Friday, February 1, 2013

This blog is moving!

Hello to all our faithful readers and followers.  This blog is making a change for 2013.  I (Ali) now have a new photography website and blog all in one.  Check out and keep reading all the happenings!  Eventually the blogsite you are using now will be removed, so sign up to follow the new one ASAP!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Snowmen and Angels

Don't ask me how, but I've forgotten the magic of snowfall.  Today, I've been reminded.  Standing in the front yard of my in-laws place taking a break from the kitchen duties, the scampering of children, and the endless shreds of wrapping paper to marvel at the brilliance of freshly falling snow.  In all honesty, I don't think anyone can look up into the sky on a chilly winter night, feel the gentle kisses of snowflakes on their lips and deny that what is happening in that moment is anything less than inspiring.  Something to enliven the spirit and recapture that feeling of wonder.  Tonight was just that, a chance to breathe in the essence of a moment bigger and more "wonder"-ful than I had remembered it could be.

I was interrupted by my daughter who, first, threw a snowball at me, then grabbed me by the gloved hand and pulled me to the sidewalk where she looked at me as if she had just had the most ingenious idea ever.  She lay down in the snow on her back, stretched her arms and legs out to her sides and moved them up and down.  I pulled her up by her hands.  She kept her feet in the same place so as not to disrupt the design she had just made, as if she had done this a million times before.   (Reminder to some, this is Maggie's first experience of snow).  She turned around and looked at her imprint in the snow.  Her eyes lit up like I have never seen them as she gazed at the perfect image of an angel.  She looked at me.  I looked at her.  I said, "It's beautiful.  You made an angel.  How did you know how to do that?".  She looked back at the angel and back at me, with a look that was equal parts whimsy and awe.  "I have no idea," she whispered.

Merry Christmas.  May you always be filled with the magic of snowfall.

From Reno with Love,

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Birthday Cake

I was at the gym a few days ago, feeling lazy and unmotivated.  Many of you might ask why I was at the gym in such a condition, but my lack of motivation is why I needed to be there in the first place.  Enough said.  This isn't intended to be a post about weight or  working out, it is a post about CAKE.  I had 20 minutes to kill before my group exercise class and was in no mood to actually work up a sweat on a treadmill or bike.  Remember my earlier comment about motivation?!  I noticed the empty basketball courts and thought I would casually shoot a few hoops before the class.  I hid myself in the south gym where there are no windows.  Perfect strategy for a middle school basketball super star who doesn't want to be haggled by her crazed fans.

That 20 minutes of shooting and dribbling and passing at the wall was more of a work out than I was looking for, but I was reminded of something that made me literally fall on my back on the court and laugh out loud.  I recently celebrated a birthday.  I ate leftover chocolate cupcakes that I had baked for our Thanksgiving dessert.  On my 14th birthday, however, I ate chocolate cake frosted in orange, shaped as a basketball and decorated with the words "Happy Birthday, Shooter."  If, in the 8th grade, I really did live up to that moniker, I have certainly lost all shooting skills over the course of the last 19 years.  In the gym the other day, I didn't make a single shot outside the 3 point line.  I didn't even make a single shot from the free throw line.  I didn't even make a single shot without the help of that white square printed on the backboard.

That is precisely why I threw myself in a heap on that glossy wood floor.  As I lay there panting and sweating and laughing, I couldn't help but be thankful for my dad.  He always took me out on our backyard concrete pad and spent time shooting hoops with me.  Giving me pointers and playing games with me.  Maybe my height is the issue.   I've been 5'3" since junior high.   To this day, he says he's still waiting for that growth spurt he KNEW I was gonna have.

I suppose all that practice didn't pay off on the court, but it payed off in my heart.  The embarrassment of blowing the candles out atop a basketball shaped cake while my teammates and friends stood around me laughing silently has diminished completely.  What is left is an amazing memory of a family who encouraged me in everything I tried.

Moral of the story: take some time to laugh at your own inabilities and give credit to those who stood by your side regardless.

From the Mission Valley YMCA with love and laughter and a little bit of sweat,

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Maggie's One-Liners

My daughter (yes, that title rolls off my lips with a smile) has an amazing way with words.  At first I thought it might be the collision of Ugandan English and American English that was causing vocabulary mix-ups and interesting word choices.  Sometimes that is true, but I've caught on to what is a misspoken sentence and what is intentionally intriguing.

