A giving heart

From several years back; only publishing now

God has wired Natalie to be a cheerful giver. She had asked me for tissue paper and I had seen her collect the scotch-tape from the kitchen drawer, so I knew she was up to something. For about an hour she sat quietly in her room, busily wrapping gifts of some sort. Then she hid it all away and whispered to me “Mama, I made presents for Jacob’s birthday!!” I thought to myself- wow, Jacob’s birthday is three months away! Then Natalie went on with her day and never mentioned anything to her brother.

Fast forward to the evening……we had dinner together as a family and then were sitting in the living room. All of a sudden in marched Natalie with the cheerful red gift bag. Clipped onto it was her written gift tag: “By Natalie  To Jacob”. She looked at Jacob with the brightest, most excited eyes ever!! “Jacob, today I’m celebrating an early birthday for you. Here’s a present for you!!!!” Jacob had been sitting on the couch strumming his guitar. He kind of half-looked at her and kept strumming, not really taking notice and/or changing his countenance based on the words he had just heard. I shared with him that his sister was trying to give him a gift, and that he ought to give her his undivided attention at this point. Oh, okay, mama he said. It cracks me up that as a mom I also need to teach values of how to be a thankful, appreciative receiver of gifts. So he put his guitar down on the couch. But, oh, then the purple pick fell in between the couch cushions and that became an impending priority in Jacob’s mind. Natalie waited patiently and cheerfully as she watched Jacob pull up all the couch cushions in search of that guitar pick. Finally he was settled and ready to give her his undivided attention.

Natalie handed him the gift bag. Her chest was puffed up with pride and delight. Her eyes were twinkling with excitement. It was in that moment that I was reminded that God really has wired her to be a cheerful giver. She loooooooves to give gifts. Her heart seeks to give expressions of love to people. And she does it in the ways she knows and she cans. I love it when she makes drawings for people!!! She will grab sheets of white paper and sit at the table purposefully drawing/coloring with someone in mind. When she hands someone a drawing, she is offering them so much of her love and affection. That is how she pours her love for a person into a tangible expression for the person to have and to hold. It’s so precious to me.

Anyway, so Jacob unclipped the gift bag and as he peered inside he said “wow!” There were lots of individually wrapped presents in there, all very carefully wrapped in tissue paper and held together with quite a few pieces of tape. 🙂 She gave him the oh-so-cute craft she had made at music camp this summer- an octopus-like animal made of blue scarves. She announced “oh Jacob sorry that it only has one eye. It used to have two eyes but I lost one of the eyes. Sorry.” “Oh that’s okay Natalie. I like one-eyed monsters.” Awwww!!! My mama heart was melting.

Then he proceeded to open the rest of her gift.

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Turning 40!


Turning 40!

Note: this sat as a draft for the past 8 years. 🙂 Figured I should publish it and hold onto the nostalgic memory of all that was planned for this milestone birthday.

To celebrate 40, I decided I’d love to spend my entire birthday month trying to do forty things new things. Some things on my list are things I’ve dreamed of doing. Others are ideas that sprouted up in conversation with people who had fun suggestions to make. Here is how I’ve celebrated…..

1. Began a 500 piece puzzle of “Cupcakes”. By the end of the month I hope to have completed it. I’ve learned that there sure are A LOT of variations of each of those jigsaw pieces. Wow! It is amazing to me that there can be such incredible detailed differences in each of those pieces.

2. Ran my 1st mile without stopping. I had never done it and felt it was about time. I have so many friends and family who love to run great distances. I’ve never considered running my sport- always preferring swimming instead. But this time I decided this was a feat I needed to finally say I was able to do. It was no marathon. Not even a 5K. But for me it was a big deal- one mile without stopping. Woohoo! I did it!

3. I curled my eyelashes! Martha lent me her eyelash curler (which I always used to tell her looked like some kind of torture tool) as we primped for Sharon’s wedding. I finally felt how truly painless it really was. Thanks for doing my make-up that day Martha!! Mma! Mma!

4. Thanks to my sweet, dear friend Diana- I had the great joy of having my home-life captured by a professional photographer! Considering I’m the one who is our family’s historian, it is a joy beyond a joy to have someone else take pictures. And of all things something that is soooooooooo near and dear to my heart- being a mama and homeschool teacher. Thank you Diana for capturing pictures that show aspects of my life at home!

5. I was able to spend several hours of uninterrupted just-me time at the Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens. Oh what p-u-r-e joy. I had been to the gardens countless times with the kids- but then I was homeschool mama, pointing out plants to grow the kids’ appreciation of the diversity and beauty of nature. It was talk, talk, talk. On each of those visits I would longingly eye those grown-ups who were there quietly engrossed in the story of a book, sitting on a bench all by themselves. That is what I dreamed of experiencing one day for myself. Thanks to my wonderful mother who was willing to drive out to my place and take care of Jacob and Natalie, I was able to slip away on a homeschool day and drive up to the botanical gardens for 3 whole hours of uninterrupted solitude. The time flew by. My soul ate it up. I moved several times within the garden, my sense of sight and smell overwhelmed by the grandeur of all that was in bloom. Finally I found myself in the Japanese garden, sitting on a bench under a trellised walk area and that’s where I opened the book “Love Does”. I sat there soaking in the words, laughing out loud and just relishing in the treasure of this alone-time. And then all of a sudden it sounded like it was raining. I looked out and saw raindrops falling into the streams of the garden, making perfect ringlets in the water. And yet I stayed completely dry as the drops pitter-pattered above my head on the leaves of the vine. That was just glorious beyond glorious. Awwwwww- it seriously couldn’t get any better.

