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Archive for March, 2009

Taking Your Preschooler Iceskating + Free Skating Lessions…Such a Deal!

March 30th, 2009 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in San Diego Day Trips, Scouting
Jared and Mom Teeter Along at the Escondido Iceoplex

Jared and Mom Teeter Along at the Escondido Iceoplex

 

As I have said before Cub Scouts provides great opportunities for family adventure.  A few weeks ago, my four year old,  Jared and I had the chance to accompany big brother Justin to a Pack Iceskating event at the Escondido Iceoplex.   I must admit I didn’t think I could juggle two preschoolers on the ice so Destiny stayed home and had quality time with Dad.

Admission was superaffordable due to the cub scout connection…Justin was free and Jared and I paid $5 per person for admission.  Skate rental was included for all of us.  I paid an additional $3 for a little walker to keep Jared steady on the ice :) .  Needless to say it was worth every penny and helped keep me steady as well.  I was able to push Jared around around the ice without falling down once.

Iceskating with preschoolers requires alot of patience, and some outside support where possible.  Some of my den parents helped me get Jared’s skates on.  He didn’t quite get the concept of maneuvering his foot into the skate.  My friend Karen was kind enough to capture the event with still shots and video using my camera.

Jared slipped, slidded, and fell down alot, but he always got up ready to go some more.  He insisted on heading to the center of the rink.  I was glad for the PVC walker, since I usually don’t venture into that territory when I am on my own.  My main problem was that he kept stopping to lick the ice…yuck!  Here’s the video.

 

Jared and Mommy’s Iceoplex Adventure

 You don’t have to be a cubscout to enjoy a great bargain at the Iceoplex.  Every Thursday from 5:30-6pm this April they are offering free skate lessons…yes you heard it free!  This includes free skate rental and admission to public skate time on the day of the lesson.  I really wish we could join and take advantage of this great San Diego Bargain, but we are going to be out of town the second week in April.  Check it out for me and let me know how it is!  To sign up contact the skating director at 760-489-5550 ex 303 or Lexie@iceoplex.com.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

justin-and-jared-ready-to-hit-the-ice

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Photo Friday: Bird Waiting to Steal Some Fish @ Sea World California

March 26th, 2009 by bsmith | 6 Comments | Filed in San Diego Day Trips, Sea World
Ready to Steal Some of the Sea Lion's Fish @ Seaworld California

Ready to Steal Some of the Sea Lions' Fish @ Seaworld California

I have seen birds like this at our local lagoon, but never one this close.  Seaworld is very close to the San Diego Bay.  I like to think that this little guy was just flying by and stopped in for a snack! 

This photo was taken at the Pacific Point exhibit at Sea World.  Our friends had fun feeding the Sea Lions and California Harbor Seals.  Pacific Point is one of three animal feeding opportunities at Sea World.  You can also feed dolphins and manta rays depending on the day.   (My kids had a change to feed the rays, but didn’t enjoy the slimy feeling of the squid!)

Make sure you bring cash. I found out the hard way that  the feeding booths do not take credit cards.  This is one of the few actitivities that is worth spending extra money at a theme park.  Make sure you check the schedule for feeding times!

For more fun travel photos visit my friend Delicious Baby’s Photo Friday Friday Blog Roundup at http://www.deliciousbaby.com/journal/2009/mar/26/photo-friday-kid-friendly-fun-vancouver/ .

Happy Trails!

Bridget

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Everyday Adventures that “Save the World”

March 26th, 2009 by bsmith | No Comments | Filed in At Home Adventures

Just dropped off our “Will Play for Food” donation with the little ones this morning and was reminded how service to others can offer rich opportunities for family adventure.  Destiny and Jared were so proud to bring their cans into the the soup kitchen.  The Brother Benno staff was amazing.  They were very patient as we unloaded our car and personally thanked my little ones before they left.  Jared decided to make this errand decked out as a cowboy, so that drew lots of smiles.

