32 posts categorized "Travel"

September 23, 2009

Kindergarten Field Trip to .... Las Vegas!

Vegas minivacation 2009

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A few months ago, we planned a mini-vacation with long time friends, Chris and Phyllis.

Chris went to Grad School with Andrew and participated in our wedding back in 2001. Then we went to his wedding a year later! Now we all have busy blossoming families with Kindergartners and (in the case of their daughter, Cassie, toddlers too!).  Since schedules are starting to finally look manageable, we thought it might be fun to attempt a joint family mini-vacation. This trip was the fruit of that effort!

We picked Vegas because it's pretty family friendly. 

None of us gamble so it's relatively inexpensive too. 

There's fantastic shopping and plenty of eye candy to keep the kids amused and great deals on hotel and restaurants.  Perfectamundo!  And, thanks to Phyllis's super-thrifty-sleuthing efforts, we were able to find a 2 bedroom suite at the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel in Las Vegas. 

Two bedrooms worked perfectly for our two families and our half didn't cost any more than we might have paid for two standard rooms (our usual hotel preference).   And the best part of the arrangement was that we didn't have to split up and call it a night when the kids went to bed since we had space to hang out between the two bedrooms.  Room service was embarrassingly fantastic too.   Seriously... I've never felt so pampered!

Lazy-river[1]

There are lots of kid-friendly shows in Vegas and, since Gwen is our little Knight in training, we had to go to the Tournament of Kings dinner show at Excalibur.   She didn't blink for the entire 90 minutes!  Afterward, we shopped for accessories for her halloween costume --- yep, she wants to be a Knight.  No surprise there!   

We also visited Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay and really LOVED the Mystere show (Circ De Soleil).  That was an amazing and worth every penny but I have to say that the highlight of the weekend was Mandalay Bay's Lazy River.  It's a quarter mile (or so) of meandering water-way with a nice swift current and a depth of not more than 3.5 feet.  The idea is that you ride the impressive current on an inflatable ring (for maximum effect) or you can just swim along on your own.  When we first saw this so-called "river", we were doubtful since the water was a bit cold and we didn't really understand that there was a current beneath the surface.  But when the kids were swept away (with the rings we brought with us around their chest), their shrieks of delight won us over and the fact that we had to leap in and float along with them was more than just a parental responsibility -- it was FUN!  I think we spent 2 hours going around and around in this thing and it's probably the part of the weekend We'll all remember most fondly.  And, with our hotel key, it was free.   

Next time, we'll just pack a bathing suit and some sun screen and skip all the fancy shows and spend our entire weekend gorging on room service and drifting on this on this fabulously fun Lazy River!

The plane touched down yesterday morning just in time for us to grab our luggage, scurry to long-term parking then whisk the girls off to school at noon.  They missed one day of Kindergarten because of this mini-vacation but we hope that won't ruin their chances of getting into an Ivy League college in 13 years.   Truancy certainly isn't something we plan to make a habit of (so please spare me the lecture in your comments) but there were good lessons learned on this trip: 

We don't gamble and we were able to show our kids hundreds (thousands?) of adults sitting in a stinky noisy smoke-filled casino dropping coin after coin into a machine and getting absolutely nothing other than dashed hopes in return.    I know the thrill of victory (however remote) is fun to some folks but it's never been fun to us and it's kinda nice to have the opportunity to impress upon our kids at this tender age that it's a vice that's easy to avoid.  A rather good lesson for a missed day of school, I think!

Monkey knight 016

PS:  When school was out, the girls wanted to play with Gwen's Knight accessories.  Maddy was a bit unhappy that she didn't get something like this but she was happy to share some of her sister's abundant bounty.  Since less is never more with our girls, they wanted to layer the shields and swords and chest protectors over some historical halloween costumes.  I can't belive last year's monkey costumes still fit! 

The result?  The Monkey Knights you see pictured here! 

September 01, 2009

Weekend in Seattle

Seattle blog

Our friend, Elizabeth, got married recently so we flew up to help her celebrate.  Elizabeth and Andrew were in high school together so they've been friends for... ahem, at least 10 years <wink>.  

Our girls are really good at this air travel thing.  They're just barely five years old but we fly so often that they could probably navigate the entire process completely on their own.  A handy skill should we ever decide to take separate vacations while they're still in elementary school. 

Elizabeth has a beautiful house and family and the most amazing Bull Mastiff I've ever seen.  Her name is Ellie and she's a sweet and gentle giant.   Gwen loved her immediately (Gwen knows no fear) but Maddy was horrified.  We stepped into the house and she took one look at this 200 pound dog and her beach ball sized head and couldn't get away fast enough.  She looked like a cartoon as she raced around us three times then practically climbed Daddy like a tree!   The rest of the weekend, Maddy and Ellie always had to be separated by a locked door. 

Ellie by gwen aug 09

Gwen doesn't usually have much interest in art but she wanted to draw her pal, Ellie.  She did this all by herself (I told her how to spell Ellie though) and I think it's a pretty good likeness!  Seriously, I'll treasure this one forever because it's the first drawing she really put her heart into. 

