“Well, it was a nice walk, at least.” I’ll have this on my headstone.

Sometimes I just load the kids in the car and drive somewhere far away and then get out and walk around for a while. I hope that the destination is interesting, nice to look at, unique in some way. I hope that the hike is a little strenuous.

Sometimes the hike is more than a little strenuous. (Stay tuned to this space for “Erin and Adrian Go on a 7.25 Mile Hike and Their Dad Makes Them Climb a Goddamned Mountain All Before Dinner” and “Erin and Adrian Go to Point Reyes and Their Dad Makes Them Climb 30 Stories Just to See a Lighthouse and No Whales). But today’s hike was not only strenuous: it got me thinking about mortality. Hiking doesn’t normally do that.

We got in the car today and just started driving. We drove all the way across the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove all the way through Marin County. We drove all the way to Sonoma. I’ll drive environmentally-unfriendily-far just to go for a walk, apparently. We had lunch in the old town-y part of Sonoma.

DSC05377

Erin tried to avoid the Pop-arazzi by going in disguise. But I’m wily. I just looked for things that a pre-schooler couldn’t wait to touch and break and I camped out there, waiting for a pre-schooler to show up to try to touch and break them. In this case, candles were Erin’s giveaway.

DSC05379

After I corralled her we started to walk up the hill behind the town. I had read about a trail that was a fairly short walk up to some great views of the valley below, and I followed the directions I read kind of…casually.

I got the part about hanging a right at the Veterans’ War Memorial correct.

DSC05381

And maybe it was the War Memorial that got me thinking about mortality. It surely wasn’t the length of the hike, or the duration of the climb, since both were short. I have no idea what else could have brought on those thoughts.

I continued on, looking for the sign indicating that Overlook Trail was beginning. It looks like this:

DSC05403

But I didn’t see that sign until I was on my way down the mountain.

How had I managed to get up the mountain without using the hiking trail I was looking for?

Well, step one was: Refuse to ask for or look for directions. Also, as you’ll see, I would not really have wanted to get an answer from those available to ask.

Step two was: Do not be deterred by what is clearly the wrong path. Look, it leads uphill, and uphill is the point.

DSC05387

Step three was: Be resolute in the act of treading on zombie ground.

DSC05392

Because that, my friends, is a cemetery.

I think taking the kids on a moderately strenuous hike up a hill through a cemetery wins me some kind of award.

Nice view, though.

DSC05395

That’s a grave.

I win at dad.

What Makes Adrian Cool? His Awesome Hair.

Your hair just can’t compete.

DSC05308

Even when he’s shoving trash in his mouth his hair still looks good.

DSC05298

We call it “McHale-ing.”

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/mrhooks/ / CC BY-SA 2.0) 

The ladies are all “Is that Adrian? Woah! He just made my year!”

DSC05302

But Adrian has other things on his mind. Like his new manga, and wondering deep wonders like “Why did my dad dress me in a snowman shirt in May?”

DSC05306

Oh yeah, and this delightful trash!

DSC05305

“Sorry babe….”

DSC05311

“But I’m a lone wolf. And the lone wolf howls alone.”

DSC05312 

Or…sucks on his pacifier. But even that looks wicked cool.

Birthday Number Three Means Three Days of Partying. Right?

Erin is officially three years old. By “officially” I suppose I mean “in a number-counting” kind of way and not in a “here’s a letter from the mayor” kind of way. Although the mayor did call, and just like I do with every other telemarketer who calls asking for money I gave the phone to Erin. “Hi. Who izzit? Gaow gaow. I love you mommy. Okay bye.”

To celebrate Erin’s third birthday we had, as per ancient Chinese custom, three days of celebration. And Erin’s Disneyland Grandma.

DSC05026

Day the First

Erin’s daycare culture involves parents bringing in treats or snacks or, as we did last year, stickers, and having a little party. In an attempt to ingratiate ourselves with the other parents we made red velvet cake cupcones and brought them in just before naptime on Friday. It wasn’t yet Erin’s birthday, but it was an excuse to eat cupcones.

