Thursday, June 28, 2007

When Animals Attacks, Chalk Art, And Physicians Vs. Midwives

When Birds Attack Cars
Yesterday, while driving on a normal road, in broad daylight, about 45mph, with my wife and daughter in the car -- a pigeon just flew right into my windshield (pow!), rolled over the roof, fell on the ground, and then bounced up and flew away quickly -- it was kind of like a Jackie Chan movie (I was waiting for the pigeon to give me a "thumbs up" sign from the rear view mirror.)
My daughter:"Oh no!! Birdie! Daddy!! Birdie!!"
Me: "See - that's what happens when pigeons do drugs.... Stay away from drugs!!"

(yes, I know Posh Spice has nothing to do with this, I just can't help but feel patriotic)

Chalk Art On the Sidewalk And Driveway.
When I was a kid, my dad use to bring chalk home from his job and leave it in a small box by his car keys (he worked for a trucking company – a teamster - always complaining about something, as teamsters usually do.) I loved that basic white plain chalk; I would take it and draw all over our driveway (and neighbors driveways, sidewalks, on the street...) top views of “fancy” streets, houses, KITT, people walking dogs, dog poop, construction areas, even sinkholes with aliens and Manimal. Then I would ride with my big wheel along with the other kids through this ‘totally awesome’ town -- that's until somebody watered their driveway or lawn.
Fast forward to last week – we’re driving through no-man land and we stopped at a Wal-Mart for, like soap or something weird like that, and on the center aisle they had big buckets of sidewalk chalk for some crazy-low price of like $4.88 (with a smiley face near it.) “Sidewalk Chalk”? What a novel idea. And for $4.88? (How's is that even possible? Oh yeah, orphan labor in China...) Not only did they have that, but they also had paint sprayers, brushes, and rakes. When did all this happen?
Now my driveway looks like the Sistine Chapel (well not really) except with toddler marks all over it, mixed in with some random drawings by the neighborhood kids who walk on over and ask if they can “help”. Which I let them, of course. But they just can’t “help” on “my” area of the driveway – (Manimal needs to live in peace.)

Medical And Nursing Boards Vs. Midwives In L.A.
On a serious note, I get a lot of inquiries (and searches) about a post I did nearly 2 years ago when my daughter was born about people interested in natural water births, nurse Midwives, and Doulas. My wife did a completely natural water birth in a tub - with only me, our Midwife, and a Doula present. The whole experience and the care my wife got was absolutely amazing, extremely safe, and way beyond what any traditional doctor provides. And this place is by far the best birthing center here in Southern California (it looks like a B&B.) I’m bringing all this up because our Midwife, Marcia McCulley, was recently arrested at gunpoint at her practice, in front of her patients, because the physicians at the local hospital (Seventh-Day Adventist in Simi Valley) want to prevent a women’s choice in their OB care, reproductive issues, and above all honoring parents birth plans and wishes.
The physicians made claims with the medical and nursing board to revoke her license, which costs them nothing to do, but cost a Midwife - with a small practice - a fortune in legal fees. Whatever your position on birth, women should be able to choose - even if it means having a baby in a hospital, home, or birthing center.
For those interested there is a Midwife Defense Fund here in Southern California.
If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to the defense charity:

The Midwife Defense Fund
Attn: Mary Price P.O. Box 940682 Simi Valley, CA 93094-0682

(PS- I'll find out soon if they use Paypal)
For those here in SoCal, there’s going to be a charity auction event in August and I’ll be donating a whole lot of artwork. I’ll have more information on that in a couple of weeks.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Weekend In Central California Is Like Visiting A Whole Other Country - And My iPhone Countdown

