Monday, June 28, 2010


Or, It's All Fun & Games Until Your Kid Gets Pummeled By a Giant Wave

Still being relatively new to the Bay Area, Husband & I have agreed that we need to spend these summer weekends exploring. We've done the whole Golden Gate Park museums/botanical gardens/tea gardens/zoo/aquarium schpiel & now it's time to just sort of hit the road & see where the day takes us. More often than not, the best adventures are the ones you don't even know lie ahead of you just a few miles down the road.

Sunday morning we jumped in the car & headed up to Alice's Restaurant, which has become a favorite place of ours. It is a dive if ever there was one, perched way up at the top of the Santa Cruz mountains, a biker diner complete with outside bathrooms (not port-o-potties, but a glammed-up outhouse building). I'm fairly certain the last time I used their facilities, the previous occupant had lit up a big fat joint & I walked out the bathroom with quite a contact high. Thank goodness I wasn't driving, and let me tell you--the blueberry pancakes were even more delicious than they've ever been.

In an attempt to make healthier food choices, Husband, Ethan & I decided to split one omelet & one order of pancakes. We still walked out of there feeling that if we hit a big enough bump on the road we would just explode, leaving nothing but breakfast foods behind. Note to self: Alice's is just not a place for "healthier food choices." Period.

Friends of ours have recently relocated to Santa Cruz, so we lazily thought, "Let's disrupt their whole day on a moment's notice and go see them." We're big fans of the drop-in visit, but it's slightly less convenient to drop in on people who live an hour away. If I walk the 50 feet it takes me to get to my neighbor's door & she's busy--not a big deal. I've only spent 30 seconds of my time & she doesn't have to feel bad asking me to come back in an hour.

Fortunately our friends in Santa Cruz are among the most laid back people you will ever meet (which I think is a legal requirement to setting up residence in a seaside town like Santa Cruz--you simply cannot be highly strung & live there successfully--you will piss everyone off for harshing their mellow and will most likely be run back over the mountains to where there are schedules and appointments and thingstogetdoneNOW!). So they were happy to know we were on our way, sauntering down Highway 1, expecting to get there "whenever."

Although, as an aside, I have to admit to panicking when both Husbands & my cell phones said, "No Service" for almost the entire drive down the Pacific Coast Highway--"How will I call them to tell them where we are? How will I let them know when to expect us?! zOMG, Husband, it will be so rude of us not to let them know we are stopping here & there & everywhere, thus moving back our estimated time of arrival!!! zOMG!" Clearly, I have no plans to move to Santa Cruz any time soon.

We stopped at Pigeon Point lighthouse, which just happened to appear on the horizon as we drove down the highway. Being the stellar navigator I am, I saw a sign for "lighthouse, next right" and urged Husband to take the immediate right, which happened to be a dirt road leading into some sort of agricultural field. Fortunately, he is, much to my chagrin, a wee bit smarter than me (sometimes) & thought best to drive a half mile to the next right--a paved road that actually said, "Pigeon Point Lighthouse." Whatever, smartypants.

The lighthouse? Ah-mazing! Old & closed down, but so gorgeous. Wildflowers, ocean, rocks jutting up out of the waves, fog. Dreamy, people. Just dreamy. Ethan however, did not think so, at least at first.

Ucccch. You people & your stopping to look at things on the side of the road. (note: he was mid-sunglasses push up when I took this; he is not, in fact, picking his nose.)

Behold the moodiness o' the lighthouse:

rocks to climb?! Things are looking up!

clearly there's a reason for the lighthouse being here.

....aaaand now he's happy!


Then it was off to Opal Cliffs beach in Santa Cruz to see our friends. Opal Cliffs is a private beach (one side of which is all nakey-nudie, ohh lala!) that can only be accessed by walking down (and then back up, in my case carrying a wet & screaming preschooler, but more to come on that in a bit) about 100 stairs that jut out off the side of, well, a cliff.

This is my friend Sally, half way down the cliff stairs. As it looks, it does indeed feel like you are walking down these stairs straight into the angry ocean. She? Clearly not concerned? Me? Peeing my pants.

But once we got to the bottom of the stairs, we found that there actually was a strip of beach between cliff and ocean (and a naked guy, too). So we chilled out a bit, played in the sand & watched the dog take full advantage of the driftwood.

Aaaaaand, then it happened. Playing at the waterline with some kids his age, Ethan got caught up in someone's boogie board cord. He fell to his hands and knees as a small wave was going back out. No big deal. We called for him to stand up before the next wave came to shore. But he didn't. He just set there, on his hands & knees, watching the next wave (which in my Mamabear memory, was huge) approach him.

