Thursday, December 26, 2013

Belated Xmas Post

Finny's letter to Santa and her (incredibly thoughtful!) gift for Santa...a Christmas tree ornament. Santa wrote back that he would like her to keep it so that he can see it on the tree every year.

The Christmas tree at my parents' house this year. It was a beauty!

Presents under the tree...the addition of Julie to our family gathering has really upped the wrapping ante!

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care...

My mother's insanely delicious breakfast spread on Christmas morning...the only thing that makes it worth waiting for the present opening...

Three anxious and excited faces. They cannot wait to dig into those gifts!

Oh, and the stockings were opened before breakfast with such speed, I couldn't even catch a picture!

Holy crow, that's a schwack of presents to get through! How spoiled are we?

Monday, December 23, 2013

E- The last X-mas

Our holiday season went by in a blur. Probably the top culprit is our large...and getting larger...renovation, but not having any time off work and multiple Christmas parties don't help either.  

It is my Captain, Mark McQueen's, last year on the job before being forced out at 60 next April. The rules exist so that there aren't guys staying around when they no longer have the stamina or energy for the job. Queenie definitely doesn't fall into this catergory. The guy has more energy than 95% of people 3 decades younger than him. He is always positive, up-beat, friendly...and it's been great working for him this past year. 

Because of his impending retirement, this has been a year of "lasts", including his crew (and families) Christmas party. 

Mark bought and made dinner for 25 of us. A casual game of street hockey after dinner turned into an intense, sweat filled 90 minute battle with a few narrow misses of hard orange balls in the face. 

Lukey was in his element playing goalie, while the adults stood around and watched, and the girls  (in the background here) played some complicated game that involved swinging onto the treadmill to have it shoot them onto the mat at high speeds.

Les and I, along with 150 other's fire fighters and families, attended our department's Christmas party. McQueen, for over 20 years, has organized this event, so there was lots of talk of the last hurrah. A good time was has by all. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

E- firsts

Lukey's first game as goalie and his team's first win, 4-2 against New Westminster. He was feeling pretty awesome about  "robbing" a couple of players. 

California 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What's SUP?

One of the things we'd talked about a few times over the course of the trip was stand-up paddleboarding. Eric wanted to try it out, but we just hadn't found the right spot or time. 

We couldn't leave California without giving it a go, so on our last day in L.A., we drove to Sunset Beach and rented a SUP. Good deal, too. $15 for as long as we wanted.

Once he had it, we all wanted to try. Even me. In my clothes. I know secretly (or not so secretly), they all probably wanted me to fall in...

I know I would have laughed pretty hard if Eric had taken a dip...What? You wouldn't laugh? C'mon.

Lukey was the only one who didn't go out on his own. He hitched a ride with Eric instead.

Finny took one spin as a passenger, but then wanted to go it alone.

Molly, too.

I only took a short spin, but I have to say, I really like it. The board is a lot more stable than I would have guessed. And I can certainly see how it is a good workout for your whole body, because while the board isn't very tippy, you still have to work at staying level.

Molly was probably the best. She has a natural feeling for paddling. She seems to know exactly what to do and she has great natural balance.

Finny struggled a bit to get her hands on the paddle correctly. She was strong, though...

Now, this was all kinds of awesome: Molly saw a poster advertising yoga on SUPs and she decided to try. She did a great downward dog and here she is getting into warrior pose:

We gave the paddle board back and piled in the van North. Boo! We had to head home eventually...

We left L.A. at 3:00 on Friday afternoon. We drove for twelve hours straight (a short dinner break, gas stops and bathroom trips aside...). We pulled into Redding, sorted out the beds in the van and slept for six hours.

In the morning, Lukey's tooth FINALLY fell out! Hooray! I was so happy to see it in his hand and not attached to his head. I don't know why I am so squeamish about loose teeth, but they give me the heebie jeebies.

It just plopped right out. Not one drop of blood.

After six hours of rest, it was back onto the I-5. We made it to Portland by 5:00, took a couple of hours break, then homeward. We made it back to Vancouver at about 1 a.m. Not bad. Thirty hours from the time we left. Hey, that's pretty good. Maybe we should just start heading down to California every weekend. We could grab some In n' Out burgers and head back home.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Knott's Berry Farm Fun

We have had some serious amusement park time in our past. Between our last two trips to Florida and our previous trip to California, the kids have been to pretty much everything. So, we knew we didn't want to spend a bunch of time at Disneyland this trip (two years ago we did five days at Disney World). And we did six days at Sea World parks last year, so that was out. So, we had to choose between a day at Six Flags and a day at Knott's Berry Farm. 

After some careful deliberation, we decided Six Flags would be good when they are a bit older and more into hardcore thrill rides (Finny excluded...she is plenty into thrill rides now...). So, off to visit Snoopy. 

We let the kids warm up on a couple of easy rides. You know, build courage and confidence. I love Finny's hair in the picture below.