Some things about California still amaze me; you can literally drive anywhere and in about an hour feel as if you’re in a completely different place. Here in L.A. drive east and you hit the “Inland Empire” (Nascar and big truck country), northeast (desert and UFO watchers), south (where frat guys and sorority chicks live when they have babies), north (mountains and ski resorts), southeast (real indians, casino’s, and “premium” factory outlets.)
We drove about 3 hours up the coast and spent the weekend in a small town called Cayucos. A coastal place among open rolling hills, mountains, and the ocean that has only about 3,000 people that live there (probably equal to about 3 blocks of my neighborhood.)
The main street looks like the one in that movie “Cars” – you know where the main highway bypasses the downtown, except this place wasn’t a ghost town. They have some pretty nice locally owned B&B’s, small motels, and pretty good restaurants. This one place called “Hobbe’s” had amazing food, a fancy outdoor patio with a butterfly garden (daughter loved that), and a snazzy wine bar (wife and I loved that.) Obviously the locals around the area eat and drink well.
For anybody ever visiting L.A. a drive up the coast between Santa Barbara and Monterey is a must. It amazes me how these small towns are still able to stay so small when L.A. and the bay area are crazy huge.

If we would have kept driving, we would have paid a visit to my new best friends in Cuppertino and begged for an iPhone now. I’m probably going to be one of those crazy people down at the Apple Store this Friday trying to get one. But only if the AT&T pricing plans for it aren’t ridiculous – because paying $90/month for a phone isn't sexy.

Anybody out there doing any summer weekend road trips with the kids? It sometimes seems like small vacation towns cater to retired people or couples without kids these days. It's always good to find those kid-friendly places that don't have amusement parks or miniature golf courses.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Random Thoughts For Tuesday

For the 1,00oth Time - I Never Tried The Breastmilk!
Why is this the only question I get from soon-to-be new Dads when their wife isn't around? Not questions about sleep, diapers, what is an appropriate age for Chuck E Cheese, etc. I hope this isn't a question I just get - because that would be really weird.
And to answer the question: I only know of one guy that did this - he was out of creamer for his coffee (that still gives me the chills!)

Father's Day 2007 Has Come and Passed
I was allowed to sleep until 8 a.m. until my daughter jumped on me yelling "Happy Birthday Daddy!" with a card she colored. Then we headed to Pasadena for the Art Chalkwalk and classic car show where I stood with some other dads staring at car engines with my arms crossed nodding in agreement about parts I knew nothing about.

Wanted: Anybody Have a Spare Cow?
I'm not sure when it happened, but somehow I can now have small conversations with my daughter (I can't even say how much I love these.) Yesterday:

Daughter: Daddy, I wanna buy cow

Me: A Cow?

Daughter: A COW

Me: Do you have money? You need money to buy a cow. But first you need a job to get money. And you need skills to get a job. Have you put any thought about your skills?


Daughter: Daddy....I wanna buy bunny rabbit!

Planning The 2nd Birthday Party
My idea for a small birthday party with about 6-8 kids around my daughter's age has been compromised. We've opened it up to family, which pretty much blew away the guest count (darn you family!) Gymboree has a limit on kids (22) and now we're trying to choose between friends or family.
And we can't just invite a few family, because the ones who aren't invited might mail me a horse head.
I'm also considering getting one of those balloon making people (one who doesn't dress as a clown.) But one who might agree to dress as Colonel Sanders (he can make chicken balloon animals...!)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Father’s Day – Things That I Love and Hate About Being a Dad

I was in my 30’s when my daughter came along and changed my life in ways I never (ever) could have imagined. Apparently a late bloomer in the parenting world. Did you know the average age of a new dad in the U.S. is between 20-24! (personally, I was nowhere near ready back then.)
Do you want to hear more? The average age of a first-time grandparent in the U.S. is 45! My kid will be in elementary school when I’m that age! I’ll be the old guy in the back drinking the Pepcid from the bottle. So that must also mean that when my kid graduates college (Art School...? fingers crossed) I’ll be sporting robotic limbs and maybe have an eye that can shoot lasers to help me cut my pork chops.

Now into my 2nd official father’s day, here’s a small list of things I hate and love about being a dad.

The “dislikes” (because hate is a strong word):
Not being able to find things (like my fancy little digital camera that could fit in an Altoids tin) because the daughter likes to “hide” things.
2. Always finishing off the food the daughter doesn’t finish, you know, because there are people starving in China… or Santa Monica.
3. A new movie opening this weekend? I betcha’ I won’t be there.
4. Expected to be an expert at putting together kids toys, play sets, furniture, electronics, fixing a “running toilet”, etc. (becoming a Dad didn’t change my previous status of ‘non-handyman.’)
5. Not much “mommy and daddy” time to do… uh “mommy and daddy” things.
6. The wife always spending WAY too much money on clothes for our daughter. Her reasoning “there are WAY too many cute clothes for girls.”
7. Finding crayon marks on the walls, floors, counters, furniture, those “cute” clothes…
8. Being woke up at 6:30 on a Saturday morning is just wrong.

