Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Plane! Plane!

Jackson and copilot in the cockpit
Vroom, vroom!
I think he's checking his blind spot.
There are no signs on the street for the Zimmer Children's Museum; just look for 505 Wilshire Blvd. and park in  the lot immediately to the west.
Thanks to mama K. for recommending the Zimmer Children's Museum, it's fantastic. We were supposed to meet up with mama S. and baby M. today but mama S. had a business meeting at the last minute, so we just went by ourselves for their Sensation City and Very Important Babies hours. I think Jackson is a smidge past the "sensation" setup; it was a lot of scarves, bumpy balls and rattles set up as a "circus," but the kiddie-pool ball pit was a hit and he crawled through the cardboard box tunnel a couple of times.

The publicity team for the Museum, which is located in the basement of the Jewish Federation Building on Wilshire between La Cienega and Fairfax, was in the room with the babies trying to get some footage, and that was incredibly distracting, but all in all it was a cute event. I think I might go back in two weeks when they're doing a "recycling center" theme with lots of reused materials, just to see if there are any cheap craft ideas I can steal.

Overall, the museum is a great space featuring a full-size ambulance, a speed-boat in a ball pit, a fire truck, a "main street" with shops and a diner and a synagogue, all sorts of sensory games, a moving water table and many other kid-size amusements I can't remember now.

The biggest hit, located on the lobby level, was the cockpit of a little Piper aircraft, complete with gauges, knobs, buttons, blinking lights and a yoke, so Mr. J could steer the plane all by his very own self. Once he made his way to the pilot's seat from the passenger seat (where he waited quietly for his turn because he is just a puddin' pop like that), he wouldn't leave for love or money. We'll definitely go back to the "zima" soon ("zima" is as close as he could get to pronouncing "museum"), possibly after a visit to the Tuesday storytime for the under-twos at the beautiful Slavin Children's Library, which is located across the lobby from the museum entrance.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Jackson's First Corkscrew Slide

This corkscrew slide at Blair Hills Park, on the far side of the city, was a hit; he also loved the playgym tunnel and the giant Swiss cheese made of concrete blocks. More photos for grandparents on Flickr.

Monday, October 24, 2011

  • Simultaneously worrisome and hilarious: I start reading "Five little monkeys jumpin' on the bed..." to Jackson and the kid gets up and barrels full-speed into the side of his crib. Why? To bump his head of course. And then he did it against the door jamb and then he did it against the wall, grinning wildly at us the entire time. (At that point we finally stopped him.) I laughed my butt off, but I think maybe we'll put that book away for a while!
  • OK, so apparently kids foster community in the most straightforward way. I actually talk to my neighbors now when I'm out walking with Jackson; he's the ultimate conversation starter. In any case, more than one neighbor has said, "Oh you live here? Did you just move in?" Only six years ago. Sigh. Oh well, I'm getting to know them now!
  • OMG OMG! I managed to get the thread in all the right places in the sewing machine and I remembered to put the foot down more often than not and OMG I made a really ugly produce bag out of an old Old Navy T-shirt. It even has a swanky gold button to spiff it up a bit. Yay! I did a DIY thing myself!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Our "Pet" Lizard

While I was out in the yard today with the camera, during a brief respite from the fog, I was able to snap a photograph of the lizard that lives in compost bin number three. He/she/it used to have a buddy, but I haven't seen Old Yeller in a while. This critter doesn't have a name (yet?) but he is a southern alligator lizard. He's wearing his winter wardrobe--I was able to collect his summer skin for our nature shelf, whee!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ridin' the Rails with My Baby

Jackson at Shawn's Pumpkin Patch, Oct. 20, 2011

Likes: Stepstools, straw, trains, huggable pumpkins, wagons, bunnies in tiny hutches
Dislikes: Goats, horses, "I rode the trackless train" stickers

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Park Day: Lindberg Park

We loved this park. They have at least 10 different play structures, and at risk of sounding like a fruitcake, the playground has great "flow." Jackson would explore the play train, and then seemingly be called the pirate ship, and then the teeter-totter, and so forth. Oh, and speaking of the teeter-totter, Jackson recently learned he's a toddler, and every time I'd say teeter-totter, he'd point at himself and ask "Me?" I tried to explain the distinction between totter and toddler, but really, who's to say that thing isn't a teeter-toddler? We'll definitely be back at Lindberg in the coming years, above and beyond our regular Tuesday park day schedule.

