Thursday, September 29, 2016

California 2016: Day 4 (Redondo Beach/Torrance)

It's been a few days since my last post, but for once, I have a sort of valid excuse: work! I haven't added up all the hours yet, but I think I worked over 40 hours last week. It's taken some time to get used to doing that after not having a job for so long. As a result, I'm re-learning how to balance my life. My goal is to post at least once a week, most likely on an off-day from work.

Last time we talked about hockey, Lucas had just wrapped up his sortouts. We found out later that week that he made the B6 team so he'll be playing B level for the 3rd straight year. That was good news since it would be a bit demoralizing for him if he slid back.

None of his teammates from last year are on the team, but a kid he befriended in power skating last year as well as another kid he knows through Zach are on the team so he's happy about that. Actually, the power skating kid (Cole) was the top scorer in Novice B last year so that's a good sign for this team's scoring chances.

Speaking of the team, they have a name. An embarrassing one. Well, to me as an adult, I guess. The coach picked 3 kids names out of the hat after the first practice and told them they were responsible for coming up with a name by the next practice. I wasn't there due to work, but it sounds like they initially were going to go with the Fire Hawks, which is pretty decent. However, the name then devolved into the Emojis. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, emojis are the faces/pictures you create with keyboard symbols. The most popular example being the smiley face :)

Lucas wasn't too fond of the name so I gotta respect his opinion there, but I guess kids will be kids, and it's a whole new world. If that's what they want, so be it. Anyway, they have one more weekend of practices coming up, and then his first game will be Sunday, Oct 9. Can't wait!

Now, let's get back to California pictures.

When last we left the California posts, Day 3 was coming to an end, and we were in Escondido. On Day 4, we drove back up to Los Angeles with a quick pit stop at one of my favorite fast food places of all time, In-N-Out Burger. We then headed up to Redondo Beach, where we would be staying for the rest of the trip.

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it previously, but the main purpose of our trip was to see my grandmother, who has recently moved into an assisted living facility. We haven't seen her since Lucas was a baby, and since she's in her mid-90s, we wanted to make sure we got to see her again just in case something happens with her health.

She's staying in a very nice place in Torrance, about 10-15 minutes from where we were staying so we got to see about 4 times during the trip. We took plenty of pictures with her, in just about every configuration of family members possible. Below are the highlights.

Afterwards, we headed back to the Redondo City pier, where we walked around the shops and people watched for a bit. After that, Lucas finally got a chance to play in the ocean. He met some other kid who was there on vacation and they had a good time together, so much so that we had to drag him away.

We ended our trip to the pier with yet one more visit to a brewery, this time the King Harbor Brewing Company, which is right on the boardwalk next to the pier. Marilu and I sampled their wares while Lucas had ice cream from a shop a few doors down.

After that, we headed back to the hotel and relaxed, in anticipation of the next day's activities. Day 5 will be up soon with pictures from the Dodgers game.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lots of News

There's been quite a bit of news since I last posted 10 days ago. Lucas has now finished his first 2 weeks of school, and things are going well. As mentioned in the last post, he's got a bunch of his close friends in his classes so that helps. In particular, his best friend Zach is now at school with him. Zach was at a French school before now, but his parents decided to transfer him over this year so both Lucas and Zach are pretty pleased with that decision.

The other big Lucas-related news is hockey! Sort-outs for Atom (ages 9 and 10) started last weekend and wrapped up a couple of hours ago. I think Lucas played fairly well and will be surprised if he ends up in something other than B. We should know by mid-week, when we receive the introductory email from his new coach.

Finally, in probably the biggest news, I'm working again! It's not exactly what I was looking for--that is, something in accounting--but it's a part-time job to help pay the bills while I continue to find the "perfect" job. This may come as a surprise for those who know me, but it's at Cabela's, the outdoors, hunting, fishing, etc store. A brand new one is opening up on Thursday, and I'll be there almost from the start. Although I say part-time, I'm actually going to be working enough hours that it will be virtually full-time.

My position, which is up front in customer service, is not my ideal job, but who knows, maybe I can get my foot in the door in the back office at some point. And if not, at least I'm bringing in a paycheck for the first time in too long.

I don't want to include pictures from California in this post since that would just make it super long so I'll close this out with a funny picture Marilu took of Lucas and me playing Risk back in June. Despite how it looks, I came back and handily crushed him. :)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

First Day of School: Fourth Grade

Egad, it's been a while since my last post. July 24, to be exact. My apologies. I guess the blog took a summer vacation of its own.

