Friday, July 28, 2017

California, Part II: Northern California

Southern California was all about amusement parks, entertainment, and things that were manufactured.  Northern California was about slowing down and appreciating nature and its beauty.

We flew up to San Jose airport on Friday afternoon. We flew Southwest, and they were so friendly (as advertised!).  Charlotte got to go into the cockpit, and even got invited to try out the pilot's seat.
With the pilot and co-pilot

Totally ready to fly this thing
By this, our 3rd flight of the trip, the kids were old hands at flying. They settled right in to reading, and deciding which sugary carbonated beverage they would order when the drink cart came.

After landing and renting our car, we drove out to Big Basin Redwoods State Park to check out the trees.  The kids were exhausted and fell asleep on our way out there, despite the road being narrow and winding and Eric getting nearly carsick just driving there.  Benjamin threw a tantrum when we told him we were getting out and going on a hike (0.6 miles total, nothing strenuous), but he quickly warmed up and then enjoyed climbing on trees and looking at nature.
Benjamin at the top of the fallen tree trunk

In the tree hollow

3 peanuts in the woods
After our little outdoor outing, we had dinner at a burger place on our way back to Mountain View. We were staying at a hotel that seemed perfect in pictures and amenities... but we arrived at bed time to find that we had a small room that slept 4.  At that point, we didn't have much choice but to make it work; but after panicking, searching for rooms on and priceline, I went down to the lobby to make a deal with the guy working at the desk.  I threw Eric under the bus (since he had booked the room and hadn't said we were 5!) and hoped the the guy would take pity on me.  I then mentioned that I had twins, and he asked if they had been spontaneous or medically assisted.  I told him we had done IVF because I had trouble getting pregnant, and he told me that he and his wife were having trouble having a baby.  After talking him through treatments and how to search for a reproductive endocrinologist, he let me book a second room at the wedding rate.  For the following 2 nights we split up, girls in one room and boys in the other.

On Saturday, we attended the wedding rehearsal and then drove south to Monterey Bay.  We made 2 pit-stops on our way: 1 for me to buy a bag of cherries at a roadside stand, and 1 for lunch at In-N-Out burger.  It turns out that Asher likes hamburgers!  Charlotte had French fries and soda for lunch.

The aquarium was amazing.  We saw the sea otters and admired their cuteness. We could have been there for hours and hours more, but we had to get back to Los Altos for my cousin's rehearsal dinner.
The family at Monterey Bay
Sunday was wedding day! We had to be ready by around 2 pm, so we stayed around.  My mom and I went to the Mountain View Farmers Market, where I continued to plot my move to California. The fruits and vegetables were to die for!  The possibility of eating like that year-round is quite enticing. After the Farmers Market, another friend from high school who now lives in California came and met us at the hotel for swimming and snacks.  We hadn't seen each other since 2002, and we are now both married with twins, so there was a lot to catch up on.  

We got beautified in a hurry, and went off to the wedding, which took place at the most beautiful wedding site I have ever seen.  The ceremony site was in a glen surrounded by redwood trees, and the rest of the location was indescribable.  There was a little train circling the property, a fairy cottage, a gigantic chess board, and beautiful surprises around every corner.  My cousin had hired babysitters to take the kids after the ceremony, so we were free to enjoy ourselves. The kids ran around and explored and didn't even talk to us.
The kids were part of the procession
Charlotte wore the same dress our flower girl wore at our wedding
Unfortunately in motion, but Benjamin was adorable
Asher on the stairs away from the ceremony site
On the throne at the edge of the chess board
With Meema and Papa Nick
I don't know if we planned to leave the wedding early, but we didn't- we stayed til the end and didn't get the kids in bed until 11 pm! They had certainly adjusted to west coast time.  I was awake before everyone in the morning and got in a run.  

We went to the after-wedding brunch on Monday, and then drove up to Berkeley to see my mom's cousin and his wife- my mom's cousin was at work, but we spent time with his wife, and played Old Maid, but no one remembered the rules.  I love Berkeley, but it seemed like Eric was having anxiety from the height of the hills.  The views are unbelievable- another city I would love to live in.

San Francisco and the bay from the Berkeley hills
A stop for ice cream before we left
From Berkeley we went back to San Jose to return our rental car and begin the trek home. Whatever great travel karma we had, we'd used up, apparently.  Nothing disastrous, but our flight out of San Jose was to LAX, where we would get on a red-eye home to Philadelphia. We had a short layover, and then they started delaying our flight.  I went up to a gate agent and said, "We have a short layover in LA... are we going to be ok?" and she said, "Let me route you through Phoenix."  So instead of a short flight and then a long flight, we had two shorter flights.  The good part was that our flight from Phoenix was fairly empty and we had space to stretch out and sleep. All 3 kids slept the whole flight.  We arrived in Philadelphia and rushed to get our bags in the hopes of getting home for a couple of hours of sleep before I took the kids to a half day of camp and myself to a full day of work.  3 of our 4 bags arrived, and then the belt stopped and... no 4th bag.  I marched off to the lost luggage office, and we waited around for an additional 45 minutes in order to be told it had jammed the belt and they'd deliver it later.  We got in a cab just in time to sit in rush our traffic going home.  We had to go to my parents' house because in our absence work had begun on our master bath.  We did get there in time for a couple of hours of rest, and then we were off and running- vacation was over.

