Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer 2013 Day 47: Let's REST

Exhausted…but there is still so much more to do!

Two full days at Disney wiped this family out.  We were so tired, but there is still so much more to see.  Let’s head to the beach.

We were invited to visit Newport Dunes in Newport Beach.  It’s a great resort for camping, RVs, or even day use.  It sits on the back bay of Newport Beach, so there is this fantastic cove to play in.

We enjoyed a nice lunch on the patio – Mom finally got her fish tacos – before heading over to play.
We got set up in our cabana before heading out onto our eco-kayaking tour.  This hour-long tour took us through some channels in the back bay looking for some gorgeous California birds.  It was an enjoyable, relaxing tour despite the fact that my son and I couldn’t get coordinated enough to steer our kayak.  My daughter and husband spent the whole time laughing at us and the tour guide finally had to tie a rope to his kayak to help us.  How embarrassing…..

After that fun (it really was), we headed to relax in our cabana while the big kids played.  There was a huge water playland that they spent hours on and we were able to rent a board to try our hand at Stand Up Paddle Boarding.  My daughter was a pro at it and paddled all around the bay.
Me?  I was so unsteady and shook the whole time thinking I was going to fall it – so I didn’t relax and enjoy it.  My husband – well, he took a swim and promptly brought the board back in.  I don’t quite think we get the whole SUP-craze…..
That evening we headed to a wonderful dinner in Laguna Beach.  Las Brisas has the most beautiful views of the Pacific.
It was just the meal we had hoped for while in California.  Hubby and daughter had steaks (that’s the Texas in them) and I had this amazing plate of seafood – lobster, scallops, crab – YUM.
Afterwards, we headed to the famous Shake Shack in Crystal Cove.  We had been told we “had” to try the famous date shakes.  Now what comes to your mind when someone says “date shake”?  Probably the same as me – eww, why would someone want to drink a date in a milkshake.  But when I asked someone about them, they said “date” meant you took your date to get a shake at the Shake Shack.  OHHHHHH.
They were wrong.  Shake Shack is known for their famous “date shakes and million dollar views”.  Like dates – mashed and mixed with steam milk.  So, this adventurous traveling mom tried it.  I was presented with the “Monkey Flip” – chocolate, bananas, peanut butter, and dates – and it wasn’t bad at all.
 And they were right – it was a million dollar view of the sunset over the Pacific – perfect way to nd the day.

The next day we went to the “beach”.  We went kayaking for 2 hours. Not my cup of tea. After doing the boringest thing in the world, I went and did stand up paddle boarding. I liked that. After resting for a while, I went with Jack to do the obstacle course. It was hard! The lifeguard finally said it was almost closing time so we had to get off.  After freshening up. We went and ate dinner. It was a Mexican resurant but I got a really good steak! We also got a milkshake from Ruby’s Shake Shack. It was so good to relax for a day.

Mom and I were in a kayak together.  We saw 3 crabs, 2 white birds and fish jumping out of the water.  I saw an angel shark but no one else did.  And mom and me were very terrible at steering the kayak.  The person navigating us had to tie the stern of the boat to the back of his to keep us straight.

When we got back to the beach, I went off along on to a blow-up obstacle course in the water.  It was really fun because it had a slide, and upside down climbing part (but you might slide off), a sort of rock-wall thing, and a place to jump over a hole.  It was actually pretty cool. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer 2013 Day 46: Cars Land, Here We Come!

