Beach Bums 2009

God makes me smile every day.

Yesterday, for example, this is what I saw out my minivan window.

Snow. Lots of snow. A world shrouded in white and gray.

(It wasn't quite so bleak this morning. Behold six inches of pure white under a sparkling sun.)

But neither of those shots can match up with last Thursday.

That was the day we spent at the beach.

We started the morning at our favorite breakfast restaurant in the country, and that's saying something, because we love to discover new morning eateries.

What makes Hash House A Go Go so fabulous? Their flapjacks.

I didn't edit that shot or have Corey shoot it from a funny angle. Their flapjacks are enormous. But we don't love Hash House for the size of their portions. It's the taste and flavor combinations. Pictured above is the blackberry granola flapjack. I got that on our second trip to Hash House last week; we find it necessary on our first stop to order the banana brown sugar flapjacks with the bacon-avocado-onion-swiss egg scramble. Every time. (We don't eat for the rest of the day.)

Other flapjack flavors include strawberry frosted flake, mango coconut, snickers and butterscotch almond. Come to mama.

After a breakfast like that, we naturally decided to go hang out with the other beached whales. So we made a course for Coronado, where the beautiful turn-of-the-century Hotel Del is located. (It's the Disney-esque building with the red roof.)

We hung out on the beach for about 20 minutes, inhaling big lungfuls of salt-encrusted air (which hurt a little, because our stomachs were taking up all the room our lungs wanted to fill), when we thought: It's too nice to just stroll along the shore today. We need to get the kids swimsuits, grab some beach toys and make a day of it.

So we did.

Since our hotel was further north, we ended up spending the afternoon at 15th Street Beach in Del Mar. (This is a shot of the grassy knoll above the sand. That's what makes it such an awesome beach -- sand AND turf.)

This beach is dripping in nostalgia for Corey and me; we used to come here every Sunday afternoon when we first moved to San Diego and watch the surf, take a nap on the grass and generally bask in the greatness of the beach culture of Southern California. How amazing is it that we're now bringing our kids here?

It wasn't exactly a warm day. (Although, along the coast in California, it rarely is. Thanks to that offshore flow, the temperature varies from sixties in the winter to seventies in the summer.) But the kids didn't care. They put on their swimsuits and got busy.

Natalie looked for shells.

Connor kept busy bowling the beach rocks.

Teyla ate a fair amount of California sand. (Free souvenir!)

Then, for dinner that night, we met my brother and sister-in-law for a cookout on yet another beach. (This time, it was Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, in case you're interested or keeping track.)

Connor and Natalie are the oldest kids in our extended family, so they take great delight in keeping their younger nephews (and -- coming soon -- nieces) entertained. I'm not sure who's having more fun here -- Connor, one-year-old Jordan or Teyla.

While we waited for the burgers and hot dogs to cook, I may or may not have eaten two cups worth of fabulous guacamole made by Julie. Teyla helped herself to an apple.

We finished the night by roasting marshmallows for s'mores and gaping at an incredible sunset.


Like I said, God makes me smile every day.

His gifts leave me breathless.

How Old Would You Be If You Didn't Know How Old You Were?

Just for kicks, I took a virtual age test online today.

My real age is 37. According the the test, my virtual age is 17.


Most days, I don't feel much older than 17 -- 25 or 26, maybe.

Then there are days it's impossible for me to escape reality. I wrote about one such day over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today. See you over there.

SeaWorld 2009

You probably couldn't tell from the pictures I posted last week, but when we first got to California, the weather was crummy. It was cloudy and cool on Sunday. (My fingers and toes were numb by the time we left Legoland, even with my wonderful sister-in-law Julie letting me time-share her fleece jacket.) Monday, it rained buckets. (I didn't watch the evening news, but my gut tells me Stormwatch 2009 was the lead.) Even Tuesday started off gray and misty.

But Wednesday? Wednesday, California shone.

Thankfully, that was the day we went to SeaWorld.

Before we get started, let me be politically uncorrect and say: I love SeaWorld. I know it's touristy, and I know many people wonder if it's in a killer whale's best interest to perform all day.

