Saturday, July 28, 2007

California Postcards - Huntington, Palm Springs & Hemet

After sending the rest of the crew off to the airport we caught a bus to Huntington Beach, the same one we had visited on Sunday. The difference between a weekend and a week day was considerable. The beach was sparsely populated and most of the people there were in one kind of class or summer program or another. You could easily distinguish them as all of the kids had the same swim suits and specific colored caps that would tie around their waist when they were not swimming. Some were doing team building exercises where they would link arms, making a long human chain, then they would proceed into the water, five steps at a time. It seemed like they tried to use the strength of the line to keep everyone standing when the increasingly larger waves came. Other groups were learning to surf. It was fun to see the bobbing heads go up and down in the water. The mother in me thought about how scary it would be to trust that your kids would be safe and fine. It was fun to see the ones who were hydroplaning on their boards in the few inches of water that was near the shore - I could imagine trying that one. The other big difference was the lack of sea shells to collect. Since the tide was coming in, none were to be found. After a good bit of time in the water we changed clothes and took a stroll. The U.S. Open for Surfing was going on. There were tents and vendors, along with lots of competitions. It was interesting to watch. We walked to the end of the pier, took some time to watch the fishermen and had lunch at Ruby's Diner. It was a great day.

Saturday found us on our way, in a newly rented car, to Hemet. It is the home to Larr's cousin, Curt and his wife, Barb. They live in a really cute house that was built in 1923, making it one of the oldest houses in the town. The walkway to the house is made of chunks of slate and they have a nice smattering of fruit trees. (to be continued)

Friday, July 27, 2007

Disney Tips

I tried to find Disney tips prior to our trip. They were few and far between, so I thought I would post my own:

* Where good shoes with tread. I wore my crocs and my niece wore flip flops on the first day. - bad idea! In the morning many of the walkways are wet and slippery. Many of the rides with water as part of their attraction remain slippery most of the day. Also, there is an abundance of people using strollers and wheelchairs. We got run over by them many times.

* If you need a hat, take some that is easy to stuff into a smallish pouch as you will need to remove it for most rides.

* If you fly in, get a hotel room near Disney (like one on Harbor Street) and take the ART (Anaheim Resort Travel) bus. It is $3 per person (10 and older) per day. You can get multiday passes. They take you right to the park and run often.

* They will check your bags. I am not sure what they are looking for. They don't seem to mind it when people take in bottled water and small snacks, like a baggie with crackers. We also took in powerbars. You cannot take much more food than that.

* Arrive 20 minutes before the park opens. There will already be a long line to get in.

* Get a map of the park and plan your rides before you arrive. Then, ride the first one on your list and get a fast pass for the second one on your list.

* Fast Passes are great! They have them for just a few of the top rides. I think they have them for 7 rides in Disney and 5 in Calf. Adventure Park. You need you park ticket to get them. You can have one at a time. The tickets have a window of time when you can come back and use them. Any time after the listed time works. This means you get to go in a different line, one that goes much faster. However, you may still need to wait some.

* Drink often - there are many drinking fountains available.

* Drinks are about $3, kids meals are $6 and most adult meals are between $9-$12.

* Remember to wear sunscreen.

Have Fun! :)

California Postcards - Disney Day #3

Our pace on the third day was decidedly different. We still went on our favorite rides. We never made it onto the submarine ride. Even at 10:30 at night the line was still over a two hour wait. We took in many of the shows. The "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience" was a blast, as was Star Tours. They are both semi-interactive in that the seats move, there scents and other things done to make you feel like you are really there. The "Honey ..." show involves 3D glasses, mice and a giant snake. "Star Tour" is a flight simulator of a "Star Wars" type flight. We also did the classic "Tikki Room" which features singing birds and dancing flowers. We spent time on Tom Sawyer Island, exploring caves and going over rope bridges. Jack Sparrow, from "Pirates" was there. He took Ethan's hat and a chase ensued. Jack also fond Ellie. He tapped her on the shoulder and told her that the Steamboat was a floating birthday cake. It was a lot of fun - and Jack was so convincing! We were so taken by the fireworks that we stayed to see them again. Since it was our last day in Disney, I wanted to stay as long as we could. Early in the day a Disney cast member signalled Ethan to go over to her. She gave us "Dream Passes" for free. They give out about 30 of them a day and we were luck to get them. They have a fast pass, untimed for every ride. They made us feel special. Ethan and I also felt a little sad when we were going on our favorite rides for the last time. We hope to come back soon. The last show we took in was a surprise, as I did not see it on the schedule. It took place in the lake for the Tom Sawyer Island. First the Capt. Hook Tall Ship had a battle with a giant crocodile. This was followed by parade like floats that were lit up. Then there was a Wicked Step Mother ( from Snow White) bit on the island, complete with images projected onto smoke - ingenious! This was followed by "Fantasia" stuff. It was spectacular! It finally came time to leave, though we did not want to. It was, after all, nearly 11:00 p.m. Ethan promised me that when he is an adult he will be wealthy enough that he will take me to Disney and get special passes so that I don't have to wait in any lines.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

