Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Beach

One of the things I've missed most about California is the beach. I don't know how many times we battled the congested highway to get from Studio City to Malibu, but every time we did, I felt like the city just melted away. You pretty much can't beat Malibu for beauty. Every time we went to Point Dume, we would head to the cliff that served as a backdrop for the white sand beach and walk up the path lined with bright flowers, the Pacific ocean on one side and Santa Monica Mountains on the other. We would stand at the top of the cliff, listening to the wind and the seals below. It amazed me every time.

We just got back from a wonderful week in Florida, visiting friends and family in Surfside, South Palm Beach and Del Ray. While the views from the beaches of eastern Florida don't hold a candle to the views in Malibu, I was surprised to discover that they offer something even better for a mom with three young kids: no surf. In Malibu, the water was a surfer's dream and a parent's nightmare. As much as I loved our trips to the beach, I could never fully relax, imagining that the girls would be dragged out to sea in waves too big for me to battle. But in Florida, the clear blue water was as calm as a lake. The girls walked out until the water was chest deep, swimming and splashing each other. They loved it.

We spent one Saturday of our trip on the beach in Surfside, where our friends Diana and Damien live. Joey, Karima, Diana and I set up a spot on the sand and sat, discussing everything from education to Fox News to healthcare (okay, and Sandra Bullock, Heidi Montag, the guy from Friday Night Lights, and numerous other People Magazine-worthy topics) while the girls and their friends played in the water and sand. I rarely got up all day, except to occasionally wipe sand out of someone's eye or grab an extra snack out of the cooler. I loved that I could truly catch up with my friends while the girls safely entertained themselves all day.

In Colorado, we've traded the beach for some pretty wonderful mountains and national forests. We have a reservoir and lots of pools for the girls to swim in this summer. However, I'm feeling grateful for Southwest miles. I'm already looking forward to spending next year's spring break back in Florida at the beach.

Cinderella Feeling Blue

This afternoon, Evie and Lucy began working on an ocean mural for Evie's science project:

And Nonie began working on a project of her own:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Skiing with the Cousins

We just got back from two sunny spring ski days in Beaver Creek with Toby's brother and his family. I love getting the girls together with their cousins. Whether they are making Michael Jackson videos with Hannah and Addis or skiing down the slopes in a pack with Jack, Patrick and Emilia, the girls always have a great time. We are so fortunate to have cousins their age on both sides.

Their cousins are slightly better skiers than Evie and Lucy, who spent the two days at Beaver Creek trying to keep up. I had a few near heart attacks watching Lucy bomb straight down the mountain, but after a day of Toby and me yelling, "TURN! TURN! NOW!", she gained more control. Evie skied three black diamonds. Lucy skied one, which would have probably gone well if she hadn't attempted it at 3:30 in the afternoon after skiing since 9 a.m (she had already proved herself pretty fearless). With tired, shaking legs, she worked her way down the trail as I coaxed her down. She and I learned just how long it is from the top to the bottom of Beaver Creek. I have to say I'm really proud of the girls. When we first strapped on skis on the bunny slope at Eldora in December, I never imagined they'd be cruising around Beaver Creek by the end of the year.

Noni was a little out of her league and stayed at the bottom part of the mountain on the green runs. Her favorite part of skiing was probably the princess ski helmet cover that Yalin bought for her. From the other end of the harness, I listened to her spend every ski run down debating whether she should be skiing Snow White or skiing Cinderella.

After skiing, the cousins all enjoyed some apres ski at the pool. (I love the tagline for Beaver Creek: "Not Exactly Roughing It")

As always, it was great to get together. Thanks Sean, Yalin, Jack, Patrick and Emilia for a great trip!

Gardening in North Carolina

My sister just started a gardening blog. I would write about how she inherited a green thumb gene while I clearly did not but, while that's probably somewhat true, it would undermine all the hard work that goes into gardening. Still, I can't help but think of the one plant Toby and I had in Glover Park. A friend of his at work had the same one and, when he told her that we had the same kind of plant at home, she said, "The best thing about it is that it's impossible to kill it." Of course ours died. I still have a modest dream of at least having nice flowers in front of our house. Maybe this year will be the year.

