Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

This year Margie’s birthday fell on Easter which made it difficult to invite friends over since most of them celebrate the holiday. (We typically don’t, although we do celebrate Ostara on the Vernal Equinox and they are pretty much the same, minus the bits about Jesus.) So we decided to go camping. Well, we tried anyway. see?

the monster emerges

Elliott found this Jerusalem Cricket under a rock.

jerusalem cricket

And I saw this gorgeous Bluebird of Happiness flitting around.

Happy Thing: The Bluebird of Happiness

But, it was cold. And I mean DAMN COLD. It wasn’t even 9pm yet and we were bundled in several layers of clothes, sleeping bags and blankets; our fingers and toes aching from the cold; watching our breath while INSIDE the tent. According to my phone (which I was having trouble using due to the cold – true story) it was 51 degrees and would drop to 42 but the strong, icy wind made it feel much lower than that. If it had been just me, I’d probably have stayed, but I was afraid the kids, who sleep deeper than adults, would kick off their blankets in the night and end up freezing their fingers or toes. And that would make for a really terrible birthday. We just don’t have the gear for those temperatures and I didn’t expect them so late in April in San Diego (then again, we have had a colder than usual winter). So we came home that night.

In the morning we had our planned breakfast of bacon and bagels and then we opened presents around the kitchen table.




Then we went to Balboa Park, where we got to ride the carousel to music from Star Wars.



playing with her DSi in the park

lilies and a reflection of the botannical building

birthday girl

In the afternoon, the neighbors invited the kids to hunt for eggs so Margie took her loot and decorated her own cake.


And then she and her friends sat around playing with their Nintendo DSi’s. A good birthday. ♥

three girls and three DSi's


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On Sunday, after a delicious breakfast at the hotel’s buffet (bacon!) we headed out to Venice Beach. We arrived fairly early so parking was easy and then we walked down to the beach itself for about an hour. The kids threw rocks, collected shells, discovered various living and dead sea creatures and spotted a surprising number of ladybugs. It was peaceful and lovely.


surprise ladybug on a mussel


crabby thing

barnacles on a root?

And then we headed down the boardwalk. I’ve never been to Venice Beach, although I’ve heard a fair amount about it. It did not disappoint. In fact, I found it pretty awesome. The people there are wholly themselves, and I found them inspiring. Even the ones without pants. Along the east side of the boardwalk are a series of storefronts that all fall under one of three catagories: head shop, crappy un-funny t-shirt shop (that probably also sells pot), and “medical doctors” who will prescribe marijuana for you. Along the west side is where the real character of Venice Beach is. Artists (and, well, some that might not really be artists, but who are certainly full of character) line the walkway with their wares. One man sold beautiful wind chimes, candle holders and other wooden and bamboo items – all from wood he grew in his yard. And, of course, there was the rice lady. I’ve long wanted to get my name written on a grain of rice and in the last few weeks I actually saw this woman on a show on the History Channel. So we each got one – the kids got their names and I got a necklace that included both their names.

this guy played electric guitar while skating around

these are also weird people in LA

elliott could have sat here all day and watched this guy

tiny, tiny writing


After a lunch at a delicious Mediterranean place, we headed back to the car to take Grandpa back to the airport and for us to head back home. It was a really lovely weekend. Exactly what we needed. Thanks again, Dad!

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On Saturday we woke up and headed back into Hollywood, this time to visit the strip. It’s been just over ten years since I was last there and, in addition to some new footprints (Harry Potter!) they have characters that wander up and down the street. Elliott was terrified of Mickey Mouse to the point that he really couldn’t enjoy the footprints of the droids from Star Wars. But! Later when he saw a stormtrooper across the street he totally wanted to meet him. So. Silly-sweet cartoon characters = creepy and bad. But evil soldiers with weapons = awesome. Got it. And when I pointed out Ann B. Davis’ star (we’re big into the Brady Bunch right now) Elliott literally kissed it. And just to be clear, “it” means “Hollywood Boulevard” in this case. I still feel dirty.

he's not quite as big as hermione yet

little photographer

weirdest portrait of my kids ever

After we were done there, we drove down to the Tar Pits again where the biggest hit was, of course, running down the hills. We also wandered over to Pit 91, the spot they are actively digging in. Since it was a weekend, we didn’t see anyone working there, but it was cool to see the workspace. I love the Page Museum and how it allows you to see the scientists at work.