California Postcards #2 - Disneyland & California Adventure Park

For as long as I have known my husband (which is since 1983), he has said that he did not like amusement parks, especially roller coasters. He agreed to go to Disneyland to be with the family. It turns out that he likes it most of all. He may even like it more than the kids. We have been coaster crazy. Our first ride was the "Indiana Jones" ride where you go in a jeep on a wild adventure. What a kick in the butt that one is. You go into a temple where you have angered the Gods. You go by air dart blowing skeletons, giant snakes, walls filled with scurrying cockroaches and a jeep that stalls a few times. Oh, and we can't forget the giant skull that shots lasers and fire! It is by far Ethan's favorite ride. By now I think we have gone on it about six times. The other favorite is "Space Mountain" in Tomorrow land. It is a roller coaster in the dark. It is such fun! They take your photo during the rides, so now we have funny shots of ourselves on it. Amazingly, is not going more than 30 miles an hours, but what a blast it is! We also loved Matterhorn Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain - both more coasters. I can't also forget to mention "California Soarin'." It is a nearly brand new ride in the California Adventure Park where you sit on something that is like a ski lift. It has hydraulics and scented fans that make you match the image on the giant screen . You feel like you are flying over major landmarks . It was a nice change from herky jerky. We then got drenched and laughed a lot on the Grizzly River Run water ride. The kids when nuts playing in "Big Brother Bear's Challenge Trail." The list goes one. We also did "California Screamin'" which is a big outdoor traditional type coaster with an upside down loop. It was fun, but left the adults feeling jiggled so we waited while the kids rode it two more times. We continued going on rides until it was time for the "Year of a Million Dreams" parade began on main street. It was a lot of fun. The costumes were AMAZING! Many of the characters came over to see the kids. My sister has vertigo, so she does not do any of the wild rides. We had her eldest, Orlando, with us for two days so he could get a lot of adrenaline rushes. In the evening we also watched the "Electric Light Parade" where everything is covered in bright lights. I had remembered it fondly from childhood, and it was just the same.

Occasionally Disney opens at 7:00 a.m. for those who have multiple day passes (park hopper pass, I think). So off we went, once again at almost a dead run. We had learned the joys of the Fast Pass, and which rides have long lines. We sped off to do Indiana Jones two more times, Space Mountain again, and so on. We had more thrilling fun, but this time we also started to take in the sights a bit more, shop a little and watch a performance or two. Grandma offered to buy each grandchild souvenirs of up to $50. Ethan knew what he wanted on the first day. After years of wishing to have one, Ethan finally got a leather Indiana Jones style hat. Now, this is the real deal and it does not say "Disney" on it anywhere. He looks great in it. The younger kids got funny things. Orlando got about six cheap necklaces and some candy, as well as Mickey ears. His brother Angelo got similar things. I think his favorite was the jawbreakers on sticks - he got several of those, including some that are in a package that looks like a skull. The jawbreakers are made to look like eyeballs that you can spin around. He also got a squishy skull that has things that ooze out of the eye sockets where you squeeze it. I am not sure what Aleah got, she was quiet about it. Kaylah go earrings and a few shirts. Ellie had a really difficult time selecting, but she finally ended up with a Cheshire Cat sun visor, a set of Pirate Mickey ears in red and a "Nightmare Before Christmas" messenger bag. It is really pretty cool. She had hoped for a fun and silly top hat, but they were all only in adult sizes. My kids wanted to have things that they would not grow out of.

One of the first things my mom planned for was a meal at the Bleu Bayou restaurant in Disney. It is a very nice place made to look like you are on a porch in the evening, the lighting provided by paper lanterns hung everywhere and the people on the "Pirates of the Caribbean" in their boats go by. I thought it would be nice, but it turned out to be a lot more fun than I expected. It was so wonderful to get out of the noise and crowds, not to mention the heat. The food was great. Ethan was really taken with the mint juleps. He says we need to figure out the recipe when we get home. We all had prime rib and fun desserts. Each dessert came with an "edible" pirate booty. The Key Lime pie had a pirate medallion and my Cookie and Ice Cream Boat had a mast with a sail. We had great conversation. It provided us with the respite that we all needed. I was very glad she had planned it. She had done this each time she had come to Disney as a little girl. It was a bit pricey,at about $30 for adults and $12 for kids.

