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City Culture

Naturalist and I had our first opportunity to dive deep into big city culture this past Friday, thanks to my dad and the LA Opera!

This year they are putting on a complete performance of Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle…16 hours of opera over 4 nights within a week’s time. Usually one of the 4 parts is performed within s given year for a production, it is extrememy rare for all 4 to be tackled at once!

Naturalist and I have been waiting for a year–my dad gifted us the tickets even before we knew we would be moving down here. I assumed we’d take a roadtrip to see it in LA, I could never have imagined we’d be living here by the time it came around!

It was a crazy, fantastic, surreal 2 1/2 hours, and on this father’s day eve I’d like to thank my dad for always exposing me to the best the world had to offer. Museums, history, culture, music, food–he’s spared no expense and shared his enthusiasm for each of those things with me. It’s become a big part of my life and hugely inspirational as I raise my own kids.

Thanks dad! I love you!

…In Which I Recall My First Boyfriend and My Love For Solvang…

Bench Monday today! Not to be confused with Math Monday…I know I’ve been slacking on the Math Monday’s lately, it’s been hard to get into the groove without a creative math club around, though. Math is so much more fun doing it in large numbers. Pun totally not intended!

This bench monday is brought to you by Solvang, a cute little Danish town in the Santa Ynez Valley. I remember coming here when I was Sassy’s age–we’d always walk around the streets, eat danish food, then drive up to Hearst Castle. I have so many great memories from doing that, so it was fun to recreate the trip with my own family.

Here are the kids and I, with Hubby helpfully taking the shot:

Bench Monday::Danish Edition!

My kids really aren’t up for family group pictures anymore unless we’re standing on benches or jumping…that should make for an interesting Christmas Card this year.

Anyhoo–we stayed a night in Solvang and got up bright and early to hit a wonderful breakfast at Paula’s Pancake House It. Is. Divine.

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3 pages of Danish breakfast foods on the menu..it’s hard to go wrong. My personal favorites are the thin Danish pancakes as big as my head:

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They’re a little bit easier to eat if you roll them up.

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Dont’ confuse Danish with Dutch…this isn’t a Dutch town. Danish is Denmark, Dutch is the Netherlands. I never really knew the difference until my first boyfriend in 4th grade. He moved from Denmark into our school in So. Cal., and caused quite a stir in our classroom when he brought his photo album for show and tell. He was sharing what his life was like in Denmark, but what we ended up learning about was the cultural differences between our two countries. Because there, for the whole class to see, was his mom bathing topless at a beach on their summer holiday. Jesper, my future first boyfriend, though nothing of it, but all the boys in the class started making catcalls and giggling. The teacher ended up putting post it notes on the “offending parts”, and that was the first time I remember feeling like my breasts were something to hide and be ashamed of. It’s one reason why things like covering up naked statues for press conferences drives me nutty. It’s the human body, people!

Back to the topic at hand…Jesper…I know 4th grade is young to be having boyfriends and such, but in So. Cal at that time things moved pretty fast for boy/girl relations. I mean, I was getting married behind the portables by the time I was in 2nd grade! Deciding not to get married but take it slow and date first was a step in the right direction, don’t you think?! Jesper looked like the lead singer for aha , not that I knew that then because aha had yet to bust out with “Take On Me”, but as soon as I saw the video I was all, “Jesper?!”

He was a great boyfriend. I remember riding on a carousel holding his hand. He gave me solid chocolate hearts that said “I Love You” on them. We would ride our bikes around San Juan Capistrano together (free range, yeah!), and I had my first taste of salmon at his house for dinner one night. He was even my first kiss! And then, at the 4th grade graduation party, a girl named Gina wearing a beret came along and danced him out of my life to Lionel Richie’s “You Are The Sun, You Are The Rain”. Once they danced to that, I was dumped and she was his new girlfriend. To this day, I’m very wary around girls in berets.

