Thursday, April 11, 2013

Asian Adventure part 1: San Francisco

I talked yesterday over at The Friendly Home about why we decided to travel with our kids, why we chose Asia, and some things we learned about traveling with kids. It can be complicated, but it's worth it. The pastor who I grew up with, who married Scott and me, just left for Madrid on a much simpler trip which, in retrospect, makes me a bit jealous.

But we'll continue pushing on through the hard stuff with our kids until they're old enough to be simple.

I wonder if that ever actually happens?

The first part of our spring break adventure in Asia actually happened in San Francisco. Because it's where I grew up and because it was an easy transit point between Colorado Springs and Hong Kong, it made sense to spend some time there. We had old friends to visit and sites that we wanted the kids to see.

It's strange growing up in a place and then moving away and not going back to visit. My family is gone -- my mom, dad, and brother have all moved away. My kids know (or knew) nothing of the Bay Area. What a fun opportunity it was to stay for a few days with my childhood friend, Suzanne. For my kids to hang out with her kids, to chat over coffee and beer (not at the same time), to drag my kids all over the Bay Area showing them my favorite things about where I grew up.

It was an action-packed time but so much fun.

As with all of the tours I've given of the city (my college friends will remember this with disdain, I'm sure), my children were not given the opportunity to ride a cable car. Cable cars are not an amusement park ride, my friends, they are for transportation. If you don't need to take one to get from one side of the city to another, then you don't take one. And you certainly don't stand in line for an hour at a turnaround to get on one.

But if one is sitting vacant, you might hop on for pictures.

The kids may have been disappointed that they didn't get to go on a cable car "ride" but they were pretty excited to do this:

Ride bikes across the Golden Gate bridge. This is something I hadn't done before but had wanted to for a long time. The bridge was crowded with bikes -- it was a (rare) beautiful, fogless, sunny, warm Sunday morning. Lots of tourists as well as local road bikers. We rented two tandems from Blazing Saddles on Hyde Street (near Fisherman's Wharf) but if we were to do it again, I'd consider grabbing bikes out at the Presidio from Sports Basement. Navigating through the Marina on tandems is not simple.

We started our morning in the City with breakfast at the Ferry Building. As you may or may not know, Scott and I usually avoid eating animal products. But when you get to San Francisco, the birthplace of the local and ethical food movement, and you find a place that makes breakfast with local organic eggs, milk, and forget about what is the most "nutritionally dense" and you eat what's offered.

Callie actually enjoyed her yogurt more than she appears to be.

Hence breakfast at Il Cane Rosso, which was probably the best breakfast we had during our trip, and the most expensive, too. Actually, it helped me see where all the food elitist criticism comes from...because it was not cheap. But the fresh grapefruit juice with honey and mint? And house made yogurt? And the fried egg sandwich? Seriously. Such a treat.

While we were in the Bay Area we also visited some of the spots that have meaning for me, and for Scott, too. We checked out my old elementary school, Burton Valley, which happens to have a sweet school garden in a spot that used to be ivy-covered wasteland. We visited the corner of the school where I sat outside my third grade classroom crying because my best friend had skipped a grade and I was feeling lost. We sat on the bench where I sat with my fourth grade teacher after passing out during rehearsals for our Christmas program, when I fell backwards off the top riser because I didn't eat lunch. We checked out the sports fields and the handball walls and the swings and the huge US map. Wandering around my old school with my elementary-age kids was such fun for me.

We took the girls to my old church, Moraga Valley Presbyterian, so that they could see where Scott and I got married, and to the Claremont where we had our reception.

We spent a morning at Tilden Park riding the steam of my favorite childhood activities. And we went for a great walk toward Inspiration Point which is on a bluff up above Tilden with gorgeous views of the Bay.

On the Tilden Park steam train with the Krogers.

As a kid I didn't understand the "happy cows" ad campaign in California. Now that I've seen how other cows live,  I get it.

Walking toward Inspiration Point with Gretchen and Jen.

We spent time just hanging out. The kids jumped on the Krogers' trampoline, they had doughnuts at Johnny's, we ate breakfast at Milly's and lunch at Zachary's. That sounds like a lot of food. It was. I gained about 7 pounds, I think.

Meeting Jen's baby, Autumn. Such a happy girl!

Brynn's only pretending to be asleep. You know she's "too old" to be read to, but she still loves it.

