Thursday, October 31, 2013

Our First Celebrity Guest!

When you write a blog, it seems to be a "thing" to have a guest blogger write your post occasionally.  I've never really understood the reasoning behind it.  Is it some kind of cross-marketing gimmick to get readers to check out the guest blogger's website?  Is it because the real blogger went on vacation and doesn't want to leave those faithful readers hanging?  I don't know.  As I said, I don't get it. 

But, since I'm in charge here, and I don't really think it will upset the faithful readers (all four of you), I decided to bring you a guest blogger!!  So trendy.  We're on the cutting edge here at Amy Finds the Joy. 

Earlier this week, someone sent me a lovely little piece about pumpkins, which I instantly recognized as the perfect opportunity to bring you thought-provoking blog material while I take Halloween evening off to go trick-or-treating with the kids.  So, here you have it.  The very first Guest Blogger at AFTJ....My Dad. 

Every year they come; every year it is the same.  Dressed in their best clothes, arriving shortly after the end of Sunday worship, the small children of my church fill my country garden like so many overdressed, miniature manikins.  Here, they search diligently, each looking for their Halloween pumpkin.

Each Fall we practice this Autumnal ritual.  I invite the children to my little country garden in order to choose a pumpkin for their jack-o-lantern.  Each Fall they come, and search, and choose.  How they make their choices is a secret hidden in the unspoken thoughts of each child.  Often parents try to influence the choice, but the children reject this parental advice.  Today it is their turn to make choices, even if those choices do not parallel parental persuasions.

 Children do not search the field for perfectly shaped or perfectly colored pumpkins.  Such pumpkins are readily available at the local supermarket, where the pumpkins are larger, and rounder, and oranger than mine.  Here, in the country garden, the children seek not a pumpkin to be admired, but a pumpkin to be loved.

Some children choose a pumpkin they can easily hold in their diminutive hands.  Some choose one that is oddly shaped, even grotesquely twisted and formed.  Sometimes a pumpkin fails to turn orange at all, and the greenness of the sphere is the apparent attraction to the child.  Color is less important than character!  True wisdom reigns in the country field, as it frequently does  in the mind of a child!

Something there is that becomes the magnetic attraction between child and fruit of the vine.  Something adults do not understand at all. Foolish grownups.

 Stereotypical pumpkins are bright orange, severely round, and perfectly balanced.  These pumpkins are loved simply for what they are, and perhaps for the comfort a child feels in knowing that the one they have chosen is unique.

Each Fall they come and choose.  They hover over their choices. They love what they have chosen not because the choices fit any stereotype at all, but merely because they are the choice of the child, and therefore accounted worthy.

 How much like God is the mind of the child, where color, or size, or shape are not important.  Here in the mind of the child as in the mind of God, stereotypes are ignored; the overlooked become the loved ones, and the imperfect become the chosen ones.

Some say that Halloween is the Devil’s holiday.  It is not so.  Rather, the origins of Halloween are in the remembrance of the day as being the eve of All Saints Day, the day when the Christian church celebrates the love of God poured upon all God’s people, no matter their color, or shape, or condition.  How much of this theology the children express in my country field each year!  By the choices they make I am reminded that the chosen of God are loved not for their personal perfection, but simply because God has chosen to love them.

Copyright 2013.  Robert J. Grosch

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Look Ma, I'm a Runner!

I was never an athletic kid, or much of an athletic adult for that matter.  I was more of a band geek or a Jazzercise girl.  Running?  No thanks.  Or so I thought.

In 2002, I had moved to Oregon, just broke up with my boyfriend and didn't have many friends to help prop me back up after that ugly fall.  Each evening after work I would come home to an empty apartment and have lonely hours to fill before bedtime.  Just writing that sentence makes me want to scream at my old, 29-year-old self.  "Enjoy the SILENCE, former me!  In ten years you're going to be balancing work, hobbies and transportation schedules for a small army!!  You won't be able to pee alone.  Someone (the dog, the toddler, the snoring spouse, or all of the above) will wake you up by 5-ish in the morning every day.  Don't be lonely!  Thank Jesus for this quiet time!!" 

