Saturday we packed up the car, made a pit stop to grab my mom, and headed to TN towards Dollywood. It’s been on my list for a long time and Wyatt is finally tall enough to ride most of the rides. In fact, at 42″, he can ride all but the tallest rollercoasters in the park. 

Riding the tram from parking

The weather was next to perfect: neither too hot to be enjoyable nor too cold to want to go on the water rides. We arrived right as the gates were opening.

The park is in a big circle and we headed clockwise to see what kind of trouble we could find. I love rollercoasters, but the hubby and my mom are less enthusiastic so I was prepared to skip most things and just enjoy what Wyatt could ride. 

The park put a lot of effort as thought into things beyond just the rides. Each section had lots of things to do and look at. I’m sure it all cost a fortune.

The park itself is really nice. Everything was sparkling clean and the employees were really nice and friendly. Wyatt was in a hard in between stage: too big to enjoy the little kiddie rides and while tall enough to ride most of the big rollercoasters he was too little to enjoy them. Even with that we found plenty to do. 

The park is broken into sections and each was well decorated. I enjoyed the ambience of each although the 1950s styled section was my favorite. If I could live in any other era it would be the 50s with the sock hops, wonderful music, cool cars and relative prosperity. I was really good at taking pictures in the first section we hit, but after that the phone was placed in protection from water as we did a lot of water rides in the heat of the afternoon. Then I forgot all about it. 

We missed out on the entire central aspect of the park and I think Wyatt would have found plenty to do there, but it was getting late and everyone was tired and ready to leave. 

The day was really enjoyable. We rode plenty of rides with Wyatts favorite being the raft water ride although he was a bit too small to get much of the water spray.

There would only be two complaints I would raise about the park. First, the food was ridiculously expensive. It was bad enough to shell out $67 per ticket but all the lunches were $11 a pop. For chicken nuggets. A regular sized hot dog was $6! For a hot dog! I hate feeling ripped off. Second, the entrances to the rides were really difficult to find. We ended up waking around the outside of many rides just trying to figure out where to enter. 

Wyatt rode this coaster which was pretty insane. He was tall enough and even though he saw how tall it went (one of the largest coasters they have) he said he wanted to go. We ended up in the very front car. I felt bad because even though I warned him it was faster and taller than anything he had done before, I realized later that this wasn’t even in his realm of possibility. He just didn’t understand having never experienced anything like it. He was terrified the entire time and I basically just held on to him and covered his eyes. Near the end of the ride the cars go into a small shed where fire works are. Fire lights up and the car gets blown backwards along the track. It was a lot of fun but he shrieked the entire time. Afterward he announced to everyone “I am never, ever riding that ride again. Ever!” He never cried though. It did make him more cautious going forward with rides.

I’d love to go back. Everyone was whooped when we left and Sunday was spent recuperating at home. Wyatt played play dough for a solid 8 hours. Next time I hope to get him on more rides as I was a bit sad walking past some of the coasters and not being able to go on. Dusty and I snuck away one time to ride the Mystery Mine coaster while my Mom took Wyatt on a different one, but other than that we stuck together. 

Having been to Disney, Cedar Park, Six Flags in Ohio and Kennywood I’d say in comparison this one is like a mini Disney with all the scenery and then beautifully built rides. It wasn’t just steel coaster after steel coaster. There were a few really big steel coasters to go on for adrenaline junkies but most of the rides were more toned down and fun. Much more my style. I would recommend it for anyone in the area. 


Things I Learned Travelling as a Mom

I’ve traveled a lot in my life both within and outside the US. I love to travel although I also love returning home. Anyone who is Type A could use a little travel in their life to learn to let go. So much is out of your control when you travel and if you don’t learn to loosen up a little, you’ll end up having a stroke.

Travelling alone is great. Nobody to worry about but yourself, you can get the prime territory everywhere you go. Taking a trip with your four year old son changes things.