Now that we're all back to a normal schedule, I'll start playing catch up. To start things off, here's a couple of pictures of Lucas from his first day of 4th grade, which started yesterday. Several of his really good friends are in his classes so that made going back a lot easier. He actually wants to be there!

The annual "on the front porch" photo.

And just to mix things up, waiting at the bus stop.

For last year's "first day of school" pic, click here. And for all the previous years, click here.Next up, I'll likely finish out the California vacation pictures and then I'll make it up from there.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

California 2016: Day 3 (Sea World and Stone Brewery)

We were up bright and early on Day 3 (a common theme on this trip) in order to get a, well, early start at Sea World. It was a good idea since we were there long before the big crowds arrived and were able to get on some of the more popular rides quite quickly. Luckily, the pain in my toes had subsided a little overnight, and with the help of my shoes (vs sandals), I was able to get around with a fast limp.

We didn't get any pictures of it, but Lucas went on his very first "real" roller coaster at Sea World, the Manta. He'd been on some kiddy roller coasters before, but I don't think he was expecting it to be so intense. As a result, he was screaming his head off throughout the whole thing and was near tears as it came to a stop. He did well on on the other rides though so I think if we had done a more gentle transition from kiddie to thrill, he would have handled it better. In case you are interested, click here to see a video of the Manta ride that someone else made.

Here are a couple of photos from a more kid-friendly ride. We were just making faces in the second photo, but that's pretty much what he looked like after Manta. For the record, I loved the Manta!

When you first walk in the park, there is a pool of sharks that you can touch/pet. They are bamboo sharks, which are very docile and don't bite, but it took several minutes before Lucas would put his hand in the pool. He's had this problem before in a pool filled with rays so I guess he's just a skittish kid. Anyway, he finally reached in, and we got a photo.

Random collection of photos of us standing in front of exhibits or at shows begins now!

Due to a bunch of criticism from people that have nothing better to do than whine about whatever, the Shamu show is coming to an end soon so I was glad we were able to see it before it's gone. It's really a shame, in my opinion, since shows like this are what exposes many children to animals they may never see otherwise. I still have fond memories of all the shows I saw as a child and credit places like Sea World for my life-long love of dolphins.

Speaking of Shamu, here's a cool-looking dessert Lucas had.

On the topic of food, if anybody is going to Sea World anytime soon, I would highly recommend getting the meal plan. It's an extra $35 per ticket, but you can get an entree, a side/dessert, and a drink once per hour. Considering the exorbitant prices of park food, as long as you eat 2-3 times during the day, it's worth it. And the food was actually quite good, not the frozen crap I expected.

One of the last things we did at Sea World was go up in the SkyTower to get a great view of the park and the San Diego skyline. While heights are not my favorite thing, I braved this ride and got a couple of decent photos too.

We finally left Sea World a little bit after 5, which is a bit longer than we expected since we had planned to leave around 3 or so. It was worth it though since we all had a great time.

After that, we got in the car and drove about 40 minutes north to Escondido, the hometown of Stone Brewery. When making plans for the trip, I joked about this day by saying we were going to Sea World for Lucas and Stone Brewery for me. As mentioned in my previous blog entry, Stone is probably my favorite brewer. In fact, a Stone IPA I had many, many moons ago is likely what turned me on to hoppy beers (for better or worse). So it was quite a treat to visit the mothership, so to speak.

I wasn't sure what to expect from the brewery so I was very surprised when we arrived and found a large parking lot almost completely full with hundreds of cars. Most of the breweries I've been to are relatively small places with only a couple of tables and chairs. What I didn't realize about Stone is that it's got a full restaurant, bar, and company store so they do a lot of non-beer business there too.

The restaurant was really something to see as it backs up to a grove with walking trails. We hadn't planned to eat so we headed straight for the bar. Luck was on our side since three people left just as we arrived, and we were able to get seats. I sampled several beers that were either rare or only available at the a couple of old standbys like Stone IPA and Ruination. As you can see below, Lucas enjoyed an appetizer plate of ribs so it wasn't a wasted trip on him either.

I gotta get these for the wall in my room!

In addition to buying a new shirt at the store, one of the things I discovered at Stone was crowlers. These haven't made their way up to Canada yet so I was delighted to find I could get a 32 oz can (or 2) of beer to go. They have a machine that lets them can it right after pouring it from the tap. Canada is usually a year or two behind on beer-related things so I hope to see these circa 2017/18.

After that, we headed back to the hotel (in Escondido) and got a good night's rest in anticipation of returning to Los Angeles the next day. Coming soon!

