Monday, February 28, 2011

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow...

Three years ago, when Husband came home from work one cold, snowy winter day in DC and said, "How do you feel about moving to Los Angeles?" you might remember I was none too pleased. California?!!! Three thousand miles away from family and friends?! The west coast?! Surfers?! Movie stars?! Liposuction and botox?! The idea of my child saying, "I grew up in California!" left me breathing into a paper bag and cooking up all kinds of scenarios in which Husband worked in Hollywood and we still managed to somehow live in our little house, tucked right up against the Potomac, walking distance to Barnes and Noble and down the street from friends. Unfortunately most of those scenarios required either Husband or myself to be independently and wildly wealthy, which neither of us were (and if we were? that probably would have negated the need for Husband to take said job in the first place).

So, in June, long after the snow had melted and the decision had been made, we packed up and moved our family to the Left Coast. My one constant request was that every year we make a trip to the snow so that Ethan would not grow up without the experience of snowmen and sledding and snow angels and catching snowflakes on his tongue. I grew up in New England and while I was never a winter sporty type (my skiing ability is limited to rooting for Bode Miller really really loudly), one of my constant happy memories is the sound and light and feel of the first snow fall of the year, the hush of the white blanket when its new and the pin-prickly cold of the snow on my tongue or getting stuck in my coat collar when being taken by surprise by a snowball. The idea of Ethan never experiencing those things made my heart ache. And so Husband and I promised each other that every year, at least once, we'd find our way to the snow.

Well, Robert Frost had a thing or two to say about how way leads on to way, and how we never quite come back the way we'd expected, either literally or figuratively. Two winters passed, one in Los Angeles and one in the Bay Area, and we didn't make good on our promise to each other. Life got busy, money got tight, yadda, yadda, yadda. Each year, as the ground warmed and the trees popped their new buds, I'd sigh and say, "next year.....I guess."

Thankfully, though, 2011 is the winter of the snow. Not only did it come *this* close to snowing literally in our own backyard (does super sparkly frost on all surfaces count as snow? This California girl says "Yes. Yes, it does."), but a few weekends ago, we made the 5 hour drive to the Sierras and spent the weekend basking in the fabulousness of Tahoe.

I told Ethan we were going about a week before the trip, which means that every morning as I woke up, his groggy little face would lift up from his pillow & he'd croak, "is today the day we go to Tahoe?" He really had no idea what Tahoe was, nor did he have any actual memories of snow, but he's still at that age where he feeds off of my excitement and to say I was giddy to the point of stupidity is probably an understatement. So Ethan shared in my giddiness.

The last time Ethan saw snow, he looked like this....

...oh, excuse me, I was slobbering kisses on my computer screen trying to get to those chubby little cheeks. Ohdeargod, The Cute!

A couple weeks ago, my Tahoe boy....

I was afraid the snow would freak him out, since he really had no idea what to expect of it. He asked countless times during our 5-hour drive "when we get to the cabin, can I play in the snow?" The fact that by the time we got to the cabin we were staying at with friends it would be over an hour past his bedtime and pitch black out did not deter his excitement. And so when we got there, well after 8pm, the first thing Ethan did was run into a snow bank on the side of the driveway while we unloaded the car.

And he loved it. The snow was too hard packed and icy for good snow angels or snow balls that wouldn't sting to the point of just not being fun, but we went sledding and ate snow and spent the day at the ski resort and took skiing lessons and trudged around in the most painful torture devices ski boots known to man (I'm guessing that perhaps we rented the wrong size and that accounts for the agony we put our feet and lower legs through. Correctly-fitting ski boots coulnd't possibly inflict that much pain or no one would ever ski. Ever.) I'll tell you about my ski lesson another day because its really its own epic blog post o' FAIL. (I will tell you this: the instructor put me in a time out for being a really bad skiier. No, really. He did.) But Ethan loved his all-day lesson and when we returned from our skiing debacle on the mountain, we got to watch him ride up the magic carpet and glide down the bunny hill over & over again gleefully. Oh my heart, I was so happy.

sunrise from the cabin

yeah, I might have just laid right down in the snow. It was fabulous.

...and Ethan did, too.

There wasn't a ton of snow right down by the lake, but that changed the day after we left and the Tahoe area got pounded with seven FEET of snow....

On Sunday afternoon while the boys rested, I went to downtown Truckee and took pictures. These are a few of my favorites...
He NAPPED!! In the middle of the day! For the first time in at least a year! Please note that he's clinging to his goggles.