We were up EARLY today.  After yesterday’s parking debacle, we were determined to be at California Adventure early.  We had a mission today.  We HAD to ride Radiator Springs Racers in Cars Land.  We had heard the horror stories before coming – how the lines are hours long and Fast Passes were gone by 10 am. 
So we had a plan – the gates opened at 7:30 am and we were lead down the street to a “holding area” until the park opened at 8 am.  We were escorted into Cars Land by both Mater and Lightning McQueen right at 8.  From the looks of it, Cars Land was amazing, but we were funneled through the end of it to get on the ride, so we didn’t have a chance to really enjoy walking down the street and seeing it all.
But. We made it onto the ride first thing.  We waited maybe 10 minutes and then rode what was to become one of our favorite rides in the park.  Radiator Springs Racers takes you on a leisurely drive, through town, and then you get to race another car.  Again, I can’t say it enough,  Disney does everything SO WELL.  We loved the ride so much, we were able to get TWO more sets of Fast Passes and ride it again.
Whew! That was down, now we felt we could relax and enjoy the day.  We took a walk down Main Street in Radiator Springs, checking out Flo’s V8 CafĂ©, Sarge’s Supply House, Cozy Cone Motel, and more when we came across this guy:
“Hi Lightning!!!” – My son went NUTS!!  He was thrilled to meet him.  I actually have a picture of him with his arms around his hood, hugging him.  Meet Lightning McQueen – Check!

California Adventure is divided up into regions of California – and it is a great park.  The rides are different than Disney, and most are not available in the Florida parks, so we felt like we were at a whole different park, unlike yesterday.  For the most part, we all enjoyed the rides with little to no wait time.  We utilized the Fast Passes when we needed them but most of the time, we walked on.
We loved the themeing of the California Boardwalk and spent most of the afternoon there.  There we lots of rides that my little on could enjoy.  And he also was able to run into this guy.
Buzz Lightyear is another one of his favorites.  He had his pin on his lanyard and showed it to him right when he walked up.  Buzz was “excited” and did a pose like the pin.  Then my guy asked, “Where’s his voice?  Why is he not talking??” Um – I let the handlers take that one.  (Something about saving it for the parade?)  It was one of those moments my guy talked about the rest of the day.  He also met Woody and Jake from the Neverland Pirates.  He didn’t want to meet Mickey yesterday – these were his “guys”. 
I had to try Red’s Apple Freeze – another sought-after snack – from the Cozy Cone Motel.  It was delicious – frozen apple cider with a marshmallow taste – but it didn’t top my Dole Whip. 
We also lucked out and rode both of the fiercest rides twice – California Screamin’ and Tower of Terror.  For those of us who like thrill rides, these were both excellent.
Lastly, we took all the advice we had received and gotten Fast Passes for World of Color.  These passes allow you into a reserved section to see this show.  All I knew is that is was a water show.  I half-heartedly wanted to watch it – really, I wanted to shop.   But I am SO glad I did.  World of Color is so much more than a “water show”.  This half-hour show has to be one of the best we have ever seen.  Scenes from Disney movies are projected onto the water.  Water jets make the water spray in different shapes, intervals, and heights.  And there is so much mood-envoking color.  This show alone was worth the price of admission in my book. All of us enjoyed it.  Except my 4 year old.  Two days at Disney and he was out.  Oh well, I guess that is reason enough to come again, right?

The next day was California Adventure! My favorite ride was the California Screaming. Mom and I had a blast! Another palace you have to see is Cars Land. We rode Radiator Springs Racers 3 times! Ian loved it! The last thing we did was watch World of Color. If you do California Adventure, you must see World of Color. That is the best show ever and they just started playing it!

Our time at Disneyland and California Adventure was amazing. If you are going to California you must come here.

My favorite part of California Adventure was California Screamin because of how fast it goes.  When you go on the loop, you can barely feel it.  We rode it 2 times but I could have ridden it 5 times! I also really liked Hollywood Tower of Terror.  It drops you several times.  I liked the pictures it took.  On all the rides, I tried to do the Longhorns sign. 

I liked Cars Land a lot.  I liked how the Radiator Springs Racers speeds up and races other cars.  Mater's Junkyard Jamboree was fun too, even if I had to ride with a girl on it.  I also liked the look of all the lights at night.  

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer 2013 Day 45: Disneyland!!!

In the middle of freeways, hotels, restaurants, and busy streets, sits the famous Disneyland.  You wouldn’t really know it is there unless you can identify some of the more famous structures peeking above the thick foliage they use to cover it.  Without the signs, you wouldn’t know it existed.  And that is probably how they want it.  So when you enter, it is if you are walking into a different land.

