Hospital construction to begin in June

Construction is expected to begin in June on the rebuilding of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, the largest and most expensive project in the city’s history. As anticipated, the Santa Barbara City Council unanimously gave the go-ahead on April 26. Officials estimate the hospital won’t be completed until 2013.

Cottage Health System Chief Executive Officer Ron Werft outlined the rigorous review process the project has undergone over the past 26 months, including 31 meetings with the City Council, Planning Commission, Architectural Board of Review and other commissions of the city; 20 meetings with city staff and 19 neighborhood meetings.

“All of us who have worked on this project have a great deal of pride in it,” he said.

While the current cost estimate hovers near $415 million, officials fear the cost could be much higher, with some mentioning — for the time in the life of the project — that public funds may be needed to help pay for the hospital.

Cottage had initially vowed to pay for the project without taxpayer dollars, relying on a plan to sell private bonds, use hospital reserves and foundation money and raise funds in the community.

“We may need your financial assistance,” said Cottage board member Dr. Nicholas Vincent, who suggested the cost of the hospital could rise to $460 or $480 million.

However, Cottage Health System CFO Joan Bricher disagreed, saying, “We are very confident that we are able to provide the city with our own fiscal ability to complete this project and it’s our job to do so and we take that very seriously.”

Commenting on the relatively-quick-for-Santa Barbara 26-month review process, Planning Commission Chairman Jonathan Maguire said, “this is probably the largest and most complicated development that our city will ever see. If this development were anything but Cottage Hospital, I bet we would still be a long way from where we are today.”

The hospital will remain open throughout the eight-year construction effort. Cottage is working to meet a state deadline that requires all hospitals to be earthquake safe that time.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon

Wisteria Lane Hysteria

Desperate Housewives? Man I can relate

My name is Leslie, and I am addicted to Desperate Housewives.

The editor of Ms. Magazine, a woman of impeccable priorities, recently left the publication over an argument about Desperate Housewives. If that’s not a sign that the show has morphed into more than a guilty pleasure, I don’t know what is.

So, in honor of “Turn Off Your Television Week” (which I refuse to honor in any other way), I’d like to herald the return of the soap opera.

I’ve always been a fan of the genre, enjoying the eye candy — both the fabulous flesh and the even more fabulous fashions — as much as the outrageous plot lines. Plus, I’ve always longed to slap someone with the Diva-like authority of a soap opera vixen and wondered whether it would really make such a satisfying sound. Unfortunately, the selfish man I married refuses to have an affair, denying me adequate justification. Maybe I could nail him on leaving the toilet seat up…

My infatuation started long before I could follow most of the complicated plot lines. I remember sipping Tab and eating bridge mix while dissecting General Hospital with my Grandma Etta. We tsk-tsked over young Demi Moore getting herself involved with the much older Robert Scorpio (ironic, isn’t it Ashton?) and fretted for the future of Luke and Laura’s union.

In college, All My Children (All My Kids as we affectionately called it) was the big thing at my sorority house. We planned our classes so we could be home at noon, and share in the exhausting adventures of Erica Cane. And it wasn’t just a girl thing: complain though they did, most of our boyfriends were seriously addicted by the end of first semester. Come to think of it, another missed slapping opportunity.

Of course we were college students, who took ourselves oh-so-seriously, so we had to mock our addiction in order to stomach it a little better. I can’t tell you how many times I heard the words “post-modern,” “pre-feminist,” and “evil twin” while all eyes were glued to All My Kids.

Which brings me back to Desperate Housewives, and why I get such a kick out of the fact that people are expending so many precious brain cells dissecting this silly little show.

Don’t get me wrong, my TIVO is working just as hard as the next gal’s every Sunday night, and I couldn’t wait to read that trashy Vanity Fair article where the housewives fight over who gets to be in the middle of the picture. But when culture critics and academics start dissecting the show like it’s a spot of saliva on CSI Pittsburgh, I have to laugh. Haven’t you guys ever seen a soap opera before?

They’ve always been the shows where over-40 actresses drive the drama, get the guys, and pop off the best lines. And incidentally, they look fabulous while doing it.

But like General Hospital, which worked a sensitively written breast cancer storyline into the drama and was one of the first shows to feature an HIV positive character, the best soap operas manage to walk a fine line between melodrama and good old-fashioned storytelling. Desperate Housewives too sticks some real issues (dealing with aging parents, spanking your children) in amongst the lingerie and the murders.

So why is it that both intellectuals and people with G-rated lives — who rarely agree on anything — say I’m not supposed to like Desperate Housewives? It’s either too racy or it’s too retro, pre-feminist or post-feminist.

Do I need more coffee or are those oh-so-serious college conversations coming back to haunt me?

But I’m older and wiser now, and not afraid to admit that I’ve been hooked on housewives since the very first episode.

