Archive for October 2007

Halloween

The wierd thing about this Halloween was the fact that daylight savings time hadn’t ended yet. This means that it was still broad daylight when the earlybirds came trick-or-treating at 5:00. I hate daylight savings. I wish Utah would join Arizona and Hawaii and not have daylight savings. This year was Nancy’s turn to take the kids while I stayed home and passed out candy. We had the traditional chili and cornbread for dinner and Nancy left with the youngest three kids while Emily and Anne went out on their own.

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Emily was some sort of princess this year. Caroline as well. Same for Diana. Anne was a 50’s girl with a poodle sweater and a polka-dot skirt. Samuel’s pirate costume turned out well although he lasted about 5 seconds wearing the eyepatch and hook.

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I waited until dusk to put out the pumpkins and light the candles. I also hung up a grinning pumpkin picture that Caroline made in school. We had a steady stream of trick-or-treaters until 8:30 and then it ended all-of-a-sudden. No late-night teenagers with pillowcases is this neighborhood – sweet!

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Nancy came back after an hour and dropped Diana off because Diana’s little pumpkin trick-or-treat basket was full. The plan was to dump the basket and go back out but when Diana saw all the candy on the table she decided she wanted to stay home. I tended Diana and unwrapped candy for her while Nancy took Caroline and Sam back out.

Emily and Anne came home about 8:00 – breathless and loaded down with candy. The most exciting thing this year for the kids was a house down the street that was giving out full-sized candy bars. Caroline got a full-size Snickers bar and was kind enough to give it to me because she knew Snickers are my favorite. What a great Halloween!

Carving Pumpkins

It’s the Monday night before Halloween. What should we do for Family Home Evening? Why, carve pumpkins of course!

The girls are old enough to carve their own pumpkins without us worrying too much about them cutting off their fingers. Thus, my role is now limited to gutting the pumpkins. Fortunately, this is a duty I don’t mind.

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Nancy helped Sam and Caroline carve their pumpkins. We let the kids carve whatever they wanted and we ended up with two smiley pumpkins and two frowny pumpkins.

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Nancy is still trying to finalize the kids’ costumes. Samuel originally wanted to be a fireman, then a policeman, then he was going to be Spiderman. Of course seeing the Pirates of the Caribbean ride made the pirate hat in the grocery store too hard to pass up so now he’s going to be a pirate. Nancy’s been sewing away to make Samuel a pirate shirt as well as work with the girls on their costumes. One good thing about being in a new neighborhood is that the girls don’t mind wearing a previous year’s cosutome. Thus, I’m sure we’ll end up with several variations of princesses.

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Nancy didn’t want me to take her picture.

California Vacation – Day 6

Today was our last day at Disneyland. After spending three full days there I can honestly say that I’ve had my fill of Disneyland for this decade. We wanted to get to the park early so that we could get on the Finding Nemo ride without too much of a wait. Well, it turns out that Disneyland opens at 10:00 on a normal day and at 8:00 on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for a reason: the park was way more crowded than the previous two days. What was a 30 minute line on Wednesday and Thursday was now a 75 minute line on Friday. Scratch Nemo. I guess the kids will have to take their own kids on it if Nemo is around 20 years from now.

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Tom Sawyer’s Island is now Pirates Lair

We spent the day riding various rides a second time: The raft ride (this time I convinced Caroline and Anne to go on it but Nancy still wussed out), Mulholland drive (Caroline’s favorite), the bug rides (Diana’s favorite), Pirates for about the 5th time, Splash Mountain again, Indiana Jones, the teacups, etc. Our picnic lunch, which seemed so great the first two days, started to seem a little dull and repetetive on the third day.

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Aside from the dull lunch; the day was quite fun. One especially bright spot was the parade at California Adventure. They have a “block party” parade where various Toy Story and Monsters Inc. characters come out and interact with the audience – dancing, throwing bouncy balls into the crowd, characters talking over a microphone, etc. The kids seemed to enjoy it and it was a nice close for the day.

