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jilliantate


jillian's personal blog

my long-term, livejournal, personal blog


vacationland
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jilliantate
We are back from the Central California Coast today. Actually, we got back yesterday, but then spent the afternoon and evening in a sort of exhausted daze. Paul reminded me last night that we need to take one of them "relaxing vacations" one of these days. I pointed out that we won't get one of THOSE for another ten years. But today, we're recovered, mostly unpacked, and gearing up to return to our respective workplaces

This was our third camping trip with Ben, and the first one that was more than one night. Paul, Ben and I all decided back in May that we would spend the 4th of July weekend camping, preferably on the coast. Because I failed to book camping space in a state park back in January, we had to look at privately owned campgrounds. I picked Flying Flags in Buellton, because it was listed in my Moon Guide to California Campgrounds as a "good family option" (read: "not real camping"). After looking at the website, and seeing that it was more "sleeping outdoors" someplace with a pool and playground, I was happy to snap up one of the last "basic" campsites. It's difficult to entertain a three year old at a state park once he gets tired of chasing squirrels.

We arrived at the campground a little after 6pm on Friday, after a somewhat trafficky drive up from L.A. It wasn't all the way up to full Rush Hour On Holiday Weekend levels, but was sticky enough that it was a longish drive. Long enough for Ben to take a nap AND watch most of Toy Story 2 AND still manage to spend ten minutes insisting that he wanted out of the car. By the time we got to Buellton, he was complaining non-stop, so I took him with me to check in. He then ran in circles in the lobby area, until he spotted photos on the wall of kids with their DIY sundae creations. "I want ice cream," he announced.

I scanned the events flyer I had just been handed. "There's ice cream tomorrow night, Ben...and a movie!"

"Movie?"

"Yes!" I pointed to the movie title. "Look at this. What number is this?"

"Three...Toy Story Three!"

A very cheerful Ben and I then walked across the campground to find our site, while Paul drove the microvan around. We arrived in the "no hookup" area (read: tents) to find that it wasn't like any campground we'd been to before. There were no actual sites, but rather, a big field, with "sites" marked in white spraypaint, that everyone was just pulling their cars and RVs in to. Paul cheerfully remarked that it was more like Coachella than a campground. Only without music, drugs, or any element of hipsterness. There were clean restrooms with flushing toilets though, and dish sinks attached to them (so I didn't have to heat water and wash dishes at our campsite), and at this point in my life, I'm willing to trade cool for comfort and convenience.

On the way though, we passed a pool ("I want to go swimming, Mama. Can I go swimming?") and a giant freaking play structure ("PLAYGROUND! I want to go to the playground! I want to go NOW. Playground!"). This was about the point where I realized that we were "camping" in a preschool paradise. Flying Flags had the two storey tall, metal and plastic playground, full of chutes and ladders. It had a swimming pool. It had a that Make Your Own Sundae activity on Saturday night, which was followed by Toy Story 3. AND it had big kids next door to us who were playing with a foot-pump air powered Iron Man rocket. We also introduced Ben to the arcade, where he learned to play air hockey, and shoot rampant dinosaurs in Jurassic Park: The Video Game. And finally, it was close to some of Ben's favorite things. It took us twelve minutes to get to Gaviota State Beach, and ten minutes to get to the elaborate, amazing, medieval-themed Sunny Fields Playground in Solvang. Ben was ecstatic about everything, the whole weekend, and it made me so happy that I had found a place that had so many fun things for him. Not least of all because it tired him out so much that he hit the pillow each night and fell asleep instantly.

This really was a perfect family weekend. Ben spent every spare minute he could either on the playground or in the pool, in between meals and trips off site. We went to Gaviota State Beach, where we camped with Ben last year, on Saturday, and spent the morning playing in the waves and digging sand structures. (Paul and I got sunburned. Ben did not. We are more careful with him than with our own skin.) We took him to Sunny Fields Playground in Solvang, which I explained as the "Viking playground". We had pea soup at Pea Soup Andersens, across the street. We saw miniature animals (two miniature horses, a few small black sheep and a pygmy goat) at the Buellton "Arts on the Avenue" town festival. We went back to the beach again on Sunday to get out of the heat. We had a fantastic time together as a little family...and Ben got to eat a bowl of ice cream the size of his head AND stay up until 11pm watching Toy Story 3 on Saturday.

But despite all the fun stuff, the pool and the playground and the beach, the special treats and the movie and the air hockey, the Viking playground and the Ben sized horses and MORE time in the pool, I asked Ben what his favorite part of the weekend was yesterday, and he said, "the tent."

