parenting

The House that the Jungle Cruise Built

Oh my gawd, I haven’t blogged for fun in forever. Hello, everyone! I missed you. I’ve mostly been writing blogs for corporate entities of late, in exchange for money. It’s a great system! But I had a joyful little moment the other day that’s prompted me to get back on the Hipster Mother wagon.

Earlier this week, we took Charlie on his very first Jungle Cruise ride. Andy and I first met while we worked on Disneyland’s Jungle Cruise, approximately one million years ago. (Yesterday was our 16th first-date-aversary. We both forgot until mid-day, and then celebrated with Mexican food.)

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This is the best picture I got. It will do!

We’ve avoided Jungle Cruising with Charlie up to this point because he thought it looked too scary. What happens to that boat when it goes around the corner? Death? Probably death. He’s not interested in death right now. He has a lot of magic tricks to look at on YouTube, and he’s not about to throw that all away for a chance to take a boat ride straight to the pit of hell. We had the same fear issue with the caterpillar train in Disney California Adventure. Where does it go after it gets through the giant box of animal crackers? To the pit of hell? Probably to the pit of hell. But now that damned train is his favorite and literally the only thing he wants to ride. Over and over and over again. With Jungle Cruise, we once got as far as taking him through most of the line before he started screaming and panic-crying.

But Tuesday, he asked if we could go on it. He asked if it was still daytime, because it would be too scary at night. He asked right at dusk, so we had to move fast.

Charlie fucking loved it. He’s all about cheesy jokes right now, and our skipper was polished and totally on-script. When our skipper did the line about most people taking these rocks for granite, Charlie laughed like a goddamn lunatic. He has no idea what granite is, but he knew this guy was using a joke-telling voice, and Charlie loves to be in on the joke. His favorite part was “when that elephant joked at me that it was going to splash me.”

To see the love and family that we’ve built off of this puntastic theme park attraction was a special experience that made me feel feelings, like joy and hope, that have become harder to come by since right around November 8th of last year. I thanked our skipper, conveyed the momentousness of the occasion, and told him what a bummer it would have been if this evening’s ride had sucked.

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Charlie at Trader Sam’s House

We also took Charlie to “Trader Sam’s House” at the Disneyland Hotel, which has become part of our pre-game ritual when we go to Disneyland. We sit outside, because the inside of this themed restaurant is obviously completely horrifying. They’ve got moody lighting, so that probably means that terror and death await. Charlie’s smart. He knows that blue gels on your overhead lights mean you’re evil.

Oh, he also asked to go on The Haunted Mansion for the first time, so we took him. It went poorly.

“It was supposed to be spooky fun, but it was just REAL spooky. I’ll never be happy again! Ahhhhhhhhhh!” – Charlie

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The Romantic Getaway of My 8th Grade Dreams

I’m about to embark on the romantic getaway that I’ve fantasized about since I was in 8th grade. I knew, without a doubt, that when I got married, I wanted my sweetheart and I to honeymoon at the Pink Flamingo in fabulous Laughlin, Nevada.

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It’s as beautiful as I remember it. (Not my picture. I found it on the Internet, specifically here.)

I went on a family trip and was dazzled by the neon lights and white wine at the most adult place I’d ever beheld. One day, this would be for me, with no adult figures to run the show and no younger kids for me to keep an eye on. And no other 8th graders, because they’re terrible, too, and Christy thinks she’s such a big deal because she’s allowed to wear a bikini top. And at the casino, I wouldn’t have to stay on the red part of the carpet, approved for those underage, as I made my way from my hotel room to the seafood buffet.

I would drink all the Jack Daniels Lynchburg Lemonade I wanted. And I bet I’d want like three of them. Who’s to stop me? I could wear a swimsuit with no XL t-shirt over it. True, no one was stopping me from doing that as a 13-year-old, but I assumed that as a honeymooner, I would be more beautiful, confident, and generally radiant in my one-piece (but maybe French-cut!) swimsuit. It would be black, because I would be classy, and because I was less than thrilled about what I dubbed my Amazing Technicolor Dream Suit, a tie-dye looking number with a high, mock-turtleneck-style neckline that I had to special-order for swim team. (It was theorized that my big boobs were slowing me down and keeping the Greentree Gators from attaining their full glory. Alas, the special-ordered suit didn’t keep me out of the slow lane.)

