Babymoon 3 – California, here we come!
It’s been a crazy year and we have been long over-due for a family vacation. I had been hoping for an earlier babymoon, but with surgeries and their recoveries to dodge it just wasn’t possible. However, we found a two week window when April was past her six-week recovery and my doctor would still allow me to travel, so it was time to get the heck out of dodge. With a new little one on the way and April’s fixed heart, we have a lot to celebrate. (To go straight to all the pictures, click here.)
We headed to Southern California for a couple of reasons: 1. There is a TON of stuff to do there. 2. We could get there and rent a car all on our credit card points (and still have enough points left over to cover 2/3 of the cost of Disneyland). 3. I have a good college friend there that was willing to put us up. S’bult, you and your family ROCK!
Friday/Saturday/Sunday – We left before the crack of dawn on Black Friday, getting into Los Angeles at 10am. Because it was Thanksgiving weekend, we didn’t want to hit any major attractions and be overwhelmed by the crowds. So instead we spent Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the beach – Manhattan, Oceanside, and Carlsbad respectively. The weather worked in our favor and was in the 80s, although when you’re on the coast and with the breeze it didn’t feel that warm (80 in Cali is much different than 80 in Texas). It was a perfectly nice and lazy way to begin our time there.
Abe’s favorite part of the beach was playing football with Daddy. He did have fun doing other things – digging, climbing rocks (second to football; see video), walking the pier, jumping – but football with Daddy was the clear winner. April mainly just liked destroying whatever sand creation we tried to create – once she got over the being sandy part. =) (Pictures)
Monday – We decided to split the family for a day, mainly because we wanted Abe to experience Legoland. It didn’t make much sense for either April or I to go since she is too little to go on the rides and, well, I’m too big. =) So while Daddy and Abe spent the day with Lego men, April and I spent the morning with my friend Sarah and her daughter at the Safari Park, a branch of the San Diego Zoo. (Pictures)
Tuesday – We tried to toss low-key days in between busy-crazy days, so we weren’t concerned that we saw barely a fraction of Balboa Park in San Diego on Tuesday. Both kids were a little on the whiny side, so we played on the playground and spent most of our time at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center. There was a ton for the kids to do and April even got to see her first big-screen movie – “Born to be Wild” in an IMAX theater no less! – about half of which she slept through.
After Balboa, we headed north on the coast to La Jolla Cove in the hopes of finding some seals. Not only did we see a TON of seals, both swimming and on shore, we also caught the most amazing sunset. Absolutely breathtaking. We finished the night off back at our lovely host’s house with a fire and smores outside. Just one of the many ways it was so much more awesome to stay with friends. (Pictures)
Wednesday – It was time to hit the world famous San Diego Zoo. We knew there was no way we could cover the whole park in one day (with kids), so we did the “must hits” and took the bus tour which covers about 75% of the park. Overall we did better than I thought we would. We spent the morning in the Lost Forest appropriately lost, but seeing many fun animals, some multiple times. The highlight of the forest was definitely the Mayalan Tigers. It was feeding time for the two cubs, and while that was mildly entertaining, the best part was talking with their keeper and learning all about them. For example, the two male cubs, Christopher and Conner, are 8 months old. Their mother was caught in the wild and taken captive because she was attacking humans. Because she is wild caught, her blood line is very important in diversifying breeding efforts to save this species. I was impressed that she wasn’t killed, but because tigers are so close to extinction, everyone is getting on board to help save them. Speaking of which, you can do your part too. Turns out the primary thing killing off these beauties is a loss of habitat due to companies harvesting palm oil. It’s amazing how many things you find it in and we now have another ingredient to look for and eliminate when shopping at the store. (We found our first item in a jar of no-stir peanut butter I had bought because we were out of our normal Costco brand.)
Another favorite of ours (Mike’s and mine) was the Elephant Odyssey. Yeah, the elephants were pretty cool, but what really amazed us was the Fossil Portal and Mammoth Passage exhibits there. You got to “explore Southern California’s past” by viewing remains of GIGANTIC animals that are now extinct. Look at these pictures and at the LIFE-SIZED American Lion that Abe is sitting on. Are you kidding me? Can you imagine meeting an animal that size? In the middle picture of the skulls, the extinct American Lion is on the left and the African Lion that we all know and love is on the right for comparison. And the Giant Ground Sloth and Giant Short-Faced Bear are just as impressive. And I thought Grizzlies were huge… (Pictures)
Thursday – Another down-day and Abe was itching to go back to the beach for some more football with Daddy. So we leisurely packed up, said many thanks and goodbyes to our gracious hosts, and headed North, stopping first for lunch at Mama Kat’s (again). Then it was the scenic route, so the kids could nap, to Huntington beach for some more sand time. This family picture taken while there is one of my favorites. It almost made the Christmas card. (Consequently, there are four favorite pictures from this trip not included because they are on our Christmas card. At some point they’ll appear in the albums, but not until cards are sent out.) After the beach we headed to our first hotel room of the trip in Anaheim.
