Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Summer Vacay - Stop 2 - Part 1, Central Coast (friends edition)

Our plan was to leave San Diego by no later than 10:00 AM on Tuesday.  Our reality was pulling out of town at almost 2:00 PM, which put us in Los Angeles at exactly 5:00 PM.  What with rush-hour, this was not exactly awesome timing, although it was fun for a while we tried to figure out if there were any celebrities stuck next to us in gridlock on the 101.  Before we were able to really see his profile, we thought for a while that this was Richard Simmons in the bright blue corvette.


(It wasn't.)

My one regret on this entire trip is that we didn't arrive in Santa Barbara a little earlier so we could have showed the children the house where Charlie grew up... and visited the beautiful cemetery where Charlie's mom is laid to rest.  Due to our extraordinarily late departure from San Diego, by the time we arrived in SB, the sun was setting and we had a very important dinner date with our beautiful niece, Angela.


Angela is Charlie brother's, Steve, and his wife, Kathy's - daughter and she is smart and beautiful and kind, and a true connoisseur of beer.  We had dinner at a brewery and it was great fun - particularly for Charlie and Angela who got to enjoy a pint. Or two.  I, however, was the designated driver since we were slated to be in Morro Bay that evening to visit my soul sister, Vivian, and her family.

We pulled out of Santa Barbara at around 9:00 PM and the kids were asleep by 9:01.  To ward off the grogginess,  Charlie took on the role of DJ and for the next 2.5 hours blasted me with "NAME THAT TUNE" from Pandora's Easy Listening station.

It shocked me how well I did.  Usually by the first few notes, I'd nail the song - and the artist - and then start belting out the words to entire verses I didn't even knew that I knew.
I long to see the sunlight in your hair, and tell you time and time again - how much I care. Sometimes I feel my heart will overflow! Hello! I've just GOT to let you know!
Lionel Richie who I haven't heard in what, 30 years?

How and why those lyrics are in the recesses of my brain I'll never know but I certainly appreciated that spectacular drive with my husband / co-pilot / DJ.   Forever seared in to my memory will be Charlie's smiling face in the darkness, lit up by his phone saying, "Oh, here's a good one ... you'll never get this."  And I'd immediately pelt out, "BARBRA STREISAND AND NEIL DIAMOND!  YOU DON'T BRING ME FLOWERS ... ANYMORE!"

So Much Fun!

Our visit to Morro Bay was specifically so we could see our dear friends from Virginia.  We have known Zach and Vivian since their daughter was in our children's Kindergarten class, and Daisy Troop.  In this picture, I'm the one that is wearing five layers of clothes while my children are in bathings suits.  Don't let them fool you ... it gets very chilly on the central coast. Particularly if you're over the age of 12.


During our time in Virginia, Vivian and I became very close friends; just as our daughters did and it was such an amazing gift to see them this summer.


While spending two nights with our friends, we were able to catch up on all of the Virginia happenings over the past year.  We also caught up on our laundry.


And Bingo.


We visited Morro Rock to watch the otters play in the kelp, and our children go swimming in the frigid waters while we stayed on land with teeth chattering, trying to ward off the crazy squirrels.


Mostly, we just connected over cups of hot tea.


One of the things that I really appreciate about Vivian is that she is a PhD Psychologist who has had her own practice for years, and after many a talk when I'd confess the latest life saga and express my concern that I had some undiagnosed psychosis, she'd confidently reassure me and say, "Trust me, I'm a professional and I can tell you that you are delightfully and perfectly NORMAL."  Apparently ... a LOT of people who are also perfectly normal, want to sell off everything they own and buy an apple orchard. Or sheep farm. Or sailboat and cruise around the world, home ... er, boat schooling their children.   (I'd like to know how many actually do it??)


Anyway ... since Henry and their youngest daughter are informally betrothed, we're hopeful that an arranged marriage between our children will help keep our families close .

