Spring Break: Beyond Fabulous, Beyond Exhausting

We could approach spring break casually, I suppose, but we don't know how. Leo is happiest when he's busy, so we don't chill -- we schedule. Or, as some concerned friends and perhaps husbands have pointed out, overschedule. But the kids and I had so much fun during their two tandem weeks sans school! Look:

We kicked our week off with a favorite, Butano State Park near Pescadero. The redwoods, coolness, and quiet act like a giant body sock on me and our kids. This is the hike we take new friends on, so they can see our kids at their best. When I am frazzled, I want to see our kids at their best, too. And so we went. Leo always enjoys hiking at Butano.

Mali always knows how to put herself together for the trail -- straightened hair courtesy of big sister Iz, and an animal-print tutu. She was delighted to discover so many blooming trilliums, and introduced herself to nearly a score of banana slugs:

QUEST on KQED Public Media.

(Banana slug video courtesy of Seymour and team. If you want some good randy banana slug backstory, take the man out for a beer. He's got material.)

On another day, our friend Laura Shumaker came for a neighborhood hike with me & Leo, which was too fun -- Laura knows everyone, and always shares the best stories about raising her not-at-all-like-Leo-but-still-autistic son Matthew, who's now a young adult. And Leo adored Laura, as you can see by the hand-holding. A warning, though -- Laura likes to pounce on the lunch check. Next time, I won't have Leo with me, so she should ready herself for a preemptive check strike.
Leo and I always plan a Sebastopol day when we have a good stretch of free time -- the area has endless hiking, fun, & funkiness opportunities. We're fans particularly of People's Music on Main Street, which has nearly any instrument you could imagine, and where the generous staff lets Leo explore them however he likes -- which is how I now know that the steel drum I'd long considered getting him would have been met with meh.
We also make a point of hitting Screaming Mimi's conjured on site and sold by weight ice cream, especially if we can meet up with smart Twitter friends whom I will not out, while we're nomming.

Sebastopol also has playgrounds designed by people who understand that kids crave varied gross motor/weight bearing activity. We hadn't visited the relatively new Ragle Ranch Playground before, so that made it doubly-motivating for Leo. But what I really enjoyed was watching him cross this webbed rope bridge repeatedly, until he could do so without losing his footing. Love watching our boy persevere.

The trails at Ragle Ranch itself were rather mucky with mud, but it was still a lovely day and we banked at least a mile. So not entirely a wash. Leo thought the gloompy mud and the sound it made when he extracted his foot were delightful; I have not yet washed those shoes. *shudder*

We also always hit Harmony Farm Supplies, since they really do have the region's best plant, seed, bulb, & gear selection. But more interesting than their Himalayan strawberry and broccoli starters was this flyer on their community billboard! A goat source! Just wait, one day I will have my own herd of tiny aponkyes (Twi for goat), you'll see. Not kidding. Enrolling Mali in 4H, come Fall.

There are so many places to hike in our area, it's almost embarrassing. We can walk out our back door to one set of trails, and two more regional parks are within homemade catapult distance. And if we're willing to drive or bike a couple of miles, then the possibilities near innumerable. Arastradero is one such place - a lovely, earnest park where the nature center features straw bale construction, native plant restoration is active and ongoing, the toilets are clean and plentiful with paper towels intentionally amiss, and the hiking is mellow. We like it.

Mali complained a bit during our two-miler, but she can't really be blamed. Neither Leo nor I are dawdlers, and her legs are short. She did have fun, this is evidence.

We have to keep up our energy somehow during all that hiking. Thankfully a local place started making spectacular cupcakes, so good my kids' squeals of excitement spiral into wavelengths only bats and dogs can hear, and I was willing to risk Iz's godfather's displeasure. Leo gives them his seal of approval.

Oh, and hey! Our new iPad 2 arrived. We were busy folk and kept missing the FedEx truck, and had to go pick it up at local HQ, where the girls had no problem telling the employees that Leo was not just any iPad 2 owner, in their opinion. Posts on cases, new apps, raffling off Leo's original iPad, and apps in the classroom coming soon. As in this week.

Seymour and I had exactly one night off together during the two weeks of madness. We used it to celebrate the 20 years since our first date on April 12, 1991 under Sr. Procopio's watchful eye. We had a lovely dinner eventually, though Seymour's arrival was delayed 90 minutes by a really unfortunate CalTrain accident. Can't really complain about that.

Leo decided that the best way to start off week two of spring break -- the week his sisters, not he, was out, was by jumping on Iz and torturing her awake. She was not pleased. (Note stack of heavy books over Iz's head. This girl has been warned, but has obviously not yet experienced an earthquake.)

Happy Leo! But not-much-for-sleeping Leo, unfortunately. I'm not sure if it was because of meds changes (more on that soon, most likely with a request for advice) or just growing and changing, but he's had a shitty sleep pattern lately, not going to bed until 11 PM some nights, waking up as early as 3 AM others, remaining as happy as you see him here.