This ride was perfect for Lukey...he pushed his boundaries a few times, but this is his comfort zone

Next up was the Sidewinder. It was a roller coaster where all the cars spun independently from one another as it went around corners. Lukey was hesitant, but we made him go on. You can see his eyes watering a tiny bit below. He is wiggling his insanely loose tooth for comfort. I know I mentioned it already, but I am really looking forward to getting that thing out. It's turned grey...shudder....

Lukey loved the Sidewinder. And he was really proud of himself. Tough to know when to push and when to leave kids be...but I think we made Lukey go on the right rides this time. His favourite was the Jaguar roller coaster, which he initially didn't want to try.

The next ride we went on was the Silver Bullet (pictured below). Lukey was worried...until he realized he was too short. Phew. He is just over 48", which means he can go on lots, but not everything.

You can see us at the back of the coaster...just look for my red clogs!
The most excitement was saved for the bumper cars. It was the first time Lukey was tall enough to drive his own bumper car. He was quivering with joy. Until he got hauled out of his car to go over and get measured by the operator. I took the picture below as soon as he was verified as legit and back in his own car. Happy boy.

We devised quite a complicated race system that involved me racing Eric in laps around the track, with us conniving to get the kids on our own sides and acting against the other parent. It got pretty heated. We battled three times and I lost two of them...but the one I won was a slaughter. I lapped Eric twice because my evil henchmen (and women) were very effective.

I don't know if people know this or not, but Eric and I can get pretty competitive.

He was not wearing this happy face when I humiliated him in our third battle...needless to say, he suddenly wanted to quit...

A big section of the park is a "ghost town", but unlike other theme parks, Walt Knott actually purchased real buildings from old towns like Prescott, Arizona and transported them in pieces before reassembling them.

It makes for an awesome Old West feel.

Look at those cold hearted killer faces...
The atmosphere can't compete with the magic of Disney, but it still has a really cool feel. There are tons of little touches around the park that make it special. I think there are similarities with Disney, because both place were very much influenced by the visions of their founders. Walter Knott was a visionary, coming up with much of Knott's Berry Farm before Disney even existed. 

Do you like Eric's photo bomb in the background, there?

This Bottle House was amazing. All those dots on the building are the ends of bottles. It was beautiful.

They had a really good Wild West stunt show. The kids got little bullets to bring home and this excellent picture, too:

Finny never smiles like this when I pull her around by the hair...
There was a great little kids' section with tons of rides. Molly, Finny and Lukey sprinted from one to another while Eric and I took a break and attempted to regain some equilibrium after the more intense rides. I sure have noticed that even though I love rides, as I get older I am a lot more sensitive to rides that aren't smooth or spin too much. Eric's even worse than me. We both went between feeling great and feeling a little scrambled. Molly too, actually.

Trucker Finny looks quite a lot like Cowboy Finny. I wouldn't want to run into either in a dark alley
I went to Knott's Berry Park as a kid and I have strong memories of sitting on a bench while my dad on Montezooma's Revenge about a dozen times. Lukey said no and Finny has super game, but Molly was on the fence. See her face below:

Molly was hilarious. In the past, she's balked at some of the bigger rides. In fact, I have one very strong recollection of Space Mountain with Molly and it involved...well, it involved...a lot, it just involved ALOT. And most of the really fun rides at Sea World and Busch Garden were a pass for her last year, too.

This year, she brought a new attitude. She was nervous, but she was also determined. She wanted a "perfect record"...undefeated by any ride.

She did it. She went on everything.

She also developed a really funny technique. She asked every, and I do mean EVERY, ride operator if the ride was "scary". Every single time, whoever was checking restraints or opening a gate was peppered with questions and it always started with, "Is this ride scary?"

Some were earnest and answered honestly. Some messed with her. Some were kind. She kept asking.

She was really brave. And she conquered. Her crowning glory was impressive. She said no to the scariest ride of them all: the Xcelerator. Even I was a little nervous. She said she's wait with Lukey. We went and lined up and she and Lukey were standing at the exit. They could see us getting on. She suddenly yelled at us asking if she could still get on. She came in through the exit gate and got on. She even rode alone, with no one next to her. She was awesome. 

Here's a man who loves a swing ride...
We didn't wait for a single ride. We went on everything. In short, Knott's Berry Farm in November on a weekday is amazing. 

Finny flew for the whole time on the swings
Knott's Berry Farm was a great combination between family rides and legitimate big-time roller coasters. And if you aren't convinced there were big rides, look at Eric's face and hair after the Xcelerator:

The downside was he was less than pleased with his performance shooting three pointers at the midway portion of the park. He did fine, but just not up to his regular prowess. I will leave it to him to explain further, but the spinning, dipping, swerving and diving on the rides took their toll...

There was a Peanuts show right before we left and as a great send off, Finny and Lukey were pulled up on stage. Poor Molly was sad to be left behind, but there's no accounting for Linus' taste...

Sitting in the Sky Cabin...
We rode until they booted us out. We walked out filled with giggles and stories from our triumphs and failures of the day. We hit Denny's for dinner and laughed until we fell asleep. Success.

View from the Sky Cabin and the sunset of our great day...