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Disney Wonder

March 26, 2019

Spring break comes early in Texas and even earlier for us! We picked up the kids from school mid-day to whisk them away on a magical vacation. They were so excited just to be in the airport that an hour-long flight delay did not hinder their enthusiasm. After all, they are experienced travelers.

First stop: Legoland California, 40 minutes north of San Diego.

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The hotel we stayed at, West Inn Suites, was affiliated with Legoland offering ticket deals, complimentary shuttle to the park, free breakfast and freshly baked cookies with cold milk at bedtime. It was also located two blocks away from a beach, so mama enjoyed a couple of oceanside morning runs.

Legoland was tons of fun! The weather was perfect. The lines were fairly short. The app was pretty accurate estimating ride wait times. The park is designed for kids under 12 so both boys participated in a variety of activities.

On the second day, Noah won a Pokemon stuffed toy – Squirtle at a carnival game. Squirtle, which apparently is highly recognized across all age groups, got tons of compliments as it accompanied us everywhere for the next week.

After two days of roller-coastering and Lego building came the main event, our 5 night Disney Cruise to Baja Mexico.

The itinerary was perfectly spaced out with two stops:

1. Cabo San Lucas is a coastal resort city with a beautiful beach and shallow water. img_3475

We had to take a tender boat to get ashore and a 2.5mile walk along the pier to get to the beach, but all the commuting was worth the four hours of fun playing in the sand.

2. Ensenada is a port town located 70 miles south of San Diego.

We took an excursion to feed lemurs at an animal sanctuary and to see a blowhole shooting 40 feet of water every 15-20 seconds. Apparently there are only three blowhole wonders in the world: one in Hawaii, which we saw a few years ago, this one in Ensenada, and one in Australia (which is now on our bucket list). There were numerous vendor stands on the walk to the blowhole offering free churro and Pina-Colada samples. We also tasted the best tacos made with amazing tortillas.

The two “sea days” on the ship were a blast! Disney Wonder is a sister ship to Disney Magic we took last year, so it felt welcoming and familiar. The ship layouts are the same, with only one restaurant themed differently. The West Coast, however, is way more environmentally conscious. I appreciate compostable utensils and recycling bins everywhere, but asking for straws and paper napkins for little kids seems a bit overboard (and no lids for juice cups?!) img_3443

Nate was old enough and tall enough this time to join his brother on the water slide and at the Kids club. He had mixed feelings about both. It was a little chilly for the water slide and water got into his nose.

As for the Kids club, even though it was full of amazing activities like Marvel superhero sightings, marshmallow tower building, Pluto’s pj dance party, arts and crafts, etc., he preferred the company of good old boring mom and dad. It took significant coercing and bribing to get Nate to go in. On the last day as we were handing back the kids club bracelets, Nate informed us that he “actually loves Kids Club!” Go figure! Noah loved the Kids Club, asking to go as soon as he’d wake up. He was a big fan of all the activities especially Disney video games.

We skipped the Pirate’s party this time around (it started past our bedtime and last time the kids did not care for the fireworks anyways). Instead we got to enjoy two Disney shows: Frozen (I finally know the storyline #boymom) and Disney Dreams, a collection of famous Disney songs from various movies. The shows were impeccably executed at Broadway caliber, and kept even Noah mesmerized. We also watched two movies: Ralph Breaks the Internet (hilarious) and Captain Marvel (date time for mom and dad).

With all the activities, our time on the cruise flew by, but we had one more stop planned before heading home: San Diego Zoo. Cruise terminal, airport and the zoo each being 4 miles apart and numerous cab and Uber options made for hassle-free transportation. The zoo even offers luggage storage for a reasonable fee.

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Eric and I first visited San Diego Zoo almost 10 years ago but it was way more fun with two little monkeys of our own. Also this time the weather was cooler so the animals were happier and more active.

All the exhibits were on display for the exception of the rhinoceroses that were temporarily at the zoo’s “Safari” satellite location.

