May 31, 2017

California Trip - Six Flags Magic Mountain

On Wednesday we took a break from Disney and went to Magic Mountain. I absolutely love big roller coasters, and knowing this, Dave was nice enough to stay back and swim with the kids, while I went with Brent, Derek, and Faye for an adults day. Every time we go I'm always nervous that I will find out my body can no longer handle extreme thrills (I know having kids can change things), but was relieved to find that I still had the nerves and guts to do even the biggest rides.

Brent has a season's pass and dining plan and was our guide/host for the day. We were able to get free parking, free entrance for one of us, and free lunch/snack/dinner/drinks!! It was quite the treat. The only damper on the day were the 500 middle schoolers there for their end of year parties. The lines were long sometimes and while we were waiting we witnessed hours of truly terrible flirting and awkward pre-teen conversation.

Faye gets motion sickness and started out on X2, one of the most extreme coasters I've ever been on. I'm pretty sure she hated it, but didn't let it ruin her day and went on pretty much everything else at the park. I was really impressed with her bravery!

Enjoying our free lunch - wings & fries

At one point we met Batman (Davey would be so jealous). He asked us what our names where and Brent and Derek both told him fake names, which threw me off and made my mind go blank, so Derek stepped in and said my name was Cilantro - hah!

What a fun day!!

May 30, 2017

California Trip - California Adventure Park!

Our first park was California Adventure! My Uncle Brent joined us, while Derek and Faye stayed back in Newport for some beach time. The park opened at 8 am, so we had to get an early start and the kids were a little groggy, but perked up pretty quick once we got there. This park seems to get better with every visit and we were glad that there were no ride closures this time!

Starting off at Toy Story Midway Mania. There were no lines so we were able to do this popular ride a couple times back-to-back.

I rode the carousel with the kids while Dave and Brent went on California Screamer. Sophie is really looking forward to the day when she will be big enough to ride the big coasters too!

Next up was Cars land. Radiator Springs is prone to breaking down so we were glad to ride it early before it had any problems. It was one of Sophie's favorites, even though our car lost the race both times. 

After a few more Cars rides (that Davey was sadly to little to go on), we went over to the Bug's Life area, which was perfect for our kids. Davey wasn't too thrilled to be left off bumper cars, but he was able to ride everything else. 

We took a break half way through the day for the Frozen show. Sophie begged for a treat and Uncle Brent was nice enough to get her some popcorn - it pretty much made her day! 

Monster's to the Rescue!

After Soarin', it was warm enough to take a ride the Grizzly Peak rafts. I hung out with Davey in the shade for the first run, and then joined Sophie and Brent for the second run. 

Sophie was just a couple inches over the height limit for all the big rides (except Screamer) and it was really fun to watch her try them all for the first time. She was often the youngest one there. Her bravest moment came when she agreed to ride the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride not once, but twice!

Flying on the Silly Swings

Staking our our spot for the Pixar parade, while Sophie went on one last ride

Finally meeting Mickey! Last time we were here, Sophie was not quite two and Mickey had to leave before it was our turn to see him. She was devastated, but this time it worked out. 

  • We were glad to have our jackets for the morning. Dave was fine without, of course, but the park opened at 8 am and the kids and I kept ours on for the first hour or so. 
  • Midway Mania is great, but hard with a lap child. Davey's head was banging all around and 
  • We did not go early to get seats for the Frozen show at the Hyperion and I think it was a good choice. We went in about 10 minutes before show time, got great seats in the balcony, and the kids did not have to wait any longer than necessary. 
  • Child swap came in huge for us, especially combined with fast passes. We went the day after Memorial Day, and yet never waited more than 20 minutes for any ride and Sophie was pretty much able to do every ride twice. Whoever was waiting with Davey, also went to get the next Fast Pass so we were always fully stocked and made our way around the park very efficiently.
  • Our double umbrella stroller does not have a ton of storage space, so we also brought a camel back along. It held a ton of water and we loaded it up with ice so it stayed cold forever, and kept our sandwiches chilled until lunch time. 
  • I also left my good camera behind since we were short on storage, and while better pictures would have been nice, cell pics worked just fine and it was nice to not have to lug the Canon around all day. 
  • The Disneyland app was awesome for checking ride wait times/closures, locating characters, and looking parade times. 
  • We brought a back up battery pack for our phones and it did come in handy. Between checking the app and taking tons of photos, it drained my phone way faster than normal. 
  • We did not stay for the night show, but made sure to get front row seats for the Pixar parade. The kids really loved the parade and it was a great way to end our day.