  1. The window seat no longer exists. Or rather it no longer exists without a big blonde head in the way. This is true on the airplane, trolley, busses and pretty much anywhere a view is possible.
  2. You will spend only fleeting moments doing what you find interesting. The aviary, pretty vistas, bookshops and the like will all be looked at wistfully as you walk on by. Seriously the pleasure in getting to see or do what you want is completely overshadowed by the constant nagging of the bored toddler attached to you. The times you deem it worthwhile enough to still do will be seldom and carefully doled out.
  3. On the other hand, be prepared to spend inordinate amounts of time looking at things that you have no interest in. The amphibian and reptile house, play grounds and candy stores will all become time vortexes.
  4. No decent restaurant posts their kids menu online. Choosing a place to eat becomes a battle of finding food you want to spend your vacation money on while not wasting it with things your toddler won’t eat. Researching online is useless as most of the better places don’t post the kid options. This is likely in an attempt to discourage families from dining, but you have to eat somewhere. When I travel, I try my best to avoid any restaurant I can eat at at home which means trying new things and places.
  5. Everything is more expensive. Keeping the kiddo entertained costs money. He isn’t appeased by a day sitting reading a book and waking around town looking at buildings isn’t going to last for long. Thankfully the park and beach are free, so we only actually bought entry to the zoo and amusement park.
  6. Tired is no longer a strong enough adjective. Exhausted is better, but still falls short of how bone achingly worn out you become not only being out and about, but having to carry the toddler and all the gear that goes along with him. Relaxing, taking a nap and zoning out in the hotel to TV are things you only can dream about.
  7. If you think you have packed enough, you are wrong. Traveling with a small suitcase and a carry on used to be sufficient for a week long excursion. Not any more. Not only did the kiddo have his on suitcase, but he took up my entire carry on bag and part of my suitcase as well. For as small as they are, they sure do require a lot of stuff.
  8. You will go home and thank your parents.  Remember when your mom and dad took you to an amusement park and watched while you rode the same ride 30 times in a row? Back before there were smartphones and Facebook? Yeah, well they were really excited and filled with joy to see how happy you were the first 6 times. After that? They were bored. Very, very bored. Thank them. Thank them a lot.

But you know what else I learned on my first trip as a mom?

It was more fun, I smiled bigger and felt happier and more filled with joy watching Wyatt explore the city, ride the same ride 30 times in a row and say hello to a Komodo Dragon than I’ve had out there on my own.

Having a kid means that the world no longer revolves around you. It isn’t about you any more. It’s a about them. It’s about opening their eyes to the world and the people/animals/plants that inhabit it. It doesn’t matter if I get a window seat because watching his amazement at being above the clouds is so much better. The aviary? It will still exist once he is grown and showing his own kids the world. For now, I’m happy to watch the light dance in his eyes as he spies a bright blue frog behind the glass.



San Diego Day #5

One last day. Saturday was really full at the conference and so I sent the boys on their way at 7:30 am. They went to Balboa Park to hunt Pokémon and then spent more time at the zoo. I sat and learned and then explored the massive vendor area and fell in love. I adore vendor areas. So much free stuff. So much in fact that my suitcase weighed 3 pounds overweight at the airport Sunday morning! Oops.

Early morning reading material. At least they served a good breakfast along with it.
The late afternoon was light so I met up with the boys at the trolley then caught a bus to Pacific Beach. I was optimistic and changed into my bathing suit.
The Atlantic along the coast of SC was 86F last June when we went to the beach. It was deliciously warm and I spent the entire day in the water. I was a bit worried when I was full of goosebumps just walking to the waters edge that things would be very different here and so early in the year.
That little running shadow is Wyatt. One foot in the water and I learned my lesson. The Pacific is ice cold as water feeds into it from Alaska. No way was I going in. But the scenery was gorgeous, the waves large and the kiddo was having a blast. No complaints from me.
After the beach we walked over to a Denny’s restaurant for dinner. Wyatt snuggled up on Dusty and told us he wanted to go home. He was homesick and missed his guinea pig.
When we got off the bus at the beach there was a custom ice cream sandwich shop. The line for it was halfway down the block. I told Dusty I wanted to go after dinner. After all, my diet had been blown long before on this trip. Why not finish it off? The place did not disappoint. Everything was custom order from the cookies or brownies to the ice cream flavor and added toppings. It did not dissappoint.
We were right in L’s neighborhood and I had texted her that we were at the beach. She was unable to meet us there but she and her SO met up with us at dinner and then for ice cream after. I didn’t completely fail this time and got a picture. Well, technically she took it but it was on my phone, so that counts for something! I left wishing we lived closer. They are great people and a lot of fun. Her SO has some competition though. During ice cream Wyatt looked over at L and said “I can show you my bedroom” 4 is a little too young for pick up lines!!

