This year John and Deanna, and the Haller family drove up to our house for Thanksgiving. Michael had come up earlier in the month to visit for a couple of days but had to work this weekend so couldn’t join us. Jeanine, Wade, Luke, and Olivia came up on Monday which gave us a chance to head for the San Francisco Zoo on Tuesday. Elizabeth and I had wanted to go since we watched a Netflix show that featured the animals there. They stayed the whole week and John and Deanna came up on Wednesday. On Thursday Sandy cooked an enormously delicious meal while we all took a car ride to the top of nearby Mount Diablo to give her some space. The ride down was fun since we did it in John’s rental car with the gas gauge on E the whole time. The dinner was fantastic and Jeanine added lots of sides to the turkey and ham we had. The next day everyone left and it was just the four of us again. Sad that they’re gone, but we know we’ll visit them down there again soon.
Elizabeth is reading a series of books called Warriors and since its about clans of cats, she ended up being a cat for halloween. Sandy made the the costume and even painted her kitty mask. Daniel wanted to be the black spy from Spy vs Spy. It was an easy costume, just lots of black clothes and a hood but Sandy had to make his mask too. Elizabeth wore her costume to school and got to march in the school parade. But, at Dan’s school, they could wear costumes, but weren’t allowed to wear masks, so since his costume doesn’t make sense without the long white pointy face, and there’s no middle school costume parade either, he waited until Halloween night to wear his. Friends came over and they all trick-or-treated together. We watched Monster House, which has become a Halloween tradition here it seems, then they had a little bit of candy and went to bed. The next day we bought their candy from them for toys and I donated it to the control tower where its lasted just a couple of days.
For our 21st, Sandy and I wanted to spend the weekend with the kids so we packed them up and headed to the Monterey Aquarium for the day. It isn’t nearly as massive or whale sharked as the Georgia Aquarium, but it beats it out on location. This aquarium is really on the ocean and the bay becomes part of the attraction, as the otters, seals and jellies we saw in the wild were as much fun to watch as anything in the tanks. After lunch on the water we stayed at a hotel in San Jose that was across from a Mitsuwa Marketplace. That night we ate Japanese food and the kids picked up some toys from the Japanese bookstore there.
The next day we headed to the Tech Museum in San Jose. Lucky for us it was a very slow day since almost all of the exhibits were hands on and it wouldn’t have been fun if we had to wait for crowds. We got to learn about computers and robots and even some genetics. Elizabeth took the time to grow bacteria in a lab that she got to observe online the next day. It was a great way to celebrate our anniversary.
I was so happy that all of us could go to a Dodger game this year, especially with my favorite team doing so well. After the museum we headed to the stadium and met Jeanine, John, Deanna and Tura. It was a great game with good food and a fun time and the Dodgers won. It was great getting to see them during their World Series winning season!
We finally got a chance to go where Elizabeth chose for Girls Day back in March. Wade, Mike, Luke, and Olivia took us to the LA Natural History Museum to see dinosaurs. (Jeanine had to work that day.) In addition to the dinosaurs we saw lots of other stuffed animals, some living ones and lots of butterflies in a garden outside the museum. Afterwards we headed across town to see the Dodger game.
Dan wanted to go to Legoland for Boys Day back in May, but when he found out that we could go to Universal Studios instead, he readily agreed. And it was just a coincidence that we ended up going on Sandy’s birthday. There was lots for the adults and Dan and Liz to do, but I felt bad because there wasn’t so much for Luke and Olivia. Although Luke was just tall enough to ride the Transformers ride. Everyone got to enjoy the backstage tram tour and it was my favorite part. Dan and Elizabeth loved the Jurassic park ride. It ended up being a bit too expensive and a bit too crowded, but we all still had a great time and it was a must see. After the park we went to dinner at a western place at the park’s entrance and while the food was just okay, it was fun watching Wade riding the bucking bronco machine. Later when we got back to the hotel, Sandy opened up some cards and presents. She got three cases. A makeup case, an iPad case, and an iPhone case. By then it was too late and we were too tired to do anything else. We still owe Sandy a birthday cake.
