Monday, June 28, 2010

Back in the saddle again

We're back from California and I think I've totally forgotten how to deal with children without tag-teaming my husband.  He didn't go back to work today, but he took off just as long to help his parents move.  I had planned to go grocery shopping the moment I got back...including some healthier choices for our new lifestyle (more on that later).  Instead, we got right back into our routine of wasting the entire day doing nothing in particular.

First William wanted to use the computer.  My computer wasn't booting up for some reason, so he used Adam's.  I usually time my son's computer use, but since he hasn't played his hotwheels games for a long time, I gave him a break and let him play as long as he wanted.  Probably a bad idea as it made for a vacuous morning.

Thankfully my parents came over with milk and fruit, or I would have had nothing to feed the children for breakfast.  My mom also brought baked macaroni and cheese, which I lazily ate for both lunch and dinner.

I was all set to go out this afternoon.  I even got the kids dressed and ready to go, Jadzia strapped in her carseat.  Then William had a big tantrum over putting his shoes on.  I put him in the car barefoot and brought his shoes.  I refuse to put his shoes on him in the car when he's in a foul mood because of several shoe-throwing incidences, the most recent of which occured in Arizona.  I informed my screaming son that instead of going to the store, I was going to drive until he fell asleep.  And that's just what I did.

I lied to myself, saying that I would go to the store once Adam got home, but by then the momentum was gone (if it was ever there to begin with).

I tell you, it's hard work being lazy.  People will tell you it's easy, but they're wrong.

BTW: For anyone who is concerned about my computer.  Adam got it working finally.  We never figured out exactly what was wrong, but he unplugged everything inside and out, removed the dust with a vacuum and toothbrush, and plugged everything back in.  Now she works.

BBTW: The title of this post reminds me of a song. 
Back in the saddle again
Out where a friend is a friend
Where the longhorn cattle feed
On the lowly gypsum weed
Back in the saddle again.
Good thing I looked up the lyrics, because humming the tune was just going to drive me crazy.  See what I mean about how tough it is being lazy?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Vacation Day 16: Seaport Village, San Diego and Surprise, Arizona

So I didn't get to go to the beach today.  It's cold in California in the morning, and by the afternoon we wanted to be on the open road.  We did however check out "Seaport Village" a cute collection of shops by the ocean, designed to suck in tourists looking for fun souvenirs.  I think Burlington is definitely missing a kite specialty shop.

Then we drove across the desert again.  This time we had air conditioning in the car because Adam purchased a magic potion at Walmart to get it going again.  I didn't take a picture of my family next to a cactus, as I had intended, but I wasn't really willing to get out of the car into the 110 degree heat (that's 43 degrees Canadian).  And you never know when there's a rattlesnake lurking.  I did get a nice pic of William peeing by the side of the interstate.  Too much time between rest stops for a preschooler's bladder.

We had some trouble getting child number two to sleep at my in-laws' house in Surprise.  They don't have a crib, obviously.  I tried to get her to lie down on a thermarest but she kept getting up.  I tried simulating the crib feel with couch dice.  Finally, Adam made a make-shift crib out of dining room chairs.  Jadzia could totally climb out if she wanted to, which sucks because we are out of options.  Thankfully, she didn't climb out and finally fell asleep (after much protest).

William was a little easier to put down, but then he had a busy day of screaming, crying, and throwing shoes at my head (the second half of an eight hour drive is always the worst).

Tomorrow: flying home.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Vacation Day 15: Sea World

If Sea World had been called Souvenir-shop World it would have been a far more accurate description of the place. Every animal had its own shop, sometimes several. We headed first for the penguins, which William says were his favourite.  There was a giant seagull in with the penguins, pretending to be one of the guys so he could get a fishy treat.

Next we saw the Shamu show, which involved Shamu and his buddies (I can't tell which Orca is which) swimming around and doing tricks.  Adam's favourite show was Shamu's, but I'm partial to the interpecies production "Blue Horizons" we saw at the end of the day.  It took place in the dolphin stadium, but it also had this odd kind of whale, as well as birds, and far more human acrobatics than I would have expected.  Fish-like mammals all do the same tricks: they jump, they beach themselves on the stage, they splash the audience.  The dolphins add a little flipper and fin waving to the mix.  I found the addition of human acrobats and divers provided much needed variety.

