Sunday, June 30, 2013

California Adventure Part 2 - Sea World

Our second day in California included a trip and day spent at Sea World!  Our vacation package included round trip shuttle bus services to any other destination besides Disneyland (since we were within walking distance from that).  This was so nice because then we didn't have to rent a vehicle at all.  And on our two hour drive down to Sea World, we passed the San Diego Temple which was beautiful.  The bus tour guide described it as a white castle with a golden angel on the top of it - it really was breathtaking.

I love Sea World and I think I was more excited to go there than anything else we had planned in our trip.  Most of that excitement was for everyone else, particularly, Vanna, because she LOVES dolphins (in fact that's what she wanted for Christmas - was a dolphin :) and I couldn't wait for everyone to see these beautiful animals and see all that Sea World has to offer!

We started out at the Animal Connections where we saw all kinds of animals.  The frogs, porcupines and the armadillos seemed to capture our attention most. :)  I was slightly disappointed to learn that the Budweiser Clydesdale horses weren't at Sea World anymore - I loved seeing those giants years ago when I was there!
Then on to the Wild Arctic where we first saw the Beluga whales and the HUGE walrus - right up close and personal!

Of course the kids thought the Penguin encounter area was stinky - and it is - but they're fun to watch!

Then we headed over to the Shamu Stadium to see the killer whale show.  This is when the rest of the family could hardly contain MY excitement!  I knew how much I loved the shows at Sea World and that Ty and the kids really had no idea what was in store for them!

Let me introduce you...this is Shamu!

We LOVED the One Ocean show here at Shamu Stadium.  We sat in the soak section and yes, we got soaked.  It's amazing the thrust power the whales have behind those huge tails! :)  Before the trip, Cash was excited to see the killer whales and Vanna was excited to see the dolphins but would say that she hates killer whales.  Immediately following the show, Vanna said with all the enthusiasm you can imagine, "I used to hate killer whales but now they're my favorite!"  

Give us a big smile!

After the whale show, we headed over to the Blue Horizons Stadium to see another show with dolphins, birds, acrobats, and pilot whales but not before stopping at Dolphin Point to see the dolphins.  This was what we'd been waiting for...Vanna wanted to pet a dolphin SO bad. 
One dolphin showing off right in front of us (you can see Cash's hat in the picture).

And that's as close as Vanna got...she almost touched the dolphin who was waving 'hi' to everyone.  And we tried to hold on to her and get her even a bit closer to where she probably could have touched it but she was being grumpy and brought out her Miss Independent attitude and missed her chance.  Oh we were so so so sad she couldn't have been one of the lucky ones to actually touch one.  And sadly I had built it up as a possibility because when I came to Sea World (again this was years ago), you could buy fish to feed the huge group of dolphins swimming in a pool and lure them right up to you with a fish and then pet them over and over.  So naturally, I thought she might have the same experience...BUT...they did away with that pool and only have a few dolphins swimming in this pool with their trainers and they don't really let them get too close to people and ask that people don't really touch them.  Huge disappointment but really, Vanna handled it well. 
We quickly got over it when we got to see another amazing show...with dolphins in it! :)  Again, we sat in the soak zone and literally, just after Cash said, "Hey, why aren't we getting wet?" the dolphins splashed us big time. 


A big wet one!
After the show, we got to meet the dolphin trainers that were the main 'actors' in the pool with the dolphins and the kids thought that was neat, especially because that's what Vanna says she wants to be - in fact, just following the dolphin show she said, "I'm going to be a dolphin trainer for sure!"

We hit one more show while we were there - it was the sea lion show and was really cute - more comedic.  It featured Clyde and Seamore, the sea lions, and OP, the Otter.  We loved that too!  You definitely don't want to miss the shows when you go to Sea World, that's all I have to say!

We saw just so many animals and got so close to all them too - it was all just so fun:
...bat rays
Everyone got to pet bat rays in their touch tank!



...fresh water aquariums full of fish (this was one of Ty's favorite places)


Look at all those flamingos in their feeding pools - we had so many just right below us on the bridge too!

...sea turtles fish and more!

Touching star fish at the star fish tide pool.

We definitely had a lot of fun under the sun then topped it off with souvenirs and cotton candy for the bus ride back to our hotel!  This was the highlight of our trip!

