Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer & A Lesson from Evie's Teacher

Today was the last day of school for the girls this year. It's summer! I now have a first and fourth grader. I think that makes me about 300 years old.

I remember how nervous I was sending both of them off to school last fall. It was Evie's first day of school at a new school for the third time in three years. Her comment from the September before in Studio City, that "nobody notices me at recess", still rang fresh in my ears. I remember thinking to myself, "Good luck!" as she walked in the door.

Good luck is exactly what both girls had this year. They both made close friends, learned more than I imagined they could in one school year, and walked to school everyday with smiles on their faces (unless we were running late, in which case Evie would be nearly in tears wailing, "C'mon Mom, we're going to be laaaate!"). A lot of the joy they both found at school this year can be attributed to their wonderful teachers.

Evie's teacher wrote a letter to the class that she read out loud today. I just thought it was beautiful -- and a lesson for all of us. Hopefully she won't mind that I copied part of it here:

"...I hope you'll remember that we all have strengths and areas we can improve -- both in our academics and in our relationships with others. If you're ever feeling down about something that's hard for you, think of something you excel at or enjoy because you have many talents. I've learned that life is all about our attitudes and outlooks. During my travels abroad [she taught in Ecuador for several years before moving back to Boulder] and around our country I've seen people living with much less but still with smiles on their faces. I hope you'll value your connections with others and your personal goals and accomplishments more than appearances and possessions. But most of all, please, be optimistic in life. People around you will thrive from the joy and positive energy you share with them. Most of the time, all you have to do is smile and you've already brightened my day!...Enjoy your summer, enjoy 4th grade, and enjoy life!"

I found that letter more valuable than all the math or reading or science that should could have taught Evie all year. Except that I love that she was teaching all of those subjects with those values behind her teaching.

And so, with summer starting, I would like to just take a minute to say THANK YOU to all the teachers out there. Not only Lucy and Evie's wonderful teachers, but to all of you who make a difference in children's lives. I have seen from my own girls how much difference a good teacher can make.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Toby and Kita Plus Three

This summer, our family is going to be filmed periodically. Doing the dishes, playing outside, typing on our blogs, whatever. From time to time, a camera will be there. You see, we are on a new reality tv show. Okay, we're not on a reality tv show, BUT I did get a taste for what that would be a like a couple weeks ago. Toby's company is one of three companies that will be followed on camera this summer for Tech Stars. One afternoon, the camera followed him home.

And then the camera followed me as I made a snack for the girls. I would like to stop here and mention that we eat pretty healthy food in our family. I am somewhat obsessed with organic and local food whenever possible and, despite my girls' natural inclinations toward candy and processed meats, I generally offer them healthy snacks. So with the camera on me, what did I do? Panic and pull out the Cheez-its. Which I proceeded to give to Noni on a ceramic plate (not a bowl, a plate). Then I watched her walk across the floor, Cheez-its falling off the plate left and right, and then drop the plate. And that, my friends, was my fifteen minutes of fame.

Fortunately people have done much worse things on reality television. And, fortunately, Megan chose to cut most of that from the film. I think she did a great job showing the three companies and caught some cute Noni and Lucy moments in the process. Here's the first of the summer series. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 23, 2010


My word of the day is gratitude. I am feeling it in abundance this morning. I probably haven't been feeling as thankful as I should over the past couple of weeks. Toby has been working late hours almost every night and I was admittedly a little stressed when I noticed that our upcoming party was getting big. (As my friend Tom wrote on the evite, "Crikes! It's a three digit partah!") I couldn't quite figure out how three digits worth of people were going to fit in our little yard and house, or how I was going to get our house from messy to party-ready clean.

Then I woke up yesterday morning and the sun was shining. We had thirty-five lbs of smoked pork in the croc pot(s) and a bunch of wonderful people coming to our house that afternoon. I knew right then it was going to be a good day. It was crazy, sure. I handed out probably a dozen Band-aids, but mostly to put on scrapes I could barely see. And there were rumors that the eight-year-olds were drinking beer, but it turned out that they were just making "stinky potion" in the bottles by mixing beer and mud. (Hopefully we still have a few more years to go before the kids are sneaking alcohol from our parties to drink.) But all in all, it turns out that everyone fit in our yard just fine. We ended the evening with marshmallows and live music under a bright moon.