Another favourite of mine were the sea lions, though we didn't catch their show.  Sea World has a brilliant scheme in which they actually charge people to feed their sea lions for them. $6 a tray of fish, and then they don't have to hire a zookeeper to do it.  Genius.  These animals can look pretty scary up close: glassy bulging eyes, pointed black teeth, and flaring nostrils.  Picture ten of these things, barking loudly and waving their flippers for food.  Oh, and some extremely agressive sea gulls and egrets dive-bombing the tray holders.  I saw a sea gull the size of a penguin hit a baby in the head.  The baby was fine so...hilarious!

As usual we spent a substantial amount of time in the non-sea-creature-related kid's area.  And we also caught a pet show, involving cats, dogs, and other domestic animals that don't live in the ocean. William scored an overpriced yet highly amusing bubble gun.  And everyone left the park happy.

This was our last day of California fun.  I'm hoping to score another swim in the ocean before we trek back across the desert, but we'll see how things go tomorrow.

Vacation Day 14: San Diego Zoo

Being frequent visitors of the Toronto Zoo, the second largest zoo in North America, we were looking forward to the biggest. Both zoos are similar: lots of walking, lots of animals.  Some differences however:

For one thing, the San Diego Zoo doesn't have as many indoor pavillions.  I guess this is because they don't have to worry about snowstorms.  Outside is nice, but I prefer the Toronto Zoo habitats.  Here the animals seemed too fenced in, not good for photos.

Of course the San Diego Zoo has pandas, which are behind a wall and the zoo controls the crowd coming in and out, like you're waiting in line at Disney.  Supposedly pandas are quite shy and they would freak out or something if there were too many unfamiliar noises.  Though I suspect some of the hoopla is for dramatic effect.

The San Diego Zoo is also a bit more commercial.  Like all the themeparks in the area, they have staff popping up at random places taking your picture so they can sell it to you later for 20 bucks.  We never buy them because of our growing collection of far more cost effective digital photos. 

This zoo also has lots of buses running in the park, both tour buses and express buses to take you to a specific animal. Puts Toronto's dinky zoomobile to shame.  Also there's these super high in the sky gondola things that I refuse to ride, which take you from one end of the park to the other.

Some favourites:

The pandas (of course, it's a novelty)

The cheetah and the dog in the same cage. I missed the explanation why they put them together, but the doggie was licking the cheetah's ear and they are super good friends.  So cute!

The goats in the petting zoo.  Jadzia's favourite, hands down.  We spent quite a bit of time just hanging with the goats. My daughter sometimes excitedly brought them small pieces of hay, and other times just sat down next to them, pointing to their eyes, nose, mouth and ears.

There was a playground in the children's area, which some kid broke his arm on (not one of mine thankfully).  We were coming back past the play area on our way home, and William wanted to play there some more, oblivious to the zoo staff standing all around helping this poor child with the mangled appendage.

William had a pretty bad day tantrum wise, which ruined the trip for Adam.  We've be pretty lucky as far as behaviour goes this vacation, but the long days are getting to them.  Also the kids had colds the first week we were here, which made them more docile.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vacation Day 13: Coronado Beach and Balboa Park

Today we went to Coronado Beach for the San Diego edition of swimming in the ocean. The sand and water sparkled with little gold flecks and there were lots of little shells everywhere. There was a big area of very shallow water (like one inch deep) before you hit the surf so we spent a lot of time digging in the wet sand. We got William some water guns and we had fun shooting each other on the beach. Note: salt water in the eye is not too pleasant. I did go a little farther in to enjoy the waves, which were a bit too rough for the kids. Also the lifeguards were warning to shuffle your feet, because there were sting rays in the area. Cool! I didn't see one, but I shuffled just in case.

By the time we were done at the beach it was too late to do anything, but too early to do nothing, so we went to Balboa Park, which is less a park and more a bunch of museums next to each other. It was after 5 when we got there, so all the museums were closed. We took our pictures in front of the jet planes in front of the Air and Space Museum and the car in front of the Automotive Museum, so we can look back and pretend we went in. Then we found an actual park nearby and the kids played until dinner.

