Friday, November 25, 2016

Favorite Small Shops and Holiday Deals + Gifts

c/o shoparq


Wetsuit Wearhouse // code: MERMAID20
Roxy // code: FRIDAY
Pom Pom Surf and Skate Gear // code: WEEKEND
INT Surfboards // code: mermaid20

Children's Clothing & Toys

Billie Blooms // code: GIVETHANKS
Urban Baby Bonnets // up to 75% off site-wide
Over the Ocean

Ideas and Favorites 

For Avalon

Sarah's Silks (great for wrapping gifts in, too!)
Toy Pots and Pans
Little Blue Truck and Color Chart Building Blocks
Tech Deck Toy Skateboards
Crayola Color Wonder Markers and Paper
Linen Food Tray

Children's Books

Current Favorites

Wish List Books

Thursday, November 17, 2016

So Much & Santa Cruz

The late afternoon light casts a coolness over the house. Everything looks bluer, but the house smells like cinnamon so it feels warm. I'm sitting on a couch that might as well be stuffed with cotton balls thinking back on our trip to Santa Cruz a few weeks ago. Sometimes I feel like I hang on the travels of my life hoping they'll tell me things even after they're over and, in this regard, I feel like the lessons of our road trip to Santa Cruz will be revealing themselves slowly for a while.  

We planned, we played, we came home happy-exhausted. What is there left to say about a time so meaningful and so short? I feel the same way about the holidays, which seem to be right behind almost every corner ready to pounce. These squishy human bodies feel so much and know so little.

I do know I need to write down some things about our time in Santa Cruz, not only because I like to keep record for myself anytime I do something resembling my life in my twenties, but because I can tell it's time to move on to something else.

Before the trip, I became obsessed with picking the most ideally perfect AirBnB possible. In other words, I started a search for our exact set-up here in San Diego, but further north near our friends and with a working fireplace. I narrowed it down to two places. One was near a world class surf spot called Steamer Lane and the other was near an equally famous, but less-shortboardable spot in Pleasure Point. When the house near Steamer Lane became unavailable, I did what any reasonable person would do and dwelled on it for days. The people who booked it were also getting to stay for a whole week, which we were unable to do. I pretty much needed Daniel Tiger to come in and sing some song with odd intonation to help me move on. Although, I've been looking for a reason to kick that sanctimonious tiger, so I'm sure I would have taken advantage, had he actually shown up.

The owner of the house we chose was kind. I could tell before I met her. I could hear it in her email voice and in the way she said "The number one rule for the beach house is no stress!"

On our first evening we arrived at the small, warmly lit wooden beach house with teal shutters that made the front windows look just like eyes wearing eyeshadow. There was a note on the chalkboard welcoming us and I cried a little. I knew we were in the right place.

We specifically booked a house with two bedrooms so we could all sleep in peace, but after Scott was tightly tucked in bed with his ear-infection drops soaking and his insagram feed synced up, I became overcome with anxiety that the heater between the two bedrooms could, in a Nighttime News inspirited fantasy, catch fire rendering me unable to save my baby. We carried the crib and sleeping babe carefully through the door jams and around the tight corners of the little hallway into our room where we all slept soundly to the hum of the heat.

The next day Mark visited and we rode bikes to the beach, the sky hovering over the four of us like a great blue blanket. I was expecting that I would have a rebuttal to almost every claim Mark made. This has been the nature of our friendship since I met Scott and him at a keg party on a cold winter night and he insisted he wasn't drinking. However, on this trip, Mark and my conversations went together more like two different musical instruments playing the same song. He took my advice about his relationship and gave me questions about God I'd never thought about. When I think of Mark and the four other guys Scott lived with in college, I think of the time Scott and I were driving through South Carolina and he said that they were all like the brothers he and I never had. 

In the evening, after a taking turns between surfing and playing with Avalon, we skated a new skatepark and drank some pale ale called Baby Daddy (after Avalon went to bed) with our friend T who's about to be a dad. When T was calling earlier in the day I didn't pick up because I thought he was a telemarketer. After all, on Scott's phone it said call from 'T Mobile'.

On Friday, Scott surfed and slept in the hammock. Avalon napped a long nap and we prepared for new company. I got to skate the Santa Cruz Skatepark and Scott, Avalon and I ate a rushed dinner at a local brewery. My college roommates--Nicole and Basia--arrived after dark with their families and it was like Thanksgiving dinner with Vodka-Lemonades and cold leftover kid's meals. We drank and laughed and no one slept well. In the morning the surf was huge. We visited a beach probably in every tourist guide for Santa Cruz ever called Natural Bridges. Avalon and Nicole's son, Will, held hands and slobber-kiss each other with sandy, open mouths. I surfed in the evening at the spot by the house, Pleasure Point. I got some amazing set waves under my feet and on my head. Even though the water was in the 50s and night fell before I reached the cliffs, I was practically steaming in the cold from all the paddling I did. 

On our last day it's just us again and no one woke up in a particularly good mood. I wanted to stay, Scott was ready to get on the road and Avalon wanted to put spoons in the heater. 

