Playful, elegant, and not above the judicious use of the word “shit."

Like, totally epic 360 all the way

This post is brought to you by The New Santa Fe from Hyundai.

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Friday afternoon while sitting at gate B18 waiting for our flight to Los Angeles, Leta looked up from a game on her phone and asked, “Are we going to have a lot of fun, Mom? Like, not just a little bit but A LOT?” We had just walked past 17 other gates and she wanted to stop at each restaurant and gift shop along the way to “take a look around.” I put that in quotes because it’s a euphemism for “pester you to buy me crap.”

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When the idea of this trip was in its early stages, my ad partners asked if I wanted to fly out with both kids to participate in the Epic Play Date. Here’s where I go on record again and admit that I do not enjoy traveling with young children. I have friends who have traveled with two kids under the age of three from here to Europe and back and if this were an option in a choose your own adventure book, I’d choose the other option of being awake while a wolf slowly gnawed off the lower half of my body. I’d actually hand the wolf my intestines.

I also very rarely get to spend alone time with Leta. She’s always been a delightful kid, but she’s now at an age where the majority of the time I spend interacting with her is more about our relationship than it is about getting her dressed or making sure she doesn’t choke on small objects that have no business being near her mouth. And I’m eager to nourish this with her. We talk. We discuss. We laugh and tell jokes. We comfort each other. And, most importantly, she can entertain herself on a plane.

So I got to make it a special trip for the two of us. And to assure her that we were going to have A LOT of fun, I bought her a bottle of Dr. Pepper right then and there at the airport. You’re like, WHOA. CALM DOWN, ARMSTRONG. WAY TO BLOW HER MIND.

Here’s the thing: I don’t think she’s ever had a sip of a Dr. Pepper. At least she hasn’t in front of me. I may be really relaxed when it comes to the rest of her diet, but I’ve actively avoided introducing her to soda. She told me she’s never had a Dr. Pepper before, and for all I know it’s all she drinks at my mother’s house and my Mormon mother told her to lie to me if I asked her about it. I AM ON TO YOU, MOM. And I’m telling your bishop.

If she was lying to me she deserves an Oscar for her reaction when she took that first swig. There was puckering and gagging and then her eyes bulged out of her head and smoke billowed out of her ears. And then there was the belch.

She did. She said that to me. I told you, we discuss things.

Leta’s reaction to the plane ride was nothing in comparison to getting into the cab at LAX to drive to the hotel. The plan was to stay in Marina Del Rey for the night and head up to Santa Barbara the next morning, and when we got in the cab she suddenly realized, wait. We’re in LA. WE ARE IN LA. Do you know who lives in LA? Selena Gomez! Victoria Justice! Miley Cyrus! Miranda Cosgrove! I can list off those names in that order because she told the cab driver and then she told the woman at the front desk of the hotel. As we rode the elevator up to our room she asked me if I know who lives in LA, and I said, yeah. My butt. It’s got its own apartment in West Hollywood.

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I let her use the key card to get us into the room, and you guys. It’s official: I’m getting Leta a hotel room for Christmas. That will be the gift guide I put together for nine-year-olds: a hotel room with two beds. One for you! One for her! Oh, look! FREE SOAP. Is that free shampoo? IT IS! And whatever you do, DO NOT FORGET THE ICE MACHINE.

Seriously. This whole event could have been a very long hallway with an ice machine at the end and it would have gone down as the best time she has ever had.

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The following morning we joined five or six other families who had flown in and took a bus two hours up the coast to Santa Barbara. I got to meet some of the women who had won the trip (Hi, Tiffany! Hi, Heather!) and here is where I personally thank Heather for giving birth to a daughter eight years ago. It took a few hours for her daughter Libby and Leta to warm up to each other, but when they finally did they were inseparable. And it happened at that critical point in the day when Leta had already participated in every activity and was teetering on the Cliff of Boredom. You’re familiar with that geographical formation, right? Down below is a pool full of sharks, and if there is nothing to do, NOTHING AT ALL TO DO EVER, those sharks will actually jump out of the pool and swallow your kid whole. The blood, oh my god.

We participated in a poetry class.

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(Photo by David Crowther)

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We painted with colored sand.