Another part of the trip that I'll never forget is that Vanna got strep throat while we were there!  Ahhh!  It started off with her and Rosie both getting a cold about a week before we left.  Rosie's turned into an ear infection but we got her on medicine and she was feeling fine by the time we left her with Grandma and Grandpa (nobody wants to leave their baby but especially not their sick baby - poor thing!).  I just kept praying that Vanna's cold wouldn't develop into anything more since she's prone to getting strep easily (prior to this incident, she'd gotten strep four times within less than a year). 
For the first couple days we were tripping, Vanna still just seemed a bit stuffed up or runny and would cough quite a bit.  We kept asking her over and over though..."Does your throat hurt honey?"  and she would respond, "No."  But throughout the day that we spent at Sea World, we noticed that her eyes became red, she just looked like she wasn't feeling well (although that didn't keep her from running around and being as excited as ever over everything!).  And finally when we were on our way back to the hotel, Vanna told us her throat hurt when she coughed, and bless you'd (the way she usually says 'sneeze') and swallowed.  Oh no! 
We had inquired earlier at the hotel desk about a service they offered where you called a doctor's office and they had someone come to you and check you out at your hotel (otherwise we figured we'd have to get a cab to take us to a hospital/clinic somewhere and then to a sounded like a lot of running around) although it cost us a pretty penny, it's what we decided to do.  So, Vanna got checked out and although they didn't have a strep quick test to give Vanna to determine if it was officially strep, the doctor suggested it likely was because all the symptoms were the same.  Regardless, they gave Vanna some medicine to help and by the next afternoon, she was feeling tons better and back to her regular self.
When planning our trip I left it flexible and one day wide open for us to either just lounge around the hotel, nap and catch up a bit after playing so hard or to go to the beach and play/relax there for a day.  We had it planned to do one day later (right in the middle of our trip) but we decided that we'd take Tuesday off, let Vanna get plenty of rest to feel better, and just take it easy.  The only thing we really did that day was watch movies in the hotel and spend some time at the hotel pool - but I think it was just what we all needed.
Most every night throughout the trip we'd call to see how Rosie was doing and here her little voice.  We're so lucky that she felt completely fine the whole time and was such a good girl for Grandma and Grandpa.  Tab even said, "I don't know if your mom's going to be willing to give her up when you get here to pick her up!"  As much as I thought I'd worry over Rosie, I really didn't too much - I knew she was in good hands and all reports my mom gave me was that she was doing great.  We sure missed our sweetheart though.  What we didn't miss though was all the work it appeared to be to bring a baby her age on such a trip.  We saw dad's holding baby's that had blown out their diapers all over them while standing in line, we saw mom's sitting out while holding sleeping babies, we saw about everything and thought about just how much more worn out we'd be if we'd taken Rosie.  We would have probably seen/done half of what we did if we'd brought her and since we figured she really wouldn't remember it or even enjoy being dragged everywhere, we'd leave her with grandparents.  It definitely turned out to be the right decision and we're so grateful for them and their willingness to take care of our little girl!

California Adventure Part 1

We went on vacation to California and had such a great time! 
We've been wanting to do this for a couple years now but for one reason or another (being pregnant with Rosie, etc.) we chose to wait, and even thought at one point this time that we might have to wait another year.  We tried to plan our trip over Spring Break but it was impossible for Ty to get that time off work (even though we turned the time in very early - I guess everyone else had the same idea :).  Then there was the dilemma over whether or not to take Rosie Posie or wait until she was older to go.  
After things fell through over Spring Break, I found myself talking it over with my mom and she brought up the idea of them watching Rosie if we wanted to try again to fit the trip in before Ty's vacation was up (Ty's vacation time is use it or lose it - it doesn't carry over from year to year).  What a heaven send!  Although this meant leaving our baby for days (sniff...sniff), we thought we'd look into it.  This would mean we could use up all the rest of Ty's vacation time we'd saved for a trip and it also meant less stress while we were there (taking a car seat, stroller, etc. on a plane, keeping a baby happy all day and getting everything in that we wanted to, etc.).  So... we took them up on their offer to watch Rosie finally all fell into place!
On Friday, May 24th, the day after school let out,  we began our trip by driving to Lava where we got Rosie all situated and comfortable with Grandma and Grandpa and stayed the night there.  The following morning, we woke up bright and early to leave for Salt Lake where we were to catch an 11am flight.
We knew from the beginning, we'd want to fly.  When you're a bit limited on how many days you can miss from work, you don't want to spend it all in driving and I thought that if Ty and I were going to enjoy this trip, we might enjoy a couple hour flight more than a what...20 hour drive (rough estimate) each way!
The kids were stoked to fly on an airplane and get their own drink and pretzels!  They could just not wait to begin our California adventure! 
Waiting at the SLC airport for our plane to arrive and take us to Long Beach.

The second we landed, Cash announced in quite a loud voice, "We're in Disneyland guys!".   The young guy sitting across the aisle smiled and said, "Not quite yet buddy!"  It was so cute! I think everyone on our flight already knew that was our destination by the squeals that came from the kids when our plane did arrive and was ready for us to board and from the huge smiles plastered on their faces!  It's just one of those times you'll never forget - a time when you can hardly contain their excitement for it all!

We had a shuttle take us to our Hotel which was steps away and right across from Disneyland.  Then we took the rest of the day to stock up on munchies and the like and then headed to play in the hotel pool. 

The next day, May 26th, we made our way to Disneyland bright and early to spend the entire day playing and boy did we!

