Stephanie's Visit

Last week we had the pleasure of a visit from Joe's one and only sibling, Stephanie. She flew in from Boston (she's on a break from Harvard Law) and arrived just a few hours before we flew in from Hawaii. So she picked us up at the airport and took us back to the RV. We spent the day on Friday recovering from travel, cleaning, going to the building, doing some grocery shopping, making tacos. Then we got an invitation that we just couldn't turn down: Dr. Prabhjit Purewall (the man who took us all on a wine tasting tour in October) had extra room at a condo at a ski resort (Kirkwood) up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They had just received 4 feet of snow, and he opened his doors to any of us who wanted to come. It was just a 2 hour drive, so we decided to head up there for a night. On Thursday morning we said good-bye to the crystal clear Maui ocean. On Saturday, we dug out hats and mittens to frolic in deep snow. Strange life. Rowan was very excited to play in the snow--she made snow angels, a snowman, threw snowballs. It was a beautiful setting and it felt appropriate to be around snow during Christmastime. This was our first Christmas not being in Michigan, so at least it felt a little familiar to have winter weather! We had a great time with Stephanie--Rowan quickly warmed up and remembered her special Aunt. It's fun to hear about all that Stephanie is doing and learning at Harvard--we're so proud of her for making a huge life change (after graduating from Wheaton, she worked for 9 years with the Cheneys in DC) by moving to Boston, getting involved, and following a dream! Since we are away from home this holiday, it was especially meaningful for us to have Stephanie visit. Joe's mom and dad sent a big box of cookies, nuts, candies, gifts, and other special Cebulski Christmas traditions. Before Stephanie left, we got to enjoy some of these treats together, open a few gifts, and get ready for Christmas together.

To see a few more photos of our time together in the mountains, click here.


Maui: Days 13-14

Our last days in Maui continued to be sunny and relaxing. We spent a few more days at the beach and pool, plus got to take in a whale watching trip. Right off of Maui is one of the best places in the world to see humpback whales--they travel down from Alaska during December to mate and have their babies. We got to see several whales---many tales and backs coming out of the water, but no complete jumps out of the water (ironically enough, I saw a complete breach from the beach the next day!) We have never seen a humpback in real life, so it was an exciting trip. Until Rowan got sick. The trip was only 2 hours, but about an hour into it Rowan started getting sea-sick. It was no fun until we finally docked, and she announced "I got tired of all that whale-watching." She later explained to Bubba that when the "boat went up and down on the big waves, it made my tummy hurt." Joe did get one fabulous photo of the island from the boat (above). I love how the clouds gather just around the peaks.

Rowan continued to show her confidence in the water. Bubba joined us at the beach near our hotel on the last day and she tried to impress him with her body-surfing and tumbling around in the waves. Bubba is a true "water-man" who grew up in Maui doing all the water sports (surfing, paddling, cliff diving, cave swimming, deep sea fishing, kayaking, etc etc)--it's fun to watch him in the water. When the big storm came through Maui 2 weeks ago, and most people were running for higher ground, Bubba was surfing the 20 foot waves.

Joe and I went to a one-hour presentation on owning a time-share and got a $100 gift certificate in return--so we took Bubba out for a nice dinner on our last night. It was really fun to hang out with Bubba, eat good food (with an ocean view!), and have really great conversation on our last night in Hawaii.

Our trip to Maui was more than we expected--Joe got in some great training, and lots of food for thought from Scott (maybe I can nag him into posting more about that later!) We got to spend some very special time together as a family, and returned to California feeling relaxed, blessed, rested, and oh yeah...just a little bit tan.

Thursday morning we headed for the airport--had an easy 5 hour flight back to Oakland (Rowan was super on the flight)--and Joe's sister, Stephanie (who lives in Boston), picked us up in Oakland. She got to spend a few days with us (I'll blog about that soon) and left this morning (Christmas Eve).

There are a few more photos of our last days in Maui posted here.


Maui: Days 10-12

We were given an amazing gift for our stay in Maui. A good friend and long-time supporter of Joe, Scott Hutton, offered us a week's stay at Marriot's Ocean Club right on the beach at Ka'anapali--the prime resort area on Maui. What a treat! A nice room, comfy bed, view of the ocean, and a dizzying array of pools, palm trees, waterfalls, kid's play areas, and great people watching. They also have grill areas where we've been able to cook most of our food (with a nice ocean view) and take a swing in a beach-side hammock afterwards. Heavenly!

Not surprisingly, we spent all day Saturday lounging around the hotel. Swam at the pools (they have a great pirate ship area for kids with a water slide, water features, shallow water), played on the beach, grilled. Sunday we decided to drive the ocean-side road on the west side of Maui. Last week we did the road to Hana, which is the well-known, often busy, insanely curvy road to the easternmost part of Maui. The road we took on Sunday is much less renowned---but we felt hugely underrated. I think I even liked it more than the Hana road.. it was not busy at all, easier to access, not as curvy, and shorter. There were a few one or two mile sections that were only one-lane...but we didn't find them too harrowing.

We stopped at a forest that just couldn't be captured in photos--not even a panoramic. We tried, but it just didn't do it justice. There were more greens than you thought possible, with these huge sweeping tree limbs. It felt like a movie set. Then we hiked down to a somewhat popular (there were about 8 others there on a Sunday afternoon, so not bad) site called the Nakalele Blowhole. Lots of west Maui has lava that meets the coast (reminded us of the Big Island), and in this area there is a hole in the lava that the ocean pushes through to make an impressive spout of water shoot into the sky. It was a fairly windy day, so the blowhole was exciting to watch. Joe went to investigate it closely, and I PROMISE that the photos make it look more dangerous than it actually was. Not only was the blowhole impressive, but the landscape carved into the lava was surreal--almost felt like being on another planet.

