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The other day Mateo asked me why we live in LA. "There are many reasons, my dear," I said, not really knowing where to start. Although I answered with the usual, it's the weather, the ocean, the desert, etc. I figured I'd better start compiling specific answers so my children can get a better sense of why we've chosen to live our lives here. 

So! One of them is the Farmer's Market at 3rd and Fairfax. It opened 75 years ago when a few farmers pulled up and started selling out of the backs of their trucks. Now it's an LA landmark that's managed to stay largely unchanged and sheltered from the ridiculously congested shopping mall and condo complexes that encroach on it like a man-eating plant. You've got the mid-century-era diners, ice cream stands, doughnut makers, taffy pullers, nut roasters, all still simply made as they were 50 years ago. Then you've got every conceivable type of food stand imaginable: Brazilian food, Malaysian food, French food, Texan BBQ, Louisiana gumbo, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, and my personal favorite Mexican. (Loteria is the bomb, and if you go, try the cactus tacos.) The Market is one of those places that four people could scatter in four different directions and each come back to the table with something fresh and unique. A shopping mall food court pales in comparison. I wouldn't even put it in the same league. While the prepared food stands now outnumber the farmer stands, you can still buy all the local produce you need. Sweet.  

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Two days ago I looked up at Matt and saw a short little white hair nestled in the right side of his head. It could have easily been missed. "Matt! Stop! You have a gray hair!" I may have taken a little too much joy in discovering it since I've been very alone on the gray hair front. He didn't believe me, and rushed over the mirror. But sure enough there it was, an early birthday present. Welcome to your mid-thirties my dear, dear husband. It's just another thing we both now share. 

Matt keeps looking at it, seeing if it's still there, as though the arrival of this gray hair has ushered in a new, maybe not so great era. I, being the year older that I am, assured him that the difference between 34 and 35 ain't so big. But I could tell it wasn't working. "You're about to turn 36!" he said to me. "Only 4 years away from 40. I hear that the day you turn 40 everything starts to hurt." Don't know about that. Luckily we've got a few more years until we have to find out. But in the meantime, I think 35 is a perfect age. Old enough to be taken seriously, but still young enough to take careful advantage of youth. Old enough for gray hairs, but young enough to still fit in at a dance club. How many ages can you say that about? But even when that fades, we will glide through it together, babe. We always do. 

Happy Birthday. 

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This weekend was packed as usual, most of which I was too engaged in to photograph. One moment I did have to capture was the look on Mateo's face when he finally found the confidence to swim. By himself. Mateo's taken, I don't know how many swim lessons over the course of two summers. I've stood on the sidelines trying to coach him on, encouraging him to let go of the ladder after holding onto it for what seemed like most of the 30-minute class. Pleading, and one time threatening, "You've got to let go or we're leaving right now." It was bad. He's very particular about his teachers. They have to be men. None of us, not even Mateo can understand why. Once, I thought the female teacher who was trying to get him off the pool ladder was going to lose it. Mateo is always very sweet about not wanting to let go. He'll smile and say, "But my mind won't let me," or "I'm thinking about it," (as he points to his head furiously) or "Why is there a thermometer in the pool?" It tested my patience to the limit and I'm his mom. She kept it cool though, and once the male teacher finally caught what was up and came over Mateo let go. 

So this weekend in the City pool, Matt was coach. At first there was the usual clinging to the ladder, the usual, "You're too far!" But a few minutes later he did it, and then there was no turning back. He kept jumping off the ladder to swim to Matt, then swimming from Matt back to the ladder. Back and forth, back and forth, for what seemed like an hour. Matt, Nico and I were ready to get out of the pool, but there was Teo begging to stay in. He was so proud of himself that he had crossed the burning sands of swim fear that he was giddy the rest of the day. Now, we'll see if he's still on the other side in a couple of days when we're back at swim class. Or if the hand magnets have grown back, attaching him right back to that doggone ladder. I'm keeping hope alive.

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For Mateo's birthday thank you cards this year, we made our own stamps, which was actually very easy. When I asked each of them what they wanted to make, Nico wanted a car of course, which he helped design. Mateo looked out the window, saw a bird and decided that's what he wanted. Easy enough. Luckily it wasn't Bumble Bee the Transformer which was what I feared he'd say. I found a good tutorial here and pretty much followed it word for word.  It was very gratifying for the boys. They kept stamping and stamping and at one point I had to take the ink away out of fear that I would leave the room and come back to a line of red cars parked on all the walls. Little boys….

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It was a flurry of children's birthday parties this weekend. Such is life with two small kids. Luckily this weekend the parties were hosted by friends, which always makes it more enjoyable for us grown ups. One even ended with someone giving us free, fifth row tickets to the Wiggles show that they weren't going to use. The Wiggles guys do look to be getting a little, um, advanced with age, but they definitely still know how to keep kids enthralled. I can't believe how hokey it all is, but it works. Somehow.

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For Mateo's actual birthday on the 22nd, we had a little "family birthday" as he called it. It was replete with everything he asked for: pizza, homemade vanilla cake with chocolate icing, and his Nana. It took him a while to wind down and get to sleep last night. Each time I walked into his room to check on him, he would sit up and say, "Mama, when is it my birthday again?" "Mama when is it my birthday again?" Only 364 days away my dear.

Baby Teo

Oh how this picture warms my heart. It is perhaps my favorite photo of Mateo and me. It's not in a frame where I can catch a glimpse of it each day, instead it lives in my bedside table. I think I do this so I can pull it out and rediscover it, and feel the same rush of emotions I get each time I look at it. I am always immediately transported back to that cool day in Santa Fe, New Mexico where the three of us, a brand new family, were out exploring. Matt was there for work, and Mateo and I were there to hang out. It was a blissful time I will never forget. 

Each time I look at this, it feels as though he is looking right into the deepest part of me and telling me he trusts me and that he's glad we've been connected in this life. I look at myself and see a young, new mother who is drunk with the profound and graceful love that had suddenly permeated her life. I couldn't believe I had been deserving of such an extraordinary gift. 

Now that we are on the eve of this little baby turning FIVE, today I had to hold back tears that I will never share those tender baby moments with him again. But when I look at him now, I do feel much excitement for the future. The way he says to me now, "Mama, I love you, sweet as a heart." How when I blow him kisses he catches them with his hand then puts his hand over his heart. I know tomorrow and the rest of our time together will be filled with things that will make happy to be alive and honored to be his mother. 

Happy Birthday, dear, dear heart. 

Everybody says this, but it’s true: Time flies. It literally seems like yesterday that I was planning Mateo’s 4th birthday party. This one snuck up on me fast. Mateo and his friend Charlie were going to have a joint party, and they both wanted a magician, so it was Magicopolis this year, a great little magic performance place in Santa Monica. The kids had a blast watching and learning magic tricks, and when Mateo and Charlie were called up onstage for a trick (hence the pot on his head), Mateo’s silly nature turned up full blast. He was drunk with giggles. It does my heart good to see my boys have such a good time in their honor. And while his actual birth date isn’t for a couple of days, in his mind he’s 5, and there’s no turning back.  


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And we wrapped up the weekend with a trip to Nana’s for a walk to the ocean and baby crab sightings.
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One ferry ride 

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One quiet island
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Six excited kids 

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One guided cruise

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Two nights in a tent

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Countless ocean dips

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A few fish, who were thankfully released

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Two scary suppertime stories

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A few dozen s'mores

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And a plan to do it all again next year.