Halloween: Pumpkins, Parades, Parks, Potlucks, & Parties

In an effort to keep track of our family’s activities, I will document that we celebrated Halloween throughout October. We did lots of stuff, dressed up in many costumes, and ate lots of candy. See?

We were booed by our Baker Ranch neighbors early in the month.

Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch

Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch Skeleton Family

Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch – The Girls are Getting Tall!

Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch

Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch

Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch Cookie Decorating

Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch Cookie Decorating with Friends

Irvine Park Railroad Pumpkin Patch Face Painting (Rainbow Butterfly)

Pumpkin City Pony Ride

The Girls’ First Ride Together at Pumpkin City

Feeding Goats at Pumpkin City

Pumpkin City Rides

Pumpkin City Rides

Pumpkin City Pumpkin Sitting

Lil’s First Pony Ride at Pumpkin City

Pumpkin City 2017

Baker Ranch Halloween Carnival

Pumpkin Carving

Viv’s Preschool Halloween Parade – Flower

Viv’s Preschool Halloween Parade – Cinderella

Viv’s Preschool Halloween Party

Trick-or-Treating with a Fairy and a Dragon

In addition to the above activities documented with photos, we also attended our neighborhood potluck and watched The Great Pumpkin many times. It was a fun (and hot!) month!

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A Trip to Colorado to Meet Baby A

My baby sister had her first baby a little unexpectedly five weeks prior to her November due date. Within the blink of an eye, she had a premie October baby – a beautiful little baby girl! My girls and I were scheduled to fly out to visit her (and my mom, who was also flying out from Ohio) and celebrate with her at her Colorado baby shower. However, since she ended up having a one-week old baby still in the hospital on the previously scheduled shower weekend, we ended up visiting to meet her new daughter instead.

This was Lillian’s first trip to Colorado and Vivian’s fourth. Viv and I hadn’t been there since Anna and Tim’s wedding, two years ago. Now we were visiting to see their first baby! It was a whirlwind weekend – we arrived late on Friday night; spent Saturday in Loveland visiting Anna, Tim, and the baby at the hospital; and then briefly greeted the new family of three when they all arrived home from the hospital on Sunday afternoon.

The Girls See Their Niece Through the Hospital’s Level II Nursery Glass for the First Time

Mom Took the Girls to Jumpin’ in Loveland While I Was at the Hospital

Holding My Niece for the First Time!

Visiting the Cows on the Triple S Ranch in Roggen

Cousins!

Damschroder Girls

As of this post, baby A is now 10 weeks old and has gained well over three pounds since her birth! We all cannot wait to see her again, hopefully soon!

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A is for Apple

Fall is the season for apple picking. I imagine in most locales, this means a beautiful drive through the countryside to a quaint orchard. Then, in the coolness of autumn, you joyously pick apples, drink cider, pay someone a few bucks for it all, and then you admire the falling colorful leaves as you backtrack on your scenic drive home. Here’s how it apple picking goes in SoCal: You fight traffic and drive two hours to an apple orchard. Then, you stalk people until you find a parking spot. In the extreme heat of “Indian summer,” you pick apples. You even make your own apple cider (after waiting in a long line to do this, of course) and pay $30 for less than a gallon of your own creation. You fight more traffic and for more parking places at other apple orchards. You end up parking somewhere illegally because there is absolutely no where else to park. You wait in a very, very, very long line for overpriced apple cider donuts. You throw too much money at everything apple-related because you went through all the trouble to get here, so you want to buy, see, and do it all. Finally, you fight the traffic to drive home. You shove your expensive wormy apples in the crisper in your fridge and plan to make homemade apple everything next weekend, after you’ve recovered from this weekend. Three months later, you throw the rotten apples out.

Add in a moody threenager and an active toddler and that was our day of apple picking in September. Honestly, though, despite the insanity of life in SoCal, we did have a fun day. I doubt we’ll make this an annual tradition (the last time that Dan and I did this was when we were still dating, long before kids and the logistics of everything got 100 times more difficult), but we are glad that we did it this year.

Stone Pantry Orchard

Lillian Apple Picking

Vivian Apple Picking

Washing Apples for Cider

Crushing Apples for Cider

Pressing Apples for Cider

Snow-Line Orchard

Cider Mill

Full of Apple Cider and Donuts

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Oh Ohio!

Where do I even begin? This post is nearly four months overdue! So…um…in August I flew (alone!) with the girls to Ohio to spend a little over a week with my family and friends who live there. Our flight out was problematic (as so many are); soon after our delayed takeoff from Orange County, the pilot said that the plane was broken and that we would have to land at a nearby airport, not continue flying to Chicago. Apparently, the landing gear would not retract back into its storage spot while in flight. While circling the airway above SoCal to burn off fuel, I texted Dan and informed him about what was going on (we were at a low enough elevation that I could still do this). After Googling similar situations, he was a bit concerned. Luckily, we soon landed at LAX without any issues. But then we had to wait for a new plane, which meant that there was no way we’d make our connection to Toledo in Chicago. Then, while playing at the Chicago Children’s Museum at O’Hare, Vivian kept saying that she had to go pee, but she wasn’t actually peeing. This continued until we were on our tiny regional jet from Chicago to Toledo. Twice during the approximately 30-minute flight, while Lillian was fast asleep in my arms, Vivian had to go pee. And twice, I shoved sleeping Lillian into the arms of a stranger so that I could accompany Vivian into the minuscule airplane bathroom. Vivian cried during the entire drive home to my mom’s house in Helena because she said that she kept having to pee. I was so worried that she had a UTI and was even more worried when my Internet searches revealed only one urgent care in the area with dismal ratings. After arriving at my mom’s after midnight, we gave both the girls good baths and made Vivian down lots of cranapple juice. Thanks be to God, her urgency issues resolved themselves and all was well. And, finally, we all went to bed in Ohio, at my mom’s, after a long day of traveling. My sister had flown in from Colorado earlier in the day, so 4/5 of our original family were back together again.

