Monthly Archives: June 2011

Every Girl’s Dream


Okay, maybe not every girl, but it was my dream to have an American Girl doll when I was little.  And like so many of us do, now I am living vicariously through my daughter.  Not totally, but I did introduce her to American Girl at a very young age because I LOVED them growing up, but we never had the money to get one.  I had some of the books, but no doll.  I would get the catalog and just dream about getting Molly and getting us matching striped pajamas.  I loved her the most because she wore glasses, and I thought doll-sized glasses were so cute.  Now Piper is old enough for me to read through the books with her and I am secretly hoping that she likes Molly the best.  Right about now I am realizing how ridiculous I sound.  Oh well.  Piper’s first visit to the American Girl store was when she was 11 months old and we visited the flagship store in Chicago.  I told you, I started her young!

Standing with the historical dolls

When we visit our friends, who now have teenaged daughters, Piper disappears into the room to play with the American Girl dolls and I sometimes don’t see her for an hour.  And so, today, we went on a fieldtrip to the store!  Our friends loaned Piper a doll to carry around and we were like kids in a candy store.  To my surprise, Tatum thought the place was great too.  She is loving being able to get around on her own and she was pushing strollers and grabbing babies and squealing over the whole ordeal.

a big stroller for a little girl


The store is pretty cool.  It reminded me of Hobby City, the place I would go with my Cabbage Patch Kids when I was little.  At Hobby City you could buy clothes and accessories for your doll and there was also a doll hospital.  This store has that, and more!  There is a cafe and they will even bring you a high chair for your doll!  We didn’t go there, I can only imagine how much that costs.  There is a doll hospital, a photo studio where you can get your picture to look like it is on the cover the American Girl Magazine, and a salon!  How cute is that?!


This is supposed to be a picture with Julie, in the Julie doll section, but all you see is her feet in Piper's arms

And a trip to The Grove would not be complete without seeing someone famous, and so we made sure that happened too!  And if you don’t think I am crazy, and can totally relate to my fondness of dolls, then tell me, who was your favorite?

Mario Lopez filming at The Grove in L.A.

And if that weren’t enough to start the summer off, we went on another hike.  I wasn’t planning on writing about this, but I just got done looking through my pictures and I thought I would share.  Today we went on a one mile round trip hike to a lovely waterfall in Trabuco Canyon.  I thought that a one mile hike sounded like a piece of cake, but I was wrong.  In the first 2 minutes of the hike we had to cross a creek.  We walked across fallen logs, climbed up and over rocks, under branches and boy was it worth it!  We ended up at a Falls Canyon Waterfall.  Until about 2 months ago, I didn’t even know there were waterfalls in Orange County and now I have heard of dozens.  We loved our guide, Joel, from Naturalist For You, but now that I know how to get there we can go on our own which is so great.  The trail was shaded the whole time, which was perfect on such a warm day and we stopped at a swimming spot along the way and then again at the waterfall.  So fun!

sound asleep

We made it!

Nana and Papa came along for the adventure

too cute

The rock scupture we left behind (I say we, but I really had nothing to do with it)

Who brings their daughter on a hike wearing white? Uh, that would be me.

You should go, really!  I realize this isn’t Hawaii, but it was really quite fun and out of the ordinary.  Check it out!


Hats off!


Last night I attended a high school graduation for one of my former students, Kaitlyn.  I feel so honored that she asked me to come.  I was her 6th grade teacher, my first year teaching, and now she has just graduated.  I have so many memories of that first year.  No matter what kind of training you received, nothing prepares you for having your own class.  And I should add that the incoming 6th graders that year were quite the group.  We had plenty of warnings from the elementary feeder schools.  And as the “newbie” you better believe I got all those wonderful kids that the teachers kindly described as “active” and “social”; but we all know they really meant out of control and talkative.  You are put in the class and it is sink or swim.  Many days I felt like I was sinking, but there were so many rewarding moments as well.  Today was one of the rewarding moments as I got the chance to reconnect with so many of my old students.

