5 Things to do While in Joshua Tree

When visiting Joshua Tree National Park, it can be easy to feel as though that is all the place has to offer. It is out in the middle of nowhere, after all. Nestled between Palm Springs and the back road to Las Vegas, the small desert space is packed with weird entertainment. Here are just a few things you can do all year long.

Get a soundbath – As weird as it sounds, it’s definitely something everyone should experience when visiting. A few miles from Joshua Tree lies Landers, a town that is really just a bunch of houses spaced out and a few stores and a pizza place in case they needed just a few things that didn’t warrant a drive out to Yucca Valley. Also in Landers is the Integretron. With an incredibly interesting history, the building is pretty and the water is supposedly healing thanks to the magnetic field under the area. It’s worth the drive to see the place and its history and you might even be surprised at how good you feel after leaving.

Eat at the Inn – Generally regarded as the best food in the area by the locals, the 29 Palms Inn is on the way to the park at the entrance in 29 Palms. Built on the Oasis of Mara, the Inn features beautiful bungalows available for rent, a fabulous Faultline garden full of food they use in the restaurant, and they have locals playing music every weekend and local art adorning the walls. Though the space is small, there is extra seating outside by the pool. The salad dressings at the restaurant are homemade. Much of the food is grown on-site and they take pride in not only their ingredients, but the presentation as well. Their specialty drinks are delicious and filled with fruit and liquor. The seasonal menu will assure you experience the best the desert has to offer.

See a show at Pappy and Harriet’s – Recently voted as one of the best concert venues in the L.A. area by L.A. Weekly, Pappy and Harriet’s is a gem. It began as a soundstage for old Hollywood westerns, many starring John Wayne. It’s now a honky tonk restaurant with an adjoining hotel. They have gotten big name indie bands and acts in past couple of years and keep upping their game. Dave Catching of The Eagles of Death Metal has a stake in the local recording studio you may have heard of, Rancho De La Luna, and he frequents the open mic night at Pappy’s. They’ve had Modest Mouse, The Pistol Annies, Jenny Lewis, Neutral Milk Hotel, and The Melvins just to name a few. Try to coordinate your trip to coincide with a concert and enjoy the intimacy of the venue.

Visit old town Yucca Valley – Yucca Valley is the adjacent town to the west of Joshua Tree. This is where all the corporations are; the Wal-Mart, the grocery stores, the chain clothing stores. There’s also old town, which houses the weird, locally owned shops. There’s a comic book store, hipster clothing stores, an antique shop which was spotlighted by Martha Stewart, and gloriously kitschy art and interior decor stores. There’s even an organic coffee shop and cafe if you get hungry while shopping.

Take a drive to Giant Rock – Another place in the desert with an incredibly rich history, Giant Rock is a great place to explore. It began as a house for a Nazi spy (I’m not kidding) who lived off of rainwater he collected thanks to a canal he found in the rock and eventually evolved into a meeting spot for huge UFO conventions. It’s located just a bit further than the Integretron and is next to an old airstrip that was used during WWII. The rock is spray painted now, thanks to local teens who make it out there to off road and party. It is a contrast of history and present day, color and desert beige.

There are endless adventures to experience in the desert. These are really only a few to check off the list, as told from a local who began as a visitor. The pioneering history is rich and even in the national park, you will find treasures and historical areas that will even interest the most bored of children.


Clutching Sand

Time is elusive. It’s something that cannot pass fast enough when we’re younger and later, it turns into something like sand that we are constantly trying to keep clutched in our hands, only to watch it fall away through our fingers. I recently celebrated my 27th birthday and it really caused me to glance around at all the things that are changing in my life. My newborn is already 3 months old, my first baby is starting school & soccer soon, the pit bull I raised from literally the time she was born is about to be six years old, and as I think on my relationship with my boyfriend, I realize we started our journey before I even turned 21. I feel like the older I get, the faster times flies by. I am in no way prepared for this. I am terrified of dying, the thought of leaving my children and my world and not knowing what comes after can almost paralyze me in anxiety and fear. I’m not even thirty.

No need to chastise me. I get it. It’s a problem. A very real problem. It’s irrational to freak out about the rest of my life when I’m not even 30. I don’t know. Does losing my father at 17 have anything to do with it? I hardly lost any family members before that. Then, like my father always told me, it happened in threes: my uncle, my father, and my grandfather. All of them within twelve months of each other.