After that it was time to grab the bus then the trolley and pack up. Given a choice I always pick the earliest flight and this time was no exception. Another 6 am flight for us meant a 3:30 am wake up. Wyatt was ready to head home which was a relief. I was a little concerned there would be some tantrums involved in the leaving process.

All in all it was an amazing trip. I hadn’t been on a real vacation in 5 years when we went to Rolex for my 30th birthday. This trip was mixed with work which was the only way I could convince myself to take the time off. It was so nice to travel and explore once again.


San Diego Day #4

Everyone woke up tired this morning but at least the clock said 6 am which was the latest to date. The conference schedule was heavier in the morning and late afternoon, but had a big break in the late morning/early afternoon which allowed for some family time. 

Breakfast was no where near as good today as yesterday which was a bummer. The talk was equally as poor which made the early hour seem even more cruel.
Turns out today was also opening day for the Padres. They were playing the Giants. I announced to Wyatt that they were playing the New York Giants which garnered odd looks from everyone near me. Turns out it was the San Francisco Giants. Seriously? Come up with a more original name if you don’t want to be mistaken.
Wyatt came on this trip with three goals: go to the zoo, play in the ocean and ride a roller coaster. We checked off the others already so today was off to Belmont Park. He was too small for the roller coaster, but there were other rides he could have fun on
Belmont Park was a total flashback in time. Small community park teeming with teenagers and early college students on dates and causing minor trouble. Small kids enjoying the rides and fair food.
No trip to the amusement park is without overly priced cotton candy. Wyatt spied it immediately upon entering and choked down
He was not impressed with the dinky train ride.
The race car ride which in my hometown amusement park was called the whip was a big hit. It went slow on the long sides and then sped around the turns.
He laughed and laughed going around the turns. He was pretending to be Gizmo from the Gremlins movie at the end when he drives the pink car and kills Stripe
Watching his little face light up with glee made my day. He was having so much fun that I didn’t mind him riding it again and again.
The carousel was another big hit although he was super serious the entire ride
This is a kids version of the popular tower of terror type ride. He was happy to get on it but had no real clue what it was going to do. He looked so tiny in the seat.
It went up and he looked an it scared for the moment it stayed still. When it dropped he laughed so loud it rang throughout the park. The ride went up and down a dozen times and he was giggling I much he could barely breathe
It’s a good thing I adore rollercoasters and thrill rides. This guy is going to be my partner in crime. Dusty hates them so he will be the old we then holding the drinks and taking pictures.
The last ride he was big enough to ride was a version of bumper cars. I was really worried he wouldn’t be able to work it cuz you had to move the shifters forward and back and if you did one more than the other you’d go in a circle. He surprised the crap out of me by rocking it. He thought it was hilarious to hit others and could make that thing go anywhere he wanted it to
Unfortunately the afternoon came to and end I needed to get back for more lectures on wound care. Wyatt and Dusty took a nap while I learned about all the wonderful new mandates that the government is putting on doctors next year such as reported Yelp reviews to determine your reimbursement. My blood pressure was through the roof by the end of it. Then the next lecture was on a new drug coming out that will create the physiologic responses that exercise does without having to you know exert yourself. The human race never ceases to amaze me.
Petco Park was breaking at the seems with opening day. The Padres ended up winning 7-6
So the night before I may have had a temper tantrum when I got done with lectures and Dusty had me make all the dinner plans after making all their day time plans for them as well. I’m the social planner for our family and always have been. Typically I don’t mind but when I’m tired and hungry it would be nice if he just said “we are going here and this is how we will get there” instead of making me do it. When I got done today Dusty informed me he had made reservations. I didn’t know it was at Flemings.
One look at the menu prices and I needed a glass of wine to be able to enjoy it without having an aneurysm. The wine was fantabulous. I’m not a big alcohol drinker but when I do enjoy of good Chardonnay Sauvignon. This was the best I had ever had. Smooth and full bodied. It went right to my head and by the time it was 3/4 gone my nose was numb.
Since Dusty and I got special drinks, Wyatt got one too. This was actually really good.
Dinner was amazing. Simply amazing.
We ended it with a stamp at Ghirardelli for ice cream. The walk back was littered with all the people coming out of the game. I missed the nearly empty streets from the week days as it made the city seem nearly private.