In the evening we watched the fireworks. We had seen them from the bus stop on the first night, but that was nothing compared to the real deal. People started finding seats two hours before the show actually started. We were pooped by 8:30, so we staked out a spot and sat, zoning for an hour. The firework show, which seemed to last about 30 minutes, was the best I had ever seen. It had music and vocals from many of the main rides. Each section that went with a theme was distinct and different from the rest. There is even a woman dressed in a light up costume as TinkerBell who flies around with her wand, just like you see in the videos. It was AMAZING! It was worth sitting to see it. We did a few more rides and then drug our tired, happy bones back to the hotel. We had been there for14.5 hours. We wanted to take in as much as possible!

Monday, July 23, 2007

California Postcard "1 - Sunday in Huntington

There are twelve of us- my mom, my sister with her two boys and my brother with his wife and two girls. Six of them have never been on an airplane, two have not been on one since the late 70's or early 80's. And it all went pretty well. My Uncle Earl died a few years back and left my mother a small bit of money. She set aside a chunk of it to take us all to Disneyland. His money will play for five days of our vacation. Thank you, Uncle Earl.

The airplane ride was great and our first day in California has been wonderful. After renting two vans to get us to Anaheim, we took the local bus to the beach. The bus drivers were the best ambassadors the city could have asked for. They were helpful in getting us where we needed to go, they have us information to help us have a smooth trip, they called ahead to our transfers buses to help make sure we would catch them on time (which we did) and they were excited for us to be vacationing there. I hope the bus drivers in Denver are such nice people, too.

We arrived at Huntington beach just after lunchtime. It was picture perfect. I was so pleased that the cousin's first time to the beach was a great one. There was soft sand, shells to find, and warm water to play in. We taught some of them to body surf. Others took turn getting buried in the sand. Other were sure they saw a shark fin. And Ethan, cast and all, got to play in the water thanks to plastic trash bags and duct tape. He must have looked fun, but he had a ton of fun. We put the plastic bag over his hand and arm. We then ensconced it in duct tape to keep the water out. It was not perfect, but close enough. They all had such fun! We were sorry when it came time to leave, but we had a 1.5 hour bus ride back to the hotel, it began to ran and we had gone to the airport at 5 a.m., so we had to go.

Next stop, Disneyland!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

You Go, Girl!

Okay, today was a triumphant lesson in needing to trust and not over manage our kids. Ellie did an amazing job at the race today. It took place at Mount Evans, a very long, steep mountain in Colorado. She did the 11.1 mile hill climb in 1:55:10. It would have taken me most of the day. Thus, she has earned fifth place in the Junior Woman's 10-12 Colorado Hill Climb Championship. Will ya' look at those legs? I worried that she would find it too much and quite. I could not have been more wrong. I am so proud of her determination and power. Ethan was bummed that he could not race since he has a cast, but instead he helped my husband, Larr, take great photos. What a trooper he was. I had to drop him off at the finish line at around 7:30 since the adult races were starting. His photos were amazing, as always.
At Thursday's practice we had a surprise birthday party for the head coach. I made him a gear bag and he was happy to receive it. I also made a banner with my Cricut. That's all the crafting I have been able to manage.
Now, I just need to wrap my head around packing for a two week trip to southern California. Tomorrow at this time we should be on a beach! We are going sans the computer, so I will be signing off for now.