6. Being a tourist in my own city was also a first! Steve met me in Old Town Pasadena for a walking food tour. I walked out of the parking garage and there he was- a handsome man, waiting for me on the stoop of the meeting place for our tour. What a sweet sight that was to my eyes- to see this man I love so much- just waiting there for me. Our tour was led by a wonderful woman named Barbara. She led us from 5:30-9pm, making all kinds of stops through Old Town for various types of food. It rained along the way in parts…..Steve and I huddled together under our umbrella….as we walked through this part of town discovering wonderful family-owned shops and restaurants we would otherwise never have stumbled upon. It was truly an amazing evening! Loved, loved, loved that night!

7. I ate yak! Yup, at a Himalayan restaurant on the walking food tour, we were served yak dumplings. That was a new taste- and yet similar to beef. Kind of crazy to imagine the big huge animal as I ate it. Points for adventurous eating. 🙂

8. We went to the Renaissance Fair! For years and years my sister and her husband used to go to the fair. He even proposed to her there! So I’ve always been intrigued to visit. And today we did. We were there for 7 hours! Saw many shows- jousting, Moonie, Broon and others. It was a very dusty, hot day but an enjoyable one of lively music, fun people watching and a great time-machine experience of being shot back to a time where people said “gramercy” for thank you, “anon” for goodbye, “my Lord and my Lady” as references when talking to each other, and where people definitely dressed very differently. A great time! Can’t say I ever dreamed of it…..but today I danced around a May Pole. That was interesting and new. We were at the Renaissance Fair and children were invited to join in the dance. I got up to take a closer picture of them and then before I knew it I was being shuttled to a nearby awaiting dancer to be paired with. I do admit it was fun, going “over- under- over- under” trying to keep track what part of the pattern we were in as we were releasing more and more of our colorful ribbon that was being braided together nicely with other dancers’ ribbons onto the pole.

9. I’ve always wanted to try shooting a bow and arrows. I had calendared going to a place in Pasadena in a couple of weeks…..but at the Renaissance Fair had my luck that I could try archery there! That was fun- for $5 we got 11 quivers. I tried 5 of them and each of the kids had 3 turns as well. Wow does that require a steady hand. Definitely not as easy as it looks. It was fun! I was happy that at least 2 of mine hit the target- once in the outermost black ring and once in the blue ring just inside. 🙂

10. ?

11. Painted on a canvas.

12. I had my eyebrows waxed for the very first time in my life! I will never forget that on the day of my wedding, as my make-up artist was applying makeup, she said to me “honey, you REALLY need to get your eyebrows waxed!” That stuck with me and 16 years later I finally got them done. I was so thankful that Martha coached me on knowing what to say when I went in to the European Wax Center. “I’d like to keep their natural shape, just have them cleaned up.”

13. We went on a Grunion Run!!!!! Yes, it only happens here in California. Considering I’m a native Angeleno, the fact that I had never been on one of these runs definitely made it something I wanted to do.

14. I ate a banana split at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor!

15. Murder Mystery Dinner with friends. Okay I officially have amazing friends! I asked 6 of my friends if they would be willing to participate in “Fame, Money and Murder”- a mystery dinner where everyone comes in costume and acts their part. And wow did they run with it!!!! Marti came dressed as Polly Darton- a famous country western singer. Rick came as Duncan- a boxer. Heidi was a comedian stuck in the Neolithic Age who only told jokes about rocks. Kenny came as a scientist who had found the cure for skin cancer. Jen was a belly dancer teacher. Travis a jockey. Steve the conductor of the NY Philharmonic Orchestra. And I was supposed to be a shy person with fears of crowds and secret talent for playing the organ and synthesizer. Okay…..all of it soooooooo random. I laughed my head off. Seriously laughed my head off. I am so thankful for how much attention each couple put into preparing their costumes. They made phone calls and asked people they knew for parts of their costumes, they went shopping at Aardvark’s and Joann’s and Target to get the perfect look, they used make-up to create tattoos, had props and accessories, stuffed bras for large bosoms, painted their nose, gelled up their hair, considered which shoes would best match the costume, wrote on their robes, wore the perfect-matching hats, adorned boots with fur…….all for me. To grant me my wish of one day having a Murder Mystery Dinner. Wow do I feel special!!!!! I used to love, love, love playing the game “Clue” when I was a kid. And tonight I got to play it in real.

