Thursday, March 15, 2018

San Diego: Sunday

The only possible decision for breakfast on day three (because our hotel didn't have a continental breakfast) was back to the same donut shop. We were not sad about that decision. Yum.

We originally planned to go to the beach on Saturday because we didn't want to get all sandy without having anywhere to clean up afterward. Well, as you know, our Saturday plans changed and we decided we still wanted to make the beach part of our trip, sandy or not. After a bit of googling, we found a good beach nearby and headed there. I'll insert here that our book was narrated by the book Fudge-a-Mania. Lila hasn't really been into audiobooks before, so we haven't used them much on trips--she's too loud for us to listen to a book when she's not interested. She fell fast and hard for Fudge and the kids begged to listen every time we got into the car! Thanks, Judy Blume.

Back to the beach. The weather was perfect and we were at a beach with a ton of sand to play in. Ryan and I even enjoyed a delightful round of frisbee while the kids dug and splashed. Lila made a "snowman" out of sand. The kids made sand villages. It was overall a glorious morning.

Re: the sand and no hotel for cleanup. Luckily this beach had a bathroom, so when we were done playing I took all kids into the family bathroom with me and used the baby powder I'd thankfully tucked into our beach bag to clean them all up, one at a time. I really didn't want them to complain about being sandy all day, so it took kind of a looooooong time, but it was so worth it.

Our next plan was a stop at Cabrillo Point National Monument. We'd read that Cabrillo Point was one of the best places in San Diego to see tide pools. And January is apparently one of the best times of year to see tide pools. As we got close to Cabrillo, though, traffic gradually slowed, then completely stopped. After crawling along for 10-15 minutes or so and covering less than a mile of road, we realized that Cabrillo Point was not going to be the best choice for us. I pulled up my list of other possibilities and found one nearby that looked great--Sunset Cliffs. It seemed fate when we found the cliffs snagged the only parking spot open in the lot.

We soon found that Sunset Cliffs were, indeed, cliffs. And seemingly the only way to get down the cliffs to the beach and tide pools was to climb down a sketchy-looking dirt path with signs everywhere telling you not to climb down and that the cliffs were unstable. After watching several other people go down, though, we decided to try it. I was only mildly hyperventilating (my fear of heights is so much worse with the kids. I get very anxious when they are by edges up high) and, at first, the climb was fine. Then we got to a super steep part with a rope kind of haphazardly anchored in to help you climb down, up. And we decided that was NOT a good idea. I felt like I'd read something about stairs but we didn't see stairs anywhere. Luckily, though, there happened to be a guy hanging out halfway down the trail reading. We asked about stairs and he pointed us in the right direction. We climbed back up the cliff, walked a hundred yards or so along the cliffside, and found the stairs--which were still steep and maybe a little sketchy, but better than carting your 5-year-old down a cliff. Hallelujah.

The tide pools were SO COOL. And January is a great time to see them, especially at Sunset Cliffs. The entire beach was rock formations and shallow tide pools. We immediately started exploring. We saw tons of hermit crabs, a few tiny fish caught in pools, and what we realized later were closed anemones. The anemones were perhaps my favorite thing. After a while we finally got to see an open one and realized that all the rocky-looking blobs we'd seen in other pools were really anemones! So cool. We explored a little inlet in the cliffs and got "rained on" by water seeping through the ground above. We found a hinged crab claw that everyone was pumped about--especially Asher, who knew they were having sea-themed show-and-tell in class the next week. We had so much fun exploring and only stopped when we were all pretty hungry and very aware of how long the drive ahead of us was!

After stopping for gas and food, we were on our way home. We had such a fantastic trip and I'm so glad we got to create so many fun family memories.

She makes them take a picture like this everywhere we go.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

San Diego: Saturday

Our first plan of action upon waking and dressing was to find the most delicious donut shop around and have breakfast. We happily located a donut shop just a few minutes away and were not disappointed. OH MY GOSH were these donuts good! Everyone was satisfied and happy. We made a quick stop at a Von's next to the donut shop for picnic supplies, then were on our merry way. 

We had planned to go to the Mormon Battalion Museum for a tour in the morning, then to spend a few hours at the beach. Our plans changed when we found out the Museum was closed for an event/parade that was happening in Old Town just a few blocks away. We walked the short distance, browsing through a few historic buildings in Old Town while we debated staying for the celebration or just continuing with our other plans. Ryan and Reed were both leaning toward leaving--but I convinced them that this activity was something our five family would love! If we had known the celebration was going on beforehand, we probably would have even planned to spend our morning there, and the only reason we were debating staying was because we'd already made other plans. They were sold and we all were quite glad we stayed. The park was set up with tons of different pioneer activities: grinding corn into meal, making rag dolls, creating clay bricks, writing with  feather quills, playing pioneer games, using a branding iron, and--everyone's favorite--cooking biscuit dough over a campfire. The kids even got to take a wagon ride where Ryan provided the horsepower (literally). I'm so glad we decided to stay, because we had a really great time! 

