Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Marie-Therese Gown GIVEAWAY !!!!!!!

Marie-Therese Gown GIVEAWAY !!!!!!!

Tuesdays for Tuesday

Tuesday started her 5th round of chemo yesterday. It was very hard for her to have to say goodbye to her siblings once again (especially her twin sister. They both were in hysterics when she left) but it has to be done so the fight to remove that horrible cancer from her body can continue. Last night Tuesday's mom showed me a picture of the tumor after it had initially shrunk from the first rounds of chemo. It was huge! And she said it was nothing compared to what it had been. After this round of chemo they will do more scans to see what progress the chemo has made in shrinking the tumor and to also prepare for surgery which will occur in early November. Please pray that the tumor has shrunk enough to be completely removed with surgery. The surgery is major and I know Tuesday's family is very nervous and can use every prayer that is sent their way. Tuesday has been such an inspiration to us all and I pray that the scans will show a tiny tumor ready for removal.

Debi over at Who Says Eight is Enough is sponsoring a Discovery Toys fundraiser for Tuesday's family. This is the perfect opportunity to buy some great toys for your children, grandchildren, god children, or that guy down the street who think is really hot's children for Christmas while giving back to Tuesday's family so they can have a nice Christmas as well. Here is an excerpt from Debi's blog about the fundraiser. I know many of us are suffering in this economy but if you buy a couple toys that you were going to have to buy anyway, you can also get the overwhelmingly wonderful feeling of giving to a family who truly deserves it.

Her blog reads as follows:

From today, October 20th, until November 17th I will be hosting a Discovery Toy party to benefit little Tuesday's fight against Neuroblastoma. Please take some time to view her family's blog, Go Blog Yourself, so that you understand why I felt compelled to help them out.
Then, please use this link to view all the great things that Discovery Toys has to offer:
Please DO NOT place your order online.
If you do, the purchases will NOT be credited to this party :(I have attached a copy of the order form here and all you have to do is click on it to increase the size and then save it to your computer. Then, you can fill it out and then send your order form to Barb (from Tale of Two Twinkies, she is a DT consultant).
This is her business email address: dtoys_barb@comcast.net
Barb will then add the shipping costs and taxes if applicable. She will also work out how you are paying. You can either pay her direct via credit card, or you can send your payments to me through Paypal or Revolution Money Exchange. Might I also suggest that you combine orders with friends, as the shipping tends to be a bit high due to the fact that everything is being shipped separately and not to our hostess, Miss Tuesday.
Please feel free to email Barb or I with any questions. (my email address is on my profile)
Now, on to the fun stuff....Discovery Toys has some really GREAT educational toys! And, I would personally like to suggest a few items that I have bought in the past.
My ALL-TIME FAVORITE items I have bought:
Sounds Like Fun CD Item #1850 $12.99
I have had this CD since David was a baby. I have played it every single night in my kids' rooms when they go to bed since 1995. I can sing the songs forward & backward & in my sleep, but I will be the first to tell you that EVERY one of my kids has learned phonics from this CD by the time they were 3yrs old, known their days of the week, months of the year and even learned Spanish. And, I am VERY proud to say that both Emma & Will can sing the phonics song and count to 100 by tens!
If you buy nothing else, BUY this!
Hide Inside Item #1195 $24.99
I have had one of these for years and years. It is just great for babies from 2 months to 3 years old. Obviously, my babies always started out just chewing on the different textured toys, but as my kiddies get older, they play "find the____" , etc.
It's very versitle and machine washable.

Wiz Kidz Item #4246 $9.99
As many of you might be aware, I have homeschooled my kids and I bought these for a fun activity to play with them. It really requires them to use their imaginations and have fun at the same time. (it also would be a fun activity for car rides on long trips,or even as a conversation starter at the dinner table)
We LOVE playing this!Obviously, there are MANY other items from Discovery Toys, but these are on the top of my MUST HAVE list.
PLEASE, have fun and try to remember why you are shopping.... Tuesday and her family.

Once the party is through, Tuesday's parents will get to pick out lots and lots of fabulous toys for their children for the holiday season, at no cost to them!

I do hope you consider participating in the fundraiser. if you have no need for toys then you can always click on the donate button on the right hand side of my blog and give what you can. Ever dollar helps!

