December 30, 2009

December 29- in which we are lazy by the pool and Jen gets to eat Mexican

It was a gorgeous day yesterday. It was warm and sunny and a perfect day to just sit by the pool and soak up the sun.

So that is what we did. The kids played. Scott and I lounged. Norma and Dave bought me a birthday cake so we all enjoyed some sugary goodness at the side of the pool.

At about 3pm Scott, Tam and I went shopping for a short while. Norma offered for Scott and I to have an evening to ourselves to celebrate my birthday so went drove out to The Cheesecake Factory but found that it was too busy. So we got some cheesecake to go and headed out for some Mexican!

You know you have a good place in the world when you have a cold margarita in hand, hot salsa and a piece of cheesecake.

One more full day and then we start our trip home. So far the plan is to go to ihop for breakfast and sit by the pool if it warm.

December 28- in which we visit the ocean, Sears and the zoo

Today's plan was to drive to San Diego. We had a planned stop at La Jolla to see the ocean and pick some shells and then we were going to the San Diego Zoo for the day.

Well, we did all of those things but we had a bit of a side trip.

La Jolla is a beautiful seaside town just outside of San Diego and right on the ocean. We watched surfers, chased seagulls and collected seashells. When it was time to leave we discovered that Dave's back tire was flat.

Dave called CAA and the kids were off to play on a play structure while we waited. The spare tire was stuck under the van so a quick tow to the nearest tire service station was required. This brought us to Sears and a short stop over at a mall for lunch while we waited.

The tire was fixed and then we were off to the zoo. It was the Diego Zoo as far as Finn was concerned. We saw snakes, birds, a tiger, two hippos, many warthogs, 5 elephants, gazelles, a few giraffes and various other animals. It is a really cool zoo and a place that you could spend many days discovering instead of just a few hours. It was dark through most of our tour so I didn't get many pictures but it is a very neat place.

Again, it was a very quiet ride home as it was our second very busy day in three days. We enjoyed the freeways and the ease of transportation in getting from one place to another.

And, oh yeah, it was my birthday today too. I had a good day.

December 27- In which Jen visits the happiest place on earth

I have four words for you: Cabazon Premium Outlet Mall! I was wrong. Disney is not the happiest place of earth.

Although several hundred other people had the same idea as we did coming shopping. Norma, Tammy and I took the 20 minute drive out to Cabazon. We shopped in retail bliss for about 4 hours and then headed home with our treasures.

I had been satisfied with our shopping excursion until Dave asked if I would go back with him and did Scott want to come too?! Hmmm, let me think... Yes Please! So I got to go back!

The kids had a quiet day at home. It was too cool to go to the pool so they had a quiet day of playing with their toys and watching SpongeBob Squarepants.

December 27, 2009

December 26- In which we visit Disneyland

Today is the day! Dave and Tammy set the route and Scott and I rented our own vehicle (a Nissan Rouge) and we just followed along.

The kids, specifically the girls, were so excited about the whole thing. Before we'd been in Anaheim 30 minutes we had spent $500 (entrance fees, parking, stroller rental, breakfast). Yep, we're certainly in Disneyland!

A walk down Main Street USA was near to over whelming and we were just inside the gates. First priority was breakfast... and that started us on the same path that we would follow for the rest of the day- standing in line for everything.

After breakfast Tam, Dave and Norma went off to do a few adult rides- Indiana Jones and Haunted Mansion (done in the style of the Nightmare before Christmas.) Scott, the kids and I went to Princess Fantasy Land. We started on Snow White's Scary Castle, the Carousel and the tea cups. Yes, Mr-I-get-sick-on-spinny-rides sat out the tea cups! He said that he needed to guard the stroller. Hehehe. No one was fooled. The joke was on me... I understand why these rides last no longer than 2 minutes. I came off only being able to walk left.

We met up with the rest of the Abels and went on It's a Small World. That was a really good ride and well worth the long wait in line. I had totally underestimated the appeal of that attraction and was really glad that we did it as a family. The kids were mesmerized by the many moving parts and the songs. The kids just sat in quiet amazement through the entire ride.

We went to Mickey's Toontown for lunch. We saw the two Rosebowl teams coming through on their way to being interviewed somewhere on site. (The Ohio State Buckeyes and the Oregon State Ducks.) Tam took the kids and waited to see Mickey and I went and stood in line for the girls to see the Princesses. I waited for over an hour so that the girls (and Tammy) could meet Ariel, Belle and Jasmine with Aladdin. We got pictures and autographs. Tammy was almost as excited as Georgia. What was really astounding was how these were the three Princesses that the girls like the most so it was great fortune that we saw them.

Before we got into the lines to see characters the kids all got their faces painted. I promise I'll insert pictures of this because it was too cute for words!

