Ritual Attempt #4


Dear Future Stella,

We have had 3 attempts so far to find our Monday ritual together. Some have been more tragic than others, but none were that great. If you want to recap, here’s attempt #1, here’s attempt #2, and here’s attempt #3.

This time I decided to take Current Stella on the bus over to North Beach to see what kind of fun we could get ourselves into. I briefly researched kid-friendly places in North Beach and I immediately regreted it. Most kid-friendly anything is my worst nightmare. A restaurant that says there are kids running around everywhere or that kids eat free on Tuesday nights are exactly the type of places that make me want to click my heels and return to Pre-kidsville. No thank you.

I picked Current Stella up from a playdate and I’m informed by the mother that she had an accident but that she was wearing something she picked out on her own to borrow. Great, except that what Stella picked out was a butterfly costume over leggings (ew!) with boots. I put her cardigan on to hopefully cover the wings and just assumed this was the start to yet another worthless ritual attempt.

On the bus, Current Stella wanted to know if North Beach was on a beach, which it is not. Of course, this prompted why is it named a beach when it isn’t on a beach. Thank God for Google and Wikipedia because I had absolutely no idea. It turns out, it used to be on a beach until the city added landfill and then built on top of that. She wanted to know what landfill was. I pointed at a little girl wearing pink and distracted her the way you can with birds and shiny things.

The first thing we did was walk around upper Grant Street. I am in love with this narrow street with cute little lights stringing across it. The stores are unique (no Starbucks here) and we managed to find a few little toy stores for the Mini Lady to peruse. I told her she could buy one toy. She picked out a Tiana Magic Clip Princess, which was a huge celebration because it was the ONLY one she didn’t have already and I think some sort of special power is granted to those that collect all billion of them. Tiana became a part of our ritual and had to be included in every conversation we had from that moment on.

We made our way to Washington Square Park and sat on a bench to draw the Saint Peter and Paul Church in the sketchbook we brought. This actually turned out to be a hit and Stella noticed a ton of detail in this church that would never have been noticed without sketching it. A police officer noticed her doing this and brought over some stickers to give her. He told her she was now part of the junior police force.  She already is a law abiding citizen and now she thinks she is an officer of the law. She’s worse than a mall cop as it is, so her newfound ranking is going to drive me nuts. “Mom, you just threw away a straw wrapper but that is supposed to go in the recycling.” “Mom, you said I could only have 2 pieces of licorice but you gave me 3.” “Mom, this isn’t a crosswalk. Mom, I thought we can’t cross the street without holding hands.” We were crossing a 2 foot long bike path in the middle of a park. Sigh.


Tiana posing infront of the church


Tiana checking out Current Stella’s new police badge, I mean sticker.


Saint Peter and Paul Church above and Current Stella’s drawing below. I may have helped with some of it….. 

Next we met Current Stella’s friend Audrey and her mommy at the park so they could join us for the rest of our ritual attempt. The girls were playing at the park wonderfully until some kid ripped Tianas head off and dismantled her dress and then handed it back to Current Stella. I really thought she was going to physically rupture. The injustice of it all was a little too overwhelming and I was just glad she didn’t use her sticker badge and arrest the boy for a racial hate crime, Tiana being African American and all. Poor Tiana, she didn’t even last 3 hours. I needed the crying to stop ASAP though, so I agreed to walk back to the toy store to buy a replacement. Of course the store sold her the last Tiana doll earlier that day, but for 3 times the price I could get the Tiana gift set that comes with 3 dresses and a carrying case. At this point, I would have purchased an actual child and stuck a green dress on her and named her Tiana if it meant the whining and crying would end. It’s really bizarre, because in my day to day life I’m usually not persuaded by meltdowns, nor do I condone rewarding demanding requests by irrational toddlers, but I was desperate to save this ritual attempt. 

Fun at the park with Audrey until…..

This happened.


Here the girls are showing off their new toys. 

