Last week I had an incredible adventure: my first solo-trip with both boys. We flew down to California for a week to visit family and some dear friends. It was both challenging (Just try spending a week sharing a tiny bedroom with a teething 8-month old and a rambunctious 2 year old. I dare you.) and incredibly touching. I got to see two friends with whom I’ve shared some of the biggest milestones in my life (even though we now live in 3 separate states), and I got to spend a whole week with my lovely sister and her family. In the middle of our trip we got word that we will officially be moving half-way around the world to Ireland in the next month or two. It was a beautiful, crazy week. Here are some of the highlights:
We got to fly on an airplane. Both boys have been on planes before, but this was their first time flying together (and my first time flying alone with both of them). God must have heard my prayers because I was able to get a whole row to myself on both of our flights–even though the plane was supposed to be completely full. It was great to have an extra seat for Jacob so I could bring on his carseat and allow him to snooze a bit. David had fun eating sugary snacks that he doesn’t usually get to have (including a giant ring pop that took him almost an hour to consume), watching videos on my iPhone, throwing stickers at other passengers, and smiling at the cute flight attendant who brought him apple juice. Overall, the flights went really well and I think I could totally do it again.
We went directly from the airport in Burbank to Ventura so we could meet up with my friends, Tammy and Krista, and their families. We all met a few years ago at our church and coincidentally all had our first sons within a few weeks of each other. Then, two years later, we all had our second sons within a couple of months of each other. Tammy now lives in Fargo, Krista now lives in Central California, and I live in Seattle. This was the first time that we all got to see each other with our youngest babies–it really was a dream come true for me!
We spent the afternoon in Ventura picnicking, playing on the beach, and catching up.
Even the babies had fun playing in the sun!
After our beach time in Ventrua we headed back to my sister Erin’s house to unpack and get settled. That night we got a really special treat: my nephew Noah was having an art show at his preschool and we were invited! Here’s Noah showing us snail art in his classroom–the teacher put drops of food coloring on paper, then put snails on top of the paper. As they slid around the paper, they dragged the food coloring around to make a beautiful picture. I can see practical applications for this technique in Washington using slugs from my garden.
The next day we met up with Tammy and Krista again, this time in Santa Barbara. We went to the Santa Barbara Mission and spent the morning exploring their beautiful gardens.
David learned not to hug a cactus.
He also learned that good friends can help you feel better.
After we exhausted the boys’ patience looking at beautiful gardens and fascinating old relics at the mission, we went into town for some lunch and exploring. We ate lunch at Taqueria Super Rica (be sure to check it out if you’re ever in Santa Barbara) and walked around State Street looking at the shops. We also visited the courthouse (the rooftop has a wonderful observation deck) and found a fun park for the kids to burn off some energy in.
Jacob and Calvin got to play in the swings. They both loved it! David spent about an hour (really) putting wood chips into a life-size plastic shark’s mouth. Then we snapped one last photo of us with our “6-pack” of boys:
It was a magical two days with dear friends, a time I will treasure forever!
The rest of our week was spent with my sister, Erin, her husband, Toph (OK, his name is really Christopher, but we all call him Toph because my other sister–Erin’s twin–married another Christopher and it just all gets too confusing), and her 3 1/2 year old son Noah.
David and Noah are buddies, and they got along great all week (despite a few spats over balls that David was, unexpectedly, quite possessive over). Here they are walking to “Bucky Park”, a neighborhood park down the street from Noah’s house.
On Saturday we went to Leo Carillo Beach. It’s a quiet little beach near Malibu with private coves that you can set up your “camp” in, tide pools for exploring, and gentle surf for playing. It’s the same beach where Erin and Toph got married 4 years ago, so it was fun for me to go back there and re-live that beautiful day.
Jacob had fun playing in the sand and watching the “big boys” run around like wild banshees.
David and Noah (with a little help from Uncle Toph) built a “big hole”. This hole kept David occupied for two hours. He jumped in the hole, sat in the hole, put balls in the hole, buried his feet in the hole–he really would have stayed there for the rest of his life if I would have let him.
Unfortunately, Erin had to work on Saturday so she didn’t get to come to the beach with us. But that afternoon she got some snuggle time with her youngest nephew, and I think that helped make up for it a bit.
On Sunday we went to Griffith Park in Los Angeles. I’d never been there before but, man, that place is HUGE! We started the morning at the Griffith Park Observatory. If you look very closely at the hill behind me you can see the white “Hollywood” sign in the distance.
We thought it would be fun to take the boys to the planetarium show at the observatory.
Don’t let this photo fool you. The planetarium show was NOT fun. The show was great. I would have loved it. But the experience was….well, just look at who we brought with us. Not the crowd who enjoys sitting through long scientific talks in the dark. It was stressful, aggravating and, at times, physically painful. We’ll just leave it at that. Lesson learned: don’t bring 3 kids under the age of 4 to a planetarium show.
After the planetarium experience we decided we needed to go somewhere a bit more low key. We ate a picnic lunch then drove around to the other side of Griffith Park to a place called Transportation Town. It’s set up like a big train yard, complete with train tracks and lots of old trains for the kids to climb around in.
David and Noah got to “drive” a train (although, David’s favorite part was throwing pebbles into the coal chute: “Goal!”).
And I just love this picture because it looks like our children are about to get run over by trains. (Don’t worry, Grandma Doreen, none of the trains can actually move).
The next day, Monday, was Erin’s day off work. We decided to take the boys to one of my favorite places, the Santa Barbara Zoo. This zoo is great for young kids: it’s easily walk-able, you get really close to the animals, and they have a great play area for the little ones. Plus, the giraffes have a view of the Pacific Ocean. I would love to be a giraffe at the Santa Barbara Zoo.
Here we are by the elephants (you can barely see one to the left of David).
And here are David and Noah “sledding” down an astro-turf hill on sheets of cardboard. It’s actually a LOT of fun!
We saw some interesting creatures at the zoo, including this tiny hatchling.
On Tuesday we went to one of my other favorite California attractions, Noah’s farm (really, it’s called Underwood Farms and it’s just about the most amazing place ever. I would perhaps move to California just so I could live next to this farm).
We got to feed the animals. These are chickens and ROOSTERS!!! (David’s favorite), but they also had pigs, goats, Emu, cows, and horses that you could feed.
We took a wagon ride out to the fields where we had…
SNACK TIME! We helped ourselves to the farm’s bounty (I mean, we were U-picking produce to purchase when we exited the farm). There were so many wonderful fruits and veggies ready for the picking: strawberries, oranges, sugar snap peas, carrots, heads of lettuce bigger than David. After we all had our fill, we headed back to the animals for a little while.
David and Noah got to ride ponies. You may be able to tell by his expression: David was in heaven.
After a busy day at the farm we drove into town for some nourishment. And, when you’re in California, that means In-N-Out. When we lived in Palo Alto I used to go to In-N-Out about once a week (terrible, I know, but if you’ve ever had it then you know why). David actually ate a whole cheeseburger–I think all that rooster-feeding and pony-riding worked up quite the appetite.
And, just like that, our trip was over. We had an uneventful flight back home and then we all crashed for a 4-hour nap as soon as we got back to our house. Thank you to Erin and Toph for putting up with my crazy lot for a whole week, and thank you, California, for never disappointing.