Tuesday, July 31, 2012

From fireworks to cannonballs; dogs and cats.

July ends up being the epitome of summer because it is the only month that the kids do not have school from calendar day 1 to 31. And it sure felt like all things summer from fireworks on the Fourth to cannonballs aplenty while keeping cool in the pool.

And I want to make it clear that I do not sit down with our summer bucket list and carefully plan how to get every item checked off. Most days it is not even on my radar and serves as more of a guide and brainstorming of ideas than anything else. However, having said that we inadvertently accomplished a TON of things on the list in just this last week alone.

For example on Tuesday we visited the Niles family in 29 Palms. Whenever we are there, I try to stop by the shelter before heading home. I have a good relationship with the staff there and it has been established that when we come by, it is not to adopt but to play with the cats and kittens and help socialize them. And although I will occasionally get a sad plea from one of the kids, generally speaking they know the purpose of our visit too and are willing to play and cuddle with the kitties and then say their good-byes. Jadyn also donates part of her allowance and loose change she collects to help the shelter buy much needed food and supplies for the animals awaiting adoption. It is the sweetest thing ever.

On this particular day, the kitten room had at least two liters of 2 month old kittens. The kids were in heaven:

On Thursday, Jake ended up not having a formal soccer practice, so I took the opportunity to take the kids to a movie in the park, again meeting up with members of the Niles family. They showed the Muppets, which is such a cute movie. Of course the kids and I have seen it before but that makes it all the better choice for a movie in the park because if you get distracted (dancing to musical numbers or rolling around in the grass), it's not a big deal. It was really fun and I am glad we got the chance to experience that this summer.

And these pictures are the reason why I want my phone checked out at the Apple store. It takes very poor pictures with low light and/or flash. 

Friday, I had tickets for us to attend our local theater's production of Suessical the Musical based on several of Dr. Suess' books and characters - most notably Horton the elephant and the Cat in the Hat and yes, it was just as good as I expected. Both the kids loved it and Jadyn is once again bitten with the acting bug. She really wants to sing, dance, act and generally just perform. If only she didn't get so shy in the spotlight. But of course not too shy to pose for pictures with the characters after the production:

Here they are during intermission between acts:

And with the cat in the hat and his "mini me" after the show:

Saturday, our town was offering it's weekly summer concert in the park and they finally had a musical genre that sounded appealing - classic rock. Even better, they allow families to bring their dogs and sit on the upper field so although you don't have a great view of the stage, you have tons of room and can still enjoy the music (and honestly the less crowded, the better for our family especially in Joe's eyes). We went with Cruz and Tara, which means they also brought their dogs (the two Danes). It also means a reappearance by the now famous ridiculous chair, which Cruz got so comfy in, he actually napped during the first set:

We were also joined by the Miller family and their two nieces bringing the totals for our group to 6 adults, 6 children and 5 dogs. It was a very nice evening.

Finally, the kids finished the second week of their second session of swim lessons and they both did so, so well. Jake graduated from Dolphins to Sharks - the last class before you begin guard training. Jadyn, who debuted as a dolphin for the first time was able to complete all but two skills (diving and rotary breathing). They were both so excited, they asked to sign up for the last session of the summer so guess what? We are doing another 2 weeks of swim lessons. Here they both are the last week of class as Dolphins together competing in a cannonball contest:

And now I must apologize 1) because I don't remember who won the said cannonball contest and 2) because this blog post is a rehashing of Facebook updates from the last week but with more detail. But in my defense, I cannot turn my status updates into a memory book, thus the redundancy. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Midsummer check-in

This has seriously been one of the busiest and most fun summers ever. And even with everything we have done, we still have had a fair amount of time to just hang out at home, relax and spend time as a family. But time flies when you are having fun and so I was a little taken aback to realize that we had passed the halfway point of summer break last week. I took a quick look at our list to see how we were doing and am pleased with how much we have already done.

Last week alone we had two play dates, went to the library and the splash park, attended a minor league baseball game, went to see Madagascar 3 and Brave at the drive-in and started our 2nd session of swim lessons.

