Sunday, July 26, 2009

So it was A's fourth birthday (hard to believe) and he kept going on and on about a "bounce house" he wanted to go to. He had heard about it from one of C1's friends and that was it. That was his birthday destination.

So we decided to go. The place is called Monkey Joes and is a really, really smart idea. Basically, someone took a big open space (like a big box store kind of space) in a store and created a huge indoor playground. The place had these huge slides and play areas (all inflated) along with an area for the parents to hang out.

Security was fairly tight. When you enter with your child you get an arm band with a code on it and your child gets one with the same code. When you try to leave with said child the codes have to match or they do not let you out the door. So you can feel fairly safe letting your kids out of your sight since there is only one way in and out.

A and RP had a blast. I guilted C1 into coming also for the birthday party. It was A's first party in South Florida so he had no one to invite. He really wanted his big brother there. So I laid the guilt on thick for C1 and he finally agreed to show up. It worked out for him in the end. Turns out the place was staffed heavily by girls in the 14-16 year old range so he ended up staying for almost 2 hours when all we had agreed was 30 minutes!

My kids would scale these huge inflatable play sets and slide down the other side. They did it for 3 hours. I was hurting by the end though. Since RP is only 2 I had to accompany her on all the slides! That was a trial for a heavy old man like me!

No seems like a great time to start one of these things. There are a ton of open box stores now that Circuit City and Linens and Things are gone. I think it is a franchise. If I was not hapilly employeed doing something I love to do I would think about setting one up.

After the slides we went to the fish store. A loves animals (any animals) and he wanted a fish tank. I ended up buying a salt water tank for him (cool thing called a Bio Cube (Google it if you ever want a fish tank) and we needed to start getting the tank ready. In two weeks it will be ready for real fish and he is getting a "Nemo Fish" as promised.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

It's fun to have fun

These pictures are from the Miami Metro Zoo. Today the Wife decided she had to drive 250 miles back to Tampa to get her hair done. Being a wise husband of 17 years I decided to not say a thing! There are some times when I realize that no matter how many years I live with a female I will just never truly understand them.

A, RP and I ended up spending almost 4 hours at the zoo. I took a double stroller this time which really helped. I have a Maclaren double stroller. As an aside I was never willing to buy a Maclaren because I thought they were overpriced. Then I finally broke down and bought a double for A and RP. I have to admit that the Maclaren is one of those rare expensive products that is actually worth what you pay for it. I have owned about 10 strollers over the years and this is by far the best one I have ever owned.

We had a blast at the zoo. We got these cat masks that RP had a blast with. Then we rode a train around the zoo. We stopped first at the kid area since I had promised A that he could ride a camel. We rode it and then rode the train up to the new Amazon exhibit at the Miami Metrozoo. It was really cool. They have done an excellent job on it. We looked at lots of snakes and birds and turtles and stuff!

Finally we walked over to the Australia exhibit and looked at the Kangeroos. They are fun to watch but man is that an ugly animal up close!

I am always struck by how different my children's exposure to animals has been versus what I had growing up. I went to the San Antonio zoo a couple of times and saw a bunch of sad, caged animals. My children have been to Lowrey Park Zoo, Busch Gardens and now the MetroZoo probabably 100 times. They have seen tons of animals living either in large open spaces (Busch gardens) or large enclosures. And they have seen every major animal out there. At least I can say that my chidlren were exposed to lots of animals!

Anyway, a good memory at the zoo. Then we left the zoo and decided to hunt down a Chick-Fil-A. That sounds easy but there is no Chick-Fil-A within 10 miles of my house. I went to two locations using my GPS that turned out to be malls that had a Chick-Fil-A inside before we finally found a free standing store. We went in and the kids played on the playground. RP has really exploded in her growth. She used to be scared of the slide. Now she climbs up the playset like it is no big deal and slides down the slide! I was shocked. She must have gone down the slide 50 times.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

A really, really great place to vacation

Today my family rolled back into South Florida after that long 35 minute flight from the Bahamas. The picture above was the view from my hotel room in Atlantis.

There are just some places where the human race has managed to create something special. A place you can really get away from reality. Disney World is like that. Atlantis is another. I cannot speak highly enough of it. They spent hundreds of millions building it, but it is truly a special place. It redefines Beach Resort in a way that will ruin all other resorts for you.

Every morning I woke up to the sun at about 7 to 7:30. I would walk down from my room in the Coral Towers and go to Starbucks for a coffee. The Starbucks is in the harbor next to Atlantis. I would then sit and have coffee and watch the crews working on the line of multi-million dollar boats that pull up at Atlantis every day. I will never have enough money to own one but they are sure cool to look at.

Then I would return to the hotel rooms (we had two) to take a shower and start prepping A and RP for the day. C1 and C2 would sleep late but A and RP were ready to go by 8:30. We would head out either to the beach or to the kid's areas of Atlantis. On the beach (really a cove not a true beach) A would chase fish around the rocks by the shore. He never caught one but he sure tried. It was great to watch him endlessly chasing fish but just never quite catching them. Meanwhile RP would endlessly dig in the sand and enjoy herself. She always managed to get a truly impressive amount of sand on her. She has the ability to spend hours just digging in the sand.

By lunch time we would go to the same hamburger stand and have lunch. Food at Atlantis is the real issue. You can get cheap flights and you can get cheap rooms (relatively) but eating is super expensive. A $100 meal there for a family of 6 is a deal. We found a cheap place to eat so we went there every time. a, RP and I would eat our food and then walk over to the shark tank to watch the sharks and sting rays swim around. Sometimes the Wife joined us and sometimes not.

As an aside here. The Wife and I have very different views of vacations. She is happy lounging in her room and going out occasionally. I am an experience addict. I need to gather every experience I can before my vacation ends. So it has always been our routine that she enjoys her break in the hotel room and I drag my kids all around wherever we are. So at Atlantis the Wife rarely left the hotel room before noon. She read a ton of books that week and watched a bunch of movies on her laptop.

In the afternoon it was nap time for A and RP. Sometimes the Wife went with me and sometimes I spent the time with C1 and C2 while the Wife napped. I had to prove my Dad cred by riding all the scary slides with C1 and I even got some alone time with C2 so it was cool. I rode the Abyss and the Leap of Faith there. Truly terrifying rides but fun once you were done!

I took C1 and C2 on the water ferry over to Old Town in Nassau. We rode these rickety boats across the harbor and then walked around in the Straw Market. It was okay but nothing special. A huge number of very expensive designer handbags that they were somehow able to discount to $20 or less. A heaven for a woman who wanted to buy a lot of fake bags but not much else worth buying.

One afternoon we went snorkeling with the Manta Rays. I really recommend this. It is cheap at $79 per person and a great experience. You get to snorkel in the main tank with a bunch of huge Mantas and some sharks. By the end of it C2 was really feeling his oats. He decided that the Mantas were too calm and he wanted to try sharks! So we went to the main shark tank and got to Walk with the Sharks. Personally, I thought the Mantas were better. But I considered it an investment in my son's ego. He has been strutting ever since and talking about how he went diving in a tank full of sharks.

In the evening we would make C1 and C2 babysit (which was an adventure in and of itself) and the Wife and I would go out to a movie. Atlantis has a full size movie theater on site so you can go catch a movie whenever you want. They even have a concession stand where you can get popcorn and drinks.

The final evening was one of my favorite memories. At 5 I took A and RP to the beach. The sun was coming down and the weather was perfect. We sat on the beach until 8 and just had fun. RP finally got the courage up to splash in the ocean and the three of us had a blast making sand castles. Too bad they are too young to remember the day but I will probably never forget it.