May 29, 2017

California Trip - San Diego

The last day of school for Noah Webster was also our departure day for California. It was also the day I woke up with pink eye - lovely. I can't believe I worked at a school for seven years without a case, and then caught it on the very last day. (I blame it on all the yearbook signing.) Dave had kept the kids with him instead of sending them to the babysitter, and then as soon as I got home we did some last minute packing and cleaning before hitting the road!

I got out an old favorite to get the kids excited while we got the car ready

We drove as far as St. George on our first day and Davey cried almost the whole time. We thought it would be a good idea to change him from his baby seat to a regular car seat for the trip, but he didn't like it, resulting in a rough four hours. I was glad wee weren't traveling any further that day and my Grandma Mimi's little house sure was a welcome site.  

We were able to rest up, regroup and the second day of driving did go better. We were able to get Davey more comfortable and he did like being able to watch the iPad with Sophie for part of the time. Luckily traffic was never too terrible and we made good time, arriving in San Diego at my Uncle's house in time for dinner. Derek and Faye flew in earlier that day and were there waiting for us. Sophie quickly got out all her toys to play with Faye, while Davey made it his business to find every breakable object in the house - such a fun age :)

My Uncle lives right across the street from Balboa Park, so I took the kids on a walk after dinner while the others cleaned up. Sophie loved the huge trees and we even walked far enough to run into a play ground. The next day we went out walking again and took the kids down to the dog park. Davey is a huge dog lover and the park had a lot of furry friends that day since it was the weekend.

Our time in San Diego was limited, because our real destination was Disneyland up north, but we did make time for a day trip to Coronado beach on Sunday to spend some time in the sun and sand. This was Sophie's first time at a beach in over a year and she was THRILLED to be there. She ran right out and had a great time playing in the freezing water. Davey fearlessly ran out to the water with her, and then had a change of heart as soon as it touched him, and came crawling back for some lovin'. He spent the rest of the day rolling in, and eating, the sand. 

Sophie convinced Brent to go play in the chilly waves with her since no one else was interested

Davey checking out the ladies

Monday was Memorial Day, so we intentionally didn't plan any big activities and used it to travel up to the Newport condo where we would stay for the rest of our trip. On the way our car made a stop at "The Cube" discovery museum to give the kids a break from the car, and give the other adults a break from the kids :) 

We got free admission, thanks to our Thanksgiving Point membership, which made it even better. There was a special Doc McStuffins exhibit there, and while it's one of the few Disney Jr. shows I don't like, Sophie had a great time pretending to be a doctor for the day. There was also a little shopping area with real barcode scanners that that were finicky, but fun to use. 

May 22, 2017

Big changes are coming our way!!

After more than a decade, we finally leaving the student life behind us! It's both strange and exciting, and we are very much looking forward to what lies ahead for our family. I'm a bit behind on the blog though, so a good portion of this story has never been shared here. The last update was back in October when Dave flew out for his first job interview, and a lot has happened since then...

The short version is we got a job, we got a house and are moving to Texas next month - HOORAY!!

For the long version (and pictures) keep reading below.

Dropping Dave at the airport in October for his first fly out interview

Dave's interview was at West Texas, which is a branch of the Texas A&M University System. It's located in Canyon, Texas which is just south of Amarillo. The school enrolls just under 10,000 students, so it's smaller than the big state schools, but still respectable and they are continuing to grow. 

Dave said the campus was very nice and he really liked the faculty, especially the Dean. He also liked that the school put more emphasis on teaching than research, which is what he prefers as well. The visit went well, but he was the first of five candidates they were planning to meet with over the coming weeks, so we would have to wait to hear back. 

