Friday, April 25, 2014

Lessons Learned From a Long Bike Ride...With Children

Distance is quite relative, especially to children.  Most times, they have no concept of distance or time.  An hour sounds like forever to them; thinking about "next year" is like considering the afterlife. Even age is difficult for them to grasp sometimes.  ( I learned that this morning when Derek (9) told me that the car behind us was going to wonder what that "crazy old lady" was doing in the car.  Crazy old lady?  "What crazy old lady, Derek?"  "You know...uh, you, Mom." )

  So when we told the children we would be taking a "really long bike ride" during Spring break, they had no idea that we actually meant, "really long". 

"Like longer than riding to school?', they asked.  
You mean the school that is a mile away?  
"Uh, yes.  Longer than that."  
"Will it take an hour?"  
"Yep, probably,"  we told them. 
"TWO  hours?!?"
"Most likely." 
It was almost unfathomable!!

Now, I have never, in one continuous ride, covered over 20 miles, let alone 40, so I knew I was asking a lot of the kids.  Nonetheless, we came armed with our best positive parent attitudes (which are often left at home once the morning kid wrangling is done), and ended up having one of our best, and most memorable family outings, as well as accomplishing something Lee and I have always wanted to do with them.

What did I learn?  A few universal truths, is all.  

1)  Never underestimate the power of the Nabisco Multi-Pack Snack Box from Smart n Final.  

I believe this needs no explanation. Suffice it say that sometimes in life you just need a little bribe to keep on going- a little incentive.  My backpack was stuffed with fun packs of motivation. I remember when I was 14 that my Sunday School teacher literally bribed us with full size candy bars each week to come to class and sit and listen.  It worked.  Seriously, bribery has a place.  And one of those places is on a 40 mile bike ride when your 9 year old has a bad case of the whines.

2) Stop and play on the rings and ropes in Santa Monica.

We had a schedule to keep.  We really had to keep moving.  BUT- the kids love to stop at the rings ropes, bars and swings by the pier.  So we did.  We burned about 30 minutes there, and it was time well spent.  Those 30 minutes bought us elevated spirits for at least another 5 miles- well worth the delay.  Kind of like an afternoon nap, really.

3) Don't get stuck in the muddle of Venice Beach.

For some reason, people just love Venice Beach, but as far as I can tell, it's mostly homeless, drug addicts, failed artists, lousy street performers and washed-up beach bums. Plus it reeks of urine.  There is so much going on there- so many people, winding pathways, dozens of outdoor vendors, belligerent "locals" who have commandeered the parks- that it's easy to get confused or sidetracked.  If you don't keep your goal, which is to get out of Venice Beach as soon as possible, you could get sucked into that mess and lose your whole day.  So many better beaches than Venice Beach.  It's a shame some people will never realize that.  (And yes- that was meant to be metaphorical :))

4)  Know when to ignore your 9 year old.

A few hundred yards into Manhattan Beach, Derek almost convinced me that he was on the verge of death and that if I didn't stop and take care of him, he would most certainly die a painful and most egregious ending, all because of me.  Once I ascertained that he wasn't sick or injured, but merely sick of riding, I let him know that he was welcome to join us or stay put on the sand and complain all day long, but I wasn't going to be his cheerleader for much longer.  At that point, when the whining commenced once more, I rode off so I couldn't hear him any more; I wanted to enjoy the ride!   By the time we hit Hermosa beach, he was back up with us ( biking miracle!), recovered from his ailments, and the worst was over. 

5) A good meal and some rest can work miracles.

By the time we made it to Redondo Beach, after a solid 20 miles, the kids were spent.  The boys, especially, where a hot mess.  It was so bad, it was comical.  They truly believed that we were NEVER going to stop, never going to eat, and that we were the meanest, most boring parents in the world!  But alas!  Ruby's diner, a few cheeseburgers, a couple baskets of fries and a nice rest turned the bike ride into fun, mom and dad into the nicest parents in the world, and suddenly the world was rosy again.  Miracles!  