We caught the tail end of the main Christmas parade that comes through the entire park but we didn't have good seats so only the kids on our shoulders could see. We then separated for an hour. Dave, Norma and Tammy went shopping. Scott, the kids and I visited Frontiertown and caught Disney's newest princess show "Tiana's showboat jubilee." (The Princess and the Frog.) We had great seats for this one and had a great view.

We got great seats for the final parade of the day. The girls were very excited to see the princesses again, this time up close. After the parade we left the park- after 11 hours of Disney goodness.

Disney bills itself as the happiest place on earth- I don't know about that but I certainly know that they know how to put on a show! The ride home was very quiet as all of the kids slept. Americans may get a few things backwards but there is nothing wrong with their freeway system.

December 25, 2009

December 24 and 25- In which we get ready for Christmas

The day is warm and sunny. Meals are being planned for Christmas and by the pool. The kids are pumped that Santa is coming. They've written letters and planned snacks.

Our plans for Christmas eve are to walk around downtown and go to the normal Thursday night street fair. However, seeing that it was Christmas eve we should not have been surprised that it was cancelled for the night.

We went for a walk-about and stopped for dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. We had a marvelous meal. Olivia kept raving about their Cheese Pizza. I can't imagine how she will do when she finally discovers that other things on pizza taste good too. I was pretty keen on my mushroom ravioli too!

It was early to bed for everyone on Christmas eve knowing that Christmas would likely be an early morning.

It's Christmas! Santa found us and the kids loved all their gifts from the Fatman. Grandma and Grandpa had broken protocol and bought the kids a few things so all of us adults were occupied for an hour or so opening packages with twist ties and invisible elastics!

We feasted for breakfast and then went our separate ways for a few hours of quiet. As of right now everyone except me is at the pool. I am doing laundry and getting caught up on the blog and getting ready to make our Christmas meal.

To everyone at home- we hope you have a safe and happy holiday. We love you and are thinking of you. Although we wish you were here instead of the other way around!

WE are picking up our rental car tonight and tomorrow we are heading off to Disneyland! Mickey Mouse here we come!

Merry Christmas everyone!

December 24, 2009

December 21, 22 and 23- In which we get used to the warm and go golfing

The next few days are filled with short trips to Targets, Walmarts and grocery stores. We are getting the lay of the land, so to speak. We have tucked in and trying to get used to the time change. The Scott and the kids are awake before 6am each morning. Ugg!

Scott and I took off for a quick shopping trip to a book store and to an alleged comic book store (of course)at locations that Scott has found in the phonebook. But when we arrive at the address for the comic book store Scott is disappointed to find that it is now a gun store. They were having a 2-for-1 sale on handguns...Right...Good to know. Scott did not buy a handgun. He muttered all the way home.

The weather has been overcast for the first few days and down right windy on the 21rst. Sand storms were coming off the mountains and blowing sand across the interstate highways as we drove. It is very mindful of the weather at home, sort of. We've been watching the weather channel (this seems to be Norma's hobby) and we see what is happening weather wise at home and we are glad that we are here. Glad to hear that Mom & Dad made it to Heather's place safely BEFORE the storm.

Tammy arrived safely on the 22nd and the kids were very excited to have another play mate. We've had many pool parties and BBQ at pool side each day in the afternoon. The kids are well tired each night when it is bed time. Scott and I are not too far behind them! Well, you know that Scott and I have always been well known party-types but we are subduing our normal party animal selves for the sake of the kids. Um, yeah... for the sake of the kids.

On the 23rd Dave, Scott and I went golfing in the afternoon. We played at Dave's favourite course, Desert Dunes. I cannot even describe the happiness of that afternoon. (DEEP sand traps and flubbed shots aside. ) I doubt I taught Dave any new words but think I may have shocked him at the depth and creative breadth of my swearing ability. The sun was high. The wind was calm. The temperature was (I'm guessing) 24C. The course was, of course, challenging. There were undulating hills, copious sand traps (it is the desert I was reminded several times). Skill was required to land on the greens and to stay there! I had little skill but we all played well- especially on the back 9.

Dave and I were equally jealous at Scott's natural golfing ability. Having only golfed twice this past year he still managed to beat the pants off both of us at golf. BTW: Anyone looking for an idea for Scott for a birthday gift- he'd like a Clevland 4 hybrid (24 degree)!

After each hole I would look at my surroundings and remind myself that I was not in Virden- or even Manitoba and that life was good. I can really understand why Norma and Dave have enjoyed it here for some many years in the winter time. It is sunny and warm without being too hot. Life here is as fast as you want it to be.

