On Getting Older

9 Sep

Michaela started second grade a couple of weeks ago. It dawned on me yesterday that 10 years from now, she’ll be (practically) 18, and applying to college. Ten years is a long time, but it’s also not. It’ll go by in a flash.

My dad turned 70 last weekend. His mother, my grandmother, died at 83. If he lives as long as she does, we only have 13 more years with him.

This week, I turn 38. Thirty-eight. That’s solidly middle aged. How the hell did that happen?

Time is going too quickly.

Totality

28 Aug

I just realized I never wrote about our trip to Wyoming to see the eclipse!

I wasn’t particularly excited to go. Mike and Michaela were pumped, and Mike’s mom and stepdad were really eager, but I was firmly in the “meh” category. Camp? In Wyoming? In a place with no flush toilets or showers? To watch a two-minute-long eclipse?

Meh.

That being said, I decided to go because I knew it’d be a good family bonding experience. We flew to Denver on a Friday and drove to a campground along Wyoming’s Wind River that night. It ended up being about 12 hours of travel from the time we left our house in San Diego to the time we got to the campground, so we were all bushed. Fortunately, Papa had gone ahead to set up the pop-up trailer, so Mike, Michaela, Nana, and I just had to fall into our beds. (And there were beds! That’s a good thing!)

The next morning, we were able to take stock of our environment. Our camp spot was close to the playground and close but not too close to the bathroom (pit toilets, albeit very clean ones). We were next to the river and had a big shady tree that provided a canopy for our picnic table.

We drove into the nearby town of Thermopolis, which was about 25 miles north of our campground. It was adorable. It’s home to the world’s largest (allegedly) natural hot springs, a great dinosaur museum, and cute restaurants and shops. The next day, we spent even more time there, dividing and conquering; Papa and I went to the dinosaur museum and the others went to the hot springs pool/water park. From there, we drove into the national park and saw bison, and then headed to another national park to see ancient petroglyphs. It was a lot more “culture” that I was expecting out of a camping trip, if that makes sense.

There was lots of traditional camp stuff, too, like hot dogs cooked over the camp fire and s’mores. And let’s face it– that’s the best part of camping, anyway!

Finally, it was time for the eclipse. We flew in on a Friday; the eclipse was Monday starting at about 10:30 a.m. We all donned our matching commemorative eclipse shirts and our eclipse glasses and watched as the sun turned into Pac Man. Then, just after noon, the moon covered the sun and we were treated to 2 minutes, 2 seconds of totality– the full eclipse. It truly was amazing. One of the most awesome (in the traditional sense of the word) events I’ve ever seen.

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The sky got dark and you could see celestial bodies. The temperature dropped. The air felt different somehow. You could look at the sun with no eye protection during totality and see a glowing ring surrounding the dark circle that was the moon. It was so weird and so cool, it’s almost indescribable.

Before I knew it, the moon moved out of the way and we had to put our eclipse glasses on again. We were really worried about traffic on the 400-plus mile drive home, so we took off basically as soon as totality ended. Nana, Mike, Michaela, and I said our goodbyes to Papa and got on the road.

Traffic was definitely worse on the way home– there were some stretches where we crawled like turtles– but we did better than lots of other people, including Mike’s stepfather, who ended up stuck in traffic for 12 hours.

We got back to Denver late, around 10:30 p.m., and Mike and I had to leave for the airport 12 hours later. Michaela was less rushed; she stayed with Nana and Papa for a few more days and flew home solo. It was a whirlwind trip!

Second Grade

28 Aug

Michaela officially started second grade today.

She was excited and confident, and I think she’ll do really well in her new class. Her teacher is quite veteran and everyone I know who’s children have had her raves about this teacher. There’s a good group of children in the class and I’m hopeful she’ll develop some close friendships.

Poor Michaela came home with a slight cold — the result of a cold I caught and passed onto Nana and Papa while we were in Wyoming for the eclipse. Apparently we passed it on to her. She went to bed at 7:15 or so, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed she’ll wake up well enough to go to school tomorrow. Not because it’s important to me, but really because she is so excited about the new year.