After the blowhole we stopped at these tide pools called the Olivine pools. This area is also surrounded by lava rocks along a rough sea. There are a series of tide pools carved out where the water is generally calm, warm, and clear. It feels scary because huge waves are crashing all around, but the lava forms a protective barrier around the pools, making them usually safe to play in. We had lunch here, then played around until Rowan slipped on the rocks and couldn't recover. She promptly fell asleep when we got back to the car, so she must have been tired, too. She has been such a good traveler, and has really rolled with all the change in routine. The other day, she said she missed her "stuck house"....which meant our house in Jonesboro. Interesting way to describe a house...but compared to our RV, the old house was definitely "stuck."

Monday was a long training day for Joe--Rowan and I hung out at the hotel, played in the pool and ocean, took a rest time. Not much else to report about Monday.

To see a few more photos, click here. A word about the panoramic shots: Joe has been taking most of these, and they actually consist of anywhere from 3-6 individual shots, stitched together on photoshop. There are so many scenes here that are just too sweeping for one 4x6 frame--so the panoramic thing has come in handy. Doing it this way allows for a lot more detail, too.


Maui: Days 7-9

Wednesday was a training day for Joe, so Rowan and I headed to the beach while he worked out. Joe had a good, long day of training (I included some photos on Flickr that he took of Bubba and Daniel pole vaulting--Joe has gotten really good at sports photography, now if he could only take pictures of himself! I always seem to be chasing after a 2 year old when there are opportunities for me to take pictures of him!) Rowan and I had a relaxing, long day at the beach. Rowan had a breakthrough in the ocean---she suddenly overcame her fear and was fully committed to body surfing. We were on a fairly calm beach, but waves were still crashing right at the shore. She was rolling around, trying to catch them and surf herself in. It was fun. As soon as Joe returned from working out, we had to take him back to the same beach so she could show him. There are a few pictures...didn't get a good one of body surfing, but there are some cute ones of Joe and Rowan in the surf.

Thursday was another "rest" day for Joe...which we truly treated as rest. We went to a few different beaches (are you sensing a routine here?) because the weather was just perfect. Every day the forecast has been 50-60% chance of rain, but we have barely seen any so far. We've been bracing for a rain-day, and saved things to do for a non-sunny day...so we feel compelled, when it is nice, to be outside. Because of the big storm and all the rain before we arrived, we've been shocked by how ideal the weather has been. But Thursday was a very chilled day---played a little ball with Rowan, built some sand creations, but mostly just laid around and played in the
waves. There are a few pictures at Flickr.

Friday was a very windy day, so Joe dropped us off at the aquarium before he headed to train. Before we left for Maui, Rowan had been looking at this guide book (the very best guidebook for for Maui is called "Maui Revealed"...not a mainstream guidebook, but one written by people who've lived here and are not getting paid by any advertisers. There is also an "Oahu Revealed" and one for each island. Great history, stories, secret places, and very candid reviews). She saw a photo of some kids at an aquarium in the guidebook, and ever since, Rowan thinks that a main reason for our trip to Hawaii is the aquarium. So we had to go. We had a lot of time to burn at the aquarium since Joe had the car, and it was fun to do it at Rowan's pace. I'm a very efficient person, and tend to rush through these kinds of places. Friday I let Rowan take the lead, and I was astounded by her attention span. Our favorite part was watching a scuba diver feed a huge tank of sharks, giant rays, and other fish. We sat for over an hour watching all this.
Friday night we went to a church that Scott (Dan's friend who Joe has been training with) invited us to. It was a very loud, contemporary service with a minister who was quick to tear up and easy to listen to for 45 minutes. Rowan loves worship music--she dances wildly and tries hard to learn the words. Quote of the night from Joe: "who knew that if you crossed a Baptist with a Christian Reformed, you'd get a Pentecostal."

For more photos of the last few days, click here.


Maui: Days 4-6

Sunday we spent the morning and early afternoon at an idyllic place called "Big Beach." It was a perfect beach day---calm, warm, clear ocean. I took a walk down the beach and followed a trail that I had seen some others taking...over some lava rock that restricted the ocean view beyond it. I was treated to a view of a nudist beach that I had to stop and watch for a bit---a large group of people, naked, is just funny. There was even one older gentleman, standing where the waves crashed, feet spread apart a bit, playing a flute. How can you not laugh?

In the afternoon we headed over to the other side of the island to a town called Paia: a modern day hippy paradise. Paia is a smallish, hip, artsy, funky town right on the coast where you'll see a high ratio of dreadlocks, tattoos, tie-dye, and vegan cooking. We hung out at a very "local" beach for awhile, watching the surfers. Then we had supper at a little fish house. The restaurant had long picnic tables that, when busy, you end up sharing with others. We had a series of very interesting conversations with people who lived there---a French Canadian, a former Air Force gentleman, and a young family who moved back to Maui a few days ago because the surfing in Seattle just wasn't the same.

Monday was a training day for Joe, so Rowan and I dropped him at the track and ran some errands. Then we brought him over to the training place where he can lift--met Dan's friend, Scott--and he got a good lifting in. Rowan and I hung out at a beach nearby while Joe lifted. Then we headed home and Rowan and I both took a 3 hour nap! Delicious...especially with a kid who seldom naps!This is a "rest" week for Joe, which means that he has Tues, Thurs, and Sat off from training. So Tuesday was a free day--and we decided to drive the Hana highway, or the "heavenly highway" as some call it. This road is a somewhat world-famous drive from the main town of Kahalui to the easternmost town in Maui, tiny Hana. The drive is equally famous for its tight, windy, constant turns and curves as it is for its breathtaking views of the coast, more shades of green than you thought existed, and enough waterfalls (as one guide book says) to induce a little bit of waterfall fatigue. If you drive the road without stopping, the 52 miles take about 2.5 hours. If you go leisurely, stopping to admire waterfalls, views, and hidden coves...it can take all day. That's what we did...and it was a marvelous day. We got to play in the pools beneath waterfalls, have entire beach bays all to ourselves (we drove down a short 4-wheel drive path and could not believe that no one else was there), see a red sand beach (with water so blue it looks fake), and really get a feel for an uninhabited Hawaii. Our only 2 conflicts of the day were 1. which things to see and which things to skip and 2. getting Rowan to leave wherever it was she fell in love with: especially the crystal clear pools under waterfalls.