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We made balloon animals.

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She accompanied me on a photography walk that I had to conduct.

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In a brief moment of downtime I could see one of the sharks in the pool below the Cliff of Boredom about to leap out of the water when suddenly I turned around and Libby and Leta were hand in hand walking over to request a song from a DJ playing music in the lunch pavilion. They remained this way for the rest of the day, into the evening when we ended up at the beach around the campfire with musician Brett Dennen who let Leta strum the guitar for a song or two.

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(Photo by David Crowther)

I’m also going to give Libby credit for getting Leta out onto the beach in her bare feet, her toes in the California sand. Peer pressure for the win! How far my lovely little Leta has come since 2008.

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Later we got to drop off our things at the amazing campsite high up on a bluff overlooking the Pacific, and since the two of them were having so much fun I let Leta stay up several hours past her bedtime to play in Libby’s tent.

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I talked with Tiffany and Heather while the kids played — all three of us live so far apart and have such different jobs, and yet, the experience we have had with motherhood has been so incredibly similar. It was such a comforting two hours, and I want to thank them for being so generous to me. Yes, we were strangers, but they made me feel so wonderfully normal.

When it was finally time to retire for the night, Leta and I made our way in the dark to our tent. And this has to be my favorite part of the entire trip. This is going to seem totally lame because I know a lot of you have been sleeping with your kids for years and it’s no big deal. Parents have been sleeping with their children for millions of years and they all deserve a cookie. However, I do not sleep with my children because both of them rotate like the propellor on a plane when they are in bed. I’m surprised Leta doesn’t fly in her sleep.

Our tent was the closest one to the bluff, the closest to that breeze whipping up and off the ocean. It was all capital letters FREEZING, and after she changed into her pajamas and climbed into bed Leta was so cold that she couldn’t even form the words to tell me. So I climbed in beside her, pulled the down blanket up around our chins, and we slept all night snuggled in and around each other, all knobby knees and elbows and legs and HAIR. I loved it! I loved waking up in the middle of the night and feeling her shoulders move up and down as she breathed. I loved how she would move closer to me for more warmth. She couldn’t pull her usual propellor moves because we were snuggled so tightly. Maybe that’s the secret. Prehistoric kids didn’t move around in their sleep because everyone was so cold. I’m a genius. And probably making all the anthropologists in the audience embarrassed that we are members of the same species.

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If you totally disregard the three hours we had to wait for our plane on Sunday afternoon, a very boring three-hour stretch at LAX that I am sure will dim over time in her memory, Leta will tell you that she had the best time ever. Ever? Ever. EVER?! LIKE, EVER! At least until we have ice cream after dinner tonight. Then a new standard will be set for the best time ever and only tomorrow night’s dessert will beat it. But only if a really good episode of “iCarly” doesn’t come on first.

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This post is brought to you by The New Santa Fe from Hyundai.

  • That trip looks like so much fun – loved the tent set up

  • jesgooch

    That was awesome and…BTW…I didn’t even NOTICE the “this post was brought to you by blah blah blah at the beginning 🙂 Skipped right over it!

  • Don

    I’m outraged that you put that sponsor disclaimer on the top!!! It should be written in BOLD CAPITAL LETTERS diagonally across the whole post!!! Outraged I tell you!!!

  • Erin

    How great. I would love to do a similar trip with my girls. I often think that I need to spend more one-on-one time with them. You’ve pretty much convinced me I need to get on it! Thanks for sharing.

  • Gemmyner

    My daughter is 13. She still says “I’m bored” but it’s less now than it used to be. Now she can venture down to the park or to a friend’s house without me supervising her. When she tells me she’s bored, I put her to work.

  • LOVED this post. I don’t know if I’ve ever commented before, but after your last post and hearing the flack you’ve gotten for sponsored posts I felt like I needed to do so. Why? Because I don’t care if you’re sponsored, if you disclose at the top or the bottom, or heck, even in the middle in giant bold, capitalized letters. Your voice is YOUR voice and THAT is the reason I keep reading.