But the fact remains that SeaWorld is an amazing, beautiful place. It's clean and colorful and stunningly well done. It rivals Disney in the quality department, in my opinion. The landscaping alone is astounding -- more than 4,000 different varieties of plants, many of them native to Southern California, and 30,000 square feet dedicated to annuals. (I did a story on SeaWorld's landscaping when I was at the TV station, and I remember them quoting me some ridiculous figure on how much they spend each year on plants. It rivaled the cost of maintaining the animals.)

And the creatures! Oh my word. My husband originally moved to Los Angeles (without me; this was before we met) to become a marine biologist, so maybe I'm catching his enthusiasm. But to stand nose-to-nose with a killer whale or dolphin is incredibly humbling.

(Seriously. Is she not looking straight at me?)

I'm always left with a profound impression that God is God, and I am not. His creativity awes me.

We started our day at Dolphin Stadium, basking in the bright sunshine and blue skies.

The dolphin show might be the only show that hasn't changed since I first saw it. And truthfully, that's OK by me, because I love watching the reactions of the people around me. My favorite moments are when the tourist, who is really a trainer, accidentally falls into the pool (the woman in front of me last week almost had a heart attack at that point) and when the young child who has the chance to feed the dolphins is encouraged to wipe their fishy hands on their shirt to get rid of the smell (all the moms gasp in horror).

From Dolphin Stadium, we meandered over to the Forbidden Reef, where you can touch bat rays gliding through a shallow pool and get the willies watching dozens of eels hanging out of a coral forest.

(Picture courtesy of SeaWorld. I can't stand still enough in that exhibit to snap a picture. Shudder.)

Then it was Shamu time.

This year, we caught the Shamu Story performance, which gave us all kinds of background on how the trainers work with killer whales. We learned the first killer whale ever displayed in the U.S. was a male named Namu, and that the first female ocra displayed was named Shamu as a shortened form of “she-namu.” Obviously, the real Shamu has long since died, and the killer whales you see today at SeaWorld have different names. But the Shamu moniker lives on as a way to memorialize the first ocra trained at SeaWorld.

Teyla didn’t catch most of the Shamu show.

And honestly, Connor didn’t either. He was started to get quite irritated with all the sitting and watching. Boy child = do, not sit.

So after lunch, Corey and Natalie caught a few more shows while Connor, Teyla and I hung out in the SeaWorld playground (technically titled The Sesame Street Bay of Play).

This might have been my favorite part of our day, because I got to stop rushing and take it all in.

It was especially poignant because, when Natalie was a baby and we lived in San Diego, I used to meet friends at this very playground on weekday mornings for play dates. (That's right. I used to do play dates at SeaWorld. Such is life in Southern California.)

I have many memories of chatting with friends on those soft cushions as we watched our babies play in the pit.

Sigh. I miss San Diego.

Tomorrow, we’re having a barbie on the beach. Or, more correctly, the next time I get a chance to post, which might be tomorrow or might be Friday. It's extremely frustrating to me to promise a post tomorrow and then not be able to deliver. So maybe I'll just stop staying tomorrow.

Hey! I know! Coming soon: a barbie on the beach -- and I don't mean a collection of blond, thin woman.

Although in San Diego, I suppose it's not uncommon. I overhead a lot of tourists last week muttering to each other, "Everyone is so thin here." That's what happens when it's swimsuit season every day of the year.

Home Again, Home Again

We got home from San Diego late last night.

Reality immediately hit, thanks to four inches of fresh snow and 20 degree weather. (But I wore my sandals to the bitter end, thank you. The fleece-lined LL Bean weatherproof moccasins that are my staple right now didn't come out until I had to walk to the car.)

Thanks to a preponderance of fun, I didn't get to post the last few days of our vacation. It's the pro-con of visiting a place that is both a tourist destination and "home." We left the hotel at 9:00 each morning and didn't return until 9:00 that night, and we still feel like we only did a fraction of the things we wanted to do.

But since it's winter outside and I now have stories galore, I'm going to dedicate the next few days to a vacation recap. It will be fun for me to look back and record the memories while they are still fresh, and hopefully, it will be a boost for my fellow winter-longsufferers.

