Gwenism #23

Gwen: Sugar is my favorite powdery thing.

Later ...

Gwen: Water is my favorite thing to take a bath in.


San Diego

Since Seth is between jobs (between jobs = free vacation days!), we bought some tickets and hopped on a plane headed from Salt Lake to Los Angeles.

DAY 1 — Tuesday, February 6
Drive to Salt Lake City

The kids go to school like normal, then to piano lessons. As soon as lessons are over, we drive to a hotel near the SLC airport, eating tuna salad sandwiches on the way. (By the way, Comfort Suites is NOT the same as Comfort Inn and Suites. So if you've made reservations at one, make sure you don't drive to the other. Thankfully they were within a couple miles of each other.) Everyone jumps into bed with the intention of sleeping from 8:30 p.m. to 4 a.m.

DAY 2 — Wednesday, February 7
Flight to LAX and San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Instead, Andrea wakes up at 2:15 a.m., and her body refuses to go back to sleep. She is frustrated and relieved with the alarm goes off at 4 and everybody gets dressed and heads to the lobby.

We ride the shuttle to the airport and go through security. "We're going to take a look at your bag, ma'am. (Rifles through it.) It looks like you've got a lot of food. (Thoroughly checks the snap peas in a Ziploc bag.) Okay, here you go."

Eating some of that food in the airport before boarding. Rebekah thought I was whispering about our food because it was forbidden to bring our own. But I was just trying to let the guys in the corner continue to sleep.

Although all the kids have been on a plane before, it's been a while (March 2013), so it's a novel experience. Winnie exclaims, "It's kind of like a Disneyland ride!" as we take off.

Miriam hugs Seth's arm during takeoff since she was a little anxious about the whole thing. 

Descending on the escalator to the luggage carousels.

We land in Los Angeles at 7:03 a.m. and ride the shuttle to the rental car agency, pick up our van and head south. Our first stop: San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

 Rebekah, Miriam, Analee, Winnie and Seth on the tiger trail.

Playing with the ball fountain outside the bat house. 

Each girl got a quarter to put in the telescope to check out the animals. 

Analee looking at giraffes, rhinos and a bunch of other animals. 

Rebekah taking pictures of the gorillas.

Watching the gorillas.

It's the hottest day of our trip (the temperature reached all the way to 80 degrees!), and Miriam complains of it being too hot. We spend a bucketload ($55) on lunch at the park knowing that later that day we'll go grocery store and bring our own lunches to our other destinations that week. It's incredible seeing so many animals spread out and in the open. Winnie finally succumbs to her exhaustion and falls asleep on Seth's shoulder for a little while during the tram ride. The gorillas put on a show with the baby riding on the mother's back and the silverback running away from the smaller gorillas with his mouth full of branches and beating his chest.

After we finish at the park, we drive to Lemon Grove and the house we've reserved on Airbnb. It's our first Airbnb experience, and we're happy. The house has a fenced in back yard, three bedrooms, a kitchen with dishes, pots and pans, and a washer and dryer in the garage. The girls discover that there is an orange tree and a pomegranate tree in the yard. Rebekah climbs the orange tree and picks two oranges we save for later.

Seth and Andrea go to the nearby Wal-mart to stock the fridge and cupboards. Andrea discovers that groceries cost more in California, including the produce (which seems weird since a lot of it is grown there). They pick up Little Caesar's for dinner and head back to the house.

We eat, configure the sleeping situation, and go to bed.

DAY 3 — Thursday, February 8

We wake up and eat cereal, then get in the van to drive to Carlsbad. Thanksfully Google Maps has informed us how long it will take to get to Legoland while factoring in the weekday morning traffic. Still, it stinks going slowly on the highway. But we make it.

Headed into Legoland. We reused some of our shirts from our last California trip, so on this day everyone was sporting her Star Wars quote T-shirt. 

Winnie with her LEGO minifigures. Minifigure trading was a highlight. Seth had ordered five minifigures per girl from Ebay prior to the trip, and we divvied them up among the girls. Throughout the day they traded and traded with the Legoland employees. Seth even bought a minifigure for both parents to trade as well. 

