Tag Archives: Travel

Scrapbook: Yosemite

5 Sep

I hope you are enjoying your Labor Day weekend! Right now we are just getting back from watching one of our oldest friends marry another good friend. Recently, though, we took a trip to Yosemite. As I mentioned earlier, we’re not going to be doing this again until she’s older. We had a good time, but herding her around and making sure she wasn’t discovering creative new ways to injure herself took all of our energy. We felt like the Secret Service, clearing the perimeter, ensuring at least one of us had a visual at all times, and trying to convince our VIP that she shouldn’t wander into the bike lane. It was exhausting.

But we had fun! Our favorite parts involved water, and not just because Isobel enjoyed it so much: the temperature was in the high nineties and I wanted to keel over every time I ventured into the sun. I’m used to this baking, relentless heat in my home in the Valley as it’s a part of living here. But there’s something demoralizing about getting excited to visit a lush forest, a national treasure,  and finding you’d prefer to sit in the car with the air conditioning on full blast. Sacrilege, I know.

We found solace in the Yosemite river twice. First, before our picnic we stopped by the lower portion of Yosemite Falls. The river was so low families were climbing in to cool off their toes and wade as deeply into the frigid water as they could stand. We climbed down to the river bed and the water was as shockingly cold as the sun was scorching. Usually venturing into the water at Yosemite Falls is only for those with a death wish, but this late in summer the river is more rock than water.

After our picnic, which was punctuated with constant requests from Isobel to “go pet the squirrels,” we hiked down river and found shady little spot just right for exploring. This was the most relaxed we were the whole trip, and it was nice to sit on the cool rocks and listen to the shushsush of the water and watch Isobel contentedly pretend her stick was a fishing pole. The best part (and you can see this in some of the pictures on my flickr) is that after we got there some dude decided that this spot on the river was the perfect place to stop and meditate among the beauty of nature. Which, I’m sure it was, but nature’s splendor had to compete with the joyous cries of my daughter repeatedly saying, “HOLA! I’M ISOBEL! DO YOU WANT TO GO FISHING WITH ME? YAY, I LIKE FISHING! ME TOO!”

I mean, we were there first, so he had to know what he was getting into when he plunked down into the lotus position. If he was actually able to tune out Isobel’s voice then we may have been in the presence of a Buddha himself. Also, while she was singing and shouting and splashing she was also wading into the river up to her shins. It’s a good thing I packed extra clothes.

If you’re interested, you can see more photos from our trip to Yosemite here, including a shot of the smoke from the wildfire that detoured our route by a good forty minutes.  I hope your weekend was long and relaxing.

Leland Tea Company

14 Mar

A lot has been going on lately, in my world and in the world at large. My heart is heavy from the devastation that has struck Japan, one of my most favorite cultures in the world. It’s nauseating to sit in my comfortable home with my daughter in my lap and read about disaster after disaster occurring thousands of miles away. I’m going to donate to Doctors Without Boarders or The Red Cross, and if you can find it in your budget, I urge you to do the same.

Isobel and I have been sick so often this year I’m going to refer to this time as “Plague Winter” from now on. The weekend started on shaky ground, with me taking Isobel to the doctor last-minute style as her ear infection was returning. As seems to be the case with every goddamn time she gets sick, I spent the weekend feeling like white hot death, shivering with the flu under a mound of blankets.

At this point you’re probably wondering what all these photos are about. I’ll get to it, I promise.

There’s no rest for the weary when you’re a Mama, however, a fact you’ll hear me unbecomingly complain about to the bitter end. Isobel’s second birthday is coming up, and we are planning a party this year. We are also leaving town this weekend, and I have a lot of business to finish up before we leave. (Oh, and I’m having an Etsy sale tomorrow, so stop by the shop and check it out!)

In fantastic news, I received word from an Anonymous Viking that a fourth season for Yo Gabba Gabba has finally been ordered. I like to think it’s because of all the amazing Little Big readers who signed the petition back in January. I also like to think that the Anonymous Viking is an elite super soldier who’s a double-agent working for The Man yet working with his own secret agenda. Yeah. I like to think these things.