The things I love about being a Dad
1. A reason to go digital camera shopping for the latest and greatest (how does it know what a face is anyways?)
2. Having an excuse to eat chicken nuggets, ice cream, and chocolate covered gummy bears (“It’s for the kid…not me”)
3. Not spending $50 to see a movie (like Big Mama’s House 2) in a theatre. I’m a big fan of Netflix (but not of Big Mama.)
4. Giving advice on how to put together anything without having any knowledge of what I’m talking about only because I somehow how clout as a Dad. Ask me how to build a cabinet – I dare ya!
5. When the wife and I are alone, it's a big deal and we enjoy our time together.
6. The wife not spending much on clothes for herself - which are much more expensive that clothes for our daughter.
7. Watching my daughter draw, handing me scribbles on paper, and proudly saying "Daddy! Look! Turtles!" (and I can see them too…)
8. Waking up to a little face staring at me saying “Hi Daddy!” followed by a kiss on the cheek or forehead and then maybe an “I LUV you”. I melt like butter. I swear if she were to ask for a pony at that moment, I’d buy one, spray paint it pink, glue-on a unicorn horn… and maybe duct tape wings on it too.

Is there nothing more amazing than seeing a speck turn into baby, and then into a kid - right before your eyes...? I honestly don't think so. Except maybe going to McDonalds, with Aliens, and them buying me lunch with their corporate Visa card.

O.K. what about all of you? Dads? Or Moms? (you can play too since you all outnumber the Dads by 1000 to 1! Or maybe the guys just don’t like to comment much) on what you "love" and “dislike” about being a Dad (or Mom.)

And to all my fellow Dads out there - Happy Father's Day

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Planning My Daughters’ ‘Numero 2’ Birthday Party - Scaled Down (Without The Elvis Impersonator)

My daughter will be 2 soon (when did she get so old!?)

I can’t even believe its been nearly a year since her 1st, 10o guests birthday extravaganza (read about it here .) This time last year I was trying to decide whether the impersonator should dress as Blue Hawaii Elvis or Las Vegas Jumpsuit Elvis. I chose 'jumpsuit' because at the time my daughter started getting into that shiny things that sing stage. It didn’t matter though, she was still afraid of Elvis (maybe it was that violent shakin' ..)

People have been asking me “Hey! Crazy-insane “new dad” – what are you planning for #2? Tom Jones and live monkeys with water guns?” To them I answer, “That’s a good idea. I’ve always liked monkeys, especially armed ones” But in reality, I’m never doing that again.
When you hear about parents who've gone too far with their kids' party, well guess what? I was one of them (and the wife just sat back and watched me.) It was fun and memorable, but in reality my daughter didn’t know what was happening. It didn’t need to be that big.
The next big party I throw for her will be her wedding - in maybe 24.2 years to somebody I approve of and who isn’t a football/basketball/table tennis player, Elvis impersonator, drug/car dealer, multi-level marketing anything, aspiring race car driver, or actor (the list keep growing....daily.)

This year we’re planning a small 2-hour stint at our Gymboree with about 4 or 5 of her (non-cranky) friends she sees on a regular basis (asks for them by name all the time) and their parents, and maybe (still not entirely sure) a few family members with little ones under 5. The family can get a little weird if they know another family member was invited to something and not them (I can just hear it now “Why wasn’t I invited?!? and then my response "Save the DRAMA for yo' MAMA!" *grrrr*...then run away.)

I know the "big 2" birthday plans aren’t very glamorous and some family and friends will be disappointed about not getting invited. But I have to remember that these parties aren’t about me, the wife, and our friends. They’re about a little girl who gets nervous with too many adults around staring at her to perform when all she wants to do is run around and play with other kids.

