Chuck E. Cheese

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This past Saturday was Shawn’s 9th birthday party. We arrived at right on time for the party, gathered up the gifts from the trunk of the car and walked into the madness. The first thing you notice is the volume. It’s loud, really really loud. Music, games, children yelling and playing music, coin dispensers clinking, ect. It kinda made us take a step back and question if this was going to be a good day or not.

As we walked in we passed through the kid check gateway, having no kids we were waved right in. If you come in with a child in tow, they number you and the child with a matching number. To get the kid out your number must match.

After passing through the gateway, we wandered over to the party area. We didn’t see Shawn or Sara anywhere. There was a  large balloon with his name on it floating over one of the revered banquet tables, but we completely missed this detail. After a few moments of panic that we might be at the wrong location, Sara arrived with Shawn, Shawn’s brother Donny (age 5) and Donny’s brother Ram (age 3), all of the party treats, a huge spiderman cake and a very tired look on her face. She was sick.

After we all got settled at the banquet table we dug out our online coupons walked over to the token lady and came back with 3 buckets of tokens. We each took a huge pocket full and gave a good pile to Sam. We spent most of the party feeding tokens to the three boys and the other party guests.

When we got back to table, most of the other guests had arrived. The gift pile as large and Shawn was in full smile mode. Once all the kids were settled, the pizza arrived. The kids all seems to enjoy it, but it was greasy cardboard pizza. In fact, later that night, a few of the kids had tummy aches, and our bets are on the pizza. Little Ram, who is a big eater normally, helped himself to 5 slices on his plate. Each piece was in a different stage of consumption.

It was about now we had our first child freak out moment. Chuck E Cheese, the giant rat, made his first appearance. The rat walked out and wandered round the room greeting the children. Little Ram completely freaked out and needed constant reassurance that the rat was not going to eat him. It was really hard not to laugh as it was too cute.

The Chuck E Cheese and his helpers then crowned each of the birthday kids (there were 3, one who was also in full Rat terror mode, bawling uncontrollably). They then gave each birthday kido a medal and then oversaw the cake lighting and ceremony. Sam was on video duty and Anthony was on photo duty.

Shawn had a really cool spiderman cake. It had this really cool looking black frosting. Unfortunately when the younger party goers got their cake, and the cake naturally got all over there faces, hands, arms, hair & clothing, the black frosting left stains (oops!). But they loved it!

Once the cake was devoured, it was present time.  We got Shawn a kid’s microscope set (which got a great face reaction) and the complete Captain Underpants book collection. He got quite a few board games, 3 or 4 small lego sets and a really cool drawing set.

After presents the kids all ran off with their little cups of tokens to play. Anthony started to help Sara clean up. After the banquet table was all cleaned up, all of us helped Sara compress all the presents, leftover cake and goodies to a booth table near by.

Joshua took Donny and Ram out to play in the little kid area. This mostly involved standing under the over head play tubes keeping an eye out for Ram, who LOVED the overhead tube play area and decided to take up permanent residence in it.

For the next hour we took turns sitting at the table and chatting with Sara (who was sick) and checking on the little ones. Sam played big brother and babysitter to one of the party guests who’s mom had dropped him off alone.

It was right about then we had our second and final child breakdown. Donny came running back the banquet area to get more tokens and noticed that everyone was apparently gone. He started to cry, lucky Sara was right there and scooped him up and reassured him and we had only moved to a smaller table near by.

We don’t know if this location is typical of all of the other locations, but most of the games and video games were focused around getting ticket stubs. There were not a lot of just plain video games. The ticket game concept is you pour token after token into the machine and get a couple tickets.

Before you leave you cash in your tickets for very very cheap prizes (dollar tree would be embarrassed to carry these items). Shawn walked out with a face painting kit and Donny got a plastic spoon, yes really a plastic spoon. Both of them thought they were the coolest and grandest prizes in the world, their little faces beamed with joy and pride!  So kido happiness mission accomplished. Financial prudence… well not so good. Each prize takes a hundred tickets and you only get a few tickets for each .25 token. Even with the coupons we printed out at home we dumped a bundle.