It wasn’t the over-the top antics of Nicolette Sheridan’s Edie character (which would have tickled me as a kid) or the Twin Peaks-like mysterious narrator (which would have delighted me in college), it was Felicity Huffman’s Lynette character.

“The other ones are fun, but Lynette’s character is the only one I really relate to,” said a friend at a recent Desperate Housewives fundraising cocktail party.

Lynette left a high-powered job to stay home with four rambunctious boys. During a particularly challenging (i.e. typical) day she runs into a former co-worker (perfectly coifed in a spit-free power suit) who asks how she likes her new life. After a pregnant pause, the look on Lynette’s face says volumes more than the cliche on her lips: “This is the best job I ever had.”

In another great Lynette moment, she has a breakdown at a park and when her friends find her, they confess how difficult motherhood has been for them, too, and Lynette questions why mothers can’t be more honest about feeling overwhelmed.

Mothers all over the land cheered, “Somebody finally said it on television.”

And if the housewives can admit that being a mother is hard, then I can make a confession too — Desperate Housewives isn’t a guilty pleasure, it’s simply a pleasure.

My husband doesn’t agree with me. I think I’ll slap him.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on April 28, 2005.

Battle of the Books

Reading comprehension, retention is the name of this popular game

The Lucky Ligers may have taken home first place honors, but every child came out a winner at the county’s fourth annual Battle of the Books on April 14.

Combining reading comprehension with a thirst for competition and the need for diplomatic cooperation among teams of six students (grades four to six) who have never met before, students had just seconds to come to a consensus answer on questions about the 30 books they were assigned from a pre-selected list.

Familiar childhood titles such as Beverly Cleary’s Ralph S. Mouse and E.B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan, mingled with newer books like Jamie Gilson’s Do Bananas Chew Gum? and Joanna Cole’s Magic School Bus: Inside the Earth.

“I read 29 of the books,” boasted Alexandra Siefe, from Los Berros School in Lompoc, to her No Namers teammate Sarah Jamieson of Foothill School. “When we started the school year, I started to check them all out from the library.”

Some Vieja Valley School students got an even earlier start when third-grade teacher Teri Brown sent them home with the book list last summer, along with a letter encouraging them to read and take notes. She started meeting with interested students in October, with the top six earning spots on the battle teams.

“The schools were clamoring for spaces, and it filled very quickly,” said Steve Keithley, who spearheaded the project for the county Office of Education. There were a total of 192 students from 32 public schools.

Halfway through the four-round battle, it looked like a three-way tie between the Dolphins, the Unlucky Readers and the Flaming Books (the students got to pick their own team names, elect captains and draw team signs as part of their warm-up activities), but the Lucky Ligers managed to pull it off in the final heat. Winning team members included Olivia Cusimano from Cold Spring School; Chris Estrada, Aliso School; Grace Fowler, Patterson Road School; Daniel Gosenberg, Olive Grove Charter School; Celeste Orlosky, Monte Vista School; and Annie Thwing, Vieja Valley School.

“More than just another competition, Battle of the Books is a great reading incentive program,” said county schools Superintendent Bill Cirone.

That wasn’t the only incentive, students were also awarded certificates, pins, books, book bags and, for the winning team – T-shirts that said “most extreme reader.”

Win or lose, for most of the kids it was all about having a good time.

“I did it last year and I’m back again because it was fun,” said Katie Spieler, a student from Hope School.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on April 21, 2005.

Peanut butter, parties and playdates

Photo by Tolmacho, courtesy pixabay.

Attention parents: when you go to kindergarten orientation this month, take a good look around at the other parents. These are the people you’re going to spend the next 13 years of your life with.

Those of you who did the co-op preschool thing are better prepared for this than the rest of us. For me, it was quite a shock when my son started kindergarten and began dictating our social life.

While I’m told that most parents decide who their children are friends with – at least until they’re 8 or 9 — our son must be precocious. He’s only 5 and already his activities are filling our calendar.

Luckily he has good taste in friends.

It started out innocently enough. Koss met a few kids, and through them a few more. They played together at school, then after school they started having play dates. So far so good. You meet the other kids’ parents, inspect their house for hidden artillery, quicksand and meth labs, finding none, you’ve got two to three hours of afternoon freedom. (The “you” usually being my husband, since I’m almost always at work.)

Of course reciprocal play dates involve some planning on our part, but for a parent of an only child, having another child over to play can sometimes be the next best thing to an extra hour’s sleep. Not that my husband is asleep while your precious bundle is doing fire science with my child. He’s just resting his eyes a moment, behind the locked door.

Then there are the birthday parties. “Either invite the whole class or mail the invitations” was our teacher’s instruction. Apparently most kindergarten parents dislike the post office the way I do the Laundromat.

We started bulk loading our gift closet in the fall, and now replenish our stock on a regular basis.

Somehow 20 kids in his class have multiplied into 20,000 birthday parties. Is my child the only one who was born in the summer? Was there some secret no one told me about that I could have avoided spending the last months of my pregnancy sweating in the swimming pool?

