Church 5K

Posted in Sports on October 29th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

While our visitors were in town, our church held their annual 5K. It was a beautiful day (much better than last year, when it started pouring rain half-way through the race). I had hoped to get others in my family to join me in the run, but no one wanted to take on the very hilly course. So, I headed off by myself.

That doesn’t mean the kids didn’t get involved in the race, though. The 5K runs right by our house. The kids decided to make signs and come out to cheer me (and the rest of the racers) on.

Cheering section

I got a nice boost of energy from my cheering section as I ran by.

Here comes Dad

My family didn’t run, but some of their friends did. Simon and Ben ran by too quickly to be photographed (they actually ended up first and second in their age group), but Jen did get a picture of Matilda, Stacie, and Julie.

Friends running

I had my best result in this race so far. For the first time, I won my age group. Thanks to all the other 30-something real runners for not showing up today. It was a great race, so all of you who didn't come should come next year - assuming you're not a 30-something male serious runner. In that case, you should come in 2 years when I move up to the 40-something bracket :)

Putt-putt fun

Posted in Family outings, Family visits, Leah, Molly on October 28th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

In September we had visitors from a far away land. Emmie, JJ, Aunt ‘Chelle, and Uncle J flew up to spend a couple days with us. While they were here, we went for a fun outing of putt-putt. We split into two foursomes, with the girls requesting me to accompany them while JJ and the other adults made up the other foursome. There was some intense concentration.

Putt-putt

Jen putting

The girls had fun golfing, but also got a bit of time to relax while waiting on the other group to catch up.

Relaxing on the green

It was fun!

Golfers

Silly golfers

The putt-putt course is right next to Rita’s, so we had to stop in for a treat.

After golf treat

Rainbow unicorn party

Posted in Celebrations, Leah on October 27th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

The day after Leah’s actual birthday, she had her birthday party. She had no doubts about the kind of party she wanted - a rainbow unicorn party. Yes, not just a unicorn party, but specifically a rainbow unicorn party. Throughout the summer, Leah typed up an outline brainstorming the details of her rainbow unicorn party. Yes, she is her mother’s child.

Happy birthday banner

Rainbow unicorn decorations were everywhere - even outside.

Mailbox decorations

As guests arrived, they were given a unicorn horn and tail, then headed to the table to color a bit until everyone was there.

Coloring

Coloring

The girls then painted a canvas with rainbows. The canvas had a unicorn sticker, that was later removed after the paint dried.

Painting

Painting a rainbow

Here are the girls' rainbow masterpieces after the sticker had been peeled off (picture taken after the party).

Final product

After painting, the girls all made unicorn balloons. They picked a balloon, stuck everything on, and decorated the horn. We had a little trouble sticking things on (glue dots didn’t work the way we’d hoped), but made it through. Leah clearly likes her creation.

Unicorn balloons

We had a couple of activities that were not on the original plan, including tail braiding. The girls had all been given unicorn tails when they arrived. After the balloon craft, one of them decided to braid their friend’s tail, which led to everyone braiding each other’s tails. They loved it.

Tail braiding

Another unscripted activity was the tail shaking dance party. They had the best time shaking their tails and dancing to the music.

Tail shaking

Jen made a fantastic 3-layer funfetti rainbow unicorn cake for Leah’s party.

Cake

And we sang Happy Birthday (with a little extra unplanned fire).

Jen also made a great rainbow piñata for the party.

Rainbow piñata

The girls all got to swing at it several times.

Piñata swing

Piñata swing

Piñata swing

Piñata swing

After several rounds, the piñata was defeating the girls. So, they called in a big strong hitter to take it down. Jen only needed one swing.

Big hitter

Candy

Thanks to everyone for coming!

Party people

Silly one

Leah’s actual birthday

Posted in Celebrations, Leah on October 24th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

The celebration continued on Leah’s actual birthday. Leah shares a birthday with one of her best friends (Grace), and their birthday fell on a Saturday this year. So, we made sure their parties wouldn’t conflict, and decided Grace would have her party on their actual birthday and Leah’s would be the next day.