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Caroline dances at the block party

I knew it was time to go home after the parade when we took the following vote:

“Who wants to stay and go on more rides?” (one or two hands raised)
“Who wants to go back to the hotel and swim in the pool?” (All hands raised – including the ones that had wanted to stay)

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Emily and Diana Boogie with Mr. Potato Head

Back to the hotel and pool it was. I would say that three days was about right. With the exception of Nemo, everyone got to go on every ride they wanted, most of them more than once. Also, the incremental cost for three days versus two was small enough that it made three days a much better value at a cost per day than two days. After three days at Disneyland I’ll close with the following random thoughts:

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Samuel is a Roller Coaster Dude
Only five years old, he went on the following roller-coaster/adventure type rides with me: Matterhorn, Space Mountain, Star Tours, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Railroad, Goofy Rollercoaster, Mulholland Drive, Soaring over California, and Grizzly River Run. The only two he didn’t go on were California Screaming and Indiana Jones but only because he couldn’t meet the height requirement. (We also didn’t go on Tower of Terror because I knew he wouldn’t meet the height requirement and because I didn’t want to go by myself).

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Picnic Lunches Work Well and Save Tons of Money
It costs $12 to rent the picnic locker for the day. Still, $12 is a heck of a lot cheaper than $12 per person for lunch with a family of 7. If you are going to take your picnic lunch, make sure you park in the Mickey and Friends parking garage. That way you can drop your lunch off at the picnic area on your way into the park. If you park in one of the other lots you have to cross the park first and bring your lunch in through the security check. The security guards don’t hassle you but it is still a pain in the rear. Also, the lockers are “vertical” more than “horizontal” so make sure you have a cooler that doesn’t leak when turned on its end or a cooler that is taller than it is wider.

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California Adventure is Fun
It’s also less crowded than Disneyland. There are a couple of caveats: if it’s raining, California Adventure seems to close more rides down than Disneyland. Also, California Adventure opens later and closes earlier than Disneyland – not sure why. You can easily spend a day in California Adventure so if you only have one day then stick with Disneyland but if you have two or more days then definitely do a parkhopper so you can go to both.

Disney Runs A Tight Ship
While waiting with Diana for the others to finish a ride, I paid close observation to the way that the ride operators switch off, the way their supervisors manage them, the way they control the ride lines, etc. I also saw supervisors during the block party parade taking notes, instructing the dancers on various improvements they could make, etc. I even saw one supervisor instruct one of the “pirates” in the correct height for his rolled up pirate shirt sleeves. Obviously a job is a job and I’m sure there are issues with coworkers, supervisors, crappy management, and “off-stage” issues but you have to admire the way they run things from an organizational standpoint given their ability to make everything at least look practically perfect “on-stage”.

California Vacation – Day 5

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Today we started out at Calfornia Adventure. The last time we came most of the rides were closed because it was raining. This time the weather was perfect and we ended up having a really great time.

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We started off in the “bug” section which has lots of little rides that diana would like such as a little caterpillar train, bumper cars, twirling ladybugs, and flying crackerboxes (all characters/scenese from the movie A Bug’s Life).

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Diana enjoyed the “bug” rides

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Riding the caterpillar train

The bug section also had a splash area where water would squirt up out of random places. Last time we got rained out but this time the kids enjoyed dodging the water spouts as well as not dodging the water spouts.

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Samuel dodging (sort of) the water spout

After the bug area we worked our way over to the “pier” section where they have Coney Island type rides and games. I got to go on the California Screaming roller coaster which was fun and has a loop-de-loop. Unfortunately, I had to go on it by myself because Samuel didn’t meet the height requirement and everyone else wussed out. While I was riding the California Screaming, Nancy took the other kids to ride the carousel and walk the boardwalk. Afterwards we all decided to go on the ferris wheel.

