Tag - California

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La Brea Tar Pits
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Allergies and Earthquakes
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Aquarium of the Pacific
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Flying to Los Angeles
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I’m Leaving

La Brea Tar Pits

After a wonderful visit with my grandparents and extended family, it was time to head north to my hometown. We let my grandpa feed us one more breakfast, then off we went. On our way we stopped at La Brea Tar Pits.

Once upon a time, this one particular spot in the Los Angeles area had tar seeping out of the ground. Rain would collect on top of the tar, giving the illusion that it was a lake or pond. Animals would stop for a drink and get trapped in tar. Often, other predatory animals would hear the distressed animal and move in for the kill. Then those animals would get stuck in the tar. In recent times, these tarpits have been excavated and the bones of the trapped animals were removed, sorted and cataloged. I thought it was all rather cool and haven’t actually been to the tarpits since the very early 70s. I don’t even remember, but I have a post card to prove it.

OK, I looked all over for my postcard. I know I kept it, but it’s not in my box of paper treasures from my childhood. I’m very disappointed that it’s missing. But it looked exactly like this picture that I took:

When we first got there we could smell the tar right away. It was a hot day and it smelled like a newly made asphalt road. The biggest tar pit is the one shown in the picture and has a trapped mama mastadon calling to her baby and her mate. It made Pumpkin Girl very sad, so we like to pretend that the mama was actually able to get out of the tar and rejoin her family. Even though in real life she would have been stuck for good. And of course, it’s just a model and not real and nobody’s mama mastodon is currently stuck in the tar…but Pumpkin is sensitive like that, so what can you do?


“Mama, mama!”
Ok, enough, now even I’m getting sad!


See, how the tar actually looks like water? Except that every so often hot tar would come bubbling up. And it smelled like tar.

The tarpits themselves are free to visit. They are just out there and you can walk around and take pictures. There’s a small museum to visit, which we did.

Here’s one of the coolest things that happened – when we were paying for admission, Philip asked, as he always does, if they had a military discount. Most places it’s 10% off. Occasionally it’s free admission for the military member. This time our entire family got in free! Philip showed them his military ID and the guy thanked him for serving. Can you believe it? How unbelievably cool was that? So thank you, La Brea Tar Pits, we appreciate your appreciation.

The first thing we did in the museum was to watch the short introduction movie. It set the scene for what we were about to see. Then onward into the rest of the museum.


Boo and Pumpkin Girl tried to pull iron rods out of a pit of tar. You could see how difficult it would be free even one limb once you got stuck in the tar.

Pumpkin and Boo in front of the fossil bones of a mama mastadon and her baby that perished together in the pits. “Mama, mama!” No, let’s just not go there.

Bip liked this wooly mammoth that was also found in the pits.

Part of the museum was an area where you can observe scientists were working on more of the newly discovered fossils. Each scientist had a little sign telling you what kind of fossils they were working on.

We had a lot of fun at the tar pits and if you’re in the LA area, I’d recommend going. The whole visit only took a couple of hours, so it’s easy to tag on if you’re on your way someplace else. It occupies the same block as the LA County Museum of Art if you want to make a longer day of it.

Whatever you do, do not pretend to make the baby mastadon say,”bye bye, mama.” Not that anybody’s daddy did that or anything.

Allergies and Earthquakes

So, back to my vacation.

The day after the Aquarium of the Pacific, we spent the day with my grandparents.  My grandpa made us a huge breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon and toast.  My grandpa always overfeeds us.  I love it!

California was uncharacteristically cool during our visit, but because my 4 year old cousin was also there, my grandparents brought out the small inflatable pool.  Much fun was had, especially since my grandma hooked one hose up to her garage sink and the pool had warm water.  Great-grandchildren get special treatment, I tell you.  I don’t remember her giving us warm water when I was a kid.

Earlier in the day, though, I was in the living room my children.  Philip was out in the front yard, talking to his brother on the phone.  I was playing Uno with Boo and Pumpkin Girl and Bip was happily playing cars on the floor.  I had my back to Bip as I faced the other children during our card game.