Although I do have some observations about Palm Springs in general. I haven't travelled enough to say if it applies all over the South or if it just applies here but everything is... empty. We've been to new mall areas and the parking lots are empty- days before Christmas! They have huge box malls and Super Targets and they all seem to have more staff than customers. You'd never know it is Christmas in days from now.

The golf course was the same thing. We booked on-line for an afternoon tee-time and got on for $28/ person. That was a round of 18 AND a cart! This is a course that has hosted PGA tournaments and there was no one there!

We bought a skinny Charlie Brown Christmas tree for the kids. It is an ugly thing but it will do the trick.

I will post pictures when I get home. I thought that I had packed all of the cords but apparently I didn't. Pictures will follow when we get home.

December 22, 2009

December 20- In which we arrive in Palm Springs and Jen visits the hospital again

We are all packed up and ready to head to the airport. I have another bout of rash on my arms and stomach but it was decided that 2 Benadryl would suffice and that I wasn't swelling fast enough to require medical attention.

The kids are so excited about this last leg of the trip. The airport is busy, of course, so we are mindful that everyone has to be carrying their suitcases and following along. We look like a cat herders gathering the kids and directing them towards the gates.

Georgia had some minor problems stepping onto the escalator. Scott just propped her forward and set his attention to the next kids. Three steps up Georgia lost her footing and fell backwards- now she was laying down and heading up the escalator feet first shouting "Daddy! Daddy!" Bags and bears everywhere. Scott hot-footed it up the stairs and righted her. He then had to run down the up escalator to get back to the rest of us. Apparently the kids are not as skilled on escalators as we had thought. We used the stairs after this.

The plane boarded on time but took off late after de-icing. Finn was asleep before the plane even took off! (Thanks to half a tablet of Gravol! Bad mother, Bad mother!) The kids did really well on the plane. We were in the very back row of the plane and the flight attendants were very generous with drinks and snacks. We read, played cards, watched and listened to ipods, coloured and wrote stories.

We arrived in Palm Springs to warm but over cast weather. The Abels were there waiting for us and so was all of our luggage. The Abels drove us a short while to the condo. Our condo is gorgeous! It is a very chic ~1200 sqft two bedroom condo. We have an amazing view of the mountains and the pool area. The kids are so excited to get to the pool after all of the events of the past few days.

We settled in at our condo and then popped over to the Abel's condo for a quick boo there too. It was at this point that I settled in for a nap (my meds were making me very tired.) I was not keen to swim in chlorinated water with my rash. So every one went down to the pool and I settled into a big and comfy chair.

Fast forward a little while later I wake and grab a handful of nuts and bolts to munch on while walking to the pool to meet up with the family. I guess in that small handful of snacks there was a small nut and by the time I got to the pool and our condo I was all swollen and hive-y again. I was not sure what to do- take more meds? Wait it out with Benadryl? So I panicked my mother with a quick phone call for Uncle Jim's phone number and then hung up on her. (bad daughter, bad daughter!)

And soon enough I was off to hospital #2 for yet another shot in the ass of meds that will make me tired! Odd thing is that the diagnosis from this hospital is almost 100% different than what I was told previously in Minneapolis and they told me to stop taking those meds and gave me new ones. Deep sigh- I don't know what to do but be careful of what I am eating from here on out.

NOTE TO SELF: make appointment for allergy testing when I get home.

December 19- Part 2- In which Jen visits the hospital

So we all went back to the hotel for some quiet time... okay, Scott and I needed a nap! So we put on a movie and all laid down. Scott and I fell alseep almost instantly.

After an hour or so I woke up with a very itchy neck. It started with absent minded scratching and quickly started feeling like it was hot and burning. I finally clued in that this was not a normal amount of itching so I got up and looked in the mirror. My neck was covered in big red hives!

I lifted my shirt and found that my body was covered in violent red blotches and budding hives. It was getting worse, quickly. We decided that I needed to get to a hospital quickly. Scott stayed in the room with the kids and I got myself a taxi.

Short version of a long story: the doctor I saw could not pin point the cause of my reaction. I got a dose of prednizone and a shot of epinephrine and my hives went away fairly quickly. He figured it was my prescription for my sinus infection- even though I have taken the same meds many times before with no reaction. This doctor said that it is possible to develop sudden allergies to things I've had before. I left with a new prescription and several warnings.

The best lesson I learned today was how quickly you get attention in the ER when you say you are having an allergic reaction! I was very impressed with the hospital and the care that they gave me. I haven't seen the bill so I expect that I'll be paying for the attention.

Scott figures it was my salad at lunch- it contained nuts. I have never been allergic to nuts but neither have I ever had an issue with my prescriptions.

By the time I got home from the hospital it was too late to take the kids to the water slide. I felt like a jerk for having us stay at a hotel with an awesome water slide and then none of us being able to go. Daughter-in-law of Rash Man in the house!

