Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Rays of Sunshine

So 2013 kinda started off with a little heartache in Spahnville and I know that the last few blog posts have been a bit depressing.  It honestly wasn't my intention to produce a tear-jerking post, but writing about the loss of Maddy just seemed to help me put my thoughts together a bit.  I have plenty more dog-related themes to write about (funny how when you lose something, it tends to take over your thoughts) but I wanted to shed a little sunshine on this blog to brighten things up for the moment.  And what better place to get sunshine than..... California?!

Shortly after my grandmother died last May, Mason & I decided that we really needed to introduce C to his paternal great-grandmother-- who happens to live just outside San Diego.  We booked the trip last fall--conveniently planning it for January.  (Although we didn't know it at the time, January also happens to be the off-season for tourists in San Diego, which meant that the zoo and Sea World were nearly isolated and totally line-free.)

After M spent an entire morning dealing with the lovely American Airlines (who so politely cancelled one of our flights without any notice-- thus sticking us with a near 6 hour layover in Chicago---um, no thank you) we finally rearranged our entire flight itinerary with shorter layovers.  However, the new schedule meant that we departed from Des Moines, a two hour drive for a 6:00 am flight.  (We opted out of staying in a hotel because, well, those of you with little kids know that littles require a ton of $hit to pack/ unpack/ load/ unload and they don't really sleep well in hotels anyway.  Seemed like a lot of extra work for not really any extra sleep)  We were wishing that when we popped C into his carseat at 2:30 am he would just fall right back asleep.  But seriously, that would've been too easy right!?  (My mom used to say, "If wishes were fishes, the sea would be full." Ah, how true.) Our little cherub sat bright eyed during the entire ride to Des Moines.  He looked out the window, hummed quietly, even talked about going on the airplane.

Wednesday, January 16
So fast forward about eight hours.  We made it through two flights with a tiny little layover and were on the ground at standing at the car rental counter before 11:00 California time.  (Keep in mind that this was 1:00 our time, so all three of us had been awake for about 11 hours at this point.)  Our fingers were crossed that we would be able to check into our hotel early but again, "if wishes were fishes...".  Since three totally exhausted people had about 4 hours to kill in a city they barely knew, they decided to get some lunch and explore a bit.

The weather was gorgeous so we walked down the street from our hotel and lunched at the first restaurant we saw, "Red Sails Inn Restaurant".  They had a beautiful patio out back, which overlooked a jam-packed yacht marina.  Definitely not Iowa, folks.
Hey cute Sailor!
Charlie looks thrilled, doesn't he? 
 After lunch, we drove around town and grabbed some groceries for the remaining few days.  C finally fell asleep during our drive, so we decided to meander through the Gaslamp District and downtown San Diego for as long as possible.  Although C wasn't in the happiest of moods upon awaking, he was up for checking out the Children's Museum for awhile.  When the museum closed at 4:00, we headed to our hotel and situated ourselves.  The hotel (Humphrey's Inn & Suites) was gorgeous (I'd highly recommend it!) and our room overlooked their own private marina.

The view from our bedroom patio door.  
Since we were soooo sleep deprived, we ordered pizza for supper and hung out in our suite for the evening.  Our little night owl kept right up with us, and finally fell asleep nearly 20 hours after first waking up.

Thursday, January 17
C surprised us and slept incredibly well-- didn't even wake up until close to 7:30 on Thursday morning.  After telling him about visiting the zoo and Sea World the previous day, he had been asking, "When we go see the am-inals?" non-stop.  The drive to Balboa Park was only about 15 minutes from our suite, and C loved driving up the steep hill on Laurel street.  Once at the zoo, C was mesmerized for the next six hours.

First family vacation photo--thank you kind strangers! 
I turned the corner and caught them dancing-- cameras just don't do justice to this type of memory. 
"I love this Pola Bear"
"That one's really huge!"
Too busy looking out to take a picture. 
Perhaps the highlight of the trip for C:  "The mama giraffe peed and the daddy giraffe ate her pee!" (Thank you Mason for the Biology lesson about why animals do this.  I'm sure C will now be ahead of the curve in 10th grade.)
Zonked.  Sleeping with his new friend, "Little Binga".  
That night, we headed down to SeaPort Village to eat.  I really wanted to eat seafood, so we ate at a huge restaurant right next to the USS Midway, called "The Fish Market".  Had M & I been alone, we would have opted for the 2nd floor "fine dining experience", but considering that this was a family vacation, we chose the more casual first level-- still with great views and amazing food.  The three of us were stuffed and brought home plenty of leftovers to tide us through the next supper.

Friday, January 18 (Sea World Day!)
After seeing the am-inals at the zoo, C kept talking about the whales and dolphins.  Fortunately, he was in luck because we were planning on visiting Sea World the following day.  My parents took us to Sea World Orlando when we were kids and I remember wanting to be a Marine Biologist for the next several years (only until I did a 4-H project at the Vet's office in 7th grade and passed out three times and realized that maybe animal medicine wasn't going to be for me).

We arrived at Sea World shortly after it opened, and as we walked through the gates we saw "Shamu" walking out to greet people. We just happened to be standing in the exact spot where he took pictures with people--what luck!  Of course, C doesn't care to have his pic taken.  We did anyway-- a mama's gotta scrapbook, right?