It’s not that kid’s birthday parties aren’t fun. I’ve developed a certain affection for watching kids whack the piñata, and I’m as much of a sucker for a sugar and lard rose as the next gal, but I can’t help feeling a little envious when my pre-parental colleagues talk about the great parties they went to that weekend, or the R-rated movies they get to see.

Then there are sports. It started out with AYSO soccer. Even though our son had shown no particular inclination for kicking anything other than the furniture, or running anywhere other than into our arms, my husband and I thought it might be fun for him to learn how to play.

It was fun, but not for the reasons I expected. We liked the coach and the other parents.

Koss turned out to be the Mr. Congeniality of peewee soccer.

While he wasn’t always sure which goal was his and which was his opponent’s, he did get to know the other teams’ ins and outs. He knew their favorite ice cream flavors, most beloved Power Rangers and whether they preferred Cartoon Network or Toon Disney. This is because he spent the games chatting, rarely paying attention to the action going on down the field.

While he never scored a goal, he never left a game without a slew of phone numbers. Not many college level soccer players can say that.

As he added new soccer friends to his dance card, we saw our own social life boogie out the door. Brunch? Sorry, we’ve got soccer. Lunch? Can’t do it, birthday party. Dinner? Nope, Koss set up a pizza night for us with one of his new buddies and their family.

No wonder we never see our friends who have four kids! They’ve penciled us in for summer – August of 2007 looks pretty free.

Now it’s T-Ball season, which is the perfect-paced game for a boy who likes to talk more than he likes to play. Waiting for all of the kids to go through the batting line-up bored his friend Jared to tears, but for Koss it’s the perfect time for socializing.

And what do you know; it’s pretty fun for us too.

I guess I should be happy he’s so outgoing. A study at Harvard University found that reserved children are more likely to be violent than their outgoing peers. Hmmm … so far Koss has shown what I consider to be a normal 5-year-old level of violence, he’s as likely to give a hug as a karate chop as a way of greeting a friend … or a stranger who’s about to become one.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on April 21, 2005.

Parents Choice Awards

When one person gives advice, you can take it or leave it. But when hundreds of people chime in on the best places to spend your time, and your money … well, it just makes sense to perk up your ears.

So listen up — and even take notes if you need to — these are the first annual Parent’s Choice Award winners, brought to you by, N.E.W. (Network of Enterprising Women), and the South Coast Beacon.

Birthday and Shower Invitations

Winner: Paper Ink

3325 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Honorable Mention: Glenda’s Party Cove

3319 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Whether you’re looking to create your own invitations, or buy them off the rack, Paper Ink has everything you could possibly need to announce the festivities. And honorable mention winner Glenda’s Party Cove is just a few steps away.

Holiday Cards

Winner: Costco

7095 Market Place Drive

Goleta, CA 93117


With bargain prices on both photo cards and traditional boxed sets, it’s no wonder that Costco’s a local favorite.

Honorable Mention: P J’s Hallmark Shop

6990 Market Place Dr.

Goleta, CA 93117


Birthday Supplies and Favors

Glenda’s Party Cove and Pacific Company were tied for first place. Luckily for you, they’re both located in Loreto Plaza, just a few doors down from one another.

Winner: Glenda’s Party Cove

3319 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Winner: Pacific Company

3309 State St. #A

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Place to Host a Birthday

Winner: My Gym, Children’s Fitness Center

3888 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


With an all-inclusive package that provides everything but the cake, My Gym is a great choice for busy parents with active kids.

Honorable Mention: local parks

Visit for information on facilities and rental availability for Santa Barbara City Parks and for Santa Barbara County Parks information.

Best Birthday Cakes

Winner: Costco

7095 Market Place Drive

Goleta, CA 93117


Honorable Mention: Anna’s Bakery

7018 Market Place Dr.

Goleta, CA 93117


For a big party, there’s no better value in town than Parent’s Choice winning Costco cake. Honorable Mention winner Anna’s Bakery, just across the parking lot at Camino Real Marketplace) is known for its creative decorations (the big wave surfing cake is a favorite) and having a wide variety of confections.


Grandma and Grandpa were the winners in this category, hands-down. However, if you’re not lucky enough to have grandparents in town, some of the other sitters mentioned were: Christin Allrich, Yolanda Espinoza, Erin Feeney, Jessica Fink , Kayla Howard-Anderson, Lauren Klapp, Caitlin Leff, Sara Martinovich , Christina Palacio, Pamela Palacio, Sloan Pettersen, Stacy Radujko, Nicole Richardson, Corrigan Speicher , Christina Villalovos, Sierra Young, Kristi Ware and Beth Williams.


Winner: Circle of Friends Children’s Center

400 Puente Drive

Santa Barbara, CA 93110


A perennial favorite among local parents, Circle of Friends is also known for having really fun fundraisers.

