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Evidently the world record distance for spitting a watermelon seed is 75 feet and 2 inches. We have a way to go at the McGaugh house before reaching that kind of mastery, but we all sure had fun trying our hand at this summer bucket list item!

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Here is a useful “how to” with respect to making the seeds more aerodynamic in flight.

 

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This is not my area of expertise, I discovered. Back in the day, my mom used to serve big round slices of watermelon in the summer in repurposed pie tins. We had a go at the circle of melon, poking out the black seeds with our forks. It was one of my favorite seasonal treats.

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Few things indeed are more redolent of summertime than chilled red watermelon flesh, slightly sweet and toothsome. Finding a watermelon with the seeds is a challenge these days; it is the era of seedless watermelon hegemony. I found this small one, unlabeled either as seedless or non, at Sprouts, I believe. I have been buying watermelons here and there as I have been a woman on the hunt, and despite knowing I would need to write this blog entry, I actually lost track of where I finally scored the seeded melon! But I think it was Sprouts.

My Dad was the winner here, although there is some dispute about where his first—and winning seed—ended up going after it shot. My mom was the close second. I shot only the most enormous duds. Should I get my hands on a seeded watermelon again this summer, I will surely be practicing. And the kiddos? Well, they couldn’t believe we were all sanctioned to spit, and they had a delighted time of it.

For Summer Bucket List #7, we took a cue from Chubby Checker and tried contorting our bodies to “Limbo Rock” one afternoon.

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We have to work on our technique a bit with this one, too, but ah it’s summer and we’re embracing the classic and there you go. It’s the simple things, so often, right? We are far from attempting a fiery pole, though, let’s put it that way. And being a runner? Uh, my legs are no longer so amenable to backbends!

Incidentally, the limbo dance has a curious history as it hails from Trinidad and is considered to represent aspects of death. Who knew? I grew up listening to Limbo Rock on one of my children’s albums that I used to play on my 80s Fisher-Price record player. I thought it hailed from the Strawberry Shortcake Splash Dance album, but I am having the darnedest time proving this through research online and on iTunes. I had a little handful of albums that I would play in my bedroom, sprawled on my floor—I know Limbo Rock was on one of those!

We are thoroughly enjoying our summer so far and its rhythms of daily swim lessons, long library trips and devouring books, picking blueberries, tending our chickens, taking walks that last forever, and watching Brady Bunch and Leave it to Beaver episodes. There is braided hair, and dinners al fresco, planning for our road trip all over Oregon, mint green tea in large jugs, and time together. It’s good. We’re offering Katie and Eric the sort of “classic summer”—deliberately more slow and old school, filled with games and ephemera from a generation or two ago–that we hope they will always remember and think about with a sense of coziness and wonder. In a world so complicated, sometimes we need to return to simplicity.

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On Saturday morning Bill, the kiddos, and I drove early into Los Angeles for a Father’s Day brunch at Google’s Venice Beach office. An invitational event for Glass Explorers, this brunch offered a chance to Bill’s family to attend a Google Glass event. We were treated to a delicious meal and then had the opportunity to test Glass related prototypes and software. We met with Glass Guides as well as other Glass users. All four of us had a blast, and there is something so comforting about hanging out with other sci-tech lovers.

All of the Google employees were friendly, mellow, smart, and humorous and made us all feel so welcome. The receptionist took extra time with Eric to make his official pass just the right length and to talk with him about a really neat-o piece of art (screwdrivers welded together) in the lobby. Eric asked her a bunch of questions, and his curiosity seemed not only welcomed but celebrated. When all the children present decided to build a huge fort out of the ginormous G-O-O-G-L-E pillows and big stuffed rock pillows, their creative play felt honored instead of feeling like a nuisance.

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In this collage: 1) Google employees seem to eat quite well. I appreciated the healthy options, as well as vegetarian options. Noted also: many of the Glass Guides and several of the explorers seem to prioritize running, triathlons, and the like; 2) Our family by the “Google doodle” wall. 3) Checking in!

 

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Big GOOGLE pillows! Everyone loved these. They were so comfy, too!