Regardless, I look back on ten years ago and expect to find the nineties, forgetting this is already 2015 and ten years ago is the same millenium. I heard Nirvana on the classic rock station last week. I always assumed classic rock was the 1960’s to the 1980’s.  That moment, it truly hit me: I am a grown up. I have children. My son is watching me sing along with Kurt Cobain and is probably thinking how lame I am, like I used to do while my father belted out Peter Frampton tunes while driving me home from school.

So what is a twenty something to do during an existential crisis? I have hugged my babies closer. I have tried to curb my frustration when it takes me an hour to put the baby to sleep. I have been dropping everything when my son hands me his Luigi figurine so we can beat Bowser together. I have said “fuck it” to chores more often, opting to spend more time with my children who will never been as little as they are in this moment. I smell their hair, attempting to file that smell in my brain, saved for a later date when I need some comfort.

Being a parent and growing up are so difficult for so many reasons, but the most detrimental aspect of it all for me is that nothing can stay the same forever. My son is looking more and more like a boy and less like a baby. I let him sleep in our bed because the baby hates sleeping with me and I know he will stop doing it soon and I’m just not ready to wake up without him next to me.

Despite this nagging feeling that my life is ending one hour at a time, I am excited for the future. I am excited to see my boy play his first soccer game. I am excited for my girl to start interacting more with her brother. I am excited to see where the future takes me, I just wish it was happening slower. In the book The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, the main character Charlie speaks about feeling infinite. He describes his life going in slow motion, taking in everything around him and five minutes passing in an hour. This is a feeling I get occasionally, like when my son is playing in his pool and I watch him laughing with water splashing around him. Or when my daughter is smiling at me with so much love in her eyes.

I am a twenty something going through a quarter life crisis, who is excited for the future while attempting to keep an iron grip on the past. Life is scary, but if you look at it from just the right angle, it’s beautiful. I’m going to try to keep myself aligned with the beauty.

Times Two

One month ago, I gave birth to my daughter Veda. She is my second child and my last child. I know They (whoever they are) say it gets easier each time but I couldn’t possibly disagree with that statement any more. While there are certain things about babies that are universal, each child is a different person… there are different likes, different attitudes, different needs all from the very beginning. So you spend the first few weeks not only getting acquainted with the newest member of your family, you are also still responsible for the happiness and entertainment (depending on the age) of the first born. Instead of lying to you about how prepared you will be, I have comprised a list of the top five things you are most likely to be caught of guard with.

#1: If you have a toddler, try to remember that the newborn will be awake all night and the toddler will be awake around 5 A.M. ready to get the day started and will be awake the majority of the day. The first time you have a baby, you have the glorious luxury of a midday nap. They (again) say, “Sleep when the baby sleeps” and you actually can (and should)! I have been blessed with a newborn who will only wake up once or twice during the night and I am still guilty of putting the bag of baby carrots in the pantry instead of the fridge, I have burned garlic bread, and I am definitely guilty of using cartoons to get a few extra minutes of shut eye. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

#2: Trying to figure out who this new person is can be a daunting task. Even as a mother of one, you are being pulled in many directions. You clean, you cook, you entertain, you teach, you work, and you still somehow manage to maintain a romantic relationship with a significant other AND make time for yourself. Now add to it yet another person to carve out hours of your time. Add to that your nipple in someone’s mouth every few hours and having to wipe another person’s ass again. It gets difficult. My son was in my arms (or my boyfriend’s arms) almost constantly. Veda hangs out on her playmat or in her swing way more than Connor ever did as a newborn. The tragedy of being the second born. I had actually planned on (and actually fucking purchased) cloth diapering this time around. Again, I was under the foolish assumption that I had become an old pro at the whole baby rearing thing. She’s been in a total of one cloth diaper the entire four weeks before I realized it was completely wishful thinking. Let’s hope there is another fool (or perhaps a first timer) willing to buy these damn things so I can stop feeling guilty every time I pass by the dresser.

#3: Blowouts. If your first born is out of diapers, remember that little ones crap their pants. Then remember that you have to bring at least one change of clothes because the little one’s volume of crap often exceeds the realm of the diaper. Poop is one of the staples of parenthood; a badge of honor. It is also the reason I waited to forget about proper birth control procedures until after my son was well out of diapers.