Growing up our family didn’t take many opportunities to exercise, but many years starting when I was in middle school we would participate in the Human Race Walk which was a fundraiser for the United Way and local agencies.  I remember one year, the walk traveled from the top of Mount Tamalpais in Mill Valley down to it’s base.  We got lost, which made it even more of an adventure.  I’ll never forget hiking among the redwood trees with my parents and how sore my calves were at the end of that hike.  I felt so empowered to choose the charity that would receive the money that I had raised.

Back in the good old days when I only had one kid to wrangle, Justin would accompany us to serve the Handicapables lunch to disabled people in Marin.  There is something magical about a small child volunteering.  It brings joy to everyone around him or her.  Justin brightened alot of faces even though all he did was set some tables.

With three, we do less hands on volunteering, but we still find opportunities for service and family fun.  Scouting provides opportunities to clean up the beach and organize cans for an annual food drive.  Even though it would be easier to leave the preschoolers at home, we bring them.  Their attention span is shorter than our nine year old, but while they have the energy they make an enthusiastic contribution.  In addition to “Will Play for Food” our family organized an emergency food drive for a food pantry by soliciting contributions from the other preschool families.  We netted a great assortment of non persihable food and my kids loved delivering it.

Finally, in order to reduce our family carbon footprint, we walk to school to pick up big brother once a week.  Destiny calls it “saving the world”.  Now when she sees other families walking to school she says, “Look mom, they’re saving the world.”  Mostly I drive the morning carpool, and I do not have the organizational capabilities to get everyone out the door early enough in the morning to walk.  Still, I’m going to be on the look out for other walking opportunities.  I find that it has many other benefits: the dog gets walked, my nine year old has a lot to talk about, and the little guys get a lesson in patience as well as some exercise.

What are some service projects that your family does to “save the world”?

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Public Tantrums and Other Misbehavior While Traveling-Thoughts?

March 23rd, 2009 by bsmith | 2 Comments | Filed in Travel Tips

Sorry I don’t have any great photo for this one.  I have never had the foresight to snap a picture of my little ones mid tantrum, but if I do in the future I’ll be sure to share it on this blog.

This afternoon while procrastinating I read an article by Jack Cafferty, CNN commentator, regarding his opinion about the disintegration of good parenting in today’s society http://tinyurl.com/dgegxb. It seems that Mr. Cafferty’s rant was inspired by the misbehavior of some children sitting near him in a restaurant.  Lately in preparing for my family’s travels to Las Vegas, I have been reading alot of online commentary regarding bringing small children to this more adult oriented vacation destination.  The conclusion of many online bloggers and posters is…leave them home!  That seemed to be Mr. Cafferty’s conclusion as well.

Here’s the thing, family vacations shouldn’t have to consist of trips to theme parks or camping.  Places like Las Vegas have alot to offer to people of all ages, families included: inexpensive food and lodging, fascinating sites, even educational opportunities.  As parents we do our best to teach our kids good manners, keep them well fed and in good humor, and have them use their quiet voices at all times.   Despite our high expectations however, there are just some stages of development that will yield a tantrum from time to time despite our best efforts.  Also as a mom to three, I can say with confidence that there are times when kids feed off of each other with their energy and/or ill humor and it takes a miracle to avoid an unseemly public outburst.  I think that in some ways my parents had it a little easier.  An only child focuses on his or her parents behavior and adopts those good public manners more easily (although I know I did have more than my share of tantrums).

I have high hopes for a peaceful vacation filled with well behaved children, but I can predict that we will have our moments.  My youngest, Jared had a 20+ minute tantrum at Legoland one year that almost permanently damaged my relationship with my Mother in Law (She is a fan of Mr. Cafferty’s school of thought about the disintegration of discipline and society especially in regards to my family.)  Jared is four and a half and his outbursts seem to be peaking.   I vow to all you Vegas travelers who may witness such an outburst or perhaps a poor display of table manners that I will do my best to keep things under control.  We will eat breakfast in our room, have plenty of picnics, visit mostly kid friendly places like the children’s museum or Circus Circus, try to get them down to sleep, set boundaries, and do plenty of coaching regards how to behave in a restaurant, hotel room, museum, etc.   Still, if you see a frazzled mom on her own with three kids, please do not judge me too harshly.  I will do my best to quiet things down as soon as I can, but it may take a few minutes of discipline or soothing depending on the situation.