The second week also brought my brother Chet and his Mali-energetic son P. to stay. For a whole week! Chet always has a lot of information to share, for instance Oman has great beaches, did you know? Though I did break out the tiny violin when he complained that he'd only been skiing twice this winter, as that gripe included indoor skiing in Dubai. But he taught the girls how to eat kiwifruit with a spoon, and he gave us an excuse to eat Mexican food almost every day (it's not nearly so good in his part of the country, he says). And he's straight-up good company.

Also, Mali & Iz have completely converted P. to the ways of Akiko and Babymouse, so their trip was a success on the literature front as well.

Of course we went to the Pebble Beach at Año Nuevo State Park. It's what we do! It's the most remarkable beach in the area, as long as you don't equate "beach" with "sun" or "swimming."

And who doesn't like to find a good Turkish towel? Sometimes I dream of what this beach might look like, what shells and creatures and discoveries would litter it, were beachcombers barred from removing their finds.

Until we get that herd of goats, we have to clear our hillside by paying lots of money to humans. Which we did last week. One benefit: We can get to our see-saw! Since our pool is not warm enough for Leo to swim, he now asks us to go see-sawing every hour on the hour. Which is understandable, given how happy it makes him (here with his uncle).

The First Rule of CalAcademy Is: Gotta Sit on the Galapagos Tortoise

We've become official CalAcademy devotees. Which means we can now drag guests along at a moment's notice! I'm looking forward to the opportunity to explore more nooks and crannies, but the kids (and my brother) enjoyed even our quick five-hour visit.

Then, of course, we took Chet and P. rock climbing at Castle Rock state park. It always feels weird, going without Leo since he loves bouldering so much, but the kids' enthusiasm made up for my guilt. And the day was so so beautiful, and the park practically empty of other hikers/climbers.

We went straight from climbing to picking up Leo, so his cousin could see his school -- and were greeted with a sick boy who'd gone through four changes of clothing -- all of which were handed to us in plastic bags. At the time, I thought Leo had food poisoning, so we took him home and washed him off and let him rest. He went from green (literally) to pink and healthy by the time he went to sleep, so we thought he was fine.

So I didn't worry much as Jennyalice & I drove up to San Francisco and hung out with some of our favorite people -- all of whom we know through blogging, btw -- and celebrated a birthday. We know cool folks, is all I can say -- and, also, now I know what the cool lofts by Seymour's work look like inside!

My brother had never experienced anything like Dynamo Donuts, so the next day we indoctrinated him. He approved. I have to say, the proprietors are extremely kind with chatty, possibly overenthusiastic six-year-old girls.

We also took Uncle Chet & his boy to Franklin Square playground. Merry-go-round FTW! Though Mali got spun off once, and she was not pleased.

We then took our vistors to the Cartoon Art Museum, where we met up with friends who share Chet's love of all things Looney Toons, and exercised extreme self-control in emerging from the gift shop with only a single Amelia Rules! volume.

We had plans to way laste to more of the city, but unfortunately Leo's school called with the news that our boy was sick again. Nothing quite like having to make a 50-mile dash. Leo was actually in good spirits rather than ashen this time, but we took him home and decided that he would stay home the next as well -- his first-ever sick day at his new school.

Which meant Leo got to come watch Iz and P. go indoor skydiving! Poor Leo, he really wanted to skydive too. But participants have to be extremely good at following directions in a sensory-overload environment while wearing ear plugs -- wasn't going to happen. Iz's paratrooping uncle said she was a natural, though (while noting that parachuting and skydiving are different skill sets). Iz then used her newfound aerodynamics knowledge to pooh-pooh Margot Kidder's flying sequence with Christopher Reeve in Superman, which I made her watch that night after she asked "Who is Christopher Reeve?"

After the Superman showing, almost everyone in the house became sick. (Causation! Superman causes stomach flu!) I ceded our room to Seymour and went to sleep with Mali, who didn't appear too bad off but who woke me at 2 AM with a vomit shower. Our guests had planned to leave that morning anyhow; I'm guessing they'd have found an excuse regardless. And I'm worried we seeded the entire Bay Area with the dreaded ick. Good thing I'd already written my Easters With Elvis BlogHer post! And Iz is still home sick today.

I won't deny that these two weeks laid me low by the time they were over. But I like to think the exhaustion has to do with the stomach flu's five-day Rosenberg campaign (I alone have not puked as of this writing) coupled with several of Leo's respite sessions getting canceled. I wouldn't change the rest. I love my family, I love our friends, I love where we live -- I can only feel grateful for getting two weeks to embrace them all so fully.


  1. Wow, that is an amazing amount of activity. Thanks to your tweet about Sweet Cakes, we've been there twice in the past week. In addition to the cupcakes, their chocolate chip cookies are awesome. I'm bookmarking Dynamo Donuts and Akiko. Thanks!

  2. Hey there from across the canyon! Thanks for the cookie tip, we'll have to check it out. Be warned: Dynamo can set you back as much as $7 for a coffee and donut. But omg the nom!


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