Honorable Mention: The Oaks Parent-Child Workshop

Director – Marilyn Statucki

605 W. Junipero St.

Santa Barbara. CA 93105


Elementary School

Winner: Foothill Elementary School

711 Ribera Drive

Santa Barbara, CA 93111


Honorable Mention: Hope Elementary School

3970 La Colina Road

Santa Barbara, CA 93110



Not unexpectedly, given their longevity in town, the Children’s Medical Clinic dominated this category, with Dr. David Abbott (father) and Dr. Steven Abbott (son) coming out in first and second places. Sometimes it pays to go into the family business.

Winner: Dr. David Abbott

Children’s Medical Clinic

15 E. Arrellaga St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: Dr. Steven Abbott

Children’s Medical Clinic

15 E. Arrellaga St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: Dr. Gerard Brewer

2421 Bath St., Suite B

Santa Barbara, 93105


Pediatric Dentist

Winner: Dr. Robert Ruby & Dr. Yvonne Rochon

15 E. Arrellaga St. Suite 4

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: Dr. Steven Mascagno

2780 State St., Suite 5

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child’s first dental visit be by the time he is a year old. By age 3, the average child has three decayed teeth — and that is with only 50% of children seeing a dentist — so the earlier the better to prevent problems before they occur, said Dr. Marc Grossman.


Winner: Dr. Margaret Echt

2329 Oak Park Lane

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Honorable Mention: Dr. Susanne Ramos

Sansum-Santa Barbara Medical Foundation Clinic

515 W. Pueblo St.

Santa Barbara, 93105


Honorable Mention: Dr. Ayesha Shaikh

2323 Oak Park Lane, Suite 202

Santa Barbara, 93105


Occupational/Physical Therapist

Winner: Dr. Mark Brisby

5638 Hollister Ave., Suite 301

Goleta, CA 93117


Family Therapist/Psychologist

Winner: Michael Madden

23 W. Mission St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Holistic Health Care

Winner: Maes Center for Natural Health Care

9 E. Mission St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: Santa Barbara Center for Natural Medicine

34 E. Sola St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Child Friendly Restaurants

Winner: California Pizza Kitchen

719 Paseo Nuevo (on Chapala St.)

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: Beach Grill at Padaro

3765 Santa Claus Lane

Carpinteria, CA 93013


Honorable Mention: Red Robin

3825 State St. (in La Cumbre Plaza)

Santa Barbara, CA 93105

California Pizza Kitchen has great kids meals, with sundaes as a special treat. You can’t beat the view – or the sandbox – at the Beach Grill at Padaro, and you can’t beat the bar at Red Robin.

Grocery Store

A lot of people discovered Trader Joe’s when the big chains went on strike last year, and apparently the appetite for well-priced, high-quality, health-conscious food has stuck.

Winner: Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s (Goleta)

5767 Calle Real

Goleta, CA 93117


Trader Joe’s (Santa Barbara North)

3025 De La Vina

Santa Barbara, CA 93103


Trader Joe’s (Santa Barbara South)

29 South Milpas St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93103

(805) 564-7878

Honorable Mention: Vons

1040 Coast Village Road (Montecito)

34 W. Victoria St. (Santa Barbara)

163 S. Turnpike Rd. (Santa Barbara)

3855 State St. (Santa Barbara)

165 N. Fairview Ave. (Goleta)

850 Linden Ave. (Carpinteria)

Grocery Delivery

A godsend for new parents who often have a hard time getting into the shower in those early weeks, let alone getting into the car, grocery delivery is fast becoming a way of life for many on the South Coast.


Health Food Store

Winner: Lazy Acres Market

302 Meigs Road

Santa Barbara, CA 93109


Honorable Mention: Lassen’s Health Foods

5154 Hollister Ave,

Goleta, CA 93117


Take-out Meals

Winner: Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch

Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch (Santa Barbara)

2618 De La Vina St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch (Goleta)

63 North Fairview Ave. (in the Fairview Shopping Center)

Goleta, CA 93117


Honorable Mention: Fresco

3987 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Childbirth Classes

Winner: Cottage Health System

Both Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital (682.7111) and Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital (967.3411) childbirth classes had plenty of fans.

New Parent Classes

Winner: PEP- Baby Basics

Postpartum Education for Parents


Honorable Mention: Infant Times

Taught by Laura Sobell

Santa Barbara City College Adult Education

300 N. Turnpike Rd.

Santa Barbara, CA 93111


Parent Support Groups

Winner: PEP (Postpartum Education for Parents)


Honorable Mention: Santa Barbara Parents of Multiples

Diaper Services

Winner: Enviro-Baby

2445 Murrell Rd.

Santa Barbara, CA 93109


Advertising that they’ve saved more than 574,276 diapers from Santa Barbara landfills as of Feb. 1, Enviro-Baby provides weekly pickup and delivery of cotton diapers, as well as odorless diaper pails.

