Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Virtual Coffee II: The Birthday Edition

join me for coffee!

Today I'm participating in Amy's Virtual Coffee. If you get a chance, pop over to her blog; I love her thoughtful writing, and her photography always makes me smile.

If we were really meeting for coffee today, I'd go ahead and splurge on a venti no water, extra hot, soy chai tea latte (and maybe a pumpkin scone) because it is my birthday today. My 39th. And I might be tempted to joke about it being the 10th anniversary of my 29th birthday, but I'd take a deep breath and tell you how I am trying really hard to embrace this birthday for what it is.

I'd tell you that I've been thinking a lot about how to approach this last year before the closing of a decade-long chapter of my life. Knowing that I can come at it from a place of angst, fear and perhaps even a bit of disappointment, I'm working hard to approach it with a sense of gratitude, open-heartedness and hope. The past decade has been filled with tremendous happinesses and opportunities--marriage, motherhood, relocation (twice!) and rediscovering, at least to some degree, my creative self. But it's also brought with it its share of disappointments, primarily infertility, and to a somewhat lesser degree, at least in terms of my own sense of self and self-worth, leaving friends and family behind as we followed our fortunes West.

As I near 39, which brings me closer to 40, the age I said I was officially going to forever be done with the hope of another child, I am finding it hard to let go, to say goodbye to the dreams of that child I will never carry, never hold. I am spending a lot of time lately trying to find the middle ground between honoring the empty space left behind in the wake of infertility and walking away from it without regrets. It's a work in progress, but I feel like I'm finding the space I need to be in to be able to look back gently on those years of trying to conceive another child while at the same time turn my face to the future and see the possibilities that lie ahead. For the past two years, I have seen my inability to conceive as a flaw in my being, a reflection of my self-worth and I know as I move into the part of my life where the idea of becoming a mother again will simply be off the table, I have to let go of that. This year will be, in some small part at least, about that healing.

Naturally, if we were really having coffee, at this point I'd apologize for being such a Debbie Downer, but if we were having coffee, you'd know me well enough to know I'm incapable of small talk and if we're going to invest an hour together sharing a cuppa, I want us to know what's really going on inside of our minds. I'd ask you how you have found ways to heal from difficult experiences in your life, things that have happened to make you feel less complete, less yourself. While I'd hope you've never dealt with such a challenge, if you have, I'd want to hear about it.

Because I'm a ginormous Friends nerd, I'd probably joke about how this year I'm pulling a Phoebe. Remember "The One Where They All Turn Thirty," and Phoebe has her list of all the things she wants to do before she hits the big 3-0? While I don't want to go to sniper school or ride a hippity hop for a mile (even though Phoebe claims that had some unexpected perks to it, ladies....), I really do have a list of things I want to do this year, and rather than wallowing in the woe-is-me-I'm-almost-40 cliche that would be so easy to dive into, I want to spend my year embracing the "before I'm 40 to-do" list:

1. Complete a novel. (I'll be starting next week w/ NaNoWriMo and hopefully will be done w/ 50,000 words by Nov. 30, after that? Who knows. I would like to send out a big WHOOO-HOOO! AND CONGRATS to my friend Kita, whose NaNoWriMo from last year will be published at the end of this month--so very happy for you, Kita and so inspired!)

2. Learn to knit. I tried this years ago and ended up giving my ball of yarn to the cats, but for some reason, it is just something my mind keeps coming back to--something in me wants to learn how to do this, so I guess I am going to have to invest time and energy in getting my inner grandma on and rocking the knitting needles.

3. Garden. Like, build a raised garden bed, plant stuff like cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, squash, and actually have it grow, produce fruit and provide for the family. I'd also like to keep some house plants alive--that would be nice, too. Husbands lucky we rent, because I really want chickens, too.

4. Learn to use my camera for real. Right now, I shoot about 150 pictures each time I take my camera anywhere, and I'm lucky that I get 15-20 decent pictures. That's great, but it would be fantastic to actually know what all those knobs and buttons on my camera are about and how to use them to raise the likelihood of more good pictures.