Best weekend ever. Totally worth the three winter wait, but I guarantee it won't be three more years before we're up there again.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dropping Back into the Blogosphere...

Could I fall off of this blog wagon any more than I am? Two months into 2011 & I've got 12 posts? Uch. Bad blogger. In my defense (read: I kind of expect you to believe I'm not just super lazy, which is only partly true), I've spent a lot of my time at the gym, when I'd otherwise be blogging and imbibing huge quantities of chai tea lattes. Aside from the fact that sweating it out at the gym (I swear I could smell chai coming from my pores during the first week) is better for me than grande after grande of chai-y goodness, and the fact that no matter how hard I squeeze my eyes shut and wish for it, being chubby is never going to be healthy or make me happy, I have a bigger purpose. I am training. To walk. A lot.

In September, I'll be participating in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for the Cure. I'm not training for the 3-day, 60-mile walk just to get in shape, although it is an added bonus and incentive. I'm participating because...well, I feel like I can't not participate. In the past couple of years, more friends, former co-workers, former classmates and friends of friends have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I feel like every time I turn around, someone has found a lump, or is starting chemo, or going in for a double mastectomy. Or has been told there is nothing left to be done.

I am at once so unbelievably grateful that, up to this point in my life, none of those people have been me, or my mother, or my best friend. But they've all been someone's daughter, wife and best friend. And they've all been people with busy, fulfilling lives--children, careers, passions, hobbies and beliefs. It is unfathomable for me to imagine how the world must stop spinning with a screech when the words "breast cancer" come out of a doctor's mouth. How the air and light must seem to be sucked out of the room to make space for the claustrophobia of the fear of all that is to come.

I had my first mammogram this month, after finding something that just felt "off" to me. Fortunately, it turned out to be nothing at all, and all I had to endure was the discomfort of my breast being squashed into a pancake in the mammogram machine. But for the few days leading up to the mammogram? My life flashed in front of me while I was driving to the grocery store, or watching TV at night. I had nightmares where the feeling of helplessness left me breathless both in my dream and when I awoke. I wondered how I would deal, would I find the strength to handle a diagnosis with strength and courage? How would I hold up in front of Husband and my sweet baby boy?

And because of that, and because I would walk a thousand miles to spare anyone I love that fear and pain, I am walking. My walking might raise awareness and remind my friends and family to not only get their yearly mammograms but to perform monthly self-tests. The money I raise will go to research that will hopefully help end breast cancer forever. I'd really appreciate your support in reaching my fundraising goal, if you are so inclined and able to help out.

My feet? Are going to be so pissed off at me. I'm pretty sure my legs will never forgive me. And my blog is sadly falling by the wayside, just as it did during NaNoWriMo, except this time I'm spending my free time in the gym instead of Starbucks (::sob::)

I'm working on finding a balance, but with Ethan in preschool only so many hours a week and walking 5 miles a day every day except Wednesday, it doesn't leave a whole lot of time for me to sit and reflect on how stinking cute my kid is, or how funny & sweet it is that every five minutes lately he has abruptly stopped whatever he's doing, demanding that I do the same, so he can say, "Mommy, I love you so so so so much." He's pretty awesome, people.

Speaking of the kid, Husband recently discovered something called a Strider bike, which is a child's bike without pedals. Its intention is to get kids comfortable riding without training wheels for balance so that they can move more easily to a big kid bike. It is fantastic and Ethan is all about floating along, his feet up in the air, balancing his body on the bike while coasting down ramps at the park or down the sidewalk in front of our house. I'm thinking the training wheels will be off the big boy bike by his 5th birthday....

Thanks for coming back to my blog! I promise to be here more often in the days and weeks to come!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Mindfulness and the iPhone

You might remember that a couple of years ago, I made a new year's resolution to try to live a more mindful life--placing myself in, and appreciating, the present moment. It's hard for me (isn't it for you, too?) because I'm one of those "someday, when....(fill in milestone life event here: marriage, children, home ownership, dream career...) life will be perfect..." types of people who is constantly waiting on some as of yet unfulfilled expectation to make my life complete.

