I am bursting with travel tips now that we’ve come back from a quick visit to San Fransisco. I’m not going to share any here (except for this: leftover Hillshire Farms kielbasa ended up being a good idea for our early flight back home).

There were many differences between my first trip out to SF in 2009 and last weekend’s, most notably the almost four-year-old we had to bring with us. She is a fine traveler, and had a good time. San Francisco provided her plenty of chances to talk loudly about strange (to her) people she saw on the streets, including:

  • A dwarf (or “a little adult”)
  • A homeless man sleeping on the sidewalk (she mentioned this a couple times afterwards)
  • A total of five off-work street performers covered in metallic paint (she also claimed to see one at the pool back home, but it was just a woman wearing an all-white ensemble including a weird white hat)

I really like visiting there. I think it’s a beautiful city, and even the residential areas are fun to walk around.  We did mostly kid-friendly things. We went to Fisherman’s Wharf a few times (Musee Mecanique again, sea lion watching, the Aquarium of the Bay) and took a couple of dog walks on the beach. It’s so awesome having the Golden Gate bridge on one side of your view and Alcatraz on the other. As someone pointed out to me, I already live in a place with landmarks everywhere you look* but it was still cooler.

Other things of note:

We used Uber for the first time. Once from the airport, and twice just to avoid walking another mile uphill carrying a small person (which is really, really challenging — a stroller wouldn’t have helped that much). When we first got an Uber car after getting groceries, we ushered our child into the back seat and buckled her in (no car seat, don’t judge, we were tired and achy and they really are very steep hills). She looked nervous and kept her hands in her lap.

“You look nervous,” we told her.
“Well I am a little nervous,” she said. We asked why. “We just got in the man’s car.”

I guess that must have seem weird that a car rolls up to us (Uber is pretty quick) and we all get in there without explaining anything to her.

Also, we went to Santa Cruz for the day and went to the Mystery Spot (it’s a crazy house that defies logic. Up is down, tall is short!) . R explained the mystery to us after the tour (it wasn’t revealed in our tour, but when he went ten years ago it was). Bubble blown and burst. It was still cool and we saw a bunch of hummingbirds while waiting for our tour. Then we went to the Santa Cruz boardwalk and while we were walking on the beach by all the rides I was reminded of The Lost Boys. And it turns out it was because the Lost Boys was filmed there! I was so excited about this. The beachy carnival was a good giveaway. So was the beefy greasy guy playing the saxophone. And all the damn vampires.

We walked a million miles (or, less than two, after I mapped it later) from Golden Gate Park down to lower Haight looking for some place to eat (it’s so strange to see people dressed like hippies there — it’s like it’s a Disney World attraction). We asked a fellow with a kid where we should go and he pointed us to the Little Chihuahua, and it was a great meal. Then later, when I told my brother-in-law about it, he said he’d never heard of it, and I was like “what is this amazing city where you don’t know about every restaurant that opens because your local news isn’t 80%  food stories about the same places?” We also had really good pizza at some place I don’t remember. But I ate a lot of it.

R ventured off on his own to see some tattoo-things, and sweet talked his way into a tattoo from a legend. I had never heard of the guy, but after reading about him, it seems like a pretty big deal.

Also my daughter watched hours of “Dora the Explorer,” so she probably thinks California is the best place on earth. And we watched the first episode of “The Knick” and all I can think about are white shoes.

*Oh I just decoded the “Full House” theme song.

star fish and non-star fish

star fish and non-star fish

That bridge that Godzilla ruined

That bridge that Godzilla ruined

Santa Cruz. Not pictured: Blood-sucking Brady Bunch

Santa Cruz. Not pictured: Blood-sucking Brady Bunch



This is a longer version of this from RVAnews.

My daughter: I want to watch a photo.
Me: A photo?
Her: Of the one that I like. About the man who can’t eat anything.
Me: The video we watched last night? (“Weird” Al’s “Fat”)
Her: Yeah. ‘I’m getting fat!’