I did finally get to surf Steamer Lane though. It was windy and cold and had I not crouched like a fox, I would have somersaulted into the water since I took the most dangerous, rock-scaling way of getting to it. Bottom-turns, top-turns, seaweed, locals, wind and whales. I could hear the seals bellowing in the distance so predictably I could have mistaken them for a fog horn. There was so much life there, and so many ghosts. At the top of the cliff were memorials to the Santa Cruz greats, some flowers and paint fresher than the rest. Shawn Barney Barron, one of my favorite surf characters, being one of the most recent. In these moments I remember we are not forever.

Driving home honestly used to be so much more about procrastinating settling into reality when it was just Scott and me drinking margaritas at lunch and wandering seal-covered beaches like early settlers. This trip it was about watching Daniel Tiger on my lap top, spilling peas in the back seat and stopping at my in-law's for bath time. 

Once we arrived to our own cheerily lit house, we unpacked our suitcases and let out deep sighs. There was so much still to do, but now so much more that we had done.

We snuggled into our beds with exhausted joy and dirty fingernails. I lie awake for a minute wondering what these trips will become someday as our family grows, as our friendships evolve, as we age. 

These squishy human bodies feel so much and know so little.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Fish Hat Man and The New Identity

There has been good swell and hot weather all week and I've been watching from the beach or cliff. In true Endless Summer fashion most people were sure to tell me I "shoulda been here yesterday" once I paddled out.

There are many things that are hard about motherhood that I wasn't expecting--least of which was having bad hair days for over a year and probably most of which was trying to find myself again once my identity shifted, even though I've meant to and wanted to be a mother forever; even though I miss Avalon when I'm surfing and when she's sleeping.

On this wave there was a guy behind me, a guy who just got dropped in on by my friend Mike M. on another good wave. I didn't think he'd make the section, but he was fast on his retro fish. When we kicked out he gave me a big thumbs up and called over the sound of the waves and wind, "You were ripping!" I was shocked (and sorry and oddly validated).

I feel like in 30 years I could be a pretty good person, but I might not live that long so I need to try harder now; to do little things every day that make people feel like they matter and are seen and heard and loved. To be more of what I need when I'm sad or confused or lonely for other people when they are. To be like that guy in a fisherman's hat riding a fish who congratulated me even though the wave was his. I want all of that to be a part of my evolving identity too. 

I know I don't get to surf as much as I used to. Sometimes that even comes out to the psychologist I occasionally see, but I enjoy it more too (I mean it). I notice more now like how the cold water actually feels good and makes your heart beat slower so you can focus on just one thing; that a friend has grown a weird beard or gotten a new board with a black stringer. To notice that you're actually excited that your life has changed.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Peace of Wild Things

•The Peace of Wild Things •
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free. 
-Wendell Berry

Monday, November 7, 2016

Urban Baby Bonnets Giveaway!

I've shared pictures of Avalon in various bonnets over the course of her life. Those bonnets have all been Urban Baby Bonnets. I've had them on my radar for years and now that we've stashed them in diaper bags, stuffed them in beach bags and packed them in suitcases for various adventures I can say they're everything I wanted in a hat and more. They're protective, functional, easy to clean, easy to pack, have a comfortable, adjustable chin strap to keep them in place and they're so cute. We get asked about her hats wherever we go and I always feel confident sending people over to Urban Baby Bonnets. Needless to say, I'm thrilled to have the chance to offer a giveaway here today. They have caps for boys, too and snow bonnets for winter. All of the hats are reversible and handmade. In case you are new to Urban Baby Bonnets you can read a little bit more about this awesome company below...

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Dear Avalon,

This year you are a Wild Thing for Halloween. Max, to be specific. I took you to a Halloween party this morning and you walked intently around the perimeter of the yard collecting rocks and wood chips in a tiny plastic pumpkin bucket. I looked over at one point and all the other moms were mingling near the water table with their kids, or without them. I felt a twinge in my heart, like maybe I should be over there mingling too. I've never had the easiest time making friends at first. But then I looked back at you with your twisted up little grin and dirty paws and I knew I was just where I wanted to be.

Right now is collecting sticks and rocks and feathers. Right now is smiling at babies and other kids really close-up in their face. Right now is two naps, sometimes one. Right now is humming in the car and running on the beach and learning not to hit or bite. Right now is saying new words, like pumpkin, and saying your name "A-lon". Right now is being patient and impatient, curious and brave and feisty and helpful and wild.

I could eat you up, I love you so.

Momma Wild

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Since September // Maddie's Cancer Story: Chapter 4

I started chemotherapy on November 9th, 2015 on the 4th floor of Kaiser Permanente’s Irvine infusion center. I remember feeling nervous, the same way I used to when a new school year started, only this time without the excitement. My mom accompanied me on my first visit. She was equipped with magazines and conversation topics to keep my mind off of what we were doing. We were escorted through the clinic past the other patients receiving treatment. Everyone looked tired and sullen…qualities I quickly adopted myself after a few treatments. We were seated at my station and I became very quiet; the reality of my situation settled in.