Kids spend so much time in school away from their parents that it is refreshing to know that they have connected with their teacher.  As you might have guessed, I was a bit of a teacher’s pet.  I guess I liked to give them the benefit of the doubt and was aware of the fact that they were (and are) real folks with real lives.  They are not trying to plot out how to make your life miserable.  I feel so lucky to have gone to a school with so many wonderful teachers, especially my high school English teacher (and friend) Mrs. Franzen.  She helped steer me toward the college path.  I knew I wanted to go, but was at a complete loss of the hoops I needed to jump through to make it happen.  She marched me into the College and Career Center and I got busy writing applications for scholarships.  She still teaches at Los Al, and I know that she is loved by all her students.  My heart is full right now and I imagine she must feel that way every year at graduation, knowing that she made a difference in their lives.

I got to spend a bit of time chatting with Kaitlyn’s grandma today and she told me that I meant so much to Kaitlyn and that I had a big impact on her when she was in my class.  Despite the many moments where it definitely felt like I was sinking that first year, it made it feel completely worth it to know that I got to be a part of her life for that short time.  Hats off to all those teachers out there that pour into their students every day.  And hats off to the 2011 graduates!

Looking Back


It was just about five years ago that I found out I was pregnant.  And it was five years ago, on Father’s Day, that I decided to tell my sisters and mom.  It was also five years ago that I spent my first Father’s day without my father.  Dan, Danny, Dad, he was an interesting guy to say the least.  He was the dad cheering me on at my softball game, but he was also the dad that would yell at the umpire for a bad call and totally embarrass you.  He was the dad that liked to take us shopping for clothes, but he was also the dad who would get angry at the lady behind the register for not taking a return back because he didn’t have the receipt.  I have stories like you wouldn’t believe and while some of them are crazy, he was my dad and I loved him so.  One of my favorite stories about my dad was one that I never heard until we were all at the hospital in his last moments of life.  It involves my dad, his motor home, and the fire department.  Oh man, my crazy dad.  He climbed up on the top of the motor home to adjust the dish satellite and then realized he was unable to get down.  Along with the cancer came neuropathy (loss of feeling) in his legs, and weakness.  Despite being in his 40’s he was physically an “old man”.  And so there he was stuck on top of the motor home, but too embarrassed to call for help.  My dad had Patti drive him from the parking lot of Wal-Mart, where they went to test out the functions of their new purchase, to the back of the store where the trucks load and unload.  If Patti could just get the motor home positioned just right maybe he could just jump into a dumpster (Can you even imagine???  I mean, seeing some guy hanging on to the top of the motor home while she is driving it AND to think that he thought, I am not strong enough to back down this ladder, but I should probably be able to jump into a dumpster, pull myself out and be okay).  Luckily for him he didn’t jump and gave in and called the fire department.  The phone call went something like this, “Listen up, I am stuck on top of the motor home in the back of Wal-Mart and I need help getting down.  Listen carefully, I don’t want any sirens going, no honking, just come to the back of the store.”  And so they did and they put their ladder up next to the motor home and a nice fireman helped my dad down.  I have heard of firemen rescuing cats out of trees, but never men from motor homes.

He was far from normal,

In fact, he was strange,

But there’s not a thing

I’d want to change.

He knew what he liked

It was always the same,

A slushy Dr. Pepper

And a card game.

Trips to the desert,

Chocolate milk over ice,

Pillsbury frosting,

Without the cake slice.

Thousand Island,

His little dog “Moch”,

Crispy bacon,

And a Marlboro smoke.

American Idol,

Amazing Race,

All My Children,

Oh what a disgrace!

Angels baseball,

The USA,

Popeye’s Chicken,

Morning or day.

Lounging around

In his underwear.

Talking the ear off

Of whoever was there.

Ferbies and Beanies

Were his thing for awhile.

Luckily that fad

Was fast out of style.

In the big picture

These things seem small.

But this is my dad,

My friend:  My ALL.

I love you dad.