6) It's mostly mental.

The kids are in pretty good shape; they're active and strong and are used to doing physical things.  That said- we weren't sure they had the stamina to make it all the way back.  After lunch, we told them to do the best they could, and that if needed, Dad could ride back to the car and come pick us up.  They took it as a challenge and they were off like a shot.  We broke up the ride into 7 "stages", with each major beach being a stage, and by the time we reached "stage 4" which is what we affectionately call "Susie's Beach" (Playa Del Rey), I knew they would make it.  By that time, Carissa was so far ahead of us, we didn't see her until she waited at a busy street before Venice.  The difference, I know, was all mental- what had been drudgery on the way there became something to be conquered and mastered.  Would that they could approach their future obstacles like this.

And above all:

7) When the wind blows in your face and you're going up a hill at mile 38, dig a little deeper, put your head down and pedal.

Why must there always be a headwind during the last few miles? There are almost no hills to speak of on this bike path, except for the last stretch between Santa Monica and Will Rogers State Beach- and they hurt!  Grayson was riding with me at this point.  He had chased down his older brother and sister and passed them just after the pier and was elated to be in 1st place.   There was such a short distance left- but his legs hurt, his rear end hurt, and his hands were raw from gripping.  To watch him pedal as fast as he could up the little hills was almost inspiring, knowing how tired he was and that he is only 7.  To see our entire family, including a toddler who sat patiently all day in her little seat, finish the ride and make it to the car together was a proud moment.  I was impressed and pleased that they had chosen to go all the way back, even though I wouldn't have blamed them if they had stopped.  This was a moment that I believe brought us a little closer- knowing that seemingly impossible things can be accomplished, especially when you have your family to help you along.

8)  And- even in the midst of triumph, your kids are going to fight.

Yeah- they did.  I admit it.  In the car.  On the way home.  Oh well, no family is perfect.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

So You Say You Want the Priesthood

The only time I really cared about women not having the priesthood in the church was during college, when I was in an academic cocoon and looking for a reason to be pissed off at the church so I could justify not wanting to go anymore.  Well, it certainly worked.  I learned quickly in the University system that to question is good, to analyze is important, but to be angry about a perceived injustice, then make a name for yourself fighting said injustice tops all.

My Feminist Theology class taught by Sister Elizabeth Johnson, an unrepentant advocate for the women's ordination movement in the Catholic church, author of She Who Is ( "God is whomever she wants to be"), outspoken critic of the patriarchal Catholic system, and true believer that woman has been relegated to 2nd class citizenship in the church, provided me all the fuel I needed to stoke my fire of indignation toward the LDS church.

Except there was a problem.  Almost everything she brought up was exclusive to other churches, but didn't occur in mine.  Nearly every example of how downtrodden women are I could counter with an example of how the true gospel of Jesus Christ lifts up.  When Sister  bemoaned that women were not taken care of emotionally and physically, and that they needed an organization " women, for women, where women go out and visit each other, and make sure that their needs are met...", I told her that in the LDS church that organization had already existed for over 100 years.  I began to see that but for the ordination of women, faithful LDS women are afforded every opportunity for service and growth that men are.

There was little left to fan the flames of my ire.  By the time I finished the semester I felt so sad for Sister Elizabeth, because there were key elements she was missing.  Far from alienating myself from my faith, the class served to help me resolve the issues I was having, and to realize how much deeper was my understanding of God's relationship to gender than a highly educated, published and dynamic woman.  That said, I left with a high regard and profound respect for Sister Elizabeth, and credit her with provoking me to action in my spiritual journey.

With my limited understanding of scripture and spirituality, I relied on faith.  I let go of my anger.  I let go of bitterness, resentment, indignation and even the internal desire to fight for something! But what about polygamy?!? What about blacks and the priesthood?!?  What about women and the priesthood?!?  What about abused women?!?!  I just let. it. go.  And when I let that happen, I became a different person.  I became someone suddenly consumed with the desire to help other people.  I wanted to teach, I wanted to lift up,  I wanted to help women and children, I wanted to serve.  So I did.