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I don’t know why I went on the ferris wheel because I hate heights and this was a very tall wheel. Nancy and I took the little kids in a non-swinging car while the older girls wanted to ride on one of the cars that slides back and forth on tracks as the wheel turns. I basically just closed my eyes the whole time and clung to the side of the car but the other kids seemed to enjoy it. Even in the non-sliding car swayed a bit in the wind and I knew that Emily and Anne would freak once they were up high in one of the sliding cars.

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Because the line for the sliders was longer than the non-sliders, Nancy and I finished up before Emily and Anne had even boarded their car. They were fairly close to getting on when the ferris wheel had a major shut down. It turns out that someone had barfed on one of the slider cars. They had to get the cleanup people over to disinfect the barfy car. It was at that point that Nancy and I decided there was no way Emily and Anne were going to get on a slider car. We ordered them out of their spot in line and, amid much frumping and grumping, put them in the line for the non-sliders. Nancy went with them on the non-sliders while I took the younger kids over to play in the arcades. I called Nancy on her cell phone when they were way up high and she said that both the girls were glad they hadn’t got on a slider car – the slight swaying of the non-slider was plenty of action for them.

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Our next stop were the Jumping Jellyfish – a kids ride that takes you up a little ways in the air. I was going to put Caroline and Samuel on the ride by themselves but at the last second the ride worker told me I had to ride with them. I felt a little silly riding the Jumping Jellyfish but Caroline and Sam enjoyed it.

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We went on a roller coaster called Mulholland Drive that was just like the rickety old Wild Mouse ride at Lagoon. I didn’t think Caroline would really want to go on it but she was game and after we got off she yelled “That was SO MUCH FUN!”. She is definitely starting to like roller coaster type rids a bit more.

Our next stop was the Grizzly River Run ride – a big raft that goes through rapids, down a “waterfall”, and around geysers. I was a little worried when the signs for the ride said “you will get wet and you may get soaked” but I decided to go on it nonetheless. Emily and Sam went with me but Caroline was too chicken for this one and Nancy and Anne didn’t want to get wet. The ride turned out to be a complete blast with only one problem – I got soaked. Of course, Samuel was even more soaked than I was – a wave came over the side of the raft and hit him head on. Emily got off with hardly a drop on her. The rest of the day Samuel and I wandered around with wet clothes on but it was definitely worth it – a totally fun ride.

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Getting soaked on the raft ride

After the raft ride Nancy took the kids on Soaring over California while I waited outside with Diana. One of the fun parts about going to Disneyland is people watching. There is a never ending stream of people parading by in all manner of outfits. Ladies with their boobs hanging out of their tank tops, kids in costumes, grown ups in costumes (lame), herds of teenagers, grandmas and grandpas – you name it. Disneyland is a people-watchers paradise.

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Diana taking it easy

After taking it easy for a while, Diana and I went exploring and found a cool little place where you could get your picture taken with some of the cars from “Cars” (I think that’s the name – I just call it the Lightning McQueen movie). When the other kids got off the Soaring Over California ride we went over and got their picture taken with Mater and Lightning.

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Hanging with Mater

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Hanging with Lightning – notice that Samuel is soaked from the earlier raft ride

California Adventure has lots of theatre type shows – 3d movies, animatronics, etc. but the kids didn’t seem interested in any of those and only wanted to go on rides so we decided to break for lunch and then head back to Disneyland to go on more rides and catch the evening parade.

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The kids liked the giant candycorn decorations for Halloween

We had the same picnic lunch as yesterday but we were a little bit smarter about it. Instead of me hoofing it back to the car to get the cooler, we simply took the cooler straight to the picnic area and put it in a locker at the start of the day. That way we didn’t have to ride the tram back and forth at lunch time.

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The afternoon was spent riding favorite rides (Pirates, teacups, etc.). As it started to grow dark I took Diana to the parade route and started saving a strategic spot with a park bench and curb space. When the curb started to fill in I called Nancy and she brought the kids over to save their spots. They whined a bit at coming over early but I think they were glad in the end because the parade route filled in quickly and they had prime spots. In fact, Samuel got up for a second to talk to me (I was sitting right behind them) and someone came and took his spot on the curb. They other kids squeezed in a bit to make room for Samuel and the kids learned their lesson about saving their spots.

