SoCal attractions

Real storm troopers! As Christian pointed out, they held guns! Not light sabers!

I took Christian to Disneyland for the first time this afternoon.
It was a very different experience than I imagined after hearing all about Minne’s house from my 3 1/2 old niece who visited for the first time this summer. Instead of seeing Minnie and Mickey, we spent the afternoon shooting aliens (Buzz Lightyear ride) and watching jedi training (Star Wars show). It was an extremely fun day and I can see that my annual pass will be worth every penny.

We were lucky to go with some very seasoned Disney pass holders and they shared a few tricks for a quick dip into the park.

First, we parked at Downtown Disney, where the first three hours are FREE. You get two free additional hours if you have a validated ticket from eating at a table service restaurant. Any hour afterward is $6 measured in 20-minute increments. Regular parking is $12 and a parking pass is something around $50. We elected to keep our trip under three hours.

As a SoCal resident we qualify for a local’s annual pass which costs $169. That is a lot, but still a good deal when you consider that a 1-day, 1-park pass (there are two parks at Disney) is $80. Children under the age of three are FREE.

Also, Sierra pointed out that you can access the Disney Way exit from the 5 directly from the carpool lane.

Mama and TiTi in the teacups - we're both a little green around the gills.

From the parking lot’s furthest corner, you can hop directly onto the monorail and enter the park. This way you skip lines. Our tickets were scanned (purchase and print in advance), our bags checked, all in a matter of seconds and we’d completely bypassed the main entrance to Disney.
The monorail dropped us off in between the submarine ride and the car track. Christian’s eyes were as big as the proverbial saucers when he saw kids driving kid-sized cars – and they stayed that way for the duration.

We helping Buzz Lightyear by shooting aliens.

I mean, how could they not? The first thing we did was the Buzz Lightyear ride. Each car has two laser guns and you get to shoot at targets during the entire ride. The console in the car dashboard keeps track of your points. At the end of the ride you can go look at your picture, which is a hoot. The best part? Instead of trying to get you to buy the pic, you can send it to your email address for free on a touch screen. Nice touch.

Sierra and her family in the teacup - no green.

bb gv vbc

Next, we went over to the Star Wars show, which was presented as a Jedi Training. Aiden was picked to be in the training along with about twenty other screaming hollering kids. Each kid was robed and given a practice light saber – then they all learned a series of protective moves with the activated light sabers. Just in the nick of time too, because Darth Vader showed up and each kid had to fight him ON STAGE! Everything was taken in great seriousness by the children.

After all that adrenalin rushing we were all starved and went for hand-dipped corn dogs with apple slices ($5.99 each). I watched the littlest ones while Anna and Aiden went on the airplane ride.

The teacups were fun too, but next time I’ll save my corn dog for AFTER the spinning teacups.

Then the kidlets got Dibs, which is ice cream made into finger food, as we headed out of the park via the monorail again.

The last fun treat was playing with the remote control ships outside of the Rain Forest Cafe. Sweet Aiden treated each of the kids to the $2 charge.

So three rides, one show, and dinner plus free parking. That was the perfect little dip into the craziness that is the magical kingdom.


This last Friday Christian and I participated in a monthly gleaning hosted by the local Irvine homeschooling group – where we went out for two hours and helped harvest, or in this case plant, food in the Incredible Edible Park. While I got a bit lost and arrived late, we were able to plant cauliflower starts in teams of three until the job was done.

This is the kind of win-win kind of activity that I just LOVE.
To start, The Incredible Edible Park is eight acres in the middle of suburban Irvine that was donated to Second Harvest Food Bank by Edison.
This garden provides over 300,000 POUNDS OF FRESH PRODUCE EVERY YEAR to this local food bank.
Although there are two daily full-time workers (riding tractors), volunteers do much of the planting, weeding, tending, and harvesting work.
Christian and I get to get our hands dirty and learn about gardening.
For FREE! (I love Earthroots, a local non-profit that has a Toddlers in the Garden program – but that costs $25 per two hour session. Luckily, I am able to offer web editing services for a trade…)
We normally get a part of the harvest to bring home as a “thank you.”
And the best part? We are working with a group of HOMESCHOOLERS!
Wait, is the best part that we are feeding the homeless?

We plan to go back the first Friday of every month from now on.
I even got permission to post it as a meetup for the South OC Attachment Parenting Meetup group.

If you want to join us, let me know and I’ll send you the particulars. The cauliflower we planted this weekend will be ready in 60 days. I’m already looking forward to next month.

I promise to get a better family portrait when they visit!

Looks like my sister and her family are coming to visit the last two weeks in July and the first week of August.

I’m starting a list of FUN THINGS TO DO IN SOUTH ORANGE COUNTY (Well, actually probably more accurate to say South California..) Then Sue and her Brit/Aussie husband can decide what looks the most fun for them and their two little girls.