Monday, August 29, 2016

Summer 2016 Vacay - Stop 1, Part 3 (the salty dogs)

After a full day at Sea World on Friday, and an equally full day at Legoland on Saturday - on Sunday, once there was more availability in local hotels - we packed up from our tiny motel in northern San Diego County, and headed to a bay-front resort in the heart of San Diego.

My friend, Michelle, and her family had a little beach-front bungalow within walking distance, so we migrated between the two locations.






We all went paddle boarding, which we'd never done before - and had a great time.





There were so many people we would have loved to have seen like our old neighbors, but we were only there for a few days, and were really opposed to driving all over town - especially when we had digs right on the beach.  Some of our old triplet friends joined us and it was so awesome seeing them and catching up with kids who we've known since ... in utero!  I'm not sure why I managed to get a picture of us closing up our children in the sofa bed, but didn't get a good picture of everyone together, but many thanks to Jeanmarie, Kenny, Tommy and Jamie for spending TWO days with us!


We left San Diego on Tuesday morning after we had breakfast with our dear friend, Virginia.  My mother met Virginia in 1998 during one of her stints at the Optimum Health Institute.   I forget exactly how they met, but I think it was at a senior action event in Balboa Park.  My first memory of Virginia was going to a dancing class with she and my mom - and from that point on, Virginia has been a fixture in our lives.


Virginia has been a surrogate grandmother to the children, who came to the hospital when the triplets were born and spent a lot of time holding them in the NICU.  When Henry was born, she was with us - and has doted over every first as if these children were her own.  And when one of Charlie's co-workers was married and we attended the wedding, Virginia came over the first time we ever left the children with a non-family babysitter, in order to be our "Live Nanny Cam."

Suffice it to say, Virginia adores us, and we adore her. And there was no way we could leave San Diego without seeing her ... even if it meant that some of the children wore their pajama tops because we'd been on the road for six days, and had only packed four days worth of clothes.   It turns out, fancy hotels don't have laundry facilities and we were opposed to spending $6.00 to wash a single t-shirt.


Virginia was so happy to see us, she didn't even mind.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Summer 2016 Vacay - Stop 1, Part 2 (Lego your money)

After a full, fun day at Sea World on Friday, we spent an equally full, fun day at Legoland on Saturday.


Once again, we were joined by our good friend, Michelle, and her family.  The eleven of us had a great day roaming around the park and trying to ride as many rides as possible.


A highlight of the day for Charlie, was when we spotted this boat ride. This has always been one of his favorites. (Look how LITTLE the kids are in those pictures, they can't even see above the fence!) The ride itself isn't that interesting, but spectators have the opportunity to squirt riders as they make their way around the course.


Charlie gave the kids pointers for how they could line up on all four of the water canyons and get people wet for the entire 100 feet that they were in sight by keeping one rider in their sights.


Because the range of the canons is only 90 degrees, he carefully instructed them how one sprays from 0 to 90 degrees; another picks up from 91 to 180 degrees; another from 181 to 270 degrees, and another from 271 to 360 degrees.

You know, plus or minus.


As for the poor people on the boat, sure - they TRIED to fire back and defend themselves, but within a matter of seconds it was evident there wasn't much they could do except duck.


Charlie tried to keep a straight face during the whole thing, and talk out of the side of his mouth, because he didn't want the people in the boat to know that a grown man was tormenting them.  When people would stare at him, he'd point to the children as if it was ALL THEM.

Some things never change. 


Right around the time he completed maximum saturation of this guy who was covered from neck to calf in menacing tattoos, and turned around to glare in our general direction - giving us the first sensation that we might actually incur physical harm for all of our watery fun, we made haste for the Lego Racetrack.



Legoland really WAS fun, but I remember enjoying it so much more when we lived in San Diego and were annual members.  Back in the day, we could just drop in on a mid-morning in say, February, and have the whole park to ourselves.


It's just not the same experience when you fork out almost $100 per person on tickets and then have to wait for 30 minutes or more to get on a ride that lasts less than a minute.


Because I'm all for getting the most out of our investment, we were at the park from nearly the moment it opened, until the moment it closed.