"You mean you liked sleeping in the tent with Mama and Dada?" Ben sleeps in a small one-Ben tent, inside of our bigger tent, next to our air mattress, when we're camping. It makes him feel like he's in his own space, so he stays in there all night, but also makes him feel safe because we are right there. And he confirmed that he liked being so close to us, by telling me "Yeah! I liked sleeping in the tent with Mama and Dada!"

And there you have it. A family vacation, sleeping in a tent, at an RV resort. I never would have seen myself at such a place before I became a parent. But I'm realizing now, what makes me happiest, is being able to share happy experiences with my son, and my husband. And this was a very, very happy weekend. It will be a few years before we can go on a relaxing vacation, but in the meantime, even going to someplace as Middle American as an RV resort, can be a happy weekend when you have an exuberant three year old who just loves being with his parents.

Ben Plays Hockey, Just Like Quatchi!
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A couple weeks ago, when reading "Goodnight, Canada", we got to the page that reads, "Good afternoon, friends playing hockey. Score a goal!" To which, Ben remarked, "They're playing hockey! Just like Quatchi!"

Of course, if you're not from BC, you probably have no idea what a Quatchi is. The Vancouver, 2010 mascots were three imaginary creatures: Miga (an orca-bear hybrid), Sumi (a spirit creature that was mostly bear and eagle), and Quatchi, a sasquatch. Quatchi's dream is to be a goalie in the Olympics. This is all explained in the mascots origin stories:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lnSncdPP8VY&w=640&h=390]

The nice people at the QuatchiWatch blog put all the Quatchi hockey images into one handy post, so you can really see how much Quatchi loves the sport. And Ben also loves hockey. He plays a version of it in the hallways called "golf hockey", or, for short, "GOHOCKEY!" This is where he whacks around small wiffle balls using the toy golf clubs my old roomate at UBC gave me as a gag gift years ago.

So you can only imagine Ben's joy when we went to Kindergym, the drop-in playtime in Oak Bay, and he found real kids, playing real floor hockey.

"They're playing hockey, Mama! Just like Quatchi!"

Ben ended up playing floor hockey for most of the playtime. He's actually quite good at it...especially considering he's never had a chance to play before:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NiUjLg-qVcY&w=640&h=390]

So somehow, I have managed to raise a tiny Canadian, who loves hockey, and who sleeps with two Canadian stuffed animals. Of course, Ben has a Quatchi that my mom sent him, but he also has Rawr, who is a snow leopard or lynx or something like that. Rawr was a gift from Ben's "Uncle Ray", and has been his favorite stuffed animal since he was very wee. But the point is, Ben's favorite stuffed animals, as well as his favorite game, are Canadian. Now, if I could only get the kid to say "zed"...

snow, l.a. style
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Today, Paul and I took Ben to see snow fall at the Grove shopping center. By "snow", of course, I mean the tiny bits of foam that are used by shopping centers and Disneyland when they want to create holiday seasonality. But at the Grove, it's a Production, complete with music and a synchronized fountain (water leaping to "Let it Snow"). And between the faux-flurry and the giant Christmas tree, Ben loved being there tonight.

We actually had a great day with Ben. We went to Pan Pacific Park before it got dark. Paul and I ran around, keeping an eye on Ben and making sure we spotted him accordingly when he decided to climb something not designed for a two year old. (Ben climbs like a monkey, and we often let him go and just try to be ready in case he slips). Ben also loves going to the park - any park. He just loves being able to run around, preferably on playground equipment that has a slide or tunnels attached. I love watching him in action, and seeing how confident he is in his own physical ability on a playground.

After the park, we decided to try something new for dinner. I had a Groupon for Rahel Ethiopian Cuisine nearby on Fairfax, so we rolled on down to Little Ethiopia to try it. It's a vegan restaurant, so we knew there would be lots of lentil and chickpea dishes that Ben would probably eat. I also thought that eating with our hands would be a good option for our little boy. And neither Paul nor I had had Ethiopian cuisine before. Our entire knowledge on the subject came from watching Top Chef Masters last year, which, actually, made me curious to get around to trying it. And we did actually get Ben to eat a small portion of injera bread and lentil stew, not to mention green beans and carrots (!), so we considered it a success.

Then, after the requisite Ten Minute Traffic Jam on Fairfax, we finally made it back to the Grove. The parking structure was at maximum capacity, leading us up to the roof to park. And when I saw the Christmas tree top at the same height, I knew it was a huge freaking tree. When we finally got down to ground level, I was actually impressed by the size of the tree...and how much stuff had been put on it. The Grove tree, which is actually taller than the one at Rockefeller Center in NYC, has thousands of glass balls and lights decorating it, and, from the ground, looks the size of a building. The only thing slightly spoiling the effect was the 3D promotion for Yogi Bear at the bottom of the tree: a mock Ranger station for Jellystone Park, complete with bear photos and bear crime scene notes. Sigh.