While driving home, Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun” comes on the radio.
Me: It’s your jam!
Her: It’s not my jam, it’s your jam!
Me: It’s not my jam. I thought it was your favorite song.
Her (crying): It’s not my jam!
I turn down the radio.
She is constantly drawing now, which is the perfect activity. Her dad paints a lot, and when she sees him paint, she wants to paint or draw, too. Her specialty is heads with arms that shoot out of the sides and little stick legs (by the end of the summer, the heads have teeth). Sometimes they are self portraits, and sometimes they are other people. We have sheets of drawn heads all over the house and in the backseat of the car (it seems that every place she goes gives her an opportunity to draw something). Toward the end of the summer she presents a drawing to me that is a “snowman jumping rope” and a “broken teenager.”
We are about to go into Mexico for lunch, and she picks up a drawing from the and says she has to give it to the man (we don’t know which man). When we go inside, she hands the drawing the person who shows us to our seat.
“She drew it for you,” I said.
“Okay,” he said. I don’t what he does with it from there.
She and I have gotten home past her bedtime because we had dinner at a food truck court (burgers and gelato). We both go outside while I take the dog out, and immediately she strips down to her underwear and is in her tiny pool. It’s really hard to stick to bedtime on the weekends.
She and I are eating red-fruit popsicles on the front porch. It’s very hot and windy. As she slowly eats her popsicle, the red fruit juice flies from her and keeps hitting my white blouse, which I have miraculously kept stain-free. I get up to get a napkin, leaving her on the front porch. There she is, behind the porch door, her face dripping with red, like a pint-sized vampire waiting to be invited in.
Before her Saturday swim class, my husband and I drop off our daughter at the kids’ area at the gym so that we can work out. While I’m finishing up in the gym, she and my husband walk up to me and ask if I have her bathing suit.
I do not. There was some confusion. He thought that I had packed it in her gym bag, but it was still hanging somewhere to dry.
Either way, we don’t have it. She is very upset about this. In my few years as a parent, I have never felt so bad about something we’d done. We pace around, trying to keep her calm. We think of all the options. There’s not enough time to go home and get it. Our friend who is coming to swim class doesn’t have any spare swim shorts. I almost ask a mom whose five-year-old girl is finishing swim class if we can use her swimsuit.
My daughter is sulking in the gym lobby while we wait to return our locks at the front desk. I have only one last thing to try. I pull the pack of fruit snacks from my purse. She lights up and runs over to me to get the bag, and is happy again.
I am sad for when fruit snacks won’t fix everything.
We’ve invited our friends and their son over for brunch and tiny backyard pool time. She sees her friend every day in day care, but they are both really excited to see each other. Plus, to accompany the waffles I made, our friends (the parents) brought fried chicken. So they are our best friends now.
After we eat, the kids are bathing-suited up and ready to go in the pool, but they are both bothering each other. He does something, and she hangs her head down and slowly walks away until we intervene. Then she upsets him and he hangs down his head and slowly walks off. Soon, they are both slow walking around each other in circles with their heads down. Little kids are so sensitive.
They are still best buds.
My husband is out of town for four days, and on Friday night my daughter and I watch Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs for the first time. Between taking the dog out every ten minutes and also not paying attention, I only catch about 1/3 of it. She loves it, and watches it again the next morning. And the next morning. Throughout her three viewings, I’ve watched the entire movie. It’s very funny. She loves talking like Steve the Monkey, and especially likes Baby Brent. If you haven’t seen the movie, Baby Brent’s Sardines has a commercial where Baby Brent pulls a wagon full of sardines. Kids should “watch out , Baby Brent,” as the wagon of sardines falls over. He says “Uh-oh.”
No one is as committed to anything as my daughter is to reenacting the Baby Brent sardine commercial from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.
She does this all day on Saturday, but since I missed that part of the movie on the first watch, I have no idea what she’s doing (although it’s very funny). By the end of the weekend, quotes from the movie are about 50% of what she’s talking about. I feel like my husband needs to watch it immediately just to get up to speed on what he’s missed. I buy the movie for her for $5 at Target, and when my husband watches it for the first time, I actually get excited for him to see it. Now he knows what we mean when we tell each other “Steve!”

