7 Quick Takes: California, you are crazy

Now that we’ve been in the Golden State for almost a month, I feel qualified to offer some observations. California, please take these in the spirit in which they are intended; namely, that of bewilderment and judgement.


I feel that I was led here under false pretenses. No one ever told me about that the human population was so greatly outnumbered by the spiders (black widows, to be precise). The first time I saw one, on the screen of our bedroom window, I was the only one even remotely surprised or concerned. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t comforted to hear, “Oh, it’s just a little one.”

Luckily, my Minnesota-born family was more understanding via group text:

The second one was on the INSIDE of the screen door, and again, I was the only one who cared. By the time the third one showed up, a few days ago, I dared to get close enough to spray it with a bottle of Raid. Turns out, it was dead long before I got to it.



The other day, I took Maddy outside to take her seven month photos. Within 20 seconds (no kidding), I saw 5 lizards (again, no kidding). I’m sure they were entirely harmless, but it didn’t seem like the best time or place to set my baby on the ground, so we scratched that plan. At this rate, I’m pretty much expecting that I’ve been lied to about the scarcity of snakes and earthquakes, too.


It is, unsurprisingly, hot. I realized within a few days of getting here that my single pair of shorts was not going to carry me through till whenever the temperature drops. I went to the mall thinking that surely, shorts would still be a hot commodity (or at least available). As it turns out, no. It took me four trips to find a pair (on steep clearance, at the bottom of the rack). Meanwhile, there were crowds of people flocking to the puffer vests and leggings.

PEOPLE! Fall is not going to be a thing here until at least February!


It rained earlier this week, and like a total dork, I stood outside in the rain (and brought my baby with me for good measure, so she doesn’t forget what water is).



To be a good sport, I should also mention some good points about this strange state. First: the Mexican food is fantastic. Even the cheapest (okay, second cheapest) grocery store taco counter is better than any Mexican restaurant anywhere else I’ve lived.

Watch it, kid. We'll learn about sharing *tomorrow*.




The scenery certainly hasn’t gotten old yet. This place was made for Instagram filters.



One more…one more… Oh! Midnight EST, when blog linkups go live, is only 9:00 here, meaning I stand a chance of making it on the list above #100! With that said…

I’m linking up with Kelly and everyone who’s anyone!



Maddy at (Six and) Seven Months

seven months

Happy seven months to Madeleine! Her six month birthday fell on the day we left for our road trip, so I never blogged it. Sorry to the 2 people who missed it; the 49 pictures that follow should make up for it.

Since month five, lots has changed! Maddy went from a proficient sitter to a totally capable, if ungainly, crawler who would rather stand up and walk.


She recently mastered the art of pulling everything out of her toy box; putting stuff away is close behind, right? Bueller?


She socialized her way across the country, charming cashiers and waitresses from MA to CA. She always has a beaming smile for anyone who gives her attention (especially women), and she’s generally extremely good-natured.

Trying on a fur cape from the Kim Kardashian line at Babies R Us

She’s extremely curious about what everyone is doing, especially in the kitchen (“stirring” and “chopping” will be early vocabulary words, I think). Every day brings a new discovery: today, she set off the carbon monoxide detector (terrifying) and initiated a game of peekaboo (hilarious).  She continues to be a fierce presence in her walker; I’m pretty sure this will be the last thing I see before she breaks all my toes someday:


Investigating everything.

Speaking of food: we’re starting to introduce real food, with pretty good results. Favorites so far are plain greek yogurt, avocados, rice, and garlic bread. Baby food was kind of meh, and rice cereal was a big miss.  It’s *possible* that she has started to associate the word “mamamamamama” with me (well, with food, but me and food are tight).

This month brought her first ex utero Notre Dame game, and she had a great time doing pushups and getting excited for a couple victories.  Sorry baby, the heartbreak is bound to come.

She’s discovering lots of new activities: swimming, swinging, and riding in carts are new favorites (especially the “zoom” option on all of those).

She weighed in at 20.5 pounds at her six month check, and 21.8 on the home scale last week (keeping her soundly in the 95th percentile), but she’s still just our little Maddy.

The Desert, Bulls, and Mos Eisley

Okay, to recap: We left home on three days’ notice with a car full of stuff and a need to get across the country in pretty good time.

Tuesday: We made it through the rest of Missouri and much of Oklahoma, and did our now-customary mall walkthrough to put Maddy to sleep in OKC. We went a little past the city before stopping for the night, a little earlier than planned. In retrospect, I had the very mildest end of a stomach bug that was working its way through our Indiana friends. At the time, though, I just felt a little off and did. not. want to drive anymore, so we stopped.

The next day, I didn’t eat anything all day but thought it was just road-weariness. We stopped at the Top of Texas Catholic Superstore (which was really just a nice bookstore right off the freeway), and then I slept my way through the rest of Texas and a fair bit of New Mexico.


Maddy has no filter between brain and face. God love her.