Did I mention the high level of romance in this magical town? A lot of people take their Sea-Doos to the river, but frankly, with the amount of fancy dinner I’m going to be eating with my sweetheart, I doubt we’ll even get down to the river. I will of course bring my fancy black one-piece just in case. I will probably find some kind of a cover-up that isn’t a t-shirt, because of the sunburn potential and also I don’t want my handsome new husband to see my legs. By the way, he’ll definitely be taller than me, and I envision him having dark brown hair that’s kind of poofy, but it doesn’t really matter as long as we’re happy and all the other girls are jealous of how handsome he his.

I’ve already envisioned what I’m going to wear in *the evening,* if you catch my meaning. The after-dinner part of the evening. On my honeymoon. In the hotel room. I will for sure have big curls, which now that I think about it causes a logistical challenge because here in the future I no longer have access to hot rollers. But still. Big curls. I will wear the sexiest thing I can think of: A full-length, black, satin slip, with lace trim on the bottom (to add a little extra length, so my sweetheart doesn’t have to see the tops of my knees or God forbid my upper legs), and lace on the top as well. Not see-through lace, but lace sewn over the satin on the top. It wouldn’t show any cleavage, but you could still see my collarbone. It would have spaghetti straps, because when you’re on your honeymoon, you can’t get sent to the Vice Principal’s office for wearing something sleeveless. It would not be too tight, because that would probably be unflattering. So basically I’m describing a loose-fitting sundress, the most romantic nightwear of all. We won’t do anything on the first night but kiss, because we’ll need some time to get comfortable with each other. Plus we probably won’t want to have a baby straight away, and I don’t know of any methods of birth control besides abstinence and sterilization. But I would look awesome in my satin sundress/nightgown, and I would drink a white wine spritzer. And there should be chocolate-covered strawberries in the hotel room, because this is a special occasion. And then when we went downstairs for mochas the next morning, maybe people would look at us like they knew we’d been kissing the night before, but we wouldn’t care. Our love would be stronger than their judgement.

Well, kids, the time has finally come. Sadly, we didn’t make it to Laughlin for our honeymoon, but twelve years into a marriage is as good a time as any to live the life of your dreams.

Andy and I have been absolutely terrible at planning date nights since Charlie was born, but we’ve done a fantastic job of planning quarterly, out-of-town fuckfests. It’s hard to make out when you live with a toddler, turns out.

So while I might not have the full-length romantic sundress/nightgown I envisioned, I may not have the hot rollers I require, and the goddamn Pink Flamingo may have betrayed me by closing down, by I’ll be damned if I’m not going to get the Romantic Adult Vacation I’ve been dreaming of for the last two decades.

Next up on Teenage Kate’s Romantic Getaway Roster, I aspire to go to San Diego with my sweetheart. But I will only go to Sea World for maybe a really fancy dinner. The rest of the time, we’re going to go to walk on the beach, where I’ll wear a giant floppy sunhat and linen pants. And a sleeveless top. Because I’m a sexy and confident grown-up out on a romantic getaway.

Top Hipster Baby Names of 2016 Probably

The third annual list not based on any official data. It’s just what I think you should have named your baby this year.

It’s still a little early for the Social Security Administration to release its list of the top baby names of 2016, but you can read this instead.

11. Fisher

Hipsters and non-hipsters alike pay homage to Carrie Fisher’s legacy while acknowledging that “Carrie” is a real so-so name for a kid. Unless it’s a boy-kid. Then go nuts with that “Carrie” business. “Leia” is an excellent substitute if you don’t want your child to be known as “Fishy” or “Care-Bear” all through high school.

10. Lillet

It’s an aperitif I tried for the first time tonight. It’s pretty good. Like a fancy Muscatel. “Egg Nog” is an acceptable alternative, as is “Kirkland Signature.”img_3942

9. Vladimir

A bold choice that’s sure to pay off in coming years.

8. Dandelion

Beating “Kale” for the first time, enjoy this fresh take on classic hipster greens!

7. Rocket

Named for the kind of arugula, not for the engine. More kick-ass than “Dandelion” without being as on-the-nose as “Kale.” Just do me a favor and don’t name your kid “Chard,” okay? It’s a combination of “Chad” and “Shart,” neither of which are appropriate names for a human.

6. Old-Timey Typewriter

Pretty self-explanatory.

5. Zoloft

It’s been a rough year, but you’re still here.

4. Football

You want to love it, you really do. But can’t quite get the bat off your shoulder. You’d use an appropriate football metaphor instead of “get the bat off your shoulder,” but you don’t know any.

3. Pillow

Probably named after one of the Palin kids, but who can even remember the 2008 election cycle at this point? It’s a name that harkens back to a more innocent time, one way or the other.

2. Raytheon

Because “Monsanto” is played out. But you’re still kind of winking at it, you know?

