Friday, June 28, 2013

San Diego (part 4) - Coming Home

As we took two days to travel there, we also traveled two days home. We thought this would be nicer to make the long drive tolerable for the kids and less stressful for us. I think it was a good idea.

It also meant no major morning or late night rushes and we could eat a late breakfast in San Diego before getting on the road.

We stopped in Ventura to give the kids time to play and all of us some time to enjoy a meal after.

It's hard to beat a playground on a beach with restaurants right there.

We stayed the night in Santa Maria again. The next day we stopped in Salinas, getting relatively close to home and still needing food and a stretch. We ate at a BJ's restaurant.

Which was convenient because no one was eating on the patio which, after our meal, served as a stand in park for the kids to run around in before the last bit of a drive home.

Soon, it was home sweet home. First thing to do? "Papi let's make a train track."

A great week!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

San Diego (part 3) - More of Being There

One day I decided that, while we weren't going to any theme parks I was going to take the kids to the toy railroad museum in Balboa Park. I think I noticed it in a pamphlet I was flipping through in the hotel. The kids, especially Enzo, are very into playing with trains.

Ana, however, fell asleep for her nap on the way there and didn't wake up until later when we had left and were at a cafe in Balboa Park eating.

Here is the funny part. This was a big museum for small toy trains. Almost immediately upon entering Enzo was asking me where the trains are that we could touch and play with. I told him I wasn't sure where they were or if they had any but we would look and see if they had some. He asked several times in the first 50 feet of our travels. And then we found this little area for kids with Thomas trains to play with. He was delighted! He didn't want to leave. We had barely seen anything of the museum and all The Kid wanted to do was play with toy trains just like the ones he has so many of at home. That was all he needed out of that museum. I decided to let him play for a while. His sister was sleeping and I had to realize that I brought him here for his amusement and so even if I wanted to check out the exhibits the trip was mostly for him. In the while that we were in this area, I got to here other parents say aloud the exact things I was thinking like: come on, look at all these other trains, let's go see what else there is here, I wonder what other trains there are to look at, but you HAVE all of these trains at HOME!, okay 1 more minute but then we are going to go look at the displays. Eventually, I did say we would go explore in 5 more minutes and then we did.

What got the kid excited? There was a tile train track on the floor with names of financial donors to the museum and Enzo thought it was fun that we pretended the stroller was a train on the track as we toured through the train displays. Seriously, playing with the Thomas toys and cruising the tile track in the stroller were the main exhibits for him. Kids are funny.

And then we hit the big prize. We stopped in the gift shop where Enzo became amazingly excited about an "up and down train." "Papi, an up and down train!!!!!! Remember my up and down train broke? Look at this up and down train, can we take this with us?!!!!" It took a few questions of mine and his attempts at patient answers before I understood. But then I got what he was explaining to me. This particular toy train had the side rods (I just looked up the proper name on the internet, also called coupling rods) that connect the wheels and go up and down as the wheels roll just like real steam trains have. He was SOOO excited about this. I handed him the money his Grandma and Grandpa gave him for the trip and he paid the nice lady at the counter for his new Up and Down train.

Best money spent on the whole trip, it was. That train practically became a part of the family for the rest of the trip. It was always close at hand if not actually in his hand. He held it at all times in the car seat whether to play with or to hold as he slept. At nights it was next to the bed on the night stand. It joined us for every meal. At parks it traveled every concrete edge. If he needed to put it down to climb a ladder for a slide he would run up to me, place the train in my pocket, and then go. It didn't get placed on the floor at beaches or parks if he wasn't playing with it. And now, back at home as I write this, it is his favorite toy and is his main train on his wooden train tracks.

(You can see the train here in his hands as we play at a playground in Balboa Park. This was after the train had circumnavigated the playground twice.)

I loved having so much time with the kids. It was wonderful. And each day, it was wonderful to meet with Tami for more exploring and dinner and family time.

(Ana climbing the flag pole supports in Old Town.)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

San Diego (part 2) - Being There

Tami was in San Diego to present and to attend sessions for an educator's conference. I was there with the kids to turn this into a vacation and to spend more time with my family.

We quickly and spontaneously developed a rhythm and routine for our week. Each morning Tami put together a breakfast for the kids while I slept in a little longer. Than, she and I sipped some coffee while the kids played before Tami was off to the conference. After a while more of the kids playing with cars and trains, and before they got restless, I would put on educational kid's TV. The kids would watch Dinosaur Train and Super Why. Super Why is my absolute favorite kids cartoon right now- educational, entertaining, and teaches reading skills- love it and so do the kids. While the kids watched I would shower, pack up bags of snacks and clothes and prepare us for the days adventure. Then we were off. Each day we went to a new place. Every day we played in new playgrounds and discovered new places. Tami would join us when her sessions were done and we would all spend the rest of the day together before bed time. It was a great routine for the week.

(Ana and Tami checking out the water before sun set.)

One evening we met friends who live in San Diego at a  beach and ordered pizza from a local shop to eat on the beach. Enzo slept through the whole experience. He was asleep when we arrived, slept the time we were there, and was asleep when he got back in the car. His long day playing at the beach, and the fact that I didn't try very hard to ensure he got a nap that day as Ana did, had him exhausted. But if you have to sleep, having the sounds of the beach in the background is a nice way to do it. Ana played with the friends including their three similarly aged daughters. It was a good time.

After playing and saying good-bye, we walked along the beach to see the sunset before we headed home where Enzo awoke, ate some pizza, played, and then we all went to bed.

Another day another playground and another beach. I kept thinking I should take the kids to some special place like a theme park but every day Ana would ask to go to the park and the kids were so completely happy to be in a playground each day discovered at some new place. Playing at the beach and at playgrounds is all they wanted so I finally accepted that we didn't need to spend extra money for them to be completely entertained and happy. And it was fun. I had no idea there were so many different playgrounds everywhere and so many on beaches.

These next two pictures started out as Ana asking me to help her onto the big kid swings. I was sitting pretty comfortably in the sand so I told her to just go on her belly as they often do. But she wanted to sit. So Enzo offers to pick her up. "You want to get on the swing Ana? I'll help you." So sweet! And funny! He wraps his arms around her and tries to put her up on the swing which results in them falling back and laughing like.... like the little adorable kids that they are.

That evening we met Tami at the hotel where the conference was held to have dinner and then to see a free concert with the children's musician Jose-Luis Orozco. The kids are familiar with most of his music. That was fun.

The kids ran around and climbed on anything they could find at the hotel before the concert.