Sunday, April 26, 2015

Oliven is 5!!!

  My little munchkin-Ollie pie is 5 years old now. Seriously, where does the time go??? I can't believe he is going to be in Kindergarten in the Fall! Today was Oliven's Super Hero Circus party with an obstacle course. It was really quite fun. Another party at Los Paseos Park- I'm not complaining. Park parties are pretty cool. The kids entertain each other and I get to chat with all the adults.
We had Martian Man Hunter's mind games (Simon Says), Flash's Superfast Relay, Superman's balance beam and ended with Batman's Superhero training academy obstacle course that Oliven made up. He loved every minute of the fun. It was a great party, and during Oliven's birthday week it was also Pop's birthday, so we got to go down to Morgan Hill for his birthday dinner and Grauntie Deb was in town. The most surprising meal Oliven chose was lentil soup for his birthday week (instead of hamburgers).
He chose BJs with pizzookies for his night out. For his actual birthday he asked for Tacos and hip huggers. It was a yummy week in Ollie land.  Today was his last day of birthday meals for the week. Now, on to swim team try out week. Love you Ollie!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Our Spring trip to: Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado

  We took a really great trip out to visit 6 of the South Western states. I am including California here because we stopped in Barstow, Baker, and Palm Springs. This trip included a bit of everything: nature, culture, history, family, swimming, animals, and lots of bickering...I Here are the highlights of our really fun 10 day driving trip:
Day 1: We headed out early in the morning on our trek to Vegas. We stopped in Barstow for the
Route 66 Mother Road Museum, which turned out to be both fascinating and entertaining to the boys. They let us play some songs on the jute box and Vander and I enjoyed some dancing while Justin and Ollie played some checkers before looking around more thoroughly. When we were done there, we went another 30 minutes to enjoy the worlds tallest thermometer in Baker and have some lunch at the Mad Greek Cafe. Greek food to share as a family was delightful.We continued on to Las Vegas and checked into the Luxor. The boys (and I) were thrilled with the slanted window room. It was so much fun...we jumped on the beds a bit before Justin got to the room. Shhh...We took the tram to Excaliber, enjoyed Hershey world and their giant candy bars, and kept walking until we got to the Cosmo hotel and had some gourmet burgers for dinner at Holsteins. The boys had them too, cause we split our burgers with them. They both agreed that the burgers were as good as McDonalds (some day they will learn). We also had milk shakes, which the boys loved. After dinner we headed over to the Bellagio Fountain and watched the show twice. It was 2 hours past the boys bed time, so we headed back to Luxor for bed.
Day 2: You can't do Vegas right without hitting at least one buffet and Paris breakfast/brunch has always been Justin and my favorite, so we took the kids to enjoy the sweet and savory crepes, and all the other deliciousness Paris had to offer. They loved it - no surprise there. We headed over to Bellagio to see the flower display, the giant chocolate fountain and of course the fountain show again (this time from the other side of the fountain facing Paris). We took the boys to the 4 story M&M World. They loved it, but the they found the 3D video to be a bit scary. Somehow it rained on us when we were inside the mall. ;) Vander was baffled. This was quite a bit of walking so we took the boys back to Luxor for a chilly swim. The boys and I stayed in as long as we could, but that was only about 40 minutes. We met up with Justin for dinner and had a good nights sleep.
Day 3: Goodbye Vegas, hello Hoover Dam. We arrived at the Hoover Dam and enjoyed the fact that it was partly in Arizona and partly in New Mexico. We all took the Power Plant tour and got to stand in a 13 foot diameter tunnel inside of a 15 foot diameter tunnel, which was built to get the water out of the area where they built the Hoover Dam while they were building it. It only took them 2 years. The dam has
made very positive water sharing possible ever since it was built. After the tour we loaded up and drove the rest of the way to the Grand Canyon. We stopped in and watched the IMAX video about the history of the grand canyon and then continued on to the Canyon. When we got there and drove in we parked and looked at the expansive view. Justin and I have been before, but it was cold, foggy and I was miserable with pregnancy symptoms last time (I was pregnant with Vander). This time it was clear and beautiful weather. Vander kept trying to walk closer to the edge than I was comfortable with, so he was banished to the far side of the pathway (the safer side away from the edge). He wanted to climb on the rocks and explore over the cliff. We had other plans. We walked down to another view point, enjoying the scenery and stayed to watch the beautiful sunset, which I somehow don't have pictures of...I guess I was too busy looking at it with my family. The boys were not as entertained as Justin and I were. After we left, we went to a late dinner at a Mexican Food place down the hill by our hotel that had the best salsa ever. Not spicy, but very flavorful.
