Monday, July 25, 2011

First Tent Camping Trip of Summer - July 14, 2011

We took our first camping trip this summer to Stub Stewart campground.  It is a great campground and in the middle of week it is pretty much vacant in the tent camping section (we only saw 2 other campsites being used).  It is close to home so it was a good trial run of camping with a two year old in a tent.  Since hardly anybody was there Alesha, had a wonderful time exploring all over the campground and we didn't have to worry about her wondering into another person's campsite.  Our boys enjoyed having target practice with their air soft guns, too.

The tent area is a 1/4 mile walk in from the parking lot.  They have little carts you can use to pack your stuff into camp.  The boys and I took some odds and ends and Darin wheeled the full cart into camp.  I was impressed that Alesha walked the entire 1/4 mile herself.  She only fell once, on a big rock,  and that caused quite a loud cry that I am sure echoed for miles :-)  After the fall she was good to go gathering leaves, flowers and sticks along the way.

Alesha with some of her treasures.

Getting the fire started for dinner

Darin with Alesha

Martin's wood gathering success!

Luke's wood gathering success

The camp section we were in was really large and we had the community fire pit all to ourselves :-)

Luke, Alesha, and Martin.  It really cooled down that night.

The men got camp all set up and then Martin and Luke went on a wood gathering mission.  Dinner with smores for dessert were next on the agenda.  Then came time to put our two year old to bed.  Let's just say that Alesha was less than impressed with the tent.  As I was holding her and singing to her I looked down and her eyes were a big as saucers!  She had NO intentions on going to bed in this thing we called a tent.  I had brought her port-a-crib, because I thought it would be more familiar for her and it would help contain our active little one.  As soon as I put her in the crib, the hysterical crying began.  Thankfully I could calm her down quickly, but she made it quite clear by several other attempts to put her in the crib that the only way she was going to go to sleep was in ....wait for it...... MY sleeping bag!  I DON"T recommend this if you  plan on getting ANY sleep.  I will spare you all the details, but we will be buying Alesha her own sleeping bag and hope that sleeping NEXT to mommy will do the trick :-)

We were all awake at 6 a.m. and after some breakfast we decided it was time to pack it up and head home so mommy could recover from the horrible night I had just experienced.  Thankfully the rest of the family slept pretty good through the craziness that occurred during the night.  When we made it to the parking lot a man who was camping fairly close to us said when he saw Alesha "So you must be the little one I heard last night.  You have a very loud cry."  I apologized and he said no problem.  It didn't last long.  Overall the trip was NOT what we had planned, but we enjoyed our time together as a family enjoying God's creation.

The little cart to put all your camping gear in.

Martin pulled Alesha 1/4 mile to our campsite so we could pack up our stuff.  Alesha had a BLAST!

When I caught up with Darin, he says "Do you think this is going to work okay?"  Funny guy!   I promptly removed her and reminded him that if he has to ask me if something is okay the answer is probably no :-)

Lessons learned -

1.  Don't forget the air mattress when you are tent camping.....small gravel is not fun to sleep on.
2.  Being a girl in the woods when it comes to using the bathroom is not as easy as it is for boys!
3.  Some 2 year olds don't care for tents.
4.  Sharing a one man sleeping bag with a toddler is a disaster waiting to happen.
5.  Being in the woods allows you to take a break from the hussle and bussle of life and just enjoy God's beautiful creation and experience some quiet.
6.  Pillows are also a good idea to have when you camp.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Great America Video - Day 4 - The drive home

After packing everything up I finally fell asleep around midnight.  At 2:30 a.m. I awoke to get dressed and pack the kids in the car for the LONG drive home.  We left at 3:00 a.m.  It didn't take as long for the kids to fall back asleep and we made it to Redding California before we knew it.  After some breakfast and some stretching we headed out for another long stretch. At last we arrived at our home 12 hours later.

Things I learned on Day 4

1.  It is wise to get to sleep a bit earlier if you plan on leaving at 2:30 a.m.
2.  There is not much activity in California or a hotel at 2:30 a.m.
3.  The McDonald's in Redding does not have a changing table.
4.  There is a $5 fee to pay somewhere along the way to Oregon
5.  One can experience "carlag" very similar to "jetlag" when spending 12 hours in a car.
6.  A 12 hours drive + two 10 hour days at an amusement park + a 12 hour drive home = VERY exhausted parents and happy kids.
7.  There is little motivation to empty out a car of luggage, etc. when you have just traveled 12 hours.
8.  Laundry seems daunting after a trip.
9.  We will probably fly the next time we go to Great America.  I think there will be much less recovery time on both least for the parents.
10.  It is nice to sleep in my own bed.

Here is a video my husband put together of the trip.  We highly recommend Great America!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Great America - Day 3

Today we woke up to beautiful sunshine!  Perfect weather to tackle the water park section of the park.  We decided since this was the last day at the park we would get there when the gates opened at 10 a.m. and stay until close at 8 p.m.  In the morning we rode all the rides from the  previous day and then when it really warmed up we went to the water rides.  

Alesha, waiting for the boys and I to get off the below ride.  The crossing of the arms is a new thing :-)

One of my favorite rides!  It was nice and smooth, but super fun!

Daddy put Alesha on some of the kid rides by herself today.  She did great after riding them with me and Luke the previous day.  What cracked us up is that she was more concerned about the seat belt not being buckled next to her than the actual ride.  She was determined to get that buckle buckled by the end of the ride.

Running toward her favorite section of the park

Alesha and Snoopy

Buckle obsession continues.

Trying to pump the handle to make the car go up.

On the pumpkin ride.  I put her on the end seat so there was not a buckle to mess with and I could actually get a picture of her face instead of the side of her head :-)

In the afternoon we hit the water rides.  This first ride was so FUN and WET!

One happy and wet boy!  This was his favorite ride - too bad they shut it down at 6 p.m.
This pic cracks me up.  Martin didn't expect to get this wet.  The  wind was blowing so he got cold and was  done with all water rides.

Luke and I in the front row.  

Our time at the water park lasted about 10 minutes due to cold water and lots of wind.  Alesha was FREEZING!!!!

Not very happy about being cold.  I am trying to change her into dry clothes as quick as I could.
 Once we were all changed to dry clothes we headed to a few more rides before we grabbed some dinner at Panda Express.  Martin's $10 voucher came in handy :-)

About half way through the ride Luke tells me he finally has the hang of the steering :-)  I had to push the gas pedal because his legs were not quite long enough.
After dinner we split up again and rode rides until the place shut down.  It was really a fun day.
Luke having fun!

Goodbye Great America!

Things I learned on Day 3 

1.  The park is planned out well with lots of areas providing shade.
2.  You should buy your souvenir cup on the first day, since the refills in the same cup are only $0.99 plus tax throughout your entire visit
3.  I am SO pasty white, especially when I am holding my beautiful brown skinned girl next to me in a swimsuit!
4.  A lot of the live free shows they offer don't occur on Wed or Thurs., but the lines are shorter during the week.
5.  You can dry wet swimsuits and towels quickly by hanging them on the stroller. Between the heat and high wind it is natures dryer.
6.  Having your son wear a neon green shirt is helpful to find him and his dad in a sea of people.
7.  Having a stroller is helpful for the husband to find the wife and daughter in a sea of people.
8.  A stroller is a lifesaver in not having to carry loads of stuff around the park.
9.  Your safe located in your hotel room can malfunction leaving you no option than to call the front desk and have an employee come with his high end gadget to open the safe so you can remove your much needed items.
10.  Check your bill upon check-out.  They were going to charge us for the kid's breakfasts when they confirmed upon reservation they would not.  Upon pointing this fact out, the charges were waved no problem .

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Great America - Day 2

After we enjoyed our fantastic complimentary breakfast at the Hyatt, a perk of our AAA membership we walked over to the park to begin our first day of fun!  We cleared the security check and entered the park to see the below sights.

Snoopy and friends were throughout the park.  Alesha was a bit skeptical and  has  no reference for these characters, but found them interesting and did dish out a high five upon request :-)

Our only family photo of the trip.  Wish I would have asked Snoopy to step aside and take another one of just us.
Throughout the day we divided and conquered the many rides throughout the park.  Alesha and I spent most of our time at Planet Snoopy and the KidZville sections of the park.  They had great rides for little kids.  Most of the rides I rode were little kids rides. It was fun to watch Alesha's expressions and hear her giggle as she experienced rides for the first time.  Luke, spent time with both Darin and Martin as well as Alesha and I.  It was great that he could take his sister on the rides.  He really liked it and I loved watching them together.  He is such a great brother.

Riding the Snail Race.  I love this smile!

Such a good brother


One of her favorites.  When it stopped she would say "Again, again!"

Darin and Martin went on the bigger rides in the park.  Thankfully there were only a few rides that Luke didn't make the height requirement for.  The Drop Tower was by far the most terrifying ride in the park.  You travel up the pole to 224 ft and then you free fall 22 stories in less than 4 seconds!  I only went on this ride once and that was good enough for me.

Darin and Martin getting ready to travel to the top of the Drop Tower
We got our picture taken with some of the characters throughout the park.
Pfeiffer Family with part of the Peanuts Gang

The kids with the Snoopy statue at Planet Snoopy
 They had a great ride that took you from one end of the park to the other.  This park is HUGE.  It was a great way to see an overview of the park and find the location of the rides you wanted to go on.  The only problem is that you could only have 4 people to a bucket and they wouldn't let you bring a stroller on board :-(  Needless to say I got my exercise in as Alesha and I took the walk from one end of the park to other SEVERAL times a day!
One of my favorite pictures of Luke.

Luke took this picture.  It was quite windy, but NO rain so we were happy.
We decided that we would meet at the hotel by 6 p.m.  I arrived by 6:05 with Luke and Alesha, but by 6:20 Darin and Martin were not back yet.  Finally, they arrived and told me that Martin was on his favorite ride, Flight Deck, when somebody pulled the safety strap after the ride started and the entire ride shut down for 30 minutes!  Yes, my boy was stuck on a roller coaster for 30 minutes until they finally got it going again.  For the rider's inconvenience they gave every rider a $10 food voucher to use in the park.  This explained why they didn't arrive at the hotel on time.

Our next stop was going out for dinner. We were planning on going to Baja Fresh or the Quizno we saw the night before, but when we got out of our car at the mall we smelled Indian food and saw a sign for an Indian restaurant.  Without hesitation we were making our way into Mezbaan Bar and Indian Cuisine.  After we ordered we laughed at how quickly our dinner plans had changed as soon as we saw an Indian restaurant.  There was no discussion we just all filed into the restaurant.  What was funny is that the night before, Martin said he smelled Indian food as we left the Safeway store.  We all agreed, but we couldn't see any Indian restaurants from where we were standing.  Apparently we are very in tune to the smell of Indian food. :-)  The food was fantastic and the perfect ending to a LONG day!

Things I learned on Day 2

1.  Great America is a FUN place.
2.  My boys have NO fear of rides.
3.  Watching  a child experience things for the first time is priceless.
4.  There are only 2 rides that our entire family could go on together (both of which we never managed to go on) :-(
5.  You do an INCREDIBLE amount of walking in this park.
6.  Thankful that I packed pants for Alesha to change into.  It was WAY too cold for her.
7.  Mezbaan is a great Indian restaurant!
8.  I am really out of shape.
9.  If you get stuck on a ride you get some free food for your inconvenience.
10.  If you stopped and played all the little game booths they have throughout the park or bought all your food and drinks at the park you would go broke!
11. My 40 year old body does not do as well as my 30 year old body used to do on rides.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

The Great America Adventure!

We took our first "big" vacation as a family of 5 to Santa Clara, CA to visit Great America.  The trip began in the wee hours of the morning (4 a.m.) on June 28th.   After the car was packed with the last bag we woke the boys up and transferred them and Alesha to the car to begin our 12 hours drive to Cali.  Our hope was that by leaving so early the kids would fall back to sleep and we could make some great time missing all the traffic.  To our surprise the kids did not go back to sleep for at least 2 hours after we left the drive way.  It could have been all the rain crashing down on the car or all the splashing sounds under the car or all the bright headlights, or all the semis whizzing by.  Who knows, but Alesha was hysterically laughing, which made all laugh as well.  I figure she wasn't sure what to do or what was happening, but she was having fun and that is all that mattered.  They would fall asleep eventually.

Our first stop was in Grants Pass.  We stopped at a Shari's for breakfast and to stretch our legs.  The kids had gotten about 2-3 hours sleep by this point.  After a full stomach, fresh diaper, and stretched legs we piled back into the car.  The time passed as we watched a movie, read books, and listened to music.  To our surprise the rain didn't let up!  It actually got worse and fog was added to the equation as we neared the border into California.  I thought California was the sunshine state!  After several more hours we made a lunch stop just as Alesha was starting to have her first and ONLY mini breakdown.  We changed and ate and then mommy moved to the back set for the last leg of the trip.  Nap time was on the horizon for Alesha and the boys lack of sleep was catching up to them.

The look on Alesha's face cracks me up.  It is as if she is saying "We have how many hours left of this trip?!"  So thankful for the DVD player in our Pilot for long road trips.
I could not be more thankful that my husband driving!  The driving conditions were horrible with torrential rain combined with fog making visibility nearly impossible.  Great fun when you are watching for exit signs and getting loads of water splashed on your windshield by semi trucks.  At last we approached the final exit and the road that led to our hotel was within reach.  The journey to California was a success.  We made it!  The kids were fantastic!

It was still raining, but at least it was fairly warm outside. Unloading the car in the rain was less than ideal.  After getting settled into our room we ventured out to find a grocery store and a place to eat dinner.  With a few wrong turns and severe irritation we eventually found a Safeway and a Red Robin. After getting some food in our system we headed over to Great America to get our passes for the next day and take a look around.

Upon our final approach to the entrance we heard the announcements being made that the park will be open until 8 p.m.  Perfect, we still had an hour to look around.  Although as we entered the gate we were told that the park was CLOSED!  We said "They just said the park was open to 8 p.m."  They replied "We are CLOSED!"  We asked if we could just get our passes so we didn't have to wait in line tomorrow, which they replied NO we are CLOSED!  Apparently because of the rain there were only a few people at the park and they decided to close early.  I felt as if we were in the scene from National Lampoon's Vacation when they finally arrive at Walley World to be told by the talking Moose "We are sorry, but Walley World is closed for 2 weeks for cleaning and repairs"  Total bummer!  Not the ending to the day we had hoped for.  On a brighter note the rain had stopped and the sun began to appear for the first time in the last 15 hours since we left our home.

As we walked back to the hotel we discussed a game plan for tomorrow and decided to go to the hotel pool before settling in for sweet slumber.
The cloudy skies didn't stop these kids.

With no warmth from the sun the hot tub seemed to be the better fit for the evening.

First glimpse of real sunshine.  I really liked the palm tree shadow on the wall.  I finally felt like I was in California.

Alesha, was very cold!

Walking back to the hotel room for a good night sleep!

Things I learned on Day 1 -

1.  Our kids are ROCKstar travelers!
2.  Driving in rain and fog for 12 hours SUCKS!
3.  Found it strange that we were stopped on the border and asked if we had any fruit.  We said we had bananas and grapes.  The reply was "Do you have any oranges or cherries?"  We said no and off we went.  How weird.  Anybody could just say no to the question and drive away even if they were carrying oranges and cherries.  Who would know?  They don't do an inspection of your car or anything. It seemed like an odd stop for the "fruit patrol" to really do nothing but take your word for what kind of fruit you had in your car.
4.  For someone who doesn't wear flip flops very often it was discoved that walking in the rain in flip flops results in blisters.
5.  Trying to find a specific location in a different state with limited directions after driving for 12 hours is fuel for tempers to flair.
6.  I discovered even when you pay over two hundred dollars for a hotel room, that doesn't mean you get free wi-fi.  Nope, you must pay $10 each day.  We didn't pay for internet for the simple fact that we were annoyed that it wasn't included.  For pete sakes there was FREE internet at Peet's coffee and McDonalds!
7.  An outside pool in California would be great if it were actually HOT and not windy.
8.  My husband and I are very simple travelers.  We know not the way of the "high-class" travelers or the high-class hotels.
9.  One should not assume that there would be towels available at the pool and that you need to bring some with you from your hotel room - hence the way of the high-class hotel etiquette we are not familiar with.  Although lucky for us there were 2 towels nicely folded under the cabana on a lounger that I just used.  My thought was that they possibly pulled all the towels from the chairs since it was raining earlier and it wasn't the ideal swimming weather so why leave towels out for the guests.
10.  You can crank out SEVERAL hours of your summer reading log on a LONG road trip :-)
11.  The staff at the Hyatt is very friendly.
12.  It is strange that they keep the lobby of the Hyatt so dark with their dimmed lights.  I guess it is to set the mood for your luxurious stay.
13.  There are a great number of people from India living in Santa Clara or visiting the Hyatt.  We received quite a few looks throughout our stay.
14.  Alesha, enjoys drinking the small half and half shots they give you for your coffee.  This may be a new item to add to her menu in efforts to help her gain weight :-)