Doulas and Nurses

Winner: Kitty Maxwell


Art Supplies

Winner: Art Essentials

32 E. Victoria St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: Michaels Arts and Crafts

187 North Fairview Ave.

Goleta, CA 93117



Winner: Kernohans

Kernohans (Goleta) 5739 Calle Real

Goleta, CA 93117


Kernohans (Santa Barbara)1324 State St. (in La Cumbre Plaza)

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: KB Toys

136 S. Hope Ave #47 (in La Cumbre Plaza)

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Honorable Mention: Toyland

3821 Santa Claus Lane

Carpinteria, CA 93013


Educational Materials

Winner: Bennett’s Educational Materials

5130 Hollister Ave.

Santa Barbara, CA 93111


Maternity Clothes

Winner: Due Maternity

1223 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: Motherhood Maternity

121 S. Hope Ave. (in La Cumbre Plaza)

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Kid’s Clothes

Winner: Gymboree Clothing

3815 State St. (in La Cumbre Plaza)

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Honorable Mention: The Gap Kids

617 Paseo Nuevo

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Kid’s Shoes

Winner: Nordstrom

17 W. Canon Perdido St. (in Paseo Nuevo)

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: Payless Shoe Stores

627 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


197 S. Turnpike Road

Santa Barbara, CA 93111


Used Kid’s Clothes and Toys

Winner: Polar Bear

726 Anacapa St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: Replay

2945 De La Vina St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Kid’s Sports Equipment

Winner: Play it Again Sports

4850 Hollister Ave.

Santa Barbara, CA 93111


Honorable Mention: Sportmart

7035 Marketplace Dr.

Goleta, CA 93117


Baby Furniture/Equipment

Winner: Baby Furniture & Accessories Santa Barbara

1936 De La Vina St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: Chicken Little

1236 State St.

Santa Barbara, 93101


Children’s Furniture

Winner: Hopscotch Fine Furnishings

110 South Hope Road (in La Cumbre Plaza)

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Honorable Mention: Baby Furniture & Accessories Santa Barbara

1936 De La Vina St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Bookstore for Kids

Winner: Chaucer’s Books

3321 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Honorable Mention: Border’s Books, Music & Café

900 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


7000 Marketplace Dr.

Goleta, CA 93117


Kid’s Haircuts

Winner: Kids Cuts

4317 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


With a child’s dream playroom full of toys and videos, there’s no need to be nervous about your baby’s first haircut. The only difficult thing about Kids Cuts is getting your kids to leave.

Honorable Mention: Tortoise and the Hare

1221 State St. #4 in Victoria Court

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Scrapbook Supplies

Winner: Santa Barbara Scrapbooks

918 Chapala St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Not only does Santa Barbara Scrapbooks offer everything you need to preserve your family’s memories, it now offers free Mommy and Me memory classes as well as kid’s scrapbooking classes for a nominal fee.

Honorable Mention: Michaels Arts and Crafts

187 North Fairview Ave.

Goleta, CA 93117


Family Photographer

Winner: Brad Elliot


Place to get Car Seat Checked

Winner: California Highway Patrol

6465 Calle Real

Goleta, CA 93117


Outdoor Fitness / Health Clubs

Winner: YMCA

Santa Barbara Family YMCA

36 Hitchcock Way

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Montecito Family YMCA

591 Santa Rosa Ln.

Santa Barbara, CA 93108


Honorable Mention: Moms in Motion

HOME Countdown

Place to Volunteer with Kids

Winner: Unity Shoppe

1219 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Kids Parade

Winner: Fiesta Children’s Parade

Honorable Mention: PEP Halloween Parade

Hiking Trail with Kids

Winner: Rattlesnake Canyon

To reach the trailhead for the Rattlesnake Canyon Trial, exit the 101 Freeway at Mission in Santa Barbara. Follow the signs to the Mission and from there, proceed north on Mission Canyon Road to Foothill Road and turn right. Make a quick left, once again onto Mission Canyon Road, and take it to Las Canoas Road and turn right. Take Las Canoas about 1-1/2 miles, look for a wide turnout near the second stone bridge and park your car along side the road.

Honorable Mention: Jesusita Trail

To reach the top of the trail, exit the 101 Freeway at Mission Street, head northeast to Foothill Road and turn right. Turn left on Tunnel Road and take it to the trailhead. Beyond the gate look for signage for Inspiration Point and Jesusita Trail.

Annual Family Event

Winner: Old Spanish Days Fiesta

Get ready for this year’s festivities at the annual costume sale on May 7 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Carriage Museum. For more information call Mally Sneddon at 964.7650.