Any moms out there have other thoughts or suggestions on this topic?  Would love to add some stragedies to my parenting bag of tricks.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Photo Friday: Nana and Baba’s Anza-Borrego Adventure

March 20th, 2009 by bsmith | 5 Comments | Filed in San Diego Day Trips
Nana and Baba Among the Wild Flowers at Anza-Borrego

Nana and Baba Among the Wild Flowers at Anza-Borrego

My kids are very lucky in that most of their Grandmas and Grandpas live near by.  My parents, affectionately referred to by the grand kids as Nana and Baba recently joined us in Carlsbad.  Even though my mom had been a Northern California girl all her live she has become acclimated some what to Southern California life.  Since they are retired they have the chance to take a break from watching grandkids and enjoy their own grown up adventures.  They fill me in on the beautiful places that I can not necessarily visit with small children, like the gardens at the Self-Realization Temple in Encinitas.  (My brood is apparently too loud for such a quiet, meditative locale.)   I’m keeping a list though.   As soon has these wild ones are tamed, we will be heading off on some of these great adventures.

Last week, Nana and Baba’s friend Karen took them to Anza-Borrego State Park.  Every March visitors are rewarded with a brief season of blooming wild flowers.  The rains were plentiful this winter and wildflowers continue to bloom in this area of the desert.   The location of the flowers is ever changing, however.  Check the Anza Borrego website for an up to date wildflower report http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=638.  The visitor center which is staffed by local volunteers is also supposed to be very helpful, but also very busy during wild flower season.

I Loved the Colors on this Big Fat Caterpillar

I Loved the Colors on this Big Fat Caterpillar

Nana and Baba had a few set backs along the way.  At first the flowers were no where to be seen.  They were ready to head home when my Dad noted a few cars turning up a road.  They followed the road to the end and were  rewarded by a burst of color.   Karen’s favorite restaurant was booked solid, but they consulted with a local realtor and had an elegant lunch at a restaurant next to a golf course.  Just goes to show that a good adventure requires patience and creativity.

Flower season is almost over, so we may need to wait another year to try this adventure.  If you are free this weekend, the website reports that there are still some beautiful flowers tucked in the valleys.  If you have big kids who don’t mind the drive, it might still be worth the drive. Don’t delay, the flowers will be gone before you know it.

BREAKING NEWS!  Now we all have one more reason to take a family adventure to Anza-Borrego.  Dennis Avery, of the Avery label family has erected gigantic Ricardo Breceda sculptures of dinosaurs and other early inhabitants of the desert on his property.  Now that is art even my nine year old, Justin can appreciate!   Thanks to San Diego Travel Tips http://www.sandiegotraveltips.com/ for alerting me to this fun family adventure opportunity.  If you are ready to explore the quirky side of San Diego…these ladies have some excellent suggestions.  Sign up today!

The flowers in these pictures were so beautiful I just had to share them with you.  If you want to enjoy a multitude of beautiful travel photos, head over to my friend Delicious Baby’s website today at http://www.deliciousbaby.com/journal/2009/mar/19/photo-friday-push-boats-luxembourg-gardens/.  She is highlighting a fun Paris tradition and also features links to a number of beautiful travel photos from all over the world.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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Smith Family Vegas Road Trip- The Quest for the Perfect Hotel

March 18th, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Road Trips
courtesy of www.pachd.com

courtesy of www.pachd.com

The Smith Family will be spending our spring break in Las Vegas.  Ken is teaching a class the week before Easter so we will be packing up the Family Adventuremobile (Otherwise known as our new to us Yukon XL) and hitting the road for our first seven day all hotel stay vacation in four years. 

