Tuesday, May 15, 2018


This morning as the kids were eating breakfast, Conor piped up with the following gem...

"I know what an apricot is. It is a little fruit that looks like a bottom."

Spot-on description if you as me! Such an insightful (and highly funny) boy his is! :)

Thursday, May 10, 2018


Yesterday as we drove home from school I asked the kids about the volleyball game between the teacher and 8th graders. This was the report from the kids in the back seat:

Conor: It was the ultimint epic volleyball game!

Me: Umm? Conor? Can you please say that word again?

Conor: Epic!

Me: No, the word that starts with the letter U ... ulti....

Conor: Ultimint

Me: Buddy, it is pronounced ultimate

Annika: Ultimate? That just sounds weird. I always thought it was ultimint.

Conor: Yeah. Ultimint sounds better.

Me: (can't talk.due to shaking with laughter)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Spring Break Surprise, Pt. 4

Last Wednesday was our "slow down" day. We knew that going to the amusement parks three days in a row was a fool's errand and opted to catch our breath for a day instead. (We're so darned smart!)

After a leisurely morning in the condo and a bunch of "what should we do today" head scratching, Eric had the brilliant idea of going to a somewhat nearby location that offered miniature golf, an arcade, go karts, and bumper boats. Hello! Fun!

Soon, we told the kids we were going "somewhere" and were on our way with the kids asking "But WHERE are we going?" every 1/2 mile. (We are mean, mean parents!)

The day started off rather cloudy, but shortly after we had our putters in hand, the sun broke through. And BOY, did it break through. We had very little shade to keep us out of the direct line of the sun. When it wasn't our time to putt, the off-players would often try to hunker down in a sliver of shade here and there. (Mind you, the locals who were still wearing coats and sweatshirts probably thought we were nuts!) I'm pretty sure the theme of they day for Conor was, "We'll call that 3" whenever it came to recording his score... regardless of how many shots (over 3) it actually took him to sink the ball. Silly boy!

Apparently, it isn't a vacation for the Olson Four unless we drive things that can run into each other. This time, we drove bumper boats and it was a riot. We probably lost 1/2 of our brain cells due to the diesel fumes, but it was totally worth it. We splashed each other, ran into each other's boats, and somehow managed to steer motorized inner tubes with some amount of skill. (Except for me ... I tended to drive mine in circles more than anything else.)

After boating, we popped over to the Go Kart track for some more diesel-fueled fun. Because of the height requirements, Conor wasn't able to drive his own vehicle, so he and I buddied up in a two-seater. Annika and Eric drove their own cars, however. I actually was glad to have a driving buddy... someone to chat and laugh with over a shared experience. Conor had his own steering wheel, but I think it was more decorative than functional. (Don't tell him... he thinks he helped with the sharp turns!)

Sorry, no Go Karting photos ... my hands were firmly on 2 and 10 as I zipped us around the track. Vroom!!!

To finish up the day, we headed to a local pirate dinner theater (I use both "dinner" and "theater" very loosely, mind you) for some "we're on vacation" entertainment. The show was actually pretty entertaining. The best parts were the aerial stunts. The story line was ok,. The food was plain ol' bad... as in airplane food is better. (I was grateful to have gotten a Groupon discount for our tickets, let's just say.) That said, we didn't go for the food, we went for the entertainment. It was an interactive show, so that made it even better. We cheered for our pirate (Go Team Yellow!) and clapped along with most of the songs. There was silliness galore, which made the kids in the audience (including ours) double over with glee and fits of giggles. Worth the ticket price right there!

Our low-ish key Wednesday was a perfect mid-vacation day. It was fun, but not a jam-packed day. And, hey, who doesn't love wrapping up a day with some sea shanties??

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Spring Break Surprise, Pt. 3

Last Tuesday (how has it already been a week???), we found ourselves back in line with the masses who were bound and determined to get their fill of rides, Disney characters, and long lines. This time, we turned left instead of right after going through security and headed toward Disney California Adventure.

I found it rather interesting that the lines getting into CA Adventure were considerably shorter than the lines getting into Disneyland. The rides are newer at CA Adventure, but I'm sure Disneyland has the nostalgia draw that pulls in more people.