I bring home a tomato from a coworker.
“Oh I love tomatoes,” she tells me.
“You do?” I ask.
“I’m not going to eat them until I’m an adult,” she says.
My husband’s friends are coming to dinner. The couple just moved to Richmond. My daughter and I hadn’t met them before, but she’s really excited to meet the male half. His last name is Butts.* She cannot stop talking about him. The night before they come over, the word “Butts” is said a record-breaking number of times at our dinner table (a million?). This freedom is overwhelming to her. She has never talked about another person with such enthusiasm. It’s made me lift the ban on the use of the word “butt” as an improper noun. It makes life a lot easier to have one less thing to monitor. Also, “butts” is funnier than bottom. And I like to say “hang on to your butts” while driving. It’s a win-win.
My brother is throwing out the first pitch at the Flying Squirrel’s game. Or, really, the tenth first pitch of the night. He gets free tickets because of it, but he has to leave for work as soon as it’s over. The short time leading up to the (tenth) first pitch is awesome. She plays her first round of mini golf for $1 before we go inside the Diamond. My brother gets me, my daughter, my sister, brother-in-law, and nephew on the field with him. The kids get some personal Nutzy time, my daughter gets to play catch with her uncle, and I get to enjoy the amazing view from the field. It’s an “‘80s Night” theme, and one of the ten pitches is thrown by the Ghostbusters. After the first pitch** we sit in great seats (I now think it’s worth it to buy the $11 seats). The weather is perfect for a ball game. It was overcast all day, but not humid. And after the parade of snacks: hot dog, popcorn, and Dippin’ Dots, my daughter continues to happily hang out for maybe twenty minutes. This is the first time we’ve taken her to a baseball game that I actually got to watch a significant part of it. It was really nice, and a glimpse of the good things that come with non-squirmy ages. It doesn’t hurt that she’s sitting next to her cousin and they’re both playing on their chairs. Whatever works.
My sister and her family move back to town in May (she’s been away from Richmond for seven years). This is a life-changer for me for many reasons. First, while she gets the house ready, I spend a couple of days hanging out with my nephew. I probably spend more time with him in one weekend than I have in the previous two years of his life (while I am his only aunt, it’s still important for me to be the best). She is better at seeing family than I am, so through her I see my grandparents, parents, and brother more. She’s been there when we needed a babysitter. My daughter will do anything if involves going to her aunt’s house. And I’ve already decided she’s hosting Christmas for the rest of our lives. It’s perfect.
She and I see movies together. I can’t remember the last time that happened — maybe Kill Bill Vol. 1. Our second movie night is at the Byrd — which she hadn’t been to in almost ten years (“It’s absolutely the same,” I assure her). And because she’s a good sister, she agrees to go to Shyndigz with me to get a piece of peanut butter pie.
My last memory of my sister in Richmond prior to that was when we both had apartments in the Museum District. After Hurricane Isabel I was sitting on my front porch and she was riding by on her bike. Neither of us had power. She had just been to Ukrop’s and bought cookies. I cooked her a bagel in my oven. I had power the next day, but she didn’t have it back for a couple of weeks.
My daughter has been having a hard time falling asleep lately. She’s up until almost 10 P.M. sometimes (way past her 8 bedtime). After she calls out for me from her room, I come back and sit down with her for a little while. This probably helps keep her awake, but I don’t know what else to do. I tell her a few stories. After stories she wants me to sing. I can’t recall the complete lyrics to many songs when I am not hearing them (it’s a weird problem I didn’t know that I had until she was born and I wanted to sing to her), but she requests songs from my small catalog.
“Sing ‘I’m fat,’” she requests. That is, unfortunately, one of the limited songs I know the lyrics to.
I sigh, and softly sing, “Your butt is wide, but mine is, too.”

I have mentioned before that I hate reading books because reading books is for dopes and staying up until 11:35 p.m. reading your Twitter feed is the way to go. But then, after a steady decline over the last decade, I realized that I read maybe four books in 2013 and felt sad. I was previously the type of person who always had my face in a book. I hid novels during English class in high school in the books we were reading for class.  I remember road trips as a kid by what books I was reading that kept me from wanting to get out of the minivan to do things. I was so well read by the time I went to college, and then PFFFTT (deflating balloon sound), here I am at four books.

2014 is the year I bring it back. I have challenged myself to read a book a month. And so far I have. I have had a couple of softballs, and was already reading the book I finished in January, but it feels good to be in that habit and I have read some good stuff this year.

January: House of Mirth by Edith Wharton. Age of Innocence is one of the books I read last year and loved it. HOM was pretty great, too. I haven’t read much from that time period (when they’re set and when she wrote them). Wharton is funny (I guess “a wit” is more appropriate) and the stories were sad and fascinating and seemed scandalously honest about things. AOI didn’t end how I thought it would, which I appreciated.

February: Also Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume and New School by Dash Shaw. Blume’s book probably shouldn’t count, but it does here this year. I didn’t realize it until I reread it how much of a cultural touchstone that one is with me. I, like all girls, cite Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret? as the book from my youth, but I like this one more. New School is a year-book sized graphic novel (though novel is stretching it since it’s more pictures than words). I really liked it. It took a few nights to get through but I could see reading it again.

