Monday, June 4, 2018

Weekend on Whidbey

The Olson Four did something we don't typically do on a 3-day weekend ... we traveled.

Before you compliment us for being brave souls (or shake your head for us being fools), know that we mitigated as much travel pain as possible by staying home on Friday and heading to the island fairly early Saturday morning. That said, it wasn't quite early enough, because we wound up missing the ferry we hoped to catch, but just barely. So, we waited for the next one, not the end of the world. It just let us know other people shared our "NO WAY am I going on a ferry Friday night" mentality. 

Eventually, we made it to the island and could feel ourselves switch gears almost immediately. There's just something about going to Eric's parents' house. It's just calmer there. It's quiet. We can let the kids just play outside and not worry about speeding cars zooming by. 

After we got settled and breathed deeply a few times, we decided to do our belated birthday celebrations. When we were on the island for the March birthdays, the plan was for Eric's sister and brother-in-law to be there for the fun. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and dumped snow on Snoqualmie Pass, making it too dangerous for Kajsa and Jeff to make the trek. They came over the following weekend and left gifts for Eric and Conor on the island. On top of that, Eric's mom's b-day was a couple of weeks ago and we had gifts for her. 

"Pokemon cards! COOOOL!!!"

Eric modeling his new UW shirt

By Saturday afternoon, Conor was getting antsy, so he and I went for a walk while Annika slept off her allergy meds. As we headed up the driveway, Conor's "I'm gonna scooter all the way to the top!" zeal faded and we wound up hoofing it up the hill the old fashioned way. At the top of the driveway, we spotted a deer nibbling on the grass, so we stopped to watch it for a bit. It watched us, too, but because we were pretty quiet and slow moving, it mostly ignored us. Conor and I eventually headed to the meadow to see if we could spot more deer (nope) and so he could ride his scooter around the adjacent paved loop. I never get tired of the view from the top of the driveway/meadow. Even on a cloudy day, it still takes my breath away.

Scooter Boy

What a view!

Conor enjoying the calm of the meadow

Calm done ... time to scale rocks

"Mama, will you please take a picture of me sitting right here?"

The rest of the day was just as mellow. After dinner (both nights!), we pulled out decks of cards and played Deuces Wild, Hearts, and Gin Rummy; dice to play Greed; and  Dixit, a board game we gave to Conor for his birthday in March. Game nights on the island have evolved from "the kids are asleep, let's play a game" to "the kids can be on my team" to "the kids can play" events. Watching Annika and Conor grow into being self-sufficient players has been a really neat evolution to observe. They employ strategy, math skills, and an understanding of rules to now be part of the bigger game-loving group that is our family. (#ParentingWin)

Bestemor and Annika deep in conversation

Conor mastering the wooden block puzzle

Annika learning how to play Deuces Wild

Eric and Bestemor working on her new KenKen math puzzle pages
Deuces Wild
(hands 1-4 deal 10 cards, hands 5-7 deal 12 cards, run = 4 cards in same suit, set = 3 matching cards) 

For weeks, the kids had been hoping that Bestefar would take them fishing soon. Well, first it was winter, not exactly trout fishing season. Then, they had to wait for the lake to be stocked. FINALLY, the planets aligned and Bestefar could take the kids to Deer Lake to do some trout fishing. Bestefar is a real trooper; first he spent a couple of hours rowing Conor around the lake, then he spent a couple more hours rowing Annika around the lake. Both kids had success, which is always a plus. Apparently, Conor had a huge trout get away and learned the lesson of waiting for someone to net the fish instead of trying to hoist the fish out of the water. (Lessons learned!) 

Deer Lake

Conor and Bestefar

Conor's haul

Annika ready to go!

Annika's catch

Bestefar helping her untangle the fish 

To give Bestemor and Bestefar a little break and to give the kids a chance to burn off some energy, Eric and I took the kids to Possession Beach, which is a stone's throw from the house. It offers great views of the ferries sailing between Mukilteo and Whidbey, as well as the Cascades (ahhh, Mt. Rainier), and Everett. The sun was out and the sky was blue. We spent most of our time perfecting our rock skipping skills. The beauty of this beach is it rarely very busy. Yes, we'll cross paths with people now and then, but it isn't like the Seattle beaches on a sunny day. I think more people go there to use the boat launch than to lounge around on the beach.

In order to avoid a long wait in the ferry line on our way home, we opted to (again) hit the road fairly early on Monday. Bestefar took Conor back out to Deer Lake for another round of fishing (Annika opted to stay home citing sleeping in was preferred to waking up early) and brought home  a couple more trout for us. Thanks, guys!!

Conor's day 2 catch

Eric teaching Annika how to clean fish. 

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!