Play Date: Cedar Grove Park– Tustin, California

If you’ve ever driven on the 5 South to San Diego I’m sure you have seen these signs from the freeway.

Marketplace pix

Who knew that about 5 minutes up the street from here there would be an amazing park for the whole family? Cedar Grove Park in Tustin Ranch is just 10 minutes from Santa Ana and is full of nature, trails, open space and distinct play areas for kids!


Cedar Grove Park 11385 Pioneer Rd Tustin, CA 92782


Run kids, run!

My daughter is a ball of energy; this park has so much to do and see that when we strategically plan a visit before bedtime it’s the earliest and easiest bedtime of the week!

There are three main play areas for the kids, a basketball court, huge cedar grove trail, an amphitheater, and a covered entertaining space (with tables and benches, we see people host baby showers and bday parties here every weekend). You and your family can spend all day here.

The first kid’s area is the covered play structure where they can be heard planning their latest pirate ship attack:


This area is really well thought out and is beyond safe.  All the kids seem to be drawn to the reptile and amphibian residents who (I’m not gonna lie) are a little creepy but inspire great adventures.


The second area is over a troll’s bridge and  has some modern art looking climbing structures and two baby and toddler swings.


This park makes me wish I was a kid again!

Play area #3 has been taken over by the kids but is an exercise space for everyone.  Maybe one day I will be bold enough to work out with my 4 yr old…hmmm…on second thought let the kids have it!


At the back of the park is a trail that leads to an 8 mile hike called the Peters Canyon Hiking Trail. You can explore aquatic animals all year from this underground spring-fed creek. The park and the surrounding canyon areas are so expansive it’s easy for one to find some zen and a nice escape from the city here.

Play Date: Palm View Park, West Covina


Before Maverick and Goose were slapping together uncoordinated high-fives, the San Gabriel Valley had squadrons of Mexican-American kids strafing imaginary flight towers from the grounds of Palm View Park in West Covina.

photo 2

You might be surprised to learn that the plane at Palm View is an actual F-86D Sabre Jet, the backbone of American mainland defense in the 50s.  During the Korean conflict, the F-86D made the MiG 15 its yeoja.


The Palm View Park Plane in service circa 1955

In the early 60’s, enterprising civic organizations from West Covina coordinated the relocation of the plane to Palm View.  They’ll be happy to know, kids from far and wide have been pissing in it, on it and around it for decades.

But sunlight and time are  disinfectants, so I let Joaquin have at it.

The park is good insofar as it has 2 distinct play areas for kids of varying dexterity.

Play Area #1

Play Area #2

photo 5

it’s empty bc Joaquin doesn’t play that baby shit.

While the park provided plenty of options for fun, we were appalled by the amount of trash littering the playground.  I took pictures.

I started to see a story emerge in the trash.  Someone got faded, ate lunch then dessert and then bounced.

As concerned as I was by the litter, I wasn’t bout to pick that shit up.

The Lord knows I wasn’t bout to touch this:

photo 1

But this?  Wait, what is…that…

photo 2

Presidents found dead at Palm View Park

Now that’s some trash I CAN pick up.  I asked Joaquin if we should take the money to the park office or blow it on ice cream and  he asked what time Baskin Robbins opened.

photo 1


Big Brown Dad





Play Date: Kelby Park, Covina


Kelby Park

Kelby Park 815 N Barranca Covina, Ca

Kelby Park @ Joclyn Center

Covina has parks aplenty, each distinctive.

See my reviews of Hollenbeck, Heritage and The Secret Park

I’ve had my eye on Kelby Park for sometime.  It offers a vast expanse of green space, perfect for picnics, soccer, football, racing, freeze-tag, three-flies-up, volleyball and indelible grass stains.


The distance from parking lot to playground is 91 furloughs.

Kelby’s playground, though, can be a source of worry for parents with kids under 5 years old.


And the Devil said, “This play area has been designed for children 5-12 years of age.”

According to the signage, the playground is rated for kids up to 12 years old.  First, If your 12 year old is still having fun with swings and slides, consider yourself very lucky…or very unlucky, I can’t call it.


