Santa Barbara Summer Getaway

Every year, our daycare provider takes one week of vacation in the summer. I don’t know how she survives the other 51 weeks of the year with small children underfoot from 7am – 5:30pm. She is certainly deserving of this time off and it gives us an incentive to plan a family vacation at the same time. In 2015, we went to Hawaii; in 2016, we went to the Bay Area; and this year, we went to Santa Barbara. The last time Dan and I spent any time in Santa Barbara was nearly eight years ago, just a few months after we started dating, so we were due for a return. Many of our friends have recently taken their young kids to Santa Barbara and so they shared with us all of the fun things to do there with kiddos in tow.

We rented a house overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Carpinteria and spent three nights and four days in the Santa Barbara area doing a lot of kid activities – and a few grown-up ones (wine tasting!). The house that we rented was beautiful and perfect for our family of four. For the first time ever, the girls shared a bedroom – and Lillian even slept through the night! In the evenings, after the girls went to bed, Dan and I sat by the fire or in the hot tub or just took in the sunset views from the front porch.

Sweet Swingin’ Sisters

Day 1: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center & Stearns Wharf
After settling into our rental house, we visited the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History’s Sea Center on Stearns Wharf. This was a small, interactive museum/science center and the girls had a blast exploring, feeding and petting sharks, touching sea life, reading, and digging for life on the ocean floor.

Shark!

Petting Sharks

We walked to the end of the pier and then ate a yummy, but hectic dinner before returning to our home base.

End of Stearns Wharf

Day 2: Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History & Wine Tasting
After visiting the Sea Center the day before, we now had to visit the main natural history museum. The girls played outside in a dry creek, looked for bugs, built a tepee, viewed the exhibits, colored, and explored the bones and belly of “Chad,” their blue whale.

Morning Museum Fun

Lillian napped a little bit at the museum, but Vivian waited until she was in the truck before falling asleep. She was so exhausted that after we arrived at a restaurant for lunch, I was able to get her out of her carseat and into the stroller where she spent our entire lunchtime continuing to sleep!

After lunch, we drove north to visit two wineries that we’d never been to before – Fess Parker and Firestone.

Wine Tasting at Fess Parker

Family Wine Tasting at Firestone

On our drive back south to Carpinteria, we stopped at Trader Joe’s in Santa Barbara and picked up groceries to make dinner back at our rental house. We were all tired and hungry and anxious to relax “at home.”

Day 3: Amtrak Train Ride, MOXI Science Center, & Chase Palm Park
I came up with the idea to take the girls on the Amtrak train that hugs the Pacific Ocean coastline. We were staying near Carpinteria, so I planned for us to board the train there and ride it one stop north to Santa Barbara (only a 15 minute ride). The traffic along the highway between these two cities is pretty congested, so instead of sitting in it, I theorized that we could enjoy our time on a quick train ride. Except that the train was over 30 minutes late. And the tickets were pretty expensive (way more than gas and parking). And then the train was 30 minutes late on the return trip. And the train was crowded with some annoying/sketchy people. So…um…not the best adventure. But one we’ll remember, for sure!

Waiting (and Waiting and Waiting…) for the Train

Once we disembarked in downtown Santa Barbara, we only had to walk across the tracks to get to our first destination of the day: MOXI, The Wolf Museum of Exploration + Innovation. This is a new, interactive museum that our friends hadn’t been to yet, but other travelers and locals had recommended while we were exploring the area during the previous two days. The girls loved playing, jumping, splashing, walking, creating, and, well, exploring and innovating.

MOXI Mugshot

This time, after we’d spent the morning in the museum, Lillian fell fast asleep in the stroller and slept through lunch. Dan and I were excited to have two lunches in a row, each with a 50% reduction in fussing/whining/talking/noise.

After lunch, we walked to Chase Palm Park Center. Vivian played on the playground, we watched the ducks and turtles, and we took a family ride on the carousal.

Carousel Ride

We grabbed ice cream on the pier and then took the train back to Carpinteria for “a night to remember” (leftovers).

Day 4: Santa Barbara Zoo 
Before heading back to Orange County, we drove into Santa Barbara for the last time and visited the Santa Barbara Zoo. This was a beautiful, not-too-big zoo and the girls had fun seeing the animals, feeding the giraffes, playing, and riding the train.

Feeding the Giraffes

Zoo Train Ride

As you can see from that last picture, by the time we boarded the train (after it was offline for awhile due to mechanical issues) some of us were done with the zoo. Well, maybe we all were, but everyone over the age of two managed to keep it mostly together until we got to the truck. As soon as we got to the truck, the girls fell fast asleep. We had yet another fun, active, memorable family vacation. I highly recommend Santa Barbara as a family getaway if you have young children!

