Thursday, December 31, 2009

and, in the end...

This morning a 3/4 moon is thinly veiled by high, slow-moving clouds that make the sky something out of a Bulwer-Lytton novel, or at least out of "Young Frankenstein." But that's neither here nor there.

I'm not much for resolutions, so I'm not going to make any. For one thing, I've already got so many opportunities to fail to accomplish things that I don't feel a need to add to my load. For another, it seems somewhat artificial to me to set goals based on a somewhat arbitrary date. January 1 is the start of the year, it's true, but why? What makes a year a year?

Thinking about this I realized that for me the thing worth celebrating is that our days are getting longer once again. Yahoo! More daylight, warming temperatures.... I get why druids and other evil-non-Christian-unAmerican folk celebrate(d) the solstice. It's a celebration I can get into. What's not to like about lengthening days?

And one last issue with NY resolutions -- when I notice something I need to work on (and I do, often), I figure I may as well start working on it right then, when I notice it. So, I'm currently working on being more in the moment with the girls (with everyone, actually). It's so easy to get caught up in whatever I'm doing (washing dishes, trying to put my socks on) that I sometimes miss important moments like K telling me she watched an especially exciting episode of Saddle Club, or L telling me how she and K watched an especially exciting episode of Saddle Club.

Anyway, unlike resolutions, I have no problem looking backward. Probably to a fault. And looking back on this year, it looks pretty darn good, in spite of our needing to buy multiple new appliances (including a new furnace as of 2 days ago).

  • L - This morning I woke up snuggled against L, likely just as I woke up on 1/1/09. But still, she managed to sleep all night in her crib for more nights than I have fingers to count, so this is good.
  • K - K started Montessori pre-school and is getting a lot out of it. She can count past 20 and recognizes most of her letters now. Plus, she's learning about sharing and friends and projects.
  • M - M started horticulture classes and is getting a lot out of them. She too can count and recognize letters and has always been good about sharing and friends and projects.
  • me - I started paddling and am loving that. I also managed to keep my job during this... whatever it's technically called.
  • We have a president who, while not quite the gutsy political risk-taker I might have hoped for, is at least far far better than anything we've had for the previous 8 years.
    Note: Obligatory end-of-year, degrees-of-separation comment -- I had the same 5th Grade teacher (Mrs. Hefty) as Barack Obama, just 2 years before he did, and we both received "Most Improved Student" awards while in her class. (My younger sister was actually in his class, though she missed a chunk of the year with a broken leg.) Which leaves me.... having peaked in 5th grade and him POTUS in 2009. My sister's leg healed fine, by the way. End of brush-with-accomplishment/fame.
So all in all, it's been a grand year for me. And I'll end with this, one of the nicest comments I received this year, this one from my currently visiting mother-in-law:

me (chasing L for some important reason such as to get her into pants in our colder-than-normal, furnace-broken house): Hey, come back here you little monkey!
MiL: You look younger than ever. These girls are keeping you young.
me: Really? I don't look like a sleep-starved maniac?
MiL: No, you really look good.

And that leads me to my motto for the coming year:

Younger, then, in 2010!

Happy Solstice.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

one is the loneliest number...

I've been somewhat irregular with paddling over the last month, due in part to sick kids and in part to our full schedules. But last night we had a good paddle, and I'm still a bit sore.

The weather was calm and relatively balmy (for late December in the Pacific NW), so we were able to head out into Lake Washington, where we did a set of 12 x 1-off/6-on. The most notable aspect of last night's workout was that I sat in seat #1, which won't mean anything to most of you, but which meant that I was supposed to set the pace and keep it regular. Meaning I had to think more than usual while also gasping for breath and fumbling for my CamelBak(tm) drinking tube.

I've only sat #1 once before, and that was one of the most challenging/tiring workouts I've had in a canoe. So I was a little nervous, but willing to give it a go. And you know what? It wasn't that bad. In fact, I felt like I'd managed to not screw up too much, and I actually had some fun with it.

It helped that we were doing a pretty good job of moving the canoe. (We were just 5, with DougM steering.) Meg sat behind me, which was fair given that the last couple of tough workouts she's been the one stroking. We went out Montlake Cut and north along the Laurelhurst shoreline, toward Magnuson Park, making good time. The water was smooth and black and even though there were clouds, the moon occasionally peeked through. I focused on keeping my stroke rate regular as I listened to the quiet shussh of water against the bow and the harsh rasp of my breath in my throat.

OC2 route
(ours would be about the same)

It also helped that Sabine and DougN were keeping pace in the OC2. We pretty much went head-to-head for the entire workout (they took off after we made the turn and started back south, and we weren't able to catch them for 10 or 15 minutes, but eventually we got caught up and were pretty well matched all the way back to the beach). There's something about keeping pace with another canoe, especially one I know is being paddled by good, strong paddlers, that helps motivate me. Though if I were being honest with myself, I'd acknowledge that as 5 people, we probably should have been leaving them in the dust. Still, being able to keep up with them felt pretty good.

And it also felt good that we had a chance to do much of the course for the race I'll be participating in this coming Saturday. This will be my first try at an OC1 race, and I'm a little nervous. I don't like to not do well, but I also don't want to have unrealistic expectations, so my goal is to finish. Seems a do-able goal.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

he's a man, yes he am....

Happy birthday, Grandpa Biddle!

A.P. Biddle

My mother's father was a short, tough guy, an ex-boxer and ex-army man who could charm the women, tell wonderful stories with abandon, and had hands like baseball mitts. He might have seemed like a teddy bear if he wasn't so strong, so tough, so scarred with life experiences.

I don't know a ton about him, partly because he wasn't particularly forthcoming about his past (unless there was a funny story to tell, a story that usually had him as the punchline), and partly because I was too young to fully appreciate him before he died.

One thing I do know is he loved my grandmother like nothing I've ever seen, treating her with so much respect and kindness that it left an impression on me forever. I could tell he felt she was one of the best things that had ever happened to him.

Andy and Nina Biddle, Laie, Oahu - 1924

He and my grandmother lived with my mom, and toward the end, he began exhibiting dementia-like symptoms that may have been linked to his physical life (getting punched in the head isn't likely to help you retain your wits) and/or his drinking (he drank more and more as time went on, especially after my grandmother died). I was scared of him because he was so much a man, and I was so much not. Also, he took it as a personal affront that I'd come over to mow my mom's lawn.

What I (think I) know, from his stories and/or from my mom:

  • He was born in Austria, in a small town that either was destroyed in WWII, or was swallowed up by the expansion of a nearby city. I believe any birth/family records were destroyed in the second world war. (Note: not too long ago something led me to believe he'd maybe actually been born in the US, so this may need updating.)
  • He and his family immigrated to the US, to Philly, where he grew up in the slums with an alcoholic father who beat him.
  • He didn't finish much schooling and was dyslexic, though no one knew at the time
  • He had a sister (younger?) who came out to Hawaii once to visit... Aunt Louise?
  • He ran away from home multiple times, the last time at about 16yo, when he successfully escaped by joining the US Cavalry (lying both about his age and knowing how to ride a horse)
  • The only horses he'd seen before joining the cavalry were the ones pulling the milk wagons in the slums where he'd lived
  • In the cavalry, he was part of the Pershing force that went south across the border to Mexico, chasing Pancho Villa (Grandpa said "we never got close. We'd ride into a town and all the people would know nothing about him. He was a hero to them.")
  • He ended up in Hawaii (~1919?) with the 17th Cavalry and pretty much stayed on
  • He was a boxer, first in the Army, and then later a coach for the Hawaii Golden Gloves team. Ultimately he served as a referee at local matches until he was linked to a scandal that, according to my mother, he had nothing to do with except as a result of being somewhat naive and trusting.
  • He was blue collar all the way, working for the phone company as a lineman, driving an oil truck for Standard Oil (we have photos of him next to his truck on the Pali Highway, with the road looking like it's pretty brand new)
  • He hated unions because when they came in, he no longer had a good working relationship with the men in his line crew
  • He didn't much read or write (his dyslexia and lack of education) but he was a smart and funny guy and could get your laughing at him and his experiences
  • He'd had a dog in the cavalry who rode up on the front of his saddle
  • He had some wonderful army stories, none of which I can fully recall at the moment, but I hope to post these later.

