Saturday, August 6, 2011

Summer Solace

The view from my parents' house in Santa Barbara!
To those of you that follow this blog, you know that I recently spent the summer in Santa Barbara with family.  I feel so incredibly fortunate to have gotten to spend six weeks in one of the most beautiful, idyllic places on earth.  My parents' house is an absolute haven, the weather is perfect, and the California coastline is where I feel most happy and unfettered.  But, before I go into it, I need to, first and foremost, thank my husband, Steven, for giving me the freedom to do this -- it is beyond generous of him, especially since he has to stay behind in Houston and work.  I know this is often lonely for him, and, furthermore, Houston's heat in the summertime is, to put it mildly, treacherous.  So, thank you, Steven, for giving me and the kids the gift of these delicious California summers -- they are what I oftentimes live for, as I will always be a California girl in my heart.

So I thought I'd write about what these summertime days are like -- days that are tranquil vibrations of sunshine and beaches interspersed with the occasional piercing scream of "Fuck you, Frank!" or the hyperventilated sob of Bella's: "AM I a drama queen?!  No, tell me, really, AM I a drama queen?!!"  Or even, the mind-jolting strains of my brother's yet-to-be-named speed-metal band (Andy is the drummer, and, you guessed it, his band practices in my parents' garage.  It's such a bizarre paradox:  the peaceful isolation of the pristine mountains combined with the harshest and loudest music possible -- the hills really are alive with the Sound of Vomit.  I want to play the oldest sister who gets wooed by a neo-nazi skinhead, and then makes best friends with the live-in maid, Josefina, and her two sons, Johnny and Victor, and their giant pet python.  Other than the skinhead part, all that other stuff is true.)

We wake up in the morning around 7:00, and, after Teddy and Charlie enjoy an invigorating match of naked wrestling (ummm...and I think by now you can guess who usually wins -- yes, that's right, the scrappy 3-year-old punk who thinks he's 12), I force some S'mores Pop Tarts down their throats -- but, don't worry, I make them drink chocolate milk with those things.  (For someone who prides herself on being such a California girl, the healthy eating thing hasn't quite kicked in yet.  Working on it, though.  Tomorrow I may even give my kids strawberry Pop Tarts -- that counts as fruit, right?)  Now that they're properly fed and adrenalized with massives doses of sugar, what do I do?  I send them to camp, of course.

After a lengthy argument with my father over who can use the car for the day, I stuff the offspring into the trunk (gotcha), and drop their tiny asses off at art camp, or Presbycamp (a perfect fit since we're Jewish), or theater camp (that one was really fun -- hearing my daughter screech the lyrics to every High School Musical song ever made never got old), or marine biology camp, or mastering quantum physics camp (okay, no...made that one up), I'm free untill 3:00!  Yeah!!!  So then, to celebrate, I take a leisurely hour-long run, and breathe in the perfect California air and take in the sweeping views of the ocean.  (On one of these runs, I actually got so distracted, that I didn't notice a dog had charged through his electric fence and was aiming his mongrel teeth at my leg.  He did bite me, I did bleed, I did get a tetanus shot, and I did mentally note, again, that I am not, nor ever will be, a dog person.)

After my jog and a shower, I meet up with my mom and my aunt for lunch.  We discuss very intellectual topics at length, such as, whose toenails are prettier, whose smile is weirder, or "How to color your gray hairs with a Sharpie."  Then we shop, we toodle, we do some blow (okay, not really -- but it's just so fun to tease), and I run to pick up the kids from camp.  WOW, how the days fly when you are doing absolutely nothing!

Once home, the kids and I go down to my parents' house (we stay in the guest house) where the pool is at.  This is always fun, and a really good energy burner.  Especially when I force them to do twenty laps of the butterfly -- no rest periods.  Then I go up, shower them, more naked wrestling, shove them in their jammies and go down again for dinner with my parents.  This is when the fun really begins.  Teddy starts crawling on the floor looking for table scraps with my parents' cranky and mildly obese dogs, Gucci and Bear, Charlie starts screaming because...well, simply, because, and Bella begins performing the modern dance routine she learned at Pageant Camp (kidding again -- I really can't stop).  A giant vein  dangerously protrudes out of my dad's neck as his face gets beet red, and my mom starts yelling at me that the kids drink way too much water and that it's just not healthy.  She subsequently insists that they drink fruit punch while giving me dirty looks when they plead for water, Grandma, just this once, please???  Meanwhile, my mother, herself, is like a camel and urinates once every 18 hours.

At this point, we're all ready to part ways, and the kids and I head back up the driveway to the guest house.  Along the way, Teddy collects a sweaty handful of roly-poly bugs (what are those things called, anyway?), while Charlie strips and gets naked again, and begins maniacally running through the garden Lord of the Flies style.  Then after a rational and logical discussion with Teddy as to why the roly-polies cannot sleep in his bed with him, it's lights out, finally.

The piece-de-resistance is the bedtime dialogue with Bella.  As I'm hunkered down (a.k.a. hiding) in the other room, the little ditty goes something like this:

Bella:  "Goodnight, Mom."
me: "Goodnight, Bella."
Bella: "Thank you for everything."
me: "You're welcome, Bella."
Bella: "We're going to have so much fun tomorrow."
me: "So much fun."
Bella: "Mwah!" (this is her making a kissing noise)
me: "Mwah."
Bella: "Sorry, Mom."
me: "Don't worry, Bella."
Bella: "Thank you, Mom."
me: "You're welcome, Bella."
Bella: "Sorry!"
me: "Don't worry, Bella."
Bella: "Mwah"
me: "Mwah."
Bella: "Good night!"
me: "Good night."
Bella: "We're going to have so much fun tomorrow!"
me: "So much fun."
Bella: "Mwah!"
me: "Mwah."
(Repeat entire conversation approximately 6 to 10 more times.)

By the time I crawl into bed, I'm utterly exhausted, but also totally grateful and appreciative for each and every wonderful minute I spend in Santa Barbara.  My beautiful summers there boost me ways I never thought possible, and I know my children will have a lifetime of memories from their incredible adventures.

And, to my parents, thank you for sharing your home and your lives with us -- I know we weren't always easy, but, God, we had fun.

Oh, and, by the way, there's a live lizard somewhere in the guest house, and Charlie clogged the toilet.  You're the best!!!


  1. This is my favorite one, yet!
    We always enjoy your summer visits! I may have mentioned this a time or two, but for the sake of making sure... Do you think next summer the girls are ready for sleep away camp?! Maybe Camp Kennolyn?!;-)
    We'll miss you!

  2. OMG you are so funny Sam! I loved that conversation you would have with Bella on a nightly basis. I can soooo picture that!
    I love you and always miss you xoxoxox mwah

  3. ROTF LMAO! I was thinking the same about Kennolyn....
    They are called wood lice (woodlouse sing.), BTW. I looked it up when my 7 year old was a toddler. The teacher in me had to be precise, ya know?!

  4. Keep writing! You have a gift! Keep putting it out there. its wonderful!
    much love - Kirsten