It's not entirely ambitious; its nothing that's going to set me apart from eleventy billion other suburban housewives who have novel-writing-farm-living-yarn-store-owning-professional-photographer alter egos. Believe me, we are out there. In droves. I'd laugh that all of this probably seems like the "I'll take a ceramics class and pop a Mother's Little Helper!" of the '50's and '60's, and who knows, maybe I am trading one cliche for another, but given the option, I am happy to take the cliche that celebrates learning, creativity and validation of self over the one that invites self-pity, woe and inertia.

After I'd rambled on about my goals for my 39th year (for probably what felt like a year to you--sorry!) I'd want to know what some of your goals are for yourself--are there things you want to accomplish before you get to a certain age? Things you want to let go of? Emotional baggage that isn't welcome on the next leg of the journey?

If we were having coffee today, I'd tell you that since its my birthday, I think I'll take my camera with me and go up to the city to walk through Chinatown. I've been wanting to do that for such a long time, just wandering through the streets there taking pictures of signs and people, and ducking down little alleys to find the hidden temples, camouflaged in between all the other brightly decorated buildings. I'd ask if you wanted to join me, to take pictures of your own, or just to keep me company. I'm sure we could find a nice pot of jasmine tea somewhere....

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkins & Projects: Weekend in Review

This weekend I had two things on my mind: pumpkins and Ethan's first school project. We had a birthday party at a pumpkin patch to attend on Saturday, a plan to carve pumpkins in the afternoon and then bake pumpkin bread as a thank you for the building custodians who helped a few weeks ago with the preschool rummage sale. Along with all of that, it was Ethan's weekend to bring his class mascot, a plush little butterfly hand-puppet, home with him, with the instructions that we take a bunch of pictures of super fun things that Ethan did with "Marty the Monarch," put them all into the class journal and write a little narrative about each picture.
So basically the type of weekend that screams, "This is exactly what you expected parenthood to be all about!!! Parties, fun! family! bonding!, baking, artsy school projects!! You will rock this! YAY!"

Except. Not so much with the rocking this. At least as far as the school project went. See, those "you are the best parent in the universe" moments that play out in your imagination are often altered in their real life translation by, well, the child involved in the scenario. Not in a bad way, per se, but in a way that will inevitably make you less of the WonderParent you imagine yourself to be. You will grow impatient, the child will refuse to "cooperate" (and by "cooperate" I mean read your mind and do exactly as s/he does in your Normal Rockwell imagining of idyllic scenario of parenting perfection you envision), the whole thing will fail to live up to your not-even-really-achievable expectations and you'll likely end up feeling at one point disappointed, and at another, like an ass.

See, for weeks, Ethan's been carrying on about Marty coming to stay with us. Oh, what fun we were going to have!!! I envisioned pumpkin patches, Marty "helping" us carve pumpkins, Marty at the park, Marty at the birthday party---nothing transcendent, like Marty Goes to the Moon or anything like that. Just Marty Spending the Weekend With Ethan--Rockwell has a painting of that, right?

But a strange thing happened on Friday afternoon when Ethan took temporary custody of Marty and his traveling sack. He refused to have anything to do with Marty. Didn't want to take him to the park. Didn't want to take him out of the car for the birthday party. Didn't want to bring him back into the house after the birthday party, when we were carving pumpkins. It wasn't until this morning that, panicked we'd be returning Marty and his "what I did this weekend" journal without any evidence of having done ANYTHING this weekend, I sent Husband and Ethan to the park, with Marty, with instructions not to return until we had some good pictures.

