Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sandy Lego Trip

A few months back, Ryan announced that Marriott was cutting the associate rate by 50% during the holidays. That meant, that if we found the right deal, we could stay for about $20 a night and find a place that included breakfast. I told him to book it. We would figure out details later. So he went to work planning a nice little get away to San Diego in between Christmas and New Years. Yeah for Ryan! Yeah for Marriott!

We ended up staying in La Jolla, just across from the San Diego temple, where Ryan and I got married. The lights were gorgeous by night and the window and architecture were gorgeous, as always, by day. Every time we drove by it, which was probably about thirty times, the two littlest would exclaim: "Look! It's the temple! That's where mom and dad got married!" It went from being adorable to sweet to funny to annoying in the thirty passes. But how can you complain?

We arrived on Saturday, 12/27 having packed up all of Christmas before we left. We worked very hard on the 26th and 27th so we could come back to a clean, organized house. I hate having to stress on a vacation about all the stuff I have to do when I get back so I always try to clean and get everything ready before we leave. When we got to San Diego, we checked in and went to eat at Fridays. The hotel had a fireplace, so we picked up a log at the reception desk and had a very cuddly, popcorny, movie night.

The next morning, we went to Old Town and sought out the church's visitor center for the Mormon Battalion. I had been there before when I was probably in high school. But, alas, it was not meant to be, it was being reconstructed. Oh well. I tried. We wandered through Old Town and had fun looking at all the displays and shopping in the old stores and seeing the beginnings of California history.

In the candy shop, Madison discovered a whole section dedicated to huckleberries. She was in heaven as that is her favorite thing in the world. I loved the picture of the girls in the covered wagon. They thought it was so hard to get in it for the picture. Imagine riding in it?

Next, we went to El Indio. This is a little diner that invented the taquito. It was featured on the Food Network "Diners, Drive Ins and Dives."

We figured it might be fun to try. We loved it! The sauces were all really good. The chips were so phenomenal that we had to buy some to bring home.

We loved everything. I would have preferred that they use a Mexican white cheese instead of cheddar on everything, but nobody else seemed to mind. Besides, they had Orange Bang which is the classic drink in a really good place. It reminded me of the kind of place by dad always loved. The line went out the door (about 40 deep) by the time we left.

Next stop: The Del. I have always loved the Del. The classic coned architecture. The red and white. My parents went to eat dinner there on their honeymoon (they could not afford to actually stay there.) The history. It is 120 years old and is the iconic symbol of the beach hotel. Copied many times. Filmed many times. I had to take the girls. I had showed them the movie "Some Like It Hot" a few months ago, so they were prepared for it's beauty and appreciated that it had a history. Here is a little something from the website:

An American Treasure in the Heart of Southern California

The History of The Hotel del Coronado

As a National Historic Landmark, the Hotel del Coronado has a rich and colorful heritage that sets it apart from neighboring Coronado hotels. From Marilyn Monroe to Charles Lindbergh, from state dinners to the ghost of Kate Morgan, The Del is an American treasure with more than 120 years of fascinating stories to tell. Today, we invite you to create new great memories at this cherished hotel in Coronado.

The Del's visionary founders - Elisha Babcock and H.L. Story - dreamed of building a seaside resort that would be "the talk of the Western world." Since then, the resort has become a living legend, visited by celebrities, dignitaries and U.S. presidents. In fact, publisher Rand McNally recognized the Hotel del Coronado for enjoying "more fame and historical significance than perhaps any hotel in North America."

Eleven U.S. Presidents have visited The Del, starting with Benjamin Harrison in 1891. One of the resort's most famous visitors was England's Prince of Wales in 1920. He would later become King Edward VIII, only to give up his throne in 1936 to marry Coronado divorcee Wallis Spencer Simpson. Many have speculated that they may have first met at The Del.

The Del has played host to some of America's greats, including Thomas Edison, L. Frank Baum and Babe Ruth. Famed aviator Charles Lindbergh was honored at The Del in 1927 after his successful trans-Atlantic flight. At this lavish banquet, a replica of Lindbergh's "Spirit of St. Louis" circled the enormous Crown Room ceiling.

Hollywood has been making movies at The Del since 1901. In 1958, The Del was the backdrop for the comedy classic "Some Like It Hot," starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon. The resort has also seen a steady stream of celebrity visitors - from Charlie Chaplin and Humphrey Bogart to Brad Pitt and Madonna.