For all you gardeners or aspiring gardeners out there, check out her blog:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Where The Wild Things Are: The Movie

The night Max wore his wolf suit and made mischief of one kind
and another

I'm pretty sure everyone in our family can recite Where The Wild Things Are from cover to cover. Each girl has gone through about a year-long period where she wanted to read nothing but Maurice Sendak's popular book. Normally, that would drive me crazy, but Where The Wild Things Are is brilliant. I love the poetry of his words, the humor in the pictures, and the way Noni shows her "terrible claws" whenever I read that line.

When I found out that the movie was being written by Dave Eggers (What is the What) and Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), I knew it had to be good. Last night, I finally sat down with the girls and watched it.

From the first scene, Jonze and Eggers capture the feel of the book precisely, which means that it is wild, scary, angry and sweet. I love that they made it that way and didn't try to Disneyfy such a powerful book, but it probably shouldn't be shown at a six-year-old's birthday party.

Of course, they had to add some more to the plot of the short picture book to make a full-length movie. Max now lives with his divorced mother and disinterested teenage sister, and is frustrated that his family has fallen apart and no one else seems to care. When, after biting his mother, he runs away and arrives on the shore of The Wild Things, he finds that their family struggles to stay loving toward each other as well. Carol, the monster with the horns and reddish nose, plays the role of Max in his world, worrying about the discord of his friends and family. At one point he and Max discuss a model world that Carol made:

Max: Did you make this?
Carol: Yeah, yeah.
Max: It's very good.
Carol: We were gonna make a whole world like this. Now, everyone used to come here, but you know... you know what it feels like when all your teeth are falling out really slowly and you don't realize and then you notice that, well, they're really far apart. And then one day... you don't have any teeth anymore.
Max: Yeah.
Carol: Well it was like that.

Kids movies don't often address divorce, loneliness, mortality, anger and sadness, but Where The Wild Things Are addresses them all and does it well. I remember reading an interview with Sendak where he talked about how the publisher wanted him to change the end of the book to read that Max's supper was "still warm". Sendak refused and the lines "and it was still hot" remain. The movie, like the book, doesn't cool things down to suit all audiences. But, snuggled together on our couch with Noni's stuffed Max and stuffed Wild Thing, Evie, Lucy, Noni and I all gave it a thumbs up.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Rash

A couple weeks ago, I put Noni to bed in a fleece nightgown and she woke up covered from head-to-toe in a rash. I figured it was heat rash, put the nightgown in the Goodwill pile, and changed her into cotton sweatpants and a t-shirt. The next night, the rash was still there and she was itching fiercely. I looked up hives, decided that she must be allergic to something, and tried Benadryl. It did absolutely nothing.

Toby, Noni and I spent the next five nights completely miserable. But I was like Pam in the Office episode where her insurance allows her to stay two nights at the hospital and so she refuses to go to the hospital until midnight to have her baby. Our insurance allows us three appointments per year and then we have to pay for them. Of course this would be the year when we are hit with a dozen small ailments that require a doctor and Noni has already been three times. So Toby and I didn't sleep and poor Noni didn't sleep either because she was up all night crying and itching and at this point looking like she had measles or mumps or some dread-awful disease.

Finally I broke down and brought her to see our family doctor, who pulled up Noni's shirt and said, "Oh. My. God." That's when I decided that between Noni's rash and Lucy and Hugo's ski adventure, I probably don't need to practice my speech for the Mom Of The Year award this year. She described Noni as having "a horrific case of eczema." Then she told me to throw out the Burt's Bees and California Baby lotion because they do nothing and are full of stuff like lavender oil, which is terrible for a baby's skin. She told me to buy some Lubriderm lotion, gave Noni a prescription for topical and oral steroids and a stronger-than-Benadryl anti-itch medicine and sent us on our way.

When I posted about Noni's eczema on Facebook, I got a lot of responses. Apparently we're not the only ones dealing with a rash, although I suspect most people are talking about a patch of it here and there. My sister has dealt with eczema her whole life so I took her suggestions to heart. She said to buy a humidifier, give her lots of fish oils, replace baths with tubs, and cover her skin with lanolin.