Goofing around

On the march

Up up up! I want up!

Climbing climbing! Ladder? Stairs! Climbing climbing!

This awesome play structure has a pulley system the kids can use to haul sand up onto higher levels. Pulleys, aka SCIENCE. See, park day is educational.

Jackson continues his systematic assault on the playground

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Nature Boy

"I think we've got him surrounded!"
  • Awesome camping trip this weekend with husband and baby. Didn't plan to stay the night, so after we stupidly let Jackson play with the faucet, we had to bundle him in a shopping-cart cover, a sweatshirt and sleeping bags to keep him warm overnight! We were at the slightly seedy La Jolla Indian Reservation campground (visited my first three or four Indian reservations on the way there--there's a strip of them if you head east from Temecula), which sits at the base of scenic Mount Palomar. During the course of the day, we were gifted some amazing tamales (can't wait for Christmas, when they should be available everywhere throughout L.A.), we showed Jackson a genuine babbling brook  (as manufactured by God, not a landscape architect) under a canopy of ancient oak trees, and we saw a real life awesome wild tarantula!
  • Man, babies screw up all your previously maintained certainties. I used to welcome all things great and small into our yard, but now that Jackson's here, I've started killing black widow spiders (I don't think they're out to get us in any way shape or form, and from what I understand a bite is a managable medical situation, not life or death, but what if?!!!?), and now I'm going to start raking mushrooms out of the lawn. Tonight, while I was raking leaves, Jackson found a white mushroom in the grass and brought some pieces of the cap over to show me. I ran him inside and washed his hands, and I don't believe he ate any of it*--I'm convinced toddlers bring you dangerous things because they understand the danger to some degree, and they want to make you aware that it's there--but I don't think I should risk mushroom playtime again in the future. I love fungi, so this bums me out, but I guess I can always reintroduce the danger when he's older. Heh.

*Although I'm totally sneaking into his room every 30 minutes to pull on his ear to make sure he's still alive.

My Famous Brother!

According to the Melrose & Fairfax Los Angeles Street Art blog, my brother's work was featured at Brainwash's Art Show 2011 and is "cool...nice job." Yay!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An Assortment of Jackson, Evening Edition

  • Jackson met a kitten tonight. Our neighbors are fostering them for a while and Jackson and his three-year-old girl friend McK. had great fun cuddling said kitten. "Fluffy!" And then Jackson decided it was time to hug McK. and he did this full-on linebacker-looking hug-shove thing. (She's like a foot taller than him.) It was all love, but the second time he tried it, the three-year-old said, and I quote, "OK, that's enough, that's enough." Heh.
  • The kiddo now knows not one, not two, but three book authors. He recognizes the names Richard Scarry and Eric Carle, and tonight when we read Rosie's Walk by Pat Hutchins for the first time, he said, "Owl?" Meaning that he recognized Pat Hutchins as the author as one of our all-time fave used-book finds, Good-Night, Owl.
  • My kid knows how to live the good life. We're readjusting his schedule this week (new tentative plan is noon naptime, 8 p.m. bedtime), so when he wouldn't go down, I took him out into the yard to see the fabulous full moon, and then sat with him on the front porch. We talked about the crickets chirping, the planes flying over and the rocking, rocking, rocking of the chair. He cuddled up to me and said, "Happy, happy, happy." Indeed.

An Assortment of Jackson

  • "Jackson, that yellow flower over there is called a dandelion." "RAWR!" Yes. Exactly.
  • His baby blue eyes seem to be turning gray/hazel.
  • He's in a biting phase. I have this one shirt that has buttons on the shoulder and I let him bite those for fun, and now he not only bites my shoulder for kicks, he also took a chunk out of my thigh while we were at the library. I know it's just a request for attention, but it makes me sad just the same. Oh well, just a reminder to be as attentive as possible all the time and/or to always have a diversion on hand for when he gets in these moods.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Few Thousand Words on Preschool

I'll try to break this up into manageable pieces. Hee.

