6th Day in Vegas –

The Germanic part of me always needs a plan.
The Germanic part of me always needs a plan.

I have to have a plan. I still can’t quite play it totally “by ear.” It may be something I need to work on in therapy. Or after a bottle of wine.

But today’s plan? An adventure for me, (I would have said, “an adventure for the boyz”, but the truth was, it was for me, me, me and me.) An adventure for The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. And an epic adventure for The-Oldest. Since yesterday was pretty much a whole day for The-Youngest, the rest of us would get something special today.

On the agenda, a visit to the fashion mall. Take the Avengers Tour. See Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles Love.

Can you guess which experience belonged to which person?

Luckily, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World felt good, today, her migraine mostly, but not completely, gone. We began by marching out into the sunny… wait, what, cloudy??? Day. The air smelled of smoke from a fire off to the west. My eyes burned. The-Oldest sneezed a lot, though he was pretty sure it was not because of the smoke, but because of the light???? Apparently being allergic to light is a thing.

At least according to the internet.

The Fashion Mall, right across the street from Treasure Island.
The Fashion Mall, right across the street from Treasure Island.

Not a lot of people up at 11am, not many in the mall. Shamefully, we ate breakfast at the food court and I devoured about 3000 calories in a crape so stuffed with whipped cream, they burned out an entire can on it. (BUT, also inside, there were 3 banana slices, so, yeah, it was totally healthy, too!)

While we ate, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World kept glancing towards the mall, towards all those shoe stores and purse stores and clothing stores … with a lean and hungry look like a praying mantis.

No, ah, not praying mantis? How about an octopus? No??? Ok, how about a beautiful lioness? Ok, that’s the one, then. …with a lean and hungry look like a beautiful lioness.

But what would the boyz do in a fashion mall, you ask?

Well, there was a Lego store, a video games store and The-Youngest had decided he needed a pair of headphones – ones that he could afford, that would have professional, studio-quality sound, and ones that had super comfy padding so his ears would be, you know, super comfortable. He set his price limit at about $20. I set the possibility of finding one at about 0, especially with no Best Buys or Walmarts in this mall.

So as soon as we were all done breakfast, The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World roared off. I won’t say she ran, but, you know, she didn’t saunter to the stores, either.

Looking for headphones in a fashion mall is like looking for honest politicians in Washington.
Looking for headphones in a fashion mall is like looking for honest politicians in Washington.

We boyz meandered around, vaguely heading towards the gaming and Lego stores, looking at the people, at the displays set up and at the other stores, no matter how mundane,

When we found the gaming store, we looked at every game there. Literally. Every. Game.

We even looked at a few twice. Plus, The-Youngest touched everything at least once and I’m pretty sure he fondled the headphones there more than 30 times, (but didn’t buy any, cuz, “Joe, did you know that these are gaming headphones? They have mics and I don’t need a mic.”)

Then we went to the Lego store and found that they have a nifty new screen that detects your box and then animates the Lego for you. So, lemme esplain. The screen reads the picture on the box, say a tie fighter, then an animated tie fighter appears on your box and zooms around and shoots things.

It was dead cool.

The-Youngest tried every box in the store, I think. All the while, the-Oldest began to build his most epic racer from old Lego parts. See, they have a neat box that you can build lego the way I used to build Lego. No instructions. No tie fighters (sadly). Just blocks and wheels.

After about 40 hours, The-Youngest grew bored with getting boxes and watching the animated lego pictures, and began to build his own super racer. It was about a foot long. The-Oldset built a wide, heavy, four-wheeled racer with a jet engine on the back. The-Youngest built, ah, something like a truck. Or a snake with wheels, I’m really not sure.

Ah, the simple joys of Lego. Old-school Lego. No tie fighters, no complex kits that make the Taj Mahal, just blocks and wheels.
Ah, the simple joys of Lego. Old-school Lego. No tie fighters, no complex kits that make the Taj Mahal, just blocks and wheels.

Then they raced. If they started nose to nose, The-Oldest won. Hands down. But!!! If you started butt to butt, then the shear length of The-Youngest’s extra long hauler could squeak out a victory.

Honestly, I don’t know how long we were in there, but that’s the cool thing about the Lego store. They just let you play if you want.

When we left, I texted The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World. She was still in the first store. Zara. Right beside the food court.

I had to laugh.

But she was having fun, so we went in search of headphones, trying all the major stores and even the booths. Remind me never to approach a booth. The-Youngest shot off to one and I nearly had to punch the person to get away. Think of it as having to get rid of a leech. Fire is the best method, but lacking even a lighter, I had to say, no, we aren’t interested about 8 times as we walked farther and farther away, the seller trailing us like a Turkish Rug hawker.

