The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Joie de Vivre

I have been keeping quite wonderfully busy this summer! I've been staycationing and vacationing.  The past few weeks have just been incredible.  Last Saturday, my friend Tanya and I visited Duff Goldman's (Ace of Cakes) new place, Cake Mix. It is basically the cake version of a pottery studio. You go and pick what you want to decorate (cupcakes, 6" cake, 9" cake) and then they supply all of the icings, gel colors, tools, goodies, etc., as well as professionals to help you.  From what I can tell from reviews online, Duff does his best to be there as often as possible. I imagine it will not be like that forever, but it is his new baby right now, and it seemed that he really loves being there. He WAS there when we were, and he helped Tanya and I learn new techniques and helped me come up with ideas for a design. I rarely (okay, never) make cakes for myself. When it comes to ideas for other people, no problem. I've made tons of neat cakes for my kids and my parents and other family members, but this was different. I was making a cake just because. I could do whatever I wanted. So, what did I do?  I made it quite purple. :-)  Duff taught me how to smooth buttercream, and that was one of the coolest experience of my life, and I am not normally a star-struck type, but he's just so cool. He's the type of person anyone would want to be friends with.

On Monday, Marc took the day off so we could spent time together before we left on separate trips. We took the kids to a place in LA I've been wanting to check out called Giggles & Hugs. It's a children's restaurant and playground. Very cool. The play area is very clean and very safe (no places where little ones can fall from high up or anything), and they have paid attendants to keep an eye out. The food is healthy and mostly natural and/or organic, and it is REAL food. You know when you go to kids places and all you can get is like pizza and burgers and chicken strips? Not the case here. Real restaurant menu. For example, as an appetizer, Marc got stuffed mushrooms and I got bruschetta. Yeah. Very cool.  Can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, Marc left for a youth gathering in New Orleans, while I took off with the kids for a week with family in Arizona. We spent some time with my sister in law before heading off to visit my cousin Tracy and her kids. With my sister in law, we went to see some of her close friends who have kids around Vinny's age, and Vinny had a wonderful time hanging out and swimming with them. Much more swimming ensued at Tracy's house, as well as many other fun excursions. We took the big kids to see Alice in Wonderland at a local community dinner theatre. The food was mediocre, but the show was fantastic. Totally professional quality. I think people seriously underestimate what community theatre brings to the table. Most community theatres nowadays put on really solid shows.

We also went to a jump place with a bunch of giant inflatables and to a little aquarium (which was overpriced for what it was, but the kids had a really good time) and to Rainforest Cafe. For Vinny, the highlight of the trip was definitely Alice in Wonderland, but for Tiana, it was definitely Rainforest Cafe. She was amazed pretty much every second that we were there. I don't know if I have ever seen her quite so excited.

On Saturday, I helped my cousins host a big pool party. We planned all week for it, and it was quite the success! We made alcohol infused cupcakes (that I have to say I was quite proud of), along with huge batches of beer margs and jungle juice, and a great buffet of Mexican food. The party was less than an hour away when Tracy ran outside saying, "Haboob!"  A haboob is basically a giant dust storm. Think mini-hurricane, minus the rain, plus a bunch of dust.  All week, Tracy had been saying she was just worried about the weather. I laughed it off. July in Phoenix is just miserably hot. A party at night with a pool was sure to go off without a hitch, but it is monsoon season there. Fortunately, we got all the outside furniture and stuff inside before the haboob came, and it came and went quickly and managed not to really cause any damage. The pool wasn't even that dirty. The cool thing about the haboob was that you could totally see it coming. It was a brown cloud on the horizon that just got bigger and bigger as it got closer and closer. Way cool to watch. Quite the experience. Plus, it ended with a beautiful rainbow.

It was an awesome party. I have a lot of family in Arizona, and most of them came to the party, and I have gotten to know my cousins' friends and their other family members pretty well over the years, so it was really awesome getting to hang out with everyone all night. Even though it rained a bit, it was more of a refreshing drizzle (water falling from the sky can really only be refreshing when it is 100 degrees) than anything else, and we went swimming anyway. I didn't climb out of the pool until about 2am. What a night!

The ride home was long. It took us about an hour and a half longer than the trip there, but it felt like more. We visited the world's worst Jack in the Box (seriously, we were in line at the drive thru for about 20 minutes, and there were stray pieces of hamburger meat in my chicken fajita pita), and Vinny waited until we got back on the freeway to tell me he had to go to the bathroom. The second time, he waited until after I had stopped for gas and gotten back on the freeway to tell me that he had to go to the bathroom again. Add a stop for coffee when I felt like I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer, and that makes for FIVE stops. Changing a cloth diaper in a gas station restroom without a changing table is no easy feat.  With all of this, the trip actually only took us about 7 hours, but it felt like much longer. Vinny whined that he wanted to be home all ready from Fontana until he finally fell asleep in Pasadena, around which time, Tiana threw her pacifier and her blanky and cried "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" until she finally fell asleep... one mile from our house. Yikes.

But you know what? There were some moments of beauty on the trip. Tiana was in a happy giggly mood most of the time, and Vinny enjoyed having my undivided attention to talk for 6 hours.  There was no traffic at all, and the desert at sunset is a beautiful place. While we were driving, we listened to this CD of songs from old, old Disney shows and movies. Many of them Vinny and I had never even heard before. There is this one song from a movie I haven't even heard of (In Search of Castaways), that I think is my new theme song to life. It is called "Enjoy it."

I leave you with a piece of it.

If there’s a complication, enjoy it! 
You’ve got imagination, employ it! 
This world’s a cornucopia,
Why it could be, Utopia? 
Voila, that’s right, enjoy it! 
Why cry about bad weather? Enjoy it!
 Each moment is a treasure, enjoy it! 
We are travelers on life’s highway, enjoy the trip 
Each lovely twist and byway, each bump and dip 
If there’s a complication, enjoy it! 
You’ve got imagination, employ it! 
And you’ll see roses in the snow, 
Joie de vivre will make them grow,
Voila, that’s life, enjoy it!

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