Monday, August 31, 2009

Red Eye MacGyver

In an attempt to improve the quality of our cross-country flight experience, I decided to book Stellan and I on a red-eye flight for the return trip. It was a big gamble: either he would sleep the whole time, or he wouldn't. I felt a pretty big responsibility, since I was gambling with several hundred people's sanity.
I'm pleased to say that he did try to sleep the whole flight. That is much better than a day time flight, which he generally tries to stay awake for the whole flight. However, there was a technical glitch on the plane that ended up driving everyone crazy anyway, even though Stellan wasn't keeping them awake.
This was one of those new-fangled planes with touchscreens on the back of every seat. These touch screens offer on-demand viewing as well as other on board entertainment. They also control the overhead lights and the call buttons. Unfortunately, the screens were all broken. They just flashed through a looping slideshow of Delta propaganda. Even more unfortunately, Stellan's overhead light was on when we boarded, and we couldn't turn it off.
Stellan did manage to sleep most of the flight, despite the spotlight shining in his face. I, however, was more than annoyed with it, because it spilled onto my face quite a bit as well. In addition, when I gave up on sleep and tried to read, I realized that all the overhead lights that were on would turn off intermitently for an indeterminate amount of time before turning on again. So I took a close look at the lights and took a mental inventory of the items in the diaper bag. I quickly realized that a playing card would be just the right size to fit in the panel and cover the bulb.
Sure enough, it was perfect. As I was putting my card in and passing another to the man sitting behind me, the flight attendant passing out beverages to a very cranky plane full of people noticed and asked if she might borrow a few cards for anyone interested. I quickly agreed and started to pull out the deck, but the other crankier flight attendant got wind of it and decided it was a health risk as the bulbs were hot and people might burn themselves installing the cards.
So I reluctantly removed mine and the man behind me handed his back. As I sat there in the bright lights, I did something a little uncharacteristic. I'm generally pretty respectful of authority, particularly when I feel bad for authorities who are dealing with situations beyond their control. But since I hadn't burned my fingers and neither had the guy behind me, I waited until the flight attendants passed us by and put my card back in. I handed one to the man behind me and winked; he accepted gratefully and silently.
I spent the rest of the flight in darkness and relative sanity. Stellan and I returned very tired but glad to be home.

We're Back!

Stellan and I got back from SB this morning, and we're pooped! I'll be jumping right on the blogwagon again to fully document our fabulous trip, but until I do, here's a collage of photos taken by Stellan during the trip. So enjoy seeing the last two weeks through the eyes of a child - literally. (Hint to the less tech savvy: click on the image to see it bigger.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Part of the reason for the timing of our trip was to celebrate my mom's birthday with her. I love my mom. One of her more fun qualities is the extreme math geekiness she exhibits. For example, two years ago, she celebrated her special birthday - she turned 53 years old the same day Stellan turned 53 days old. (Who keeps track of that? I hadn't!) The next year was her golden birthday - she was born in 1954 and turned 54. This year was her magical birthday - she turned 55, which is a five and a five. I thought about planning a five-themed party for her, but gave up because I knew the only person who could really do the theme justice would be her.

However, this year we had a particularly awesome present planned for her. She recently purchased an electronic drum kit, which I have been coveting ever since. At the time of purchase, she didn't realize it needed an external amp, and so she's been playing it with headphones. But what's the point of drums, the loudest of instruments, if no one else can hear you and complain about the noise? So we got her an amp. A really sweet amp. That I'm sure the neighbors have been appreciating ever since. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Do You Do The Zoo?

Stellan did. He sweet talked Grandma and Grandpa Steward into taking the morning off so they could spend time at the zoo. We had an extremely good time, even though we only saw a small fraction of the animals, if you don't include Stellan. I'd say he was the number one attraction for a certain pair of doting grandparents in the vicinity. I don't blame them, he's always been my favorite little monkey.


While in SB, Stellan has had a wonderful time reuniting with his lifetime pal, Levi. In honor of their friendship, I submit this video.

Pomp And An Unusual Circumstance

As reported by the The Jervian, Stellan and I were pleased to attend the unofficial hooding ceremony for our newly Dr.'ed friend Jerry at Taffy's Pizza. I was even recruited to create the all-important "Pomp and Circumstance" musical ensemble. Claire and Rachel (Jerry's sisters-in-law) volunteered to join the band, and before you know it, we were a trio of highly skilled musicians playing the guitar, recorder and melodica. (We looked for a cowbell, but could not find one.)
We rehearsed and sounded amazing, but the world will never know since we forgot the sheet music and found ourselves sitting in the parking lot re-creating our masterpiece from scratch. We ended up with some chords abbreviated on a napkin, and did our very best. I'd like to think that it was the best live version of the graduation classic ever played at Taffy's Pizza. Congratulations, Dr. J!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Jumping Climbing Over Under Place