We brought the camera to Washington but, unfortunately, forgot to bring it along with us for most of the weekend.  So no pics of any of our time in Bellevue (the city, not the mental institution).  That means the picture of Ellie, below, isn't really Ellie.  But this blog is about memories and I wanted something that would remind the girls of Ellie.    We left for the airport a little bit early so we could do a little sight seeing and we did remember the camera for that!  Of course, no trip to Seattle is complete without seeing the Space Needle.  I thought it would be impressively tall -- like the Eiffel Tower -- so it was a bit of a disappointment from that standpoint but still interesting and the view from the top was spectacular! 

While we were up on top of the Space Needle, we bumped into Kevin and Carolina (Andrew went to high school with Kevin too).  Of course, they were at Elizabeth's house with us earlier in the weekend but we didn't plan to meet up with them in Seattle so it was funny to find ourselves up on top of that historical Washington State landmark at the same time.  Especially considering we're both from California.

Seattle 2 cropped

July 17, 2009

Gimme the beat, boys

Last night, we headed over to a local park with friends (and about 2000 other people) to enjoy some warm evening breezes, a picnic dinner, and an earful of good old fashioned live rock and roll.

Gwen and Maddy LOVE live music.  Since they were babies, we've noticed that they'll stand, mouth agape, and stare unblinkingly at anyone wielding a musical instrument or a microphone.  Last night was all that and more and Maddy danced for two straight hours while Gwen was extra stoked to take it all in from her perch atop a perfect climbin' tree.  

I'm not exaggerating when I say there were a few thousand people here.  They were mostly local families who probably hiked in pulling a red Radio Flyer wagon loaded with small kids and buckets of KFC.  We used to live here and might have easily been one of them -- Michael's old high school is spitting distance away -- if we'd only known that they do this (the music -- not the spitting) every Thursday night in July and have FOR THE LAST 6 YEARS!  Yeah, we're always the last to know.   

The demographic was mostly parents in their late 30's to late 40's with children under age 10.  And the band was good.  They played a nice danceable mix of classic rock from the 80's (plus or minus a decade).   Andrew and I killed a fair bit of grass underfoot as we danced in our horribly inappropriate shoes to recognizable U2, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith and Michael Jackson tunes.   And do I dare confess that our "dance" consisted of nothing more than the six or seven steps we can remember from our West Coast Swing classes of 2002?

Okay, I know how pathetically I've dated myself by using such phraseology as 'stoked' and 'tunes' so I'll stop embarrassing myself and give you what you really came to see:  Pictures.

Music in the park

June 09, 2009

Aunt Laura and Aunt Judy

Golden Gate Park San Francisco 
I've known Laura and Judy for more than 20 years (Judy is Michael's God Mother) and I'm so lucky to have them in my life. Obviously, the girls adore their Aunt Laura and Aunt Judy too. This photo was taken last weekend in San Francisco near The Cliff House restaurant.

Golden Gate Park San Francisco
Here we are being silly in the Golden Gate Park while Gwen tries to figure out what the heck we're doing.

 Golden Gate Park San Francisco
We rented a quadracycle and the girls thought it was peachy. They kept telling us to pedal faster. As if we were holding back.

Golden Gate Park San Francisco
These things are pretty fun but they're not as easy to pedal as they look. Even with four people sharing the labor! We rented this in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

 Golden gate park 057
A pretty photo of Maddy at the Arboretum. It's a fun (and beautiful!) place for the kids to explore.

 Golden Gate Park San Francisco
The squirrels are very friendly. They'll come right up and eat out of your hand! Here's a pretty one posing for a photo.

 Golden gate park 176
The Japanese Tea Garden (also in Golden Gate Park) was also really beautiful. This was my favorite photo of the day.

 Gwen Judy Maddy
Today, we skipped preschool and took Aunt Judy to Gilroy Gardens then we drove straight from there to the airport and said goodbye. Hopefully we'll see Laura and Judy again soon. We already miss them!

May 18, 2009

Daddy is not 100!

Yesterday was Daddy's birthday.  We started the day with snuggles and four or five enthusiastic rounds of The Birthday Song.  Then Gwen told us how to make a birthday cake:

  • 5 eggs
  • 4 pounds of sugar
  • 4 pounds of chocolate
  • mix it up
  • bake it in a hot over for three minutes

 Maddy said Daddy was more than 30 but not 100. 


Maddy made daddy a card 
 Maddy made Daddy this pretty birthday drawing.   Then we headed to San Francisco for the day.

super daddy
Daddy demonstrates the super hero pose.


Reflections of San Francisco

This is a cool photo Daddy took of the Jewish contemporary museum and St Patrick's church, reflected in an adjacent window (Mommy did a little bit of post processing, perspective correction, cropping, etc).


shake man


Gwen is understandably skeptical about the extra feet and fingers on the "Shaking Man" but you really have to see the next photo to appreciate how Maddy felt about this bizarre statue...

 shake man Daddy took this photo looking over the shoulder of the statue.  Maddy's expression is priceless!


 

dancing in bear feet 

We call this photo "Dancing in Bear/Bare Feet"


 

can you feel the love 

This heart (also in Yerba Buena Gardens) is really pretty.  We wanted Gwen and Maddy to pose sweetly and this is what happened.  Can't you just feel the love?   This was one of many clues that our girls still can't really function without naps (they slept all the way home).

Minor skirmishes aside, this was a really fun day!   For Dinner, we all went out to Krung Thai (Michael met us there).  None of the girls in our family like Thai food but it's a favorite of the guys so it makes the Birthday Dinner list every year.  No worries though - rice is always good!  Happy Birthday, Daddy!  We sure do love you!

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