Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Epic Winter Road Trip - Reconnecting with the Godparents at Great Wolf Lodge Anaheim

 The next day, we said goodbye to Hollywood and hello to Anaheim. We stopped off at Downtown Disney for lunch at Tortilla Joes. It's the closest we'd get to Disneyland this trip. This place always has a bit of magic and nostalgia for us.

Beignets beat wedding cake (Credit: White Rabbit Photography)

(For those readers that are new, our wedding was held at Ralph Brennan's Jazz Kitchen (You can find out more about that here if you're really interested. It was a wonderful whirlwind.)  

After the world's best chicken tamale with verde sauce from Tortilla Joe's (Washington has me missing Mexican food badly - but I digress) we stopped at the Lego store to let The Impossible Girl pick out something to buy with her allowance money. She opted for a set of Minecraft themed Legos to open later. Our next stop was one she'd been talking about for weeks

Washington State is home to one of the smallest Great Wolf Lodge resorts, and we frequent it from time to time. This time, we visited the one in Anaheim/Garden Grove, California. This one is one of biggest and newest Great Wolf Lodge Resorts to date. 

But it was the company that was truly awesome.

This time, we got to include her Godparents! 

 The Impossible Girl hasn't seen them for about 5 years - and neither have we! There were a couple video chat happy hours When The World Paused, but other than that, it had been years since we visited each other face to face and got our families together. Luckily for us, everyone gets along pretty famously - and that hasn't changed.

We don't take the roll of 'godparents' lightly. These are the people in our will who will raise our children, should anything happen to My Sailor and me, so it's important that they are up to date with her life, and that we all stay connected and relevant to each other.

The big attraction at Great Wolf Lodge is the giant indoor water park. And it didn't disappoint. We didn't take many photos, but all three of us tried the FloRider, and all of us lived in the Lazy River quite a bit. 

Opening up a special Snowland goodie bag.
Heading out to a shopping center near by for some dinner. 

We all had a great time reconnecting. I'm incredibly grateful for those relationships where, it's obvious time has passed, but we can pick up where we left off, to a certain extent. They have a great understanding of The Impossible Girl and The Impossible Girl trusts them (not an easy feat for her). We don't have a whole lot of active friendships from our previous lives (pre Navy, pre Marriage). Having kids and moving away changed a lot of them. Makes me all the more grateful for the ones I have in my life now. This one, since we're entrusting our kid(s) to them, is especially close to my heart.

After two days of playing and a night at the Lodge, we headed into my hometown, Escondido, for some time with my family....

Sunday, January 8, 2023

Epic Winter Road Trip - Sticky times in Hollywood

Good Morning Hollywood!

We woke up as late as we wanted the next day and The Impossible Girl soaked up the city from her perch on our hotel room window before we headed downstairs for breakfast and were off to La Brea Tar Pits. 

This place had been on The Impossible Girl's bucket list since 2020, when we watched a family on Youtube visit it. (You know, that time when The World Paused and we lived vicariously through the past adventures of YouTubers and their families.) We hadn't been able to make it happen before, but this time, we planned for it.

This was the perfect road trip break destination. The park surrounding the museum is fenced in and very well maintained. It's a facinating place, not just because it's beautiful, but because it's history in the making. There are little bubbling tar pits all around the park. They are marked off by bright cones that say "Messy" or "gooey" on them. Larger areas are chained off to avoid making park-goers part of the exhibit. The day was beautiful and clear - and the air, of course, smelled mildly of sulfur. 
The exterior of the museum is stunning.
This place is a science lesson that's fun and nearly tangible. The lagoon out front shows the dramatic scene of how animals may have been trapped in the tar. Perhaps this mammoth was walking through what appeared to be a puddle of water - but was actually a tar pit where water had collected on the surface. Now he's trying to free himself, but if anyone tries to help, they too will become trapped. One of nature's booby traps.

The park is free to visit (aside from parking). The Museum was free to My Sailor. The Impossible Girl and I weren't free, but I think the overall cost was about $25 for both of us. The Museum is small, but I will definitely be back. It's a great way to pass the time and look at all of the things they discovered here - and explore how different Los Angeles may have been in the time of the Mammoth and American Lions.
This bear is SERIOUSLY tall. For scale, I'm 5'8".

Stunning skeletons of ancient camels and other animals found in the tar pits are scattered across the museum.

On our way down to California, we learned that P-22, a famous mountain lion in this area, had passed away. The lab technicians set up a lovely memorial to this beautiful predator.

Yes, real live lab technicians were on duty today, excavating fossil pieces very carefully. What a cool window into the scientific work-a-day world.

Maybe I shouldn't be on my phone just now....

With exhibits that encourage touching and others that simulated what it might be like to try to free yourself from a tar pit, this place is 100% stimulating. Though the Observation pit was closed today, we had a great time exploring and I could have lingered at least another hour. 

The little pink camera The Impossible Girl is holding turned out to be the perfect thing to help her step into the dark museum building. It kept her hands busy, and gave her a way to 'see' the museum while keeping a certain amount of distance, as view finders allow.

The Park surrounding the Tar Pits Museum is also home to the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art). We didn't go in, but worked up an appetite playing in the park before stopping at a cafe in the park for lunch.

Caught by a Giant Sloth!

Exploring an outdoor exhibit from LACMA

Luisa would be proud. (Encanto Reference)

Don't step in the TAR!

It was SO NICE to eat outdoors in DECEMBER! It's something we don't really do in Washington (without some serious cover and heaters to help). Everything was pretty good. Can you spot the new traveling buddy who came along from the gift shop?
Photo Credit: I.H.

Photo Credit: I.H.