Just a week after his visit, West Texas extended an offer to teach for their business program. We were both excited, and a little caught off guard. An offer was great news, but they wanted an answer right away, and we weren't expecting to be making decisions like this until January, or even later. The offer was good, but it was so early and we had no idea what other offers might come our way. Maybe there would be better ones, or maybe there would be none at all...

With a week to make a decision, we had some serious thinking to do. Was it good for our family? Did we want to make Amarillo our home? 

Salary-wise the offer was on the lower end of our acceptable range, but it was within range and something we would be happy with. We knew it was highly unlikely we'd end up at one of the prestigious universities, and while some of the other middling schools may offer a bit more, Texas has very affordable cost of living and no state income tax which helps to offset the salary difference.

Amarillo wasn't necessarily a dream destination for either of us, but it's not without merit. Some college towns are super tiny, but Amarillo is far from small with close to 200,000 people. It's not really near any other major metropolitan areas, but the city itself is large enough to have good schools, a stake with 8 wards for our church, plenty of parks and other activities, and an airport! It's a 6 hour drive to Dave's family in Plano, TX and a a plane flight away to my family up in Seattle. 

Located in the panhandle, Amarillo is quite different than the rest of Texas and has a climate more similar to what we're used in Utah. It's dry, instead of humid, and with its more northern latitude there are 4 distinct seasons and the area does receive light snow in the winter. 

Other facts about Amarillo:
  • Amarillo means "yellow" in Spanish, and is named for the yellow grasses that grow in the area
  • Windiest city in the US
  • Home to the 2nd largest canyon in the country, Palo Duro Canyon, after the Grand one of course
  • Major industries for the area are beef, oil, helium, and nuclear assembly
  • Only 1 death from tornadoes in the last 100 years
  • No Costco or LDS temple :( The closest locations are in Lubbock, 2 hours south
    And with those things in mind, Dave accepted the offer!

    Around January we started house shopping. The market there is pretty friendly to buyers, and we were able to compile a massive list of potential properties that could fit our family and budget. We were able to do most of research online, but knew a trip down would be necessary before we started making offers.

    Just Dave went down for a weekend in March and, thanks to an awesome realtor, he was able to walk through about 25 homes and get a feel for the different neighborhoods. Unfortunately a good chunk of our list ended up getting crossed off after the first day and we were left with only a couple real options. With that in mind, I upped our price range just a bit and sent Dave out to look at one other home before he flew out the next morning. The house was AMAZING!! and well above budget, but we kept it on the list as a pipe dream.

    The last house Dave walked through on his visit

    I kept watching the market, and noticed that after a few months of nothing really moving, things were finally starting to heat up. Several homes we had been watching went under contract, and our options were starting to look limited. There were only a couple houses left on our list and we were beginning to think this home thing might not work out and we would have to just dump our stuff in storage and spend the summer in Dallas with Dave's family instead.

    And then there was a big price drop on that one home. It was still too much for us, but getting closer to our range. We started the loan pre-approval process and then a few weeks later there was another huge price cut the same day our approval came back. It was fate!! We immediately put an offer down, and were told there were other offers on the table so we had to bid again and the best and final would be accepted the next day. We went in just above asking price, and although we didn't end up being the highest bid, the seller chose us! So exciting!

    The seller wanted a quick closing, and we consented. After a busy month of inspections, appraisals, paperwork, money transfers and more, we closed on the house this weekend. Moving day is not until the end of June, but the house is officially ours!

    Here are a few more photos from the listing. The seller did a great job and there is no way it will look this good once we move in our with all our secondhand, mismatched furniture, but I don't really care. Someday we upgrade once the savings account is replenished :) I'm just excited to have some space, and a garage, and a yard!!

    Front Room

    Dining Area

    Kitchen (I have always dreamed of a white kitchen!)

    Master Bedroom

    Master Bathroom

    Bedroom #2 - This will be Sophie's

    Bedroom #3 - This will be Davey's

    Kids Bathroom

    Bedroom #4 - Guest Room/Play Room

    Guest Bathroom

    Upstairs Room (there is also a small office up here)

    Laundry Room

    Back Yard