1. Patriarchy

It goes great with any last name and ensures that your child can be the front-person for an indy band: Patriarchy Jones. Patriarchy Muñoz. Patriarchy Pence. Patriarchy Langsdorf. Say them aloud. Listen to their power. This is the name of a winner.

I Voted! And My Toddler Helped! Kind of!

We walked as a family to our polling place today. My East Coast friends (who live three hours in the future) had a lot of posts about how they cried at the polls. Making history! Feelings!

I didn’t cry, but Charlie almost did. As we left, it became apparent that he wasn’t going to get to meet Hillary Clinton OR Donald Trump today. This voting experience was not what he signed up for.

“Where’s Her-Larry Cinton and Donald Trump?”

“They’re voting in New York. Everyone votes close to their house.”

“Okay, let’s go to New York now.”

“No, buddy, we’re going to go home after this.”

“BUT I WANT TO SEE DONALD TRUMP!”

Last night I asked Andy if he knew what the J stood for in “Donald J. Trump.” He said, “I don’t know. John? Jerk?”

Charlie was within earshot and thought this was the greatest comic masterpiece since Tartuffe. So obviously, he marched out of the polling station chanting, “Donald Jerk Trump! Donald Jerk Trump!”

We told him that we weren’t allowed to say what we think of the the candidates inside the building. So he went back to his previous talking point: “But where IS Donald Trump? Let’s go see him.”

“We’re not going to see him today, honey.”

“Okay, let’s go see Her-larry Clinton.”

So far, it’s been an awesome day and I’m glad I got to share it with my guys. But now that he mentions it, it is pretty disappointing that we don’t get to meet Hillary Clinton today.

Maybe tomorrow.img_3445img_2411

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A Failed Bucket List For a Soon-to-be-Former Washingtonian

We’re moving back to Los Angeles. Soon. Like soon enough that my chances of completing my “1000 Things to Do In D.C. Before I Die” is looking pretty grim. At summer’s outset, when a fall move back to L.A. was officially decided upon, my list began to take form.

  1. Take Charlie to the Air & Space Museum
  2. Take Charlie to the College Park Aviation Museum.
  3. Go see Hamilton on Broadway. Not a D.C. thing, but L.A. will not have $13 Bolt Bus rides to Penn Station.
  4. Bring Charlie to Fredericksburg like 12 weekends in a row so he could play with various cousins and doting adult relatives.
  5. Eat dinner at Jaleo with Andy. We’ve been meaning to. Small plates! Iberian-style! With octopus! It would be like our favorite thing.
  6. See a burlesque show at that place on H street. (Wait– Just looked it up. The Palace of Wonders, later renamed Red Palace, closed at the beginning of 2013. Double-damn!)
  7. Have a quality Sunday brunch with each of my beloved D.C.-area friends and colleagues. (Maybe at the Red Palace! Wait–)
  8. Host a swingin’ house-cooling party, for more quality time with beloved D.C.-area friends and colleagues.
  9. Read all my Real Simple and Sunset Magazines, which I’ve just been putting in a beautiful stack since Charlie was born.
  10. Bike trail!
  11. Take Charlie on the recently restored carousel at historic Glen Echo Park.
  12. Have a beer with Joe Biden.
  13. Get invited to a State Dinner. I don’t even care if it’s for a country known for their great food.
  14. Spot a bald eagle in my neighborhood, close enough to take an identifiable picture of it.
  15. Have happy hour at McClellan’s Retreat, because California will never favor me with a bar whose name is a one-percenter Civil War joke.
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    This is a for real boundary stone, right? I found it in Friendship Heights. It’s a stone marking the District boundary, so I feel like even if it’s not official, it should get me points somehow. UPDATE: This is way too fancy to be original.

    Find all the District boundary stones. (I think I found one on my way home from the doctor’s last week, so just like 39 to go!)

  17. Take a solo trip to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. My previous visits have been tours with colleagues or youthful field trips wherein I had to keep my shit together. I just want to not tell anyone where I’m going one Tuesday morning and spend some time sobbing by the confiscated shoes.
  18. Eat everything delicious. Ben’s Chili Bowl was once high on this list, but Bill Cosby’s muraled face smiles at me every time I walk by. While that used to be charming, these days it puts me in no mood for a half-smoke.
  19. Go get my nose pierced with my friend Cynthia, like we swore a year ago (over wine) that we would.