Friday, July 20, 2007

ICF, Slackers, Casts and Metals, and a bit of Harry Potter

It is amazing to me how we seem to be more busy during the summer than during the school year and the last two weeks were no exception. On Monday Larr and Ethan came home from the International Climbing Festival (ICF) that took place in Lander, Wyoming, just about 6 hours drive away from here. They had an amazing and fun time. Most of our group is in the group shot. I think Suzanna must have been the one to snap the photo. Larr did some awesome climbs in Sinks Canyon. I am pretty sure he made it to the top. In addition to the climbing they watched movies about climbs and climbers. They took part in silly contests like handless speed pie eating, hula hoops, etc. One of the favorites was doing a slack line. It is intended to learn better balance. It is like tight-rope walking, but on webbing similar to what you find on a tote bag. On Saturday night Ethan was going strong, but then he felt while doing the slackline. His fingers grazed another taller line. This caused him to hyperextend his fingers. When he landed the heel of his hand hit first. This caused the impact to travel through his body instead of being absorbed by the fingers. At the hospital they told him that since he was young he ended up with a bone bend instead of a shattered wrist. Did you know that young kids can bend or twist bones? The xrays showed two greenline fractures on the bones and the bigger bone is sort of crumpled. It now looks like a chunky crochet hook. The doc says he will be fine, but he'll have a cast for at least six weeks. What a bummer - we are off to California on Sunday. That makes some rides at Disneyland out of the question for Ethan. Now we are fixing to get creative so he can still go to the beach.
While the boys were gone Ellie and I had our own fun. We painted our nails so they now sport polka dots. On Saturday she did the Mike Horgan Hill Climb in Nederland and placed second place. I was proud of her. It was a tough race!
Speaking of tough races, we have the daddy of them all tomorrow. She will be doing 11.1 miles up Mount Evans. The adults do 28 miles. It is the highest paved road in America. She is geared up for it. I am exicted and nervous. Some parents did not allow their kids to tackle this one. Ellie and I talked aobut it and I left it up to her. I respect that she knows her limits better than I do. I am working the race so I have thr luxury of being able to greet her when she gets to the junior finish line.
We are also anxiuosly awaiting Harry Potter and the Death Hallows. One friend reread all of them , is going to the grand ball and party at the book store to get the book. In the morning she and her kids will have a special breakfast that includes cinnamon rolls, gourmet coffee and special HP candy while they take turns reading chapters aloud to each other. I think it sounds like such fun! I wish I was doing that, too. I will simply get my copy after the race on Saturday. Then I will have to tempter myself so that I can read some and get packed for our trip to California!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Arg Matie - It's Pirates at the Ren Faire!

We wait, with eager and bated breathe, for the return of the Renaissance Faire each year. We begin to plan our costumes as we drive home, exhausted, hot, smudged with dirt and exuberant. And this year was no different, except for our persona es. This year we went, or rather, they went as pirates. With the popularity of "Pirates of the Caribbean, World's End" you might imagine that we were in great company. Each year our costumes seem to get more elaborate. Mine stays the same. I kind of dream about the year where I have a new costume. However, when it comes time to make them I never feel like spending the money on so much fabric. My peasant costume took something like over ten yards of fabric to create. The pirate costumes were fun to put together. We made pants, shirts, sashes and headbands. We borrowed swords and knives. We put on tons-o-makeup. Ethan looked kind of cute, in a Goth sort of way, with all that make-up. His reaction to the make-up leads me to believe that he will not be begging to borrow mine any time soon. Ellie was into the whole thing. Neither of them seemed to notice that we broke a heat record that day. Ellie spent her time with her friends seeking out the nine fairies. Each year the fairies create some special little thing to give to those who ask. My current favorite is the tiny pewter acorn she got. She also loves the dragon tooth that came from a geode that was a gift from the White Fairy. The fairies in turn report to Mother Nature, who was sadly missing this year. Ethan hung out with a gang of guys, as you can see above, who made up a pirate crew. They were so convincing that people stopped them and had their pictures taken with the kids. It thrilled Ethan that people thought he worked there. Their pirate crew cavorted with the real crew and created elaborate, silly hand gestures to use when they spied the Gentleman Robber. It was a hand movement like drinking a mug and making a hooting sound. It made me giggle when they did it. The crew was also interviewed. A local television station was there filming. They followed around one of the actual Renys (the term used for those who work at the Ren Faire) that was dressed like Jack Sparrow. They came over and interviewed them, following them around for a while. I hung back. Thanks to the luxury of a cell phone, I could be mostly on my merry way. We would meet up at the jousts to see how all was going. It was a jolly good time!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Wimpmeister and the Speeding Bullets

If you live in (or are visiting) Grand Junction and you want some serious water play, you go to Moab, Utah to Butch Cassidy's King World Water Park. We set out without looking at a map, as we've been there a few times before, but we took a wrong turn (north instead of south, that would be) and ended up touring HWY 191 to Price, Utah on our way. Once we finally made it there we had a blast. The main attraction for my kidlets was the three water slide build into the side of the hill. You grab a foam mat, climb the hill and whiz down. I've been too afraid to go in the past and I had the convenient excuse that I had to stay with Ellie. This year I was on my own because they were going down as fast as Their feet would carry them up the hill.

