Dave and Cathy's Family Blog

September 30, 2014

September 2014 – Family Updates

Filed under: Lilah and Luke,Mom and Dad — dave9169 @ 4:10 am

September Highlights:

Why I Love September

Unless you’re not into celebrating your birth anniversary, how can you not love a month that begins with your birthday? Through the chance event of being born on the first of the month, I get to begin this 30-day period on the calendar with an outpouring of love from family and friends. The kid in me feels blessed to celebrate in the traditional manner, blowing out the candles on a birthday cake surrounded by family, which includes Cat, the kids, my sister’s family, my parents, and, occasionally, my friends. But I also appreciate the birthday wishes that come through more contemporary channels: the unexpected text, the thoughtful e-mail, and, of course, the flood of Facebook messages and timeline posts. I don’t receive handwritten cards (still my favorite) as often anymore, but the few I do receive are treasured and tucked safely away in my night stand drawer.

Another plus about my birthday is that every 7 years it lands on the national holiday of Labor Day, which it did this year, and every four out of seven years it lands somewhere during the Labor Day weekend. So typically, my birthday is more of a birthday weekend. This year, I had plans to take the family camping for one night at Carpinteria State Beach. Nobody in the family really loves the idea of camping and the preparation involved, but once we get settled into our spot we usually have a great time. Keep in mind that what I do is “camping lite” which means that we only stay for one night and we simply walk into town to eat our meals at a restaurant. The only semi roughing-it aspect of our camping is slumbering in tents and sleeping bags, and, even then, I bring air mattresses for everyone so they can be as comfy as possible.

The plan this year was to spend the day at the beach and then drive a couple of blocks to the campsite in the late afternoon. Even though we were only staying one night our car was packed with folding chairs, boogie boards, wetsuits, tote bags, two tents, towels, snacks, fire wood, lanterns, etc.. Part one of the plan — spending the day at the beach — worked out perfectly, but part two fell apart. It turns out that when I had booked our camp spot online a few months ago, I had accidentally reserved a handicap campsite. The park people apologized but said they could not allow us to use that spot and we could not have another one because all the camp sites were full due to the popularity of the holiday weekend. So much for the camping plans on my birthday.

In the end however, I still had a great birthday because instead of waking up in a tent facing the unglamorous task of having to break down camp and pack everything back into the car, I woke up in my own bed and got a chance to ease into my day at a leisurely pace. Highlights included breakfast and dinner with my family and surfing with a friend in waters that had to be almost 70 degrees (warm enough for me to surf without a wetsuit).

Kids Complete First Full Month of School

Despite Lilah’s occasional whining and complaining about homework, especially the volume of work handed out from her Honors English teacher, I believe both kids have adjusted to their new schedules. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in Luke since he became a middle schooler is that he spends some time each day behind his desk in his own room doing school work. He didn’t really spend a lot of time in his room before this year other than to sleep. Now it appears that he uses his room for those moments he needs some dedicated, focused homework time.

Despite the impassioned arguments I see posted about Common Core in the press, Facebook, and even from my own daughter (although to a lesser degree), Luke doesn’t seem to be struggling with it. If I can boil down the main gripe Lilah has about Common Core it would be this: Common Core requires you to analyze things more and explain the reasons for your answers. Luke said that it is kind of a pain, but added that one cool thing about the process was getting partial credit for wrong answers if you could provide a good explanation for how you arrived at your solution. I don’t know all the ins and outs of Common Core, but one thing I do know is that being able to analyze things and explain your answers is a very useful skill to have in life. Thus, my mini lecture to the kids was that in the so called “real world” you are constantly having to analyze and explain things to all kinds of people: your peers, your boss, your customers, etc.. The ability to explain or educate others on why your idea or solution is a good one to adopt is one of the most valuable skills anyone can have, and if common core is teaching our kids to become more critical thinkers, then I’m all for it.

