California Trip Part I: LA

We’re back…. and it was fabulous! Since I didn’t manage to actually blog while we were there, I have a lot of catching up to do.  I don’t know how I’m possibly going to recap everything other than to write two massively long posts, one for LA and one for SF. They will probably be so long that no one will make it through the whole thing, but I feel I have to document it anyway, if only so that Jasper can someday read all about his first plane trip!

It all started with a very excited Jasper Saturday morning (Sept. 18th) as he donned his monkey backpack full of toys and answered “Auntie Roxy umbrella” when I asked him who we were going to see on the airplane.  He has been saying “Auntie Roxy umbrella” for a few months now in reference to a picture my mom has hanging of Roxy from a photoshoot where she was out in the rain (she used to be a fashion model) so in his toddler logic, Auntie Roxy “all wet” = Auntie Roxy umbrella:

By the way, the backpack idea you all gave me was great, if only because it looks so ridiculously cute to see a tow year old in a backpack!  Of course I couldn’t find one I liked locally, so I ordered this cute skip hop one from Amazon:

So anyway, we made it to JFK in record time, got out and checked our bags and car-seat curbside and then Jasper and I went into the terminal to wait while Daddy went to park the car in long term parking. And waited, and waited:

We watched dozens of taxis and buses go by and several airtran “choo choos” which nearly resulted in a complete meltdown until at last, daddy reappeared. We somehow made it through security with all of our 6 carry-ons, a toddler and nothing lost and sat at a gate next to ours where there was a better view of the planes on the tarmac. Jasper was FASCINATED and was very excited that we would be riding in a blue plane:

After boarding, we settled into our super comfy/roomy business class seats and Mommy immediately availed herself of the complimentary champagne (bracing herself for the hell that might ensue during the 5.5 hour flight!) and daddy sat across the aisle with Jasper.

We bought a toy united plane at the gift shop that had flashing lights and a made a take off and landing sound. It came in really handy as we explained to Jasper using the plane to illustrate what would happen during take off.  Not so sure how he would react to the noise and speed, Jeff held him on his lap for takeoff.  I kept a hawk’s eye on Jasper the whole ascent half expecting him to freak out that his ears hurt, or that he was scared or whatever else but he was totally fine. I actually had milk in his sippy for him to drink to help his ears, but he did so great the whole flight that on the flight home I didn’t even bother and it made no difference. What a relief!

The rest of the flight was just a matter of keeping him entertained. We had borrowed a great little (pink!) Sony DVD player from our friends Sarah & Jay that I think we will end up ordering as well and I had ordered this Curious George DVD collection:

which kept Jasper busy for a large part of the flight.  Here he is contentedly wearing the headphones and watching George:

Somewhere along the way after this Jasper decided he didn’t want to wear the headphones (which he calls earrings. “No wear earrings mommy!”) so I was extra glad we had a DVD player rather than relying on the airline provided entertainment units that require headphones.  We kept the volume at a level that Jasper could just barely hear but that was canceled out by the airplane noise so none of the other passengers were bothered. In fact, I noticed that we were pretty much the only awake passengers the ENTIRE flight.. as wonderfully behaved as Jasper was, he still refused to nap even though our flight was during his normal naptime.

So between Curious George DVDs, the indispensable Magnadoodle that we had bought for our Cap Cod road trip:

crayons and the Curious George coloring/ sticker book (with over 600 stickers!):

we managed to entertain Jasper for the 5+ hour flight without any tears or tantrums! Jeff & I were both pretty astounded.. there haven’t been too many times in Jasper’s two years where his behavior exceeded our expectations by a long shot, but this was definitely one of them!

After disembarking at LAX we grabbed a smart carte and tried to figure out how to get to our “in terminal” rental car desk, which as it turns out was not in terminal at all, but could only be reached by shuttle bus. Jasper was greatly enamored of the shuttle bus and has asked to go on it many times since.  But anyway, we arrive at the rental car place and waited on a fairly slow line to get to the desk while Jasper entertained himself by rifling through the bookcase of local attraction brochures. But the funniest moment came when he first discovered the brochures and grabbed two that were the same and shouted “look mommy, a match!” Apparently the Curious George memory game that Sarah & Jay bought him for his birthday as well as the matching zoo iPhone app have left quite an impression on him!