As the summer has taken shape, my revised bucket list has become much smaller:

  1. Have literally 11 vein-repair surgeries on my legs, plus some ultrasounds to make sure said surgeries are working.
  2. Rest between those surgeries and allow you, my beloved D.C.-area friends and colleagues, to come over and drink wine with me in the evenings. Double points if you bring a casserole or entertain my child.
  3. Yard sale to end all yard sales! (This Saturday, August 20th. If you know me in real life, come on over and take four book cases, two sofas, two futons, and ~150 theatre books off my hands. I’ll provide the wine, and I’ll give you a sweet deal. Like probably free.)
  4. Pack. HOLY SHIT I HAVE TO PACK THIS ENTIRE GODDAMN HOUSE WORTH OF CRAP AND SQUEEZE EVERYTHING INTO AN L.A. RENTAL APARTMENT. And I’m not allowed to lift more than 10 pounds until September.

The comparison between these two lists kind of makes me want to drink myself into a coma and pass out on the steps of Smithsonian Castle. But I do have a pretty goddamned great list of the things I’ve done while I lived here:

  1. Worked on a U.S. Congressional campaign (from that time my cousin Adam ran as the Democratic candidate in VA-1).
  2. Visited all the Smithsonian museums, sometimes even getting paid to give tours.
  3. Lived on Capitol Hill. Like right on Maryland Avenue, no foolin’.
  4. Lived in Arlington, close enough to the National Cemetery (during the Bush administration) to hear taps in the still of the morning more often than felt reasonable.
  5. Been invited to the White House, as a guest, to greet a foreign dignitary. Therefore: Have occupied the same space as President Obama and (at the time) Secretary Clinton. I took pictures. It was great.
  6. Have on two separate occasions been close enough to Defense Secretary Colin Powell that I could have grabbed his butt. I OBVIOUSLY DIDN’T, but both times it crossed my mind that I theoretically COULD.
  7. Been in a room with Joe Biden. Too far away  for us to lock eyes and recognize our shared humanity, but still good.
  8. Stood at the foot of every major monument and felt feelings of awe and patriotism and purpose and responsibility.
  9. Visited the Korean War Memorial at night enough times.
  10. Spotted senators and cabinet members in neighborhood restaurants. (Usually it was Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and usually he was wearing a bolo tie.)
  11. Birthed a baby at Sibley Memorial Hospital! That’s an advanced achievement.
  12. Lived, for a brief time, in the attic of a house in Alexandria that was older than the whole country. (Just by a couple years. It smelled like Revolution up in there.)
  13. Commuted on my bike through the Capitol grounds and down Pennsylvania Avenue. (I never managed to ride the bike back UP Capitol Hill, though. That was a life goal that I couldn’t quite manage at the end of any given work day.)
  14. Soaked in so many of the moments, saying to myself or to Andy, “How is this our life?”

Washington and its surrounding environs has been wonderful to us, and now it’s time for what’s next.

Murder Veins 2: Revenge of the Great Saphenous

Charlie’s on day 2 of summer camp (woooooooo! Best $150 I’ve ever spent!) Yesterday he went swimming, which I didn’t know was going to happen or I would have properly fretted in advance of the trip to the pool. The day school didn’t pull one over on me: I signed a theoretical release form saying it was okay to take him on whatever field trips may happen this summer, up to and including a pool visit. I packed him some swim trunks and sunblock on the off chance they might come in handy this week.

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Me with correctly timed Valium and the dope shades they give you before they turn on the lasers. Procedure #4 of 10.

I’ve been going through a bunch of vein surgeries. I’m halfway through a set of 10(!) of them, and I’m in an insurance-mandated, three-week rest period between the “Cut & Thread & Zap” and the “Just Cutting or Whatever Because I’m Not Going to Google What a Phlebectomy Is Before I Get One Because That Sounds Gross.” There are five of each genre. There should have only been four of the Cut & Thread & Zap.

It was advertised as an easy procedure.The room wasn’t big enough to accommodate me, three health-care practitioners, that big blue sheet (like from when I had a C-section), the zapping machine, and a husband to hold my hand. So the husband fell off the guest list. Hell, there wasn’t room for my purse. I put it, along with my shoes, on the medical scale wedged behind the operating table.

Maybe 45 minutes into it: “Katherine, we are going to stop. We will try again in a couple of days. I will write you a prescription for Valium, and your husband can come in here with you.” I’m super-tough in a lot of circumstances, both physically and emotionally, and I’m often surprised by what things hurt so much that I break down. Getting a catheter woven into the vein that runs from my knee to my groin, even with a few shots of novocain, broke me down in all the ways. Apparently my veins are thicker than most (though the assistant with the thick European accent said they were “very sick,” and it took some back-and-forth for me to understand what was going on). “You mean it didn’t work?” I asked.

