Panda Tales

Have you guys heard the news about the baby panda born at the National Zoo? Well, it’s very exciting, although my kids’ reactions were strange. When I told them the girl panda had a baby, my son immediately said, “THEY SHOULD NAME IT MICHAEL.” When I asked why, he said, “I don’t know, I just want a panda named Michael to live at our zoo.” Um. Then I told my daughter about it, and she asked to see a picture. Here is the picture I think she was expecting to see:
BabyPanda
SO adorable, right? Well, here is the picture I showed her:
BabyPanda2
She said, “That is not a panda.”

Can we all agree that pandas should not exist? Really. If they weren’t so adorable (after their hair comes in, I mean, and they stop looking like a smiling hairy penis with tiny claws), we would not go to such ridiculous lengths to keep them alive. I read a New Yorker article recently about all the horrifying lengths zookeepers go to to help the pandas reproduce – including building platforms and weird plastic cylinder structures to help them, um, get comfortable. Some even dress up in panda COSTUMES so they can go in the enclosure and, I don’t know, get them in the mood or something? I hope zookeepers get paid a lot.

ZookeeperPanda

Also, if the pandas are fooled by that crappy costume, then they really are doomed.

I imagine that someday we will find ancient cave drawings about unicorns that are exactly like our modern day panda story: all the cavemen thought that unicorns were so adorable and magical, and then the unicorns stopped reproducing, and the cavemen were all “Ohhg og grunt what the hell grunt?” and used all of their caveman know-how to save the unicorns, and eventually said, “Eh, what are you going to do.” And bam, no more unicorns. Yes, I am basically an anthropologist.

My father-in-law is Chinese. He visited us once shortly after the National Zoo got its first panda years ago, and we asked him if he wanted to go see it. And he said, “No. I’ve already seen a panda in China. They all look alike.” Which is TOTALLY TRUE.

So I guess the point of this is: when the pandas all die, they really had it coming. The end.

Bee-yoo-tiful

Before school started this year, we squeezed in one last summer trip out west to California. We started in San Francisco and drove down the Pacific Coast Highway to Irvine. I don’t know why everyone thinks San Francisco is full of hipster-artsy-weirdo types; it is not like we saw a group of interpretive hula hoop dancers performing to tambourine music in the park. Oh wait.

HulaHoopers

[Note: that picture is blurry because I was worried if I got too close they would sense my incredible hula hooping talent and try to steal me away.]

The roadtrip was fun. We saw family and friends, and also, gigantic snorting elephant seals:
ElephantSeals
They were smelly and made obscene noises and fought constantly. I am talking about the seals, not the family and friends we saw. Just to be clear.

The hubz and I had done this road trip nearly a decade ago, right after I took the bar exam. That time we stopped at every charming coastal town along the way, drank wine, stared at the ocean, and wandered through boutiques and galleries with nothing but disposable income and free time. I knew the trip would be different this time with the kids in tow – less wine, more whine (ba dum, ching!) – but I couldn’t wait for them to see the coast. Because don’t all 4- and 6-year-olds appreciate scenic natural beauty? Answer: no. No, they do not.

I spent the first hour or two of our drive demanding calmly suggesting that they look out the window and enjoy the view. Here is a good example of the scenery:
Binky
That is a picture taken high above the ocean, while the marine layer rolled in over the water and melted away as it hit the mountains in the morning sun. The kids did a nice job of faking it, but they were not impressed. (And yes, that is a fake binky in my daughter’s mouth. The kids entertained themselves by pretending to be babies and “baby talking” for most of the drive, which did not drive me insane at all.)

Here is some more beautiful scenery from our drive:
Waterfall
You can just make out a tiny, thin waterfall splashing down onto a pristine beach, near turquoise ocean waters crashing into beautiful, rugged rock formations. Did my kids like that amazing scene? Sure, for about two seconds, and then they saw this:
Tunnel
That is a drainpipe/tunnel. They ran through that thing, laughed, made fart noises, giggled, and were thrilled to be running through a huge rusty pipe.

So after the tunnel o’ fun, I backed off and let them enjoy the car ride however they wanted. And along with enjoying the view and having uninterrupted conversations with the hubz (what?!), I was able to appreciate that my kids were cracking each other up in the backseat of our rental car for mile after mile after mile. They were whispering, and giggling, and saying totally naughty things, and making up silly games, and it was beautiful.

Not as beautiful as that freaking waterfall, but still pretty good. And now they’re back to school and I miss them like crazy. Even the baby talk.

Overrated

Last week I took my kids to see the famous smelly corpse flower at the National Botanical Garden.

The trip from the ‘burbs took us an hour door-to-door, which included 15 minutes of waiting in line outside while it was 4,000 degrees with 9 million percent humidity. By the time we were almost in, the only thing keeping the kids from acting like wild animals was the promise that this flower was going to smell like the worst thing they could possibly imagine. My daughter asked me very earnestly if it would be “worse than a poop and vomit bubble,” and I said, “WELL OF COURSE.”

And then we overheard this conversation between a guy standing in line and a Botanical Garden worker:
Guy: “So this thing must be pretty stinky, huh?!”
Worker: “Nah, not really. There are so many people.”
Guy: [Stunned silence.] “Uh, what? It’s supposed to smell like dead bodies. And why does it matter how many people are here?”
Worker: “Yeah, it’s not really THAT bad. And with all the people around, it just doesn’t smell as much. I don’t know, it sort of dissipates or doesn’t make as much smell during the day or something.”

