Saturday, March 9, 2019

California and Houston and All the Packing

You guys, I don't know where the time keeps going. Tuesday night was PTA Board Meeting night, then on Wednesday I had plans for an update that got lost in just chatting with James on the couch and finishing Rich People Problems (the 3rd/final book in the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy; I enjoyed the heck out of all three). On Thursday I discovered a nail salon near my house that stays open until 10 p.m. and made a friend go get pedicures with me. Last night we cobbled together an unsatisfying dinner and then I typed a short novel to our former nanny (Tara!) now turned pet sitter because we're leaving Maggie for EIGHT DAYS to go to California for Spring Break. I miss her already. Would anyone notice if she snored away in the overhead luggage bin? She'd be no trouble at all.

So first things first, we leave for California tomorrow! I need to pack, but I'm doing this first so you can give me advice on what I need. It's not procrastinating, it's practical. What does 65 degrees mean in San Diego? What does a high of 68 mean at Disneyland? Jeans and a short sleeve shirt? Shorts? Long sleeves? I don't understand these numbers in a spring break beachy setting. I travel all the time and used to live in California and yet still the weather reports just flummox me when I stand in my closet staring at my clothes.

Here's our itinerary, please send ALL the advice!

Sunday: Fly to LAX (landing at 5:30 p.m.), pick up our car, drive to Disneyland Hotel, get dinner somewhere either along the way or near the hotel (thoughts?)

Monday: Disneyland! Starting at California Adventure, potentially popping into Disneyland at some point, finishing the day at World of Color at California Adventure. We don't have any planned meals (though we will have a backpack of snacks), so any thoughts on favorite snacks, lunch, or dinner are welcome!

Tuesday: Disneyland! We have a Breakfast with Minnie and Friends at Plaza Inn at 9:30 a.m. and that's the only thing scheduled. The park is open until midnight and we told the kids we'd stay as long as they were upright and cheerful. We'll transfer to a cheaper hotel in Buena Park a few mins away whenever we do finally leave.

Wednesday: Travel/relax day! Our hotel includes breakfast so we'll probably sleep in a bit, get some free food, and then we need to make our way to Legoland Hotel in Carlsbad by late afternoon. Possible plans include Laguna Beach, going back into LA (Landon is totally obsessed with seeing the Hollywood sign; any recs on a good spot?), going to the flower gardens in Carlsbad... the weather should be lovely (sunny; high of 60) and we're open to whatever. We just want to be at the Legoland Hotel by 4 or so because the kids are very excited to explore it and I've heard that's definitely part of the fun.

Thursday: Legoland! Landon is adorably EXTREMELY excited about this. He's been wanting to go since he was 3 and he's his only friend who still plays Legos. We have tickets to the park itself and the Sea Life Aquarium (thank you Lego Movie for your buy one adult/get one kid free special). I'm assuming we can easily get both done in a day. Ideally I'd like to leave in mid-afternoon to head to our condo in San Diego, but we can check in later if needed.

Friday: Mission Beach! We've booked a delightful-looking, rare single-family condo directly on the sand on the beach. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a big private patio and space to spread out and just chill for the final leg. We'll make some food at home, but welcome favorite restaurants if anyone has any! We love good, fresh food and local places. Will we be swimming? No, right? Highs of 65? This seems chilly to me, though my kids never seem to find water cold, ever.

Saturday: Mission Beach! Same as the day before. No plans, just sun and fun and sand. Thoughts on activities if we need them? We're not doing the zoo or Sea World on this trip- I figure we'll definitely be back (I love California) and after Disneyland and Legoland, really just want to relax and save some "big" items for later visits.

Sunday: Travel back to LA/home. Wake up for a final breakfast in San Diego and then spend the day driving back up to LA to fly out of LAX at 5:00 p.m. We'll leave lots of time for the drive and potential traffic and plan to stop somewhere fun and beautiful on the coast on the way up. We land back in DFW at 10 p.m. and we should be home to cry tears of reunion joy over the dog by 11:30.

And that'll be a wrap! We're super excited- the kids have never been to California or seen the Pacific Ocean from the US (just the warm and mild shores of Costa Rica), and I can't wait to show it all to them. And to me! I haven't been to San Diego since I was about 4 so I'd say I'm long overdue another visit. All I have to do is pack all the things, give Maggie a bath, and find the check-in instructions for the condo that were mailed to me months ago, hand-written in cursive on lined paper in delightfully (but now inconveniently) old fashioned style.