I gave it a noble try that year, at least at the beginning, piling up my collection of Thich Nat Hahn books by my bed, reading his beautiful words in the morning and at night, spending those times appreciating the simple fact of my being, or the feel of the cat's purring body against my leg, or the sound of Ethan's gentle he's-still-a-baby-when-he's-asleep breath rising and falling next to me. And I tried a daily practice of including a quote about living a mindful life in my blog to set my purpose for the day. But.

In between those fleeting moments of mindfulness, I found myself, like everyone else, caught up in getting from one moment to the next, heading off one tantrum or another, trying to get to where we needed to be, gnashing my teeth at drivers on the highway or avoiding the news because it was just all too much.

So that didn't quite work out so well, and eventually, because I was starting to stress out about how I wasn't being super zen-y and mindful, it was easier to just put the Thich Nhat Hahn books back on the shelf, delete the copy box from my blog where I'd been writing quotes about mindfulness, and hop back on the just-getting-by treadmill that lets all the little moments slip by unnoticed.

Lately though, I've started to notice a shift in my perspective and how I am interacting with my day and my life. Thanks to my iPhone. First I'll say there are a lot of things I don't like about our smart phone culture. There's the whole propensity to become sucked in and be the exact opposite of mindful--checking Facebook eleventy billion times an hour, entire conversations carried on by text message where the sound of another human voice is never experienced, my child wanting to spend hours sucked into a world of Angry Birds hurtling themselves via sling shot toward smug pigs in ridiculously constructed and nearly indestructible hide-outs. It's not ideal, I realize, and in so many ways saps the mindfulness right out of our lives.

But I've noticed lately that I have my camera function open a lot. Almost all the time. And I find that I am looking around my life, slowing down, my eyes open and aware, looking for beauty, or uniqueness, or joy, for moments that are asking to be captured. And I've been taking pictures of them. Not fancy pictures (although I'm finding there are countless editing apps with funky filters that make things look much groovier than they might be otherwise), nothing you'd blow up and frame; just a quick click to capture whatever it was that caught my eye or made me smile.

I've become so much more aware of the world around me, and my space in it, as I walk through downtown, play with Ethan, wander through shops, etc. Instead of just moving straight ahead, eyes focused on a point in front of me, I find myself moving more slowly, looking at the world around me, taking deeper breaths, taking pictures. It is a really lovely thing. And at the end of the day, I have a record in images of what my day was, a reflection of the life I'm living.


Body Pump--weight lifting to techno music. Oh, the burn...

Echo is not entirely pleased with this cuddle, but he takes what he can get...

Trip to the neighborhood garden store--creepy-eyed garden fairy

Ethan admiring a washed out garden gnome...

Ethan is also quite the iPhone photog; he took this one of the ceramic sun I am currently eyeing for our front porch.

In a moment of vanity-related mindfulness, I marveled at the vast expanse that is my forehead

And then we painted bird houses...
Guess who did which?


Evidence of my restraint at aforementioned garden store--I bought only one pot & one plant, a pretty little Tea Tree.

new birdfeeder

As the sun was going down, Ethan decided it was time to dance a little bit to stay warm. While I don't have the benefit of sharing this with you via video, please note my son's innate ability to dance like Elaine Bennis. I have no idea how he knows the dance, but he does it perfectly.

sun setting through the tree (thank you, caption obvious caption...)

Ethan making some musical magic with one of the old timey street lights on our street.

funky detail on the base of our street light. Never noticed it before yesterday evening.

All those little tiny nubs sticking out of the new branches? Leaves budding.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Stomp Rocket Stampede...

Ethan loves him some stomp rockets. He loves them even more now that Grandma Judy got him a second set for Christmas, thereby cutting out the whole sharing/taking turns silliness that inevitably gets in the way of a preschoolers need for INSTANTGRATIFICATIONNOW!
when you've only got one set. So recently our afternoons, which have been more mid-spring than mid-winter, have comprised of a lot of stomp rocket competitions in the front yard.

Ethan has perfected the art of stomping with his feet--it has become, if you'll pardon the pun, pedestrian to him. He has found that you get a lot more air for your stomp if you use your butt as the main source of power ejecting your rocket from its perch and into the stratosphere. And you know that there's nothing funnier in the life of a 4.5 year old boy (oh, okay, any boy) than a butt. So every time he throws himself down on the big rocket launcher (and he literally hops up and lands flat on his butt--in a way that would crush my tail bone into a thousand pieces), there are fits of giggles and "I did that with my butt!!!!"'s wafting through the airwaves in our neighborhood. And we couldn't be prouder.