Really, really not my finest parenting moment. More of an "irrational harpy" moment if we're being honest. We then carted Marty with us everywhere, lunch, Pinkberry's, home--I lit the pumpkins we carved yesterday and had Ethan sit with them, Marty puppet in hand. Then we printed the pictures out, Ethan glued them down on the paper and I hand-wrote his narrative by each picture. I fought my every urge to just do it all myself and let Ethan purple-glue stick the pictures to the notebook (trying to ignore the fact that the people who had Marty the week before us had their pictures professionally developed and put their pages together like they were the undisputed scrapbook champion of the world, complete with wavy cut edges for every picture). When he finished dictating what I should write for each picture, I gave it to him to sign him name. At least it is what passes for his name at this point.

Some people took Marty the Monarch on a whale watch on their weekend. We took Marty to Target. Naturally.

Clearly Ethan's in a super mood. Just right for entertaining plush stuffed hand puppet guests.

He insisted on wearing his DIY green halloween mask, complete with purple and black glitter stickers. I *heart* Michaels. He tried it on Marty, but was disappointed by the tiny proportions of Marty's noggin.

The project-in-progress:

master of all things purple glue-stick....

signing his name....

and indulging crazy mama by holding up the final page of the finished product.

In addition to the first class project, this weekend we got ourselves geared up for Halloween; we have a party to go to next weekend at a friend's house and we are dressing ourselves up, at Ethan's request, as Yoda (Ethan), Obi Wan & Princess Leia. Just when I was at a complete loss and ready to go online to order us 2 brown bathrobes (one large adult, one small child) and one white bathroom (large adult), we happened upon a party supply shop that had what we were looking for. Sort of. They had the Jedi costume I can whip into Yoda with a little bit of green face paint, an Obi Wan Jedi Master robe and a child's large Princess Leia that happened to fit me (WTF?!) except for the wig, which is so tiny my 4.5 year old son can't get it to fit over his head. I cannot get my brain to even try to picture to proportions of the woman this costume was intended to fit. So I had to go out and buy a long straight wig that sometime between now and next Saturday I will have to fashion into two giant ear-muffy buns someway, somehow. It's not likely to be pretty, but whatever. At least I won't be wearing a white bathrobe...

Yoda and Obi Wan practice. Also? Our living room is still overwhelmingly brown. Sigh.

Don't tell him he looks more like the Emperor than Yoda; he will be crushed. We will amp up the green face paint so he looks Yoda-ish and not just sickly for the actual party. Also please note the Ethan art work that he has taped up to all of our bookshelves. It's like having my own museum (or preschool bulletin board) in my living room.

Even though we have been to no fewer than three pumpkin patches this fall, we headed to the local grocery store to pick out a few more for carving. Because we're classy like that.

I'm adding a couple pictures of the warty pumpkins because they give Husband a serious case of the heebie geebies and he forbade (yes, forbade!) me from buying them. Here, honey! I picked one out just for you!! *smooches!!!*

Buy one get one free, yo! *small children not included*

We took our decidedly NON-warty pumpkins home and carved the ever-loving crap out of them...

We laid down enough packing paper to cover up a crime-scene; fortunately we still had some in the garage left over from our move more than a year ago--sometimes laziness just pays off. Ethan's not such a big fan of the flash on my camera....

We selected our designs from a little kit....

cut their heads off....

and then gutted them mercilessly. It's kind of creepy, actually.

Ethan is not pleased when anyone tries to help him with anything these days.

Our three pumpkins, Polka Dot, Skeleton Man and Kitty Girl, as named by Ethan:

and all three of them lit up, with Ethan and Marty:

It's not Norman Rockwell, but it's good enough for me...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Parks and Rec

Guys, Ethan is not adjusting to autumn so well. As I greet the day giddy at the sight of clouds out my window and the sound of rain tapping on the roof, he is becoming increasingly forlorn at this turn of climatic events.

"When is the sun going to come back?" he asked earlier this week, after two measly days of cloudy, cool weather. His assimilation to Californian boy is complete. I fear he is in for quite a rude awakening as the fall and winter wear on and it rains like it's never going to stop (14 days in a row at one point this past winter). I should probably contact my doctor for the Zoloft prescription now, just to be prepared (for me, not him! well, maybe him. I kid).