On my view, parks in Covina would be better utilized if they included kids ages 3 and up in their design plans and let the 10-12 year olds commence with drug use and snap chat.  Really tho.

Of course, since Jocko can’t read, and because I have unreasonable expectations of my kid(s), I allowed him to rush the playground unencumbered by the shackles of fear…and reason.


“Dad, do you have the Kaiser card on you?”

Now, as far as I can tell, Kelby Park has the best slides in Covina.  Take a look at Big Red and Lil’ Red Rivers.  Jocko rode both of them till the paint started to rub off on his clothes.

Big Red: high velocity, difficult dismount.

Big Red: high velocity, difficult dismount.

Lil Red Rivers: slippery but scalable.

Lil Red Rivers: slippery but scalable.

But their swing set is wack.  It lacks child seats for heaven’s sake!

Swingle and ready to Mingle.

Swingle and ready to Mingle.

But what disturbs me most about the park is the lackluster signage–as in, it can’t be read from the street because it lacks an adequate amount of luster.  This must change…now!

mas luster, por favor.

mas luster, por favor.

Please, if you love your children, send your donations to the Mas Luster Foundation and help us fight the blight.

Big Brown Dad


Play Date: Del Norte Park, West Covina


Del Norte Park, 1598 W Rowland, West Covina, 91790

This highly prized park has attracted unauthorized migrants from Covina, Baldwin Park and Irwindale for decades. And for good reason. It. has. it. all.

It sports an expansive playground with a NASA motif.

photo 4

Houston, we have reports of urine in Sector 6.

And a dog park.

Houston, we have reports of urine in Sector 9.

Houston, we have reports of urine in Sector 9.

And a splash pad, too.

Hou guessed it.

Hou guessed it.


It was a great place for Joaquin to make new friends.

follow me, boo.

follow me, boo.

And at least one enemy.  Take a listen for yourself:

I guess now is when I tell you they were arguing over who was going to pay for shorty’s lunch.


Mt. Zion 2014, Pt. 1 (of 2)

This is our 2nd family trip into Zion National Park.  We had a blast last year and couldn’t wait to go again.

360ish days ago.

She ain’t heavy, she’s my daughter. (2013)

The kids and I tag along for three days as big. brown. mom leads a group of Upward Bound students on a series of hikes.  The students have spent 5 weeks living at Harvey Mudd College, taking college-prep courses in Literature, Chemistry and Math, and participating in non-traditional learning experiences, like this bomb-ass trip.  Many of the rising sophomores from the San Gabriel Valley are camping for the first time. (Bassett, make some noise!)   This trip will convert many of them into lifelong lovers, nay, WORSHIPERS of nature–and that’s just they type of pagan, quasi-religious experience Zion can summon.

onward. outward. upward.

onward. outward. upward.

Zion is about 350 miles from greater LA County, basically a straight shot up I-15 N, a familiar route for you degenerate gamblers.  The sojourn zips thru Vegas, skirts into NW Arizona and then delivers you unto Utah’s promised land.  It’s a well travelled route with rest stops, restaurants and restlessness aplenty.

Life Elevated

Live Life Elevated

The internets is rife with road trip tips.  To my chagrin, I couldn’t find a site that endorsed mixing Nyquil w/ Kool-Aid.   And most of the suggested games don’t work for both a 2 year-old AND a 4 year-old. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that Joaquin can’t play ‘Eye-Spy,’ it’s that Maya is playing games designed for tweens like, ‘Daddy, why did God make people with bad teeth?’

Alas, music Pandora saved the day. We sang along to dozens of Disney tunes. Then we had a dance party. Yes, it’s possible to execute the Running Man from the driver’s seat.  And then we played some word games with Maya while Joaquin zoned out and texted his homies.

Once we arrived, Angie and Maya met her students for an evening hike up Watchman Trail. Last year, Angie had to carry Maya for a portion of the hike. But this year, Maya was determined to tackle the two-mile hike without assistance.


She did it!

