My parents had this fun incentive that every time one of their children graduated from high school, that graduate got to pick where we went for our summer vacation. And while the limit of my imagination was California, my little brother chose to go to Europe.
June 2014, we were in London: me, my immediate family, a couple of my brother’s friends and my then fiancee Daniel.
We were scheduled to tour the River Thames, which I was particularly excited for because we were going to float past the recreation of the Globe Theater. And, hey, Shakespeare is sorta my thing. I was even IN an award winning Shakespearean play that summer so *sniffs and tosses hair over both shoulders like a snob*.
I was in the hotel getting ready to leave. When Dan calls me from outside.
DAN: Hey… There’s something really weird going on out here.
VAL: Oh, yeah?
DAN: There’s a big crowd of people… I think it might be a protest or something…
DAN: … … You should come down here.
When my family and I stepped out of our hotel we were greeted by a huge crowd of butt naked people standing around with bikes.
So I guess the World Naked Bicycle Ride is a thing. (Don’t click on that unless you want to see nudies. NSFW. You’ve been warned.)
Us kids had a pretty good laugh at it, as my conservative parents were trying to herd our wandering eyes down to our river boat tour. We were only one crosswalk away from the dock before we found out that the streets were completely closed off.
So here we were caught watching the craziest parade ever. Thousands of naked dangling bodies zipping by us. Some were on rental bikes, which was… not something I wanted to think about too hard.
(You know. In a weird way it was a confidence booster. In our society we never really see any ‘average-looking’ naked people. If you feel like you don’t look that great naked. Hey. Neither does anyone else. And I’ve seen a small towns worth of naked people to know. Everyone’s got rolls and flab. Guys are pretty much the same size… well okay, there was one guy that was “particularly brave”.)
Anyways, my mom is SUPER pissed off that we can’t cross the street. We’re about to miss our river boat tour because we can’t get around this moving wall of butt-cracks on bicycles. She WIGS THE FREAK OUT and just FLIPPING steps out INTO the middle of the parade.
The guy has to squeeze his hand break and like skidded on his bare feet to stop from hitting my mom. Four to five people behind him are swerving and stopping and almost falling over. I thought for sure I was about to see my mother buried by an avalanche of a$$. She’s like waving us all to cross the street after she had just created the most awkward pile up in history.
That was embarrassing AF, but we made the river tour.
I feel like I can count that as one of the craziest things that has ever happened to me. I mean seeing a thousand lil’ Johnsons in one day is up there. I post crazy stories every month now, so if you haven’t subscribed yet, you may want to consider it.
K. This isn’t even a funny story. It’s just really stupid.
When I was a kid we lived in this Ivory Home development and we had some cuh-razy neighbors. I don’t remember everything that they did, but I do remember that before they got busted for dealing drugs, they adopted a tiny kitten. I really mean tiny. So tiny that it could fit through a single hole in the chain link fence. I know, because that’s what it did every day.
This kitten was cute but also kind of dumb. And I’m only saying that because it would fall into our window well pretty much biweekly. Once it was stuck there, it would scratch on the window and meow until we did something about it.
Now the thing was at our house we were not permitted to go into any of the window wells since it was a Black Widow Metropolis. So we would have to get either Mom or Dad to climb in there and rescue it. Sometimes the same second that we would dump it on the other side of the fence it would jump back through to our side. Maybe it was trying to make a better home for itself. I don’t know.
ANYWAYS. So one summer night, lil’ ol’ high school me was asleep in my bed, when suddenly I heard some distinct scratching from the outside of my window.
Most people would think that it was a tree branch or something. On a good day, I would assume it’s the girl from The Ring. Whatever. But you know when you’re half awake and your dream brain kicks in with it’s thread-bare logic?
I sat up out of bed with a thought that I hadn’t had since I was nine… A cat fell in my window well.
Now, at this point I could A) Open the blinds and see what is making the sound. B) Why the eff would a cat be in there? Just go back to sleep and forget about it. But no. I opted for C) wake up my mom to save the cat. For I cannot, for I am but a child.