Having looked through the ENTIRE mall, I texted The-Prettiest-Girl-in-the-World and she had found a great store that carried the pants she LOVED.

“Better you boyz head off to the Avengers,”  she said. At least that’s what I heard. Could be she said, why don’t you come bra shopping with me, but whatever, we went back to the hotel to do something I wanted to do.

Nerd stuff.

Avenger stuff.

Traveling With Kids – San Diego – Balboa Park and The Best Two Museums Ever

Model Behavior

It was morning. Balboa Park. Our last great adventure in San Diego.

We were off to see two of the best museums ever! One was a model train museum. One was a museum, I kid you not, that had sharks, dinosaurs and freaking pirates.

How could this fail?

IMG_3809 (800x600)When we arrived, the sun was out. It was almost hot. The park was full of people, including a group of Chinese protestors protesting something bad China had done (which could be a whole ton of things.) There was an organ recital planned for later in the afternoon. Popcorn was being popped. The smell of hot dogs and onions filled the air.

It looked to be a great day.

But the boys didn’t take to the first museum.  Nope.  Not at all.

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The oldest simply didn’t seem to care for all the models, not even when we found out that many of the dioramas built were completely to scale and were accurate representations of actual towns and times.

The youngest seemed keen at first. Until he learned he couldn’t actually go and play with the trains. It was the last straw, I think. Not playing with the lions had been a pretty big blow to him, but not being able to race the trains off the tracks and have them smash into buildings and people, well, that was too much.

Worse, he found out he couldn’t even touch the trains and no one was going to give him a free one.

So, for him, even when he got to press a button that made a small kiddie train filled with Mario brother figures go whoo-whoo, he was happy when we moved on.

For the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, I think looking at the all work that went into making some of the amazing model train sets was pretty impressive, but she would have rather done something a little more interesting. Like poking herself in the eye with a fork. Or watching paint dry while waiting on the phone for an actual person at Shaw Cable to talk to her.

But for me, oh wow.

IMG_2287 (800x598)Now, I’m not a train guy. I played with model trains when I was younger and both my brother and I made some pretty extensive tracks. N gauge in case anyone cares or knows what that is. But the running of the trains on the tracks never had much appeal to me. The appeal was in creating worlds, making mountains, putting little shoppers next to little shops, finding the perfect stop-sign for a road crossing, and building a magnificent tree from sticks, glue and moss we pulled off of rocks.

So, to see what really talented people could create was simply a wow moment. Forget the whales that could leap over each other or the dolphins that would write Shakespeare, this was truly cool stuff. The hours and hours and hours each set must have taken was mind blowing.

It’s why I liked the lego store. It’s why I still like to make models (or did when I had free time.) I love that you could build something from nothing. Maybe it’s why I write. Same thing. From nothing, something cool. I’m sure there’s a latin phrase for that.

IMG_3819 (800x600)The buildings were perfect, the mountains soared, the hill rolled with grass. I found little mountain climbers on one set, stuck half way up, I found a dog being chased by his owner in a field. I found a car accident where people had stopped to render aid. I found a man putting up a store closed sign.

I hunted for those little ‘easter eggs’ like a little kid.

But for everyone else, it wasn’t quite the same thrill.

IMG_3839 (800x600) IMG_3837 (600x800)So we left and had a lunch of hot dogs. I could even eat one without my teeth hurting like mad. It made my day. The youngest wanted to eat 20. He was full after one. The oldest wanted to know if we could get those exact hot dogs at home. They were that good.

But before we could head off to see a museum filled with sharks, dinos, and freaking pirates, we had to do something for the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world. She had been a saint while we lego’d or went on splashie rides or went all googlie-eyed over model trains. So, we went to the small amphitheater and sat in the shade and listened to an organ being organized. Ha. Get it. Organized.

IMG_3845 (800x600)The musician played beautifully, but there was only so much the boys could take. Sitting still, listening to music, letting the sun warm their skin, well, that is just not something they could not do for long.

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IMG_2289 (598x800)So, we listened to one song, then had to head off.

Next stop, the most awesome museum in the world.

Traveling With Kids – San Diego – The Last Morning Adventures

Packing Problems or Leaving It All Behind

We still had 2 great challenges to overcome in the morning. 3 if you include getting the boys up, getting their faces washed, their teeth brushed and into some form of clothes. Then it was off to one last big adventure.

face clothsThe first challenge was the ongoing battle with the hotel staff over face cloths.