So the three of us wandered around the Grove for a bit, looking at store windows, enjoying the scheduled 7pm snow flurry, and checking out the new book options for Ben at Barnes & Noble. Ben then fell asleep in the car on the way home...and I fell asleep right after he did

Actually, I'm supposed to be out right now, at Bootie. I'm not. I took a nap, woke up, and have been sorting through the bills and random items in my Inbox for the past couple hours, because I'm off to NYC tomorrow, and wanted to be sure I didn't have any outstanding items before I left. I have a few library books, but that's it. Go, me. Time for some well-earned sleep.

last weekend's camping adventure
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We went camping last weekend with Ben.

There are two groups of you reading this out there with very different reactions. One group of you are thinking, "oh, that's great! What a wholesome family vacation! How great to be introducing Ben to the outdoors, and how fun to be outside all weekend!"

The rest of you actually have kids, and are thinking "OHMYGOD THEY TOOK A TWO YEAR OLD CAMPING?" It's tough enough to get a small boy like Ben to sleep under the best of circumstances. Those of you who have experienced small children can only imagine getting him to sleep in a tent.

And yet, somehow, we did it. We pulled out all our old camping gear over the last few days, checked it, and prepared to pack it. We bought the new pieces we needed: a new lantern, sleeping pad for Paul, freezer blocks for the cooler. We loaded everything into the microvan yesterday: sleeping bags, tents, stove, cooking gear and dishes, food, tarps, lanterns and flashlights, towels, and clothes. We timed it so the drive up would take place over Ben's nap, reducing his awake time in the car so he would be less likely to wake up & get bored in the car ("I want down, Mama. I'm stuck in here! All done car! Down! I want down!") And we headed off to Gaviota State Park, up by Santa Barbara.

Of course, we had to stop at Chick-fil-A in Oxnard on the way up. Ben likes their nuggets and the board books in their kids meals. I just like Chick-fil-A.



(Ben at Chick-fil-A)


We got to the campground a little after 3pm, and immediately went to the beach



Ben at the beach


Paul, meanwhile, set up the campsite, because he is (a) the man in this family and (b) because he is awesome enough to do that while I played with Ben in the sand. Even when I brought Ben back though, we managed to distract him with some rocks:



Ben at the campsite


Then Ben helped me make veggie skewers as a side dish for our special camping dinner:



Ben helps Mama put zucchini on skewers


And then we all had dinner: hamburgers, sliced sweet potatoes in tinfoil packets, and veggie skewers. The leftovers were pretty awesome chopped up into pasta sauce the next day, too:



Ben and Paul at dinner


So far, this trip was going great. Ben was having a great time at the beach. He loved the adventure of eating outside, and running around the campsite. He loved seeing the trains going by above the campsite. He did NOT love bedtime. We put him in his PJ's, and put him into his tent...which was in our tent:



Ben's tent, inside the big tent. I'm a genius.


Paul spent an hour trying to get him to sleep, and then finally, Ben said, "I want my crib." To which Paul said, "This is your camping crib." Ben seemed to accept that and ACTUALLY WENT TO SLEEP. And he only woke up a couple times in the night...until he woke up for good at FIVE FORTY FIVE IN THE MORNING. That isn't much earlier than he usually wakes up on weekdays...but I bet our neighbors didn't realize that.



Ben, up and moving at 6am. IT'S STILL DARK OUT.


Once the sun came up, Ben and I went down to the beach, where we had a Mama-Ben moment:



Ben and I look out at the ocean.


Ben absolutely loves the ocean.



Ben looks out at the ocean.


We played on the beach for a bit, and then went back to the tent for breakfast. Unfortunately, the milk I had brought had gone bad. So we decided to go into Buellton and go to Pea Soup Andersen's. This is one of the best, most hilarious, and most delicious tourist traps of the California highways. It's so iconic that my mother also used to stop there, on the road to San Francisco. Ben is the third generation of the family to stop at Pea Soup Andersen's while on a road trip. And Ben also loves pea soup.



Ben enjoys his pea soup breakfast


Did I mention it's a tacky tourist trap?