Still relying on faith over this question of women and the priesthood, I embarked on an LDS mission.  And that is where this story takes a massive turn, for it was during that time that I began to understand what holding the priesthood means for men: WORK!!!!  Those poor Elders were constantly at our beck and call:  "Can you come give so-and-so a blessing?"  "I need you to do this interview", " Can you give me a blessing?"  "We need help with this family" "Can you help us move sister what's her name's stuff?"  etc. etc etc.

Do I think that most Sisters could have taken care of some of those requests?  Probably.  Were most of us more educated, older, more mature and even wiser?  Almost to a person.  But how nice to have a non-emotional 19-21 year old kid be there when two sisters were irrational, crying and upset at each other.  How nice to not have to get up in the middle of the night and travel through dangerous, dark 3rd world streets to go give a blessing to someone who called with an emergency.  In short, how nice to be taken care of!  And how nice for an immature kid from small town USA to be given massive responsibility that had the potential to shape and direct him in a way that would affect his entire life!

My eyes began to be opened to the reality of the priesthood.  So much so, that when I wrote out a list of qualities I wanted in a husband during an activity, I wrote down one item:  1)  I want a temple worthy man who honors his priesthood.  Because I knew that a man who honors his priesthood, honors God and honors all women.

15 years into our marriage, that man now serves as the bishop of our ward, and nothing else has convinced me more that the last thing I EVER want on earth is the priesthood.  As far as I can see, being in a position of priesthood leadership means that everyone thinks you can solve their problems.  Got a question?  Call a priesthood leader.  Need a blessing?  Call your priesthood leader. Need to move your entire house and you haven't started packing yet?  Call your priesthood leader?   Got a problem with your house/car/job/spouse/schooling/teenager/toddler/adolescent/calling/friend/dog/worthiness/addiction/roommate/ex, etc.?  Call your priesthood leader!  It's work, my friends!

Being a priesthood leader in the church means spending sometimes 4 or 5 nights a week going to meetings, visiting and counseling people.  Then getting up when it's still dark on Sunday mornings for meetings, staying after church for 2-4 hours meeting with more people, doing paperwork and other administrative tasks, then coming home for a quick bite before you head back out to another baptism, meeting or counseling session.   Not to mention the hours of texts, emails and phone calls each week.  It means having the constant burden of other people's problems on your shoulders.  It's a God-given responsibility and who am I to tell God who should have it?

May the women who feel so passionately about this issue instead focus their efforts on the women who surround them who have immediate needs.  Watch someone's kids so she can go get to the gynecologist.   Take someone out to lunch who feels alone and friend-less.  Let a single mom know that they can rely on you by bringing her dinner or offering to have her kids come over so she can take a jog., or just LISTEN to her.  You want a taste of the priesthood?  Go do deep yard work for an elderly couple, or spend an entire Saturday moving heavy furniture for someone.  Or better yet, take the phone call from the couple whose marriage is imploding and go counsel them for 4 hours when you'd really rather be at your daughter's birthday dinner.  Or go pick up the pieces when a family falls apart and hold the wife who is so low that all she can do is look at you and beg to know why God has done this to her.   Be with the families when their child or spouse dies.  Speak at the funerals, be at every baptism, mediate the pettiness in the ward.  Expect no glamour, expect no adulation, expect no praise.  Because this is the priesthood in action on this Earth, and except for a small number of men, this is the reality of a righteous LDS man just trying to do his best.

 If the women of OWN (Ordain Women Now) have the time to protest and picket, I daresay they are neglecting the needs all around them and as such, would make lousy priesthood holders anyway.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Region 8 Soccer in the House!

Soccer started in August.....of 2013....before school even started....when it was still about 50,000 degrees outside...when all I really wanted to do on Saturdays was go to the beach.
Soccer ended last weekend.  Now I'm no mathematician, but I'd say that's about 7 months!  And yes, it felt that long for us.  HOWEVER,  Derek was STOKED this season.  It was, without a doubt, his best season yet and it was so much fun to watch him to begin to show his athleticism, leadership and endurance!  