But I digress. 

So I started running.  I began on a country road by my apartment and my original goal was to run to the tree, which was about 100 yards from the driveway of the apartment complex.  Hey. Baby steps.  We all have to start somewhere.  That first day my lungs burned, I felt awkward, and I didn't have any of the right clothes or gear.  I felt like a fish out of water, but I had something on my agenda.  Run.  It beat staring at the walls of my apartment and waiting for the clock to strike 10pm so I could go to bed.

Slowly, very slowly, my endurance improved.  Soon I was running to the end of the block.  Then two blocks, then half way around my little "route" that I mapped out for myself.  I can't say that I loved running.  I loved having something to do.  I loved feeling healthy.  I loved taking a shower at night and feeling like it had been earned. 

Shortly after the running began, my first goal was set: a 5k race.  I knew nothing about running or racing but a kind co-worker convinced me I could do it.  The Pear Blossom race was practically in my backyard, there were no hills and I didn't have anything better to do.  So, I signed up.  And guess what?  I did it. 

Maybe a 5k isn't a lofty goal.  But for me, it felt like a marathon.  For the first 29 years of  my life the only time I had ever really run was chasing down the ice cream truck.  It's not that I was lazy or lethargic.  Running just wasn't my "thing". 

After finishing that first 5k race, I still didn't feel like running was my "thing".  Sure, I could do it.  But I had to force myself.  It was a daily battle of wills between my responsible brain and my lazy brain. 

But here's the thing about running.  It's like an old friend.  Or an old shoe that fits perfectly but gets lost in your closet occasionally.  You don't always love it.  You pay more attention to it at some times than others.  Sometimes it gets boring and you try something else that seems more exciting.  But it's always there. It's easy.  Running welcomes you back with open arms as long as you've got a decent pair of shoes and 20 minutes to spare.  Believe me.  I've quit running so many times I've lost count.  Even though it's not much more complicated than placing one foot in front of the other...a bunch of times, over and over again, running will surprise you. 

When I moved back to California and triple-digit summer temperatures, I gave up running and said I couldn't handle the heat.  Then I found myself waking up at 5am to squeeze in a run before the heat of the day settled in. 

I told myself that 5k was a suitable goal for me and I didn't need to be any kind of fancy, long-distance runner.  I thought having a baby would certainly derail my mediocre running career.  In 2010 I found myself pushing a jogging stroller and training for a 5-mile race. 

For years, I ran alone and enjoyed every minute of it.  I never wanted to run with anyone because I didn't want to feel pressured to keep a different pace.  Or speak.  I liked being alone with my thoughts as I ran.  And then I ran a 5k with three other friends and loved the new social aspect of running that I had never experienced. 

I really didn't think I would like running at all because, well, I'm not super great at it.  I can do it, but I'm not fast.  I'm not the best.  I don't run impressive distances and I'm not sticking around for award ceremonies at any of the races I enter.  But wouldn't you know it....the most memorable race to date was with my daughter, a 1.5 mile race for kids, where she (we) came in dead last.  I mean last, by like a mile.  She crossed the finish line a good five minutes after the kid just ahead of her.  What I love is that she wants to do it again.  She didn't even notice she was last.  All she noticed at the end was that there was a great crowd waiting to cheer her on to the finish line.  Oh, and there were Oreos on the snack table. 

One foot in front of the other.  Nothing fancy, but it just might surprise you.   Take it from this band geek that now calls herself a runner. 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Mommy Days

Sometimes Mommies have tough days.
Sometimes you've got lots to do and not enough hours in your day.
Sometimes you run out of baby wipes.

At those times, let me recommend a trip to +Target

They sell lots of things there. 
The aisles are wide and uncluttered.
You can get baby wipes by the case. 

And they also sell Mommy juice boxes. 


The end.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Harvest Time

Don't let the title deceive you.  We aren't actually harvesting anything here at the Cavalleri farm.  My gardening habit didn't survive my transition into motherhood, and our juvenile fruit trees are not producing at a level that would require an actual harvest.  I do go to the farmers market most weekends.  That's almost like harvesting our own food, right? 

