Monthly Archives: July 2007

Happy Birthday, Laurel!

Eight years.

It's so hard to believe it's been eight years since I brought you into the world.  We've been through a lot together, you and I, and I'm proud of the way you've turned out.  Keep up the good work.

Daddy and I love you so much.

Love,

Mommy

Do Not Patronize: Winship Restaurant, Sausalito, California.

On our aforementioned bike ride, we attempted to eat at Winship Restaurant in Sausalito.  It looked like a promising enough place when we arrived.  We waited five minutes or so to be seated, and then Greg went back to the restrooms.

Our booth was one with glass accents above it.  It was one of these, actually:

I placed Ethan in the booth and scooted him along the seat.  He sat there quietly on his bottom, the most mild-mannered toddler ever.  Laurel was doing precisely the same thing in the seat opposite.  That's the key point — THEY WERE SITTING QUIETLY.  We had not even received menus yet, but the fellow who sat us (Waiter? Manager? Owner?  Jackass.) came over and events unfolded something like this:

Jackass:  "If you could, please keep the little ones from touching the glass."

Me:  (speechless, but offended)

Mom:  "Is there someplace else we could sit?  Someplace without the glass?"

Jackass:  "No.  Not really."

Me:  (fully recovered from temporary speech disability) "Then I am certain there is someplace else we can spend our money.  Let's go.  I'll go get Greg."

Jackass:  "Well, if you feel that way.  I thought it was a reasonable request."

Me:  "No, you know what?  It's not reasonable.  Moreover, it is not a good business practice to alienate families.  We would have spent quite a chunk of change here, but you just lost it."

Jackass:  (I don't remember what he said, but it just served to further inflame me and I do remember it was a continuation of argument)

Me:  "You know what?  Just stop talking to me.  Stop talking to me right now."

I went to the restroom area to get Greg.

Jackass approached.

Jackass:  "The restrooms are for paying customers only."

Me: (lighting up like the Fourth of July)  "I will have you know that my husband entered the restroom while he was still laboring under the assumption that we would be paying customers.  You know, before you got all low class on us.  So I will be standing here until he exits the restroom, and then — ONLY then — we will gladly leave.  Asshole."

And so we did.

And on the way out, I noticed that Ethan (in Anita's arms) stuck his hands all over the front door.  Mom quipped that we should take the guy a bottle of Windex.  And I have to admit that Anita and I got all Ozarks and ran our fingers along his glass as we were exiting the restaurant.  Perhaps not my finest moment, but justice was soundly served.

We went next door to the Seven Seas and had a perfectly pleasant meal with perfectly pleasant customer service.

Now, I don't know what kind of establishment Winship thinks it is, but I hate to burst this rube's bubble.  By virtue of being open for lunch in downtown Sausalito, a tourist destination, he's catering to tourists, whether he likes it or not.  With tourists come children.  And if you're too damned lazy to pick up a bottle of glass cleaner and spend two bucks of your time cleaning the glass, choosing instead to sacrifice the windfall in profits you could reap from families, then that is the most dunderheaded business move I have ever witnessed in my entire life.

Not only that, but I'd have felt differently if my children had actually done something offensive.  If my children are misbehaving, then I will be the first to give them the verbal smackdown.  But if my kids are sitting quietly and doing nothing wrong, there had better be NOBODY come up and criticize them for it.  Woe be to they who do, for they will see the hillbilly in me.

And that, my friends, is yet another example of my inner vigilante getting the best of me.  I'm done posting for the evening. 

San Francisco, the Last Part.

Thursday

On Thursday, we awoke with one goal in mind — to bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge.  We made our way via train and streetcar down to Fisherman's Wharf, whereupon we rented equipment from some Irish blokes who were friendly enough and well-meaning, but had poor communication skills.  At one point I threw my hands in the air in exasperation and exclaimed, 'Just give us our money back so we can go somewhere else, if you don't have the right equipment!'  I probably added a few expletives in there for good measure.  But eventually they understood which equipment we wanted and to which bikes we wanted it attached, and we were on our way.

The weather was gorgeous — it was one of the two days in San Francisco without fog during our trip.  We rode along the wharf and then along Crissy Field.  As we were going up the steep, winding road to the bridge itself, my bike chain fell off the sprockets and I was left literally spinning my pedals, going nowhere.  Curses!  We stopped, Greg fixed them, and we carried on.  However, my gears were never the same.  They slipped the rest of the trip. 

