Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fantastic Photographer!

Some of you may remember back at the beginning of April that I entered my kids in a photography contest? Well they didn't win (they were still the cutest kids, in my totally unbiased opinion!), but the photographer gave those that participated in the contest an offer for a really great deal on a future session - so I booked one way ahead for autumn time. Over the following months I followed her blog, just giddy about the great work she does & anxious for our turn.

Yesterday evening was our turn! We had such a great time. It was a beautiful area to shoot, she was laid back & fun...and sooo good with the kids. I couldn't believe how well Noah cooperated for her. She put a sneak peek (two pictures) up for us late last night, so feel free to take a peek at them...and take a gander at her fantastic work while you're there! (there's also a link to her businesses' website on her blog) And let me know what you think - I'd love to hear!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Getting to CA, Sea World, and off to Laguna (Part 1)

Yes, this post is only part one (of 5!). I finally narrowed down the pictures/clips to just over 100 that I just have to share...partly for documentation purposes, partly so I have it readily available to show Noah (who frequently requests to see certain pictures from our trip), and partly for those few people who want the unabridged version of our long awaited family vacation. I've been thinking about/planning this trip since our last family vacation (which, if you don't count our drive to Iowa for graduation, was 2 years ago when Noah & I flew out to visit Mark in California on rotations during his last year of med school).

My biggest picture regret is not taking a photo of Noah strutting through the Salt Lake airport with his very own rolling carry-on bag that we surprised him with. It is a cute Lightning McQueen bag that we filled with treats & activities for the plane ride. He loved that he pulled his own bag just like us, and would do what we've dubbed the "dude walk" as he strutted through the terminals and turned lots of heads, and solicited plenty of "how cute" comments from people that we passed. While on our way to our gate, Noah would point at things and tell us what they were - as if he were showing us the way and letting us know what everything was. You'd think we did this every month with the cute little confidence he exuded. My guess is that it was the months of talking about the upcoming trip in so much detail...either way, he was sooo cute.

Here's a shot of him on our flight. Shortly after take-off (which we were pleased didn't frighten him at all) he asked to look at the airline's magazine. Funny kid.
Before moving on to telling about the rest of our trip (which went very smoothly) I have to tell you about the one frustrating part of our trip. Our flight was combined with a flight that left later that night (which we knew in advance), but then we also ended up having a delayed flight...which with 2 kids that for whatever reason would not nap that day made us pretty nervous. Nonetheless, both boys ended up being really good on the flight. So, all was well, until after we got our luggage and sat to wait for the Enterprise shuttle. Every other car rental shuttle (Herz, Avis, etc) went by a few times before we started to worry if ours would come. To make a long story short - the shuttle wasn't running anymore, our rental agency closed at 11:00 PM! Of course we chose the one company that closed that early, and we had barely missed it since our flight was delayed. We finally caught a cab and got to the hotel (with 2 very tired, no-nap kids) at about 2:00 AM Utah time.

So...morning came quickly the next day, but hey - it was Sea World day! For documentation purposes (for a future trip someday!) I'll mention that we stayed at the Day's Hotel on Hotel Circle in San Diego. It was nothing fancy, but we got it for a great price and it was clean, had a fridge, and complimentary shuttles to theme parks & airport (if you don't get in late!). I'd stay there again next time. After a quick breakfast with my parents (who were able to join us for most of our trip!), Mark & my dad left to go get our rental cars and my mom & I took the boys on the shuttle to Sea World! You would've thought that the shuttle ride was one of our trip highlights by watching Noah - he loved it. Even more than that though, Noah loved seeing the animals at Sea World!

We managed to see all the fun shows there, as well as visit most of the exhibits. Noah was particularly excited to see Shamu, and I'd even shown him videos of Shamu on YouTube, so he knew the little Shamu-chant/whale sign that they do during the show. The funny thing was that he loved yelling it so much that he kept doing it even during parts of the show where nobody else was. He loved it! :)

Here's a picture of Noah eating a frozen lemonade while waiting for the Shamu show to start. Do you think he could open his mouth much wider?

A shot of the four of us after the show. It's amazing how quickly people clear out of these bleachers after a show ends.

I really like this picture. Such cute, happy guys I have. Oh, and as a random sidenote - we noticed Mitt Romney in the audience before the show, and when Mark was coming back to our seats with some refreshments they passed each other. So, without stopping, Mark said "Hi, Mitt" (to which he responded, "Hello"). I wonder how many times that happens to him nowadays.

I didn't get any really great pictures at the dolphin encounter, but both of the boys got to pet the dolphins and Mark helped Noah feed one a fish. Noah continues to talk about that now and then.