Once the group reached the end of the trail,  the students had an opportunity to reflect    collectively about their summer experiences. They talked about wanting to quit but deciding to persevere. They talked about learning skills and gaining confidence, making friends and gaining independence.  50 high schoolers spillin’ some guts.  They laughed and they cried. And after each of student had a chance to share,  it was Maya’s turn.

It took her a second to gather her thoughts.

“I’m happy that my Mom and Dad are alive.”

And that’s when I had my first spiritual lesson of the trip: if you smile while crying you can drink your own tears and be reborn.



Play Date: Hollenbeck Park

The name Hollenbeck is enough to throw any Los Angeleno’s intestines into a tizzy.

intestinitus fortitudinis

intestinitus fortitudinis

It’s a legendary mammoth burrito from Boyle Heights whose namesake was one of Southern California’s earliest real estate magnates–straight tycoon status.

Hi, I used to own your entire hood.

Hi, I used to own your entire hood.

Covina’s Hollenbeck Park is named after the same cat.  And sho’ nuff, like the burrito, the park can be a tummy turner.

The playground is rated for kids 5-12 which means my 2 year old needs constant supervision.  I don’t understand the reasoning behind having any city park unavailable to such a large swathe of park-goers, kids ages 2-4.

The remainder of the park is a mixed-bag: it has a great basketball court that nobody uses; there are sizable green-spaces usually taken up by an organized sport; there’s great shade but zero BBQ grills; there are 6 swings but zero with  baby guards.

So, if you plan to make a playdate of Hollenbeck Park bring some water and some Tums and if you have a chance, stop by Manny’s and grab me one of these:

soiling sheets since 1849.

soiling sheets since 1849.

If my son can scale the Pyramid of Pain, I can do this!




Play Date: Covina’s Secret Park

Listen, I can’t tell you where exactly this park is located.  Nor can I tell you the name.

Edna Park wide

It’s a secret.

All I can tell you is that we stumbled across this pleasant patch of paradise while looking for a shortcut to downtown Starbucks.

I know, I’ve said too much already.

Like most parents, I’m looking for a park with decent shade and age-appropriate activities.  The trees line the westerly perimeter and provide great shade in the afternoon.   And the park is one of the few in the city rated for kids as young as 2.

This means you won’t have to spend every second hovering over your yungin’ as he attempts to scale the formidable obstacles like the Wall of Death at Hollenbeck Park or The Ladder of Lost Tears at Joslyn Park.

This park isn’t without its problems though.  First, there’s a train track near the park (clue #3!).  This means a train is barreling thru and tooting its horn hella loud, hella often.  I’ve seen it scare kids with less than steely resolve.

Another problem is this shameful construction oversight, likely the result of a lazy supervisor.


they all…fall…down.

The design allows for an optional floor board to be placed between the two platforms.  The slots for the nuts and bolts are right there.  Instead, there’s a 18″ dip that kids fall into time and time again.

And then there’s this:

false advertisement much?

false advertisement much?

We searched high and low, on top of trees and under the litter that the grandmother who was babysitting 8 kids left (WE SAW YOU, LADY!). Yet and still…no see-saw.

Use the clues provided here to cruise the city and find your way to this park.  It’s a quiet alternative to the hustle and bustle of the Covina’s more visible parks.   And if you see a grandmother with 8 children, ranging from from 1-12 years old, reading a trashy supermarket romance novel in between flipping thru her phone and doling out Cheeze-Its, make sure she picks up her shit!



Jumpin’ Jeho$haphat

Let’s get this out of the way right now.  Hands down (and pants backwards) the best song with the word “JUMP” in the title is from the dynamic duo that was miggidy-miggidy-miggidy-miggidy-Mac Daddy and Daddy Mac.  Spare me the House of Pain and Van Halen apologetics.

Let this doozie ride out for ol’ time sake:

By now, many of us heard the story about the ‘bounce house’ in upstate NY that was swept 50 ft. in the air by a gust of wind…with kids still inside of it!  Two boys suffered serious injury.

actual photo

actual photo












We’re hosting two birthday parties this summer.  Concerned that I might be held liable under similar circumstances, I contacted my homeowner’s insurance agent, Shelly Padilla from Farmers, and asked a few questions about liability, parties and bounce houses.  Peep game.