But when it’s MY birthday, when then – start the disco music, send in the monkeys and let that chest hair breathe...!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

“The” Trip To Fiji: I Wish I Had More Money To Stay Longer…

Fiji is amazing!
We’ve been to 2 other exotic tropical places, Tahiti – Bora Bora and Kauai, those places don’t even compare. Well, Bora Bora is really nice – but seriously Hawaii feels more like Disneyland with Starbucks and Wal-Mart compared to the others (although, I must admit… having a KFC on Kauai did come in handy a few times.)

Great weather, the friendliest people we’ve ever encountered, beautiful beaches, amazing islands (there’re like 300 that make up Fiji) a Bure on the beach on a secluded private” island, top-notch food every day – I swear it felt like we were in some movie or as if we’ve stepped into somebody else’s life the whole time there.

We were contemplating our visit since the government had a military coup a few months ago back in December 2006 and isn't planning on elections again until 2009. After some research and some advice, we decided to move forward with the trip. Fiji is extremely dependant on tourism and since the incident the industry has dropped about 33% leading to the loss of much needed jobs primarily at the resorts.
After meeting the people (and talking to other guests), we were happy to have made the decision to go. Nothing even remotely dangerous was evident anywhere and everybody we encountered was more than happy to have us there. Although we hear, the Fijians are always grateful to have visitors - that was evident.

Where We Stayed
Vomo Island Resort – an incredible 5-star resort, with only 29 Bures on the entire 200-acre private island (pictures). Where guests arrive by private helicopter or seaplane. We chose the helicopter for the full affect! (it felt more Indiana Jones-ish…if he had a helicopter.) Other resorts (islands) we considered were Jean-Michel Cousteau (the famous dude’s son), and Turtle Island.
We chose Vomo because Cousteau didn’t have air-conditioning in the Bures (you NEED it and French in a hot place with no air-conditioning is just WRONG) and Turtle…well, I would need to sell both kidneys and maybe a lung too. Vomo is pretty much on pare with Turtle.

Everything Included – They Even Do Your Laundry!
The only things not included were booze (wines from New Zealand and Australia) Cuban cigars, we paid extra for “the nanny/sitter”, and the village visit day-trip. Oh, and you don’t “tip” in Fiji BUT you can give money to a staff Christmas Fund that gets divided evenly among the entire staff. We did put money into that at checkout (oddly, they don’t ask; I asked to contribute – because the staff really went out of there way for so much.)

What About “The” K.I.D.S…?
If you check out the website, you’ll probably think, “Hey! Wait a minute - this place doesn’t want kids messing up the place -- peeing on the furniture and burning things like rock stars”. I read a few things and talked with an agent – so we went ahead with the trip thinking we would be the only people there with a kid (a toddler!) Totally not the case! The Fijians adore children, everybody was always hugging her, playing with her, running up to her like she was a real princess (even the housemaids and gardners.)
This whole resort was either couples, or couples with kids around 2 to 5-ish. There’s really nothing to do for older kids (especially teenagers) unless they’re pretty laid back and are content with just sleeping, swimming, eating really fancy food, and getting waited on like royalty – you know, all the things parents with kids (and maybe couples) want.
We were assigned a nanny/sitter at the beginning and our daughter loved hanging out with her (Emele – pronounced Emily), and two other 2-year-olds and their nanny’s (we felt like the Kennedy’s or Rockefeller’s with the ‘nanny’ bit.) My daughter did stuff like hang out with endangered turtles, feedings fish in the ocean, and being entertained while the wife and I slept, went on snorkeling adventures, slept (did I just say that again), ate quiet fancy meals together, slept, sat on the beach, slept (pretty much anywhere…) What a paradise!

Where’s Everybody From?
I’d say 80% of people are from New Zealand, 10% from Australia, then the rest were a mix from Japan, Germany, U.K., then one other family from the U.S. (or “the states” as its always referred as overseas.) This is one of my absolute favorite things about traveling to places like this – meeting all the interesting people from around the world. And these people had interesting lives. We got some travel advice on other places we’ve been considering – Australia, Malaysia, Cook Islands, Hong Kong (and China), and India.