Here are my two Dolphins on the first day of the new session:

Here are the kids with Rocky the bull at the Palm Springs Power game:

And Jadyn posing with Mony the monkey and Wacko himself from the magic/comedy show at the library:

Here is everything on the list we have done so far:

Go to a baseball game (minor and/or major)
Miniature golf
Movie theater - Madagascar 3, Ice Age 4, and Brave.
Drive in movie theater
Going out for frozen yogurt
Library summer reading program
Swim lessons
Swimming in our pool (A LOT)
Swimming at high school pool or spa pools *
Beach (hopefully at least twice) *
River ( A LOT) check out new areas along the river **
Sunburst Splash park
Play dates with friends
Sleepover with friends *
Grilling and eating outside on the patio
Family movie nights
Family game nights
Legoland **

And what we still have on the to do list. Those items bolded are the ones I am doubtful we will get to - the movie in the park because it is on Thursdays and after only a 2 week break from sports, Jake starts soccer practices starting this Tuesday and Thursday (with Jadyn's Monday and Wednesday practices starting next week). Although we won't technically be staying in a hotel at all (unless plans change) we will have stayed in cabins twice (once at the beach and once at the river) and finally the kids picked Legoland over the zoo on our beach trip and I don't think we will be back in San Diego this summer.

Visit our local museum
Visit Discovery Children's museum **
Movie theater - Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3
Concert(s) in the park
Movie(s) in the park
Visit local animal shelter Knott's Soak City *
Palm Desert Aquatics Center
Family dance parties with glow sticks
Water balloon toss
Sleep overnight in a tent
Stay in a hotel *
San Diego Zoo

Of course there is also a few items that were left off the list that are also big items for this summer like having learned to ride bikes without training wheels, which has led to several evening bike rides as a family and this Friday we are going to see a live action play at our local theater called Suessical the Musical and we are super excited for that. Also, we are currently reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books and then watching the corresponding movie, which will lead up to the early August release of the 3rd movie in the franchise.

Summer might be more than halfway over, but I am not going to let that slow us down or stop us from having the best summer yet!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Look Who's Riding Now

As if I haven't had enough blogging material between all of our summer adventures, beach trip and All-Star tournament, both the kids hit another special milestone in the last few weeks - riding their bikes without training wheels!!!!

Now I know they are probably both late on this one, especially Jake, but we don't exactly live in an area conducive for kids riding bikes - no sidewalks, no bike lanes and oh, have I mentioned that we live on a hill with a somewhat sloped driveway? Going downhill is super fun once you are comfortable on your bike but learning on it? Not so much. But enough with the excuses.

We have tried to motivate the kids, particularly Jake, several times but after so many park play dates recently, Jake has seen all the other kids riding around and realized his training wheels were hindering him A LOT. So we took him out on our street and he was balancing in no time!

It took Jadyn a little longer. She got it down after we realized that while Jake is probably ready for the next size bike, Jadyn had completely outgrown her 12 inch and it was making for a very squirrely ride. Once she tried Jake's bike, she was fine. So guess who got a new 16 inch Disney Princess bike?

I just love how happy and giggly the kids are when they are riding their bikes. It makes my heart swell. I also enjoy watching how each of the kids differs in their crashing style. Jake full-on wipes out. Jadyn finds a way to jump off her bike before it falls over. It's pretty funny to watch.

Since Joe already had a bike and I wanted to be able to go for short rides as a family, we also got a new bike for me as well. I seriously probably haven't ridden a bike since early high school.

I am so excited to have ditched the kids training wheels because I foresee a lot of riding in our futures! Could this summer get any better?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

By any other name

Back in the day, the single wide mobile homes along the beach and marina at the base were referred to as cottages. That is how Joe and I remember them. Since upgrading to more permanent duplex condo-like structures, the base now refers to them as villas. But for some reason on this last trip, our family couldn't quite decide how to refer to them. When on the shore or out and about in the car, the place we stayed was called:

a house
a villa
a cottage
a cabin
or a combination of cottage and cabin, which is
a cabbage (Jadyn - are we going back to the cabbage now?)
or something that sounds like cottage but isn't
a carriage (Jake - how far are we from the carriage?)
or using a homonym to help you remember
a cottage cheese (Jadyn - did I leave my goggles at the cottage cheese?)

But most importantly, on several occasions it was referred to as home.

And that is why I love staying there, because it is familiar to us and never in my memory have we accidentally referred to our hotel room as home when on vacation.

The cabbages feel like home away from home.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

By the beach but not at the beach

We headed out of town for our beach vacation bright and early Monday morning. The kids were given a choice of amusement parks/zoos and to no one's surprise, even after having a season pass and going about a dozen times, they chose Legoland. And really, we want to take advantage of that now because they are the perfect ages for Legoland. In a few years I imagine they will start to outgrow it.

The thing about Legoland is that it is not so much about the rides as it is the various play areas - the kids spent a ton of time in Duplo PlayTown, Pirate's Cove, which is essentially a mini water park (good thing we had their suits!), The Hideaways, a giant wooden play structure with bridges, cargo nets, slides, tunnels and punching bags, Pharroh's Revenge, where you fire foam balls at targets and each other and Build and test, where you create your own Lego vehicle and race it down a ramp against other kids' creations. Then of course there is Miniland with the new Star Wars gallery including Lego reproductions of scenes from each of the six episodes plus the Clone Wars. See? Who needs to go on rides?