So after school on Friday, taking advantage of the increasing space in between rain drops and a couple breaks in the clouds, we headed to the park.

He won't be scaling Everest any time soon, people. But with some help from mom he managed to get to the top of the rock wall. I would have taken pictures of that, but I had one hand on his butt to keep him from falling.

Then we made our way over to the swings.

Serious boy contemplates sunnier days:

Then decides to get his twirly swing on & the fun begins:

We've been so busy lately with play dates (seriously yesterday Ethan play-dated from 9am-5pm, like it was his job, people), and house guests and birthday parties that we've not taken much time at all to just hang out and *be.* It was so nice to have no agenda, no place to be, no plan and to just run around the park, twirl on the swings and kick the soccer ball around. I'm thinking that as long as Ethan can tolerate dashing in between a few rain drops, and putting on a couple extra layers we will have an un-plan to go play at the park as much as we can this fall.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Do They Have Wi-Fi in Prison?

Because it seems that might be where I'm heading, thanks to the great state of California, and I'd hate to have to leave the blog behind while I'm doing 10 to 20 in Folsom state prison.

Why the hyperbole, Sarah? Why the absolute breach with reality? Because. They are driving me to it (no pun intended...really).

A little background. During the first week of September, I was stopped by a cop, for the first time ever, for failing to come to a complete stop on a right hand turn on red. I was coming off of the Interstate, the light was yellow, I slowed way down very close to a stop, checked to see that the line of traffic waiting for the green had not started moving, and when I saw that it hadn't, I made the turn. By the time I got through with the turn, my light was red. I suppose you could argue that I turned on yellow, but whatever.

So I got a ticket. Fine. It sucks, but that's life because let's face it, I (and you) have probably crawled through more than our fair share of right hand turns on red without coming to a complete, count-to-five, wait-to-feel-the-tires-roll-back, stop. I know this because since getting the ticket, I have keenly observed the driving habits of others and almost no one stops completely at a right hand turn on red unless there is oncoming traffic. And in my research (google, you bitch), you'd have to make something like 1 million rolling-stop right hand turns on red before being the catalyst for a life-threatening accident. So in the name of all things law-abiding, this is not the hugest crime that police are facing today. But still. Whatever, I got a ticket. And I'm not really all that interested in fighting it.

But what I would like? Is to know how much I owe. So I can pay it. Before there are late fees. And drivers licenses revoked. And bench warrants out for my arrest. Because that's what Google says will happen.

But Sarah, why are you relying on Google for all of your information regarding your traffic violation??!! Surely that information is somewhere on the citation you were issued at the time you were pulled over? Right? Because that would make sense. That would be...what's the word? LOGICAL.

Alas, reader, you are correct. That would be logical et al, but that's not how it works, apparently. I was told I would receive a more thorough ticket in the mail, with fine amount, a court date should I choose to fight it, information for traffic school options, etc. All really helpful information when trying to be a good citizen and pay off your debt to society for, well, not doing anything all that terrible or egregiously hurtful to anyone. I was told I would receive this information. But I have not.

There was one thing on my ticket and that was a "tentative court date," which said I was to appear in court "on or before 10/20/10 @ 1:30pm." Go ahead and try to plan your month around that. Can I show up at 1:30pm on 10/20 and get this taken care of? Can I show up at 10am on 10/4 and pay my fine? What exactly does "on or before" mean in Superior Court-ese?! Because I can't imagine they have some shlump hanging around the Superior Court to deal w/ people just wandering in on their own time to try to fight or pay a traffic ticket. That would seem like a waste of resources and we all know that states don't ever waste resources....right?

The other thing I found on the "this is test, this is only a test, if this had been a real traffic ticket you would have received valuable information regarding fine and traffic school" ticket was a phone number for the Superior Court and the words "if you do not receive notification by mail, it is your responsibility to contact the court for further instruction."