I am so thankful for Rebekah Hellerman and Cheryl Ortiz from Haven Academy of the Arts who let me peruse their costume wardrobe. Thank you Cheryl for picking out the perfect outfit for me!!!!!  I’m also thankful for Diana McGregor who helped us out by getting Steve a bow tie for his outfit! He looked so handsome with his tuxedo shirt and teal colored bow tie!!!! I am thankful for Shannon Morgensen who so patiently helped me search for glasses while we were at the OC Swap Meet. I loved being able to have glasses to hide behind as I tried acting my part of the shy one.

And man the memories from tonight! “Rashless love”- a song that Polly Darton was going to try to write for us. The rock jokes that Pebbles prepared for each of us in the weeks leading up to tonight. Charles Concerto’s incessant reminders, in a loud booming voice “I PROMISE you that I did NOT know that her father was a rich man when I married her.” Also, his long arm stretch behind him to our piano, to play suspenseful, dark notes as the plot unfolded. I was certain that Jacob and Natalie would wake up- there were such loud outbursts of laughter from all of us and the loud playing of the piano keys. And, yet, they slept soundly.

I’m so thankful for Jacob and Natalie. So thankful that we were able to pull off an evening like tonight and ask them at one point to get themselves into bed. And they did just that. They ran off to their rooms, read in bed for awhile, then turned off their lights and drifted to sleep. Soooooo thankful they were willing and able to tuck themselves into bed and give us the gift of this evening with friends. Also so thankful for how excited they were for all of us. They were bubbling over with excitement when our friends started to arrive. They ran to the front door and welcomed in the guests. Jacob went scurrying to his room and unbeknownst to me, ended up creating a “This way to the bathroom” sign that he gingerly propped up on his Jacob foot stool in the hallway. Sooooo cute! And Natalie was beyond excited when we asked her to take a group picture of all 8 of us. What was precious beyond words was how difficult it was for her to remember her job as photographer when we got in character for the picture.  She was able to take our picture when we all smiled in normal pose. But when Heidi shouted “now silly- in character”- Natalie’s eyes grew large and fixed on all of us. She stood there with her arms extended in front of her, gripping the camera, but mesmerized by everyone’s dramatic pose. It was cute beyond cute. She, being our dramatic theatrical one, was tickled by the whole premise of this dinner party. When introductions were being made and Steve said he had 20 turtles as pets……Natalie went racing away…..and returned with a turtle-shaped bottle of bubbles. Where in the world did she get that from? And so fast? She knew she had it and knew exactly where it was! I was so impressed!

We had appetizers out on the deck; thank you Marti & Rick! They brought so many different types of cheese, crackers, olives and fig jam. And wine! After snacking and taking pictures, we sat around on the deck and began. I read the rules aloud. The kiddos passed out name tags and I read introductions of each character. The kiddos helped by passing out the clue booklets to each person. We all read our Act 1 clues. Then we sent Jacob and Natalie off to bed. Act 1 ensued. It was hilarious. Marti did such an amazing job being and staying in character of a country/western girl. We all read our Act 2 clues and then transitioned inside to the dining room for a dinner of barbecued tri-tip, colorful roasted vegetables, salad and fresh bread. As we acted out Act 2 I laughed and laughed! Travis’ pink sequins from his oh-so-feminine swanky jockey outfit, reflected and shimmered pink on his face. The storyline was hilarious- our murdered brother, Nathan, had been found in the horse stable, wearing a dog collar and only boxer shorts, handcuffed by one wrist to a post, and covered in gold paint. Weird. Yes. Kenny’s character Magnus had a gold-plated racquetball racket! Okay- hilarious. In Act 3 we found out that Jen’s character actually made chocolate chip cookies- which she had indeed also done for tonight’s party. Crazy cool! Rick, known as Duncan, ended up being the one who killed Nathan, the brother. And Steve (Charles Concerto) and I ended up being the only ones in the family to inherit the billions of dollars of father’s will. We were all supposed to meet 3 criteria in order to inherit the money:

1) marry someone

2) make a contribution to the world

3) move to a country town

All of that was supposed to happen by midnight of the night we were gathered. Turns out Magnus’ scientific cure for cancer was fraught with accusations of not being based on evidence- so he didn’t meet the 2nd criteria. Duncan wasn’t married by midnight- he and Polly got in an argument and she called it off. Although it was HILARIOUS when before their fight she leaned over and called him smoochie woochie cutie face….or whatever endearing super cupcake cute and sweet love-bird comments she made to him as she blew him kisses. I was rolling with laughter!!! She played it all so seriously without busting up at herself; I love that! Serina failed at meeting the requirements because her husband Tommy Whip called off their marriage that night- he was so mad when he found out she was pregnant- having received stock of sperm. So, yes, Charles Concerto and I, Cynthia, became the lucky recipients of all the billions of dollars!  Turns out my contribution to the world was my astounding music I had written. 🙂

Oh it seriously couldn’t have gotten better the way everyone was casted. A perfect night of lots of laughs!!!!

So thankful to have such fun-loving friends, willing to be crazy on account of my birthday celebration. 🙂

16. Went to the L.A. Arboretum

17. Splurged by buying myself a funnel cake at Knott’s Berry Farm

18. Saw a silent movie at the Old Town Music Hall in El Segundo

19. Shot a gun. Several actually.

20. Spent a morning with a girlfriend, shopping, at the Orange County Swap Meet

21. Laughed at Laughter Yoga

22. Attempted (somewhat successfully) to let go of drinking coffee in the morning. Made a transition to tea-drinking! Yay! Still have a cup of coffee here and there…..but definitely drink more tea than coffee now.