After the celebration, we set off in search of a park to picnic at. We had a harbor cruise scheduled for 3 p.m. so also wanted to head in that direction. We were lucky to find a super cool park just a mile down the harbor from our cruise. After our lunch, the kids changed into their swimsuits and got soaked in a splash area in the park. (Also, it was JANUARY while we were there. And warm enough to get wet.) When they were done with the water, we got them into dry clothes and went to the playground area. The playground was super cool and had all kinds of climbing structures, which is exactly the kind of park we love. Too soon it was time to go. As we were leaving, we stopped at the park snack shack for popsicles and ice cream bars. Unfortunately, once our treats were piled on the counter ready for us to take, Ryan and I realized that we both thought the other person had their wallet but, in fact, both wallets were in the car. Wah wah. There wasn't enough time to come back with money, so we promised the kids ice cream later!

The next part of our day was perhaps the most stressful. We needed to park and get to our cruise and could not find anywhere we could park for over 2 hours. I worry about time and being late and was feeling very anxious. Asher is like me, so was upset as well. Finally we decided that Ryan would drop the kids and I off at the pier to get our tickets and he'd go park at the USS Midway, which was nearby and at that point our only option. I got the kids out of the car quickly, instructed Ryan to grab snacks out of the back when he parked, and herded them all to the ticket booth. After being in line for a few minutes, I realized that I HAD RYAN'S PHONE. And, by extension, his wallet! He didn't have any way to pay and I didn't have any way to contact him! We started sprinting (and by sprinting I mean running at Lila speed so we didn't lose her) toward the Midway when I saw that he'd realized just what I had and had pulled over (somewhat illegally). I got his wallet to him (he was glad I'd realized I had his wallet, because he wasn't sure what to do with the car if I didn't!), then the kids and I went back to the ticket window. We got our tickets (thank you, Groupon) and got in line to board. We had to let a few people pass us in line but soon we were reunited with Ryan and all excited to get on the boat.

We started out on the open deck up top. The views were amazing--but unfortunately it was pretty chilly and we hadn't planned well enough ahead to be wearing pants. Ryan and Reed stayed up top while Asher, Lila, and I went one deck down where we could be inside. Luckily the boat had walls of windows so we could still see pretty well. A few highlights of the cruise were the sea lions--we saw a few swimming in the ocean, then tons sunning on a dock a few minutes later--seeing the city skyline, going under the amazing bridge to Coronado Island, and watching the sun set just as the cruise was ending. When we were choosing what time to book our cruise, Ryan had looked up the estimated sunset time and we had chosen this cruise specifically for that final sunset. It was perfect!

We walked around the harbor for a bit after that, enjoying the last of the sunset, then decided to drive over to Coronado Island for a bit. The bridge is super cool, and I was pumped to drive on it. After driving around for a bit, we realized we were losing the kids--so decided it was time to find food! There had been talk of Costco dinner the night before, but it hadn't happened--so it seemed only right to go to Costco that night. Unfortunately, when we pulled up to Costco the store was closed! We noticed the food window was still lit, but upon inquiry at the window discovered that they only had a few things left (none of which were chicken bakes or pizza). There was a Coldstone in the same parking lot, so we decided that ice cream for dinner would be the next best decision. But we didn't really realize how expensive Coldstone is until we were inside looking at the menu. We hemmed and hawed and finally decided that we would rather go to a grocery store and get a lot of ice cream for a little price. We ended up at the very Von's where we'd started our day!  As we were getting ice cream we realized two things: one, that we were hungrier than we thought--so we grabbed microwave pizzas and burritos. And two: Ben and Jerry's pints were on sale, but you had to buy four. No problem. We let each kid pick out a flavor (say what???). And will you believe me when I tell you that when we checked out--before we'd even paid--the coupon printer printed out a coupon for Ben and Jerry's? Fate. Aside: Lila did not believe us AT ALL when we said we were having ice cream for dinner. Like not even a little bit. Ryan and I felt kind of bad--we must go a little heavy on the sarcasm sometimes!

Lila also pointed out that we didn't eat ice cream only for dinner.

Two last notes: Our car was reallllllly dirty, but I didn't want to wash it right before a long drive. We ended up using the back window as a sort of travelogue, commemorating each fun or funny thing on the trip. Second, on our drive up to donuts/Von's in the morning, we noticed that many of the street signs had graffiti: STOP snitchn', STOP war, WATCH OUT FOR PEDESTRIANS each other, etc. Ryan dubbed it "heartfelt graffiti." We about died over STOP snitchn' and it became a catchphrase throughout our trip--so much so that Ryan printed out the word "snitchn'" and taped it to the STOP sign in front of our house when we got home (shhhhh).     

Everything was Awesommmmmmme!

In January 2017, we decided to start saving up for a family trip to Harry Potter world. We had an electronic counting change jar and planned to add $1 each day, plus spare change or money we made selling things online (yard sale style). Our fund slowly grew and we began thinking more about our trip. After talking to a few people and looking online, we began to realize that HP world--though awesome--might not be the best fit for our family. Reed would be tall enough to ride most rides, but Asher and Lila wouldn't really. We decided that we'd all be much happier at Legoland. We were right.