I love this kid!

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LA Trip

16 Aug

Mike, Michaela and I took a quick getaway to Los Angeles a week or so ago, and it’s one of the most fun trips we’ve had.

We drove up on a Sunday and stayed at a really fun, kinda funky hotel in Hollywood. It had a popsicle hotline by the pool (pick up the phone and someone comes out to deliver popsicles to everyone at the pool), all-you-can-eat snacks of the sweet and savory varieties, a Coke Freestyle machine in the lobby, and 24/7 fro yo. Pretty much a kid’s dream. And mine.

We spent Sunday evening playing in the pool and walking a little of Hollywood Blvd., which was only a block from the hotel. The next morning we slept in before taking advantage of the hotel’s free breakfast (and morning table side magic show!) and then hamming it up at the Hollywood Wax Museum. You haven’t lived until you’ve gone to a wax museum with a kid who doesn’t know anything about celebrities or pop culture! She didn’t know who most of the people were, but the museum is super interactive, so she loved getting to put on themed costume pieces and pose with the statues.

We went to a movie at the famous (and beautiful) El Capitan Theatre. Disney owns it, so it shows Disney-related movies. That week it was “The Lion King,” which Michaela had never seen. They bring out a character before and after the movie and there are confetti blasts to boot. It was really hot outside, so I enjoyed sitting in the air conditioned theater, even if I did have to do a bunch of work calls and emails during the middle of the movie (Don’t worry– I walked out into the lobby so I wouldn’t disturb other people.)

Then it was time for the pool again before dinner, when we we walked to Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles for, well, chicken and waffles.

After dinner, we hit the Guinness World Records Museum. See, the whole point of the trip was that Michaela is obsessed with world records and Ripley’s Believe It Or not, so we wanted to take her to those museums. The Guinness Museum was way better than I expected. Fun interactive stuff, interesting displays, and a good mix of stuff for people of all ages.

Would you believe that after that we had more pool time?

Tuesday morning, we had breakfast and played in the pool again. We got one last popsicle for the road (at like 10:30 a.m. It was definitely vacation!) and then packed our stuff so we could leave after visiting the Ripley’s Odditorium. We decided to “save the best for last,” since that was the place Michaela was most excited for. There was some overlap with the Guinness Museum, but not too much, except that they were both fun and interactive. We all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

We said goodbye to our hotel and drove to downtown LA, where we had lunch at Grand Central Market. I try to go there whenever I can, because they have so many delicious food options. I got a carnitas torta from a Mexican place and Mike and Michaela got good old American food. We wandered around the market and walked through the Fashion District for a while before heading south.

We had reservations for Pirate’s Dinner Adventure, a pirate-themed dinner show. That description doesn’t quite do it justice. There are acrobats, actors, a dragon, 250,000 gallons of water, and a pirate ship… Plus food and drinks. Again, Michaela was pooped by the end, but it was worth it.

We take a lot of family adventures and go to some pretty cool places. Michaela’s only 7 and she’s been to 15 states and 13 countries. Somehow, though, this trip to a place just a couple of hours away stole our hearts.

It really has been a glorious summer.

First Concert

16 Aug

At the beginning of the summer, Mike went through the list of concerts taking place at San Diego State’s Open Air Theatre (OAT). You see, we live about a mile from SDSU and the OAT, as it’s fondly known, has a grassy area outside where you could, if you were so inclined, bring a blanket and listen to (but not see) a concert happening inside.

(A million years ago, my friend Ruch and I “saw” David Gray that way. It was a blast!)

It makes a lot of sense with a kid who doesn’t know a lot about music and who doesn’t especially love loud noises or bright lights. We figured it’d be a nice way to introduce Michaela to a fun experience, make the most out of living so close to the venue, and have a nice summer night.

