Ode to Southern California

Today marks three weeks since movers packed us up and out of our two-bedroom apartment in Rancho Palos Verdes. Sunday will be three weeks for me in our new house (yes, a real standalone, single-family house!) in Marin County. To say we've been supremely busy the past two months would be the understatement of the century. I haven't done anything non-moving or non-unpacking/settling-in related since the first week in January. OK, I lied, I finally got a much-needed haircut two days ago.

Moving oneself is a lot of work. Moving the husband, the child and two pets is exponentially more challenging. I knew we'd collected stuff for LG, between monthly boxes of toys and clothes from two sets of grandparents, and the stuff we buy him regularly. I didn't realize each of our pets would need their own giant Rubbermaids for beds, collars, jackets, toys and meds. Or that the contents of our dresser would take up six boxes.

I made countless trips to Goodwill, sent bags and boxes to ThredUp, and still we seemed to have endless amounts of stuff. The last 10-15 boxes were the hardest to pack. At that point, if an item hadn't already found a home in one of the boxes in the medieval cardboard tower in the corner of our apartment, I was compelled to throw it away and never see it again.

On top of the packing, there were so many logistics to figure out. Of course, finding a house was the most pressing and challenging. Finding a good school for LG — with space mid-year for him — was an added stressor. This was the first move where that was a serious consideration. Between MainMan and I, we took three trips to the Bay Area to find "the one," or the house that checked off all of our criteria. We came close to applying to a couple of places, but yours truly stuck to her Goldilocks ways and found reasons why they weren't quite right.

I emailed friends in the area. I chatted neighborhoods with future coworkers. About the East Bay. The city. Marin. San Mateo County. I was Googling all kinds of "best places" lists, until we landed in San Rafael. A family friend lives here with his wife and two kids, and he detailed the S.F. commute to me (he takes the ferry daily), and while at first Google-maps-glance it looked too far away from my office, after looking at a lot of other homes in neighboring towns, we found a sweet little cottage house in a cute, residential neighborhood. I decided the commute was worth dealing with for LG to have a yard (front and back), a playroom and for us all to enjoy the luxury of a small garage for storage items. We could not be happier. And we hope if you're reading this, you'll come visit. Did I mention we're 30 minutes away from wine country?

Before I start documenting our adventures from our new town, I wanted to reflect on this past decade, and where I've/we've been. Surreal to imagine I uprooted myself at the beginning of the previous decade, leaving New York City for Los Angeles to be with MainMan (we met at a wedding in Sept. '09 and after a few months of long-distance dating, I decided to move there in May '10 to give us a real shot). And now, here we are in a new decade, having just completed another life-altering transition. We survived a few moves in the '10s, but none feel quite as momentous as this one.

After living in New York for six years, and in my roaring 20s no less, I considered myself a diehard New Yorker. I relished the sunshine and coastline of southern California, but I accepted that Los Angeles and its environs could never be my Manhattan. This changed. After seven-plus years of living in several neighborhoods throughout Southern California, it became that and more. Here are some of the great memories I'll cherish and take with me for the rest of our lifetimes.

Oh, Southern California, to me you'll always be...

The first place I went camping. And subsequently where I got the lifelong camping bug. We'll miss you Leo Carillo, Sycamore Canyon and Joshua Tree, to name a few of our favorite spots.

Where I got SCUBA-certified. While life in the parenting lane has prevented us from doing any SCUBA of late, I will never forget my first dives off Casino Point on Catalina. And the follow-up Buffalo Milk cocktails at various bars after to celebrate.

My first home with the love of my life. From "three's company" nights at the Palazzo in West L.A. to our red barnyard apartment in Culver City. The hidden treasure that was El Segundo. A brief hiccup to South Carolina. Then back to California again. To Mission Valley in San Diego and our last home in Rancho Palos Verdes.

The land of endless palm trees and sunshine. I actually missed the rain and clouds a bit living in SoCal. MainMan would tease me I was the only person in L.A. who complained about it always being sunny.

Beaches, beaches, beaches. Some wide open and endless, others small patches of sand. We hit them all from Ventura County to Mission Beach in San Diego. RAT beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Venice Beach, Mother's Beach, Tourmaline, Rosie's Dog Beach, Topanga, Zuma Beach, La Jolla Cove, Coronado Beach. Whether it was for a quick surfing session, a shore dive, an open-water swim practice or a playdate with dolphins and whale spouts, the beaches of Southern California are some of the prettiest in the world.

My preferred destination for margaritas and burritos. I bit into my first California burrito at Don Bravo's in San Diego. None have compared since. We became regulars at our local Mexican spot in PV where the mole and margaritas were part of my weekly diet. I will look, in vain likely, for a replacement in our new town...