After Current Stella returned back to Planet Earth from her brief visit to Psycho Island, we set out to dinner. I wanted to try this world famous Pizza place, Tony’s Pizza Napoletana. There was a little bit of a wait so to kill time we decided to grab a cocktail (much deserved) at Tacolicious. Current Stella goes to Tacolicous every Friday with her Dad (the motivating factor behind me wanting my own ritual with her), but this is a different Tacolicious in a totally different neighborhood. This was weird for Current Stella because everything was exactly the same as the Tacolicious she was used to, but it was also obviously not the same. This brought an element of familiarity to the ritual attempt that I think grounded her. She did refer to a random Mexican worker as Sebastian (that’s the name of the guy at the other Tacolicious) so I think a conversation about racial stereotyping is in order. 

Finally, our table was ready and we were all starving and ready to dig in to what apparently is the best pizza in the nation. This place gave uncooked pizza dough to the girls to play with while we waited. I usually hate kid-friendly gimmicks, but this was pure genius. The kids loved it!


But do you know what happens to pizza dough when it gets overworked? Yeah, it’s a friggin nightmare.  If there is a Tony’s employee reading this, may I suggest a shower in the bathroom and maybe some sort of oil-based cleanser? 

Our pizza came and it was ridiculous. Wow. Pizza is usually one of those default dinners when you have no food in your house and no energy in your body so you just need someone to arrive with nurishment that you can also continue to eat the next day. It fills a void. It does the trick. This pizza though, is everything. 


Lastly, we accidentally found a candy shop on our way back to Kelly’s car, so even though it was already an hour past their bedtime we, “the parents,” decided that giving them sugar at this time was logical. 


Future Stella, if I ever have the financial resources to have a house with more than just our 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, can you remind me that I dreamed of having a room with giant barrels filled with candy in it? I really think a replica of the room above in my house would be the greatest thing ever, for all of us I mean. 

In summary, this ritual was way too expensive to do every week unless we decided to cut out the part where a random kid beheads one of Current Stella’s new Princesses, thus cornering me into buying whatever it takes in all of North Beach to get her to climb down from the ledge. That aside, this ritual was amazing.

I like the idea of exploring a different part of this awesome city each week instead of committing to just one spot. Let your Dad provide that tired old consistency that she can always count on and I will be the one to spice it up and expose her to spontaneous surprises each and every week? It just makes more sense this way. I just can’t beat Tacolicious Fridays. Stay tuned…
Future Stella, I love you. Current Stella, yesterday was Cinco de Mayo and as you know, Gail the Puppy is a Chihuahua. This means she is technically Mexican, and therefore we are too I guess, or at least I wish. 

Speaking of Cinco de Mayo, I Just received the greatest text message of my life today from one of your teachers 





Dear Future Stella,

Due to illness and vacations we have not been able to continue our search for our perfect weekly Monday ritual. We were both ready and excited today to get back out there. I didn’t really have any fresh ideas for us so I was relieved when Current Stella had a couple of requests. First, she really wanted to get a manicure and pedicure. She has been with me a couple of times, but like most new things for her, it wasn’t really a hit so the fact that she was wanting to try this again made me very happy. Mainly because I really needed to get that done myself. Next, she wanted to go to another candy store. She said that was the ONLY thing she liked about our last ritual attempt.

Sigh. Future Stella, if you are wondering why all of your teeth have rotted out of your mouth, blame Current Stella. She is a candy fiend. Definitely don’t look at me. Not my fault.

We went to my regular nail salon, Bella Nails on Pierce St, and everyone was very excited to see her. She really wanted to pick out my colors. This scared me because I tend to be very anal about such decisions, but I knew better than to sabotage our ritual attempt. She picked out a coral color for my fingers and purple for my toes. She chose blue sparkle for her fingers and a vibrant purplish pink for her toes.

She behaves so well in situations like this and I like to think that I have contributed to this. It is so, so important to me that she is nice and polite, especially to people in the service industry. She sat in the chair next to mine and they had to maneuver the seat quite a bit to accommodate her tiny body.