23. Almost went a whole month with every day devotions.

24. Went to the Anatolian Festival. Tried Turkish Delight. Saw the World’s Tallest Man- first time seeing a Guinness World Record holder. Watched a Whirling Dervish perform.

25. Let go of my high expectations to try to accomplish all 40 things within one month.

26. Went on a hot air balloon ride.

27. Ate a banana split sundae at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor.

28. Went to a painting class. Created a painting of trees.

29. Had my portrait painted.

30. Went on a fabulous surprise getaway with Steve. He took me to the shopping outlets and then to San Luis Obispo. All on a whim. He had it all planned out and I knew nothing about it!

Yet to come….

11. Jacob teaching me 6 songs on the piano.

12. Going for a hot-air balloon ride in Temecula.

13. Going on a tandem bike ride.

14. Going to the Anatolian Festival.

15. Eating a banana split sundae at Farrell’s.

16. Taking a dance lesson with Steve.

17. Shooting a gun.

18. Hosting/participating in a Murder-Mystery Dinner

Not sure yet how/when it will happen, but hopeful I can still…..

19. Have my portrait sketched/painted

20. Visit the Museum of Tolerance

21. Donate blood

22. Have my eyebrows waxed.

23. Buy a Dutch oven.

24. Go a whole month without missing a single day of a quiet time with God.

25. Tour the L.A. Central Library

26. Play a Geo-caching game with the family.

27. Organize all my recipes.

28. Visit the Disney Hall

29. Write a mission statement for my children.

30. List 40-50 things that have happened to me to shape who I am.

31. Camp in the backyard.

32. Go in our pajama’s to Cafe 50’s.

33. Visiting the Getty at night.

34. Perhaps going to the Museum of Tolerance.

35. Making a switch from coffee to tea in the morning.

I’m thrilled to have Natalie be my art teacher. She is enjoying the thrill of being Mama’s teacher. She will teach me how to make my very own water color painting. 🙂

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Certificate of Distinguished Achievement

Brimming with pride. I am so deeply proud of what our daughter has been recognized for.

The American Legion Certificate of School Award

This certificate of Distinguished Achievement is awarded to

Natalie Wallis

In recognition of the possession of those high qualities of Courage, Honor, Leadership, Patriotism, Scholarship and Service which are necessary to the preservation and protection of the fundamental institutions of our government and the advancement of society

In the words of Jacob….. “the MVP Award for middle school”

What a tremendous honor bestowed to Natalie by the educators and administrative team of Dana Middle School. Wow.

This little girlie of mine is not so little anymore. She is growing up to be a tremendous woman. This is a mother’s dream come true, to watch one’s daughter growing up possessing and exemplifying such high qualities. To be recognized out of the 200+ 8th graders that were part of her cohort is such an honor. I am just so, so, so, so proud.

I think back to the years when we would sit on the couch reading picture books together. And now here she is ready to head off to high school. Along the way she has been growing, stretching, developing, and also bringing tremendous joy to others. She is a leader and team player. She pours her all into her academics. She volunteers. She spends quality time with friends. She is a gift giver, loving to bake for others. She is polite. She is thoughtful. She is organized and driven. She loves to learn. She both leads and serves. She is an athlete- giving her all on the basketball court and out on the waves as she surfs. She radiates joy. She can as easily carry on conversations with adults, as she can with her peers. She is full of integrity. She is grateful for so much. She treasures her relationship with her Creator. She loves going to youth group, and growing in her faith. She is a marvel to me…..I simply cannot wait to see what incredible contributions she will make in our society. Clearly she’s already being noticed and recognized for being incredible. I am beyond proud of her. Actually, bursting with pride.

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Our FLL Practice & Qualifier Tournaments

Hello, I’m Natalie Wallis, Marina’s 10-year old daughter. I am part of a FLL team with my brother, called The Masterminds. This is my second year participating in FLL, and my brother, Jacob’s, third. Last year the season was all about animals, and this year the theme is water.

There are many tournaments. The practice tournament, where teams might get awards, but always move on. The Qualifier, where some teams advance but others don’t. The regional, where the team that advance to the qualifier compete, and the champion of that tournament goes to the World Festival in either Houston, Texas or this year Detroit, Michigan.

Last season we were a team of five, and we advanced all the way to World Festival in Houston. But the other three decided it was too much of a time commitment, so it left just Jacob and I.

Just last week on Sunday October 29th at La Cañada High School, we went into our practice tournament with excitement. There was no champion’s awards availible there  but we did walk away with 1st place mechanical design and 1st place robot performance. It was sooo fun!

Yesterday at West Ranch High School, on November 5th (Jacob’s Birthday! 🙂 we went in again at around 7:30 in the morning feeling excited but very cold, and walked out with 1st place robot performance as well as Champion’s Award. So that means that in a month, on December 10th, we are competing at the regional and hopefully (crossing fingers) advancing to the regional.