We decided to go out to lunch for a family birthday meal rather than dinner, and Leah surprised no one in choosing Ledo Pizza for our destination. After lunch, there was no time for presents because Leah headed off to Grace’s American Girl tea party. After she got home, she was eager to open them up. Molly made a great card for her.

Actual birthday

Star Wars is still a big hit, and the new Forces of Destiny toys are a favorite of our girls. Molly already has Leia and R2-D2 (which she got in Disneyland), and now Leah has Rey and BB-8.

Star Wars

Leah’s wanted Heelys for a long time, and was very excited to get them. Now she just needs to figure out how to skate in them.

Heelys

The girls really enjoyed playing with a marble run toy that was at the beach house in California, so we gave Leah one for her birthday. While Leah was enjoying her other new toys (that’s Rey in her hands there), Molly was quick to open up the marble run and construct a fun run.

Marble run

After dinner, Leah got to blow out a candle. The cake had to wait for her party the next day, but no one complained about the homemade chocolate ice cream Jen made for us.

Homemade ice cream

Leah turns 8

Posted in Celebrations, Leah on October 23rd, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

Shortly after school started, it was time to celebrate Leah’s 8th birthday. This started a week early at Grams’s house. There were of course presents.

Early birthday

These perfect presents combined two loves of Leah - Minecraft and plush toys.

Minecraft plushes

Good things come to those who wait. Hatchimals were impossible to find at Christmas, but now Leah’s got one of her own.

A Hatchimal

Minecraft, Lego, Roominate. Do you get the idea that she likes to build?

Lego

Roominate

Thanks to all for the presents and the fun celebrating early.

Old friends

Posted in Family outings, Trip on October 22nd, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

After spending Friday at the beach, it was time to leave L.A. However, rather than head back east, we chose to head south to see an old friend. Bill’s my best friend from high school, and he now lives (with his wife, Lauren, and daughter, Sloan) in San Diego. So, we though we could spend an extra day in California to see him. This was tough, as the girls started school that week and Bill’s family was flying in from Hawaii Friday, but we were determined to make it work.

We planned to leave very early Saturday morning, hoping to get to San Diego in time to go to the zoo around when it opened. Sadly, Molly didn’t feel well before we even got in the car. She felt sick the whole way, and we had 4 vomit stops along the way. Given how hot it was, we decided taking her to the zoo was a bad plan. Instead, we headed to Bill’s house to hang out and let her rest.

Amazingly, after we arrived and she got some time out of the car, she was fine. We hung out at their house for a bit, and got to meet Sloan. Since Molly was doing better, we decided she could handle going out and doing something. They live right off the beach, and the girls were begging to go back to the beach, so that’s what we did. We figured if Molly relapsed, at least it wasn’t far to get back. She didn’t though, and we had a lot of fun at the beach.

San Diego beach

The girls enjoyed playing with Sloan. They may be much older than her, but Sloan has much more beach experience than them, making her the beach expert of the bunch.

Kids on the beach

Kids on the beach

Sloan on the beach

After the beach, we got cleaned up and headed to a local pizza place (which our girls were really pushing for).

Pizza time

Old friends

We had intended to get a hotel room that night. Since hotels in San Diego are expensive, I’d been trying to grab a deal last minute on Hotwire. But Bill and Lauren were very kind and offered for us to stay with them instead, despite the fact that they’d just gotten back in town the night before. Bill and I even got to go on an early morning run together for the first time since high school cross country.

Then we got ready and headed to the airport, ready to get home Sunday night after a long but very fun trip. The girls at least got the next day (Labor Day) off before starting school on Tuesday. The timezone change right before starting school wasn’t ideal, but we managed.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

Posted in Family outings, Trip on October 21st, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

OK, I guess this post should be titled Universal Studios Hollywood as we did explore the whole park, but honestly, the part we were really excited about was The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Thursday we skipped the beach and drove to Hollywood to go to Universal Studios (and Molly again got carsick on the drive there). The girls were decked out in their Gryffindor robes and Harry Potter shirts that Jen made them (and I’ve got a Harry Potter shirt as well).