We ate a Joe's Crab Shack, which had loads of tastey seafood for much less that you pay at Red Lobster. I think Burlington needs more seafood restaurants.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Vacation Day 12: Legoland

We were fairly bored almost immediately after entering the gates of Legoland.  With height restrictions on almost every ride, Jadzia could go on nothing, which meant one of us standing in line with William while the other attempted to keep Jadzia from losing her shoes.  The Lego models are cool and all, but there's only so much ooing and ahhing one can do over models of American cities and giant purple octopus.

Once our expectations had been lowered considerably, we had a good time.  Their waterpark has a kids area with three waterslides, one of which is wide enough for all four of us to slide together (which of course we did).  The other two only allow one slider at a time, meaning one parent at  the top, and one (plus baby) at the bottom.  Even though we never made it to the big people slides (and they charged us $9 for a locker!!!), the waterpark  was the highlight of my day.

Some fun stuff: a car that William drove all by himself  (steering and pedals, the whole bit),  an Indiana Jones ride involving shooting targets from a truck, and a duplo playground where both the kids had a blast.  Still, most things seemed a little too big for a three-year-old, and yet a little too babyish for the five and six year olds that were there.  If you have a 4-and-a-half year old, I suppose this is the place for him.

We ended the trip at Sea Life, Legoland's answer to SeaWorld.  I don't know what sharks, manta rays and starfish have to do with Lego, but there were a few Lego submarines for the hammerheads to swim around so it's all good.  Jadzia ran around pointing at stuff and saying "Fish!"  and occasionally "Flower!"  (when she saw a sea anemone).  You could even touch the the starfish, which feel like cement. Cool!

Vacation Day 11: USS Midway and Mission Beach

Today we left our home in Anaheim and headed for our new home in San Diego, which as you all know is german for "a whale's vagina".  Yes, I have the sudden urge to watch Anchorman.

Our first San Diegan tourist destination was the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier turned museum.  There were lots of airplanes, some of which you could sit in.  We even got to eat lunch on the hanger deck.  Adam was totally geeking out.  Next to the aircraft carrier was a park with a giant statue of a sailor french-kissing a nurse.  Awesome!

Next we went to Mission Beach.  We didn't go swimming, though a lot of people there were.  It was kinda cold and, since we went to Long Beach yesterday, we weren't that desperate for a swim.  We walked along the walkway for a bit, then crossed the road to a bay where the water was much calmer.  We waded in the water there and collected a few small sea shells.

The internet at our new hotel doesn't seem very reliable, and William doesn't have a seperate room this time, hopefully this won't affect my blogging.  Also, the shower head here is about two inches too low for me to stand under.  Now I know how Adam feels whenever he takes a shower.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Vacation Day 10: Toy Story 3 and Long Beach

Yes, I realize we can see Toy Story 3 anywhere, but we just couldn't wait until we came home.  This time we didn't try to see it somewhere famous like Hollywood Blvd or Downtown Disney (there's an AMC theatre there).   We went to a random AMC theatre much like the ones in Canada.  In fact, I'd speculate that the ones in Canada are trying to look like California.  Anyway, pretty good movie, particularly the intro.

Later we went to Long Beach, because the internet said it had the warmest beach in LA.  Finally a real swim in the ocean!  It was kind of like swimming in Lake Ontario, only salty, and with palm trees as a backdrop.  I'm hoping to get a lot more ocean beach days out of this trip.  We were there for almost two hours, and William didn't want to leave so he refused to rinse the sand off himself (when I washed him off he knelt down in the sand in defiance) so he drove home all sandy.  We took a dip in the hotel pool to clean up.

Later on, Adam had a craving for a buffet-style restaurant.  So we typed "Buffet" into the GPS.  The first place we found had a bunch of angry people standing around demanding refunds.  Next we drove somewhere that was closed down. Finally we ended up in Korea Town, where we ate at a BBQ Buffet.  Most of the food consisted of raw meat that you cook yourself using a grill in the middle of your table.  Kind of cool, but not the most kid friendly idea.  Jadzia turned the grill on herself because the high chair was placed in front of the controls.  Oops!  I actually quite liked the food, but I think Adam was looking for a more traditional buffet.  He approved of their soft serve ice cream machine though.  William enjoyed the sushi and Jello.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Vacation Day 9: Hollywood Blvd and Venice Beach

Today we went down to Hollywood Blvd to see Grauman's Chinese Theatre, where all the stars put their handprints.  We took some pictures of some choice celebrities hands, Judy Garland, Arnold Schwarzenneger, and the cast of Star Trek among others.  While we were passing my camera back and forth taking pictures, it suddenly was being held by noone and went crashing into the cement. Crash.  Ruined.  Ah well, if you're going to kill your camera, better to drop it somewhere cool, like John Wayne's fist.

