More Summer trip…

Slow down summer!  My hair has been in a dirty ponytail for weeks and I don’t have to be anywhere before 9.  This is living.. So the trip I mentioned a few weeks ago continued up to Mendocino.  North of SF you see a lot more green and drivers let you change lanes on the freeway.  Definitely out of LA.  I like it aesthetically up there more, though when I have lived in No. Cal.  I did miss the dynamism of LA.

We stopped for lunch at a small, old town, Hopland.  So many towns up there you could scamper around and make a trip out of.

Hey, look there, another pretty spot

Hey, look there, another pretty spot

Eventually we got to our prize, Dr. Dean’s home.  Many acres of nature and fun.  The smell is always striking as is the quiet.  The constant noise we experience in cities makes us deaf and crazy, yet I don’t notice it till I’m far away.   There was a fawn born on their land days before our arrival.  Breathtaking to see such a deer and we hoped her mom would be able to protect her from other wildlife…not always the case.baby deer

This doesn't look like La Brea avenue

This doesn’t look like La Brea avenue

Last time we were there they were hollowing out a great old redwood stump for their grandkids to play in.  This trip it had been masionized.

What you doing under there?

What you doing under there?

The kids loved it and it was no surprise when I saw recorded on the Edell’s DVR “Extreme tree houses”.

Rex wants them to put in an elevator.  One morning he got up early to speak to the carpenter working on it.  He was trying out his favorite joke.

Rex: “why are you under there?

carpenter: “I’m working.”

Rex: “But, Why are you under there?”

It took a while but finally pay dirt.

Carpenter:  “Under Where?”

Rex “I got you to say underwear!”

Trying to be a good guest I made an error that is causing me discomfort still.  I decided to repair the wood borders of the path to their river spot.  I moved a bunch of sticks that had been the border of the path, but had moved during the winter.  I went near one shady spot at the base of a redwood to pull up a longer downed branch to make a border and then felt pain.  I looked down and there were yellow jackets all around me.  Mark had been stung on an off beaten trail the day before and Dean’s wife Sharon had told us the best thing to do is run.  I did just that.  Into the river.  I pulled out a stinger when I got there.  It was much worse than a bee sting.  My arms and ankle swelled and got flushed.  The cold of the river worked as an analgesic.

safely away from yellow jackets

safely away from yellow jackets

I sipped a beer and tried to calm myself.  It felt bad.   By dinner I was a bit better and Sharon gave me two Benadryls to help.  Before desert I was face down.

Dean: “You can’t handle that!  I knew you when!”  Sure, in my twenties my ability to process foreign substances was far greater.  I crawled to bed.   “Get up” Dean exhorted me.  “We got s’mores ready for the kids.”

Okay, I staggered to the gathering, but after shoving one melted marshmallow in my mouth I limped off to bed and sank.

A week later back home the swelling returned.  My hair follicles burst upward and the itching was intense.  A non drowsy antihistamine helped, but now back to acupuncture and Chinese herbs, which is the biggest help for my annoying skin.

Another way we try to be good guests is we cook.  Well, easy when you travel with Mark Peel sure, but I jump in as well. It’s easy with Sharon’s garden and she went to Fort Bragg and got a whole, fresh wild salmon that Chef Peel did his handiwork to.  You don’t get salmon like that everyday! Melt in your mouth.

great dinner.. before I passed out

great dinner.. before I passed out

There was a cauliflower dish I am refining I enjoyed and one morning made these scones. Some mornings you need something fresh baked!  They have yogurt in them so they are a little less decadent than a normal scone. I put orange zest in them, but I want to tweak some more and add more orange flavor and some whole wheat flour.yogurt scones

Better than a bottle of wine as a host present, Mark brought the fixins to make a tree swing.  I swooned when he put ours up.  Using a sling shot and some creative thinking he did the same for Dean and Sharon.  He spent days searching for the perfect tree.

Mark Peel, Tree Swing maker

Mark Peel, Tree Swing maker

On the trip I didn’t let my damaged skin get me down.  It’s always hard to leave their paradise, but a dose of reality in the country marked our departure.  They are off the grid so we took some trash to the dump for them when we left.  The chain smoking ladies in pajamas and their tatted up men folk dropping of their waste showed us we were not at Kennebunkport. (Note: file that character away for a sketch one day)

Caught lunch on the way

a place this cute has to be good

a place this cute has to be good

and then a big, good smelling whiff of nature when we rolled into Marin County to stay with our friends and my god daughter.  Next day headed to Santa Cruz, saw another friend and then took the kids to Santa Cruz beach Boardwalk.

skee ball queen

skee ball queen

Back when I was a little kid we use to “summer in Salinas”. ( Yeah, not the Cape)  We would spend a couple of weeks with my cousins after our Yosemite camping trips.  My folks barely slowed the car as they push us out and speed off to Monterey for a couple of nights of child free time.  At the time I thought, “Why do they need to leave us behind?”  Now, of course, I get it!