My poor mother gets out of bed, shuffles down into the basement and opens up my blinds (something that a sixteen-year-old should be capable of). Nothing is there. I point out the motion sensor light like a true Sherlock though. The cat MUST HAVE jumped back out. See sensor light? See logic and reason? See me so smart? Mom’s like whatevs and goes back to bed.
THE NEXT MORNING I’m carpooling to work with my best friend Greg and WHAM. It all comes back to me. And if you couldn’t tell from my needlessly long blog posts, I love a weird story. So I immediately tell him all about it. This cat fell into my window well last night and by the time my mom and I checked it out… it jumped back out. OoooOOoooooh.
I tell freaking EVERYONE about this, okay. All my coworkers, my boss, random people I hardly knew. I even told the big HS crush, because of course I did. A cat scratching at my window, wow, wasn’t he impressed. And quite frankly my desperation with him alone has generated six or seven other embarrassing stories. (Gosh, at least.)But that’s another Thursday.
So anyway, a whole work day has gone by of me blabbering on about this. Greg and I are outside painting. For some reason, I’m still on it, like woah dat cat tho. Can you even believe a cat fell in my window well?
He replies with, “Yeah and that cat’s name is Greg and Kayla.”
Yep. So my two besties were scratching at my window and gave up when I refused to open the blinds … AND he let me tell everyone that it was a stupid cat. All day. In great detail.
My resolution for 2018 has been to “try not to automatically assume the worst thing is going to happen”. And to start out the new year we really put my fears to the test by taking our 18-month-old on a very ambitious vacation.
It’s hard. Maybe it’s a mother bear thing, because eventually you train yourself to predict what will happen with your child. “Don’t play near that table, you’re going to knock your teeth out. Don’t sit on the sofa like that, you are going to fall backwards. Everyone hide all phones and remotes or we’re about to have a meltdown.” As our vacation drew near all I could think about were my disastrous predictions. But you know what? Overall, I will say that my negative expectations were very much proven wrong.
THURSDAY: SHIPPING OFF (AS IT WERE)
Expectation: Jack will throw a HUGE tantrum on the plane and it will be a miserable two hours.
Reality: Jack did fine on the plane. Everything else went wrong.
Seriously. Jack on the plane, total angel. Trying to get on the plane. PBBBBBBBTTTTTTTHPPPPPPPPT! (In case you couldn’t tell that was me blowing a raspberry with my thumb pointed down) Our boarding pass didn’t print. Security was backed up. My baby food tested positive for bomb material for some reason. (TF!?) The amount of freaking money we spent on a Taxi, I was like, really? Why don’t you just float us across the pacific then for that kind of room and board.
Finally, we made it onto the ship and met up with family. Then I could focus on the SINGLE BIGGEST FEAR of the trip…
Expectation: Jack wont sleep a wink in his stranger danger porta crib.
Reality: Jack slept so deep that he might have slipped into several comas. I’m not sure
When we went camping to witness the Solar Eclipse… it was a nightmare, okay. We had to take turns sleeping in the car to actually get our child to stop screaming at least. This time, zonked. He didn’t care. He didn’t even wake up through the several announcements and alarms leading up to the mandatory safety meeting. Neither did Dan. The two would’ve gone down with the ship, still synchronize snoring in the cabin.
Turned out, not even a marching band could wake this child. He slept through lights being turned on, he slept through us talking and laughing at normal volume. He even slept through the Disneyland fireworks show which sounded like a full on air raid TBH.
Expectation: We won’t be able to see much of Mexico and have to come back early so Jack can nap on the ship.
Reality: We got to do a day excursion and Jack napped on the go.
See, I told you about the sleeping thing.
We got to do some street shopping and see ‘La Bufadora’, which is like the Old Faithful of the Mexican coastline. “Really?” No, not really at all actually, but still. AND THE TACOS OMG! If you are wondering whether I purchased a very expensive cruise ticket just for Mexican tacos… then you clearly have never had authentic Mexican tacos. Good day, sir. I SAID GOOD DAY.