Rowan has proven to be a bit of a cautious child. It takes a lot of encouragement for her to go in the ocean or to risk much of anything. The road to Hana was good for her---we had to climb down some tricky places to get to waterfalls, stood near cliffs with huge crashing waves below, and walked a path right along a rock ledge to get to the red sand beach. We were proud of her, and she was satisfied with herself, too.

To see some more pictures from the Hana Highway and days 4-6, click here.


Maui: Days 1-3

In October we left Michigan and headed west---arriving 10 days later in Isleton, California. December rolled around, and we figured, why not? Let's keep going west.

So this blog is being posted from the lovely island of Maui.

For those of you who didn't know we were in Hawaii, let me explain. The primary reason for being here is Joe's training. For one, Coach Dan is traveling to conferences and clinics for much of the next 2 weeks. For two, Dan has a good friend here on Maui who coaches elite athletes in sports like windsurfing...and has offered to let Joe train with him at his facility here on the island. Dan is really excited about Joe training with this guy--one of the weaknesses that they have discovered has to do with Joe's core strength, and the coach here is an expert at getting that part of the body aligned and firing correctly. And for three, the weather is getting colder in Northern California. Finally, being in California, we scored some amazingly cheap tickets to get here.

In addition, we have 2 dear friends from Jonesboro who are currently in Maui: Bubba (who grew up in Maui, and is living here right now) and Daniel (who is on an extended visit, which may turn semi-permanent). They are both training for the pole vault. Three years ago, Joe and I visited Hawaii (the Big Island) for Tye and Amy's wedding...and fell in love with the place. We weren't expecting it...we were expecting leis, luaus, and touristy stuff. But we discovered this wild, often uninhabited, unbelievably beautiful place. We always knew we'd come back.

We arrived on Thursday--just one day after the huge storm hit (you may have seen it on the news--lots of flooding, damage, huge waves). It had been raining here for days. After an enthusiastic welcome at the airport from Daniel (leis included), we settled in for the night. It was still raining. Rowan had gotten up early that morning to travel, then had an exhausting day of travel by train, bus, and plane...and konked out at 5:00 PM Maui time...only to wake up at 4:00 AM, ready for the day. Let's just say that Rowan and I got a lot done by 8:00 AM Friday, including a trip to the beach, some grocery shopping, and a date at a coffee shop.

We spent the day getting oriented and checking out facilities, then headed "up-country" to Bubba's dad's house in Kula, which is on the side of Mt. Haleakala, an inactive volcano. We got to spend Friday night at a hunting lodge with Bubba and another friend at about 6,500 elevation on the side of the volcano. It was a rustic place, no electricity...and we were treated to a tasty meal that Bubba prepared from a freshly hunted pig. We had a big fire and hunkered down for the night. We woke up early Saturday morning and drove the rest of the way up the volcano (about 10,000 feet), hoping to get a good look at the crater. As we drove, it alternated between fog, rain, dense fog, clear blue skies, rainbows, and finally dense rainy fog at the top. We hung around for awhile hoping it would clear, but no such luck. The terrain was interesting, and we had a few nice views on the way down...but we'll have to go back if we want to really see the crater.We had to get back down the mountain for Joe's workout---so Rowan and I dropped him off at the track and headed to the beach. This is part of what we love about Hawaii: in less than an hour's drive, you can completely change weather systems. While the volcano was cold, windy, and rainy...and we slept cuddled under down blankets at the hunting lodge....the beach just below was a perfect 82 degrees with clear blue skies. Rowan went from winter clothes to a bathing suit, from shivering to slathering on sunscreen.

There is a great track here, centrally located in Kahului, that Joe can use for any of his training other than lifting (which he will do with Dan's friend). After we picked Joe and Daniel up from the track, we went to a place called Iao Valley, hoping for a post-workout dip in the chilly river. The actual Iao Valley Park was closed (a lot of county parks are closed right now as they try to recover from the storm), but we found an entry-point to the river and some of us (Joe, Daniel, and Rowan!) enjoyed the refreshing water. We also got to climb a banyan tree. We hope to get back to Iao Valley when it opens up---there are supposedly some stunning views of the surrounding mountains.

It was approaching dark, so we rushed back up to Kula where Daniel promised an amazing view of the sunset. We hurriedly put Rowan in the back-pack so we could do the 15 minute hike and beat the sun...and it was well worth it. Maui was formed by 2 separate volcanoes that are connected in the center by land at sea-level...and our view was from one mountain-side, over the valley, to the other mountain....with full views of the ocean to the left and right. There are some pictures on Flickr that will hopefully do it some justice. This place is hard to describe.

Rowan seems to be doing well with all the new places and routines---she told us tonight, in the cow pasture watching the sunset, that she would "be right back, I'm going on a little 'venture." She's also been very talkative with new people and is sleeping decently. She was excited about the volcano, asking Joe lots of questions about it....and was disappointed that we didn't get to see anything at the top. She loves the beach...chases the waves and doesn't want to leave. I remember thinking when we were here 3 years ago (I was 7 months pregnant) that we would never get to take a trip like this again. I was very aware that it was our "last" trip before our lives would seriously change with a baby. But here we are....it's a bit different, slower in some ways because of Rowan's pace and Joe's daily training. But it is so good to see Joe continue to get stronger, and to come alive with good daily doses of vitamin D from the sun. Plus, it would have been hard to anticipate 3 years ago how much joy there is in watching your kid splash through the waves, laughing in pleasure, and discover new things for the first time (a waterfall, a rainbow, surfers)--and that THAT may beat out the freedom (and ability to sleep in!) that traveling without a kid offered.

Parenthood is full of surprises.

To see some more photos, click here. I added some descriptions under a few pictures. Stay tuned for more photos in the coming days!