And I very stupidly thought we’d just drive right on up to the parking lot and walk in the park.  Not so.  After waiting in line to park in the multi-tiered parking garage, waiting in line to ride the tram to the entrance of the park, waiting in line to get our tickets, waiting in line to enter the park, we were finally there.  That took about an hour.  By then, we were all fully grumpy and not feeling the magic.  In fact, when I made the children pose in front of Cinderella’s Castle, my 4 year old blurts out “I want to go HOME!”.
Uh no.  Let’s go to Fantasyland and show him what Disneyland is all about.
It was still fairly early, so ride times were small in Fantasyland.  I think we waited 5 minutes to ride Dumbo.  And this grumpy Gus became all smiles! That was AWESOME Mom!  From there we rode my husband’s all-time favorite, Peter Pan, and the teacups, and Wild Toad’s Ride – our moods all improved right away.  We were in Disneyland!!
Our goal for the day was to ride the rides that Disney World did not have – but for us (the big kids), that meant Matterhorn Bobsleds (kids rode 5 times!!) and Indiana Jones.  We did notice there were subtle differences in  rides between the two parks.  We felt that Space Mountain was much smoother here.  Star Tours was much more updated.  Pirates of the Caribbean has a restaurant in the ride (so cool!).  It’s a Small World starts outdoors.  And let’s talk about the castle.
When we walked down Main Street USA, we were expecting a big castle at the end.  In Disney World, Cinderella’s Castle is HUGE – very tall.  This castle is puny (sorry, but it is).  I walked around all day thinking that until I finally had a conversation with someone about it.  It’s Sleeping Beauty’s castle, which is much different than Cindy’s.  Oh. Ok.  It’s still small.

So what are my favorite moments of the day?  I loved introducing my youngest to Space Mountain.  He was terrified so he sat with his Dad.  As we arrived at the end, they asked us if we wanted to go again.  YES!!  Twice in a row!  We finished and he hops out of the car, looks at me and yells, “I AM NOT riding that again MOM!”

Another time, my youngest and I were waiting on the big kids to ride Indiana Jones when a beautiful princess walked by.  "Look Buddy, It's Belle!!!".  It wasn't.  It was Tiana - and she let me know about it.  I thought all Disney Princesses were sweet??  Maybe not in California.....

Dole Whip.  Need I say more?  We waited in this line for our favorite theme park treat:
And yes, it was absolutely worth the wait:
We ran all over Disneyland, using our fast passes and making sure we rode the ones we wanted to.  We completely wore out this little man.
And as we waited in the Hub for the Fireworks show, I took it all in.  It was the Happiest Place on Earth.  My children had smiles on their faces all day long.  And everyone around us did too.  Does Disney pump happy juice in everyone’s drinks?  Fill the air with something that makes you giddy?  Or does the laughter and happiness naturally spillover?  Everyone was happy.
Before we came, I balked at the ticket price. I thought $100 was way too much to pay for one day (Single day ticket).  But after seeing the amazing rides – they are so themed and long – and watching the reaction out of my children, it was absolutely worth it.  The shows, the characters, the rides, and all the experiences Disneyland offers – there is no other place quite like it.

The next day was Disneyland. One of the best days EVER! It got even better when our friends showed up. After the first ride, Ian was so excited! He wanted to go on everything. After doing the Kiddy rides, we went on the Indiana Jones Ride. OMG that ride was awesome and scary at the same time! The snake scared me because I was ON THE SIDE IT WAS ON! After some more rides, we went and got Dole Whip. It is the best thing ever! We finally went on Space Mountain. We got to ride it 2 times for one fastpass! Ian afterward was furious. But the rest of us were freaking out because it was so cool! While watching the fireworks over Auras castle, Ian fell asleep! That night my feet felt like rocks!

Disneyland was awesome! First, after we got our tickets, we went on the Matterhorn. It was crazily fast and dark! And if you’re thinking the left one goes faster,you were wrong! We rode on both sides. After the Matterhorn we went on Indiana Jones and the Lost Temple of the Crystal Eye. I was so excited! When it started all the girls screamed as loud as they could. You got to go on a rickety old bridge over lava, you got to meet a giant snake, avoid the undeads swords and darts, and last of all, experience what Indiana Jones felt like by being chased by a giant rock ball that was about to crush you. I was so amazed by how real it looked. You should have seen it! The final ride we went on was Splash Mountain! Even though it seems like you get splashed, the trick to not getting wet is lightest in front and heavy in back. When I did that I barely got wet. The only part I really liked was the giant hill drop because I only got tiny drops of water on me. Last of all we saw the firework show- it was amazing! I saw some types of fireworks that I had never seen!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Summer 2013 Day 44: Are We Going to Cars Land Today Mom?

