Get Out of the House


Seal of Approval

By Rebecca Meekma

Izzy and the other El Morro fourth graders recently made their pilgrimage to the Mission in San Juan Capistrano, a place she has visited many times before. Apparently, I was the only mother who chose not to accompany their child. Usually, there is an enforced cap on the number of parent chaperones, but I’m guessing due to the size of the group – all 120 fourth graders – as well as the close proximity, anyone who wanted to accompany, could. And did. Thankfully, a friendly mom gave Izzy a penny to throw in the fountain with everybody else or I would have been demoted to the mothering hall of shame.


I had asked Izzy if she wanted me to come, knowing we have begun the years when she wants to know I’m available more than she wants me around in public. She breezily said I needn’t go as she doesn’t need me smothering her at every event.


I was surprised when she shared that several of her classmates who have lived their entire lives in Laguna had never been to the mission. “Mom, you would have been a better docent than the lady we had.” Hey, she knows what a docent is! Not bad!


My girls have been on many guided tours given by professionals and volunteers, have listened to audio guides and have learned to ask questions of the ranger, the lady behind the counter, and the teen-aged volunteer. And it has made them intrigued about the world we live in, and our context in it. They try new activities: churn your own butter; test the Ph of water; pick up that trash! And eat new foods. Sea cucumber or tongue anyone?


They do it because we have left our beautiful little bubble town and seen some of the bigger picture. I’m kvelling with pride, as my Jewish grandmother would say, but with all the parenting mistakes I make, I deserve to feel good about something I’ve done right.


Learning about California’s history isn’t something we should leave to the fourth grade teachers; it is something we can all learn a bit more about, especially transplants like me.


Learn about Laguna’s history at the Hotel Laguna. Walk through the lobby and check out the amazing collection of historical photos and captions that line the walls. Or stop in at the Laguna Historical Society’s Murphy-Smith Bungalow, on Ocean Avenue on a weekend afternoon, and get a sense of old-time Laguna livin’.


Then get out of town. My favorite recent discovery is Heritage Hill Park in Lake Forest, which features four historic structures: the Serrano Adobe, a Victorian farm house, a 1890 one-room school house and a tiny clapboard church. Both girls especially liked the school house. And they recognized our old cabinets in the ranch house, which was last lived in (and remodeled) in the 1950s.


Visit the Mission. Get the audio guide. Wander. Sit and relax. Imagine. Then cross the train tracks over to Los Rios Street, the oldest residential street in California where the local native Americans who built the Mission lived) and visit the O’Neill Museum or Montanez Adobe.


Fill your kids’ heads with the stories of Zorro, and bandits and cowboys and ranchers – all of whom (except Zorro,) lived and worked in south-county in the not-too-distant past. In fact there are still cowboys in San Juan.


Switching gears: I have four tickets to the Advance Auto Parts Monster Truck Jam at Angel Stadium Saturday, Jan. 28, 7 p.m. to give away to a lucky Indy reader. First person who emails me with an OC historical tidbit gets them.


Laguna Beach Historical Society:

Heritage Hill Historic Park:

Mission San Juan Capistrano:

Los Rios Street and O’Neill Museum:


Rebecca Meekma is that friend who always knows something fun to do. She is the Calendar Editor for Parenting OC Magazine. Reach her at [email protected].

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