Universal Studios Hollywood

We got to the park when it opened and headed straight to Hogsmeade. As there weren’t many people there yet, the conductor of the Hogwarts Express motioned our girls over to talk about the train and take a picture.

Hogwarts Express

Hogwarts Express

It’s Hogwarts!

Hogwarts

We then got in line for the wand choosing experience at Olivander’s. It was really cool. They pick one child from each group and replicate the wand choosing experience (like in the Sorcerer’s Stone). Sadly the wandkeeper did not choose one of our children, but the show was still really cool. After the experience, you go into Olivander’s where you can purchase a wand. We opted to wait to do so, but had fun looking at all the wands (can you identify the wand Leah is looking at?).

Olivander's

Harry Potter world is so fantastic. Part of the fun is using a special wand (you can buy them there, but we already had one that we borrowed from Aunt EA and Uncle Scott) to make magic. Three are lots of places around Hogsmeade that have spells for you to do. If you say the magic words and move your wand in the proper motion (which is actually quite hard to do), things will happen. Here Molly was making some Quidditch balls fly around.

Magic

Leah managed to unlock the magic hidden inside this window with Alohomora.

Alohomora

We did this a lot all over Hogsmeade, and it never got old.

They had a lovely a cappella performance of Harry Potter songs (some from the movies, some new) by these students and their toads.

A cappella

We rode the Flight of the Hippogriff a couple times. It’s a small, family-friendly roller coaster, but it’s still a lot of fun. And there was hardly any line.

The most impressive ride in Harry Potter world was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. It’s a hybrid ride - part simulator, part practical. Your seats are moved around by by a giant arm, sometimes with screens simulating flying on a broom, sometimes being surprised by giant dementors. It’s a lot of fun. And even better, the line goes through Hogwarts castle, making it the most fun I’ve ever had in a line. I rank this as definitely the best ride at Universal.

Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey

The morning was nice, but as it approached noon, it started to get really hot. So, we got a couple Butterbeers. Molly has the soda variety (similar to cream soda) while Jen has the frozen version. Both were delicious.

Butterbeer

We explored some of the shops in Hogsmeade, all made to be like those in the films. One of the best was Honeydukes, where the girls were very excited about the chocolate frogs. We didn’t get anything at that point, though we came back later for some treats.

Honeydukes

We then left Hogsmeade to check out the other parts of Universal Studios. Unfortunately, it started to really get hot (like around 100 degrees hot), which made walking around and standing in line outside tough. We went to the Special Effects Show, which was fun and indoors, where we learned about how they do different special effects in movies.

Then we went on the studio tour, which rides through many of the places Universal shoots movies and TV shows. Here’s a city hall, notably used in Back to the Future.

Studio tour

The studio tour was more than an hour long. It included lots of the individual attractions that are separate in Orlando (Jaws, Fast & Furious, King Kong, Earthquake, and more). It was somewhat fun, but again, it was hot and we would have skipped lots of the parts of it if we could have.

We wandered around a bit looking at rides but deciding their lines weren’t worth the wait in the heat. We tried to get the girls to go on the Jurassic Park ride to cool off, but they clearly had the water turned up due to the heat, so everyone got off completely drenched. None of us was looking forward to that, so we skipped it.

We tried and failed to get ice cream a couple places, and decided to head back to Hogsmeade instead for a treat. We bought those treats at Honeydukes, then found a table in the Three Broomsticks (which is air conditioned) to eat them. Molly loved her chocolate frog, though she would have preferred a different card than Lockhart. Leah had a giant lollipop that she still hasn’t finished.

Three Broomsticks

In addition to the packaged treats, Honeydukes had some fresher options in their glass counter. When I saw they had Butterbeer fudge, I couldn’t pass it up. It was wonderful.