PRESCHOOL RESOURCE: For all my L.A. ladies, join the Parents Education League mailing list to get notices about their preschool fairs. I've found a handful of preschool seminars, but so far this PEL thing is the only one offering an actual event with in-person access to multiple schools and directors. Tonight's fair was held at Turning Point, which is the Most Expensive Private School in Los Angeles. I have thoughts on Turning Point, but I'll save them for another snark session day. Anyway, Turning Point is around the corner, so I figured what the hell, registered and attended. According to the PEL lady at the fair, they have these things at least twice a year, and the location is different every time, to spread the burden of hosting and/or distance commuting.

PRESCHOOL FAIR DRAMA: The confirmation email for this thing said, firmly, NO STROLLERS PLEASE. To which I responded, "Wait, what? Strollers? Are we supposed to bring our kids to this thing and show them off? Is this a poorly disguised interview? This is a poorly disguised toddler show-off session isn't it?!"

I did not bring my toddler, and walking up there I was very concerned that I'd missed a key opportunity, but lo and behold, it just a mix of moms alone (including various preggos), dads alone, couples without kids, and parents with kids, generally wrapped snuggly in their Ergo carriers or Mobys or roaming free, depending on age. The babies were all adorable, and the parents seemed to be a mix of shell-shocked and schmoozy.

Now, I must confess, the whole thing gave me agita I haven't felt since Jackson was first born, when I would see other newborns on our walks and silently scream, "Goddamnit, there's another kid who's going to steal Jackson's spot at Local Public Foreign-Language Immersion Lottery-Only School. Aaaah!" And then I eventually realized, "Hey, everything is going to be fine." (And it will be fine, of course--if only because I can always homeschool if I have to.)

WHO'S WHO AT THE ZOO? I feared the fair would be content-free and artificial, but it was actually somewhat valuable. The schools were arranged by region: West, Beach, Hollywood, etc. A couple of the schools I wanted to learn about were MIA, but I chatted with directors from four schools:

1. Absolutely Ideal Local Preschool We Love That We'll Probably Go To. I adore the director and that adoration was just reinforced tonight. They're apparently starting a new Mommy & Me session shortly, at an astonishingly affordable price (did I mention this school was absolutely ideal?), so we'll probably give that a shot.

2. Little Darlings, which would be the prestige choice. It's a pretty darn great school, but it's (a) expensive, (b) not especially close, and (c) we probably wouldn't get in anyway. If we were to be magically accepted, it would be hard to say no to, but I'd probably have to go back to work to afford it. My talk with the boss lady felt awkward and weird, partly because I am awkward and weird and partly because it's just one of those schools people pant over and there are no doubt hundreds of parents clamoring for those 24 slots and she's got to manage expectations and generally keep the wolves at bay.

3. Commercial For-Profit Preschool Chain Preschool That Opened a New School Near-ish To Us: I'm not sure if this school is terrible or fine (I've heard both), but the director was friendly enough that I think I'll take a tour.

4. First United Methodist Church of Santa Monica Preschool: This is the preschool I went to, lo those many years ago, and it was really sweet talking to the director, because her daughter was there when I went there. Her assistant kept being amazed that I remembered stuff like the basement classroom (that they apparently still have!).

PRESCHOOL SEARCH STATUS UPDATE, PART ONE: The big status update is that we decided that if all else fails, homeschooling preschool is totally a thing you can do. Preschool only even became a thing in the last generation, and I feel confident that I can do what needs to be done at this level to keep Jackson "competitive" with the other kids. One of my mom friends asked the other day, "So, what are the deliverables from preschool? Colors, shapes, letters, numbers?" and I was like "Yes, but mostly it's 'Can they stand in line and pay attention during circle time?' " In short, I feel like I can deliver all the preschool deliverables (LOL) between now and the time he's 5.5.

Now, that said, there are plenty of advantages to preschool that I would like us to have, including, but not limited to: (1) The kid seeing friends his own age on a regular basis, (2) the craft-project mess being somewhere other than our kitchen table, (3) more puzzles and fancier block sets than I can possibly afford, (4) music and nursery rhymes, which I'm terrible at remembering and performing, (5) community-building for us and for him, (6) the intangibles of learning to exist outside the shelter of home and bumping up against the troubles of life and bouncing back from them.