There seems to be a great debate raging on the internet about whether or not Las Vegas is a good vacation spot for families.  We took Justin when he was a preschooler and had a great time.  We stayed at the Excalibur with Grandma, Great Grandma, Aunt, Uncle and Cousins.  We had fun sliding down the water slides and checking out the sights.  I have returned to Vegas on couples getaways since Ken travels there alot for business.  I also attended a wedding with my parents, and remember reveling in a kid free experience at the Bellagio buffet (I never wanted that meal to end!).  I see both sides of the issue.  Vegas has great, inexpensive opportunites for family adventure.   On the other hand, when I go with just Ken, I revel in the alone time, and don’t really want to be surrounded by preschool tantrums.  Although I must confess that I mostly just think to myself…I don’t have to deal with that until Friday- I’m so lucky! 

With this in mind I’m not booking my kids into the swankiest hotel in Vegas despite the spectacular deals right now .(The staff at the Bellagio is breathing a sigh of relief.)  I will do my best to keep my little ones behaving themselves in public and make sure they have plenty of sleep and downtime to prepare for being in the public eye.  At least I am not Angelina Jolie or Katie Holmes being trailed by reporters wherever I go.  If my kids misbehave all I will have to endure is some dirty looks not tabloid scrutiny.  (OK, did the reporter who made such a big deal about Suri Cruise not wearing a coat, ever have a preschooler who hated to cover up?…well maybe it’s just a California thing.)

Now I just have to find the right hotel… I wasn’t to fond of the Excalibur (the sheets kept coming off of the bed!).  With prices being so reasonable right now, I’m looking for a good hotel, good location, and lots of ammenities.  Circus Circus and Excalibur are nice places to visit, but I don’t want to live there.

In looking for that perfect hotel experience that will keep my kids busy and optimally behaved I have uncovered these options:

  • The Golden Nugget-  We plan to stay here on the weekend since its rates are very affordable.  We chose it for it’s amazing pool with shark tank and water slide.  Destiny is very worried about the sharks even though I constantly assure her they are behind glass.  I’m hoping there is a separate pool area where we can hang out.

 

  • The Hilton Grand Vacation Resort at the Flamingo-  This is our priciest option, but our room would include a kitchenette which would be invaluable because breakfast and lunch are going to get expensive for a family of five and retaurant dining alone with three kids (Ken will be working) sounds less than appealing.  The only room available has one king so we would be breaking out the air mattresses. If we were going in May and the Flamingo waterslides were open this would be a no brainer.  Unfortunately they’re not so I’m still weighing my options.

 

  • Trump Hotel-  Ken has ruled this one out, because it is lacking in the awesome pool.  If I were making this decision on my own it would be a contender. Great rate for a suite with kitchenette.  Kids package includes the ability to check out board games and popular children’s books. 

 

  • MGM Grand- The price is right for a large room with two queen beds.  The pool complex is supposed be fantastic with a lazy river.  There are fun things to do…Rainforest Cafe, see the Lions and preview TV shows.  They have an on-site child care center in case we could figure out a way to take Justin to a show.  Close to Excalibur for more fun.

I’m making the choice today…any suggestions?

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Photo Friday: Lavandaria Mission San Luis Rey

March 13th, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in San Diego Day Trips, Smith Family Adventures, Uncategorized
Destiny, Jared, and Justin Climb the Steps at the Lavandaria at Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside California

Destiny, Jared, and Justin Climb the Steps at the Lavandaria at Mission San Luis Rey, Oceanside California

I have a lovely blog entry in my head about a weekend pilgrimage that Justin and I did right before Lent here in San Diego.  Now is not the time to write it however!  In the mean time enjoy this picture of the beautiful lavandaria (laundry area) at the Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside California.  I really enjoyed visiting this mission.  It had a great little museum, beautiful church, and this fun outside area to explore.  Justin particularly enjoyed the gargoyles and we had fun trying to figure out why the water spouts had these Incan looking gargoyles at a Catholic Mission.  If anyone has the answer let me know.

Since this is one of my more aesthetically pleasing pictures, I am entering in in my friend Debbie’s Photo Friday Roundup at Delicious Baby.  If you want to see travel photos by bloggers more skillful than I, please check it out at http://www.deliciousbaby.com/journal/2009/mar/12/photo-friday-home-food-rome/ .