Paul and Ben goofing around as Lum-pea and Pea-wee


We returned to camp, went to the beach one last time, and then Ben had a snack:



Yes, Ben does have an apple AND a peach


It was a very successful weekend, and I'm thrilled that we can now share our love of the outdoors, with the tiny boy we love so much. Ben LOVED camping. We plan to start doing this on a regular basis, so we can get out of the city a little more...and see our son's little face light up with joy like it did so many times this trip.

trip to vancouver (a slightly delayed entry)
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Paul, Ben and I went on an adventure to “The Best Place on Earth”™ a couple weeks ago. We flew into Victoria, stayed a day there, and then ferried it over to the mainland to visit all our friends and relations in Vancouver. Of which we have many. (Well, I have many. Paul has many by marriage.)

First of all, I love Vancouver. I especially love visiting my friends there. And on this trip, I had promised one tiny boy a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium with his Aunt Naf. Naf and I had been planning to spend the day together with my boys for months, and eventually, I decided we would start by meeting at the Aquarium. So, at 11am on a drizzly Monday, I found myself navigating Stanley Park in my mother’s Jeep Liberty, trying desperately to remember how to get to the Aquarium. I haven’t been there since I took my Brownie troop for a sleepover in 2004, after all, and Stanley Park is awfully big – and full of one way roads. But I found the aquarium, found a parking spot, and hopped out with the boys to find a slimmer-than-I-remembered Cool Aunt Nafeesa at the front door. Ben looked a LITTLE puzzled at first, but he warmed up to Naf the second they got to the Tropical Tank, full of sharks and turtles.

Maybe I should add, Ben has seen Finding Nemo about fifteen times, and he loves the sharks and turtles. “Fish friends, NO food!” he tells us. Or, when he sees a turtle, he yells, “Turkle! Whoa, dude!” Immediately, this tank was a big hit. Ben happily stayed there staring at the animals while Naf pointed at them. By the time he was done, he remembered how much he loved Aunt Naf.

Then we went on upstairs, and out into the drizzle. Maybe I should add that, for a drizzly Monday, the aquarium was PACKED. It was a challenge to find a dry place to eat our picnic lunch – a mess of Whole Foods products I’d picked up at Capers before heading to the aquarium. But we did find a spot, and as we were eating, Ben started pointing – at raccoons. Raccoons may not be the sort of animal you usually find in an aquarium, but these guys apparently were teenager raccoons who had lost their mother at a young age, and grown up on the garbage around the aquarium. Ben was fascinated by them, and kept pointing in between bites of hummus. Toddlers are easily amused. Maybe next time I should just take him to a park to watch garbage-eating animals like raccoons, and coyotes.

The Vancouver Aquarium is one of the biggest on the continent, and it has an amazing array of displays and marine life. Of course, the big hits are always the marina mammals: the dolphins, the whales, and the furry guys. There is no orca any more, since the aquarium wouldn’t replace the former orca when it passed away. But there are dolphins who were injured, and unable to return to the wild, who did a show of leaps and splashes and “walking” on their tails. And there is an adorable sea otter. And, Ben’s surprising favorite, Beluga whales. I didn’t expect Ben to be so into those whales, but he LOVES the belugas. He watched them for the better part of twenty minutes, pointing and saying, “coming back!” when a beluga came back from swimming away. There was a mama beluga, and a baby beluga, and Ben just adored them. Naf bought him a copy of “Baby Beluga” and a stuffed beluga to commemorate his first visit to those whales. I knew he loved orcas - but belugas?

We also acquired another aunt at the Aquarium: Aunt Rachel! Rachel is one of Paul’s oldest friends, who now lives in Washington State. She took the train up, and got through Customs just in time to meet us for the dolphin shows at the Aquarium. Rachel also hasn’t seen Ben since he was Very Wee (I think he was only four or five months old), so seeing this tiny boy was a surprise to her. But she got to see him rampage through the Aquarium for a couple hours, until we finally decided it was time to pack it up and go take a nap in our hotel room. Which, this trip, was back up on UBC campus, in one of the West Coast suites: rooms that are given to visiting academics or conference attendees, and which are let out as hotel rooms when not needed for University business. Rachel ended up staying on campus too; since her next train wasn’t until the next day, we found that she could stay in a hostel type room (read: ununsed dorm single) for the night for around $30. I should add, when I suggested staying at UBC, Paul gave me the same Look that he gave me when I made jokes about Arts County Wedding. It’s not so much disapproving as it is to convey that he is less than enthused with my apparent need to re-live college. But the UBC suites, at $200 or so, are actually a good deal for Vancouver, and Paul agreed with that. (With Ben, if we want to sleep, he needs to be in a different room from us.)