Grandpa and my mom, Waikiki, 1929(?)

And one more, because I just can't resist these old family photos:

The Biddles (w/ Mrs. Lewis, Grandma's mom), Waikiki ~1929

Friday, December 25, 2009

we wish you...

A very merry Christmas...


...Festivus for the rest of us

Thursday, December 24, 2009

photo thursday: it's bound to make you smile...

There are few things as wonderful to me as watching K&L enjoy something together.

Don't these two look like they're up to something?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

will you go 'round in circles...

K&L and I took an hour this week to do the holiday carousel downtown, after which we enjoyed mini doughnuts in the "cool" weather. Here's how it went:
  • K rode a purple charger and loved it, laughing and smiling. She wanted to go again immediately after the ride was done.
  • L clung to a blue (and white) mount and partway through said quietly: "Get off now," her tiny cold hands gripping the metal pole in front of her. I carried her for the rest of the ride.

Post-circular mini-doughnuts

Other events of note: K has a fascination with rolling luggage (and I suspect Santa knows about this and may respond appropriately). As we walked to the carousel in a sharp cold wind, we passed a saleswoman pulling a wheeled sample case. K noticed of course.

K: She got suitcase.
me: Yeah, I see that.
K: K think she getting ready go some place. Maybe airport.
L (in my arms and shivering): Mebbe a-o-port.
me (hugging tighter): Maybe.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

double-definition tuesday: glubs / toe polish

more from the mouth of babe (L):

glubs - noun: clothing worn over your hands to keep them warm.

L: I need my glubs.
me: Your mittens?
L (holding up mittens): No! My glubs!
me: Glubs?
L: No! My GLUBS!
me: Your gloves?
L: Yeah. Need my glubs.
me: Why?
L: I need to go outside.
me: It's about 10 degrees out there. And you don't have any pants on.
me (helping her on with her mittens): Here are your glubs.
L: No, my glubs.

toe polith - noun: colored cosmetic lacquer applied to finger/toenails

L (as her freshly touched up fingernail polish washes off in the tub): Oh no! My toe polith!
me: We can put more one. Your mama can fix that.
L: No! No! No!
(total meltdown, ending in scooping her up out of the tub and into a big towel and up to get into jammies)

Monday, December 21, 2009

a horse is a horse...

To this point, the only real force to be reckoned with for K has been "the parents."

For example, if she wants to watch some Curious George ("CuddyGorge"), the main issue is whether or not she'll get the thumbs up from us. Even choosing an episode has been relatively painless because L has mostly been willing to go along with whatever her sister chooses:

K: Daddy, K want to watch Cuddy Gorge.
L: Watch Cuddy Gorge!
me (anticipating a 20 minute period of free time): Ok.
K: I want to choose!
me: You need to decide together. It's an opportunity to learn to compromise.
K: Want to watch "Muddy Monkey."
me (pointing to "Muddy Monkey"): L, is this one ok?
L (bouncing up and down on the futon couch): Yeah!

But lately some cracks have begun appearing in K's world as L develops her own tastes and preferences, and my suspicion is that she'll become less and less willing to acquiesce.

K is getting some Saddle Club videos for Christmas (we haven't been able to get PBS since the digital switch). If L decides she doesn't like horses, or doesn't want to watch cryptic Australian horse club videos, it's going to get interesting in the basement....

I blame Santa!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

just a small boy on her bike...

I love Dar Williams' music(*) and, as a father of girls, I especially love her awareness of (perceived) gender restrictions and limitations. She's got the kind of balanced outlook that is guaranteed to drive evangelicals of all religious stripes absolutely bonkers, and I love her for that, too.

For my girls, I'd like to especially call out her song, When I Was a Boy:

"I was a kid that you would like, just a small boy on her bike
Riding topless, yeah, I never cared who saw."

I hope K&L both have a strong enough sense of themselves that they aren't swayed too greatly by the expectations (limitations) of others. What they can do is limited only by what they believe is possible. If I can give them anything as a parent, I hope I can give them a sense of self. I hope I can help them learn to think for themselves and to stand up for the things (and people) they believe in.

* Actually, Dar is my secret celebrity crush, and when I was single I used to go to her shows with friends, warning them I might not be going back home with them.

Friday, December 18, 2009


(this one is for my father - Mele Kalikimaka, Dad.)

Weds. night as I was making pesto and K&L played (relatively) peacefully at the kitchen, some Bing Crosby came up on the iPod Christmas mix.

Now, I wouldn't have gone and explicitly sought out Bing, especially not his Christmas music, but it came up as an Amazon deal one day (BTW, if you're into music and don't check out the daily download special on Amazon, you're really missing out!). I think it was $2 for the album. So I bought it.

Why? Especially given that I don't like Christmas music (gasp!)*.

Mostly because it was something my parents, and particularly my dad, used to love to listen to when I was growing up and I figured for 2 bucks I'd see what I thought of it 40 (double-gasp) years later. Had it improved with age?

Semi-related Mark Twain quote digression:

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished by how much he'd learned in seven years."

(Note: There is apparently some question as to whether or not this is truly a Twain quote. See here.)

And I found that I didn't hate it. I disliked it much less than much of the Christmas music you hear these days. But that's beside the point. The point is, after a couple of songs, K looked up.

K: Daddy, K like this guy singing.
me (somewhat stunned): You do?
K: Yeah. This man and this woman. I like them singing.
me: Wow. That's cool. Your grandpa Van would be pleased to know that.
K: Why 'Grandpa Van?'
me: He was my father. Your grandpa. And he used to play this all the time at Christmas.

We let it continue on, through "It Came Upon..." and "Do You Hear..." and then "Rudolph..." came up.

K: We sing this!
me: You do?
K (excitedly): At school. "Rudolph Red Nosed Reindeer." We sing this at school!
me: Cool.
K: Yeah.
L: Rudolph Nose Deer.
K: I like this Daddy, this good music.
L: Good muthic.

"Frosty" was next up, and she liked that too.

It made my evening, her volunteering up this appreciation. She doesn't often seem to be impacted by music, not like L is, so to have her offer up an opinion, and a positive one at that, seemed, well, significant. Especially when most of the songs were things she's not yet familiar with.

Which gets me to this:

*Christmas music, especially the "classics," have been played so much, that even the best of it is long past it's expiration date for me. So much of Christmas music just plain sucks -- it's cheesy, predictable, boring. And even the stuff that's not bad, the stuff that's better written/better performed, is played againandagainandagain, year in and year out, overandoverandover ad nauseam. So even if it was once worth listening to, it has lost almost all appeal. (It's no different than with albums you loved that the guy next door in the dorm played over and over until you couldn't stand them. Even the best tunes get pretty well used up on repeated listening.

So Christmas music? Bah! And to rub salt in the wounds, the "season" starts earlier every year, and so too does the canned, schlocky music.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

photo thursday: just someone I used to know...

(historic) photo thursday:
"historic" only in that it's an old family photo, so family history...

Dad, with his father ("Van")
Approximately 1935-ish?
Possibly during their round-the-world trip

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

i talk to myself, but i don't listen....

Words matter.

That's my position for the day, and I'm not changing it.

