Thursday, August 30, 2012

anything once: planning ahead for a toddler activity

I love doing activities with Eiley. We enjoy reading, looking at plants outside, singing, hanging out in the Eiley-sized pool in the backyard, playing games, etc. So maybe this first sounds like it's reaching, but it was a medium big deal to me because it required forethought. I mean, we went to a store, returned from the store, filled something with water, opened a freezer door, put something in the freezer. That's effort.

I'm starting to realize that this post is proving my lazy nature, but I am pressing on despite all of you judging me. 

Here's the activity, which I found by googling "art activities for babies":

1. Purchase popsicle molds. Really, this could work with straight up ice cubes, but the popsicle molds have handles so there's no risk of your kid getting frost bite or cranky. I bought mine at the 99 cents store. 
They look like little closed umbrellas!
2. Fill the popsicle molds with water and stick them in the freezer.

3. Once they're frozen, remove your ice pops, and use them to draw on the cement outside.

An alternate to this is putting Jello powder on a paper and letting your kid use the ice pop to make the color brighten on the paper, but that sounded like it would require clean up. I'm not that advanced yet.

Here's how it turned out:

1. Eiley enjoyed taking the pops out of the mold and putting them back in. Over and over and over.

2. Eiley and I both enjoyed feeding the ice pops to Buster. Can you imagine wearing a thick black sweater in 80 degree heat? We were happy to cool him off, and he thought he was sneaking a treat. Sucker.

Poor puppy!
3. I enjoyed writing on the ground with the ice pops, although the markings would evaporate in mere seconds. 

In conclusion, this was a simple, fun activity, even though Eiley in no way participated in the manner whatever website I found the idea on intended. And there was zero clean up. I suspect this first of planning ahead for a toddler activity is one I will repeat often in the next few years, and I'm cool with that.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

happy birthday, tabitha!

. . . and then my life flashed before my eyes

I'm a little slow to jump on board, but I loved the posts by Emily and Jenna on ". . . and then my life flashed before my eyes" and so, without further ado, or too much thought (it is supposed to be a flash after all), here's my own list:

  • doing the Cotten Eyed Joe (with Emily and others) up on stage at the President's Inaugural Ball in front of the entire extended Westmont community
  • washing students' feet when I was a Westmont staff member
  • nursing Sofia in the middle of the night when she was about a week old and seeing her eyes look into mine for the very first time
  • standing by my Dad at 2am when he was on the phone with the hospital who was about to tell us whether my sister had survived a tragic bus accident in Colorado
  • running in the rain with Manny one night during college when the power went out and the entire town of Montecito was in total darkness
  • dinner at the Nadlers' with the entire Spring Break in the City crew, standing in their driveway with Manny with a huge rush of wind swirling around us. 
  • standing in the back of the Fairmont Ballroom on my last night working for Breakthrough, watching Cory Booker invest genuine interest and enthusiastic high fives into our students before receiving a bouquet of flowers from my beloved CEO, Mialisa, on the center stage. 
  • wearing the hugest, goofiest grin of my life while my jaw was dropped throughout the entirety of Cirque-du-Soleil, next to my dear friend Charity
  • jumping up and down in my driveway in 5th grade when I got a piece of writing published for the first time, and feeling so excited to tell my great-uncle, my pen-pal, who was also a poet
  • sobbing on the very very hard floor in our Berkeley apartment after a very long day that bled into the wee hours of the morning of loading up our moving truck the last night we lived there, grieving the separation from a place where we'd started our lives together.
  • Manny rolling around on the floor/ground, tickling Sofia, the both of them laughing up a storm

  • the candle-light vigil for my sister and the other victims of the bus accident, held in the art gallery where my photo series of crosses was on display
  • walking along the beach at Renwali in Sri Lanka before dawn, watching the huge waves of the Indian Ocean crash alongside me
  • sitting with a 4th grade client during a time of fear for him, hearing him tell me about how God was bigger than anything he could be afraid of
  • K playing with water in the sink at his school
  • Manny requesting "our song" during the dinner portion of a Westmont formal, standing up beside our table, and dancing with me while everyone else was still eating
  • driving around Houston, windows down, praise music blaring, and singing with my sister at the top of our lungs, while some unsuspecting passenger(s) sat awkwardly in the back seat
  • walking across felled trees that served as make-shift-bridges across the water and through the woods at Little Creek Hollow
  • tending to my transplanted potted trees I'd grown from seeds on our little front porch in Houston
  • climbing up the steps to the graveyard where Van Gogh was buried with my grandparents, passing the church he famously painted, and surveying the fields and view out over the town of Auvers Sur Oise
  • walking through the headstones for the tenement yard in Trenchtown with a Rastafarian friend who pointed to all the friends and even the brothers he'd lost in local gang fights
  • worshipping around some picnic tables, surrounded by grapefruit orchards in Texas, during a mission trip to Mexico.
  • sitting on a couch all alone on my wedding day while everyone else rehearsed, journaling about how perfectly happy I was right at that moment 
  • Sofia falling asleep on my shoulder in the plane, during a hard day of travel
  • kneeling in the mud, weeding the lavender fields with my dad, in the rain
  • getting drive-through for dinner with my cottage-mates, wearing our PJ's and bathrobes, when the rain knocked out our power
  • Sofia dancing vigorously to the ABC's with a giant one legged stomp and arm flail

  • twirling with Sofia
  • sitting on a porch, watching the world go by with Sofia and Manny
photo by: Manny Reyes
. . . and if I think about this any more, it'll be a meditation, not a flash.