Naf rejoined us at UBC, and while Paul put Ben down for his nap, the three of us girls sat around talking about…weddings. Nafeesa is marrying her long-term boyfriend Chris on 9/10/11 (actually, wait, Naf – is that September or October next year? You guys write your dates differently than I do now). Of course, being Nafeesa, she’s already got the wedding mostly planned. There’s legwork to be done, and details to be ironed out, but she’ll have it organized and project managed. Since she is brown, and has to have a wedding with lots of extended relatives, she needs more advance planning than I did. Rachel and I both planned our own weddings (although Naf ran my wedding on day-of), and Naf was far ahead of where we would have been even a couple months before. Rachel’s wedding was in a historic theater in Jacksonville, Florida, by the way, and mine was here in L.A. at the River Center, but neither of ours was a BIG wedding. For which we were both grateful at the time.

After my tired toddler woke up, we went for a walk to check Rachel into her room. Of course, it was in Place Vanier, a ten minute walk from Gage, so the five of us had an opportunity to walk across UBC campus. Walking through UBC is a bit strange for me now: I see the new campus, with the new library and the new condo buildings, and it’s mentially superimposed on the old campus as I knew it over the years. Parts of it are still the same waterlogged, mossy buildings I was used to, but some things have moved, or been re-built, or changed in some other way. Still, when Naf said, “I love visiting UBC. It’s like coming home,” I agreed. I have so many happy memories of UBC campus. My last semester (spring, 2003), was just, well, awesome. But I wandered that campus for years, as my home village, as the place where I and some of my dearest friends lived. I was part of the campus culture. And it is like an old home. Being back at UBC – and back in Vancouver – makes me very calm.

We eventually wandered back to our rooms, and prepared to go meet the gang for dinner. When I say, “the gang”, I mean a whole crew of AUS alumni whom I went to school with. One by one, they arrived at the all you can eat sushi place we’d chosen for dinner. My ties to my friends in Vancouver aren’t as strong as they used to be though, and it’s difficult to face that sometimes. I’m not part of their lives any more, as they are not part of mine in L.A….and also, I’m coming back with a husband and baby. My life is totally different now than it was when I left, and it’s different than the lives of many of my college friends. Everyone has grown up, everyone has careers and plans and lives of their own. But I will always be able to visit my friends, and hear them tell stories and laugh for an evening. Also, all you can eat sushi is highly entertaining with that crew. One of the guys just takes charge and goes through the menu, auction-style, with commentary. It's hard to explain, but hilarious at the time.

We were able to all catch up a bit for a couple hours, reminisce about Hilarious Drinking Episodes, and still wrap up dinner just after 8pm. At which point, I took my little extended family back to UBC to sleep. We dropped Rachel off at Vanier, causing me to have to try to remember the car-compatible routes through a pedestrian campus. And then we built Ben a little nest out of the sofa bed mattress on the floor, and went to sleep for the night, exhausted.
Tuesday, I had plans with Sharolyn to see her two babies. Amazing that both of us became moms so quickly, but neither of us had been able to see each others’ children yet. Shar’s eldest, Izzy (Isabeau) is three months younger than Ben…and her youngest, Corbin, is almost exactly a year younger than his sister. It’s kind of mind-twisting to think that Shar and I have a decade-old friendship, and in that time, have gone from Sex & The City to…being grown-ups. There we were, with her two babies, and my baby and husband, having a brunch in a restaurant full of other bohemian moms. Because so much of my grown-up life has happened in L.A., it’s strange to go back to Vancouver and see that grown-up life also happened to other people when I wasn’t looking.

Since there were multiple kids involved, Shar suggested the Little Nest, on Commercial Drive. This was THE MOST GENUIS ESTABLISHMENT I HAVE EVER SEEN, featuring a children’s play area in the middle for toddler-sized kids. You go in, order your delicious bistro-type food, and have it brought to you while you distract your kids with new-to-them stuff. You can actually CARRY ON A CONVERSATION without being distracted by a toddler. Corbin was too small to play, but he was such a laid-back baby that Shar and I could actually talk (about our children, of course). And I was proud of Ben. He was nice to both of Shar’s kids, even though Corbin was “a baby”, and Izzy was a bit shy. Ben himself can be a bit shy, but give him some time, and he warms up. Especially where the ladies are concerned. When we took the kids to the park across the street, Ben even asked Izzy if she wanted to go on the slide with him. Maybe we can set them up when they’re older.