I've been thinking about words a fair amount, partly because I write for my job, and partly because I have the wonderful opportunity to listen as K&L work their ways toward verbal literacy. It's a beautiful process, one that entertains us and amazes us. And in one of those sad examples of old-dog-new-tricks-failure, I seem to regularly have to relearn that the girls' vocal abilities outstrip their comprehension. This is especially obvious with L, but it's true with both of them.

So, words. Last night this memory came to me during a hard paddling workout:

age: 4th grade (more or less), which would have been Miss Tomita's class, for those of you who are keeping track. (How can I remember all my grade school teachers but not to bring my lunch?!?)
location: basement art room of Castle Hall, Punahou
actors: other boys, the cool ones, talking about surfing and surfboards
outsider: me, wanting to join in, and overhearing, offer up my comments on the "keg."

The other boys, the ones who'd grown up in Honolulu rather than the backwaters of rural Maui, whose families were members of the Outrigger Canoe Club and had summer houses on the north shore and paddled and knew the right things and the right people, they all jumped on my mistake. "'Keg?' It's not a keg!" Not even bothering to give me the correct word (skeg).

And so I faded into the background, focusing on my slightly off-center pottery project, never quite connecting with the cool kids, never even getting on a surfboard until high school, at which point I failed to really learn much in the way of surfing.

This photo captures my coolness apex, with regard to surfing:

Pretty awesome, no?

Not that I blame my lack of surfing skill on being smacked down by 4th grade boys, but the sting still hurts, apparently. (Curious how physical exertion, the exhaustion and lack of oxygen, can allow these long ago moments to bubble to the surface! There I was, gasping for breath on Lake Union, when all of a sudden I remembered not knowing the word for the pointy part on the underside of a surfboard....) For the record, I was a decent swimmer, and became a pretty good body surfer. Just never quite "got" the board thing in any way that mattered.

So, I want to remind myself that while I enjoy K&L's missteps in usage and pronunciation, I also want to be encouraging and supportive. I'll just need to find other people to belittle.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

double-definition tuesday: cared and cratchy

cared - adjective: to frighten

L: Do that!
me: What?
L: That thing! Do that!
me: (hiding to jump out at her) Ok.
L: (running past me as I jump) AAAAHH! You cared me! (loud giggles)
me: I cared you?
L: No, you cared me!
me: I scared you?
L: Yeah, you cared me!. (running back into the living room) Do that!

catchy - adjective: bristly or rough

L: Dada, you cratchy.
me: No I'm not, I shaved today.
L: You cratchy?
me: Nope. Feel.
L: (feeling my cheek) You not cratchy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

music monday: she's just a girl who...

me (dancing at the kitchen sink with the iPod going): Billie Jean is not my lover, she's just a girl who...
K (at the table, eating a bagel): Why Billie Jean?
me: ... says that I am the one. Um, because that's how he wrote it.
K: Why "not my lover?"
me: Uh, because I really wasn't there that night, dancing in the round.
K (quizzical look): Daddy?
me: Wanna dance?

Friday, December 11, 2009

talk like ... an egypthian?

more L-speak, or rather, L-sing:

ith thnoring ith pouring
the old mith ith thnoring
he bump hith head
didn't get up in the morning

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

double-definition tuesday: mote / bonzo

mote - noun: a device used to turn Curious George off.

L: "Dada, I turn off the dvd. Where the mote."
K: "Daddy, she wants the remote."
L: "I need the mote."

bonzo - noun: a pale, round bean frequently requested as a substitute for whatever is currently being served for dinner.

L: "I need more bonzo beans."
me: Try this.
L: "What this?"
me: It's tofu.
L: "I no like it. I need more bonzo beans."

Monday, December 7, 2009

i just want to hear girls talk...

There's something strange and wonderful about the sisterly relationship that's evolving between K&L. K is the eldest, and that automatically establishes her as the incumbent, but L is quickly learning to "tweak" her sister. L obviously loves and looks up to her sister, but she's starting to stand up and insist on her own point of view. And she frequently takes the initiative. But K is still the "big sister," so L has to find creative and non-physical ways to establish herself.

A recent conversation, as described by M

is on an antibiotic for her ear infection. K is fascinated by it and likes to "help" administer the doses by pushing in the plunger of the syringe to squirt the medicine into L's mouth. I suspect she's jealous of the special treatment L seems to be getting.

L: I take biotic medthin.
K: It's antibiotic.
L: (perhaps recognizing that there's no arguing with her sister on pronounciation) Ith my medthin.
K: But it's antibiotic.
L: Ith my medthin.

Discussion over.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

it's my party....

Birthday stats:

number of balloons: 12
number of balloons popped: 3
number of balloon given away: 1
number of cupcakes: ~12
number of cupcakes remaining: 0
number of family guests: 2
number of neighborhood guests: 3

Birthday girl and big sister, acting all growed up:

Things went well, presents were opened, cupcakes eaten (or the frosting licked off). We got to visit with friends and family and L is now officially 2 (as opposed to the 2 day 'gray zone' during which she was still 1 to everyone but her parents and the IRS).

We've had some interesting reactions to the news that we didn't bother mentioning to either her or K that Thursday was L's actual birthday, everything from 'why didn't *I* think of that when my kids were younger?' to 'you CAN'T do that!' But we can and we did, and I'm pretty sure no one was damaged or cheated by it. If they were, I can always plead ignorance. This is the very first 2nd birthday of a 2nd child I've ever been responsible for. How was I to know?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

... you're playing with fire

We're having a small (family-only) celebration for L this morning. 2 days after her birthday. And here's the thing: we didn't even mention on the 3rd that it was her birthday. How parental is that?

Thursday wasn't a day we could get family together, we were working and K&L had swimming lessons and we didn't want to do 2 celebrations, so we just quietly moved official recognition to Saturday. How parental is that?

Imagine the reaction of a 6yo: YOU CAN'T DO THAT!

But, hey, we're parents, and the realities of the world are our realities.

One bonus of this approach -- M and I talked more than once on Thursday, sharing memories of the day 2 years previous, when we left K home with her aunt and focused on the immediate task at hand. We didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl, and and at the end of the day, there she was, L, our number 2.

Who knew she'd be so different from her sister? Who knew how she'd worm her way into our lives (and, frequently, into our bed)?

So, parental or not, M and I got to celebrate L's 2nd birthday twice, once on the 3rd, and now on the 5th. And neither L nor K has any idea how manipulative we've been. We may as well take advantage while the advantage is there for the taking. It can't be long now before they're the ones taking advantage of us....

Friday, December 4, 2009

blue.... seattle moonlight...

On Tuesday night we did a good workout in the crisp, clear, full-moon-lit evening. And it was good. There was almost no wind, so we were able to get out onto Lake Washington rather than paddling down to the Locks and back (which we do when the wind is blowing too hard), so that was a treat. And then add to this the fact that it was clear and a full moon sat in the east over the Cascade mountains, lighting up the black water with a silver sheen....

The workout itself was a challenge: 8 x 1min off/9min on.

Our boat felt good nearly the entire time, even with just 5 paddlers. Meg sat in #1 and I was in 2, the second workout in a row in which I was following her. I felt like I was doing a pretty good job of keeping in sync (except when I wasn't -- there were definitely times when I'd "come to" and realize I'd been somewhere else mentally and needed to focus on my timing). And because the water was so flat, glassy even at times, the canoe skimmed forward with the ama echoing the quiet slap of tiny waves as it moved with us.

Kristi sat in 3, 4 was open, Jack was in 5, and DougN steered in 6.

There's something really wonderful about paddling in a canoe that feels like it's moving well.