What Victorian resort would be complete without a resident ghost? Kate Morgan checked into the resort on November 25, 1892, and never checked out. Reports of ghostly happenings, all thought to be connected to the death of this beautiful young woman, have been circulating at The Del ever since.

Afterwards, we went to set up the arrangements for my brother Alan and his wife and five kids to stay at a nearby hotel. They were going to join us for a couple of days. Dinner at In-N-Out and another cozy fire with a movie and popcorn.

The next day we went to the San Diego Zoo. Monterey, who still has the inability to pronounce all her phonemes at the age of four, frequently says things really cute. She can't really pronounce San Diego. She kept calling it Sandy Lego, hence the title of this post. Luckily, because the connection to Lego and knowledge that Legoland was nearby, she thought she went to Legoland.

We met my brother's family at the zoo and proceeded to have a wonderful and playful time with all the interaction. We really do love spending as much time as possible. Each of the kids rotated through each of the cousins and the zoo and animals were merely a backdrop to the antics.

We rode the bus and the sky tram and saw a bunch of animals. We waited in line for the pandas. My favorite. Some people thought the line was a little too long. Some people have no appreciation for how special it is to see a panda up close. Some people need a little attitude adjustment before we go back.

Anyhoo ... we had a great time.

Afterwards we went to the hotel and swam. It really wasn't swimming weather, but seeing how they live in Connecticut, it was swim weather to them. So we all jumped in. Well, they jumped in and I took pictures. Afterwards, we went to Islands. A nice big group in a big booth that seemed a little small, but we called it cozy.

Cousin Megan spent the night in our room. We met again at the San Diego Temple for a photo shoot, and little song and dance routine.

One last stop to El Indio for some more yummy food. Good Mexican food is hard to come by in CT. The best they have is Taco Bell. And that ain't no joke.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas 2008

Here are the Santa gifts before they were opened.

Here is the reaction to seeing what Santa brought.

Next we have a dozen pictures showing everyone how much fun we had opening the rest of our presents. Watch Ryan play Rockband. See the excitement.

Oh wait. Those would be the pictures if the camera battery had not have died right after the last pic. Remember the Murphy Law thing.

Oh well. We opened presents and then mom went to work making the sweet potato casserole for Christmas dinner. Making my first batch of cornflake hollies of the year. Making the carrot cake sandwich cookies (those should have been on the cookie plates, but did not make it to the oven.) Showering. Getting the gifts ready. Helping get breakfast. Opening and assembling toys. Getting the trash out. All on four hours of sleep. Did I mention the cold I had? (Do I sound like a martyr? 'cause I think I am sounding a little too self sacrificing? I mean, I only needed two Motrin to get me through the morning.)

We left at 11:30 for Ryan's parents for dinner and the family gift exchange. Apparently, there was a communication breakdown because they had all already exchanged all their gifts and so we just did our gifts when we got there. Oh well. So much for togetherness. We gave our gifts and opened their gifts to us.

A few hours later, we got the action shot of Monterey putting the olive on her finger, dipping it into the ranch, and then quickly getting it into her mouth before even a single drip. Such talent. So glad the battery recharged in time for that.

We ate our dinner and played Apples-to-Apples. We watched Ratatouille. We ate and ate and ate. Lots of yummy food. We arrived home happy, full, and tired.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve 2008

The girls and I were supposed to leave Sunday morning to visit my mom. My older brother Alan was coming in from Connecticut with his kids so we were going to make a quick visit. On Sunday morning we got the call that they were snowed in and would make it out when they could.

We went to church. Very glad for that change in plan, because the ward choir sounded awesome.

We headed out the next morning. Apparently they would not arrive until late Tuesday night. But I still needed the time to copy all the CD's for Ryan's family. And I made a (failed) attempt to finish my Christmas cards. I needed to shop, since I had not been out even ONCE!

Even though we missed a couple of days with Alan's kids, we did have two of them: Robyn and Kathleen are living with Grandma so we could par-tay with them. Nancy is there with her two: one who is the same age as Maya and Monterey and her seven week old boy. Karen came and brought all her goodies. So I was able to get more done on Monday and Tuesday than I had in the three weeks prior, all together thanks to the numerous distractions and babysitters. Yeah for family!!!

Karen bought Western Bagels and we chowed down on those, Claim Jumper, Wood Ranch, Cupid's and among other favorites.

As evidence that they had been sick so much, they played sick pony. Cousin Layne has a rocking horse but a soft stuffed animal-like rocking horse. They went to grab a bowl and were playing like the pony threw up. Then they would go get a cloth to wipe the barf off his chin. Then they would wipe the sweat off his forehead. Do I really need to explain how sick and how long everyone was sick? I mean these are the make-believe games they are playing?