At the top of the hill we stopped at the visitor's center.  I changed Ethan's diaper in the trailer I was towing because there was a long line for the women's restroom and the men's, well, it was plumb closed.  Then we headed on across the bridge.

Ethan liked the ride, but hated riding on the bridge, I think because of the close proximity of the cars whizzing by.  He was frightened and screaming, and the bridge was terribly crowded with pedestrians and cyclists alike, most of whom did not follow the ONE BASIC RULE of U.S. travel — keeping to the right except to pass (folks, it's the rule for a reason — good order — and it's just as valid when you're a pedestrian as when you're on wheels).  Therefore, the trip took a good while, and because we were intent on making it across the bridge as quickly as possible, we were far ahead and unavailable to assist when my mother fell off her bicycle.  I'm afraid we've not heard the end of that yet (sorry, Mom!).

Once we reached the other end of the bridge, we set our bikes in a higher gear (well, except mine, because by that time it didn't seem to matter what gear I was in — it would alternate between, say, 3rd and 7th as it pleased) and flew down the hill into Sausalito.

Sausalito is gorgeous.  It's right on the bay, and though I hear it is nearly always foggy, on this day we had a reprieve.  We coasted all the way down to the ferry terminal where we parked and locked our bikes in anticipation of finding a little restaurant in downtown Sausalito where we could grab lunch before boarding the ferry back to the Wharf.

As I bicycled past the little restaurants, I had noticed one which advertised a crab sandwich.  All week long I'd had a hankering for crab of some sort, so I thought that would be a great place.  Unfortunately, that was not to be (I will post about that separately).  But the restaurant next door also had a crab sandwich (a very good one, I might add) and so we all was not lost.  We returned the bikes without incident.

That evening, we had pizza and Ethan held his own at the dinner table:

Friday

Friday morning we finished packing up, Greg and I had breakfast at an awesome little crepe place, and we headed for the airport.  We even got a chuckle out of the scolding my mother received from the automated voice on the automated people mover that she should "move out of the doorway.  You are delaying the departure of this train."  Everything went swimmingly until we were actually on the flight when Laurel was seated behind Crazy Lady.  Crazy Lady could not be pleased.  First she asked Anita to tell Laurel to stop kicking her seat (Laurel did kick her seat once on accident).  Most people would overlook one kick, but not Crazy Lady.  Crazy Lady then asked to be seated elsewhere (I think she believed the turbulence was Laurel kicking her seat), but there was nowhere else to go, so she wandered up and down the aisle.  When the in-flight movie was announced, Crazy bought some earphones and then returned them, asking for her money back.  When the flight attendants came with the cart, Crazy Lady did not want to buy their bag of chips but asked the attendant to get her personal bag of chips from her carryon in the overhead bins.  The attendant did so (oh, but you could tell it was all she could do to be civil) and then left the carryon unzipped.  Crazy made her get back in the bin and close the bag.  This went on for the entire flight.  At least she was entertaining.

Meanwhile, Greg and I were trying to get fussy Ethan to nap.  I knew the only way to do this was to pretend I was napping myself, in hopes he would follow suit.  He did, but not before we fielded dirty looks from Dog Man.  Dog Man was sitting in front of us and across the aisle, with his dog in a crate next to him.  At one point he gave me an outright glare, but I opened my eyes from my faux nap and stared him down.  He must have recognized my inner vigilante, because he quickly turned away.  Mom told Greg that he was glancing back and shaking his head, though.  Had I known that, perhaps I'd have offered to switch seats with him to see if he could do better.

At any rate, Ethan fell asleep and the rest of the flight (other than Crazy's antics) was uneventful.

I think we were all very glad to be back in Missouri.  I know I was.

The End.

 

Embracing My Inner Vigilante.

I am usually able to tolerate a fair amount of public bullshit without calling attention to myself by admonishing the offender.  I can glare silently at people who refuse to say 'excuse me' or display good manners.  I can roll my eyes without exacting revenge on the people who feel turning off cell phones is too much a bother in a restaurant or, worse, take calls and blab loudly.

But today I guess I'd had enough.  Maybe everything just came to a head.  Maybe I was inspired by our visit to Sausalito where we encountered the worst place known to man — the Winship Restaurant.  Who knows?