One thing I've begun to notice is how much of an impact water conditions can have on a crew. When we got out into a (slight) breeze, the smooth feel disappeared a little. It's hard to keep in time and in form when the water is choppy or bumpy. This is something I'd like to focus on personally, and something I think we need to get better at as a group -- continuing to work well as a team even when conditions are sub-optimal. For one thing, it's not that often glassy calm, and for another, if we hope to do decently in any salt water races (Hatless Island, Catalina, Napali Challenge) or at the Gorge, we need to be able to handle the conditions.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

happy birthday baby...

Two. 2, too.

How'd you go from this:

to this:

And in just a few months (it seems).

You're no longer a baby.
"I tod-del-ler" you say when we ask if you're a baby? a horse? a doggie?
"No, I tod-del-ler!"

And you are. You toddle around like a drunken sailor, 3 sheets to the wind, ever on the edge of losing it, yet rarely doing so.

And when you do, the experience is immediately incorporated into the family mythology:
L: "One time I fall down, bump my head.
me: "You head-banger."
L: "No, I tod-del-ler. Thool thlip and I fall down and bump my head."
me: "Yes, you're our toddler."

Oddly, though you pronounce words uniquely, when we repeat your pronunciation, you shake your head and insist we've said it wrong:

us: "You a tod-del-ler?"
L: "No, tod-del-ler."
us: "Tod-del-ler?"
L: "N0! Tod-del-ler!!"
us: "Toddler?"
L: (smiling) "Yeah, I tod-del-ler." Head tilted down against your shoulder in some strange mimic of shyness you don't intend. "I tod-del-ler."

You can occupy yourself with a doll, the Etch-a-Sketch, a sticker book, all the while singing to yourself:


You'll make up words if you don't know them or if you want to get a reaction.
"The boopy on the bus go round and round, round round, the boopy on the bus..." and the other afternoon I heard you:

Are you sleepy?
Are you sleepy?
Brudder Don?
Brudder Don?

You cried most of your first 6 months, but though those long nights are still clear for me, they seem the distant past, and what I have left of them is the memory of carrying you tucked into my sweatshirt, walking circles around the dark basement while singing "I Will" and "Sweet Baby James." Now your tears, when they come, come quickly and disappear just as fast. Squalls passing through a generally sunny area. You come running into the kitchen:

L: "Daddy, thow you thomething. Thow you."
me: "Ok, what?"
L: "Ith out he-yer."
me: "Out he-yer?"
L: "No, out he-yer," leading the way to the living room. "Look." Pointing to dampness on the couch cushion. "I cwy-ing."
me: "Crying? Are those your tears?"
L: "Yeah," laughing. "My tea-yers."

You love laughter, especially laughter you can draw out of us. You're a natural joker, playing for the laughs. Making up words to songs until you get a laugh out of your sister, running, "pinning" (spinning), laughing and pushing and suddenly turning into a sobbing mess if Lucy licks you, needing a kiss where ever her tongue touched.... You push limits, live outside the box, and do it grinning, laughing, dancing along the edge of unacceptable, ignoring "No" and "Sit Down" and "Come here" with so many giggles it's hard to really get angry.... Yet you seem to know where the non-negotiable lines are.

L: "That draw angerouth."
us: "Yes, it's dangerous. It's got the knives."
L: "We no touth it."
"Right. You don't touch it."
L: "It angerouth."

You also love snuggling, more so than your sister ever did, and we like it too. You're a great hugger, a skin-to-skin cuddler ("cud-del-ler"), a tuck in tight and hunker down tod-del-ler.

You're been a challenge and a joy and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Happy second birthday. We love you.

Oh yes, one more thing. Your favorite flavor of ice cream is "belinda."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

the mangos are sweet...

Another photo thursday wednesday, this one from the past:

Lahaina harbor sunset, w/ surfer and VW bug

I spent a fair amount of time in Lahaina, back when I was taking time off from college. I worked in a shop there and regularly took my camera with me on walks around town during my "lunch" which was really dinner.

This particular picture though, was taken on a photo-roadtrip with my mom, during Hurricane Fico. It's misleading how calm things look. I've got other pictures from Maalaea and Launiupoko Park that show more Hurricane-y wave action. Here though, the Lahaina Roadstead is protected from the south by Lana'i. Which makes sense given the history of the place -- it was the capital for some time, in part because of its protected waters and nice coast. It was also where the whalers could anchor safely. But I digress....

How cool is it that Mom was willing to drive around the island with me, hanging out while I took pictures of waves (mostly)? Mom was frequently cool like this, willing to adventure with me. I think it helped that the things I wanted to do (go look at the water, explore Hawaiian petroglyphs, go up to the top of Haleakala just for the hell of it) were things she wanted to do as well. If it'd been shopping she would not have been interested.

Unrelated info tidbit: Mom told me that when she and Dad were young marrieds, my Grandpa Van, the entomologist, would come over from Oahu and just for fun go walking in Puu Niauniau to look for bugs. A bugsman's holiday, if you will. With Dad working at HC&S, Mom was free to join Grandpa. And she says she loved those days of wandering with him up on the slopes of Haleakala, exploring and enjoying the outdoors.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

the first of december was covered in snow...

No, not this 1st of December.

This one:
1 Dec, 2007

So why mention a 1st of December from 2 years ago? Because it's L's birthdayweekmonth, and 2 days after this snowfall we were in the hospital doing a scheduled meet-and-greet.

In between the 1st and the 3rd was the 2nd, most notable for the enormous downpour (rain, not snow) that flooded our newly finished basement room. But that's another tale for another day that involves my getting stressed out because water was pouring in over the doorstep at 8pm and M telling me "we can't do anything about it, so we may as well not get stressed," and me realizing she was absolutely correct and going to sleep and M continuing to get up every 45 minutes or so to bail the stairwell in an attempt at keeping the (inevitable) flood from rising. Even though she was scheduled to be induced at 7am the next morning. And I was fast asleep beside her.

One more and done:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

broken english....

Sure signs that the email you received from the "Credit Union Australia" requires immediate attention:

"During our regualry scheduled accounts maintenance....

.... the Web Banker Billing Deptartment."

Why can't my bank have a deptartment? Or was that outlawed?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

... hope you know how glad i am

What I'm thankful for these days

I never dreamed I'd be a father, nor that I'd enjoy it as much as I am. A big part of that has to do with having waited. If not more mature, I'm less immature than, say, 15 years ago. Another huge aspect of my satisfaction relates to M and the balance, humor and patience she brings to our relationship and to the challenges of parenting. Thanks y'all!

* from my favorite verse of Spring Wind by Greg Brown

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

'scuse me while i kiss the sky

It's a pain in the ass, being so open-minded and nonjudgmental.

Right now I'm about half-way through this novel that, for lack of a better word, is, well, a romance novel. It says so right on the spine. Actually, it says "Historical Romance" which seems even worse somehow.

I'm enjoying it. It's reasonably well written, it's funny, and the plot has hooked me. I wouldn't say it's great writing, but it's certainly better than some things I've read, and it's keeping me entertained. I picked it up after reading the author's web site bio blurb. I also got to wondering if perhaps maybe I could write something similar. But I'm not so sure about that. She's funny, and that is what makes it work for me. I'm more curmudgeonly, and that's a little harder sell when it comes to romance novels.

But here's the thing: the cover is purple. And when I say purple, I mean PURPLE. Or maybe violet? (the protagonist's eyes are regularly described as violet, so that would be a nice tie-in I suppose) Which means it looks so.... romance-y, damn it! I have to open it surreptitiously to read on the bus and find ways to slip it back into my bag before getting out, because, ehem, Mr. Businessman in the next seat, I'm a guy too, and er, Ms. Banker/Lawyer/suited woman, I'm a man. And it's purple!