Because I still have some super awesome connections at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, I convinced my good friend (and nature evangelist) Elaine Gibson to give us a sneak peek of their soon-to-open outdoor play space. Most people are familiar with the Museum's many excellent exhibit halls, as well as its superlative planetarium. However, I would say that probably 98% of visitors do not fully appreciate or utilize the 40 acres of open land the Museum owns. This land runs along both sides of Mission Creek, and is one of Santa Barbara's greatest unknown treasures.
To remedy the growing (and alarming) trend of children being underexposed to actual nature in real life, the Museum has created a play space for all ages. It features an entrance through Boulder Alley; a stream with rocks for climbing, moving, jumping on and even throwing (as long as you don't throw at people or animals, Stellan!); a long log perfect for walking on top of; a big dirt hill in which they'll be putting a clear tunnel so you can see what's under the dirt; and a circle of stumps for sitting or hopping on. The Museum will use this for its outdoor field trip programs, and it will be available to all Museum visitors for open exploration.
Stellan loved it. Luh-uh-uhved it. The title of the post pretty accurately explains what we did. Elaine was the perfect hostess, and didn't have too much trouble encouraging Stellan to literally jump in with both feet. We spent almost three hours there. Yes, my two-year-old spent three hours in one place. It was idyllic and extremely engaging, and I'm sure it's going to become a local favorite. The official opening is September 20th, and if you're in the area, go! Admission is free that day, so no excuses.
The following slideshow is somewhat lengthy, as I put included all the best photos from the day and uploaded them in case the Museum wants to use any of them for press purposes. You'll get a feel for how beautiful it is (and how much I still miss working at a place like the Museum) in just a couple of slides. If you make it to the end, you'll see the cutest Stellan photos.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Trip To Grandpa's Park

We went on a walk through the Arroyo Burro Restoration Area, otherwise known as "that new path below the Wilcox property next to Hendry's Beach." If you aren't familiar with it, the area used to be a cesspool of nastiness, choked with invasive plants and terrible for the local watershed. However, it was restored to a more native state and was designed, in part, by my dad Craig Steward (a civil engineer). The finished project was awarded "Santa Barbara Beautiful" honors, and Dad received was personally recognized nationally by the Flood Plain Management Association.
Stellan was very impressed with the whole thing, but he especially liked the "wocks," the "bidge" and the "wa-a." Obviously he has a little of his grandfather in him; he may have enjoyed the landscaping, the well-organized path and interpretive signage, but it was rocks, a bridge and the water that really made him happy. Just look how happy he is, and proud!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

You Won't Believe This

Unless you live in Santa Barbara and already heard the story, that is.

We were driving back from a friend's house when we noticed the freeway was very slow. So we took an alternate route, and then another as we saw the first was getting clogged with likeminded freeway avoiders. As we wound our away around US 101, we noticed people biking and walking over to the side of the road to take photos and ogle. What could be so interesting that it attracted a crowd of pedestrians?

An airplane on the freeway. I took the photo below as the airplane was being loaded onto a tow truck.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

From Scratch - And I Mean It

Tonight we made dinner with my Auntie Beeb and Uncle Bob, and it was from scratch. By that, I mean that we picked most of the ingredients that afternoon from their garden. We made tamales, roasted cheese peppers and citrus chili glazed shrimp with homemade guacamole. I wish you could taste how amazing it was; oh wait, then I'd have to share. Good thing blogs don't come with scratch-and-sniff.

Friday, August 21, 2009


One of the families I could not live without seeing on our trip was the Spattersons: Kathy, Cheri and the two boys I babysat for most of their lives, Mikey and Pat. We got together for a pool party, and it was definitely a blast. The boys brought their buddy Addie, and they were glad that I brought the perfect pool party accessory, Kevin. He is the master of fancy dives and jumps. He inspired a session of some very spirited jumps, to the slight chagrine of their mother.

Kids, don't try this at home.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Family We Don't See Enough Of

First of all, that's all our family. Every last one of you. Secondly, I know some of you are sticklers enough to notice my poor grammar in the title of this post. Sorry.

This is just a collection of some of my favorite photos of family members we were very excited to visit with. Not pictured are the already-much-documented cousins and my brother Joe and his wife Krista. I don't know why we never got a picture of you guys, I guess we were just too busy snapping shots of your adorable progeny. My bad.

Finally, to those not pictured because you were not present, we miss you a lot. We're so sorry we didn't get to see you, and we hope to soon.

Did I mention I really really love my family? Because I do.

California Cousin Lovin'

Pretty much the first thing we did when we got to Santa Barbara was to see some cousins. Because, for Stellan, cousins are the best most awesome thing ever invented, even better than doggies. His youngest cousin, Chase, is on the verge of 1, and did her best to keep up with Stellan's bustling two-year-oldness. Riley, who is just a month younger than Stellan, did an admirable job of ensuring that Stellan took plenty of turns following. What a great way to kick off two weeks of awesomeness!