Soon after we walked through the gates and made it into the park, we saw Minnie Mouse by the main fountain. Cool! We had Fast Pass reservations at the Toy Story ride, but had time to kill before our start time, so opted to stand in line for autographs and photos. (Side note: The people dressed as the cartoon characters get huge props from us! Not only do they walk around in some HUGE shoes all day, they also sign autographs wearing gigantic three-fingered gloves. Impressive!)

Waiting for Minnie

The kids with Minnie Mouse in CA Adventure

While the kids and I waited in line to meet Minnie Mouse before our FastPass ride reservation at the Toy Story ride, Eric disappeared. He was still missing after the photo op, so I got the kids churros. Hey, we were on vacation, which makes churros at 10:00 AM perfectly acceptable in my book! Still no Eric. He texted "Almost done" (ummm.... with what???). The next text was "meet you there". Again, where was he??? The kids and I made our way to the ride and knew we had a 30-ish minute wait before we'd be at the front of the line, but started getting nervous when Eric was nowhere in sight as we were about to enter the "inside" portion of the standing in line. Just in the nick of time, Eric joined us ... with two Starbucks coffees in his hands. Does my husband win the gold star or what?????? We slurped down our much-needed caffeine as we waited in the rest of  the line and felt properly fueled up for our arcade-style Toy Story ride. It was a blast!!

Annika on the Toy Story ride, sporting her 3-D glasses

Annika, our little dare devil, and Eric wanted to go on the Guardians of the Galaxy ride, which is geared toward teens an adults. Conor and I were anything but interested in going on it. So, we opted to split into two ride teams... Annika and Eric went to that ride while Conor and I headed to the Goofy's Sky School ride.

Along our way, we happened up on one of the pop-up shows that you'll find all around Disneyland and CA Adventure. It was a fun percussion group with Chip and Dale as the token characters. The drummers were quite impressive, I must say! They drummed on a variety of kitchen items (muffin pans, pots, pans, plastic bins, griddles, etc.) and even used dish towels as props.

Chip and Dale percussion show

Conor and I wound our way through CA Adventure (stopping along the way for another character photo op ... this time with two characters from the movie Zootopia) and made it to Goofy's Sky School in time to only wait a few minutes before being ushered onto the ride.

Conor enjoying CA Adventure

Conor with Nick Wilde and Officer Hopps from Zootopia

The ride was a huge hit! Conor and I both loved it. It had jerky turns, quick stops, a couple of manageable ascents and drops, and a few fast moments, but nothing over the top. Before the end of our trip, Conor and I wound up riding it three different times! We are definite fans!

After our respective rides, we met up for some more whole-family fun around CA Adventure. Annika reported that the Guardians of the Galaxy ride was amazing and she wanted to ride it again. Eric, even though he's a roller coaster lover, said even that ride left him feeling a little green around the gills. We eventually made it back to Goofy's Sky School so Eric and Annika could give it a whirl. Unfortunately, we didn't have a Fast Pass for it that time, so had to wait in a much longer line that before. It was worth it. Everyone gave the ride a thumbs up and smiled the whole time we rode it.

Daddy and Conor waiting for our turn on Goofy's Sky School

In line for another turn on Goofy's Sky School
Annika and Eric later decided they wanted to ride the Silly Symphone Swings. Conor wasn't drawn to the ride, so we decided to plop down for a bit while Eric and Annika rode the swings. As we wandered over to the ride, we happened upon Mr. and Mrs. Incredible. How cool was that??

Quite incredible! (Ha! Get it??)

Getting more autographs

While Conor and I waited for Eric and Annika to spin around in circles on high-up swings, we were entertained by a troop of green Army soldier toys from Toy Story. These guys were a riot!! They even pulled in a guy wearing a Seahawks shirt (go Hawks!) to be part of their act.

Toy Story drummers

Below are video clips of Eric and Annika on the Silly Swings ride. Once Eric realized I was taping them, he decided to make a variety of silly faces each time he flew by me. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to make sure his goofiness was posted for all of the world to see. :D

FINALLY, it was time to head to the Cars ride that we'd heard great things about. Even with a Fast Pass, we waited in line for at least 45 minutes to get on the ride. I'm happy to report, the wait was worth it! We had so much fun zooming around the race track. That ride got some serious speed, but in a good way. We really felt like we were on the open road zooming through the land of Cars. It was very obvious why this ride is such a hit! (Side note: Very fast ride = no photos!)