All summer, we’ve had various concerts on the calendar but not gone. Last Sunday night we finally rallied for the Postmodern Jukebox and Straight No Chaser concert. I had heard of PMJ but don’t know any of their stuff, and I always secretly harbored the idea that SNC was a country band (don’t ask me why). Mike put on some SNC and I realized they’re actually an a capella group and they’re really, really good.

We gathered a blanket and sweatshirts (Michaela and I, anyway. Mike the hardy Coloradan scoffs at sweaters in the summer) and Ubered to SDSU. We got to the grass and we were the only ones! I guess people who like these two groups are less frugal than us? We sat down and listened to PMJ, who were up first, while Michaela danced and ran around like the but she is.

The PMJ set had just ended when a venue manager came up to us and asked if we wanted to go inside. We quickly said yes and thanked her profusely. Walking in, we explained it would be Michaela’s first concert, to which the woman replied, “Well, she’s going to have pretty good seats for it!”

And then she walked us down to the fourth row of the venue!!!

So we got to see Straight No Chaser – who were AMAZING – up close and personal. They sang a lot of different songs, including “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” into which they inserted some lines from “The Lion King.” We loved it because we just saw that movie last week at the El Capitan Theatre during our LA trip; it was Michaela’s first time seeing the movie, and she totally got the references in the song.

By the end of the show – 10:30! – Michaela’s eyelids needed to be propped open with toothpicks. We hadn’t planned on staying especially long, but you can’t turn down an opportunity like that! We ordered another car to drive us home, stopped at Jack in the Box for a quick bite (the night just kept getting better!), and then poured Michaela into bed to dream about her first concert.

It was awesome.

Glorious Summer

5 Aug

There aren’t enough words to describe how much I love our summer family routine (or lack thereof). No waking up at the crack of dawn to make breakfast and lunch. No waking up a kid who’d prefer to sleep in. No homework. Long days when the sun stays out until late. My work slows down because most schools aren’t in session. I have fewer meetings because people are away on vacation. I can dress more casually. It’s heavenly!

Mike, who has been running Camp Dad again this summer, might have slightly different feelings, but if I could have it this way all the time, I would.

We’ve crossed a lot of items off our summer bucket list (and by “we,” I largely mean Mike and Michaela), including bowling, beach days, making kinetic sand, going to a weekday movie, art camp, making a piñata, zoo camp, a trip to Oklahoma, hosting a block party, flying a kid, going tubing, and making tie-dye shirts. Still to come: trips to Hollywood to see the Ripley’s Odditorium and to Colorado/Wyoming to see the eclipse, renting a boat, hitting the train museum, and making puzzle cookies.

Only three weeks left of summer vacation, and then it’s time for second grade!

Buckling Down

22 Jul

Mike and I are exploring buying a new house, which means we’ve been talking about money a lot lately. We’re lucky that we don’t worry much about it, but the flip side to that is that we don’t pay super close attention to it. So when Mike asked me, the keeper of our finances, to give him a report on our spending, I sat down and started tallying things up. I tallied, and tallied, and tallied… and realized we’re spending an insane amount of money each month on food.

We eat out A LOT. Michaela has probably eaten in more restaurants in her seven years on this planet that I did in my first 20. And of course that adds up, even though it’s not like we usually dine at five star places.

We buy a lot of our food at Costco– mostly meat, fruits, and vegetables. We don’t eat a lot of processed food — not canned veggies, not boxed cake mix, not dehydrated potatoes — so we buy groceries that too often don’t get eaten because it’s easier to go out to dinner, after a long day of work and school.

Looking at the amount of money we spent on groceries, restaurants, and Costco last month, I just about died. So today is the first day of buckling down and getting back to basics. I’m hoping we’ll get back to meal planning, packing lunches, and eating at home more. That will be better for my wallet and also for my waistline.

That’s how I found myself making a giant batch of breakfast sandwiches this afternoon. Now I have two dozen baked eggs + cheddar cheese on whole wheat English muffin sandwiches. I popped them in the freezer and each morning, I can grab one to heat up for breakfast. We’re having tacos tonight and will use some of the leftover ingredients for taco salad later this week. I also went into our chest freezer to defrost some bratwurst to go with grilled veggies for a mid-week dinner.