Honorable Mention: Summer Solstice

Places to Take a Field Trip

Winner: Santa Barbara Zoo

500 Ninos Drive

Santa Barbara, CA 93103

962.5339 x26

Honorable Mention: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

2559 Puesta del Sol Rd.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Honorable Mention: UCSB Marine Science Institute



Winner: Goleta Beach Park

5986 Sandspit Road

Goleta, CA 93117


Park/Playground: TODDLER

Winner: Hidden Valley

This park, at Calle de Los Amigos and Torino Drive, is tailor-made for toddlers, with lawn, barbeque facilities and a great little playground, plus over 15 acres of creekside foliage and wildlife accessed by a walking path. The only downside: there’s no bathroom.

Honorable Mention: Willowglen Park

600 Willowglen Road

Honorable Mention: La Mesa Park

At Cliff Drive and Meigs Road

Honorable Mention: Chase Palm Park

East Cabrillo Boulevard at Garden Street

Honorable Mention: Hilda McIntyre Ray Neighborhood Park

1400 Kenwood Dr.

Honorable Mention: Goleta Beach Park

5986 Sandspit Road
Goleta, CA 93117


Park/Playground: PRESCHOOL

Winner: Kids World

Located in downtown Santa Barbara at Garden and Micheltorena Streets, this park is a favorite for elementary school kids too, with whimsical community art contributions throughout the playground.

Honorable Mention: Chase Palm Park

This 10-acre facility on East Cabrillo Boulevard features fountains, creeks, a lagoon, carousel, snack bar and a Shipwreck Playground modeled after an ocean schooner from the turn of the century. The city-sponsored free Summer Concert series is also a favorite for families.

Camp 3-6 year olds

Winner: Zoo Camp (Santa Barbara Zoo)

500 Ninos Drive

Santa Barbara, CA 93103

962.5339 x48

Honorable Mention: My Gym, Children’s Fitness Center

3888 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Camp 6-12 year olds

Winner: Westmont Sports Camp (at Westmont College)

Westmont Summer Camps

955 La Paz Rd.

Santa Barbara, CA 93108


Honorable Mention: UCSB Camps

UCSB Department of Recreation


Overnight Camp

Winner: YMCA Camp Arbolado


Best Parent & Child Class

It was a tie between Kindermusik and My Gym, both of which offer great parent participation sessions for young children.

Winner: Kindermusik

1213 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Winner: My Gym, Children’s Fitness Center

3888 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Afterschool Program

Winner: Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara

531 E. Ortega St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93103


Honorable Mention: Creative Arts Inc.


Sports Programs

Winner: AYSO Soccer

Goleta — 685.6806

Santa Barbara — 687.4134

Honorable Mention: Blaze Water Polo

Directors Beth Tompkins (637.0250) and Cathy Schreier (637.2040)

Tutoring Program

Winner: Dublin Learning Center

112 W. Cota St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Art Program

Arts Alive! a newcomer on the arts scene, and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s Ridley-Tree education program tied for the best children’s art program. Both offer a wide variety of well-loved classes for budding artists.

Winner: Arts Alive! Dance and Creativity Center

1 N. Calle Cesar Chavez

Santa Barbara, CA 93103


Winner: Ridley-Tree Education Center at McCormick House

1600 Santa Barbara St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Cooking Classes for Kids

Winner: Healthy Cooking with Kids


Dance Classes

Winner: Gustafson Dance

322 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: Santa Barbara Jazz & Dance Academy

Gymnastics Program

Winner: The Spirals Gymnastic Foundation

Robertson Gymnasium

University of California, Santa Barbara


Honorable Mention: My Gym, Children’s Fitness Center

3888 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Science & Marine Program

Winner: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History

2559 Puesta del Sol Rd.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Etiquette Program

Winner: Mind Your Manners


Swim Lessons

Winner: Wendy Fereday Swim School


Honorable Mention: Wilson Swimming


Water Sports Program

Winner: Blaze Water Polo

Directors Beth Tompkins (637.0250) and Cathy Schreier (637.2040)

Honorable Mention: UCSB Surf & Kayak Camp


Tennis Programs

Winner: Cathedral Oaks Athletic Club

5800 Cathedral Oaks Rd.

Goleta, CA 93117


Honorable Mention: Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation classes

Best Travel Agent

Winner: AAA Travel Agency

3712 State St.

Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Best Local Hotel for Families

Winner: Four Seasons Biltmore Hotel

1260 Channel Dr.

Santa Barbara, CA 93108


Check out the “Kids for All Seasons Program,” a complimentary service, where you can leave your child with counselors to dine at “The Raft” (poolside cafe) and do arts and crafts, games, and swimming. Friday night date nights are also available, where parents can leave their children to watch movies.

Honorable Mention: Harbor View Inn

28 W. Cabrillo Blvd.

Santa Barbara, CA 93101


Honorable Mention: Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort

633 E. Cabrillo Blvd.

Santa Barbara, CA 93103


Can’t get enough? Look for more in-depth profiles of some of the Parent’s Choice Award-winning businesses in upcoming issues of the South Coast Beacon.