One other item of note I forgot to post due to vacation brain-lapse was a link to my post over at Praise Baby. It's a tad heretical, as I start by explaining why I was originally determined to never allow a Praise Baby product in my house. Go here for the rest of the story.

Hope you're having a relaxing weekend. I'm about to tackle two huge suitcases full of dirty and sandy clothes. See you tomorrow. And bring your sunglasses. We're going to SeaWorld.

Love, Southern California Style

Guess what we did for Valentine's Day?

We flew to San Diego.


Which might have ruined Natalie for future air travel. Thirty minutes into the flight, as we were eating our hot meal with real silverware, she turned to me and announced, "Mom, we should always fly first class. This is awesome." I know kid. Don't get used to it. We just blew the frequent flier stash.

It's always amazing to fly away from dull, gray winter and land in bright, sunny spring. It's like Dorothy going from black-and-white Kansas to technicolor Oz -- literally. We when got off the plane Saturday, our senses were assaulted with green hills, masses of orange poppies, tiny purple and white daises and brilliant pink bougainvillea set against a sky as blue as a robin's egg.

Upon leaving the terminal, Natalie sighed and said rather loudly, "Now this is more like it."

So far, we've had an amazing time. I'd give you a day-by-day breakdown, but I don't really want to lose readers while I'm on vacation. It's bad ju-ju.

But here are a few snapshots.

Check out this sunset that we saw Saturday night. I took this from the car, so my apologies for the lack of focus. But tears of happiness make it hard to hold a camera.

Sunday, we went to church with my brother and sister-in-law and then spent the afternoon at Legoland, thereby earning our Parents of the Year badge from Connor.

Warning: taking a five-year-old boy who is obsessed with Legos to an amusement park dedicated to Legos may cause excessive joy.

The most fascinating part of Legoland (for me, anyway) was Miniland, where entire cities are recreated using Lego bricks. Las Vegas is the newest attraction.

Treasure Island was the most popular with the kids, because the pirate ships out front would do battle, just like they do in Vegas.

New York was another cityscape that amazed us. My favorite bit of the the Lego Big Apple was the new (yet to be built in real life) World Trade Center ...

... which stood solemnly next to the (yet to be built in real life) 9-11 memorial.

Besides theme parks, we've also enjoyed sweet times of reuniting with longtime friends. Does it make me sound old if I say I remember when all of these kids were born?

We've also gone teary-eyed a few times at the thought that we left this place.

I mean, I used to be the newspaper editor for this beach community, for crying out loud. I saw this every day.

For us, the song should say we left our heart in San Diego.

But we also know (ginosko, if you know Greek) that God has guided us to where we are today, and He has reason for that. So we trust.

But we also miss the beauty and even the personality of Southern California.

More later. We're off to SeaWorld today. (I'll say hi to Shamu for you, Amy Beth.)

Do you think heaven will be like one long vacation -- only better?

Just Call Me Madame Kelly

Scene: The dining room, today. The table is littered with Legos and Polly Pockets. Kelly is attempting to pick up. Connor is playing Legos. What follows is an actual conversation.

Kelly, looking at tiny scraps of paper: "Buddy, what are these? They look like little dollar bills."

Connor: "They are."

Kelly: "Did you make them?"

Connor: "Oh no. Natalie made them. The are for my Rick." (His boy Polly Pocket.)

Kelly: "Why does Rick need money?

Connor: "To pay. To pay for Natalie’s girls."

Kelly: (speechless)

Connor later explained that Rick needed the money to ride the jet skis which are owned by Natalie's girls. Who knew Pollys were capitalists? Better that than the alternative, I suppose.

Because I felt inspired

I give you my post at 5 Minutes for Parenting today: Love, True Love.

P.S. The headline on this post is tongue-in-cheek, I assure you. But it made me giggle, in that pastor's kid sort of way.

Passion for Compassion

I am wrestling with words this morning.

There are so many in my head. They are running around and meeting up in groups of two or three. But before I can grab them and force them into coherent sentences, they break apart and scatter in different directions.

It’s all because of last week, which has potential to be one of the most significant of 2009 for me.