"Ethan, stand UP!" I called. But he did not. Total deer in headlights, watching the wave starting to crest just a few feet from him. It was going to break right over his head. Holyfarkinghell, people!!! So off mama went. Running down the little strip of beach (which? seems like a mile when you're watching a wave start to break over your kid's head). I got to him right as the wave broke on him, grabbed his arm and yanked him up out of the water, screaming, sandy and soaked.

I exited the water plus one child & minus one flip flop, which a kindly on-looker went & fished out of the ocean for me and I was totally embarrassed by that because the flipflops are a disaster and totally not worth the effort it took for that guy to go in after it (note to self: buy new flip flops--those things are mangy!). I also had a pathetically "I am addicted" moment when I realized that my jeans were soaked all the way up the leg and in between asking Ethan if he was okay, I frantically checked my back pocket to be sure my iPhone was still there and not bathing in salt water. Oh thank you baby Jesus for protecting my iPhone. Oh, yeah, and my kid, too. Of course.

This was the aftermath of the wave incident:

I know this looks like he might be choking or gasping for air. But he's not. He's just screaming. A lot. And for a long time. Awesome. Poor kid; this is something he's going to remember forever, isn't it? It's going to become "that time I almost drowned" in the mythology of his life.

So up the tower of cliff stairs we went. Ethan drove home wearing a sweater we found in Husband's trunk, fit more for a crisp November day than a summer scorcher. And me? I drove home wrapped in a towel I borrowed from our friend because there is little in this world less comfortable than wearing wet denim. Unless it's wearing wet denim while listening to your four year old screaming for a quarter of an hour.

Let's just scroll back up and look at the pretty pictures of the lighthouse again, shall we?

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Merry-Go-Round From Hell...

Seriously, people, check this out:

Um. What is that disembodied head doing on my merry-go-round???!!! I would like to get off the scary ride now, please...

Last week, before going to LA, Ethan & I headed to a local amusement park with friends. An awesome time was had by all, but I have to admit, this creepiness made me a bit twitchy. Heady McBodiless was featured all around the merry-go-round and I could not take my eyes off of her. Who is the PhD in early childhood development who decided that decapitated looking heads would make a nice addition to their kiddie ride? Although, I have to say--Ethan did not seem concerned by the floating head's omnipresence; I was the one giving her the hairy eyeball (which was, by the way, inside my head which is attached to the rest of my body, thank you very much).

See? Happy in spite of Heady McBodiless peering down on him.

yes, in fact I did ride on the horse next to Ethan, and mine went up while his was down.

Also happy on the ferris wheel. This was a labor of love for me. I am terrified of the whole up to the top of the world and over again thing. ugh. Clearly, though, my kid is braver than me.

Then we drove the race car...

...and the fire truck...

and then we had some seriously kick-ass soft serve ice cream. But whatever you do, don't read this article about what goes into soft serve to make it different from regular ice cream...holy hell. Nice to know my kid is eating one of the same chemicals that goes into K-Y jelly. Wholesome.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Camp Rock

Today Ethan started summer camp, had a play date & had his first drum class. It was one of those "zOMG, I am totally overscheduling this child & someday he's going to be telling a therapist all about it," sort of days.

I have worked hard in the past couple of weeks to ease up on the scheduled activity & give him time to just be. He's pretty social & busy, so it is tough for him not to be engaged in something, but I have enjoyed watching him take some deep breaths and find something to do that didn't involve instruction or, in some cases, any interaction at all--he can whip up his own little universe pretty quickly and effectively when he's left to his own devices. We are only doing summer camp 3x a week and have only the drum class on Mondays from now until August. But today was one of those days.

Since its summer camp, the teacher's instruction was for the kids to come in their bathing suits, as there would be all kinds of frolicking through sprinklers & merriment at the water tables. So, bathing suit it was:
please note the Beatles lunch box. The perfect compliment to the blue on blue bathing ensemble & a kicky pair of new crocs.

I'm in my class room! In a bathing suit! Folks, this is like showing up to work in your pajamas. It feels wrong, but so fabulous.

After camp, Chatterbox E told me all about driving his bike through the bike/car wash that that the class dad's configured out of hoses and PVC pipes a few months ago and about his soccer coach who taught them how to dribble ("but I'm not very good at it, but it's okay because I can practice and get as good as Coach")(and let's take note that the soccer classes we paid for this spring? Ginormous disaster of epic proportions. But soccer classes that come with our summer camp package? Chatterbox-inducing glee and Beckham-esque aspirations. Go freaking figure.)