DSC04902

Nothing says “Remember us as the cool parents,” like giving everyone else red stained laundry and faces like The Joker and hyping the kids up on real sugar right before they need to go to sleep.

DSC04927

Day the Second

On the second day, while God was busy creating the sky, Erin was busy turning three and we were busy taking her to Happy Hollow. What is Happy Hollow, you ask? Well, as Erin so eloquently put it as we were driving there: “It’s a park and zoo.” You see, when you’re three you automatically gain insight, wisdom, and nonchalance. Because it is Happy Hollow Park and Zoo. Happy Hollow just went through a multi-million dollar renovation to turn it from a run-down city theme park for toddlers into a rubberized surface and freshly painted city theme park for toddlers. It looks good. It only has like five rides, though. Whatever, Erin didn’t mind.

DSC05019

Adrian also had fun, in his death-skull safari cap, cruising in his stroller.

DSC04970 

Gilroy Gardens kicks Happy Hollow’s ass, but with my San Francisco Zoo membership I get half-price admission, so that’s $6 each, and that is cheaper than an indoor playground/arcade/climber like The Jungle or U-Me. So we’ll be going back.

Day the Third

We saved Erin’s party for Sunday, the day after her official “letter from the mayor” birthday. Like last year we celebrated with her little best friend who is one day older and just as cute.

DSC05154

We had the party at My Gym in Palo Alto, and we cannot say enough nice things about that place. We’ve never done any classes there and we’ve never had a party there before, but the space and the staff were great and really exceeded our expectations. The two women on duty took care of all the entertaining and food service and people-wrangling for the 25 toddlers and 30-something parents that were there. They treated the birthday girls like rock stars with little extras like the Parade-of-Two and the Birthday Swing.

DSC05165

Erin wore her most 80’s ballerina outfit.

DSC05096

Adrian wore his most growing big boy outfit.

DSC05169

Erin tried over and over to grab the high bar.

 DSC05120

But, just as she said with respect to the roller coaster at Happy Hollow and why she wouldn’t be riding it: “I’m not seven enough yet.” Maybe next year, kid. But keep trying. Falling only hurts your pride. And sometimes your body. And sometimes your face. But mostly your pride. Nice pants.

The best part of the party was probably the zip line ride accompanied by Kenny Loggins’ “Danger Zone” over the speakers. (The music throughout the party was targeted at the grown ups rather than the kids. I didn’t hear a single “itsy bitsy” or “if you’re happy and you know it”. ) Where else can your “letter from the mayor” three year old ride a zip line and dream of blowing MIGs from the sky?

DSC05180

Really the only negative about the party was the fact that the broccoli I prepped and washed the night before smelled like dirty diapers because it wasn’t properly refrigerated because I experimented with Garage Fridge and, as it turns out, Garage Fridge keeps popping the reset button on the outlet. Smelly broccoli is smelly.

Night the Bonus

After the party ended we went home for, ha, naps. I don’t remember if naps were had, because the day is kind of blurry, like many of the pictures I took using single-point focus.

After naps we had Erins’ Auntie Anne and her dad over for dinner. I tried to make chicken alfredo, quick and easy, but realized I had no cream to alfredo-ize the parmesan cheese. Note to amateurs like myself: you cannot substitute butter, flour, and milk for cream: that makes batter. Batter is not alfredo sauce, no matter how much parmesan you add to it.

After dinner we opened presents.

DSC05192

Adrian decided he was going to try to steal Erin’s day by standing on his own for the first time ever!

DSC05197

One of Erin’s presents was a pink. princess. scooter.

So, of course dad had to go to the garage and assemble it right away so Erin could ride it around the neighbourhood in the dark.

DSC05214

To finish off the evening we let Erin eat a mountain of chocolate cake and ice cream.

DSC05228

Then we watched her warp space and time with the energy she had acquired until she collapsed like a star and fell into a deep, post-birthday sleep.

The End