Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Benjamin's First Family Vacation

Benjamin has been on a couple of trips already. There was the trip to Atlanta when he was six months old for his uncle's wedding. And then there was the more recent trip to Vancouver in which we tagged along on one of Daddy's business trips. This past weekend, however, we took Benjamin on his first bona-fide vacation to sunny San Diego. Making it even more fun was the fact that we were going away with another family - close buds and neighbors Shawn, Julie, and Nolan.
.We left LA on Friday morning and drove to Carlsbad for our first stop - Legoland. There was much for the kids to enjoy - a water park that offered them some cool relief from the scorching heat and dozens upon dozens of displays, all meticulously crafted from Legos.

More than the intricate exhibits or the cooling water fountains, Benjamin seemed to enjoy running around the open walkways the most. Seeing him savor such a simple task with such relish brought a smile to my face.
After two hours at Legoland, we were ready for dinner. We stopped at nearby Encinatas for a quick dinner of Mexican food before driving to our hotel in San Diego's Gaslamp District.

On the agenda for Saturday was a trip to the San Diego Zoo. As we pulled into the parking lot, Vince murmured, "The San Diego Zoo. This is where you belong, Benjamin." I found this to be a rather odd and mildly offensive thing to say, and I told Julie and Shawn as much when I relayed the story to them. Almost immediately, the three of them started singing in unison: "You belong in the zoo - the San Diego Zoo." What the--??! Upon seeing my look of shock, Shawn offered by way of explanation that they were singing a jingle from an 80s-era ad campaign which apparently didn't make it to Georgia where I was living at the time.

Once inside, we made a beeline for the petting zoo. Benjamin wasted no time making friends with a small goat who was approximately his size. Although there were many other goats in the petting zoo, for some reason, the Boo kept returning to that particular goat. I was almost worried that he would try to carry him out with us when it was time to leave.
We hit up a few more attractions and left the zoo shortly before lunchtime to return to the hotel for naptime. While the boys slept, Julie and I took a stroll around nearby Horton Plaza and then stopped by the grocery store to pick up lunch. As I thumbed through some magazines at the newstand, I came across this:

A picture from the Graco Baby Products photo shoot that Benjamin and I did back in January! Though I had already seen another one of our ads in print, it was more exciting this time. The first time, a friend had told me that she had seen us and then sent us the magazine in the mail. It's somehow more thrilling to be unexpectedly greeted by your own picture while casually thumbing through a magazine. Of course, I purchased that issue, and had there been more on the newsstand, I would have purchased several more!
After the boys woke from their naps, we returned to the zoo where we saw more creatures than we could keep track of. Sea otters and vultures and deer-like whatchamacallits, oh, my!
But of the countless animals we saw, the elephants were the most majestic.
Halfway through the afternoon, we realized that we were pretty far from the entrance and getting pretty exhausted. By "we" I mean "the parents," because the two little guys seemed far from exhausted. On the contrary, they were full of energy.

Luckily, that energy lasted much of the trek back to the front of the zoo, so they were happy to walk and even run much of time.

Benjamin, who was not yet as proficient at the act of running as Nolan was, tripped and fell, resulting in his very first skinned knee.

On Sunday morning, Vince and I had plans to meet up with some friends for brunch. We had some extra time before our date, so we took a stroll around Petco Stadium.

After working up an appetite running around the stands, we headed to the St. Tropez Cafe to dine with our buds Mike, Kelly, and Sydney. Sydney, who is a mere two months younger than Benjamin, developed quite a bond with Vince. In fact, when it came time for us to leave, she put up quite a fuss, reaching and calling for him while we walked away. Hopefully our own daughter-to-be will take to him this quickly when she arrives in February.

That afternoon, we reunited with Shawn, Julie, and Nolan for hands-on fun at the Science Center. Benjamin and Nolan enjoyed playing with the myriad exhibits, but the big hit (for Benjamin, anyway), was the oversized wooden xylophone in the Kid City section of the museum. Hmmmm. Maybe the Boo is destined to be a musician, and not a dancer.

That evening, we had dinner at a local tavern and then dessert at a Ghiradelli ice cream shop a few blocks away. Dinner was middling, but dessert was divine. We decided to relax his dietary rules and allow Benjamin to taste his first ice cream sundae, which he enjoyed wearing all over his face.

The next morning, we breakfasted at a local restaurant which deigned to proclaim to have the "best pancakes in the world." What their proclamation should have said is that they had the most fibrous pancakes in the world, for I found a gnarled white string cooked into one of mine. The waiter's excuse? "Oh, that must have come from a kitchen towel." Ah, naturally.
While I was trying not to think about how much of the kitchen towel I might have already ingested, Benjamin got busy moisturizing his face with creamer. Nolan must have found Benjamin's gooey cheek to be irresistible, because we caught him doing this:

Looks like Benjamin didn't mind the extra attention, either!
Once breakfast was over, we checked out of our hotel and headed back to Legoland. After a quick run through the the Sea Life Aquarium, we took the boys to Pirate Shores for some water park fun. Unfortunately, all that gushing, splashing, falling, roaring water proved to be too overwhelming for the little Boo, so we scooped him up and brought him over to the tamer, more toddler-friendly section.

That's better!
We spent the rest of the morning at Legoland and were back in our cars just in time to beat traffic and allow the boys to take their naps. I'll admit that I did a little snoozing on the drive home, too.

Poor Vince was the only one of us who didn't get to sleep in the car. Once we arrived at home, however, the weekend caught up with him, and he collapsed onto the floor, where he remained, immobile, for half an hour.
It's a miracle that no one collapsed sooner. We crammed a LOT into our weekend: two trips to Legoland, a full day at the Zoo, a walk around Petco Stadium, brunch with old friends, an afternoon at the Science Museum, plus dinners out every night. I'm exhausted just recounting it all, and I don't think we'll attempt another trip like this anytime soon. But just when I start to wonder why we wear ourselves out taking Benjamin to all these places he probably won't remember, I think of this:

And that makes it all worth it!

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