 During the regular season, Derek was on the "Dynamite Zombie Warriors"  (his suggestion, incidentally).  Here he is with Coaches Elgin and Fernando the day they won first place against "The Steaming Volcanos" ( these names kill me).  That made 2 championships in 2 years for Big D!
Dynamite Zombie Warriors!!

There appear to be 2 rules in AYSO:  1) Everyone plays (which is good), 2)  Soccer games are every Saturday for the rest of your life. ( not so good if you ever want to have a life outside soccer)  So, immediately following regular season and tournament of champions, it was right into All-Star season.  Admittedly, it was a blast to watch these boys.  This is our 4th straight season doing all-stars between Carissa and Derek and this is the first time that one of their teams has won games, so it was satisfying!  

Although,if you ask Derek what his favorite part of the tournament was, he'll tell you it was , "Playing in the trees with Elijah and throwing the peapods at each other".  This, despite the coach's strict warning to, "Go rest and DON"T SCREW AROUND!"  Yeah, right!

Despite the screwing around between each of their 5 games, they won all of them and thus were champions of the Area, which is roughly the entire San Fernando Valley, including Burbank.  

Of course it couldn't end there, so 6 WEEKS (!?!?!?) later, we headed to Bakersfield for the Section finals, which is about 1/4 of the state (there are 4 sections in Cali).  Teams came from as far as San Berdu, out to Ventura and up the Valley to Tulare.  I honestly expected the boys to be destroyed in their first game, but wouldn't you know it- they destroyed Santa Barbara, which was especially satisfying.   They eeked out a tie against Tulare and then won their final game, putting them into the semi-finals the next day.
 Grayson had fun hanging out with another 7 yr old younger brother.  The boys were so stoked, especially to win in a rainstorm in front of our huge crowd!

Unfortunately, the semi's were rough, and we took a beating from Santa Barbara's other team, but they were clearly superior in every way, not some rag tag group thrown together at the end of the regular season.
 Despite the disappointment, the boys were back to screwing around, kicking balls at each other, throwing each other into the bushes, and having a great time within about 5 minutes.  Medals always help!

 It was great fun for all of us, watching these 9 and 10 year old boys play their little hearts out.  Personally, I'm ready for a break, but wouldn't you know- tournament team practice starts NEXT WEEK!!  What have I gotten myself into??

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Badly Needed Camping Trip

To end our longest non-camping streak EVER!- we turned our 3 day President's day weekend into  4  and headed north to Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara county.  We were nearly derailed by an overzealous head volleyball coach who tried to snatch Lee away for a pre-season tournament, but Lee held strong and we took off as planned on Thursday night after, of course, soccer practice.  We found a perfect little trailer for rent ( 89 bucks a night!), loaded it up and arrived at Refugio at about 10:30 pm in time to snag one the last 2 remaining sites.  Luckily, at Refugio, every site is close to the beach, so you always win!
Friday morning, the boys were up early and ready to find a new posse.  There were kids galore at the campground and Derek and Grayson found 2 blonde haired blue eyed look-alikes to build forts, dig holes, ride bikes, play basketball, etc.

 We actually had a lot of open space at our site!
 Our trailer was 24 feet, but had a slide-out on the other side, thus quite spacious for this family of 6.
 We were in site 50 :) And might I add, that I nailed it on the camping food this time.  I prepped so much beforehand, that dinner prep took me almost no time each night, and clean-up was nearly non-existent.  Winning!
 On Saturday, Carissa took the board out just before dusk.  She stayed perfectly dry...until she came in on a wave...
 Lots of bike riding at Refugio.

 Brooke's outfit of choice for the majority of beach time.
 Perfect, perfect weather.  There were numerous dolphins and according to the boys, even a whale, although I cannot verify that.  On Friday we were lucky to have the Wilson family visit us on the tail end of their stay cation.  Always a treat!
 We rode our bikes a couple of miles down the coastal path to El Capitan a few times.  We were astounded by how dry it was compared to last year.  The drought is real and it is bad.
same tree- one year ago exactly

 El Cap is rockier than Refugio, so we spent hours building towers...
 and then knocking them down with rocks.