Every day since the day we arrived, we ran out of face cloths. Hey, do the math. 4 people, 4 showers, morning face washings and, at some point, spot scrubbing of ketchup, blood or jam off of body parts…

The 2 they left us were just not enough.

So every night I would phone down and ask for more face cloths.

Now maybe this is a weird language thing. Maybe the americans call them wash cloths, or face wash-washies or gun cloths, but every time I ordered some, I just never knew what I would get. Or, to be fair, with my braces on, they may have heard ‘faith clouds’ or ‘fade gloss’ or something like that.

One time a nice maid delivered about 10 small towels. One time, despite asking for 6, one was sent up. Another time, a harried-looking janitor gave me an armful of them (and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world was not convinced they were that clean.) One time when we came back, we found that they had taken all of them away. All.

It was then that I began to suspect something was up. Like the maids who polished the floor to a slippery shine in order to kill me in Mazatlán, I think the maids got a good giggle over the whole face cloth thing. “Let’s see what they do when we give them small towels? They are Canadian, yes? I bet $2 they don’t say a thing.” “Ok, we didn’t’ give them anything? Everyone place their bets when they’ll notice.” “Omg, you should have seen his face when I gave him one.”

That’s ok. It took a few tries sometimes, but we got our face cloths in the end. And the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world being kind and empathetic, refused to believe my stories about the maid conspiracy and when we finally departed, she left them a nice tip for all the hard work they did on our behalf.

It’s something I would never have even thought about.

Nor did the boys either.

It’s why we need the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world with us. She is simply a nicer person.

So second problem: If anyone remembers about 400 posts ago, I mentioned Allegiant Airlines had a pretty strict baggage policy. Their biggest bag can only weigh 40lbs, but L+W+D can be an astounding 80”. I’m pretty sure if we cellophaned up the youngest, he would be qualify, but apparently they have restrictions against shipping children in the baggage compartment. Their other bags are, 9x14x22 for carry-on, and 15x7x16 for personal bags.

If we failed to meet those specs, the fines were hefty. A billion dollars or something like that.

When we left on the flight here, we barely made the limit and since then, we’d spent a whole week buying seaworld shirts, boxes of lego, rubber frogs, maps, suntan lotion, zoo cups, video games, bandages, and something stuffed in a yellow bag (And that was just my stuff!)

So we knew this trip back was going to have a lot more stuff. But, to be fair, we knew this was going to be a problem, so the night before, we went out to Target (the last ‘t’ is silent in Canada).  We bought another carry-on and then paid an extra $40 or something to add it to our Allegiant Baggage total.

IMG_3795 (800x600)However, as we packed in the morning, it became apparent that the extra bag would not be enough. We stuffed the boys’s small backpacks full of clothes and heavier things. Sure this would double their body weight but everyone was taking one for the team at this point.

We then threw out all the HBA (in my old business, that was health and beauty aids), including all the hotel shampoos and lotions and mouthwash I’d stolen over the week. We sat on the bags to make sure we could zip them shut. Then we lifted them up and did our best to eye-ball their weight (or arm-ball them?).

My best guess was the big bag weighed about 200 lbs. The others seemed fine even if the boys bags looked like airbags ready to explode.

So we repacked, and repacked, again, balancing out the weight as best we could. But the only way we’d know for sure if we were over-weight would be at the terminal (and I knew for a fact, I would be over-weight… too many hamburgers and chilli-fries.)

IMG_3797 (800x600)If we were over, though, I had a plan. I could wear about 6 pairs of underwear, two shirts, and probably stuff a couple of socks down my pants. I offered to do the latter anyway, but the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world didn’t warm to the idea.  The boys could wear extra clothes and stuff lego in their pants. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world could fill her purse with sweaters, zoo cups and extra bras.

We had this.

So, with nothing left to pack, with the room cleaned up, the vital air freshener left in the bathroom for others to use, the used face-cloths stacked neatly, if somewhat damply, on the side of the tub, we gave the room one last tour, then left.

IMG_3798 (600x800)The youngest – being in charge of elevator button pushing on this trip –  pressed the down button one last time.

Then we settled up and IMG_3799 (800x600)lugged our luggage to the car. I have no idea how I fit it all in the trunk, but I did. Even the oldest looked impressed. The youngest said he could have done it faster.

As the sun came out, bright and glorious, we drove off to Balboa Park to see one museum for the boys and one for, well, let’s say it was the boys, too (but really, it was for me.)

The only issue now was would we all have enough energy to do Balboa or would the 6 days of non-stop tripping take its toll on us?