Legoland, CA

Legoland, CA

Legoland, CA is the great place for families to play for a day or two.  There are rides suitable for the entire family; there are rides just for kids (some age restrictions).  Lego models of Las Vegas, NYC and San Francisco are just some of the cities you can “ooh and aah” over in Miniland.  My boys especially enjoyed the Star Wars exhibits at Miniland.  Play areas like The Hideaways and Pharaoh’s Revenge are the perfect place for children to jump, run, slide and explore while parents take a half hour break to recharge.

Now, we have been and always will be Disney fans.  We love the entire illusion Disney has created; from that first walk down Main Street, USA to the intricate fireworks and laser shows at night.  We’ve been going to Disneyland and Disney World for years and have become accustomed to the security checks,  the crowds and the long lines.  We figure it’s worth it for another taste of that Disney “magic” (and for the chance to play at Toy Story Mania again).

Our boys are now 8 and 5; both are wild about Legos.  So we’re trying something new.  We’re at Legoland.

At first, I was feeling a little sketchy about the whole thing.  As we drove from the airport to Carlsbad (home of Legoland), we see only freeway and dusty land; no big advertisements for Legoland, no sign of tourists, nothing slick or commercial.  Our hotel, the Sheraton at Carlsbad, is quite nice.  But the park is supposedly a 5 minute walk from the hotel and I still didn’t see any sign of it.  All I can see are scrubby fields and a clumps of trees in the distance.  Finally, we ask the parking valet at the front of the hotel.  He points down the hill where we see a big parking lot, more dirt fields, some trees and rising above the dusty haze –  water slides.  My heart sank.  It didn’t look promising.

That disappointed feeling lasted only until we took that dusty path through the “special Sheraton Guest entrance” into Legoland.  And then it shifted to curiosity and then into a low-key delight.

Here’s what I like most about this place:  it’s simple and there is space to play.  I can let my kids wander a little bit ahead of me or a little bit behind; I don’t feel like I have to keep a death grip on both of them or risk having them trampled by the crowds as we all run for fast passes for popular rides (no need for fast passes at Legoland).  There is plenty to see and do but not so much that we feel overwhelmed or rushed.  We take our time and we explore.

We walk about the entire park the first day.  We are completely awed by Miniland and the amazing Lego models.  San Francisco is our favorite.

We discover the Hero Factory where we build our own guys and take pictures of them.  We play Xbox which gives me a headache; of course the boys could stay there for hours but we move on to the next attraction.  We make a reservation for Simon for a Mindstorms (robotics) class.  We check out the rides and the boys go to “driving school.”

“Driving school” is one of my favorites.  Simon is old enough to drive around a few “city blocks.”  Those cars are not on a track.  We watch kids 6-12 years old maneuver like adults through miniature intersections.  They stop at the stop signs and try to figure out who gets to take that left turn first.  Ethan goes to the driving school for 3 to 5 year old children.  Luckily, he doesn’t have to make as many choices; he just drives around an oval track.  But there’s plenty for him to think about too since some of the other drivers are having trouble controlling their cars….  

On our second day at Legoland, Simon and I attended the Mindstorms class.  This is a 45 minute class where we are introduced to programming our robot to perform certain tasks.  I find it interesting that the children intuitively grasped the programming logic and are able to make their robots perform 4 tasks within those 45 minutes.  We are completely intrigued and decide we will look into programming on our own when we go home.  Since Ethan is too young to participate in the class, he drags Jin back to Hero Factory where he creates another half dozen figures while waiting for us.

After a day and a half at the park, I am finished, but the kids are clamoring to go on more rides.  I leave Jin and the boys to ride the roller coasters to their hearts content and I slip away for a facial (at the Sheraton) and to tell you all about our adventure here.  We’ve had a really nice time in Legoland, CA.

Farming in a City?

Farming in a City?

Have you read “Farm City” by Novella Carpenter yet?  If you have, what do you think?  If you haven’t, then go read this terrific book so we can talk about it!

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Novella Carpenter’s experience farming on a vacant lot in her ghetto Oakland neighborhood.  She is entertaining, truthful and informative.  There were so many places in the book where I burst out laughing and immediately had to share that section with my family – like when she goes dumpster diving for fish parts to feed her pigs & the local homeless man is so horrified he tries to give her a dollar …. Ok, that last sentence from me is not in the least bit amusing.  But if you read her book, you’ll understand my reaction.

Novella talks candidly about her work to grow and harvest produce from her garden, her honey bees and her work to raise and slaughter meat animals.  Her sheer nitty-gritty truthfulness is what I need to hear since I’m easily seduced by glossy magazine articles showing gorgeous flowering gardens perfectly accessorized with chickens wandering about …

In fact, the last time I watched too many inspiring DIY shows on HGTV, I actually deluded myself into believing I could do-it-myself … I ended up investing in an abandoned row house and learned too too late exactly how in over-my-head I actually was… but that’s a story for another time.