In case anyone is as open-minded as I am, it's called Splendid (amazon link), by Julia Quinn. Her personal blurb from her web site gives you a taste of her sense of humor and maybe helps you understand why I decided to give the book a chance. That and I'm open minded and nonjudgmental.

And "holy gosh," in grabbing that amazon link I just saw a couple of other versions of the cover, and I'm now grateful for the one I have. What it's got: a lot of purple flowers (I think) and a small picture of a carriage. What it's not got: a Fabio-style shirtless man with the pecs of a surfer, kneeling behind a Stevie Nicks-haired woman who's sitting overcome on the ground.... I think I'll keep my purple version, thankyouverymuch!

* To shore up my "cred" I'd like to mention that I'm also reading A.J. Liebling's World War II Writings. Oh, and Frog and Toad Are Friends. Neither of which has a purple cover or a shirtless man on it.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm a going fishin'

Here's one of those work situations I never know exactly how to handle:

You walk into the shared kitchen, which is empty, and am assaulted by the smell of someone's fishy lunch. You can't tell if it's sitting in the microwave waiting to be picked up, or if someone has come and gone, leaving just the perfume behind. You get your coffee and, because you're a good Seattlite, fill your water bottle, thinking how no one should ever bring/reheat fish at work. Then you turn to go, and you pass someone coming into the room.

Do you:
  1. nod and smile and walk on, leaving them to think the same thoughts about the fish, but associated forever with you?
  2. say "get ready, someone reheated fish for lunch, and pee-yew!" preparing them whilst simultaneously letting them know that you wasn't responsible, and risking offending them because in fact it was their fish and their lunch?
  3. scuttle away without making eye contact to write a quick blog post?

Monday, November 23, 2009

born to be wild....

I came into work late today because I needed to take L into the doctor.

She'd been running a spikey fever for several days but was over it, yet still didn't seem herself. And then yesterday she started complaining about her ear. We decided it was better to be safe than sorry. That and, if we can get her feeling better again, we have a chance in hell of getting our bed back to ourselves.

So, I took her in and she did great while the doc peered into one and then the other ear, muttering to herself that there was "a lot a wax in there." L did great even when the doc pulled out a long chopstick-like ... stick and dug around in her (L's, not the doc's) ears. L did great when the nurse then wrapped her in cellophane and a overlarge gown. And then she'd had enough.

When the nurse shot 4 separate syringes of water into her left ears (one that the doc said had a hard ball of black wax in it that she suspected was hiding an ear infection), L said "F#@$ this" (more or less) and started to cry, even though I told her to squeeze my thumb (she was already holding onto it tightly).

But, the hard black ball o' wax came out into the cup I was holding under L's ear (making me complicit in the evil deed I imagine).

And then the doc came back and looked into her ear one more time and said, "Yup, there's an infection there, and it isn't pretty. It's bulging in there."

I liked that. I like this doc. She looks about 23 and is casual and willing to say "it's a perfect time for ear infections, right after you've had all that snot." And I like that she said L's ear infection "isn't pretty." I think she's older than 23, but I still like her.

Home again, home again, after a stop at the bagel shop. And then on to work.

Which brings me back to the point of this. I drove in because I was going to be working late, and means dealing with parking. I parked and paid for 2 hours, then moved and parked and paid for another 2 hours. Which takes me to 5.46pm. But pay parking runs until 6pm.

Am I going to move/park/pay again?

Nope. Because I'm one bad-a@# dude. And because we've been running on little sleep for over 2 weeks now (first K had a week of high temps, and now L) and that increases my bad-a@$ness and my dudeness. And because I'm lazy.

I never don't pay for parking. But I'm doing it this afternoon. We'll see in a few hours if I regret my wild&craziness ....

Sunday, November 22, 2009

village, people....

I've been thinking about how we attempt to persuade people to do (or not do) things. This morning the thought is fresh in my mind because I'm a parent and most of my time is spent persuading my little people to do (or not do) things.

And also because someone at work sent out a company-wide message with the subject line "It takes a village..." and a body that continues:

to keep a kitchen clean.

Please note that we don't employee a Kitchen clean-up crew but we do employee a number of people that use the shared Kitchens....

Besides possibly belonging on a site like this one, the message struck me as largely counter-productive. I doubt anyone will change their habits in any way, due to the message. I suspect the more likely result will be exactly the opposite of what is desired.

I once worked with a manager who made a suggestion when one of her employees complained that others on the team weren't doing their share: Lift a little less. By that she meant, if you're carrying the load, others won't bother, and they may not even be aware that they aren't doing their share. From their point of view, everything is getting done, so obviously things are good. I think that lesson could apply here.

As a parent, my daily need to persuade is only going to increase as my girls get older and more definite in their own opinions.

Right now we persuade using humor and redirection and ignoring and sometimes by putting our feet down and insisting that K&L do things as we're asking.

Redirection will become less effective as their awareness increases. Putting our feet down even more so (less so?). Humor though, can continue to work, when applied properly. That and a foundation of trust and respect.

I hope we're building that foundation of respect with the girls. I suppose we won't know for years, if at all. But luckily M is a fantastic role model, and with luck the girls will continue to listen to us and to take our suggestions/recommendations/requests seriously. If not, we'll start posting photos on the refrigerator, letting them know what they're supposed to do.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

do ya, don't ya?

A hypothetical question:

You've waited weeks to get a hard-to-find immunization. Now, the morning of your appointment, you're feeling slightly stuffed up, you've begun sneezing and it's getting hard to hear through cotton-y ears.

Do you go ahead and get the shot?

Friday, November 20, 2009

can't you hear the music?

This weekend, while solo-parenting, I had one of those transcendent moments in which everything seems to come together, and the world is wonderful. What happened is that, tired of the playlist I'd created for K&L, I switched the iPod to some live Bruce Springsteen (Live in Dublin, if you're interested), and started singing along with Erie Canal. (amazon link)

"I've got a mule and her name is Sal....

Low bridge, everybody down
Low bridge, we're comin' to a town
You'll always know your neighbor
And you'll always know your pal
If you've ever navigated on the Erie Canal"

K: That a man singing.
L: Man thinging.
me: Yeah, that's Bruce Springsteen. 'The Boss.' He sings "Froggy Went a Courtin'" (something on their playlist)
K: K like his voice.
L: Like hith voith.
me: (no words, just a happy smile.)

We wandered through the rest of the weekend singing this to each other.

One fly in the ointment: I'd been singing it "Blow bridge, everybody down, blow bridge, we're coming to a town" figuring that they were blowing a horn to let the bridge keeper know to raise the bridge. But given the rest of the lyrics, "Low bridge" makes so much more sense. Not that it'll change what we sing in OUR household. It doesn't matter. We like his voith!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

i got you babe...

Another Fisher-Price photo Thursday

self-portrait w/ daughter #2:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

journey through... v1

R.H. "Van" Van Zwaluwenburg, Honolulu, 1929

Reyer Herman Van Zwaluwenburg, "Grandpa Van" to my sisters and me.

Here's what I know about K&L's Great-Grandpa Van:

  • Born 2/5/1891, Kansas City
  • Died 10/22/1970, Honolulu
  • Attended Massachusetts Agricultural College, 1909-1913
  • Worked in Puerto Rico, the US and Mexico before moving to Hawaii in 1924
  • Married Mary Alice Pattyson June 1916 (they met in P.R.)
  • lived in Hawaii from 1924 on (except for 4 years 1958-62 when he retired to Santa Rosa, CA)
  • Worked for Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association Experiment Station from 1924 until he retired in 1956 (as Principal Entomologist)
  • Expert on sugar cane pests and on Hawaiian entomology in general and Elateridae (beetles) in particular
  • Studied and collected insect specimens in Japan (1929), West Africa (1935 - Mediterranean fruit fly parasites for shipment to Honolulu), Canton Island (1940,41), Mexico (1947)
  • Has an insect (beetle?) named after him (I need to dig up the paperwork on it to identify it exactly)
  • Always wore an eye patch and had a Clark Gable mustache when I knew him, making him look a little like a swashbuckling... scientist....
  • Mixed an awesome Shirley Temple (extra cherries!)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

pea you....