Near the end of our time at the dolphin exhibit Noah was up against a glass wall where you can watch the dolphins swim underwater. All of the sudden one surfaced and used his tail to splash a ton of water over the glass wall onto Noah (he was the only one standing there)! Oh how I wish I'd had that on video! Noah was shocked and had the most stunned look on his face as we explained that the dolphin had splashed him. Finally he broke out into a huge smile - "He did! He did splash me! The dolphin did splash me!" he kept saying. He thought it was pretty funny. In this picture of my parents & my 3 boys, you can see Noah is still a bit wet from his good soaking.
We had a great time at Sea World, and the weather was perfect too - nice, but not too warm...which may be why I forgot to put sunscreen on all of us. I felt so horrible that Lincoln got a sunburn (as did the back of my neck which blistered later), but I was super careful the rest of the trip. Our sweet little Noah has that wonderful tan skin, and it didn't burn one bit though. A few more mentionable things from our Sea World day:
  • The sharks (which Noah was sooo excited to see) ended up being a bit scary for him - he still talks about their scary teeth.
  • The stingrays were also too scary to touch for Noah, but he liked watching them.
  • The souvenir stuffed shark that we gave Noah while at Sea World was actually a cute one that I found on sale months ago, stashed away, and brought to Sea World in the diaper bag. Maybe I'm cheap, but hey - he still thinks of Sea World when he plays with it whether I bought it there or not, right? :)
  • This was the first of many days on our trip where the boys went without naps. After being up until 2 AM the night before (also without a nap on that day) Noah was a wreck by dinnertime that evening, which was a bummer since that was the only time that we were able to meet up with some friends we knew from Iowa that happened to also be in San Diego that weekend. It was so good to see you, Pete & Brittany! Your beautiful girls have grown up so much and it was so good to catch up and chat! Sorry about the "background" noise :)
  • That night Noah asked to sleep in his own bed. He had his own queen sized bed for the rest of the trip!
We had a relaxing morning the next day (after sleeping all night) and after checking out we drove north to beautiful Laguna Beach. After checking into our hotel, we drove to a mexican restaurant that we knew from previous trips to Dana Point. The food was great, and the boys behaved well too! Here's a quick picture of Linc in his bull hat...

Noah was being quite the little comedian. He was pretending to be Zurg...who apparantly has no neck :) The bull horns on the restaurant hat reminded him of Zurg (which I can see why), so he'd pull his shoulders up and say "Destroy Buzz Lightyear, destroy Buzz Lightyear..."

My 3 boys on our balcony at sunset.
Noah loved looking at the ocean from our balcony. It really was beautiful.

It was still early after the sun set, but too cold to go down to the we hit the pool!
Noah had fun at times...
...and was really scared at other times.

Lincoln loved it the whole time however.

Noah ended up getting in Lincoln's floatie tube and really liked that. I'll have to remember to bring two next time...
After that we went to bed (and with no trouble on the kids' part either)! We fell asleep to the sound of the ocean waves...and a wedding reception party next door :)

Our Beach Day (Part 2)

We woke up the next morning and went out onto our balcony to watch the ocean. Just then my parents happened to stroll by on a morning walk! So I snapped this picture...

So, it just wasn't in the cards for us to get a cute family picture at the beach. Oh well. This was the best one that we had of the 4 of us.

Noah was quite pleased when I told him that this time it was ok for him to throw sand! He stood at this embankment and threw sand into the water as the tide would come in.
Now and then the tide would come in farther and hit the sand bar, spraying water up into the air!

Noah walking with my mom, and curiously watching his toes as he walked in the sand.

I actually do like these two. (and that's our hotel in the background) Notice the long morning shadows. It was so nice to have time to enjoy the sand and ocean without any other agenda.

This was Lincoln's first time at the beach!

Noah would be strolling along, the water would hit his feet & he'd freeze - not from the cold, but from being cautious. He wasn't so sure (understandably) about the whole ocean thing.

The ocean water didn't phase Lincoln (of course he doesn't know enough to be afraid yet), but he was unsure what he thought about the sand. Strange, grainy stuff.

Run away! Run away!

Lincoln would get sand on his hand, and then just sit and stare at his hand while moving his fingers around.

I love these next two pictures. Looking at them, I wish I were back there now...

Here Mark is holding tightly on to Noah while a wave comes in, so that Noah won't feel scared.

As time went on Noah loosened up a bit and ran around in the foamy surf with his daddy.

My mom snapped this picture of Mark and I out in the ocean with Noah. We were each holding one of his hands and doing "one, two, threeee" and swinging him out over the incoming waves.

Noah absolutely would NOT pose (or even sit still) for a picture, so I just held him :)

As the name in the sand's our little Linc.

At least we didn't have to get everyone to look at the camera and smile for this photo! We took a picture like this at the beach of Noah's little 5 month old feet with ours when Mark was on a rotation in Massachusetts, so it seemed like we should do another one with all four sets of feet! Besides, it seems like an appropriate picture to take considering Mark's chosen profession, don't you think?

Mark took this shot, I really love it.

And this is what a baby does after an afternoon at the beach!
Don't you just want to smooch those cheeks?!