Monday, October 20, 2008

An October Classic

There is something classic about visiting a pumpkin patch in the fall. The smell of hay bales permeating the air. Pumpkins of all shapes, sizes, and colors either carefully placed in a festive setting or still clinging to their vines.  Children, hay rides, petting zoos, and corn mazes. All sights that put a smile on my face. We have been to two different pumpkin patches this year and while we have yet to actually select a pumpkin, (hey that's what the grocery store is for. Once again proving what a cheapo I am. ) we have experienced all the fun and excitement a pumpkin patch can bring.

The first patch we went to was the  Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm in Clayton, CA.  We met up with our friends Jess, Mazzy, Grandma Karen, Michelle, Brent and Nick. This farm is great because not only is it located at the base of Mt Diablo October 2008 295

which provides some really nice scenery but it also has a really cool Plumpkin Playland. The play area has a hay bale tunnel maze, giant pool filled with lima beans, a ball return (Ben's personal favorite), farmer phone booth,  giant tic tac toe booth, bean bag toss, and of course the ever popular hay bale pyramid.  The kids had an absolute blast in this area. Mari and Ben were a little scared to go very far in the hay bale maze because it was so dark but the older kids loved running through it again and again. It was a really neat concept.  There are also duck races and a train which we didn't do (mainly due to a massive tantrum by Ben which later revealed itself to be a result of roseola. Poor guy had a rash all over his body by the time we got home) but they sure looked like fun. There were also some farm animals that you couldn't pet but you could feed by paying for the feed and then sending it through a shoot. How weird is that? We passed on paying to feed them through the shoot. Not exactly the up close and personal animal experience we become accustomed to. And of course there were lots of pumpkins. Now normally trying to take a picture of five toddlers in a pumpkin patch would be difficult but when one of them is in the throws of a massive breakdown it is impossible. Oh well, you can't win them all. Here  are some pictures of some of the fun we did have.

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Clayton Pumpkin Patch

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The other pumpkin patch we visited was Cool Patch Pumpkins  in Dixon, CA. This place has the world's largest corn maze according to Guinness Book of World Records.  So of course we had to conquer the maze.

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We went on a Saturday evening after Paul finished work. The sun was setting which made for a fun jaunt through the maze. They provide you with a map but I lost my place after chasing Mari when she took a wrong turn so from there we winged it and followed people with maps and some concept of where they were. There is a  bridge at the entrance of the maze  and all you can see from the top is a sea of corn.


By the time we finished it was completely dark and we failed to think to bring a flashlight (our previous corn maze experience had floodlights) so it made things interesting.  Mari had a blast running through the most of the maze until it got too dark and she needed to be carried. Ben was a little unsure of how uneven the terrain was so his patience for walking was thin. We ended up carrying him the majority of the way. Strollers are not allowed in the corn maze (not that we brought one anyhow) so if you aren't up to carrying your littlest ones part of the way, don't go.  If you don't mind lugging a toddler for a while then I say definitely go! It was so fun. The kids loved it, the adults loved it, all I saw around me were smiles.

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Some of us were more excited than others to have made it out of the corn maze alive...

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From the corn maze we went and checked out some of the other attractions Cool Patch had to offer. There was plenty to see including scarecrows for the scarecrow contest, little houses for the kids to play in, and a teepee that contained a group of giggling teenage girls on a couch. Mari walked into the teepee and started giving the girls hugs. She had never seen any of these girls in her life but I guess she felt the need to spread some love. Ben decided to plop down on the couch next to them and give his most charming smile. The girls were all smitten and after more giggling and screeching than my ears could handle we had the kids bid farewell to their teenage fan club.

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From there we went to the pyramid of hay. Mari happily climbed all the way to the top with no assistance and Ben happily took all the assistance he could weasel out of us. Once at the top Ben decided that he was not a fan of standing up so high all by himself and looked to Daddy to save the day.


Our last stop was the corn bath. It was basically a large vat of corn kernels to play in. It was fun to sink into the corn and play with the kernels. Ben was happy to sit in one spot and throw corn (heaven forbid he actually do anything that might challenge himself) while Mari and I crawled around and avoided rambunctious boys playing tackle.


It was getting late and our beds were calling.  Our Saturday night at the patch went fantastically. Can't wait to do it again next year!