Next we took a tour of the inside of the theatre, given by a woman who thought William was the cutest thing ever.  We all wore head phones to hear the tour guide, even though she was right in front of us.  We rubbed a Chinese wax figure for good luck, and rang a gong that they used to use to tell everyone the movie started.  We went across the street to see Toy Story 3, but it was sold out, much to William's chagrin.

Mme Tussaud's Wax museum is next door to Grauman's Theatre, so we paid our $50 and went in.  I had a blast getting my picture taken with a whole bunch of celebrities.  William had less of a blast, and was kind of grumpy.  It's much easier to keep kids entertained at Disneyland than it is at a wax museum.  Some of the wax sculptures were eerily life like.  While others looked a little too waxy.

Adam bought a star map and we drove to Leonard Nimoy's house and took a picture of it.  Then we followed a star tour bus to what turned out to be the Playboy Mansion.  We took a picture of the gate (because that's all we could see).  Then we drove to Micheal Jackson's house, and got bored of seeing celebrity houses (this was mostly a trick to get a nap out of the kids anyway).  We then went to Best Buy, where Adam bought me a new camera and peace was restored to the universe.

We went to Venice Beach where I was hoping to go swimming but it was too cold and windy (possibly because it was 6pm already).  We walked around anyway because Venice Beach is super famous and crazy busy.  There were lots of buskers playing music and performing.  There was a guy dressed as a tree, and shops that sold T-shirts, sunglasses, and marijuana paraphernalia. We found a playground and William and Jadzia played until sunset.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Vacation Day 8: Disney Again

Today (after doing our laundry at the coin laundry mat) we went to check out the other Disney Park right next to Disneyland: Disney's California Adventure.  It's like a miniature version of California, only new and plastic and with much more Mickey Mouse branding.  There's a Golden Gate Bridge, and Hollywood, and lots of music from my California playlist blasting everywhere.  Many of the rides are more your traditional carnival rides, roller coasters, etc, meaning there was a lot more we couldn't go on with the kids.  On the other hand, Disney California had a lot more Pixar branding, characters that William actually knows. 

First we talked to Crush the turtle from Finding Nemo, and checked out the Toy Story zoetrope.  Next we wandered into the Bug's Life area, which had an incredible lame water park.  We changed the kids into their swimsuits, only to be told by park staff that William had to wear his shirt, forcing him to wear a wet shirt the rest of the day.

Next a Toy Story Ride, which was also a game. You put on 3D glasses and shoot at targets, and the computer talleys your score. Jadzia fell asleep on me while we were in line, so I had a sleeping baby on me which totally explains why Adam's score was like triple mine.

Adam convinced me to go on the Ferris Wheel.  I've never been on a Ferris Wheel that didn't scare me and I've been on some fairly dinky ones.  Mickey's Ferris Wheel is huge, and the cars swing back and forth.  William kept reassuring me: "It's only a swing Mommy."  And for extra fun, I was nursing Jadzia the entire ride.

We decided to go to the real Disneyland to ride the Haunted Mansion (which I remembered was my favourite in Disney World), but before we left, we found out there was a parade about to start so we stayed for that.  It turned out to be an awesome Pixar Parade with all of William's favourite characters and some insane floats all of which sprayed water at you for no apparent reason.  Wall-E was missing strangely, but included were Monsters Inc, Incredibles, Toy Story, Ratatouille, A Bug's Life, Finding Nemo, and Cars (Mater and Lightening McQueen pretty realistic actually).

When we got to Disneyland, another parade was starting (because Disney knows how to do overkill), which was more of a Dance Party with obscure Disney characters (like Gipetto).  We pronounced it not as good as the first parade, and since the way was blocked to the Haunted Mansion, we ended up near a Buzz Lightyear ride.  Another shooting game, this time no 3D glasses, just lazers and targets.  I lost again, I was off my game today!

