Monday, February 28, 2011

Anticipation vs. Surprise

There was a time when Nick and I wanted to take the kids to Disneyland.  This phase lasted a couple years.  When we told them, they had to wait several months.  We planned every moment and every dollar.  We scheduled, prioritized, and focused to maintain sanity in the day-to-day as we waited.  We finally went, and it was everything we had hoped.
On Wednesday evening, Nick confirmed that he would have Friday off.  Jimmer (read on if you don't know that name) and Casey (Nick's brother) would be in San Diego.  I have an aunt and uncle as well as as a dear, long-time friend just south of LA.  We have three kids.  Let's go to Disneyland.  Let's leave in 24 hours.
I emailed my friends and family.  Nick made arrangements with his brother to get a basketball ticket.  The next morning, we told the kids that we were leaving for vacation that night.  They were excited and didn't really ask questions, so we didn't answer any.  As the day wore on, I saw that Rigby, nonchalantly, thought we were moving.  No big deal, but why aren't we packing more?
We told the kids that we would have a great family day at a big park.  True.  We told them we could leave if they didn't like it.  True.  There was no one moment where they figured it out.  As we walked from the car to the entrance, the suspicion built and built into confidence in Bethelle.  She sent her friend at home an email that said her parents were "sneaky" and that she never thought she would be going to Disneyland again so soon.
This time, we just winged it and had a relaxed time.  We were at home.  But a few things had changed.  For one, Rigby had grown!  He was tall enough for the Matterhorn and the Gadget Go Coaster.  I was a bit concerned, because the boy does not do scary.  He leaves a movie if there is so much as a villain.  He loved the roller coasters!  I'm so glad we gave him that chance despite some reservations.  The other main difference was a vibrant 18 month-old.  The baby who observed so sweetly from her stroller and baby carrier nine months ago screamed and ran and laughed and danced.  I'm glad that the five day stay was with the baby and that the one day visit was with the ... the...  I will not say that she is no longer a baby.
Sorry to say, but this trip was as much of a surprise to our gracious hosts, my aunt and uncle, as it was to us.  And yet my sweet aunt Karen set up her house for five guests and even made a grocery run for some kid food before we arrived.  She bought four different boxes of fruit snacks for my three children, just to be sure that she bought the right character shapes for them.
Jimmer Fredette was a very big reason for the whole, sudden trip.  If you care enough to read this blog, you know that Nick is a sports fan.  Big time.  And Jimmer Fredette is sports.  Nick says he is the best basketball player that college fans have seen in a decade or two.  And he plays for BYU.  Not that Nick went there, but I did!  And Nick has Y love.  Up until 12 hours before the game, Nick's ticket ownership status was up in the air.  But as everything had this weekend, it all worked out at the last minute and Nick had a dream of a day.  I won't give you the whole storyline, but this was the biggest game in San Diego State's history.  Jimmer won one of the best games Nick has ever witnessed.
Nick snuck court-side and snatched this picture of his hero.
The game was standing-room only.  The rest of the basketball world watched on TV.
While in town, Nick made a stop at a "top three" (for him) temple.
Check this building out!  Beauty, art... grandeur!
You should really click on this one.  View it big.  It's worth it.
So, anticipation vs. surprise.  Which do you prefer?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ringing in the New Year

No, this is not a belated post.

Happy Chinese New Year!  What did you do to celebrate?

If you do as the Romans do when in Rome, then in San Francisco you party for Chinese New Year.

We started the day with some traditional Chinese church basketball.  I stood on the sidelines watching babies and overheard a bench conversation: "Nick is perfect out there.  He doesn't make mistakes.  He's so patient with the ball."  I married a baller superstar.
From there we went down the hill to the Maritime Museum for some history.  Did you know it took about five months to sail from New York, around the horn, and up to San Francisco?  And some people thought that was a good idea!  Cutting in the Panama Canal reduced the trip by half.  The museum really laid out the reality of sailing to those of us who just hop on planes and complain about the lack of leg room.  We could all use a good dose of humility.
Check out the awesome dock that juts out of the city, right near the museum.  I would have trekked out to the end of it, but the rain was pounding.  Don't worry, though, I've still got three months to get back there.
 This is the top of a lighthouse.  It is beautiful even when not lit.  The center rings are lenses that make the light inside look bigger and the top and bottom curves are mirrors to reflect more of the light out to sea.
In honor of the day, the kids were taught to make origami shrimp and fish-press art.
After burgers at In-N-Out (be jealous), we bundled up and walked out on the rainy pier for a Lion Dance.  I did not know what to expect, but it was fantastic!  The rain made for a small crowd and the kids got personal with the "lions."
This is junk.  No, really, it is.
The highly anticipated event of the day was the parade.  It is the largest Chinese New Year parade outside Asia and is ranked as one of the top ten parades in the world.  We had an advantage being from Washington; with our webbed toes, the rain does not hold us back.

After an hour and a half, we couldn't see torturing the kids any longer.  We took them home for Chinese take-out to wrap up the day.  Bethelle was focused on chop sticks all night.  I tried to teach her, but both kids came up with "better" methods of using them.