Any others have some flashes to share? 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

five goals for the next three months: an update

Last month, I wrote out five goals for the next three months. I'm about a third of the way in, so let's see how I'm doing:

Make FIVE phone or skype calls to keep in touch with long distance pals.
I'm slightly behind on this one already, but I do have one skype call under my belt. 
I skyped with Shep, Tab, AND Heidi. So if I end up not meeting my skype/call goal, I'm totally going to justify this one call as 3/5 of this goal.

Have FOUR new anything once experiences.

Also slightly behind on this one, though I've had one already, and I'll have one next week.

Write THREE posts per week.

On average, I'm meeting this goal. Mostly because Mikkele said she didn't think I'd meet this goal and I took that as an extra motivation. Thanks for not believing in me!

Complete TWO works - hopefully finish the play I've started and write a children's book or even just a poem.
I'm totally failing at this one, though fairly often if I'm in the car and the radio is off, I'm brainstorming a children's book. That counts as a step toward the goal, right?

Move into ONE apartment, for goodness sake.

The plan is to meet this goal in the first half of October, skating in at the deadline. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Movie Review Monday: The Artist

Honestly, The Artist looked a bit dull to me, and I probably wouldn't have considered watching it if it hadn't won the Academy Award this year. However, since I am married to an actor, love films, and it did win the Academy Award, I was practically required to see it. I grabbed it from the Redbox on Thursday, and Jeff and I watched it that evening.

It was delightful.


1. There was almost zero speaking. There were almost zero sound effects. Yet I was engrossed in the story the whole time.
2. The girl who played Peppy Miller was enchanting, and that is not a word I throw around lightly. She somehow made a whistle, a blown kiss, and a wink adorable when it should have been obnoxious. Plus she made me wish I lived in the 20s because I loved her wardrobe.
Photo borrowed from
3. My initial reaction was that the film showed the fleeting nature of fame. Jeff's initial reaction was that the film showed the history of the demise of silent films. I like it when there are multiple clear themes in a movie. It could also be argued that this is a love story between a man and a woman, a story of loyalty between a man and his dog or a man and his valet (played by James Cromwell who I cannot separate from Babe, and I always always always imagine will say "That'll do" at some point in all of his performances), the story of a woman's rise to fame, the story of the rise of talkies. Pick one, they're all in here.
4. Jean Dujardin won the Best Actor Oscar for this role. At the beginning of the film, I didn't get it. Sure, he's charismatic, and there's something to be said for a current actor mastering the style of a silent film actor, yet I was unimpressed. But as the film plodded on, he showed more and more range. By the end, I was thoroughly impressed and decided that maybe the Academy knew what they were doing this year. I mean, they could have just given it to him for his ability to pull off the caterpillar 'stache. That alone is impressive.
Bravo, good sir. Photo borrowed from
5. Puppy!
I make a very good point here. Photo borrowed from The Telegraph.

In conclusion, two silent yet enthusiastic claws up! Thanks for calling this to my attention, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Have a good fight

Boy, have Manny and I been having some good fights lately! So good, I just need to encourage you, too, to have some good fights. Have some good fights if you are parents, have even more fights if you are a married couple without kids, have even more fights than that if you are an engaged couple, and for couples who who pre-engaged, y’all need to have the most fights of all.

Years before I even knew Manny, I learned that married couples take seven times as long to get through a fight as pre-married couples. The idea is that once you're legally/emotionally/physically/spiritually bound on that new level, the stakes are so much higher that fighting becomes seven times as tricky. 

Of course it’s not good to have a bad fight, where things go unresolved or people are left wounded at the end. But a good fight should help air some inner truths or frustrations hiding below the surface of your relationship so that you can figure out how to operate better together. A good fight should end with you owning a bigger piece of your partner's operating manual, more information on what their needs and/or dreams are and what you can do to help meet and or realize them. A good fight is one where you can hold onto the awareness that you are actually on the same team. I believe good fights will give you great tools and insight in how to better love and serve your partner so that while your future will not be fight free, it can be more intimate and uplifting and you can better help one another realize your best selves. So going forward in this post, know that I am referring to good fights

I almost made a point of picking fights with Manny while we were engaged. That made for a tough season in our relationship, with the logistical stress of wedding planning, the emotional pressure of preparing to be married, then the relational tension of fighting fairly often. While I feel no desire to ever be engaged again, and I might instead advocate simply having the courage to have the fights that come up rather than picking fights, I am grateful for those fights we had. We got several big issues clarified that served us well into our marriage. We fought about things like whether or not to budget, how to interact with each other’s families, how our cultural backgrounds were different, and how dishes should be washed. After all of that out of our way, our first year, which many people warned us would be the hardest, felt like a blissful extended honeymoon. 

