Another school year DONE.

Friday marked the official last day of school for the boys. Kindergarten Graduation was Tuesday, last day of instruction on Thursday and Water Fun day on site Friday. What a great end to a wonderful year.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeated. We have been so blessed by this school. Brendon has really been a trooper, three schools in three years. I guess for that matter this is also John’s third year in a different school too; It just seems more about Brendon since his two previous years have not been stellar. I understand it’s hard to teach a class of students with varying skill sets, but if you are not up to the task, it is time to find a new career. I could NOT do what they do. No way.

Bren last day

It’s hard to tell here, but Brendon has really sprouted this year and his appetite…oh my. I guess this is what they were talking about when they said boys really like to eat.

John last day

Who could guess, just moments before John was in a complete fit about having to wear regular clothes and get his hair combed? So bright eyed. We did this photo on Kinder grad night as I knew there would be no getting a photo on the last day of school for him.

This year was such a breath of fresh air for all of us. Cottonwood Creek Charter is like the Evergreen of my youth. The teachers really want to be there, they love what they do and are invested in trying to reach each student where they are. At least from my outside perspective. I only helped in Brendon’s class once this year. Up until that point, I had assumed the school was 99% full of high academic achievers, given the stellar online ratings. I was really surprised to find that was not the case. The difference is the involvement of the families. You have to truly want your kids at CCC to keep them there.

There are no busses. No school lunches. No afterschool care and most shockingly, No site classes on Fridays. This school demonstrates the success parent involvement combined with teacher enthusiasm brings. It is a gem.

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Photo by Roxi.

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Four generations of graduations.

Brendon was most shocked to have a teacher that doesn’t “yell” to get her point across. He even stated he missed her over the Christmas Break. I remember that feeling about my grade school teachers and to this day, cherish those early school memories.

John has found two great buddies, who he may be besties with through 8th grade; maybe even beyond. His teacher was fantastic at making him feel loved, even in those early weeks when escaping was his key focus. The last day of school, John sprinted to get to class to see if his teacher was back from being sick. A complete 180.

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Photo by Roxi. I love how well coordinated they are. Totally by accident.

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Have you tried Rita’s yet?! If not, you are missing out on some delicious treats. Hubby’s brother and girls gave us a gift cert to this place and we thought the perfect time to use it would be end of school celebration. So super good! Although, the pineapple (my selection) was probably the least tasty. Black Cherry…uber delicious.

Now what will next school year bring? I’d like to think more of the same! But you know, we still have not found a house to rent or even a decent purchase in Cottonwood, in our 8 months of diligent searching. At least it’s Summer now and there are camps close to our current rental. The search continues…

Waterslide

For a bit of video fun, click the photo.

 

LEGOLAND 2017

Let’s say you have two boys and your playroom constantly looks like a lego bomb just hit,  you have several conversations a week about what precious lego mini figure may or may not be in the vacuum bag, or you find a handful of legos regularly lurking the bottom of your purse, the cup holder of your car…etc…. Well then, you should most certainly take a trip to Legoland.

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Actual playroom footage. Taken moments before a Mommy Meltdown.

Due to a massive change to the energy code taking place January 1, 2017, many local home builders wanted their plans submitted before the end of the year. While thankful for the work, it made for a busy holiday season and no time for a vacation. I put out a cautionary warning I would be taking a delayed break early in the year, thinking Napa or Hawaii, but in the end it was Legoland. We had built up going to legoland roughly 18 months ago and then the whole plan fell apart, so we were very tentative in telling the boys or spreading the word about our trip until it was about to take place.

Brendon has never given up on the idea and made many offers to cover the cost of the tickets with his Christmas and birthday money coupled with a coupon he found in the Lego magazine; sort of the prompting that made the trip happen in the end.

Getting to Legoland:

I love my little guys dearly, but a 10 hour car ride (each way) was not one I wanted to endure. The way down would be doable, although a tiny bit brutal. The way back….I don’t even want to think about that adventure. Thankfully a visiting friend mentioned the Southwest Airlines Ticket sale, enabling us to get rock bottom ticket prices from Sacramento (2hr car ride for us…that was plenty).

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I didn’t notice it until this flight, but here’s another lefty challenge photo. The tray tables put the cup holder on the right.

Now remember when I mentioned I was really busy with work at the end of the year? I am pleased to say we are still constantly flush with work and trying to plan a trip and work, while managing life, i.e, sewing projects, was a little chaotic. We booked into Santa Ana.

Tip #1. Do NOT fly into Santa Ana. You need to fly into San Diego!!! Airport. There is a super shuttle from SD airport. We managed fine with Uber and a Taxi; all be it a costly lesson.

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John told me he was feeling “pretty confident about himself” as he insisted on carrying this booster. We let him ride in one of Brendon’s boosters, just for this trip. He’s right on the line weight wise and it was much easier than hauling his car seat.

Legoland Hotel:

There are a few other hotels in the area, but only one **Legoland Hotel**. True to comments from friends, the hotel is expensive. Not just a little pricey. Expensive!! With a capital E. But, in the end it was really worth the cost. There is a fantastic breakfast buffet included, complete with the chef coming to our table to talk over what was unsafe for our allergy boy. The customer service impeccable, to the point that they stepped in and called the taxi and when the receptionist could see how frustrated I was, she offered up some Lego packets to keep the boys happy on the long journey to the airport.

