Old friends, Walker's Pancake House, heading home

After dropping Tom at the train station in Carlsbad yesterday, the boys and I headed north to Ladera Ranch to spend the day with Amy and her kids. She had arranged a babysitter so that the kids could all stay home, get to know each other and romp freely while we had five hours for just us. A-maz-ing! We went to True Food for lunch, a seasonal/local/organic place in Newport Beach that was really terrific. She'd sent me the menu link Thursday night, and I spent a while in front of it, agog and drooling. I read Wild this week, and I swear Strayed's description of her meager, tasteless diet during the hike made me feel like I was starving vicariously.



Lunch tasted even better than it would have anyway because it felt so lush in contrast to freeze-dried tuna flakes and stale nuts. We had some ethereal edamame dumplings and a caramelized onion, fig and blue cheese tart to start, and then Amy ordered street tacos with steak (delicious) while I chose the inside-out quinoa burger. I also had a terrific carrot lemonade and Amy a pomegranate limeade.

Afterwards we went shopping, full-on girl shopping, which was a blast, and then we realized we still had TWO hours of free time. To SusieCakes -Amy's favorite bakery- for dessert with a quick stop next door at Kean's for coffee! I had a lovely coconut cupcake, Amy a strawberry.

The boys and I finally left around 5:30, drove by the In-N-Out nearby, were stunned by the 30 car line in the drive-thru and decided to find another In-N-Out further south on 5. The boys really wanted to experience what they'd been hearing about so when we finally made it -smack dab back in Carlsbad where we started the morning- they enthusiastically ordered a burger and fries each and split a root beer. The fries are superb.

We wound our way further south, inching at times, racing at others and finally reached our San Diego hotel at 8:30. It's possible I have never bathed and gotten them into bed as quickly as I did last night; I was totally gaga and desperate to have a break from potty talk and The Clone Wars.

At 5:30 this morning, I heard one and then, quickly, the other.

"Please, please let me sleep until 6:30, boys."

But such was not to be, and by 7 we'd ambled over to Richard Walker's Pancake House. The degree of lip-smacking anticipation I felt with every step cannot be overstated, y'all, for I'd learned yesterday from Amy that a branch of my favorite pancake house ever, Walker Brothers in Winnetka (near Northwestern where Amy and I met), was just a mere five minutes walk from our Gaslamp District hotel.  We were so early there was no line. This is an unprecedented experience for me and by the time we left, the hopefuls snaked down the block.

I didn't know Walker's had multiple locations, it's been 8 or 10 years since I last went and so you could not have kept me away for anything. If I'd just thrown my guts up, I still would have dragged myself there for some warm 49ers, thin, plate-draping pancrepes with a delectable chewy doughiness and just a hint of sweet. That's where syrup comes into play.



J ordered a stack of chocolate chip cakes and OJ, Ol a half stack of silver dollars and OJ and I my 49ers and coffee. I was feeling all warm and fuzzy, taking selfies with the boys and such when Oliver puked half his orange juice all in our side of the booth. Lovely. Our waitress witnessed the explosion and was marginally repulsed though she handled it like a champ (and yes, I gave her a super tip). Meanwhile, the pancakes arrived, and not four minutes later, Jack had chocolate on his neck under his ear, coming out of his nose and under his arm between his elbow and pit and, of course, all around his mouth. How?

My perfect 49ers were unbelievably good, just as I remembered and expected. Though they do tend to sit heavily in your lower tummy for a while, I ate as much of them as I could. Who knows when I'll get them next?! It was heavenly.

We took a walk afterwards, basking in the sunshine not waiting for us at home, passed the Children's Museum that I wished we'd had time to visit and meandered back to our hotel to pack up. I looked at my Facebook feed and saw that an old friend from my college admissions days had checked in as having completed a run in the Gaslamp District of San Diego. People, this is unreal. I have not seen E in something like eight years, he lives in Philly and I in DC, and now here we are in San Diego on the same morning. Could it be? I told him which hotel I was in and lo, he was at the very same. Not 10 minutes later we were hugging in the lobby, and I introduced him to the boys.

It seemed immediate that I then glanced over and saw them laying upside down on chairs, heads near the floor, feet waving wildly in the air, socks that are inexplicably but most definitely purposefully half off all feet are fluttering like airborn kites in a monsoon. E said the in-person viewing really brought some of my posts to life. At that point it came up in conversation that Amy had packed up some gummy kids melatonin for me to take on the plane, just in case, and perhaps indeed I would want to administer them once we'd boarded the plane. E's friend seemed to concur, we talked about the otherworldly energy that children have, maybe I should write a book and then I dropped the FBI story into the mix. That was priceless.

Goodbyes were shared, I got us packed into the car and heading off to the airport when I noticed my gas light was on.  Grr. I took the first exit, circled round to a station, pumped in a gallon of gas, did NOT notice that the airport was literally across the street from me, and managed to go north on 5, realize my error and go south on 5, finally enter the airport to find that the rental car return was not in the airport grounds but in fact next door to the damn gas station at which I got the gallon of gas and which, by now, we'd passed four times. Even the kids were like, "it's that gas station again, Mom." Ultimately, we had to laugh.

At the airport Jack is again ravenous and we buy a smoothie which the boys share and then a hulking burrito for Jack. At that point Oliver informs me that he might "frow up" and I reach down the back of his shirt with the maternal hand of dread. Yes, he is warm. Fever warm. And he and Jack are basically making out on that smoothie straw. Sigh. The tic cough is nearly constant, Jack has burrito everywhere and we still are an hour out from boarding. Ok, no problem says me. We pass a Thai place where I buy Ol some plain steamed rice. We head to the gate where everyone can eat and play as much iPad as is humanly possible. We finally board, Ol curls up and passes out, and Jack and I settle in.

Fast forward six hours, we are flying through a Wizard of Oz type storm into DC, Ol definitely has a fever, and we're all hungry, bad-breathed and nuts. Finally, I get the luggage and car seat, finally we wade through the very long taxi line, hop in a jalopy and exhale happily about being on the final leg. Ol is clutching his airplane puke bag like it's his best lovey, and I realize that we are driving about 14 miles per hour AND the driver appears to have consumption. I start muttering under my breath and Ol is quietly keening. The driver keeps hacking so severely into his coat that I'm sure he's losing lung particles.

We make it. At 9:30 we opened our front door, welcomed the Nut and Percy and did the fastest bedtime since last night's. Whew. I just scrambled myself some eggs with truffled gouda and toasted a bagel to go alongside. Great trip, so much fun, gorgeous, friends, different, new, warm. Loved it. But it's also good to be home!