At the qualifier, we got hotdogs and shaved ice. Yummy! Also, there was a dog adoption company there showing dogs up for adoption as well as selling things for dogs like collars and sweaters and such. Sadly I couldn’t adopt a dog because we already have 2 cats, but anyways I bought 2 packs of 4 bows for only $1 each pack! One pack for me, one for my BFF. I’m glad that I got to support those dogs, as all of the money goes to them! We even got in a radio article by KHTS! Here is the link:

West Ranch High School Host FIRST Lego League Qualifier Tournament For Los Angeles Region

I hope that we can continue to do well in our tournaments. All for now!

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No more headgear!

Today was a fun surprise kind of day! We scheduled an ortho appointment because one of Jacob’s baby teeth came out yesterday. That tooth was one of the key teeth on which his retainer clamped onto. Now what? We went in wondering what the orthodontist would recommend as a solution. Dr. Hom held the headgear in his hands as he contemplated a solution. And then right there, as if on cue, the headgear snapped and broke. Yup! Just like that. The timing could not have been more perfect. It literally broke from wear and tear of 2 years of usage right there in the hands of the doctor! So, as a result, the doctor announced Jacob could take a vacation for his mouth. No retainer and no headgear. Wow! Whoa! Unexpected news! And so, the assistant was instructed to remove the bands from the back molars of his upper jaw…..and he walked out a free boy. He’s got 2 baby teeth left. Once those fall out and the adult teeth come out, then we can begin Phase 2 of orthodonture. Until then, a few months of vacation for his mouth. It’s so hard to believe that it’s been 2 years since he first started wearing head gear. Time has sure flown by! October 2015- December 28, 2017. Amazing. Jacob has grown so much in those two years. And crazy to think that the headgear was helping reshape the jaw structure of his face, to correct for the overbite of his teeth, all while he slept peacefully at night. Those days are all over. Goodbye headgear.

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Losing is hard

Today’s basketball loss was hard. Jacob’s team had made it to the QuarterFinals in the RBYB League. Tonight’s game was against the Thunders. Our team, the Kings, had won them earlier in the season. Could they win again? Oh how we hoped! And yet it didn’t happen. The final score ended up being 31 to 45. That hurt.

I think the defeat felt so intense because everyone truly believed deep down to the marrow of their bones that they were champion material. Weekly their amazing coach painted a picture of success for the boys and the incredible potential of their skill and effort. Tonight’s loss hurt because the boys knew that a win could have and should have been possible.

Tonight my mama heart hurt as I watched the faces of these 5th and 6th grade boys be overcome by that really, really hard feeling of defeat. The chance at advancing to the quarterfinals and eventually the championship game, was no longer an option. It was gone. Vanished. Their basketball season was over. And that makes losing really, really hard. When you have to walk out of a gym and hang up your sneakers, ending a whole season of hard work on a loss. And, yet, that’s what causes kids to develop fibers of resilience and strength for their future. Or at least that’s what we hope for.

I recently saw a post made by a man named Mark Wolpert about how paying for our kids’ involvement in sports is an investment. He wrote:

-I pay for those moments when my kids become so tired they want to quit but don’t.

– I pay for my kids to learn to be disciplined, focused and dedicated.

– I pay for my kids to learn to take care of their body and equipment.

– I pay for my kids to learn to work with others and to be good team mates, gracious in defeat and humble in success.

– I pay for my kids to learn to deal with disappointment, when they don’t get that placing or title they’d hoped for, but still they go back week after week giving it their best shot.

– I pay for my kids to learn to make and accomplish goals.

– I pay for my kids to respect, not only themselves, but other athletes, officials and coaches.

– I pay for my kids to learn that it takes hours and hours, years and years of hard work and practice to create a champion and that success does not happen overnight.

– I pay for my kids to be proud of small achievements, and to work towards long term goals.

– I pay for the opportunity my kids have and will have to make life-long friendships, create lifelong memories, to be as proud of their achievements as I am.

– I pay so that my kids can be out on the field or in the gym instead of in front of a screen…

…I could go on but, to be short, I don’t pay for sports; I pay for the opportunities that sports provides my kids with to develop attributes that will serve them well throughout their lives and give them the opportunity to bless the lives of others. From what I have seen so far I think it is a great investment!

We could not have been happier than to be a part of The Kings family, under the direction of Coach Keith. A coach can make or break a kid’s perspective of a sport, just like a teacher can be the reason a student loves or hates a subject. There is soooooooo much power that a coach has to shape a child’s outlook towards a sport. And this season Coach Keith inspired! He made a powerful positive impact on each of the boys. He was indeed an inspirational coach. He trained the boys both physically and mentally. Coach Keith would send out emails with encouraging challenges tailored specifically for each boy. He’d end emails with quotes like “The man who wins, is the man who thinks he can.” (Vince Lombardi). The super hard part, tonight, was that they thought they could, but didn’t. And that’s life, my friends.

Tonight 8 boys went to bed extremely bummed out, with a strain of the heavy feeling of defeat on their chests.

Will life go on tomorrow? Yes.