These days I’m back in my apartment with no access to garden space and I am more aware of my limitations, but I still filed away all sorts of useful tips from this book; just on the off chance I ever get a second chance at a garden .  Here are some of them:

1.  Chicken poop has too much nitrogen and will burn the vegetation if put directly into the garden.  It has to be composted first. 

2.  The chickens will also devour tender young plants.  So I should not count on my vision of chickens eating the slugs and pests in my dream garden while carefully stepping around the produce.

3.  You can get enough produce from the dumpsters in Oakland Chinatown to feed the rabbits.  This makes sense.  Do I have the nerve to go through the trash in the NYC Chinatown? 

4.  Skinning and gutting a rabbit is easier than plucking and cleaning a chicken.  Ugh.  Maybe I could feed the rabbits, but I’m not so confident I could kill and butcher one….

5.  Don’t buy the hybrid seeds from the corner hardware store.  I knew that one.  But it’s good to be reminded.  If you need an actual explanation about choosing seeds, check out chapter 16.

6.  I might be tempted to try raising poultry or rabbits someday.  But I will never want to raise pigs. I grew up in Idaho too – and I know how nasty the hog barn at the county fair smells.

So that’s another point that has me completely tickled.  Novella lived in Orofino, Idaho as a child.  She swam in the Clearwater River and went thimbleberry picking.  I grew up in Moscow, Idaho which is pretty darn close to Orofino.  Our schools competed against each other in sports; I wonder if we ever attended the same games?  Not to mention that I swam in the Clearwater River during the summers and foraged for huckleberries whenever I could. 

Hey, you may not be that impressed.  But in the 23 years since I moved away from Idaho, I’ve only ever stumbled across one other person from that state.  So this is something to get excited about.

Ok, chances are you could care less that both Novella & I grew up in Idaho.  I’m betting you are not secretly yearning to raise your own meat animals either.  Nevertheless, this book is seriously fun.  Try it – I think you’ll like it.

In my own little corner

In my own little corner

I fantasize about having a space of my own; somewhere I can work for hours on end – uninterrupted by children & chores.  I will be focused and diligent and create unique art that will inspire buyers to whip out their wallets so they can have the honor of taking my work home with them.

What if I transformed a rustic little garden shed into a work room surrounded by my kitchen garden, dahlias, chickens and a gurgling fountain? Folks driving by would stop to explore my garden and then stay to purchase home made crafts.  Or maybe I could set up a studio in some ramshackle building with other artists?  We would have monthly art shows where flocks of people admire our creations and sip wine and partake in witty conversation.  Or perhaps I could persuade my boys to share a room again so I could reclaim my home office.  Once again I’d have “a room of her own” (do you remember that beautiful book?).  In this room, wonderful, whimsical beaded sculptures and felted and hand knit projects and my invention – the canvas number line (look for this in a future posting) would amass.  I would hold trunk shows for the moms of Battery Park City.  They would nibble my home baked banana bread, purchase my creations and all the while we’d discuss the best ways we could help our children learn math….

Math?!  Well, why not.  I’ve taught math and statistics off and on over the years and it bothers me that so many people hyperventilate at the mention of this 4-letter word.  So why not!  Somewhere in my hypothetical studio, there is also room for discussions about numbers, visualizing mathematical equations versus computing algorithms and how on earth we are to help our children intuitively grasp math and score beautifully on their upcoming standardized tests!

It’s fun to fantasize.

My reality is a Manhattan apartment that I have an obsessive compulsion to keep tidy.  I have a fantastic husband who, unfortunately, works most of my waking hours.  We have two funny little boys (5 and 8) who love to hang out and talk to me all day long.  I’d love to blame my daily chores for my lack of time to create all those works of art I dream about – but the truth of it is, I’ve got an attention span of a toddler and am probably as antsy as one too!

In fact, I’ve had space before.  That first floor of the row house in Brooklyn?  Amazing space and the garden outside. But I continuously wandered off into my garden to weed the vegetable beds & set traps for the slugs.  That official artist’s studio?  Well, it wasn’t mine but I schlepped up there for drawing and painting lessons for over a year & all the while I was actually fighting the urge to sweep the floor and organize everything into baskets and onto shelves.  And most recently there was the home office.  A desk for Jin.  A work table for myself.  An incredibly stocked craft closet.  My easel and brushes.  An arm chair and my ukulele.  It was perfect – except I was constantly in the kitchen doing mom-things. 

And then Simon turned 8 and his biggest wish was to have his own room.  Once he described how he would arrange my office if it were his, well, it was a done deal.  We did the big rearrange and now here I am – “in my own little corner” (Go to You Tube if you want to hear Julie Andrews sing that song).

And what do you know?  The corner works for me.  No storage space to squirrel away too much stuff.  But enough to keep a few projects in my sight and on my mind.  Chop onions.  Make a card.   Cook a pot of pea soup.  Ink the number lines.  Flip the laundry.  Sew the number lines.  Listen to Ethan read a new “Piggie and Gerald” book.   Knit a new color into the chevron scarf.  Spin around and watch the Staten Island Ferry go back and forth.  Teach Simon his multiplication tables.  Dream what I will make next.