If you know me, you know I do like further instruction. And so after a month went by and the mail had brought with it no sign of a traffic ticket, I started "contacting" the court. I put the word contacting in quotations, because my attempts to "contact" them all kind of ended up like Jodi Foster's attempt to "contact" the aliens in the movie, well, Contact. I dialed the number and then my entire being was sucked up into a vortex of pre-recorded voice messages, muzak and redirections from not-attached-to-any-living-thing voices until I was spit back out of the black hole by a busy signal that meant I'd been hung up on by a machine. Again. I did this for days. I may have punched a wall. or two.

Then I decided to call the police station in the town I was driving through when I received the ticket. Random-person-who-answered-the-phone lady told me that no, I should NOT show up to court on the day specified on the quasi-ticket I was issued because that's just a date the officer puts down and he does not make the court schedule. It's not the "real" date of my court appearance. So...that's helpful.

I asked her a hundred times if she was sure, because really truly I just wanted to pay the fine and find out about traffic school and I don't want to end up with bench warrants and police coming to my home to arrest me for not showing up in court and I *may* have gotten a little weepy in my frustration and my sincere desire to be a good citizen (who really didn't do anything horribly wrong, anyway. Did I mention that?). She laughed and assured me that I would not go to jail for not paying a traffic fine. Well, okay, but that's NOT what google said. She told me that traffic violations are super back-logged and the ticket was probably not even filed yet, sitting on someone's desk. I shouldn't worry about it until I get something in the mail.

"But, the initial ticket says I might not get anything in the mail & that it's my responsibility to contact the court or I might incur late fines and suspended license and bench warrants," I said to her.

"Yes, that is possible; we don't guarantee you'll get anything in the mail."

"But, you just said I shouldn't worry about it at all until I get something in the mail..."

"Well, you might get something in the mail. Don't worry about it."

"Oh. Okay."


So it was a really helpful conversation. Don't go to court, and don't worry about the ticket until you get the ticket. But you might not get the ticket. So then you won't know when to even worry about the ticket. But don't worry about it right now on my phone line because I've got other things to do now, mkay, honey?

This led me to the panic attack I had on Tuesday morning at 2am, the day before my not-really-my-court-date court date. I woke Husband up at 2am, in full-on teary hyperventilation mode rambling about how I didn't know what to do? Go to court? Not go to court? If I didn't go to court and never got a ticket, what would become of me? The court is 1.5 hours away and when am I supposed to be there? Can I take Ethan to court with me? Do I want him to see me standing in front of a judge??!!! Am I even going to stand in front of a judge?!

I think my biggest problem is that I had no idea what to expect. Aside from an address an hour and a half away from home, I had absolutely no concept of what I'd be facing. Yes, there are bigger things to worry about in the world and life. But like I said, first traffic ticket in 20 years. Miss Never Gets in Trouble tends to get her feathers ruffled when she's in trouble and doesn't know how to make it right.

So the next day, after assuring me that I would not be arrested and sent away for rolling through a right turn on red, Husband also tried to contact the court for some answers. He experienced the same vortex of unhelpful recordings and hang-uppy busy signals. So he called the same police station to double check on the "don't go to court on your not a real court date court date" advice I was given by random-person-who-answered-the-phone lady. Funnily enough, he was told by random-person-who-answered man that I SHOULD go to court on my not a real court date court date, even though it wasn't a real court date.


That if I didn't go to court on 10/20, it might look bad and that at least by showing up I was showing good faith and could maybe get an answer from someone there about what to do next. Maybe I'd be seen that day, but he doubted it.

So fine. FINE!!! Go to court I did. Which I realize should have been the anxiety-free plan all along, but without any idea of what would happen there or even how much my fine was, it was all just daunting. And no one wants to drive 1.5 hours to court if they don't have to, am I right?! With my little carbon copy quasi-ticket in hand, I drove in morning rush hour traffic (because Husband was told by RPWATP-man that it was possible I *might* be seen earlier than 1:30pm since the wording is "on or before 1:30pm.") and arrived at Superior Court in downtown Place I've Never Been, CA around 10am.