It was missions week at my alma mater, a Christian college about 20 minutes from where I now live. Wess Stafford, the President and CEO of Compassion International, spoke in chapel Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. A few months ago, I read his book, “Too Small to Ignore,” which is half biography, half mission statement, and it rocked me to the core. So I spent quite a bit of my free time on campus last week -- attending chapel, trying to keep Teyla occupied with raisins and Cheerios during worship, working the Compassion table on Tuesday, generally feeling the Holy Spirit stir in my soul in a way I can’t fully explain.

Then, on Friday, Shaun Groves came to Minnesota for the grand finale of missions week. Last fall, I contacted Ben, Shaun’s manager, to see if we couldn’t get the two of them to the Upper Midwest in February, when Minnesota is at its best. I like Shaun’s music, but I’m most impressed by his passion for Compassion. I’m intrigued that he changed his whole life for this cause. That’s some crazy love. It resonates with me.

And Shaun did not disappoint. At the end of chapel on Friday, he gave the students a chance to do something about the world’s children imprisoned by poverty.

Before I go on, you have to understand something: I had worked the Compassion table on Tuesday, and I was thrilled when eight children were sponsored during my shift. Plus, I knew a lot of Northwestern students were already Compassion sponsors.

But that morning, as Shaun sang the beautiful song “Kingdom Coming,” and a bunch of us wandered the aisles among the 1400 students sitting in chapel, I watched hand after hand go up in the air to request a child sponsorship packet. A young man with tears in his eyes. A row of young woman, coats hunched over their shoulders. A young couple, sitting with feet entwined.

I fought the sobs that pushed against my lungs. (Or maybe that was just Teyla.) Because that’s the Church. That’s Jesus with flesh on. There is nothing like watching the Holy Spirit work right before your eyes.

When chapel ended a few minutes later, I rushed out to Shaun’s table. It was inundated with students wanting to sponsor kids. I spent the next 45 minutes taking forms, answering questions and praising God. When the whirlwind subsided, 143 Compassion kids had been sponsored.


I was still flying high at Shaun’s concert that evening, when he played one of the most brilliant practical jokes I’ve ever witnessed (and that’s saying something, considering I used to hang out with young ministry majors). And that night, another 20 children were sponsored. Another 20.

I still haven’t gotten over it.

I don’t know exactly what God has for Corey and me in the next phase of our lives. But we both feel like He’s doing something. We are both so burdened for the poor. We are heartsick at the affluence and apathy of America. We are ready to do something drastic. We are tired of the status quo. In fact, we feel quite ruined for normal life. We are ready for an adventure with God.

If it’s anything like this last week, I say bring it.

For another viewpoint on Compassion, check out this excellent post on the blog of my friend Lisa the Preacher's Wife. It tells the story of why she initially objected to sponsoring a child -- and how she got over it.


The baby has been crying for the better part of the day.

Because she’s tired. But won’t nap.

I’m weary of the noise.

It’s raining outside. In February. That’s weird.

It’s very, very gray.

I feel a strong pull toward the tanning salon around the block.

I have to go to a meeting at church tonight.

The kids will go to the nursery there.

But I’m wondering if my nerves are too shot from all the whining to enjoy my kid-free hour.

I’ve been writing a post for the last 18 hours that’s about something meaningful and exciting and fun.

But I can’t make it gel. It just plods.

Which might be because I feel ploddy today. Not meaningful and exciting and fun.

And normally, I’m not ploddy. I’m not whiny. I’m annoyingly optimistic, actually. Little Miss Sunshine.

But today, the sun is blanketed by the clouds.

Good thing we’re going to San Diego on Saturday.

I've heard there's sun there.

tired supergirl winner

How many times can I say I'm a tired supergirl before it gets old?

Because apparently, I'm really, really tired.

Thanks to the Plauge (bad) and some other really exciting stuff (good) that I had going on last week, I totally forgot to post the winner of “All I Need is Jesus and a Good Pair of Jeans: A Tired Supergirl’s Search for Grace.”

So here's your winner: Commenter #16, minnesotamom. Congratulations, fellow Minnesotan and newly inaugurated supergirl. I hope you are as encouraged by Susanna's book as I have been.

For the rest of you, feel free to head over to Amazon and get your own copy. (I see they got a fresh supply.) And add Confessions of a Tired Supergirl to your blog reader. Because we could all use a little more super in our day.