It's now 3 weeks later and I can't stop thinking about what a great trip we had.  It was worth every dollar we spent, and we made memories that will stay with us forever.  I loved the time with my family of 5.  All 3 kids were wonderful travelers and good company. We are fortunate to have children who are flexible and adaptable and comfortable wherever we go- it makes me want to keep up the exploring.  

Monday, July 17, 2017

California 2017: SoCal

Watching the sunrise over the planes 
We are back from our first airplane trip as a family of 5- and the boys' first time ever on an airplane.  We decided months ago that we would attend my cousin Erica's wedding in California (excellent decision), and told the kids they could come. Erica made plans to include the kids in her wedding, and they were thrilled- they had never been to a wedding, either.

On Monday, July 3, we woke up at 4 am and took a taxi to the airport in the dark.  The kids were talking as if they had never been outside of the house before ("What is a motel?"), and were so excited.  We had a connection in Chicago, thinking we would get out and stretch our legs.  Fortunately everything went smoothly, but we probably didn't need the connection. The kids were all great on the plane, with the exception of their use of chewing gum.  Benjamin took his gum and stuck it on the seat, and Charlotte let hers fall out of her mouth and then sat in it.
With our friends in Santa Monica
We arrived in Orange County around lunch time (California time), and got our rental car. I had gotten in touch with a friend of mine from high school who lives in Santa Monica, and we drove to meet her, her husband, and their daughter for lunch. I hadn't seen her since her wedding in 2001!  She is also a clinical psychologist, so we had a lot to catch up on.  The weather in Santa Monica was absolutely gorgeous: sunny without a cloud in the sky and warm but not hot.  I can see why people pay a fortune of money to live there.  We had a very California lunch, and then went to the beach.
Santa Monica Pier
Smile! It's our 11th anniversary!
Around 5 we headed back to the car and drove back to Anaheim. We stayed at a Marriott Courtyard close to the Disneyland entrance and it had its own little waterpark.  The kids loved it, and it was perfect for our family and our trip. The room had 2 queens and bunk beds and we all slept like rocks. That first evening, Eric and the kids went to the waterpark and I ran to Walmart for groceries.  We had a little dinner in the room and fell into bed.

We were still mostly on East Coast time in the morning and awake before 6 am.  I went out for a jog (I am much faster in cool, less humid air and on streets that are completely flat) and then we got ready to go to Legoland. Since it was the 4th of July, we thought we would stay for the fireworks at 8:30, but who were we kidding- it was hot and we were exhausted.
Welcome to Legoland!

Legoland was fun; we rode the rides, went into the waterpark, and spent many minutes in the gift shop deciding what souvenirs to get.  We were all exhausted by about 4 pm so decided to just call it a day, and went back to the hotel to enjoy the waterpark there. I got to see a bunch of fireworks from our hotel room, and we were all asleep by 9.

For our first day at Disneyland, we went to Disney California Adventure. Top of our list was Guardians of the Galaxy, which is just a fancy new name for "Tower of Terror."  The height minimum was 40", and Charlotte is now 42", so it seemed like a great idea to take her on it.  Ha! She screamed, and screamed, and yelled, "When is this going to end?!? Get me outta here!" When we walked off the ride she was hysterical, crying that she hated it. She spent the rest of the day saying things like, "I don't think anyone should go on Guardians of the Galaxy, ever. That ride is a terrible nightmare!" Aside from that disaster, we had a great time. Asher and I rode the California Screamin' rollercoaster 2 times, we saw a great performance of Frozen, and went as a family on the Radiator Springs Racers. Benjamin was cautious and didn't want any rides that went too fast or who were too scary. Asher, on the other hand, thought the scarier the better.
Charlotte can't even look at the sign, she is so scared
Radiator Springs
Lightning McQueen
We left the park around 4 to go back to our hotel- the kids were just as excited about the water slides at our hotel as they were about Disneyland!
The boys in Radiator Springs
The ferris wheel- everyone enjoyed it, no one was scared
On Thursday the 6th, we went to Disneyland's main park. I took Charlotte and Asher on Space Mountain (Charlotte didn't love it; Asher did). We crammed in several rides in the first hour and a half the park was open, before the crowds got heavy and the sun got too hot. As a cost-cutting measure, we ate breakfast in our hotel, and I packed sandwiches for our lunches. Asher did complain that we ate a lot of sandwiches on vacation, but I had to cut a corner somewhere!  We did get treats in the afternoons.

Eric wanted a picture with the stick-guy behind him but didn't want to wait in line

Charlotte is speechless at meeting Minnie

Overjoyed to be with Minne

Outside Space Mountain

Charlotte is screaming in fear on Space Mountain

Despite those muscles, Asher was unable to remove the sword from the stone

Lunchtime indulgence: gigantic turkey leg
Meeting Moana

Benjamin adores Tigger
That day, Eric took Charlotte and Benjamin for a nap, and Asher and I went on Splash Mountain. After our ride, we caught the 4:30 parade, and then I made Asher go back and take a nap, too. That night we attended the nighttime Electric Parade, and the fireworks that followed.  I must still be a child at heart, because I love all that stuff, and I couldn't get enough of it.  The kids seemed to like it, too.

There is more to say, but I want to get this posted, and then I will get to work on Part 2 of our trip: Northern California and the wedding.