The first thing I saw when I got through security (which I bumbled through like a nervous chihuahua--I might have an underlying fear of courts that I don't know about because I was a trembly wreck. I don't know how criminals do it, really.), was the "traffic court" schedule, printed out in impressive dot-matrix style and thumb-tacked up to the wall.

Would you like to guess?

My name was not on the list. It was not my court date.

Sooooo, I found the first real person I could (and was mightily surprised to see so many of them behind the partitions--real people!!! drinking coffee!! and chatting!!! Not a voice recording in sight!) and asked her "What. Am. I. Supposed. To. Do.????" to which she directed me to follow a red line on the floor, showing the way to the "You're a Crap Driver" division of the court. I thanked her far more profusely than was necessary for the help she gave and followed the red tape road to join the rest of my fellow traffic losers awaiting their fate.

Thirty minutes later I found myself face to face with another human being who confirmed that I was indeed "not supposed to be here today", but that she'd fill out some form for me to let the court know what a good do-bee I was for showing up anyway. She told me, as a matter of fact that my ticket was not yet even in the system. It has yet to be filed by the officer who wrote it.

Apparently, the officer has A YEAR to file the ticket. A year. I know I'm melodramatic, but seriously?!!! Mama's got a bit of anxiety here. It would seem to me that drawing out this process for a YEAR is cruel and unusual punishment for making a rolling stop right hand turn on freaking red.

She told me that I *should* receive a ticket in the mail after the officer files it, but they don't guarantee that, so I should check back with the court, every 2-3 weeks until the ticket is filed so that I don't incur late fees and "other penalties" (read: hard time and solitary confinement and the fashion disaster that is the orange jumpsuit) for failing to show up to court and pay the fine.
Check back with the court?!!! The way I'd been "checking with the court" for over a month, with the recorded messages and the transfers that lead to busy signals and the hanging up?!!

I asked her why no one ever answered the phones here--that I'd been calling for a month, sometimes multiple times a day, to try to get an answer and had driven 50 miles to stand in this line just to be sent home, that I was trying to do the right thing here, and she laughed at me. Or perhaps she'd say "with me," but I assure you I wasn't laughing. Her response was, "honey, we answer the phones all day long. If no one's answering your call it's because they're answering someone else's. You just have to keep trying."

She sent me home with my carbon copy quasi-ticket that has my not really my court date court date on it, and a piece of paper that proves I showed up at court for my not real court date. And now I go back to waiting for the ticket in the mail....for the next year. And "contacting" the court every 2-3 weeks...for the next year.

So even if I don't go to prison for failing to pay a traffic ticket, I suppose it's possible that sometime in the next year, after eleventy billion unanswered phone calls to the Superior Court and countless 3-hour round trip drives up to the court to stand in line just to be sent home, I might find myself in cuffs for losing my ever-loving mind and streaking naked through the court with my hair on fire, screaming obscenities....

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Adventures in Ethanland...

It's been a busy week here. Field trips, out of town visitors, touristy trips to the city--it's all good (except for my experience dealing with the superior court of California trying to settle a traffic ticket, but let's keep it shiny and happy here for today, shall we???!!!)

If there's one thing I love more than an apple orchard at 'pick your own' time (you might remember a September littered with posts about apple picking), it's a pumpkin patch. I totally get Linus, people. The great pumpkin IS coming. We found ourselves at the first one a few weeks back, but on Monday I chaperoned a field trip with Ethan's preschool to local pumpkin patch. There was much autumn-y rejoicing and hay ride happiness. I can only show you bits of it because our school, aside from forcing the kids to dress in shirts of the LEAST naturally-occuring-in-nature color for all field trips, has also splashed the name of the school across the front of the school. Totally harshing my picture-taking-blog-posting mellow, but whatever. Fortunately it got cool enough midway through the field trip that I could throw a sweatshirt over Ethan's green-screen hued shirt and get some post-able shots.