We got home in time to hear our neighbors in their kitchen, which almost always without fail leads to a playdate. See, houses in our neighborhood are fairly close together (read: on top of each other) & the next door neighbors have three kids, one of which is Ethan's age. And the boys are obsessed with each other. Ethan is reaching bona fide stalker pitch in this relationship. When we pull into our driveway, Ethan's first comment is inevitably about Cole and whether he is home, and if he is, "maybe we can have a play date with Cole." To which I tell him, "Not right this minute, but if you hear them outside, we can go outside and see them." This means Ethan has to go through the house, making sure all our windows are open so he is positive to hear the very second one of them steps out of their door. And when he does hear them? Whatever we are doing MUST be dropped & he goes tearing for our door, yelling, "HI, COLE!!! WANNA PLAY, COLE??!! HI, COLE!!" Yeah, we're those neighbors. Awesome.

Fortunately yesterday the mom came over & asked if Ethan wanted to go play with Cole. This was phenomenal because it gave me a chance to clean the house a bit. I now know why I spend all my time before going away on vacation cleaning--coming home to a dirty house is gross & exhausting, y'all.

Then it was off to drum class. Let's take a moment to remember Ethan's recent extra-curricular activity demeanor. My social, outgoing, happy guy has recently turned into fearful, clingy, whimpering guy when faced with a group of kids he doesn't know & new instructors. We don't push it--if he wants to participate, he can. If he doesn't, we sit on the sidelines and watch; maybe next week he'll participate. It's all about making him comfortable in his environment and letting him come to the experience authentically, right?

It all sounds so Zen and reasonable of us. Please. On the outside I am all "It's okay; let's sit over here and watch." On the inside? I hear Joan Crawford screaming "NO WIRE HANGERS!" and the staccato "WREEE! WREEEE! WREEE!" of Psycho swirling around my brain in a cacophanous symphony of angry-mom angst. And it started again yesterday afternoon as we entered the drum class.

In the car? SO excited! Talked about how he was going to teach his drum-classmates how to play "Lady Madonna" (still his new favorite Beatles song--although today he said something that made me clutch my pearls in horror--"I'm sick of the Beatles right now, mom." THE HORROR!). When we got out of the car? Starting to talk softer, all bravado of actually BEING the teacher in the drum class gone. Through the door? Entirely mute & hiding behind my leg as the teacher greeted him. In the class? Did the ants-in-his-pants anxiety dance when I tried to extract my fingers from his pudgy-fingered, white-knuckled little clutches.

So while all the other moms sat over on the folding chairs, this mom sat in the circle, patting my knees to learn about rhythm & tempo. Jumping up and down and stamping my feet and shaking the egg shakers. Can I take a second to tell you how over-the-moon excited I was that the room had a wall-to-wall-ceiling-to-floor mirror? So I could watch myself jumping up and down with a circle of preschoolers? Without a sports bra on? And could see all the moms behind me. Watching me jump up and down with their preschoolers. Without a sports bra on. Super.

Eventually, Ethan took pity on me (it's all about me, right) and tapped into his confident inner rockstar. Slowly I was able to extract myself from the percussive festivities and join the rest of the moms as Ethan became increasingly at home around the giant base drums, mallets, and awesome little drum heads. As a matter of fact, at the end of class, I could not get him to leave. So we caused a ruckus both coming and going. Which was awesome. We're memorable. Very memorable.

Look at the "is this drum going to eat me?" apprehension on his face. Sigh.

This is how close I had to sit to him. Awesome.

slowly inching away...

ooooh, look at how his arms are drawn back in anticipation and excitement when she holds up drum head? This is my cue to step waaaaaay back...

Ethan takes loving possession of his very own yellow drum. Le sigh

Let the pure joy begin!

Back in the land of Where Moms Sit.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I love LA...

In spite of myself, people. I love LA. There is something about its mixture of wild, rugged terrain & it's bright lights and beautiful people that just make it so compelling. When I drove away from LA eight months ago, watching it's hills get smaller and smaller in my rearview mirror, I didn't really think I liked LA all that much. Sure, I'd made some great friends during our 15 months living in Studio City, but love LA? Meh.

Then a strange thing happened; Ethan started asking when we were going back to our old house, I would wake up on a Sunday morning thinking, "today would be a great day for Malibu," or, before I met a slew of hilarious and wonderful people here, I would spend the day pining for afternoons in the park with our LA friends. Husband & I found ourselves wistfully saying things like, "remember the time in LA when we...." It was a classic case of "don't know what you've got until it's gone," (oh, the cliche of it all!!) Holy hell, I missed LA! You might remember how I whined & cried like a big fat baby about having to move there. And here I am, missing it. Oh life, you crazy bitch, you.