Did we miss anything? If there are categories you would like to see next year, or awards that you just plain disagree with, let us know by emailing

Special thanks to the following vendors who donated prizes for our drawing: This Little Piggy Wears Cotton – My Gym – SB Axxess Book – Ty Warner Sea Center – Books – Pizza Mizza – Jelly Photography – Due Maternity – Artesia Spa – Serafina

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on April 14, 2005.

Rape Crisis Center’s Wall of Witness Debuts

Courtesy Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center.

Eloquently illustrating the potential of art to heal, empower and assist with social change, Santa Barbara Rape Crisis Center unveiled the Wall of Witness on April 4 in an opening reception to mark the beginning of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.

A mural and collection of artwork and poetry contributed by the community and exploring the theme of “Believe Me: Celebrating the Courage and Resilience of Sexual Assault Survivors,” the Wall of Witness concept was created by local Artist Brandon Stontag, who called it “an opportunity for me to contribute to the valiant efforts of SBRCC.”

He continued, “I think it is a great idea to use art as a vehicle for
educating and increasing awareness. It is my hope that the mural will be inspirational, comforting and healing.”

“I am in awe of what is here visually,” said Congresswoman Lois Capps, an honorary board member of SBRCC who plans to reintroduce legislation to develop a process for health professionals to screen for evidence of sexual assault.

Poets Sojourner Kincaid Rolle and Theo Burnes, and artist Judi Weisbart spoke movingly about their contributions.

“This wall speaks so many words of such incredible worth,” said Weisbart. “Abuse is something that as humankind we must erase from this planet.”

KRUZ radio personality Bonnie Campbell, who is training to be an SBRCC advocate, was the emcee for the event. Other speakers included SBRCC board president Sylvia Hendlin and executive director Elsa Granados, who concluded the event by encouraging the audience — and make a commitment by a show of hands — to talk to others in the community about sexual assault.

“We want this message to permeate the community,” she said.

The Wall of Witness will travel to various Sexual Assault Awareness Month events and supporting venues, including:

– April 5-9: La Casa de la Raza, 601 E. Montecito St.

– April 9: Believe Me Dance-Off, Alano Club, 235 E. Cota St., 8 p.m., $10

– April 10-16: The Coffee Grinder, 910 Linden Ave., Carpinteria

– April 14: UCSB Take Back the Night March and Rally, Anisq Oyo Park, 5:30 p.m.

– April 17-23: Santa Barbara City College Library, 721 Cliff Drive

– April 23: Benefit Dance, La Casa de la Raza, 601 E. Montecito St., 7 p.m. — 1 a.m., $25

– April 27: Denim Day Rally, Santa Barbara City College Library, 721 Cliff Drive

– April 25-29: Dos Pueblos High School. 7266 Alameda Ave., Goleta

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on April 7, 2005.

Local private schools expand enrollment and facilities

While the public schools continue to struggle with declining enrollment and budgetary crises, some local private schools — like San Roque and El Montecito — are expanding, adding more grades and additional real estate to their offerings.

San Roque School expands to high school

San Roque School will offer a full course of classes for 9th and 10th grade students at its new campus at 2300 Garden St. beginning in the fall. Dubbed as one of the first progressive high schools in the area, San Roque plans to expand its offerings at the new campus through 12th grade by the time the 10th grade class gets there, said Headmaster Mike Hagan.

“There are a lot of educators out there that are very frustrated by a confining system that is based on politics and adult agendas and not necessarily on research and solid theory about how children or people engage with learning,” said Hagen, emphasizing the child-originated, teacher-framed curriculum philosophy which drives all of the programs at San Roque,

“This … is a really unique opportunity to have to only be accountable to what is best for children,” he said. “When we leave here, every decision we make is how does this benefit children? How does this help facilitate their emotional, their intellectual development? … And behind every decision, whether it’s the height of a sink that has water that is going to be filtered in it, so it’s safe, to the choice of personnel and materials that will help children stay excited about learning.”

At San Roque, rigorous academics are incorporated into real life experiences. For example, in a recent production of Into the Woods, students trained for the performance with theatrical actors and vocal coaches and had a small professional orchestra accompany the performance.

“If we give that idea to children that we’ll always give them the best help that we can, then they feel real important and they do their really best work,” said music director Donna Massello-Chiacos.

“They feel like professionals, they are actors. They’re not learning, about drama. They are actually participating so that they learn about the work of professionals and how professionals go about it and then they engage in that work,” said Hagen.

El Montecito School begins offering junior high

Building one grade at time, El Montecito School is adding a 7th grade to its upper school campus at 632 E. Canon Perdido St. in the fall. The plan is to go up to 8th grade, said Headmaster Jeannine Morgan.

Parents and students don’t want to leave, said Morgan. “We feel like we’re a big family. … Because we’re a Christian school we can build character and we can do things other people can’t do. … Our little motto is, ‘Where Character Meets Wisdom,’ and we have the privilege of really being able to do it in a unique way because we can really respond to absolutes, you know, what’s right and what’s wrong.”