But Jadyn is our thrill seeker so of course we did go on rides, including several roller coasters that Jake had no interest in riding. Overall, the kids had a good time at Legoland and our trip had started off great.

I should have heeded this warning but Jadyn REALLY wanted to go on Pirate Reef and she had to go with an adult. I knew I was in trouble when more than half of the riders were in bathing suits! This picture does not give a true representation of how soaked we were. Everything was wet except the very top of our heads:

My knight in shining (foam) armor, Jake:

On his way to rescue the princesses and his sister:

 Jadyn and I on the Dragon coaster (this  is a picture of a picture obviously):

The kids with Lego Darth Maul:

Jadyn showing off her Duplo creation:

 And Jake waiting for more opponents to race:

Tuesday morning was spent at the beach, after which we all cleaned up and headed out to Boomer's. We were able to get wristbands that gave us access to a majority of their attractions, which included miniature golf, laser tag, go karts and bumper boats. This is the first time we have taken the kids to a place like this where they were tall enough to do anything besides golf. We all had a blast and this was crowned the favorite of our trip by Jake, Jadyn and myself. Of course it helps for me that I beat everyone at miniature golf and have a propensity toward aggressive and fast driving. And Jake played at least 5 rounds of laser tag (no surprise there). We also played some video games inside and Jadyn won 1000 tickets on a spinning game of luck. Seriously, Joe had to sit there for 20 minutes collecting all the tickets the machine had to dispense. We capped off the evening with dinner at Old Spaghetti Factory (and I don't need to remind you that this is a favorite of mine right?)

 After our round of golf. The men thought they destroyed the evidence of my victory but I have the scorecard in this picture (before they stole it from my purse) to prove my win:

 Jadyn and I zipping around the track:

Jadyn after winning 100 tickets. She then of course when on to win 1000, which I unfortunately didn't get a photo of - just picture this amount of tickets plus 900 more:

Jake enjoying the bumper boats:

Wednesday morning was also spent at the beach and again after cleaning up, we headed out to eat lunch at Ruby's, shop for new tennis shoes for the kids and visit the Sea Life Aquarium next to Legoland (we had free admission with our hopper tickets). While the aquarium is not very big and could not be an all day adventure, we did get to see some pretty cool sea creatures (sharks, moon jellyfish and Japanese spider crabs), play a fun quiz game along the way and touch some starfish in the tide pools. The kids learned a lot and seemed to enjoy it. That evening we just brought food back to the beach house, went for a walk out the rock jetty and relaxed. It had been a long an exhausting 3 days!

The kids in the observation bubble taking in the scene:

And Lego Spongebob, you know because he lives on an island under the sea:

And then of course Thursday, it was already time to leave. We took another walk along the jetty and bid adieu, heading back to the desert heat (and on this particular day humidity and rain), going straight to Jake's last All-Star game and then home. I love the beach and always leave wishing we had more time. On the same token however, there are many reasons why I like to visit but wouldn't want to live there again - too expensive, too much traffic and too cold. And the rest of the family agrees with these sentiments. I guess we truly are desert rats after all.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Life's a Beach

There are many things I love about going to Del Mar Beach at the south end of Camp Pendleton. For one, it is not as crowded as many other public beaches in Southern California because you have to have base access to go there. Second of all, they have the traditional crashing waves beach divided for body surfers on one side of the lifeguard station and surfers on the other and then they also have what they call the cove, where rock jetties keep the waves away creating a great spot to play in calm ocean waters. We spent one day with the kids playing in the waves and one day where they played on the shore of the cove. The kids can never decide which they prefer because they love both!

Every year I am amazed at how fearless the kids are in the waves, especially Jadyn who may be younger but is definitely the thrill seeker between the two.

Different reactions upon being told to get out so we could get back for lunch.Jadyn says, "That was fun!"

Jake says, "Do we have to get out and why are you taking my picture again?"

And every year I am amazed at how many ways the kids can have fun at the cove. Splashing in the water, making friends,playing catch with a variety of balls and frisbees, finding and examining various crabs and seashells and making sandcastles. Furthermore, since we have little to worry about with the kids in the calm water of the cove, Joe and I can sit back, relax and enjoy a good book (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was my official beach read for 2012).

