Thursday, June 30, 2011

Leaving Las Vegas

Almost. I'm almost leaving Las Vegas. And honestly, it can't come soon enough.

This is so not my town. I really hate crowds, and noise, and gambling, and scum bags. And this town, well the strip anyway, is full of all of the above. And for a town so dependent on the service industry to keep it afloat -- people are rude.

I'm pretty confident that if I came into a lot of money, and was whisked straight from my private jet, to a limo, to a sweet suite, to pool-side cabana, to the latest, hottest restaurant, to first-row seats at the latest, hottest show, I'd do okay; but short of that, well, I don't think I'll ever like it.

It's so smoky, and scuzzy, and soulless.

Before this trip I optimistically looked up all the low-cost, fun things to do in this town with kids. I made a list, printed it out. I was excited that the pool at our hotel was large, and kid-friendly -- boasting a fun waterslide. Even though I still find my daughters' dance competitions less than fun, I was looking at this trip as a vacation.

Not exactly the word I’d use at this point.

The Flamingo? It’s a dump. The great pool? Since last year’s competition, they’ve flipped the adult and kid pools, so now the kids are confined to the small pool and water slide area, and the large, main pool, with waterfall and little islands, is for adults only. You should have seen all the kids in the pool. It was like girl soup. And the water? Suspiciously warm. Of course, it was 107 when I last went in. But still.

And the pool hours? They close it down at 6 pm. Can you even believe that shit? The sun is still beating down, although it has perhaps cooled off to 95 degrees, the kids are in mid-slide, people are just getting their happy hour buzz going, but they shut it up and lock it down promptly at 6. Only in Vegas, right? (Get into those casinos, now, wouldja?!)

And walking on the strip with kids? Well that’s an education, let me assure you. The girls were amazed at the amount of naked-lady photos they saw on the street, and after a block or two, we all found it funny how the naked-lady leaflet hander-outers would quickly snatch their hands in when they saw us. We likened them to little turtles, yanking in their pitiful heads upon our visage. Thank Shiva for small favors, I guess. Likely it was in an effort to save their marketing swag, not to shield my babies, but it worked both ways.

It also didn’t take long for the girls to comment, “Hey mom, everybody’s drinking beer on the streets!”

Yes, girls, yes they are. And using such colorful language too.

It’s a sewer out there. Vegas is definitely not for kids, do not let the tourist brochures sway you -- they’re complete shit.

There were high points, don’t get me wrong. We did somehow end up in the VIP check-in lounge, avoiding one hideously long line, I did enjoy one boozy afternoon at the pool with some other parents, and was even able to sneak away to the adult pool for 10 minutes. The girls enjoyed their dancing, we had some good meals, but I’m ready to go.

I can’t wait to drag my cracked, chapped lips and dried-out nostrils out of this desert and back to San Diego.

See you on the other side…

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Crops

Here they were a couple of weeks ago:

And here they are now:

Pretty great, huh?

Here's what's cooking on the front porch:

Some basil, some parsley, some oregano . . .

. . . and rosemary. This rosemary plant is 3 years old and Mistah just repotted it. It's going to take off.

But it's the peppers that are really going crazy:

Cayenne, jalapeno, habanero and chile peppers.

And they're growing!


But I think the pièce de résistance just may be the tomatoes.

Lush, green, healthy tomatoes-to-be.

Mistah is quite the farmer.

And in a few months? All these gorgeous plants will sacrifice themselves and bear fruit for us. And Mistah Farmer will become Mistah Salsa-Maker.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


We love to watch Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. He’s so endearing, with his lispy cockney indignation and his passionate loathing of the damn man. It’s a great series, opening up interesting avenues of conversation about what is or is not healthy for the growing bodies in this and many households. Much of Jamie's focus is on the issue of school lunches. 

Before I go on, allow me to pause and tell you that I. Hate. Packing. Lunches.  With a heat that burns like the sun, I loathe trudging into the kitchen while everyone else in my family lies snug in their beds, ignoring all of my preliminary warnings to get up or else. So I can’t quite claim that I’d never allow my kids to eat the slop that is being showcased on Food Revolution if it was available to us, at least a few times or so each week. In fact, I’d be likely to sanction their feasting on twinkie coated lardcakes if it meant that I didn’t have to pack lunches one day.   

But I digress, because I am down with the revolution! An overhaul of the thinking behind our organizational planning of cafeteria foods is warranted, to be sure. Especially before next year, when my kids will attend a school that actually serves food! Yeeeeehaw!

My kids eat pretty well, overall.  They’re active and interested and we’ve always preached a culture of moderation (margaritas don’t count). Junk food is okay in our house, but it shouldn’t be all that we eat and we live by the credo that our bodies should be moving and working, preferably outdoors. We’ve been receiving weekly boxes of organic produce from a local farm, and it’s uplifting to see that not much goes uneaten. We tear through the oranges and strawberries and scallions and carrots and basil, and the tomatoes hardly last a day.  

And then there’s the kale.