Village Trip: A Fijian School And Our Meeting With The Chief
We did something most of the other guests don’t usually do – we booked a boat to take us to visit a real Fijian village and school. We did some reading about this before going, so we were a little prepared – but not as prepared as we would have liked.
We visited Namara Village and the school nearby (it’s a boarding school that has kids from about 4 neighboring island villages.) The kids live there during the week and go home on the weekends.
When we arrived during lunch, a group of 4th and 5th graders ran out extremely excited. They all wanted to hold my daughter (they took turns) and gave us a tour of their classrooms while asking us a million questions in their best English (better English than most people in L.A.!) One of the kids asked me what grade I was in (I said 33rd) and then a few had asked me to point out where we’re from on a globe.
We brought Jolly Ranchers (they rarely get candy) to give out; we had our daughter give them out to the shy little ones—around kindergarten age. She loved going up to kids and giving candy. She kept coming back for more to hand out. The kids and adults all thanked us a million times over for bringing candy.
Then we were off to visit the chief in the traditional “chief bure” (I didn’t take any pictures out of respect.) We sat on the floor of this REALLY cool hut (he later said they built it for around $400 Fijian dollars - I want one in my yard!) while we presented the chief with Kava powder (we had bought earlier on.) He, and our guide, did a welcoming traditional ceremony and then he talked to us for about 15 minutes before we were allowed to walk around. He was extremely friendly, for a real chief, as asked us to visit anytime.
The majority of Fijians are poor. They, on the outer islands, live in communal villages of about 100. People cook outside, sleep on floor mats of their small one-room houses, and have some basics like minimal electricity and running water from fresh-water wells. They don’t watch TV, but get radio, and there are no computers.
But from talking and walking around, you never get that feeling that there is poverty or that they're missing out on anything. They're very traditionaly people.
We were asked if we wanted to buy handmade goods from the local women – we brought money just for this (research came in handy.)
The all came out and set sheets on the ground, like a swap-meet, and unwrapped all sorts of cool things – just for us.
We bought something from each woman, when we had left we spent around $200 Fijian dollars (about $140 U.S.) -- pretty much all the money we had with us. They all were very happy that we bought so much. I really wished we had taken more money; most of the stuff was really cool.
A few of the kids gave us the school’s address and asked us to write them. They were very excited about that prospect when we said we'll write and send some things along too. Not only are we going to write the school and the kids, we’re also sending a huge box of stuff (we get a lot of kid-stuff from work too.)
When we got back to the resort, the staff got wind of our visit and were really excited we had taken the time to see what real Fijian life is like. The vast majority of them are from the outer island villages and work at the resorts for 10 days (they all have staff quarters) and then go home for 4.
We felt a pretty humbled after the village visit and knowing how much they work hard to make sure visitors, like us, vacations were absolutely perfect. Everybody wants to work at the resorts, and they want more visitors so they'll be more jobs.

The End Of Vacation
Waking up knowing we had to leave really sucked. The staff met us at the outdoor reception and sang us a tearful song and the manager and his wife (New Zealanders - "Kiwis") came out to chat with us (we talked to them a lot while there, since they had a 2-year old my daughter played with.) and then we were off in our helicopter.
We never like to travel to the same place twice, the wife and I have a huge list of places we want to visit before we get really old and have so many robotics parts installed in our bodies that we can't be near electronic devices or airplanes.

But we are seriously considering going back to Fiji - soon.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bula! Want To See What Fiji Looks Like?

I don't have much time to write, so I'll show pictures instead (with maybe a few comments...)
I'll write more later. By the way --- why didn't anybody tell me toddlers and 9.5 hour flights don't mix!?

This is a REAL Fijian Village (with a REAL chief...who we met and presented a gift to allow us to visit - more on that later)

Our "bure" (or fancy little hut that looked like it was decorated by Fiji Pottery Barn...)

Our helicopter to/from the island. Only 10 minutes from Nadi. Or you can take a boat which takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

There was this "rock" next to our island. Every night bats would fly over from it to suck blood from young women. Well, not really. But that would have been pretty cool if they did.

One of 500 pictures I took from the helicopter. can you believe my daughter fell asleep? She's awake for the plane ride, but fell asleep on a 10 minute helicopter ride?! (sheez!)