Training at Tigerbar

So Laura has been bugging me to post about my training. Seems like a simple enough thing to do. After all, Laura cranks them out like they grow on trees. The problem for me is Adenosine TriPhosphate (ATP), or rather lack thereof. As in I do not have enough of this left in my body after a day of training to coerce my fingers to move across a keyboard. OK, so maybe I could at least do that...but the pushing down part is out of the question.

By and large my life consists of three things...in varying amounts: Train, Eat, Sleep. I wake up sometime between 8:00-9:30am. After breakfast and a decent amount of moaning and groaning (popular topics include whether or not my right leg, left shoulder, fill in the blank with a body part, will function at all that day), I am at the training facility by around 10:30am. Contrary to popular opinion similar to that of my father's:), Olympic hopefuls in the 21st century do not wake before the sun rises to begin their morning calisthenics and the pursuit of that pesky gold medal. Behavior like that is akin to handing out personal bombing coordinates to the axis of injury evil. We sleep, sleep, sleep. At times 12 hours or more (sans anyone with a 2.5 year old daughter named Rowan). The first two questions asked by Coach Dan (Pfaff) as we enter the facility are, "How do you feel, and how long did you sleep"? Even at that, I am often the first athlete to be asked these questions as most of the others do not arrive for another hour or two.

I then proceed to train like a madman for the next 6-8 hours. If you really want to know the details of what 8 hours of training look like, then leave all kinds of comments alluding to this aforementioned desire and I will post an example day. For now, lest I roll your eyeballs back into your head, I will skip forward to the crashing in a heap on the couch part, where Laura tries to assist me in the lifting of her wonderfully prepared meals to my mouth. Shortly thereafter, I am asleep in bed, dreaming of what horrors in long chain destruction Dan has planned for my oppressed abductor region that next day.

My caloric needs have also been boggling. I literally eat all day long, and I never feel full for longer than half an hour. Dan calculated my caloric output/intake at somewhere between 6000-8000 calories a day. This has certainly changed our grocery budget a bit!

Laura and I made a particularly large and risky leap of faith to move to California for this Olympic year. After almost two months of training, I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that we made the correct decision. Coach Pfaff is among the world elite in the circles of track and field coaching. He told me my first day that I would receive my PHD in Decathlon by the time he was done. So far he is keeping up his end of the bargain. Dan is heady to say the least. I told him the other day that he was just barely dumb enough to relate to us...much smarter and he would be an ineffective coach. Fortunately for me I am somewhat of a dork/jock. A Jork you could say. Dan and I seem to really connect and my technical training has been off the charts. Each day my brain is maxed out for comprehension and learning. Dan is also a spiritual man who cares as deeply for our souls as he does our bodies. This creates a wonderful synergy to the training life we all have here in the Delta.

Well, thanks for tuning in. Hope this gives you a glimpse into what I'm up to. Thank you to all those who have helped make this year a possibility for me. Your generosity has/is allowing me to attain the goal I have set out to achieve...to become the best Decathlete I can, leaving no doubt behind. My dream is that this achievement might coincide with a chance to compete in the Beijing Olympic Games.

Included are a few pics from training that have been snapped by some athletes. Proof that I am at least not completely making this stuff up. There's also one of Dan roaming around the grounds.

Sincerely heading to bed,



Biking with Friends

Rowan has had her bike with training wheels for several weeks---but has been quite timid about riding it. Today, something clicked. After a lot of frustrating "I can't do it!" and a lot of (hopefully patient) encouragement from me, she just got it. It was fun to watch--she rode down to her buddy Zailey's RV, and we tooled around with them for awhile.

Rowan didn't want to wear her helmet when we left, but I insisted (I used to teach bike safety to 2nd graders, so I couldn't let this one slide!) And I was glad I did. You wouldn't think that a 2 year old could create enough velocity for a severe crash...and maybe it wasn't severe, but she did crash. And her helmet hit the ground, protecting her head. Yeah for helmets!

When we went to pick Joe up, she ran across the building into his arms and practically screamed "I rode my bike ALL BY MYSELF!"

To see a few more pictures of the biking, and of our new friends Zailey and Aiken, click here.



Rowan's hair was getting a little bit wild (this picture was taken after lots of flips on the pole vault pit at the building). Her hair had never been cut--not even trimmed--since she was born. It was time. So Rowan came with me to the hair salon and got a little trim this weekend. She did great. She was very serious and very still the whole time.

And here's a self-portrait of my new cut, too.


The Harvey Ranch

On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, we got to go with Tye and Amy to Tye's dad's ranch near Oakdale, CA. It was just a couple of hours in the car---but the scenery felt totally different. We have been eager to see the ranch---we have heard about it since the first time we met Tye, and know that it is an important part of his life. It was nice to slow down a bit, relax, walk in the pastures, look at the horses, and play with Rowan and Tye's little brother, Tanner (7). Tanner was more than gracious with a 2 year old invading his territory, and Rowan thought she was in heaven between the cows and horses and all of Tanner's toys to play with!

We ate wonderful food (t-bone steaks that were raised on the ranch, plus fresh hamburgers the next day), had a nice little cottage to stay in, and felt re-charged for the week ahead. Tye's dad and step-mom offered comfortable hospitality--thanks Tye, Amy, John, Kay, and Tanner!

To see more pictures of the ranch, click here.


Our computer is finally back and I have a lot to catch up on! Starting with Thanksgiving. We had a nice one---it's always hard to be away from family on a holiday, but we had a good surrogate family for this one. Dan and Barb Pfaff (Dan is the coach here) had all the athletes over on Thanksgiving. They did the turkeys and ham, and everyone else contributed a few dishes--and we had lots of great food. It was nice to eat and relax in a home for the afternoon...and we had lots of laughs watching a bunch of world-class track and field athletes compete in those same events on the Wii. Let's just say the skills don't always translate.