The point was not to have a marriage without fighting, let me be clear. While it was a pleasant and largely fight-free first year, to this day, more than seven years in, our fights are one of the aspects of our marriage I remain most grateful for. 

So that worked out great. But no one thought to give us the advice to get as many married-couple fights in as possible before a child was in the picture. If a married fight takes seven times as long as a pre-married fight, I'm going to estimate that a parents'-fight takes about a million times as long as a childless-married-couple's fight. Ok, I don't know what the actual ratio would be, I’d be interested to find out if anyone knows of any such data.

With a child in the picture, not only have the stakes been taken up another notch, but also you have to add in the factors of exhaustion, limited windows of opportunity, and the fact that most of your time together includes a little interrupting machine who makes it their mission to be sure you never get to complete a full sentence in one breath. (maybe that’s why I overcompensate by writing impossibly long sentences) It is not so much that the fight itself takes longer, it’s that opportunities to work through a fight are so much harder to find. The frustrations simmer, boil, and then explode to the surface before you have a chance to address all your feelings or concerns in a more peaceful way.

While I am a big believer in being sensitive to the impact of what you say and how you say it in front of your child, I am also a believer in letting your child see you fight. (again, remember I’m referring to good fights here) For one thing, you don't often have the luxury of choosing when your fights will come up. And if your child sees the conflict open up, but then never sees it resolved, how will they know that things are okay between you, and how will they know a healthy way of resolving conflict themselves? So if your child is going to be present while you fight, I think you should use that as an impetus for self-control in your tone, words, and attitude towards your partner, which in general is not a bad rule when engaging in conflict. And you should use that as motivation to work towards authentic reconciliation in your child's presence. (For more complete and educated thoughts on this, see John Gottman's books on parenting/children)

Manny and I have been having some of the most productive fights of our relationship lately, and I am SO grateful for them! Maybe it is the realization of how efficient we have to be in our fighting, or the external control factor (Sofia) pushing us to be more civilized and constructive, or just the reality that we've been at this for nearly a decade now and practice makes for better fighters (certainly not perfect ones).

We've gotten to a place where we can trust that the other is in it for the hard times as much as the good, so it is safe to air out our grievances. We've had enough fights to start learning that it is ok to face the discomfort of discord, and in fact that walking through that discomfort yields a happier ending than pre-maturely cutting off the conflict. We've practiced changing our behavior based on what we learn in the fights enough that we can make an assertive request for the other to change without resorting to the sarcasm that comes from hopelessness and only makes the fights more destructive and the ability and motivation to change so much harder. 

I guess the general rule is to fight while you can. Speak your suggestions and requests when that’s what they are, before they grow into demands laden with hurt. Be humble but honest about your needs with the person you choose to trust to meet those needs. And share your playbook as you learn for yourself how you operate, because remember, you’re on the same team!

I know I'm not an enjoyable person to fight with. I know that this concept of good fights is 99% counter-intuitive. And I know that having the courage to enter into a good fight is really scary. I count myself immeasurably graced by a husband who would love me in this way. We didn't start out this way. This is a measure of our growth as people, as a couple, as a family. I just feel too grateful not to make a big statement of gratitude to him. 

I have to thank you, Manny, for the great fights we've had in the past several months that have pushed us towards a better life and a deeper love. The evolution of your approach to fighting demonstrates to me an incredible selflessness and love that I know I do not deserve. I have to thank you for each good fight that gives me more courage to enter into the next conflict with real hope for positive change. I hope I can change for the better, love you more selflessly, and help you find the satisfaction of your needs and the realization of your dreams that proves to you that all our fights and vulnerable conversations are well worth it. 

Dear Husband,
I love you and I am grateful that I get to fight with you.
your Wife.

Dear Lobsters,
I wish you all some good fights.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Movie Review Monday: Dark Knight Rises

Miracle of miracles, Manny and I got to see a second movie in a theater this calendar year ! Thanks, Sissy, (that's my "Sissy," Lauren, btw, not Jenna, who is most often referred to as such on this blog) for pushing me to get the babysitter and go for it, and for paying for the babysitter to boot! I feel like I'll need to watch it a few more times to really appreciate it, but here are some of my current thoughts:

I'm a huge fan, so no disrespect, but Joseph Gordon Levitt finally looks like he aged past 11. Congratulations on graduating from puberty Jo! ;) He was so great in this film.

image taken from here
Speaking of looking old, I rather like how old they made Christian Bale out to be for this role. Having ogled him since Newsies, it was a little shocking to see him look all wrinkly, but I think his having joint pain and reclusive tendencies really helped humanize him and expand on the theme of "anyone can be Batman."

image taken from here

I was embarrassed by how giddy the boy-toys in this film made me feel. They were just cool. Batman's new "not a car" looks like some sort of flying cockroach.

image taken from here

The Dark Knight was going to be pretty near impossible to follow, and when I saw trailers with Anne Hathaway, I got a sour feeling in my stomach that disappointment was going to be inevitable. But she actually fit into the role quite nicely and really enhanced the film, rather than totally detracting from it as Katie Holmes had in Batman Begins. Ugh. I'm still mad at Katie for that one. Way to go, Anne!