After brunch, and after the park, it was time for us to roll out to Richmond. I have extended family on my English side there: two of my father’s three brothers, and their wives, are still in the same neighborhood in that suburb. My Uncle Reg is also the brother who was closest, in age and in emotion, to my father. Ben will never know his granddad, but I do want him to know my father’s family. So we visited my uncles and aunts for the afternoon. My Aunt Eileen even found a box of toys that had belonged to her son David, who kept picking things up and remarking, “Wait, Mum, you saved these?” David is older than I am by over a decade, dating his toys to the early 70s. My aunt had also brought out a tub filled with ceramic animals that my grandmother (my father’s mother) had collected out of Red Rose tea boxes. And as Ben happily sat there and played on the floor, occasionally holding up a ceramic animal and informing us what he thought it was (hedgehog="Armadillo!") my relatives remarked on how good his hand-eye coordination was, and how smart he was. They all have grandchildren of their own, of course, but those babies are grown-up now. I was thrilled they were so taken with my own son, and that, in turn, Ben somehow recognized them as being family, and wasn’t too overwhelmed. Ben seems to know “his people”, as Paul puts it, and he loves getting all the attention from his great-aunts and great-uncles.

I also really enjoyed visiting with my British relatives. It does a lot of good to just be with family, and I find being with my soft-spoken English relatives to be comforting. I’m having the opportunity to kind of re-discover my extended family now that I’m a grown-up as well, and to have them meet my husband and son. And, I hope, as Ben gets older, he will appreciate this branch of his family as well. It may already be in his genetics anyways, since he’s extraordinarily fond of The Wind in the Willows, and Thomas the Tank Engine. (Thomas prompted a lively discussion about train culture in the UK among my uncles, who apparently had caught the show recently on TV.)

We hit a small hurdle on the way home, called Sasquatch. Not a Sasquatch. But the festival, Sasquatch. The 5pm ferry was completely booked, and we had to wait for a 7pm sailing. I hadn’t expected the 5pm on a Tuesday to be full, and immediately started kicking myself for not making a reservation. But while Paul and I were waiting in line, he noticed a lot of modern-day hippies playing hacky-sack. As in, more than one group. At first, I saw a carload or two and figured, OK, kids heading for Tofino. Then we realized that the terminal parking area was FILLED with car loads of kids wearing hemp tops or Cowichan sweaters, crammed in older cars and vans, and we realized – we had been delayed by Sasquatch. Damn hippies.

Everything worked out OK though. We got on the boat, picked up dinner for Ben in the cafeteria, and then went up to the play area. Eventually, we got home to Oak Bay, with a sleepy toddler – and dreadful head colds. Oh well. It was still a successful trip. It was still a wonderful trip. And, as my tiny boy gets bigger, I can't wait to take him, more and more, to visit the places I still call, "home".

23andme mixups = hilarious baby swap results!
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jilliantate
We recently sent our DNA samples (read: spit) to 23andme for analysis. "We" being Paul and I. I caught the 4/23 special of a $99 all-inclusive DNA analysis, and promptly signed us up. I wanted to know what conditions we may be at risk for so I can try to avoid them, and I was also hoping some data may come up on my DNA other than "Northern Europe". Unfortunately, I don't think they can go as far as saying, "you have a genetic marker only found in [insert family legend heritage here]", but they may be able to clear up whether my Eastern Russian great grandmother had genetics similar to the Inuit.

I'm just going to have to hope that they don't accidentally swap out our DNA as happened recently. I would hate to think that my baby was SWAPPED AT BIRTH because anonymized DNA data results told me so. Oh, wait, I can LOOK AT MY SON and immediately see a family resemblance (Baby Ben looks a lot like Baby Paul, only with my eye shape and my golden skin tones.) Seriously, can't you just tell your kid is yours through common sense and common obvious traits? Ben looks and acts like he's a mix of mine and Paul's DNA. Even if I saw results to the contrary, I'd assume they were wrong because he's so obviously OURS.

Anyways. We await our DNA results in four to six more weeks. I'm sure more commentary will follow.

Oh, and BTW - speaking of Ben - I know I owe a lot of blog posts about his Pacific Northwest adventures. They're coming. I promise.

let's start voting with our wallets!
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That's it. If the Tea Party is starting a TV channel that is "anti big government" and "pro-business", I say we all learn to be pro-business, and vote with our fucking wallets.

After all, we were pro-business for the last thirty years since Reagan, and look where it got us. Real wages, adjusted for inflation, have gone down. The pay of the average American, compared to the CEOs, has been dwarfed. You would think these groups would be clamoring for the blood of the businesses that have forced the government to bail out the country. Instead, they're blaming the government for having to spend taxpayer dollars to be involved.

We needed healthcare because the health insurance companies were literally killing people. Those businesses were denying coverage to one in five Americans, and trying to shirk out of paying on their policies for those who were insured. After my six-week battle against United Healthcare in 2008 to get them to pay for Ben's birth, after hearing my uninsured friends tell me why they can't get coverage, after seeing my policy adjust downwards while my costs adjust upwards, I will cheer on any government interference that holds these businesses accountable.