Seth and Miriam riding on Fairytale Brook. Miriam likes to pull funny faces. 

 Andrea and Analee on Fairytale Brook.

Winnie dances with a LEGO Friends figure during the "Best Friends Forever" show.

 Analee, Rebekah, Seth and Miriam (on the upper right) on Kid Power Tower.

Seth sprays the girls (and Rebekah protects her hearing aids) on Splash Battle.

Winnie next to the LEGO Winston Churchill bust. Winnie has a plethora of nicknames, including "Winston" or "Winston Churchill." 

Rebekah pointing out all of the band instruments at LEGO Washington, D.C. 

Each of our Star Wars shirts has a quote from the movie, so we stood next to our character for pictures. There was no statue of C3PO (from Andrea's shirt), so I stood next to R2 instead. (And I was, in fact, wearing R2D2 socks that day, so it totally counts.)

We're disappointed that the The Dragon is closed for maintenance, but everybody enjoys Knight's Tournament, a ride that allows its riders (two at a time) to pick the level of intensity. Rebekah is daring enough to do a 5 with Seth. Winnie and Miriam each choose a 1 while Analee opts for the slightly more daring 2. And in the Ninjago ride that allows you to shoot fireballs and lightning with your hands, Winnie schools everyone and gets the highest score in the family.

The sandwiches we pack for lunch save us some moolah in the park. Miriam and Winnie choose to spend some of their souvenir allowance on LEGO Elves sets, and Rebekah, Miriam and Winnie buy key chains.

We return to the house, and Andrea makes broccoli cheese soup for dinner that somehow ends up lumpy, but remains tasty. Everyone enjoys it and the Olympic figure skating we watch before going to bed. 

DAY 4 — Friday, February 9

Winnie comes in to Seth and Andrea's room in the morning to announce she has a bloody nose. Andrea runs her to the bathroom and realizes that Winnie's bloody nose is old news — there's no more blood coming out, but there are a few spots on her sheets. Andrea strips the bed and washes the sheets.

We eat pancakes for breakfast. The girls think the little pancakes — smaller than the ones we make at home because the pan is smaller than our griddle — are a novelty. Analee begs to go on a walk to the park down the street. The family obliges since SeaWorld doesn't open until 10.

Playing on the toys at the park. Obviously it was tie dye day.

Then we head back to the house, load up the backpack with more sandwiches and snacks, and drive to SeaWorld.

The girls get to "scare" the dolphins. We happened to be in exactly the right spot at the dolphin encounter to help the trainer do tricks. The girls all got to pet the dolphins and interact with them.

 Rebekah, Analee, Miriam, Winnie and Seth on the Octarock.

Winnie's souvenirs from SeaWorld: another bloody nose and a wood dolphin necklace. Everyone was tall enough to ride Journey to Atlantis (a log flume ride), but Winnie quickly decided she was scared on the ride (about the time we plunged down the waterfall). Then her nose started bleeding. I cupped by hand under her face to try and keep the blood from going everywhere, so by the time we got back to the start of the ride, her face and neck (and my hand) were covered in blood, and she was crying because she was wet and scared. We were quite the sight.

Analee with her sea turtle earrings she picked out as a souvenir.

Miriam and her favorite sea animal (sea turtles).

Winnie and Miri (and two other random children) ride the Sea Dragon Drop. Winnie LOVES all rides like this and expresses her delight easily.

Walking out of park at the end of the day. 

Everyone is delighted with the touch pools at the front of the park, and especially the "kissing fish" that suck on your hand. Winnie cries no less than three times that day: once when she can't find Andrea after climbing around in a giant net city, once when the dolphins splash us (and her Cheetohs) at the dolphin show, once when we get wet and she gets scared on Journey to Atlantis. The family watches all four shows (dolphins, sea lions, pets and orcas) and are amazed. (The sea lion show was a particular favorite.) Seth gets dangerously seasick during the Wild Arctic flight simulation and swears off rides for the rest of the day. The family enjoys seeing all the animals.