Current Stella is very quiet in public, but what she is not saying out loud, she is storing in her brain to later fire off when she has thoroughly processed everything. She was surveying the room, noticing the way the women were speaking another language to each other, the way customers were coming in and interacting with the staff- curiosity just displayed all over her face. I knew there were going to be lots of questions later. At one point she leaned over to me and started to whisper. She typically does this in public and recently I have started not responding in an effort to encourage her to find her voice around strangers. Today I genuinely couldn’t hear her so it was easy. I told her that she needed to speak up if she wanted me to hear her. Again, she just kept whispering. When she was all finished she came over to my chair and I asked her what she was trying to whisper earlier. She said that the heater they put next to her hands to help them dry was too hot and it was hurting. This is exactly what worries me about her. She would rather suffer than speak up and I won’t always be there for her to whisper her concerns to. I told her next time she has to tell someone, in a voice louder than a whisper. They could have moved the heater. Her eyes got really wide and she said, “That would have been ok? I wouldn’t have got in trouble?” I almost told her that they would have gotten really pissed and kicked her out but this attempt was going so smoothly, I didn’t really want a scene.

I know all too well what it is like to be afraid to speak up around people you hardly know. As an adult this STILL plagues me all the time. I generally like to refrain from giving advice that only time can effectively convey because I find such advice annoyingly impossible to absorb and I think life is all about figuring it out on your own. That being said, if there is any way you can learn this sooner rather than later then I am all for that. People always say that the older you get the easier it is to speak your mind and the less you are inclined to just put up with things that you don’t like. Future Stella, this is so true, and I still put up with a ton of stuff I don’t like because I enjoy being easy going and mellow about everything. To be honest, I like that I am tolerant of annoying things and that I just brush off small things and move on quickly and I really like that you are showing signs of being this way too. This doesn’t mean, however, that you should endure pain to avoid upsetting someone else. So today when Current Stella just dealt with the discomfort of the heater because she was worried that she would offend the ladies- that isn’t cool. I just don’t understand how to say this in 4 year old language so Im also telling it to you, Future Stella. Better late than never!

Current Stella then asked me the sweetest question. She asked, “Mommy, how did you know what to do the first time you got your nails done?” I smiled really big because I love the way her brain works. I told her that I went with my mom for the first few times and she showed me what to do. I told her that I still love getting my nails done with mom and that I hoped we would still be getting our nails done together, even when she is a grown up. She told me that she would never not want to get her nails done with me, even when she is big, like 7. Future Stella, Im holding you to that and I really hope that getting manicures and pedicures still exists in 20 years and that some machine isn’t the one doing it. Being in the beauty industry, I love the human contact that our jobs provide and it would be such a shame if that ever went away. Its an art as much as anything else.

Our next stop was to go to a candy shop. I didn’t want to trek to the one all the way in the Castro so I used the help of Google to locate one closer to us. Future Stella, do you still use Google? Its killing me to not know the answer to such things. Anyway, I discovered there was a candy shop in Russian Hill, which was roughly a 10 minute bus ride from where we were. Current Stella, of course, had to bitch about the walk (2 blocks) to the bus stop and despite waiting forever for her nails to dry at the salon, she walked with completely straight limbs, because obviously bending the joints would result in a nail calamity. We took pictures of our nails on the bus.



At the candy shop she spent what felt like an hour to pick out 10 pieces of candy. Here is what she chose


On the bus on the way home we sat next to a really nice older African American woman. She complimented Current Stella’s fingernails and asked if she could call her Twinkle Fingers. Instead of responding with words, Current Stella just held up her recently purchased candy and smiled. She can be so awkward sometimes and these are the moments when I know she is my kid and cut from the same exact cloth. In an effort to rival her social weirdness, I didn’t respond either and pretended to do something on my phone.