Greg and I took Laurel to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix today.  It was naturally a much-anticipated event and was part of Laurel's Birthday Extravaganza 2007 (about which you will read more in short order).  I suppose it was too much to ask to be left reasonably in peace to view the movie, but for more than two hours, we were plagued by She Who Treats Her Child Badly and Will Not Shut Up.  This woman was probably the worst person I've ever encountered in a theater.  I swear, she must have been a plant from a warring faction (The Christian Coalition?  Focus on the Family?  These guys? AMC Theatres?), sent there solely to ruin the experience.  Her offenses included the following:

  1. She loudly SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHed her little daughter on multiple occasions.  While this would be understandable if the little girl had been noisy, she wasn't half so noisy as Mummy herself.  Not only that, but we really didn't all need to hear 'SHHHHHHHHH' at the decibel level it was delivered.  This little girl could not have been more than 5 and was therefore in the WRONG movie and could not have been expected to sit still the entire time.  The kid was bored and fidgety.  She was NOT, however, being loud, disruptive, or obnoxious.  In fact, I never even heard her. 
  2. She commented throughout the movie — sometimes about the movie, sometimes not, but always in a full speaking voice.  Never a whisper, no, not for her! 
  3. She coughed and hacked all over Greg throughout the movie without covering her mouth.
  4. She kicked Greg's seat more than a couple of times.
  5. She (and this was the last straw for me) actually told her daughter, 'Shut up.  I want to hear this,' as the movie was ending.  This, after she hacked and yakked her way through the entire thing!

This broad had the nerve to keep this up in spite of the glares, the 'ahems,' and the sighs.  I determined she must be one of those people who does not take a hint.  Clearly, a more direct approach was in order.  Therefore, when the movie ended, I rushed ahead of my family to catch up to her (she had rightly left as quickly as possible, perhaps sensing a grassroots uprising of Potter fans).  I chased her through the hall, bobbing and weaving my way through the exiting crowd, leaving my family behind to wonder about the outcome.  I caught up to her in front of the women's restroom.

"Excuse me, ma'am," I said.  She turned to look at me.  "I just wanted to let you know that your behavior was far worse than your little girl's throughout the entire movie."  Then I turned on my heel and stalked away to my waiting family.

A man who was with her was seated nearby, and started to get up.  If his intention was to enter the fray, he reigned in for what I can only assume was his realization that I was accompanied by Greg.  Little did that fellow know that I'd most assuredly win the popular vote for the scrappy one of the family. 

Later, adrenaline still pumping, I asked Greg if he'd have hit that woman had she swung at me first.  He said, "Well, I don't know, but I certainly would have separated you two."  Oh, the injustice!  Aghast, I exclaimed, "What?!  You'd have to at least let me get my licks in first!!"

And so ended our Sunday outing.

Cake, Take Two.

So Laurel wanted me to make her birthday cake and she wanted it centered around beaches and swimming and pools and such.  So here is my effort, based on a Wilton design:

Yes, I realize that in real life, there are rarely any fish swimming directly underfood when on land, but there you have it.

San Francisco, Part 4.

Tuesday

Tuesday we went to Alcatraz.  Alcatraz is smelly and polka-dotted from all the birds, but also fascinating.  Laurel really enjoyed the audio tour and I'm sure she learned a lot.  We have a lot of interesting photos, but here are the best:

This was on the dock waiting for the ferry to take us to the island. Greg thought this was funny. And it is. Alcatraz from the ferry. As you can see from the wake, this was actually taken when we were on our way back from the island.

 Guard tower.The 'Indians Welcome' signs are there due to the Native American protest occupation on the island that began in 1969.

View down the hall in a cell block. Inside a standard cell.

Laurel in an Alcatraz cell. Solitary confinement. I went in. It was unsettling.

Pock marks from grenades. The grenades were used by the government during the Alcatraz escape attempt and riots of 1946. The lighthouse on Alcatraz, with the main prison building behind.

The view from Alcatraz.

Tuesday evening we went to dinner at Chenery Park Restaurant.  It was kids night, so we felt comfortable taking the little ones.  We were seated upstairs near the kitchen though, and it was very warm.  Still, everyone enjoyed their meal and I, for one, slept well that night.

While I'm on the food subject, I want to talk about the Glen Park neighborhood where we stayed.  While there, we made several trips to a local bakery which had the most delicious scones and other pastries.  I personally can vouch for the scones, but I tried to stay away from the other stuff while we were there.  They also have a little market which is very similar to the City Market here in downtown St. Louis.  We had sandwiches there which were very good.  We had some tasty sushi at a little hole-in-the-wall place and pretty tasty food from a local taqueria.  On our last day there, I had a crepe from a local joint that was just delicious.  What a wonderful time for those of us who really love food!