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Carolina on Our Minds

Now that Lillian is over one year old, we decided that we’re ready (or not!) to resume travel for pleasure. Two years ago, after Vivian turned one, we embarked on fun family vacations to Seattle and Hawaii. Admittedly, we decided that we’re not quite ready for ambitious trips like those, especially with two kids (one who still does not sleep through the night) in tow. So, for summer and Fall 2017, we’ve planned vacations that take us to new places – to visit old family or friends! These trips will allow us to have fun and experience new adventures while taking things a little easier with the help of family/friends. Our first vacation was over Memorial Day weekend to visit Matthews, North Carolina (near Charlotte)! We were very graciously hosted by Dan’s cousin and his wife and we had the best time showing the girls that part of North Carolina while visiting with family. The memories that we made will definitely stick with us for a lifetime!

Day 1: Travel to Charlotte
Uh…the first memory of our trip was Dan waking up at 4am and violently puking his guts out prior to our airport departure. Our flight was scheduled to leave at 6:45am, so there was no time for rest. He puked up everything that was in him and then powered through a cross country flight with two kids. Luckily, about halfway through our travel day, he started feeling better and he never felt sick again while we were on vacation. Whew! While Dan was trying to keep it together on our flights, I entertained the girls. Because they, too, had been sick in the week leading up to our trip, I was worried for them on our flights. But, they did great! I had downloaded a bunch of Disney movies onto my iPad and bought cute little headphones for Vivian to wear while watching them, but we didn’t end up getting the iPad out once! Vivian colored, read, played with stickers, ate, and slept. She is a pro traveler at only three years old. I admit that I was very proud that she could entertain herself sitting in an airplane seat for hours on end and didn’t need to zone out with an iPad or phone. She didn’t even know it was an entertainment option for her.

We’ve arrived in Charlotte!

We spent our first evening catching up with Dan’s cousin, Dean, and his wife, Nishaan, and their two kids, ages 5 and 6. Vivian and their girls slowly started warming up to each other (by the end of the week, they were dancing arm-in-arm with each other and making human “hug” sandwiches with each other on the floor).

Lillian loves North Carolina!

Day 2: Carowinds Amusement Park & BBQ
After a slow morning sleeping and settling in, we spent the afternoon with Dean and Nishaan and their girls at Carowinds – where the Carolinas meet (it’s literally on the border of North Carolina and South Carolina). We were planning to spend part of our time at their waterpark, but it wasn’t open for the season yet. Instead, we spent all of our time in Planet Snoopy (except for Dan, who ventured out of the kids’ area to ride the Fury 325, the world’s fastest and tallest giga coaster, by himself!). Vivian rode all of the rides (except two of the roller coasters that she wasn’t tall enough to ride) in Planet Snoopy and then walked through the Dinosaurs Alive exhibit, despite her ongoing fear of “big dinosaurs.” Lillian rode many rides, also, and had no qualms walking past roaring dinosaurs.

Carowinds Entrance Picture

Family Photo at Planet Snoopy

After leaving the park, we ate dinner (BBQ, of course!) at Mac’s Speed Shop.

Day 3: Swimming
Dean and Nishaan’s community pool hosted a summer season opening party and so we spent the afternoon there eating and swimming. The pool water was still a little cold, but, of course, that doesn’t deter kids!

Dan and Three Little Fish

Day 4: Strawberry Picking, More Family, & French Desserts
North Carolina was at the tail end of their strawberry season, but we still found enough strawberries to pick (and eat) at the Hall Family Farm.

Lillian’s First Strawberry Picking Experience

Our Biggest Strawberry Picker

We also went on a Disney music-themed wagon ride, played tetherball, let the kids run and play in the sand and around the farm’s structures, drank fresh strawberry slushies, and ate piping hot homemade blueberry donuts. It was a delicious morning outing!

Group Picture Before Our Wagon Ride

When we returned back to home base, Dan’s aunt, uncle, and other cousin from Cary had arrived to join our visit. We all ate Bojangles for lunch (again, of course!). Later in the evening, we went to Amelie’s to get French dessert pastries. We ate very well during our trip!

Eswein and Chambers Ladies at Amelie’s

Day 5: Nature Museum, More Swimming, Sparklers
Dean and Nishaan are very active with their kids and enjoy traveling with them and giving them opportunities to explore and experience new things (which is one of the big reasons we knew that this trip to visit them was going to be a lot of fun). They do not spend their weekends at home in front of the TV! Already, they had shown us so many fun things to do with kids near their home and they continued their Grand Tour of Charlotte for Kids by taking us to the Discovery Place Nature Museum. This museum is small, which is perfect for small children, and allowed the girls to run, play, touch, learn, laugh, and make music. Lillian especially loved playing at the water table and Vivian especially loved dancing on the outdoor stage. Both girls got to see their first planetarium show here, also!