By this time it was evening.  We headed over to the "New Orleans" section of the park to ride the Haunted Mansion. We passed some people waiting for a show to start.  Some guy said it would start in like 2 hours, but the show was just THAT popular.  Anyway off to the mansion, which had a fairly short line.  If you ever go to Disneyland, go in the evening!  The ride was just as cool as I remembered it.  Somehow with projections or hollograms or whatever, they make it look like there are real ghosts.  Spooky.  If only the movie they made of this ride hadn't sucked.

We had a late dinner (honestly I don't recommend any of Disneyland's food), then decided to stick around for the show, even though it was the kids' bedtime.  We decided that today was the day we'd actually watch the fireworks, instead of just listening to them from our hotel room.  Just then, some staff member was yelling that Pirates of the Carribean only had a 5 minute wait.  Sweet!  Pirates turned out to be Jadzia's favourite ride, because of all the animatronic animals.  Now I can't decide if I like Pirates of the Carribean better than Haunted Mansion.  Honestly the animatronics on this ride were eerily life like. And the movies came out after I rode the ride in Florida, so this time I got the added bonus of realizing that Johnny Depp's performance must have been based on the slight jerking and shifty eyes of animatronic characters.

Anyway, the show that everyone was crowded around for turned out to be an insane medley of every Disney animated movie, involving (among other things) a pirate ship, cartoons projected onto spraying water, a large cast of costumed characters, and a mechanical dragon that breathed real fire. All this was supposedly taking place in Mickey Mouse's mind, or was a dream he was having or something.  The show was followed immediately by the fireworks, which were set to music and random Disney quotes.  William fell asleep on Adam's shoulders and we left.  (So did about a billion other people and insanity ensued).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Day 7: Whale Watching

Our whale watching excursion was all the way in Ventura, 2 hours away from our hotel in Anaheim.  We woke up at 6 am, left about 15 minutes behind schedule, then drove through LA and the worst traffic imaginable.  The ship sails at 9am, so of course we made it there by 9:04.  Our boat had already pulled out, but we made pouty faces and they radioed it back for us.

We immediately saw some sea lions crowded on top of a buoy, and some dolphins playing in the surf.  "I saw a whale!" William exclaimed as the first dolphin leapt past. This is going to be great, thought I.  Then the boat picked up speed, I began to feel nautious.  Jadzia started crying.  I took a swig of children's gravol and tried not to think about it. While Adam wrangled the children, I puked over the side of the boat and felt instantly better.  One of the crew brought me water and some gorn-awful ginger candies, which I ate just in case they would help. I stood at the railing and enjoyed the cold wind for a while.

Then Adam had to use the head so I was back to Mommy duties.  The instant Jadzia was on my lap, she vomited all over me.  The helpful crewmember brought me paper towels and wipes.  A few minutes later, Jadzia got cranky again and I thought she would puke but instead she fell asleep in my arms.  At that moment, the ship started to slow down for our first whale.

The whales we saw were humpbacks, just like the ones in Star Trek IV. And we didn't just see them in the distance, either.  Some swam right up to the boat (the Captain said that this is called "mugging"). They splashed and rolled around in the water.

We also saw two types of dolphins, both of which swam up to the boat.  The bigger ones (which I forget the name of now) were swimming under the boat and jumping right beside us.  Every once in a while, a seal or sea lion would poke its head out too.

Jadzia slept through the whales, and woke up as we were approaching Chanel Islands.  There she enjoyed the pelicans. Those goofy-looking birds really look amazing when they dive, straight down like an arrow.  The Captain drove the boat right into a large sea cave.  As we approached, William got nervous of the dark so he lay down on the deck.  I couldn't help but laugh.

On the way back the waves weren't as bad so noone got sick.  William fell asleep on my lap and I had to wake him when the boat docked.  The crew member apologized that we had had such a rough start, but I told him it was worth it.  We bought Jadzia a stuffed dolphin and William a stuffed whale at the gift shop on the way out.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 6: Natural History Museum, Beverly Hills, and Malibu

Our itinerary said Disneyland, but neither of us were thrilled about spending another day at Disney, so we opted for the Natural History Museum instead.  We began outdoors with the butterfly pavillion, which delighted the kids, Jadzia in particular.  Butterflies flying around everywhere.

The rest of the museum had dinosaur skeletons, and various taxidermied animals displayed in a scenes depicting their natural habitats.  We were lucky enough to catch a presentation which involved a someone in a very realistic T-Rex costume.