How will tonight’s loss have shaped these boys into who they will one day become as men?

The best we can all hope for is that they will continue to strive, believe, hope and work hard. That they will continue to give life their all, even in the face of defeat.

Sometimes even when you have a legitimate shot at winning, you lose.

Thankfully we had an incredible season and these boys were in the presence of a coach who was marked by integrity, excellence, and a passion for basketball. He asked them to give their all, and he modeled giving his all. All I can say is that I’m so so so so so grateful that all the Tuesday and Thursday evenings of practices plus all the weekend game time, Jacob was under the guidance and leadership of a coach who was so extremely positive and inspirational and so bent on skill development of the entire team!

Tonight closes Jacob’s basketball season.

Muscles have been exercised, skills have been developed, character has been sharpened.

I call that a win!

Dominic #12, Cooper #11, Jason#3, Cheogal #1, Keith #10, Luciano #2, Jacob #5 & Lucas #4 along with Coach Keith & Coach Jerry.

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Today’s joy-filled outing

Davy running to Jacob. Greeting Jacob with a MASSIVE waist hug.

Hellos. Smiles. Happiness to be with friends once again.

Presentations in the Nature Center.

Ella-Jayne- Giant Blue Butterfly

Asher- Monster Beetle

Caedmon’s very, very, very 1st presentation ever. He’s only 4 years old. Adorable beyond belief! All about Stink Bugs. Him leaning in close to his Mama. Mustering up lots of courage to be just like the ‘big’ kids. Alison prompting him with great interview questions- and Caedmon responding with expertise. Wonderful!

Orange and black Harlequin Bugs. In abundance. On many, many plants. Clusters of the bugs. So colorful! 2 rows of their tiny eggs. Holding bugs. Watching them flip over.

Beautiful Ice Plants, calling them by many different names.  Wondering about their intricate ‘crystal’ like, bulging water cells.

Audrey slipping her little hand into mine. Wanting to walk together. My heart melts.

“Ice Crystal Plant”….. “Raspberry Plant”

Quite warm and humid picnic spot.

Climbing on fallen trees.

Shows. Surveys. Singing. Dramatic ‘trilling’ performances. Hymns.

The world’s a stage. Quite literally.




Charlee walking right in front of me. Stopping, turning, her toes against mine. Her lifting her arms up straight in the air- a quiet plea to be picked up and carried. Her body not wanting to walk anymore. The sweetest gesture: “Will you please carry me?” That wordless arm-reach….melting my heart.

Big white bird nesting in a tall palm tree.

Kids building a fort.

The awesome breeze and wind on our faces and through our hair as we walked back.

More of the Ice Crystal Plant. Lots of it. Red color everywhere.

Kids picking to make beautiful bouquets.

Kids presenting flowers to their Mamas.


Surprise! the snake in the Nature Center has in the meantime eaten its breakfast mouse, shed its whole skin and pooped! What It all happened within the 5 hours of our time spent out on the trail.

Time flew by.


Sunburned faces.

Oh- wish I would have thought of applying sunscreen.

Feel like a negligent mama.

But I also feel like a good mama- I took my kiddos to the great outdoors today.

We learned. We played. We observed. We deepened our friendships.

A great day!

My heart is glad.

A full day.

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I am emotionally spent


What a game.

Intense beyond intense.

Sooooooooooo incredibly proud of this team of boys.

team picture

They didn’t win the semifinals. But man they sure came close. When the game first started the Clippers team (ranked #2) scored a few shots right away. No! We can’t let them create a significant lead. Then our boys got on the scoreboard. Next thing we knew they tied it up 10-10. And then Abe gave them the lead by making his free-throw. 11-10. And that’s when the real intensity began. The points were being added to the scoreboard for each team…..but then all of a sudden we started taking the lead….a big lead….at one point we were more than 10 points ahead of them.  Could we keep the lead? Oh man, then their #13 came back into the game after having sat out the 3rd quarter. The kid who makes everyone else wonder “there is no way this kid is a 3rd or 4th grader?” The kid who is several heads taller than everyone in the league and is the solid brick wall on the court who succeeds at capturing every single rebound. But our boys kept the Clippers sweating. At one point the referee stopped the game and told the parents of the Clippers team to pipe down and cut it out. I’m not sure what they were shouting- but it made the ref mad. And then he had to stop them again when they were hooting and hollering trying to distract Ryan while he was up at the free throw line.

The competition was fierce. Our boys were working their tails off keeping the lead. Then all of sudden when there was a minute left in the game, things turned. Oh no. They were pressing our team and were able to steal the ball as we brought it in. They made the shot. Somewhere along the way Ryan got elbowed hard by one of the Celtics and grabbed his mouth….he was bleeding…..he wanted to keep playing. He was upset- why wasn’t the foul called? Few moments later he and Celtics were going for the ball and both fell face down on the court. Next there was blood coming from Ryan’s nose. This kid was giving it his all. Confusion arose when the scoreboard lights went out. Next thing we knew there were 3.8 seconds left on the clock and the score was Celtics 36- Clippers 35. Pressure, emotions, worry, excitement……all mingled in the air. Our hearts were beating like crazy in our chests…. the intensity was beyond description. And with less than 4 seconds on the clock it was our turn to bring the ball in. Could we do it? Jacob was in charge of bringing the ball in. There was a full-court press, every kid on our team was being aggressively defended. Jacob’s time was running out to pass that ball in…..he hurled it past half court, past everyone and Abe started running for it…..oh oh oh oh oh he was within lay-up position….but just couldn’t get to the ball in time as it bounced off court. DANG IT!!! Since no one from the Celtics had touched that incoming ball, then the Celtics had the advantage of bringing it in just where Jacob had brought it in, right there on their side of the court. Drats! They brought it in and scored.