I want to like the kale, I do. It’s a superfood! It’s super! But it’s also fairly vile, or I’ve yet to find the magic formula. I thought I had it the other day, a friend coached me on how to make kale chips by tearing the leaves into bite-sized pieces, then tossing them with olive oil and coarse salt before baking them into crisps. I did it. They looked like I thought they should look, they were crispy. And vile. The kids tried them, my husband refused. I tried to be a role model, but that worked out about as well as the time I told them to watch me use the self inflicted waterboarding bullshit medieval torture device neti pot because it was no big deal. Just as I found it impossible to drown myself without gagging, I found it impossible to eat the kale chips without making a face like I’d taken a big whiff of something foul. It just doesn’t taste good.  

Now I’ve gone and trash talked both kale and neti pots, effectively eliminating my hippie following.    

But I stand by my convictions. Good food is good, bad food is bad. Our definitions of those standards surely differ, but it doesn’t take much more than common sense to figure out that the stuff that makes you feel better probably is better. So if twinkie coated lardcakes ever make me feel better than the way I feel when my kids ask for more of the tomato and basil salad I packed in yesterday’s lunch, so be it. But I’m not holding my breath.  

Monday, June 27, 2011

Death of the tooth fairy

It's happened. The tooth fairy is dead. Well, at least to my eldest. She no longer believes! The pixie jig is up. And while there is nothing so earth shattering about this--she is almost 10; it still does make me a wee bit sad.

I love the tooth fairy.

How cute is she? She sits (or hangs) there, with tooth in front pocket, and in the morning, viola! the tooth is gone and money has appeared. Okay, well maybe she isn't the tooth fairy proper, maybe she's just our home-spun apparition of the tooth fairy -- the most adorable tooth fairy 'pillow' ever, an assistant to the real, flying, magical tooth fairy. But still.

But the unveiling of the truth was cute as well. My girl had lost a tooth that day at school, and consequently her friends were privy to the fact. Her best friend divulged that the last time she'd lost a tooth there was no jackpot the morning after -- just the bloody bluish tooth on cool bedsheets. She then heard her mom confess to her dad that she'd "forgot to leave the money." Could it be true? Was it in fact true? Her friend, Kaily, didn't press her parents, but was left with this nagging question. Now my oldest wanted to know. Had her friend heard correctly? Was there no tooth fairy?

"Well, mom, I'm waiting," she demanded.

I admit, I waffled. I didn't want to let the lie go, but her little face, with that, "uh huh, I'm on to you" look was too much. She was half smiling, egging me on. I told her the truth. It was time, obviously. But I swear she flinched when I confirmed her hunch. "Really? Really it's not true?!" She was happily incredulous, if that makes any sense at all.

I, however, could not keep my composure when she cheerfully, curiously blurted out, "Mom, where are my teeth; what do you do with the teeth?!"

I was speechless. Where do I keep them? Here and there, in the back of a couple of drawers I thought to myself, although I did not admit this to her. I blushed and told her I'd look into gathering them up for her to inspect. I've not done so. But apparently between then and now she's seen her dad's cache of her teeth, so it's been verified. The tooth fairy is dead to her.

Let's just hope she doesn't kill her prematurely her for her sisters.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Weekend 3-way: under what?

Under the cartwheel

Under the gun
Under the Banner of Heaven

Friday, June 24, 2011


People love to complain about the weather.

Well, people love to talk about the weather -- me included -- and that sometimes often always descends into complaining, if you live in New England and not San Diego.

I understand that; I do. Weather can be harsh and affects everything and can make or break a day or an event.

But there's one thing I never complain about, and that's summer.

My Mom never complains about summer, either. Neither does my girl Jennie. We find winter harsh; we embrace the warmth and heat of this gorgeous yet entirely fleeting season.

There's one weather pattern I am tempted to complain about, though. Rain. It rains a lot around here. Well, at least in 2011, it does.

Rain. The soundtrack of the Spring of 2011.

Thankfully for us, we have a front porch from where we can watch the rain, stay dry, have a drinkie-poo . . .

. . . and hang on the ghetto couch.

The rain pours and drops and precipitates and dumps, but we stay dry on our front porch, lording over it all.

Oh look! And Mistah, for once in his life, even gets into the photo when we watch the rain fall down from our special perch.

Rain? Pfffft. Bring it.

Oh, but then take it away. Because it's Summer. And the Beach is calling.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


When I was offered the chance to go to a conference at Asilomar, I took a  look at their website and saw this:

 Take a deep breath and settle in for a time of serene relaxation, reflection and rejuvenation. Celebrated as Monterey Peninsula's "Refuge by the Sea" - Asilomar State Beach and Conference Grounds is a breathtakingly gorgeous 107 acres of ecologically diverse beachfront land. Situated within the quaint and scenic town of Pacific Grove, Asilomar offers guests the simple comforts of cozy cottages and rustic lodges - and an unforgettable escape from the demands of everyday life.

I dug deep and found a way to manage the time away.