Butterbeer fudge

We then rode Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, which was a lot of fun. It’s a simulator ride, and has all the fun silliness of the Minions. Then we headed to the WaterWorld show, which was pretty good. We at least got to sit in the shade, though the bursts of fire weren’t helping the heat.

As our day was coming to an end, we went back to Olivander’s to buy the girls wands. They’ve wanted them for a long time, and we told them they could each get one as a toy/souvenir. They both chose to get replica wands of characters from the films. Leah chose Hermione’s wand, and Molly chose Luna’s wand (technically, Luna’s second wand). Sadly, they only got to use them a couple of times before it started raining (you can see the ground is already damp).

Wands

As it got close to park closing time, it started to rain. This left us with a choice to find a place to hide and hope it passed, or try to leave before the rain got bad. We were hungry and it did not look like it would blow over quickly, so we chose to leave before it got bad. Sadly, it quickly got bad. And as you might expect, it was a long walk to get out of the park and to our car. Soon, we were completely drenched. After such an exhaustingly hot afternoon, ending with a long hike through a downpour was a bit too much for Jen. She was not amused.

Not amused

Between the heat, the downpour, and us not being into much of the stuff outside of Harry Potter world, the day definitely had its problems. In my opinion, the awesomeness of Harry Potter world totally made up for all that. Jen may disagree with me.

The beach

Posted in Family outings, Trip on October 20th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

A cool thing about staying in a house by the beach in L.A. is that you can easily interleave beach vacation days with the theme park vacation days. The girls loved the beach, and we ended up spending a lot of time there. You already saw some of our beach fun on Sunday and Monday. After Tuesday at Disneyland, we were back on the beach on Wednesday.

Back to the beach

The house we were staying in had a couple of boogie boards, and Molly was excited to learn how to use them. She took to it quickly, despite the continual threat of being bowled over by the waves (they were pretty big). She left me in the waves many times as she glided toward the sand.

Molly boogie board

She had me come out with her as her coach, telling her which waves to let pass and which to try to catch. Plus, I could give her a little push off when she tried to catch one for a bit of extra speed.

Boogie boarding

Boogie boarding

Chris (my long time friend and boss) joined us on the beach for the boogie board fun.

Chris boogie board

Boogie boards

Molly and Chris even got to do some fun side-by-side boogie boarding.

Boogie boarding with Chris

Leah asked to try the boogie boards once, but changed her mind when she got part way out and found the waves crashing on her. Instead, she preferred the sand. She loved building sand castles (this time with lots of tools).

Sand castles

Thursday we went to Universal Studios (more on that in the next post), but Friday we were back at the beach again. Molly again wanted to play in the water, boogie board, and be active, and I was happy to join her. Leah, on the other hand, is discovering she prefers the calmer version of the beach like Jen. In addition to sand castles, she loved reading in a beach chair under an umbrella, just like her mom.

Reading on the beach

We rarely go to the beach, but we may need to make an effort to go more. These girls love it.

Disneyland

Posted in Family outings, Trip on October 19th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment
Castle pic

On Tuesday, the four of us took a break from the beach to go to Disneyland. We had hoped to go with one of my coworkers and his family, but they ended up not being able to go. So, it was just a Sellers family outing. We left our beach house early in the morning to avoid traffic and get to Anaheim before the park opened. Sadly, Molly got carsick on the way there, but she recovered quickly after we arrived.

Our first stop was to sign up for Jedi Training. We were expecting a long line like we found in Orlando, but found there to be no line at all and we had our pick of times to train.

We had hoped to take the girls on Space Mountain for the first time, but it was sadly closed during our visit. So, instead, we got on our first ride - Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters (which also had no line).

Buzz Lightyear

Buzz Lightyear

We then went across the park to the Indiana Jones Adventure. The girls did not like this one (too scary), but they made it through. I think Leah said she just kept her eyes closed the entire time.