So, we're basically pro-preschool but having the option of homeschooling has been tremendously liberating for me. There were three preschool applications sitting on my desk since I did a cluster of tours in April. Quite frankly, I wasn't that bowled over by any of the three schools so I delayed, postponed and procrastinated on submitting the forms and the application fee. But why consider them at all if I wasn't enthused about the schools? Because for a long while I felt like I should cast as wide a net as possible in case the ideal schools didn't come through. No more. I shredded all those applications and put 'em in the compost pile; if our favorite schools don't happen for us, we'll just stay home.

PRESCHOOL SEARCH STATUS UPDATE, PART TWO: Out of 44 possible preschools that have been in our consideration set so far, there are 18 schools remaining in contention and 26 schools on the reject list. The schools in the "no" pile are there for a variety of reasons ranging from too far and too fancy to "the horror, the horror!" (For my L.A. people, the horror rhymes with Zel-o-Dee Zontessori.) Of the 18 schools still in consideration, there are applications in at 7, there are a couple that I've toured but that I can't commit to yet for one reason or another, and there are another 8 or so that I still need to visit. The to-be-visited group is split evenly between schools that might really be prospects and schools that are probably the dregs. Still, I just have to see them for myself because I am an OCD completist like that.

All that said, so far there are three schools that have genuinely impressed me: Ideal Local, Little Darlings and Next-Neighborhood Montessori. Andrew is a fan of Ideal Local, because he found it and because it's the closest and most affordable, too, but I don't want to give up on the other two too soon, just in case things change in our lives in some way I can't predict now. (When I was looking at schools on maternity leave I didn't apply at one local co-op preschool because I was sure that as a working mom I wouldn't be able to volunteer. Obviously now I would have time to volunteer, so lesson learned on keeping my options open!)

RANDOM: When I went to that Betsy Brown Braun preschool thing last year, she said go visit First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica Preschool just to see what the ideal preschool looks like. I did as I was told, and so help me, it really was a wonderful place. Of course, Betsy was right, as she always is. Having the First Pres experience as a visual has been surprisingly helpful in evaluating other schools; I'm just better able to recognize what the various schools are trying to achieve with their chicken coops and their mosaic walls, and I can see to what degree the concept and execution are working (or not).

There was no chance of us going to First Pres, so it was an incredibly relaxed tour for me, and I really enjoyed it--I kinda recommend it if you have time. Plus, celebrity sightings! An early '90s child actor was on my tour, a minor USA Network TV star was there dropping off her kid as we walked through the yard, I think I recognized the name of a quasi-famous screenwriter's kid, and there was a picture of a celebrity kid you see in Us Weekly every other week on one of the photo walls.

How are your school searches going, folks? Hit the comments. I wanna know.

Further Reading: How Do I Find a Preschool in West Los Angeles?


We finally made a glitter bottle, but so far Jackson just says "Drink! Drink!" and pretends to drink from it. He has no interest whatsoever in the contents or discovering how oil and water don't mix. Oh well, we'll get there soon. Meanwhile, I've been having fun collecting craft project materials for 2012, when he might the attention span and the manual dexterity to participate and respond. Totally starting to collect materials now for this golf-ball-turkey-pan art project put together by my friend L. I'm thinking of doing a "senses month" sequence, mostly so I can use this Mr. Senses poem I found, and this golf ball think would hit sound (clanky turkey pan), sight (splattery paint) and touch (bumpy golf ball) like nobody's business.

First Sentence (?)

According to two witnesses (mommy and daddy), Jackson put together a full sentence (verb and everything!) last night in the midst of a temperamental frenzy: "Up! Up! Up! I want up!" We haven't heard him do that before. Was it just an aberration, the beginning of a new language phase or did we hallucinate it together? Time will tell.


The morning nap is dead. Long live the morning nap.