Nature Museum Water Table Play

Vivian Ready for the Planetarium Show

Shakin’ It Off at the Nature Museum’s Outdoor Stage

After lunch and naps, we again went swimming.

Summertime Swimming

Since it was Memorial Day, we BBQed and then lit sparklers. This was Vivian’s first experience with sparklers and she quickly overcame her trepidation and enjoyed holding them all by herself.

Sparklers with Daddy

Happy Memorial Day from the Chambers Family!

Group Family Photo – Minus Nishaan (Photographer) and Lillian (Sleeping Baby)

Day 6: Science Museum
We had a late afternoon flight scheduled back to California, but, of course, that didn’t stop us from squeezing in one more local activity. Dean and Carmen accompanied us to the Discovery Place Science Museum in downtown Charlotte. This place is awesome for kids! Lillian loved the water tables and tot lot and Vivian loved the rainforest and small kids’ discovery zone.

Water Play at the Science Museum

Sisters Playing with Legos

Cousins

Lillian Watching the Freshwater Fish

Finally, we left North Carolina and flew back to California. Once again, the girls did great on the flights. Due to the time difference, they both fell sound asleep on the second flight. The next morning, of course, they were up early, but they got back on their regular Pacific Time schedule by the end of the day.

This blog post, although it contains a lot of the details of our trip, isn’t comprehensive. There was also park play, late-night movie watching, coloring, tree climbing, bubble play, and more. Also, Lillian took her very first steps while we were there!

All of our girls played well together, our girls adjusted very well to the time change, and Lillian even slept sorta-okay. We had such a great time catching up with family and hope that we can repay Dean and Nishaan’s graciousness when they come to SoCal someday. Vacation #1 of 2017 was a success! Next up, Santa Barbara!

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Birthday Girls

This Spring, our precious girls turned THREE and ONE. We’ve spent the last two months celebrating with special dinners, a joint birthday party, sweets, and, of course, lots of presents.

Vivian is a feisty little girl. To me, she does not seem even close to toddlerhood; she seems ages beyond that. She is incredibly smart, socializes well, sings and dances with beautiful abandon, and is very independent. She can throw a mean fit and struggles with listening (only to us, though, of course), but asks for snuggles from us every single day.

Vivian is THREE

Vivian celebrated her third birthday on her fourth day of preschool. She got to wear a crown, share homemade mini-cupcakes with her classmates, and be interviewed by her new teacher.

Vivian’s Birthday Interview

After school, we ate dinner at BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse, just like we did last year.

“Happy Birthday to You!”

Lillian remains our little peanut at only 18 lbs. 1 oz. She continues to be a challenge at night (still not sleeping through the night!), but is generally happy during the day. Her smile lights up her face and anyone else’s face who is looking at her. She is a good eater, climber, and she makes her wants known even though she can’t talk yet. To me, she still seems like a baby, not a toddler. I’m excited to see her grow and develop over the next year, as I know she’s just going to get more and more fun.

Lillian is ONE

Lillian celebrated her birthday with a steak dinner at home and then her first bites of ice cream (which she loved!).

In between the girls’ birthdays (which are five weeks a part), and while Nana was in town, their friends joined them at their gymnastics studio for a joint birthday party.

Vivian the Trapeze Artist

Lillian in the Foam Pit

Happy Birthday, Vivian!

Happy Birthday, Lillian!

Birthday Party Friends

Full Family Photo with Tired Kiddos

Crashing From the Sugar High and Activity

I should also add that in between all of this celebrating for the girls, we also celebrated Dan’s 34th birthday! Everyone is older now, except me – ha!

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The Shows Go On!

We’ve been taking Vivian to shows, plays, and musicals since she turned 2 and in these past few weeks, we’ve taken her to three more. It is so fun! She is totally entranced by the productions, sitting on our laps and snuggling us during the shows. We love the one-on-one time with her and giving her exposure to the performing arts.

Sleeping Beauty
I took her to see Sleeping Beauty at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. Just look at how cute she is waiting for the show to begin with her dolly!

Ready for the Show!

The show was billed for 6-10 year olds, but she knew the story line and I thought she’d really enjoy it. Well…I should have read and comprehended the play’s description much better:

The classic fairy tale is told anew in David Gonzalez’s innovative and poetic presentation. Gonzalez, whose storytelling has been engaging imaginations for over two decades, combines quirky, rhymed verse, live music, multi-media, and the most extraordinary device of all — our imaginations —  to create a world in which our beautiful (and funky) princess is awakened by true love’s kiss…or not.