Free Concerts in the Park – When I lived in Joshua Tree, Bella and I would go to virtually every free concert in the park all summer long. After a hot summer day, running in the cool grass and chatting with friends while the sun set, all to the backdrop of great live music – well, what says summer more than that? The concert in particular that I want to see is the Beatles Tribute on July 30. This is at the Crown Valley Community Park in Laguna Niguel from 6pm-8pm.

Ice Skating – Ever since my 3-year old niece saw Disney On Ice, she has been enamored with well, Minnie, but also with ice skating.
Luckily there a rink not two miles from my house. It costs $12 per adult and $3 for skate rentals. (No Homeschooling Mondays during the summer.)

Great photo opps with the balloon.

Hot Air Balloon Ride – Amazingly, this is also free. And technically it’s not hot air but helium that brings 25-30 people 400 feet into the air above the city of Irvine. It’s open only Thursday-Sunday.

Wild Seal Watching at La Jolla’s Children’s Beach – We went to watch the wild seals (no sea lions that day) and both Christian and I were riveted. This is a long drive (at least an hour), but it’s free to watch and then you can go eat at the Brockton Villa (we had crab cakes, clam chowder, and the kobi sliders – all was great).

The Kogi Truck – Can’t seem to get enough of the Korean-Mex mash-up. It’s such perfect co-existence of two cultures. Tacos are $2 (kalbi, chicken, tofu, or spicy pork); burritos and quesadillos are $5, and specials are $5-$7.

Touching manta rays at Sea World on Homeschooling Day (admission was $8!)

The SoCal Unavoidable: Disneyland, Seaworld, San Diego Zoo – the best way to do this, I think, is to bite the bullet and buy the Southern California City Pass which includes tickets to all of the above attractions and is good for 14 days from the first ticket you use. An adult costs $269 and kids 3-9 are $229. Gulp. But consider this: an adult ticket to Disneyland alone is $184!!

Waldorf in the Woods – I think my niece will love our weekly playgroup. She’ll be able to catch it at least twice. In addition, we’ll try and make the new weekly Future Homeschoolers park day on Tuesdays.

Downtown Los Angeles. I like it more each time I visit...

Los Angeles by Train – As much as I love the Huntington, I’m thinking that anything as far as Pasadena will be difficult because we’ll have three babies (one only two months old) to consider. On the other hand, the TRAIN is always fun and takes us to downtown LA and Chinatown and back. There is a great Metrolink package called Friends and Family 4-Pack which is 4 adult roundtrip tickets anywhere on Metrolink for only $29. That’s great because one adult ticket roundtrip to LA is almost $15! Kids under 5 are free, up to three kids per paying adult.

Anna and Max on a winter desert walk.

The desert is so gorgeous though, in the National Park especially.

I’d love to take them to Joshua Tree, but again, that’s a long trip.
My house there will be empty though those last two weeks of July…

Don't tell Bella I posted this pic.

Sea slug

Tidepooling – While I’ve long been a fan of Tablerock in south Laguna (from there you can swim to Secret Cove, and walk through the arch rock to Tortuaga, which is normally only accessible by walking to the north end of 1000 Steps Beach and scrambling over a rock jut), I’ve lately been appreciating the north Laguna beaches. The tidepools are just amazing at Diver’s, Fisherman’s, and Shaw’s Cove. Parking is free or metered, there are rarely crowds and I can see some art on my way out.

If we go to south Laguna though, we can stop in and visit my s-i-l's family and their pet pig, Oblio.

I’d love to go strawberry or cherry picking, but the timing might not be right.

Noi naa has already skyped with Sierra's kids and is looking forward to riding bicycles with them.

Sierra and the kidlets.

I anticipate some time hanging out with Sierra and her kids Anna, Aiden, and Oliver.

I assure you, Christian DOES like ice skating even if it doesn't look like it in this pic.

Food I’m planning: Algerian Lamb Shanks, Eggplant Parmesan, Spice-Stuffed Okra, Pesto, Rice Nut Burgers, Orange Chicken and Lemon Risotto, those Sweet Sticky Ribs I love, Salmon Wellington (Bella can do), Flax Muffins
Sue misses Mexican food, so we’ll make an effort to do some of that. I like Baja Fish Tacos; it would be good to meet Chad there after work on a Wednesday. I like Javier’s too, but that means the Spectrum, although Sue may have some shopping she wants to do.
Other possible places to eat out: We recently discovered Bistro K which looks great and has a half-price menu during happy hour. We’ll also make a requisite trip to In ‘n Out – luckily that’s walking distance and easy to do after Thursdays Waldorf in the Woods playgroup. La Rana is a Mexican food joint within walking distance, and we like to hit Baja Fresh every once in a while too. Of course the tamales at the Sunday Laguna Niguel Farmer’s Market will be a must.
Maybe we’ll hit the Original Pancake House for breakfast one weekday morning. If they want pizza, we like The Upper Crust at the Greenfield plaza.
Shopping: Although Bangkok is great for shopping in many respects, nice clothes, bathing suits and good shoes are better here. I’ll take Sue to Loehmann’s and Nordstrom Rack. We’ll hit the Newport Children’s Bootery for washable leather pediped sandals for Noi naa. If she’s aching for more, we can hit TJ Maxx too.
(Okay Maura, NOW I call this post finished.)
[P.S. July 21, we may go to the free family day at OCMA. We also hope to include two days of easy camping at Caspar’s. And Joss is welcome to do a long ride (50-70 miles) with Chad – on any given day that we go somewhere far, odds are that Chad will want to bike there to meet us.]