L has developed some nice shortcuts to speed her requests of us. One of the most often used is "Pea you [insert request]?"

What she means is, "Would you please be so kind as to [request] for me?"

L: (arms lifted) Pea you... pickmeupupup?
me: (lifting her upupup, because, how can I resist?) Umph!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Bonus photo Thursday Saturday:
(taken using K's Fisher Price camera)

L, on an important call and looking less focused than usual:

it might be magical, but not THAT magical....

(note: M is down in LA for the weekend)

It's not yet 7.30a and already we've had several diaper changes. Pooping in our house involves needing "privacy" (or "pwivacy" as L puts it). So the dog goes outside and I say that she "needs privacy too." The girls laugh, then:

K: Lucy need privacy?
me: Yup, she's out there pooping.
L: Lucy need pwivacy?
me: Yup.
K: mommy need privacy in Los Angeles?
L: mommy need pwivacy?
me: Um, yeah, I'm sure she'll need privacy at some point...
K: why?
L: why?
me: Everybody needs privacy. It's a part of being alive.

Friday, November 13, 2009

clown time is.... starting

L seems to never use a word when three or four will do. She's a talker and has been for some time now. Her sentences extend 7 and 9 words in length, and have for some time now, but what we're realizing is that her comprehension isn't quite up to her verbal skills. She can talk beyond her understanding. That's probably relatively normal for 2yo kids, but we've been taken in by her ability to talk.

She'll hear K say something and will take it on as her own. This could be something like "It's really raining outside." That becomes, in L-speak, "Ith really rainin' outthide." Whether or not it actually is. She regularly wants to "Tell you thomthing!" but when we say, "Yes, what is it?" she's frequently stumped and has to fall back on something she's told us before ("One time L fall off windowtheat." "Ith really rainin' outthide.")

"I need pwivathy" she'll tell us when she goes off to poop and wants to be left alone. I'm not sure she knows what "pwivathy" is, but she knows when to use the word. "S" seems to be a stumbling block. "You cwachy" she tells me as she rubs my chin.

Hamthrax? Boardshorts!

K's been sick with a fever for 6 days now, and so is somewhat subdued, but L seems as vital and strong as ever, providing humor and distraction for all of us. Last night after I gave the girls their baths, K was having chills and we bundled her into her covers while I picked out some pajamas for her to wear. L went to pick out her own PJs and came back with some pants and boardshorts from K's drawer.

me: "You want to wear those pants?"
K: "This my pajamas!"
me: "Is it ok if she wears them?"
K: "Um... ok."
me (dressing L in her chosen pants): "You need to pick a shirt too."
L: "And thith." (waving the boardshorts)
me: "L, those are boardshorts!" (looking over at K on her bed) "She wants to wear boardshorts."
K (starting to giggle): "Boardshorts!" (more giggling, in which we all join in)
L starts to run circles around the room, wearing pants and waving the boardshorts over her head and yelling nonsense.
K (laughing harder still): "Boardshorts!"

It made me happy to hear K laughing, and I was intrigued watching L clearly playing to the crowd. She's got the makings of a class clown, with all the parenting challenges that suggests. At 12 or 16 she's likely to be a real handful!

(L will also make up words to songs, nonsense words, silly things, and K loves it. "Sing that silly song," she begs her sister, and L will sometimes do so, though as often she'll be contrary just to get a reaction, and sing the original.)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

anywhere you hang your head...

(photo Thursday)

Kasteel Zwaluwenburg near Oldebroek, NL

The family name comes from this estate, but this isn't the house our family lived in. Remember, they left to emigrate to the U.S. I suspect my relatives lived in something more like a hovel or barn somewhere nearby.

I took this picture when my older sister and I did a "roots" trip through the Netherlands. It's a flat, wet, cold country, and I'm pretty sure I would have been tempted to emigrate as well, if I'd lived there. In a barn.

According to a memoir from younger brother Jacob, our great-grandfather Reyer emigrated to America with his family (father, step-mother and siblings) in 1850 to avoid military conscription. Reyer was the eldest of the siblings, and at 19, had to step in and care for his brothers and sisters after his father, step-mother and youngest sister died shortly after they all settled in Michigan.

(Note: The story I'd been told was slightly different: when Reyer's mother died and his father remarried, his step-mother had no interest in the children and they emigrated (w/out parents) to the United States. That doesn't seem to fit with the details and facts published elsewhere, so I'm not sure how that story developed among our immediate family, but I'd disregard it as suspect.)

Here's something I found on the web regarding the family name:

"Reyer van Zwaluwenburg who was also one of the Dutch pioneers in Western Michigan gives the following explanation as to the origin of his name. He says that his grandfather's name was recorded originally as Reyer Aartzoon (zoon meaning son). His father's name was Aart Reyerzoon. When the Napoleonic edit went into effect his name, Reyer, was changed to Reyer van Zwaluwenburg because the family lived in Zwaluwenburg, a famous estate in the Netherlands. "

(found here)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

time waits for no one....

Yesterday I had a disconcerting experience: during a quick web search about the Rolling Stones, I came across a current photo of Mick Taylor. Wow.

Mick Taylor, the boyish guitar wonder who joined the Stones at 21yo to replace Brian Jones, and then contributed some of the most recognizable classic guitar parts during their classic period between 1969 and 1974. That would be the period that includes Let it Bleed, Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out, Sticky Fingers, Exile on Main Street, Goats Head Soup and It's Only Rock 'n' Roll. Sticky Fingers was my go-to album all through high school. The album I played before swim meets to get me worked up. The album I could play in my head in its entirety to pass the time while working in the over-loud pineapple cannery.

In a moment my mental picture of Taylor went from:

to this:

I had to remind myself that, yes, we're all getting older (if we're lucky -- Brian Jones, for example, isn't, but that's a different story). And there's a certain inevitability to getting older, including but not limited to this: we aren't going to look like we did when we were 21 or 25 or even 35. Not Taylor, not me, not my kids.

Why does it matter? It probably doesn't much, beyond the fact that it feeds into a memory I recently had. My sister drove her 15yo son up from Olympia to Seattle to leave him for the day at Bumbershoot, our local, multi-day music festival. She swung by our house on her way back home, and I told her how her willingness to do this reminded me of something our mother had once done for me.

Back in January of 1973, the Rolling Stones played at the HIC in Honolulu. They were headed west on their Pacific Tour, with Hawaii their last U.S. stop. And for some reason, my mother had the confidence and generosity and boldness to allow me, all of 14yo, to attend. I may have browbeat her into it. I'm not sure. That's not a detail I remember.

It all came about through a fluke of luck and timing. The 2 scheduled shows (1/21 8pm and 1/22, 10pm) had quickly sold out, and they added a 3rd, early show on 1/22. I somehow managed to get a nose-bleed ticket to that 6pm show. Up in the last row. The ticket cost me $6.50 and I still have the stub.

Mom dropped me off at the HIC and came back for me 2 hours later. I can't imagine what it must have felt like, dropping her 14yo son off at something like that. The Stones had a reputation, and there was already a long-haired, counterculture crowd gathered. It probably helped a lot that the show was so early. I may have been the only kid dropped off by his mom at the show that night.