Annika found a trophy for herself
Our last big ride of the day was the Grizzly River Run. It promised "You will get wet. You may get soaked." Yup and yup!! I was quite happy that we packed a couple of waterproof bags for our electronics as we careened around bends, got splashed by waves, and had a geyser explode right in front of us. We were soaked by the time we got off of the ride. Annika was the only one in sandals and was very happy with her choice of footwear as the rest of us were talking about our wet socks. We saved that ride for last, just for this very reason. (Side note: Very wet ride = no photos!)

As we headed out to the drop-off/pick-up area outside of the park, we stopped for a photo op of the kids with Clarabelle Cow. (Eric and I were drenched and not feeling exactly "photo worthy" at the time.) I'm pretty sure her hands were up in the air during the photo because our kids were so wet that she didn't want to touch them. Ha!!

Our very wet kids and Clarabelle Cow

We peeked into the gift shop at the exit of the park and (gratefully) found our family's "we went on vacation" Christmas ornament. We'd looked the day before, too, but didn't really find anything that grabbed us. Fortunately, we found on at CA adventure that fit the bill!

We wrapped up the day with an evening swim (kids) and soaking in the hot tub. Can't beat a nice hot tub soak after walking around an amusement park for 8 hours!!

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Spring Break Surprise, Pt. 2

Before I recap more of our trip, I want to post some of the fireworks photos I took from our balcony. If you feel the need to "ohh... ahhh.... oh!" while taking in the amazing pyrotechnics, feel free. We won't blame you or judge you. We watched them almost every night and "ooh'd" and "ahhhh'd" every time!
Yes, that really is a smiley face

On Easter Monday, we girded our loins (metaphorically speaking, of course) and prepared ourselves for the crush of humanity that awaited us at Disneyland. Fortunately for us, the crowds weren't as bad as we had feared. Don't get us wrong, it was crowded, but not uncomfortably so.

The weather was wonderfully cooperative. Each morning, we had a hazy cloud cover that protected us from the direct sun and insanely hot temps we somewhat expected. Of course, my poor Norwegian family was convinced they were dying from the heat ... pretty sure we didn't even reach 70 degrees at that point! HA!

As soon as we walked in the gate, we noticed Goofy off to our left, and made a bee line to get a photo of the kids with him, as well as a couple of autographs. I don't envy the people who wear the character costumes as part of their jobs; it has got to be incredibly hot inside the costumes with the sun beating down on them like that.

Throughout our week, we saw many of the iconic characters, including Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Clarabelle, Mr. & Mrs. Incredible, the green army guys from Toy Story, Ariel (Little Mermaid), Captain Hook and Peter Pan, Lightning McQueen (Cars), Dr. Facilier (from The Princess and the Frog), Chip and Dale, Darth Vader and some storm troopers, and more.

We followed up our time with Goofy with rides, rides, and rides, including riding the Matterhorn, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (an arcade-style ride that was a surprisingly enjoyable ride... so much so that we went on it again on our last day in the park), Star Tours (Star Wars ride ... ridiculously fun), and Pirates of the Carribean.

In addition to the rides, we took advantage of the photo ops along the way. As part of our tickets, we purchased the photo pass, which made capturing our vacation on film (so to speak) a bit easier. We had some great photographers along the way, which made the experience that much better.

The Olson Four

Blinded by the sun in Tomorrowland

The Jedi uniform really needs to include sunglasses

Lookin' fierce!

Best toe-pointing Jedi ever

She makes Vader quake in his big black boots
Annika and Eric wanted to hit the Haunted Mansion, which Conor had no desire to do, so he and I split off on our own for a bit while our gutsy family members took on the ghosts and spirits. Conor and I happened across a Star Wars show in Tomorrowland. There's just nothing quite like seeing Darth Vader up close and personal to make your day complete! 

Got Vader?

Once the show wrapped up, Conor decided we needed to go on the Finding Nemo submarine ride. When I was a kiddo, the ride had mermaids underwater ... those women had some serious breath-holding skills! Nowadays, the ride has a Nemo theme. It was a long wait for a rather uninspiring ride, but it was nice to have a few quiet moments that were rather calm and gave us the chance to catch our breath a bit. 

