California Road Trip – “Crazy Busy”

– written by Amy Hammond-Hagberg and photos by me –

For much of our recent vacation, my daughter and I stayed with my niece Dena and her wonderful family. Their beautiful home is situated amidst the heavily wooded, narrow twisting lanes of a Bay Area paradise.  What a great place to grow up; no mosquitoes or blizzards there!

Dena’s life as a mother is crazy busy. From dawn until dusk she is running her two kids, Jensen (7) and Boden (4), to one activity or another—swimming, tennis, ballet, play dates, or day camp to name a few—yet she still manages to make nutritious home-cooked meals and teach Pilates. The whole business was a little overwhelming for me; so much so that I suggested that she might want to think about dialing back a little bit.

It wasn’t until I was on the plane home that I realized what a hypocrite I was. When our kids were little, my husband and I scrambled around to deposit them at one activity or another too—soccer, baseball, football, basketball, dancing lessons, karate, day camp, music lessons, church activities, play dates (we didn’t call them that way back them)—all while hubby and I both worked full-time jobs. I need a Calgon moment just thinking about it.

On one of our days with Dena’s family I had the pleasure of “babysitting” the two kids at the neighborhood pool while Mom helped some women do torturous exercises.  Jensen is a little fish, and has swim practice, a lesson, or a meet almost every day of the week. I have no doubt she will be wearing the red, white, and blue of the US Olympic Swim Team one day.

Always the nervous mother (or auntie in this case), I watched her out of the corner of my eye to make sure all was well even though she was surrounded by coaches. She was easy to spot amongst the other swimmers… Jensie’s favorite color is pink.

While she had swimming practice, BoBo got to play in the special shallow triangle of the pool that is set aside for little people.  With an eagle eye I sat in the stands watching his every move, determined that nothing bad would happen on my watch. It was fun to see him dogpaddling around the crystal clear water without a care in the world. He didn’t care that he had globs of white sunscreen smeared all over his face or that his aunt had made a pathetic mess of his goggles and his ears were sticking out. He just wanted to play!

No matter where or when you grew up, you had to deal with mean kids, and this swim club was no exception. I watched as three mean boys managed their turf in the shallow end, yelling at the unsuspecting younger kids if they wandered over an imaginary line and into their territory.

In his frenzy to have fun, little BoBo jumped recklessly into the pool, almost landing on top of one of the mean kids…oops. When they were done yelling at him, I walked quietly over to the side of the pool and talked to BoBo. He didn’t understand the whole boundary thing, so I reminded him to always look carefully to make sure no one was in the way before he jumped into the pool. For the rest of the day, he looked over at me to get the thumbs-up before taking the plunge.

Of course the little guy forgot about the whole episode in a nanosecond, but I stewed about it for a while. Oh to be a kid again!

California – Day 2 (July 20)

So it must be confusing to be reading these blogs for yesterday a day later and I am feeling a lack of direction for this particular piece, but  here it goes.  And just so we understand each other, it’s hard to post on the day without staying up super late to write on the day that just happen.  So, here we are.

Today (meaning yesterday) mom and I woke up nice and early to start our adventures in Northern California.  I decided to run.  Up a hill.  Because they are unavoidable. By the time I reached my halfway point I realized I could walk as fast as I was running.  And when I reached the top the phrase “breathe-taking view” held some brand new meaning as I sucked for air while gazing out across this drier Rwandan-looking expanse of hills and gorges.

Then we headed to Santa Rosa to complete out missions for the day:  two business meetings for Mom and visits to Guernville and Healdsburg.  For the business meetings I had some work time and lunch and then we were set to trek out on our days real adventures.

Guernville is hippie central.  Right off the bat I stumbled across two incoherent beings, one mumbled something strange that I am now having trouble recollecting and the other was a young boy sitting on a fence mumbling for “spare change.”  Now, by the time I could decipher what the second was saying I was well past him and quickly realized he would probably turn around and use it for weed.

The majority of the stores in this town had something to do with marihuana.  We did not stay long because there was not much of a main street, but it was fun to visit the small stretch of bright stores and enjoy a couple yummy truffles.  Also, we actually got stuck talking to a store owner about best routes to get everywhere, and I mean everywhere, we were going while in California.  Can say I don’t remember a word, but he sure was enthusiastically helpful.

Healdsburg, for those of us Illinoisans, is a glorified downtown Geneva.  Everything is expensive and the food is not great.  We walked down the main street, the whole length of the down town area, without even rubbernecking at any given shop.  At the end of the road, however, we discovered the chamber of commerce and got our hands on a map.  Now, I was completely famished, but then we stepped into this fair trade store called One World Fair Trade.  Through this store I got to travel back to Africa and travel to all sorts of other countries.  New breath was blown into my lungs.  Our next chosen destination from our new handy-dandy map was this Upper Level Art Gallery.  It literally existed at in the upper level of a trendy bookstore and there was everything from oil paining, to photography, to ethnic sculpting, to jewelry making.  It was a brilliant niche of eclectic, local art.

After a few other lesser exciting stores and some super salty dinner we were on our way back to our Japanese-esk hotel for some wine and a chick flick.

P.S.  I do not recommend plum wine or “Just Go With It.”