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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We Played for Food!

March 12th, 2009 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in At Home Adventures
Jared Shows Off His Will Play for Food Sign

Jared Shows Off His Will Play for Food Sign

A few weeks ago I was mourning my lack of mommy friends.  As many of you know, I relocated to Carlsbad from Santa Cruz about  three years ago.  Having raised my kids in the same place for many years, I had developed a wonderful group of Mommy friends nurtured through playgroups and preschool play dates.  Here in Carlsbad life goes at a pretty fast pace.  Everyone has big families and lots of activities.  It’s hard to find time to nurture those deep lasting friendships that I crave.  I remembered reading about something called “Will Play for Food” in a blog recently.  I couldn’t even remember which blog, but I made my way to the website, checked it out and decided to see if I could make some mommy friends and feed the world at the same time. 

 The concept is easy, invite friends and strangers to show up at a park at the same time, bring some cans, have the kids play, and donate the cans to the local food bank. Destiny and Jared helped me make a colorful sign on my white board.  I posted a note up at my preschool, on my neighborhood  moms Google group, on Twitter and on Facebook.

The turnout for this project, was not great…three families.  Still, everyone brought several items so Bro Bennos will definately benefit from my efforts.  I got my wish and had the chance to meet two amazing new moms, and spend more time with my neighbor Vonya who is definately in the running for quality mommy friend.

Will Play for Food was founded by a mom named Jessica Kate.  It’s a great idea, moms all around the country setting up these informal playgroups/food drives. Jessica’s family has recently experienced a great tragedy.  Her daughter Tuesday recently passed away after a battle with neuroblastoma.  Jessica has a number of really great mommy blogger friends including Tonya who blogs about her life as military wife as well as mom to twin toddlers and a teenager at www.thestaabfamily.blogspot.com and Sharlene who blogs about adventures with her twins at www.doubletheadventure.com.  Both were excited about Will Play for Food.  Sharlene was unable to make it due to an appointment, but Tonya drove all the way from Pacific Beach at 9am on the day she was having a “Moms Day Off” to drop off some food, take a picture for her blog, and just say hi!  Amazing!   

Later my two neighbors showed up and all the kids had a great time playing.  It was so nice to meet Dana who was mom to a five year old boy and potential playmate for my four year old.  As always it was wonderful to spend time with Vonya.  Destiny and Jared were enchanted by the whole process; making the sign, packing the food, taking it to the park, enjoying a snack with friends.  Tommorrow we will head up the coast to Oceanside and deliver the food to Brother Bennos an all volunteer organization that runs a soup kitchen, distributes emergency food boxes, and runs several recovery homes.  I’ll throw in a some bags of clothes and a no longer used infant seat, and  Brother Bennos will have a nice donation.

So dear readers, I issue this challenge to you in honor of Tuesday and also my friend Deana who is a mom of two preschoolers and in a Texas ICU fighting cancer, organize  a Will Play for Food drive among your neighbors and friends.  If you have school age kids meet at the park after school.  If you have preschoolers have a morning park date.  Just get a few friends together, gather some cans, and donate to your local foodbank.  Let’s relish this chance to spend time with our children doing something to make the world better.  Lots of families are struggling right now.  We are all preoccupied with  just staying afloat. In the midst of all this suffering let’s throw those around us a life preserver.

You can find out more about Will Play for Food on the blog  http://playforfood.blogspot.com/ .  Tell Jessica I sent you :) .

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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The Road to Seaworld: Mission Bay Park

March 11th, 2009 by bsmith | 1 Comment | Filed in Family Travel, San Diego Day Trips, Sea World, theme parks
Jared Takes a Risk at Mission Bay Park, San Diego

Jared Takes a Risk at Mission Bay Park, San Diego

This was my second adventure, solo with preschoolers to Sea World, San Diego.  Our preschool makes this fun attraction a yearly educational fieldtrip.  I needed to be at the gate by 9:30 in order to take advantage of the school rate tickets we had purchased.  For those of you who know San Diego traffic, you realize we left EARLY!  Never know what’s gonna happen on that freeway.  I hit the exit to Sea World at around 8:45 and had a moment of inspiration.  Why not check out one of those cool Mission Bay Parks that you pass by on the freeway?