After lunch, we walked around the light post exhibit on the street out. It was a hugely popular photo spot, and we contributed to that before walking the few blocks back to the car (very tired). We had one more destination in mind before heading back to the hotel.
Peek A Boo

(Yes, we still use a carrier. It's much more comfortable for all than extended piggy back rides! Yes, she's about 65 lbs. I can't think of a better reason to stay strong. We use a Kinderpack Child size. )

After a short drive, we parked at The Grove and found some dazzling decorations.  The Impossible Girl got a delicious way to cool off thanks to this marvelous candy/ice cream shop. (Seriously, it was some of the BEST ice cream I've ever had.)

Dylan's Candy Bar - SO GOOD!

The Farmer's Market was the goal for today. I grabbed a caffeinated pick me up at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (which we don't have in our neck of the woods - I miss their Winter drinks) and we strolled into the Farmer's Market. We said our hello to The Travel Angel and walked around the market for a while, exploring.

This is one of the first farmer's markets in the area and reminded me a bit of Pike's Place in Seattle - with more full service food counters. We enjoyed the stroll through all kinds of foods - from seafood, to cooked Indian and Chinese, to fresh sushi and cuts of steak to take home. I know if I was a local, you'd find me here on the regular with a cup of coffee and something scrumptious.

We ended up grabbing a cookie to split at a local pastry shop and heading back to the hotel for the evening. It was about 5pm when we got back so we made it a 'movie night' in at the hotel. My Sailor ordered California Pizza Kitchen pizza (from a California Pizza Kitchen - not the frozen kind we have access to in our local grocery stores). We watched a movie from our hotel bed on a laptop and called it a night early. The next day was going to be extra exciting.

Traveling with someone with Sensory Processing Disorder has taught me to truly slow down, savor, and process the little stuff. A visit to a cool new park and the farmer's market were a lot of fun, but also just a lot of new sights, smells, temperatures, textures, tastes and sounds.  Before I had a kiddo, I never even really considered that SPD was an actual thing. I thought it meant that a kid melting down just needed a nap or their parents were pushing them too hard. I thought kids wearing headphones were being rude - but then I learned first hand how helpful such tools can be.
 And when we know better, we do better. 
Now I know the kid in the headphones may just be making the world quiet enough that they can hear themselves think. The kid that needs carrying may be tired and too overwhelmed to take a few more steps. Having a plushy friend on hand gives the hands something soft and comforting to squeeze and something complete benign and 'safe' feeling to interact with when anxiety and excitement feel the same. 

 I'm very grateful that I'm able to use the tools we need to use to help us have a great time. They help us stretch our fun and slow down for the sweetest parts of life.  

Life is a constant game of adaptation. We're constantly adapting to everything around us. Some situations and things are easy to adapt to. Some take some more creative thought and patience. 

There is so much more that I didn't think to take photos of - and I'm so grateful for this little family that reminds me to live in the moment.

And I think we'll be back to Los Angeles someday to explore more amazing museums - and MAYBE finally get a goodie from the Farmer's Market. 

Friday, January 6, 2023

Epic Winter Road Trip - The Quest for Sunshine

 This December, we set off on a long awaited 2 week vacation.  And by long awaited, I mean we've been counting down for MONTHS. During those months, the idea of 'x more days until...' felt like the brightest spot in the midst of an onslaught of illnesses. (Anytime the kid is sick, work becomes chaotic, as does school, therapy appointments, etc. Life gets extra messy.)

Now, when My Sailor is serving on a submarine, our trips are kept short and local. Travel is difficult to schedule and usually approved last minute - which also tends to make it expensive. So while he's spending more time on shore (and Holiday Stand Down is a thing) we try to make the most of it. That includes making memories and engaging in experiences as often as possible. I suspect it's fairly typical for Military families, and in that aspect, we are much the same. 

We started our road trip with a detour to see some of The Impossible Girl's cousins in Seattle. Since she'd spent at least half of the last 3 months sick, she missed them a lot, so we made the trip over to Seattle to see them before starting our journey south. 

Road Trip with a Mermaid Tail blanket from the cousins. Makes for great sleep!

We were surprised by a heavy flurry of snow on our way out of the city. It was a beautiful way to start a grand adventure that would cover over 2000 miles.

Our first official stop was a couple hours into the road trip. We stopped at the World Forestry Center in Portland, Oregon. 

Well worth a visit, there was a LOT for the kids to do to learn about the importance of forests on the planet, and the responsible use of them. Admission was an affordable $5/person, and we could have spent much longer than the hour we had there. 

Other cousins joined us to play.

It's hard to leave such a cool place to play, but we stopped for dinner and then headed further south. 

A few hours later, we finally stopped for the night in Ashland, Oregon. The first day was easy and lots of time spent with My Sailor's family along the way. I'm lucky. They are all pretty cool people and it was nice to visit on our way off on the adventure! 

In the morning, we stopped in the hotel breakfast spot before hitting the road and broke out some of our games. 
Dollar store felt checker travel set.
Two older ladies were also having breakfast at a different table and made excellent commentary on The Impossible Girl learning checkers. it was a nice slow start to the BIG driving day. We'd spend the next 10 hours or so on the road.

We also worked on The Impossible Girl's Travel Journal. Our first leg was 460 miles.

A neighbor in the Buy Nothing group suggested a sheet pan made a great lap table. Perfect for Lego building on the go!

Finally we made it to our destination. Hollywood. 
Along this trip, The Impossible Girl discovered the Lyle Lyle Crocodile soundtrack. Top of the World definitely fit our hotel situation! We spent two nights with the hotel with this fantastic floor to ceiling window, about 12 floors above Wilshire Boulevard. Hotel Indigo was lovely. Though the food options were highly limited there, we did discover some chocolate chip pancakes, and the bar was pretty generous - a nice way to start off the vacation.

Tomorrow we'd check a big destination off the kiddo's bucket list (and mine!)