Friday, June 27, 2008

A Windswept Beach, Walking Distance from Camp

It seems the sea spray and/or salt air has fogged up my lens. Must remember to clean it somehow...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Around Our Campsite

We spent quite a lot of time choosing our site. (Which would have driven an already camp-a-phobic ZaMeAndad cuh-ray-zee, so again, what with all those pee-stops, it was good he wasn't along for the ride.) C'mon! We're NESTING here, folks! Haven't you read Make Way for Ducklings? The roost is critical! As are the neighbors, but more about that later.

It was totally worth the time we took, because we scored a great spot: shady, level, and encircled by low-slung, endlessly-entertaining, climbing-trees.

Lady J. was very keen to pitch the tents herself, but an overly-helpful dad from down the way appeared, and decided to 'rescue' the women-camping-without-grown-up-men. Oy. He proceeded to put my fly on the wrong way, ultimately tearing a hole in it. A hole in my BRAND NEW tent.

Okay so it's a small hole, but what does small mean to rain? ("nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands...")

Okay so it didn't rain.

But still.

I'm afraid I brought all this displaced chivalry upon us when I had to ask our next-site-over neighbors if I could use their cigarette lighter to blow up our air mattresses. (Our mini van didn't have one.)

The next-site-over neighbors were an off-duty sheriff, his D.A. wife, and their very friendly and well-behaved five year-old. They had a camper-trailer.

And a daisy-and-fake-grass doormat.

And wind chimes.

They seemed perfectly nice until I mentioned our across-the-way neighbors -- a multi-generational Latino family whom I lent my electric air pump to blow up their double-tall air mattress, who kindly charged my cell-phone. It took me hours to realize that D.A. Mom was a bit of a, um, well, bigot. I mean, her daughter was playing so nicely with our kids, so I couldn't really be hearing ascendingly prejudiced comments coming out of her mouth, could I? And then there were the increasingly fervent assertions that her daughter is apparently 'a gift from God,' as well as 'an angel' who 'bestows blessings' on all she comes in contact with. Which should have just sounded grateful and sweet, but somehow felt, um, scary, delivered as it was by someone in a neck brace who 'doesn't want to live in Mexico.'

But enough about them. The upside is we had nicely inflated mattresses, and a very sweet little girl who played well with all four of our kids, keeping them nicely distracted whilst I did my completely-insane-Navy-Brat-insta-home-ification of the site.

I couldn't help myself. Really.

There was sweeping out of bottle caps and cigarette butts, tent arranging (settling finally upon the horizontal positioning of the air mattress, allowing for two kids and one bent-kneed mama to sleep side by side by side), hanging of lanterns, cleaning of picnic tables (& coverage of same with not one but two table cloths), decorating of said table with citronella candles and pebbles (oh. my. godddd.), and creation of outdoor kitchen area complete with utensils hung in trees and tub of sudsy water in which to soak dishes (who am I???).

Lady J. tolerated all of this in her blessed I'm-English-and-so-I-will-be-silent-whilst-you-annoy-the-poop-out-of-me way.

Meanwhile the kids found favorite branches and hidey-holes, and peed us a nice personal-territory boundary.

Whenever we were 'back at camp,' there was much play-acting, fairy-store and fairy-house building, coloring, and reading. In fact, Ander was a reading maniac. The fun, funny, exciting, and quite literate Sardine books were key. And how my heart sung to see him, hoodie up, nose in book, perched on various trees...

At night we discovered how close to the creek we were. Thankfully, this didn't mean mosquitoes but frogs. Zillions of loud, singing, apparently invisible frogs. Ander loved it. He was worried that it would be 'too quiet' in camping land, and was relieved to find the nighttime here even louder than at home.

Knowing our kids and their beliefs in the unseen world of not-always-friendly fairy-folk, and valuing nightmare-free sleep, we did not tell ghost stories or camp stories (though J. and I would occasionally mumble "bloody hook" or "Blair Witch" to each other at random intervals). The only creepiness we experienced was a middle-of-the-night visit by a white stray cat, and the admittedly-eerie wailing of a toddler ("Dadeeeeeeee!") that seemed to moooove through the camp one night. I had finally found my glasses and flashlight and was on my way to go help what I imagined was a lost kid back to their tent, when it stopped, suddenly. Hmmmmmm...

Lady J and I had brought along grown-up potables (my mother actually called my cell to make certain that we had remembered to pack this most crucial camping supply). Our intention was to sit up around the fire-pit -- after the kids were coated with bug spray and snoozing in their sleeping bags -- swapping tales of our semi-wild girlhoods, and cackling into the fire-sparked night sky long past the campsite's official 'quiet time.'