Doughnuts at Johnny's in Lafayette.
Zach's Pizza in Berkeley

Nature's Express in Berkeley. Callie's one and only favorite vegan mac-n-cheese. Only $9 a cup. Yikes.

We also managed to squeeze in a day in Marin. I wanted to visit the Marine Mammal Center, and so did Callie. So we got in a stop there, plus a walk through Muir Woods and a visit with my grandma.

Picking up banana slugs is probably frowned upon.

At the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands.

Checking out the rescued Elephant Seals.
All will go back to the wild once rehabilitated.
Spending time with my grandma.
The iPad was great for sharing photos with her.

Through all of the California leg of our trip, the girls were enthusiastic, curious, and wide-eyed. I think almost as much as I did, they enjoyed spending time with my friends (and their kids) and enjoying some of what the Bay Area had to offer. I'm so thankful to have a place to stay that is comfortable and welcoming (thanks, Su) and friends to visit and catch up with. It's funny how, even when you haven't lived in a place for almost twenty years, you can go back and it still feels like home.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


Thank you
for taking out my
splinter/spine/pokey thing/thingamabob.
I know I can always
count on you Momma!

This is the note I found from Callie on the whiteboard upstairs tonight.

You see, she'd gone for a walk in the open space with Brynn and two friends, only to step on a cactus and end up with a big "pokey thing" in her foot. 

She wouldn't come down from the hill under her own power -- Brynn had to carry her. 

Brynn carried Callie on her hip, in case you were wondering how that worked. I know I was.

Brynn brought Callie tweezers and cuticle scissors and antibiotic ointment and antibiotic spray. 

Brynn filled up a soaking tub of warm water and squirted some Hibiclens in the water to be sure Callie's foot got clean.

Brynn made Callie a cherry-chocolate-almond milkshake to distract her from the pain in her foot. 

All I did was yank out the cactus spine. But I got the thank you note.

And, you might wonder why Brynn had to do all the other mom-duties? Where was the actual mom, you ask? I was painting a wall in the girls' pink kitchen. Luckily Brynn took care of Callie for me, but she was smart enough not to try to pull out the spine. She would have gotten punched in the nose, I'm sure. 

I should probably be the one writing the thank you note. I am so blessed by my two sweet daughters.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Callie: That's a lot of tomatoes.
Hillary: I know. They're for this winter.
Callie: You're like a squirrel, Mom.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Happy Family

Libbie is upstairs playing with her squeaky stuffed rabbit, making lots of noise. I'm making dinner. Callie is making a friendship bracelet at the dinner table. I say, "Wow. There's a happy dog upstairs."

Callie says, "That's because she is in a happy family."

Smile. I'm so blessed.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Callie's room has been getting to me lately. It's a mess. It is hard for me to walk in there, much less hang out and talk to her at night before she goes to sleep. What is the problem? Let me make a confession...the kid has some hoarding tendencies. If I were kind, I'd call her a "collector," but that skirts around the reality of the situation. I tried making her watch Hoarders once, but she didn't like it. She probably saw too much of herself in it.

The crazy thing is that Callie actually knows what is in her room and she can almost (like 99% of the time) find exactly what she is looking for within seconds. And she plays in her room. She plays with every single thing in her room. She is creative and eclectic and entertains herself with stuffed animals and cardboard boxes and beads and feathers and rocks name it, it's probably in her room. All over the floor. And she could tell you where it came from and how long she's had it and what she's been doing with it lately.

Around noon today, I couldn't take it anymore. She'd lost a library book somewhere in her room (a very unusual event) and in order to find it, I knew I needed to tear apart her room, throw out her trash, and cull some of her stuffed animals. I was about ten minutes into it before I realized that I couldn't handle the mess, so I took photos to memorialize the experience. Of course. Because, duh...why wouldn't I want photos of something like this?

In the photo below, I know it looks like Libbie's being thrown out with the rest of the trash, but I think she's just commiserating with me. She was smart enough to hang out in the hallway, away from most of the action. Later on in the afternoon, I found Libbie's favorite squeaky bunny rabbit among the stuff on Callie's floor. I'm wondering what Libbie was thinking by leaving it there. Maybe it was a hint to tread carefully? Don't throw out too much stuff? I should have taken her advice.