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The old light parade has been retired but the new parade quickly evaporated any sentimental feelings for the light parade. The new parade has amazing floats and tons of characters dancing down alongside them. The characters do acrobatic moves, swing from trapezes, play with flags and balls and props and get right up close to the crowd.

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The kids sat mesmerized during the entire parade and I had fun playing with the night-time photography settings on my camera. Unfortunately, I was only able to make a few pictures work. I could get a good night-time picture with flash but the action in the parade made it blurry. Or I could get a good action picture but the lack of flash made it too dark. All my meager photography skills could produce was the Cinderella Castle at sunset but that is a fitting end to another great day at Disneyland.

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California Vacation – Day 4

Today we did our first day at Disneyland. For me the fun of Disneyland starts with watching the excitement of the kids as we pull into the parking garage. They get increasingly excited as we board the tram and go in the front entrance. No matter how many times you’ve been to Disneyland, it’s always fun to go through the front entrance and walk into Main Street USA.

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The classic entrance photo. Notice that mickey is wearing a mask for Halloween

We were hopeful that the park wouldn’t be too crowded in the middle of the week and while it was more crowded than our last trip, the longest wait for any ride was 30 minutes and we just used Fastpass for those rides. One thing that was new this year was a Finding Nemo ride (the old submarine ride that they shut down for a number of years and only recently brought back). I wanted to go on the submarine ride but there was never a wait under 30 minutes and it doesn’t have a fastpass. Oh well, we’ll get to it one of the next two days.

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My one and only chance for a classic Mickey picture and I manage to make it blurry

We first went to Mickey’s Toontown where we rode on the Cartoon Adventure ride (can’t remember it’s real name), the Goofy Rollercoaster, and waited in a long line to take a picture with Mickey. After Toontown Samuel and I decided to ride the Matterhorn while the rest of the family went to ride the cars at Autopia. It turns out that Samuel is my best roller-coaster partner. He was always up for any of the roller-coaster/action/adventure type rides while his sisters often (and his mother always) wussed out. Caroline turned out to be a pretty good roller coaster rider once Samuel went on it first and convinced Caroline that it was fun. Diana wasn’t tall enough go on any roller coasters and seemed content just to hang out in her stroller and wait with Nancy.

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Samuel about to board the Matterhorn bobsleds

Diana’s favorite ride was the Alice in Wonderland teacups. I don’t mind going on that ride but I have a strict “no spinning” policy because I don’t want to get seasick. Diana’s second favorite ride was the carousel and she also liked the Dumbo flying elephant ride.

Emily and Anne of course enjoyed Pirates of the Caribbean. So did Nancy and Samuel. Nancy and the girls also went on Indiana Jones while I took Samuel and Diana on the Jungle Cruise and the Tarzan Treehouse because they were too short to go on Indiana Jones (not that Diana would have gone anyway). It’s interesting to see how Disney is rebranding various attractions to be more in line with their newer movies. Pirates of the Caribbean now features a Johnny Depp look-alike as Captain Jack Sparrow. The submarine ride is now Finding Nemo and features scenes from the movie. The old Swiss Family Robinson treehouse is now Tarzan’s treehouse.

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Samuel and Diana in Tarzan’s treehouse

For lunch I hoofed it to the car and brought back our picnic we had packed in a cooler. There is a little picnic area just outside of the entrance to the parks that also has lockers where you can store your coolers. After lunch we headed back to the park for the Haunted Mansion, Splash Mountain, Winnie the Pooh, and Big Thunder Railroad. By the end of the day we had gone on every ride except Finding Nemo and so the rest of the day was devoted to “seconds” – going on each person’s favorite rides. That included the carousel, teacups, and Dumbo for Diana. Pirates for Nancy and Samuel, and Autopia for the girls.