Let's go back to last weekend when we last packed a few suitcases! The kids (furry one included) and I headed to Houston to visit my parents one last time in the big lake house. Maggie was co-pilot and performed her duties admirably. If her duties include sleeping, snoring, and heavy sighing while sticking her tongue out at me.

nailed it

My parents are moving in 3 weeks to a smaller house across the street from a new lake (rounding out their tour of living on every lake in the Houston area), close to my brother, and about an hour closer to me. They're preparing for future retirement and plans to live in Colorado at least 50% of the time. They'll miss the big house- the house that was once their dream, but quickly had too many bad memories to feel the same.

Maggie was a big hit, quickly learning that my dad will always pet a dog that is in front of him.

My mom and I were able to get out for some birthday shopping, which was great fun. I will admit, while I'm feeling chatty, that I've gained about 10 lbs. from this point last year and am definitely struggling with it. I'm a full 17 lbs. up from my thinnest after Cora was born, which I can rationally recognize was never a goal weight, but the 10 is harder. I am constantly bouncing back and forth between loathing every extra ounce I can feel in my middle and vowing to diet back to the pants in my closet (which I used to fit into without any dieting at all; is this 36? I don't like this part), and shrugging and believing it when I tell myself that a size 4 is perfectly acceptable at this stage of life and I enjoy my vices of cheez-its and frozen margaritas far too much to consider giving them up, so bring on the new pants! I also think the anti-depressants have genuinely increased my appetite, I never used to be hungry between meals and now I find I constantly want to snack. I'm not giving the medicine up any time soon (any hope of that was thoroughly crushed by my furlough spiral), but I do know that I could work harder on controlling that particular side effect. I just flip back and forth between deciding if I want to. Size 8 high school me dreamed of being the size I'm at now; adult me that somehow found her way there sometimes desperately wants to claw her way back. So I'm still working on it, and doing some shopping and buying some new jeans a size up was a positive part of the process.

Well, that took an unexpected turn. Clearly I miss my online diary and writing things I later contemplate deleting but am secretly glad I worked through. Back to Houston!

We enjoyed a lovely birthday dinner of steak, asparagus casserole, oven fried potatoes, roasted beets, and cake! It's so fun to be home for your birthday- it's a day that you started celebrating with your parents after all, and we had such strong traditions of home-made birthday dinners in the dining room with my great-grandmother's dining set. My brother and his girlfriend came over too and it was so great. (And they also loved Maggie.)

Speaking of Maggie, she was a perfect house guest and became best friends with my parent's dog Shadow (Maximus was largely indifferent to her existence), but, we discovered on Friday night, she felt very strongly that dogs do not belong above ground.

She trotted upstairs numerous times to check on the kids or find me (when you're deaf, you do a lot of running around looking for people) and was fine with them, but when it came time for bed, being above sea level made her VERY uncomfortable. She refused to come up on her own, so my dad carried her up like the queen she is.

Then, she raced back down, so I carried her up myself. Then I had to do it THREE more times as she kept escaping through various open doors. Finally I got my act together, got everything closed, carried her upstairs, and then patted her to sleep like the fussy infant I no longer have until she was snoring peacefully, a state she stayed in until morning. We repeated the same thing on Saturday night (eye roll).

She had the best time with her doggie friends and doting grandparents. My dad fed her peanut butter bones and Maggie discovered yet another source of joy in life.

My parents loved her, and my dad in particular a concerned grandfatherly eye on her. "Rebecca, come here and check on Maggie. I think there's something wrong with her eye. It's like a dried up apricot!"

"Oh, yeah, that's just her normal face dad.

We drove home early Sunday morning so I could teach my barre class at 1:30 and my parents could start to pack. Maggie reported for copilot duty once again, sleeping the ENTIRE way. When we got home and were unpacking (the kids were SO good and helpful all weekend; I love that we're at a point where traveling alone with them is easy and genuinely fun), we realized Maggie was missing and we found her sitting back in the front seat of the car, ready for her next adventure. I tried to get her to leave and she literally stuck her tongue out at me.

Up in North Texas, James had been at a swim meet for the weekend! He's been working so hard on his training and this was his final meet of the season. His goal, which I secretly thought was crazy, was to make Nationals in the 100 breast. The nationals cut is a 55.9. That is VERY FAST. His best time of the last decade has been a 56.5. His best time ever- back in 2002, when he was a junior at UT, was a 55.25. I was nervous for him- he works so hard and then gets nervous and I just wanted him to do well.

He called midway through our drive home and yelled into the phone, "55.26!!!"

"What?!", I asked, incredulous.

"55.26! I did it!!"

You guys, that is so so fast. He's 37. He wasn't even going that time for his last two years swimming at UT at ages 21 and 22. The oldest kid in his heat was 15 and the deck judge tried to send him away because "recreational swimming is closed right now." He's the old man and the pool and I was glowing with pride for him.