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Today I have asked my good friend and twin momma partner in crime, Tonya, to write about flying internationally with toddlers. She has flown to Australia (she is an Aussie girl herself with the most gorgeous accent) with her kids twice now and has so many great ideas. You can use these ideas for flying domestically as well. I asked her for suggestions when we flew to Texas this summer and let me just say the portable dvd player was a life saver! In addition to her fabulous and popular family blog, she has a great craft blog (Currently Crafting) and party planning blog (Munchkins and Mayhem). I highly recommend checking them all out. This woman is just brimming with talent and great ideas. So without further ado I give you Tonya and her fantastic flying tips.

Flying with twins (or should I say twin toddlers) isn't as daunting as it appears to be.

In August I took our twins on their second international flight to Australia.   Their first flight was at around 13 months and this one at 23 months.  They have also traveled domestically.

I don't claim to have this flying thing down to a fine art, but I hope to give you a few tips to make your flight more enjoyable. 

Most people laugh at me as I'm walking around the airport, especially before baggage is checked or after collecting our bags.  I wish I had a photo, but you'll just have to use your imaginations. 

So picture one cart loaded with 4 suitcases, a giant sports bag, 2 single strollers, 2 neck cushions and at least 2 of the carry-on bags.  Jay normally pushes this.  He can barely see over the top but he does a great job.  He follows me around the airport while I push each child still seated in their car seat and carry the other 2 bags.  Once baggage is checked Jay and I each push a baby and take 2 carry-on bags and a neck pillow each.  We really are quite the sight. 

I remember when we arrived at Melbourne airport and we were standing at baggage claim, I noticed quite a few security personnel staring at us and talking.  I was secretly wondering whether they thought I was smuggling something.  I'll admit they were making me a little nervous.  I had each of the babies in their car seats, they were both crying because they were exhausted and tired of sitting and they were surrounded by our on-board bags.  I kept my cool.  What was the point in me getting frustrated too.  Jay collected a cart for our bags and security continued to stare and talk about us.  As I started loading our bags onto the cart a couple of the personnel walked over to us.  My heart was racing.  They asked if I needed a hand.  What?  They could see I had 2 crying babies and so much baggage and wanted to know if they could help.  I told them I was fine, but thanked them for their kind offer.  They told me that quite often a mother with one child and a few bags 'expected' them to help because she couldn't do it on her own.  They told me they wished they had a video camera handy so they could film me and play the video as flights were arriving so they could show other parents how it is done.  As I was talking to them both babies fell asleep, we finished loading up our cart and we took off for the exit and they were clapping. 

Now I'm not saying that it is this easy for everyone.  The staff are generally more than happy to help whether you ask for it or not especially when you are traveling alone with small children.  I do recommend trying to keep your cool and staying relaxed.

Here is a photo of the first time I took the twins to Australia.  My mum dubbed this one' Tonya and her entourage'.   I wasn't able to fly with 2 lap babies so I'd had a single male friend (who has no children) fly with me.  The kids went through 2 sets of clothes on the flight and we probably over-packed.  I learned from then.



Things you need to know when flying with twins:


HPIM1395If you are taking your babies as 'lap' babies you MUST have a second person over the age of 18 traveling with you.  There is a 1 lap baby per adult safety requirement.

You cannot have 2 lap babies in the same block of seats.  If both parents are traveling, each carrying a baby, one of you will need to sit on the other side of the aisle.  There is only 1 spare oxygen mask per row.

Ensure that the airline is made aware of this lap baby requirement when purchasing your tickets.  In my experience some staff do not know this and others too freely sell  seats to other families, also carrying a lap baby.

Flight harness:  Before purchasing these check with your airline to ensure they approve them for us.  Even though they are FAA approved it DOES NOT mean that the airline you are flying with will allow you to use them.  Neither United or Qantas will allow you to use these during the flight.


Most international flights have bassinets available in the bulkhead row.  They normally (the airlines I have spoken to) will use one at a time so you cannot use this as an excuse to sit in the same row as there will still be the one oxygen mask dilemma.  You will need to check the weight restrictions on the bassinets as most airlines are different.  When I flew with United Airlines the bassinet was small, but I was able to use it for Marisol and she was 13 months old at the time.  Flynn on the other hand who is 1lb bigger and 1" longer than his sister would not fit.   I noticed on my recent Qantas flight that the bassinets appeared larger.