running down the hill

looking down into the pits where the scientists dig

That night we loaded onto a shuttle and headed down to Manhattan Beach to catch the sunset from the pier and have some dinner. The sky was incredible. So was the dinner.

watching the sunset

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hollywood through the lensbaby

Last weekend my dad flew into Los Angeles and we met him there to spend a couple days in the area. We spent the first afternoon on the hill above Hollywood, visiting the Griffith Observatory. Somehow, despite having been to Hollywood several times as a young adult, I’d missed the fact that the Observatory existed. And that it’s got a little cafeteria called the Cafe at the End of the Universe, a Douglas Adams reference. So we headed up there where we were treated to an incredible view of the Hollywood sign (which may have been Elliott’s favorite part of the whole trip). The kids wandered around the observatory and probably learned some stuff (Margie spent some time opening an aiming a model of a giant telescope) but mostly we enjoyed the views. And then we wandered along a trail – someday we’d like to go back, but it was too late in the day to begin such a long trail.

looking at the hollywood sign


learning some stuff, probably

my boy and the hollywood sign

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Snow Day!

It’s winter in San Diego! And the lovely thing about winter in San Diego is that we can go visit it for a few hours and not have to shovel anything! Perfect. We drove up on Presidents’ Day and I wasn’t sure how crowded it would be, but it was perfect. We visited the same camp ground we went to last October and it was the perfect place. Lots of space to play, not too many people in the way. All we need now is a sled.

elliott and his skeleton gloves

margie and a giant hunk o' snow

and this is why we love william heise park

my first snowman ever

We saw some tracks in the snow. Mostly human and dog, but some that could have been deer and these, which we think are probably turkey? Either that or ET.

turkey tracks?

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train arrives

My family has a tradition of attending the Balboa Park holiday festival, December Nights. As a child my grandpa used to work in Spanish Village at the Gem and Mineral Society and then for awhile he had his own shop open there. My grandma’s Garden Club used to enter a decorated tree into the tree show every year, and some organization they were a part of always served chili in the bottom floor of the Natural History Museum. Since all the museums are free on these two nights, this was when my family took us to them. We would visit the art museum, the Museum of Man, The Model Railroad Museum, the science center, the auto and aerospace museums, and the Natural History Museum all in one night while still making time for hot cider, watching performances, riding the miniature train, poking around Spanish Village and visiting the international cottages. I don’t understand how we accomplished this with four (and sometimes more) kids when my family can only manage about 1/4 of all that with half the kids.

polishing a spherical rock

learning about rocks

lego train goes by

lego town

Anyway, this year we rode the train (which did not go over well, although Elliott gave it a good shot – the tunnel is too loud for him), visited the Gem & Mineral Society (and watched them polish rocks and broke our own geodes), visited the Model Railroad Museum (Lego! Trains!), and then wandered down to the auto museum before it was time to catch the bus back to the parking garage. The night started out clear but as we left the model trains, we walked out into a surprising and very thickly foggy night. It was chilly (which was really exciting for us Californians! Winter!) and a lovely evening even if it was shorter than I wished it was.


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And the day after that big crazy thunder storm? We went camping. Naturally. The weathermen were still predicting thunderstorms, but we had this reservation and some plans to meet friends up there so we decided to at least head up and see what we see. This is what we saw:

storm clouds

And then it started raining. And pouring. But! It ends well. Shortly after we arrived it was a mere gentle rain, and then by the time the tent was set up, the sun came out to stay and everything dried up quite nicely and the day even became quite warm. The kids played until dinner time and, after marshmallows, snuggled down in the tent and fell asleep in roughly 30 seconds. We had flashes of lightning all night and one storm around 4am that moved in pretty close to us – which was scary for us city folk – but we lived to tell the tale.

In the morning I took the kids on a short walk where we were greeted by a small rainbow and where we observed some of the local plants. Also wild turkeys. (And the day before we’d caught a glimpse of deer!!) Later, we took a beautiful hike with some friends and saw a lizard (which I am pretty sure must be a fence lizard of some sort), tons of acorns, moss, poison oak, and more. We came out of the forest for a view of the valley before us. Incredible. We can’t wait to go camping again!

wild turkey!!

eating 'smallows


singing the double rainbow song

climbging naturey stairs


oak leaves


blue lizard

the view from the topish

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