And there ends my stream of conscious story about Solvang, Denmark, food, boys, music, relationships, and celebrating the human body rather than censoring it.

I dedicate this bizarre post to Jesper…you broke my heart, but you were only 11 so I forgive you. cheers!

Houston, we have a beach!

I bet you thought we’d never make it. I thought we’d never make it! And then, after all the warnings of deathly rogue waves (a secret fear of mine, even while living in Colorado…), I kinda wished we wouldn’t.

But we did!

I present…Pfeiffer Beach, in Big Sur:

In the beginning of the video you will notice a particularly favorite method I have of interacting with my kids. It’s called, “The Opposite Of…” game. The Opposite Of…game means you take a situation, or rule, and then react the opposite of what’s normally expected. Kids with quick, gifted, creative minds tend to get bored easily. (Thus, the over diagnosis of ADD/ADHD in kids who don’t need medicine but rather a quicker learning pace and less busy work!) The unexpected always brings their minds around. So, for instance…

“Life threatening waves and conditions” would usually instill fear. Especially with Golfer, who is prone to excessive worry. The Opposite of…means we cheer and celebrate! Golfer laughs, it stops him from having an anxious breakdown, all is good.

“The most dangerous place to swim is…” obviously it’s where the waves and rocks are. But if I were to point out “the most dangerous place to swim is where the waves and rocks are!” they would stop listening to me by the time I got the 4th word out. The Opposite of…means we look for the least dangerous place…the calm shallow water. Now my kids know where the dangerous places are–they had to look for them to create an opposite place–and they also know where the safest place is. Double the information with half the boredom!

This really works like a charm. The next time your kids are blowing you off or getting bored, just switch over to the opposite of game. When I sent Naturalist and Golfer on a plane by themselves last week, we spent 45 minutes talking about how they should act on the plane. I asked them please, to kick the seat in front of them, snarl at people who looked at them, talk loudly and get into lots of verbal fights, start a food fight with the peanuts, get up and down a lot, and ignore the stewardesses. Then they added in their suggestions, and voila! Instead of tuning me out, they focused on how to behave on a plane while laughing about what it would be like if they did the opposite. I also do this when I’m at my wits end but am trying not to be snarky or biting. Instead of saying “stop whining at me!” I will say, “Hey, you know what I’d love? Could you whine some more, because my brain isn’t overloaded enough and it’s screaming for more whining!” We all laugh, and usually the whining stops. Usually.

Finding Pfeiffer Beach, pt. 2.

Yesterday, when I posted the video about us trying to find the beach, I wasn’t being coy about not showing if we actually found the beach or not. My camera battery died, and so I made the car stop while it charged up and came back to life. Because if a family finds Pfeiffer Beach in the woods, and the iphone isn’t there to make a video of it, does it really happen? I didn’t want to take that chance!

My family indulged me and spent the 10 minutes reciting, by memory, Monty Python monologues and songs. In particular, this lovely gem, which you will see reenacted in the next video in the series.

Perhaps my most favorite exchange with anyone comes halfway through the video, when we finally meet up with the guard in a tollbooth. He was very matter or fact, and took the opportunity to scare the crap out of us touristy people.

Me, reading posted sign: Surf subject to life threatening waves and currents?! Really?!?!
Guard: Uh, yes. Yes. We’ve had drownings.
All of us in the car: …!!!
Guard: And no lifeguards.
All of us in the car: …
Guard: Plus the fact that the water temperature is only 53 degrees…
All of us in the car: !!!…
Me: This beach is not sounding appealing.
Guard: It’s not a swimming beach!
All of us in the car: …

Where I’m from, if there’s a place where drownings occur, without lifeguards, in icy cold water, where you can’t swim…we don’t call it a beach. We call it a death trap. That’s a place to be condemned or something. Maybe that’s why there were no posted signs?

I clutched our pastries, determined to at least see this nightmare of a beach, eat our breakfast, and then get the hell out of there.

Oh, the drama!