#4: GUILT. Now, I know as parents we struggle with guilt at least once every other day. Maybe that’s just me. But a week after Veda was born, her dad had to go back to work. I was terrified. I was successfully breastfeeding for the first time and was pretty concerned with how nursing and taking care of a toddler might go. Honestly, we have been watching a ton of television and the guilt runs deep. We spend the morning feeding, eating, and watching cartoons. I feel guilty because I cannot devote all of my attention to my son like I used to. He tends to get needy when I am feeding: he will want to play cars or will pretend to be a car that I MUST converse with (“No, mama, it’s not Connor, it’s batman car”), he will sit right next to me or even love on his sister. Granted, this is dissolving and as time goes on, he is getting better at realizing when I am feeding, though he still wants to talk to her or love on her when we are. I am actually very thankful for this because it could be SO much worse.

#5: To recap: you will get very little sleep, you will be spread too thin, you will most definitely be shit upon, and you will feel the gut-wrenching mom guilt like never before. But the most important thing to be prepared for when entering motherhood of multiples is that you love the new little being just as much as you love your first one. While pregnant, I was certain there was absolutely no way I could love anyone as much I love my son. I was so wrong. They put her on my chest and I was completely in love already. Just like the first time.

Being a mother is insane. You put these little beings needs and wants above your own, your body is their home for nine months and their buffet for another 12, and you realize the human body can still function under dire stress with very little sleep and copious amounts of coffee. Hopefully you will feel a little more prepared. Or if you are in my same position, hopefully you don’t feel like you’re the only one in yoga pants with bags under your eyes and a kid on each hip. Motherhood bonds us all together, if only for the fact that none of us really have a clue what the hell is going on.

The First Pregnancy Fallacy

Women learn how astonishingly strong they can be during pregnancy and childbirth. You put up with things you never in a million years saw yourself having to deal with on an everyday basis (Oh, look, my breasts are leaking again!). The first pregnancy is (generally speaking) a beautiful breeze. You feel like a gorgeous, round Earth goddess, forging a new life unto this planet through your own body. Everything is new and different; even morning sickness is a welcomed change. You read all the books, study your body, track the growth of the baby with those ridiculous food metaphors (Is that because pregnant women are notoriously hungry?), even post pictures of what you assume is a bump on social media (FYI: if you aren’t having a problem fitting into your shirts, that’s gas, not a baby bump). Ah, pregnancy…

Then, your first child becomes a toddler and you foolishly think to yourself, “We should do this again!” I say foolishly because more than likely, pregnancy is not going to be the fond memories you have of lying in bed feeling little feet stick out of your abdomen. No, the second time you get pregnant, all of those memories are proven wrong in the worst possible way. It’s like when you do something you’re terrified of; after it’s done and the memory has faded a little, you tend to think it wasn’t that bad. Then, when you try it again, you wonder what the hell you were thinking to even do this in the first place.

For instance, my first pregnancy with my son was (from what I can remember) an absolute breeze. I think I only got sick maybe three times during the first trimester. Sure, I was nauseous almost constantly, but as for honest-to-goodness morning sickness, I was fortunate enough to evade it for the most part. This time around? I threw up pretty much constantly for 20 weeks straight. They tell you in the books it should dissipate by about fifteen weeks, just in time to enjoy feeling the kicks (the people who write those books are often frustratingly full of shit). Yet, there I was hovering over my porcelain god up to nine times a day. I went on a camping trip for the fourth of July and ended up puking seven times before noon (five of those times were in the car on the way home).

I was halfway in and already couldn’t wait for it to be over. As I sit here, now, I haven’t had my daughter yet. I am almost 39 weeks, ravaged by heartburn (strangely nonexistent last time) and nerve pains. I was walking three to four miles a week last pregnancy and this time I can barely make it a mile walking with my toddler and my pit bull without hurting my back and walking crooked for the next five days. I have pulled an abdomen muscle (which thankfully healed), had groin pains so bad rolling over in bed at night was making my eyes water, and I am barely able to sleep at night due to being squished between a grown man and a tiny toddler terror. True love is lying in a toddler bed at nine months pregnant until the little one falls asleep and attempting to get up quietly.

The second pregnancy is focused on all that you can no longer eat/drink/do because you already know your baby is the size of a lime and you can’t bring yourself to give a shit because your toddler didn’t nap and you can’t unwind with a glass of zinfandel. I have taken more baths in the last nine months than I have in the past three years. So ladies, if this is your second (or third or fourth) pregnancy, I crookedly stand with you in complacent solidarity. If this is your first, however, I wish you well. You are probably beaming right now, holding your ever expanding abdomen, thinking about the beauty of what’s happening inside you, vowing to cherish every moment of every pregnancy. I was like you, once. “My pregnancy with Connor was such a beautiful experience, I don’t know how anyone can hate being pregnant!” I ate, then quickly regurgitated those words.