Exploring Ensenada

To be honest, we chose this cruise for the ship. The actual itinerary was only important insomuch as it involved warm and sunny places. I can’t say I was excited to come to Ensenada, but I always like to get off the ship and explore, so away we went.

Our tour started at the Riviera Del Pacifico, a former hotel-casino that in its heyday was known as the Monte Carlo of the Americas. Stars like Lucille Ball, Jack Dempsey, and Frank Sinatra used to come down here to gamble, drink, and enjoy the good life. The place closed in 1964 and barely escaped demolition; today it’s used for weddings and civic receptions. A plaque outside the bar claims the margarita was invented here, though our guide pointed out that anyone could go on Google and find out that wasn’t true. We did get free margaritas, though, so I wasn’t about to argue.

We were also taken to the main downtown shopping area, which consisted of dozens of cheesy souvenir shops interspersed with stores advertising cheap Viagra. The guide set us free to spend our money and highlighted what she considered the best deals, even mentioning that we could get a full-body massage for only $50. (Frankly, there is an extremely short list of things I might consider purchasing in Mexico, and “full-body massage” is not on it.) Instead of shopping, we spent the hour walking and chatting with a couple from Minnesota who also left their two kids at home so they could celebrate their 15th anniversary Disney-cruise style. Nice.

Back on the ship, we got our asses kicked at trivia in the British pub, then hung out by the adults-only pool. Right now I’m watching sea lions play on the rocks at the pier while the ship pulls away. Tonight is a magic show on the main stage followed by a pirate party on the pool deck. Ah, vacation.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

Day at sea tomorrow…

Setting Sail From San Diego

I knew I wanted to do some kind of special getaway to celebrate our 15th anniversary this year, so when I saw that Disney was offering a five-day Mexican riviera cruise out of easy-to-get-to San Diego, I leaped at the opportunity. So yes, we’re on a Disney cruise without our kids. And it is awesome.

Sure, there are plenty of kids on board. However—and I can’t stress this point too strongly—none of them are ours, and the adult-only pool area and bars are peaceful oases where it’s easy to find both a chair and a drink. Plus we can also join in on the family fun stuff like the sail-away party featuring Mickey and friends at the main pool. For those of us adults who are really kids at heart, this is super cool.

Dinner at the New Orleans-style Tiana’s Place tonight, then a Mickey and crew production in the theatre, and then (if we can manage to stay awake) a match-your-mate game show in one of the lounges.

Ensenada tomorrow…

Airplanes and Interstates: Day 2 in Seattle

I live with geeks, so the first thing on the agenda today was a tour of the Boeing manufacturing complex to get an inside look at how some of the world’s biggest jumbo jets are put together. The building itself is, of course, enormous: it encloses 472 million cubic feet of space and is actually recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest building in the world by volume. We saw 747s and 787s in various stages of production and learned how the massive crane system moves all the pieces into place. That’s not something you see every day. (You can’t take photos in the actual factory, so I shamelessly stole a pic off the Internet to illustrate our experience. I doubt I’m the first.)

After a quick bite, we headed off for the zoo–but it turns out that Sunday afternoon of a long weekend is not the optimum time to try to find a parking spot. We drove through five jam-packed lots before finally giving up. I’m actually surprised that traffic hasn’t really been an issue before, but I guess that’s the beauty of having an interstate that doesn’t force everyone to drive straight through town (take THAT, Kelowna!)

The rest of the day shall be devoted to swimming, eating, and drinking. Home tomorrow…

Sunny Times in Seattle

Spontaneity is not my strong suit. In fact, if my family were to describe my best qualities, I’m fairly certain the words “easygoing” and “flexible” would not make the list. So they were all slightly stunned when I decided, with only five days’ notice, that we were driving to Seattle for the long weekend. Road trip!