 We hooked up with another couple and shared boards with them so that we each could go out with our spouses and, in our case, with Carissa.  Grayson even went out, but just barely past the break.
 I had to wrastle this girl to get her into her sunsuit!
 Lee is ready to start training Grayson, who is surprisingly good at pepper!
Such a perfect weekend.  We played so hard we were asleep by 9 every night- but our souls were soothed with the balm of sand, waves and sun.  Until next year....

Not Afraid of 40

I've spent the better part of my late 30's dreading my 40th birthday.  It seems so old, so late, so final.  It's always been this scary deadline in the future, looming, laughing at me, knowing that sooner or later I'm going to have to face it.  Until...I decided to embrace it- much like I've started embracing 75 degrees on Christmas, never hearing English at Costco, and 8 month youth soccer seasons.  I can't change it, so I may as well enjoy it.
With that in mind, I composed a list of 10 things that I will accomplish during this- my 40th year.  The 3 main requirements for my list were:

1)  It couldn't depend on me spending a lot of money.
2)  It had to be difficult for me- something that would really make me work hard.
3)  It had to be something I've never done.

Technically, I should have begun in December, as my birthday falls on November 21, but let's be honest- I wasn't going to do any of these things during the holidays, plus I was still dealing with the fact that the next birthday would be THE ONE.  So here it is- a little belated, in no particular order, and scaring me to death:

My 40th Year "Bucket List"

1)  Run one half-marathon per month.
2) Climb Half-Dome in Yosemite.
3) Take East and West Coast Swing Dancing classes, and go to a swing club to use my moves.
4) Catch a wave on a SUP, legitimately.
5) Learn Chopin's "Valse, op.64, no.2"
6) Re-read and study Talmage's  "Jesus the Christ".  **Technically I've done this, but I was in the MTC and therefore in a spiritual cocoon, so I figured I need to do it as a "real" person.
7) Plant and harvest tomatoes and an herb garden.
8) Complete a 50 mile ride on my bike (location TBD).
9) Complete a triathlon.
10) Read a literary Classic.

Writing this down hopefully makes it more likely that I'll actually do these things, and accountability tends to have that effect, as well, so hopefully I will have something to report on as the weeks tick by.  In the meantime, I will worry less about the wrinkles and sagging, and more about the person that I continue to try to become.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Is This It?

Do you ever have one of those, "Is this all there is to it?,  kind of days?  Every so often, I find myself in the midst of brushing my teeth in the morning before Getting Ready For School and I look at myself in the mirror and think, "Really??  This is what my hopes and dreams have amounted to? Where brushing my teeth suffices for 'getting ready in the morning' ??"  One pair of stretchy pants and an old, stained t-shirt later (which may or may not have a hole in it- today's did), and I'm good to go for the day!

Then there's the 45 minutes of asking the kids to do the same task over and over and over again, and it still doesn't get done:  "Derek, go put water in your hair and brush it.  You have bed head."  Two minutes later, " Derek, go brush your hair." Two minutes later, "Derek, did you brush your hair?" (He pretends not to hear me), ok, obviously you didn't. Go do it".  Repeat for 45 minutes until it doesn't get done, and Derek goes to school looking like a crack addict.

It's at this point that my best threats usually come out:  "Grayson, you eat that oatmeal or I swear I'll make nothing BUT oatmeal for the next 10 years!!"  or "Carissa, if you aren't ready to walk out this door in two minutes I am taking you to class in your underwear!"  or one of the best: "You guys stop fighting or there will be no treats, no movies and no fun this weekend!! And no soccer, and no volleyball, and no friends over!! I mean it!" (direct quote) I've been know to threaten to cancel Christmas on occasion.  But only after Thanksgiving.