I felt and heard a little rumbling.  I’m used to that, living right across the river from an airport.  But this rumbling increased and the house was actually moving.  I realized what was going on!  The picture of calm, I stood up, grabbed Boo and Pumpkin by their arms, told them, “We’re having an earthquake” and hauled them to the nearest doorway.  I told them to just stand there.  The rumbling continued and as it settled down, who should appear at my side, but Bip.

I had forgotten my baby.

I left him to fend for himself.   Good thing he likes being with us so much that he just followed where we went.

All was well.  The phone rang several times as my aunts, mother and cousin called to check in.  We watched the news and discovered that the earthquake registered 5.4 and was centered in Chino Hills.

We settled down, had lunch and then it was time for Bip’s nap.

I put him down in my aunt’s bedroom.  He’d been in this room often and had pet her cat that lives there.  He’s spent lots of time in other houses with cats and even chased down and pet those cats.  He’s never had any sort of reactions.

Well, he was falling asleep, then was woken up by a loud noise outside and then tried to get back to sleep.  When he’s very tired he rubs his face into something soft, usually me.  This time he rubbed his face into the blanket.  A few minutes later he was rubbing his eyes incessantly.  I told him to stop and go to sleep and he told me his eyes hurt.  They were red from the rubbing, or so I thought.  He just kept rubbing and then I saw they were swelling.  I whisked him away and put him in my grandma’s room.  I hoped that removing him from the allergen would stop the reaction.  Nope.  His eyes just kept swelling  until finally I realized it was time for Benedryl.  I keep it with me in my purse, usually against bug bites.  Fortunately he chewed it up readily, probably because I had a chocolate chip cookie chaser waiting for him.

Poor little guy!  He didn’t even look like himself anymore!  The Benedryl stopped the swelling, but it took him until mid-morning the next day for it to go completely away.

Right now we have no idea what caused that reaction.  Was it cat dander?  Is it possible that he never had enough cat contact to trigger a reaction before this?  Could it have been him rubbing his face right into the blanket? It had been washed but the cat had access to  it.  Or could it be something else, like the detergent used?  It’s definitely worth having him tested for.

An usual day to be sure.  Mystery allergies and earthquakes – who’d a thunk it?

Aquarium of the Pacific

A few weeks ago Bip decided that he wanted to see whales. I have no idea why, he just started saying, “Me want see whales.” Since we were already busy planning our California trip, we decided to dedicate a day there to seeing whales. I was not about to actually go whale watching, on some three hour tour to get seasick and wet and not see any whales. Instead, I suggested going to the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Of course an aquarium is not actually going to have whales, but I thought perhaps Bip would be satisfied with seeing fish. I was right.

Now, we’ve been to a few aquariums over the years. Before we were married, Philip and I went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. A few years ago we went to Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg with its shark tunnel(very cool). We’ve been to National Aquarium in DC (small) and to the National Aquarium in Baltimore several times. So to be honest, we were not expecting to be impressed. We were wrong.

First off, the children were given maps that were actually like souvenir programs. Each page highlighted a different section of the aquarium, with pictures and descriptions of the fish. A sort of treasure hunt was included in the pages. Throughout the aquarium were stations to emboss a sea creature picture on to the corresponding pages. If you emboss all the pictures, you receive a souvenir pencil.

Then, right there as you walk in is a huge whale model suspended from the ceiling. Bip was happy to see his whale and already our adventure was a success.

A few feet away from the flying whale,  we found divers cleaning a two-story tank.  One of the divers pointed to Boo and they played three of rounds of “rock, paper, scissors” togther!

We really enjoyed the Aquarium of the Pacific. The fish displays were huge, so there was usually no problem with the children getting a good view. The windows often went from floor to ceiling, so small children or toddlers in strollers could also see easily.

Another cool thing about the windows is that many of them were curved, so you could step right up to them and be almost surrounded by fish!  Lean in a bit and it was like being in the tank.

There were some touch tanks outside, as well as a sea lion viewing area and a playing area. We even spotted the Queen Mary from up in the sea lion area.

We arrived within half an hour of the aquarium opening and the crowds were light. A few school groups kind of got in the way, but we managed to ditch them about half way through. We took our time and enjoyed all the fish and collected embossed pictures for our maps. We were finished in about 2 1/2 hours. As we were leaving the crowd had gotten noticeably larger.