We're Here!

Stellan and I are in Santa Barbara now, and we are having a lot of fun. We've been busy visiting with grandparents, cousins and siblings. I've also given some shows in the planetarium, gone to Trader Joe's and cruised town with some girlfriends in a brand new Cooper Mini convertible. It's safe to say that life is good. Look forward to some fun pics, coming soon!
Oh, and if you want to come by the Museum to see one of my upcoming planetarium presentations, I'll be there for the 1PM, 2PM and 3PM shows on Saturday the 22nd and also Thursday the 27th. The 1PM show is great for families with small children, the rest are for general audiences (tough for the under five crowd). Stop by and see the butterflies while you're there!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Getting Excited!

We are all starting to get excited for our trip to Santa Barbara in less than a week.* It's going to be so nice to cool off and relax for a bit. Also, we're looking forward to seeing lots of friends and family. (If you're one or both of those and you want to see us, call!) In the meantime, we'll continue to soak our clothes in sweat while we dust off pants and sweatshirts for those "chilly" SB evenings.

*If you're a would-be thief who is considering breaking into our place while we're gone because we were dumb enough to tell you we're leaving, think again. First of all, if you wait a few months, you can have just about all of it for free on the side of curb - where it came from - when we move. Second of all, you wouldn't get much for it. Finally, Kev and I will be getting there at different times, so good luck finding our place vacated. Plus, our neighbor across the street is a firefighter with a wicked neighborhood protection streak. He singlehandedly took down a gun-wielding heroin addict** a couple of months ago.

**Long story. If there's any demand (like, say, in the comment section of this blog post), I might relate that little adventure.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Fun Family Friday

Every Friday during the summer, downtown Hollywood holds "Fun Family Fridays," a free event at a park in the heart of downtown. They have a bounce house, face painting, balloon artists, crafts, a magician and food vendors. We had a great time picking and choosing among those activities (we avoided the crafts - don't pretend to be surprised) and we had a blast. The hit of the night, maybe of the weekend, was the Elmo balloon hat the nice balloon lady made us. She saw his Elmo shirt and took a lucky guess that he night like it. Smart guess, balloon lady!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Breaking News

This just in: our lives are about to change forever. Stellan can open the fridge by himself. Pray for us, our food and our electric bill.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Road Trip: Final Thoughts

Now that we're home and a bit more rested, here are our final notes on our fabulous Let's See More Florida Tour.
First of all, I'm not doing this again until Stellan learns to sleep on a bed. Period. It killed our after-Stellan-goes-to-sleep time, because in order to get him to sleep, Kevin or I had to literally crawl under the covers with him and sing, coax and calm him to sleep. It took about an hour each night. And let's be honest; after laying in bed in a darkened hotel room for an hour, who's ready to jump out of bed and hit the exercise room, the balcony or anywhere that's not bed?
Next, it's hot in Florida during the summer. We're glad we had lots of water-themed activities, plus some indoors destinations. We'd like to go later in the fall and do some camping, canoeing and outdoor adventuring, but we are so glad we didn't in August.
Finally, I'm sad to announce we did suffer a few casualties during our trip. In fact, they biggest three occurred on our last afternoon while at the Kennedy Space Center. First, Stellan ate it really hard while walking on a wall unassisted. He got a huge knot on his eyebrow and a nice scrape/bruise on his cheekbone. Then, Kevin's flip flop broke. This was the only pair of shoes he had, so he had to either go barefoot or drag the broken shoe along all over the Space Center. Finally, and perhaps most embarrassing/entertaining, I ate it really hard and was rewarded with a very lovely bruise that I now wear like an anklet on my leg.
What? You want to hear the whole embarrassing story? I'm such a good sport I'll share it. We were in the cafeteria getting some lunch when Stellan took off. He had been doing this all day in every line we had been in. Since he's so short, he can easily manuever right under any barrier used for crowd control, from the Disneyland-style metal rod barriers to the drooping chains barriers. This one was a drooping chains style line. Anyway, Stellan took off, and Kevin's shoe was broken, so I got to chase him. As he gained further distance with the time it took me to carefully climb over the chain, I realized I was going to have to pick up the pace, and decided to do the "side-hurtle" to get past the next chain. You know what I'm talking about, the way you can lean on the post with one arm and jump sort of sideways over the shortest part of the chain. Well, I didn't clear it 100%. And I ate it. Hard. In front of many many people. I didn't just fall, I got my leg stuck, almost caught myself, then totally lost it, spilling onto the floor. Even Stellan stopped to see the spectacle. I got up, red-faced and grinning goofily, and took a bow. What else can you do?
Anyway, it was a great trip. Who's coming with us next time?

