Archive for the ‘ Fia Friday ’ Category

Death (Valley) on the Day of my Birth

Friday, January 4th, 2013

I turned forty-whexianoehna (that’s a giant sneeze sound for “something”) over the holiday. Phil and I have a tradition of going to a museum on my birthday. One year, to gain perspective on how little I mattered in the scheme of the universe, we went to the Natural History Museum. We were living in New York and it was a time that I was questioning my purpose in life (pre-kids, clearly).  Just walking through all those exhibits documenting civilizations past really did help pound home the idea that I’m just a blip. We all are. Depressing? Maybe. Or just a good way to stop taking yourself so seriously.

This year we were immensely enjoying our first “staycation.” We kept toying with the idea of going to San Diego for a night with the kids, or to Palm Desert. We couldn’t make a decision/commitment, so we just left everything loose (which resulted in the best week we’ve had in years).

Phil kept asking what I wanted to do for my birthday, but I remained noncommittal. I was having too much fun just “winging” it. On my birthday it was raining. Here’s how the day shaped up:

Me: “Hmm…what should we do today? It’s raining.”

Phil: “It’s not raining in Death Valley.”

An hour later we had packed up the kids and were heading off on a 5-hour road trip to one of the most extreme places on earth. We had booked the last hotel room at basically the only hotel in Death Valley: Furnace Creek.  (They have a sister property down the road as well).

In case you didn’t know, Death Valley holds the record for the hottest place on earth (134-degrees back in July 1913). This time of year though, it’s chilly. As in 54-degrees or so. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is also their busiest. But by busy, that only means one hotel in a huge swath of desert.  The hotel isn’t even that big. We didn’t fight RV’s for road space or gobs of tourists at the 3 restaurants. It was the perfect time to go.

A friend of mine asked, “How did you entertain kids in that place?”

For us, it was easy. We told Fia we were going on an adventure. We’ve done it before to other stranger places, like the Saltan Sea. Someday when she’s a teenager, she’ll probably roll her eyes and beg to stay home. But at this age, she is totally game and gets as excited as we do (though she doesn’t know over what). And Emmett, well, he is the easiest, most chill baby in the world. So we were golden.

 

On the way up we stopped in two ghost towns and explored.

By the time we arrived at the hotel it was dark and their restaurant was sold out. So we just plopped down at a table near the lobby-bar and enjoyed a lovely birthday dinner. With wine of course. (I know this is starting to sound like a book report, but I am a bit rusty from taking so much time off.)

The next morning we began our adventure. We started off at the Sand Dunes (where George Lucas shot some of the scenes from Star Wars…remember when C3PO and R2D2 crash in the escape pod?). We said to Fia, “Look at this!! This is like the biggest sandbox ever!”

 She screamed in delight and took off running. We played hide and seek. We played chase. Emmett giggled on my back as I ran after her and Phil. It was a blast.

 

An hour later, we headed to the lowest point in the U.S.: Badwater Basin. It’s basically a lake of hardened salt, 282 feet below sea level. There, we played catch with rocks of salt. We even licked some. We ran all over, feeling it crunch under our feet.

From there, we pulled over spontaneously at what’s called Devil’s Cornfield. It was an even more extreme feel of crunching land. I honestly could have stayed in that field and crunched all day.

On the way back home, we stopped at the famous Amargosa Opera House in the ghost town of Amargosa. By famous I mean you probably have never heard of it. Fia and Emmett were both sleeping, so Phil and I took turns getting out of the car and checking things out.

We got home at 9 pm, thus concluding our 2-day, 1-night, whirlwind tour of Death Valley. And another year where I got tremendous perspective on the day of my birth: I am the luckiest woman in the world.

More Pics:

Above: Em standing on sand. Below: Fia being tossed (I was more gentle than it looks) down a hill of sand. By choice.

 

 

 

 

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Dear Fia, You Are Three…

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

 

Dear Fia,

I want to share the first half of this Winnie-the-Pooh poem by  A.A. Milne:

When I was One, I had just begun.

When I was Two, I was nearly new.

When I was Three, I was hardly me….

They say three years old is one of the most magical years of childhood. I can believe it. You are gushing with creativity, curiosity and imagination. You are forming into a little person. Yet, the world is still so big. You know your space in it, but you don’t know how vast that space is. You know you’re loved, but not how much. You know you’re safe, but not from what. It is magical for me too. I want bottles with each year of your life in it. Someday when I’m old and gray I can open up your three-year-old bottle and breathe you back into me.