There was much debate about whether to do Splash Mountain or not, as the girls didn’t want to get soaked. After seeing it, they were happy to try it. Here we go down the big drop at the end.

Splash Mountain

We ate our packed lunches in New Orleans Square, then went on one of our favorite rides - Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, which we actually rode a second time later in the day because we liked it so much.

The girls did Jedi Training, as they had done in Orlando. Leah is excellent at calming her mind to use the Force.

Use the force

Half the kids fight Darth Vader, while the other half fight the Seventh Sister. In Orlando, they fought the Seventh Sister, so I was glad they got to fight Darth Vader this time.

Fighting Vader

Fighting Vader

Fighting Vader

After Jedi Training, we had to ride on Star Tours to continue the Star Wars fun. We only rode it one time this trip.

That wasn’t true of the Matterhorn Bobsleds, which we rode twice unintentionally. We rode it once, but then the staff said they needed to take our sled off the course for a minute to help with flow control. So, we slid off to side for a couple of minutes. When they let us back on the course, they told us we’d get to ride for a second time for our trouble without even having to get out of the sled.

It was a hot day, and we got the perfect cold treat. As a kid, my favorite thing at Disney World was the Mickey Mouse ice cream pop. So, we of course all got one. It was fantastic.

The best treat

Most of the stuff in Toontown was geared toward little kids and uninteresting to our girls, but Gadget’s Go Coaster caught their eye. It’s really small and short, but there was no line. So, we rode it three times in a row.

Gadget's Go Coaster

We enjoyed the afternoon parade, including Mary Poppins.

Mary Poppins

We rode on the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, cooling off under the sea.

Finding Nemo

We ate dinner at the Jolly Holiday Bakery Café. We walked through the castle, and then went on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Afterward, the girls demonstrated how they looked while riding it.

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

We rode the Mad Tea Party, and did Big Thunder Mountain Railroad again.

We stayed all day, so got a picture in front of the lit up castle at night. The girls appreciated that Disneyland has a different castle than Disney World (Sleeping Beauty’s instead of Cinderella’s).

Night-time castle

I think we all gave Disneyland a big thumbs up.

California trip

Posted in Trip on October 18th, 2017 by c-had – Be the first to comment

I work for an incredibly awesome company. We’re a fairly small team, somewhat distributed geographically across the United States. We decided that we should really hang out together some. This resulted in a company-wide retreat to Los Angeles. So, the company flew all of us, and our families, to California. We rented a couple of big fancy houses on Venice Beach for the week and had a great time.

We left a day late (since we had to stay in town for Molly’s belt test) and arrived late Saturday. Sunday was a relaxed day, just hanging out and exploring around the area. We walked down the Venice Beach Boardwalk for a while (which is cool, though not exactly our thing) and then wandered down to the ocean. This meant the girls got to see and touch the Pacific Ocean for the first time.

Pacific first

Cold splash

Chilly ocean

Leah was excited about playing in the sand, and we made plans to return with proper sand castle tools.

Sand play

That night, we joined up with everyone else at the house we were staying at for dinner and fellowship. It was fun to get to meet co-workers and their families in person for the first time. Three of us decided to go running together in the morning, which we did.

After lunch on Monday, my family decided to head up the beach a bit to the Santa Monica Pier. It has a bunch of fun stuff (ferris wheel, roller coaster, games, etc.). After we got there, we found it to be more of a tourist trap than we hoped (every little thing cost way too much). We ended up skipping the rides and just getting some fun ice cream cones from Scoops (Cookie Monster, Salted Caramel, Mango, and Cookie Dough). They were a total mess, but very yummy.

Santa Monica Pier

After our failed adventure to Santa Monica Pier, we decided to hit the beach by our house. Leah was still a little timid around the ocean water, but Molly loved playing in the surf.

To the beach

In the surf

Beach fun

Getting wet

Strike a pose

Strike a pose

Get wet

But that was just the start to our trip. There’s a lot to do in L.A. besides the beach, so the next day we headed to the happiest place on Earth. That deserves its own post, of course.