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At the end of the day Nancy and I were both tired and ready to head home so we decided to postpone the parade until the next day. As we went back to the picnic area to pick up our cooler, Emily zigged while the rest of zagged and we got separated. Nancy had already taken Diana to the car so I was stuck with Anne, Caroline, and Samuel while looking for a lost Emily. At first I thought she had followed the crowd streaming out of the park towards the main exit so I went looking in that direction but couldn’t find her. I finally got worried enough that I contact park security who put out an APB on her. We thought she might have boarded the wrong tram for the parking place so they had the tram drivers on the lookout for her. The security people asked me if Emily would have gone back to the car on her own. I didn’t think that was likely because the tram for our car was on the opposite side of the park from where she got lost. After about 20 minutes of looking I got a call from Nancy (who was still waiting at the car) that she thought she saw Emily riding on one of the trams. It turns out that Emily had indeed made it across the park on her own and got on the right tram and headed back to the car once she realized she was lost. It reminded me a lot of the time I got lost in NYC when I was exactly Emily’s age. Nothing is worse than the sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’ve lost a kid. I’m glad that Emily was level headed enough to work her way back to the car so our day at Disneyland could have a happy ending.

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California Vacation – Day 3

We considered going to Disneyland today but it was going to be hot so we decided to make today our day for going to the Getty Museum and the beach. The Getty Center (I think it’s officially known as “The Getty”) was about an hour away. We figured it would be a fairly small art museum and the kids wouldn’t last too long. When we got there, we were amazed. If I could describe The Getty in three words they would be “un buh lievable”. The Getty is built on top of a steep hillside. When you drive in you enter a parking garage built into the hill. It is about 7 levels deep so it must have been a massive excavation project to build that thing. You then board a tram that takes you to the top of the hill where the museum and gardens are.

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Boarding the tram at “The Getty”

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Riding the tram

The museum has several different galleries of both modern and classical European art. We saw paintings by Rembrandt, El Greco, Reubens, and Van Dyck. My favorite was a portrait by Van Dyck. It was enormous and the red robe just looked spectacular on the museum wall (you’ll have to follow the link. The Getty doesn’t allow me to download their graphic for use on a personal website although I could theoretically make a “Fair Use” copyright claim.)

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Making masks in the activity center

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There was also a fun little “family center” where the kids did art related activities. One of the galleries was a “sketch gallery” where they set you up with an artists sketch pad and you could sketch one of the various paintings or busts in the gallery. Anne signed up to sketch a bust. Nancy stayed with her while I took the other kids to look at more paintings.

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Touring the grounds

The kids were as good as gold although as the day wore on they became increasingly more wiggly. Nancy and Anne wanted to continue looking at art (they didn’t spend as much time the galleries as the other kids and I did because they were busy in the sketch gallery) so I took the remaining kids on a tour of the grounds. The grounds are as spectacular as the art – high on the hill you could view the entire Los Angeles valley along with the ocean. The smoky haze wasn’t as bad today as yesterday and the view was wonderful. The grounds are also peppered with various sculptures and other pieces of art.

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After spending several hours and only seeing a fraction of the galleries we boarded the tram back to the parking garage and headed back to the hotel for lunch. I would highly recommend visting The Getty the next time you are in Los Angeles. If you’re not dragging kids around, you could easily spend a full day in the center and touring the grounds. You definitely want to go on a good weather day because it probably wouldn’t be any fun on the grounds in the rain. If you do have kids then The Getty’s various kid activities are great but you the kids will still likely last only a couple of hours. Hopefully Nancy and I can come back some day without kids and spend a full day. We would’ve liked to go see the Getty Villas in Malibu but you need to schedule in advance for a ticket and with the fires near/in Malibu we figured it would have to wait for another trip.

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After lunch we got packed up and headed to the beach. The hotel had beach towels and beach equipment (chairs, toys, etc.) for use so we loaded up on gear and drove the short drive (basically across the street although it was too far for Diana to walk) to Crystal Cove State Park. The weather was nice and warm and we plopped our gear down in the sand and headed for the water with plans to frolick the afternoon away in the waves.