This is not the cover of the version I read as a child but this one has Hitler and Ethel Merman on it.

This is not the cover of the version I read as a child but this one has Hitler and Ethel Merman on it.

March: Heartburn by Nora Ephron. I took out The Most of Nora Ephron from the library and read a lot of essays and even the screenplay to When Harry Met Sally. Heartburn is like a less-intellectual Fear of Flying (which I also reread last year) and was very light and fun (plus heavy marriage stuff, but still light and fun). I’m glad I finally read her work. I also watched Silkwood since Ephron wrote the screenplay, and liked that a lot. I’m late to the Ephron party, but I’m here. She’s not, though. R.I.P.

April: Running In the Family by Michael Ondaatje. Richard picked this up for me because it’s nonfiction and touches on post-Colonialism, two things that I like in books. This is a memoir packed with poetry and assumed memories about life in Sri Lanka. Quick and interesting. Good job, associate.

May: Freakonomics by Stephen J. Dubner and Stephen Levitt. The Freakonomics podcast is one of my favorites, and I finally got to the book. A lot of the chapters have already been touched on the podcast, but still held my interest. I think about the parenting and the crime rate chapters a lot.

June: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I can’t read this fast enough. READING IS AMAZING.

Even if I don’t meet the goal (which there is no reason why I shouldn’t) I’ve still read more books than I did the last couple of years. I’ve even been reading instead of burning through the latest season of Mad Men up on Netflix. That is an amazing show of self control.

Here are some things people often say to my daughter:

“Look at all that hair!”

“You’re getting so big!”

“Ana or Elsa?”

“Do you want to go to timeout?”*

It would be funny to talk to grown women the way we talk to pre-school aged girls. Can you imagine meeting up with a friend and saying any of those things?

This is not meant to be a meaningful post, I just think it’s a funny idea.


*Okay, I say that.




To me and her dad:

“Did you know about burritos?”

What she will do if her friend pulls her hair again:
“I’m going to punch him dead in the nose.”

When eating pancakes:
“I cut them out of an old blanket.”

(That is from a Peanuts strip. It’s what Violet says when Charlie Brown asks if she made the pancakes she served him).

When listening to “She Loves You”

“She does not! She doesn’t love you.”

While giving her dad a pat on the head:
“Dixie Donuts is closed. But it will be open tomorrow.”

On someone being from Wales:
“I’m from Sharks.”


our snowman.

I completed my first half marathon last weekend, which sounds a lot better to me than “I’m going to run a half marathon.” Although I got a good start on training for it, because of a leg injury, a cold, and the Affordable Care Act website, I wasn’t able to train as well as I should have. Seven miles was my previous longest run before setting out on 13.1 miles. I was nervous going in, and after hitting the 10k mark on the run, I really wanted to stop, and I walked/ran the second half. I finished in 2 hours and 34 minutes, which is pretty good considering I walked so much of it toward the end. I thought to myself “I hate this. I am never doing this again” around mile 7, but around mile 11 I thought “I should probably do this again so I can do better.”

Some tips from me to you:

Get shoes that fit

Part of my leg issues are probably due to picking out shoes on my own.  My previous running shoes were purchased at a running store with help from an expert. But they were ugly and I wanted cute shoes. So I picked cute(r) shoes and immediately I started having leg pain, and I dismissed it as just something else and definitely not the most obvious thing. Stretching, pilates, and running on the road and not the sidewalk all helped ease the leg pain.  I ran through it for almost all year until my shoes got holes in the toes. It was too late to get new shoes before the run, so I went back to my old running shoes, but it took a while for the leg pain to stop when I ran. I also stopped running as much on the road since the route I usually go has uneven pavement. I’ve been running on a soft dirt track, and that’s also better on the old stems.

Do not put “Thriller” on your playlist

I run throughout the week with Bunk, and when we set out in the am it’s usually dark, and we run by the place where the “Thriller” video was filmed (or some creepy place just like it) and just thinking about “Thriller” scares me, and not being comfortable with running in the dark anyway kept me from running a couple of times.

I made a good playlist to run to (I only listen to something when not with my dog) but I get bored with it, and prefer podcasts to keep my mind off thinking about how much I don’t want to be running. And if you read this blog with any regularity, you know that all I want to do is talk about and recommend podcasts. Like Analyze Phish. So funny.