Rowan helped me prepare apple pie, jello salad, and green bean casserole for the meal. We also made this Thanksgiving Tree which she added to each day in the weeks preceding Thanksgiving. She's old enough now to "get" the meaning behind holidays, so it was fun to experience it with her this year.

It just happened to be a rest week for Joe--which meant that he had Tues, Thurs, and Saturday off. So that worked out well with the holiday--although I think he's seriously craving a day off to get a bunch of stuff done. He has been training Mon-Sat from about 10:30 or 11:00 until 5:30. Since it gets dark at 5:00, that doesn't leave much time for anything else. He is getting really strong and is very encouraged about his training. I'll get him to post soon.

To see a few more pics of Thanksgiving, click here.


Computer is Down

I'm sending a quick post from Tye and Amy's computer---our computer crashed this week, so we have been forced into a computer and internet fast for a few weeks while we wait for it to get fixed. All is well--we had a great Thanksgiving at the Pfaffs' house with many of the other athletes. Today we are headed to Tye's Dad's ranch in Sonora for the night....cows and horses for Rowan!

If you need to get a hold of us for anything, cell phones are going to be the best bet. We may check e-mail occasionally when we can borrow a computer...but that will be unpredictable. Hope everyone is well.


Los Angeles

Rowan and Saraya do Disneyland!

We had the good fortune of seeing old friends this weekend in Los Angeles. Some good friends from Jonesboro, the Hewitts, were in the LA area visiting family. And I have a good friend from high school, Jenny, who lives in LA with her husband. So Rowan and I drove down on Thursday (easy to make that decision with free fuel) and left Joe stranded for the long weekend here with no car. He was dependent on rides to practice and was a good sport, but it definitely makes us discuss getting a junker car so that we have 2 set of wheels.

Rowan and I went to Disneyland with the Hewitts on Friday. Saraya is a year older than Rowan, and one of her best buddies. They were so excited to see each other, and had a blast being at Disneyland together. Two thoughts on Disney: more strollers per square mile than anywhere else on earth, and exhausting. Rowan was a bit freaked out by most of the rides, but I was proud of her for at least trying some of them. The highlight for her was the Christmas parade...complete with princesses, Buzz Lightyear, and Santa Claus. The highlight for me was hanging out with good friends, and watching Rowan and Saraya reconnect.
James and Dana ride It's a Small World

We spent our nights at Jenny and Mick Montgomery's apartment in Culver City, right in the heart of LA. On Saturday we just lounged around and talked and talked and talked with Jenny...took a walk into town for gellato and a park...then ordered yummy Chinese take-out for dinner. A primary motivator for driving down to LA was that Jenny and Mick were performing in a play called "Once Upon a Park Bench" in North Hollywood. The play is a series of 9 short pieces that all take place in the same location at a park. Mick wrote 4 of the pieces, acted in 3 of them, and Jenny acted in another one. So I got to drop Rowan off with James and Dana for the evening and go to the play by myself! I needed a break from Rowan, and it felt so good to be on my own in the city for the night. Plus, Rowan had a great time playing with Saraya again (thank you James and Dana for babysitting on your vacation!)

Mick and Jenny are very talented people on many levels--and I am particularly proud of Jenny, who started taking acting classes 5 years ago for fun and for a challenge. She has gotten really good, and it was a kick to watch her comedic timing in the play. It was interesting to talk to Mick and Jenny afterwards...about the writing process, directing, selecting actors for roles, what makes a good actor. Their passion for acting and writing is contagious--I'm excited to see what they next few years holds for them. They have both been blessed lately with some small roles in TV and feature films...go Mick and Jenny!

Joe and I filled the tank of veggie oil to the brim before we left for LA--and we easily made it there and back (6 hours each way) on that tank. It felt a bit strange to not have to stop for gas or oil collection that whole way!



I didn't really mean to, but I have not taken pictures in about a week. I go through that phase sometimes. But it doesn't mean that things aren't going on! We had some really great social stuff happen in the last week. Rowan and I met a family at Story Time at the local library last week--they have a daughter exactly Rowan's age and a baby. Daniella and Dustin are the parents' names...and they invited us to supper and a Bible Study at their house last Friday night. We got to meet a few other young families, and Rowan got lots of kid time. We also attended their church (Dustin is a pastor) on Sunday morning....a small church in nearby Rio Vista, full of energy and eclectic people. We loved it! Then Saturday we drove over to a town called Pinole to visit with the McMullen's at thier son Chase's first birthday party. Phil McMullen competed in the decathlon, so he and Joe have known each other for a long time through that. It was an evening of great fellowship with Phil, his wife Tracy, and Tracy's sister and brother-in-law. And again, Rowan got some good kid time. On Sunday afternoon we went up to Sacramento for a "welcome baby" party for my good friend Edye's new daughter, Ellyn. Rick and Edye have some really cool friends, and again, Rowan got to play with some kids. So we've been busy! But I didn't take pictures of any of that. Aren't I bad?

Tonight we got to have Uncle Yoo and another pole vaulter named Jeff over for dinner. Yoo Kim is really like family to us (we've known him since our first weeks in Jonesboro 8 years ago, he has lived with us on and off, and lived in our garage apartment for much of Rowan's first year)..and we are pumped that he will be spending time training at Tigerbar. One of the things we love best about Yoo Kim is how much he loves Rowan. When he was seeing her on a regular basis, he would gloat about her accomplishments as though he were a parent. We have wondered whether Rowan would remember Yoo or be comfortable around him again--it's been 10 months since we have seen him. That's a lot of time for a 2 year old. And Rowan has been particularly shy and hard-to-get with this new group of people...she's pretty stand-offish when we go out to the building.We shouldn't have worried. Poor Yoo spent his whole evening being playmate to a toddler...I don't think I have ever seen this child warm up so fast to anyone or want someone to engage her as much as she did with Yoo (Grandpa is close competition). It was fun to watch her laugh so hard that she hiccuped, and want to keep doing things over and over with him. Yoo doesn't really get it---but Joe and I kept looking at each other like "what the heck?"