Despite going to bed at midnight last night, I woke up at 5 AM. I considered cleaning up, but couldn't quite handle it that early. Instead I went for a run and saw foxes, prairie dogs, birds and a beautiful view of Green Mountain. The whole time I was running, I couldn't help thinking how lucky I am.

And so, gratitude.

A photo from my run this morning

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


My girls are not good fruit eaters. At all. Especially Evie, whose fruit tolerance is pretty much limited to apples, which may keep the doctor away but are probably the lamest fruit of all when it comes to vitamins. So far I've tried to reassure myself that at least she eats broccoli and peas and her daily vitamins should cover the rest. But recently I've discovered the smoothie. It's hardly a revolutionary discovery, but it's made a huge change in the health habits of our family.

Here are our go-to recipes:

For me:

6 oz plain Wallaby lowfat yogurt
a handful of frozen peaches
a cup of milk
1 banana

For the girls:

6 oz plain Wallaby lowfat yogurt
a handful of frozen peaches
a handful of frozen strawberries
a handful of frozen raspberries
a cup of milk
1 banana

I've been thinking of sneaking in some kale or flax seed or other healthy food, but I'm not sure I want to mess with a good thing.

Evie in stripes with a smoothie.

Monday, May 17, 2010

2 Days, 3 Hikes

I spent most of this weekend in hiking boots, carrying either a backpack or Noni. My sister was in town for a quick visit, which was threatened on the first day when Lucy came down with the stomach flu and the weather report predicted thunderstorms all weekend. Fortunately, Lucy was playing soccer twelve hours after getting sick and the thunderstorms never happened. Mollie and I hiked Green Mountain together on Saturday and then Mt. Sanitas with my family on Sunday, but my favorite hike was one we didn't even intend to do.

On Saturday evening, the clouds cleared from the sky and at 6 pm Mollie suggested we go for a walk around the neighborhood. My legs were already tired from our hike that day, but we planned on a quick walk. Our neighborhood, however, backs right up against the Foothills and we soon found ourselves walking along Mt. Sanitas Valley trail. I never realized it, but the evening is one of the best times to hike. The low sun made the colors of the wildflowers pop and the valley was covered in budding purple and yellow flowers. Behind us, the clouds were lifting from Green Mountain and it looked like something from Lord of The Rings. Actually, we weren't thinking of Lord of The Rings, but rather of Twilight when a man walked by with black hair and piercing white-blue eyes. When he passed, Mollie whispered that we may have just seen a vampire.

When we hiked up to get a view of Boulder, we could see a rainbow in the distance. The hike already felt magical when we looked down and saw a black creature zig zagging up the hill. Hiking in the early evening has some potential drawbacks - like that the mountain lions are just waking up and probably hungry. At first I felt a stab of fear, thinking it was a bear, but the animal moved too quickly. Mollie determined that it must be a dog, but as it headed toward us, we realized that it was a black fox. It ran across the trail right in front of us and then sat up on a rock, about twenty feet above us. I wish I had my camera at that moment, but I will never forget his gray-black face looking down at us. We joked that it was probably the vampire we had just seen, transformed into his animal form. Unlikely. But either way, it felt like a magical evening.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Our Family's New Obsession: American Idol

Over the past eight years, we've never really watched television together as a family. I know, I know, we're hardly even American. We'd probably be arrested in Arizona. But, when I'm watching television (Glee, Modern Family), the girls are usually in bed. And when the girls are watching tv (Sponge Bob, Angelina), I am usually using that time to frantically clean the house or write or send an email or pay a bill, or at the very least to sit in the other room with a magazine and enjoy a little bit of quiet.

And then came this season's American Idol. These days, if you were to stop by our house at 7 pm on a Tuesday night, you'd find the whole family in front of the television. We have strong opinions too. Evie is so enamored by Crystal that she recently asked me if I could start calling her "Crystal" as a nickname. And I have a huge "musical crush" on Lee. (But we can both agree that they sound amazing together. See below.)