There is a twist towards the end that I felt like I should have been able to see coming, but it still managed to totally catch me off guard. Instead of humanizing the villains in the slightly more obvious way as he did in the Dark Knight, Nolan kind of went around through the back door this time, and it surprised me with such punch that I could not hold back tears. Impressive.

Debatably cheesy one-liners abounded. I look forward to watching this a few more times to really appreciate a few of them though. The only one I was able to hold onto was,

"This only gets fixed from inside the city."

I thought that was a great picture for those of us who aim to be "helpers," thinking we can disregard the strengths or desires of the person or people we're aiming to help. On individual, group, and large scale levels, change must be born from within. 

My mother-in-law recently shared some wise advice with me about parenting. She had read that "parents don't actually want what is best for you, they want what is safest for you." Wo. That cuts to the quick. As a parent now myself, one of my hardest jobs is relinquishing the desire to be a constant safety net. And it is amazing what my child, and I myself, can do when we have to rise ;) to the occasion. I don't want to give too much away in case you haven't already seen the film, but I do think it illustrated something of this point in a poignant way.

Not quite so shockingly amazing as Dark Knight, but completely entertaining and worthwhile. He had a few rough starts in his career, but after this one, I decided, as a rule, I will just have to see all Christopher Nolan films made into the future. I must also note that it sure seems like he's found his preferred cast. So it still gets 2 claws up from me. Have you see it, Lobsters? What did you think?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Long Distance Family-ish

In the past two weeks, we were the lucky beneficiaries of not one, but TWO visits by our old friends, the Nadlers. Aaron was Manny's college roommate, and his wife Danielle has quickly and easily become to me a dear friend. Regardless of how often we see them, they will always be to us like family.

Us with Aaron way back when
[and also Emily and our buddies Kerby and Nate]
Sofia seemed to pick up on their role in relationship to us quickly, as she almost instantly took to them like her own family as well. She cozied up with Danielle in our library chair to read books they had brought her. And it did not take her long to look Aaron over and declare him to be, "Cute Aaron," the name  he was called by all of us for the duration of our visits together. She would take one or the other of them by the hand and lead them about the house to her play spaces or couches for lots of play. It is positively striking how she was able to clearly see the affection and comfort we all had for one another. She had really enjoyed our time with our friends, and like Manny and I, Sofia looks forward to their future return.

The cuteness of Aaron overwhelms her little heart

Hey Nadlers, that baby is a good look for you. ;)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What if?

A few months ago, I did a Beth Moore study on Esther. One major theme that stuck out to me:  Esther was faced with a terrifying situation, watch her people be massacred; or face near-certain-death in revealing herself to be one of them, a Jewess, and trying to defend them. After clearly struggling with this impossible decision and having everyone pray and fast for her, she emerges, proclaiming, "If I perish, I perish." One lesson from this seems to be that even when we face our worst fears, God is present. Amen.

So then I was more recently considering the story of Jonah. And again, we have a worst fear realized, going overboard in a ship during a storm and being swallowed by a whale. I was afraid of swimming in deep ends in the dark when I was a kid because I was so terrified of creepy creatures in watery depths, even in man-made-pools (creative imagination I guess). I can not imagine the horror Jonah must have felt as he watched those jaws closing in around him. And perhaps again, we learn the same lesson. Even in the belly of the whale, God is present. Amen.

So what is your worst fear? Which "What if?" keeps you from moving forward with boldness into a place you should perhaps be stepping into? Here are a few of my worst fears, other than being attacked by deep-water creatures of course:
"What if those people reject and ridicule me?"
"What if I have to make it on my own without my husband?"
"What if my child dies?"

So the crazy thing about Jonah, is that in subjecting Jonah to a-worst-possible-thing, God was also preserving his life so that he could live out the most-glorious-thing. Thrashing around in the ocean during an intense storm? So many ways a body could drown and die in a scene like that. But Jonah didn't die.

I think of the book Outliers, or, because I was too lazy to read this as a book, the documentary film series, Guns, Germs, and Steel. One of the major take-a-ways for me in both of these was that the people who had endured the roughest suffering, came through as greater stars, as stronger survivors, or as more useful and potentially God-glorifying tools (that's my own imposition on the raw material there).

Perhaps: It is not in spite of the whale that Jonah becomes a hero, it is not because he was punished in the belly of the whale that Jonah learns his lesson, but it is because God used the most terrifying prospect to preserve Jonah that he might be able to go on to do God's work. Just like so many other biblical heroes. And scarier still, just like He might do for me some day.