So. Sandwiches. This is what I wanted to talk to you about.

Recently we went to San Francisco to celebrate my bestie’s birthday. She took us to one of her favorite spots, Leland Tea Company. Anthony and I intended on having a light lunch in preparation of the decadent dinner we had planned for that evening. The food, however, was so good, and we had been made ravenous by travel and inclement weather, that when the waiter delivered the sandwiches and the tea and the salad and the biscuits, we fell upon them.

We stuffed ourselves full of tomato and brie sandwiches with homemade pesto, turkey and Swiss cheese with a delicate mustard, egg salad, ham and cheddar, cucumber and cream cheese. The salad was slathered with an unctuous dressing and the madeleines were crispy, delicate, and buttery.

And because it was Angela’s birthday, the owner treated us with these (house made—like everything else) red velvet cupcakes with edible glitter.

Edible. Motherfucking. Glitter.

Twelve year old me had an aneurism and died in perfect tea party bliss.

But this lunch sparked some ideas. As you know I’ve been working out with my elliptical and have been trying to eat more healthily. I tried counting calories on a regular basis, but I found it maddeningly hard: calorie counting programs can give you precise information about processed foods, but I’ve been busting my ass to cook from whole ingredients and eschew prepackaged foods. I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to try to figure out how many calories are in a cup of soup I make myself, or in a piece of lasagna I froze two months ago. I don’t have the discipline, nor the patience, to figure the weights and measurements for each meal, and I have been feeling very defeated about that.

The trip to the tea company got me thinking—about lunch, about menu planning, and about losing weight. But that’s another post, and I’ll be telling you all about it very soon.

Have Toddler, Will Travel

11 Aug

Although I am back at work now, Anthony and I spent the very last bit of my summer vacation driving to Santa Cruz and Monterey to attend the gorgeous redwood-filled wedding of my cousin Josh. I have a set of cousins on my Mom’s side that we don’t get to see that often. They are educated, adventurous and liberal, so we get along famously. I was excited to go and see another cousin get married, I was excited to have an adventure with my extended family, and I was excited to take Isobel to the beach for the first time.

But ‘excitement’ would not be the word I would use to describe my feelings about traveling with Isobel.

By all accounts Isobel is what anyone would call an ‘easy’ baby. (I really don’t like that terminology—it implies that hard babies somehow choose to be that way to make your life difficult, when in reality they are just being a baby. But I digress.)

Isobel doesn’t cry unless there’s a pretty damn good reason, she is very social and friendly, and has a joyful disposition. But she does have tons of energy and very little patience. I blame Anthony and his athleticism for the former but take full responsibility for the latter. It’s one of my faults and I see it all too clearly in her. All this adds up to a girl who does not tolerate long car rides because she would much rather be running around at warp speed, thankyouverymuch.

I did not look forward to taking her on this trip with enthusiasm, but with trepidation.

But we did it! We survived. It was our first overnight trip with Isobel and we survived. I felt like we should have driven through a ticker-tape parade held in our honor on our way back in town. Here’s what I learned from traveling with a toddler.

PACKING LIGHT

Packing light was my goal. It has never been before, but I have been experiencing Stuff Fatigue lately and I wanted to be as unencumbered as possible. Even though we ride in style in my beloved Buick, most of that ample trunk space was taken up by Isobel’s stroller, a non-negotiable item. The stroller was how we planned to cart her around during the all-important nap time.

I succeeded on my end: I packed only the essentials for myself and Anthony and never before had we taken so little with us on a trip before. I’m proud to say that we used everything that we brought.  I was slightly less successful on Isobel’s end as I brought too many shoes and some of the outfits I brought were too big. But it all fit in the car without too much of a fuss and even though at the time I felt like a packing light failure, in hindsight I can see I did pretty well. We just brought two pachas with those and washed and reused them. I have to say, though, Isobel could have used more on the clothes front. She immediately got chocolate shake all over her adorable cupcake sweater (thanks, Dada) and could have used another sweater along with more pants. She peed through the disposables several times and soiled the half the pants we brought. Honestly, this was the first time on a trip ever that I didn’t bring quite enough but we survived just fine. Overall, I’m happy with how that turned out.