After lunch we checked out the museum's Discovery Centre which had lots of live bugs, turtles, fish, etc.  The kids and I got to touch an African walking stick.

We stepped into the Science Centre (a few minutes walk across the park), but by then we were all museumed out, so we headed to Beverly Hills.

We  weren't sure exactly where to go in Beverly Hills, so we drove aimlessly around the city.  We drove down Rodeo drive, and Sunset Boulevard, and I snapped pictures of street signs along the way.

Our plan was end up at a beach, so we made our way to Malibu.  By this time we were hungry.  We walked down Malibu Peer, which has a 50s diner at the end of it where all the chairs were shiny and red.  Adam and I both ordered seafood platters which consisted of deep fried fish and shrimp.  We had peanut butter cup milkshakes that were as thick as frosties.

When I got out the swimsuits, I realized I had somehow forgotten to pack Adam's.  Also the kids life-jackets (which I swear I packed) had miraculously transported themselves back to the hotel room.  The beach we were at had lots of people surfing, but not one swimmer to be found.  The kids and I got into our swimsuits anyway and we all dipped our feet into the water, which was wavy, kelpy, and cold.  We spent most of our time playing in the sand.  We buried William a couple times.  Jadzia ate the sand.  The weather was breezy and a little cool.  Quite pleasant actually, but certainly not "I'm desperate to jump in the water" type of weather.  We hung out for a while then drove past Santa Monica Peer (with a Ferris Wheel) on the way home.  Too late for rides today though.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Day 5: Disneyland

We started the day off less than magically.  First, our shuttle bus was late.  Then, when we finally got to the park, we discovered we needed our full coupon book (not just the tickets I had torn out of it) so the kids and I waited while Adam walked back to the hotel and got it (a twenty minute walk each way). 

Inside the park is a fairytale kingdom populated almost entirely by overpriced souvenir stands and restaurants.  Each ride is a long line, followed by a short seizure-inducing acid trip loosely based on random Disney films.  Did we enjoy ourselves?  Oh yes.

My favourite ride is It's a Small World.  Cultural stereotyping at its finest.  Everywhere you look, animantronic children of various nationalities sing their hearts out under psychadelic black lighting.  A goofy Mountie with a totem pole represents Canada, but I can forgive them for that, since some other countries didn't do much better.  And of course some random characters were thrown in, Ariel from Little Mermaid, Lilo and Stitch, Woody from Toy Story.  A big bright yellow moon!  And ducks!  It was totally insane.

William's favourite was a Taxi ride based on Roger Rabbit.  He describes it as "the ride where you drive a taxi and the taxi goes into a scary tunnel with scary things in it."  Most of the rides were a little scary actually, but the kids seemed to like it anyway.

I'm not sure what Jadzia's favourite ride was.  She mostly enjoyed making friends with random strangers.  On the way home on the bus, the woman sitting behind us had a tattoo of a bird on her arm, which delighted my daughter as much as anything else we saw today.  Though she did enjoy the playground that we hung out in while Adam took William on the Goofy roller coaster.

By the end of the day, we were so exhausted that some of us were tantruming, and the rest of us felt like we would any second. We had dinner at the buffet across the street from Disney, then went back to the hotel for a relaxing dip in the pool.  Adam even juggled two swimming children a moment so I could go in the hot tub.  Ahhhhhhhh.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Day 4: Universal Studios and the Hollywood Sign

My children being under 48", we noticed immediately that there was lots they couldn't go on.  That turned out not to be a problem, since what we did see filled our entire day nicely. 

First, we purchased "All-you-can-eat" passes and immediately proceeded to the nearest participating restaurant to gorge ourselves on burgers, onion rings, KFCesque chicken tenders, giant cookies, all manor of ludicrously fast food (so fast it was sitting there before we ordered it). 

What we saw:

An animal actors show, with dogs, birds, monkeys, etc that have been in movies. One of those amusingly cheesey shows.  The chicken changes the special to pork, the pig changes it to chicken sandwich.  Oh the hilarity! Jadzia loves animals, so she especially liked the part when we got to meet one of the dogs and have our picture taken.