My cousins were hilarious and we loved going to the boardwalk.  It could never be built today.  Coastal commission, what have you , so it’s great to walk on it’s creaky boards and smell the frying of corn dogs.  When I was little — I was the youngest of all the cousins I tripped over a $5 bill.  The cousins and my sisters surrounded me.  “If you don’t buy us tickets with that money we all have to go home.”  Oh, sure, I don’t want to go home.

Cut to I’m playing skee ball with my kids and you have to spend about $800 in tokens to earn enough tickets to redeem for a fruit shaped eraser.  The kids were a few tickets short when I — NOTKIDDING-  FOUND A $5 BILL!!  I bought tokens and won a few more tickets for my kids.  Still not enough for a back scratcher though. One thing that is different so many years later… the rides where I have to go in loops make me VERY ill.  I can feel the plaque on my brain crumbling.  I’m sure I’ve sped up aging on a tilt a whirl. Mark and Rex are the daredevils in the family.

father son bonding

father son bonding

We stayed so late we couldn’t make it far down the 101.  So our one non coach surfing night was in a hotel in Salinas.  You know how I said you can find so many towns in Sonoma and Mendocino that you could explore and enjoy?  Salinas not so much.  35 years later and gentrification never stopped here.  I found a good little coffee place down town, but most of the patrons looked like they would have been friends with my uncle.  The only hipster in the place was the barista.  There were empty store fronts nearby.  I once asked my cousins, “what do you do in Salinas?”  They replied, “Go to Monterey.”

We stopped back at Vines on the Marycrest and I stocked up on more wine.  I had given out most of my host presents and now I needed a gift as I went back to the noise of the city.  For the smell maybe I should tape a piece of lavender to my upper lip.

Butt really

We all gaze at our kids when they are little.  Their little noises, lips, legs. All so cute.  So when I saw Rex standing in the TV room with only his shirt on I did what any loving mom would do.  I kissed his butt.  “Oh, you are so cute, baby.”

happy times santa cruz boardwalk

happy times santa cruz boardwalk

“Mommy, I just went poo.”

“Oh”

“And you just kissed me butt!”

“Oh, well, do you need some help with that?” Realizing that he was standing just outside the open door of the bathroom.

“No.”  Oh, good I thought he has been listening to my lectures about how no one will wipe him in Kindgarten and he has to do it all himself.

“I’m not done yet.”

“Oh”. He kept getting less, and less cute and my actions seemed rash in retrospect.

pool danger

A quick cautionary tale…

Rex is in swim classes, so on the 4th when we were at my sister’s pool I let him swim a bit without his floaty vest.  He loved jumping in the pool and swimming out.  He has progressed quit a bit.  I was always by his side.  At one point I thought his eyes were looking very red.

“It’s time you got out Rex.”   NO!  He wouldn’t he was having too much fun.  A little while later we all piled out for dinner.  Rex called for me as he walked across the patio, “Mommy, I don’t feel so good.  My head hurts.”  I panicked thinking of the stories I’ve heard of dry drownings.  Mark said, I’ve never hear of that?  I replied “well, you don’t foresee the dangers I do!”

Rex at his lesson

Rex at his lesson

I took Rex to the bathroom and he proceed to be sick with copious amounts of water.  “Rex, did you remember to blow out like the teacher told you?”

“No, mommy.  I didn’t”  More sick.

I thought of taking him to the ER.  But, gosh I hate going there.  I figured it was good he was getting the water out.  A lot came up and then he fell asleep for hours.  We took him home and I thought he was better, but he got sick one more time.  Then he fell asleep next to me.  I kept there all night so I could watch him.  The following morning he was fine.