So we're going to Nationals! In Atlanta in December. We'll be there in full Lag Liv family force, with signs and screaming, for our dad and husband who for reasons I truly deeply don't understand has always found time to still train every day (like 5 a.m. after driving 30 minutes the wrong direction in Chicago and then driving back an hour the other way to get to work after getting up with Landon at 4 a.m. and heading out) and loves swimming as much as he ever did.

throwback to 2002; taken about 2 weeks after the 55.25

We went out to dinner to celebrate of course.

Maggie says Hook 'em

The rest of the week has been good- busy, but good. Our nanny was off living her best life at Mardi Gras all week, so it made things a little hectic, but we got through. Maggie joined me on all taxi'ing of children around town and was always a little offended when I asked her to leave the vehicle.

Alright, I can no longer delay the packing and need to get to work. James took Landon to his 7:30 a.m. climbing competition an hour away because I am the far superior packer, but so far I've made tea, typed out a blog post, and watched 1.5 episodes of The Great British Baking Show. Nobody tell him, it'll be our secret. Send help via comments on California clothing, weather, food, and activities! Maggie will be here to gaze soulfully into my eyes and offer moral support.

I hope everyone has a great week!


  1. San Diego has the USS Midway! You could easily spend an entire day there. My favourite was the Scripps Aquarium. Also, when I went to SD, I found layers helpful.

    1. Another vote for the USS Midway! It's a great site to visit!

  2. Disneyland food - I love the hand dipped corn dog at the little red cart.
    San Diego food - Crack Shack (really good chicken sandwiches, opened by Richard Blais from Top Chef) and Supernatural Sandwiches (amazing seafood sandwiches, my favorite is the Triton fries - fresh cut fries covered in avocado and cheese sauces, chunks of shrimp and bay scallops). Also I have never been but have read about Tip Top Meats near Legoland that offers a Big John breakfast with unlimited breakfast meats...not sure if that might be up Landon and JP’s alleys?
    I live in the Bay Area and we have similar weather right now to what you have forecasted. I would wear a light jacket over tee and jeans for Disneyland if it is overcast, if it is sunny then I think a short sleeved tee and jeans is fine because you will stay warm from the sun and all the walking.
    For SD I agree with the other commenter, layers! (Can feel chillier at night on the beach).
    Congrats to JP!

  3. Long time reader, rare commenter, but huge congratulations to James! As a mediocre age group swimmer turned masters swimmer turned runner and barre enthusiast, that is spectacular. I would have loved to see the deck judge's face after that 55.26! Have fun in SoCal. I'm an LA native and useless for travel advice.

  4. Lake Hollywood Park is the easiest spot to get a great, relatively close view of the sign; on a trip with more time, there are hikes you could do with different (though not necessarily better?) views, and you could go to the Griffith Observatory. If you go to Lake Hollywood Park, you may be a little sad to not have Maggie with you, since it's basically become an unofficial dog park. The only downside is that the later in the day it gets, the less pleasant your trip down to Carlsbad will be. But on a weekday, if you head into the city after rush hour and head out by 1 pm, you'd probably be in good shape.

    And congratulations to James on his amazing finish!

  5. I live in SD. It’s been raining a lot so I’d make sure to bring a waterproof jacket. Food suggestions upthread are great. The water will be waaay too cold to swim in the ocean - I think high 50s/low 60s. Pack layers because Southern California gets surprisingly chilly at night (the damp cold feels colder than temp indicates). Good good news is that late next week should hit mid-70s so great for playing on beach!

  6. Our family went to San Diego on spring break last year. We loved the Point Loma tide pools! We had good meals that all five of us liked at Woodstock's Pizza and Good Time Poke.

  7. (technical difficulties so hopefully this doesn't show up twice!)
    We were in SD last week and we were cold much of the time! I agree with the layers, especially when visiting the beaches. The water will be freezing but you'll still want to put your feet in. Too enticing! My PNW kids got totally wet on a 53 degree evening and also jumped in the not heated pool! This time we were there we also checked out Leo Carrillo Ranch Historical park (Carlsbad) and it was a fun little excursion, and free. It only takes a little bit of time and is a nicely restored little area with peacocks to lovingly follow around. We've done the Midway before on a previous trip and it was fun too. We also popped into Liberty Market in SD and had fun at the Stone Brewing there. It was huge with all sorts of nooks and crannies, including a little outdoor area with bocce ball. The other food stalls had some good looking stuff too. We did not make it to Donut Bar and I'm really sad about it. Look up their crazy donuts! Have fun!

  8. Be sure to hit up a taco shop in San Diego. There are hundreds and everyone has their favorite. (My husband and I are both front San Diego and each have to hit up our respective taco shops of our childhoods.) Since your family has big appetites, definitely order a California burrito (aka carne asada + fries)!