So I was finally motivated to take some pictures, because they were just too cute.

I think this last one sums up how Rowan feels about Uncle Yoo. Us too. There are a few more pictures (just a few) at Flickr if you click here.

I need to encourage Joe to write an entry about his training---it's going great, he's dog tired every night, learning a lot, and loving working with Dan. He needs to fill you in on more details!


Truck Stuff

We wanted to give a little update on our truck and veggie oil. Things are going well with the veggie oil. We (that's the royal we, as this mostly pertains to Joe) definitely had to work some kinks out and get some experience under our belt with collecting oil and using the system, but since we overcame a few hurdles, it's been great.

Joe got permission from 3 places in nearby Rio Vista (a Mexican restaurant with fabulous food, a local grocery store, and another local diner) to put our own 55 gallon barrels behind their places...that way we have a continual supply without having to scout new places every time we need oil.

Joe has dreamed of having a place to store a bunch of oil (several hundred gallons)...and then be able to do a big day of collecting and just have it ready for several months ahead. When we got here, he started looking on Craigslist for those big 250 gallon square industrial containers...they run between $150 and $250. One day we were driving and we passed a farm-like place with a bunch of trucks and equipment, and those big containers. Joe convinced me to stop so he could ask where they got them...and sure enough, he got to talking to the guy who owned the joint and he told Joe that he could take whatever he wanted! So we got THREE of these big containers, plus 3 55-gallon barrels, for free. This kind of stuff always happens to Joe.

He also scored 3 more free 55 gallon barrels at a local bait store...ones that have tops that completely come off, so he can put these behind the restaurants.

One of the nice parts about having all this storage is that once the oil is collected, it can be left to settle and filter down a lot of the junk...and we therefore use less filters when we pump it into the tank. The filters are the only cost involved with running the truck on oil--there is a filter on the tank in the bed of the truck, and then a filter in the pump system. Each filter costs between $10-15....and they last for varying amounts of time. When we pulled the 5th wheel cross-country, we had to change the tank filter every 500 miles because the engine was working so hard. Since we've been here, we've gotten at least 1500 miles on a filter. The pump filter lasts from between 100-200 gallons, depending on the quality of the oil.

We collected about 150 gallons of perfect oil this week at a KFC/Taco Bell. Go figure. The common wisdom is that fast food joints have cruddy oil, but Joe still occasionally checks them. Apparently KFC had a lot of bad press in the last year about how unhealthy their food is, so they switched to using soy oil...which is really good. And this particular restaurant changed their oil frequently.

Usually when we start the truck in the morning and stop the truck at night, we have to run it for a few miles on diesel. When we start it, the engine has to heat up enough for the oil to be the right viscosity. When we're getting ready to stop it for the night, we have to run a few miles worth of gas through it so it's ready to start on clean diesel the next morning. Hopefully that makes sense. Last week Joe plugged in the block heater on the truck at night, hoping it'd stay warm enough to keep it running veggie oil all the time. It worked! So now we're really just running on straight veggie...and only switching to diesel if the truck is going to be parked somewhere (other than the RV) for more than a few hours. This saves us even more money because we're using less diesel.

I posted a few more random photos of our week and the building to a set at Flickr--click here to see them.



It's been about a week since I last posted. It doesn't seem like too much is going on, mostly just trying to figure out what our routine will be and getting used to the new rhythm of each day. We are all finally healthy, although Joe only did partial workouts this week because he never felt 100%. He'll start back full force tomorrow.

This week we took Rowan to a Halloween party at a church in Stockton, then visited that church for worship this morning. Our good friends (more like family, really) in Jonesboro, Dave and Rebecca Matthews, lived and worked in Stockton for several years about a decade ago. Quail Lakes is the church they attended while they lived here, so it came with a great recommendation. We really enjoyed the service--it was lively, and as diverse of a congregation as we've seen in a long time.

I just overheard Rowan telling Joe that we left something in Arkansas at "our house that couldn't move." Interesting to hear a 2-year-old's interpretation of living in an RV. Speaking of Rowan, we're not sure if it is move related, or just 2 year old testing related, but she has been a handful the last few weeks. Some of it was being sick, but since then, she's been pushing limits and has been super whiney. She doesn't want to take baths and she doesn't want to go to bed. Now that she can get up out of her bed, she finds a myriad of reasons to do so. And this from a kid who doesn't nap! You'd think she would fall asleep exhausted at the end of the day. Not so. The one saving grace in the sleep department is that she's been sleeping in past 6:30 AM....sometimes even giving us the luxury of 8:00 or 8:30. I'm not crazy about early mornings...so the extra sleep has been fabulous.

This afternoon we got to spend several hours out on Tye's boat. Another pole vaulter who lives and trains here, Tommy, has a boat too. So they took a bunch of us out, and several folks even braved the cold water to wakeboard and "surf"....a boat sport I've never seen, but looked like a lot of fun. They used a surfboard and surfed in the wake of a fairly slow moving boat...even did it without a rope for quite a distance once they found the "sweet spot." You can see some cool photos by clicking on the link at the end of this post. It was gorgeous out today (the locals are amused by our continual enthusiasm for the beautiful weather--apparently it's always like this, but we think they take it for granted!) and we had a lot of fun being out on the water. There are endless waterways around here, so there will be more to explore. We ended the day by sharing a nice dinner at a local Chinese restaurant.

Another highlight of the week was meeting a young family at our RV park. One of my main concerns about this year is that Rowan would have adequate (as in, any) playmates. She had such great friends in Jonesboro; I wondered who she would play with here. This family is here for 6 months...the husband is an iron worker with the union so they move around. They have a 3 year old daughter, Zaylie, and an infant son. Rowan and I just went and knocked on their door this week (hey, you have to be bold, right?) and the girls played outside together several times already. Yeah!

I've added some photos to Flickr, a random assortment of Halloween, the building, Rowan on the computer, and today on the water. Click here to check them out.