All in all a REALLY fun day. Like each of our experiences with Shawn, we take little mental notes on how we would do things with our future kido.  When it comes to Chuck E Cheese, we are a bit torn. The kids clearly had a blast, but the greasy food and money pit games make us wonder if when we are in the parent seat if this will be the venue we would pick. Mr. Cheese seems to have one goal and that is getting all the parents money.

But one thing was SUPER clear. Sara had given Shawn the best birthday party ever!

My Amazon.com Wish List

Line Cutters, Rude People, Morally Bankrupted Californians and Generally Unpleasant People

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Other Peoples Vacation Manners: A complete lack of them.

As mentioned in a prior post, it just is not possible to accurately describe our October vacation without talking about the poor behavior we witnessed in our fellow Norwegian Star passengers and Disney park attendees. But before we do, we really have to say that we really really did have a good great time on our trip and don’t in anyway blame NCL or Disneyland for the nasty things we witnessed. That said…. bring on the dancing idiots!

Our cruise ship had over a thousand employees aboard. Most, getting paid in bird seed… well certainly less then the federal minimum wage. Most of them working very hard to ensure the passengers have a great trip. For example, it was not uncommon for our room to be made up twice in one day, once in the morning then again after our nap while we were at dinner. There were also times on board were the wait staff out numbered the diners. And even when the numbers were more balanced, most times we felt like kings being waited on. A ship employee’s normal shift is about 10 hours a day for 10 days straight. These guys and gals work hard for the money.

After experiencing how well we were taken care of and seeing the way some of the passengers treated the staff was just ghastly! We didn’t know if it was because most of the staff were foreigners (mostly Asian) and our fellow cruisers were prejudiced or  if our fellow passengers had just checked their brains and manners at the dock and sailed on without them. It was seldom we would have a meal were we would not see some sort of bad behavior by a passenger or walk down a hallway and see some customer talking/yelling at a cabin steward in a unnecessary tone.

We started to notice that we were consciously making it a point to thank each server at every meal (as you are not allowed to tip, unless you cocktail or wine) and tried to beat the cabin stewards to the punch by saying good morning or good evening. Many times the staff seemed shocked and extremely grateful, which of course bothered us even more. Good manner are free and the staff on board (with a few exceptions) were outstanding!

We saw people complaining about the most petty things. Yelling at the top of their lungs to get the staff to correct something that a calm request would have accomplished quicker. And then there were the cutters and shovers.

Hummm how do we  properly describe these people…… Have you ever been driving down the road, traveling at or above the speed limit and some jerk dangerously passes you and cuts you off so he can get to the stop sign 1.4 seconds before you do. Only to find out later as you pull into your destination that you arrived before them? This was the standard type of behavior we witnessed from our fellow cruise members. We had people dive and push past us to steal tables from us (when there were plenty of tables for all), shove us off the deck rails (so they can have the spot we were standing in). We saw people diving in front of little children, handicapped and elderly people to get thru doorways or to the buffet line 1.4 seconds faster.

After a week of witnessing some pretty  awful behavior. So by the end of the cruise we got so tired of our fellow passengers we hung out mostly in our stateroom and were much happier for it!

We are both fairly passive aggressive people and have both been raised with a good set of manners and high level of expected public behavior. (To use kido language, we have learned to use our words.) So for the whole cruise it was rare for us to say a rude word when we were cut off or shoved or got short changed by the staff having to pander to the squeaky wheels first then assist the polite customers second. For the most part, we were on vacation and we turned the other cheek.

