bison and the bird

Go as many places as you can. You can always make money. You can't always make memories.

Behind Every Favorite Song is an Untold Story

My Version of Genius

As parents or hopeful parents we spend countless hours thinking about what our unborn fetuses will become.  Will they be a doctor, an accomplished athlete, a singer, the president?  I to this very day still wonder not only what Natalina will become but more importantly what will define her?   Will it be boys? I sure hope not.  Will she care more about what the “cool” kids are doing and wearing or will she be unaffected, aloof, to the mainstream expectations and crazy social hierarchy of teenagers?  Will she be a strong leader or will she be more of the follower type?  No matter what we want to support and nurture who our children are becoming.  I strive to encourage Natalina’s individuality even as a toddler and support her dreams and ideas of life.  Of course I have hopes that Natalina will become what I like to call “college” cool.  I pray she cares more about literature, art, music and studying then where the next party is or did you hear about who so and so hooked up with?  So far at 4 years old she has taught me that my hopes and dreams for her are just that, my hopes and dreams.  I thought for sure she would be reading and writing by now and speaking multiple languages, aka a genius.  She has proved to me her own genius though.  She can write some and read a little but her light shines so bright when she is dancing and singing.  She feels music so deep already and her taste has proved to be so diverse for such a young girl.  She for sure loves pop music, but she also ASKS for classical music, sings Broadway hits (Mama Mia is big in our house and most recently Defying Gravity from Wicked) and picks some amazing indie music to listen and dance to.  For most people who know me I am a lover of all things music and art.  It may be because that part of my brain will only go as far as appreciating artistic genius.  My contribution to the arts comes in the form of buying show tickets and donating to an artistic cause.  From 16 weeks pregnant I planned and purchased Natalina’s first concert outfit:  Black American Apparel onesie, Joe’s skinny jeans, black high top Chuck Taylor’s and those cool Bose noise canceling headphones.  All sizes 6-12 months.  Little did I know it would be a bit longer before her first show.

October 10, 2015.  Beirut was playing the Greek Theatre in Berkeley, CA.  Beirut is one of my favorite bands and I have seen them somewhere between 8-10 times logistically ranging from San Francisco to Brooklyn.  I saw them twice while pregnant so maybe it had an impact right?!  I originally planned on going to this show with my sister and her husband but they couldn’t go at last minute.  This was it!  This was the big first concert!  I was so excited.  I asked my cousin Theresa to come and she was free which made it more special.  We saw our first Beirut show together and now we were going to take Natalina to her first show!  I am using so many exclamation points to try and get across how uncontrollably excited I was.  We listen to the iPod on shuffle in the car and at home so Natalina was familiar with Beirut, but I never really noticed that she was affected by any of the songs.  Kind of a bummer but maybe the live show would change that.  So that time had come.  Show time!  Time for my, then 3 year old, to have her mind blown.  I obviously have very high and somewhat unrealistic expectations of life.

Cue Heartbreak…

After 2 songs reality really set in.  “I have to go potty”, “I’m bored”, “I’m tired”, “I want to go home”.  How could this be?  Seriously my heart was literally breaking.  My hopes and dreams of going to epic shows and festivals was being crushed 1 song at a time.  To her credit she enjoyed 2 songs and even danced a tiny bit, but the night was overshadowed by just typical toddler behavior.  In retrospect she handled it like a champ.  My 3 year old powered through and there was not 1 meltdown.  I consider myself very lucky that she is a really well behaved human.  We left, drove home and continued normal life.  Maybe we would try again in a year or so.

Two weeks later we are driving with the iPod on shuffle and No No No by Beirut comes on and I skip it.  I wasn’t in the mood.  *Background alert:  No No No was a new single and it’s a great song but it didn’t really blow my mind when I heard it.  I specifically remember telling a friend that exact thing when he asked me how I liked the new album and that song specifically. * Back to the story.  Almost immediately Natalina says “wait mom put that song back on”.  I said “what song?”  thinking maybe I skipped a Disney tune or something.  She continued, “that song mom from the concert we went to.  You know it goes lalallalalalala.”  REDEMPTION!!!!!  I was exploding with excitement.  It’s real.  She was affected.  She chose her own moment at the concert and recognized something she loved on her own.  Remember this wasn’t a song I personally loved so I put no special emphasis on it at the show or in general.  I am all about personal wins.  Small or large.  This was such a winning moment for me as a mom.  My previous doubts about our musical future completely diminished with the touch of a stereo control.  A song that I ,otherwise didn’t give much love to, quickly became one of my favorites.  Every memory has a soundtrack of it’s own and the soundtrack to the memory of Natalina’s first concert was concrete.  P.S. my first concert was Belinda Carlisle and I still remember feeling so cool when she sang I think we’re alone now.  Here’s to making memories and soundtracks to our lives.  So what will define Natalina in the future?  Who will she become?  Of course I will always wonder about this, but at this point I realize I have so little control and all I can do is continue to make amazing and creative adventures with her with less emphasis on the exterior and more on the heart.