Before we leave them completely, I have to give a quick shout-out to our hosts, my friend Sarah and her fabulous family. They let us crash in their house for a full week, and three of those days while they were gone. On top of that, she had coupons to share and got April and I into the Safari Park for free. I don’t think this woman knows how to NOT save money!! And we are certainly grateful to them for their generosity. It was fun to catch up with her and her husband (both whom I know from college) and get to know her kids, who are awesome. To put it mildly our kids adore them and I think the feeling is mutual; too bad we don’t live closer. My favorite quote of the week came from her oldest. He was meeting April who was feeling a little overwhelmed at the new company and just observing everyone. He was talking to her and after awhile said, “How can she do that? How can she keep her mouth still for that long? I can’t keep my mouth still for that long.” Awesome. (Pictures)
Quick side note: April has started singing songs, which is so cute. She busted out the ABCs for the first time on the way to our hotel in Anaheim after we had left the beach (our first hotel room of the trip!). Okay, so she’s missing a few letters, but it’s still super cute. Worth checking out.
Friday/Saturday – Now came the time to totally wear ourselves out with two full days at Disneyland. The plan was to spend Friday at the Magical Kingdom and Saturday at the Adventure Park. We started out in Toontown to meet as many of the characters as we could. Seemed appropriate that our first celebrity was Mickey Mouse. Abe loved meeting all the characters and found it especially fun to have them sign his book; he spent a lot of time carrying his book around and paging through to look at the autographs.
More of Friday’s highlights from the day included the Monorail (Abe was obsessed with wanting to ride it from the moment he saw it), It’s A Small World, the tea cups, and the parade. After the parade we headed back to the hotel (just across the street) where Abe and I got a nap. April had fallen asleep earlier so Mike just took her back to the park to hang out. We then met up with them in time to hit Disney at night, a whole new world.
We landed great seats that gave us a view of both the fireworks and another show called “Fantasmic,” which followed directly after. Both shows were, well, fantastic. A couple of notes about Disney in general: 1.) They really do an amazing job of creating a completely different world. Every time I walked down main street I felt that I had walked into a movie. Not a movie set, a movie. It’s really quite impressive. And the park is EXTREMELY well run. It’s clean and the employees are amazingly helpful and nice, even in situations where at most parks they would have been snippy. It just may honestly be the merriest place on earth. 2.) Disney knows fireworks. I guess when you do them every (or almost every) night, you get to be experts. But I was quite impressed to see fireworks that were choreographed and set to music. Sure, it had the in-your-face pizazz too, but with a whole lot of class thrown in. Best show I’ve seen just because it had more than shake-the-world-out-of-you booms. 3.) They have a way of drawing you into “the magic” of whatever show they are producing. And they also delve pretty deeply into the dark side of things. There always seems to be that struggle of good versus evil and they aren’t afraid to magnify that evil dark side. This is one of the reasons our kids really haven’t seen many Disney movies.
On Saturday we slept in and then spent the first couple of hours back in the Magic Kingdom. We hit some more rides (Buzz Lightyear, the rockets, and the train around the park) and Abe made as authentic of a Star Wars light saber as they get, and April chose Snow White’s wand. Around noon we headed to the Adventure Park. This park isn’t quite as polished and has a very different feel to it. The big disappointment was that the new Little Mermaid Ride was broken down the whole day and we weren’t able to ride it. But, we did all the rides in “a bugs land” which April especially loved. She wanted to go on the ladybug ride over and over again, which she did. (Major fail on the 3d movie “Tough as a Bug.” Terrified poor Abe and we left after only 5 minutes viewing. Made Mike and I jump too!) We spent the rest of the day at “Hollywood” for some more shows and to meet more characters. We saw a 3d Muppets movie which went great and the highlight, the Aladdin musical, which we had FABULOUS seats for. After dinner April and I headed back to the hotel; she was exhausted and I had packing to do. Mike and Abe stayed out until 10pm to do a couple more rides and an attempt to see the fireworks again (they had to cancel them because of the wind). I couldn’t believe Abe lasted that long without a nap and no meltdown. And he was even picture perfect the next day on our flights back to Austin. Amazing. (Pictures)