Conor and Mama waiting in line for the submarine ride with the Matterhorn in the background

In the submarine
Once we reconnected with Eric and Annika, we continued checking off our "to do" list items and After about 8 hours in the park, we were about as done as you can imagine. We spent the rest of the day smiling about our day's successes and counting our blessings that a hot tub was waiting for us back at the condo. Never had we been so happy to sit in a bunch of bubbly hot water before!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Spring Break Surprise, Part 1

About 13 months ago, Eric and I started making plans for a whiz-bang 2018 spring break for our family.... to Disneyland. Over the past year, the kids have made off-hand comments about wanting to go to Disneyland or how sooooo many of their friends have been there but they have yet to visit the Magical Kingdom, we'd stifle our grins and explain how big trips like that take a lot of planning and saving. As those sentiments poured out of our mouths, our inner voices were giggling and saying, "If you only knew what we're up to!"

We were very stealthy with our planning and packing efforts. Eric and I would refer to "Operation Orange" whenever talking about the trip, just to make sure the kids didn't catch on to what we were talking about. I even pre-packed our suitcases when the kids weren't home and then put the suitcases back on the shelves in the storage area just so the kids wouldn't see the luggage out of place. We were THAT dedicated to keeping this trip a secret. I'm proud to report that all of our secrecy and sneakiness paid off. The kids had NO CLUE.

Last Saturday, we snuck into their rooms so we could wake them up and soon after, head to the airport.

Once the cobwebs cleared, the kids were raring to go! We dropped off Buca with the dog sitter and headed down to SeaTac Airport and then on to Orange County, sunshine, palm trees, and the land of Mickey Mouse himself.

We spent our first day in Anaheim getting settled and figuring out our approach for the week. Our condo had a prime view of Disneyland (just under a mile away). Little did we know until our first night in town that we had an optimal view of the nightly Disney fireworks show right from our humble abode. No need to venture out late at night for us! We could watch them from the comfort of our own "home" and even wear our PJs! Bonus!!

The only thing that was set in stone was the next day ... Easter. We woke up to celebrate Easter day with the kids (Annika was THRILLED to have chocolate again after having given it up for Lent!). 

After our Easter festivities, the four of us piled into our rental car and drove up to LA so we could spend the day with my college roommate Rachel and her family at the Griffith Observatory. Rachel and I have known each other since we were 18 and are so lucky to have so many years of friendship and shared experiences. We've seen each other through so many stages of our lives, but it still doesn't seem possible that we've known each other over half of our lives. 

We opted to meet at the Griffith Observatory not realizing it and it's surrounding parks/trails are quite a destination spot on days like ... oh, say... Easter. WHOOPS! Parking was a bit of a challenge and left us on a mini hike we didn't anticipate. Fortunately, it all worked out and we met up with Rachel and Jason, their girls Hannah and Eliana, and Rachel's mom Peggy. We learned an incredible amount about the universe during our visit to the observatory. I have to say, though, that the coolest part had to be the Centered in the Universe show. It was shown on the large dome in and had a way of drawing in its audience in an almost magical way. When it depicted the big bang, I happened to look over at Conor and couldn't help but laugh at the fact his eyes were about the size of dinner plates! It was one heck of a big bang! :)

Hiking to the observatory from our parking spot

Griffith Observatory

Hey! Look what we could see from the observatory!

Conor watching the Foucault Pendulum

Eric and Annika

Yup, this is how Conor looks through a telescope

Eric and Conor

Sunglasses girl posing with her telescope

Waiting for the show to start

Infrared Conor

The Olson Four (plus Eliana) at the Griffith Observatory

College roomies!

After we got our fill of science for the day, it was time to fill up on lunch. We drove to a local restaurant to share a meal with the Moss family and continue catching up. Rachel and I haven't seen each other in quite a few years, so getting some face time was beyond special and cherished.

Eventually, it was time to head our separate ways and say "until next time" to Rachel and her family. Eric, the kids, and I headed back to Anaheim to spend a bit of time in the pool and then gearing up for our next full day in California .... at Disneyland.