Love, Punkin

(I wrote this shortly after he passed away and read it at the funeral)

I do think of my dad on Father’s day and I have many fond memories.  Though my girls never got the chance to meet him, Piper knows who he is and points to pictures of him and calls him Grandpa Dan.  Even though he left the earth only 2 weeks after his 50th birthday, I am happy that I got 26 years with him.  I was a senior in high school when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and the questions and emotions were numerous.  I remember writing in my journal about my dad not being there to walk me down the aisle.  But he was able to!  And not only walk me down the aisle, but we even took dance lessons and danced at my wedding to “Green Eyed Lady”.  Boy was that an experience, taking dance lessons with some who doesn’t have feeling in his legs.  I told him, we didn’t have to do this, but he wanted to and we did!  We had to practice a lot, simplify even more, but we did it!  And do you know what?  In his last bit of consciousness in the hospital, he started moving his foot and mumbling the words to the song.  I will never forget that.

And now, my husband is called Daddy, Dada, and Dad by our two little girls and I cherish the memories they are making with him.  Tatum’s face truly lights up when I tell her daddy is home.  She starts kicking and wants down if I am holding her, waves and squeals, “Dada, dada”.  He means so much to my girls and I don’t underestimate the small things that are shared between them.  Things like the nonsensical talk that Brian and Piper do (and Tatum too, but that is because all of her talk is babbling) and their foreign money collection, the vitamins Brian gets out every morning for Piper.  These may seem small, but when I think about my dad, I can’t help to think about Dr. Pepper.  It is just a compilation of the little things in life that make us who we are.

This Father’s day, we went down to Crystal Cove, one of our favorite spots as a family.  We love the tide pools and we love that it feels like you have stepped back in time.  Brian packed some suits, and like many dads, didn’t realize that the suit he packed for Piper was 12-18 months, one of Tatum’s suits.  Piper wore the when we took her swimming on her first birthday and some how she managed to fit into it still!  I don’t know how that is possible.  We spent the day walking, playing in the water, eating at The Beachcomber and looking for cool critters in the tide pools.  It was a wonderful day.

Checking the surf

Tatum the Walker

Check this out!


For some of you this might just be a brief little summary of how we spent our weekend, but for others this is a call to check this out!  As I mentioned in my blog last week, we went on a family nocturnal hike on Friday night.  It was really awesome!  Seriously!  We had such a great time hanging out with complete strangers, who would have thought?  We ate a wild mustard flower that tasted like raw broccoli, we listened to the calls of birds, owls and frogs, we spotted a cute little mouse in his den as well as a raccoon and even a shooting star.  It is something we will definitely do again.  The website is and you can check out all the different things they have going on in California.  The guide was named Joel and he kind of resembled a homeless man, but that’s cool right?  On the website there is a banner you can click on for a short movie called, Mountain Man and it is about him and his grass roots organization, really cool.

Piper and Marsha on our hike

Joel pointing out the "fried egg flower" which really has a much more scientific name that ends with "poppy"

Silverado Creek

“Above all, art should be fun”  -Alexander Calder

We LOVE LOVE LOVE 2nd Sundays at the Orange County Museum of Art.  This was definitely a weekend full of the best of the fun and free things in SoCal.  The have a new exhibit with the works of Calder who invented the mobile, so it was full of really cool hanging mobiles all over the place.  He also traveled the world with his traveling circus made of wire, and scraps (sounds weird, but it was actually really cool).  But honestly, we really don’t go there for the exhibits!  We go for all the cool art project they have available for the kids at no cost!  And there are tons of volunteers there that love playing with your kids.  So today, Piper came home with a funky sculpture, a collage, a painted woodblock, a drip painting lantern, and a tote bag that she got to decorate.  And on top of that there was a story reading, a film of Calder’s Circus, and parachute activities for the little kids.  So, mark your calendars and don’t miss the 2nd Sundays at OCMA.  And if you aren’t local, this is a Target sponsored event, who doesn’t love Target, right?  Check out your local museum to see if and when they have their free Target sponsored day.