Looking back, I'm amazed at my mother's willingness to allow me this experience, and I'm extremely grateful. As a result, I managed to see the Stones play during one of their all-time great tours, managed to see Taylor play in his second-to-last-ever US concert (one bootleg of the late show that same night is called "Mick Taylor's Last U.S. Performance"). For years this concert was my best-ever live show attended. It may still be. Imagine seeing the Stones in their prime! Wow. But even more important to me is the memory of my mother allowing me this opportunity. That, in the end, matters as much as the music.

It's a reminder that being a parent sometimes means giving kids some space, giving them some rope and opportunity and hoping, praying they don't choke themselves. I sat in that nosebleed section, surrounded by older men (mostly), peering through a smoky haze at the far away stage, declining multiple offers of shared joints, watching Mick Jagger prance around the stage in his white jumpsuit, watching Keith and Mick sit facing each other with acoustic guitars to play Sweet Virginia (or was it Dead Flowers?), feeling the crazy intensity of the band and the crowd, chest resonating with the amplified bass and drums, and by the end of the evening, ears ringing, I knew I'd been a part of something special.

My mom provided me many good examples of parenting, and one of the most important things she did was give me a sense that she trusted my judgment (and so, helping me to live up to her expectations). Among other experiences she exposed me to that same year: the Broadway Cast version of Hair (and the Honolulu Symphony Hall) for my 13th birthday and a screening of Woodstock at the Waialai Drive-in Theater (right next to the Jolly Rogers drive-in). She had an open mind and a willingness to give me experiences.

I only hope I'm able to give my own girls a sense of my respect and trust of them, and to allow them to experience things for themselves, to make their own decisions and their own way in this world. After all, how else do we form our sense of ourselves and the world except through experiences? Nothing else has the same impact.

I'm forever grateful for Mom for giving me this opportunity, and hope I can live up to her example.

P.S. It's interesting to read about the show now. To quote from one web page: "[Ben] Fong-Torres characterized this concert as a downer compared to the first show... a somewhat tired, slow performance..." But that didn't (and doesn't) matter to me. As I said, it's more about my mom than about the Stones.

P.P.S. Also interesting is to read that ZZ Top opened for the Stones. If I close my eyes and imagine hard enough, I can imagine that I remember this, but I don't, not really.

And one final note: Here's the set list for the late show that same night, from an audience recording I have ("Mick Taylor's Last...."). The early show, my show, would have been (nearly?) identical:
  • Brown Sugar
  • Bitch
  • Rocks Off
  • Gimme Shelter
  • It's All Over Now
  • Happy
  • Tumbling Dice
  • Sweet Virginia
  • Dead Flowers
  • You Can't Always Get What You Want
  • All Down The Line
  • Midnight Rambler
  • Rip This Joint
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • Street Fighting Man

Sunday, November 8, 2009

definition: ballsheimers

A terrible illness that attacks the memory and gives its victims the balls to attack others for things they themselves made a career of.

Usage: see any post-November 2008 Dick Cheney interview for examples.

(stolen from Jon Stewart)

Friday, November 6, 2009

I can't stand up...

On Tuesday I went to K's school for an "observation." Which, in the manner of West Seattle Montessori School, means I stood around for 30 minutes, something of a distraction, while the kids did their best to continue continuing on. K was definitely distracted by my being there, but I gather that was ok too. She showed me what she'd been working, and the teaching assistant suggested she do some things while I watched (adding glitter to her fish, for example).

I loved being there, seeing what she did for part of her day. She's not been especially forthcoming about what goes on at school, and I'm not sure why that is, but there was something I saw that made a small light bulb go off. Near the end of my 30 minutes they started music, and this meant they all sat in a circle and the woman who teaches them songs came in and they sang.

The first thing they need to do is sit quietly. K did a good job of this, listening to her teacher, even with the distraction of my being nearby. She looked back at me several times, but it was clear she was focused on doing the right thing and on paying attention. Once the music teacher came in and started them on a new song (new month, November, so last month's Halloween song doesn't much apply any longer -- now instead of pumpkins, they're singing about turkeys sitting on a fence), K paid close attention to her. There were hand motions and new words and it seemed clear to me that K didn't catch all of them at first. She watched closely though, so closely that it was hard to catch her attention to wave goodbye and blow her a kiss.

Here's the thing that registered with me: I've always been a watcher, unwilling to really step out and do something when I don't feel I've got it nailed. I've also been good at following directions, at least back before I got to be a stubborn stick-in-the-mud. I think K's inherited both these traits, at least to some degree.

I like the paying attention and following instructions bit. I just hope she doesn't sit too long and is willing to make mistakes and be a fool. That's how we all learn, by falling on our faces. Easy for me to say, right? Here's to falling down!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

no ka best...

It's photo Thursday....

We took a Sunday morning field trip to the canoes so the girls could see what I've been doing.

wait a darn.... couple of hours

It turns out that we went farther (11.22 miles) and longer (1.59 hours) on Tuesday than I'd thought. Well no wonder I was so beat!*

Here, for anyone who cares, is our track:

And here, for even fewer of you, is the detailed breakdown of the workout:

Question: how the heck can we possible gain132 feet of elevation whilst paddling on a small lake?!?

* Of course, this doesn't explain why I was beat at the beginning of the workout!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

cross-eyed and painful

Last night at paddling I got my okole kicked. I'm not sure why, but the practice did me in. I was hurting after 10 minutes, and we went on for nearly 2 hours (it seemed... maybe more like 1 1/2 hours). More than anything else, it reminded me of the few football practices I managed to do before my knee issues forced me to stop.

Have I mentioned that there was nothing, nothing I enjoyed about football practices. Not the running, not the bumping into people, not the sweating, not the painful sucking in of humid air....

We did 10 x 10 minutes, with each 10 minute set a 1-off/9-on combo. So my back started tightening up after the first 10 minutes. And there were 9 more 10s to go.

We had a 4-man crew in the OC6 (the women had 5 in the other boat, DougM steering), Murray in 1, me in 3, Jack in 4 and DougN steering. I'm realizing that I don't particularly like paddling short-handed. Even on the best of days, it just feels like there's not enough power to get the boat moving properly. And we had the boat moving pretty well for a good part of last night. I think we managed on timing rather than on power, but that's ok. It just felt like a grind the whole way.

We paddled down to the Ballard Locks and back and by the time we got out under the Aurora Bridge and into Lake Union, we'd done 4 10s. So another 6 to go... We paddled south along the west side of the lake, rounded the bottom near the Center for Wooden Boats, and started back up north into the breeze. It was cold and dark and somewhat hazy, which meant the full moon was blurred by passing clouds. At one point I glanced up and watched what I thought was a plane flying north. I only realized it was a shooting star when it faded away while I watched.

Out under the I-5 bridge and toward Montlake Cut for our last 2 10s, turning back for the final one and somehow managing to make it back to the beach, where Sabine and DougM were waiting for us and helped us pull the canoe up.

I was so beat I could barely talk, much less say anything intelligent. The entire last set, all I could think about was Thanksgiving. There were dinner smells coming over the water from houseboats and from the Ivar's on the lake. There was emptiness in my stomach. And there was pain and dumbness in my body.

I drove home and shoveled food into my mouth, had a shower, and climbed into bed. The end.

Except that even in my pain and exhaustion I was glad I had the opportunity to paddle, and glad I had the chance to work out like this. M dealt with the girls last night while I was on the water, and made dinner and cleaned up. All of which I'm very grateful for.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

no woman, no cry...

photo Thursday:

(truth in blogging: this picture is from 1/08, so 1.5 years old)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

two of us, riding nowhere...

