Research supports the maxim that "Money doesn't buy happiness." (at least once one gets over a minimum poverty threshold- one that I've been blessed never to approach). To the contrary, knowing that in our particularly blessed situation that money is a commodity easily made, won, lost, etc- and a willingness to give it up for the (family) team made things a lot easier during these past 10 days.
First stop, Oceanside, California- a few days at the beach with temperatures in the 70s, fairly pleasant. A movie (our then 2 year old called the movie "Poo Panda"- those of you with kids can figure out which Jack Black animation this is), a few trips to chow at The Souplantation.... and the announcement that will be made frequently in this post... military discounts rock! Feed a family of 6 all you can eat for less than $35 at a good restaurant!
Squirrel-festa-palooza at park by beach at Oceanside- easily 100 squirrels burrowed in the hillside. One or more posts sentry, the others will come down and eat from your hands if there are no dogs around to spook them.
Was interesting to see all the Marines everywhere with the nearby Camp Pendleton. Wondered how many of them have been to Iraq or other combat areas, and what missions they completed. Wondered how they are doing inside themselves- they, much more than the Army guys, remind me of the Spartans of "300". Warriors, what is your profession? Grunt, grunt, grunt. Not to say that I haven't met some tremendous warriors among my comrades in army green, but the Marines seem much more stoic about it all to me.
Our 4 yahoos at the aquarium.
A day at the UCSD/Scripps-La Jolla aquarium with an old friend of Christine's and her children (friendship is old, not the friend!) was also decent despite the inevitable moments of our losing children. Before one judges our lousy parenting, I want to point out that our 2 youngest, being comfortable being ignored by distracted parents, have no fear and wander at will- and there's a lot of will at such an interesting place. And we left the place with as many children as we brought, and as a bonus, they were all the same children. Another place with what I thought were reasonable admission fees, by the way, with or without military discount.
Christine and Michelle at aquarium.
Then up for a few days in La Mirada/Los Angeles area- church at Christine's old ward, they all still love her. A day at Knott's Berry Farm- theme/amusement park near her parents' home there in La Mirada, a day relaxing/recovering from theme park day and celebrating Malia's 3rd birthday in laid back style- frosted cupcakes and a song, woo-hoo!, and then back to Provo.
Knott's Berry Farm gave us a military discount of almost 40% off! So instead of $210 admission for the family, it got down to $130. We ended up spending about 200 with parking, $5 snow cones and whatnot, but that is better than spending $300 or more any day. So again, the military discounts rock!
Camp Snoopy entrance at Knott's Berry Farm
Some other great things about the Knott's visit- weather was not too bad- a bit warm, but not oppressive- and there were not large crowds, so lines at rides were for the most part very short. In fact, late in the evening, you could just stay on rides repeatedly, because there were only 5 of you getting on a ride that could seat 30 or so! Lucas was tall enough to get on most of the crazy rides, which delighted him- I think he was trying to kill me on the Ghost Rider- a wooden roller coaster that rattles and rattles until I felt my bones starting to crack. A 5 year old with a sadistic streak. Probably wasn't great for his little brain either. Bad! Bad parenting!
A little insider knowledge here- Christine grew up going to this place, so she knows the "old school" stuff- like this grave on which, if you stand, you can feel the guy's heart still beating- I'm guessing most visitors to the Knott's park here never find or visit this little cemetery area with a couple of tricks like this.
Excepting Malia's usual "I need a nap" tantrums, the children were pretty well-behaved on the Knott's visit- which is good for someone like me. Let me explain. I'm not a big fan of theme parks- spend lots of money to stand in lines, sweat a lot, have kids complain about what they don't get/like out of it, etc. OK, "not a big fan" is an understatement. I don't like crowds and I hate lines in general, and paying for it, well, that doesn't make much sense to me. In my fantasy world, I should get paid for those things, not give money to others for such privileges. I'm still figuring out how to bill my children. Anyway, getting back to being positive, this ranked up there as one of our top 2 amusement park visits.
The other great visit was the free visit to Busch Gardens (BG) a few years back- as part of their "military heros salute" or something like that label. They've scaled it back- we'll hit BG again next month- but only 4 of our six family members will be free with a military promotion- but still- that's great, and I appreciate it. What made our visit there great beyond the price was that again, the children weren't as challenging as they could have been, and lines were reasonable. We did get hit with an evening ending downpour at BG, but everyone kept their spirits up given how well things had gone, so the downpour was, in a way, part of the fun- a water ride without the lines, if you will, and cooled us down as it was pretty hot during that trip.
Now, I'm not complaining, mind you, but wouldn't it be something if gas stations offered military discounts? That would have been pretty awesome.
A slight tangent on the road trip post, somewhere between Mesquite and Jean, our rear left taillight cover decided it wanted out of the whole road trip experience, and just fell off somewhere. It didn't do us the courtesy of letting us know, so we were surprised to discover its absence at a gas stop in Jean. If you can picture a Grand Caravan taillight, this is not a small cover. We didn't even get to say goodbye, after all we'd been through over 64k miles or so. I hereby declare my resolution to never buy another Dodge vehicle. Our 5 year old Grand Caravan gets less grand with every day we move beyond the "bumper to bumper" warranty period- random things fall off or break with seemingly programmed regularity, even without the help of an active and young family of 6.
This one apparently stuck around long enough for its owner to get a photo....
For comparison, my Subaru Legacy, now 18 years old and exposed to much trauma, has put the Caravan to shame in terms of needing maintenance. In fact, I'm guessing we'll be replacing the soccer mom van before I realize my dream of replacing the Legacy with that sweet WRX that I've been coveting for years. My Legacy just won't die!
So how's that for a post from a military veteran? Have I gotten out of the uniform and back into the everyday life of a civilian yet? Let me know how I'm doing, or if you're picking up PTSD symptoms that I need to talk with the VA about.