This weekend, Husband, Ethan & I packed up the car & headed down to Los Angeles for a Magical Mystery Tour of nostalgia. I took some pictures with my wicked awesome hipstamatic iPhone app while we were driving.

I may be a bit obsessed with the concept of the rear view side mirror--the whole looking-back- as-you-move-forward symbolism makes me all warm & fuzzy. And because we drove through sunset, it was basically us & the trucks.

we may have been driving a teensy bit fast...

Moonrise. How moody.

We were set to stay at the same hotel we stayed at two years ago before we first moved out there: see here. Note to self: you are too old (and your child is too young) to stay on the Sunset Strip. Just sayin'.

We arrived late in the evening, with a sleeping child draped over my shoulder and pulling our luggage behind us. Only to be told that because we were late (woohoo!), they had rebooked our room (probably to some young beautiful chippy who was at that moment across the street at the House of Blues having drinks purchased for her by guys hoping to score). Which sucked.

BUT, lucky us! They had a room at their sister hotel 1/2 a block away. And we could have it! For free! Just pile all that stuff (including sleeping child) back into the car. Is that a problem for you? (to be fair--it's a small price to pay for a free hotel room in LA, I know, but what with the fact that we'd booked a room in the hotel we were actually standing in--it kind of pissed my 10pm-been-on-the-road-for-six-hours self right off)

bright lights. big city.

Ethan sleeping on the lobby couch while we try to figure out if there's any room at the inn.

There is not. I have to pick him up & cart him back to the car. Awesome.

So off to the next hotel. The one with the free room. And the awake child. Because? Please. It's one thing to transfer a kid from a carseat to a hotel bed. It's another to take him from carseat to hotel lobby couch to carseat to hotel lobby to hotel bed.

Fortunately, though, Ethan was way out of it when he did wake up, so he didn't have any questions about the bedding or art in our new hotel room.

yeah, those are boobs. Giant, cleavage-y boobs.

Ethan was more interested in the bag of freeze-dried mango than he was the endless legs above his head. Nor did he ask why he was lying on a giant zebra blanket. Good boy.

This? Is a personal canister of pure oxygen. You know; for all your oxygen needs. That aren't met by...breathing?

Soooo, not really the room we'd envisioned (because really? who could envision all that??!!) Fortunately sleeping is sleeping. And in spite of the provocative, um, decor, and the replenishing supply of oxygen, sleep is all we did. And woke the next morning, refreshed & ready to check into the hotel room across the street that was rightfully ours. We were greeted by groveling concierges who threw bottles of wine & free mini-bar provisions at us as they checked us in to our room.

After checking in, we were off to see friends. It took Ethan about 45 seconds to get reacquainted with his friend, Penny, and all the princess-y goodness that he enjoyed with her during their friendship in LA.
soooo happy as the bride!

Then we headed off to one of our favorite old stomping grounds, The Americana.

fountain show!

someday these two will have their own show on Disney or something. I can feel it. There will be much singing and dancing. And general adorableness.

they're so glam. Like Paris & Nicole, before they hated each other.

seriously, I don't tell them to pose. They just do it. Work it, babies.

At the end of the day, we went back to our normal hotel room. The one with no boob art, oxygen tanks or bottles of aphrodisiacs on the nightstands (did I mention that? oh. yeah. They were there. The room was very disappointed it saw no action the night we were there, I assure you. We failed that room. So sad.) And I was so happy with my normal hotel room. Until I drew up the blinds and found, either etched or decal'd on my window, this:

Lesson here? There are no normal hotel rooms on Sunset Blvd. And given that it was the night of the NBA finals, game 7, I can only conclude that in California's case, "party" means lighting cars on fire and throwing things at cops.

We visited friends, revisited all our favorite old places and even walked past our old house on the way to the farmer's market this morning (where we crammed our faces with legendary breakfast burritos that we've been dreaming about for the past eight months--very farmer's market-y of us).

We embraced our old-ness this morning at 2am when we called hotel security to report a gaggle of drunk girls screaming in the hallway (there was a day when I might have been one of those girls, but last night? I was the angry old lady on the other side of the door and I was freaking tired.)

We headed back north this morning, happy to have seen our friends, but this time realizing that, as we watched the LA hills get smaller in the rearview mirror, we were driving towards home.

He LOVES it when I whip out the camera. Clearly.

But I can take all the pictures I want of him while he sleeps!!! Ha! Um. Does that sound creepy?