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Transhumanist basketball? Among other prototypes, we tested Glass equipped with software that communicates with a chip in the basketball. After you throw, the software analyzes your performance. Glass then orally relays to you what you should attempt in order to improve.

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I am a wearable tech enthusiast but do not currently own Glass myself. Bill received his for Christmas and wears his Glass all day, every day. I would welcome a pair but only when the price point matches how frequently I would wear them. My lifestyle with my children is so dynamic—wrestling, tickle fighting, constant snuggling/hugging/kissing—that I fear mine would break if I wore them all day. I view Glass much like I view my pearls: something I would put on for certain occasions (travel, for use with physical fitness software, going for a walk, any event in which I might not want my head down in my phone but might want access to ready information). After playing around with some stuff in the works, though? My imagination started going wild with the potential for Glass. It is not just a smart phone at eye level. Imagine chips in running shoes…with the ability of Glass to coach you based on data about your stride, say. Glass could become a performance enhancer. What if we could put sensors on our fingers and use Glass to learn to play the piano, or any instrument? I cannot wait to see where this tech goes. It is a bit cumbersome still, at this point, but I would not be opposed to getting an implant in my eye…

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After Google we went down the street to the Santa Monica Pier for one purpose only: Eric has been remembering and asking about the viewing port on the pier ever since our February visit. Last time, the tide was not up enough to see through the port. He has been desperately wanting to see it and asking all kinds of questions about how the pier was constructed (I am now partially learned with respect to this matter, ha ha!). So to the port we went! He said it was better than a movie and that he wanted to watch and watch and watch. I love his engineer-esque mind. So inquisitive, he wants to know how everything works.

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From there, it was onward to UCLA, Bill’s alma mater. Although it seems we have visited Stanford several times, we had not yet taken the kiddos to UCLA (and it has been on my to-do/wish list). We happened to hit graduation this weekend, which was even better: the campus vibe was celebratory, and Katie got to see intelligent and hard-working, gorgeous, bright-eyed women in their gowns and stoles right at the moment of honoring their academic accomplishments. Could not have been better timing with respect to the message we want to send loud and clear to our kiddos…

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Father and daughter looking out over Janss Steps across to Sproul Hall, where Bill once lived.

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I love UCLA—was thisclose to attending it myself, had hard decisions to make!—and could see both of our children loving it here someday. In another universe, I chose UCLA and loved it…I can feel it! If only we could have every experience we want to have, but that is not to be… Will Katie or Eric one day be a Bruin? We shall see!

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My UCLA guy with our children and Royce Hall in the background.

Then today we celebrated with my dad:

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When I asked Eric and Katie how we should celebrate, Eric championed a barbecue. So a classic barbecue it was! Very laid back and easy and a time to cherish being all together. We even had a watermelon seed spitting contest, but that was a summer bucket list item and therefore will comprise its own short post one of these days. (Do you know how difficult it is to find a non-seedless watermelon these days? Yeesh)!

We had an excellent weekend, and I hope the men in our lives felt totally loved and honored. Happy Father’s Day, to my dad and to my husband. We love you both!

Eric? Eric was born wanting to sleep. We fed and slept regularly from the first week of his life, and he would get up at night like clockwork. At three months exactly, he went down in his crib and slept through the night. He worked quickly through fussing before naps and contentedly played in his crib until I came in to get him after any sleep. His presence inspired a predictable bedtime in this house (8:00 PM), partly out of necessity. Even now, if he finds himself needing a nap, he will take himself upstairs, stretch out on his bed, and pass out. Eric, I have often said, is my champion sleeper. I haven’t really had to do a single thing. If he “cried it out” at all, it was so relatively mild that it barely registered as the traumatic event that can sometimes be for parents.

Eric loves his sleep, his bed, his room, and his night routine.

Katie, my beloved firstborn, has been the opposite. She resists sleep in much the same way I do, and has personality traits that make her more prone to worry, dependence, and in need of soothing. As a new mom, I had zero clue about the ways in which children sleep. I made decisions with her as a newborn that have rippled throughout the past six years of her life, decisions that were well-intentioned and based on what I thought was best for her and all the rest of us.