A day of rest before heading to Disney was on the plate today, so we spent the morning at a great museum that was recommended to us, the Discovery Science Center in Santa Ana, California.
Our family really loves science museums and this one was fantastic.  We really enjoy a museum that has a ton of hands-on exhibits as it keeps us engaged and learning in a fun way.  This museum had some cool things - like feeling the magnitude of an earthquake in the Shake Shack.  We felt how big the Anchorage, AK earthquake in 1964 was - that was pretty cool as we actually had family members survive that one!
We really enjoyed the Science of Hockey exhibit where we learned that having a puck fly at your face as a goalie is a pretty frightening job.  Neither of the big kids want to play hockey now....
One of our favorite exhibits was the Discovery Market.  You grab an interactive shopping cart and take it around the market while learning how to shop eco-friendly.
After checking into our home for the next few nights,  we relaxed for a few hours and did some laundry (glamorous, I know).  I was thrilled to see this comfy bed, as I know first hand how tired and achy you are after a long day at a Disney Park.
Life of a road tripper - laundry in the hotel.
Lastly, we couldn't hold back any longer and had to pop over to Disney for dinner at Downtown Disney.  We met the McGuires (our great friends and neighbors) for dinner and to plan our next 2 days in the parks!! The excitement is in the air - you can't help but have a big smile on your face as you see all the Disney shops and memorabilia!
Our little guy spotted this right away and asked, "Are we at Cars Land now?  Is this it?" Don't quite know how we will get him to wait until Tuesday to go to California Adventure, where Cars Land is.....
And one last thing we did this evening while at Downtown Disney.  Have y'all heard of Ridemakerz yet??  It was a really cool store to build your own remote control car - think Build A Bear but for boys! And of course we were lulled into making some new cars - but honestly, I haven't seen a bigger smile on my 10 year olds face.  He thought it was the coolest thing.  At that point, I didn't care about the price - it was such a fun experience to see him build his own car.  Fun times at Downtown Disney!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Summer 2013 Day 43: Dad's Here!!

One week in and look who joined us!! The kids were thrilled to see their Dad (as was I)! We are so happy he will be able to be apart of Week 2 in California.  We made it to LA, now what?
Well, we came all this way....we most definitely need to see where California ends! At the beach!  Lucky for us, we have family here, so we joined them for a day in San Clemente.  

San Clemente is a beautiful beach town with adorable shops and restaurants and a great beach by the pier.  The beach itself had picnic tables, permanent awnings, and palm tree umbrellas.  And if you get there early enough, you can snag one of these prime spots for the day.

And man, these Texans were WAY un-prepared - we had our sunscreen and towels - wasn't that enough? The locals really know how to spend a day at the beach - with cookouts, tons of food, games, chairs, and boogie boards!
My kids grabbed the boogie boards and hit the ocean - I warned them......It's COLD!!  They bounded right in, and stayed in for the next 4 hours.

Now, we are used to warm, calm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.  The Pacific is quite different.  A cool 70 degrees (which felt great after you sat int eh sun for awhile) and fierce!  The waves were huge and the undertow was strong.  Just as you'd regain your footing after fighting the pull, a giant wave would knock you down again.  I'd like to say it was fun, but I honestly felt like a drowned rat flailing around in the water.  I did not look graceful.
But my children loved it.  The jumped waves and body-surfed til their tummies were red and scratched.  They bounded up the shore for a quick handful of chips and then ran back in to catch the next wave.  We just watched them have fun (except for the one crazy moment where I thought it would be fun to join them).

It was a GREAT day to relax and just play - the beach was fantastic and I'm thrilled that we have another day at a different beach later this week - we honestly can't get enough of it!