As I mentioned earlier, there were people at the park but it certainly was not busy.  We were able to view Shamu up close and personal with no crowds.  I'm pretty sure the three of us were totally awestruck watching the 6000lb whale gracefully swim by us.

After watching Shamu, we headed across the walkway to the dolphin pool.  We heard a lot of laughing and splashing going on and noticed that the dolphins were eagerly playing with the onlookers.  They were racing around the little pool, "talking" to the visitors, and randomly jumping out of the water.  With so few people there, we had a chance to get close enough to touch them-- though we kept our hands to ourselves.  I know I've mentioned this before in this blog, but it always amazes me how much joy can come from watching your child experience something so joyful.

Silly Face!
C was in a great mood and quite the trooper throughout the day, but it was pretty clear that exhaustion was setting in.  He was just so awe struck by every activity that he seemed to power through his irritability.  He even made it through the Shamu show and the Sea Lion show (which was, probably more entertaining for us).

He loved the sky tower, which rose up 400 ft above the park and gave us a great outlook of the surrounding area.  He loved the shark aquarium, which allows people to walk through a “tunnel” where the sharks and fish swim all around you.  He loved the penguins and especially loved the sea turtles.  We were all losing energy but decided to go for one last ride on the Bayside Skyride across Mission Bay.  Again, there was no line so we hopped on and enjoyed a solo ride across the beautiful calm bay.  It was gorgeous and serene, an amazing way to end a day at Sea World.

Someone fell asleep in the car and didn’t move a muscle when we lay him down in bed with his new friend (who had the "pointy thing on his back").

After C’s short nap, we threw on our suits and headed down to the pool.  The water was pretty chilly but we enjoyed a quick dip in the pool before C’s teeth started chattering too much.  

That night, we went down to SeaPort Village, hoping to find a pedi-cab to cruise around in, but never saw one (usually they are parked everywhere!).  Like most things, this ended up working out fine as it gave us the chance to tour around on foot, check out some shops and street performers, eat a little ice cream, and ride the historic carousel. (Best Charlie quote from the night: C: "If I be good I get chocolate ice cream?" Me: "Yep"  C: "But if I be naughty I have to eat white?") 

Stealing kisses in public
He was he got chocolate. 
Saturday, January 19—Meeting Great Grandma!
We woke up Saturday morning with enough time to stroll the walking trail alongside the bay.  It was another beautiful day and several other people had the same idea.  (Charlie quote: "It's beautiful outside Mommy!") We checked out an art show, petted friendly pups eagerly taking their people on walks, and watched hopeful fishermen cast their lines into the bay.   We wrapped up our walk and hopped in the car to head over to M’s aunt’s house in Santee.  

Our drive was uneventful and we arrived pretty much on time!  (Those of you with littles know how much of a victory this alone is—especially while on vacation)  M’s grandmother was so excited to meet Charlie, and he warmed up to her within seconds.  She happily watched him play on the floor with his new toys from his Great Aunt Bobbie.  We chatted while C played and the time slipped by incredibly fast.
Four generations-- wish we had Grandma Carol in this picture! 
M’s grandma took us out to eat at an amazing authentic Mexican restaurant (I wanted to eat seafood and Mexican while in San Diego—mission accomplished!)  We had planned on heading back to Bobbie’s house after lunch, but it was pretty clear that C was ready for a nap.  After three full days of crazy fun-filled days, his energy reserve was definitely draining quickly.  In fact, he was asleep before we even hit the highway back to SD.  

That afternoon, we tried to swim again but the water seemed much cooler.  So, M hopped in and took orders from his son in an effort to entertain us.  (“Swim there Daddy!”  “Jump in Daddy!”  “Go on your back Daddy!”  “Go upside down Daddy!”  “Put your feet out of the water Daddy!”)  We clapped and cheered after each “trick” and I felt wave after wave of love watching my husband (who isn’t the biggest water lover) willingly swim and bob around in a less than warm swimming pool.  The things you do for your kids, right? 

Once the sun dipped down, we headed back to our room to start to get things organized for our return trip.  We ate leftovers and packed up the things that we could.  Although we all were tired, we headed back downtown one last time—and found a pedicab waiting just for us.  The driver took us on a 30 minute ride (which we didn’t really ask for—and cost a bit more than we imagined) past the ships and boats parked in the bay.  When we passed the Midway, C pointed and yelled, “It’s Amazing Mom!”   It was perhaps, one of the cuter phrases he mentioned on the trip.

We had such a fun little night on the town, the atmosphere was light and happy and the three of us were soaking up the moment.  As we headed to bed that night, I think we were all ready to be back home, despite having had a great trip.  C had been asking, "When we go to our other house?  I want to go to my real house. I want to see Keira." (daycare friend) so it was pretty obvious that he was ready for some 'real life' too.  Our flights back on Sunday were uneventful and rather smooth.  Although it was an extremely long day of travel, Charlie did great (thank you O'Hare for providing a giant play area-- you literally saved our day!) and happily surprised our fellow passengers with his good behavior.  

When my head hit my pillow in our own bed that night, my thoughts drifted to the trip. I experienced waves of gratitude for having the resources to be able to take such a trip, for having a loving husband who made the trip not only fun but more relaxing for me, for having a happy and healthy little boy who can experience travel like this with no complications.  I think traveling is such an important thing for children to experience and while it's definitely challenging for parents, I'm so glad that we took the plunge and experienced San Diego together.  It definitely was a trip that won't soon be forgotten.  

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