The funny thing about this fear is that I used to love this kind of thing. When I was in high school I was in the marching band. One year we did a three week amusement park tour, playing our music and riding the rides in the amusement parks between Denver and Disneyland. Once we got there we were part of a "battle of the bands" and ended up making a few tracks for a record. It was a memorable trip and one big memory was of going o EVERY ROLLER COASTER, even the ones that went upside down, which was a totally new concept at the time. I continued like that until I had the kids. It is like I have a test tube in my head that controls how I feel. Most of the time I feel fine, but if I go on too many swervy road in the mountains or on a wild ride, I feel like I am going to puke. It is unpleasant, as you might imagine. But, in remembering what fun I had in the past, I test this from time to time, hoping it will change back to what it was like before.
So, I tried it. After all, little Ben was going, so I should too. I did the first one and was okay. I finished with my heart thumping like a sparrow's. I was like a speeding bullet. Ethan was going so fast in the one he did that he "caught air" on one of the curves - but he loved that! I decided that the slide I went on must be the fastest one. Then I tried the one that begins at the mouth of what looks like a cave or shaft entrance.You sit down and see that there is a steep hill right off, but I went anyway. Yeah, it was fast too, but this time I unintentionally laid back and that made the ending part better. My heart still thumping hard and fast, I had to try the last one. Otherwise, how would I know which one I liked best? And wouldn't you know, the middle one was fast, too. This time I got serious amounts of water up my nose, so I was done. I am proud that, as a wimpmeister, I did try it, but once on each one is enough.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Today the kids and I traveled to Grand Junction to have an extended weekend with the Fosters. Natalie had lots of fun things planned, as usual. Our first creative activity was a root beer tasting,done in a wine tasting style. It was such fun. We tested five brands: A & W; Boyland's Natural; Virgil's Natural; Mug; and Stewart's. Each person had five disposable cups with a letter on it and a rating sheet. We looked at color, aroma, root beer taste, sweetness and overall favorite. Natalie and I poured small amounts in each cup before we called the kids in. It was really kind of amazing how different the root beers were and how the overall ratings came out. I loved Virgil's Natural Root beer (from Vitamin Cottage) because of the complex, deep flavor and aroma. I was amazed to find that it has nutmeg and wintergreen in it. Most everyone else loved the A&W Root beer. We decided that maybe people are accustomed to that one the most and have come to associate it with what we call root beer. My response to it may have had to do with the fact that my first job was at A&W, so I know way too much about it. The "romance" for me around that is gone. The rating was such fun. After we finished our sheets we went through and revealed what each brand was. Natalie got this idea from the blog, "One More Moore," who seems to have lots of fun ideas and recipes going on.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Bit of Daring, A Bit of Daft and a Bit of Crafting

A Bit of Daring -

Our first campout of the season was up at Cold Springs camp ground, near Nederland, the town famous for their Dead Guy Festival. It seems that a man who believed in the science of bring people back to life, if well preserved in ice, lived there. He died and put his grandson in charge of his remains. There the Dead Guy stays, nicely cold in his storage shed in the backyard, thanks to plenty of dry ice. We had a great time.The kids are big enough that we have had to move to having two tents, instead of one, in the name of civil peace. All afternoon it was back and forth between how the sleeping arrangements would go. In the end it was broken down by gender. The next day we went exploring and found some great spots for repelling (starting at the top of a cliff and climbing down) and rock climbing. Here I have a few pic. s to show how brave they were. My bravery was in the form of sitting atop a windy, ant infested cliff and doing cross stitch with linen fabric and silk threads. I know what you are thinking - "Oh, she's so daring!" Later in the day we went to check out the site for the next race - a hill climb, 3000 foot elevation gain over 9.5 miles - not a race for the faint of heart or weak of leg!

A Bit of Daft!

Remember the bags that I posted earlier? The ones that I made that match out team uniforms? Well, in my zeal to create them, I forgot to prewash the fabric and that has come back to bite me in the butt. The lovely white section turned pink one afternoon when Ellie's waterbottle spilled on the bag and was left to soak in. I went to get something and found the nasty pinky streaks working their way up the side of the bag. I was so bummed. I felt mad, sad and a bit stupid. I know better than this! I had been in the midst of making two more as presents for friends. THey had to be trashed. I tore the seams out fo Ellie's bag and redid it. Now, it is better. While I am still feeling stupid, I am at least releived that I figure it out before I gave others away. This will keep me from having to ask for them back. I have since washed all of the fabric 3 times, one time with amonia, to set the color. The first gift bag will be given on the 4th to Paul, a good friend, an advisor and a coach.

A Bit of Craft -

Between all of the biking we have been doing, I did manage to make a gift for my nephew, Orlando. It is a fabric bag, of sorts, that houses a few large post-it note pads in different colors and a set of Pipsqueak markers that are put out by Crayola. They are short versions of 26 colors. The idea is that he can take them with him when we all go on vacation together in a few weeks. I will also be crafting a more girly version for my neice. The names go on the inside for safety reasons.