But if you prefer music, I suggest Bombay Bicycle Club’s “Shuffle” on repeat, with Passion Pit’s “Carried Away” to break it up. I did listen to music for the last two miles of the run and MGMT’s “Kids” and U.N.K.L.E.’s “Nursery Rhyme” did bring me to the finish line feeling a little more badass than a Marc Maron interview would have.

Do not eat all the time

When I first started training I doubled the number of miles I ran a week in a few weeks, and because I didn’t want to lose weight I couldn’t keep off because I wouldn’t run as much post-race, I started to eat a lot of Peanut M&Ms during the day. So don’t do that. I should actually be pretty fit right now, but I’m not.

Don’t make fun of the musicians

I don’t know what the application process is to be a cover band that plays on the street during the big races around town, but I’m assuming there is no screening. I was immediately irritated with the first band I ran by and whatever dumb, baby boomer song they played. Then I ran by a high school kid and his guitar and it seemed to me that only high school bands should play things like this because otherwise there’s no excuse to be so terrible. But also, if you’re not there to play loud, fast songs then why bother? After coming up with a list of good jokes against the musicians who volunteered, I realized that I hadn’t even run a mile yet and I thought about how much I was running / did not want to run for the next 13 miles.  Then I felt bad for thinking poorly about those who take the time to support people who run for no reason outside of themselves. While the half marathon is not a spectator or band-heavy route, it was still nice to see the supporters who were there handing out drinks and making noise. Even if the noise is the crappy music, which only motivates people to run faster to get that mess out of earshot. Thanks, though.

Wear your medal

This run (which has an 8k, half, and full marathon) gives medals to the participants. I accidentally got the marathon medal, and by the time I realized it I was too far away to go replace it. I haven’t worn it since I got it, but I now feel like every chance I don’t take to wear my huge medal in public is a wasted moment. To  people who only did the 8k and keep brushing it off because an 8k doesn’t sound like a big deal: it is a big deal. I’m trying to pump myself up to get out of bed early and walk/run two miles with Bunk in the morning. It can be a challenge to get going, so any miles done are good ones.

Good job runners, and thanks to Richmonders for putting up with all the road closures and Saturday errand-ruining so we can do things like this.


  • On my morning runs I saw a fox, many deer, a raccoon, bunnies, and a couple fighting in the street.
  • I love running across the Boulevard Bridge. It’s beautiful.
  • I got this the night before the half marathon and it was a life-saver. I would have worn a jacket and that would have been miserable (it’s a magnetic pouch that fits over pants to carry small items).
  • Big hooray for my dad and father-in-law for also running. So  many grandpas up in our house this weekend!
  • The bananas in the post-race food tents are the best bananas on earth.

My daughter has gone from having no Thomas and Friends things to only Thomas and Friends things so quickly that I think I must have passed out and missed the last few weeks because I’m not entirely sure how that happened.

My associate and I have tried to keep her away from the Disney Princess thing not because I don’t like Disney movies with Princesses in them, but I hate the marketing of it and the merchandise is really boring and uninspired.  We were so busy being anti-princess stuff that we were sort of blindsided by Thomas.

I didn’t want any branded stuff for my child at first but that was before she actually liked things. The $3 bottle of bubble bath with Thomas on it made her so happy, so it was hard not to then but the $1 cup at Target or the $5 tiny train. She loves watching the shows, and Thomas and Friends is something that her school chums like a lot, too. For her birthday we thought we were only selectively mentioning Thomas to people, but she is now decked out in Thomas gear (wall decals, blankets, neck tattoo, books).

I don’t really like to watch any of the shows she likes unless it’s Nick Jr (I think Wonder Pets is super delightful), and I think Thomas is not great. He messes up in every story, and the lesson is either you can get away with anything OR that you can make mistakes and your friends will still love you. But my daughter loves the mess out of Thomas (and Percy and Henry and Mavis)(but she thinks Diesel is scary). She even learned a joke from the show (What do you call a train that has a cold? Achoo-choo train!) and cannot make it any more known how funny it is to her that a line in the Thomas book is “with a peep and a poop.”

She also said “Thomas is making his ‘Kelly face'” at this picture:


The ‘Kelly,’ everyone.

I hope more than anything that my nephew loves Thomas eventually because he has about 8 boxes of this junk coming his way. Toot toot!