Monday, August 3, 2009

Road Trip: Day Five

Today was the last day of our road trip, and my favorite. Today we went to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. It was amazing. I have to admit that I got a little verklempt as I walked in the doors, it was everything I had hoped for. We all had a good time, and Stellan was a pretty good sport, all things considered. The bus tour was a little much for him, so we cut a couple stops short. Kevin and I took turns on the Shuttle Experience, where they simulate the launch in a Star Tours-esque ride. We went to an IMAX film about the moon; Stellan and I saw most of it.

Day Five Stats:
Start and end: Orange City to Dania Beach
Distance: 278 miles
Sites Visited: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex
High Points: Everything. Especially the gift shop. We never even glance at gift shops, but this was one incredible exception. It was like Christmas in August. Also, on the drive home after, Kevin and I had a great time singing along in our loudest and most annoying voices to Disney Classics. I was surprised at how many songs he knew; he wasn't surprised at how many I knew.
Low Points: I got chewed out by a cranky man who told me Stellan was lightning bait wandering around in the rain during a sudden downpour. Really? In the middle of a complex full of huge rockets standing straight up in the air, you think my not-quite-3-feet-tall kid is the most likely target?
Lemonade From Lemons Moment: After all the sleep(less) trauma with Stellan, he made it until 6 PM. When we got him to the car, we had to change his clothes because he had gotten soaked in the downpour. He was so tired he kept falling asleep in my arms while I was actively removing and putting on his clothes. He slept like a baby the entire trip home, even with his parents' obnoxious bellowing. Once we got home, he woke up long enough to request milk. By the time I had poured it, he was out cold again. He's glad to be back in his crib.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Road Trip: Day Four

We crossed back to eastern Florida today. We stayed in Orange City at a pretty seedy motel, our worst of the trip. But we did get to visit Blue Springs State Park, which was a treat. Kevin took his Boys Scouts there a couple of months ago and raved ever since, so we had to stop by. We like springs, and have even talked about taking a springs-only road trip because there are a ton in Central Florida.
We also went to church in Tampa; there was a ward that met right down the road from our motel. They were super friendly and eager to know if we were new to the ward. We had to regretfully inform them that we were just visiting and were leaving right after services. I've never felt I let so many complete strangers down.

Day Four Stats
Start and stop: Tampa to Orange City
Distance: 126 miles
Sites Visited: New Tampa Ward of LDS Church, Blue Springs State Park, Sonic
High Points: The nursery at church was awesome, Stellan loved it; he especially liked the bubble machine they turned on at the end. The springs were cool, about 72˚, I felt genuinely cold for the first time in months. Also, Sonic has really yummy treat-drinks. I love Sonic.
Low Points: Stellan is still having a hard time sleeping in a bed. Getting him to sleep is a real challenge, and then we have to blockade the sides with chairs, luggage and pillows to keep him on it, and it still usually requires one of us becoming the final barrier to the ground in the wee hours.
Lemonade From Lemons Moment: With all the nighttime commotion, Stellan was tired enough to sleep in this morning until a little past 8 AM.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Road Trip: Day Three

Once we got to Tampa, we had way more options than time. My first pick was of course the Museum of Science and Industry. I was very sad Stellan didn't last until the planetarium show I wanted to see, but he was a mess by the afternoon. Three days without a nap or a good night's sleep was wearing on us all.
We also wanted to rent a little boat, but the one place with prices we could swing wouldn't let Stellan aboard, and that was a bit of sticking point. So we thought we'd go on an eco-tour, but when we didn't make it from the hotel to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium on time, we decided to hit the beach instead. (Because the one thing people who live within 2 miles of the coast should do on vacation is go to the beach as often as possible.)

Day Three Stats:
Start and stop: wandering around Tampa
Distance: I wouldn't be able to even guess it, but not a lot
Sites Visited: MOSI, Clearwater Beach
High Points: MOSI is huge and pretty cool. Kevin especially like the electric circuit games. The Wildfire Experience is a little too realistice, but cool nonetheless.
Low Points: We lost Stellan at MOSI. Not for long, and in the children's area, but it took us several minutes to find him safe and sound. He never noticed we were gone. Also, he had a huge meltdown at the beach. I chalk it up to the aforementioned naplessness. It was so ugly we almost gave up. In fact, as I took the photo you'll see in the slideshow, I thought to myself, "I better take a picture, it'll last longer." Kevin was a champ and coaxed Stellan back into good spirits. Also, the beach itself was totally packed and very touristy.
Lemonade From Lemons Moment: We stopped by Taco Bell for a quick snack on our way home from the beach. In case you hadn't already considered it, giving a bean burrito to a 2-year-old in a car seat is not a good idea. But we had a great view of Tampa Bay at sunset by the dumpster where we cleaned him and the seat. I've included a couple of shots in the slideshow.