Disneyland Here We Come! (Part 3)

We arrived at our hotel in Anaheim to find this view from our room. Yes, I love the palm trees...but those of you who've been to Disneyland know that what we could see right across the street is the Matterhorn and Space Mountain (still one of my very favorite rides)! I think I may have been more giddy than even Noah at that point! Also, I have to mention how pleased we were that we stayed at this Marriott. The employees there were very helpful & friendly, the rooms were nice, comfortable & clean, the location great, and there was even a Pizza Hut right on location (on the 3rd floor) which we used for dinner one night. We will definitely stay there again next time!

After dinner at the restaurant near our hotel, we got the boys ready for bed in their cute new Buzz Lightyear pajamas (as if I needed to hype up Disneyland anymore at this point, but they were on clearance a couple of months prior & it was just too much fun).

I, along with Noah & Lincoln, hit the hay after that...while Mark went into my parent's adjoining room to play a couple games of cards. I had to snap a picture of Noah in his bed - he made the bed look huge, or it made him look tiny! Either way, it was super cute.

Happy to go to bed in his own big bed, with his new "soft shark".

First thing the next morning we donned our Mickey Mouse ears from our trip there two years ago and we were off to Disneyland!

It was quite convenient having a McDonald's right in our hotel parking lot (quick breakfast), and then it was a short walk across the street to Disneyland! In fact, you walk further from your car to the gates of the park if you drive to Disneyland and park your car than we did from our hotel door!

Yeah! Disneyland. Gotta snap a shot at the traditional spot in the entrance.

We were so glad to have my parents along on the trip. Not only was it so nice to have 2 more sets of helping hands, but it was so much more fun! It was so fun to be able to have someone with us to fuss over the boys' cuteness that loves them as much as we do. And it was nostalgic to go back to Disneyland with my kids and parents, since we went so often growing up with our grandparents too!

Due to Noah's intense Buzz Lightyear fanaticism (and Zurg lately too), we chose to ride the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster ride first. Noah was pretty excited in line just looking at all the characters painted on the walls, and at the talking Buzz that you see in line. However, he was a bit hesitant once we got on the ride. Each ship holds two "space rangers", and you're provided with astro blasters that you shoot targets (on evil aliens, etc) with as you turn your way through the ride. A running score of your points is even kept on the dash in front of you! As we approached the part of the ride where Zurg was, I turned around to take a picture of the boys to find Lincoln with a serioius 'duh' expression & Noah practically climbing up Mark afraid of Zurg. Poor guy!

I can understand why a kid would be afraid of this guy.

Noah calmed down quickly once we explained to him that the bad guys couldn't get us, they were just pretend, and that we could shoot 'em with our laser beams...but he sure kept a careful eye out the rest of the ride. Now, Noah did end up growing quite fond of this ride (understatement). Any guesses on how many times he ended up riding it? I'll tell you at the end of this post :)

Another hit (although we weren't willing to brave the line more than once) was the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. It's a really cute ride & is a lot different (better) from how the submarine ride used to be when I was the pre-Nemo era.
Noah loved the submarine ride, and I was actually surprised that a couple of parts didn't scare him, but they didn't. He can be hard to predict sometimes.

Me with Lincoln on the Dumbo ride. My mom took Noah.

Funny thing, I don't really remember ever going on this ride growing up. I must have at some point, but I think that it's the only ride at Disneyland that I don't have a memory of going on. Anyway, my dad took Noah on it and he (Noah, not my dad) looked a little nervous entering the whale's mouth. I'm posting a picture of their boat going into the whale so that Noah can look at it...

I love the teacups! Mark and my mom both hate them however, so it was just my dad, Noah, and me that went on them. Yes, we spun the cup super hard and all staggered as we got off the ride. I'm not sure why that's so much fun, but it sure is! "A very merry un-birthday to you!"

We borrowed this sit 'n' stand stroller from my friend Claire, and it was seriously a life-saver. Not only was it nice to have getting the boys to & back from Disneyland, but Noah could get on and off the stroller as he pleased throughout the day - so that was really nice. I have to giggle when I look at this picture with Noah peeking around the stroller like that. Ha!

As many times as I've been to Disneyland, I've never been to California Adventure. I loved it. This picture was taken there, in front of a store window actually...but Noah loved looking at it (as you can see).

And, I'll wrap up this post with an answer to the question that I posed earlier in this post. How many times total do you think that Noah rode the Buzz Lightyear ride? If you guessed in the single digits, then you weren't even close. If you guessed a dozen, then you were still too low! He rode the ride 18 times! We have to mention that 11 of those rides were with his grandpa, who took him (and my mom took Lincoln) for a while so that Mark & I could do some adult stuff. We tried to hit the Indiana Jones ride, but it ended up temporarily closing, so we grabbed some lunch and then went on Space Mountain. I love that ride. Anyway, back to the Buzz ride...

I mentioned that this ride keeps track of your points (that you accumulate by hitting targets with your laser gun throughout the ride). Well, at the end of the ride you can go to a computer and see a photo of yourself with your score on it, and you can email it to yourself! So, here's one of Mark & Lincoln that I sent to myself!

And here's one of Noah and me! I have to point out the scores - not bad 'eh? I have pretty good aim, if I don't say so myself...and 8,400 points isn't bad for a 2 year old either!