So to recap, this 10-foot-tall uncomfortably phallic looking plant that is plastered all over the intrawebs gets a little shy around crowds. I am pretty sure no one ever mentioned that to me.

Once we finally got up close to the thing, sure enough, it did not smell at all. My kids told me that they thought they could smell something stinky, but I’m pretty sure it was just all the sweaty tourists.
Titus Anum

Which reminds me: what the hell happened with the cicadas? I will tell you what. Nothing. I did not see one all summer long. Back in the spring I read article after disgusting article about the impending East Coast invasion, describing how the cicadas would take over the East Coast, steal our children, ruin our crops, and enslave us, AND NOTHING HAPPENED.

So I am grumpy about a not-smelly-enough stinky plant, and also about missing an invasion of noisy, creepy insects. Perhaps I need a nap. Or perhaps YOU do, DC, with your nature-hype machine.

Tomorrow it’s supposed to be beautiful out, and I’m taking my kids to the movies. So there.

Home Sweet Home

The kids and I went to Grandma’s house in Missouri a few days after our return from paradise. After chilling by turquoise Caribbean ocean waters, you may think that the kids would feel a little let down by a trip to Missouri. But you would be wrong. Because:

1. This is a bakery in Missouri:
Candy
Why, yes, that is an entire aisle of bulk candy. On sale. The “bakery” had sugary versions of things that should not be candy, including candied veggie fries, gummy fried eggs, sour bone-shaped candy, and chocolate life-sized fish. My son is a blur in that picture because his pancreas is trying to jump out of his body.

2. This is what happens when you go fishing in Missouri:
Catfish2
That is a toddler-sized, barking catfish that was 2 feet long and weighed 30 pounds. For all you city folk, catfish do not live on land or fall from the sky. OH no. I caught that thing from a lake with a line, a pole, and a whole truckload of gumption. In all my years on the East Coast, I have never caught a catfish like that. I have also never tried, but that is really not the point.

3. These are some wardrobe choices in Missouri:
Wiener Dog
Missouri summers can be brutal. When it is 104 degrees with 4,000% humidity, wearing clothing of any kind is awful — why not wear something hilarious? That way, the people walking by (who are likely experiencing heat exhaustion, and may be slipping in to some sort of diabetic coma after grabbing breakfast at the “bakery”) can get a little chuckle on their way to the ER.

4. And finally, there is really good ice cream everywhere in Missouri. And our super awesome Grandma took us to all the best ice cream spots.
Central Dairy

On the plane heading home, the kids said they liked Grandma’s house better than the Caribbean. And once Grandma stocks up on some rum punch and has an ocean view, I will totally agree with them.

I Believe I Can Fly

I took a little blogging break. Did you miss me? Well, I am sorry, but I did not miss you, because this was happening. TO ME:
DSC_0922

And this:
DSC_1076
And a little of this:
DSC_0946

We were in the Caribbean and it was perfect. My kids snorkeled in the ocean, the hubz and I fell off paddleboards paddleboarded, and we crammed about forty years of sun exposure into ten amazing days. We also enjoyed the local drinks cuisine. Here is a picture of my husband telling some local men how much rum punch I drank at lunch one day:
RumPunch

Our travel day home was not perfect, though. I’m talking mechanical problems, a missed connection, a screwed up re-booking, and getting home after midnight with two delirious kids. Which got me to thinking: you know all those tips and suggestions people give you for flying with kids? Like, “Bring earplugs for the people seated next to you on the plane while traveling with your infant.” And, “Take the red-eye so your kid will sleep.” And, “Buy these overpriced and difficult-to-use gadgets and you’ll be able to change your baby’s diaper in an airplane bathroom with only your mind.” Well, those are completely useless. Here is the only list you will ever need.

Mama, Esq.’s Tips for Flying With Kids
1. When planning your trip, ask yourself: who will watch the kids while I go on this trip without them?
2. If you are definitely going to fly with your kids, then go have a drink and get the fuck ready.
3. Seriously, just fly by yourself and meet everyone at your final destination. Preferably after you’ve had a chance to explore the local spas.
4. OK, so let’s do this thing. Wait, you said you’re planning on bringing one bag? Well aren’t you precious. Just go ahead and make it eight, and budget around $400 for baggage fees.
5. Do not let your plane’s mechanical problems make you miss your connecting flight, because that is totally under your control.
6. When your travel day does not go as planned, try going balls-out crazy at everyone around you. I’m talking yelling, and making empty threats, and foaming at the mouth, and tossing papers around. This helpful tip was provided by the angry man in front of me in the re-booking line.
7. If an airline representative dismissively tells you to file a formal complaint with the airline “to help make his life easier,” remember: it is probably better to choke down your anger and get an ulcer than to explain to your 4-year-old why mommy dropped an F-bomb at a pleasant-sounding stranger. Probably.
8. When you realize an hour later that the same airline representative screwed up your re-booking, just go ahead and drop that F-bomb. It’s probably better your kids hear it from you first than from some little punk at preschool. Probably.
9. Don’t forget to enjoy the magical wonder of flight with your children. You may want to celebrate this magical wonder with several cocktails and/or an Ambien.

Safe travels!