Live animals were super cool but statues to climb on and sticks to collect were even cooler! ūüėČ

After a long day and even a longer trip back (flight delayed yet again), we finally arrived home at 2am. The boys were little troupers, and luckily we had a few days of Spring Break left to adjust to the time difference and our home routine before heading back to school. Austin greeted us with beautiful spring weather and blooming Blue Bonnets. Only 8 weeks until school is done!

Love All Around

February 27, 2019

Nate’s 3 years old! (I am a month behind getting this blog post out but that’s life with 3 and 5 1/2 year olds.) Nate weighs approximately 37lbs and over 38 inches tall, which put him in the 91st percentile at his wellness check. He has grown another half an inch in the last two weeks, so he continues to be a big snuggle puppy (like from the day he was born!)

Nate was very specific in planning out his birthday party:

1. He wanted lots of presents! Mom and dad stayed up late unpacking numerous Amazon deliveries and woke up extra early to set up all the toys.

2. He requested a carrot cake with a rainbow and sprinkles on top. The flavor requested varied from day-to-day, ranging from banana to raspberry to carrot but he was consistent on the rainbow feature.

3. He invited three best friends from his preschool for a play date at his house.

4. The theme was Paw Patrol, his favorite tv show.

A few weeks after Nate’s birthday bash, mom and dad celebrated their 9th wedding anniversary.

Eric was not impressed when I tried to reenact our wedding cake tasting.

Then came the Valentine’s Day parties with loads of sugary treats, the backlog of which is still being carefully rationed.

Noah Valentines

The countdown has begun to our upcoming fun adventure: Legoland and a Disney Cruise. Every morning Noah informs us how many days we have left until the much anticipated vacation. Luckily, we have a few birthday parties to hold these troublemakers (technically, one Troublemaker and one Baddest Bad Guy In The Whole World) over for the next couple of weeks. Fingers crossed we will be healthy through the rest of the winter flu season to fully enjoy our trip. ūü§ě

Loopy Celebration

January 13, 2019

Back before children, I considered the holiday season to be about 10 days, spanning the week between Christmas and New Years. Fast-forward a few years, and now the holiday hoopla lasts months! We basically start gearing for the holidays after Labor Day. I should point out that we are a lucky bunch who gets to celebrate both Jewish and traditional holidays.

This year Rosh Hashanah came in early September. The boys enjoyed a short service at the JCC with apples and honey.

We visited a pumpkin patch at Sweet Berry Farms in October.

Then came Noah’s favorite – Halloween.

A week off school for Thanksgiving, on which Noah participated in his first race with dad while Nate snoozed in the stroller and mom ran 5 miles. Noah was a bit tired at the end since he jogged/walked over a mile to the start line to do a 1 mile race but the thought of cookies and bagels at the finish kept him going strong.

The 8 crazy nights of Hanukkah were particular memorable this year, as I got a new car! It was time to trade in my little Volvo to accommodate my growing family. (No, I am not pregnant, it’s just my kids are growing.)

We had a low-key Christmas day of baking cookies, watching The Incredibles 2, and eating Chinese food. At a friend’s Christmas party, Santa was confused when he asked Noah what he wanted for Christmas. Noah replied “We don’t do Christmas. We celebrate Hanukkah, but can I have a candy cane anyways?”

We rang in the New Year with an annual trip to the downtown Trail of Lights and Mozart’s cafe.

I dedicate January 1st to a home organizational project. This year it was my pantry. I forgot to take the before pictures, but the final result makes me smile every time I reach in to get something.

At this point, you’d assume we are finally done! But…. Aha! Lo and behold, here comes Microsoft holiday party just as the whole world is setting healthy resolutions to detox from celebratory bingeing. It was a dull gathering but we made the most of it.