For lunch we walked not even a block to Chili’s. There was several other similar chain restaurants right there, too. (The aquarium had food and an eating area, we’re just never happy with aquarium/zoo food prices and quality.)

We had a great time there.  If you’re ever in the Long Beach area and don’t have the time or budget for Disneyland, try to get to the Aquarium of the Pacific – we highly recommend it.

Flying to Los Angeles

Our flight out to LA was long. Five straight, non-stop hours with three children who refused to just go to sleep already! I don’t know how it happened, but our carefully laid out plans landed us at the departure gate just 5 minutes before boarding began. We were more than a little stressed and Bip was quite put out with me for some reason related to me making him ride in the stroller and not letting him wander aimlessly and so he wanted only Daddy. That meant I got to sit with Frick and Frack Boo and Pumpkin Girl for the entire trip. They were fairly easy to travel with, especially after letting them watch movies on the DVD player. Except for Boo who guzzled his soda after I told him not to and had to go to the bathroom twice in 20 minutes. And then proceeded to keep a running dialog with himself for the entire last hour of the flight while Pumpkin Girl and I pointedly ignored him.

Meanwhile Philip kept the 2 year old entertained. Ha!

So we arrived at LAX, no worse for the wear and collected our luggage. After the baggage claim area cleared of mostly everyone, we accepted the fact that our car seat and booster seats were not arriving. I knew they wouldn’t. Back in DC when we handed over our car seats to be checked on to the plane, we were directed to a different counter. Our seats were bagged and tagged and then we were instructed to leave them “over there.” “Over there” turned out to be a spot on the floor next to the roped off queue. Ok then. We left our seats “over there” and hoped for the best. We did hear the ticketing person call for a car seat pick up, but we didn’t have a whole lot of warm fuzzies over this.

So of course the seats didn’t arrive and there we were with no ability to go anywhere without the car seats. Philip went off to file a claim and demand that someone go out to the local StuffMart for appropriate seats. The airlines however, lose carseats frequently enough to actually have loaner seats available. So, 2 hours after landing, loaner seats in hand, and we set out to find my parents’ car they had left for us in the parking lot.

Don’t ask.

Tired and crabby and very much on East Coast time, we wrangled the car seats and luggage into my parents’ car. We plugged in our GPS and while it tried to calculate the route from our last known location in DC to our hotel in LA, I told Philip that we needed to take the 405 S to the 110 S. I don’t know why, perhaps because it felt like 10 PM to us (see “East Coast time” above), but he kept asking me which freeway we were taking. I kept telling him the 405. South. to the 110. South. Very patiently. Through gritted teeth. He offered to let me drive. In my head, I offered to let him live.

Meanwhile, those people who insisted on coming with us and needing special seats because they are so small were sitting in the back seat, not going to sleep already and making comments about which freeway we needed to be taking. The front seat however, was quite silent.

So the 405 S led us to the 101 S and after turning the wrong direction off the freeway, we found our hotel.

All went exceedingly smooth for the rest of the trip. No, really, it did.

I’m Leaving

That’s it. I’ve had enough of the heat, humidity and tornado fake outs. I’m leaving DC.

Don’t worry, I’m coming back. We are actually headed back to the Old Country, the Left Coast, good ol’ Sunny Southern California. We’re on a pilgrimage to see family members we haven’t seen in about 2 years. We hope to stop by Olvera St in Los Angeles for folklorico costume pieces, visit the La Brea Tarpits and then head up to my hometown for Fiesta. Instead of temps already in the 80s at 8 in the morning, we will wear sweaters and peer out of my parents’ windows into the fog and wonder where the house across the street disappeared to. Instead of air conditioning, we will open windows and let the breezes off the Pacific Ocean cool us. We will probably take Bip to the beach for the first time.

When we return it will be August, with Bip’s birthday, school curriculum to order and organize, and a new school year to settle into. Fall will be on the horizon – ballet classes, scouts (Cub and Girl), soccer and possibly even music lessons. It’ll be busy.

But all that can wait. For now, we’re heading out to California. If you have a moment, please say a prayer for safe travel for us. I’ll try to blog a bit while I’m gone, but no promises. I think my parents may still have dial up.

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