Future Stella, I love you. Current Stella, I don’t think this is our ritual. Not because it wasn’t super fun, but because our nails don’t grow fast enough to warrant a weekly trip to the nail salon. Maybe this can be a monthly ritual though…



Ritual Attempt #2

Dear Future Stella,

The search continued for a weekly Monday tradition for us. Last week’s attempt was less than successful so this week I wanted to get out of our neighborhood. The problem with our neighborhood is that you have been to all the restaurants so many times that it would be hard to take over all your associations with them and have it just be “our place.” However, the problem with leaving our neighborhood is that it might become too tedious of an adventure to do every single week, but I was willing to try it. I also decided to leave the dogs out of the ritual because finding a place with outside seating severely slims down our options. This week I picked a restaurant called Starbelly in the Castro (in case it isn’t anymore, the Castro is where the Gays like to congregate). To get there, we had to take a 40 minute bus ride. It’s the same bus that we take every morning to school, except instead of getting off after 10 minutes, we stayed on for much longer. Our usual bus experience involves going from one nice neighborhood to another nice neighborhood. On most days there are maybe 5 other people on the bus and we rarely come across suspicious activity- it’s all very PG. This ride was very different and was a reminder to myself why I pay a stupid amount of money to live in a small apartment just to raise you in the city. Seeing this kind of diversity creates many teachable moments and plenty of opportunities for you to ask inappropriate questions, thus allowing me to give even more inappropriate answers. This did not happen today though, and instead I was humbled by your genuine lack of judgement for people who are incredibly different from you. While I was busy rotating my rings so that the stones were hidden, clutching my purse tighter to my body and exclusively breathing through my mouth to avoid any unpleasant smells, you were smiling at everyone and told one enormous, obviously crazy woman that you liked her nail polish. Her polish was sparkly blue and totally chipping off her nails that I’m guessing have not been trimmed in years. It’s moments like then that make me so incredibly glad that I didn’t give you up for adoption.

When we arrived at our stop and got off the bus we had a 2 block walk to the restaurant. After maybe 6 seconds you asked me how many more steps until we are there. I don’t know Stella, is that something that exists now? An app that tells you how many steps exactly until you arrive at your destination? If so, then I hope you created it. I also hope it can tell you which method of attaining ice cream takes the least amount of steps and/or effort. You went on to say your feet hurt and that you don’t think you can walk any longer. I took this time to remind you that you are 4 and should have more stamina and lasting power than an 18 year old boy with Viagra at a whore house. You didn’t get the reference so I suggested taking you to the doctor to see if maybe it would be better to amputate both legs so you could just use a wheelchair from now on. I made a mental note that if we go this route to do it before Disneyland next week so we get to the front of all the lines. You hated this idea and began to cry. Jeez, you are so easy to wind up. I told you that I was joking, baffled that I even had to do that, and tried to distract you by pointing out interesting things to look at while we walked. We finally arrived, but not without you making at least 3 more comments about how exhausted you were and how bad your feet hurt.

We met my work husband, Daniel, at Starbelly because he lives around the corner and it’s like pulling teeth to get him to come to our neck of the woods. He immediately pointed out that having a deep side part with short hair must be the new look for hot restaurant wait staff. I couldn’t help but laugh because just that morning your dad started parting his hair on the side. Whether accidental or intentional, your dad always knows what the gays like. I perused the menu and started to get this panicked feeling because I didn’t really see anything on the menu that would be a slam dunk for you. I decided to order the cheese plate because with roughly 1000 varieties of cheese available in the world, the chance of this nondescript cheese plate having the 3 kinds that you will actually eat is higher than the chance of you trying anything else on the menu. We also ordered a margarita pizza. Pizza has had little success making its way into your digestive system, a fact I find so incredibly shameful. While we waited for our food we colored in your Keith Haring coloring book, a strategic move on my part that I hope conveyed our enthusiastic love for the gay community to the patrons of the restaurant.