Harrison's first almost everything: First dip in the ocean, first steps, first words, first (and second) apartments, first golf tournament, first camping trip, first crawl, first school, first (and only) nanny, baptism, first Disney trip, first boat ride, first skate park, first train ride, first pumpkin patch, first Santa's lap, first Halloween, Thanksgiving, first flight from LAX to Hawaii, first night in a hotel, first school concert, I'm sure I'm missing something.

The home of Agnes B. I volunteered for a dog rescue in L.A., which is where and how I fell in love with our furst baby. You can take the pup out of Southern California, but you can't take the Southern California out of the pup. Our bulldog mix, who's nearing 10, hates the rain. Like even when she's in her fancy raincoat. And she loves a good sunbathing spot. I hope she survives the northern California climate. There's never been a sweeter, more loyal, devoted and loving fur friend on the planet. And I will forever be indebted to the colleague who introduced me to the dog rescue where we found her.

The birthplace of Moni Makai. I'm sure many of you are wondering, "Oh yeah, that!?" The factory has completed the first run of our clothing line (literally our last day in SoCal is when I got the call "We're finished!" Fancy that.) Now I just need to get the clothes in my hands, and figure out where we're doing our first photo shoot. So much for a Palm Springs weekend! I'll need to find somewhere up in the Bay Area now. My factory works with people remotely so we'll give that a go for a while. The move and my new job have curtailed progress on the clothing line front, but I'm committed to seeing it through and getting fun coordinated mother/child outfits out there for the world to enjoy.

Sunset picnics with PPLQ. Surprise birthday dinners with JF and SM. Kiddo birthday parties and shenanigans with DM and co. Long Beach dinners with KG. Mexican dinners and SP brewery dates with CW and KS.

Where we completed the "SoCal board sport triple." There are few places in the world where you can hit the slopes and surf in the same day. We committed to doing this with a few friends and it was a blast. After skiing/snowboarding at Mountain High (86 miles from L.A.), we hit Santa Monica for a surf session. Someone brought a skateboard so we could all hop on one in the parking lot to complete the triple. To celebrate our feat, we grabbed some pints at Ye Old King's Head in SM.

Home of the most frightening Halloween shenanigans From the Queen Mary's Dark Harbor, to the Haunted Hayride in Griffith Park and a night sponsored by "American Horror Story" at an abandoned psych hospital. It will be hard to top L.A.'s Halloween.

Home of Terranea. We discovered the amazing Hawaii-esque resort less than 10 minutes from our home in PV and we made a point to visit often. When we weren't sipping on pricy cocktails at picnic tables overlooking the Pacific at their "sports bar" Nelson's, we were walking the coastal loop with Agnes that was open to the public. Or diving from the rocky shoreline below the resort. It was a trek with all of our equipment, but the dive there on a "good viz" day was one of my all-time favorite shore dives.

Where I launched a successful dog-walking business. After two years and change I greatly missed human interaction, but the decision helped me overcome a not-so-great work situation, got me in pre-wedding shape and got me outside and working with animals. If you're ever in a rut, I highly recommend this as a viable option.

Where MainMan got down on one knee in July 2012. And I was too busy watching a family of ducks float by on Big Bear Lake to hear him or understand what was happening.

Where we were able to conceive our second child, with the help of Dr. Baek at California Fertility Partners in Santa Monica. And where our three embryos will continue to live in their frozen home until/if we ever decide to have another child.

Meeting Tigger at Critter Country

The home of my happy place. Disney movies were a huge part of my childhood, and from the moment I stepped foot in EuroDisney in middle school, I became a fan of the parks, as well. (My parents took me to Disneyland when I was really little, but I have no recollection of it, other than I had to go on Haunted House twice because I lost a shoe.) Being an hour's drive away from Disneyland was one of the biggest perks of living in Southern California. When I was single I would often play hooky and just go to the park by myself (MainMan does not share the same passion I have for it). Experiencing the parks with LG was a whole new experience, that only got better every time we visited. The week we moved we made sure to sneak in one final trip with YiYi, our former nanny. It was a blast. We'll miss you, Tigger and friends!


"What are you going to miss most about your home?" My mom asked.

"The view," I said. Without hesitation.

Discovering the Palos Verdes Peninsula was a game-changer. I don't think I could live anywhere else in L.A. County. It was a hidden pocket of coastal yumminess not known by many.

"My Aggie coastal walks. And LG's school," I added.

I sobbed on the last day picking LG up from the PV Montessori Academy. We will miss the teachers and administrators there. And while I know we will discover new walks with Aggie, none will be quite as easily accessible and beautiful as Point Vicente with its lighthouse backdrop.

One thing is certain. I often focused on loving what was outside our apartments in Southern California. Here, in our new home, I can finally focus on loving what's inside. And that is a welcome change.

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