Last year we went had an east coast adventure when Richard graduated from the DCELP program in Boston. We invited our dads, and it was 11 days we will never forget. We loved that vacation, and we've always said that we want to be a family that makes fun memories and has travel adventures together, so at the end of August, we took our second big family trip. This time we went to San Diego. Although Richard and I both decided we wouldn't really want to live there (even if we could afford the cost of living there!), we had a great time.
It all started with a short flight. Marty was a champ, and I seemed to have packed just the right amount of snacks and toys for all three of us to stay entertained for the entire time. Next, we hopped on a shuttle to pick up our rental car. That wasn't anybody's favorite part of the trip. Not even the second time we went there, on our second day, to trade in the car for one with a working air conditioner. But I will say it was one of the best decisions we made the entire trip. No AC = no bueno.
We stayed at a hotel on Point Loma Naval Base, right in San Diego. Richard was able to get us a screamin' deal because he is an Air Force employee. We will probably only stay on military bases for the rest of our lives, or at least for the rest of the time Richard works there. Whichever lasts longer, I guess. It was that good of a deal, and it was that nice of a place. It was also within walking distance of a shopping center that we killed a little time at.
The only real plans we made were to visit the San Diego Zoo. We had recently been the Hogle Zoo with Scott and Megan, but we both wanted to see it, and we thought Marty Boy would love it. The first thing we did was take a bus tour of the entire park, thinking it would help us get oriented, and that way we could decide what we really wanted to walk around to see.
The park was humongous, and totally overwhelming. It was incredible, but definitely not easy to navigate. Even after the bus tour. We were constantly looking at park maps and making U-turns. There is no easy way to make a big loop and just see everything, either.
We spent a lot of time looking at the monkeys/gorillas/apes. And thank goodness the boy wanted to play on these statues for awhile. Richard and I were getting to the point where we were kind of over the zoo, but felt like we really needed to stay longer to get our money's worth, and also to show Marty a good time. Even though he was probably over it, too, because he was throwing A LOT of fits. Anyway, we took a little break, ate some snacks, and got right back to it.
It was worth every sweaty minute when we got to the elephants. This kid loved them. And we loved watching him love them so much. I think he said the word "eh-fint" (elephant) more than any other word that entire week.
Our other favorite exhibit was probably the hippos and the lion. They were both huge, and right up close to the glass, and really cool to see. It makes me sad to say that it was behind glass. Even though this zoo had amazing exhibits, it was still a little sad to think of all those animals in captivity. Our tour guide told us that it is a facility that breeds endangered animals, and saves lots, too. So that's something, I guess. Anyway, we saw a lot of really cool things, but after like four hours we were ready to call it quits. So we found a park map, located the gondola ride, and trekked it over so we could get back to the front gates and get the heck out of there.
Richard took Marty and I back to the hotel so we could take a nap, and then he drove around and explored the area a little bit. Then he took us to a place he thought we'd really like: Mission Beach. He was right. Our first stop was a gourmet grilled cheese restaurant. TO DIE FOR. Basically my dream come true. Mine had macaroni and cheese in it, and I loved every bite.
Next, we went over to the pier where all the action was. There was a roller coaster, lots of rides and games, and even an "indoor" surfing competition. We watched that for a little bit, but then we hit the jack-pot and took Marty on the merry-go-round. I know this picture is blurry, but he was so happy, and this is the only one that really shows his smile. He was so excited!
We let him choose which animal he wanted to ride, and he insisted on this cat with a fish in its mouth. He loved every minute of it, and frankly so did we. There is just nothing better than making this kid really stinking happy.
In the mornings we ate breakfast like hobos, with our hands, on the floor. Except that we were in a hotel.
Our first trip to the ocean was on a private beach at another Naval Base hotel. There were multiple "campuses" for the base, and this wasn't the one we were staying on. But it was nice that it wasn't very busy. We all lathered up with sun screen, and headed straight to the water. I was shocked that Marty did shove fistfuls of sand into his mouth within the first ten seconds of being on the beach. And I kept thinking I was surprised it hadn't happened yet, but never said anything out loud for fear I would jinx it.
He loved the water, as long as it wasn't "getting him" too much. we played in the very shallow waves for quite awhile.
And then a wave finally got him, and he was basically in our arms for the rest of the time we were in the water.
He really loved the salty taste of the water, and kept licking his hands.