Welcome to Disneyland!
We headed to the back of the park first (to then work our way forward) and passed the whale that swallowed Pinocchio - aaahhh ! :) 

Once we arrived at Toontown, we let the kids just wander and play around for a bit.  This picture is fitting because Vanna loves to pretend she's our puppy...and here our poor puppy's stuck in the pound. :)

Look who we found at Mickey's Toontown...Mickey Mouse!


The first "ride" we went on was Roger Rabbit's Car Toon Spin (not my favorite but anyway...) and right outside it's exit is this toon building you can try to blow up by pushing down on the lever.  Ty and Cash both tried to hard to get the building to blow but who do you think was successful...Vanna Marie!  She was so proud of herself!

After Toontown, we headed to Tomorowland which I think ended up being our favorite part of Disneyland!  I was so surprised by Vanna and how brave she was to go on all the rides.  In fact, one of her favorite rides was Space Mountain - even Cash got kind of nervous on that one.  But we all loved Star Tours of course - especially Ty I think.  It was so fun to see Ty's excitement over some of these rides too because he's never been to Disneyland - we were all just big kids there and had a great time!

Ty was our photographer when we rode on the Astro Orbitor because he didn't want to go on anything that spun in a circle in case it would make him sick.  Can't say that I blame him, I don't do so well with things that swing back and forth.

We like Iron Man at our house and Ty couldn't pass by them without snapping a few shots while we visited the Innoventions center.

Of course Cash found some video games to play while we were in there too.

After Tomorrowland we headed over to Fantasyland to pound out half of it and finish off the day before heading back to the hotel (the kids were tuckered out).  Vanna was so excited to ride on the Mad Tea Party and really wanted a purple teacup.  I thought it was so funny I caught this face where Cash displays what he thought about her choice of color...
We loved the Mad Hatter Shop - the kids had a ball trying on all kinds of odd hats!

Call me boring but 'it's a small world' is one of my favorite rides!

We caught Cash (with his veins popping) putting forth all his effort to remove that Sword in the Stone - I guess he's just not meant to be the next king!

The whole day was full of fun...well mostly...other than all the fighting between the kids about who was first in line. :)  It was hilarious to hear all the other parents in the park (especially by the end of the day when kids are plain worn out and grumpy) saying the same type of things to their kids that we were: "If you're not having fun, I guess we can just go home." or "What do you mean you're not happy, this is supposed to be the happiest place on earth!" or "There's no reason to fight over who's first in line because you're going to get on the ride at the same time!"  But really, I have to praise the kids on how well they did throughout the entire trip.  Their fighting over who was first in line was literally the only thing we had to get after them for, they really didn't fight, or whine or even complain about being too tired to walk anymore (because they walked all day everyday and I thought surely they'd start fussing but they were such troopers)! 
After getting back to the hotel, cleaning up and watching the Disneyland fireworks, we were out like lights...gearing up for the next day of fun!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Walking the Walk

My mom and step-dad have always had it in their plans to serve a mission after they retired.  My mom retired a couple years ago and Tab retired in November.  Shortly after General Conference this spring, the itch to leave on their mission began.  They turned their mission papers in early May and finally received their call (it was so hard waiting to find out where they were going) to serve in BELIZE for 23 months! (For anyone wondering where that is, it's in Central America below Mexico and next to Guatemala.)
The circumstances surrounding their mission call and the experiences they had in preparing for it are all very unique and inspiring.  I believe all our family has already received testimony that Belize is where they are meant to go although I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that they are going that far away.  For some reason, I thought for sure their call would be closer - I mean at least in the United States. :) 
Mendenhall Missionaries - leaving to serve a mission in Belize on July 22, 2013.
Of course I worry for their well being  - this type of worry is a funny feeling too, almost as if they were my kids rather than my parents.  I'm sure it will certainly be a culture shock for them and prove a humbling and trying experience which is as it should be.  I believe missions are meant to stretch you, teach you, plant in you an even deeper appreciation for the Savior and His work. Can you imagine the impact such a mission will have on them!? :) 
I worry over myself too - having them (not only because they're my parents, but because they're my closest of friends) so far away is unnerving in and of itself.  It will likewise prove a trying yet beautiful experience for family left here at home - what an amazing journey we get to share with them!
My family and I are so very grateful for their righteous example.  In one of our recent conversations, my mom made the comment that "you prepare your sons to go on missions, you talk of going on one someday, but this is 'walking the walk' now - we're actually doing it!"  As hard as it will be to say goodbye for two years, we're so thankful they have chosen to serve, so proud of their willingness to 'walk the walk'.  I've seen already how this mission has stretched them and think it's incredible how much they've learned and grown already in just their preparations to serve.
As their family, I know we will be blessed for their service and learn so much from their experience.  I believe the impact their service will have on those around them will be far reaching, it's so true that your decisions affect not just yourself but those around you because I really feel a part of their mission in a very real sense - and I'm not the one serving - it's hard to explain.  I've already learned much, specifically about sacrifice and fulfilling your duty to do all you can.  I'm excited to see what more is in store for them and me and all our family as we support them in this important work.