My prayer: if the day comes that I have to face one of my worst "what if?" I hope I will be able to respond and say, "If I perish, I perish," and have faith that the realization of my worst fears might actually be an instrument of protection and preservation from the fears I could not even have imagined, like missing an opportunity to participate in God's glory.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

and then my [sister's] life flashed before [her] eyes.

I asked my sister to write out her life flashing before her eyes, and she delivered! You can see this post and other life observations on her blog here. You'll notice that I added a couple extra pictures, and that I picked the ones with my daughter in them. 

The other day, my sister blogged about what she hoped/thought she would see if her life flashed before her eyes, then instructed me to do the same after I commented on it. I'm going to try to do the same now.

- Waiting all day at the hospital for Eiley to be born and then finally getting to hold her.
- My wedding day. I just started to list way too many things from it, so I think I'll put those in another blog.

- That perfect summer day when we went to the beach, rode bikes, got frozen yogurt, and barbecued.
- That random summer night when we tried to pass out sandwiches to homeless people in the Back Bay and got pulled over briefly by a cop because he thought the sandwiches were drug paraphernalia.
- That perfect winter day in Kentucky where we had a snowball fight, drank hot chocolate, watched Faerie Tale theater, and played Scrabble.
- That perfect winter day in Virginia when school was canceled, so Andrew came over for watching HIMYM, kissing, going to the mall, and dinner at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront.
- Andrew and I sitting on the couch at my old apartment and him telling me that he'd had dreams where we were getting married and I was holding our daughter.
- Late night talks with Robyn Boyd (not any specific ones, but there have been so many that I'm sure I'd have a picture of it in my mind).
- Emmy punching me in the stomach when she was 5 and I was 8 because she was mad at Tiffany (this isn't a happy memory, but it's always been so vivid that I'm sure it would come up at the end of my life).
- Experiencing a huge summer storm while camping in Lake Havasu and watching people try to take pictures of the lightning... then watching them realize how it's next to impossible to take pictures of lightning (this was before digital cameras existed).
- Watching one of the counselors and 2 of the little girl campers at Royal Family Kids' Camp dance to "In Your Presence" by Charity Von. 
- I'm sure that I would picture at least one of my fancy birthday dinners with my dad. I think this year will be our 21st year of doing that, so there would be tons of memories to choose from.
- Watching the sunset in Mexico while doing devotions with Andrew.
- Going with Eiley and Emmy to take pictures during Eiley's mini-monthly photo shoots.

- One of those days when Andrew and I go to Busch Gardens and Zaxby's. Those are always wonderful!
- Seeing my dad walk my sister up the aisle and watching Jeff openly weep upon her entrance.
- Vahdan giving me a toast and singing to me on my 28th birthday.
- Going to Haiti with my mom and getting to hold babies at an orphanage there.
- Watching Disneyland fireworks.
- Taking long walks in Newport Beach with various friends.
- Having a HIMYM party on Monday nights at the Canal House and crowding my green couch with a bunch of my favorite people.
- Having a Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor Pad party every Monday with Andrew.
- I'm certain that I would see something random that Emmy had instigated (Scrabble at Downtown Disney, Tabitha's birthday scavenger hunt, various theme parties, etc.).
- The April Fool's Day when my mom almost convinced me that there was an ejector seat in the car or the one where our parents surprised us with a night at the Disneyland Hotel.

That seems to be a lot and I'm sure I wouldn't see all of those things, but it would be great if I did.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Movie Review Monday: Mirror, Mirror vs. Snow White and the Huntsman

I find pop culture trends fascinating. There has been a recent obsession with classic fairy tales, which is cool, but I was pretty surprised when Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman came out within months of each other. I have now seen them both and thought that warranted a side-by-side comparison, but I'm just going to compare the characters since everything else about the films is a bit of a jumble in my head. 

Snow White:
MM - Lived up to her "fairest" description. Stuck up for herself and was brave. Totally looked like Audrey Hepburn in the last shot of the film, which gives her points in my book.
SWatH - I guess she's pretty. It's hard to tell when she barely ever smiles or emotes. Total wimp. Clearly this review is tainted by Twilight and tabloid gossip. Sorry.

Right?! Picture borrowed from here.
Leading Man:
MM - The prince. goofy, yet honorable and lovable with good intentions. Not much chemistry with Snow though. Seemed too old for her, though my BFF imdb says they're just a few years apart. Sidenote: He was played by Armie Hammer, who I think would make a perfect Finnick in Catching Fire.
SWatH - The huntsman. Brooding and strong. Admittedly great chemistry with Snow. Wields an ax with the confidence of Thor wielding his hammer. (Wah, wah.)

Evil Queen:
MM - Julia Roberts playing a silly game of dress up, not really acting. If you like her - which I do - this is not a terrible thing. Also, her costumes are awesome.
SWatH - Charlize Theron being British? Bathing in white out? Crazy-talking to her mirror which is actually a gong? I, Charlize. Bad, Charlize. Sit. 