51NyVHiwznL__AA262_If you have booked seats for your toddlers, the safest way for them to fly is sitting in their car seat if they are under 40lbs.  However, you must let the airline know that you will be taking a car seat on board.  The reason for this is some brands are not approved for air travel and others will not fit into the airplane seats.  They will most likely give you a different number to call where you will need to provide all of the relevant information pertaining to your car seat.  Once you provide the information you will be told whether or not your car seat is approved.  Your car seat will still need to be inspected at the gate to ensure it meets requirements. 

You may want to check that your child's boarding pass states that there is a 'car seat'.  We have only been caught out once and it wasn't on there and it did delay us in boarding the aircraft.

We use the Sunshine Kids Radian car seats for our twins.  They are airline approved and fit perfectly into the airline seats.  You will most likely have to install the car seats yourself using the seatbelt already attached to the aircraft seat.  Make sure it is tight to avoid movement of the car seat during turbulence.

IMG_9663I highly recommend that you do not place car seats next to each other on the aircraft.  Toddlers can become agitated at the best of times fighting over toys, books, food and vying for your attention, especially being seated for a long period of time.  If you are traveling as the only adult, place the car seats either side of you.  Ensuring that the baby who is least likely to throw things is sitting on the aisle side. 

You will most likely need to obtain clearance from the medical staff at the airline that it is suitable for you to fly alone.  I was traveling with our 13 year old who could keep an eye on the twins whilst I replenished drinks or went to the bathroom. However due to his age he is not legally old enough to 'look after' them on the aircraft (an adult is preferred).

13334_3 If you are taking car seats on board I highly recommend purchasing or hiring one of these or these.  We used the first ones (pictured) on our recent flight and it was a life saver.  I was able to check my stroller and wheel the babies through the airport and straight onto the plane.  It can take a bit of time to unscrew the car seat from the wheel attachment, but the staff were more than happy to help me. I honestly don't know how I would have gotten a stroller, 2 car seats and on-board luggage onto the plane without this.

* If you get on the plane first and off the plane last you will most likely get help from the flight attendants.* 


travel collage 

portable dvd player & dvd's Our dvd player of choice is the Panasonic.  It has up to 13 hours of battery life and an 8.5" screen.  We purchased our first one 4 years ago and didn't have a problem with it until just recently.  Some portable dvd players will overheat and others have a very short battery life.  We finally had to replace ours this year after several overseas and domestic flights and constant use in the car and on vacations over that 4 year period.  We purchased the newer model this time and we love it.
diapers and wipes more than you would normally use for that time period (just in case of blow outs)
change of clothes and bibs if you use them clothes for the children and yourself - just in case of spilled drinks, blow-outs or vomiting
snacks fruit jelly candies, suckers (lollypops), pretzels, goldfish etc.  You can also take as much baby food as you need for the flight - don't forget a couple of spoons.
laundry bag for dirty clothes, cloth diapers etc
tissues little noses tend to get blocked or runny on planes
Mess free pad and marker sets You don't want to give your toddlers markers that will enable them to permanently leave their 'mark' on the aircraft
Magna Doodles small hand held ones are perfect
Stickers a pad of them and some paper
blanket & sleep toy your child's favorite
sippy cups you will be able to get water, juice and milk on the aircraft. You can take as much formula on board as you will need for the flight.  The airlines do NOT offer lactose free milk.
books they will love to flick through a new and a favorite book.
Child friendly mp3 player The headphones on these can be used with the portable DVD players, they are set at a kid safe volume
reins or harness These will come in handy for them to wander during layovers or at the airport before boarding.  Also to use on board so they can wander up and down the aisles.

I realize that this sounds like a lot of gear, but if you are traveling internationally like we do, you are looking at 16-20 hours of travel time at least.  You will also be surprised at how little room is needed for these items.  Don't forget, each baby is entitled to one carry on bag.  Make every attempt to stay clear of noisy toys.  The last thing that other passengers want to hear (besides a crying baby) is the sound of a repetitive toy.


During take off and landing the air pressure can cause ears to pop.  For small children who are unable to pop their ears, have them chew a jelly style candy or have a drink during this time.