The work was inspiring, the collegiality was motivating, and the food was abundant and rich. But most noteworthy of all was the refuge, the unforgettable escape from the demands of everyday life.

There were these boardwalks all over the property, and at first glance it's impossible to tell where those appealing symmetrical wooden planks will lead you

until you round a bend to find yourself face to face with the  majesty of my old friend, the pacific ocean

It's different up there, though. In a word? Blustery.

The ocean is all around you, the air is positively soaked with it. You take a deep breath and feel hydrated.

The wind is formidable and relentless, and suffice it to say that this SoCal girl packed poorly for her NoCal adventure.There was a gift shop, though, and what better excuse to expand one's wardrobe of warm layers?

One morning was bright and bold, and feeling similarly inclined I set out for an early run before the day's work began. The boardwalk runs among the dunes on the Asilomar side of the seaside road, but once you cross that street the shoreline holds its own path, a path almost too adorable to bear.

Could there be a more appealing place to run? Really, could there?
Now all of this outdoor living really is almost all a girl needs, but after long days of stretching one's mind, I needed a place to lay my fool head. Enter, the convent

My room! Who could have imagined that my refuge would have a bed such as this?
I wish I had copied the history of this building, the Lodge. It was built in 1921 and designed by Julia Morgan, the architect who designed all of the original buildings that were primarily intended for use by YWCA camps in the early 1900s for western regional meetings  intended to help women learn how to more effectively claim their rightful place in this world.

The view from my window
There were lots of interesting things to see around the grounds. For example, here's an old man walking a miniature horse!

Layla is a guide horse! Don't ask. But I called her a pony and was summarily schooled.
And there were really cool common areas all over the place, some with enchanting signage

On our last afternoon, I found a few hours to explore the surrounding area, and got myself some wheels  

The thing about indescribable beauty is that it's impossible to describe.

If you visit the Monterey Peninsula, and you find refuge and you seek beauty, and if you take some time to explore but then find that the beauty is starting to overwhelm you, just look up and you'll find the perfect place to refuel.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Too much light, too little daycare

Stupid summer solstice. I know, that's sacrilege for a sunshine worshipper like myself, but jeez, could the sun just come up a wee bit later? Just an hour or so? Even half?

My youngest is a rooster, she crows and doodle-doos as soon as that damn sun shows herself, even through the blasted 'june gloom' that's descended in recent weeks. 5:40 am marked this morning's wake-up call. And that's just too damn early. It's too early for me, sure, but worse, it's too early for her. She is a cranky mess by 10:30 am, then overtired by naptime, then on and on and on it goes until you just want to run away to live in the deep dark dank woods. Big bad wolf be damned.

In addition to this year's longest rays of light streaming right down into my toddler's crib at absurd hours, is the glaring lack of daycare we're currently experiencing. The combination? It's not good.

It's bad, people.

Last Tuesday was a bad day that started this bad patch. I picked up my baby girl to find a note taped to the daycare door, stating this, or something very similar:

...xxxxx daycare will be CLOSED until further notice as of 6 pm, Tuesday, June 14..........

What? It's 4:26 pm on June 14 now! You can't be serious, right?

But serious it was, and is. My daycare provider, and friend, and comfort to my wee girl is out of commission. Shut down. Kaput. Maybe for good. It's a long, sad story, that I'm too depressed to go into here, but suffice is to say, that we've been forced to move on. Way before we were ready. Sigh.

My feelings about the whole event are so twisted and jumbled and complex. I'm so sad. For everyone. I'm also pissed at 'the system,' and annoyed at the provider for not covering her ass, and anxious for my girl as she starts something new, and irritated at my lack of an immediate back-up plan, and on and on and on it goes.

And this morning, well this morning was just the icing on my current childcare crisis cake. I spent an hour and a half at the preschool that we were lucky to get little miss C into on such short notice. I should be grateful, and happy, and counting my many blessings. It's close to our house, it's a nice facility, it's somewhere that close friends have sent their children to and praise highly. But I'm not.

I found the visit disappointing. Dispiriting even. No shoe taking off? No sounds during story? Up to 21 kids each day?

I know it will be fine. I know it will work out. But today? Well today I'm just despondent and miffed and pathetic. Oh, and did I mention tired?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Worst Photo Shoot In History

Let's transport ourselves back to 1961, shall we? Mom and Dad had a simple task to accomplish: get a photo of their two wee girls they could use for a Christmas Card photo.

Doesn't sound so hard, does it?

The results? Entirely hilarious.

Because what they got instead was The Worst Photo Shoot Ever.

I mean, just look at MB and Ann.

MB looks Absolutely terrified and Ann looks absolutely horrified.

Nothing worked, but that didn't stop Mom and Dad from continuing their efforts.

They kept trying and trying and trying. To the same hilarious result.

But my favorite part of all is every one of these outrageous photos is lovingly placed in the photo album, right next to its equally outrageous neighbor.

You gotta love Mom and Dad. Dogged. Determined. Motivated.

With a great sense of humor.