Final Score

Clippers: 37        Celtics: 36



It was all over.

Here we were……so close to winning the game….could have gone on to the 2pm Championship Game. But it was over. We had been in the lead. We had made the Clippers nervous. We gave them a run for their money. A good game. A hard fought game. An amazing game. Everyone was proud of the boys. And this is what they were able to do without having the amazing skills of their All-Star select Nick! He had been gone the whole weekend for a family member’s wedding up in Northern California. Three amazing games without their all-star. We simply can’t say enough how very, very proud we are of all the boys. They stepped up and played their hearts out.

And all of us parents went home with throbbing headaches and feeling completely emotionally wiped out. All the screaming, cheering, hollering, encouraging- wow.

Now we’re off to go watch the Final Game between the Clippers and the Knicks.

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A great start to a basketball season!

Today was a great first day of basketball season!

Jacob had his very first game playing in the Redondo Beach Youth Basketball League.

Game 1: win

Score: 34 to 26

Natalie had a fabulous hour-long practice with her basketball team and is looking forward to her very 1st game of the season tomorrow.

Right before that practice, she had the joy of having a wiggly tooth pulled by Daddy. Or, as she reports “after he had iced it for a few minutes he barely touched it and it fell out!” “Mama, now I can officially have a gopher smile!!!” Yes. Yes. indeed. With the two baby teeth now missing right next to each of her two front adult teeth, she can indeed smile like a gopher. So cute.

After naps, I headed out to UCLA with the kids to give Daddy some work time at home. We had received complimentary tickets to the 5pm UCLA vs. Oregon Women’s Basketball game at Pauley Pavilion. Steve has been doing an amazing job as Daddy playing and hanging out with the kids for the past 2 weeks of his Christmas Vacation, but with Professional Development happening on Monday, he needed to put in several hours of work tonight…..so off we went.

We found some great general-admission seats in the bleachers, about 20 rows up from the court, just in time for the start of the game…….there were 43 seconds left on the clock before game time when we arrived. Talk about perfect timing! Natalie had brought along her UCLA pompoms from a previous game we had attended. Both were wearing UCLA shirts and donning the Bruin blue and yellow colors. We were ready to cheer!

But then to our GREAT surprise, one of the pep-rally organizers approached us and said he would like to extend 3 court side seats to us. What!? Really!? WOW!!! He said he had been watching us and we looked like excited fans. Indeed! So we followed him down to the court and got the BEST seats ever!!!!!

IMG_9317This was our view for the whole game! Wow…..we were thrilled!!!IMG_9326 IMG_9330 Getting to watch these college women play right before our eyes was a fabulous experience! Just to think…..Natalie will be playing her very, very 1st basketball game EVER tomorrow! One day she won’t be a 7-year old, 2nd grader anymore and instead will be a college student herself. So hard to imagine!

Then it got even better!!! We made it up on the giant Jumbo-Tron!!! Pure awesomeness! A kid’s dream come true. 🙂IMG_9331

And it kept getting better….Natalie spotted ‘Josephine’ the Bruin Bear and she asked me if she could pleeeeeeeease  go say hi. The Bear picked up Natalie’s pom poms and was doing a little cheer for her….and then posed for a sweet picture. Natalie was SO happy!


I asked Jacob if he too would like to say hi to the Bear. Um…..no…..:) He shrugged his shoulders in a “I’m 9 years old and a bit too old (cool) for that, mom” But with a bit of encouragement he went too.


Except for the picture he got in one of his defensive poses! Ha! That cracked me up. It was that exact same look and position that he had this morning all throughout his Celtics game against the Hornets. He took his defensive role very seriously in this morning’s game! At one point the ref needed to point out to him that his stance was borderline foul-behavior. Here he is…..ready to defend against Josephine Bear. 🙂IMG_9352

After we returned to our court side seats, look who came to visit us once more!


And then at half-time the video camera guys were in search of kids who would dance for the “Kid Dance Cam”. Both Jacob and Natalie were busting out their dance moves….and, yes, once more were seen up on the Jumbotron! Oh my goodness- twice in one night!