We were gone four days. We did not have access to a washer or dryer and if we did it surely would have been polluted by Incorrect Detergent, so we ditched our cloth diaper efforts and broke down and went with disposables. I have no regrets. We barely have enough diapers for two days, meaning we are constantly in a diaper wash cycle at my house. I was also not happily looking forward to carrying around four days’ worth of soiled diapers in my trunk. I have to admit that it was very convenient to use disposable diapers, but as soon as we were home we switched right back. The extra work is worth it to us.

THE CAR RIDE

Strategically planning out our drives during Isobel’s nap times made a huge difference. This tip alone made the trip doable. I also was sure to pack things to occupy her in the car when things turned dire. I had her normal assortment of toys in the back seat: her “I ❤ NY” purse filled with snot suckers and medicine spoons, her stuffed tiger, and her baby, but when the melt down begins regular toys just aren’t going to cut it. That’s when I pulled out my keys and wallet and let her have at it. If there is an item you know will capture your kid’s attention for a good while, bring it, but save it for when you really need it.

In addition to having multiple pachas for the road (including bringing bottled water and formula should her demand exceed my supply), I also was sure to have her sippy cup and a bag of Cheerios on hand. It’s been so hot that we travel with a sippy cup and water to make sure she stays hydrated. We also share appropriate bits of our food with her. She insists upon this by loudly saying, “THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU,” as soon as any sort of bag enters the car. How sad is it that she recognizes fast food bags? This is the human condition, I suppose.

ENTERTAINMENT

When we got to the hotel room Isobel made a beeline for the phone. Instead of wasting precious energy constantly shooing her away from making long-distance calls I simply unplugged the phone line. There, kid. Have at it. She had a ball and I got many sanity-saving seconds to myself while she made calls to her various kitten and human friends.

Aside from her car toys (which stayed in the car) and her baby, we really didn’t bring any toys for her. This was a strategic move: not only were we packing light, but in my experience the Same Old Toy in a Brand New Location will be immediately ignored for the fun of exploring. This held true. And don’t worry, your kid will find things to turn into toys. Anthony’s comb and an empty water bottle were her favorite toys in the hotel but she also had lots of fun ‘diapering’ her baby and unpacking our suitcase. If it was safe & sanitary, we let her do it. She was blissfully entertained.

And don’t overlook natural things about hotel rooms that would engage a baby: we had fun putting things in the empty dresser drawers and she had fun opening them and finding a surprise. We were also quite entertained but taking photos of ourselves with flash. Flash was a big hit. Who knew?

Turning the TV on and off was also fun for her, but that got kind of annoying for us.

ACCOMODATIONS

We are the nutty sort who co-sleeps with their kid, so bedding accommodations were not a big deal: she slept in between us like she always does. In fact, we enjoyed the spaciousness of a King-sized bed on vacation when we normally squeeze into a Queen. I actually felt too far away from Anthony. The bed was very comfortable though. Unlike our fashionably low-to-the-ground bed at home, this one was about four feet off the ground, so Isobel was carefully supervised whenever she was on it.

Since Isobel has the same attraction every toddler experiences with outlets I was sure to bring several outlet covers with me. I was very glad I did. Other child-proofing extras were making sure any hotel-offered goods were out of her reach, including the trash cans. We kept the door to the bathroom shut at all times. The room came with a safe that we set a chair against. This way she could enjoy pushing all the buttons without us worrying about her locking something in there.

This might horrify you, but we were so busy every day that we got home exhausted each night and we didn’t fret about bathing Isobel. I washed her face and hands and brushed her hair and wiped her bottom extra good during changings. I didn’t want to cart an extra towel, soap, toys, and faucet cover. If she had gotten really dirty I would have just dunked her in the tub with the bar of Dove soap I have, making sure not to get it near her eyes. But that wasn’t an issue and nobody died. A success.