William with William.  Our William was nicknamed Shakespeare by his third grade teacher because of his love and talent for writing.


Elizabeth with Elizabeth.  Somewhere, I have a picture of Elizabeth when she was infant, held by my sister Elizabeth, posing in front of Queen Lego Elizabeth.  I'll need to track that down at some point.


I'm so glad Michelle and her family were with us to squeeze every last ounce of fun out of the day. They were just as committed to stay and get their full money's worth as we were.


When we think back on this day, I'm hopeful confident we won't think about the money spent or the crowds endured, but the awesome time with our family and friends.  There was so much laughter and excitement.


And that's what it's all about.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Summer 2016 Vacay - Stop 1, Part 1 (San Di ... oh no!)

I'm going to try very hard to do something that I've promised myself I would do for the past few months: I am going to update my blog.   Please understand that any lack of routine updating has nothing to do with desire, and everything to do with children who insist on staying up as late as they possibly can, and in doing so, completely decimate any energy I have to write.

Tonight, I held firm and have forced our children go to bed before 10:00 ... which given that it's 1) Summer and 2) The Olympics are on TV, makes me feel like I, myself, have won the all-around Gold.

I'll start my musings with the trip that our family recently took, the incredible 5,000-mile adventure that spanned three weeks and afforded us the opportunity to visit friends and family, and on our way home - took us through five states and five national parks, in five short days.   In a word ... this vacation despite all odds, was epic.  And it will require more than one blog post, but we've got to start somewhere, so here's Post Number One.


Three weeks ago, almost to the day, we left Texas and drove to San Diego, California.

This was the first time our entire family has been to California since we moved away - six years ago - and it was a huge event for us.  So huge that we failed to make any reservations for our visit to San Diego because we were under the solid impression that we'd be staying with friends during our visit. Friends who had told us a couple months ago, "Please, come stay with us!"  and then less than two weeks before our visit said, "Bummer we'll miss you ... we'll be out of town!" 


This was an excellent reminder of Rule #1: Don't have any expectations.

And Rule #2: Roll with it, and always possess the ability to be self-sufficient.

Upon learning that we had no place to stay in San Diego, our first thought was that we'd make it an adventure and camp.  But then we researched campsites and quickly learned that unlike 20 years ago when we could just show up and secure a campsite anywhere, with the overwhelming population boom, people now-a-days make reservations months in advance.  And so it is, there wasn't a single campsite available in San Diego.

So we looked in to renting an RV for our entire trip.  That seemed like an EXCELLENT idea, until we realized that in addition to the rental rate of approximately $200 a day which didn't seem too bad, we'd also be charged for mileage which can range anywhere from $0.35/mile to $0.99/mile. Also, gas costs are approximately 2X what we'd pay for our minivan (20 miles per gallon versus a dismal 10 miles per gallon - on the downhill).

Imagine us whipping out the calculator, tallying it all up.  And wow, you know what?   

Since we'd be driving 5,000 miles .... if we're going to spend $10,000 on a vacation for our family, it better include the Eiffel Tower and London Bridge.

(And not the Lego-sized variety.) (More on that later.)

So there we are trying to figure out where we'll stay in San Diego and because I read something about a certain number of campsites being held aside and available on a "first-come, first-serve" (FCFS) basis, decided that we'd just take our chances and GO FOR IT.

Because that's how we roll. 

And thus therefore to we left Texas with no destination, other than San Diego in sight.  Because we drove 800 miles a day, and gained a whopping two hours (moving from Central Standard Time to Pacific Standard Time) we arrived in San Diego by Friday mornig and drove straight to the campsite in Encinitas which had touted FCFS availability.  

Alas! Even though we arrived at 8:00 AM, there were NO campsites available, and even if there had been, we wouldn't have felt comfortable staying there because it looked like a homeless encampment.  Tents, one on top of another, with tarps and towels and undergarments strewn along a fence that bordered the road, people sitting around in lounge chairs drinking beer as the sun rose.   Our adventurous children were only slightly less dismayed by the sight than we were, so we pressed on.