Our first morning in Long Beach woke up to ants in our hotel room followed by a very confusing “free breakfast” that ended up not being free at all. But the day got better when we went with the Hallers to see Pixar’s Planes at Disney’s El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. The movie was okay, actually kind of less than okay as it seemed the Pixar people just phoned this one in. But the theater tried to make up for it with a little bird show and a tiny little one room aviation museum in the basement. And the day got much much better when we all went to John and Deanna’s house for a back yard barbecue. There was lots of food, and lots of room for the kids and dogs to play in. It was a fun time and a nice change from all the eating out and running around we usually do when we visit.
We just got back from almost two weeks in Hawaii and we already want to go back. It was great hanging out with family, going to the beach, eating lots of wonderful food and playing tourist. We were there for Grandma’s birthday and started out the week going out to a Chinese restaurant to celebrate. The kids loved hanging out with Jordan and the three of them spent lots of time chasing the hundreds of lizards that thrive in Grandpa’s back yard. Dan got Jordan and Miles to play this new card game he got called Munchkin and ended up playing almost every night before bed time. There were trips to the beach, hiking, sightseeing, the Bishop Museum, the state Farm Fair and lots of shopping and eating. We spent one morning visiting the spot at Punchbowl Memorial Cemetery where Jeanine spread Mom’s ashes. It’s a beautiful spot with a great view that she would have loved and visiting it made us all miss her again. We spent our last day going over old pictures and then going to a fantastic buffet, full of foods that are hard to find at home. We can’t wait until our next visit. Scroll down for two albums full of more pictures.
Dan won free admission to the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos at a raffle at the school science fair so we decided to make a quick getaway to use it during Memorial Day weekend. We stayed the night at the SFO airport Embassy Suites and went the museum the next day. Our room had a perfect view of the runways at SFO and I brought my scanner so we could hear the controllers talk to the planes. The hotel is right on the water and gave us a different perspective on the bay. The Hiller museum is located at the Hiller helicopter factory and there was lots of helicopter displays in addition to those showing off the history of aviation in the Bay Area. We also watched some of the traffic at tiny San Carlos Airport where the museum is located. Very busy airport for being so small.
The Hallers came up to visit on St. Patrick’s day weekend and brought their awesomely shiny bubbly new Airstream trailer with them. On St. Patrick’s Day Eve, while I was at work, Sandy and Elizabeth went to see the annual Dublin St. Patrick’s Day parade. Daniel had to stay home to put the final touches on his big fifth grade research paper on movies. That afternoon Wade, Jeanine, Luke and Olivia drove up in a gigantic van towing an even gigantic-er trailer. They spent most of the weekend with us and all of the kids had a great time playing with each other. On Sunday, we all hiked to the Dublin Library and spent a few hours eating and playing at the St. Patrick’s Day fair. There were rides for the kids but the lines were crazy long so we couldn’t ride anything. We were sad to see them go on Monday, and can’t wait to see them again.
Daniel had the option of taking a trip or having a party for his eleventh birthday and chose a trip a museum in San Francisco. It wasn’t until two hours into the trip and some prodding from Elizabeth, that he realized we were going to Disneyland instead. The kids got a rare non-holiday four day weekend so we decided to check out new stuff like Cars Land, the Little Mermaid ride, and the revamped Star Tours at a time when we thought the place wouldn’t be so busy. Cars land was awesome and still new enough to be kind of busy with wait times for the Radiator Springs Racers ride being almost an hour. The rest of the park had very short lines. The Haller family spent every day with us there, and John and Deanna joined us for dinner and some Lego shopping one night. For his actual birthday dinner Dan chose Rainforest Cafe. He had to wait to get back the hotel room to open presents. He got a puzzle ball from his sister and a video game and promise of a new bike from mom and dad. Elizabeth rode every roller coaster she could and even outlasted me on California Screaming. We still cant decide if she really liked it or just was being braver than her brother.
We went to see How to Train Your Dragon live at the Shark Tank (aka HP Pavillion) in San Jose today. We started out with lunch and one of my favorite restaurants, The Fish Market, then we surprised the kids by taking them to the show. It was the same technology as Walking with Dinosaurs but with some added flying and more drama. I wanted the story to be original, but they just acted out the plot of the movie. We may have sat too high because the dragons were not as impressive as the Walking dinos. Still it’s amazing what they can do. After we got home we watched the movie, and to be honest, I liked the movie better. But it was a fun time out, and we all seemed to enjoy it.