Aiden turned six on Monday – and he wanted the same train adventure that his sister had had for her birthday the previous month. We took the same Amtrak line south from Irvine, but stopped in Solana Beach for pizza at the Pizza Port and boogie boarding at the small cove beach there.
The boogie boarding was a blast – really exhilarating.
Great day!

The gang that rode the train (grandma, great grandma, and great aunt met us for lunch too).

We made short work of the lemon-y birthday treats.

The girls couldn't get enough sand play - they were very focused.

Birthday boy impressed us all by catching come good waves! Christian was content to balance on the boogie board and pretend he was surfing.

All the babies crashed out hard at one point or another. Here's Oliver in zoneland.

A music video set in my old town sent by an old teaching pal (thanks Candace!)
The lyrics are great:
Cactus wren on a Joshua tree, fill up your cup with pints of glee. Fire up the band and the old shotgun, in the hills of Yucca Valley. Meet you up at Machris Park, past Veffhaus, little fore dark. Catching air at Devils Playground in the hills of Yucca Valley.

Tortoise on the move over hot black top. Summer bon fires at Giant Rock.Shooting at cans with honest Jay Bolt in the hills of Yucca Valley. Yucca, cholla, creosote, top of the ridge theres a mountain goat. Chopper over head from Twentynine Palms in the hills of Yucca Valley.

Green Mojave and a diamondback, a family of quail and coyote trap. Moonshine gin form a juniper in the hills of Yucca Valley.Desert rat till the day I die, lie me down under western sky. I cant get away even though Ive from the hills of Yucca Valley.

The theme song to that city along highway 62 in the mojave high desert. Yucca Valley. Hometown to infamous Poland Brothers. Directed by Jimmy Salazar. Shot in Yucca Valley, CA December 2008.
Invisible Mass Records ©2009

It is pretty amazing to live in California and have access to so many state parks and beaches.

Last month we spent a couple nights camping on the coast (and I mean, really, on the coast) in Ventura County, just a few hours away from home. Chad’s brother came out and joined us for a day of hiking and marshmellow roasting (between him, Chad, Christian, and I, we managed to roast every marshmellow in an entire bag…)

Potty with a view.

This campground was okay. You see the silver car? That's PCH. Luckily our proximity to the surf drowned out any other sounds.

Camping is definitely one of Christian's all-time favorite things to do. He would wake up in the morning with a big smile and say, "Tent!"

Roasting, roasting, and more roasting. I can't believe I almost didn't bring marshmellows...They were immensely satisfying and delicious - after a long hike, for breakfast...

Sci-fi city we could see in the horizon. I want to live there!

This would be a great place to watch whales pass by in the right season. I took this shot as we were almost back from our 7 1/2 mile hike.

We stayed at Thornhill Broome, which does not have shower facilities. The south end of the campground seems to be a popular place for RV’s to pull up. The sites at the far north are best for camping, because the scrub-covered dunes offer some protection from the wind and sun.

Christian and I managed to snag a couple of hot showers once we discovered the shower in the group campground across the street had been left unlocked. The price I paid, though, was having a ranger unlock the door while I was standing there naked with the baby.

Luckily, I managed to scramble behind the door when I heard somebody turning the lock.

Even more luckily, I had had a short conversation with a man who was part of the group coming in for the weekend – so I pretended I was with them. The ranger hastily apologized and left me alone. I never saw his face.

Next time we’ll try to get in at Sycamore Canyon, which is inland, but therefore quieter and more peaceful. There are showers there.

We were three moms, five children, and three strollers...

For Anna’s 4th birthday we took the Amtrak train from Irvine to San Diego, the #7 bus from downtown to the Zoo and back again. You’ll notice that there are not any pictures of animals – we didn’t see many! Besides which, once we were on the go, there wasn’t much time for photo-taking.

The whole day was a travel adventure and we had so much fun that Anna’s older brother asked if we could do the exact same thing for his birthday next month.

While the Amtrak is considerably more expensive than Metrolink – it’s the only service from OC to San Diego.  A trip of comparable distance (OC to LA) on Metrolink costs $15 or so on the weekend (20% less than during the week) and you can purchase a Friend and Family Pack which costs $29 FOR FOUR ADULTS ALL DAY! The Metrolink ticket (for the time being) also includes free rides on the LA subway and bus system the same day.

But the view to San Diego is waa-aay nicer. You ride along the coast and get a great view the whole way up and down. Worth the $40 round trip once, I guess.

Here’s a short clip from our return trip.

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