It takes some guts, it turns out, to share this parenting story. When it comes to parenting, I often think of one of my favorite Maya Angelou quotes: “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.” If we are honest, this is true for every parent. We are all works in progress, dealing with little humans who contain a bevy of variables. I am most at home in my parenting when I think of it as one-part experimentation, one-part cheerleading, one-part boot camp, and one-part mama bear. I believe that no one knows my children better than my husband and I do, and no one can make better decisions about how to raise them than my husband and I can. Yet the art of parenting is the art of tweaking. When I make mistakes, I am both hard on myself and yet forgiving. I make sure to keep the responsibility on myself, too. Yes, parenting is difficult work—and therefore worth it—but I don’t make it a pastime to complain about my children. After all, I had the choice to make and live with them—they had no choice to live with me!

If you are a parent who has strong feelings about how children sleep—to the point of being judgmental—then this blog might not be for you. Or it might be. If you are a parent, though, like I am—one who constantly searches for how to make lessons easier for my children to learn, how best to communicate with them, and how best to modify my techniques to really reach them and help them be who they are meant to be—then you will likely identify with this blog entry in some way. For me, parenting is a process of trial and error, reflection, self-assessment, and trying harder. What I get right, I celebrate. What I don’t get right, I keep having a go at until I do get it right. To be a flexible parent, I think it is necessary to have equal measures of confidence and doubt. Knowing how to use doubt to get better results from myself actually becomes, over time, confidence.

So. My daughter. From the first week I could not figure out how to get her to nap in her bassinet. She nursed herself to sleep…about every hour of the night, until finally our pediatrician recommended a pacifier. Despite my attachment to those as a child, I never had any in the house for Katie when she was first born. As the weeks went on, my sleep deprivation grew more enormous and my instinct was to embrace the easiest route to self-preservation.We would fall asleep propped up in the Boppy in the cozy chair. I would catch cat naps on the couch with her on my chest while watching 3AM repeat episodes of Project Runway and as ironclad evidence of my sleep deprivation, episodes of A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.

Eventually, I stopped nursing after three months (a decision by which I stand without regret and which saved my sanity), and she slept by our bedside. Never soundly, it seemed, but for finally for longer stretches at a time.

It came time for me to return to work. We tried “cry it out” one weekend. This child of mine can and would cry until she threw up. It would be near midnight, and I would be in her room changing crib sheets and starting laundry. I had to go back to work, so I gave up and put her back in our room. The night before I left her, I took her into bed with me to snuggle her and cried and cried while holding her hand.

If I could go back in time and give my new-mom self several pieces of advice, there would be several pieces of advice to give. By the time Eric came along, I had more confidence as a mother and more skill. I knew how to swaddle better. I knew I had to get him to maintain good sleep habits no matter what. I knew the secret of parenting, by then: believe fully in what you are doing, and they will believe it, too.

Within her first year of life, we tried “cry it out” a few more times. Every time, she cried herself into nausea. I wanted to help my stressed child, and I also wanted our adult sleep. I tried sleeping on her floor and inching out the door. I tried many of the strategies about which we read all the time as mothers.

At certain point, I went down the path of ease. We needed our sleep, and I took the easiest route there. I guess we did attachment parenting, by default. She slept with us until she got her big girl bed right before Eric was born. Sometimes I would move her out to the crib part way through the night, or if she fell asleep cuddling downstairs, I would start her in her crib so Bill and I could have alone time together. But she always, always ended up with us by the wee hours of the morning. Waking up with her was beautiful, too. We would sing and cuddle and tell stories. There are advantages to most situations in life, as well as drawbacks.

By the time she got her big girl bed, it was hop-around-all-night-for-Sarah in our house. I would either start there, and then spend time with my husband, and then end up back with Katie after one of her wake-ups; or I would find myself falling asleep while cuddling her there. The past four years of my life have been spent playing musical beds.

Enough. 

Am I governed by my child’s frontal lobe, or do I decide to take my rightful role and be the guide for her?