We all went to bed early tired from the stress and the activities of the day. We also had an early flight to catch the next day. Hopefully tomorrow goes better.

December 21, 2009

December 19- Part 1 Minneapolis and Mall of America

The day started early for all of us since we arrived in Minneapolis just before 7am. All of our luggage arrived too. (Yeah!) We grabbed a taxi and headed off to the randomly selected hotel near the Mall of America (MOA) that I had booked for us.

We were booked at the Radisson. As we were pulling up we saw that the Water Slide park of America was also attached to the hotel. A huge complex of large waterslides that wove in and out of the building. The kids were so excited! I congratulated myself on having booked such a lucky location. Georgia kept thanking us over and over again for taking her on this trip.She was having so much fun already. When she saw the hotel she started all over again. The kids were even excited about taking their first taxi ride.

We had breakfast at the hotel and caught a shuttle to the MOA. The kids were excited all over again when they saw Nickelodeon Land. (I would start a rant here about how it was MUCH better when it was Camp Snoopy but I suspect that I would be alone in that sentiment.) The kids were anxious to go there. Scott and I made them walk two full full floors before we caved and went to the amusement park.

We had just bought some tickets for the rides and were debating where to start a woman came up to us and asked if we needed tickets for the rides. We said that we had just bought some. I asked if she had some to sell. She said no- she had some to give. She then proceeded to give us three all access passes for the kids! She said that she worked at a radio station and had them to give. I was astounded at her generosity! Merry Christmas indeed! We thanked her profusely and then went on all the rides we could stomach.

A word about the rides: Scott and I took turns chaperoning the kids on the rides- as Finn needed to be accompanied by someone taller than 49" on most of the rides. Scott did not throw up although he said it was close on "Diego's Rescue Adventure". I was starting to feel a little green on the second time around on the big swings.

I took the kids on the log chute. I had showed them all the route but apparently Olivia hadn't been paying attention because she completely freaked out after the first 90 degree free fall drop. The look of terror on her face didn't diminish the look of excitement of her two siblings. We continued the rest of the ride and Olivia was very brave.

I think the best quote of the afternoon was from Georgia after she rode the roller coaster with Scott. Yes, Scott rode the roller coaster. Twice! Once with each girl. Once more and he said he would have been sick. She came off the roller coaster and holding her hands in fists above her head turned to Scott and shouted "THAT WAS AWESOME!"

To repay the kindness that was given to us we gave our $50 worth of ride tickets away to others too.

We ate a quick bite at the mall, burgers and chicken and fries for the kids, Chinese for Scott and a green salad for me. (More on that later.) We caught the shuttle back to the hotel and all crashed for some quiet time and a desperately needed nap.

December 18- Leaving

The day has finally come... the day that we leave for Palm Springs on our first Christmas away from home. We will be meeting up with Scott's family in Palm Springs. We have a pretty convoluted trip planned on how to get there:

Step One: drive to Minot. ( Dec 18)

Step Two: get on the Amtrak to Minneapolis. (Dec 19)

Step Three: a full day in Minneapolis (Mall of America is calling!)

Step Four: flight to Palm Springs (Dec 20)

We had packed the night before so all we had to do was set out Margaret's food and water (Thanks again Barb, Will and Wayne!), turn off the water and get us and all of our stuff out into the van.

The kids really do not have much of a sense of distance as it relates to our trip. Our first leg was heading down Minot to catch the Amtrak train. The kids were asking if we were there yet by the time we were near Pipestone. Um, sorry kids we're not even close.

The US border guards gave us a strange look when we described our travel plans. His question was "why aren't you just driving to Minneapolis?"

The Amtrak station in Minot was very easy to find and we arrived in time for our train. We packed light although you'd never know it to see us hauling out 5 suitcases, 2 carry-ons, 3 teddy bears, and 3 car seats to the train. Mommy and Daddy pack mules in the house! The kids had assured us that they would be able to pull their own suitcases but apparently they meant only part of the time. And not now.

We got on the train and found seats mostly together. Scott was with Finn and the girls and I were further back in the same car. The kids all fell asleep once the train started but I was too paranoid that someone would try to steal my kids so I stayed awake. Yes, I do understand how riduculous I am when it comes to that but I can't help it. I have issues about sleeping in public and this was not going to be the place where I would break my internal rules.

The train was okay but I am glad it was a night train and that the kids would sleep most of the trip. The seats are large and comfortable although we were in the last seats next to the door to the next car, which also happened to be the dining car. There was lots of traffic back and forth. The kids slept well and were excited when we pulled into Minneapolis early on Saturday morning.

We all made it to Minneapolis, luggage and all car seats. Step one: check!