The preschool program, which began in 1958, is critical to the whole school’s success, Morgan said. “Our key is not only that character meets wisdom but we also want to teach kids how to love learning and the younger you get them the easier that is to do. It’s a fantastic foundation for whenever they leave, wherever they go.”

The older kids love to interact with the young ones, and Morgan said they facilitate that whenever possible. For example, “last year the 6th graders … earned a reward from their teacher and they asked if they could come spend time in the preschool. … They played games with them and they read stories with them … they just love being with them. … This year’s 6th graders are writing creative stories and when they are done with their stories they’re going to bring them and they are going to share them in the preschool classrooms.”

Ideally, she would like to combine the lower school (now housed at 1455 East Valley Road in Montecito) and the upper school into one campus. They’ve been actively looking for a site, but real estate is expensive and hard to come by and Morgan wants to make sure that any expansion is done with sensitivity.

“We’re carefully taken steps of growth to make sure that its not going to jeopardize any other part of the program that we have. What the key for us is that we don’t lose what we have in any growth step. We want to continue with who we are and what we have, with anything that we do.”

For more information about El Montecito School, call 969.1482 or visit For more information about San Roque School, call 697.3717 ext. 128.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on April 7, 2005.

A new view of life in the middle ages

Image courtesy

I can hardly believe it, but by the time you read this column, I’ll be married to a middle-aged man.

Zak, my dear husband who was barely legal when we met — and used to be two grades younger (as he likes to remind me) than I am (but only 19 months younger, as I like to remind him) — turned 40 on April 5.

Or “30-ten,” as my sister has recently taken to saying.

While I entered my 40s kicking and screaming and comforting myself with ridiculous made up mantras like “40 is the new 30,” Zak seems to be taking it all in stride … at least so far.

Maybe it’s because he looks pretty young.

It’s a running joke in our house that people who don’t know him usually address him as “Sir,” or more commonly, “Dude.” Perhaps it’s because of his 80s rock star haircut, but the “Dude” dispatch is not infrequently followed by an invitation to either purchase or sell some kind of illegal substance.

When we honeymooned in Bali, a group of village woman started the rumor that he was the then long-locked Michael Bolton, who was appearing that week in Denpasar. Then, at a sushi place in Los Angeles, weird Al Yankovich’s date once mistook the two of them. And once in a while he still inspires chorus’s of Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way.”

Maybe he doesn’t look so young after all (and maybe he should actually learn to play the electric guitar I got him for his 20-tenth birthday).

If it’s not the fact that he looks young, then perhaps Zak’s blase reaction to aging is because he’s so in touch with his inner child.

When our son’s teacher made an offhand comment about his fraternal relationship with his father, I wasn’t sure how to react. Should I be happy that my only child has a close playmate, or annoyed that my oldest son is turning 40 and still living at home?

For the most part, my five-year-old and my 40-year-old boys play really well together. They both love computer games, Foster’s Freeze chocolate dip cones, science fiction/fantasy stories, jumping on the furniture and fart jokes.

And the tall one can drive. How cool is that?

Unlike most people over 30, my husband still clings to the notion that listening to KJEE and wearing shorts year-round still gives him some modicum of coolness.

Could Zak’s enviable boatloads of self-esteem be the reason behind his good humor this week?

I’ve got a theory about men, women and self-esteem. While a woman’s self-esteem can ebb and flow depending on what their hair does, what their scale reads and how guilty they feel about what they did or didn’t eat for breakfast, a man can look in the mirror once or twice during high school and if they liked what they saw, that image is permanently embedded in their psyches, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Apparently Zak thought he was pretty cool in high school, and has seen no reason to change that opinion in the past two decades.

Good for him.

The fact that he still has the same group of friends — and they actually all still like each other — probably helps. Maybe 16 and 40 aren’t so far apart after all.

If being cool at 16 meant doing a mock-strip tease in your campaign for student body president, then being cool at 40 means doing a mock-strip tease to get your son in the shower.

If being cool at 16 meant cracking up your friends by quoting Jeff Spicoli lines from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, then being cool at 40 means doing a spot-on Spongebob Squarepants impression.

If being cool at 16 meant constantly carrying around a package of condoms that you hope to someday use, then being cool at 40 means constantly carrying around a package of Band-aids that you hope you never have to use.

If being cool at 16 meant goofing around in the bleachers at the football games, then being cool at 40 means goofing around in the bleachers at T-Ball games, and not forgetting the snacks.

And if being cool at 16 meant pretending not to notice when your girlfriend had a few zits, then being cool at 40 means pretending not to notice when your wife has a few wrinkles. It’s also refraining from comment when she gains a few pounds, is in a bad mood, wants to go out with her girlfriends, burns your dinner or puts tampons, chocolate and Diet Coke on your grocery shopping list.

I can hardly believe I’m married to such a cool guy.

Originally published in South Coast Beacon on April 7, 2005.