I was nervous, and that made the vein seize and stutter (and another word I can’t come up with right now but means both of those things at once). Crying didn’t help the matter, and I fucking cried. Those factors, in conjunction with a general Bad Case of the Leg Veins, meant they only got the catheter about halfway in, all told. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. I said it over and over, until it made sense that none of what I had just gone through will make me any better.

Two days later, we tried again, with a husband and some Valium. I took the medication too early, I think, because I was stone-cold sober and anxious as fuck by the time we started. But I had Andy holding my hand. We got through it, and the doctor noted what a remarkable husband I have, because “none of the other husbands do that. Well, okay, one other one did.”

By the fifth surgery, we had it dialed in. It hurt, but whatever. I took my Valium at the right time, so I found the affair stressful and painful, but there was nothing akin to freaking out. To keep my mind off the leg stuff, Andy had his phone and was searching Zillow for houses in L.A., where we’re moving this September. Occasionally he’d say, “This one has a pool. That would be nice.” Whenever he said “pool,” I saw an image of Charlie’s little blond mop, his shoes and clothes still as on he floats face-down in the water. “I don’t think I want a pool.”

Andy dropped off and picked Charlie up from summer camp yesterday. All at once, I got the report that it was Pool Day, and that Charlie had literally jumped right in. He had a great time and talked about it all day and as he was falling asleep last night. Got a little sunburned on his lower back. Big success.

How did he know to jump right in? How did he know how not to drown? How do pre-school teachers not feel terror with the notion of just taking a big group of two-to-five-year-olds to the pool for a little swim? How was he not scared?

Maybe he takes after his dad.

When I picked him up today, Miss Ann let me know that when it was time to pick up toys, and they turned the lights off and sang the clean-up song, he got very upset and started hitting himself. His teacher said she walked him over to the toys and helped him pick them up, but she seemed concerned about the hitting. I said that over the last month or so, when he’s been very upset and seems like he wants to hit or bite me, he instead bites himself… kind of hard. He’s doing a good job of being gentle with everyone else, but he seems like he’s turning his frustration inward. Miss Ann said I should talk to his pediatrician.

Maybe he takes after his mom.

Potty Training with President Carter

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Charlie showed early promise as a potty-training prodigy. At maybe 18 months, he used the potty twice in one weekend, of his own volition, with precise aim and everything. I was so excited that I think it freaked him out, and he refused to pee pee in the potty for months to come.

At Charlie’s parent-teacher conference (a thing they do for 2-year-olds! Who knew?) his teacher stated that he didn’t seem that interested in potty training. She recommended bribery. With candy.

Somehow, we’ve so far managed to convince Charlie that candy isn’t something that exists in the world. For a while, this could be said of sugar generally, but the kid wants to eat Nutri-Grain bars for breakfast. Who am I to stand in the way of his dreams? More importantly, once he knew a sweet morning meal was a possibility that life afforded him, I couldn’t unring that bell.

I got Charlie a snowman Pez dispenser for Christmas, because I’m not a monster. At first, it was one Pez for a solid pee-pee attempt, but Miss Ann said that won’t do it. No participation awards in potty training. Pez is for closers. Now we’re at two Pezzes per pee-based victory.

When the snowman dispenser ran out of Pez, we obviously needed to purchase a set of four presidential Pez dispensers (for the candy).

Now, when Charlie needs to pee, he’ll usually just pee in his diaper so he can keep playing with his trains uninterrupted. But he sometimes asks if we can go find President Carter and have some Pez. I’ll tell him that yes, he can have Pez the next time he goes pee-pee in the potty. A moment of reflection. Then:

He’ll pee-pee in the potty, fight me about how many thousands of times he can flush the toilet, stand on his stool to wash his hands at the sink, start to freak out that he just wants bigger soap, refuse to dry his hands, have feelings about putting his diaper and/or pants back on, receive two Pez candies, and conclude the transaction with an appreciative “Thank you, President Carter.”

While he may not be the potty-training prodigy I’d initially hoped for, he can tell the difference between a Jimmy Carter Pez dispenser and a Gerald Ford Pez dispenser, so I’m calling this a win.

In Love and Barf

Charlie hasn’t yet for sure and explicitly said “I love you” to me yet. Though he shows affection and I totally know he loves me, I’m looking forward to hearing him say it. I thought in the wee hours of this morning, the time had come.
Charlie barfed seven times between 1:30 AM and 8:30 AM. It was a rough night for both of us. As I was comforting Charlie in between rounds 6 and 7, he looks up at me and says,
“Mom? I wuv y–
Mom… I wuv your pants.”
Even when covered in vom, they’re pretty good pajama pants. Grey cotton. Setting the world on fire.
I love your pants too, bud.

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We are at our finest today.