Wednesday

Wednesday dawned with rain, or what they refer to as rain in San Francisco.  They received a whopping two hundredths of an inch (that's 0.02 inches, folks), and therefore cars were sliding in ditches and 17,000 Pacific Gas & Electric customers were without power!!  It seems this was a record — the first time rain had ever been recorded on that date.  I blame it on my mother's presence — it's a running joke that she tends to attract wild weather phenomena (such as tornadoes).  You can view the article about it here.  It was only a misting, but there you have it.  San Franciscans can take fog (which is pretty misty itself) for 18 hours a day, but NO MORE THAN FOG! 

We decided to venture off the peninsula to Muir Woods to view the redwoods.  The 'rain' had ended by the time we got there.  The trees were amazing.

It is so unfair that perspective is lost in 2 dimensions.This is where Ethan spent most of his vacation. It's a good thing his dad has strong shoulders. I couldn't do it.

 

I had another mini-meltdown on this trip because NOBODY IN MY FAMILY SMILES FOR PHOTOS BUT ME. See? Nobody smiling.

After my mini-meltdown, we trudged back to the car and loaded up.  We were all exhausted, but Greg wanted to see Muir Beach.  We'd have loved to go, but the road was winding and I was starting to feel wonky.  So I said something and Greg had HIS mini-meltdown and pulled to the side of the road on the face of a cliff to take photos.

When we got back home, I just went straight upstairs and went to bed.  Blech.

Later that evening, Anita wanted to go downtown and take night photos.  I didn't feel like going, but Greg went with her.  They got some good ones!

Greg got those photo and then told me there were actually quite a few people casting their nets off the pier for dungeness. SF at dusk.

We ate here earlier in the week (after Alcatraz, I believe). I'd always wanted to try In-n-Out Burger. It was good, as far as fast food burgers go. Greg and Anita trudged up these steps to the top of Telegraph Hill. We think these are the Greenwich Steps. There are approximately 385 steps.

The end result of all that stair-climbing: A photo of Coit Tower.

Stay tuned for Part 5 — the last in the series!

And Now, a Word from Our Sponsors.

I'm taking a break from the San Francisco blogging to toss up a few photos:

Leave it to Ethan to decide a normal-sized stuffed animal won't do.  He has adopted a giant stuffed tiger.  Really, the only interaction he has with it is to lay down on top of it and say 'Night-night.  Night-night.  Night-night' to it.  Over and over.  And over.  So here he is, caught in the act.  And wearing his big sister's shoe:

While he's a holy terror when he's awake, at the end of the day (and during naptimes), he is the most peaceful thing ever:

And here's something we didn't see much of in San Francisco.  Sunsets!  Greg took this photo from our deck last night:

San Francisco, Part 3.

Monday

Well, we decided Monday would be a good day to venture out and try visiting Chinatown again.  We made it this time!  We visited a fortune cookie factory and some kitschy touristy shops.  We saw some dried seahorses for sale among other novelties, and we rounded out our visit with dim sum.  This experience with dim sum was much more pleasant than our last, primarily because we weren't so overwhelmed by the employees and carts (this tea room had an a la carte menu).

Anita with Ethan while waiting in a cable car line -- the line was MUCH shorter than Saturday's.Typical street in Chinatown neighborhood.

 

Sign for the Fortune Cookie Factory. Notice the pigeon sitting on top scoping for goodies.These ladies were FAST. A sign requested I pay 50 cents for this photo. I did.

 

Another typical street scene, this time with the Bay Bridge in the background.Pretty lanterns. You can see the fog above them. Of course.

 

Dim sum parlor. My hair is starting to freak out from the humidity. Awesome.

After our Chinatown adventure, we moved on down the cable car line to Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman's Wharf.

We of course had to visit Ghirardelli. They were remodeling the buildings, so we didn't get to go to Fritz Belgian Fries (DANG). This is the closest we got to any sea lions. Good thing, too -- Laurel might've tried to wrassle 'em like this one.

Mmm. Sourdough bread. Greg and I walked down to the Boudin Bread company to pick up a loaf.

By the time we finished, we were all exhausted.  After a long wait for the cable car, we boarded only to discover there was a problem on the line and we'd have to transfer to a shuttle bus midway through the route.  We decided to go ahead and risk it and it was actually pretty efficient.  We were sore, tired, and happy to be home.