Just one more summer worry for you!

couch surfing road trip

WHEN KIDS TAKE PICTURES   I go to a restaurant and I want to eat in peace and not be thrown out so I give my kid my phone.  Later I find many, many photos on my phone that I delete.  But sometimes there is a gem.  Perhaps I should an curate art show.  “Shots my kid took that were actually good.” I bet, you have found some good ones as well?  By the way… Who puts Venetian plaster on a ceiling? When you travel as we just did, you do go to restaurants more than at home.  So it’s good to have your batteries charged. The ones in your phone, for your human battieries, you get out of town.  But, when you are watching the dollars, HOW?  We did a couch surfing through California trip.  It helps if your friends live in cool places.  Our first stop is with the Abascals at their Vines of the Marycrest winery.  Victor family knew my family so when our kids play we are gazing upon  a third generation friendship.  They live in Paso Robles and we speed up the road so we could get to the town square in time for Paso’s first concert in the park of the summer. vines of the marycrestI love this picture, except I’m not sure why I have my hand like that.  Perhaps my hand wanted more wine since it’s pointing in the direction of Vic’s winery.  We are Culver City kids and he planted his first vines on our hill at the top which is called Marycrest Manor. Objectively, the wine is great and I’m a wine snob.  You can’t find it in stores unless you live in Paso, so order some!   We use to serve one of his reds, “Heart of Glass” at Campanile when it was, well, you know… open. The most recent vintage of Heart that I tasted has a great smokey taste to it. Now, in general I’m not a fan of California wines.  I tend to like the taste of old world wines more.  More restrained.  Victor has found the balance of restraint with the fruit flavor we get from our California reds.  Plus, his rose’ “Summertime” is so good I bought a case and passed them out like Johnny Appleseed as host presents to all those who put us up for the night.  Another reason my first stop is his place.  I’m a white wine nut, usually French whites, which, I use to be surprised by, are often cheaper than California whites.  I like the dry, crisp, mineral nature of them.  However, once again Culver City boy has made a white I love.  Appropriately titled, “At Last”.  You can see he likes music.  None of the overly fruit, buttery Cal syrup I can’t stand.  Goes great with fish, cheese, the leftovers I’m eating right now standing in front of my fridge.  Oh, we’ll skip that. I love the dry air up in Paso there and we walked the vineyards before hitting the road to San Fran which has cold damp air that I don’t love.  vines of the marycrest All 26 acres was covered in almond trees and Victor took them out himself.  So, you could buy some crap wine that has the muscle to get into  a supermarket, but why?  Often for the same price you can buy quality stuff from people who don’t have the marketing budget.  Please, don’t tell me there is good wine at Trader Joe’s.  There isn’t. vines of the marycrest moms who love wine   Back in the car the next day.. if I’m not driving I watch a movie with the kids.  “Nanny McPhee” is good.  Guess Rex had seen enough.colin firthroad trip with kids There is never enough time to see all the friends I want to in Nor. Cal.  I lived there for 12 years.   We had expensive dinner in SF.  It was good, largely seafood, but I was surprised at the cost.  No wonder I cook at home more often than not these days.  The problem is where to source good ingredients.  My local markets fish, eh at best.  I just got ground beef that was neither smart, but certainly final, the final time I buy meat from them.  I digress. We save on a hotel though.. a friend left the keys to her SF pad for us ( she was in Tahoe).  My kids were so charmed by the small balcony and little back yard. san fran with kids I think Rex started to go nihilistic urbannihilistic child I tried to explain that this was a good amount of space for the City, but they didn’t care.  They perched themselves on the tiny metal balcony and watched people go by. Time to head back to the country…. ( Next post)

early summer road trip

I usually save my big family road trips for the end of summer, but a few factors forced it to June, which was fine.  I’m just back with, a yet again, dirty car and a great appreciation for the Golden state and the power of junk food to quiet children at a nameless truck stop.

mendocino

It’s always nice to come home and realize you might have a pair of clean underwear in your future, but even in a quiet moment in my back yard there is the hum.  The constant running of something, many things in a city.  I got to taste the clarity of quiet and I’m still thirsty for it.

That’s why we endure the dirty cars and the truck stops.

good moms don’t have clean cars

This vintage coolmom was the tip of the ice berg.  (Look at little Vivien!  Where is that cute day dress I’m wearing?  Oh, yeah it got stained and I had to throw it away and the makers of the dress went under during the recession, now I remember).

Now, with two kids and permissive snack schedule my car cannot even be detailed.  What gets me is when the kids complain about it being messy!  Um, I let you eat food in here, of course it’s dirty!. Plus, muddy shoes, lost wrappers, etc.  There is so much spilled milk in that car that a friend of Vivien has strong food allergies had to pull out her inhaler after I picked her up for a playdate.  That’s bad.  I’m making a child sick with my messy car.