(As you can see from the my photos the room was very modest, but for some reason it had the most glorious shower head on earth. Each time I showered I had to convince myself to leave. Thank you Quality Inn, Santa Cruz!)

MEALTIME

We knew we’d be doing a lot of restaurant eating on this trip. I was a little apprehensive about that because she tolerates high chairs for about ten minutes. If that. Her goal in life is to sit on someone’s lap, either Dada’s or my own, but let’s face it, I’m a celebrity to Isobel, so she’s usually in my lap. The problem comes when she’s decided she’s done with sitting down and wants to run around the restaurant.

About three times a day we had conversations with her that went something like this, “You can sit in my lap, Dada’s lap, or the high chair. But you cannot run around. So where do you want to sit?” She fussed and rebelled a bit but there were no meltdowns or undue attention attracted toward us. We were next to several tables that experienced meltdowns, and here I’m guiltily admitting my relief—not only that we didn’t have a meltdown, but Isobel is fascinated by the meltdowns of others, so a crying kid the next table over meant peace and serenity at ours.

One of the places we ate at was a very, very popular café that was featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives episode. Ever since that episode the place is crazy packed and busy. My family was split over two booths because a large enough table was not available. I didn’t notice my Dad totally photo-bombing this shot till I was going through photos later. Thanks, Dad! (If you’re curious, the food was meh. I’ve had worse, but I don’t look forward to going there again.)

Isobel’s easy to feed. She’ll eat pachas and tries whatever (and I do mean whatever) we’re eating. The problem is that she makes a mess. She rarely gets bibbed because she shrieks NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO like a tortured banshee till she pulls it off anyway. She may have ruined multiple pants by peeing in them, but dinner is where she ruined her tops.

THE HARD PART

Honestly, the hardest part of our trip was navigating using Google fucking Maps. That bitch told us we were fifteen miles any direction from our actual location. I nearly had an aneurism when we finally figured out where the hell we were only to learn that Highway 9 was closed for construction. We’d still be lost in the mountains near Felton somewhere in the with Isobel being raised by wild boars if it weren’t for two things:

  1. Angela’s generous use of her car charger (thankyou thankyou thankyou)
  2. Some Random Hippie

When we came upon the road block for Hwy 9 we pulled over to put our heads in our hands and sob and figure out what the hell we were going to do when a hippie ran over to our car and engaged us in conversation. He was looking for a ride to Santa Cruz and I was like, DUDE, WE ARE TRYING TO GET TO WATSONVILLE AND NOT GET EATEN BY BEARS OR LED TO OUR DEATHS BY GOOGLE MAPS. ALSO I AM MENTALLY UNSTABLE.

Random Hippie helpfully suggested we take Grahme Hill Road, which was absolutely correct. Thanks Random Hippie! He also correctly noted that our car was filled to the brim with Breeder Equipment and a sleeping baby and had no room for hitchhikers, so he went along his peace-loving, granola-eating, unshowered way without a fuss.

Other than Google fucking with our minds, the trip, even with Isobel, was a breeze. I’d like to think it was because we were prepared, but I’m sure it was also because we were lucky.

We Survived: Our First Family Trip

2 Aug

This past weekend we packed up the kid an half our belongings and headed to the Santa Cruz mountains for a family wedding. This was not our first family trip technically, since we did drive to SF when Isobel was a few months old and met up with my Flickr buddy affectionately known around the net as Webchicken. I felt all hardcore and proud of myself for leaving the house for a day with the baby even though Chicken and David and nine month old baby B flew across the country with whatever gear they could fit in their suitcases. And contrary to what I thought back then, traveling with a nine month old is much more complicated than traveling with a small infant, who is content to lay in someone’s arms, look around occasionally, and sleep often. I truly appreciated Chicken’s heroic family trip after Isobel came to be nine months. All she wanted to do was walk around, find some new way to hurt or maim herself, and if she was in her car seat for an extended period of time, scream. Aside from one disastrous day tip, we did no traveling of any sort for a period of her development. It was just not worth it.