Finding a date was a little tricky but eventually we settled on one of the last weekends before Ryan would be in busy season. And, a full year after we started saving up, it was trip time! We drove Thursday night and were pleasantly surprised when we got to our hotel. We'd booked a "secret deal" on priceline and it turned out to be secretly awesome. You walked into a sitting area with a kitchenette that had two rooms branching off--one with two double beds and one with one queen bed. We tucked the kids into their beds, then went into our own room! Everyone slept wonderfully. And the breakfast the next morning was on point--waffles, sausage, eggs, cereal, yogurt--it was the best continental breakfast I've experienced. Had we known how amazing our hotel would be, we'd have planned to stay there all three nights! Alas, we'd already booked a hotel for the next day. Bummer.

The anti-bummer was that we were going to LEGOLAND that very day. The park wasn't open quite after we finished breakfast, so we went to Target (of course) and got insane deals on shoes. And then it was time! We rocked out to "We Are the Champions" and "Bulls on Parade" while we drove (two Hambly fambly favorites) and were pumped up and ready to go when we got to the gates.

Our first stop was Ninjago world. When the boys took their boy trip in 2016, Ninjago world was literally a week away from opening--so we were pretty pumped to see what it was all about! The ride was super fun and a great way to start the day. From there, we just made one big loop around the park. Lila's least favorite moment was when the second ride of the day was literally the one ride she wasn't tall enough for. But she was a good sport and soon we were having enough fun that she forgot all about it. As it turns out, she's a thrill seeker. She loved every ride, specifically requested roller coasters over and over, and threw her arms in the air without any reservations whenever the opportunity presented itself.

One favorite ride of basically the entire family was the Lego Technic Coaster, which I think we ended up riding three times in total. The other roller coasters--The Dragon (which will live in Legoland infamy as the ride where Asher's short hair was pushed down to reveal a sliver of space, making him "not tall enough" to ride during our first trip) and Coastersaurus--were also quite popular with the Hamblys. Another favorite were the lego cars. Lila asked all day when she was going to get to drive. We started our day on the opposite side of the park from the cars and were planning on working our way around, so the answer was not for a while. When we finally got to driving school she was overjoyed. She was literally squealing in line and was the cutest little driver on the course. 

One really great thing about Legoland this time around was that the boys were both tall enough to ride together! #Hallelujah. This made for easy pairings with our five family--boys together, Ryan or I with Lila, and Ryan or I alone. The boys were kind of bummed that they didn't get to ride with us, but it was so helpful to not have to send one of them alone or do any kind of babyswapping. Yayyyy for growth spurts!

We were going, going, going ALL day long with only a brief stop for lunch (where the boys were disappointed to find that the "treat" advertised with the kid's meal was RAISINS, lol) and to buy a minifig for each kid. The kids were very meticulous in choosing their minifigures and ended up with a very eclectic mix that represented each one of them so well! No one complained about tired feet or anything, and we'd packed enough snacks to keep everyone reasonably fed throughout the day, thus avoiding any hangry outbursts. We've had a few perfect days in our family and so far two of those days have been spent in Legoland.

We had coupons to get the kids in free to Legoland (are you surprised?), and the coupons required that we buy park hopper tickets. Since we had the ability to go to the aquarium (the park you could hop to), we decided to spend some of our last minutes of park time checking it out so we'd know if it were worth the trip next time. We speed walked through, pausing at a few touch-tanks or particularly cool fish, and agreed that it was a really great aquarium but that we probably wouldn't go again. Lila was quite pleased when the aquarium worker who welcomed us told her she'd get a birthday gift in the gift shop since we were celebrating her birthday. She wasn't quite as pumped when she found out that gift was only a color-changing pencil, haha. 

After the aquarium, we squeezed in one last trip on the Ninjago ride--and then the park was closing! We went into the gift shop to look for a few last souvenirs. We've gotten a minifig fridge magnet each trip and didn't want to end that tradition now. After we found the magnet (at last!), Ryan surprised the kids by getting each boy a minifig keychain and Lila legoland hairbands (her choice). The boys had brought their own money, and each bought a cool ninjago minifigure that came with a special case and an arsenal of weapons. And we'd looked for penny smashing machines throughout the park, of course, so had a variety of Legoland pennies to bring home, as well. 

We decided to drive closer to our next hotel (which was in San Diego, where we planned to spend the rest of our trip) before getting dinner. We stopped briefly at the beach since we were so close. The sun was just finishing setting, which was beautiful. And the beach was covered in rocks, which the kids loved chucking into the ocean. After it was completely dark, we piled back into the car and found our dinner destination: Denny's. The food was super satisfying and we were all still on a high from our day! When we got to our hotel after dinner, though, we were ready to crash. Unfortunately, we didn't have an amazing setup like we had the night before. Fortunately, Jae doesn't mind sleeping on the ground and the kids were all so tired that they fell asleep quickly. Everything was indeed awesome.