SATURDAY: A CHOPPY DAY AT SEA
Expectation: It will be rough keeping Jack entertained.
Reality: It was rough keeping Jack from having fun.
All this kid wanted to do was run around. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Lapping the length of the ship over and over. Up, up, up and down, down, dooooooownnn each and every staircase he could find. He had to explore every single inch of the ship. The Casino, the smoking areas, fire station units, stranger’s cabins. I swear, Jack’s dream vacation would be to go to a giant enclosed football stadium, have someone wind up the key in his back and spend the week doing endurance training. It was hard to get him to SIT DOWN. Or you know, step away from the toddler-sized gaps in the railing on the upper deck.
SUNDAY: TAR PITS, HOLLYWOOD, LOTS OF DRIVING
Expectation: We will be twiddling our thumbs all day.
Reality: We did tons of fun stuff. It turned out to be one of my favorite days.
We had nothing planned for this day, other than we knew we would do something with my husband’s side of the family (with whom we shared the cruise with) and then something with my side of the family later on (with whom we were to share Disneyland with). But none of us, really had any plans in mind. So we ended up hanging around Hollywood.
AND IT WAS AWESOME.
Okay, so I had never been to the tar pits before. We ended up spur of the moment going there… I turned into a nine year old boy. I just REALLY needed to see something sink into that tar. So I peer pressured [bullied] my husband until he threw a big rock in there AND IT WAS SO CEWL OMG LIKE SOMETHING STRAIGHT OUT OF AN ODDLY SATISFYING COMPILATION ON THE YOUTUBES!
Afterwards we all had a nice uplifting Sabbath lunch at Hard Rock Cafe. Somehow my baby slept through like 40 minutes of concert-level music. (Why do I worry about things?) He of course later woke up to get in on rocking out. –Hard Rock Cafe is kinda like my thang. So I was very hyper and talkative [annoying?]–
Hard Rock Cafe also happened to be neighbors with Grauman’s Chinese Theater, so we stopped there too because eh, why not?
Expectation: Jack wont be able to do much.
Reality: There was so much for Jack to ride that we didn’t even get to all of it.
Someone once told me that there isn’t a lot for babies to do at Disneyland, but THAT AIN’T TRUE! I think it’s easier to name the rides that babies CAN’T go on than the ones that they can. I can’t say the same for California Adventures but at the OG uhhhh YEAH! It’s a family place for a reason.
Pluuuuus Grandma and Grandpa took Jack back to the hotel for his afternoon nap. While Dan and I got to ride all the big people rides. Yeah, whassup Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Forbidden Eye. Space Mountain I’m looking at you, sailor. It was the best date ever.
NUMBER ONE TAKE AWAY ADVICE FOR PARENTS WANTING TO BRING TODDLERS ON VACATION: Bring other adults with you. Seriously, it was a relief both on the cruise and at the amusement-park-designed-specifically-for-parents-to-enjoy-with-their-children-but-maybe-he-enjoyed-his-nap-tho-shuttup.
TUESDAY: DISNEY BEFORE THE TREK HOME
Expectation: Disneyland would be rained out and half closed.
Reality: It was ABSOLUTELY the most darling and wonderful Disney day.
The days we went to Disneyland were the days California decided to flood.
We were gearing up for our underwater Disneyland tour, when guess what? It turned out to be a perfectly sunny day. (And the crowds were frightened away too) Walked on to every ride, had a marvelous time. And OH NOT TO MENTION. Jack just happened to meet his hero after riding the Winnie the Pooh ride a few times in a row.
Let’s play a game, who is more excited to meet Pooh. Jack or Mom?
It was a lovely trip and here’s my takeaway… That scary thing you’re thinking of doing? Look, you should just do it. It’s likely that your expectation of an EPIC FAIL may actually be just an expectation and nothing more.