Thursday, August 26, 2010

california girl

Whew! Recently Olivia and I returned from spending a week in California, visiting my Aunt Sue. This was Olivia's fourth trip out there. We try to make it once a year. Olivia loves visiting her Aunt Sue Sue and we always have such a great time. Todd was not able to join us this time. He was sad to see us go, but happy knowing that Olivia would be enjoying her week.

After a good night's sleep we charged forward with our first day's activities. First on the agenda was our annual trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It is such an amazing place. Each year we take Olivia she gets more and more interested in all of the sea life. They have everything from jellyfish and seahorses to penguins and flamingos.
This year for my birthday Todd got me a very nice camera. This trip gave me the perfect opportunity to break it in and work on taking some good pictures. The aquarium was the perfect place to practice. There were so many wonderful things to take pictures of and I think I got some pretty good shots. The first jellyfish picture below just might be the best picture I have taken to date.

My cousin Justin who was home for the summer from Berkley tagged along with us. Olivia loved hanging out with him. He paid lots of attention to her, which of course she loved. He was gone a few days during our visit, but while he was there they were best friends. More on that later.

After the aquarium we headed to a local park for lunch. It was Justin's idea to take Olivia to this park because he knew she would love it. It was called Dennis the Menace park and it was pretty cool. It was the perfect place for Olivia to burn off some energy and for us to have lunch.

That night Sue promised Olivia they could make cupcakes. While the grown-ups enjoyed some nice wine Olivia worked hard baking her cupcakes. We were still pretty tired from the time change so a good night's sleep was much needed for all of us.

The next morning we treated Olivia to some indulgence...her first pedicure! My Aunt had bragged about the $10 pedicures she gets in California so we thought for that price we would all get one, including Olivia! The second we walked in the ladies in the salon fussed over Olivia and made her feel very special. A three year old in a pedicure chair definitely turned a lot of heads from the other customers. After Olivia's toes were finished the owner of the salon even let her pick out two bottles of polish to take with her. She was thrilled! (She carried those bottles of polish around with her all week!) I think she loved all of the attention and she sat through her pedicure like a seasoned pro! I told her that getting her first pedicure was a special treat and not to get used to it!

That night the grownups wanted to hit up happy hour at a swanky little bar called "The Red Room" in downtown Santa Cruz. It was a very velvety, deep colored bar with huge couches. It was actually the perfect place for Olivia. She could lay all over the couches and run around without really being noticed. I am very well aware that traveling with a 3 year old means that most activities need to be child related in order to keep things running smoothly. Luckily Olivia was open to the idea of doing a few grown up things during this trip. Each time we did something that was not exactly up her alley we would be sure to pack up enough activities to keep her occupied. I must admit that she handled herself very well while allowing the grown ups to enjoy themselves.

The next morning we were up and at 'em early because we had some whale watching to do! We had been looking forward to this ever since we heard about all of the whales my Aunt and Uncle had seen lately. We had our fingers crossed that we would have the same luck they have had. Olivia was excited to help her Uncle Ron drive the boat and she even broke in their new little on-board potty. After traveling about 15 miles off shore and driving around for quite awhile there were no whales in sight and Olivia was starting to get a little sea sick.

We were just about to head back into shore when we spotted something off in the distance. By this time Olivia was feeling better so we decided to follow the action. Good thing we did because...jackpot! Humpback whales were spotted! For the next 2 hours we followed two different pairs of whales. It was the most amazing experience. The size and grace of these animals is indescribable. My favorite part was watching their larger than life tails come up after diving. Olivia was fascinated by the whales but her attention span caused her to lose interest after a few minutes. She did enjoy the experience and one day I will show her just was cool it was. I think I took about one million pictures but I below are the best from the day.