Things are beginning to look up here at the Cebulski household. Joe is still not feeling great, but today he finally felt okay enough to get out of the RV for a few hours. His fever broke last night...but he still can't believe how bad his throat hurts. And I still feel fine, which seems like a minor miracle.

After driving cross-country and stopping to collect vegetable oil every day or every other day, we have been astounded how long a tank of oil lasts for just normal driving. We did all that driving last week with my mom on less than 1/2 of a tank of oil. In fact, we went oil hunting today (and filled up the tank again, plus 3 extra 5 gallon jugs) and it was the first time we had to get oil since arriving in California. We figure we get close to 20 miles to the gallon when we're not towing the RV. So many things around here require a 20-45 minute drive...and it feels SO good to not have to burn diesel to get places. I love the smell of that veggie oil burning!

Yesterday morning Rowan and I dropped my mom off at the San Francisco airport and then decided to explore downtown San Fran a bit. We went through Chinatown, the closest beach to the city, and to the touristy Fisherman's Wharf. They were having a free Halloween festival...free pumpkin patch, treats, all sorts of things. It was unbelievably busy. I didn't manage to take many photos...I think I was too busy tending to Rowan, maneuvering her stroller through that mass of humanity, and trying to get my bearings in such a big city. I've always loved the feeling of independence and competence that comes from exploring a new place on my own. Trying to do it with a 2 year old added a bit of stress that I wasn't entirely prepared for....but we still had a fun day. We just wish that Joe could have been there with us! I posted just a handful of pictures (don't get your hopes up) here.


Sacramento Zoo and Fairytale Town

My mom, Rowan, and I visited the Sacramento Zoo and a nearby park called Fairytale Town today. It was another gorgeous day, so it was good to be outside. Rowan is completely better, so she is a lot more fun to be around. I think she's been wearing Grandma out---she wants to constantly engage, read, play, paint. The zoo was okay--not as good as Memphis (which was just an hour from us in Jonesboro), but enough for a 2 year old.

Joe is still really sick. Today was even worse than yesterday. I think he must be going stir crazy because he hasn't really left the RV in 3 days. We're praying that I don't get this thing (or my mom)...because there's been enough sickness in this Dutchmen for a season. Plus, we'd like for him to get on with his training! He's really excited about Dan (Joe will blog on that and the training facility soon...) and it's hard to miss days because of being sick.

Not much else to report. If you want to see some pictures from the day, click here.


Pumpkin Patch

Yesterday we went to a fabulous pumpkin patch near Lodi, CA. It was perfect weather again...and this place was just enchanted. They had pumpkins, whimsical scarecrows, hay tunnels, cornstalk teepees, flowers, tractors, and lots of animals. It was a great time. We also explored another nearby town. We live about 15-20 minutes from several medium-sized towns, so we have to decide where to go for groceries, doctor, laundry, etc. We're having fun exploring the area. It's nice to have my mom here--we did some grocery shopping and laundry today. Rowan insisted on wearing her Halloween costume (a pumpkin) all day...so she was quite charming while we were out and about.

Rowan is better...but now Joe is sick. And he's definitely feeling empathy for Rowan--he's just been laid up the last 2 days. He had a fever last night and has had a really bad cough all day today, which is frustrating when he would like to be training!

Judah has also been in rough shape--we spent a few hours at the vet this morning getting some meds for a bladder infection and some really itchy skin. I'm the only one in the family who's been healthy the last week!

Check out pictures of the pumpkin patch here.


Redwoods: Muir Woods

Today my Mom arrived from Grand Rapids to spend a few days with us. She bought a plane ticket to come out before we even left Jonesboro...we thought we were going to get here by late September or early October, but instead we only beat her here by about a week!

We're glad she's here: we needed some relief with Rowan, and it will be fun to explore the area with my mom for a few days. After I picked her up at the San Francisco airport this morning, we headed to Muir woods for a nice long walk among the giant redwood trees. We saw an owl (watched it for many long minutes as it hunted for rodents along the streams), and a huge group of ladybugs that turned a fence red (Joe later informed us that it was somewhat of an insect lovefest). Rowan seems to be feeling a bit better...by late afternoon (after a nap in the stroller at the redwoods) she was perking up and even insisted on taking Grandma to our "beach" on the river. We've been every day this week so far!

I got pulled over in downtown San Francisco. If you've ever driven there, you'll know that the traffic lights are very inconspicuously placed to the right and left of the intersection--not overhead where they should be. So you have to pay very close attention and trust me, they're easy to miss. Especially when you catch a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge and are distracted by a myriad of other sights in such a cool city. I guess I ran a red light. The cop didn't seem very nice, but I was just honest and told him I wasn't from around here and missed it. He let me off with a warning!

I didn't have my camera with me at dinner, but we went to this restaurant in Rio Vista (where we technically live--about 10 min. from the RV) called Foster's. They have one of the biggest collections of large game animals on display in the world. The original owner did lots of big game hunting in the 30s and 40s before it was illegal, and there is an elephant head (yes, a huge elephant head), a giraffe neck and head (one of less than 12 in the world...good thing!), lion, tiger, monkeys, rhinos, hippos, moose, and anything else you can think of. It was kind of spooky, sad, interesting, and hilarious all at the same time. Rowan loved it.

While we were in Grand Rapids, Rowan obsessively wanted to do these 2 large floor puzzles at Grandma and Grandpa's house....every day it was her main request. My mom is an extremely light packer (just had a carry-on)...but she made room for both puzzles in her bag. Needless to say, Rowan was pumped. Doing the floor puzzle with grandma was the end to the best day she's had in over a week!

You can check out a few pics of the redwoods (and the puzzle) here.


Sherman Island Beach

Not too much to report today. Rowan hasn't improved much---I called the doctor and they said to wait a few days and see if the symptoms lessen. She's been complaining of a sore throat, and today there was a nasty cough to accompany it. And extreme moodiness, which is the worst part for us. But since there is no fever, it's probably just a really bad cold.

