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.