Oh, calm down, drama queen. Photo borrowed from here.
MM - Lovable band of thieves played by a group of awesome, unknown actors.
SWatH - Lovable band of hermits played by a group of awesome, recognizable actors.

MM - 1 claw up for a silly, entertaining time.
SWatH - 1 claw up for beautiful cinematography and a nice romantic storyline.

Friday, August 10, 2012

some thoughts on beauty, aimed at the ladies

Here's some self-deprecation, but don't worry - this is a happy post:

I've been thinking about beauty a lot lately. Maybe it's because my hormones from breastfeeding (bye, bye, male readers) this past year have caused dark patches of skin to appear on my face, and those patches just happen to be on my upper lip so it looks like I have a mustache. And not a cool hipster trendy mustache, but a sad, preteen-boy-who-hasn't-learned-to-shave-yet mustache. Or maybe it's because I just stopped breastfeeding a couple weeks ago so now I'm back to being flatter than a disappointing pancake. Or maybe it's because I'm tired of my wardrobe, which has recently started to be a humdrum rotation of a handful of items, most of which make me feel frumpy. Oh. Ennui.

Here's what I do, though:

I think about all of these things for approximately ten minutes each morning. While I'm attempting (and failing) to cover up my fauxstache with makeup. As I'm slinging on a slightly padded bra. When I'm yawning at my closet and resigning myself to wearing a tee-shirt and jeans for the sixth day in a row. But once all that is done, I stop thinking about it. If I pass a mirror, I don't stop to ogle and criticize myself. I don't tote around a makeup bad to touch up my face sporadically throughout the day. 

See? I'm GORGEOUS. Photo by Mikkele.

Here's why:

This is just terrible, but I have a pretty close friend who I found remarkably unattractive at first sight. As I got to know her, though, I saw that she was truly beautiful, and not just with some vague inner beauty, though that's probably what revealed the outer beauty to me. I noticed her perfect and infectious smile, kind eyes, fun hair, lovely feet even! So I've made snap judgements of physical appearances, but I've never let looks come in the way of knowing someone. 

With all that in mind, I realized that the people for whom I want to look beautiful are those I love and who love me. And those who love me will find me some version of beautiful no matter what. Therefore, I do try to be the best version of myself when I start my day, but I choose not to dwell on it.

Here's my point:

Everyone is loved, of this I am certain. God makes it clear that He loves us all, and besides Him, there are one's friends, family, co-workers, barista, postman, therapist, and/or cats. So since everyone is loved, everyone is beautiful. I wish there was a non-cheesy way to say it, but there you have it.

Feel beautiful today.

And if we see each other soon, please try not to look directly at my fauxstache.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

happy birthday, zoe!!!

Dearest Zoface,

For your birthday, I thought I'd make a complete fool of myself for your amusement.



an admission of complete wussiness.

An earthquake woke me up last night, and there was another this morning. They were both in the mid 4 range - the first felt like the dog was vigorously scratching himself on the bed, thus making the whole thing shake; the second just felt like a dizzy spell until I noticed some of our dangling decorations swaying and then it felt like the house was bobbing in the ocean. 

As a born and bred Southern California girl, I'm supposed to play it cool. I'm supposed to love these things and equate them with roller coasters. I'm supposed to laugh at and openly mock out-of-towners who are bewildered when the ground tremors. And I play the part most of the time. When we had an earthquake in Virginia I truly did find it hilarious when, immediately after it happened, newscasters were seeking out Californians to verify if that was, indeed, one of those "earthquakes" of lore. 
Virginia 2011 Earthquake: We Will Rebuild
Photo borrowed from here.
But the truth is this: I am terrified of earthquakes. They fill me with dread and too much adrenaline. My overactive imagination sees a gaping chasm opening up in my own house, swallowing my family. Then, when I calm down a bit I imagine more realistically that our house will completely collapse and become rubble. Optimistically, I envision all of us cowering under the one doorjamb that remains standing. After the quake last night, I remained awake for some time thinking about the logistics of losing all material possessions when one has a baby. We'd need a bottle, plenty of milk, diapers. I tossed and turned and briefly considered researching disaster relief organizations just to confirm that someone could hook us up in a pinch. I tried counting sheep to get back to sleep, but the louts kept jumping at me instead of peacefully gliding over a low fence in a distant lea. Even my subconscious was in shambles from a little rumble.

I leave you with a sweet little anecdote from my childhood. It was 4:30 in the morning on January 17, 1994 (thanks, wikipedia!). Skeeter - my dog who slept with me each night and looked remarkably like Splinter - started barking and hopping around the bed. Then an earthquake struck, and my waterbed (yeah!) sloshed and swished and my door rattled. A few seconds later, my mom came into my room to make sure I was okay and to comfort me. My dad, assigned to check on my sister, instead sprinted out of their room in his skivvies, expressing deep concern for...his guitar. And he has never lived it down. 

Don't worry, both the guitar and my sister were totally fine.