We needed the TARP bailout because millions of Americans lost their savings, houses and pensions to bankers who gambled with it. Goldman Sachs is being held accountable for fraud as a company - but thanks to the American corporation status, none of the actual individuals who committed those acts will suffer. Ditto WaMu and their thousands of risky mortgages. None of the individuals will be held accountable for the damage done.

So this is why I don't get the Tea Party and the extreme right wing. We trusted business to take care of the market for too long, and it's just resulted in everyone being squeezed. It's not your taxes, America. It's the nickel and diming that these corporations are taking from you. And the government would never have had to step in if all you hard working Middle Americans hadn't bought into it. The only reason we need the government to be as big as it is, is because individuals who run the free enterprise system, can't be trusted to ethically run the corporations that have dominance over the country.

Oh, by the way, that will mean paying more money. For example, it will mean flying airlines that pay their pilots decent wages. It will mean spending more on a car that is a better quality product. It will mean spending more money on groceries because we support locally grown, environmentally responsible, high quality nutrition for our families. That's free enterprise. That's how it works.

What's that, right wing? You don't want to pay more for your plane tickets? Fine, then you can fly a regional jet that pays their pilots below the poverty line. Then the government has to supply those pilots with food stamps to cover the gap. You don't want to pay more for your groceries? Fine, then you have to let the government subsidize agriculture - a socialist measure. You don't want to pay more for your gas? Then you have to let the government tax you so they can supply subsidies for oil.

I say that us left-wingers show the Tea Party how it's DONE. Let's vote with our wallets for self-sustaining, profitable businesses who have achieved success through decent practices, and who do not rely on, at some level, the government to bring down the price. Let's buy from companies who pay their taxes, who do business in a true free enterprise manner. That's exactly the sort of places us lefties already shop at. Hey, wait! We're actually doing a better job of NOT sucking up government money!

Also, us liberals are just going to have to learn to hit businesses that support this nonsense agenda where they live. If that Right Network goes live, we'll all cancel our Comcast. We'll all stop eating at the fast food companies that the health insurance companies are invested in. We'll take our savings out of the major banks, and put them, along with our mortgages and loans, with the companies who didn't fuck up in 2008. Let's show that we can do "pro business" better than the Tea Party!

After all, no one wants to pay more taxes. And I, a bleeding heart liberal, would happily have the government stand by and have a free enterprise system - provided that free enterprise system was ethical and fair and responsible and actually stood on its own two feet.

Find me a hard working America who can't get ahead and has joined the Tea Party as a result. I'll show you a bank, a pension lost, a school not paid for due to tax cuts for the rich/corporations. Let's hold the corporations accountable, and show them - pro-business does not mean unethical and irresponsible. Maybe then the corporations will stop encouraging the right wing to be "pro business" and anti government spending, and start driving them to do something else productive. Let's show the right wing that we are ALL against government control of free enterprise - but that we have to have corporations and businesses that do not warrant the government having to step in.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to call United Healthcare to get them to pay my damn doctor bill. Apparently, they don't think they should have to pay for tests that proved I DIDN'T have walking pneumonia.
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today's Ben photos shoot
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jilliantate
Today, I took Ben to the Target Portrait Studio in Pasadena after I picked him up from daycare. Objective: to get passport photos for his Canadian citizenship application. Unfortunately, we failed at that because Target didn't have their passport photo camera set up for someone Ben's size. However, we did have a coupon for discounted portrait packages, so I bought Ben a new white polo shirt, and attempted to get him to sit for the camera.

Of course, Ben's reaction when we went into the studio area was "Mama, up!"

I tried to persuade him to sit and pose. "Look, Ben! A tiny couch for you to sit on!"

Ben was adamant he was not OK with this. "No, Mama. Up, Mama."

So I sat on the couch with him, and he promptly climbed into my lap. No amount of showing him the camera, or asking him to be a big boy, could get him to feel comfortable enough to sit on his own on that couch. I managed to get him off my lap eventually by singing the "Winnie the Pooh" theme song, and bribing him with a trip to the Westside tomorrow to see his aunts. Then the photographer cajoled him into some poses by making noises and talking to him.

And here are the three that came out well enough to be posted!
He really looks like a tiny version of Paul here This is a totally classic Ben image -
he's got a slightly curious expression and
is trying to climb something
Here is Ben preparing to host Masterpiece Theater in the future

I'm still kind of at a loss as to how we got such an adorable baby.