It is hard to fathom three years have passed since that snowy day at Columbia Presbyterian. In some ways it seems like you’ve been with me forever. In other ways, it’s like you are this gift that I’ve only just begun to know. Both are delightful scenarios because while the feeling in my heart is timeless, I get to keep on loving you for years and years to come.

I said to you the other day, “You’re my sunshine.” You looked right back at me, shook your head and said ever-so-earnestly, “No Mama. I’m your daughter.”

You charm me (and maybe manipulate??) in a way no one else can. When I put you in your crib for a nap or bedtime, hug you many times, and walk away, you always stand up and say, “Mama, hug!” as if I hadn’t yet. But I always have more hugs for you. “Hold you tight,” you say, squeezing me as hard as you can. Then, “One nice kiss.” You kiss my cheek. Lately, in keeping me there with more manipulation, you say, “I love you soooooo much.” And hug me even tighter. I don’t want to let go either. Like I said, I need a bottle…

When I finally get you to lie down, the tickling begins.

“Tickle my forehead.”

We started the “tickling” about 6 months ago. Now it seems to expand weekly to every body part. Last night it went like this:

“Tickle my back.” (shirt raised, butt in air). Okay, done.

“Tickle my stomach” (roll over, lift shirt up). I had a slight hangnail.

“Mama, your nail is sharp.”

“I know, so no more tickling. Night night.”

“No Mama, go cut your nail,” you order, pointing to the clippers and emery board on the dresser. Huh? How did you…? Oh, never mind. Just do what she says. I do. Tickling resumes.

“Tickle my knees.”

“Really Fia?”

“Yes Mama,” you reply, as if this wasn’t becoming a tad ridiculous. You pull up your pajama pants and I tickle each knee.

“Okay honey, goodnight.”

“No Mama, what about my elbows?”

Seriously?

But even if I’m exhausted, I never tire of this routine. That’s because someday, when you are a teenager, (with a STRICT curfew), I will yearn for these days. Another mom who has a 16- and 18-year-old told me, “As exhausted as you are now getting them to sleep and waking up at 6 a.m., it’s a lot better than waiting up for them to come home. Trust me.” I do.

The mere thought of it breaks my heart. So when I’m really desperate for you to go to sleep, I channel my new mantra: How lucky I am to have this and not be staring at the clock, hoping you are okay.

At three, you also delight in letting us know if we forgot something. The other day you and I went on our thrice-weekly grocery run.

“I need to get baby food.”

“Oh-O-o-kkay!” you say, brimming with enthusiasm. “I-I-I will pick it out.”

We shopped for all sorts of things. We pay and are in the parking lot when you start giggling and announce with glee, “Mama, you forgot the baby food! Silly Mama!”

You were right. And strategic in making sure we already left before you called me on it. “Logical Consequences,” as my father would say. We head back in, and you continue to repeat “Silly Mama!”

The old adage, “Would you rather be right or happy” may apply to you someday. But for now, you are both right and happy.

Woe to the person who shuts your door all the way. (Which by the way, began when your favorite TV show made you afraid of the dark.) One time I had it almost shut and the air conditioning blew it the rest of the way. From the wailing I heard, I thought your crib had collapsed. I ran in and found you sobbing. “Mama, you aren’t supposed to shut the door!” Tears were streaming down your little face and once again I was reminded what my love for you does. It takes me to my knees. Not because you will be scarred for life from this, but just seeing you so genuinely upset (and feeling betrayed) tugs so deeply at my heartstrings. To anyone else this scenario may sound absurdly dramatic, but feelings aren’t facts. However, they are real.

Since then, I have paid the price. Not a day goes by without this:

“Mama, you need to leave the door open this much, not this much. This much,” you say, as if you’re explaining and demonstrating with your little hands for the first time. Sometimes you insist on getting out of your crib and showing me, just to make sure I really am not an ape.

“Fia, I know honey.”

“But Mama, you left it open.”

“Fia, that was months ago.”

“Mama forgot! Silly Mama.” And we’re back to the glee in being right. Nothing will slip past you, my girl.

You are so articulate. It doesn’t hurt that you have a screenwriter for a father. But still, you understand the meanings of big words. After Wayne–our transexual cat–freaks out batting around a tennis ball, you’ll shout, “Wayne is cantankerous! And feisty!” (Apparently the cat takes after his mom). When Emmett hurls himself into a wall you’ll yell, “Mama! Emmett is being rambunctious!”

I keep saying it can’t get better than this. But apparently it does. Right now you are three and you walk with me. But what I hope for most of all is this, from Winnie-the-Pooh:

“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”

 

 

 

 

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Fia Friday: Babes In The Bayou

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Before Thanksgiving I took the kids on my own (gasp. Read about my horrendous challenging trip down there) to see my Baba Yaga (Aunt Nancy) outside New Orleans.