When we finally arrived at the hotel, it became quite clear why the Magic Castle is the #3 rated hotel in all of LA! The staff is INCREDIBLY nice and helpful, from the cocktail greeting to printing out emails, to the free snack bar, they have taken customer service to a new level.  But even without the super nice staff, this place is perfect for families because they are more like one bedrooom apartments than hotel rooms.  Each suite had a large bedroom with very comfy king size bed (down comforter and pillows were another plus!) and a large living/dining room area with an adjoining full kitchen. Awesome!  Every night we would put Jasper to sleep and then go hang out in the living room which worked great for having my sister Roxy and her boyfriend Adam come over for dinner or to say hi – it made us feel less like slaves to the sleeping toddler.

There was nothing though to be done though about the 5am wakeup call named Jasper the first 3 mornings until he thankfully adjusted to Pacific time! Totally brutal. I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve actually had to wait for the hotel breakfast to BEGIN. (The last time I remember staying at a hotel it was a rush to get to breakfast before it was over :)

So our first full day in LA we had a fun playdate in  Griffith park with my sisters friends and their two adorable kids Olive and George.  After that, we headed over to the fern walk which is this really shady and lush trail that Jasper LOVED. We couldn’t get him to stop running ahead he was having such a blast.  He also immediately began re-bonding with Auntie Roxy whom he hadn’t seen in a year!

After our walk we had lunch at “Trails” where I had an out of this world avocado sandwich (forgetting momentarily that I have a slight allergy to avocados and all stone fruits!)

The rest of our LA trip was a bit of a blur, I think it was the next day that we spent with Roxy and her boyfriend Adam, first stopping by their beautiful house where uncle Adam gave Jasper his first piano lesson!

I just loved that window light coming in from behind them. And then, I realized that this little experience really called for a video rather than a picture, so I flipped into live mode and started filming with the mark II.. since I had already been shooting photos, I didn’t have to mess with the exposure, I think maybe I should have focused a bit better but I was so scared of missing this magical moment that I was afraid to touch anything!

(I really want to delve into the amazing video capability of the mark II, so stay tuned for more on that adventure!)

After visiting the house we set off to Griffith park again, this time to ride the small train which was a big hit with Jasper.  We rushed over to get to the carousel before it closed at 5pm because Jasper has always really loved carousels. Perhaps it was the seedy appearance, or that it was going to fast, but as soon as the rides started Jasper started to get upset. Auntie Roxy thought he had something in his eye, but once he got into Daddy’s arms it was clear that he was just trying to shut the whole experience out:

Poor little Monkey was so traumatized that he refused to go on any other “rides” the whole trip!

The next day we headed to the Santa Monica Pier:

After walking around a bit we met up with Amanda who’d I’d only met via the blog and facebook.  It was so great meeting Amanda in person and her beautiful and incredibly smart daughter Stella and Stella’s lovely grandmother Vicky. We all had a fabulous lunch together and also with Adam’s mother Donna, who I felt an instant connection with. Unfortunately it was all over too quick, Stella headed home for a nap, Donna back to work but not before I snapped a picture or two of Stella:

I just can’t get enough of that fabulous outfit!

After saying goodbye, we walked back over towards the pier and down towards the beach. Even though it was cold and dreary, we had promised Jasper he would see the beach again on this trip and so we took off our shoes and walked towards the shore. Well, we walked, Jasper ran and immediately got his pants quite wet when the waves washed in:

When he spotted the area under the pier and literally RACED there, he called it a tunnel. He’s a big fan of tunnels:

Auntie Roxy and I stayed further up the beach and waved to Jasper and Daddy:

The next day we weren’t sure what to do. Roxy had some looming deadlines, and we didn’t have any concrete plans until that evening when we were supposed to go visit Kari, Liam and Kurt.  At the last minute we decided to go to Universal, mostly because they have a Curious George area and we thought Jasper would get a huge kick out of meeting George. Um, not so much. This is the closest he would get to George:

The sad part is that Jasper seemed to exhibit his first episode of regret later that night at the hotel. He brought up several times that Jasper didn’t hug George and that he wanted to go back to see him :(

So anyway, universal was a big waste of money because the George area was the only toddler friendly area and the largest part of it was a sprinkler park and it was COLD and dreary again that day.  There was one ball shooting george activity that Jasper liked (unlike me who found the constant threat of being hit with even a foam ball quite annoying) and a very toddler friendly playground. I joked to Jeff that this was the most expensive playground EVER because we basically paid $130 for him to play there and enjoy almost nothing else!  We had thought we could to the studio tour tram, but in honor of Halloween, the tram was turned into the “Chucky Terror Tram” which I figured would be way scarier than George, if not for Jasper then for me so skipped that ride altogether.