I'd love to know what turns you into a wuss. Or your favorite natural disaster. Or about your parent trying to save an inanimate object.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


Dear Friend,

Being a mom is a tough job. We flounder so often. Everyone disagrees strongly about every move you make. It can feel so hard to know how to walk forward one day after another. 

Rarely, our months of blood, sweat, and tears pay off when our child takes that first step, or utters the first word. But maybe your friend's child of the same age isn’t walking or talking. So as elated as you may be, and as long as you've waited for a moment to be elated about, you might keep it in to yourself. It can feel like we are only allowed to complain or criticize around each other.

But we need to celebrate. Never before has so much energy been poured into results like, "now she only holds on with ONE hand while she takes steps, independent walking feels right around the corner!" or "he took a nap today!" It can just be risky to utter these accomplishments out loud, for fear of creating jealousy.

I had been struggling for months around a certain parenting desire I had. I looked all around at how other moms were handling the same dilemma, and the conflict did not seem to be ending in a way I was hoping for in our own family. I felt so discouraged, like a bad conclusion was inevitable for this trial.

But you took a risk. You told me that you had found a good end to the trial. It required, what seemed to me to be unimaginable patience and resolve. But somehow you'd done it. 

Honestly, my first reaction to your success was deeper discouragement. Almost a rock bottom. I thought I could never have what you'd found. I realized how deep and how real my hopelessness truly was. 

But somewhere, deep below the surface, deep below the fear of failure, a little tiny spark ignited a new hope. Without my realizing it, that spark grew into a tiny flicker and gradually a flame that kicked me into a new gear. From there came a fresh wave of patience and resolve. And before I knew it, months had passed and I had endured. Now I am finding that same good end. 

I love my happy ending. And as it has snuck up on me, I'm shocked to hold it in my hands. I feel a burst of gratitude that I get to grasp this thing that seemed so unattainable, this realization I did not believe I had the character strength to achieve. 

I am at this point because you let me witness your success. You gave me permission to strive for something better.

I know it is tricky to have successes as a mom, but I hope you'll never hold back your accomplishments, or your child's amazing skills. I hope you'll feel free to brag to me. Your mommy-wins are such a blessing in life. 

Thank you.


"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same." 
~Marianne Williamson

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

and then my life flashed before my eyes.

Last week, my mom and I were pondering what our lives flashing before our eyes would look like. What scenes would appear, what moments would be plucked from our memories. I immediately began listing the happy stuff. I think I'd see:

  • Jeff smiling and weeping profusely at the end of the aisle on our wedding day.
  • A group of about eight people crowded around a long table in the camp dining hall at midnight, playing a vicious game of Rat Slap.
  • Running around with Tabitha in a parking lot in the pouring rain during a hurricane.

  • Slow dancing with Jeff next to a waterfall by Disneyland and sharing our first kiss.
  • Reading High Fidelity aloud to Zoe and replacing the f-bombs with the word monkey our sophomore year of college.
  • Hanging out at Denny's with my sister and our friends from camp and realizing that my sister and I were becoming - gasp - friends.
  • Slamming down one perfect kill in volleyball my junior year of high school.
  • Singing and dancing with a group of women in Tanzania.
  • Mikkele randomly bringing over a cake, insisting that Jeff serve it, then crying laughing as we realized she'd baked in the clock.
  • Gazing into Eiley's eyes the minute she was born, while trying not to look at all her gooey yuckiness.
  • My parents surprising my sister and I with a night at the Disneyland Hotel when we were very young.
  • Eating chicken nuggets and swimming all day when my Grandma would housesit for her friends each summer.
  • Watching Derek Fisher sink a game winning 3 pointer with .4 seconds on the clock. I realize this didn't happen to me, but the amount of joy I felt watching that at Lamppost Pizza amongst a bunch of sports bar dudes was immense.
  • Dancing the night away with Jeff at his senior year theatre banquet, aware that we were lanky and silly and not caring a whit.
  • Tiffany and I playing with a cheap little toy after kid's church one evening and finding it hilarious to yell at it. 
  • Making Eiley belly laugh.
  • Hearing the distinctive thunk of an arrow hitting the target on the archery range at camp.
  • Reverse trick-or-treating with Chad, Mikkele, and Jenna. Specifically, shouting "HALLOWEEN HAPPINESS!" in a terrible old lady voice. 

  • My eighth grade Algebra teacher telling me to pack up my bag and go to the office because my parents were there to take me to Disneyland and the subsequent writhing jealousy that emanated from my classmates.
  • And, of course, this:

My mom mentioned that it probably wouldn't all be happy memories flooding into one's brain. I agree, but I hope we're wrong.

What would you see?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Movie Review Monday: Romantics Anonymous

image taken from here
Romantics Anonymous is another great little French romantic comedy. I recently reviewed I Do, another French romantic comedy, and played around with some ideas of potential actors to play the American remake. Romantics Anonymous really doesn't need an American remake, and maybe I Do doesn't either actually. But if they did go ahead and remake it here anyways, Steve Carrell would HAVE to star in Romantics Anonymous. It is right in his wheel house. Slightly older, totally awkward guy, seeking true meaningful romance.  