Oh, and just to show how much he's grown, this is from about a year ago (March, 2009):


Same tiny boy, less hair and teeth.

apb2k+10
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jilliantate
I actually went to a concert on Friday! I went to see Apoptygma Berzerk at Das Bunker. Apoptygma Berzerk (which is really one Norwegian guy, Stephen Groth) has been one of my favorite goth/industrial artists for years...and it just took me a while to get to a live show. This time, even though I had to go on my own, I was determined to make the show. So I left my husband at home with our baby, dragged my PVC dress out of storage, and traipsed down to the club.

I've only been to Das Bunker for a few special events over the years - VNV Nation and Das Bootie are the two I remember. Das Bunker is held at Jewel's Catch One, a two-and-a-half story club that is a warren of rooms, stairs, corners, and one large ballroom for the main shows. You enter by going up a flight of stairs...and then either going into the ballroom, to the bar, or down a narrow stairway to the lower level rooms. There's lounges and seats in random places, including in the space that is a coffeehouse by day, but is the powernoize room by night. There's a retro room, which plays either second wave industrial, or the sort of third wave EBM that I danced to a decade ago in the Mercury in Seattle. And every time I've been there, the place has been almost crowded: the three rooms draw goths from every genre and sub-genre, from rivethead to Romantigoth.

Friday night, there were an abundance of the cybergoths and Gravers. Gravers are the goth ravers, who started appearing in the late nineties, and have been drifting around ever since. They have colorful falls and extensions, and include more colors - neon green, mostly - along with their black. But few of them drifted, like I did, down to the retro room. After getting in, and realizing that the show was far from starting, I opted to stay downstairs in the retro area instead of listening to the stompy techno remixes (somewhere just on the trance side of EBM) that were being played in the ballroom. So I stayed downstairs, sipping a club soda and watching Blade Runner, which was being projected onto one wall. Points to whoever decided on that DVD - it fit extremely well with the Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb.

I wandered upstairs again after half an hour or so, and took a place near the stage for when the show started. Even alone, I feel comfortable in a goth club. This is a subculture I've identified with for a dozen years or so, and I know I share the same cultural touchstones and references as most of the other people around me. And I like being someplace where I will know and enjoy the music that is being played. So I stood there, half-dancing alone at times (there was a remix of Mesh's "Petrified" on at one point, and I love Mesh), thinking about how it is that I'm perfectly at home in a club that looks like a scene out of a dystopian movie, and watching as the occasional band member or roadie fixed something on stage. And finally, the DJ shut down, and the sampler started up, and the stage filled with artificial smoke, and I recognized "Eclipse".

One of the reasons Apoptygma Berzerk is popular is because the band tours regularly, and Stephen Groth knows how to work an audience. He said "L.A." at least ten times over the evening: "Sing to me, L.A.!", "It's good to be back in L.A.", etc. Granted, every time he did, I thought of Spinal Tap reading off their guitars on the Simpsons ("It's good to be back in...Springfield."), but he still knew how to work the crowd. Like David Gahan of Depeche Mode, Groth knows that his fans love his music, and they know all the words, and he will hold out a microphone and tell them to sing along. Depeche Mode concerts almost resemble a sing-along at times, especially during "Enjoy the Silence", and Apoptygma Berzerk was similar in that regard. Of course, it was much better to be singing and waving while ten feet from the lead singer, instead of being hundreds of feet away at the Hollywood Bowl or the Staples Center. Groth sang and bounced around and thanked the crowd for being there, and acknowledged that they all knew his work and knew it going all the way back. He threw in "Bitch", and "Love Never Dies" (THERE'S a late 90s anthem - took me right back to Sandman graphic novels and The Crow). They played a handful of tracks off the new album, but opened and wound down with "Welcome to Earth". I also knew the show was ending soon when Groth yelled, "Are you ready for some synthpop?" and the opening sample to "Kathy's Song" started. THAT is a sing-along classic, and everyone in the room knew it. And after that song, instead of waiting for the encore ("Mourn", I was sure), I snuck out, and headed home before the tiredness I knew was waiting for me, could catch up with me.

I found my car, and drove home, still elated from the show. I had so enjoyed it, and had enjoyed being out at the club. I don't go out much anymore - I'm a mama, after all, and I work. But I do love it - I love to dress up, go out and dance to music that I know and enjoy. And I love seeing shows where the musicians know how to perform, and know how to share their emotions with the crowd. Good performers know that there is an emotional bond that their fans have with the music, and they will bring more enthusiasm and enjoyment to their performances because of it. It was a good night - I enjoyed it - and I still had enough energy when I got home to remove my layers upon layers of eyeliner before going to sleep.
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ben & the bunny
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Best parts are the "Hi." at 0:22...and when he bosses the bunny around at the end.

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