Instead, we crawled into our oh-so-cozy sleeping bags to read to our children, and promptly fell asleep around 9pm each night. Some of the best. sleep. everrrrr.

In the mornings there were Breakfasts by Jane: Little Smokies, eggs, coffee, tea, coffee, tea, coffee. We all stayed in our PJs, just layering on sweaters, and the kids climbed trees while we read trashy magazines and ate toast heated over the fire.

And as camping seems to be all about getting in touch with our most basic nature and bodily functions, I will report that Zaza refused to poop in the public restroom, for 4 days. (I know, I know -- the cushiness of our 'roughing it' -- actual restrooms, and hot showers even, right down the paved road from our site...) I think if I had let her go in the bushes, she would have gone for it, but it just wasn't that sort of campsite.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Moonstone Beach

Weather Was Windy.

Whelps Were Whiny.



My kind of beach, this.

Not a bikini in sight. (Preferable get-up: a thick nubbly cardy over an old hoodie.) Meant for walking and wading and rock-and-stick-and-giant-kelp-float-collecting. Reminded me -- painfully, poignantly -- of Carmel.

Wished we could fit kids, camping stuff AND massive hunks of magical-mystical driftwood into the minivan.

We Didn't Quite Make it to the Campsite on Tuesday

Menfolk would likely have checked into a hotel an hour or so into the journey. What with the traffic and the fires raging through Big Sur and the 536 roadside pee-stops.

Seriously. 536. Give or take 12.

And Zaza got into the spirit, peeing on every bramble and freeway turnout trash pile between L.A. and Santa Barbara. I really must invest in one of these, although in a pinch both my kids have been trained to pee in a Venti cup behind the dumpster at our restroom-free Starbucks.

There was a spectacular fire-enhanced sunset, Lady J.'s eyes got tired and reddish, and the kitschy decor of the Madonna Inn beckoned.

But the $200/night room rates pushed us along, and then it was for-reals dark.

We didn't think it would be too fun to choose a mostly-invisible campsite and pitch our tents in that nowhere-near-city-lights sort of dark (with a passel of over-tired children whining in the van).

The El Toro Motel was mildewy and skeevy, but it was cheap and it was THERE.

The kids had cocoa, the moms had wine coolers (ugh, but then again, yummmzzzzz), and we all slept surprisingly well despite the lack of fitted sheets.

Wait -- did I just make a dig at our rustic sleeping conditions? Perhaps. But our spanking new sleeping bags and air mattress are sounding pretty inviting right about now (yes, an air mattress. yes, for camping. in a tent, yes. what? why are your eyes rolling up like that?).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Ander's Last Day of School

Which means he's now a SECOND GRADER.

Omigosh omigosh omigoshhhhhhh.

And extra-bittersweet, as the whole school is packed up, moving to a temporary location in the Fall, and then onto its new permanent location farther East (hopefully) by Spring '09.

I'm going to miss the huge, airy, high-ceilinged classrooms, and the tiled hallways, and the whole WPA vibe of the architecture paired with all that blonde Ikea furniture.

And of course I'll miss being one of 5 families for whom the school was actually conveniently located.

But mostly what I've been feeling in the days leading up to Ander's last day of First Grade is a strange sort of melancholy. And then it dawned on me: the last day of school for me as a kid was very often the last day I would see my school friends -- ever. After first grade we moved from San Diego to San Francisco, and after second and part of third in San Francisco, we moved to Hawaii. Etcetera. There were always exciting new distractions, wonderful neighbors and teachers, and of course new friends, but those last days of school were always pretty sad.

Which is perhaps why I threw myself so whole-heartedly into the Last Day of First Grade Surprise Camping Trip with Lady J...

The plan was to have the (rented) minivan all packed with camping gear and ready to go by pickup time -- maybe even skipping out of the last day festivities a bit early. But of course everything got pushed back, and I was still loading the van while the kids tore the yard apart in a frenzy of what's-going-on-ness. We finally shoved off -- right into rush hour traffic -- and crawled up the 101 with Lady J at the wheel and me in the role of Official CD Changer and Kid Distractor.

We asked the kids where they thought we were going. Guesses included "Target," "Disneyland," and "the Beach." We toyed with not telling them until we unloaded the tents, but caved in before we were 10 minutes out of the driveway: 3 nights of tent-camping near Cambria and Hearst Castle!!!

And -- phew! -- there were sufficient cries of AWESOME and a nice amount of delighted squeals and whoops of excitement from the back seats.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Zaza's Last Day of School

On her way in, and afterschool for a celebratory gelato and Harley ride.
(A tad anticlimactic after last week's big show, though.)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Buttercups and Tear Drop Tea

I think that's what I'll name the next blog, after this one reaches its photo allowance/capacity thingy. It's the answer to "What will the wedding supper be?" in "Froggy Went a Courtin'." I find the song painfully repetitive as an adult, and tend to hit SKIP whenever it comes up on a CD. But that phrase, that phrase always makes me pause.