As it turns out, I (accidentally?) sent one very special bear to Goodwill. So at 5:15 in the afternoon, I screamed back over to the Goodwill trailer but, alas, they were closed. Tomorrow morning I've got a date at the trailer at 9am to see if I can get that special teddy bear back.

Usually I take all the Goodwill stuff down to the basement for a few days before I take it to the trailer. That way Callie can reclaim the special goodies that are missing and I don't have to take full credit for any missteps. Somehow that habit slipped my mind today. Oops. Callie was doing the ugly cry, the I'm-so-upset-I-can't-talk-cry, as she told me that she couldn't find her bear. I really do feel badly about it but, like I told her, if she'd put her stuff away one of the million times I asked her to, I guess I wouldn't have had to go through her room, right? I know, I know. I'm the meanest mom ever. But, for the record, I found three pairs of scissors in her room. Three! That's like...more than we have in the rest of the house!

This is how Callie's room looked as I began the cleaning process today. It actually looks kind of tame from the above angle. The photo below is where you start to see the magnitude of it all.

Seriously. Doesn't it make you feel like you might pass out? Or like you need to start breathing into a paper bag? I had to bring in my computer and turn on a movie while I picked through it all. I needed a major distraction while I worked or I never would have finished.

In the photo below, maybe you can see why I feel like I might get strangled whenever I walk into her room. Not only from the stuff on the floor, whose tentacles are going to wrap around my feet and crawl up my body and grab me by the neck, but all the stuff hanging from the ceiling! Have you ever seen anything like it? Three big butterflies, more little ones with ribbons, a heart, and in the other corner a bunch of dolphins. She's also got a dream catcher and a (beautiful handmade African) mobile that she wants hanging over her bed, but last week as she napped the mobile fell from the ceiling right on her face and I think it startled her. A lot. It hasn't been put back up yet.

Somehow I did manage to get through all this before Callie came home from school. At the beginning, I thought, "Haha, wouldn't it be funny if I couldn't finish and she came home and saw all this stuff getting ready to go to Goodwill," and then as it got closer and closer to the end of school and I still wasn't finished, I realized it wouldn't be funny at all. At least not to her, and (therefore) not to me either. It would be a scary, scary situation and I was feeling panicked. So I kicked it into high gear, made my Goodwill drop, and then brought Callie home.

Most kids are happy when their room is clean, especially if they didn't have to contribute. Callie is not one of those kids. She was pretty upset at first, looking around for everything she thought would be missing. "Where did you put it all?" she asked. "I put it away," I said. I told her I only threw away trash, to which she responded, "You think ALL my stuff is trash!!!" Point taken. She didn't ask about Goodwill, at least not until she realized that her favorite bear was missing.

When I told her I was very sorry and that I should have taken the Goodwill stuff to the basement for a few days she said, between sobs, "I've already rescued that bear from the basement once before!"

I had no idea. Seriously. How disconnected am I that I don't know her favorite bear? She was looking for him because she wanted him to sit on her newly made bed. She's right -- he would have been the perfect finishing touch. Sigh.

I'll do better next time. Or maybe there won't be a next time? A mom can hope.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bring. It. On.

I'm done whining about summer ending too quickly. You may not have heard me, but you can ask Scott. Actually, don't. He's been tuning me out so he might not know what you're talking about.

I love summer. It goes too quickly. I hate being cold.

Bring on the rest of the year. I'll miss summer, but I'm accepting my fate. There. I said it. Now let's move on.

Brynn and Callie started school today. 4th and 2nd grades. Can you believe it? I'm still in shock, but I was in shock when Brynn started kindergarten and I feel left behind with every year that passes, so I guess this is par for the course.

This week the girls got haircuts. And their ears pierced. All in one day. That's a lot for us, considering we only do haircuts two or three times a year. We'll have to do more now, though, since they both got bangs. Bangs. Ugh. Callie's are "Chinese" bangs (no we're not as PC as we should be around here) and Brynn's are side bangs. Or "American teenager" bangs if we're going to be consistent.

We had so much FUN together on their haircut/ear piercing day. They were sweet and fun to hang out with and they didn't complain about eating leftovers for dinner.

And then today? Callie carried her own backpack and didn't freak out about what shoes to wear to school.

That's a first. No kidding.