Stay tuned for Part 4!

San Francisco, Part 2.

Sunday

Sunday we decided to drive down to Santa Cruz to visit the beach.  First we needed to stop in Mountain View to exchange my sister's luggage which broke on the way out to California.  That was an adventure.  It took no less than one hour.  The store was supremely crowded, more crowded than I have ever seen.  Mom and I wanted to get the kids some toys to play with at the beach, but of course we picked up a basket with no UPC code.  The cashier asked US to go back and get one with the code.  Mom tried, but they were all out, and so she picked up another toy.  Guess what?  That one didn't have a code either, and that damned cashier had the nerve to actually ask us to go back for yet another one and told us she couldn't sell it to us without a barcode.  Scoff!  At that point I had another meltdown and nearly came up over the cashier's station at her.  'No,' I said.  'We want this toy, and you need to send someone else back there for a price check, because I'm quite certain this establishment would like to sell this to us.  We should not have to run back and forth when your store failed to maintain UPC codes on your items.  It is not OUR fault that these toys have no barcodes'  She still didn't seem to understand but finally pulled a customer service manager over, and I figuratively took her by the ear back to the toys section and SHOWED HER WHERE WE GOT THE DAMN THING, thereby allowing us to purchase it.  Whew.

By the way, it was the strangest thing — all the employees at this store were wearing rubber gloves.  ALL of them.  Even though we don't do that at the stores here and they didn't do that anywhere else I saw.  I'm not sure what kind of virus was going around and it's probably best not to know, based on my experience there.

Mountain View is also home to Google.  Naturally, we had to stop and take photos — Greg wanted to go, after all.  And he had just finished waiting on a bunch of women in the car with a napping toddler during this entire fiasco, so we felt we owed him something (a lot, actually).  Plus, I thought it was kind of cool because I'm almost as nerdly as he is.

This speaks for itself.  Greg wrasslin' a toddler while Anita and I look on.

Greg and I pose while Ethan has HIS own meltdown on the sidewalk. Yes, I'm wearing the same shirt as the day before because it was all I had that was appropriate for the weather and I had done laundry. So there. Google has a large campus, but I think this is the main building. 

They even have plugs for electric cars!

On to Santa Cruz.  The roads were curvy and winding, and 3 out of 6 of us got sick.  The only reason I didn't was because I was playing the role of navigator up front next to Greg.  Ethan, well, he doesn't get carsick.  Yet.  But Mom, Anita, and Laurel were all feeling the pain by the time we reached our destination.  And woe were we, as we somehow had the impression things wouldn't be very crowded.  There was NO PARKING available.  Lots were full, people were walking, traffic was at a standstill, half of us were queasy.

The Santa Cruz Experience. Look at all the cars!

Not to be derailed from our mission, we doped up on Dramamine and started up the Pacific Coast Highway back toward San Francisco in hopes of finding a beach.  Lo, we were not disappointed.  We found one.  Natural Bridges State Beach.  It was flat awesome.  The weather was perfect, though the water was cold.  But we expected that of the Pacific Ocean, and we were not deterred.

Look at all the pelicans atop the rocks! Laurel was undaunted by the chilly water.

One of my favorites, taken by Anita. Ethan was afraid of the ocean. He was also afraid of the sand covering his toes. Laurel participated in a tradition. Sand burial!

Ethan recovered from his fear of sand and had fun with his newly acquired (and hard-won) shovel.

It was so nice sitting there on the beach that the horrors of the day left my mind and I was able to just enjoy the serenity of the afternoon.  That was, of course, until Greg told me I really needed to walk out a little further in the surf, whereupon a wave took Laurel down (and almost took me down in the process).  That was, well, cold.

At any rate,
we left the beach much happier than we arrived.  Beaches must just do that to you.

Everyone piled back in and off we went again, this time taking the Pacific Coast Highway north.  We stopped at a roadside produce farm for strawberries.

This photo really makes me think of Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath." I can almost see Tom Joad and Rosasharn riding in the back of this truck. Ethan was fussy by this time, so this wheel at the produce farm was a much-appreciated diversion.

We wound our way back to San Francisco along the Pacific Ocean.  It was absolutely beautiful, and certainly an experience I will not soon forget.

Another Anita photo -- they are parasurfing! That's something I'd never seen before, but it's fascinating and beautiful. Notice the fog hanging out in the back, just waiting to come ruin the evening. This was across the Pacific Coast Highway from the produce stand.

Stay tuned for Part 3!