What many of you may not know, is that I have spent a good chunk of my education in creative writing classes and poetry workshops.  Although the poet in me has somehow been hidden by a repainting of sorts, she chisels away at that paint incessantly.  Now, maybe some of the reason she resides beneath that exterior is because she hates the smell of criticism.  Critique smells salty and refreshing, like the sea just hours before a storm.  Criticism, however, is the stale afternoon when the storm has passed.  It wreaks of dead fish and decaying plant life.  It washes up all this junk on the sand that nobody even knew existed and clutters the beauty of what one came to see.  There is a flip side, I suppose.  The sea is an endless treasure chest.  Sometimes it takes the storm to loosen the treasure.

So, my daughter may have a gift with words and I sure hope that gift never gets sanded and repainted...and it never gets waved off by a bad smell.  Tomorrow, I will buy her a notebook to write down her beautiful words.  The most recent, and perhaps my favorite so far, happened on Friday as we were riding the Coronado Ferry back to Seaport Village.  Our family was in the bow of the boat alone.  Steve sitting on a bench with Perez on his lap and Maggie on my lap sitting next to them.  It was windy.  Maggie looks at the very tip of the bow where a flagpole held a large black flag with the name of the boat printed on it.

"Look, Dad.  The flag is dancing for us."

From America with love and imagery,

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Free Museum Tuesdays

The kids are finishing up a week's worth of the "no school, sleep in (which only happens for ONE person in the family, lucky you, Perez), play legos and do fun activities that mom and dad plan" type of routine.  On Tuesday, a friend invited us to join herself and her two kids for Free Museum Tuesday in Balboa Park.  (and...thank you so much, Jenny for the invite...please don't take any offense for the rest of this and your family are much loved by us).  If you're not from around here, sorry, you don't know what I'm talking about AND you don't get in for free!  Every Tuesday in Balboa Park, San Diego County residents get to museum hop certain museums for free.  It is a great time to look at art and spend time in some green space.  Perfect Tuesday afternoon activity, in my opinion.  It turns out, that particular Tuesday my children were completely wired.  They are normally wild, but this was over the top.  I couldn't get them to calm down with threats OR bribery.  So, of course, the first museum we go to is the Japanese Friendship Garden.  If any of you are from around here or know anything about Japanese gardens, for that matter, you realize that hyper children and peaceful zen like surroundings do not mix well.  I gave them a quick pep talk to minimize the disruptiveness, but to no avail.  They blew through the gate full steam ahead, playing tag on the narrow walkway, trampling over carefully placed moss and small greenery and petting the koi.  Yes, I said, petting.  We all know koi are expensive fish and we also know that expensive fishes scales and childrens' hands should not ever meet.  Again, if you are from around here, you may also know that due to a late night flash mob water gun fight, Balboa Park has already suffered the loss of many of these beautiful fish.  I didn't want to be responsible for another one.  After another pep talk, we entered an indoor area with beautiful kimonos (thankfully behind glass) and a rickshaw, unfortunately NOT behind glass.  It seems that signs reading "Please Do Not Touch" do not scare off hyper, disobedient children when they are obviously in the mood to touch.  After, yet again, another pep talk, we entered one of those areas where people can sit indoors on benches and watch, through floor to ceiling glass windows, as people move gravel around with rakes.  The benches are carefully placed about 5 feet from the windows so every one can watch in peace.  My kids walked directly up to the windows, completely missing the benches all together, and proceeded to wipe their sweaty hands up and down the windows being sure not to miss any areas.  They were even thoughtful enough to leave kiss marks on the glass for the next watchful participant.  This may have been the last straw, but you don't know my kids well enough.  On the way out, one of them somehow managed to dislodge the leather strap binding on a carefully placed bamboo water trough fountain, knocking it just enough so that the narrow trickle of water no longer fell gracefully into the gravel bed below, but onto the rock ledge nearby, creating another, but entirely unwanted, waterfall.

You think I'm exaggerating for the sake of the blog.  I'm not.  We left at this point.  Feel free to comment on my parenting and how I should have left sooner or spoken more sternly or what have you. The truth is, all you parents know that sometimes your kids get the best of you.  Sometimes, they are completely in control and you are completely out of control trying to get control.