It turns out that all of the other FCFS campsites were also booked because apparently, people camp out, over night and are there at daybreak to secure their campsite location.  So rather than linger and lament our loss over camping, we immediately turned our sights to Sea World and decided we'd resolve the whole "where we'll lay our head issue" after a day or visiting with Shamu and riding the Manta.   And so it is, after the fireworks concluded at Sea World - at 10:30 on a Friday night, we attempted to reserve a hotel for our little brood in San Diego.  And guess what?


Who knew?!?!

Everything was booked for miles and miles. And miles.  What a watershed moment for us to realize that good old San Diego was a mega-destination hot spot on a summer weekend.  So we began calling upon various friends at 11:00 PM - pleading on their answering machines that they let us camp in their front yards.  It was the height of pitifulness with a tinge of irresponsibility because parents really should have a solid plan for where their children will sleep at night.

Then again, I genuinely think these "on the fly" experiences give the children invaluable lessons in life such as perseverance and grit. Also, the importance of PLANNING.

In light of the grim circumstances, things came together as they always seem to do.  Yes, regardless of how bad it might appear, the sun SHALL rise again.   We found an overpriced hotel room in San Diego, despite all odds. And it was just down the road from Legoland, which was highly convenient, because we'd be visiting that park the very next day.

Here are the photos to recap our first day....

GPS screenshot, we've just driven 1,500 miles and are almost in San Diego with NO idea where we'll be staying for the next few days.  My adventuresome spirit says, "Boo-Yah ... Bring It!" Charlie's much more conservative spirit says, "Good God Almighty.  Pass The Tums." 


Stop 1: Sea World.  My how they've grown.


Henry, doing his best to summon his beluga.


The dolphin show that inspired all of our children to pursue studies in Marine Biology.


Happiness. With absolutely no hint of concern regarding "where, pray tell, will we sleep tonight?"


The graceful sting ray.


Charlie in the front seat on "The Manta" a totally awesome, hold on to your HATS roller coaster that we rode no less than eight times.  Woot!


One of my BFFs, Michelle, with two of her three kids riding with us on Ship Wreck Rapids. Michelle went to Graduate School with Charlie and I in San Diego, and just so happens to work for the same company as me.  She and her family currently live less than 10 minutes away from us in Texas, and our children are similarly aged.  Her sweet daughter is 12 months older than the triplets, and her adorable son was born the same month and year as Henry.  They were vacationing in San Diego at the same time as us, and we met up for the day at Sea World and had a such a blast.    


Best brother ever.


Best siblings ever.


One of the amazing shows that we watched ... these two were unbelievable and inspired Charlie and I to learn the trapeze.


This guy, also part of the Cirque de la Mer show totally blew our minds when he flew 30 feet out of the water on his water jet boots. Turns out, you can rent these things?!


Incredible trapeze artists in the front, water-booted rocket man in the back ...


At which point, we begin to contemplate: no, seriously ... where will we sleep tonight? 


Michelle, who is a much better planner than me, had secured a little bungalow for her family right on the beach and invited us to come stay at her place.  Thankfully, it wasn't necessary. But there's no doubt, everyone needs to have a friend like Michelle.


(And a pair of jet rocket water boots, if at all possible.)

Saturday, August 06, 2016

the copper anniversary

We're currently on Day 10 of an amazing three-week road trip that has taken us through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and the length of the California coast.  Our trip home will take us through Nevada and Utah - and we're hoping at least five national parks. This is a photo of the kids, overlooking the Pacific Ocean along scenic California Route 1.   (If you haven't driven this highway before, you absolutely must.) 


This trip has been perfect - we've had beautiful weather and seen an abundance of good friends and family almost every step of the way.   Today, we're with Charlie's awesome siblings hiking through redwood forests, and touring vineyards in Sonoma County.  We can't think of a better way to spend our 22nd wedding anniversary!