It use to be glorious.  in ’06 it was a brand new Lexus.  I still love the way it drives and it’s PAID for so I’m driving it till it can’t drive no more.  Recently, Lexus wrote me saying it would give a great deal on a new Lexus if I traded this one in.  Huh, they don’t know what they are asking for back!  Do they have an ice scraper to get the baked on crud off the back seat? Do spilled drinks in the cup holders mixed with sun screen ever come back out?  Why would I take on a car payment for a car that will remain a cheerio wagon for years to come.

Now, I get why as soon as I left for college my mom had a new set of living room furniture delivered.  Oy, don’t get me going on my couch…..one day I’ll torch it.

is Summer over yet?

Day 4 of my son home from school.  Yesterday was fine.  I took him on my quarterly golf outing.  He was pretty good and it’s not a morning I expected to be productive.  My golfing buddy was charmed by him and he loved washing the balls.washing golf balls

We went out to lunch and he was good and tuckered after 9 holes.  As we neared home I thought, “boy he sure is quiet.”  When I turned around I saw this is how he had gone to sleep.funny kid pictures

But, today the mischievous, wild man is working me. While I try to work, he climbs on me, screams in my ear, I got smacked around a little.  I took away his TV time ( mistake, made it worse), tried a time out.  He got out.  I finally put him in the backyard and shut the door. Lordy, I’m just trying to work a bit, trying to make a couple of nickels in a world that charges way too much for health insurance. Wait, not world.  Country.

Little scamp is now ringing the back door bell which makes the dog bark loudly.  It’s like he wants me to be poor.

Keep it up kid, enjoy community college.

The Graduate

preschool graduationMy last baby has graduated from pre school. It was a lovely affair held in our back yard.  He had been at the school for nearly 3 years.  The hat wasn’t part of the ceremony, but dang it, I wanted to see one on his head so I ordered it up.graduation party for kids

I was part of the planning, which was a piece of cake compared to what I was doing the next day, spearheading our neighborhood block party.  We had a great taco vendor I knew provide the food.  I didn’t want anyone to worry about bringing a dish.  We set up a little amphitheater in the deeper part of my yard.

home party for pre schoolersWe asked parents to bring blankets to sit on and collected pictures of the kids through the years they had been together and hung them on string with cloths pins.  I cannot take credit for this idea, but it is one to steal.

preschool graduation

school guinea pig is in the cage

The kids marched in from behind the little chairs singing with their teachers Dewi and Douglas the chorus to Kool and the Gang’s “Celebrate”.  We sang with them. Dewi has been with Rex since he was 2 and half. That’s a heartfelt hug. When it was Rex’s turn to get his diploma I delighted in not only his accomplishment, but at how happy his friends were to see him go up and get hugs from the teachers and get his honor. He also got the book they had been keeping on him while he was there.  When his teacher spoke about working with the kids she teared up and I cried enough to make a bit of sound.pre school record

The kids played, adults drank wine, we had an ice cream truck.  Couldn’t have been better.

Though it’s a sweet little school it’s an unattractive semi industrial area of Hollywood.  It always a challenge to park as big swaths of the street are designated commerical loading for the production companies.  It has been an ongoing battle and I thought we had made head way with hour Councilman that we need Green zone, that gives you 10 to 15 minutes to drop off.  We also had a parking officer who let up on us this last year.  One can’t drop off little kids casually.  There is also an abandoned yard next to it ( Thanks to the DWP who own it and have left it to rot)  Though in the the course of their schooling the kids and teachers took little walking field trips and found the cool bits in the neighborhood.  Then the kids photographed their favorite thing.  Quite rightly my son took a picture of a fireman. That’s my boy. So, it wasn’t in rolling hills, it was ok.

after one year of preschool

after one year of preschool

On Monday they had a last half day.  When I picked him up I gave out hugs and presents to his teachers.  This was it.  I wouldn’t ever be a pre school mom again.  Door shut.  It’s a sweet time of life and I’m glad I got to experience it again through my kids.  I appreciated more with them then I did in my own time.  Which is why I think Rex is so wise to see it’s value now.  As we drove to a play space that a smart mom had set up for us to meet and have a pizza party Rex shared this:

“Momma,  I’m sad.  I want to stay in preschool for the rest of my life and play with my friends.”

I understand, I said.  I didn’t say.  It doesn’t get better.  This is the most carefree you’ll ever be in your life.  You are right to be sad about this passing moment. In a few years, more of life’s detris will come crashing on you, play while you can my son!

Then I dabbed away my tears with the parking ticket I had just gotten for parking in a commercial loading zone near his school.  Maybe, after all, I was ready to move on.