Christmas was hectic this year as we were planning for the holiday and the installation of new floors in our home at the same time. Santa brought lots of toys, and there were lots of presents under the tree from family to be opened. Daniel got some video games and legos and Elizabeth got a pogo stick and some Yoohoo and Friends stuffed animals. Sandy got the pots and pans and new eyeglasses she asked for and I am getting the hardwood floors that I have always wanted in our house. As it is every year, there were too many presents, but all were appreciated. Elizabeth was on her pogo stick as soon as the morning rain stopped and Daniel was building legos all morning long. After lunch I took a nap and worked the mid shift. By the time I woke up the day after, Sandy had already packed up all the Christmas decorations and had begun moving furniture out of the living room in preparation for the installers. It made for a very short Christmas season.
We drove down south to spend Thanksgiving with our Long Beach family and had lots of fun. It was great seeing everyone, but we were sad that Deanna and John couldn’t make it to dinner. We actually had two dinners. One at Wade’s fire station near the Queen Mary, and another one the next day at the Haller’s house. Daniel and Elizabeth really enjoyed playing with Luke and Olivia and we all enjoyed going to P.F. Changs where Mike is working.
Jeanine, Wade, Luke and Olivia came up for a weekend visit and we had a great time. We went to the Oakland Zoo and the Aquarium of the Bay at Pier 39 in San Francisco. Olivia and Luke are kinda crazy and I don’t know how Wade and Jeanine keep up with them. But they’re tons of fun. After a great Fisherman’s Wharf seafood dinner we went to get on BART back to the city but some idiot ran onto the tracks and the train was closed. The Davoust’s panicked and took a $150 cab ride back home but the Hallers were patient and waited for BART to reopen and were back into Dublin just a half hour after us. Lots of pictures:
Yesterday was our 20th anniversary. It’s amazing to think its been that long, and then I realized that we were going together at least 5 years before that. Eight job changes, 6 home changes, one puppy and two wonderful kids later, I’m still loving every minute with Sandy. Supposedly platinum is the preferred gift for 20th anniversaries and we shared lots of platinum gifts. Sandy got a platinum and diamond anniversary ring, I got only about a million “platinum” labeled gifts including some Bud Platinum beer and the Platinum Edition of Gran Turismo for the Playstation. We got a baby sitter for Dan and Elizabeth and spent the evening at a Train concert at Berkeley. Now were working on our second twenty.
We all had one last day off together before school starts so we decided to spend it at the Oakland Zoo. We went early this time so some of the animals were more active than normal. (Not the tigers and lions, though, who were sleeping the whole time we were there.) We probably saw turtles, otters, bears and elephants moving around more than we have ever seen. After the zoo, we went miniature golfing, tried a newly opened burger place and finished up by getting Dan a last-minute haircut. Some zoo pics…
Since I had to work in the afternoon, we celebrated Sandy’s birthday in the morning which started with french toast, then candles to be blown out, cards and presents to be opened, ice cream cake to be eaten, and lunch at Red Robin. This wasn’t her first choice but he favorite restaurant was closed on Saturday so we’ll have to make it up to her another time. She ended up getting a new iPhone case from Dan because her old one was too slickery. She got a beautiful stainless steel spice carousel from Elizabeth to go in her new kitchen. And she got an iPad mostly to read books on because it’s kind of hard to read them on the iPhone. It was a fun morning. Happy Birthday Wonderful Wife.
Its now a tradition ten years plus for us, even longer for our neighbors. To celebrate Independence Day we got together with the people on our block, drank, ate and set off hours worth of fireworks. It started out a little different this year. Mark and Yvonne, who live across the street from us, invited us to drinks at their brand new tiki bar beside their back yard pool. Awesome decor with lots of bamboo and palm fronds. They needed more talking flowers and parrots though. While we were lighting our safe-and-sane fireworks, some people down the street were launching some really massive, loud, awesome and probably very dangerous fireworks. No houses caught fire, but not for lack of trying.