There are a few lavatories on the aircraft that have changing tables.  If there is not a diaper changing symbol on the door ask a flight attendant and they will show you where you can change your baby.

I always change my twins diapers immediately prior to getting onto the aircraft as the chance of them falling asleep shortly after take-off is fairly good.  This limits the number of times I need to change them on the aircraft.


You can take your strollers through customs however you will need to take your child out of the stroller so it can be screened and you will walk through the security check point with your child and collect your stroller on the other side.  Once you arrive at the gate your stroller will be taken from you before you get onto the plane.  It will be returned to just outside the plane door after landing.

If you are using a stroller through customs I recommend not putting shoes on your child as you will most likely have to take them off to go through the security checkpoint. 

Declare any formula or baby food you are taking on board.  You are only allowed to take an amount that you will need for the flight.

Most airports will keep an eye out for parents with strollers or babies and send them to a separate aisle so that you can be helped to get everything through the security checkpoint and you aren't holding up other passengers.  I was recently told by an airline staff member that they also don't like to keep babies in lines for too long because they know that a meltdown is bound to ensue.


The benefit of the bulk-head row is you have more room to stretch your legs, you don't have to worry about your little one kicking the seat in front and there is room for them to get down and play quietly in front of you during the flight as long as there is no turbulence.

The downside is there is nowhere to store your gear - toys, wipes, snacks etc.  You need to keep that in the overhead bins.

You will need to decide which way will work best for you.  When I flew and needed the bassinet, we booked the bulk-head, however when we used the car seats just recently we sat in a regular row. Sure Flynn tried to kick the seat in front a few times, but if I tilted his own seat back he couldn't quite reach. 


Children will be served meals during the flight and you can ask attendants to fill sipper cups with milk, water or juice throughout the flight as needed.  If you have a picky eater make sure you take extra snacks.  I shared meals with my twins.  I would give them any fruit, bread or cookies that I was given if they wouldn't eat their main meal.


Don't forget to take any medications that your child needs on-board.  These must be packed into 3oz containers and stored in a 1 quart-sized clear zip-lock bag - 1 bag per passenger.  Medications will be allowed in larger quantities but you must declare them .. it won't hurt to take a copy of the prescription  too.


If you are flying internationally, all passengers, including babies require a passport.  Make sure you order these well in advance.


Please visit the TSA website to obtain more information about flying with children who have disabilities.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Apple Hill

Everyone has their fall traditions. For many of us it involves going to a pumpkin patch and finding the perfect squash to carve into something special.  It involves buying heaps of candy to pass out to the children of the neighborhood. It involves preparing a large turkey centered meal for those we love. And for many of us in Northern California, it involves a trip to Apple Hill.

Apple Hill is one of those places that signifies autumn in my mind. Located in the mountains just outside of Placerville, it is a large group of farms, wineries, and businesses that put on quite a show every fall. Many of the farms have large expanses of apple orchards set among the pine forest and rolling terrain. Some specialize in treating visitors to a taste of apple country with apple pie, apple fritters, apple cider, and apple butter set amongst craft booths, pick-your-own orchards, petting zoos, pumpkin patches, and even Christmas tree farms.  It is great place to spend the day, enjoy some crisp fall air, and stuff yourself full of fruit.

We went to Apple Hill early this year. My family was in town and so was my friend Jessica who moved to Canada this past year. I have gone to Apple Hill with Jess for years and I wasn't about to miss an opportunity to continue our tradition. Her daughter, Mazzy, is only six months older than my little munchkins and they get along swimmingly.

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Our first stop was High Hill Ranch. I consider High Hill Ranch to be the Granddaddy of all things Apple Hill. It is set in such a gorgeous location with a fishing pond overlooking mountain vistas, craft booths, a pie shop, an apple barn, pony rides and even a fudge shop! There is a great grassy hill by the pond so Paul took the opportunity to teach the kids how to roll down the hill, a skill every kids should have in their repertoire.

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I think Ben's favorite part of the day was climbing up the hill, getting a couple rocks, and then climbing down the hill to throw them in the pond. He must have done this 563 times. Sometimes the little things in life make us most happy.

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We all enjoyed hanging out, enjoying some apple goodies and have fun in the sun.