Everyone at the hotel is friendly from the minute you pull in and throughout your entire stay. Our room was a little dated, but they are in the midst of renovations and constructing a second hotel on site. The boys were super happy to have their “own room” with bunk beds, their own tv and a treasure chest with a take home toy for each of them, each day. The wifi was pretty pitiful, but we used our phones as hot spots when needed and got by just fine.

The biggest bonus of staying in the Legoland Hotel was the 30 minute early access to the park each morning, for hotel guests only. The boys felt so special and it enabled getting to ride a few rides with little to no line. The bane of every theme park – waiting in line! I should also mention the park tickets for all four of us, both days, were included with the hotel stay too.

Legoland – The park

legoland entrance

We were happy we actually held off on going to the park until this year. John is just now 42” tall, with his hair uncombed and wearing his Timberlands. At 42” the park is your oyster. You can ride every ride, some by yourself and some with an adult. There were even a few rides John and Brendon could ride together because Brendon is now 48” tall, the other magic age for the park rides. I wouldn’t suggest going with a child under the height of 36” as there is a lot of restrictions for that size and plus, can a child that size really stand in long lines?? Without incessant complaining?

The park is really well thought out and includes a giant play structure when kids just need to burn off some energy. Since we went off season, we had the benefit of short lines and lower prices. We found out they even raise the rate of the ride photos in peak season. I would definitely suggest going in early March before they open the water park. While I was bummed we would miss out on the water rides, there was plenty to do without it and a lot less guests at the park.

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One of their solo rides. True to form Brendon chatting up another rider.

Tip #2 – Download the official Legoland App to your phone during your visit. It will send you dinner coupons and you can look up the wait times on rides throughout the park and which rides are currently closed for maintenance. It helped quite a bit in navigating our day.

The rides: I am not a big fan of roller coasters and fast action rides. I still remember going to the fair with my childhood friend and throwing up in a trashcan after she talked me into riding the Zipper. That pretty much sums up my lack of love affair with theme park rides. That being said, we did all the rides open in the park, most are pretty tame, but there were a couple with fear inducing power. One such ride was the Technic Roller Coaster. We rode this ride back to back three times at one point because there was no line. I always sat in the back with one of the boys, but both boys and Vance had been in the front through our many rides. On the second day, Vance convinced me I too could sit in the front. Why oh why did I listen to him? Just like Javonna all those years ago – I was lulled into them having my best interest in mind. Ha!

As we’re climbing the initial track, *Tick. Tick. Tick.* Vance is behind me now saying how scary it is to be in the front, “don’t look down,” etc. You can imagine when we hit the crest of the hill, one look and I was screaming down the track. See photo below. It is the reason we purchased ride photos at all.

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The Lego Technic

Tip #3 – Maybe regular park goers know this, but we didn’t. Once you get a bracelet for photos, hang on to it and have all other photos from every ride and character sighting scanned onto the same bracelet. Had I known, we would’ve had quite a few more photos from our visits. One helpful worker was able to scan all of my many bracelets I did manage to hang onto and bundle them together.

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The one photo I look good in from the trip and I’m wearing these crazy glasses. Ah well. Memories are better than great photos.

One the biggest attractions for the boys was the Mini-figure Trading. There are several disclosed and undisclosed locations throughout the park, at the stores, or even just the many workers in the park and hotel, for trading minifigures. The boys each brought one from home for this purpose and then received one each day in our hotel treasure chest, so they had plenty of trading to do throughout the day. It was like getting a new toy each time. John ended up playing with his while patiently waiting to board the plane and in the car for the last hour of our 2hr ride home from the airport.

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Some of their Interesting Trades.

Attached to the park is the Sea Life park, included with the admission of Legoland. Vance was the only one truly excited about going in there, but it was well worth the stop. A mini version of the Monterey Bay Aquarium I was told twice by other guests and we timed it to see the feeding of the sharks and fish. Turned out to be a nice way to get inside for an hour. Once again, the staff was impeccably friendly and there’s a treasure hunt in the aquarium to keep the littlest occupied – they get a prize at the end. (And some great mini figures trades here too)

ninja movesWe spent two full days at the park, walking 6 miles each day. The boys went to sleep without a fight each night, did their schoolwork each morning prior to entering the park and it was a fantastic family vacation for us. Will we go again? Maybe. If we lived closer, definitely, but the expense and effort to get to the park is a serious obstacle for us.

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Batman and Batman. John’s number one favorite since two years old.

Oh, and my thoughts of sitting poolside with an adult beverage never really happened. On our initial half day arrival, it was drizzly and the pool, although heated, is outdoors. Vance canned that pretty quickly. We were done! when we got back from the park each day and just wanted to camp out in our room with said adult beverage from the well timed “happy hour” pricing timed with the park closing.

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Dad needing his happy hour drink.

And as my work partner likes to say, work will always be there. He’s right. And I was in need of a three day absence.