Let me break it down: Two dudes stood on a nearly empty stage for 50 minutes. One guy played a piano and one guy recited a 50-minute rhyming poem that told the story of Sleeping Beauty. Behind them, a giant projection screen displayed random artsy images (“multimedia”).

Honestly, I don’t know how any of the kids in that huge theater, including Vivian, sat relatively still through the show. Even I was bored out of my mind. I kept waiting for the actual play to begin, thinking that the poem and piano was just a prelude, and then 20 minutes into it, I realized, oh, this is it. Eek!

So, this was sort of a bust. But, I got to spend quality time with Vivian, we got to experience something new (and quite different!), and we got to visit a theater that we’d never been to (at Dan’s MBA alma mater), so it definitely wasn’t time wasted. I just wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else!

On Campus at UCI Outside the Irvine Barclay Theatre

Disney On Ice
A week after Vivian saw Sleeping Beauty, Dan took her to her first Disney On Ice show – Dream Big – at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario. I think that this show was more in her wheelhouse. There was singing, dancing, princesses, and a churro. You can’t go wrong with any of those!

Ready for Disney On Ice

Churro Eatin’ at Disney On Ice

Dan attended Disney On Ice shows with his family while growing up and so it was neat for him to now take his own daughter to a show. Disney runs deep in his family and Vivian is certainly carrying a love for all things Disney into the next generation.

Fancy Nancy the Musical
On Mother’s Day, I took Vivian to a musical production of Fancy Nancy at the Chance Theater in Anaheim. Although Vivian had only read one Fancy Nancy book in the two days leading up to the musical, she was still able to follow the story line and she enjoyed the singing and dancing. The theater was small, which was perfect, and our seats were centered to the stage. The show was only about 50 minutes long, but unlike Sleeping Beauty, we would have been happy if it was longer.

Mother’s Day Kisses for Mama Before Fancy Nancy

Vivian with the Fancy Nancy Play Bill

Fancy Vivian at Fancy Nancy

So Fancy!

After the show, the audience was invited onto the stage to meet the cast and see the set. Vivian was being super shy, but I still took her onstage to see everything.

Fancy Nancy Cast, Set, and Guests

As we were leaving the theater, we were told that there was a Fancy Nancy tea happening in an adjacent room. There were games, treats, crafts, and a meet-and-greet with the the illustrator of the books. Vivian said that she wanted to go to the tea and so I forked over $46 so that we could attend. I’m glad that we went because Vivian did have fun, but I can tell you that it was not worth $46. Hopefully, though, the money went to the theater to help support its ongoing efforts and upcoming productions.

Being Fancy Eating Cupcakes

Drinking Strawberry Milk

Playing a Cookie Eating Game

Trying to Balance a Banana on Her Head

I got such a kick out of seeing Vivian so thoroughly enjoy the musical and tea – it was the perfect Mother’s Day outing!

Next up is Sesame Street Live! Elmo Makes Music in June. Vivian saw her first Sesame Street Live! show last year with Dan and I’m excited to take her this year. Sesame Street Live! was the first live show that I saw when I was a toddler!

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Overdue Truck Upgrade

Dan bought his 2002 Toyota Tundra in 2003, three years before he graduated college. He’s driven this truck through undergraduate school, graduate school, five jobs, three houses, two kids, one dog, and one wife. The truck is still running, but it has over 216,000 miles on it! It has an extended, but not a crew, cab and so although it can (barely) fit one rear-facing convertible car seat and one infant seat, it cannot fit two rear-facing convertible car seats (yes, our 3-year-old still rides rear-facing – it’s five times safer than forward-facing and she is well under the height and weight limits to remain rear-facing). We’ve known for a long time that we were going to need to upgrade the truck and now seemed like as good of time as any, before any more maintenance costs crept up and before Lillian needs to move into a convertible car seat.

A few days before Dan’s 34th birthday, he came home from work very excited – he’d found the truck that he wanted to buy! However, it was $6K more than what we had agreed we would spend. I quietly let him pitch his purchasing plan to me and then, when he’d completed his proposal and looked nervously at me, I smiled at him and said “Happy Birthday! Get it!” I think that he was surprised, but I was mostly relieved that the search was over and I wouldn’t have to get him another birthday gift.

Dan initiated the purchase and the whole family went to the dealership to sign the final papers for our new Ford F-150 Lariat SuperCrew 4×4 truck.

New Family Truck!