San Diego Day #3

Unfortunately my conference started today, so I had to part ways and attend lectures for most of the day. 

Nothing makes a 7:30am lecture a good experience except when it is paired with free food. It made the discussion much more enjoyable.
There was a huge break after breakfast which I used to have a blogger meet up!!! I was so excited to meet with the author of Viva Carlos. She is AMAZING and I only wish I lived close enough to get to know her better. I’m sure we could be friends in real life. Anyway…I grabbed my first ever Lyft ride out to her place and then hoped in her car for a drive out to her barn and local tack shop before hitting up lunch. The drive was gorgeous.
Wild flowers were in abundance along the roadside. Apparently the region has gotten its fair share of rain and the flowers were in full bloom. It was gorgeous!
You would think that being so close to the Tryon International Equestrian Center, home of the 2016/2017 AECs and the 2018 WEG, would mean we have good tack stores. Reality is there aren’t any worth their salt. I just had to get inside a real tack store and drool all over everything. I nearly bought a red and black dressage quilted pad, but realized I had no room in my suitcase to get it back home and sadly put it back.
Beautiful leather everywhere. Just breathing in the scent was enough to satiate me.
Next she took me off to her barn. I was really interested to see how things were done on the West coast. It’s so different than back east. Her barn is massive!! Seeing it in person brought it into perspective for me. Dante is going to have a wonderful home. I also got to meet her trainer too.
More wild flowers on the drive back from the barn. Of course I failed to take any pictures of her or myself. My picture game is lacking.
Then it was time. TACO TIME. I had mentioned to L that I had only had crap tacos, Toxic Hell or homemade kit ones, and I didn’t really get the whole taco addiction. She took me to her favorite spot and I ordered “what she’s having”. It was delicious! Nothing like anything I’d ever called a taco before. So. Good. In fact good enough for me to break my no good picture rule for the second time of the day.
Wyatt and Dusty got off the bus a few blocks away and met us briefly before L took me back to the conference center. We walked down to the ocean overlook then parted ways wth my boys.
Following the blue carpet to my lecture. There are some amazing things being done that can change lives. Currently there is a trial being started on a procedure to CURE spina bifida in utero and erase all neurological defects. A mini trial of four patients was performed with excellent results. It’s simply amazing.
Waiting for the next lecture to start. Apparently all alone but it did fill
Wyatt building a sand castle. The boys went to Pacific Beach and met up with me in passing as we finished eating lunch. I have them a hug and told them to have fun while I was taken back to the conference center for the afternoon of lectures.
Wyatt enjoying the beach to its max. The boy LOVES everything about the beach: waves, water, sand, sun. I was sorry to miss it but I needed to attend the conference.


San Diego Day #2

Day 2 started at 4:00 am. Neither Wyatt nor Ingot used to the 3 hour time difference and it made for a long, but fun, day. Here it is in pictures:

The day started with my conference which after all was the entire reason for me being in San Diego. Work before play
Once that was taken care of we hit the public transportation to head to the San Diego Zoo. Two trains and a city bus. All firsts for Wyatt.
Train family selfie
San Diego Zoo. Bring it!!
Komodo Dragon. Wyatt loved this guy! He waved, said hello, and had to be dragged away. I’ll admit to be equally enthralled. He was really active
Galapagos tortoise.
I adored the aviary sections. Reminded me of the Pittsburgh Aviary where I grew up. Wyatt was not interested in the bird areas at all which was a shame. I could have sat watching the birds all day
He was so cute walking around. He did great all day walking up all the hills during all over the place
The bears are always my favorite. I was disappointed that they were all napping
The pandas were choking down. I’ve never seen them before and this made the day at the zoo. They were so cute!
After eating he went for a stroll then hit his pool. So cute!
Lunch break!
It was lunch time all over the zoo. The giraffes were choking down on the foliage placed up high for their comfort.
We hopped on a double decker bus for a short break. Wyatt got bored super fast so we got off two stops into it which forced us to have to back track in foot quite a bit.
I enjoyed the few minutes of sitting. The weather was perfect for a day outside. The sun was a bit hotter than the day before and there was a slight breeze. Compared to the severe storms and tornados back home this was perfect.
Spring is my favorite time of year. Everything about it is wonderful. The flowers were out in full force and the world was just ablaze in color.
Playing around near the polar bears.
Baby ducks!!!!
No clue what this animal is but I found it fascinating. Zebra striped legs, antelope like body and huge ears. The mere fact that there is an animal walking the earth that looks like this makes me believe in magic all over again
They looked so cuddly and soft. I stopped myself from reaching out a hand to run the fuzzy nose.
I nearly walked right past this enclosure with the female wart hog looking thing in it. Then I saw the cute little baby and fell in love
We ended the zoo outing with a face painting. They did a great job. Wyatt adored it and it was worth every penny