Day 4:  We spent most of our day driving. We drove way out of our way, but we all really wanted to go to 4 Corners. It was not much to behold...the only bathroom was a port-a-potty, which says a lot about a place. It was a bunch of flags and a cool monument on the sidewalk with a clear idea of where the states all aligned...the kids loved standing in 4 states at once, and apparently it is also two Indian nations, so we were in 6 places at once, pretty good, right? We went around to all the booths of Native Americans selling their wares and Justin decided on a canoe made of ceramics, that looked like wood. He purchased it in Utah. We spent the rest of our day driving to Albuqurque, New Mexico. Everything, and I do mean EVERYTHING that we were interested in doing in Albuquerque closed at 5pm, which as about when we got there, so there was no special activity that evening. We were staying in a Residence Inn that night and as luck would have it they were serving dinner when we arrived to anyone staying at the hotel - score. We had Mexican food in New Mexico. Really the perfect end to a driving day. It was also an hour later there, so that was a bit confusing, but I don't think the kids even noticed.
Day 5: We left Albuquerque and headed to Deming on the way to Tucson. We stopped by the Deming
Luna Mimbres Museum where we got to see Native American artifacts, quilts, art, really anything you could imagine that had come from the town of Deming over the years. It was quite extensive, interesting, and best of all - free. We all enjoyed our time in the museum. We stopped in to a Chinese food restaurant nearby and had some yummy honey walnut shrimp and other dishes that were okay. We continued on to Tucson and met up with the GG's at their home. We spent some time just hanging out together. The boys had GGMa playing tic-tac-toe with them. Around dinner time they took us to their favorite Mexican Food place and we had a lovely time together. Justin was trying to draft a baseball team with Jon that evening. After dinner we headed back to the GGs and had some Bluebell Chocolate Ice cream as a dessert treat. Sleeping that night proved to be more difficult than we had hoped. It was very hot...much hotter than we are used to and falling asleep was very challenging. GGMa ended up putting the air conditioning on and it was a bit better. Vander had a night terror, which took a very long time to calm down. I ended up switching places with him and letting him sleep in the bed.
Day 6: The GGs took us to the Good Egg for breakfast and the food was really really good. We were all very impressed. After a delicious meal we (the GG's went home after dropping us off) headed over to the Arizona Senora Desert Museum. We enjoyed looking at all the different cacti and learning about them. Saguaro cacti have to be 50 years old before they grow fruit and 70 years old before they can grow an arm! The boys got to look at and hold meteorites. They enjoyed those and the geodes more than anything else. We also enjoyed seeing all the different desert animals. We walked around for several hours and when we were all tired and hungry we stopped for a picnic lunch of crackers, cheese, grapes and carrots. The boys were thrilled that GGMa also sent them juice boxes.  The boys bought geodes as souvenirs. Vander really wanted to buy a magnet with javalinas on it for GGMa, but they were not cheap. We headed back to the GG's abode and decided to go for a swim. The boys enjoyed the chilly pool, while GGPa and I enjoyed the hot tub.
After our swim and showers the GG's made a mini Thanksgiving type dinner and the cranberry jello was by far the biggest hit. This time for dessert GGMa had lemon bars, but decided that ice cream with the lemon bars was a good idea. Another bad night for Vander...where were his worry dolls-yikes. Sorry GGs!!! I had to give him my spot on the bed again.
Day 7: We spent the morning with the GGs and had a lovely breakfast including a cake that GGMa told us was for breakfast (but was very clearly a dessert cake). Afterwards, we headed out on our way to Phoenix.
Our first stop was at the Mystery Castle, which was really really cool. It was a castle that a man had made for his daughter because she asked him when they were at the beach in Seattle to some day build her a real castle somewhere in the dessert the so the sand wouldn't wash it away. He got tuberculosis and moved to Phoenix...he then built a castle out of found objects and reused items and about 15ish years later he died (of cancer) and his daughter and wife were contacted to come live in the castle. It is a really neat place. The man even used left over car parts for parts of some of the room and the bar area was 1/2 of a wagon carriage. It was very unique, well thought through, fun to look around, and crazy to imagine someone living their life there, but the daughter lived there from age 19 until she died in her 70s. We enjoyed our tour before heading to the hotel to check in.