Finding Pfeiffer Beach, pt. 1

While we were staying in Big Sur, we heard legend of a great local spot called Pfeiffer Beach. There are no signs for it, other than an elusive sign on the side of the road, after a bridge…blink-and-you’ll-miss-it:

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note, it doesn’t actually say anything about a beach, so it’s OK if you drive back and forth for a few times before you actually 1) see it, and 2) take the chance of turning down the road.

We made the leap of faith, after talking with some locals at the delicious Big Sur Bakery (we highly recommend their quiches, jelly donuts, lemon bars, and coffee cake!).

Once you make the turn and drive a little ways, there is a sign announcing Pfeiffer Beach is 2 miles away. Driving down the narrow, one lane road with forests on either side, I questioned how a beach could suddenly appear. Down here in So. Cal., the only thing you see on the way to the beaches are highways and palm trees…not thick foresty vegetation. I doubted. We all doubted. I took an iphone video to document if a beach actually appeared–in it you can learn about how our boondocking in a state park turned out. Did we get busted? Watch and learn…

Roadtripping By The Seat of Our Pants.

We took the time this Memorial Day Weekend to hit the road!

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

Pacific Coast Highway, to be precise, with the goal to drive up past San Francisco…stopping at interesting points along the way. We quickly found something out about California and the PCH. There are interesting points every 15 miles along the way!

Bench Monday::Long Weekend Edition.

The coastline of California is an amazingly diverse stretch of the world, and we ended up going much sloooower than anticipated. On the first day, this was mostly due to a little Danish town Solvang and some great food. Like, pancakes as big as my upper body.

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And pastries…those will have to get their very own bloggy post.

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So, we lingered. And made a decision based on the number one rule of traveling with kids: It’s better to do too much of a little bit than too little of too much. So we cut back our mileage and only made it as far north as Monterey. This gave us longer to play along the coast and the chance to stay in Big Sur for two nights.

As you might imagine, Memorial Day weekend is not the best time to take a spur of the moment trip specifically because it’s hard to find hotel or camping vacancies. We weren’t in the RV, but my minivan, and brought along our camping stuff. This came in handy when all the rooms and camping spots in Big Sur were full. We came across the Big Sur river, across which (at a certain spot) there were some amazing camping spots right under some redwoods. We didn’t see any ‘no trespassing’ signs posted, or any other signs indicating a problem if a tired family wanted to stop and stay for the night…so we boondocked. Crossed the river, braved river sharks, ate trail mix for dinner, set up the tent, and spent a great night under the redwoods and listening to the rush of the river.

It was great!

We saw so many amazing things along the way I’ll have to spotlight each one with it’s own post. I *might* have taken close to 1,000 pictures in 4 days. But who’s counting?!

Golden Gate Bridge Phobia

Before I get to my gephyrophobia (Thanks, Amy, for the correct term for fear of bridges!) I just checked in on the blog with my iphone and started reading all the comments to the last one I posted about laziness (and lack thereof) and unschooling. I wish I could join in on the commenting party happening, but it’s hard to do over my stinkin’ iphone keypad. But when I get back, it’s so on! There were some really great points made and a lot of things were brought up that made me stop and think.

I’m not at my computer right now because I drove up to San Francisco to meet up with a fellow unschooling blogger, Tara from tara.mama.wendy

Tara.Mama.Wendy and I

It’s been great seeing her part of the world and watching her interact with her two adorable boys. Part of our night last night was driving in to the Mission District to eat dinner. I was excited about the eating part, but not so much about the driving over the Golden Gate Bridge part. It’s so terrifying!!! Especially when everyone in the car starts talking about traumatic bridge accidents and someone who is driving who shall remain nameless (Tara) starts pretending to go out of control. Hilarity ensues in the video…

Skull Rock!

In Joshua Tree National Park there’s a place called Skull Rock, because a huge rock has been weathered into the shape of a skull. And, well, being so piratey and all, we had to stop by and see it!