Wednesday morning we finally got to see Alan and his family. We love this group SOOOO much. We love all our cousins. I mean the older group (Robyn, Kathleen and Jayme) are the ones who teach the girls all the board games and are the leaders. But from McKayla to Layne, they are all pretty close in age and they love playing with each other.

We exchanged gifts.

John made these super cool family shirts. He based his design on the cult classic "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians." Truly one of the worst movies ever made. But it is so bad it is funny. And it has a GREAT song:
"Hang up that mistletoe, soon you'll hear HO HO HO
Christmas day you'll get up and you'll say Hurray for Santy Claus.
You spell it S-A-N-T-A-C-L-A-U-S Hooray for Santy Claus."

So he made the shirts and on the back he cast everyone in the family as a character. Everyone put on their shirts and since John did not yet get the onesie for baby Mercer, he wore a foil hat as the real Martian.

We had to leave at 1:00 in order to spend Christmas Eve with Ryan and his parents. It was really hard to leave. With all those cousins who are the same ages and the same interests and the same sense of humor and the love, love, love, love. I wanted to stay all week and let them all just play and grow closer.

Luckily, we are meeting up with a bunch in San Diego so we will get more time. But Christmas would have been so much fun with all the cousins together.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Why I fell short this Christmas OR Pass the throw up bowl, please!

Normally, I have a million things to do at Christmas and so I start my list in mid-November with my Christmas card list, my cookie plate list and my gift list. I pace out everything so the bulk of the work is done before Thanksgiving, leaving me with a busy, but not impossibly busy Christmas. I always get it all done. Not this year. I love this view from our complex, as I exited. Snow capped mountains, clear blue skies, palm tress, Christmas wreaths on the gates.

With Thanksgiving coming a little late, I was already a little behind. But I just consulted last year's list on my PC and got my Christmas decorations up. All would be fine. This year's gifts for family would be meaningful and all the same. For my family, each family was getting a book I assembled and wrote on our Disney Cruise last January. Twenty-five of us went and had so much fun. The book brought all the fun memories back. For Ryan's family, we restored, copied onto CDs, and distributed reel-to-reel tapes made by Tom and Diane when they were stationed in Germany their first years of marriage. It is awesome to hear their experiences and hear the voices of Tom's parents. With both of those projects, I did not have to worry about buying each person their own gift. Much, much simpler. Still took lots of time, but I did not wait until December to start so I figured I was in good shape.

I also had all my girls in school. This meant I would have tons of time to shop. Boy, what an easy year this would be.

Ever hear of Murphy's law?
"Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way."

The flu came. And came. And came. And came again. I was the only one who never got it. Of course, my hands were chapped from the washing and sanitizing and disinfecting and drying. Ryan and Madison had it first. Then Maya. Poor Maya, that is the worst. Then McKayla. Then Maya again. Then Madison again. Then Monterey. We had four bowls going at one point. Lots of missed school. Two Christmas programs missed: Kinder and Tiny Tots. Class parties missed. Chocolate dipping missed (that one was mine.) Two and a half weeks of barely any sleep as I slept next to by barfing babes. I have this theory that since Ryan works full time and goes to school full time, I do one hundred percent of the night time duty. I did need his help twice. Both times when it was coming out both ends. By the way, another reason to hate Hot Cheetos: when you throw up Hot Cheetos on the cream colored carpet, the stain does not come out. Even with hiring a professional.

So when I should have been addressing Christmas cards, I was rinsing out bowls. When I should have been shopping, I was emailing teachers with the latest status and getting their assignments. When I should have been making cookies, I was rubbing a cramped tummy.

I did have spurts when I could do something. Maya helped decorate the gingerbread house for the ward party.

Maya also helped me make the Pretzel Hugs by peeling all the hugs and placing them on the pretzels.

I managed to get out my cookie plates, with about 2/3 of the cookies I had planned. And no cornflake hollies. The first time since I was 15 that cornflake hollies did not make the Christmas cookie plate. So to those of you that got the plate, my apologies for not doing the job I normally do. But, I can guarantee that there was no flu bug on any cookie.

To those of you who normally get Christmas cards, sorry. It just did not happen this year. Merry Christmas. I love you all. I know you will forgive me and hopefully I will not be dropped off your list for next year because of one lapsed year.


Merry Christmas.