And then, I can't remember if it was Richard or myself, but one of us brought up the fact that no sand-eating had taken place thus far. Big mistake. Shortly after, the sand-eating commenced. Woof.
The combination of the sun, running in sand, and playing in the water pooped our little buddy right out. But we didn't let that stop us. A couple of friends had mentioned a BBQ place called Phil's, which was really close to our hotel, so we stopped there for lunch.
Definitely the best local food we ate while we were there. We should have gone back a second time (when we sadly happened upon the worst seafood of our lives), but we didn't. Luckily, though, we went the first time, and enjoyed every finger-licking bite.
Later that day, we went to La Jolla to see a bunch of seals. They wreaked. Bad. It was kind of cool to see, but we'd waken Marty from a nap, and he wasn't too thrilled about it, so it really wasn't anyone's favorite vacation memory.
He didn't want to ride in the stroller, and he didn't want to be held.
He also didn't really feel like walking.
It started making us feel a little crazy.
But then we found a little ice cream/bakery called The Baked Bear where they make delicious ice cream sandwiches out of whatever cookies/brownies/doughnuts you want. I got mine with one brownie, one cookie, and the best birthday cake ice cream ever. It turned my frown upside-down in no time.
We then headed back to the beach. I think it was still mission beach, but just a different stretch. More conducive to actual beach activities. Pretty sure Marty was happy to be in a giant sand box for so much of our trip. I really had to just not think about the mess we would eventually be cleaning up from sand being in every crevice of his body, clothing and diaper so that I could let loose and have as much fun as he was. It wasn't hard to do when this infectious little tornado was by my side.
He made his way under the pier, calling it a tunnel. We spent the rest of our time that evening running through the tunnel.
This time on the beach was one of the big highlights for me on the trip. Just taking it easy, no time constraints, and being fancy-free with my boys. It made me feel lots of good feels.
We met up with Richard's cousin Byron Halsey and his wife Ashley and their kids at the Festival of Sail the next day. It was downtown at the docks, and they had a handful of actual pirate ships docked for us to tour and explore.
It was a hit, complete with a baby farm animal petting zoo. Marty was feeling extra shy and didn't really want to participate in that portion of the festivities, but he still had a great time running around with the Halsey kids.
He was not a big fan of the pirates. But he didn't mind when they gave him a gold coin. He stuck it right in his mouth. Big surprise.
Richard and Miles got to help raise the sails on one of the pirate ships.
After the festival, we were all starving, so Byron and Ashley walked us through a farmer's market to one of their favorite pizza places.
And after the tired and hangry (hungry + angry) kiddos had eaten their fill, they were right back to goofing around. It was fun to watch Marty make new little buddies. And it really just made me wish that we lived closer to the Halseys because we had such a good time with them. I hope we can see more of them, more often in the future.
That evening, after naps, we drove back to La Jolla to see the San Diego temple. We walked around the temple grounds, waiting for it to get dark and for the lights to come on. I had a very specific "memory" of seeing the San Diego temple when I was in high school, and it involved colored lights. Like pink, blue and purple lights shining on the temple so that it looked like a magic castle. Well, we waited around for a bit, but not long enough for many of the lights to come on. Only normal lights. Richard didn't believe me about the colored lights, so I called my mom to confirm. She informed me that it was actually the Disneyland castle that I was thinking about. No colored lights on any temples. I could have sworn...
While we waited for my magical lights, Marty made the most of his dad's available ears. And I don't think that Richard minded one little bit.
We also tried to get the perfect family selfie, which Marty obviously thoroughly enjoyed. Sorry buddy, you're stuck with us forEVER.
Sunday was lovely. We slept in, played in our hotel room, and watched the U.S. Open. I've never really watched tennis before in my life, but I started to really get into it on our trip. So did Marty. When we would get home from wherever we'd just been, I'd grab the remote and ask him if he wanted to watch tennis. Eventually, he started to say "ten-eese" when we walked into the room. Smarty pants.
We went for a Sunday jog, that eventually turned into a Sunday stroll, that eventually turned into us renting paddle boards in a nearby marina. I'd seen people doing it, and from day one I told Richard that I wanted to try it while we were there. I got my wish, and this was by far my favorite thing we did on the vacation. Originally, we were just going to rent one board and take turns because we weren't sure Marty would like it enough to sit still on the board. So I went out first. But by the time I turned around, I saw Richard on a board, and Marty Boy sitting in front of him, loving every minute of it.