That night Andrea makes Frito pie for dinner, and the family eats sherbet and watches the Olympic opening ceremony before going to bed.

DAY 5 — Saturday, February 10
Whale watching, Seaport Village, Mormon Battalion site

It's an earlier morning than usual because we have to check in for our whale watching tour before we board at 9:15. We eat cereal for breakfast, drive to downtown and park right next to the USS Midway before boarding the ship and searching for whales.

Waiting for boarding to start. 

Analee relaxing below deck after starting to feel seasick. Seth was also discreetly seasick. Everybody spent most of the 3.5 hours out on the deck looking for whales (we spotted sea lions on a buoy, sea lions swimming, dolphins swimming and a few gray whales spouting and raising their tails and backs out of the water), but it was cold and windy, and at some point each of us spent some time inside. 

Winnie on her makeshift bench on deck. 

 Rebekah's hair blowing in the wind on the way back to the pier. 

Seth, Winnie, Andrea, Analee, Miriam and Rebekah headed back to the pier. 

Then we stroll along the pathway, watch a busker playing a didgeridoo and do a little souvenir shopping. Everyone but Seth buys a key chain in Seaport Village. We eat delicious fish tacos, popcorn shrimp, fried calamari and other seafood at a nearby restaurant.

On the pathway that leads past the USS Midway. 

Seth holding a crying Winnie after she tripped on the sidewalk and fell down.

Our last stop for the day is the Mormon Battalion Church History site in Old Town. We watch the presentation and learn about the Battalion, find our ancestor's name on the Battalion roster, then head outside to pan for "gold."

Winnie dressed up as a soldier during the presentation. She readily volunteered when the sister missionaries asked if anyone wanted to participate.

Seth finding his great, great, great-grandfather, William Dorris Hendricks, on kiosk.

Miriam, Analee and Seth panning for pyrite. 

Analee and her haul. She kept one and put the others back for others to find.

Finally we go home in time to eat leftovers and let the girls watch Big Hero 6 and eat kettle corn while Seth and Andrea make one more run to the grocery store to restock our supplies.

DAY 6 — Sunday, February 11
Church, Cabrillo National Monument, Silver Strand State Beach

We eat scrambled eggs for breakfast and drive a couple of miles to attend sacrament meeting with the nearest ward. The members warmly welcome us, and we enjoy the meeting with our new friends.

Then we stop at the house long enough to change our clothes and pack our lunch before driving to nearby Cabrillo National Monument.

Four cute girls on a bench eating a picnic lunch of grapes, cold fried chicken and chips. 

Winnie, Seth and Miriam jumping around in the tide pools. 

Family photo with the ocean in the background.

We see (and pet) lots of creatures in the tide pools: solitary anemones, sea grass, chitons, conspicuous chitons, a sea hare, crabs, hermit crabs, tons of barnacles (gooseneck, thatched, acorn) minnows, keyhole limpits and a wooly sculpin. After we return the informative list of tide pool inhabitants at the visitors' center (you didn't think we Idahoans knew all of those by heart, did you?), we drive to Silver Strand State Beach to do some beachcombing.

Seth, Miriam, Analee and Rebekah looking for seashells. 

Winnie screaming as the tide comes in.

Some of Winnie's shells. She deposited them on the sand, then took them one by one to the waves to wash them off. 

Wading in waves.

We marvel at the glittery sand and fill our pockets with sand dollars and seashells. Winnie ends up completely soaked and strips to her skivvies for the ride home (but wears Andrea's jacket over her underwear). Everyone takes a shower to get the last of the sand off, then we eat chicken noodle casserole for dinner and watch more Olympic figure skating before bed.

DAY 7 — Monday, February 12
San Diego Zoo

We wake up, eat cereal for breakfast and spend some time wrapping up our seashells in toilet paper and packing them in Ziploc bags before packing lunch and heading to the zoo for the day.