We loved playing on the boogie boards at the beach today.  The tide was really strong and it would pull you back in each time you stood up.  So I gave up on the boogie board and just fell into the waves.  We must have done that for hours because when I was done, I could feel the waves for a long time afterwards.

I liked how the water was colder than all the other oceans I had been in before.  It was refreshing but you got used to it. I liked how Morganne and me came up with ideas on how to play on the boogie boards all day.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer 2013 Day 42: A Long Drive Through the Desert

It was a gorgeous morning to wake up to in Flagstaff, AZ.  The air was cool and the smell of pine was heavy.  We didn't want to leave but we were facing a 7 hour drive to Anaheim and wanted to get there BEFORE the dreaded LA traffic started.

So off we were on Route 66 again.....but this time, it was a completely different drive.
 And by that, I mean - there was absolutely nothing to see.  No quirky stops like we had in New Mexico and Arizona.  Just the road stretching in front of us.....
Crossing into California was uneventful.  We precariously pulled over on the bridge that crossed the Colorado River to get the California sign - nothing special is it?

We crossed into California at noon, thinking we could stop in Needles for lunch.  Um....McDonald's mom??  NO thanks!  (I think my kids are sick of fast food by now).  Not many choices here kids, maybe the next city will have something to eat.

Unfortunately, the next city with food (other than a Dairy Queen) was over 100 miles away.  Now, we are not food snobs by any means, but we were wanting something a little different.  In fact, we had our minds set on the famous In & Out Burger.  So we hunkered down and trekked across the Mojave desert.

Spoiled as we are in our very nicely air-conditioned Honda Odyssey, you would have thought we were crawling on our bellies across the Mojave desperate for water the way were were complaining.  Of course all I wanted was a diet coke - NOT any of the water we had.  And though my kids were placated with the bag full of snacks, this momma couldn't bear the thought of eating another peanut butter cracker.

So we sang songs - Madonna's Immaculate Collection and Beatles LOVE album worked for awhile.

And we played games - One that got us laughing was "Would You Rather" - kids were cracking up at these questions:
Would you rather wear a superman cape or footie pajamas to school?
Would you rather live in a spaceship or a submarine for a year?
Would you rather eat a bug for one meal per day or eat food that has been walked over by flies for an hour?

We told jokes.

We told each other what our dream vacations would be (my kids are super creative!).

And we survived the long trek - seriously, it was only 138 miles, but it felt like forever. And we finally found what we were looking for:
It was 2pm in Barsotw, CA and In & Out was packed.  They have a fairly limited menu, so we ordered, found some seats and waited to get our burgers.  Meanwhile, everyone around us has the amazing looking french fries covered in cheese and bits.  Um, THAT wasn't on the menu!  Come to find out, In & Out has a "secret menu"!!???  Did you know?  Thank goodness we have a whole week here to come back and try the "secret stuff!"

Onward we trekked.  I can see the end!!

As the traffic got busier and the freeways got bigger, we knew we were getting closer to our destination - Anaheim, CA.  Amazingly enough, Siri directed us perfectly to our hotel for the night, the Hyatt Regency Orange County.  We weren't there 20 minutes and this is where I found my girl:
 The perfect little California girl. We are enjoying our break - went swimming, enjoyed a nice Italian meal, and relaxed in our Family Suite:
Just want this traveling family needed to rest up for our big week in California.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Summer 2013 Day 41: The GRAND CANYON

Flagstaff is an adorable town filled with cute restaurants and shops, crisp, chilly air, and "christmas trees every where Mom!" We were in love with our precious cabin at Ski Lift Lodge at Snow Bowl, just north of Flagstaff.  It was the perfect setting to start our Grand adventure from.

To be honest, I was a little intimidated by the Grand Canyon.  There just seemed to be SO much to do and the options were overwhelming to me.  But as we got closer to the park (our cabin was an hour south), I became excited just to see it - to share this experience with my children.

 We headed straight to the Visitors Center and spoke with a Park Ranger.  Based on the ages of the kids and the limited time we had at the park (one day), he provided us with a full days worth of activities to get the most out of our stay.  I think in another life, I want to be a Park Ranger - so full of knowledge, incredibly helpful, and they get to work in the coolest settings. 