We ARE however, fully into the harvest season. As in, we went to the pumpkin patch and tossed some Halloween/Harvest d├ęcor around the house. 

Our trip to the pumpkin patch this year was similar to past years.  We joined Carol, our former childcare provider (and one of our most favorite people), at Hawes Historic Farms.  I love Hawes because their field trip package is designed with great sensitivity to the toddler-preschool market.  (Incidentally, we love Carol for the same reason.)  Basically the trip is perfect for those with the attention span of a gnat. 

You enter the farm and find pumpkins and hay bales perfectly arranged for harvest portraits.  The kids quickly get bored and antsy, so your Pumpkin Tour Guide moves you along to the next activity: bouncing on the giant pillow trampoline!  They wear the kids out a bit, but not completely because there is much more on the agenda.  We played in the playground, shot ears of corn out of an air cannon, watched pig races, fed the goats, tried the mini-corn maze, pet the cows, and eventually took a hayride out to the pumpkin patch to select the perfect pumpkin.  Phew!  Are you tired yet?  The kids weren't.  They sat down for about 10 minutes to eat lunch and then went back for more of that giant pillow trampoline.

Our big five-year-old was determined to get a BIG pumpkin this year.  I had to reign in those fantasies and remind her that she could get the BIGGEST pumpkin in the world....that she could carry herself.  You see, the Hawes field trip pricing includes a pumpkin, as long as you have reasonable expectations.  Anything too large (bigger than say...your head) was $.30/pound.  And let's face it.  I had the backpack full of jackets and snacks, a toddler that may or may not make it to the car on his own two feet, and two kids that had spent 3.5 hours having the TIME OF THEIR LIVES at the pumpkin patch.  I was in no position to take on any extra responsibility for an oversized gourd.  I had crowd management and meltdown-avoidance maneuvers to worry about. 

I'm happy to report everyone found the perfect pumpkin.  One was big...

One was green...

And we all harvested another season of pumpkin patch memories.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Picture Perfect

Our pediatrician moved into a new office last month.  Thankfully the staff remembered to tell us before we drove to the old office for our appointment this week.  As we walked into the new office, smelling of fresh paint and new carpet, I smiled looking at the familiar wall of photos, drawings and Christmas cards that had made the move from the old office.  I scanned quickly to see if my daughter's artwork was still tacked somewhere on the display, but alas, it didn't appear to make the cut.  I wasn't really surprised.  I assumed the doctor must have received mountains of artwork from her young patients over the years. 

The nurse quickly brought us into the exam room, as if she was anxiously awaiting our arrival.  "I have your room all ready for you." she said. 

Even knowing she was due for 3+ shots at this appointment, my daughter happily skipped into the room. 

"Check out the artwork on the wall!" the nurse excitedly announced as we walked into the exam room.  And there it was.  My daughter's painting she had made at age three was not just taped to the wall.  It was matted, framed, and hanging proudly for all to see. 

I got a little lump in my throat as I recognized the painting.  To me, it wasn't just a painting.  It was a poignant reminder of the three nights my daughter had spent in the hospital at the tender age of three.  If you're a parent, you know.  Those were among the three most stressful nights of my life.  My little girl was poked and prodded and tested until she screamed and cried.  I was helpless to take away her pain or make anyone stop because we had to do all the necessary tests and procedures to make her well again. 

And yet in the middle of the whole no-fun, awful hospital experience, my daughter painted.  And when this small masterpiece was completed I remember how she proudly showed off the finished product and announced it was for Dr. Lagoc.  I just about fell on the floor.  Really?  This painting is for the doctor?  The lady that put you in the hospital and ordered all these tests and needles? THAT doctor? 

So I took the painting and made a note that it was for Dr. Lagoc, along with the date.  The next morning when the doctor was making rounds, my daughter proudly presented her painting.  The doctor dutifully admired the gift.  I figured the painting might get lost in the shuffle of hospital paperwork before Dr. Lagoc left the building.  I wondered if it would make it back to the office. 