The next museum...(drum roll please)?  The San Diego museum of Art.  One of the most traditional museums in the park.  Constructed with ornate architecture and filled with age old paintings of people and landscapes of times past.  The type of museum that requires you to check your cameras so that you can't photograph anything within the walls.  You know what's coming right?  You got it!  My children were angels!  If you call laughing uncontrollably at the strangely shaped breasts of a young maiden in oil, or attempting to pick the thick paint off an ornate rendering of a lively river landscape angelic.  Seriously.  It was bad.  It had good moments, but definitely ended badly.  I lost Perez, but, of course, HE wasn't lost, he was "looking at art".  I found him, then lost him again.  Jenny and her family patiently waited downstairs while I did a quick loop of the upstairs only to have Maggie march down stairs, scowling, and completely ignoring my fervent requests for her to stick with me so I didn't loose both of them.  We left at that point.  After a very stern discussion and a few minutes glued to my side, Jenny and I decided, for the sake of my children, not hers, that maybe an area for the kids to play around outside would be best.  My kids took off running.  A few minutes later I found them standing next to a lady and a sign.  The lady was placing a bird on Maggie's head and the sign read "Warning: children left unattended will be sold to the circus."  Go figure.  Sometimes I think that might actually be a better place for them!

From Balboa Park with frenzied love,

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Greatest Joy

Yes, we have just passed the three month mark and, yes, my last post was at the one month mark...go figure.  It is definitely time for a long winded update, but tonight is not the night.  Tonight is the night where I leave you with the mental snapshot of why we are even able to make it to the next day.

I think, perhaps, one of the greatest joys of parenting is when you get to see your kids just BE kids.  When they usher you into their world of play and you indulge that world as if it is the only reality you or they have ever known.  In the midst of rearranged furniture and edges of rolled back carpets, I played the part of the audience, complete with steak knife perforated ticket stub, in ice arena stadium seat 101.  The lights dimmed, the crowd hushed, the living room curtains parted and the show began.  For the next 45 minutes (yes, 45 minutes and, yes, I could've been doing something more productive and, yes, I would do it again every night until my children grow up and move out) I watched my children slide around in knee length socks on the hardwood floor, doing the most clumsy rendition of ice skating I have ever seen.  Perez, in Maggie's light pink and magenta striped pajama bottoms (which, I must say, scarily resembled the look of the tights the male dancers wear in The Nutcracker), took this show MUCH more seriously than the season's soccer tournament he played in this past Saturday.  Maggie, although a fantastic dancer when not on "ice", took to a lot of jumping and odd looking hand motions due to the fact that her socks weren't slippery enough.  I belly laughed (but was told to keep silent to respect the skaters performance) as Akon sang "Nobody wants to see us together" and Fergie belted out "Let's get it started in here" as my children pranced and slipped around with a different beat in mind all together.  I'm still laughing nearly 4 hours after the finale.  I'll probably wake up laughing.

That is what keeps me moving.  Moments grab me and drag me, laughing and often crying, until I'm passed off to the next moment, that has an even stronger grip and more powerful tug.  This is the way we roll.

Now stand up and do a silly dance or something.  Try the sliding-in-the-socks-on-the-wood-floor thing.  It will seriously make you laugh even if you are in the worst mood of your life.  That is what we need right?

From America with love and a heck of a lot of laughter,

Saturday, September 1, 2012

One Month Already?

Don't ask me anything about time.  I have no idea how my last post from day 2 of Maggie's life in America turned to the conclusion of day 30 so if we were in a time warp or some sort of  machine that speeds us into the future without giving us a chance to see what's passing us by so quickly.  Like I said, don't ask me anything about time.  Especially, again, because I'm writing this post way past my bed time.  And, yes, even though I am nearing the age of 33, I do have a self imposed bed time and it was nearly 2 hours ago.

Our family, at this stage, is similar to the freakiest roller coaster you've ever been on.  You feel pumped up and excited on the first uphill push with adrenaline soaring through you, you reach the plateau for an ever so slight chance to breathe and take in how beautiful the view is, when, like you never expected it, you're reminded that an uphill also means an excruciatingly terrifying downhill ahead of you.  You turn around for a split second thinking you might be able to yell down to the operator to convince him to put it in reverse, only to see the carts behind you full of people who are, wether you like it or not, connected to you and in no mood to have their adventure ruined.  You turn around knowing that there is no way out of this thing and that you better just suck it up and scream your brains out like everyone else.

Of course, roller coasters always have the same route, the same track underneath that doesn't change course.  Ours doesn't.  But I do suppose, like most rides, there is that same guy in the back with an understated calmness.  He smiles and allows the rushing wind of the descent to chisel his features ever so slightly and he closes his eyes in delight like he's done this a million times and has nothing to fear.

Maybe that guy ends up on every family's ride somehow.  Maybe I should keep looking for his picture flashed up on the screen at the exit of the ride.  Maybe I should learn from him how to stay calm in the midst of chaos.

From America with love,