We set out for the closest point to see the canyon by foot - I wanted to see my kids' reaction to the sheer enormity of the canyon.  WOW - they were amazed.  Morganne kept saying that she didn't think it was this big - it really surprised her. 
All I wanted to do was stare - the beauty is breathtaking.  Even in the picture above, it looks unreal, right?
Jack was amazed - he wanted to see it all - like me, taking hundreds of pictures of the same thing - trying to capture it.  But he and I both agreed - you can't capture the beauty in a picture.  You have to see it yourself.
 Everything is so very organized at the Grand Canyon, so I don't know why I felt intimidated.  They have free buses that will take you to all the points, so you don't have to hike along the rim to see it all.  We felt very relaxed to take our time with the buses.  We walked between many of the points - it was such a gorgeous day, only in the 70s.
Now I feel the need to explain this picture.  Many people were going out to this rock with their children.  And as they were coming back, I asked how comfortable they felt out there - "No problem!!" said one dad.  So we attempted it.  My son bounded out there while I slipped down the first little hill and watched my lens cap to my camera go rolling down the hill.  Luckily, it go caught in a bush or it would have been gone.  That was enough for me.  I retrieved my cap and sat at the top shaking as I watched my son out there.  I could barely take a picture I was shaking so much - so surprised this one came out at all.  I am getting ill just thinking about it.  But it made for a really great picture. 
During the summer, the Grand Canyon is in "monsoon season", getting rain each afternoon.  We were at a Ranger Talk at Hopi Point when we watched the above storm move in.  He sternly asked us all to step away form the edge and warned us all about lightening.  And I couldn't for the life of me remember what I was supposed to do in case of lightning - is sitting under a tree bad? Cause that's what we did for 15 minutes while it rained......
It was an amazing day.  Ian was a trooper - hiking right along with us - waiting patiently as we took pictures. Only asking to be carried once or twice.  During the last part of the trail, Ian asked about my cross on my necklace - "Is it the same one Jesus died on mom?" We got on the topic of Jesus and Ian asked where he was - that started an awesome conversation about Heaven and death and God and our faith with all 3 of the kids.  And it couldn't have been in a cooler setting. 

At the end of the trail at Hermit's Rest, we had cookies and sodas and sat on a few rocks overlooking the canyon.  We had a great conversation about nothing and laughed at each other.  It was one of those moments I will never forget. 


The fifth day of our incredible road trip, we went to the Grand Canyon. I thought it would be just a small canyon with the Colorado River running beneath it. Boy was I wrong. They had many different points, trails, and many scenic views. My visit was amazing. If you don’t want to walk so much you can ride the free shuttles. There are 4 different shuttle roads.
The purple route- to the Imax theater and back to the park
The blue route- the lodges and food
The orange route- many incredible points
The red route- many scenic points and some paved hiking trails
My favorite place was Powell Point on the Red route. It practically stuck out into the canyon! It took us all day to do mostly everything. So if you are planning to go to the Canyon, BRING LOTS OF SNACKS AND WATER SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO BUY THINGS! Also be prepared for weird weather. Did you know if your hair sticks up in a thunderstorm, you are about to be zapped by lightning? The MOST IMPORTANT THING is to bring memory storage for your camera that is empty. If you have kids and are doing the Junior Ranger Program, make sure you find a ranger before 5 o’clock so you don’t have to hunt one down at a Ranger talk after 5. The Grand Canyon is truly an amazing sight.

P.S.- don’t forget to see the sunset. We sadly didn’t see it because of the cloudy day. It was nice to walk around in though.


Yesterday we went to the Grand Canyon National Park. When I got my first glimpse of it I was amazed. It was as far as the eye could see. Really! I loved all the different colors made by the sun. After I caught my first glimpse, I crawled onto an edge and looked down. Mom was so nervous that when she tried to switch her camera lenses she accidentally dropped one of them. Luckily it stopped just before the edge. Even when she tried to take a picture of me her hands were so shakey that she only got a few pictures of me!     

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...