The highlight of our trip – or at least the story we keep retelling – came at an exit in New Mexico. Far from any real civilization, Maddy made it know that she wanted to stop, so we took the next exit that promised gas. Picture the dustiest, hottest, most desolate place you can imagine. That’s where we were. We pulled up to the only building for miles, and our dialogue went something like this:

Me: Well, the sign said “gas,” but I don’t see any pumps…

Johnny: Is that it? No; those haven’t been used for years.

Me (reading the sign): The 203 Club? This isn’t a gas station.

Johnny: What on earth is their logo?

Me: Umm, I think it’s a naked woman. YEP, that’s a butt.

It was only as we had pulled away from this house of ill repute that Johnny said, “Hey, did you see the bull they had outside?” Yes, for whatever reason, there was a live bull in a pen. One of the great regrets of my life will be not capturing a photo of it.

We (by which I mean, Johnny) had dinner in Gallup, and then we made it all the way to lovely (no, really) Holbrook, Arizona for our last night on the road.

Waking up in the mountains with a field of wildflowers outside our room. Not bad.


Our last day involved a steep descent from 7400 feet down to 34 feet, which made for a some fun driving. Up where we started, there were pine trees, meadows, and medians full of some yellow flower. It was incredibly pretty. Then we wound down through this:


We drove past the signs for the Grand Canyon and very briefly entertained the idea of making a side trip, but ultimately decided not to. Next time. And then, with a glimpse of the Colorado River and a perfunctory “Welcome to California” sign, we were in for hours and hours of this:


I have to say, the Mojave Desert was stunning in how much nothing there is. It seriously feels like it goes on forever. So much nothing. Next time you think of California as populous, consider that after entering the state, you have to drive four hours before coming to a town of any size. It’s awe-inspiringly desolate.

Under “Things I Wish I Had Photographed” comes the tale of a street sweeper we saw brushing down the shoulder in the absolute middle of nowhere. I like to imagine that some lazy bum begged his DOT Commissioner father-in-law for a job, and was assigned to the Herculean Labor of sweeping up the desert.

Eventually, we came back to civilization, a term that I use more loosely now. Johnny is convinced that George Lucas used the city of Barstow as his inspiration for Mos Eisley, and I have to say, it’s hard to disagree with him.

One of these has an In-N-Out and a community college. The other is in California.

A little later, we drove past a real Spaceport (which looks really fun, except for being hours from anything). We drove through one last stretch of mountains, these littered with thousands of half-working windmills, and then made a steep descent in the valley, and suddenly everything was green and there were produce stands everywhere. Five days and 3200 miles later, Johnny was back to the one place on earth where he doesn’t need a map to get around, and life was very good.

(…until 4 hours after we got home, when he succumbed to the Stomach Bug with a Vengeance and got violently sick. But at least his mom was there to take care of him.)




That time we kinda moved across the country with three days’ notice

Okay, so…once upon a time…no, that'll take too long.

In a nutshell: Johnny had long had a dream – solidified by ten long winters – of moving home to California, but it was always in the category of “Maybe…someday…when we're ready.” Then, he got a call from a friend who works for a statewide non-profit, wondering if he wanted to come out and work there on a temporary-but-hopefully-permanent-basis. It was basically his dream job, working with someone he already knew he liked, and in his beloved homeland. The catch: he found out about it on a Wednesday, and would need to start the Monday after next (so, ten days' notice). Throw in a cross-country drive with a baby, and we realized that we would need to leave Saturday morning. Commence crazy packing, a massive to-do list, some phone calls to arrange things, last-minute shots for the baby, and quick last-minute goodbyes (and a little drinking).

The name seemed fitting, somehow.

Three days later, the oil was changed, the car was packed, and we were as ready as we were going to be. Our favorite doughnut shop opens at 3AM, so we figured we'd just leave whenever Maddy woke up anytime after that (PRIORITIES, okay?).

Doughnuts in hand and cauldron of coffee in cup holder, it was Next Stop, South Bend! Maddy was a super traveller, and we didn't have to make a major stop until lunchtime in Buffalo (where we tired her out by window-shopping our way around a nice mall. Looking good, Anthro.). All things considered, we made it to South Bend in very good time – about 17 hours for what is, on paper, a 12-hour drive. Johnny made it through the last few hours by dreaming of making it there in time to order takeout from the world's best Chinese restaurant. We made it with 20 minutes to spare, and it was just as good as we had remembered.

Sunday was our day to relax and hang out with friends, some of whom we hadn't seen since our wedding. We went to Mass at the church where we got married, then to brunch, and then walked around campus. It was a beautiful day, so Maddy got to see all the sights (and her parents got to grumble about all the things that had changed).

Christmas card spoiler alert.

Well, guess it's a tradition now.

We hosted dinner that night and had a grand old time catching up with friends (and catching viruses…but that will come later). Monday morning, we took a last little tour of campus (complete with the obligatory guard who refused to let us park on campus, even with a sleeping baby and promises of just a quick stop). Then we were on our way, past Chicago and on to Route 66.

Coming up next: We journey into places never before seen (by me, anyway). Things get weird.