A Curious George water play area.  I took the kids through while Adam stood with our camera equipment and stuff.  90% of the fountains, squirt guns, and buckets, were kid-operated and kids will always aim for the nearest grown-up, so I probably got wetter than my children (luckily I brought my swimsuit).    Every so often a countdown would start and all the kids would run under a rocket ship which would "blast off" with water and mist spraying out in place of flames.  William wouldn't run under the rocket.  In fact, he seemed adverse to anything that would get him wet.  Next to the water area, there was another Curious George sponsered attract which involved small foam balls and various methods of shooting them, vacuuming them up, and air-blasting them.  William really got into vacuuming, perhaps I can put this interest to use when we get home.

2 "4-D" shows.  A Shrek 4-D and a Terminator 4-D.  They were very different, though both had the same basic framework.  First you are given 3-D glasses and are lead into a room that you think is the ride but is actually a longish pre-show, which involves recapping the original movie, ignoring all sequels.  Then, you go into a movie theatre and proceed to watch a short 3-D movie.  The 4-D comes in because of all the ridiculous effects, shaking your chair, spraying you with water (in Shrek, this was Donkey sneezing, while in Terminator it was a T-1000 getting destroyed).  I had to sit in a stationary seat in Shrek to have Jadzia on my lap, but in Terminator there was no such restriction.  Terminator had the extra bonus of real actors coming in to play the parts at various times.  Arnie's double didn't really look like him though.

The Universal Studio tour.  This is the real reason anybody goes to Universal and as such it had the longest line-up, which zig-zagged annoyingly so I never quite knew whether we were at the front.  By the time we did get on the tram (a train-like tour-car thingie) Jadzia in particular was ready to riot, and I had to nurse her while the tour was going on.  We actually did drive through sets that were used in movies and TVs, most impressive to me was the giant crashed jumbo jet, used in War of the Worlds.  Every once in a while they would cheesily pretend that something was going wrong and shake us, spray us with water, and show us cool special effects.  Jadzia got scared when the subway station started to come apart all around us, but I snuggled her and kept her safe.

We stayed until the park closed.  Then, since we were in Hollywood, I decided that we should find the Hollywood sign and take a picture.  The GPS lead us up the side of a mountain, on a route that was so winding that it looked like the GPS screen had been scribbled on.  The narrow, residencial streets (yes, people live on the sides of mountains here) were quite beautiful, and we both agreed that even if we didn't make it to the sign the route was well worth it.  When we did get close to the sign, I was totally geeking out about it.  We weren't the only ones there taking pictures, which was a little surprising since we were the only ones on the road the whole drive up.  We took some pictures of the sign, and each other, and a stranger took a picture of Adam and I while the kids were in the car.  (Jadzia was comatose by this point).  The Hollywood Sign!  Awesome.

What a great day!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 3: Driving through Arizona

Lured by the carrot of a free car, we opted to fly to Phoenix and drive to California, instead of the ever more convenient option of flying directly and renting a car.  When my husband checked my inlaws' Rav 4, he noticed a couple of things.  Number 1, the air conditioning (which my father-in-law checked two weeks ago) was broken.  Number 2, two of the tires were leaking.  Adam switched the leakiest tire with the spare, and we stopped at every gas station en route to buy air for the other (BTW: there aren't that many gas stations in the middle of the desert, surprisingly).

And yes, we drove across the desert with no air conditioning.

While I was staring out the car window, hot air blasting through my hair and eardrums, I was thinking about how best to describe the Arizona landscape.  It felt, to me, like we were driving on an alien planet.  There's no grass, at least no green grass.  Instead, tufts of widely-spaced green bush-like plants grow out of what might otherwise resemble the surface of the moon. The tallest plants are the cactuses (cacti?).  I've seen pictures of cacti before, even owned a small potted version, but it didn't prepare me for the sight of the ten-foot alien fingers reaching towards the sky.  When we got into California, we saw more and more palm trees, but obviously they need more water than cactuses, because we saw several dry-looking trunks with dead palm tops littering the ground.  And of course the entire landscape was framed by mountains, majestic, rocky, and completely naked of greenery.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Vacation Day 2: the trip

The Plan:

Drive to Buffalo.
Stay overnight.
Take 10 am flight to Chicago.
Board connecting flight to Phoenix at noon (local time)
Arrive in Phoenix.
Take shuttle to in-law's house in Surprise, Arizona.
Stay overnight in Surprise.
Drive to Annaheim using inlaw's car.

