor. She can swim! Los Angeles summer pool play dates here we come!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Anza Borrego

For those of you that read Toby's blog (, this may be a bit repetive... but I felt I had to write about our weekend in the desert so here it is!

I had never even heard of Anza Borrego before last Sunday. At a dinner party, I met a director who has traveled around the world for work. We were talking about camping and he said that in all of his travels, one of the most beautiful places he's ever been is just three hours from Los Angeles, the Anza Borrego desert in the springtime. Every year, for one to three weeks in March, all of the desert flowers bloom at once. I decided then and there that we had to go.

When I got home, I looked up Anza Borrego only to find that the desert flowers had just bloomed and we had a week to get there before the sun dried them up. We searched campsites, hotels, and even houses to rent but everything was booked. Disappointed, I decided our trip would have to wait until next year. Then on Thursday morning, a friend pulled up in the driveway and asked if we were going to Anza Borrego or what. It turns out that you can camp anywhere in the park. No need for a campsite as long as you're willing to bring in your own water and pee in the desert sand. A day, some quick packing, and an overstuffed minivan later, we found ourselves headed for the desert.

I had a few reservations about our desert excursion. As I strapped 19-month-old Noni into the car seat, I couldn't help but consider that while four other families decided to join us in our last minute adventure, three of the wives were staying home because they were worried about bringing their babies camping in a place that offers temperatures in the low 40s at night, which frankly seemed like a reasonable concern. Moments before bringing Noni out to the car, I had also foolishly googled "wildlife in Anza Borrego" and was greeted with images of tarantulas, scorpions, rattlesnakes and mountain lions. I tried my best to put the images out of my mind, but they resurfaced in the pamphlets at the Anza Borrego visitor center anyway. (Fortunately my friend Steph waited until we returned to email me that a tarantula had climbed onto her backpack during her last visit to the park.)

My first few moments at the park confirmed my fears of bringing a baby to the desert. Noni ran up to a cactus and then drew back crying, prickers and a piece of the cactus attached to her hand. I immediately pulled it off of her, only to find the cactus stuck to my own fingers.
But after some minor pain and a few minutes with the tweezers, we were on our way through the desert, in awe at the landscape we were seeing outside the car window.

Moments later, we pulled over at the sight of probably twenty sculptures of horses dotting the landscape. (See photo of one below.) Noni insisted on running up and kissing each "neigh".

After that, we headed to our campsite in Hawk Canyon. The campsite was perfect - sheltered from the wind, surrounded by desert flowers and just below rock walls to hike up for sweeping views of the park. We set up camp and headed out for a hike.

In the late afternoon, our friends arrived. I loved that at a moment's notice, everyone had packed up and driven hours away to this remote spot in the desert. The kids played by a sand hill near our campsite until it got dark. Then we all bundled up for the cool desert night and sat around the campfire, talking, singing and eating incredible food. (See photo below) The only bit of sadness for me was knowing that my sister and her family were also camping this weekend - but across the country in South Carolina. It would be nice to live close enough to camp in the same spot.

Overall, Anza Borrego proved far tamer than I had feared (no scorpions or mountain lions on this trip) and even more magical than I had imagined. I'm putting Anza Borrego in the springtime up there with Machu Picchu at sunrise as one of those things that everyone should try to see once. It was a great way to kick off our once-a-month-camping-trip that we're planning from now through October. (If you're interested in coming along, let Toby know so he can put you in his Facebook camping group!) Now I'm off to shake out sleeping bags and shoes...and am hoping we didn't bring any desert creatures with us on the way home!