On our first office visit after the hospital stay, my daughter immediately noticed her painting taped to the wall.  More importantly, she smiled and gave Dr. Lagoc a hug when she entered the exam room.  In spite of all the yucky hospital stuff, the doctor had somehow managed to maintain a positive bond with my daughter.  I fully expected my sweet, young daughter to come out of the hospital with a healthy phobia of doctors and nurses. Instead, her trust and bond with Dr. Lagoc was strengthened. 

And so today, seeing the painting and recalling the circumstances under which it was created, made me a little emotional, in a good way. I felt a wave of gratitude for the care my daughter received while she was sick, and more importantly for the completely unexpected byproduct of the whole ordeal: Her enthusiasm and affection for Dr. Lagoc. 

Turns out a trip to the pediatrician doesn't just keep our kids healthy.  It does a mom's heart good too. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Viva Mexico!

So, it's been a while since my last post.  Rest assured, it isn't for lack of joy.  More like over-abundance of good stuff and no time to write about it.  Well, that isn't exactly true either.  When you have a five-night vacation away from home, work, hubby and kids you can't really use the "I don't have time" excuse anymore.  Because, the truth is, you've got all kinds of time.  But when you find yourself at a five-star, all-inclusive, adults only resort in Mexico, the thought of lugging out the laptop and waxing poetic about the experience really isn't at the top of the priority list.  Priority one is BE THERE.  As in, enjoy the moment without stressing about writing or photographing every last detail.  And I was THERE, friends.  So there.  So I apologize for the delay on bringing you the fantastic story of this long-awaited trip.  I was too busy enjoying it. 

I'm fairly certain I could write a book about the resort that was our home-away-from-home on this trip.  The landscaping, the beach, the comfy beds, the impeccable service, the fantastic food, and on and on and on. 

I know I could write a book about the value of stepping away from your everyday life and forcing yourself to relax, unwind, detach and just BE.   Sinking your toes into fine, white sand on a warm, breezy day on the Gulf of Mexico should be available by prescription.  I think it could cure just about anything that ails you. 

But really, the joy part of this trip was multiplied by the company I kept and the conversations that flowed on and on for five days among high school friends re-united after a 20(ish) year hiatus.

If we're being totally honest here, the company was the part of this trip that caused me a little angst.  I loved these girls in high school, but aside from one local neighbor, we really hadn't been in touch for the past 20 years beyond weddings, high school reunions and occasional Facebook commentary.  So I wasn't completely sure how it would go.  Would we all get along?  Would we run out of things to talk about?  Would we stumble into some random political discussion that would create a rift for the rest of the trip?  And (most importantly)...What if I want to go to bed early and everyone else thinks I'm a party pooper?  Because for me, vacation means sleep catch-up time. 

Well, we survived.  And I think it's safe to say we were all pleasantly surprised at how swimmingly it all went.  We spent hours catching up, laughing about husbands and kids and how life turns out differently than what you imagined when you were in high school.  We shared bottles of champagne over a lobster lunch, toasted with shots of tequila at the Mexican buffet, and sipped margaritas together in the ocean.  Some of us worked out.  Some (most) of us didn't. Some of us spent the day zip-lining at Xplor Adventure Park while others stayed home and hit the spa.  We napped, swam, drank, gossiped, parasailed, snorkeled, shopped and pretty much had the time of our lives. 

There is something about reconnecting with people who "knew you when."  We spent a fair amount of time reminiscing, but exponentially more time talking about life NOW.  We shared our frustrations and our fears and our stories of life as we know it today.  We didn't get caught up in the past, because, as it turns out, there is plenty between us that is better left in the past.  This vacation was our chance to celebrate friendship and draw strength from it.  It was a reminder that we are all busy but should never be too busy to keep up relationships with our girlfriends.

I was fully expecting the big story to be all about this:

Turns out, it was more about this..

And this...

And this...

Twenty years ago we were different girls.  This would have been a much different trip.  We might have been a little cuter in our bikinis back then, but beyond that, 20 years only aged the experience to perfection.