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After our snacks we headed over to the pony rides. It was Mazzy's first ride on a pony and she loved it. My kids are seasoned pony riding pros and you would think Mari wouldn't get as upset at the end of the ride as she did. She loves her ponies and she hates having the ride come to an end.

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After ponies we went over to the fudge shop and watched the kids act like, well, kids in a candy store.


Next we drove over to Bolster's Hilltop Ranch and did some apple picking. Mari fell asleep in the car on the short drive over so she missed out on the fun. I think Ben was more excited about throwing the rotten apples on the ground then the actual picking but after Mazzy showed him how it was done, he did indulge us long enough for a photo op.


The apple picking had exhausted our group so we bid farewell to Jess, Mazzy, and her mom and headed over to Denver Dan's to pick up pie to take home before heading back down the mountain. What a  wonderful way to kick off the fall season.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Tuesdays for Tuesday

Last weekend Tuesday and her sister celebrated their second birthday! It is a moment so many of us parents take for granted. I guarantee Tuesday's parents were thanking God for granting them the gift of being able to celebrate this milestone with their daughter. There was certainly a time not so long ago when doubt may have started to creep its way into my mind. Of course then I reminded myself this is Super Tuesday we are talking about and she has decades worth of birthdays left to celebrate. She is going to have alot going on in the next couple months including more chemotherapy and a major surgery. The family needs  just as much support now as it did during those dark days in the PICU. Please stop by JK's blog and offer a prayer of encouragement.

In addition to Piper and Tuesday's birthday, their mom, JK, celebrated her birthday. Members of my online group of twin mothers put together a prayer quilt for her birthday. It is the culmination of hours of hard work and is truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen because each square represents so much love.


I am proud to say that I wrote the poem that went on the back of this quilt:

Each  square a  tiny work of art

Both a message and a prayer

Friends bound together

In the journey we all share

Tuesday's child full of strength

Her eyes so full of fire

So many battles fought and won

So many hearts inspired

Though distance may be between us

Our love is always near

Envelop yourself in this quilt of hope

And feel our hugs appear


Finally, this past weekend a benefit and silent auction was also held in Tuesday's honor in Colorado. I wish I could have been there but finances dictated otherwise. A whopping $15,000 was raised in a matter of 2 hours. This shows just how many lives Tuesday has touched and how many people care so much about this family. I know that JK has been so overwhelmed with gratitude for all that has been done for her little girl. Even if you can't afford to spare a couple dollars to contribute to Tuesday's cause you can still say a prayer for her continued progress and her family's continued strength. May they all continue to inspire.

Monday, October 13, 2008

In Search of Fall

Today we went searching for fall. It had been cold and windy over the weekend and we mostly stayed in because I was exhausted and having some chronic pain issues. But today we had to get out. It was warm and sunny and the autumn leaves were calling us. Or so I thought. Evidently, Mother Nature has decided to postpone autumn this year. We went to the UC Davis Arboretum and saw nothing but green. No sign of  gold or ochre or even a rust or copper. Nada. Nothing but green, green, green! Maybe there was a tiny hint of yellow in that green but those leaves had no intention of doing anything dramatic while we were there.  We had invited our friend, Matt, his mom, Dawn, and his son, Owen to join us to get some great fall shots. Oops. My bad. I may have jumped the gun just a tad. Lucky for us it was a wonderful day and we at least enjoyed a nice little stroll.

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We decided that autumn must have been hiding from us so we drove around Davis looking for it. We finally decided on a park I had never found before called Northstar Park. I thought I knew Davis pretty well but this little gem had escaped me. It is a wonderful park with a playground, pond, and protected wetland area. There were even a few trees that had started to turn yellow! Not much, but we took what we could get.  I think we ended up with a few cute shots.

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This shot of Owen is adorable even though he ended up falling face first into leaves about two seconds after it was taken because for some reason his Daddy (Matt I am looking at you) was slow on the pickup and didn't grab him in time.

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All in all it was a nice time and even though we didn't get the fall shots we were looking for we still had a great day. I have not given up on you yet fall! Expect me to coming knocking on your door looking for the perfect shot in another two weeks. You have alot of leaf painting to do between now and then.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Old Faithful Geyser and the Petrified Forest

Looking at the title of this post you would probably be thinking we had been to some exciting National Parks lately. After all, we all know Old Faithful is in Yellowstone and there is a whole Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. But did you know that there is another Old Faithful in Calistoga,  CA and a Petrified Forest just down the road? I didn't either until I stumbled upon Roadside America and its wonderful website full of kitschy roadside attractions.  It is a website definitely worth checking out if you love a little quirk in your road trip. Truly something for everyone.