I am happy to report that we have done all four and Noni's skin is much better. She's also a big fan of the "smoke machine" (humidifier) next to her bed at night. It's hard to fight the dry Colorado air, but spring is around the corner, and I suspect that will help too.

And so, another lesson in parenting learned: Insurance or no, it's worth making a trip to the doctor.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Silver Vixen?

There was a guy in my class at college with gray hair. Everyone wanted to hang out with "The Silver Fox" because, despite being eighteen like everyone else, he could get into any bar. No ID required. Back then, having gray hair was cool.

A few weeks ago, I discovered my first gray hair. And then my second. And third. And fourth. And fifth. In one horrifying look in the mirror with the light just so, I realized that without my knowing it, about an eighth of my hair has turned gray. It's not that I'm blind or that haven't looked in the mirror in a while. It's just that usually I get my hair highlighted and I'm due for a trip to a hairdresser. With my roots growing in, I came to this realization: I am no longer a blonde to hide mousy brown hair. I am a blonde to hide gray.

I'd love to be one of those earthy cool women who embraces her gray hair, like the woman in my yoga class with gray pigtails and startlingly blue eyes. But there's something about me that just doesn't want to have gray hair. Maybe it's because part of me still sees myself as that eighteen-year-old in college, only I can get into bars, with or without a friend with gray hair. Of course, I'm not awake anymore when most people go to a bar.

In a way, I think it might have been easier to have gone gray at eighteen like The Silver Fox. He could never really look at his gray hair as a sign of age, since it didn't appear the same year that those lifeguard squint lines decided to show up uninvited. But that's okay. I'm going to embrace my gray hair. Okay, I'm totally not. I'm going to cover it up with blonde, but I'm going to remind myself every once in a while that it's there and that, while I liked my hair color better at eighteen, I'm pretty happy with the rest of thirty-five.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Title of This Blog Entry Is -- Oh, Wait, What Was I Saying?

Poor Roger Ross Williams just can't finish a speech without getting interrupted. First he was interrupted during the Oscars, as Mike explains here, and then, given a second chance to make his speech on Larry King, he was interrupted again!

I can totally relate. Not to the Oscar part of course, but getting interrupted? Even as I typed that last sentence I stopped after the word "part" to agree with Noni that, yes, Fuzzy Baby (her doll) looks like a princess in the hat she is wearing today.

Forget trying to talk to Toby at dinner, ever. Here is a typical dinner conversation at our house:

Toby: So, how was your -
Evie: Guess what? In math today -
Lucy: We are learning about space in -
Noni: Can I have ketchup on my fish?
Me: Yes, here's the ketchup. It was good. How was -
Lucy: Eeew, ketchup on her fish! Noni eats ketchup on every-
Noni: Well, today, at my gym school -
Evie:...we are learning about -
Lucy: Burp! [Unfortunately she has recently discovered the ability to burp at any given moment.]
Noni: Mom! Lucy burped!

...and so on.

I think this is why recently I have all but given up television (unless I'm watching Modern Family on Hulu) and gone back to just reading at night. I can't stand the interruption of commercials. I also will admit to being somewhat concerned that by the time the girls grow up and leave the house, my brain will no longer be able to function in complete thoughts, but will just start interrupting itself out of practice.

I wonder if Roger Ross Williams has kids. If so, he probably felt that all those interruptions were just par for the course.

Friday, March 5, 2010

How To Try To Write A Synopsis

So now that my book is done, what to do next? I talked to my friend Christine, whose dad is an author, and she kindly put me in touch with him. The next thing I knew, I received an email from his friend asking me to send along an author's bio and synopsis. Great! Wait, what?

After a moment of panic, I looked up "author's bio" and found I only needed to write up a couple of sentences about myself. You know, listing all of the awards I've won for writing and all that. Since there are none, it was pretty easy to keep it short.

Then I looked up "synopsis". Okay, a two-page summary of my book. That's got to be easy, right? I did a little bit of research online and found out from different sources that a synopsis should be double spaced...or that it has to be single spaced. It should be four pages, but it can't be more than two pages. It should "show not tell", like all good writing does, but it should "tell, not show" since you only have two pages. Aaak! All the sites disagreed on just about everything, with the exception of three things: 1) Writing "the dreaded synopsis" sucks and 2) The first paragraph is critical in grabbing the reader's attention and 3) It's your ONLY chance to impress an agent and to get ANYONE to read your work! Basically, you could write Moby Dick, but if you don't have a great attention-grabbing synopsis, your big whale book is going straight into an agent's recycling bin.