Because I think maybe it's a supper we serve up most every day over here on Orange Grove.

I started this blog as a personal and very specific journal, not so much to share but to organize, to maintain some sort of chronology for this period of intensive discovery and growth, to help me to remember all the bitsy beautiful stuff.

Because all I can really remember about Ander's babyhood -- before he was ever called Ander -- are teensy moments and images: pulling his feet through the elastic ankles of baby sweatpants, the cracks and calluses on my hands from too much diaper tape and hand-washing, the funny little Haba bird that hung over the bassinet, the colors and shapes and the very fibers of the rug in Ander's room, the nubby feeling of the yellow chenille coverlet we draped over the nursing chair, the eruption of dish soap foam when the bottle brush was shoved into a glass Evenflo bottle, stripey cotton blankets and snap-crotched Onesies, the light coming through the cellophane and wire mobile (long since broken), the way he would open his mouth comically wide for bites of food, how the curve of his body fit so well between my chin and my hip, his eyes and lashes and pink wet mouth so so so close to my face... In fact everything from back then was so close as to be slightly out-of-focus and blurry.

Writing here is also an exercise in not focusing on the bad stuff. Because of course there's bad stuff. (I contemplate keeping a shadow-blog called "the Misadventures of Ander and Zaza...")

So here I am, on my hot pink Hello Kitty bike with streamers and a white basket and a pink and yellow bell that happily goes "ding-ding," but I'm riding along the edge of a steep hill, and all it takes is an article in the paper about dry drowning to send me free-wheeling down (brakes? what brakes?), with things like this whizzing by (helmet? what helmet?), and at the bottom is the cold clammy certainty that I have compromised away some important part of my soul, that I want a do-over, and that except by my children I am unloved and misunderstood.

But that "except by my children" pulls me back to the top with bungee-like swiftness every time. And then I notice there's lovely new pavement on Melrose and on Vermont, and Ira Glass's endearing bespectacled face is plastered on the back of every bus, and there's Spellcheck on the computer, and peonies in Trader Joe's, and there are friends who truly do. not. care. if your laundry is piled up and there's toothpaste in all the sinks and your legs need waxing, and oh oh OHHH there are Ander and Zaza dancing in the buttercups, upturning my pot of Tear Drop Tea.

jek took the picture, but i was there too

Monday, June 16, 2008

An E-Mail from Poppy


Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Midsummer Night's Zaza

The year-end production. Grandma, Poppy and Tutu were all in attendance.

Once again, she was a dancing flower.

(Perhaps next year she'll overcome her crush on her drama teacher and get an actual line...)

She had to learn allllll these songs:

It Was A Lover & His Lass

It was a lover and his lass
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey-nonny-no
That o’er the cornfield green did pass
A lover and his lass.
When birds do sing, hey ding-a-ding ding
sweet lovers love the spring.
With a hey, and a ho, and a hey-nonny-no
A lover and his lass.
A lover and his lass; a lover and his lass;
That o’er the cornfield green did pass
A lover and his lass.

Youth I Do Adore Thee (The Mechanicals)

Spoken:           Crabbed age and youth
   Cannot live together
Youth I do Adore Thee, age I do abhor thee
Youth I do Adore Thee:  Youth! Youth! Youth!
Youth I do Adore Thee, age I do abhor thee
Youth I do Adore Thee:  Youth! Youth! Youth!
Youth is wild and age is tame, youth is nimble age is lame
Youth I do Adore Thee:  Youth! Youth! Youth
Youth I do Adore Thee:  Youth!  Youth! Youth!

Merrily Shall I Live

Merrily, merrily shall I live now,
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now; merrily shall I live.
(repeat 3 times)
Merrily, merrily; merrily shall I live.
Merrily, merrily; merrily shall I live.


Spotted snakes with double tongues, thorny hedgehogs be not seen.
Newts and blindworms do no harm; come not near our fairy queen.
Weaving spiders, come not here; hence, you long-legged spinners.
Beetles black, approach not near; worm nor snail do no offence.
Philomel with melody, sing in our sweet lullaby; Lulla, Lulla, Lullaby.
Never harm, nor spell nor charm; come our lovely lady nigh.
So good night, with lullaby.

Over Hill, Over Dale

Over hill, over dale, over park, over pale;
Thorough bush and thorough brier, thorough flood and thorough fire.
I do wander here, wander thee, wander everywhere; and I serve the fairy Queen.
To dew her orbs upon the green.