Emmett had never been to her place on the bayou, but Fia had. When she was 18 months I took her down there. What a difference another 18 months makes. The first time around she almost murdered Peg and Peepers, the lovebirds. This time it was far different. She took poor little crippled Peeps under her proverbial wing. Every morning all she wanted to do was hold him, lie with him, put him on her head…you know, all the normal things people do with birds.

 

Granted, at times she accidentally put him in a chokehold, but alas, he did survive. And not just barely…like last time. My tot is growing up and she is learning what it really means to be gentle (sorry, I’m getting mushy with her 3-year birthday on Sunday).

Oh, there were other things too…the stuff of the swamps.

Frogs…

And lizards…

And giraffes. Wait? Huh?

The giraffes are one of 3000 animals on 900 acres of land at the Global Wildlife Park. I would say it was amazing, but, well, we did think at one point we might not survive. Baba has a bad shoulder. Emmett is 9 months old. And in our private tour we took– which consisted of a flatbed pick-up with some benches and rails but nothing else–there were moments of sheer pandemonium…and a little fear that we might get eaten, or more realistically, bitten, by a zebra…or five. We didn’t realize that by taking the private tour, you get so up and close and personal, you may not make it out alive. At least if you’re with tiny tots.

Oh, and I should also mention who our guide was: an 18-year-old kid who clearly never had been around babies, at least not while four-wheeling. He was tossing us all over the place. We would be screaming in the back as we got pushed from side to side. I’d be holding onto Emmett for dear life, while trying to fight off buffalo mouths full of saliva on one-side and elk antlers nearly blinding us on the other. All the while he’d be up front, gassing the engine and yelling to us about the difference between a black duck and a camel. Or something to that effect. I honestly didn’t hear a word he said.

All he told us before he took off was, “Zebras bite, elk have antlers that can maim and the giraffes like to get into your space.” Then he plopped a huge bucket of corn down, gave us some cups to throw feed out, and went flying. By the end, we were covered in corn dust and spit from many species and utterly tuckered. I wish I could post the video…but technology isn’t my forte and I could barely keep my son alive, much less capture pictures to show the chaos that ensued.

That day was about the perfect example of how Baba and I roll. Just like we did on our Kilimanjaro adventure…laughed through the hazardous feat. Like I said before, no one quite “gets” us, but that’s the way we like it. I do think Fia is going to have that same kindred spirit with us. And Emmett, well he just goes with everything. BEST BABY EVER. And a reminder that there’s never a dull moment in the Bayou with Baba.

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Fia Friday: Halloween and more…

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Just a fun, light post of our Halloween here in LA.

We had friends who came in from Brooklyn for the Wreck-It Ralph premiere and got stuck because of Hurricane Sandy. More kids=more pumpkins to carve!

Yup. That’s Fia’s Dad (below). My husband. Looking, well, very Jack White.

Our friends who actually loaned us our costumes! John, Henrik and Jenny Strauss.

Fia at her preschool Halloween party with friend Cece…and her little brother Emmett the cutest pumpkin of all!

She was a butterfly….

 

 

With best friend Teddy comparing candy bags…

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Wreck-It-Ralph! My Husband’s Movie! A Must See!

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

 

Okay, I’m biased, but the movie Phil has worked on for over 3 years is officially out this weekend. Wreck-It Ralph hits theaters Friday afternoon. Phil’s credits include Story By and Screenplay By.

When I saw the movie a few weeks ago, I was truly blown away by the complexity of the story and the worlds that he created. There are Wreck-It-Ralph posters all over this city. Every time we pass one, Fia yells, “Look Mama! It’s Wreck-it-Ralph! Daddy’s movie!” I love that she will always have this as something her Dad did, starting when she was in my belly.

Fingers and toes are crossed for a stellar box office weekend. I’m thinking for all those going stir-crazy in your homes back east, this is a perfect break from it all! So if you have nothing else to do…grab your kids, your friends, your spouse, and go! It’s a four-quadrant movie, which means it appeals to all audiences. And in case you’re wondering, the reviews are stellar. A.O. Scott of the NY Times gave it 5 out of 5. Magnificent!

And just in case you needed a garbage can on the beach in Santa Monica…we have one for you!

Or, if you need entertained on the NYC Subway (pre-flood/Hurricane)…

My cousins at Disney World last week… yes, there are Wreck it Ralph bags! And all sorts of other crap things. Come on! It’s Disney! What did you expect?

Should you ever want to pixelate your face….

 

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