And so, for three days now, I have been trying to write a synopsis. I've written it and rewritten it and now need to completely rewrite it again. I'm beginning to wonder, at what point is a synopsis harder to write than a novel? At any rate, I should get off of my blog and get back to the synopsis. Really, I'm just here to prove to myself that I don't have writer's block. Now, off to write that attention grabbing line!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lucy and Hugo Take Eldora

Whenever the girls do something wrong, rather than telling them they are bad, I tell them they made a bad choice. Turns out their mom makes some bad choices from time to time too, as I demonstrated quite clearly this weekend. I am even hesitant to write about it here, but I'm going with the idea that all parents make bad choices from time to time. They do, right?

On Saturday, we headed up skiing with our friends, Christine, Jasper and Hugo, who were visiting from Frederick. We lucked out with a sunny, wind-free, good-snow day at Eldora and the kids, Evie, Jasper, Lucy, Hugo and Noni, all had fun skiing together. As we went on more and more runs, Lucy, 6, and Hugo, 5, got the idea that it would be even more fun to ski independently. They began pushing Christine and telling her they wanted to go on the lift without her supervision. They even talked about trying to ski faster than the adults so they could get on the lift alone.

We couldn't help but admire their desire for independence and finally agreed to let them take a lift ride without an adult. And so, while Noni and I stayed at the bottom of the trail to watch Evie and Jasper build an insulated moss house in the woods, Christine went to take a run on her own, and Toby snuck on the lift a couple chairs behind Hugo and Lucy to meet them at the top. A little while later, Lucy and Hugo came down the mountain, with big smiles on their faces. Only they didn't stop to see us, but instead skied straight toward the lift and got in line again.

At this point, Toby also wanted to take one run on his own and so he and I decided that he would follow them up the lift, but then veer off so he could get to a lift that would take him further up the mountain. And Lucy and Hugo would ski down the trail on their own. This seemed like a perfectly reasonable plan until they got on the lift and then suddenly it really, really didn't.

I watched them head further and further up the mountain, swinging precariously above the trees on the chairlift, and all sorts of horrible images flashed through my head. After numerous images of bloody noses and broken bones, my brain settled on the recurring image of Christine, who hadn't given me permission to send her five-year-old down a ski trail on his own, returning before Lucy and Hugo did.

I stood, holding Noni, at the bottom of the trail and waited. And waited. And as I waited, it occurred to me that there are numerous trails to take from the lift and that some of the trails lead to different chair lifts. I stood with this thought for what seemed like eternity. Just as I was about to start hyperventilating, I spotted Lucy in her lime green snow pants heading my way, with Hugo right behind her.

I breathed a huge sigh of relief and wanted to hug them both. Before I could, out of nowhere, like some cartoon superhero, a ski patrol appeared behind them.

"Excuse me ma'am, but are you Lucy and Hugo's mom?"

I took a deep breath. And replied, "Are you kidding me? I am a mature, responsible adult. I would never dream of letting two little kids take to the slopes by themselves. I mean, there are out-of-control skiers up there! Of course I am not their mom and I hope you arrest her when you find her!"

Except actually I said something like, "Yes," in a very small whispering voice.

He proceeded to tell me that, while there are no laws on the minimum age of independent skiers (phew, at least I wasn't going to jail), Hugo and Lucy seemed awfully young to be on the trail alone. And I told him that I couldn't agree more and, don't worry, I'd already thought through all of the awful possibilities. He smiled and then disappeared in much the same way as he had arrived.

A minute later, Christine arrived. Fortunately I got to tell her the "all's well that ends well" story after it had already ended well. I had made a bad choice, but Lucy and Hugo had fortunately made some good choices and gotten themselves down the trail just fine. They left Eldora that day having grown a little, feeling a little more independent than they had that morning. I left having grown a little too, knowing that from now on I will listen more closely to my instincts, and feeling extremely thankful that we drove down the mountain with Lucy and Hugo chatting away happily in the back seat.