Our food arrived and you immediately looked disappointed. On the wooden board that was almost the length of our table contained 3 servings of cheese varieties I could tell you were not going to touch. Also on the board: micro fine shavings of apples, some unidentified dried fruit that had been sliced and arranged in the shape of a flower, a handful of almonds, some sort of grainy mustard, a dribble of what I later discovered is spiced apple sauce, and 3 slices of toasted bread. You took the apple shavings and announced that you didn’t want anything else. Eyeing the full bottle of wine that just arrived at our table, I began the negotiations. I somehow managed to get you to try a bit of the hard white cheese on the plate which prompted an almost immediate dry-heaving reaction. The closest you came to trying the dried fruit was a quick lick at which point you returned the wet item to the community cheese plate. Daniel made this horrified expression and I almost began the debate about which is grosser- a previously licked unidentified piece of dried fruit or anal sex but I quickly decided this wasn’t the venue nor the company. I scraped off everything from a bite of pizza and offered you that. You shockingly ate it and asked for more. You requested a piece without the leaf on it (basil). I began the terrible job of cutting up a piece of pizza, an act that should be forbidden in my opinion. Not even 4 seconds later you declared you don’t like pizza and I was equally annoyed with your pickiness as I was with the reality that I would never get the 10 minutes I spent lovingly cutting your pizza back. Knowing that this will never be our ritual, I allowed you to play on my phone at your request- mostly because Daniel and I had a lot of ground to make up in the wine department and also because I felt guilty that I had failed again.
Daniel told you he knew of a candy shop around the corner and he asked you if you liked candy. Considering the fact that you just rejected pizza, it was a valid question. Your little eyes lit up and you vigorously nodded yes. We finished our wine, split the tab and headed out, leaving behind a slew of boys with side parts obviously checking me out as I walked past.
The candy shop was so damn adorbs and so obviously decorated by gays. It was perfection. It was one of those places where the candy was separated in individual canisters and you got to pick out what you wanted and place it in a bag that was then measured by the pound.
*If for some reason eating candy is considered highly toxic and cancer causing, equivalent to smoking black tar heroin or eating a nonorganic strawberry then 1) I’m deeply sorry and 2) I would be worried that you are riddled with cancer. Like go to the doctor. It’s probably really serious. You eat a ton of candy.

On the way home we stopped at Daddy’s work to say hi and I knew he would be finishing up soon and that meant we could get a ride home. All in all it wasn’t terrible but it also wasn’t exactly perfect for our weekly ritual. We will keep looking.

Future Stella, I love you. Current Stella, seriously? You don’t like pizza!?!



Here you are out front of Starbelly


With Daniel inside the candy shop Giddy in the Castro


Showing off at Daddy’s work

Ritual Attempt #1

Feb. 3, 2015
Dear Future Stella,

I really hope you like trying new foods and the experience of dining at great restaurants. You currently are not a foodie (despite our constant attempts), BUT you behave better at restaurants than most adults and you are an excellent tipper. At age 4, you have been to countless restaurants and its one of our favorite ways to bond with you. Your dad takes you to Tacolicious every single Friday. He started doing this when you were less than 2. It’s hard to predict how long this tradition will go on for but I’m praying it continues long enough for Future Stella to have fond memories of this ritual. It began as a reward for not crying at swimming lessons and quickly became a weekly must. It started as just eating a cheese quesadilla and coloring with Dad and has evolved into a regular guest list of Dad’s friends and making gourmet kid burritos with filet mignon, rice and beans. Your table is always waiting for you, the entire staff knows you and we have endless photos of you here having the time of your life. The only thing missing is me! I am always at work and I genuinely feel left out of this giant part of your childhood.

IMG_0130 IMG_0368 IMG_0561 IMG_0668 IMG_0728 IMG_1058 IMG_1074 IMG_1433 IMG_1728 IMG_6416

In an effort to create my own special ritual with you, we set out on Chestnut street last night with the dogs to find something we could do that would rival your cherished Tacolicious Fridays with Dad. You have the leash of both dogs and we set off towards our neighborhood street filled with shops and restaurants. You know exactly where you are going. Since we have the dogs I explain that we need to find a place with outside seating. You immediately suggest Tacolicious. Although they do have tables outside I tell you that I want to do something different. Something special for just the two of us. You suggest it would be silly to have dessert before dinner and it could be our secret from Daddy. I liked this idea because it reminded me of my own childhood when my dad would pull me out of school for “dentist appointments” but once I got in the car he told me we were going to get ice cream instead. It was our little secret. We decided on Delarosa because we could sit outside, they served dessert and they served wine so it was a triple win.