Wish us luck as we try to tame our food budget!

Reading Up a Storm

20 Jul

At the beginning of the year, I set a goal of reading 12 books in 2017. In many ways, it was a ridiculous goal– I LOVE to read and read rather quickly. On the other hand, my life is pretty busy and I spend (too) many nights watching TV or surfing the Internet. One book a month seemed like a good trial balloon.

In February, Michaela and I went to New Orleans, meaning I got in lots of reading time. In March, we went to Japan, and those long flights meant I got in a lot of reading. We’ve been to Oklahoma, where I got to read to my heart’s content. Plus, I’ve made a concerted effort to pick up my Kindle instead of my phone at night when I’m at home.

All told, I just finished my 24th book of the year (“Dryland: One Woman’s Swim to Sobriety,” a memoir). I am so happy to be reading again! It really is one of my favorite things to do. Recent favorites are “A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel” and “A Partial History of Lost Causes: A Novel” (which also takes place in Russia, funnily enough). Next up on my list are “The Girl With All the Gifts,” “The German Girl: A Novel,” and “Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad” (you know… light reading).

Have you read anything good lately?

Long Time, No Write

9 Jul

I can’t believe nearly a month has gone by since I’ve posted! Here’s a quick overview of the last three or so weeks:

  • We had a block party! Mike had the idea and made it happen, getting the permits, renting the traffic signs, coordinating neighbors to make food, etc. It was awesome! We talk a lot about moving (our house if fine, but it’s on a busy street and I wouldn’t mind having more useable yard), but stuff like this reminds me how hard it would be to leave our awesome neighbors.
  • Mike’s mom came to visit for a week. It’s always nice to have her with us, and this time was no different. She spoiled Michaela– and us! She watched Michaela one night so Mike and I could have a quick overnight getaway. We got a room at a downtown hotel, had dinner and drinks, slept in, and had nice together time. It was great!
  • While Laura was here, she took Michaela and me to high tea. We got dressed up, ate fancy (yummy) sandwiches and desserts, drank out of beautiful china, and enjoyed being girly for the afternoon.
  • We also took a day trip to Mexico, walking across the boarder and then meandering our way around Tijuana. I love living 20 miles from another country!
  • Michaela did a week-long, half-day art camp at the home studio of a local artist. She really liked it and came home with some cool art.
  • A couple of mom friends and I went to dinner at the Melting Pot. It was soooo nice to be out with friends! We had cocktails and stuffed ourselves full of decadent cheese and chocolate while talking about our kids, husbands, and families. I hope we’ll do it again soon!
  • Michaela got five inches cut off her hair. It had gotten really long. Now it’s just passed her shoulders, but it’s much easier to manage and cooler for her. She got really nervous before the haircut, in spite of the fact that she wanted it, so I encourages her to speak up with the hairdresser (my stylist), and she did great. In the end, Michaela loved her cut and I was proud of her independence and articulate way of expressing her needs and wants.
  • We went to Oklahoma for our annual 4th of July trip. There’s a lot to say about that, but the short version is, we had a lot of fun with Mike’s dad, stepmom, brothers, sisters-in-laws, and all the kids.

Those are the highlights!

Moving On

15 Jun

Michaela finished first grade yesterday. It’s been a year of learning and growing and thriving. She’s gotten much, much better at reading, she’s shown a knack for math, and she’s made good friends. She’s just generally a really good kid. I’m super proud of the person she is, and look forward to watching her continue to evolve.

Today we went to the doctor for her long-delayed (six months!) 7-year check up. My darling Michaela is 4 ft., 4.4 inches tall and weighs 73 pounds. She’s in the 92nd percentile for height and 94th for weight (Michaela is very solidly built. She doesn’t have any fat on her, but she’s heavy!).

Now we have 10 weeks of summer to enjoy before she starts second grade!