On Saturday we went back to the zoo because it was walking distance from our hotel and the kids liked it and it was free. Sunday, we went to the International Spy Museum, fun but a bit dark in subject matter (we missed the much lauded American Holocaust Museum for that very reason). They didn’t allow pictures so we don’t have any. After that we went to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art which Dan really wanted to see because of the Art of Video Game exhibit. On Monday we went to the National Archives to see the original Declaration of Independence and Constitution. It’s in a dark room and the ink is so faded you can’t really read it, but we can say we were there and saw it. No pictures there either. After that we stopped by our second Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, this one on the National Mall, and saw the Wright Flyer and lots of other exhibits. From there it was the Museum of the American Indian. On Tuesday we spent the morning exploring the little bit of Rock Creek National Park that winds past our hotel. Very pretty and wilderness-y in the heart of a very metropolitan city. Then we went to pool, packed for our trip home, and went on a trolly tour of the city which let us get close to some of the monuments and gave us a last look at the city during the evening when everything is bright with floodlights. Some awesome views.
We got up way early yesterday morning to get tickets to see the Bureau of Printing and Engraving tour of them making money. Luckily the line for tickets was shorter than advertised, maybe because it was forecast to be another 100-plus degree day. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take pictures of the tour which is a shame because it was one of our favorite parts of the vacation. Seeing all that money whizzing by on conveyor belts before its cut up and sent out to banks is awesome. After that we went to the Smithsonian American History museum. I have always heard that the Smithsonian was America’s attic and this museum really lives up to that. There is lots of…well, everything there. In fact we saw so many glimpses into other parts of our vacation it kind of felt like a rerun. But there was enough stuff there to keep us interested for the whole day. So much so that we were dragging by the time we got back to the hotel. The kids wanted to go swimming but there were thunderstorms and lightning and we didn’t think lightning and wet kids were a good mix. We ended up eating McDonalds in our room and going to sleep relatively early.
We were early for our tour of the capitol this morning so we visited the Supreme Court first. There were lots of reporters there because they were hoping for a decision on whether Obamacare was legal or not, but they just decided some FCC rule making stuff, instead. Then we checked in at our Congressman Jerry McNerney’s office where one of his staff members gave us a personal tour of the Capitol building. It was cool because we walked right by the thousands of people waiting for the public tours. We sat in the House of Representatives gallery and saw the same view we see on CSPAN live. We visited the Capitol rotunda, the room under the dome, which is one of the most beautiful rooms anywhere. After that we went to the Library of Congress which looked a lot more like a church than a library. We finished up with the Smithsonian Postal Museum which made us think a lot about my mom who worked at the post office for most of her life. The kids really liked hearing about the Post Office mascot Owney, a stray dog that ended up riding the mail trains. We ended the day with a mediocre meal at a mediocre restaurant. Great day except for the part where I left the souvenirs I bought in the cab on the way home.
We have been in the Washington DC area a week and have been on the go the whole time. The very first day after checking into our hotel, we headed to the White House for our scheduled tour. The security to get in was even more strict than to ride the plane here. Once inside though, we were excited to be there. The furnishings were beautiful and the building really felt like a part of history. We then checked out the Smithsonian and visited the Natural History Museum where we saw dioramas, dinosaurs, mummies, and (ugh) bugs. After that it was dinner at Chipotle which wasn’t very good and definitely not the quality we were used to from ours at home. On the way to Chipotle, we waited with lots of other people along a shut down intersection and watched President Obama’s motorcade speed past our hotel on his way home.
The next day was National Zoo day which is walking distance from our hotel. The highlight was pandas but there were lots of other unique animals too. The walk wasn’t long but it was a bit tiring so we just had an expensive room service meal at the hotel after spending some time in the pool.
The next day, we rented a car and visited the the National Cathedral which is an impressive gothic church with whimsical gargoyles carved along its edifices. We specifically went to look for the Darth Vader gargoyle that was put up as part of a kid’s contest in the 80′s. Could only see it with the zoom on the camera. I was surprised to learn that while the church is Roman Catholic, it is also used by the American Episcopal community too, with their bishop’s headquarters just next door. After a quick stop at the Iwo Jima US Marine Memorial we headed to the Air and Space Museum at Dulles airport which is about 25 miles east of D.C. It is a very large hangar with lots of historic aircraft and space craft including the actual Enola Gay and recently arrived space shuttle Discovery. For dinner we visited Georgetown and ate at a strangely decorated Thunder Burger, where the kids sat on couches and I had a very delicious hamburger/pulled pork sandwich.