Lillian Fits!

Playing in Chicago

Baby Shower #1
The day after we arrived in Ohio, we attended a family friend’s baby shower at a nearby park. It was so darn hot and muggy out, though, that the girls couldn’t even play at the playground. Oh well; we were due for a low-key day anyways.

Friends at the Baby Shower

Columbus Zoo and Aquarium & Visit with Friends
After one day of “rest” (like that exists with two young children!), we drove two hours down to Columbus to meet up with my brother and spend the day touring the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The girls had never been to this zoo and the last time that I remember going to it was when I was a kid with my grandparents, but we were all thoroughly impressed. It was another hot, muggy day – the day of the 2017 solar eclipse (8/21/17), actually – and since it was midweek, the zoo was not crowded at all. We saw nearly everything at the zoo and aquarium and rode the Dinosaur Island Boat Ride (which both girls hated) and Viv got to ride a pony and the Grand Carousel, too!

Cheetahs! Later, as Lil was sitting on that concrete step with her back to the class, the cheetah came up to her back and pawed at it and tried to lick her through the glass!

Girls at the Zoo

Dinosaur Island Boat Ride

Zoo Crew

After a full day at the zoo, we went over to my friend’s house, where another friend joined us for dinner.

Visiting Friends

Visiting Friends

Sandusky County Fair
Tuesday is poultry day at the Sandusky County Fair, don’t ya know, so, of course, we visited our hometown fair on this day. We visited the animals, rode the rides, and watched the Brunon Blaszak Royal Bengal Tigers show.

Goats!

Poultry Barn

Visiting Grandma & Pizza at the Depot
We spent some time on the Wednesday of our trip visiting my grandma – the girls’ great-grandma – at her apartment. She was nearly 91 years old during our visit!

Visiting Grandma

Then we met up with the rest of the Damschroder family for pizza at the Depot.

Damschroder Family at Depot Pizza

Imagination Station & Chicken Chores
Finally – a cooler, cloudy day called for an indoor activity. My mom and sister and I took the girls to Imagination Station, a science center in Toledo. The girls had a blast!

Excited!

Playing the Piano

After our day of science, we went over to my dad’s so that Vivian could help collect chicken eggs. The girls also got to see, feed, and pet Catch Me, the neighbor’s horse that hangs out in dad’s apple orchard. Vivian also got to ride dad’s ATV with him, which she loved (last year she was too scared).

Egg Haul!

Visiting Catch Me

Riding the ATV with Papa

Baby Shower #2
We celebrated the big event of the week – Anna’s baby shower – on Friday night at the Holiday Inn French Quarter. Our friends and both sides of our family gathered to shower the mom-to-be with gifts and love.

Damschroders at the Baby Shower

Anna’s Baby Shower Guests

Meeting Uncle Matthew’s Girlfriend, Katie

Lillian LOVED Uncle Matthew

Cousins! Ages 1, 2, 3, and 4

Oberhauser Family Cookout
The day before we flew home, we caught up with all of my aunts, uncles, and cousins on my mom’s side at a cookout. It’s always great to see so much family when we’re in Ohio!

Mom, Her Kids, & Her Granddaughters at the Cookout

Home!
Our flight home was completely uneventful – how wonderful! However, a few days before our return, Dan went to urgent care due to stomach pains. Hours later, he was spending the night in the hospital after an emergency appendectomy! His mom flew down from NorCal to care for him and was there to greet us when we returned from Ohio. The girls were lucky enough to spend lots of time with my mom in Ohio and then come home to lots of love and attention from Dan’s mom!

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Summer Science, Seals, Space, and Sea

This is a post about our summer fun…but, it’s now autumn. Oh well, better late than never. Because it seems like I only have 10 hours in my days…and enough energy for 4 of those hours, here’s a quick recap of some of the fun things that we did last summer (outside of pool/park play, birthday parties, and neighborhood parties). If you follow me on Instagram, then you’ve most likely already seen these photos, so sorry about the repeats. New content (August Ohio girls trip) coming soon…

Discovery Cube Orange County

Doc McStuffins Exhibit at the Discovery Cube Orange County

Doc McStuffins Exhibit at the Discovery Cube Orange County

Dr. Lillian

Dr. Vivian

Pacific Marine Mammal Center

Visiting Rescued Seals and Sea Lions

Listening to the Sounds Seals and Sea Lions Make

Laguna Beach Boardwalk

Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens

Gorgeous Ocean Views

Dried Flower Exhibit (Post Face-Painting)

San Diego Air & Space Museum/Balboa Park

Lots of Airplanes!

Making Paper Airplanes

Our Littlest (Shoe-less) Astronaut

San Clemente Coastal Trail

3-Mile Coastal Walk

Aliso Summit Trail

Baby on Back – Ocean Views to the Side

Getting a Ride on Daddy

And, although these last two activities don’t involve science, seals, space, or the sea (or anything that begins with an “s” that I could quickly think of), I’m adding them to round out our summer fun and activities.

Luv 2 Play Indoor Playard

Cheap Thrills

Orange County Great Park

Carousel Ride

(We wanted to ride the Great Park Balloon, but it was too windy – bummer).

Summer was busy, fun, hot, hectic, and memorable. Now, we’re looking forward to the fun (and hopefully cooler weather) that Fall will bring (apple picking, holidays, and travel)!

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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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