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But we hit our limit in Disneyland. With everyone around us acting like jerks, we were starting to get very tired of getting the short end of the stick: Waiting in line, only for some jerk in front of us to let 7 or 8 of his friends to cut directly ahead of us and then get pissy with us for looking shocked and upset by their behavior. Being sat with a reservation at a smelly horrible table so the no reservation mega-complainer can have the better seat and shut up. Watching parents scream at their kids (who they had filled up with tons of sugar and let them skip their n.a.p.) to “Stop crying, have fun or else!.

Both of us have a very high breaking point when in public, it takes a lot of direct abuse or mistreatment for us to snap. But on our second day in Disneyland, we had about all we were going to take. Our first night we watched the Halloween fireworks display from the backside of the castle. It was a mad house for a frontside view, wall to wall people standing room only from the front of the castle all the way to the Train archway on main street USA! So the second night we hit downtown Disney and walked in to Main street USA about 10 mins before the fireworks, walked up as far as we could and planned to watch from there. This worked out great, the crowd was much lighter and there was lots of room for everyone.

Midway thru the fireworks a lady walks up with a sugar intoxicated sleep deprived child on her shoulders and stops 4.25 inches in front of  Joshua, resting her oversized backpack stuffed to the breaking point with cheap direct from china disney souvenirs onto Joshua’s chest. Mind you there was a good 10 foot empty radius round Joshua that she could have stood with a great view that would not have blocked anyone. But she choose poorly! Out of no where this loud stern voice rang out clearly and distinctly over the exploding fireworks “EXCUSE ME…YOUR BLOCKING OUR VIEW, MOVE!” Joshua had reached his breaking point, so much so you might have heard it up here in Portland.

But the hardest thing we had to deal with during our vacation was all the ungrateful and blind parents, both on the cruise ship and in the parks. Even with school in session there were a lot of kids around. Sometimes it was very hard for us to witness how clueless some of the parents were to the wonderful gift they have been given. To watch them squander the chance to be apart of their child’s lives, to be good role models, to be a family. At times it made us very angry, other times it would make us a little sad.

These negative aspects of our trip have really underscored for us the importance of teaching our kido manners and proper public behavior and reminded us how much we are committed to adopting.

Beach trip Aug 2009

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We started out Friday night (Aug 14th). Anthony got off work at 4:00pm and took the MAX to the Gateway Fred Myers and started shopping for the last minute items; Marshmallows, Logs for a fire, Roasting Forks, and Hershey bars. He also picked up a new pair of swim goggles for Shawn as the last ones didn’t fit so well.

Joshua picked up Anthony from Freddie’s and we headed down I-205 at about 5pm…. during rush hour…. on a Friday…. Long story short (too late), it took 30 minutes to get from Lake Oswego to the I-5 I-205 junction!

We made it down to Newport Beach and our hotel Shilo Inn Oceanfront about at 8:00pm and checked into our room with an amazing view and then started to look for dinner. The hotel’s café was closed, but their fine dining restaurant was open but seemed much too pricy. So, we jumped in the car and headed down to the next hotel’s restaurant, Georgie’s Beachside Grill.

We walked in and they had a table for us… in the bar. This was not bad, as it was a window table. They carded BOTH OF US, which was a huge treat for Anthony. But that is where the good times ended. We ordered the Deep fried Artichokes. Which turned out to not be fresh but canned… in bitter brine, which is sad as there where farmers market stands all over the freeway on the drive in with fresh ones. They fried the canned artichokes apparently in the same oil they use to fry the fish on the menu, so the crispy tempura coating tasted like old greasy fish… not a great flavor combination.

For our main courses, Joshua had the stuffed salmon. Which was not fresh and very rubbery, stuffed with imitation crab and cheap shrimp. Anthony ordered the chicken and sun dried tomatoes penne pasta. Which comes served in a white cheese sauce… according to the menu. What arrived was a cool, white paste. On a positive note we both loved the bread they served with dinner! We headed back to the hotel room, with upset stomachs and when to bed.