Beirut 2015

Let’s Wander Where the WIFI is Weak

Rounding the curve entering into Yosemite Valley after 45 ish minutes of pretty barren landscape after entering Yosemite National Park is, not only something everyone should experience (at least once) in their life, but an instant and glorious reminder that a) we are dust b) there is a creator c) amidst the ugliness  that exists in this world there still exists mostly unspoiled wonders in the world.

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(view of Half Dome from Glacier Point over 7,000 ft up)

I was 14 the first time I camped in Yosemite and even as a jerky teenager (I totally was ps) I couldn’t deny that this place was far from ordinary.  By the time I was 18 I had camped there 7 times.  You could say I took every opportunity to go.  My bff from birth, Brittany, and I spent our time there mostly riding the bus looking for cute boys, climbing rocks at the Indian Caves, trying to be cool by drinking wine coolers, etc.  We did power through some incredible hiking as well.

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(Seriously though…the red glasses! Stop!)

After 18 I didn’t get back to that happy place until Natalina was born.  In 2012 with newborn in tow I ended my 10 year hiatus from the park.  Not to my surprise but absolutely nothing had changed.  The first sight of Half Dome, El Capitan and Yosemite Falls gave me the same giddy feeling I had when I was young.  Camping with Natalina and my non-camping wasband was definitely a bit of a struggle but my mom and sister and a very large group of friends were there to support us.  I was even able to hike to Vernal and Nevada Falls while Mimi took care of baby girl.  After that first trip with Natalina the next 4 were just Natalina and I with groups of friends and family.  We have managed to go every year since she was born and don’t plan on missing any years in the near future.

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Yosemite has very limited cell phone reception.  I work mainly from my phone and so this is probably one of my happiest and most welcomed times too because I literally cannot answer my phone very much.  For a short 3-4 days my phone becomes a camera and iPod.  There is the occasional post or text when you get some reception (usually in between the trees or in, what was, Curry Village).  I can let my mom know I am safe.  Also as many know it is very difficult to book a campsite in Yosemite so it takes quite a bit of organization and planning.  If you want to camp opening weekend in May you have to book on January 15 at 7 am.  It sells out in minutes so be ready, logged in and ready to click and reserve.  For the past 15 years some of the same family’s have been taking this trip.  Of course not every year everyone can make it and recently a lot of friends from the east coast have made the trip out to California just for Yosemite.  There are normally 3-7 campsites filled with great friends and family.

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(2013 partial group pic)

Now comes a bit of encouragement for single parents (no offense dads, but mostly moms) feeling like they could never do that…I am fortunate that I grew up camping so I did learn (thank you mom and dad and Dave and Tina), but no matter what, camping by yourself with your kid(s) is 150% intimidating.  I had some serious anxiety about it and doubted being prepared enough, but with help from my sister and her husband and some amazing friends I have gained the confidence to do it alone even!  It seems so minor but setting up my own tent is such a win.  I even rewarded myself with  Yeti tumbler.  I use it from coffee to cocktails all day long.  Along with the personal wins Natalina can see that if mama can do it she can do it and do it she has.  The kid puts together the tent poles, sets up chairs and supervises the s’mores like a champ.  Every year I make a goal to do at least 1 more thing by myself or with the help of Natalina.  This year I planned my own meals and bought my own camping stove!  Basically at this point I am fully confident to camp alone with my girl and me.  Granted being with a group is ideal just because I love my friends and Natalina is now building long lasting friendships the way I did.

I think John Muir said it best when he said “in every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”  Being able to disconnect from our busy lives, talk to your friends without the distraction of cell phones, see your daughter get dirty and not care gives me more joy and appreciation for this life then I can imagine.  There is far too much beauty in this world and being basically next door (about 4 hours) to one of those places is something I will never take for granted.