Watchers on the Beach

This weekend Zachary and I did our first OC2 race, the Ruston Way race. This was literally our second time in an OC2, and we both went into it with a goal of enjoying the race and (hopefully) having a paddle that felt good. Luckily this is a low-key affair, with nearly every participant earning a ribbon of some sort. And because it was so low-key, we felt we could give it a try. Also a factor -- Z's attitude. He's an easy-going but capable guy who knows boats and the water and is in good shape. An ideal partner for me. Oh yeah, one more thing about the race -- there's chicken long rice lunch at the end!

The race is 10.6 miles, 4 times down along the shore and back. I fully expected we'd huli at least once during the 10 miles, and if the conditions had been anything other than flat calm, we may have done so, but on Saturday we got through the entire 4 laps without any problems.

The Start
As Z and I paddled out, he wondered aloud if we should try to jump on the start, to really dig to get going quickly. "I have no idea what strategy is appropriate" he said. Well, me either. We collectively decided not to do that. For one thing, we had over 10 miles ahead of us, and for another, we had no idea how we stacked up to the other boats. It didn't seem like it would gain us much to really push right at the start.

So we started easily, just hoping to stay steady and strong. My real goal was to paddle so that it felt good the entire way. I felt that would lead to our paddling most efficiently. and to my surprise, we kept up pretty well with the lead boats (except the first 2 OC2s). That felt encouraging.

I was paddling up front, and because the rear steering cable had frayed, was also steering from up front. Z counted the changes.

First Lap
The first run down felt good and went more quickly than I'd expected. We talked occasionally: "How's that pace feel?" "Good, real good." Then we were coming up to the buoy and I took the first turn wide, not wanting to fight anyone for position. And now we were paddling back up toward the starting line, going into the very light wind. And we continued to keep up with most of the boats in front of us, chatting now and then but mostly just keeping at the paddling.

The thing was, neither of us knew what to expect of ourselves. Would we be able to keep up a decent pace for the entire race? Would we pace ourselves well? How tired would we feel at the end? The two OC2 boats ahead of us were a mens boat, and a mixed boat (with DougM and Sabine in it -- they were going iron, as were we. The other was a relay, though I didn't realize it at the time). So, we were 3rd as far as OC2s went. There were also 2 surfskis immediately ahead of us, and an OC1 that we were just keeping pace with. So far, so good. (There was another OC1 doing a relay, but I didn't ever realize that. I only saw them on the official results.)

Second Lap
After one complete lap I still felt pretty good, and Z said he did as well. We took the turn and headed down for our second lap and the water was beautiful, calm, smooth. There were almost no wakes or bumps of any kind, and so while that meant no lifts from swells going our way, there were also no swells threatening our stability.

The water, when it splashed off our paddles, was cold but not too cold. There was blue in the sky and salt in the air and the morning felt great. A perfect day for a paddle!

We made the turn at the far end of the 2nd lap and Z said "nice turn." This time I'd come tighter around the buoy, following the OC1 closely. There were no other boats to worry about. As we headed back on the return piece of that 2nd lap, I said "these 3 middle laps will be the hardest." I focused on keeping a regular pace and on reaching forward, making the forward part of my stroke the power piece, and recovering at my thigh/hip.

As we neared the start buoy we passed Doug/Sabine on their 3rd lap. I yelled out "Go Doug, go Sabine!" and Sabine called out "You guys are doing awesome!" They were still in 2nd place but were making up ground on the first boat.

Closing in on the start line again, the OC1 near us headed off to the beach -- it was part of a relay! One less boat to worry about.

Just before the start buoy, a wake caught us from behind, giving us our first (and only) lift. I felt us starting to swing left and ruddered right. I think we got a bit of a boost from it, but now I was most concerned that we'd be broadside to the wake as we took the turn. "Watch the ama," I called to Z, and we started left. An OC1 was sitting there at the buoy and just then he started out in front of us, crossing directly in our path.

Third Lap
"Hold up," I yelled to Z, and we stopped paddling. Our ama kissed the other boat which kept going. At the same time, the wake passed beneath us, lifting us from left to right, a little taste of what lumpier conditions would have meant. And then we started paddling again. One great thing about these boats is that they're so light, so a small bump like we'd had (in calm conditions) is nothing.

(Later, when I mentioned that I'd been concerned about the wake catching us broadside, Z told me he'd been leaning way out on the iako to counter the lift. In other words, he'd the situation covered. That's one of the things I really like about paddling with him -- he's a waterman and knows what to watch for and how to compensate. Lots of experience in boats.)

"What was that?" we both wondered aloud about the collision. "It seemed like we had right of way, don't you think?" I asked, and Z agreed. The OC1 was ahead of us, having gotten a quick jump, but we caught up partway down the course. I felt a little annoyed at what the guy had done, but decided I wasn't going to let it bother me. As we passed he called out "sorry about that" and we said "no worries." It felt better that he'd apologized.

Down the length, and around the far buoy, back toward the start the 3rd time. We were keeping our place in the pack, except now I noticed an OC2 coming up behind us that hadn't been anywhere close before. I heard them calling as we all paddled back toward the start, and it became a challenge to not let them worry me. It seemed like the worst thing we could do was lose our rhythm and start to hurry. If we did that, we'd shorten our stroke, lose our power, and probably tire ourselves out too soon. So that was what I focused on. Keeping long and strong up front, and not letting the fact that the other boat was gaining on us affect our pace too much.

Fourth (last) Lap
We rounded the start buoy for the last lap and the trailing OC2 was even closer. More effort to ignore them. Z and I kept paddling, and that continued to feel good to me. I'd gotten a bit fast on the previous lap, rushing a little, so now I consciously made myself slow down and reach out ahead and power my stroke only to my knee.

Salt water, calm seas, an easy-going but strong paddler behind me. The sun was even shining for a bit! It was really a blast and I felt in a zone. I don't really remember much about that stretch of the race.

Around the far buoy the last time and then it was a straight shot up to the start. We could hear the other boat behind us, still there, but closer than ever. Gaining with each lap. The OC1 we'd hit was nowhere to be seen -- we'd left it behind. I tried to reach and pull strong and not think about the trailing boat catching us, and as we got near the finish here came Doug/Sabine again, heading down-course one more time. "Go boys! You're almost there!" they called to us.

"This is our last lap, isn't it?" I asked Z after we'd gone by them. "I thought so," he said. "I'm pretty sure we've done 4," I told him. "Me too. It's my last lap, no matter what," Z said then. "Yeah, mine too," I agreed, laughing.

We kept paddling and hearing the other OC2 then suddenly we were at the buoy and across the line and done!

From up on the bluff Melissa called out, asking if we'd seen Rob. I told her I hadn't, but wasn't looking for him either. (He and she were doing a relay and it turned out her OC1 had started coming apart and Rob hadn't shown up as expected -- Doug/Sabine were headed out to look for him. It turned out that Rob had had to swim the boat in after 2 2/3 laps.)

We drifted, enjoying having finished our first OC2 race, having paddled longer and farther than either of us had ever paddled before in an OC2. It all felt good. And then when we started for the beach I saw Marnie and the girls sitting on a log there, smiling and cheering.

That was the cap on the day. A wonderful way to be greeted at the end.

Here's how we looked after coming across the finish line:

And here, for informational purposes only, is the track that Doug/Sabine took. Ours would look similar, but not as fast:

Our final time was 1.39:35 (1st novice iron, 6th overall), with splits of:
  • 24.25
  • 25.81
  • 25.00
  • 24.29

The thing that pleases me about these is that 1) we were nice and regular, and 2) we negative split the last 2 laps. Nice work guys!

Oh yeah, that OC2 following us? They came in at 1.39:37. I didn't realize they were just 2 seconds behind us....

The first place OC2 (relay) came in at 1.32:50, and Doug/Sabine came in 2nd (1st mixed iron) at 1.33:04.