Jadyn ratting out Daddy who buried her legs in the sand:

 Jake showing off his sand castle, which looks a lot like a scene from Star Wars to me:

But by far, the kids favorite part of going to the beach has nothing to do with getting wet. It's taking morning or evening walks along the rock jetty, going beyond where the gravel path has been destroyed by endless beatings of "mad waves" as Jake likes to call them, climbing the rocks and looking for treasures, enjoying the view. I guess you can take the kids out of the desert but you can't take the desert out of the kids. Rock climbing will always be at the top of their list. At least we got a break from the 100+ degree temperatures of the desert, which had heat advisories the whole week we were gone. Meanwhile, we had to wear our sweatshirts in the earlier evening because to us at least, the ocean breeze was chilly!

But spending time at the beach is really only half of our trip. Because the other half is spent doing fun things that are close by, the details of which will have to wait for another post.

Monday, July 16, 2012

All-Star Tournament

The weekend before our beach trip was Jake's All-Star tournament. He played one game Saturday and two games Sunday, all in 100+ degree temperatures. It was gruelingly hot.

Jake and I before heading down to the game Saturday. We even decorated the car for the occasion. We've got spirit, yes we do!

Jake rocking the eye black again with teammates Landon and Griffin (so cute!)

 Jake at bat:

I love this picture of Jake running to second base, mostly because it proves he is watching the ball when he isn't supposed to:

 The team played with all their heart, giving it their very best. However, in the last game Sunday against one of the other teams representing Yucca Valley, they lost 12-11. This meant they had to fight their way back into the championship, which they did, winning games on both Tuesday and Wednesday night (against the team from Yucca they had lost to Sunday). Unfortunately, Jake had to miss those two games because it coincided with our beach trip but since his team won, we were able to make it back for the final championship game on Thursday night, coming down to our Yucca Red team and the opposing Yucca Black team.

To say that the last game was intense would be an understatement. It was a nail bitter. Once again both teams played their little hearts out. In the end, Yucca Red lost with a final score of 15-12. At first the team seemed heartbroken and it was a hard loss for sure. But by the time Jake got in the car with his tournament pin he declared his tears were gone. After all, coming in second place out of ten teams is still reason to be proud. And even though Jake was definitely not one of the star players on the team, he finished the game with 2 base hits and 2 RBIs.

Team picture after the game on Thursday. I think you can see how hard they played:

The team celebrated all their hard work by going to the spa pools for an end of tournament celebration (mind you this was at 8:30 p.m.). Our family had traveled from the beach straight to the game that night and had yet to even go home. To say we were tried would also be an understatement but the kids had a blast swimming in the pools.

Even with the huge time commitment and hours spent in the desert heat by our whole family, Jake especially, we have no regrets about Jake participating in All-Stars. We met some fabulous kids, coaches and families. It improved Jake's skills and motivated him to want to work even harder. It reminded us all of our love for the game of baseball and while we will enjoy our short break from sports (soccer practices start July 30th!!!), we can't wait for next season.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

THE beach 2012

I have so much to catch up on from the last 2 weeks including the All-Star tournament and all the great things we did while on our mini beach vacation. But suffice to say we have been busy and having fun, enjoying our summer to the fullest. Until I have a chance to catch up, here is a sneak peak with the requisite family photo at the beach:

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pool Play

And although with it being summer you would think that pool play refers to well, playing in the pool, it doesn't. In this case it refers to how we spent our last weekend - watching Jake and his baseball team compete in pool play for the All-Star tournament. It was HOT (like 105 degrees) with a breeze and some shade to save us from completely melting. It was also exhausting. They played two games both Saturday and Sunday. Even just as a spectator, I was spent at the end of the day. BUT, it was also a lot of fun and completely worth it. Not to mention that Jake's team won all 4 games, therefore going into this weekend's tournament seeded #1. Yucca Red is THE team to beat.

Jake showing off his new uniform before heading down to the field:

At bat - photo courtsey of Hi-Desert Star newspaper (this was on their website):

 Between games on Saturday we headed into Palm Springs for lunch at (where else?) RUBYS:

 Field ready (batter in the box) in left field:

After the first day of games we came home and immediately got in the pool to cool off:

On Sunday, the whole team decided to rock the eye black:

And even though she wasn't out there on the field, after two days of being outside in the heat, Jadyn was EXHAUSTED:

I am so glad that Jake was able to play All-Stars this year. Seeing the skill level of his teammates has really motivated him and he is enjoying himself. He had some rough at bats but also had some good base hits too. When you are practicing 4 nights a week and spending 8 hour days with the players and their families, you become close really quick and I love that sense of camaraderie.

The team will go into tournament play on Saturday afternoon after a first round bye. We are now in double elimination tournament play and the HEAT IS ON. Go Yucca Red!