We did take advantage of the very toddler appropriate “Animal actors” animal show but towards the end Jasper got whiny and restless, which we later realized was out of sheer exhaustion when, inexplicably and miraculously Jasper crashed out in the stroller for the FIRST TIME EVER!

I credit the combination of activity overload, jet lag and the comfort of the Uppababy G-luxe umbrella stroller we purchased for the trip (the seat reclines very far back). I was really happy with the stroller and now that Jasper is too big for the Uppababy Vista, it will become our main stroller.

You can see in the background of the picture that we are in Krustyland, so we took advantage of the sleeping toddler and took turns going on the Simpson’s ride.  It was a complete necessity given the price of the tickets that we avail ourselves of at least ONE attraction while we were there!

We then headed back to the hotel where I got us ready to head north east to Kari’s house. Sadly, Kari’s husband Kurt had to head out of town that morning for a last minute business meeting so Jasper and I drove out alone for a girls and baby boys only evening.

The anticipation of meeting Kari reminded me a little of when I used to do internet dating.  Sometimes you would meet someone online and you’d have great email rapport, but when you met in person you just had NOTHING, no chemistry, no spark and you’d end up feeling like you’d lost this “friend” you’d been chatting with for however long via email.  So I was a teeny tiny bit worried that Kari couldn’t possibly be as cool and wonderful as I’d built her up to be in my mind and that I’d leave disappointed somehow. .  well, I’m happy to report that my fears were completely unfounded as Kari was every bit as warm, beautiful, cool, fun and overall amazing as I had thought she would be!  It felt completely like old friends catching up and not at all like we were meeting for the first time. Their home was also incredible.. gorgeous, impressive yet comfortable and surrounded by a stunning mountain landscape.  My only regret is that now I’m even more sad that they live on the opposite coast!

Liam was even more adorable in person (if at all possible), and it was just so much fun seeing Jasper and his “twin” Liam together.  Just yesterday Jasper wanted to do “cheers” with me because he and Liam did it with their water bottles!   For Jasper’s part he was just so excited to see TOYS for the first time since we left home that he was a flurry of toy hopping the whole night!  Kari and I shared a bottle of prosecco and chatted , and  I could have stayed for days, but the evening went by in a heartbeat.

Not before I made sure to drag them out into the sunset light and snap a few pics:

And all too soon it was time to go home. The boys didn’t want to hug, but they did give a high five at our suggestion. The funniest thing is that they both, of their own accord “bumped”  their knuckles immediately after.  Apparently their daddies  have many similar ideas like their mommies!  The night was a real highlight of our trip, Kari wrote about it much more eloquently than I did and I’m so happy that I can call her a friend “in real life” now!

The next day we had to leave for the airport at 2:15, but not before having an amazing lunch and great coffee and then a quick looksee at the kids shoe store at Sunset Junction where I really wanted Jasper to try on these blue kickers which he refused to do.. just as well because they were $100!! But he DID have a great time monopolizing the Harley Davidson motorcycle (replete with leather saddle bags!!) out in front of the store:

I must say, I find the fact that he seems to be channeling James Dean in that last image slightly disconcerting (you know, if James Dean rode around on his bike with a bedraggled pooh bear!)

And then, all to soon it was time to visit Auntie Roxy’s fab new studio where we said goodbye..

Thanks to Auntie Roxy who took so much time out of her schedule we had an amazing time hanging out with her and Adam and really enjoying a relaxing but fun visit.  I was sad to get on the plane to SF, but am very excited for her visit back to NY for her high school reunion.. I know Jasper is counting the days until “Auntie Roxy umbrella” comes to visit!

Next stop, San Francisco: Stay tuned for my meeting with Kimberly and James, Shane, Ava & G, Jasper & Lola’s reunion and much more…!