After checking out the menu I suggest getting the chocolate molten cake. You said “No thank you, I want a cookie or a cupcake that’s like the Susie Cakes ones.” This hits a nerve because Susie Cakes is where you go with Daddy after Tacolicious on Fridays. I explain that this isn’t Susie Cakes and they don’t have cupcakes or cookies but we could get another treat that is just as yummy. Again, I aggressively push for the chocolate cake. I begin to sell you on the fact that it’s just like a cupcake. You don’t really sound convinced and say that you don’t think you will like it. I sort of panic because I already ordered a glass of wine and our ritual was already going downhill fast. The waitress comes over and I order the chocolate cake. You make this scowl on your face and begin to play with our new puppy Gail who is excitedly sitting on your lap. I attempt to make conversation but you are busy wrapping Gail in your napkin and pretending she is a burrito.

The chocolate cake arrives and you immediately announce that you don’t like it. You have not even tried it. Right about now is where my parenting/personal life choices begin to get questionable. I start to negotiate with you by saying things like, “Just try one bite. I won’t ask you anymore if you just try it.” You try it. You say you don’t like it. It’s chocolate cake, there is no way you really don’t like it. I still have a full glass of wine. I then up the ante.
“Ok Stella, listen, if you finish that cake then I will get you Susie Cakes on the way home.” In my brain this is happening, “Shelby, what the fuck? In what chapter of any parenting book does it suggest bribing your 4 year old with dessert if she finishes her first course of dessert?”
You consider the new offer. You say, “Do I get to have a cupcake, cookie, or whoopie pie?”
I respond, “Anything you want.” I take a sip of wine and my mind is going nuts with things like, “Good one. Anything? She has not even had dinner yet. Also, even if you get away with it this week, what’s your plan next week for your little ritual, you idiot.”
I look over and you are holding your nose and trying desperately to get down this chocolate cake. You are not having fun. I suggest helping you eat it. My brain lashes out some final blows, “Just what you need, chocolate cake. Remind me, did you workout today? Because I have checked the memory record and I don’t seem to have that on file? Of course I could have had a concussion or a brief episode of amnesia….”
I am now shoveling the cake in my face and you suggest I drink my wine faster so we can get to Susie Cakes. No problem there. You politely ask for the check and you tell me to get out my wallet. If I had a tail it would be so far between my legs I would have a wedgie.

We set out for Susie Cakes. I weigh which option would be better, A) sending you in with money while I stay outside with dogs or, B) having you stay outside with dogs and me going in to order. I quickly decide upon option A. The smallest bill I have is a 10. I send you in. I watch through the window as you order your cookie. The employees are all commenting on how cute you are and grown up but I can see them searching the area for an adult. I wave through the window. You get to the register and you hand the lady the ten dollar bill. I see her try and give you the change and to my horror you tell her to keep it. That’s a pretty nice tip on a $1.50 check. You come out filled with smiles and ask if you can eat the cookie on the way home. I tell you no because your hands are dirty from touching money. You don’t argue back which is a relief. We begin to walk and I see you just staring at the cookie in the bag. I stop and bend down and show you how you can hold the bag with your hands and have the cookie sticking out the top. I instruct you on how to take bites without touching it with your hands. You think this is pretty cool. Future Stella, have you ever wondered how different your life would have turned out if you never learned how to eat things out of bags not using your hands? I wish I knew who to thank for teaching me.

Future Stella, I love you! Current Stella, I can’t wait to find our ritual!




Stella and our puppy Gail at Delarosa waiting for the chocolate cake