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The second we put our toes in the water all plans of frolicking came to a grinding halt – the water was freezing cold. We spent an hour chasing waves and finding seashells until everyone was cold and sandy enough (too cold to get in the water and wash off the sand) to call it a day. After trying to rinse the sand off the best we could at the public restroom, we turned tail and headed for the balmy waters of the hotel pool and hottub where we played until the sun went down.

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Hot-tubbing it

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The wildfire smoke makes for a nice sunset

California Vacation – Day2

The least crowded days at Disneyland are supposed to be Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday so we figured we would spend the first full day of our vacation just relaxing. The plan for this morning was to sleep in, hang out, and go swimming. The reality was fairly close to the plan with the exception that the kids were knocking on our door at 6:30 a.m. wanting breakfast — so much for sleeping in.

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A smoky sky

After breakfast we went to the pool but the water was chilly and the wind was blowing soot and ashes all over the place so we only lasted about 30 minutes in the pool before we gave up. We went back to the hotel room and hung out and watched TV until it was lunch time. After lunch the weather looked a little better outside so we went on an exploring trip around the hotel. We found a fish pond, a fountain, and a neat little playground with a sandbox, tetherball, basketball, and a putting green.

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After our little exploring tour we had worked up a sweat so we decided to try the pool again. This time the water was warmer (the pool is supposed to be heated) and the wind wasn’t blowing so we stayed for several hours (except Nancy who thought the air was too smoky so she went back to the hotel room to hang out). All in all it was a relaxing vacation day.

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I look like Igor in the picture because I don’t have my glasses on and am squinting at the camera

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California Vacation – day 1

Today we set off on a weeklong vacation in California. Our first suprise was finding an inch of snow on the ground as we pulled out of the driveway. Our second surprise was driving down the street behind our house and noticing that someone had left the kids’ bathroom light on. After turning around to turn off the light, we began the long drive to Southern California in earnest.

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When we woke up this morning to an inch of snow on the ground, the warm winds of Southern California seemed welcome. When we got stuck in traffic on I-15 because of the Southern California fires, the warm Santa Anna winds didn’t seem so great after all. We finally arrived at our hotel in Newport after passing flames along the freeway. The sky was black with smoke and the entire state smells like a campfire but we are just glad to be done driving and glad that the hotel isn’t in the fire zone.

The kids did pretty good in the car on the way down. The worst part was being stuck in traffic for most of the afternoon. The best part was the first time a kid asked “are we there yet?” – Samuel won the prize for asking that question just before we got to Provo (about 20 minutes after we left).

Tomorrow the plan is to sleep in, hang out, go swimming, and generally just relax. We’ll also be at Disneyland for a couple of days this week. We’re hopeful that the smoke and heat will die down a bit towards the end of the week.

Nancy’s Birthday

Tonight we celebrated Nancy’s birthday by going on a date to the Market Street Grill and leaving the kids at home. We’re glad that a Market Street Grill opened up in South Jordan. In fact, we rarely go to a downtown restaurant these days (sushi being a notable exception – we haven’t found a good sushi place on the south end of the valley yet). The only problem with going to Market Street was the fact that Bingham high was playing a home football game tonight (Thursday – likely because of the deer hunt starting this Saturday) so traffic on 104th south was a nightmare.

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After dinner we had cake and ice cream at home. Notice that the number of candle’s on Nancy’s birthday have nothing to do with her age (if you were thinking 34 because of the 4 candles you would be wrong – she’s definitely older than 34).

The corn maze

My kids still love to go and play with their friends from the old neighborhood. Today my friend Lynette called up and wanted to know if my kids wanted go to the corn maze with her kids. I thought the kids would love it, not for just the maze, but because they could play with their friends. They all had a fun time, however at the end of the maze the kids wanted to go to the haunted part, but I didn’t buy the tickets. By the time we got done with the regular maze the line to buy tickets for the haunted part was very long and I didn’t want to wait that long so I told the kids it was time to go home. They weren’t too happy with me, but oh well!
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