Uh-oh.  I've discovered the ease and beauty of video editing.  Now I'll have to up my game in video capturing.  Enjoy.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I'd Like to Thank the Academy

Proceeding with our San Francisco bucket list, Wednesday took my little clan to the Academy of Sciences at Golden Gate Park.  The whole place was impressive.  We started with the aquarium.  The kids watched through a glass wall while a diver swam with the fish, fed them, and answered live questions.  There was also a touch-friendly tank where we got to pet anemones and star fish (which feel more firm than they look).
We then walked through the Africa section which was mostly Safari-meets-tacadermy but ended with this live section.
How many of you are thinking of Happy Feet after looking at that?  I think Bethelle wants to bring one home with her.
Within the museum is an enclosed rainforest that makes you forget about the rain and cold outside.  Can you see the butterfly on the bush below?  He just sat there and let us gawk.  The whole three story rainforest was full of them.  And snakes (enclosed).  And frogs (enclosed).  And pretty little birdies.
Loved the albino Alligator...
... and the fake snow.

And I especially loved that the blow-up igloo behind the kids is a mini planetarium with an aurora borealis show.

Thanks to the other moms from church who invited me even though I have three times as many kids as they do.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Acting My Age

Tonight I was a grown-up.  Tonight I played no bristle blocks, read no children's books, and watched no cartoons.  I did not change diapers or insist on anything ten times before it happened.  I didn't negotiate with toddlers or eat chicken nuggets.

Tonight I went to Canteen.
 I ate crab quenelles, celeryroot salad, and duck confit.  I had hazelnut custard and lemon croquettes.  The conversation was lively and mature.  It was political, financial; we talked about interests and goals.  I single-tasked.  I feel like it has been years since I single-tasked.
The venue was simple and small, San Franciscan.  All tables had a view of the kitchen, but my plate and my date were view enough.

My gift to Nick seemed meager by comparison.  But he thinks that Jelly Belly Dips may take over the world, so I guess that's pretty big.

For my Three Smallest Sweethearts

Happy Valentine's Day!

I love you!

(Thanks to Leslie and my mom and dad for sending some of the supplies!)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Huntington Park

When I told the kids where we were headed today, Bethelle wanted to know if we would be hunting there.  No.  Don't think they allow that in the city limits.

From our home, we walked along the edge of the financial district, through Chinatown, and up, up, up Nob Hill to reach Huntington Park.  These are the streets of San Francisco legend.
And I pushed the stroller to the top.
The park is beautifully landscaped and well manicured.  It has a European courtyard feel with a pretty fountain in the middle.
The playground was not as well maintained, but the kids didn't mind.
Did I mention that I like swing pictures?  By the way, Rachel B., I blame you for that.

Bethelle made an angel in the sand.
Rigby did too, but then he just looked like a lost, thirsty traveler in the Sahara.
Curie gave it a try too.  I guess it looked like fun.  Her theme was "ostrich."
I don't really think that we'll go back.  It's just not worth a repeat of that hill.  Fortuitously, we found another park on the way home that we will give a try another time.  It looks secure; great for young kids and not crowded, even on a beautiful Saturday.

And it's only part way up the hill.

Art Appreciation

Rigby spent some considerable time and effort (on a three year-old scale) on this picture.  He was pretty proud of it.  I asked him what it was.

Smiling and excited, he said, "Oh, it's nothing!  It's for the new museum!"
Nice to see that my modern art appreciation is genetic.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How It's Made, Birthday Style

Yesterday, I took the kids to Fairfield for a look at the Jelly Belly factory.  And maybe for a taste, too.
As I approached the factory, I wondered to myself if we might be the only people on our tour.  Fairfield is a cow town, which was olfactorially obvious as we stepped out of the van, but the kids were so excited, they said that the air smelled like jelly beans.

Well, we were not the only people on our tour.  In fact, we waited in the line below for almost an hour to learn how Jelly Bellies are made.
They didn't allow cameras on the tour itself, but here are some key trivia points for you.  Amaze your friends!
  • Jelly Bellies take almost two weeks to make
  • the top three best selling flavors are (in order): very cherry, buttered popcorn, and licorice
  • Jelly Bellies are flavored with real fruit extracts and other natural flavorings to make a true-to-life taste
  • The company owes much of its national and global success to this weekend's birthday boy
During our visit, the factory celebrated the 100th birthday of President Ronald Reagan.  Jelly Belly kept him well stocked with his favorite candies while he was governor of California.  When he got to the White House, they sent him 500 to 1000 jars of Jelly Bellies every month of his presidency.  He kept one on his desk in the oval office that was munched on by just about every famous person that entered and the rest he gave away to every dignitary and foreign leader who visited.  Nick even remembers being given a fun-size pack of them when he toured the White House as a kid.  Jelly Bellies became an overnight success just after President Reagan's inauguration.

The factory was decorated with Reagan memorabilia and the tour began with a video about him.
While standing in line for the tour, I was admiring these paintings at the same moment that someone behind me told her friend how terrible they are.  I'd hang them in my home.

Happy birthday, Mr. President.  You are sorely missed.