Let Inga Tell You: West Side (of L.A.) Story



My son and daughter-in-law really thought their extensive kitchen remodel would be done when they booked us four months in advance to babysit our 3-, 6-, and 8-year-old grandkids in L.A. for six days while they went on a 10th wedding anniversary trip.

As the time of their trip approached, it became clear that the kitchen would not be fully operational. By “not fully operational,” I mean there was no kitchen whatsoever. For two long months already, they had been in full survival mode using a small windowless basement room with a table stacked with plasticware, paper plates, a microwave, a toaster oven, lots of cereal, and a five-gallon bottle of water. The fridge and freezer were marooned on the far side of the attached garage.

The question was: Could two 70-year-olds manage in this situation?

It was the stairs that concerned me. We have a one-story home. And 70-year-old knees. But we couldn’t bear to have them cancel their trip. (They offered.)

Further, the three kids went to three different schools, and the two older ones had a full schedule of sports practices and games. Some excerpts from my journal:

Friday, 12 noon: Got there just in time to go with sitter to pick up 3-year-old at preschool. Our dog Lily pooped all over swanky school’s front lawn. In haste to get there on time, forgot poop bags. Grandson’s academic career could be over before it begins.

Friday, 1 p.m.: Yup, definitely no kitchen here! Skill saws, power tools, and mariachi music going full blast.

Friday night: 5 p.m. Decided to go pick up Mexican food for dinner, 3.9 miles from house. Took 45 minutes EACH WAY. That averages 5.2 miles per hour. Babysitter said that sounded about right for L.A.

Friday night: Babysitter showed Olof how to set the house alarm before she left. “Do NOT go outside once you set it,” she admonished. So once the kids were finally asleep, I tiptoed downstairs to get a much-needed glass of chardonnay from the refrigerator in the garage only to set the alarm off, waking up the kids. How was I to know that a garage connected to a house is “outside”? Needed second glass of chardonnay for medicinal purposes.

Saturday morning, 7:30 a.m.: Construction guys showed up, unscheduled. I asked them to turn down the music but they said that then they couldn’t hear it over the power saw.

Sunday: No construction today! But, of course, we weren’t home either. Had three soccer practices (including 3-year-old’s Soccer Skills class) and a baseball game. At soccer practice we were busted for “illegal chairs.” Only folding chairs with round silver frames were allowed as any others might dent the artificial turf. Field Gestapo demanded that we fold up chairs immediately and stand. Baseball game fortunately had actual grass, suitable for all chair types.

Piled by the front door are three school back packs, three soccer bags, and one baseball bag. Before leaving the house for practices and games, we inquire, does everybody have shin guards? Ball? Cleats? Water? They’d always say yes. In point of fact, at least one item for each kid will be missing. Kids now required to physically produce all items. We are slow learners, but trainable.

Sunday night: Trying to get three kids up, dressed and fed in non-kitchen, ready to leave by 7:15, is going to be a challenge.

Monday morning: The only source of running water on the basement and main floor levels is the tiny powder room sink in the foyer. It’s amazing how few actual dishes you can use under those circumstances.

Monday night: The bedrooms are all on the second floor. Or really third floor to us since a significant amount of our time seemed to be spent trekking up and down from dungeon kitchen to main floor to bedrooms. Whatever you need is always on a floor where you are not. This is the ultimate StairMaster workout.

Monday: How on earth have my son and daughter-in-law survived this for two months already? My admiration for them grows by the minute.

Tuesday 8 a.m.: When the kids’ rides leave at 7:15 every morning, there always seems to be one lunch still sitting on the dining room table. Uh-oh.

Tuesday, 9 p.m.: We make sure all adult beverages have been consumed before setting the alarm since ice is in the garage.

Wednesday: There is truly no escaping the deafening construction noise. This morning, Olof went out to the patio to read only to have the gardener show up with his leaf blower.

Wednesday: It’s been a long time since I watched kids’ TV. Going into Octonauts overload.

Thursday: Adore the grandkids and loved the time with them but have definitely felt our age. Meanwhile, I’m betting that the best meal my son and daughter-in-law ever eat is the first one they make in a working kitchen.

Inga’s lighthearted looks at life appear regularly in La Jolla Light. Reach her at