Friday, July 31, 2009

My Black Belt Ranking System

A bit unorthodox, I know, but if you're playing along at home here's the gist...

A.  Sandan or third degree black belt: current ranking
B.  Shodan or first degree black belt: ranking before I had Sadia 
C.  Nidan or second degree black belt: ranking before I had Simone 
D.  Yondan or fourth degree black belt: ranking I wish to achieve in the next year

Ironically, little discipline is required to get a black belt these days and anyone that's ovulating is guaranteed to matriculate through the levels fairly quickly.  I am currently accepting applications at my McDojo .  Incidentally, you'll also receive a small box housing a kimono and a cute plastic primary-colored toy with your registration.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Whale Watching Wednesday

Okay, that's enough alliteration for one day! Teddy pleasantly surprised the family by planning a whale-watching day trip! Our three hour excursion left port from Shoreline Village in Long Beach (insert corny Gilligan's Island theme song here), on Wednesday at 3:30 pm. The weather was gorgeous and I couldn't have asked for a more picturesque backdrop for our family adventure on the high seas. 

The journey began with a rocky start, but I won't blog about the events that almost led to our missing the trip entirely, or the ticket fiasco at the wharf, or Sadia's embarrassing Public Restroom Announcement, or the adorable young couple who delayed our trip, or the meltdowns that nearly ruined our experience, or the gas shortage that could have ended with the family hoofin' it to the nearest gas station. No, I'll save that for another post, so suffice it to say that despite all minor set-backs, Teddy did a wonderful job at pulling it all together!

Here is a photo of the family at the end of the tour as we're getting ready to dock. I am making a more conscientious effort to get family pictures on our trips, because what generally ends up happening is either Teddy or I end up taking all of the pictures and the result is usually this:

Lot's of great pictures of Teddy and Sadia or....

...of me and Simone or....

...of just Simone or....

...of just Sadia, and in many cases...

....of Sadia and the new friends she's made on our trip.

Ironically, we didn't manage to get any really great pictures of whales. I have this huge inferiority complex when it comes to taking pictures on these kinds of nature trips. I so want to get a great shot that captures our whole experience.

However, as you can see I failed miserably. If you can't tell (honestly I wouldn't blame you if you can't) this would be a picture of a blue whale's blow hole...

... and this would be a picture of a blue whale's dorsal fin. I was going to label these pictures for you, but I think that only would have belabored my point. These are BAD pictures.

While there were many sightings of whales on our trip, I was very disappointed not having gotten any good shots of whales. You know the kind of picture I'm talking about, something dramatic like a great blue leaping out of the water doing a gynormous back splash and dousing the boat with salt water (something like what you might find at a theme park). I would have even settled for a sort-of okay shot of a whale ushering up gallons of water onto the bow of the boat with its tail.

At one point I even secretly anticipated this type of manufactured experience with each whale that surfaced. I wasn't the only one with visions of state-of-the-art choreography by these magnificent mammals. There was a collective buzz in the air; a corporate sense of readiness shared by all of the passengers on the boat for a truly breathtaking experience also fueling the frenzie. The suspense was so thick you could cut it with a filet knife. I think at one point I could actual hear the soundtrack for Shamu's "Believe" promo playing in my head.

A bit looney, I know..,but I blame National Geographics with award winning shots like this one:

and Sea World for spectacular killer whale promo's like this one:

for my unrealistic expectations and diminished capacity for taking a half-way decent photo of a blue whale on our trip.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009


Check out the fancy web action she's got going on in the center.

Imagine that while walking down the street one beautiful summer morning, you approach a low hanging branch, where nestled in between the thickets you find THIS! We stumbled across this hairy black and yellow orbed lady, also known as a Garden Spider, as we were walking home from the park this morning. She was just hanging out in the sun probably trying to snag herself some breakfast. Perhaps the promise of a small bird or a careless rodent peaked her appetite enough to lure her out of the shadows and into the sun.

I might be exaggerating about spidey here's breakfast menu, but I don't want to understate her size.   My picture doesn't really do her justice, so to give you some idea of the scale of this thing, picture her abdomen ranging close in length and width to your thumb from tip to the first joint. Her legs stretch out to about the width of a toddler's palm. I read online that female Garden Spiders can grow up to 3 inches in diameter (with legs included). Since males are thin-bodied, I'm assuming our find is female cuz baby's got curves!

While I was taking this picture, I was hemmed in at the hip and feet by Sadia's arms and legs. Meanwhile, her nails dug and clawed into my skin. Her tacit signals clearly pointed to beating a hasty retreat in the opposite direction. Truth be told, my imagination did start to get away from me as I was taking this picture. I kept envisioning this black and hairy beast jumping out at me and giving me the heebeegeebees, as I crept in closer to the shrub where she hung. Even though Wikipedia deems her completely harmless, judging by her size and over all creepiness I can see why these guys can't catch a break in popular media outlets.

Previous Post: Pouring Part 1: Conjuring Newfangled Things!
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Pouring Part 1: Conjuring Newfangled Things!