And sorry about the 2 posts in one day.  Just wasn’t sure when I would have a moment to sit and write again.  And while I will be posting this on fb, I am hoping to stay away for a few days.  Here are some pictures until next time…

FUN! (and even edible sometimes, though not intended to be)

The not so itsy-bitsy spider and her web

Living in the Moment


Last week I heard this woman speak about her 3 month stint in India assisting at a hospital with a nonprofit organization.  I was struck by a story that she shared and it reminded me of the cute book where I got the title for my blog, All in a Day.  And while a day is a “perfect piece of time” to do so much, I now wonder what I can be doing in the moment.  She shared about an experience at a train station.  She had been traveling all day and she was emotionally and physically done by the time she got to this third Indian train station.  It was the end of her trip and she was heading home.  Kids kept coming up and saying, “Five rupies, five rupies” and she was told not to give money to them because it just goes to their “boss” and the kids don’t benefit.  Besides, the sheer number of these rail kids, made it seem impossible to make a difference anyway.  And then, her friend said, “You give me five rupies!”  And at that moment, she thought, Uh-oh, this isn’t good.  That is not the right thing to say.  But the kids started laughing and the friend continued, “Well are you going to dance?  Come on, show me what you got!”  And before she knew it they were in the middle of this bustling dirty train station laughing and doing the hokie-pokie.  And most of all, allowing these rail kids to be just that, kids for that one moment.  She couldn’t change their destiny, but in that brief moment these kids were given attention in a loving and carefree way.

What do we do with our moments?  Well, I know I waste a lot of them.  I have given way too many moments to facebook, I know that for sure.  I am not ready to cut ties, but I definitely am cutting back.  I want my moments to count.  I want my moments to be spent engaged with others, not with a computer screen.  I want them to be full of building memories with my family, not looking up pictures of other people with their family.  I want to live in the moment with an awareness of the eternal.

The Claustrophobic Life…an update


My Little Fish Eater

Chowin' down

Tatum chose to eat AND wear her food

"I know what to do with these sticks too"

I just wanted to let y’all know that we finally made it to the sushi restaurant that I said we have been eying since we moved here.  I picked up my nephew from school last week and in order to get your 15-year-old nephew to want to hang out with you and your family that includes two toddler girls, you better have something planned that he will like.  Plus, it would give Brian someone to enjoy the sushi with since I don’t eat it.  Well, little did we know that Piper would love it.  Should have known I guess, since she always wants to eat the eyeballs of fish.  Tatum liked the tofu in the miso soup, the rice, and was chowing down on the lettuce because of the peanut-y dressing.  A fun night!

Secondly, as I also mentioned in my “Claustrophobic Life” entry, I have been taking classes regularly for the past few months.  The first time was a little scary, but since I have walked in and was the new person on 4 different classes, woohoo!  (But I have only regularly been attending 2)

And lastly, guess what the Ristows are doing this Friday?  We are going on a nocternal nature hike right here in Orange County.  At the Patchwork Indie Arts Festival we went to a couple of weekends ago, there was this booth for Naturalist For You.  They offer free guided hikes all over California (and New York)!  Check out the website, step out of your bubble, and come explore! 

Baby Steps


My baby has started taking steps (finally)!  Tatum is a rascal, she usually gets what she wants, but not in the same way Piper did as a baby.  Piper knew her manners, and before she was able to talk, always said, “please” and “thank you” in sign language.  Tatum, she grunts and does this open and close fist thing a million times until you give her what she wants which is usually whatever you have.  We try to have walking lessons with her, like we used to do with Piper, and she turns into spaghetti legs.  Don’t think we are crazy overzealous parents, what I mean by lessons, is just that we would sit on the floor a few feet away and try and get her to come to us, usually through bribery with one of her toys.  Tatum, won’t have anything to do with it, she just goes straight to the knees.  I am also pretty sure that Tatum might do the shot put in Track and Field when she is a teenager because she throws everything.  Her open and closing fist, which so badly wants the cracker I am eating, takes it and throws it to the ground.  I have a 3 times daily routine of moving her crib and collecting thrown pacifiers before she lays down for her naps and bedtime.  And THIS is why you shouldn’t compare kids, right?  But today, Tatum has decided that June 1, she would not give her Mommy and Daddy wiggly wobbly spaghetti legs, and that she would actually attempt walking.  She has maxed out at around 5 steps, but she has done 5 steps probably 10 times today, so I am thinking that we are on way from all 4s to 2.  Hopefully more to come on Tatum’s baby steps…