1.  What kind of liability do homeowners assume when hosting a party?

A homeowner always faces potential liability when it comes to guests on your premises. It’s a difficult question to answer, however,  as it depends on whether the homeowners are found to be negligent due to actions or inaction.  

2.  Do ‘bounce houses’ expose homeowners to additional liability?

 A bounce house can absolutely expose a homeowner to additional liability. Adult supervision is necessary. And  you must follow the rules of the jumpy house business or manufacturer, as well as monitor activities to ensure there is reasonable caution.

3. What happens if your kid gets hurt at someone else’s party?

If your child gets hurt at someone else’s party, you may hold the owner liable amongst several other tortfeasors such as the business owner, manufacturer, attendees, etc.

4. Is there any special event coverage a homeowner might consider getting before hosting a party at home?

 I would advise a homeowner to purchase an umbrella policy.  These policies start at $1 million dollars and can be as low as $25 per month.  Depending on the nature of the event, you might consider having guests sign liability waivers, too.


In my experience with these deathtraps, some kid, somewhere inevitably gets hurt.  And if you’re host, your best bet is to pray he’s from a rub-dirt-on-it family, lest your pocketbook get caught in a gust of wind.

Shelly’s information just saved the $150 I had budgeted for a ‘bounce house’ rental.  I’m so happy right now.












Review: Kids Styles Hair Salon (The $100 haircut)

How much is too much to pay for a good, kid’s haircut? $15?  $50?  $100?!

Joaquin needed a haircut, badly.  His quasi-hipster steelo was impinging on his cuteness which, in turn, impinged on any trickle-down love I might receive.  We needed an immediate remedy.

Joaquin looking like Samson.

Joaquin looking like Samson.


About a week ago, we stopped by two ‘standard’ barbershops wherein Joaquin had his haircut previously.  Both places charge $10 for a haircut.  At the 1st location,  Joaquin was moving so much the barber couldn’t finish the haircut (hey, a free partial haircut is better than no haircut at all).  At the 2nd, it never even got started.

So, yesterday, I decided to pay the 60% mark up at Kids Styles Hair Salon in Covina to see if one of their stylists might work some of their tot-targeted talents.  To my pleasant surprise, they did.

As the name suggests, Kids Styles caters to kid styles by having actual kids cut your kid’s hair!

I kid.

Each child sits inside a race-car, barber-chair of choice.  As soon as we we walked in, Joaquin ran to a car.  Once seated, the stylist asked him to choose a DVD that would play in front of him while getting his haircut.  Brilliant.

The stylist asked if we wanted to use scissors or clippers or both, something never asked at the other shops.  She then went ahead and spoke calmly and pleasantly to Joaquin as she wet his hair by first wetting her hand and then her hand on his head.  She was nicer than Greg Nice, smoother than Smooth B.

Whenever Joaquin seemed to get bored, she placed one of over a dozen small toys at her ready in his lap to keep him occupied. Shake this. Squeeze that. And on and on, ad infinitum.

15 minutes later and the universe was made right.

So fresh and so clean clean.

So fresh and so clean, clean.


Joaquin liked the place so much he wanted to stay and play.

play on, player.

play on, player.

The haircut was $15 + $3 tip = $18.  Not bad considering our rate of one haircut every 8 months!

What’s the most you’d pay for a kid’s haircut?  Your haircut?









Play Date: Heritage Park (100 word review)


This is an exceptionally safe micro-park with an extraordinarily dull playground. Heritage Park is connected to the Covina Police Station which means you won’t find any of the ‘drifters’ here that you’ll find at Hollenbeck or Covina Parks.  While the playground is tiny, it’s a great place to spend 15 minutes working off some energy before strolling through Old Town Covina.  And it’s dog friendly, too!

floor fountain for Fido.


Slide. Slide. Slippity, Slide.






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