A few weeks ago, I blogged about our experience with inadequate childcare, which prompted a summer of my pouring into the girls. You can read more about that here. One aspect of the pouring involves reigniting their playful nature. So, I thought what better way to add some levity, than to indulge them in silly childhood clapping games! Now, this little song is a bit different from the way I remember singing it when I was their age, but I think we accomplished our goal none-the-less.

Remember those hand games we used to play as kids? You and your girlfriends or-- if you were as fortunate as I was-- your sisters would sing a song accompanied by rhythmic clapping and hand gestures.  For example, here the girls are singing a novel chant that goes:  Down, down, baby;  I can do karate. Down, down, baby; I can call my mommy.  Down, down, baby; I can eat salami.  Oops!  I'm sorry.  I'm not sorry.  Peek-a-peek-a-boo!  Peek-a-peek-a-boo!

These silly hand games have a way of making them revisit their silliness in ways that nothing else can.  They can't keep from giggling when playing these games.  It doesn't matter that the songs they chant don't make any sense or that they butcher the rhythm.  There are no age or ethnic pre-requisites. In this space of innocence all that matters is that everyone is laughing and having fun! I think everybody should do this every once in a while with their kids.

So, take a walk down memory lane with your kids today. Sing some nonsensical song from childhood. Laugh! Clap! Recite away, as loud as you can or as fast as your hands can slap! And when you realize that you've just chanted a bunch of stuff that makes absolutely no sense at all, sing some more nonsense! Pat your thighs, touch the ground, and conjure some other newfangled thing!

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Where God Left His Shoes

I watched Where God Left His Shoes last night.  It's about a young family that gets evicted from their apartment in New York at Christmas time.  They have nowhere else to go but a homeless shelter.  It is an awesome portrayal of family sticking together during the darkest time in their lives and it touched my soul. This movie redefines family survival in this world , and reminds me how suffering--while universal--can also be relative.  This isn't a feel good movie. It cleverly side-steps your typical Hollywood ending and I highly recommend it to everyone.   I'd like to know your take on the movie. Share your thoughts.

Previous Post: Children Gone Fishing....
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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Children Gone Fishing....

The Chinese proverb goes:  Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime.  Well, a small altercation between the girls this afternoon seemed to imply that I could add a parental twist to update this old expression-- saying something like: Give your children fish and you will feed them for a day.  Give them time to fish and you will give them the ability to sustain long-term relationships exercised in love through reconciling sibling fish, while simultaneously saving mommy fish's energy by ensuring that the fish habitat remains ordered.  Or something like that.  I won't butcher the saying any further, but my experience this afternoon amounted to a lesson in fishing.

There was lots of housework waiting for me after a busy 4th of July weekend.  Laundry was first on my list of priorities.  So, I purposed to plop the girls in front of the TV ,to nourish them with a "Curious George" DVD, then --and with great determination-- to vanish up the stairs, and tackle the mountain of laundry flowing over the sides of the dirty clothes hamper.  About 15 minutes into my chore, I overheard a ruckus brewing between the girls downstairs.  

And then a few seconds later, a "MOM..., MOOOOOOOOOOOM????!!!" bounced off the walls of our narrow stairway.  Simone's cries for intervention grew louder and louder.  My first instinct was to plunge down the stairs to investigate the matter.  However, in that moment I experienced a hesitation kindled by what I can only describe as the Holy Spirit guiding me.  My repose could be measured by the hunched-over position of my spine as I eavesdropping on their candid argument. 

Normally, in a situation like this one I want to race down the stairs in an effort to avoid a more serious altercation, which is generally born out of these types of tiffs between the girls.  An overwhelming burst of adrenaline fuels the need to uphold a sense of order in the house. Certainly, ripples of discord is a true enemy to order in our small pond.  For this reason, I like to exercise a routine of rules reinforcement, followed by an allocation of consequences, and then wrap it all up with lots of love.  Yet in spite of this, I remained still.., and at the top of the stairs..,  and poised to listen.   

Ironically, amidst the disharmony there I found myself perched and a calm fell over me. A few minutes later there was an exchange of words between the girls, and then quietness. The arguing stopped, and almost immediately I heard God's voice clearly speaking to me.  His words were punctuated by a peace that overcame the whole house and it was literally fish food for my soul.  

He said, sometimes what's needed is not exacting judicial scrutiny, but rather an opportunity for the girls to work out their own differences.  In other words, I don't always have to be the instrument for conflict resolution.  It didn't matter who instigated the fight or whether rules were enforced (as is the status quo).  Rather what was most important was that they had an opportunity to work out their disagreement without my intervention. This idea seems so rudimentary as I journal about it now, but weighing it amidst the girls' dispute was a tough worm to swallow.

Reflecting over the matter, I can't say for sure what the girls discussed in the brief exchange that preceded the quiet, but of this I am certain:  Whatever transpired between them must of required a lot of love expressed through forgiveness, which is a learned quality.  Sadly, I don't often allow the girls either space or opportunity to practice what they've learned while working out their own differences.  I get so caught up in giving them fish, that I never afford them the opportunity to practice fishing by themselves.


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