The Reality:

Drove to Buffalo.
Stayed overnight.
Took 10 am flight to Chicago.
Circled Chicago airport unable to land because of "weather".  (What kind of weather could be bad enough to close an airport in June?)
Landed in Southbend, Indiana.
Left Southbend at 3:40 pm local time.
Arrived in Chicago.  Missed connecting flight to Arizona.
Were given a much later flight going to LA with a connection to Phoenix.
Hung out in Chicago airport approximately 5 hours.  (Luckily they have an awesome kids play area)
Boarded flight to LAX late.
Missed connecting flight to Arizona (again).
Stood in line at customer service and received hotel vouture.
Took shuttle to hotel.
Hotel was full.  Took a taxi to another hotel and paid for it out of pocket.
Slept for a little under 4 hours.
Took taxi back to airport. 
Boarded flight to Phoenix.
Took shuttle to inlaw's house in Surprise.


Everyone was friendly (while not always helpful).
Chicago's awesome children's play area.  It had a play jumbo jet, play control tower, cargo containters to crawl through, all kinds of bells and whistles. It ruled.
Kids slept on the flight to LA without too much convincing.
Kids were reasonably good considering.
Inlaws had frozen pizza in their freezer.
Palm trees and cactuses.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Vacation Day 1: Buffalo

I`m writing from our hotel room in Buffalo.  We`re staying overnight here and flying to Phoenix tomorrow with a stop-over in Chicago.  It`s cheaper this way, which is good, because we`ve already eaten out twice and we haven`t even left our time-zone yet.  First at the International House of Pancakes (which sounds so much fancier than IHOP), then at Ruby Tuesday`s. American cuisine at its finest.

So far, putting Jadzia to bed in the playpen the hotel provided is less than successful, although she`s starting to quiet down as I write this.  Adam is reading William stories on the other bed, after which he will totally go to sleep no problem.

Now Jadzia is crying again and William is saying ``I don`t want to sleep`` so I should probably shut down the computer and figure out what I`m going to sleep in (since I forgot to bring pjs).  I didn`t have much else to say anyway (except that this hotel has a salt water pool, so we had an early taste of the ocean this afternoon).

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Early Father's Day

I've gone to the mall several times with my children over the past two weeks, in preparation for our family trip to California.  For those of you who don't have children, let me give you some idea of what this entails.  There are two reasons that children misbehave: they are tired, or they are hungry. 

Children eat every two hours on a normal day, every fifteen minutes during a growth spurt.  Whenever I take my kids out, I pack at least twice as much food as I think I'll need.  I'll still run out, inevitably, and mall food is as expensive as it is unhealthy.  I like to pack sandwiches if we're going to be encroaching on lunchtime, but Jadzia is not crazy about bread, so I give her an applesauce, which means William must have an applesauce as well.

I try to rush from store to store to minimize actual time in the mall. But neither child wants to ride in the stroller for any length of time, so we're usually going at the pace of an easily distractable 17-and-a-half-month old.  And of course, when it's finally time to go home, even though we've spent the entire time looking at men's and women's clothing, William will have a meltdown because he doesn't want to leave. 

Crying children tend to attract elderly people who come up and say things like "What's a matter cutie?" which tends to stop the tantrum for a moment (just long enough for a wtf face).  Once, a little old man followed us all the way through the mall saying "Don't cry.  If you cry you will not go home, you will come home with me!"  I'm sure he was trying to be helpful, but it just came off as creepy.

So that's what the mall is like with children. (Without even mentioning the toy section and the kiddie rides).

Anyway, I bought Adam a bathing suit for "Father's Day", and today (which is not really Father's Day, don't get excited), the kids and I got up while he was still sleeping and made him breakfast in bed and a card.  Eggs (which would've been sunnyside up, except my son cracked the eggs), bacon, and hashbrowns (or what passes for hashbrowns in the frozen food aisle), and toast with jam.  Yummy! (The kids and I had Rice Krispies).

Later we had all you can eat Sushi for lunch and went to Walmart where Adam got to fully appreciate what I have to go through to "pick up a few things" with the children (and I got a new bathing suit). 

It occurs to me that I should get something for my Dad, this not after all being "Husband's Day".  But it's not Father's Day yet, I can think about it while I'm in California.  That's right, I know you're jealous.
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