It was really a test of our intestinal fortitude to attempt this trip. Santa Cruz is farther away than SF and counting traffic usually takes at least three hours by car. But Anthony and I are the stupid sort, and we had been looking forward to my cousin’s wedding and all the family we’d get a chance to see there. One of my cousins was coming from Germany! Plus, staying a few days in Santa Cruz meant I could cross something off my life list: taking Isobel to the Monterrey Bay Aquarium. Monterrey is even further away than Santa Cruz and four hours in a car (both! ways!) with a toddler was just not something I could handle. Driving to Monterrey from Santa Cruz, however, was much more feasible.

We went, we drove, we brought our toddler. I have lots to say about this trip but for now I also have multiple loads of laundry that need attention, some dishes to wash, and a sleeping baby to watch over. Traveling with a toddler is definitely doable and the only bad parts about the trip were totally not baby-related. Isobel has come to a comfortable truce with riding in the car and it turns out all that worry about traveling with a toddler was worth seeing this:

All in all, it was wonderful to see family, we had an adventure in the redwoods, and adventure at the sea shore, visited the aquarium, ate sushi, visited thrift stores, and learned valuable lessons about baby-proofing a hotel room. I can’t wait to tell you about it.

Favorite Road Trip Apps

6 Jun

This post is the fourth in a series about iPhone apps I use and enjoy. This is less about being on the cutting edge of technology and more the equivalent of peeking in someone else’s medicine cabinet. Electronic voyeuristic curiosity! I’d love to hear what travel or road-trip apps you enjoy in the comments.

AAA Discounts – The AAA Discount app comes equipped with a GPS map and turn by turn direction route-planner, but this is entirely unnecessary if you have an iPhone. The value of this app is that is seeks out businesses and services in your area that offer discounts to AAA members.

ATM Hunter – This useful app from MasterCard lets users know the locations of the nearest ATMs.

Around Me – Around me lets you search for nearby hotels, coffee shops, gas stations, hospitals, banks, restaurants, etc. Apps along the same lines that I also use are Yelp and CitySearch.

Mad Libs – If you’ve never played Mad Libs then you are an (adjective ending in “-ing”) (noun). Mad Libs are (adjective). I (verb) them! I downloaded the free app and bought the paid one anyway because you have access to a lot of games that are automatically saved. Hours of fun on the road.

Emergency Survival from Wikihow – Not strictly necessary for road trips, but how badass do you feel when you can find, at a moment’s notice, how to control a spooked camel, survive natural disasters, or deal with roadside emergencies? It makes me feel like a seasoned adventurer. The entertainment value of this app alone is worth it and, along with the Mad Libs app, makes for an entertaining road trip.

Good Food Near You – Sure, you have apps that will tell you where the nearest restaurants are, but this app helps you find the healthiest choices in your immediate area. Especially nice if you are health-conscious, on a diet, or travelling with children. Nutritional information and a map to the restaurant is included.

Sit or Squat – This free app is sponsored by Charmin so you have to see irritating bears that don’t know how to wipe their butts occasionally, but for the service it provides it’s worth it. This app shows the location of the bathrooms near you. OMG! Who doesn’t need this?

Mark the Spot This app channels my passive-aggressive frustrations. Or it does nothing. I’m not really sure, but I figure it can’t hurt. Mark the Spot allows you complain directly to AT&T about areas of crappy coverage. I use this app every time I go to the grocery store.

Day Trip Fail

2 May

Yesterday our little family took a little day trip to the Bay Area for a conference for Anthony’s work, a mistake we are not going to make again. We knew traveling with a toddler was going to have its rough moments, but we didn’t suspect that the majority of the trip was going to be one constant aggravation after another.