The next day it was time for more grown up activities. Visiting wineries is a must while in California. The thing I enjoy most about the wineries in this area is just how gorgeous they are. We packed a picnic lunch and headed out to try some good wine. The first winery was so beautiful. They had a huge garden area that was perfect for Olivia to run wild. We only stopped at two wineries that day but we spent a great deal of time at each one. The key to keeping Olivia happy and occupied while wine tasting is taking along the iPad! This was Olivia's biggest obsession during this trip. By the second day Olivia had mastered that thing. She knew how to navigate all of the apps and play all of the games. Watching her play it was a trip. She turned a lot of heads from grown-ups that could not believe that a 3 year old was playing with an iPad. If they weren't so stinkin' expensive I would buy her one tomorrow.

Since it was such a beautiful day we headed to the beach after our afternoon of tasting great wine. Olivia had been itching to get to the beach all week. We were just waiting for it to be warm enough to take her. The weather is much cooler than average in this part of California. I must admit, it was a very nice change from the humid, hot temps back in Fort Wayne. Since it was so chilly at the beach I thought that Olivia would avoid the water. I was so wrong! By the end of her beach time she was soaked and covered in sand. None of that mattered because she had the time of her life! Olivia loves the beach so much I have a strong feeling that one day she will end up living right on the ocean.

The next day we headed to San Jose to visit the Happy Hallow Park & Zoo. The zoo was not much to brag about but there was a great little amusement park that sent Olivia into a frenzy. There were probably about 10 different little kiddie rides for her to choose from and my brave girl wanted to try each and everyone of them. Luckily the lines were not very long, thanks goodness! Try explaining to a 3 year old why she has to wait in line for a turn on a ride. Not easy!

After trying most of the rides we walked over to the little roller coaster. I was almost positive she was not going to meet the height requirements but when we got up there we discovered that she was tall enough to ride. Now even though it was a kids roller coaster it was still pretty large...big enough that adults could ride with the smaller kids. I thought for sure she would be scared to ride something so large, but nope...she ran right up to the line.

That girl had the time of her life on that roller coaster. She talked about it the rest of the week. Pretty brave I must say! It was a fun filled day and Olivia was exhausted. My cousin Justin took the train in from Berkley and we picked him up in San Jose to bring him back home. Olivia slept the entire way. Spending the day at an amusement park is hard work for a 3 year old!

Our last day in California was a relaxing one. We started the day at a little museum/gift shop down by the beach. There were some little wildlife activities for kids to do and a shop full of souvenirs. Olivia wanted to spend some of her money and buy herself something to commemorate her trip. She choose a small stuffed whale because she went whale watching while visiting Aunt Sue Sue. It was a good choice! Afterwards we took a nice walk down the boardwalk and watched the pelicans dive for fish.

That afternoon we took one last trip to the beach. Olivia so desperately wanted to go back so I wanted to make sure that happened before we flew home. Since my Aunt and Mom were making dinner my Cousin Justin was kind enough to go along. As we drove down to the shore we noticed a abnormal amount of birds hovering in and around the ocean. Once we got closer we were shocked by just how many there were. They must have been feeding on something because there tons of them floating and diving into the ocean. I had never seen anything like it in my life. Whatever was in the water was also attracting dolphins and sea lions. They were so close to the shore and very easy to see. It was amazing! I could have stood there all day and watched this spectacle!Olivia on the other hand was not nearly as impressed. She was too busy building her sandcastle. Justin was a great sport and played along with her. She had such a great time with him all week and he was so great with her. We all decided to get our feet wet one last time before heading back for dinner. We were sad to leave the ocean behind, but hopeful that we could return for another visit soon.
The next morning we got up early and prepared for our trip home. It was sad to leave California behind but Olivia was very excited to get home to see her Daddy. He missed her immensely and could not wait for us to return. He got the biggest, loudest greeting at Fort Wayne International Airport that night. This was Olivia's fourth trip out to see her Aunt Sue Sue in under her four years of life. Each time is more fun than the last. We saw some amazing sights this time around and as always they showed us a great time! Thanks Aunt Sue, Uncle Ron and Cousin Justin for everything! We love you!