There is no end in sight to our excitement with Nate’s 3rd birthday in a few days, our 9 year wedding anniversary, Valentine’s day, our second-ever Disney cruise, mom’s birthday, end of school year parties, dad’s 40th and Noah’s 6th birthdays, the 4th of July, summer camps, vacations, etc. The list just loops around. That’s what family life is like with little kids – a constant celebration!

 

 

 

Fahrenheit 109

August 29, 2018

And just like that, the summer break is over!

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We had a great summer, surviving the record high temperatures over the last three months (109F, anyone?). As soon as preschool ended we headed to Galveston for our annual trip.

June is a celebration month for us with Dad’s birthday, Father’s Day, and most importantly, Noah’s birthday. Noah began planning his birthday party a year ago, carefully selecting Catch Air as the desired destination for him and a few close friends. He made a guest list and picked out a theme and eagerly supervised as he delegated the execution of details to his Momager. A mountain of presents and a surprise visit from grandpa turned a birthday into birthweek of fun!

For Dad the celebration was less grand, consisting of his favorite things: close friends, beer, tacos and sweet hugs/cards from the boys.

Soaking in sunblock and sweat, we proudly walked the neighborhood’s 4th of July parade. We started off together and ended with Noah, enticed by a cookie at the finish, sprinting at the front and Nate, with a demeanour of a British Royalty, waving to passing cars as the closing parade act.

The rest of the summer was filled with the usual shenanigans:

Friends’ birthday parties

Visits to parks and indoor playgrounds

Hanging at home

Hanging outside (rain or shine)

Running errands

Indulging in summer treats

Being Love Bugs!

A couple of summer camps helped mom keep her sanity. Pirate week was the best!

The best investment we made this summer was a couple of season passes to Typhoon Texas Waterpark.

A quick getaway to San Antonio was a last minute trip to wrap up the season. We stayed at the Hyatt Resort in the Hill Country which is all about family fun: daily activities like art projects, duck races, wildlife feedings, etc., playground, free bike rentals, a waterslide, beach area, lazy river, s’mores and more.

The hotel is located near SeaWorld. With a multiday pass in hand we visited the main park and the Aquatica waterpark. Finally, 3 days later, we arrived at home exhilarated and exhausted.

Come mid-August we were all itching for some change of pace and scenery. Even the neighborhood pool that we eagerly awaited to splash in at the end of May was looking sad, with a few brown leaves and an occasional stranded cicada floating by. School starts early here in Texas, which surprises the outsiders, but for locals it is a desired relief from what seems like the never-ending 100 degree heat. Nate is back at his preschool, in a 2-year-old class surrounded with familiar faces. For Noah, this year is a huge change, as he enters Kindergarten at the elementary school.

I can’t deny the amount of relief and joy I feel with starting our school routine. It’s taken Noah no time to integrate into his new school. I have many worries but one thing I can be sure of is Noah, thrown into a group of strange kids, will emerge with at least a couple of friends having a great time. School is no exception. ¬†Noah’s surged on the wings of independence and maturity by taking the bus, attending school assemblies, packing/unpacking his backpack, quoting his school’s rules, and following the teacher’s instructions.

We are still adjusting to the insanely early wake-up time and rushed nightly routines. At dusk, the emotions run high as the excitement of the day turns into fatigue. All is forgotten in the morning with renewed energy and piqued curiosity of what another day of learning will bring. I could not be prouder of Noah and his attitude, using my newly available free time to bake sweet treats as a sign of love and appreciation.

[Jane Asks]: How was your summer break?

Noah’s Pre-K Graduation

June 1, 2018

Where did the time go?! The school year just flew by! It seems like yesterday that the boys were heading to their first day of preschool.

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The next thing I know, the two trouble monkeys are out for the summer!

This was Noah’s last year at preschool.

As usual we headed to Galveston to kick off our summer break. It was our fifth trip since we moved to Texas and the best one thus far. Apparently some record-breaking current swept by before we arrived, leaving the Gulf water clear and the beaches seaweed-free.

The boys had a blast Р wave jumping, sandcastle building, kite flying, bird feeding, and pool swimming!

