Kicking Off Summer in California

Happy SUMMER everyone!!!  The kids are out of school and it’s time for some fun in the sun!  Patrick and I decided a couple of months ago, that before camp and high school weights started, it would be fun to sneak in a family trip.

This trip was especially enjoyable since we had such a busy spring schedule.  Patrick was on the road for work every week and the boys and I barely had time to eat a family dinner or watch a favorite show together.

I thoroughly enjoyed eating every meal together (and trying all sorts of new and different food with the kids), playing board and card games, exploring new areas together, seeing the fascination of the kids faces when they saw something new or met someone interesting and just re-connecting as a family of four.  I am beyond blessed to be a mom and wife to these boys.

The boys finished their last day of school on Friday so I picked them up and headed to the airport.   Patrick was waiting for us in San Francisco having been there all week for work.  We were ecstatic that he had In and Out Burger in the car knowing we would be hungry from the long flight.  Sooooooo good!!!  We explored our hotel and walked around the financial district.  There were many street performers and shops to see.  We ran into the Westfield Shopping Center, a 9 story mall with every store you can imagine. (I wished that I had a few hours to shop) Tired from the long day, we crawled into bed early because we knew we had a busy day coming up.

We started off early Saturday morning with a long hike by the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Golden Gate bridge was covered in fog on the way to the early morning hike.



Everyone has a rule follower in the family (me) and the rule breaker (Patrick).  So we hiked and within 15 minutes, we got off the trail to explore…. and got lost.  Thank God for google maps!  We ended up finding the trail again, but went through some rough areas for quite awhile.

Hiking along the trail was a great workout!


The boys made it to the top!


King of the World!


We made sure not to get to close to the edge…


Thomas didn’t want to get off the trail (rule follower), but after awhile he enjoyed it!


The boys took turns trying to hit the rocks that were stacked up upon this boulder. Patrick almost got it. I thought it might put an ancient Indian curse on us if we knocked it down.




Dad what have you gotten us into???


A selfie above the clouds on our hike.



After the hike we quickly went down the curviest and crookedest street in America; Lombard Street.  (Not sure if that is true; but that is what they say)  It was blooming with flowers and just gorgeous.


A view from the drive down Lombard Street from the top.


A view from the bottom

We quickly cleaned up from the active morning and headed to Pier 33 to see Alcatraz.  We had bought the tickets several weeks ago and there were just a few left.  It was such an interesting thing to see and I highly suggest it.


A view of Alcatraz from the Ferry boat.



In the solitary confinement cell….can you imagine being put in this dark place by yourself for 23 hours a day?


Is it just me, or does Thomas look a little nervous here….  It was creepy in there!


We all did the audio tour which was told from former prisoner and prisoner guards.  Everyone got their own headset and it took about an hour.


After Alcatraz, we walked a few blocks to Pier 39 to see the shops and the sea lions.  From what I understand most of the sea lions there are male.  There looks to be at least 50 sea lions the day we were there and they were so fun to watch.  It seemed all the young ones would try and stake their claim on one of the wood docks and wrestle with the other sea lions.  They were barking loudly and playful with each other.  The boys could have stayed for hours to watch.  I tried to get them to leave several times, but they wanted to keep watching.
The sea lions enjoying the beautiful day!


I tried to leave several times, but they just wanted to keep watching them. The boys got a kick out of the sea lions wrestling each other to see who was king of the dock.


Fun on Pier 39


We walked a few more blocks to the Fishermans Wharf so the boys could try the fresh clam chowder with the famous Boudin sourdough loaf.

Finally, our last stop of the day was Chinatown.  San Francisco has the oldest Chinatown in the US and the 2nd largest, right behind New York.   We found a place to get some authentic dim sum for me and fried rice and, Chow Mein, and Sesame Chicken for the boys.

Jack happily eating his chow mein after a long day!


Walking down the streets of Chinatown.  Patrick is dancing to a street musicians music.


The entrance and exit out of Chinatown. Now back to the hotel to prop our feet up after a lot of walking!

The next morning we woke up early and headed to our short flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  We flew into the John Wayne airport, the closest to Newport Beach.  (Thank goodness for frequent flyer miles) Patrick found a house to rent for a couple of days in Newport.  After landing, we found the closest grocery store and filled the cart with items to make our own lunch and dinners for the next couple days.

It was an amazing thing to relax on the beach after this busy spring.  I loved every second of it.

Jack never wanted to leave. He loved digging in the sand looking for crabs.


Patrick and Thomas were in the water most of the time, jumping the waves.

The best part was that my brother Nick and his family got to meet us at the beach house.  We had fun on the beach and then went back to the house and grilled out.  It was such a treat to get to see them.

This boy is in heaven.  He kept digging holes and burying himself.


However, one time when Jack was buried this happened…





It was fun for the boys to play with their baby cousin, Nick jr.  This soccer field was right next to the house.

After two days of beaching’, playing board games, gin rummy, watching movies after dinner and spontaneously going out for ice cream (or cheesecake on a stick) it was time to clean up and get ready for our last day in California.


Check out the school of Dolphins in the video!

The last day of vacation, we woke up in our Newport Beach rental at 5 AM to find that the power was out.  It was out on all the houses around us as well.  But, we were going to leave early anyway, so in pitch black darkness, we tried to pack, clean up and load the car; not an easy task.

The silver lining was that we had an early start on the road to Universal Studios in Los Angeles.  Although traffic was still a nightmare, we arrived at Universal, got the very first parking spot and were first in line.  It truly felt like we were the Griswald’s going to Wally World.  The excitement was contagious and we couldn’t wait to get in!   Harry Potter world was the ride we were anticipating most. A few years ago,  Thomas and I saw two Harry Potter midnight movie screenings and Jack and I are almost finished reading the first book together.  That made it all the more fun!

First in line and ready to go!


Harry Potter at Universal is just mind blowing. The 3D ride was incredible; so amazing that we rode it three times!
We tried the butterbeer both frozen and cold…I liked the cold!


The boys riding Jurassic Park for the 2nd time.


The faces just say it all; Pure JOY!

After Universal, exhausted from the theme park, we head to the airport and back to Kansas!

This family trip was incredibly fun and I enjoyed every single minute.  We packed as much in as we could to show the kids everything that 5 days would allow.  With a spring that was full of school, sports, activities and business trips, it was nice to be able to enjoy each others company and see new things together.  It was awesome for Patrick and I to see Thomas and Jack’s reaction to the street performers, sea lions, Alcatraz, the new people they met, the awesome Universal rides, and everything that vacation had to offer.  The boys were constantly asking questions and wanting to learn more.   I feel like we all made a connection together that sometimes gets lost in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.   These are memories and experiences that will hopefully inspire them to keep learning, traveling and reminding them that the great outdoors and new adventures beat technology any day!


Have a safe, memorable and fun Memorial Weekend everyone!



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