Seattle is having uncharacteristically hot and sunny weather, and at least for now has no trace of wildfire smoke (take that, Kelowna!) so we really lucked out. The weather made our tour of the baseball stadium a real treat. We briefly considered going to an actual game, but that would cost four times more and keep Brayden’s attention for half as long, so the tour seemed like a better bet. And it was pretty cool: we got to go on the field, in the dugout, in the press box, and through a few other places the general public has no access to. We had to skip the locker room due to it being a game day, but you can’t win ’em all.

After lunch at a very neat Irish pub (which even featured a digital countdown to the next St. Patrick’s Day), we took another tour, this one of the underground passageways beneath the city. It turns out that Seattle was originally built on soggy tideflats. After a major fire leveled the city in 1889, officials decided to raise up the streets to get away from the muck: they built eight-foot retaining walls on either side of the streets and filled in the space between them, effectively raising the streets up by one storey and creating a series of hollow tunnels underneath where the buildings’ first floors used to be. Justin was a little thrown by the guide’s sense of humour (the guy kept joking about giant rats…sigh) but we all found it pretty fascinating in the end.

We’re currently debating whether to go out for dinner or take advantage of the free beer and snacks by the hotel pool. Decisions, decisions…

Lessons From a Kid-Free Week

So it turns out that I really do like my husband.

This was actually a bit of a revelation. It came to me while the kids were both away at summer camp for a week and the hubby and I had the house entirely to ourselves for several consecutive days. We could come home from work and have the house exactly as clean as it was when we left. We didn’t have to referee any arguments, negotiate any deals, or listen to any whining. The tension and stress melted away and we were both in a better mood. Without the pressures of parenting, we could relax and rediscover what it was that made us decide to join our lives together for better or for worse.

We’ve been kid-free for long stretches before, but we were always the ones that left. (We’re fortunate to have family that are willing to babysit for extended periods while we get away by ourselves…so blessed!) A vacation by ourselves is precious and wonderful and rejuvenating, but it’s a fantasy life that you know can’t be sustained. It’s a temporary escape, and it always comes to an end.

But it was different when the kids went away. For the first time in forever, we could truly relax in our own home. I caught a glimpse of what life was like before we had so many obligations and responsibilities–and what it could be like again once the boys are grown and out on their own. I spend so much time wishing for everyone to just get out of the house and leave me alone that for a long time I honestly couldn’t imagine how we’d survive the retirement years. Wouldn’t the constant togetherness drive us nutty?

But it turns out that although we tend to get caught up in the craziness of family life, the love that started it all is still alive and well.

We just need to work harder at remembering that.

Kudos to Summer Camp

I think we can all agree that the sleep-away summer camp is the single greatest invention in the history of parenting. You really can’t oversell this one. The parents get a break from refereeing and nagging, and the kids get to swim, climb, hike, and try new things without giving their parents the satisfaction of knowing about it. Summer camp is also the only time Justin gets excited about being in a non-digital environment for a week. It’s win-win.

The only knock against summer camp is the fact that it is a giant black hole into which my kids’ possessions disappear. Over the years, I have donated four towels, two shirts, three socks, and a set of glasses. (On the other hand, the little bottles of soap and shampoo that I throw in never go astray; they always come back untouched.)

So this year when it was time to come home, Justin insisted he had everything. I wasn’t foolish enough to accept this at face value. We’re talking about a guy who will insist he washed his hands despite not having been within three feet of a known water source. But incredibly, it turned out that everything that went to camp also came home from camp. When I asked him how he’d done it, he said, and I quote, “I just picked up all the stuff that was mine.”

If only someone had explained that to him before.

A Tale of Two Grads

This blog has been mighty neglected since I started a full-time writing job, but I couldn’t let Justin’s Grade 6 graduation go unmemorialized. So I’m recopying the same Dr. Seuss quote that his preschool teacher put on his diploma seven years ago. We’re so proud of you, buddy!

You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself any direction you choose
You’re on your own
And you know what you know
And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

On to middle school!