We rounded out our stay with a trip to Pleasure Pier for some rides and ice cream.

While the boys rode the carousel, I got to hang out in the shade with a girlfriend.

We visited our favorite restaurants on the island for fresh seafood dinners: The Spot, Jimmy’s on the Pier, Waterman’s Grill, Yamato’s and Cajun Greek.

The boys did a great job with a 4 hour car ride (Eric did not whine once ;), equipped with invidual iPads and a promise of a fast food lunch stop (a real treat, since we only hit McDonald’s once a year– just like mom did back in the USSR.)

We can’t wait for next year when Nate will be tall enough to ride all the “big boy rides” and Noah might be over 48″ to get on “scary fast” roller coasters. Yeek!

Looking ahead we have a pretty “relaxing” summer planned: with a couple of half day camps, a long weekend trip to SeaWorld and the San Antonio Zoo, and lots of time hanging out with mom at home, parks and pool.

With Noah starting Kinder, and thus the boys being on different schedules in the fall, we want to embrace lots of brotherly love over the next couple of months.

[Jane Asks]: What are you doing this summer?

 

 

 

 

Disney Magic

March 25, 2018

This spring break we embarked on a magical journey – a Disney Bahamian Cruise!

First we hung out in Miami for a couple of days with our old friends from Seattle and their little duckling. Both Noah and Nate did a great job playing gently with the baby, but Nate was very uncomfortable with mom picking up the little one and kept saying “baby down!”.

Miami is gorgeous and the weather is perfect this time of the year.

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We visisted Pinecrest Gardens which has a large shaded playground, splash area, petting zoo, pretty plants and cool trees that are perfect for hide and seek.

We had a great time on Miami beach. Noah and dad played in the waves, Nate built sand mountains, and I ran on the boardwalk taking in the surroundings and fascinating tourist crowds.

We walked down the hotel and restaurant strip for lunch which reminded me of Las Vegas but with a giant beach instead of casinos.

We sampled fine cuban cuisine (Eric was super excited for Redhook beer!) and lots of local ice cream (Chillin’ being the favorite spot where the icecream is custom-made using nitrogen.)

Then the day came to board the ship. It was everything we hoped for and more:

  1. Spacious cabin with bunk beds
  2. Delicious cuisine
  3. Amazing kids club with super hero visits, scavanger hunts, cooking classes, ipad games, Disney movies, and more…
  4. Pool, Water Slide and Splash Zone

  5.  Pirates Party and Character Shows

Quoting Noah “I want to stay on the boat forever!”

Our first stop was Key West, a small island off the Florida coast. No beaches close to port, but the downtown area is pretty quaint. I did a quick 3.5 mile sightseeing run while the boys visited the aquarium.

If there is a wine tasting, I’ll find it: a sample of blackberry wine and a bottle to enjoy on the ship. (Disney is super cool about allowing 2 wine bottles per person at each port!)

Next stop: Nassau, Bahamas (our honeymoon destination 8+ years ago.) With two little kids, the easiest excursion was a nearby Junkanoo beach, about 20 minute walk from the port. The beach was small but not overly crowded (at least in the morning). White sand and clear water are all we need for an awesome time.

Our last destination was Castaway Cay (owned by Disney). I got up early, tiptoeing out of our cabin for a 5K Castaway race. It was a fun race with no chip timers, but they had a clock and I was the first female to cross the finish line ūüôā

After a breakfast on the boat, we all headed to the island.

Noah’s first pick was the Pelican Plunge. It was overcast and the water was a bit chilly, which kept the lines short but required true bravery.

Nate and I chilled on the beach while waiting for the heros to return from their Pelican conquest.

One of many things Disney does well is great entertainment for the kiddos, but also adults: adult-only pools, spas, beach, restaurants, lounges with live music and yummy grownup drinks (reasonably priced!), movies (Eric and I watched Black Panther), clubs and dancing.