The video is short and doesn’t capture much.  I wasn’t able to get the whole clip unfortunately, so this is all I have to prove I’m telling the truth. 😉

In my own life, I am attempting to take some personal baby steps.  Some of which are related to this book I am currently reading, Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv.  We all can get nostalgic about our childhoods and how things were in the good ol’ days, but what are we doing to recreate that?  The book talks about the impact and healing powers that nature has on our mind, body and spirit.  The numbers are staggering on the amount of time children spend in front of a computer or T.V. and equally staggering is to see open space get developed.  We continue to push the boundaries, and then we complain that their are coyotes in are yard!  One little boy he quotes in the book said, “I like to play indoors better, ’cause that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”  While I have wonderful memories of playing indoors with my Barbies, and dolls, I also remember rushing to finish my homework so anxious to get outside and play until my mom would call me in for dinner.  So much learning takes place through exploration and unorganized free play!  I am only into the first 50 pages or so (so perhaps I will have more insight later), but today I decided to be intentional about exposing my family to nature and I packed a picnic, picked up the hubby from work, and headed to the back bay for some play and exploration.  Now, we are not a T.V. family and we do go to the beach regularly and go on family walks almost daily, but even that can become routine.  And as I have said before, I don’t want to live a claustrophobic life.  Our life in Germany was filled with new experiences and fun adventures and we wanted to be sure to include that in our life back here in Southern California.  So, although, Newport Back Bay is practically in our backyard, it isn’t a typical family outing for us, which made today all the more fun.  Hooray for Wednesday!  Talk about getting over the hump!  I think I will have to try to be spontaneous again, probably not next Wednesday, but definitely again.

Picnic at the Bay

"I spy a white Eurovan, can you?"

And lastly, but certainly not least, I am taking baby steps in the area of a family addition.  Whoa!  Don’t go jumping to any conclusions now, it is just that we are coming up to one year that Biltmore died and he was a huge part of our family and our lives.  Piper got a Beta fish for Christmas, a definite first baby step, but I think I am ready to move on to something a bit more cuddly and intelligent.  You see, yesterday, for some reason, we had a birthday party for Tum Booty Boy, that’s the fish’s name.  Piper named him after Biltmore, and don’t ask me why, but Tum Booty Boy was one of Biltmore’s nicknames.  Piper threw the party because apparently, Tum Booty Boy was turning 16 months and every fish needs a birthday party at 16 months.  She wrapped up a big bouncy ball and some hair clips.  I actually am staring at this ball right now which is on my bookcase next to the fishes plastic home.  Poor fish, he can’t even play with the ball, not because it is twice the size of his tank, but because he can’t play anything!  Last night, as Brian and I sat on the couch chatting after the kids were in bed, we wondered how we ever got to the point where we were singing “Happy Birthday” and enjoying some healthy rice crispy treat-like bars at a 16 month birthday party for a fish we have had for 6 months.  It made me think that Piper really needs a dog, because that was pathetic.  Biltmore was the master of gift opening, he tore open presents and even knew which ones were his under the Christmas tree.  Biltmore was a real pet, and I think the Ristows are ready for another dog!  No dog could replace Biltmore, but just as my kids seem to be so completely different, I will try and love this new pup and not compare him to Biltmore because they are all one-of-a-kind.  I’ll keep you posted on this one as well!

Bitlmore's 1st Christmas and he's already a pro

Birthday Boy turns 4