Later that day, we drove up to the airport to pick up some wonderful friends of ours from back home in DC, as they made their way through a whirl-wind tour of CA. We got to spend a little under 48 hours with Erin and Izzy and though it wasn't nearly enough time, it was so much fun. There is nothing quite like watching Ethan reconnect with an "old" friend. What he remembers and how he emotionally responds to people from his so very limited past is one of the unanticipated benefits of all of our moves--he is 4 years old and he has friends all over the country; it's pretty amazing. I think I was 12 when I got my first pen pal and that was the first friend I ever had who wasn't sitting in the same class room as me, Monday through Friday.

One of the best things about having out-of-town guests? Aside from the catching up and the feeling like you're home in a totally different way than you normally do while sitting in your living room, it's getting to be a tourist again. Yesterday Erin and I packed up the kids and headed to the tourist trap center of San Fran--Fisherman's Wharf.

they're so urban hip it's killing me.

slowly but surely the sea lions are coming back and they're as ornery and slothful as ever.

mesmerized, naturally

the kids were pleased that these particular sea lions didn't stink quite as badly as the real ones.

Then they practiced being airplanes.

Being an airplane really took it out of Izzy and she needed a speedy power nap. She's lucky no one stole her princess camera while she napped--and by "no one," I mean Ethan.

Then we headed to Boudin's sourdough shop and purchased a mini-turtle sourdough bread. Which I totally performed a serious vivisection on later on in an attempt to give each kiddo exactly half of the turtle, right down the middle. Just call me King Solomon.

one seagull per car, people. Please, just one seagull per car. Alternate caption, "this car is mine, mine, mine, mine." Ah, Finding Nemo, with the seagull jokes that just keep being funny.
Probably only to me.

Ethan and the quasi-dreamy street car ticket seller dude who is ALWAYS there; I think he is solely responsible for selling every ticket to every person who ever gets on a SF street car. And he's always got his guitar. And he always lets Ethan play it. I heart him for being such a good sport. And a little bit hot.

It really doesn't get much cuter than this folks.

After adequate time for posing, we got on the street car, during which Ethan's tongue apparently came to life and declared war on the inside of his cheek. And Erin modeled our communal bottle of water. Who wants germs?! Germs!! We got 'em!

We got off the street car in China Town. Where we had a quick lunch, took a picture of this guy:

and then I was yelled at by a shop owner because I had a camera around my neck in his shop, and apparently he had state secrets scattered throughout his stash of Hello Kitty crap and paper lanterns. So, clearly I have no pictures of his stuff, damn it.

Wise advice. Thank you, folding street chair. Thank you.

Just a head's up.

After being chased out of China town by angry spy shop owners, we hopped back on the street car and headed to our last stop:

where, people, they have a pumpkin spice chocolate squares. Pumpkin. Spice. Chocolate.

I'll give you a minute...

Aaaand we're back. We got the kiddos some ice cream (um, yeah, and ourselves. whatever, it was vacation! someone else's vacation, but vacation nonetheless) and they made their best attempt at falling into the chocolate making magic machine and actually becoming part of the magic themselves:

I wish I could post a picture of both kids passed out cold in their car seats on the way home. But alas, they spent most of the 1+ hour drive home in rush hour traffic doing things like licking the bottoms of their naked feet and laughing like hyenas, then arguing over who got to sing the next line of each song they picked out--incessantly asking for adult intervention on their own behalf when the other sang the line "incorrectly" or "out of turn." It was a super fun ride. Note to self: invest in a sensory deprivation tank for preschooler-overload emergencies.

We bid our friends adieu this morning and I embarked on a journey called Operation Just Let Me Pay the Damn Ticket, which I will share in probably mind-crushing detail in another post at some point. But for now, let's keep the post in our happy place, shall we?