Friday, July 22, 2016

California 2016: Day 2 (PCH and San Diego)

In case you read the title of this post and were confused about the location of the Day 1 entry, don't worry, you didn't miss anything. Our first day in California primarily consisted of us driving around my hometown of Thousand Oaks. I probably bored the hell out of Lucas and Marilu as I went on a deep nostalgic journey through all my old haunts, such as schools, baseball and soccer fields, and parks. The only pictures are of me standing in front of said schools so there's not much to see from Day 1. Day 2 is when things get interesting, which is where blog coverage will begin.

We woke up bright and early on Day 2 since our plans were to drive down the Pacific Coast Highway and then spend the rest of the day in San Diego. There are plenty of scenic routes from Thousand Oaks to the PCH, and we took what I consider one of the best: Malibu Canyon. Unfortunately, we couldn't get any good pictures of the big drop-offs, but we took a family picture near the beginning of the canyon and then stopped to pose at a rest area.

Our next stop was just past Malibu. We pulled over and took a couple of photos right from the side of PCH. I didn't really think it through that well since traffic was getting bad, and it could have been tough pulling back out, but I got lucky and there was a break in traffic right after we got in the car. Probably the last break I got while driving that trip.

Next up was Venice Beach. We'd been there before, back in 2008 when Lucas was 1, but we wanted to let him see it at age 9. However, due to our early start, we got there between 8 and 9 so there weren't many people there yet and nearly all the shops were still closed. Throw in the fact that it was overcast (the sun broke through with a vengeance about an hour later), and it was a quiet visit. Still, we got a chance to walk down and see the ocean. Right before we left, Lucas, in his infinite wisdom, fell over in the surf so when we returned to the car, he was very wet and sandy.

After that, we drove for a long while (with a quick stop in Dana Point for lunch at Jack in the Box) until PCH hit I-5, which we took the rest of the way to San Diego. The trip would have been much faster on one of the freeways, but I felt that PCH was a more scenic trip. It was, for the most part, but by the time I reached Laguna Beach, I was tired of the traffic and ready to get to San Diego.

Once we did reach SD, we checked into our hotel and then headed downtown to sightsee in the Gaslamp Quarter, which is the place to be downtown when it comes to shops and restaurants. Our walk down there was easily the biggest lowlight of the trip for me. I ended up stubbing my toe REALLY hard on a utility box platform, so hard that I thought I broke the smallest two toes on my right foot. It turns out I didn't, but it made walking that day excruciating. For what it's worth, it's 2 weeks and a day later and one of the toes still aches slightly. So I wasn't exaggerating at the time!

Our first stop on the walk was Petco Field, the home of the San Diego Padres, which also happened to be hosting the All-Star Game less than a week later. We couldn't go in, but we got a picture through a fence from a little park behind it and then another picture of Lucas standing in front of it.

Right next to the aforementioned park was MY reason for heading down to Petco Field: the Stone Brewing Tap Room! Anyone who knows me well knows that Stone is probably my favorite brewer so this was a nice treat. You'll see more of Stone on Day 3 when we visited the actual brewery itself.

You can't tell in the latter picture, but I am in so much pain right there. The toe stubbing was literally less than 10 minutes before that was taken.

We then walked (or limped, in my case) all over the Gaslamp Quarter, going into various shops (Lucas's favorite being a candy store) and bars/restaurants. I resolved to suck up the pain so that it didn't ruin the day for Marilu and Lucas so I drank quite a few beers to take the edge off.

Here's one of our stops, a sports bar named Barleymash. They had a pretty good selection of beer on tap and we watched a bit of the Euro Cup while there.

This next photo was taken near the southern entrance to the Gaslamp Quarter. If you look closely in the background, the building with all the glass is the convention center. This weekend, that happens to be the location of the San Diego Comic Con, the world's biggest convention of comics, movies, and various pop culture.

We had a couple more stops before finally having dinner at Union Kitchen & Tap. Before writing that last sentence, I had to ask Marilu for the name of the restaurant since by that point, everything was a little fuzzy. :)

After that, we headed back to the hotel since we had an early morning the next day as we were visiting Sea World. Thanks to a combination of the beer and the pain, I was asleep moments after my head hit the pillow.

See you on Day 3!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Last Day of 3rd Grade

I always like to take a picture of Lucas on both the first day and last day of school, and this year was no different. I'm pretty sure I have a blog entry for Day 1 of kindergarten somewhere on here, but rather than make you look for it, here's the picture I took.

And then here's the one I took this morning for the last day.

So he's a bit taller, and he's got a little less hair, but it's pretty much the same ol' Lucas!