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Melissa says:

I love the photo where you son is at the airport gate staring through the window (presumably at the planes taking off?). There’s something dreamy about it, the “traveler’s spirit” so to say. There’s excitement, and curiosity, and patience in it.

Gauri says:

I just found this site via the above link, in fact. Love it. I am really into photography but can see I have soooo much to learn from you! [important disclaimer: I source a lot of photos on my blog from random creative commons photographers ‘cos I just don’t have time to do a pic per post… yet!]

Anyway, loving your blog and off to discover more of it. Cheers!

ariana says:

@abby – no official comment ;)

abby says:

Okay I’m officially de-lurking just to say that your sister’s boyfriend looks an awful lot like Adam Goldberg. Love your blog Ariana!

ariana says:

Lourdes, if Jasper can fly at two, I’d bet Wes would be FINE! I think a really good guideline (at least for me) is how he handles being in the car. I noticed a huge improvement on how Jasper is OK to sit in his carseat and chill, which up until about 3 months ago he wasn’t OK with. I truly think that had we tried this trip while he was still protesting “sitting still” essentially we would have had a whole different outcome :)

JBhat, oooh, good luck on the flight! I’m sure she will do great.. at least I hope so ;) How is she in the carseat?

jbhat says:

How fantastic! Loved reading this trip recap, and am so glad that you got to visit with your blogging friends in real life. And I’m thrilled to hear that flying went well too. My litte one and I are headed to TN next month…and I’m a little nervous! Remember, she and Jasper have the same birtday…similar personalities…very busy, very assertive. Eek! Fellow passengers, be forewarned!


Lourdes says:

Gorgeous photos…and what a dream of a trip! Craig pretty much refuses to fly anywhere with Wes until he’s 3 :(. Oh well, I guess that just gives us more time to save money. I can’t wait for us to go out to California!

Wes would also be VERY jealous of Jasper on that Harley Davidson. Our boys are clearly both crazy about bikes.

ariana says:

Stephanie, I’m soooo glad to hear that. I mean, not that your son was scared, but it does make us feel better that Jasper isn’t the only one! Doesn’t it suck having aunties so far away? I wish we could be closer :(

Kimberly, so cute! I edited the pics from SF and will post them soon on FB, there is such a great one of you and James.

Kari, that is ridiculously sweet.. I will have to stay on the lookout for another blue bunny to send to Liam! The other day Jasper shouted “BE-um” and I was like “What?” then I realized he was trying to say Liam. I said “did you say Liam?” and he said “More!”.

Wasn’t Jasper’s music good? I like the song that he played when Adam was playing the chords and Jasper was playing the melody. Then again, mommy is easily impressed LOL.

kari says:

awwweee… GREAT recap and awesome travel tips!
I too wish you could have stayed for days, and i also am more sad now that you guys are so far away.

liam misses “his” jasper – we got him a pez dispenser for the plane – it is a jack o lantern – but he calls it “punkin like jaspers blue bunny”! (more toddler logic!) we watched the jasper piano video together this morning and he said “jasper music”

miss you guys already – come back soon, and thank you for the amazing photos! they are priceless!

Kimberly says:

Great recap… looking forward to seeing part 2!
As an aside, yesterday morning, I asked James, “what should we do today?” His response, “Play with Jasper!” Sweet and sad!

Stephanie says:

So glad to hear you all had such a great time out in Cali! When I read about Jasper and the carousel ride at Griffith Park, it was like deja vu… my 2-year old son had the same experience there a few weeks ago! Maybe we were on the same ride? LOL I think it was the combination of the loud organ music and the way that thing whipped around at lightning speed. Thanks for all the travel tips – will have to pick up some of these goodies for when we visit our Auntie on the east coast : )

ariana says:

Samantha, I don’t expect anyone will probably read the whole post LOL. But I hope some of my tips will help for your trip.. that sounds like a LONG one!

Samantha says:

Wow! These are some amazing pictures!

I will say that I did not get through the whole post (just too busy today) but Jasper looked so cute in that adorable backpack and the headphones! Thanks for the travel ideas. We’ll be traveling to India in January so I’ll need all the advice I can get! :-)

Glad you had a good time.