Anthony and I did invent a great new game to play on road trips. It’s called ‘Gang Initiation.’ Basically one person thinks of a task that the other person must do to be in their gang.  The point is not to do the suggested action, of course, because there is no actual gang. The point is to out-ridiculous the other person. It goes something like this:

Me: “For your Gang Initiation you have to… spray paint over the Keyes freeway sign and change the name to ‘Butt Town.'”

Anthony’s initiations were always way harder:

Anthony: “For your Gang Initiation you need to… come up with a lasting solution to peace in the Middle East.”

It’s hours of fun, even with a baby fussing in the background.

There were a few bright spots in the day, such as when we found a little patio to wander around on, but most of our time was spent not learning from the conference but basically preventing Isobel from getting into something or doing something dangerous.

We thought it over and we really couldn’t have done anything differently. We handled the situation as best as we could and we prepared for it as much as possible. It just wasn’t a toddler-friendly environment. Had she been younger and not mobile, she would have been content. Had she been older and able to play independently with the many other children there, she would have had a ball. As it was she is too young to play on her own and too old to be interested in sitting and playing with toys.

Pretty much all the activities she was interested in around her were dangerous. Anthony and I often talk about how suicide-prone babies are and how supervising her pretty much involves us trying to prevent her from killing herself. Angela said that being a parent was like playing and endless game of lemmings, which sums it up perfectly.

We left early, got ice cream, and went home. When we got home we unplugged with a couple hours of Heroes and afterward we were recovered enough to go out and see our friends play a show at Borders. Stefalynda played one of its last shows ever because soon Stefanie is moving to Reno to get her doctorate. I took some photos of Isobel ‘playing’ piano with Stefanie.

She loved it so much that when we were done she spent the remaining time at Borders tugging on Stef’s pants and saying ‘up.’ It’s hard not to indulge her.

My friends and I have a running joke that some jazz music sounds like they just gave a bunch of instruments to babies and let them have at it, so I guess this was not too far off.

Level Up

30 Apr

Isobel’s desire to explore has increased dramatically in the last couple weeks. She actively tries to escape the house when we open the door so that we now have to watch not only for escaping kitties but also escaping babies. We went grocery shopping today and for the first time ever she wanted to be put down so she could walk around.

This new phase makes it incredibly fun to go to the park. She screams with joy that she’s able to walk around on her own and choose where to go. She is fascinated by the other children and marvels at what they can do. Every thing is interesting. Everything is new. Everything is exciting.

We walked with some friends to a nearby park this evening to wear out Baby K so he’d hopefully sleep well and to let Isobel run off some steam. I have a theory that she plays a game every day called ‘Pedometer.’ It’s a game that tells her body she needs to walk so many steps before she can rest. Sometimes she just wanders through the house over and over and over, not really doing anything but walking around, maybe holding a toy and certainly babbling. It’s getting warmer now and watching her play outside is as fun for us to watch as it is for her to play.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that we brought that cute boy to the park with us.

Tomorrow we are heading out of town to drive a couple hours west for a conference in the Bay Area. The last time we went Anthony and I had a great time. Isobel stayed with Grandma Livia so it was like combining work with play and we had a hot date in San Jose afterward. Tomorrow, however, Grandma and Grandpa have plans so Isobel is coming with us which should be interesting to say the least. We haven’t gone anywhere with her in a while that required more than a half hour’s drive so I’m kind of nervous. She has been getting restless and whiny during longer car rides so we weren’t eager to take day trips with her.

In about a month we are taking Isobel on a day trip to Point Lobos for Melynda’s birthday and Anthony and I are considering this trip a trial run to be sure that trip goes as smoothly as possible. We decided that with these trips ahead of us it’s time to level up Isobel’s car ride experience with… her Big Girl car seat!

Ta-da!

We needed to test it out so we went to In-in-Out (purely for scientific reasons) and she LOVED it. Clearly she was very comfortable and quite content. She even put her doll in the cup holder–THAT’S how relaxed she was. Hopefully we’ll make it to San Jose without a meltdown. Wish us luck!