Some short term goals Natalina and I have for our future trips are:

  1. Hike Vernal and Nevada Falls together
  2. Hike Upper Yosemite Falls
  3. Explore Mariposa Grove when it reopens (2017)
  4. See Horsetail Falls in February when it looks like fire

Some long term goals for the future:

  1. Backpack from Glacier Point to Half Dome (Panorama Trail) and climb Half Dome
  2. Hike Cathedral Lakes
  3. Hike Cloud’s Rest
  4. Ultimately backpacking the John Muir Trail
Aunty Nina with baby Natalina

Aunty Nina with baby Natalina

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Olive and Natalina (2015)

Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake

Half Dome Towering Above

Half Dome Towering Above

Littles in the Bear Box

Littles in the Bear Box

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El Capitan

It really is 1 of our happiest places on earth

“Play is the highest form of research.”- Albert Einstein

As mentioned in the first post Natalina and I travel to Disneyland often.  Since she was 1 year old we have made a trip there an average of 6 times a year.  I am sure your will hear plenty from me about Disneyland…How?  What?   Where?

For this post I am going to interview the very reason I go to Mickey’s House so often.  I will be typing her answers verbatim so if they are a bit jumbled remember she is 4.

Me- What is your favorite part of Disneyland?

Natalina-  Um I really want to go on the new cars ride…You know the new one?

Me-  Do you remember the name?

N-  Um can you please help me with my orange?  NO but I guess the name is Lightning McQueen

Me- It’s called something with Luigi

N-  Yea Luigi

Moving on…

Me-  Do you like to talk to the characters at Disneyland?

N-  I like Minnie because girls like to talk to Minnie

Me-  Anyone else?

N-  Yea anyone else…Goofy.  I want to go to Goofy’s park.  It’s right next to Mickey’s house.

Me- Can you tell me a cool story about Disneyland?

N-  NO

OK so that didn’t go as expected.  She is not in the mood to talk.  I will let you know why we love Disneyland so much.  This is the cliff’s notes.  As you are passing through security you start to hear the songs..The songs from your childhood.  The songs that your teenage self would be embarrassed to know (hopefully not Natalina.  I hope she appreciates great things at all ages.)   When you wish upon a star, YO HO a pirate’s life for me, it’s a small world (you can probably get it now).  For me personally the crowds disappear, I smile and I don’t think about work or bills or anything except I am so excited to be here.  Natalina and I almost always skip or dance our way to the entrance line.  We love to dance.   We normally enter  the Magic Kingdom first.  It depends on the goals for the day, but the nostalgia of Magic Kingdom and the excitement to go on Small World takes over.  I personally don’t enjoy Small World but Natalina cannot contain her excitement.  I can only compare it to the feeling of joy I get when I buy new Jimmy Choos or new Nike’s.  Recently Natalina has become tall enough to ride a few of the roller coasters so we do spend quite a bit of time in lines now.  I personally do not mind the lines, but a toddler is a different story.  Of course Fast Passes are ideal, but I normally save snack time for line time.  I am not opposed to indulging at Disneyland for snacks, so we become churro eating, cotton candy inhaling and ice cream binging sugar monsters for the 1-2 days we go.  Now something we ran into this last trip…the famous words from all toddlers, “I have to go potty realllllly baddddd”.  So we did exit Splash Mountain merely 5 minutes to the front, but when they gotta go, well, it’s time to go.  Side note:  A lot of rides in California Adventure let you go if someone can hold your place in line.  Ideal since it did happen again on Cars (the longest wait time in that park).  Another great thing at Disneyland/California Adventure is the switch pass.  On this last trip I was with my friend Marissa who has twin daughter’s that are around the same age.  Audrey and Ella.  Ella is a little bug and usually isn’t tall enough to ride the big rides so Marissa can take Audrey and Natalina on the ride and then I can take them after without waiting again. If possible I highly recommend going at least one time for the fireworks show.  Not only am I impressed but if you look at the look on your child’s face during the show nothing else in the world matters and you pray that you will never forget that look.

Children believe everything that they see at Disneyland.  They speak to Mickey like he really does run the show and they spin with the princesses endlessly.  Disney knows what they are doing and they do an amazing job.  The way my heart explodes when I see Natalina and her pure innocence is something I cherish in a world where I worry about all the possibilities of bad that come into our lives.  I get a glimpse of that innocence at Disneyland where I see 75 year old couples dressed in Minnie and Mickey shirts beaming just from walking around the magic that is Disney.  I feel it when Natalina, myself and whoever else is with us dance the night away at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party or ride the teacups or when the light parade goes by.  You are transported into such a happy time and for a brief moment in our busy lives, in the words of Walt himself, “laughter is timeless, imagination has no age and dreams are forever.