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Though UCLA lost the game to Oregon, we still had an amazing evening. Natalie in particular was mesmerized by the UCLA cheerleaders. During the first half of the game, the 5 girls were seated on the floor literally at our feet. Each time they jumped up to do a cheer, Natalie watched their every move and tried to follow the routine with her pom poms. It was so adorable to see her eyes sparkle as she watched the ladies do flips in the air in response to each successful free-throw shot. At one of the time-out breaks I tried as quickly as I could to erase as many apps and pictures as possible to make room on my camera to take pictures. I missed the opportunity of snapping shots of how close the cheerleaders were and how Natalie followed suit with what they were cheering. But this was a close second when I finally got my phone camera to work.IMG_9356

After the game was over, I decided “what the heck, why not continue the epic fun day…..and take them to Westwood to go have a pazookie at BJ’s?!” We drove in to Westwood, found a parking spot and then headed to BJ’s Pizzeria. There each of the kids had flatbread cheese pizzas, a soda and they inhaled a chocolate chip pazookie with vanilla ice cream. There was so much ecstatic disbelief in the air, of this incredible treat by Mama…..that I couldn’t help but smile when I saw Natalie write this on her children’s menu:

IMG_9365I’ll take the compliment! Indeed an epic night!

Free basketball tickets…..with court side seats….2 showings of our family on the JumboTron….time with Josephine Bear….getting to high-5 each of the UCLA players after the game as they came filing past our seats….getting autographs from two of the players….finding parking in Westwood…..eating dinner at BJs….and finishing off with a pazookie dessert! Oh me oh my. And that was how we closed an already exciting day, with Jacob’s 1st basketball game and Natalie losing a tooth!

To top if off….all this for $14.25. That makes this money-saving Mama all kinds of happy!

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A truly gloriously fun evening out with my kiddos.

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An Epic Auto Show…..a 9-year old boy’s dream!

DSC_0074Steve was 100% correct…..Jacob was going to be in car-heaven if we went to this particular auto show. Wow. As we drove northbound on the 101 all of a sudden we heard and saw 4 red Lamborghini sports cars roar past us. Jacob was BEYOND excited! Wow. Whoa. Oh my goodness. Four?!? We knew where they were headed!

To the Motor4Toys Exotic Car Show!

When we spotted these two yellow sports cars side by side, I asked him “Jacob, if you could choose, would you choose the yellow Lamborghini or the yellow Ferrari?” He began to chew on that thought….and then asked “for street driving or for racing?” Ha! I didn’t know he’d have a different opinion with regards to the purpose of the vehicle. Indeed he did. But as I type this, I can’t for the life of me remember his answer and his rationale….but he had a very firm reason for choosing the one he did for each type of driving scenario.DSC_0060

Oh and it was just the beginning of all things A-M-A-Z-I-N-G for a 9-year old boy who looooooooves sports cars!!!! I’m sure his heartbeat was crazy high as he spotted cars he had only seen in magazines before! Here, live before him…and in many cases, with engines still warm from the drive they had made to arrive at the show….



Ford GT

Lexus LFA




Porsche Carrera



At one point, as we were looking at three incredible Bogatti parked right next to each other, Steve showed me the quick Internet search result that he had on his phone for the price of each one: $2,250,000.  Each one had been sold at a price tag over $2 million! Dude. Whoa. Wow. I turned to Natalie and said “Natalie, if each one costs 2 million 250 thousand dollars, what is the value of these 3 cars sitting here?” There we stood doing a quick math problem….2 million x 3 = 6 million…..250 + 250 = 500, then add another 250 to get 750. Whoa. We were looking at 6 million, 750 thousand dollars of car value. Whoa.

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As we were walking around the giant parking lot, in rolled a Lexus LFA…..and boy oh boy…..Steve and Jacob both were beyond excited at the sight of that vehicle! They were sharing a moment of being in awe of getting to see one up and personal. Not only them….but every man walking anywhere near this incoming vehicle, seemed to drop their jaw at the sight of this vehicle. I, on the other hand, knowing absolutely nothing about vehicles could not comprehend what was being communicated amongst all these awestruck onlookers turning their heads and quickening their step towards this vehicle. All I heard were incredulous whispers…”Is that a Lexus LFA??!” DSC_0035 Jacob kept his eye on this Lexus LFA and watched the driver make several loops, trying to find a parking spot. He asked if we could follow it. Sure. Why not?DSC_0036Steve had only ever seen this car in magazines and once at the LA Auto Show- and that time it was surrounded by stanchions, no one could come even remotely close to it.  But now here we were following it on foot.

Turns out the reason this car was such a remarkable thing to witness, is that only 500 made worldwide. Only 20 were produced by Lexus each month between 2010-2012. During production, each one received an individually numbered plaque, indicating it’s place in the production run. This vehicle that we saw was #475.

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And then there was Natalie……excited for her brother…..getting to see him revel at the sight of all these dream cars of his. But for herself she was more excited about the cute  poodles and chihuahuas that some people had brought on leash to the event.  Also getting to see some ‘different’ cool vehicles, such as…

the 70s shag-carpet van

the mud-covered jeep

the Bat-mobile emblem covered in jewels

the VW van that her outfit matched color-wise

the original Mini-Cooper that she was taller than (and soooooo much smaller than current Mini-Coopers in production)

the hot-pink Dolorean

and the cool old vintage yellow car with 3 benches for passengers

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Such different delights for these two children’s eyes…..

but together as a family we shared a wonderful morning of enjoying cars. DSC_0014

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