Oh, and also today? I realized that all of the "Wow, Callie's grown," comments we've been getting must have some merit because she's like four inches taller than friends who were almost the same size as her in May when school let out. That means she's probably a foot taller than her shorter classmates, especially her cute little Chinese friends.

And she loves it. Crossing my fingers that her love of height will continue for as long as possible.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Be friends with boys.

That was my advice to Brynn tonight.

Amid all of the girl drama at swim practice and at school, my best advice is, "Be friends with boys."

I know it falls short. I know it doesn't solve the problem. I know that she looks back and realizes that the friendships she had with boys dissolved when she left preschool. I know she doesn't enjoy boy activities or feel comfortable with boys. Still, it was the best advice I could give her. It's what my mom told me. "In high school and college, my best friends were boys." I remember my mom telling me that. And my life, whether it was because of my mom's suggestion or just natural progression, followed the same path. I didn't have a gaggle of girlfriends. I ended up with a couple of friends who were girls. Boys were just...easier. Friendlier. More relaxed and predictable. Fun.

I also made Brynn memorize what my mom repeated to me when I was Brynn's age.

You'd worry less about what people think of you if you realized how seldom they do.

I made her say it like a mantra. Over and over until I knew she wouldn't forget. I don't know why I bothered -- it never made me feel better, or at least not until I was confident enough not to care what my peers thought of me. But when I think of it now, it's just so true. ...if you realized how seldom they do.

I told Brynn she is precious, she is God's beloved creation. She is exactly what she is supposed to be. Beautiful, smart, funny, athletic, gifted, healthy, kind, loving, generous, thoughtful. She is all of those things. We're all gifted because we were fearfully and wonderfully made, knitted together in our mothers' wombs by the perfect hands of God, made with unique purpose and potential. But I know it doesn't matter. I know that no matter how many times I tell her what a precious gift she is, she'll believe what she thinks she hears when she hears girls whisper her name in the shower after swim practice or on their way in from the playground at recess.

And they might be saying, "Wow, look how tan Brynn is." Or, "I wish I could dance like Brynn." Or, "It's no fair -- she can eat a tub of ice cream and look like that!" Or, "Look at her legs! If I had legs like hers..." Those are the things I'd think if I were a girl watching Brynn. Those are things I did think about girls who looked like Brynn.

But what Brynn imagines girls saying isn't flattering. It doesn't make her feel good. It makes her feel left out and laughed at and ridiculed. It makes her feel like she doesn't fit in and like she is unwanted and unloved.

And I wish I could take it from her. I wish I could take it all. I wish I could let her live in my brain for a day and see that she can be free. It kills me to know that she has to walk through this part of life, this uphill, frustrating part of life where every day feels like a battle. Where every day you feel beaten down or left out or judged. Where you never know who your friends are or where you fit in.

I know how she feels because I felt it. I've been there. I've been the girl who felt left out and unwanted. Ridiculed. I remember the day -- the day -- I decided I wasn't going to be that girl anymore. I remember making a decision to walk a different path, to be confident and outgoing. To be the girl I felt trying to escape from within me. I hope and pray that that day will come soon for Brynn.

Until then, I've told her to make friends with boys. Because girls? You can't solve problems with girls.


You've probably been through this. You have a conversation with your child and you realize that you want to remember everything about your child in that moment. The wit, the intelligence, the humor, the cute little face. I had a couple of those with Callie yesterday. My brain seems to be at capacity these days, so I'm putting Callie's words here so I won't forget.

Me: Your room doesn't seem very picked-up tonight.

Callie: I'm a kid. I play in my room.


(After a discussion about how Callie wants to be a veterinarian.)


Callie: I think I will hire someone else to put animals to sleep.


Me: Did you know you've got an appointment with the eye doctor this afternoon?

Callie: Yes. Should I brush my eye lashes?


Callie's friend: I'm gonna rub this glue stick on your face like sunblock.

Callie: (very calmly) Don't put glue stick on my face. It will really hurt when it dries.


Me: Ahhhh, it looks like you didn't finish cleaning your room today.

Callie: I did, I did...but (sounding disappointed when she sees her skirt lying amid the mess of her room) I just changed into my pajamas and forgot to put my skirt away.

And we both fall over laughing.


(while hearing the NBC Olympic music)

Callie: Mama, I clicked on the United Kingdom on my globe to hear their national anthem, and it wasn't this one. This one must be new.