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Meeting FlickIMG_4128

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4 Years, 1 divorce, a puppy & so much more…

As I sit with a glass of Siduri Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir listening to Hipster BBQ on Pandora I think how on earth am I going to fit the last 4 years into 1 small blog post.  Well here goes nothing.

A quick glimpse into the past.  January 6, 2012 I birthed the very reason this blog has begun.   Natalina Valentine (first and middle)  was born and almost immediately softened what seemed to be a rather hard hearted woman who doubted the ability to nurture.  I say almost because after labor I basically wanted nothing to do with holding a fragile newborn.  I was exhausted and in shock at the past few weeks of endless acupuncture, acupressure, pineapple, basil water drinking, pesto eating and anything possible to go into labor.  Don’t get me wrong I was definitely ready to meet the creature that took up real estate in my small frame for the last 10 months, but after what seemed to be an endless delivery, I needed to recover.

Fast forward to 3 months old…I am thoroughly enjoying being a mama.  My milk was flowing, my baby was healthy and growing, we had just taken our first camping trip to Yosemite, I was balancing full time work, wife life and mom life.  I came home to find quite the surprise ( I will spare the details out of respect for the father of my child) and was suddenly faced with “whoa, I am going to be a single mom”.

That brings us to 10 months old aka November 2012.  Still not a single mom and confident that our family will stay together and we will be stronger for it.  Enter new house purchase…Exciting, life changing, another adventure.  I love adventure.  Commence the remodel!  I am a general contractor so this was no big deal in my life.  For the wasband, not so much.  Let’s just say it wasn’t an adventure for him.  Our house is beautiful p.s.

OK now let’s fast forward to 2013 finally.  It’s almost exactly 1 year from my original panic of becoming a single mom and another trip to Yosemite sans baby daddy.  Uh oh yet another chapter in the tragic tale that was our marriage.  Once again I am faced with being a single mom.  Fortunately this time I had a house and my parents were literally next door to scrape me up from endless panic attacks and tears from the fact that our marriage failed and my daughter would grow up in a broken house.  So what did I do?  I bought a puppy.  In retrospect not the best idea especially considering the fact that I got a Golden Pyrenees and she outgrew Natalina within 3 months.  Rocket is our girl along with Princess Sofia and Hedwig (our 2 calico divas).  Maybe I will blog about Rocket, but for now lets just say we have unresolved issues we have been working on for the last 2 1/2 years.

It took 2 solid years of endless lawyers, fights, make-ups, back and forths but finally on April 20, 2015 it was literally official.  I was now single.  Custody was arranged, I kept my house ( at quite a cost) and my therapist officially broke up with me.  It was mutual.  She basically graduated me to being able to process my feelings and handle my emotions.  It was liberating!  I will post about the perks of a good therapist eventually when I share about what family now means to me.

Now here we are in 2016 and I can honestly say that I have never been happier or confident, not only in myself, but in my abilities as a mom and provider for my family.  I still technically work full time as a contractor with my dad (papa).  My mom aka mimi helps me with Natalina and she sees her dad 2 days during the week, which allows my schedule to be flexible.  Whenever possible Natalina and I are are going somewhere.  So far we have been to Orlando (Disneyworld), Disneyland at least 6 times a year (annual passholders), Puerto Rico, Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite (at least 1 x a year since she was born), and many other places to hike, camp and play.  We love to camp, snowboard, shop, Crossfit, dance and do whatever we feel like.  You will often have mention of Peyton and Danielle.  Peyton is Natalina’s very best friend and, as of last week, are sisters until next year.  Danielle is my fellow mama adventure partner.  She is always ready to go wherever and happens to be a very skilled photographer.  You can see her work at www.daniellenavratilphotography.com.  ****Get’s interrupted because Natalina pees on the floor on accident***** ok I am back.

So in a nutshell there are the last 4 years.  I will often draw on the past with experiences and trips for this blog and am working toward live blogging from our many adventures.  I hope to make this interactive and fun.  I welcome feedback.  That being said, if you don’t agree or or offended by the way I run my life and my house please kindly discontinue reading and keep your negativity to yourself or you can talk about it with your friends or whatever makes you feel better.  So there it is. The beginning what I hope to be a long and detailed journal for my baby Natalina.

xx Angela

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