Dinner was at The New Yorker. The pizza was fantastic. SC can not make a pizza for their life. It was nice to eat a good tasting pizza for the first time in 4 years!

After dinner the boys went back to the pool. I was exhausted and stayed in zoning out to Food Network and writing up this post. 


San Diego Day #1

A super excited Wyatt waiting to board his first airplane.
Our first flight
Sitting in his first plane. The kid was nearly crapping himself with excitement.
Rising sun. Worth waking up at 3:30 am
Second flight. We were supposed to have 1 hour 10 min layover but that ended up being only 20 minutes. Running from concourse E through all of D, a mall and halfway through C with a 4 year old is awful. We made it with 3 minutes to spare.
Wyatt and I on the plane. Insanely early but excited!
With 2 hours 45 minutes still to go inflight, I convinced him to lay down and nap. He slept for nearly an hour and it made the remaining part much better.
Wyatt insisted on pulling his own suitcase around. It was adorable
Had to make a stop at In N Out Burger.
Our hotel room looked directly at Petco Park. Sad that all the ball fields are now named after corporate America but still cool nonetheless
Our hotel was also right next to the Gaslamp District. It was really neat to walk around. A lot of restaurants but some cool shops mixed in too.
Looking out into the harbor. We had to walk up about a thousand steps to get there but it was well worth it. I didn’t get a picture but there was a multi million dollar yacht in the harbor.
Wyatt thought the sail boat looked like a pirate ship
Family selfie overlooking the harbor
We walked around the small marina park trying to get our bearings. Wyatt really wanted to go to the beach and we were told Coranado was the closest. We could look across the bay and see it but it wasn’t the type of beach we wanted. I wanted the Pacific Ocean full on with ocean waves and all.
More boats in the marina.
This is why we need Dusty around. I was completely terrified he was going to fall into the bay and drown. I never would have let him climb but he did fine and had fun.
I’m sure this bridge as a famous name. I just don’t know it. Had we chosen to go to Coronado we would have had to take an expensive ferry ($20 a person) or a cab over the bridge
Walking around the Gaslamp Quarter we found a candy store. I had promised Wyatt candy during the layover we never had, so taking him here was a big deal. He was in Heaven
The biggest sucker he had ever seen. He promptly dropped it and it shattered but he was okay with that as it was on a table and even easier to eat
An ice cream selfie.
Decadent drinking chocolate. I’ve been searching for this for 12 years. We drank pure molten chocolate for breakfast every day during our honeymoon in France. America can’t get it right but this was pretty close and the best to date.
Neither of us knew there was a Ghirardelli store. We are at one in Vega and San Francisco. My diet went completely out the window. These calories were worth every pound.
My own Heaven. I love socks. Very much.
I’m sure this bridge has a name. We were told it takes you to Coronado. The other option was a $20/person ferry. We chose neither and instead to go to the coast.

After a short break in the room we headed to the pool. The fancy couches and jacuzzi were wonderful. The water was a bit chilly and I found it interesting how much cooler the sun is here than at home. Back in SC a sunny, cloudless day has the sun boring deep into your bones. Here it was much milder in the same conditions and similar air temp. The sun is just really strong in SC. They also had poolside food and drink service that we did not partake in
Dinner was at the Old Spaghetti Factory. I personally get grossed out by food pictures, so instead you get my handsome boys.