The next day we took the car and headed some 150 miles south to Williamsburg. We stopped for a while intending to spend the day but the prices were very steep. Without paying any admission we were able to walk through town and get a bit of the history but didn’t get to go in the buildings or listen to the lectures of the tradespeople. But after walking though, it looked a bit boring so we didn’t mind. That afternoon we went to a maritime museum in Newport News, saw the recently salvaged turret from the ironclad Monitor, and the kids saw the Atlantic Ocean for the first time. Dan said it looks a lot like the Pacific. That night we had a great dinner at Bonefish Grill, a chain that we first tried on a Denver vacation a few years ago, and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express for the night. It was an awesome way to spend Father’s Day with my family. (They gave me my presents before I left, fitted ball caps for both the A’s and Dodgers.) The next day it was Busch Gardens amusement park, the drive home and dinner at a restaurant across from the Omni, Open City, which in my opinion is the best restaurant of the trip so far.
We had the rental car for one last day and used it to visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore. It’s one of the best aquariums I’ve been to, and we had lots of fun. It’s on par with the Monterey Bay Aquarium where we regularly have a membership. It has a very tall tank that the exhibits wind around, before you walk down through the center. Theres a gigantic glass structure with Australian wildlife in it that shouldn’t be missed. It was there that we watched trigger fish shoot live crickets off a branch that one of the workers held over the tank. There also have some dolphins which seemed happy enough despite being in an indoor tank with no real fresh air. Baltimore just had a Sail-abration, to commemorate bicentennial of the harbor’s role in the war of 1812 so there were some tall ships still there when we got there and we got to watch Mexico’s navy training ship leave. Really a sight to see with seamen manning the rails and standing on the crossbars across the sails. For dinner we tried a sushi place near our hotel. Dan stuck with gyoza but did eat some edamame.
Today we went to the Newseum. We weren’t expecting much and thought the kids would be a bit bored, but we spent the whole day there and didn’t even realize how fast time was flying. There’s lots of emphasis on how important journalism is to society and history, maybe too much, but I of course didn’t mind since I was a reporter before I became an air traffic controller. Lots of interactive stuff for the kids to do including games and a chance to be a reporter. For dinner we had some take out chinese from a restaurant close to the hotel. Lots of good food. Too much actually. Its really really hot here now. It wasn’t for must of the time up til now but it got close to if not over 100 degrees today, so because we didn’t want to be out there in direct sunlight, we went to the pool after dinner. Tomorrow its our appointment to tour the US Capitol building with our Representative Jerry McNerney.
For Mother’s Day, the kids got up really early. Too early. So after telling them to go back to bed more than once, we went downstairs and Sandy got to open cards and presents and get some Mother’s Day flowers. The flowers were my idea but not a good one because both Sandy and Elizabeth have been having allergy attacks and the pollen had them sneezing immediately. After the gifts we all got dressed and went to the Marriott in San Ramon for brunch. Everyone had way too much to eat but had lots of fun. Happy Mother’s Day!!!
So when we pulled out one of our cabinet drawers, it fell apart. Not nail back together apart, but particle board turning into particles apart. So we decided to replace the cabinets with lots of help from Sandy’s parents who are pretty much footing the bill. Now just in the last year, we had to replace our dishwasher and microwave. It was easy, just uninstall the old one, go buy a new one and install it. I think that’s what I kind of expected with the cabinets, just more expensive. Boy was I wrong. Instead, it means months of work and planning. The first part of that has started with demolishing the old cabinets, and what a chore that has turned out to be. It’s taking two whole weekends of tearing things apart, prying up tile, fixing walls and floors, painting and having some electrical and plumbing work done. I first thought the kids could have some fun and help, but once I noticed all the exposed screws and nails and sharp-edged broken tiles, I reconsidered and they pretty much have had free (unsupervised) play time while mom and dad are destroying things. Sandy set up a makeshift kitchen in the dining room with a new mini (underpowered) microwave, a hot plate, an electric griddle and all the amenities that were on the now missing counter tops. The tough part is having to get all of our running water from the deep sink in the garage, a.k.a. Beau’s bedroom.