Dan LOVES (I cannot stress this enough) driving his new truck. It has all the bells and whistles and technology that you could imagine (and lots that you can’t!), has a very large interior, and is just so darn nice and new! The luxury of the new truck will make selling the old Black Stallion much less difficult. It is definitely our new preferred mode of transportation and we are looking forward to many years of comfortable commuting in the new truck!

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Easter Eggstravaganzas

Easter eggs – everywhere! Although our Easter celebrations were only a week long, they included twelve dyed eggs, FIVE egg hunts, two petting zoos, two bunny photo opps, two train rides, one ferris wheel ride, one carousal ride, and one painted face. Whew!

First, we “hopped into Spring” in our Baker Ranch community.

Neither of the girls are too fond of the Easter Bunny, yet.

Meow! Meow!

Egg Hunt Haul

Then, Vivian participated in two egg hunts at her preschool. Prior to this year, we owned zero plastic eggs. Now we own, well, a lot! She also brought home many bunny crafts.

Bunny Preschool Crafts

On Good Friday, daycare and preschool were closed, so I stayed home with the girls and took them to the Irvine Spectrum Center to ride the attractions, walk around, go to lunch, and get some treats.

Both Girls’ First Ferris Wheel Ride

Ferris Wheel Selfie

Kiddie Train Ride

Horsin’ Around on the Carousal

Shopping

On Holy Saturday, I took the girls to the Lake Forest Beach & Tennis Club’s Eggstravaganza event.

Goat Wrangling

Girls Easter Bunny Photo Opp; Still Not Impressed…

Then, Dan dyed eggs with Vivian.

Colorful Eggs

On Easter morning, Vivian really enjoyed searching for and finding all of the dyed eggs that the Easter Bunny had hidden. She also liked seeing all of the goodies that were left in her Easter basket.

Easter Baskets

New Goggles!

New Sunglasses!

I took the girls to Easter mass and although I don’t think that I actually got to mutter a single prayer during the service, it was still nice to be there.

In our Easter Best Before Church

Dan was sick all weekend, so he didn’t get to participate in all of our Easter activities. He did get to join us all in an Easter afternoon nap, walk, and park play, though!

This was Lillian’s 1st Easter (and Vivian’s 4th!) and she really wasn’t old enough to keep up with her big sister, but next year, I think she’s going to give Vivian a run for her money in all of the egg hunts!

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Plentiful Poppies

The California Poppy is our state’s flower and right now, it is in bloom. We went on a very ambitious expedition to view fields of them last Sunday. None of us had ever been to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve and so we drove (and drove and drove and drove) up there to meet up with some friends, hike, and view the poppies.

Some things to note if you come across this blog post and decide that you, too, want to visit the Poppy Reserve:

  • Parking is horrendous. We sat in traffic for a very long time (after a very long drive) and finally ended up parking on Lancaster Road and walking into the reserve. There is very little shoulder on the road, so it can be a little nerve racking walking along the crowded road with a stroller or little kiddos in tow. You do not have to pay to enter the reserve if you walk in.
  • There is very little shade in the reserve. Bring hats and sunscreen.
  • It is WINDY there. You will be covered in dirt by the end of your adventure.
  • You can push an off-road (B.O.B) stroller on the trails.
  • Lines for the restrooms are looooong. Of course, the men’s line moves much faster. Use that restroom, even if you are a woman! There are no laws against that in California!
  • The visitor’s center (technically, the Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center) is pretty pathetic. It’s small and is comprised mostly of a gift shop. There is a short, crappy video that you can watch, which is not very informative, but does play in a dim little cubby that allows you to get out of the sun (and nurse your baby, if you have one!).
  • There are not very many picnic tables and they aren’t well shaded.
  • Bring lots of water; it is very dry there!
  • If it’s too cold or too windy, the poppies may close up.

We hiked .2 miles to Tehachapi Vista Point and then completed the 1.6 mile Poppy Trail North Loop. We did indeed see a lot of poppies (on our hike, and on our drive) and many other flowers. Overall, the girls did well on the hike, alternating riding in the stroller, walking, and being carried.

Family Poppy Picture

Mama, Baby, and Poppies

Dan Pushing Lil Through Poppy Fields

I am glad to have seen the poppy fields, but, check, this is now off my “to see” list and I can’t imagine feeling a pull to return. As we were walking back to where our car was parked on Lancaster Road after our hike, Vivian mentioned something about coming back here and I told her, “Nope, we’re not coming back!” It is just too far away, too difficult to get access to, and too stressful for me. We had a nice time together as a family, and it was fun to see and catch up with friends, too, but after all that driving (5 hours total!), I think that we’ll stick to springtime activities closer to home over the next few weeks.

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