We were only out on the boards for about 30-40 minutes, but it was awesome. I loved doing something new and so different, and having Marty be a part of it with us. He was such a good sport, and I'm glad that we could make that memory as a family. It seriously makes my heart swell just thinking about it.
Later that day, we went to dinner at Byron and Ashley's house, and we didn't take a single picture. The food was delicious (tacos), the kids played together so well, and we just had a really great time. We stayed until after their kids went to bed, just talking and getting to know them better. They were so hospitable and generous while we were there. We have never experienced anything other than those things from any of Richard's family that we've visited on our travels, and those things always end up being some of our favorite things about our trips.
We also went back to Mission beach that day for Richard to meet up with one of his old high school friends, Miles Edwards, that he played in the band Stick Man Riot with. I think it's safe to say that Marty was pretty tired. You know he's exhausted when he can't even get the fruit loop all the way into his mouth.
Miles is a lifeguard in San Diego. That day he was working out of the portable shown in the bottom of this picture. Richard went down to visit with him, and listen to some of the old tapes he'd found of them performing while I relaxed with a sleeping toddler up on the boardwalk. It was nice, but I got super hot and sweaty sitting in the sun, so I made my way down the beach, and just so happened to find myself cooling off with another scrumptious ice cream sandwich and The Baked Bear. Marty woke just in time to help me polish off the last couple of bites, and for Richard to meet up with us and head back to the hotel.
Our last full day of vacation was spent seeing more of San Diego's sights. We started at some tide pools, that were really cool, but because the tide was kind of high we actually couldn't see them all that well. Still, it was beautiful scenery, and made for some really great pictures.
I'm not sure if it was the lack of a structured schedule for a full week, or just that he was feeling exceptionally moody on this particular day, but Marty was riding an emotional roller coaster. He would go from happy and running around like this...
To pitching a fit and collapsing in the dirt like this. It happened at least twenty times that day. And probably ten of those were at the tide pools. It didn't take me long to realize that the tantrums ended faster if I just let him lay on the ground, so I quickly stopped trying to quiet him or get him out of the other tourists' way, and just let him collapse and get it out of his system so that we could get to where we wanted to go in less than 127 hours. I'm sure people without kids, or who have older kids and can't remember what this phase is like were judging the crap out of my parenting. But I really hope that those who are in similar stages of life were silently giving me a round of applause.
We hiked up to a lighthouse that I now can't remember anything about. Except that the walk up there took five years because of the string of tantrums that occurred along the way.
But we finally made it, and it was very cool to see.
And there were plenty of tiny rocks, so Marty was basically in Heaven.
We had more time to kill, so we drove back to Balboa Park (where the zoo is located) and walked around to see more of those sights until we just couldn't take any more of them.
Lots of walking, some climbing, lots of playing and some more tantrums. We were all pooped.
And we were also starving. So we got way more ice cream than we needed, and kept eating even after we were stuffed. It was a fun day, but we were kind of grasping at straws trying to think of things to do. This was a good sign that we planned just the right length of trip and would be happy to get home.
So, we all snuggled up in the queen bed for one more night, and woke up way too early to return the rental car. It was either come home early in the morning or in the evening, and we thought we'd want some time to recoup from the trip.
We were right. They both slept the entire flight. I read a book that I had taken on the trip, which I thought I'd finish in no time, but actually cracked open for the first time on that flight home.
I'm so thankful that Richard has a job that allows me to stay home being a mom full-time, and also allows him to take time off for special family time, not to mention one that lets us live a life that can include these fun family adventures when we stick to our budget and save up. It was also great that his job hooked us up with the great/cheap place to stay. I'm glad that Richard and I are on the same page when it comes to family trips and making those lasting memories. And I love that travel is the thing that Richard and I fell in love with doing together before we added our Marty Boy to the mix. Maybe someday we'll take a vacation without him, but right now I can't even imagine that. The trips we've taken with him have been so special. That is our life now, and I'm so happy that it is. I love making these memories, and I'm excited to see what new places we go to to make more of them in the future. I really think we could do New York with a kid(s). And I think I'm slowly convincing Richard of that, too. So maybe they won't be new places, but definitely new experiences and memories as the little family I adore and am so happy to be a part of.