Destiny, Jared and I stretched our legs at the park nearest to the Sea World turn off.  I have heard there are others still to explore.  Love this park!!! Very old school park with play structures, clearly from many different decades, but everything was so creative and fun!  There were animals to ride and trucks to drive.  Five year old Destiny loved climbing the spiderweb.  Four year old Jared was challenged by the climbing structure as you can see above.  I loved the gorgeous scenic location right on Mission Bay! I can hardly wait to bring my nine year old and watch him explore.

Spider Girl Destiny Climbs Her Web at Mission Bay Park, San Diego

Spider Girl Destiny Climbs Her Web at Mission Bay Park, San Diego

Honestly this adventure was almost as fun as the trip to Sea World and much much cheaper!  I plan to return with all the kids and a picnic or maybe make it a stop after taking Daddy to the airport.  A San Diego jewel close to Sea World.  Who could ask for more?

P.S. This park stop was much more fun than waiting for the gate to the parking area to open at Sea World :) .  Sorry I didn’t think of it last year Inga.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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The Latest Discounts, Bargains and Contests at Legoland

March 6th, 2009 by bsmith | 4 Comments | Filed in Legoland, San Diego Day Trips, theme parks, Travel Discounts

Legoland offers lots of sweet promotions and discounts to members throughout the year.  In addition to the special March pricing for the Sea Life Aquarium,  Legoland is offering a 20% Discount at the  Ocean Journey Cafe that is located just outside the aquarium.  It would be a convenient place to stop and have a bite before visiting either the Sea Life Aquarium or Legoland.  You can find the 20% off coupon here http://www.legoland.com/NR/rdonlyres/11555C93-0989-4349-8F9F-DB9D4D90C808/0/OJC_coupon.pdf

Legoland Members also receive a free kids meal at the Soup Plantation,  a Hornblower Family Four Pack where kids cruise free with a paying adult, and a discount to see the cool new Wild Ocean Imax film at the Fleet Science Center.

Soup Plantation Coupon

http://www.legoland.com/NR/rdonlyres/8DDBABA4-880E-46F7-8565-0EACB1E3E49C/0/souplantation_coupon_2009.pdf

Hornblower Coupon

http://www.legoland.com/NR/rdonlyres/DE969DBD-ABD9-41B8-A595-3C8F5BDDF4C5/0/hce_coupon.jpg

Ruben Fleet Science Center IMAX discount: See Legoland e-mail.

Most of these discounts are distributed through Legoland’s E-News Newsletters.  If you are a member or just a fan, but sure to subscribe here http://www.legoland.com/Plan-your-visit/enews.htm.

I was having trouble accessing the coupons that relate to these offers.  I have an e-mail into Legoland and will be sure to post an update as soon as I get one.

The Legoland Junior Model Master Builder Competition is fun year round, but this month you have a special incentive for participating.  The winners of this month’s competition will be invited to that exclusive after hours premier of the new Bob the Builder 3-D movie as well as enjoying a Legoland 10th birthday complete with cake, cream, and a preview of that giant Lego birthday cake that’s being constructed!  The competition takes place this weekend. Everyone who participates will also be entered in a raffle for a Legoland prize pack, so this is a contest worth entering!

On an unrelated topic,  I am organizing a “Will Play for Food” canned food drive next Thursday at 9am at Aviara Park in Carlsbad.  Bring your kids, some canned food, and a snack to share. After our meetup I will deliver the food to Brother Bennos food pantry.  If you come, be sure to find me and say hi.  It would be great to meet some of my readers.  If you live outside of Carlsbad, visit playforfood.blogspot.com for information and inspiration on organizing your own Will Play for Food drive.

Happy Trails,

Bridget

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