I received treatment every other Monday (this raised the bar for what is already considered to be the worst day of the week). My “cocktail,” as it is referred to, was called FOLFOX (Folinic acid, Fluorouracil, Oxaliplatin). I sat in the infusion center for a couple hours while the drugs dripped into my system. One of the drugs, Fluorouracil, required a “to go” pump that would attach to my chest and administer the drug for the next 3 days. It was an annoying little needle that stuck through my portacath (device implanted in my chest) and was attached to a line that connected to the pump, which dangled by my right side. I carried this device in a handmade fabric satchel with a salmon fish pattern on it. I later burned said satchel ceremonially. Then, each Wednesday, I would return to the hospital where they would flush and disconnect the pump.

This continued for six months. Though I was pretty worn out as the weeks progressed, the appointments got better with time. I was lucky enough to have a different family member or friend take me to my twelve appointments. Each “special guest” would bring something different to each appointment…whether it was a fun game, a deep discussion, or a hilarious reminiscing session, I was never disappointed. I actually have a lot of great memories from some of the appointments; we would drink hot chocolate and play Yahtzee. Plus, it was an excuse for my friend or family member to skip an hour or two of work with me, which felt special to share that time together. One friend even brought our old high school yearbooks and we laughed about the notes we wrote to each other when we were sixteen.

Though the appointments were relatively enjoyable, the days following the treatment were pretty difficult. I didn’t experience much nausea because they gave me a drug to suppress it (Zofran). However, I would have little to no energy, which I mainly attributed to frequent diarrhea. Maybe you can tell I’m not shy about sharing that information, and here’s why:

Most of my close friends and family can attest that I’ve had pretty bad diarrhea my entire life. I have irritable bowel syndrome. So because of that, coupled with losing two feet of my colon, I was told that I would have even more diarrhea than before the surgery. And as an added bonus, my chemo drugs caused diarrhea. I spent most of my days on the toilet. I shit my pants more times than I laughed. Don’t feel bad for me, I laughed a lot! But in all seriousness, the pain from it was bad but the worst part was becoming dangerously dehydrated. 

To add to that, because of the drugs, drinking cold water felt like drinking shards of glass. This is not uncommon for chemo patients receiving Oxaliplatin, but it definitely didn’t help my dehydration situation. All of my water had to be heated, which was unpleasant and high maintenance.

Closer to the end of my treatment, they had to lower my dosage because my body couldn’t handle the intensity anymore. At about 3 months, I completely lost my appetite, which was especially bad since I was eliminating all of my nutrients. I remember being so weak some days that I couldn’t stand up in the shower. Some days I couldn’t even get out of bed. At one point I weighed 85 pounds. Though I was happy to finally lose the stubborn pizza and beer weight from college, it wasn’t exactly the way I wanted to lose it, nor did I want to be the size I was in 4th grade.

Aside from the shards of glass sensation and extreme weight loss, I had a few other side effects: 

  • Lowered white blood cell count which weakened my immune system. Sometimes I had to wear a mask in public or sanitize the area where I was sitting. 
  • Immediately following my treatments, my voice would get very weak, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe for a minute or so. 
  • I didn’t lose my hair because that wasn’t a side effect of the drugs in my cocktail. However, the hair on the crown of my head and my eyebrows started to thin out, and I lost my eyelashes and all other hair on my body i.e. my mustache (thanks Italian heritage). 
  • My hands turned extremely red and I lost my fingerprints. At one point, I went to get my Global Entry pass and their machine couldn’t read them. I couldn’t even use the “Touch ID” to open my iPhone. 
and restrictions: 
  • No raw fruits or vegetables in case I was exposed to e. coli. This included even a lemon wedge in my water! 
  • No raw fish. Bye bye sushi, sigh. 
  • Little to no red or processed meat. Red meat is of course beef but, surprise! It’s also pork. And “processed meat” consists of any meat that is cured or salted i.e. sausage, deli meat, etc. 
  • No alcohol. My liver was already processing so many toxins from the chemo so drinking was not allowed. This blew. 
Needless to say, it was a difficult time for me. I was also hospitalized two more times. Once, I got Norovirus…that thing that was spread around the cruise ships and sickened Chipotle customers. I probably got it because of my weakened immune system and then ate something bad. The next hospitalization was from a triple infection. I had gone in the hot tub with Avalon on a warm spring day. I woke up that night feeling like I was being bit by spiders on the back of my upper thigh. The next day I had Andy inspect me and he noticed I had quarter-sized red and pus-filled cysts on my legs and butt. I also had a fever so he took me to urgent care, where I was admitted into the hospital for a skin infection. After a few tests, they discovered I also had a colon and kidney infection that I probably would not have discovered without the skin infection. I ended up staying in the hospital for 3 days.

After the third hospitalization, I was instructed to avoid public places in fear of being exposed to germs. Though all of this was hell to go through, I could mostly handle the physical trials my body had to endure. What was most troubling though, was the emotional aspect. I’ll try to begin to explain in my next chapter.