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It was totally skullish and worth the stop. You don’t have to hike to get to it, it’s right beside where you park, but all around it are places to go climbing. So we did.

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I used my handy dandy iphone video while there. I’m hoping my kids will become a little more media savvy the more I use it…right now they’re still stuck on answering “your butt” and “we’re all going to die!” to every question I ask. And we all know, that never gets old. Unless you’re the mom. Trying to take a nice memorable video for posterity. You know what else never gets old? Uranus jokes, which will probably make an appearance in one of these videos sooner or later.

Luckily my ex-brother in law and his kids were there to keep the video on track.

I’ll blog more about our hikes when I get more pictures uploaded…for now, I can only say that the park was AMAZING. National Parks are like Nature’s version of Disneyland, and this one kept us running around, climbing on rocks, laughing, and looking around in absolute amazement at what Mother Nature can do. If you haven’t visited a National Park lately, find one closest to you and go visit this weekend! It’ll do you and your kids a whole lot of good!

Ah, New York.

Streets of NYC

Still uploading pictures so I can tell the riveting tale of Naturalist and my trip to NYC. I know you’ve all been on the edge of your seats in anticipation…all 2 of you…and I’m sooooo close to being ready to dish the details via pictures.

I know it’s only been 2 weeks since we’ve been back home, but I really really miss the city. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in the countryside, with fields and farm animals and limited access to fast food or convenience. It’s soothing and calming.

BUT! The city and I are made of the same stuff. Chaos, energy, hustle and bustle, motion and noise. I love riding the subway–I love that I can get on anytime and go anywhere I want. I love taking it to some of the best museums anywhere!

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I love being surrounded by strangers…a big mass of humanity all doing our own thing, ignoring each other maybe, but I got lost a whole bunch of times and got a lot of help from those same people when I needed it!

shooting from the hip

I love the art on the street

Jump for 9!

I love that Times Square is lit up so much, you can be walking down the street at 1:30 am and it feels like noon!

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I love that I can be just a subway ride away from eating the best food from any culture in the world…

Best Breakfast Evah!

I love sightseeing there!

Brooklyn Bridge sunset

Statue of Liberty

I love love love the city lights.

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And even though I was already madly in love with NYC (after growing up right next door in NJ) I discovered I could love it even more sharing it with Naturalist for the first time!

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Travel Food

Road Trip Food

In an effort to further delay my impending packing rush, I will detail for you all my travel food necessities. We can do without a lot of stuff out on the road, but if the food isn’t right, then aint nothin’ is right. I hope my foody expertise will help out others as vacation season is upon us.

So, a basic list:

Chips
Frito Bean Dip (we love it so much, we named our dog after it).

Fruit of all kinds, ready to eat without any green stuff to get rid of.

Mini Baby bel cheese, (hella expensive if you don’t get it at Costco, but still worth it because the red wax on the outside makes for some great sculpting material).

Ramen noodles, to be boiled up in the coffee maker in case we have to make an overnight stop.

Fruit leather, granola bars, crackers for the cheese.

Banana Chocolate Mini Muffins, yum!!! (baked the night before, preferably when packing is at it’s most intense and tempers are flaring).

Ingredients for the NuFlufferBaNutter sandwich. And just what is that, you ask? Let me show you:

Road Trip Delicacy

Nutella, marshmallow whip, banana, and peanut butter sandwich. All the food groups in one! It’s our version of GORP.

Sadly, since that picture was taken, all of us chez Child’s Play have forsaken High Fructose Corn Syrup. *sob*. No more Cherry Coke. Although….everyone might be lots better off if I had one on our marathon drive, so maybe I’ll take one for the team and just get myself some.

Now I’m off to make some mad lists, because I’m sure to forget tons of things that I really wish I wouldn’t. Taking kids and hubby on a vacation is like preparing for a minor invasion. Details, details, details, which isn’t my strong suit.

I’ll let you know on the flip side what important thing I’ve forgotten…