We went to Pizzaria Bianco for lunch and holy moly - best pizza I have had since Italy! So, so, so, so GOOD! We had 3 pizzas and shared them - of course the Margarita was the best. It always is. It's just the perfect flavor combo. It think Justin liked the pizza with sausage and onion  with white sauce (the Wiseguy), the Sonny boy with salami and olives was also very good. Wow! We decided next to walk to the Capitol Museum. It was and 2.1 mile walk. The walk turned out to be a bit far for the boys. We all enjoyed the museum. The boys liked building the Capitol out of blocks and the giant flag made of Legos. They also really enjoyed coloring and etching as well as Oliven pretending to give us a speech on a microphone - his version of campaigning, which was really darn cute. Justin and I thought the walk back would be too much for the kids so we decided that I would power walk back to grab the car and come pick them up. I can walk much faster on my own, and that would allow for the guys to have more time at the Capitol. It turned out that the street I walked back on was pretty sunny and was not the same maze like streets that we had walked down on and it was a bit sketchy. Some guy (alone at a pretty deserted bus stop) looked right at me and said, "HEY LADY!" He said it in a very creepy way and I screamed. Probably a bit of an over reaction, but I wasn't happy to be on that street isolated alone with this dude, so I decided to jog/run the rest of the way. I did not say run cause I was wearing flip-flops and did not wear a jogging bra, so I went as fast as I could given the circumstances. I got back to the hotel not long after the boys stepped outside to start walking back to meet me.
We went back to the hotel and showered and got ready to head over to our gourmet dinner spot - Crudo. It was sort of an elegant hole in the wall restaurant. At Crudo they serve Modern Italian and creative mixology food. We ordered crispy pig ears and beets with goat cheese as appetizers, the squid ink risotto, semolina gnocci with pork jowl and truffle sauce, and brazed pork belly with tomato confit. The food was amazing! Most of our meals we ordered enough family style and shared everything. This was no exception. The boys tried everything. Ollie didn't really like much of it, but Vander liked it all, especially the crispy pig ears. We took the boys out for gelato afterwards and shared it family style. It was really delcious and was from a super cute little shop full of tons of yummy treats, savory and sweet and tons of cute trinkets.
Day 8: We had another day to hang out and enjoy the city of Phoenix. Our first stop was a hike to a fun place called "Hole in the Rock" in Papago Park. It was pretty cool...not a very long hike. Vander and I were hoping for more, but Justin and Oliven appreciated that it was relatively short. When we got to the top we were the only ones up there, which was pretty cool. We walked around and took some pictures. We enjoyed the view and each others company in this neat geological spot. Soon after we were joined by lots of families, at least 4. The boys were happy to climb around. They wanted me to take pictures of them doing "cool stuff".
All was well until from out of nowhere Oliven decided that he had to climb up to this one rock area...remember now that Oliven is VERY cautious - he often won't slide down slides if they look too long, scary, or curvy. He always wants to hold my hand on hikes."I want to climb up there Mommy." He was so determined I felt like I had to help him, but it made me nervous. He was very happy up there. Then Vander sees him, "Oooh, I want to come up. How did you get up there Ollie?" So, Vander climbs up (he is always less cautious than I would like him to be). So, they are both up there...Vander in tennis shoes and Oliven in rain boots.
All the sudden I realize that my two precious boys are up in a spot where I can't reach them and if they fell it could be a Josh Pong situation (A friend that fell down a cliff while hiking in college and had to get total facial reconstruction, and was lucky to even be alive at all). I had a mini panic attack. They boys were having a great time and I'm down at the bottom going, "You have to get down. I love you too much. I need you both to come down right now!!! Please, come down." Justin hears me and comes over to help get the boys down. They did not want to get down, but they could tell I needed them to come down immediately. My heart and head just couldn't take it - my babies mean too much to me! To be fair there was another lady there whose 12 year old girl climbed up and I could tell she was nervous and had her husband help her down and another dad earlier had said to me, "the kids just don't realize how dangerous it can be up here if they slipped." So, I was not the only one being a bit "crazy" or as I like to call it "sane." Though, I do regret letting them climb up in the first place. I really thought Oliven would get part way up and turn around, not try to play up there. It's hard to get a true sense of perspective of what I am talking about in a picture since I couldn't back up any more without falling off a cliff myself, but it was steep, a bit slippery (especiallly in rain boots) and at least 15 feet up past where I was in the corner Oliven desperately wanted to get to, shown in this photo. After my heart stopped beating so fast and the boys were safely down (thank you Justin!) we walked around some of the pretty ponds with ducks in them and plenty of rocks to throw in, which is one of Vander and Ollie's favorite pass times always.
We headed to Soi 4 - a Thai restaurant Justin really wanted to try. The food was very good, but VERY spicy. I still ate it, but the boys ate very little once their rice was gone. We were going to take the boys out for gelato, but their behavior didn't merit a reward. We drove back to the hotel and decided that we needed a good kid activity so Justin took the kids to the Children's Museum right across from our hotel. I took a nap so that I would be awake for the baseball game that night. The boys really enjoyed the climbing structure that went from the 1st to the 3rd floor. They couldn't climb it all the way to the top the first try, but they thought it was, "really awesome" and made it to the top by the end of the day. Next on the agenda was a trip to Cornish Pasty to have some pasty's for dinner. We each got one and that was fun to tailor to our individual tastes inside of a crispy, crunchy shell. The women used to make them for the miners to take into the mines - they had a handle so they didn't eat the lead and other chemicals on their fingers, they could just throw it away. They would put savory insides on one side and sweet on the other and they would put their initials on one side so they knew which side was sweet.