I've mentioned several times here that I have a special weakness for movies about cooking, but this one gets a double win because not only is it about a chef, but also chocolate truffles. Add in the sweet little romance it illustrates, and what more could a girl want? Ok, maybe I wouldn't have minded having actual truffles to snack on while I watched, instead of just drooling on myself. But just desiring them was pleasurable enough.
image taken from here
I felt like the film did a great job really taking its time with the uncomfortable moment to accentuate both pain and comedy in this budding romance. I love how a woman who is entirely to shy to sell chocolates to customers can go on and on like an impassioned politician when defending the chocolates to the people who make them. The male lead has an issue with sweating through shirts when he's nervous, and they play that up through the whole film just hilariously. 

image taken from here
Romantic comedies stick so closely to formulas. One trend this one broke, perhaps on account of its being French, I'm not film savvy enough to know such things, was that the female lead didn't have to have a best friend side kick to talk to and thereby let us know whatever she was feeling. I was recently reading that men share intimate emotional feelings more comfortably in one on one interactions, and while women will do that too, they are also more likely to seek out a whole group of people for emotional support. I felt like this film highlighted that trend by showing us the guy's feelings while he spoke to his therapist, and the woman's emotions as she debriefed to her support group. Though, someone who is more familiar with French mental health culture, please tell me what is up with having an alcoholics anonymous-esque group, confessing about being "emotional." Are emotions considered mentally unhealthy in France? I'm guessing not, but that sure made me curious. 

Two claws up from me! A totally enjoyable treat!

Friday, August 3, 2012

anything once: riding in a balloon

Last week Jeff, Eiley and I went with some friends to the Great Park in Irvine for some free shenanigans, including a carousel ride, taking in the Pacific Symphony, picnicking, and riding in their balloon.

A carousel ride on an ostrich. Or an emu. A carousel ride on an Australian bird.
The balloon is not of the hot air variety; it's helium. This is impressive both because it carries human beings to great heights and because it is huge - and all this despite a national helium shortage. No, seriously. I'm not even making that up. Google that ish.

Thoughts on the experience:

1. There are lovely views of the city lights from 400 feet in the air.
2. I wish I'd sung "One Giant Orange Luftballoon" to the tune of "99 Red Luftballons" while we were up there. 

3. Jeff felt like he was in James and the Giant Peach. I did too, I just didn't realize it until right now when he told me that.
4. I thought it would be cool if half of us stood on either side of the gondola and we alternated jumping to get it to rock. Mikkele firmly disagreed.

Some of my peeps on the balloon!
5. It's rather peaceful 400 feet in the open air.

This wasn't thrilling, but it was free, memorable, and pleasant. A first I would certainly repeat!

*This is 1 out of my 4 anything onces for my three month goals. Blam. Accomplished.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Dear Sofia, Happy Dedication

“You spoke to me through her. You spoke to me through the sky, the trees. Before I knew I loved you, believed in you. When did You first touch my heart?”
-Jack in The Tree of Life

Dear Sofia,

I count it nothing but grace, unmerited favor, that you belong to us. You are such joy to me. I have not done anything to deserve you. 

Once upon a time, when I was a little baby, my parents dedicated me to the Church. 

That means the Church and I have had lots of time, my whole life, to have all kinds of ups and downs in our relationship. The Christian Church and I have a bit of a sordid past. It has hurt, betrayed, and rejected me, and I it. 

But several years ago, God taught me that I could not say that I loved Him, and hate His Church. The Church IS the Body of Christ. It is all united as one. And so, broken, I've been working to repair my relationship to the Church ever since, to love it, as I love God. 

And what a long way I've come. Because now, here you are, and just a few weeks ago, like my parents before me, I dedicated you to the Church too. I chose to trust the Church by putting the soul of my most precious little one in its hands. 

The service itself was a bit hilarious. All the other little ones being dedicated were a matter of weeks or months old, and you were nearly a year and a half. They all lay happily, sleepily, in their parents' arms. You had me dipping you upside down and bouncing you all around to keep you from running all over, and possibly right off the stage. But we made it through, and you made me proud. 

Your Dada and I made a vow that day to raise you in the Church. And our church made a vow to support us in that work. This was a big step for me, and a significant event for you. I don't believe that I can protect you from being hurt in the Church, annoyed by the people there, offended by its history or present actions. But I do believe that what is best for you is to be a part of this body. To find community, support, teaching, accountability, and opportunities to love. 

You are already a little girl who pours out love on the people you meet. From waving hello to strangers, to comforting other children that cry, to praying for those you have seen experiencing distress. I adore witnessing how you love, and I can't wait to see all that you will contribute to the Church over the course of your life. 

I pray that you will learn to love it, faults and all, as I do. I pray that it will be kind and supportive to you. I pray that through it, God will make Himself known to you. I pray that in turn, you will come to know God, and His Son, Jesus, intimately, and powerfully, and eternally. 

Happy Dedication my Little Girl.