I'm sure there are better ways to spend time as a family than in front of the screen, but I kind of like our new tradition. Evie has recently said that she wants to be on American Idol when she gets older so now I figure this time is just research for her. Plus, it will help with their reading skills. How else are they going to recognize everyone in People magazine if they don't start watching tv now?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day, Boulder-Style

When my friend Tori told me about the all-women Title 9K Mother's Day run, I was skeptical. Isn't Mother's Day supposed to be about lounging in pajamas and reading The New York Times while other people make you breakfast? Apparently not in Boulder. And so, at 7:45 AM on Mother's Day, I found myself driving toward the reservoir to run a race.

As soon as we stepped out of the car, I was glad I had come. The sun was shining, Indigo Girls (who else for an all-women run?) were blaring from the speakers, and we ran into about half the people we know in Boulder. Plus, the girls were thrilled to run in their own race that morning. They start them early in Boulder, so even Noni ran in the 2 & 3 year-old run.

The course itself was beautiful, around the reservoir with a clear view of the mountains. I loved seeing all the kids out with "Go Mom!" signs around the course. Tori and I ran it together (well, I ran it to her jogging pace) and talked about how fourteen years ago in Ecuador, we never would have imagined that we'd be living in the same town and that our two-year-olds would be running a race together.

Once the race was over, I spent the rest of Mother's Day in a much more typical and relaxing fashion. My friend Alex threw a post-race brunch (where all the dads had to bring the food) and I ended the day with a pedicure. I have to admit, I enjoyed the luxury of the afternoon that much more knowing that I had run a race that morning. Perhaps I've been sucked into the Gortex Vortex after all...

My littlest runner

Friday, May 7, 2010

April Showers Bring May.... Snow?

In December, I no more desire a rose
Than wish a snow in May's newfangled mirth;
But like each thing that in season grows.
-William Shakespeare

Dear Colorado,

You had me at hello. You must know this of course, as you're obviously dreamy with those magnificent mountains and baby blue skies. And even when you started acting all frosty and cold in October, I didn't mind because I thought skiing! And sledding! Winter fun after a year in southern California! But now we have to talk because, well because it's MAY. There are fifteen school days until summer break. And yet this morning we woke up under a blanket of white. I know the mountains look good with a little snow on the top, but I think it's time to embrace the season. My little struggling plants are shivering in their beds. Let's see spring Colorado! Ducklings and green leaves and flowers everywhere you look! I know Maryland sets the bar pretty high for this season, but I'm not expecting you to measure up. I just want to see a little more effort on your part. Let's start with no more snow. Thanks!


P.S. I should take a moment to thank you for the tree out front. Even though it is currently covered in snow, the pink flowers are spectacular.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Colorado Camping

We just got back from our first Colorado camping trip. Hard to believe it's our first, as we are pretty much in camping country and have lived here for ten months already. Then again, it started snowing eight months ago and still hasn't completely stopped so I guess it makes sense. Actually, it looked like it might snow this weekend. Or hail. Or thunder. All week, we kept checking an increasingly gloomy weather report. Then we woke up Saturday morning to sunshine, packed up the car and were on our way. (That isn't, I should mention, to say that it wasn't cold. It was sunny but cool during the day and then dropped to 28 degrees at night. But gathered around the campfire and then snuggled up in our 20 degree sleeping bags (and grateful for that extra eight degrees), we were always comfortable.)

Here's what I love about camping: No computers, television, or even cell phones; spending an entire day and night outside, under the sun or stars; singing and listening to guitar by the campfire; the s'mores of course, but also all the other food that tastes that much better when eaten in the fresh air.

Then, and because of all that I listed above, there's what Toby mentioned today: the whole slowing down of life that comes with camping. We kept talking about how strange and wonderful it felt to just sit in our camp chairs for most of the afternoon and evening. At home, there's always a million chores to be done, but when you're camping, there's no reason not to sit and just enjoy the fire and company of friends and family. It's such a wonderful way for our family to spend time together too because everyone is happy. I realized yesterday that Noni can spend hours throwing stones into water and all three girls can disappear into the tent for endless pillow fights.

My favorite memory from our trip is sitting around the fire after dinner - Bob and Toby were playing guitar, Max was playing drums, and they began to make up songs. Everyone contributed to the lyrics. At one point I looked around the fire and saw that everyone was laughing together. Cold or no, it felt like the way things ought to be.