After dinner we made sure we were dressed appropriately and walked over to Chase Field for the Diamond Backs vs Dodgers baseball game. We took Easter candy with us for our treats at the game. We really enjoyed ourselves and the boys were pretty good. They helped us root for the Dodgers. There were lots of Dodger fans in our area. Vander did not understand the point of the wave, but I always enjoy participating. It went around the stadium a good 4 times, which I thought was pretty cool. Our seats were shady and the whole game it stayed t-shirt weather. Bonus, there was a firework show after the game. 10 innings and the Diamond Backs won 4-3. Vander has now been to 4 stadiums and Oliven to 3. The boys were very tired walking back from the game and couldn't wait to go to bed.
Day 9: After a smorgasbord hotel breakfast (I really have no idea where the boys put all that food - they have to try everything) we drove to Gary and Jerrie's house. It was a 4 hour drive and we got their ahead of schedule by an hour. They weren't quite ready for us. We brought our stuff in and relaxed for a while. Jerrie gave the boys some squishy balls to play around with and throw in the house, which the boys absolutely loved, though Justin and I were not super comfortable with that idea. We had some crackers, chips, salmon and lobster spread as an afternoon snack, and then Jerrie took us over to the clubhouse pool for a swim after a quick walk on the golf course. The boys liked being in Jerrie's convertible, but Vander for some reason thinks they are called blimps. We didn't go swimming in their backyard pool because it isn't heated and was still quite chilly. We had a nice dinner on the patio in the backyard. The boys were thrilled that they had made spaghetti with chocolate cake for dessert.
Day 10: Our plan was to head out by 9:30 or 10 am, but Zadie came over for brunch so we absolutely wanted to stay and visit. It was really good to see him. He is doing really well and is a very friendly man. We enjoyed our time spending time together and having brunch. It was time for the long drive home. 7 hours later we were all hungry for dinner, and happened to be in Gilroy. We were going to stop for Arby's, but it was gone! So, by consensus it was decided we would stop and eat at Mimi's Cafe. Our last meal of the trip was pretty uneventful and we made the rest of the trip home. Showers and teeth brushing for the boys and in bed at 8:30pm the night before it was time to go back to school. The next few days saw some rough, cranky mornings, but what a great trip.
  I asked Justin to rate our trip 1-10, he said 8 and I said 9. He said that you have to reserve 9 and 10 in case we have a better trip later. It really was great though, lots of good times, fun and quality time together as a family and with family and really excellent food. Oliven said his favorite part of the the trip was Las Vegas - the Bellagio fountain show. Vander said that his favorite was spending time at Gary and Jerrie's house and seeing Zadie - though he has since changed his story to "it's a secret" and finally M&M world. I think my favorite was probably the Mystery Castle because it was so interesting and eating at Pizzaria Bianco. Of course I also loved that we got to spend quality time with family! Justin's favorite was the Phoenix part of the trip - the food and the baseball game. Thanks to everyone who made our trip such a fantastic one! We love you GGPa, GGMa, Jerrie, Gary, and Zadie!!!
  Just a couple of asides of things I forgot to mention... The boys kept journals on our trips and they both did an excellent job accounting for the events on the trip in their own words. I think we will do that from now on. They were both very proud to share their journals when we got home.  I wanted to mention that the boys added 4 smashed pennies to their growing collections- what a great, cheap way to commemorate trips. On the trip the boys watched some movies, played uno in the back seat, played some digital games and even convinced GGMa and Pa to play dots and boxes and tic-tac-toe. We also played 2 truths and a lie and Justin and I planned out future JAVO trips. The best story from the trip was that every time Vander would smell anything- good or bad he would say, "Uhhh, it smells like toot." To which Ollie would say, "Excuse me. I tooted." Vander would get made because there was no way Ollie could toot that much (I agree with Vander, it was often cows, skunk, roses, you name it). Either way the whole exchange was so funny that I started laughing. I laughed so many times that Vander was saying it just so I would laugh. I was in one of the hotels with a suite and a closing door with Justin one of the nights and I couldn't stop giggling. "What is so funny?" He asked bewildered. I was just thinking about the whole toot scenario and every time I thought of it I would giggle. This went on for 15 minutes until I finally stopped thinking about it and went to sleep dreaming about it (no, just kidding, I don't remember my dreams that night).