My Mom, Aunt Karen (or Auntie Wacko as we affectionately call her) , and Uncle Bill were in town for the kid's birthday so I decided to drag them on one of my adventures. I figured a drive through wine country would be nice this time of year and I have been wanting to go to the dueling tourist traps ever since I first read about them months ago.  So we loaded up the SUV, popped in the Aristocats, and were on our way.

We arrived at the Old Faithful Geyser first. I knew not to expect much based  on the reviews I had read and decided approaching the place with a sense of humor was the way to go.  The kids were outside with their Grandma so I knew they were  happy, and really, that's all that matters right?

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After paying the entrance fee we exited the gift shop, opened those magic doors and entered the wonderful world of the geyser. The first thing we came across was the Tennessee Fainting Goat pen. Evidently these goats are supposed to faint when frightened.  I have seen videos of them online but have never had the privilege of making an ass out of myself while trying to scare one of them stiff. There were three goats, two of them kids, and they were very used to people shouting "boo". They barely blinked, let alone fainted. I was very disappointed. But what can you do?

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From there we walked down the path to the splendor that is Old Faithful.  They had  a nice little waiting area with chairs and umbrellas. The kids occupied their time by throwing gravel into the pond formed by the geyser even though there were signs around asking people not to throw things in the pond. I tried people. I tried. But the boy is a rock throwing machine and I have to take pictures every once in a while!

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After about ten minutes of waiting, the geyser went off. As someone who had never seen a geyser before, I was impressed. I know it was nothing compared to Yellowstone but hey, not bad for Calistoga.

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I'd like to say that the kids were fascinated by the geyser, but they weren't.

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Oh well. I was impressed and they had some good fun tossing rocks and getting into trouble.

From there we went to where the goats and llamas reside. This was the highlight of the day for Mari. She has inherited my animal loving gene and could have spent hours talking to the goats and feeding them individual pellets one at a time. We never paid for a bit of the feed since Uncle Bill taught the kids how to shake the machine and get feed to fall out. Once again, we proved just what a classy group we are.  I tried once more attempted to scare the goats in hopes that maybe one or two of the fainting variety were mixed in with the herd but no such luck.

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Lastly we hit up the bamboo forest maze. It was really cool to be surrounded by bamboo. I felt like I was in the jungle.  Mari was happy that it led back to the goats where she could spend more time bonding with her barnyard friends. Ben loved that the bamboo made an excellent stick perfect for pounding other sprigs of bamboo. Grandma was the only one to complete the full bamboo maze by using the Marco Polo technique of following the sounds of our voices from one end of the maze towards us at the other end.  I now feel confident that if I were ever lost in a maze with my mom, she could get me out.

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We decided we had enough fun at this location and as we headed out the geyser but on one last show for us. Overall I would say if you are already in wine country and are looking for a break between wineries, check the place out. If you have already been to Yellowstone, you won't be impressed. But if you have never seen a geyser, love a little cheese, and want to take you shot at making a goat faint, then why not?

After lunch at a local deli we made our way over to the Petrified Forest. I  was actually pleasantly surprised by the experience. The trail was very nice and stroller friendly (though we didn't bring a stroller. It isn't very long. You don't need one if your kids are in the mood to do a little walking) and the displays were informative and interesting.

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The petrified logs looked like old trees but felt like rocks. It was very cool. Evidently the ones they have in the displays are power washed so you can see them better. This is how they look in their natural state:

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How anyone figured out these weren't just rocks is beyond me...

And here is how the displays of the larger, more intact trees looked:

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The kids had a blast getting up on the observation decks and jumping because of all the good sounds the wood deck made. I decided to join in the fun as well:

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I really enjoyed the trail and I think the kids did too. I would definitely recommend this place to anyone who likes a nice walk and a little education.

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We took the back way home and winded through the mountains, enjoying parts of California most people never see. Once again I was reminded why I love this state. So much diversity and so much to do!

If you would like to see other great travel photos and adventures check out this link!