Andrea, Rebekah, Analee, Miriam and Winnie on the fern canyon trail. We all wore tie dye again this day, but it was cooler; the tie dye was covered up most of the day by our hoodies.

Miriam and Analee watch a bird in one of the aviaries. 

Checking out the komodo dragon. 

Bekah and Winnie on the Skyfari. Everyone (but Winnie) loved the Skyfari so much we had to ride it two more times before the zoo closed.

 Analee and the okapis. She wrote a report on okapis last year for school, so she knew all about these guys.

Miriam, Seth and the sleeping panda (on the roof of the cave in the background). Miriam proclaimed the panda to be her favorite despite this being the only view we got of it. 

Posing with the polar bear statue. 

The pygmy hippo. 

Winnie and her map. She kept picking up petals and leaves she found on the ground and imagining they were different things. When we weren't sure where to go, she'd unroll this leaf and tell us. 

Winnie and Miriam by the elephant statue.

The monkey kept pushing a stick into the tube, pulling it out and licking it. We assumed it was the primate version of Fun Dip.

Winnie and the cheetah (and it's dog companion) at the zoo.

Because the zoo opens an hour earlier than any of the other parks we have visited on this trip, all of our feet are very tired by the end of the day, but we still enjoy seeing all the animals and their habitats. We help someone jump start their car in the parking lot, then drive back to the house for dinner (taquitos) before getting ready for bed.

DAY 8 — Tuesday, February 13
Temples, flight to SLC

Our last morning in the house, we eat little pancakes for breakfast again and try the oranges Bekah picked our first day in Lemon Grover (they are still very tart). We pack up all of our clothes, food and souvenirs and check out of the house by 10 a.m. 

Our first stop on the way back to LA: the San Diego Temple.  

Our second stop: the Newport Beach Temple. We ate lunch on the lawn of the church across the street before walking around the grounds. Our lunch consisted of all the leftovers we emptied out of the fridge that morning and all of the juice boxes and pop we still had. (You can't take those in your carry-on, you know.)  

Our third stop: the Los Angeles Temple and visitors' center.

As we emerged from the theater after watching episode of "Meet the Mormons," Seth heard the sister missionaries trying to communicate with an elderly Hispanic woman with their limited knowledge of Spanish. He stepped in and offered to translate, and thus commenced a 20-minute discussion.

 The girls in front of the Christus at the visitors' center. We spent a good amount of time at the visitors' center watching shows, digitally drawing and coloring and using the gloriously clean restrooms before returning the rental van and going to the airport.

After our SoCal temple tour, we avoid rush hour traffic on the freeway by taking the city roads to the rental car agency, then ride the shuttle to the airport. Security is even smoother coming from this direction (none of our bags were checked outside of the X-ray), and we choose seats within hearing distance of our boarding gate before pulling out our sandwiches for dinner. We sit on the floor to play a round of Spot It, then pick out a See's Candy sucker for everyone (chocolate for Analee and Seth; vanilla for Winnie; butterscotch for Andrea and Miriam; cafe latte for Rebekah) as a treat before we board.

The flight home is uneventful (minus Bekah reaching behind her to get Analee's attention and spilling Ana's cranberry juice), and we get our baggage, shuttle back to the hotel and get our van at 11:15 p.m. The girls snuggle up with their pillows and blankets (Winnie is asleep before we stop for gas) and sleep on the 3-hour drive home while Seth chugs Mountain Dew and listens to podcasts. 

We arrive home at 2:30 a.m., leave everything in the van and stumble inside for a few hours of sleep before school the next day. Rebekah wakes up at 8 so Seth can drive her to class in time; the other girls sleep in until 9 and go to school late so they can still participate in their classes' Valentine's Day parties. Andrea wakes up at 9, takes a nap at 11:30 and goes to bed at 8 that night to catch up. 

Despite the early/late travel, the trip proves to be successful and memorable, and Andrea almost immediately begins to wonder when and where the next family vacation will take place.