  9. For Disneyland--the food is not very good within both parks (except for Ghiadelli's), but whatever they call the space between the two parks has some decent restaurants (but pricey). There's a Wal-Mart nearby for water/snacks. We drove up into the hills from Santa Monica Blvd while the kids were napping. We didn't stop at the Hollywood sign, but wander-drove near it. We tried to get to Griffin Observatory, but 12/31 is the day when everyone is there, so we drove past it and ended up on some hiking trails below it. For some reason, LA seems to not believe in protected left turns, so you may want to stay in the right lane, unless turning left. Have fun and Congratulations to James--that is AWESOME!

  10. Another age group swimmer turned runner here. I'm so inspired by James's victory! We may not have the energy of youth, but aging, work, and parenthood have helped me learn a whole new mental game that is really powerful.

  11. Congratulations to James and have a happy Spring Break! (also, pssst, Atlanta! Yay!) I was in Austin this weekend for work and saw a Fries food truck, and also visited 6th street, and thought of you! :)

  12. The last time we were in LA we went to the Griffin Observatory, which had really neat views of the city and the Hollywood sign.
    I sort of hate trying to eat in Disneyland, haha. It's expensive and not very good. We always end up at the Galactic Grill but that is more just because it is there. But the good news is you can get a Dole Whip at the Disneyland Hotel!
    We go to San Diego every year and our favorite breakfast place is in Pacific Beach (which is right next to Mission Beach) called Kono's. There is also a really good sushi place called Sushi Kuchi nearby. And burgers at Hodad's in Ocean Beach! If you get tired of sitting on the beach (though I never could get tired of it haha!) you could rent bikes or boogie boards for the kids to play with.

  13. You need to visit La Jolla to see the seals, when in San Diego. Lovely cliffside walk - will be a breeze for your family. The website for La Jolla has details of where to go etc. but we have always just parked on La Jolla blvd and watched them from up above. (we aren't very adventurous :))

    Also Griffith Observatory for LA - the museum is small and kid-friendly, and the grounds give you a good view of the Hollywood sign.

  14. I grew up in South Orange County and have a deep affection for Laguna Beach, but if you end up pressed for time and aren't too concerned with seeing the cute town/art galleries in Laguna, consider swapping it out for San Clemente. Laguna Beach is less accessible from the main freeway whereas San Clemente's beach is right off the freeway you will be using to travel from Disneyland to San Diego.

    Also want to support the recommendations above for stops at La Jolla cove and USS Midway. Hope you have a wonderful trip :)

  15. Long time reader. Never commented but I live in San Diego and pretty close to Legoland. I hope you packed layers... it's pretty chilly in the morning but warms up nicely by midday. It's been cloudy this winter (and rainy - which is unusual) but it looks like the weather is going to be amazing when you're in the area.

    On your way down to Mission Beach from Legoland or even the day you have between LA and Legoland, you should stop through Leucadia/Encinitas/Cardiff - take Pacific Coast Highway (south of Carlsbad) down through those "towns". We are somewhat off the beaten path so it won't be too crowded. Great restaurants, cute shops and Cardiff has the most gorgeous beaches... Go to Swami's (Encinitas) or Seaside (South Cardiff)! There is a parking lot right next to both and you can explore from there. Tide pools at low tide, great surf spots up and down from there to check out locals (several pro surfers live in Encinitas so you might get a chance to watch them if there is a swell). Walking north or south from both spots is one of my family's favorite things to do.

    For amazing SoCal Mexican food, go to Lourdes in Cardiff (hole in the wall - order at the counter but the BEST chicken soup ever). Or if you want the best fish tacos, go to Fish 101 (actually they just have amazing fish period). Both restaurants are in the same shopping center. Then walk over to VGs doughnuts and feel like a local! It's a hidden gem. Have so much fun!

    1. I LOVE LOURDES! My love is so big, it needed capitals.

  16. Hi! Long-time reader. Just want to say I can identify with the struggle with weight gain after starting antidepressants - and the struggle with feeling bad about it - but good for you for recognizing what it is. Meds can really help and glad they are helping you!

  17. ACK! I hate that I didn't read this 2 days ago! One of my very bestest of best friends lives in San Diego, and I love every opportunity to visit SD, even vicariously online through imaginary friends. First off, I totally support Emmy's rec for Lourdes. I don't even like soup, but girl, go. Get some soup.

    My friend has lived in the Point Loma area for the past few years. If you need a break from Mission, check out Sunset Cliffs. There's an open ceiling cave that I've never checked out (I'm a wimp and it has to be super low tide to get there) but the pictures I've seen look like they belong on your wall!

  18. Hodads in ocean beach if you LOVE burgers.....