As far as I know, Jackson always slept in the afternoon at daycare, but when I brought him home, I saw that he was exhibiting sleepiness signs in the late morning, so for most of the past three months, I've put him down around 10:30 a.m. He'd sleep anywhere from one to four hours over the course of the day (usually about three hours total), either in one chunk or split between the morning and the late afternoon.

But I think the morning nap luxury is all but over. He just won't go down. He will, seemingly, sleep in the afternoon, so now it's just a matter of figuring out the timing. His bedtime is 7:30, so we like to wake him up before 5 or 5:30, ideally 5. I think I'm going to try to get him down around 1:30 or 2 at the latest, and that'll give him room to sleep for as many as three hours without it totally ruining bedtime.

I also have to figure out what our schedule looks like if I'm going to be entertaining him all morning and past lunchtime. That's a whole different pace than the one I have now!

Park Day: Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park, Culver City

Our first stop on our new Park Tuesdays agenda was Culver City's Dr. Paul Carlson Memorial Park. This park where we saw the Culver City Public Theater play at the end of August. 

Carlson Park has no playground (gasp!), but he toddlers don't care. The historical markers located beneath various trees make for great "Climbing! Climbing!" should your kid be in a phase where he fancies himself a mountain goat. It's a lovely old park, surrounded by homes, about a block south of Sony Studios. The park has many mature trees, is criss-crossed by walking paths, and has a picnic area with barbecues and old-school stone fireplaces for really retro cooks. We enjoyed chasing squirrels, picking up litter, meeting local dogs, and keeping our eyes peeled for trash trucks.

Saturday, October 08, 2011


This is the kind of composter I aspire to be. Not there yet.

Grandpa kept his plants well-nourished. He swept our chimneys himself and kept the soot for the garden, and he collected lime mortar from bomb sites. Any wood ash was carefully kept, also the lawn mowings, and of course he had the manure and old bedding from the chook and rabbit pens. He made a small wooden cart which he pulled behind his bicycle. He rode round behind the baker, the milkman and the coalman, all of whom made their deliveries by horse and cart, collecting the droppings. Of course the local kids called out after him in the street, and teased me about my 'dirty Grandpa'. But he ignored them, and I learnt to do the same. He collected leaf-mould in the Autumn to add to the compost pile, which regularly received every scrap of organic waste he could garner. Bones were broken up with a hammer, (but not before they had spent hours in Gran's stockpot) and fish bones cut up with old scissors. The vacuum cleaner and the dustpans were always emptied on the heap, as were the teapot and the chamberpots we used at night. All tiny scraps of wool, thread and fabric also went in.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Backyard Nature Study: Garden Slender Salamander

The fact that this exists is 100 percent magically magical.

I went out tonight to play with my rain barrels--a half an inch of rain fell on LAX on Tuesday during the first rainstorm of the season and both barrels are full to the brim--and while walking around the side of the house I saw what I thought was a very large, decapitated nightcrawler. But nope, that's not a worm, that's a garden slender salamander, whee!

The fact that salamanders exist in my yard (this is the third or so time I've seen them) amazes me to no end. I don't know how they manage to survive year after year, but every so often I'll find one creeping around on a damp winter's night. This is the first time I've ever gotten a respectable photo, because this is the first year I knew where the "macro" button was on my camera, LOL.

This little guy is less than six inches long and moseyed his way into some mulch after I was done with the glamour shots. He'll probably spend the night snacking on roly-pollies and hoping for some action with a lady salamander. Good luck, little fella!

Further reading: - Batrachoseps major major - Garden Slender Salamander

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Amazing Weekend

After the medical trauma/drama on Friday, Andrew took US out for a beautiful Italian dinner (risotto primavera and lots of wine!), on Saturday I made a breakfast feast for my visiting best friend from high school and her husband, and we spent this afternoon at Venice Beach seeing all the wild denizens and their performance art.

Jackson marched straight for the water, because we were at the "Ocean, ocean, ocean" and the ocean is where the whales live.

A seagull stole Jackson's shoe, but then returned it.

We finished the day at this great Chinese restaurant and Jackson mastered his dipping technique. He got his start with waffle syrup yesterday and graduated to hoisin sauce at dinner tonight.

The weather in Los Angeles this weekend was exquisite, and the company of my family and friends was better.

Life is good.