Family Overboard

If for some reason you managed to read my 5 Minutes for Parenting post on Wednesday, you might have picked up a smidgeon of foreshadowing at the end.

Specifically, the line that said: "And I just heard someone throw up upstairs. ... Guess we won’t be making that portrait appointment after all."

The Plague. It has infested the Love Well household. Connor got it first, Natalie made it to school before spewing in her classroom. Corey's had the flu -- the real deal, influenza -- since last Saturday. (He hasn't got into work all week, which, if you know Corey, is saying something. The only other illness that sidelined him for that long was malaria.) And I? Well, I've got something -- low fever, lots of aches, mild nausea. But it doesn't fit into a neat category. Apparently, my viruses prefer that I not box them in with labels.

Which leaves the baby. She, of course, is perfectly healthy, which means while the rest of us have been sick and laying on the couch moaning, she's been ransacking the house. From the kitchen, where all my paper plates and cups are strewn around as if we threw a Mardi Gras party, to the bathroom, where every rubber band, Band-Aid and bath toy we own has been dumped out for the fun of it, our house is a disaster.

Thankfully, Connor and Natalie are better today, and I think I've turned the corner. (Corey still looks and sounds horrible, but I think he's going into work tomorrow just because he can't take a full week off. It goes against his nature.) I managed to pick up a bit of the house today, get the contaminated linens are in the wash and clean the vomit from the carpet.

But it left me wondering: How do all y'all deal when everyone in the family gets sick at the same time? This was my first experience. Since we have no family in the area, we just staggered through. Is there something I'm missing, like, perhaps, an emergency day-care for children of sick parents?

Oh! And if you don't mind, go over to 5 Minutes for Parenting and read my Wednesday post, if you haven't already. It's a little esoteric, although it made sense to me. But now I wonder if it was just the fever talking.

Can You See Me Now?

Quick, boring, technology question: I've heard from a few of y'all the last few days that my blog is really slow to load -- in particular, the posts section in the middle.

I've been trying to troubleshoot, and it appears to have gotten better. But I don't really trust that it's fixed.

So tell me -- lurkers, friends, foe -- can you see me now?

(Feed readers, you have to click over to my actual blog to see if it works.)

Dear Punxsutawney Phil

Dear Phil:

It was so good to see you this morning. You certainly looked warm in your fuzzy fur coat. (Although, between friends, fur is so politically uncorrect these days. Next year, you might want to try a wool-cashmere blend. I see you in blue.)

I'm not sure you're aware, since I doubt your eyes had time to adjust to the light before you were shoved back into your burrow, but you allegedly saw your shadow this morning. According to Germanic tradition, that means we'll have six more weeks of winter.

If that's true, I just want to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Here in Minnesota, winter usually camps out for at least eight more weeks, if not ten. Last year, we even got snow in May. (It felt a little like we were living in the movie "Groundhog Day." We kept waking up, expecting something new -- like warmth and flowers and green grass -- but nothing changed. It was just snow and gray and more cold temperatures.) (You were stellar in that movie, by the way. It's still one of my favorites.) (But I am sorry that wacky Phil Connors made you pull a "Thelma & Louise." That had to stink.)

Anyway. What I'm saying is, your prediction that winter is only going to last six more weeks is great news. I can't believe spring is coming early! I'm going to go dig out my flip-flops today, and circle March 16 on my calendar with a fat red marker.

Have fun hibernating. I'd join you, but if spring will be here in just six weeks, I'd better hit the gym. Swimsuit season, you know.

Much love from Minnesota,

Kelly @ Love Well

January Thaw

There’s nothing like a January thaw. I’m sitting next to my open patio door this afternoon, the final day in January. The temperature is a balmy 45 degrees, and the snow is melting faster than the Wicked Witch. (Incidentally, melting snow is more gratifying. And less messy.)

The sun is sparkling. Water is everywhere, spilling down the windows and splattering on the deck and running in rivulets down the street. I can faintly smell the musty aroma of dirt and decaying leaves, an intoxicating perfume for Minnesotans in January.

To me, it’s the scent of promise and hope. It’s a postcard from heaven. There might be weeks of cold and snow darkness still head. But this I believe: Spring cometh.