The natural result of taking better care of myself physically and mentally the past two years is that so many parts of my life come into sharper resolution as a result. In mothering myself, I find some of the secret to a better mothering of my own children.

And so two weeks and one day ago Katie and I had the “here is how bedtime is now going to be” talk. We’ve broached the topic before, but the difference is that I now have the confidence and philosophical conviction to back up what I say.

In taking the easy way through bedtime, I did not fully allow her to develop her ability to self-soothe, to look deep in herself and find power there. I did not let her have the chance—as I do, now, every day as a runner—to look at stress and fear and overcome them to find a stronger version of herself.

We also had a talk about my love for, and commitment to, and unification with, her daddy. I told her that I had been sending her a confusing message, and that I know now that putting us all in the proper places at bedtime is a way to create an even greater sense of safety for her. Mommy and Daddy are fully unified and nothing comes between us. Our house is under an orderly system. In that unification and order, a child may have greater trust that everything in the house is exactly as it should be. There is structure, even at night. There is a reduction of the chaos, and I have removed (as I told her) completely the awful burden on her shoulders in thinking that she has any say or control over the organization of people in the house—she does not. For a child who fears a lack of control, the removal of this burden was a godsend to her. It is amazing how much more at peace, in general, she has been these past two weeks.

And so, at age six, my child finally cried it out without throwing up. And it wasn’t horrible: more like a light fussing for two nights. When she saw that look of determination in my eyes, she knew she no longer had to worry about managing where we all slept and therefore settled in to the new routine. I wish I had done this awhile ago. Maybe the time is right now, because at six she has enough ability to talk this through with me. For two days, she kept repeating every reason I had given her, including that she needs better and less disturbed sleep so that her brain can grow and learn and integrate new knowledge properly. But maybe the time would have been right years ago, if I had just had the chutzpah.

Summer Bucket List #5: Clean up our sleep habits and remove all additional support for Katie at bedtime (except, of course, if she has a nightmare or sickness and needs a bit of normal care and cuddling), so that she may know what it is to be truly free and confident in her own abilities to comfort herself  and govern herself in a productive way. (She reads herself to sleep). Shift that support to my husband all night, and claim my own rightful place as a leader of the household who sets the standards of health (exercise, good sleep habits, and nourishing diet). 

In finding out how important it is to my sense of personal value to govern myself, I realized I could no longer keep  either of my children from discovering their own powers of self-governance. All this time I thought it was in her best interest to keep her from as much storm and stress as possible; yet my own journey has made me realize that, no, a natural and controlled amount of non-harmful stress at a normal rite of passage is actually a means to growth. Who am I to keep her from coming fully into her own? She needs to know what she can weather, so that she can love herself fully and, it is hoped, strive for self-actualization.

We are two weeks in, and we have a new normalcy and routine at bedtime. It is wonderful, and we are all free. It took me a long time to understand that enforcing this routine is in her best interest, as well as in all the rest of ours. It is a treat to reach out and feel my husband there all night. At last, we are all where we should be, and it is not on the child’s timetable (a thought to which I subscribed for a couple of years). It is on MY timetable, because it is both my privilege and responsibility to be a leader and guide to health in this household. A move that I thought would increase Katie’s tendency toward anxious behavior has actually reduced her presentation of anxious symptoms.

This was, by far, the heavy hitter, the big kahuna, the scariest item, the potentially hardest task on my summer bucket list. But if I can run a 10K at a 6:46 pace and overcome that fear and pain, then I can deal with the fear of having to do the hard—but what I believe to be right—thing for my child. There was a shirt in that Strawberry Festival 10K that resonated with me: “Do what is necessary, not what is comfortable.” If there is something in our life that does not feel right in the gut, we never are stuck and we can change it if we are willing to look at fear and do what is necessary. It is uncomfortable to rework bedtime routines, but I am thrilled that we have done it, and with love. No punishments, certainly, were necessary, and the rewards this time have all been intrinsic, which rewards should be (in my opinion). I am learning more about overcoming fear and inertia every day, and that understanding has evolved me as a person. When we really believe in the philosophy behind our actions, we can achieve even what scares us.