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Alas, the time soon came to disembark and head home. It was a smooth trip back considering we had to take every major mode of transportation from boat to shuttle bus to airport monorail to elevators and escalators to airplane to shuttle bus and finally car.

It was nice to be back home in our beds, sleeping in until almost 9 the next morning. No more Mickey waffles for breakfast, but on the sweet side, mom made sure to secure a 10%-off deal for our next cruise in 2019!

 

Half marathon sale

February 26, 2018

After my last half marathon (3M Austin 2017), I was left conflicted about racing. I wanted to take a break from racing and stick to leisurely runs around the neighborhood. But lo and behold, Groupon sent me a deal for the 2018 Austin Half Marathon and, being the penny saver that I am, I signed up.

Along with the discounted price, there were some other good things about the race:

1. Carpool: my neighbor across the street was running the race too, so I hitched a ride with her downtown.

2. Startline: We were able to sneak in right to the startline thanks to a gentleman who propped the fence open.

3. Weather: it was mid-50s and stayed that way the entire time. A light breeze with a cool mist at the start. Perfect!

4. New headphones: I got to enjoy my Valentine’s Day gift – Bluetooth wireless headphones.

The EarPods are amazing! I forget I am even wearing them! No more getting my hands caught in flimsy wires. I can also wear them around the house listening to tunes while doing chores. Props to Eric for finding a perfect gift!

5. Finish: seeing my guys dressed in bright neon colors with a sign “Go, Mom, Go!” definitely was the highlight of the race and a much needed pick-me-up at mile 13.

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For leisure, I would not have run 13.5 miles (I am obviously not good at cutting corners, adding an extra .4 miles to the overall distance) and especially not at 8:25min/mile, so the race did push my running stamina.

On the other hand, some things were not as pleasant which I, nowadays, have very low tolerance for — I’ve turned into a “racing diva.”

1. Racing etiquette: the runners around me were mostly late 20s-early 30s males that some may refer to as¬†beefcakes. They weren’t your typical slim, broken knees, tight hamstrings, weak arms runners, but instead Lululemon clad dudes who consume way too many protein shakes and spend too much time obsessing over their physique and fitness level. From fart clouds to overcrowding, those dudes did know the proper racing ettquette. My annoyance peaked when one of them tried to pass me on a tightly marked highway lane by saying “on your left” when clearly there was no room. With nowhere for me to move, he then said “I’ll come this way” and pushed me aside from the right. At this point I could not help but yell “of course you will! Just shove me over with your bulging bicep, why don’t you?!” I was wearing my headphones, so I did not hear his response nor did I care.

2. Course: I was excited to hear that a different company was organizing the race. The course I ran in 2014 was really hilly. I later found out the course was changed only for a full marathon (just before 13 miles, the half and full deviated, and half marathoners raced to the finish line, while full marathoners sadly waved us good bye. How crappy is that? I wonder how many fullers quit at that point?!)

I started off strong, even though it was an incline for three miles. Mile 8 was a hip replacer mile where I had to literally hold my right hip down to lessen the pain from uneven pavement.

I could not maintain my pace through the rolling hills after that but I still had enough to sprint at the very end, managing to beat my earlier time by 1 and 1/2 minutes. Chip time: 1:53:21.

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3. Recovery: As soon as I finished, the soreness kicked in. After over a week and numerous yoga classes, I am still not fully recovered. My regular five mile loop feels tough. Being a mom, I no longer have the luxury of post-race couch vegging. I am up and down: cleaning, cooking, washing, carrying and rough housing with my giant babies. I have lost the racing drive and my desire to compete with myself and others. I much more prefer my usual morning jogs as a warmup to a full day of endurance mom training that comes after that.

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I am writing this post as a reminder to myself: Next time I see a deal for a race (and there undoubtedly will be one) – resist the temptation to sign up! Instead shake things up by lacing up your shoes and heading to the Lady Bird trail while the boys play at Zilker Park. It’s a win-win for everybody!