  • issascrazyworld

    One of my favorite parts about my kids getting older is it’s like having a friend around. It’s not that way when you have to keep them safe from themselves all day and answer a bunch of questions about nothing and try and follow a story that has six parts and never ends. They go from crazy banshees to these little cool people and it’s awesome.

    I’m glad you and Leta had a great trip. SHE TOUCHED SAND!!!!! That is just awesome.

  • americanrecluse

    I love how you two have identical smiles in those last two photos, and you both look so happy.

  • But how come Diet Coke and not regular Coke and regular DP and not Diet DP? So confusing! 🙂

  • I think all non-traditionally-sponsored posts should have a “This post is brought to you by MY BUTT.” at the top.

  • Christy

    The picture of Leta playing guitar makes her look just like Connie Britton’s character’s oldest daughter on Nashville. So cute! And so grown up!

  • Starla Dear

    Exactly. My kids are 6 and 4 and they know better than to say they are bored. I have a job jar ALL ready for them if they do.

  • Starla Dear

    Definitely prefer the sponsorship information at the top. I’m glad Leta had a wonderful time alone with you. But GAAAAH!!! I’m not even a germaphobe but please tell Leta not to put her sweet little face directly on hotel comforters!! Pull the comforters off and lay on the sheet! 🙂

  • JenVegas

    What a GREAT post! And what a great trip! I’m super jealous. It sounds lovely.

  • Jil

    Love it! And damn are those some shi-shi camping arrangements. Was that a cow hide on the floor? What is this, Game of Thrones?

  • I hope someday I have so little to worry about or do that I can get really upset over the fact that there are sponsored posts here. REALLY PEOPLE:? Gah…

  • Lynette

    I think it’s awesome that you got to spend this fun adventure with your daughter. Sponsored posts do not phase me one bit – it’s you and you’re writing and you’re honest, day to day posts that keep me coming back. I would say to the sponsor naysayers – turn the channel dumbasses!

  • Annett

    When my daughter (8) says she’s bored I always proclaim “Great! Then I’m doing a good job as a mum!”. She hates it but kinda can’t help but laugh at it. It lasts a few minutes and then she has an idea and this awesome creative phase just happens. Happens every time. I really encourage you to let her be bored, it gives me such joy every time I manage to endure and get over the moaning phase. I LOVE this post so much and your smiles are just precious 🙂

  • What a wonderful post. What wonderful memories for you both. I especially liked the part where you wrote, “she’s always been a delightful kid.” Yep, we always love them more than life itself, but it’s so much fun when we like them as well and find their company delightful.

  • Smiles in the last two photos?! That’s great to see. Really great.

    But was this sponsored? I guess I caught it at the beginning and skipped over it at the end with little more than a glance, but if you could place that bit of information in the middle of the post, in all caps, underlined twice, in magenta, that would help.

  • Carla

    Awesome post. But . . . balloon animals? Ugh.

  • Beautiful post. I have two little girls and am really looking forward to times like these with them. However, I am not so looking forward to the trip to Europe next week (from Australia) with the same lovely 18 month old and 3 year old. What the frig am I thinking? All I can hope is your intestine eating wolf will nab me before we get on the plane!

  • I was reading this and stopped short saying, “OMG that woman looks just like Brett Dennen!!”

    TOTALLY BRETT DENNEN AS THE MAN HE IS. Love him.

    I love this post, too. Being cold while sleeping and snuggling with loved ones is one of the best parts of camping.

  • Mrs. Pom

    I almost stopped reading after —-BRETT DENNEN!!!
    Who knew he was available for campfire sing-alongs! LOL

  • Mie

    I’d love to know where you found the Kristina sunglasses for $87- they’re retailing for $148-I’d be ever so grateful for your source!
    PS Loving your posts these days.

  • Amanda H

    So glad you got to enjoy our beautiful city of Santa Barbara! Sorry about the freezing nights, we’re trying to get those fixed 😉

  • Oh geez. I’ve been reading you for years and this is my first comment.

    I had that same experience, only my daughter was 23 or 24 at the time.

    Thank you for the reliving, albeit in different decades.

  • Hanni

    I love this post…sounds like you had an amazing time! And sleeping with your little one in your arms is the BEST!