I may not have gotten it quite right for our family for six years, but I have gotten it right now. Ever onward, ever evolving…right?

 

I have been overwhelmed, in the very best of ways, by the positive and encouraging response to my last blog entry. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading and celebrating with me. You have been so kind, and so many of you who did comment, either publicly or privately, have played a role (big or small) in my journey, even unbeknownst to you. Many of you have been motivating and inspiring, simply by living your lives the way you do: passionately, healthily, and by trying YOUR best to potentiate yourselves. I think often of the people who, early on in my journey, were sharing their quest for health with me. One life truth remains: no matter how old we get, life gives us challenges and discovery. My friend Sandy and I used to teach the Hero’s Journey paradigm when we taught The Odyssey to our 9th graders. I remember she used to say: you get the journey you are ready to take. And until we work our way through the journey, it will wait for us… So, wherever you are on your journey—at the call, down in the abyss, working through the challenges, or ready to return to the community and give the gifts of what you learned—I wish for you all the amazing acts of friendship and mentorship that I have experienced these past two years. If I can pass on even just a little of the inspiration others passed to me, then I am thankful to be able to keep that good energy going. 

So, you know we’re a health-conscious household.

And, holy moly, do we love our nut butters. That is one high-calorie treat I just cannot do without and will budget into my daily calories quite often. Thank goodness I can use the protein to justify myself!

I prefer almond butter at this point, but my husband and kiddos adore peanut butter, specifically JIF.  One TB of peanut butter or almond butter is about 90 calories, so they are about the same. One of my favorite, favorite breakfasts is one banana cut into slices (80 cals), one TB of almond butter (90 cals), and one cup of almond milk (30 cals).

On my bucket list this summer: build a healthier, less sugary, less salty, fantastically epic PB & J sandwich entirely from scratch (okay, no, I didn’t grow my own wheat). I wanted to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in which I controlled every single ingredient.

First, we made the strawberry jam:

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Katie is in a cape, dressed as Maleficent. We are reaching a place of solid skill, now, in our jam making attempts. Like I said, I have been sketchy with respect to this skill for a number of years, but it is coming together now in my mind, I guess. We bought one of those big flats from Costco and went for it. There is honey but no refined sugar in our jam, so it is on the tart side for those used to sugary jams and jellies, but we have converted our taste buds enough at this point to enjoy the sharpness and the pure strawberry flavor.

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A few days later, we made our peanut butter. All this time? I never knew making a nut butter was so ridiculously easy. I referenced a couple of recipes online, but did not want to roast my own Spanish peanuts; in the end, I took the methods in the recipes and adapted my own ingredients. We used four cups of blanched, roasted (in canola oil but not peanut oil, to save cals), and unsalted peanuts (we wanted to salt this ourselves). We whizzed them up, controlled our own salt addition, and added maybe 2 TB of peanut oil. I only eyeballed, so it was not very much but enough to help the ground nuts come together a bit. No sugar. It has a grittier texture, for sure, but I love that. Eric? Not so much. Well, not yet…

Then we made our own honey oatmeal yeast bread, using a tried and true recipe (it has the barest touch of cinnamon, which is just lovely). Any favorite bread recipe is bound to work here—how can bread go wrong, really?

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Bread. Strawberry jam. Peanut butter. Let’s do this thing…

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Lunch. Oh my.

I did this on Long Run Sunday, so I had 10 miles of calorie burn to play with here. I had this one, plus half of another, and then had to force myself to quit. We’ve been pacing ourselves accordingly on the rest of it. Mom came over and shared some, thank goodness!

Healthy, delicious, and we know exactly what comprises every ingredient. It was the kind of epic treat that I wish I could devour all the time! Sometimes, though, pleasures are more pleasing when they are rare.

We have some good ideas for further nut butters, though. Now that I know how quick and easy it is? I see a honeyed PB in our future, and a cardamom peanut butter (yes, it really is good).

In our quest to have a sort of “classic” summer of hand clapping games, braided hair, road trips, old-fashioned games, and camp-style crafts, this sandwich project seemed to fit right in to our bucket list. Yummy!