Then the lunch packing begins.  Every kid wants something different which means if I only have turkey, but no cheese, then Derek won't eat it, unless it's on crackers, in which case he will, but not if they're in a plastic container, because then they get soggy, so only put them in saran wrap, and make sure there's ice in there so they don't get "gross".  And I must remember that Grayson only eats GREEN grapes and GREEN cut-up apples with lemon juice, not plain because they get brown and that's "gross", and no sandwiches for him because they get too smushy in the lunch box and the jam soaks on the bread and that's "gross".

One of my favorite lunch packing conversations went like this:

"Grayson do you want a ham sandwich for lunch?"
"No, mom.  Yuck!  You know I don't eat those!"
"Ok, well how about  lettuce and mustard on bread with some ham?"
"That sounds good.  Can you put some cheese on it?".

No joke.  That's seriously how it went down.

And for the record, he didn't eat the sandwich.

And don't even get me started on the daily Search For Socks.  It doesn't matter that the night before I told the boys to go pick up the 10 pairs of sock they left in various parts of the backyard, or that they've been hoarding dirty socks, crammed into crevices of their room- every morning it's a shock of epic proportions when they open the sock drawer and lo- there aren't any socks!!!!  This results in an all out scrounging for socks throughout the premises which usually ends with the dryer yielding 4 unmatched, but clean, socks.  The end of this fun is usually something like, "Mom, why don't you ever do our laundry?" or "Mom, you need to buy us more socks".  Nokay.

At some point in all of this there is a very dirty, stinky diaper that has to be changed, a carseat that has to be transferred from one car to another, a lost shoe (see above paragraph on the Search For Socks to fully understand what this entails) or a car that is literally running on fumes because the last driver forgot to fill it up the night before.

If somehow, after all of this, we are out of the door before 7:21-, (and I say out of the DOOR, which is very different from out of the DRIVEWAY, because out of the DRIVEWAY implies that everyone has found their seat in the car, including the baby, and that the inevitable Struggle For The Front Seat has been decided, a struggle that sometimes eats up another 3-4 minutes of precious time, in which the older, stronger sibling and the younger, more stubborn sibling wage an all-out battle of words and names for whomever got to the front seat first, until one relents because they realize they are going to be late/lose handball time.)- then we have a relatively easy drive.  But heaven forbid we get to that 7:25 mark- we are screwed.  If that happens, I transform into something vaguely resembling a cross between a speedway driver, a New York City cabbie, and turrets sufferer as I navigate the 4 miles to the middle school and all the other strung-out moms on the road.

At the end of it all, when the shaking subsides and I enter a house that looks like it was vandalized by the Mob while we were out, I count down the hours until I get to go through The Afternoon (much, much scarier than The Morning), and hope I can at least clean some socks and put away the crackers in the next 6 hours.

I kid you not- this stuff is real!

Perhaps I haven't properly trained my kids- I'm certain that that is part of the problem.  Or maybe they are just normal.  I don't really know.  But yes, sometimes I do ask myself, "Is this it? Shouldn't I be doing something better or more important with my life?  Can I just wear something for once that isn't stained, torn, spit-up on or really old? Can I please use the toilet once without having a kid run in to show me their scrape/school paper/lego creation? Do the curious habits of 7-9 year old boys have to be the topic of my conversations and thoughts instead of something more intellectually stimulating?"

But those thoughts are beside the point.  The point is that this IS IT for now.  THIS is not forever.  THIS is what I chose.  It's not what I hoped and dreamed about in college ( "I'm going to save the world one river at a time, man!"), or even what I dreamed of in grade school playing MASH ("I'm going to live in a mansion and drive a limo and work at a restaurant!"), but THIS is what each decision along the way has become.  The babies, who have become children, who have become independent beings with unique thoughts, desires and opinions need me and need me now, and I CHOSE to be their mother.

So here's to another crazy morning tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, and the day after that...until these days are over, and I find myself wishing that they weren't.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Snapshots of Brooke

Because sometimes you just need to get in the 3rd world squat on an open dishwasher with your sippy cup.