  • Sadie7

    Heather, I have been reading for years and have been truly moved by many posts but today I completely lost my shit ( in a good way) while reading about you and Leta sleeping in the tent. I have four girls aged 4-11 and have co-slept at some point with each one. Sometimes 2 or 3 at a time. I have literally lost at least a year of sleep, probably much more, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Thanks for reminding me of how wonderful it is.

  • JRSF

    Brett Dennen! He’s such a great musician. For whatever reason I always thinks he looks like Peppermint Patty, which in NO way diminishes my enjoyment of his music. I’m not sure I could have slept in a tent (took, and used, a hair dryer the first time I went camping), but glad it was a great trip.

  • Amanda Greer

    I am so happy that you got to have this time with Leta. And she will probably always remember this as being one of the best things EVER! I remember the first time my mom took me to stay in a hotel over night. It was just one city away and there were no fun activities, but there was a pop machine! And an ice machine! And we ordered room service! And I still talk about it like it was the best thing EVER because it was, it really was.

  • Audrey

    It’s not really confusing at all. The only things Mormons are forbidden to drink are alcohol, coffee, and tea (other than herbal). As to where the Mormon church stands on caffeinated soda, that’s been cleared up: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/01/mormon-caffeine-policy-cl_n_1848098.html

  • You captured it beautifully! I remember vacations with my (non-custodial) mom as being all elevators and ice machines…and glorious!

  • KenJG12

    Uhh,,,this screams sponsorship, right down to the Hyundai nametags.

  • Kacy Kirby

    I hope that no one missed reading this post because they don’t like sponsored posts. This was so great to read, you look and sound happy. Good for you!!

  • Tasteofhunni.com

    man that trip looked like so much fun! She is a lucky girl to have a mom like you…*cough* adoptmeplease *cough*

  • Sandra T

    Heather! Your writing is so awesome! You actually bring back memories of the age when I thought sleeping in a tent (a pup tent, no less) was “cozy!” And believe me, that was A LONG TIME AGO! Please tell us that you told the awestruck Leta that YOU actually used to live in LA? A little stardust in their eyes for mama never hurts! Trust me!

  • Sandra T

    Man, can I take this comment back and remove some of the exclamation points? I didn’t mean to do that. But I did love this post that much! ha ha

  • Erin @ Dwell & Tell

    I AM SO GLAD I REDISCOVERED YOU. It’s been too long. You are brilliant.

    No, this is not spam! 😉

  • Becky

    I think it may be that boredom is the “cross you’ll have to bear” for having the audacity to birth and raise thoughtful, curious and intelligent children.
    SIncere congratulations on the obvious contentment, joy and success on your slightly rocky new path.

    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.
    R. Frost

  • An Urban Story

    I’m holding out for a vibrator company to sponsor a post.

    When I say “vibrator” I mean a dildo with batteries.
    -animal

    http://www.AnUrbanStory.com

  • Emily

    I loved this post – sponsored or not. You look beautiful and, more importantly, happy in these photos.
    And your thoughts on sleeping with your daughter is so dead right. I sometimes catch myself annoyed that my 3 year old wants to come into my bed at 4a.m. because he prefers to sleep with mommy. But then I remind myself that there will come a time when he’ll be a stinky 15 year old trying to sneak out of the house to meet up with a girl he likes. So, I think instead I’ll cherish these times…

  • elise

    Love this sponsored post, sounds like a fun time. Unlikely to ever buy a Hyundai, but glad they treated you right.

  • Nicole Francois

    This post was great and all, but thanks to you and YOUR WORDS I had no choice but to steal a Dr. Pepper from my roommate.

  • Thrift Store Mama

    I could feel your joy and happiness in this post – so glad the two of you had this time together.

  • Dawn Brandvold

    My daughter is nearing 30 and we still take trips every year, just the two of us. It helps us to see each other as real people, not merely the roles we play as mother/daughter. Also…LOVE Brett Dennen.

  • Lexi

    Loved the post and especially the last paragraph.

  • NHMaman

    Great memories! Perhaps you will now want to try a single mummy (mommy) sleeping bag on the ground in a tent with two kids in it with you. I guarantee that no one will freeze, but you won’t be able to breathe either. Still … amazing fun!