I admit I am a little biased in my views since many years ago, as a university student, I changed the course of my studies from that of a business major to an English major based on my observation that, for the most part, the business curriculum seemed much more focused on memorization than it did on critical thinking and analysis. Obviously, there were some exceptions, but with English, critical thinking and analysis is pretty much all you do. For example, you don’t just read the works of Shakespeare, Chaucer, Hemingway and Gertrude Stein, you dissect their works and set out to prove your thesis in the form of a critical paper — there is no way to just wing that or guess the answer via a multiple choice test. You actually have to think, develop a thesis, and defend it in a thoughtful, logical and creative way. It’s what I love about a humanities education for sure.

I think the kids somewhat heard what I had to say. The good news is that Lilah’s whining about school has subsided since the initial couple of weeks. All I know is that despite how “busy” she is with school, her once a week piano lessons, and her 2-3 times a week of swimming, she still manages to find plenty of time to chat and hang out with her friends at the mall, watch movies and sleep in until at least 10 AM on the weekends. Luke also finds his own big chunks of time to play X-Box with his friends and occasionally interacts with them face-to-face as well.

Cat and I are both in agreement about the kids not doing too many things outside of school. Shoot, we don’t even force them to do any sports. We had a funny conversation not too long ago at a dinner party where two groups of parents at our table talked about how they make their kids do a sport, otherwise all the kids would do all day is watch movies on Netflix and play video games. Cat and I nodded our heads. We know the statement is true, but we don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. Big picture, think about it: five days a week the kids are at school for a large part of their day. After that they have homework. Somewhere in there, it’s important for them to carve out a space that is their own to do as they choose. That time does not have to be used to schedule yet another structured activity or be “productive.” If they choose to play video games or watch movies, so what? Kids need down time. Lilah has told me on several occasions about how much she hates those people that are “busy all the time.” Those people are no fun she tells me because they never have time to simply hang out and do fun things. You try to arrange things with them but they are always busy, busy, busy.

Sometimes when Lilah gives me examples like this, I can’t help but nod my head and smile at just how wise she can be at such a young age.

Luke has also been known to offer flashes of insight himself, like the other day when he told me about his PE strategy of not running the mile test too fast the first time out because part of your PE grade depends upon you improving with each test. According to Luke, you take the mile test several times each year and you only get a good grade if you improve. Since grade is based on improvement, it makes no sense to run as fast as you can the first time because it would be very hard for you to get better the next time (or the time after that) without considerable effort. So by starting slow, you can assure yourself of a few easy to achieve improvements before the going gets tough. When I tried to explain to him that he was kind of taking advantage of the rules (sandbagging it, so to speak), he said that I was thinking with my “adult brain,” and not my “kid brain.” He then added that if I was a kid and had found a way to get an easier grade within the rules, I would do the same thing. That’s when I smiled at him and said, “Yeah, you’re probably right Luke.”

I Set a 5K PR at 40+ Years of Age

On the weekend before my last triathlon of the year, I decided to participate in my local 5K. I had never run a sub-20 minute 5K before but on this particular morning the temperature was mild and I felt really good. I completed the 5K distance in 19:54 which was a personal record for me. It was the first race I’ve ever run where I felt like I shared the lead with one other runner for almost the entire race. Sure it was a small field and there was one elite 15-minute 5K runner in front of us, but the second place guy and I pretty much ran stride for stride the entire way. Together we slowly reeled in and passed several other runners who had gone out too fast. As we did this, I was reminded of all the times I had done exactly the same thing, but not this time. This time, I was running as a seasoned runner, which meant I was able to hold a solid, consistent pace without fading badly in the second half as so many inexperienced runners do. Side by side I ran with my newfound running partner, sharing second place until about the last half mile or so when he put on a surge that I couldn’t keep up with. However, I did manage to keep him within my sights and finish not too far behind him to take third place overall and first place in my age group. It was by far my best running race ever. I also received a few more prizes than usual, including a complete meal from In-N-Out burger, and a gift card for a Road ID bracelet for my efforts. It was truly a memorable day and a great way to cap off my favorite month.

More next month!

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress