Postcards from Southern California: Family Fun in the Hot Hot Sun

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

It was like a furnace. Temperatures ranged from 90 to 105 degrees. Too hot to do anything other than lounge; which we did.

Trying to find a cool spot and stay hydrated were the top of our activities list while visiting my family in High Desert. [Side Note: Mom’s house doesn’t have central air-conditioning.]

We spent time with the family we don’t see often enough. Shopping and bowling. Eating our favorite Southern California foods like In-N-Out.

We had the opportunity to catch up with life-long friends and hit the beach.

Plenty of ‘selfie’ style photos exist. My boys will have pictures with me in them as well as their cousins, aunts, and Granny. Usually, I take tons of food shots but this year I promised myself, I’d feature the people. Interesting how different this vacation slide deck will look.

I read 3 books:

  • A Better World by Marcus Sakey, exceeded my expectations. It’s better than book one in the saga, Brilliance. Trust me a must read.
  • The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt, was amazing. Another must read.
  • The Secret’s in the Sauce by Linda Evans Shepard and Eva Marie Everson.

We saw 2 movies which were family dates with my sisters, niece and nephew:

  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • Transformers: Age of Extinction

We had 1 date without the kiddos. Just hubby and me. It’s hard to pull off when we’re home.

These are bonus tracks on the vacation album.

Cousins in the surf. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Cousins in the surf.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Seaweed Collection © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Seaweed Collection
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

There were lots of items on our ‘to do’ list that we never got marked off. We didn’t have our Read-A-Thon which the boys wanted to do in Colorado originally. I’m so glad we gave our books their own suitcase to travel with us. Oh well we will plan it for next month.

New meaning to book bag. © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

New meaning to book bag.
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Now we’re home, a little jet lagged and struggling with the return to routine, but color me grateful for the days we sat on the front porch in the setting sun with the people I love most in the world.

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Postcards from Colorado: Adventures in Thin Air

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Greetings …

Today is post Tuesday and I haven’t had a chance to slow down enough to organize my thoughts and experiences into a cohesive narrative. But instead of missing post day I decided to bullet some of the highlights and share some scenic shots.

BACKGROUND: Colorado, the first week of our vacation is thanks to Calvin Theological Seminary, my husband’s alma mater. They offer a seminar to pastors, Imaginative Reading for Creative Preaching.

This opportunity is designed to allow said pastors to also have a family vacation i.e. sessions from 8-noon followed by time for family adventures.

The course hosted by Scott Hoezee and Neal Plantinga (author of Reading for Preaching), required my husband to do some serious reading:

  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  • Enrique’s Journey – Sonia Nazario
  • Collected Poems – Jane Kenyon
  • The Poetry of Robert Frost: Collected Poems – Robert Frost
  • The Wednesday Wars – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Okay for Now – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy – Gary D. Schmidt
  • Means of Ascent: The Years of Lyndon Johnson – Robert Caro

Of course my reading list is a little longer now.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

We had the pleasure of staying at Snow Mountain Ranch, the YMCA of the Rockies, which is a beautiful place to stay. AND it has lots of activities for everyone.

From a parenting perspective, I have to say my dudes surprised me. In particular, our oldest tried many things that if you’d told me a week prior that he would do so I wouldn’t have believed it.

  • He went on the zip line, some 30 feet off the ground, as did my husband. They each used one word to describe it. Dude said, “Fast.” Hubby said, “Fun.”
  • He climbed the rock wall. Again some 30 feet off the ground, even though heights make him nervous.
  • He also tried roller-skating for the first time; counting the number of times he fell as we went along. It’s been at least 15 years since I was on skates and I loved sharing it with my dude.
  • He navigated the cafeteria like a camp veteran, helping his brother along the way, making us think he’s ready for an overnight camp experience without us.

Both boys tried their hand at archery, which isn’t as easy as our favorite quiver-wearing-bow-wielding-heroes make it look.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My youngest wasn’t as adventurous but he enjoyed:

  • Miniature golf
  • Volleyball for the first time. And,
  • Basketball, even though he told me, “I’m not ready for the NBA.” What a sweet boy!

Okay, I’d also like to say they wrote and mailed postcards to friends about our time in Colorado; giving a glimpse into our vacation. Yes, I am smiling for the handwritten correspondence, brief, as you have to be on a postcard. Their handwriting at 9 and 7 years old is priceless.

These moments made this momma proud.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

My personal fave of our time was sitting in a small group around the fireplace listening Gary D. Schmidt and his editor daughter, Kathleen Kerr, as they talked about writing and publishing in today’s world. I didn’t say a word. Never asked a question. I was the weirdo in the back sporting the perma-grin.

My husband’s personal fave comes courtesy of Facebook. A friend posted that they were “camping in the Rockies” and the picture loaded the location of Winter Park, CO. Just 10 minutes down the road.

Hubby was able to catch up with three of his closest childhood friends and their families. Some we hadn’t visited in a couple of years, others in more than a decade. It was an unexpected and special surprise in our trip. Yay Facebook for bringing people together.

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

LAST NOTES:

  • Check out Snow Mountain Ranch. You may want to plan a trip there. If you go there,
  • Visit The Foundry which is a great place: movie theater & bowling alley mashup. Order the caramel corn which is to die for; comfy leather seats, where we watched How to Train Your Dragon 2.
  • Stop by Dozens Restaurant if you make it to Denver. Oh how delicious the food. See my meal?
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Thanks to the altitude, my oldest son and I suffered from headaches and bloody noses despite drinking as much fluid as we could. And the hubby had trouble sleeping. It was still one of the best vacations to date.

In two weeks I’ll be back in Colorado for work but I am grateful I was able to experience it on vacation, otherwise I would have missed out on so much of this beautiful state.

Happy summer travels … be safe.

Vacation 2012 Postcard: Fast Food Tour

Whenever I visit my childhood home I make sure to visit the restaurants, usually fast food restaurants that we don’t have where I live.  I create my list and systematically make my way through it.

I am highlighting a few of the favorites from the list (my meal choices and some pictures)… This is the first trip in which I didn’t hit everything on the list. Disappointed about it but I still ate really well.

Del Taco – My favorite meal here is a combination burrito (ground beef, refried beans, and cheese) with a salsa Verde. The meal comes with a drink (Cherry Coke) and fries. I request “secret sauce” which is a mayo sour cream blend.  I have to dip my fries in something.

Not only is the food good but Del Taco is the first place I ever worked that required me to fill out a W-2. Thanks to my older sister who worked there and was a good employee for recommending me.

I worked the drive thru window wearing my jeans and turquoise blue uniform polo top and baseball cap. Not attractive but that was also the first year I purchase ALL of my own back to school clothes and supplies.  I was 16 years old going into my junior year.

IN-N-OUT Burger – I order the Double Double with cheese no onions with fries and a chocolate shake. Yummy! It’s so worth it.

When I was in my teens I sang in the church choir and we’d travel to other churches to perform. One night we were getting back really late and our choir director stopped to get us something to eat. I hadn’t eaten at IN & OUT before but was grateful. They ordered cheeseburgers for all of the young ones. I inhaled mine I was so hungry. This garnered the comment:  “We should have gotten you a Double Double.”

Can you guess what my nickname was that Summer? If you’ve never had IN-N-OUT make sure you add it to your list when you travel to California.

I made the mistake of telling my husband about being called:  Double Double and now he and the boys call me that just for fun. My husband says, “After eating all these things on vacation we’re going back ‘Double Double’.”

Carl’s Jr. Western Bacon Cheese Burger, which has onion rings and BBQ sauce.

Alberto’s – My husband only makes one request for the list (every trip) because he has to have authentic carne asada burritos. So of course I accommodate the visit to Alberto’s. This time around I ordered the nachos.

Weinerschnitzel – I always get 2 corn dogs and the chili cheese fries.

 

Jack-in-the-Box – Jumbo Jack with cheese, no onions.

 

 

 

 

 

The full list for Vacation 2012:

  • Del Taco
  • IN-N-OUT Burger
  • Carl’s Jr.
  • Alberto’s
  • Weinerschnitzel
  • Baja Fresh
  • Jack-in-the-Box
  • Lee’s Donuts
  • Yum Yum Donuts
  • See’s Candy
  • Gloria Jeans Coffee
  • Rio Buffet

Sorry if you’re not a foodie but I had to share. Let me know what your favorite fast food haunts are … especially if you have to travel to get them like I did.

This, I believe, is the last of my 2012 summer vacation postcards. Thanks for letting me share some of my trip with you.

Vacation 2012 Postcard: Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada is an amazing place. It’s a city that never sleeps. Bright, bold, boisterous, and busy.

If you’re into people watching, Las Vegas provides an abundance of free entertainment. People from all walks of life make their way to this place. But people watching is only one of the many things to do in Vegas. There are wonderful sights to behold. You don’t have to gamble to enjoy what this town has to offer. There is truly something for everyone.

That’s why we thought it would be a blast for our boy; a pit stop on our journey to see their maternal grandmother.

I know I am breaking the widely advertised rule, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” But I have to share.

We chose Excalibur for its theme. The boys were geeked to stay in a “castle”. Our oldest was most impressed with the door handles fashioned as swords, reminding us that the Excalibur was King Arthur’s sword.

We figured we could have dinner at the Round Table Steakhouse and watch an authentic joust. There’s the arcade called The Fun Dungeon where out gamer boys could spend some quality time.

We also had a list of non-Excalibur related adventures:

  • Hoover Dam Tour
  • M&M World
  • Circus Acts at Circus Circus
  • Fountains of Bellagio

Despite the available options, tears and disappointment marred our two and a half days in Vegas.

The five year old was sick, running a fever.  Strep throat we found out later. A visit to the med center, picking up medicine, ensuring naps and adequate hydration, altered our itinerary.

Our youngest who loves to be plugged in and a gamer at heart, hated the arcade on the first visit, and would not “go in there”. Who would have thought? Not us. He said, “It scares me. Those sounds scare me.”

Unfortunately, it meant our seven year old had limited time in the Dungeon, which made him say of this trip to Vegas, “It’s not as fun as I remembered.”

Our gamer guy was enthralled though by the adult arcade (aka the casino):

“Mom, can you teach me how to play these games?”
“No, they’re adult games.”
“I know but I want you to teach me how to play them.”
“That would be illegal. Do you want Momma to go to jail?”
“No.”
“Okay, please don’t ask again.”
“When I’m bigger can I play these games?”
“Sure. When you get older if you want to play these games you can. Please just do so in moderation.”
“’Kay.”

Cute right? Not when you’re living in the moment. It’s endearing and funny when you recount the story though.

But it got worse from there.

We tried M&M World but the five year old is afraid of people dressed up in costume like Chuck E. Cheese and the Red Robin bird. So when Green showed up there was a monumental melt down. Lots of screaming, “I want to find an exit.”

By the time we checked out of the Excalibur my husband and I were both drained, emotionally and physically. We’d had to split up to manage the needs of both boys. My husband took my oldest to the Dungeon and for meals while I stayed in the room with the littlest dude nursing him back to health.

Vegas didn’t turn out to be the fun filled stay we envisioned. I pray this isn’t an indication of how the rest of vacation is going to go. Hopefully, the return trip to Las Vegas will yield a better experience.

So, I will retract the statement:  “There is truly something for everyone.” Because clearly there wasn’t anything positive for my five year old, at least not this time around.

Vacation 2012 Postcard: The First Time Flyer, the Reluctant Flyer, and the Frequent Flyer

This is our first real family vacation in 5 years. It requires plane tickets, hotel reservations, a rental car, a block of time off work, and money saved up. It’s a big deal. We are all over the moon about this trip … except for one little thing … flyer fears.

Our five year old is a first time flyer. While he can’t wait to see our family on the West coast, he isn’t looking forward to hopping on a plane. He doesn’t like loud noises and claims to be afraid of heights.

His fears fuel my fears. I worry about whether or not the sounds of the engine will be scary for him. I worry that he’ll cry at take off and in turbulence.

I also worry about the crowded airport because he doesn’t pay attention to his surroundings. He feels safe in most situations to walk away from us and explore. It makes me long for those kiddie harness people put on their kids. It would be one less concern. Okay, not really. It was a fleeting thought.

The seven year old is reluctant to fly. Last time he was on a plane he was two and too curious to be afraid. He’s expressed his displeasure for us taking a vacation that requires us to leave our house let alone travel across the country. He’s a homebody, what can I say?

He needs to feel in control and needs advanced notice of anything that is outside whatever “the plan” is. It’s hard to manage his expectations. We never know what’s going to cause a loud and disruptive reaction.

I worry that he’ll have an uncontrollable outburst like Jeffery from Bill Cosby’s Himself stand up routine. Sorry fellow travelers.

I am a frequent flyer. I travel domestically between five and fifteen times a year for work. So I have the etiquettes down (or so I think). The idea of going through security with my two little guys makes me nervous. It will be slower than I am used to travelling on my own.

My husband doesn’t fly frequently but he’s not a first timer or reluctant … He’ll be great with the boys. He’s fabulous at relating to them and helping them through difficult things.

REALITY:  Their excitement far outweighed their fears. The giggled as we took off. They laughed as the plane tilted toward the West.

“I can see the whole world from here,” said the first time flyer.

“I know. Isn’t it awesome?” responded the reluctant flyer.

“We’re flying,” said the first time flyer.

“This isn’t as scary as I thought it would be,” said the reluctant flyer.

They were wonderful. I couldn’t have asked for better behavior. I was worried for nothing.

“We’re in the clouds. Do you see them?” asked the reluctant flyer.

“Yeah. Yippee,” said the first time flyer..

“They look like ice cream.”

After we reached cruising altitude they pretty much ignored me. Entertaining themselves with the goodies I packed in their backpacks:

  • Power Rangers Samurai coloring books
  • Crayola Twistable Color Pencils
  • Books from our Summer Reading list
  • Their blankets

Several people sitting around us and even our flight attendant commented on how well they flew. As a frequent flyer who watches parents struggle to care for crabby kids, I am thankful that my boys surprised me so wonderfully.