Joe had the good idea to get out in the sun for a few hours to collect some vitamin D. He remembered a place Tye took him a few years back...and it turned out to be less than 1 mile down from our RV park! Just a small beach cove on the Sacramento River where lots of windsurfers and kite-boarders start from. We are actually on Sherman Island, and the place we went is Sherman Island Park. Today was a calm day, but it was warm....Joe and Rowan even got in the water. Perfect for a toddler---clear, calm, shallow. It was the happiest she's been in days.

I added just a few pictures here.


Napa Valley

We had a beautiful day exploring the Napa Valley today with other athletes training here. One of the board members at Tigerbar Sports is Dr. Prabhjit Purewal. In addition to finishing med school at the age of 20, he also qualified that year (1980) for the Olympics in the steeplechase for India. India, along with the US and many other countries, boycotted the Olympics that year and he didn't get to compete. But he still has a love for track and field and has been a big supporter of Tigerbar. He mostly practices in Stockton--he has a cancer center there (St. Teresa Cancer Center) and has done a lot of innovative research on cancer and HIV. He also teaches at Stanford. And speaks 11 languages. What an interesting man! Joe said when he shook his hand that he could feel that this was one of the smartest people he had ever met.

So Dr. Prabhjit planned a day of wine tasting for us today---he loves wine country so much that he counts the Napa Valley as one of his homes. He was generous enough to take us around to his favorite places, treat us to lunch, and educate us on fine wines and the area. It was a perfect day--nearly 80 and sunny--and a short hour and a half drive into this amazing valley. We had a long, relaxing day hanging out at one vineyard, then the next, and finally lounging by the pool of another and having a mid-day meal. It was a great way for us to get to know some of the other athletes living here. And the real treat of the whole day was that it was all planned for us---we just went along and enjoyed whatever came next!

Rowan had a rough day---that was the only bummer about the day. She doesn't have a fever, but something is definitely not right. If she doesn't seem a lot better by tomorrow, I'm going to take her to the doctor. I feel like I spent much of the day shielding her from ruining everyone's good time! As a parent you want everyone to see and know the same cute, verbal, active, clever child that you know, right? She was anything but those things today---spent most of it buried in my neck, seldom walking, not saying a word all day unless it was accompanied by a whine. When all these nice people tried to engage her, they just got scowls and cold shoulders. She must not be feeling well, but it still made for a long day for me.

Check out some photos of our day here. The Napa Valley is truly an enchanted place and one I'm sure we will visit again during this year.

Our new stomping grounds

I've added a few pictures to the Flickr site of the area around where we live. There aren't many photos, I promise to add more soon. Rowan has had a really rough couple of days...had a fever Thursday and Friday, and hasn't really recovered yet. She's just not been herself, so it's been hard to explore or focus on photos much. I did get to the library and the laundromat, but that's about it.

Joe spent a few days training and is really excited about working with Dan Pfaff (read more about Dan by linking through Tigerbar Sports.) Dan has already shown him several things to do differently in his sprints--so Joe is excited about the possibility of getting just a bit faster! I haven't taken any pictures of the training facility yet---but it is eerily like the building in Jonesboro. In the middle of nowhere...cows all around...you'd never guess that a bunch of Olympic-hopefuls were training there!

We had a visit from my good friend from college, Edye, and her husband and sister on Saturday. They are expecting their first baby any day now, so it was fun to see her pregnant. They live in Sacramento, so it will be just an hour drive to see them this year. Of course I didn't take any pictures!

If you want to see a few pictures, click here.



We arrived in California yesterday!

It has been a long journey to get here--we've done lots of work and made lots of life changes in the last 2 months to be in the position for Joe to train this year--so it feels great to finally be here! Joe will have his first day of training with the coach and other athletes today.

During the last 2 months, we have had a lot of things "fall in place" that made us feel affirmed in our decision to move to California. Our house sold quickly, we found a truck and RV relatively fast, and sold lots of other possessions in an efficient manner.

One piece of the puzzle that has been uncertain is where we would park our RV. We have known about a few possibilities, and people here assured us that we should come and it would work out. The issue has been "hook-ups"...there may be a place to put the RV, but how would we get water, electricity, and have a place to dump our black-water? If we "boon-docked," which means no hook-ups, we'd have to find a place to fill up on water, use a generator, and tow the RV somewhere once or twice a week to dump the dirty water. In short, we could do it...but it would take some serious effort. RV parks are all over..but typically cost between $20-$30 a night. Not something we can afford this year.

A long-jumper here named Seun heard our good friend Tye talking about us coming and asking around about possible places for us. Seun offered to help--and called us about 3 days ago with an amazing offer. She happened to coach the child of a family who owns a very classy RV park close to the training facility on Twitchell Island. Seun told them about us and about our situation and Joe's training, and they agreed for us to be at their RV park for the entire year for FREE! We're still working out the details---and we will for sure do some work in exchange for the hook-ups (like edging all the sites)...but it's an amazing blessing.

For one, it's a beautiful park right on the Sacramento River and near the foot of Mt. Diablo---this is actually one of the best places to windsurf in the whole country, so lots of windsurfers camp and RV around here. Some RV parks aren't so great....but this one is meticulously kept, clean, with brick-paved pads for the RV. We not only have water and electrical hook-up, but we also have a place to dump our black water right at our spot (most campgrounds have one dump-station, so if you're staying long-term, you still have to pull the RV over to it on a regular basis...and it isn't easy to maneuver a 35 foot trailer in and out of sites that frequently.)

So we're feeling very blessed today. Rowan actually has a bit of a fever, so I've been camped out with her all morning. She's pretty lethargic and definitely needs to stick close to home today. It's my personality to want to get out and check everything out--find out where the grocery store is, the library, the post office, etc, and get oriented. It will have to wait until tomorrow. I will have plenty of time for all of that in the coming weeks!
I'll try to take more pictures of the area and post them soon.