The next morning we got up early and headed over to Pig and Pancake for breakfast. We love the Pig and Pancake in Lincoln city. The food is outstanding, good value for money and tastes great. Unfortunately, we ate at the Pig and Pancake in Newport, where the highlight of the meal was seeing someone wearing a Roxy T-shirt.

After a horrid breakfast we drove up to Agate beach. Joshua likes rocky beaches, and Agate beach sounded ideal. Agate beach turned out to be a wonderful soft sand beach. But it did have some neat rocky cliff area’s which we explored.

We then headed up to Depoe Bay and walked around the shops and Whale Watching center. Turns out we arrived on Pirate day. So several hundred folks, all dressed in pirate wear, were walking around and setting off canons. We picked up a gift for our friend, Scott and headed up the road to Lincoln City where we found three new pairs of pants for Joshua at the outlet mall.

The whole reason for going to the coast was that Sara had asked us to come down as a backup support for a trip that she and Shawn were taking for her birthday. So after shopping we started to head back to Newport to meet up with Shawn and Sara who where driving down from Portland.

We met them at Yaquina Head; we all parked in the visitor center and walked out to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the west coast, and we all got to climb to the top! We then walked down to a little cove area and explored the tide pools with Shawn. Shawn really wanted to touch some of the animals he saw so our next stop was the Oregon Aquarium!

If you have never been to the Oregon Aquarium, it’s like EPCOT’s living seas, but just a bit bigger. We ate lunch at their café ….. Strike three for you baseball fans. We decided to share the basket of Fish and Chips ($11.00), which turns out to be just what the sign said… One breaded piece of frozen fish and ½ cup of shoestring oily French fries….aaggghhhhh. The only plus to it all was Shawn had a great time at the Oregon Aquarium.

We all headed back to the hotel, and Sara, Joshua and Shawn decided to go swimming.  After, we all met up for dinner at the Shilo Inn café. And I wish I could tell you we had a good meal. We arrived 45 minutes before they closed which they said was not an issue. They had one other table besides us. The waitress came over and took our drink orders, drinks arrived and order taken, the other table of diners left and we were sitting in an empty room….. No wait staff no diners nothing. We had all ordered pretty easy food items, but the food took over 30 minutes to come out of the kitchen. The service was lousy! The food was just ok.

We then headed down to the beach. After a long walk we found a good spot and Joshua got the fire going while Anthony played mom and got the smore production line ready. It was really windy and the wood Anthony got at Freddie’s was very dry so the fire started easily and burned fast. We make lots of smores and only lost one in the fire and one in the sand.

The next morning, we woke and looked out the window to see Sara and Shawn digging in the sand so we called them. They were having fun so we headed out for breakfast alone with a mission to pick up French toast for Sara. We found a place called the Chalet Restaurant & Bakery, and had a GREAT breakfast with wonderful service. So we headed back to the hotel with French toast for Sara only to have missed them. Shawn had gotten wet and they changed clothes and decided to head up to the Tillamook cheese factory.

So we packed up the car and decided we should head out as well. We stopped in Neskowin, which is just north of Lincoln city. Anthony’s Grandmother took him their once when he was little. It has a few motels that overlook a great sandy cove. We decided that this would be our next beach vacation destination.

We drove up to Tillamook and stopped in at the Blue Heron cheese factory and purchased 2 wheels of their brie (regular & smoked). We then of course stopped in at the Tillamook cheese factory, and it was a mad house! We dove in grabbed our squeaky cheese (cheese curds) and got out of there as fast as we could.

We then drove home and Anthony made dinner. We had Tillamook cheese Enchiladas and reheated French toast. It was a fun trip but next trip is definitely at Neskowin or the beach house in Oceanside! It seems we are way too picky of eaters.

We also had a weekend of pre-shopping as Suzanne would say it. But we pre-vacationed, “When we have the kiddo, we will do this, or we will go here” Or “yeah not doing that again”.

2 weekends of blisters

The berries are coming!
The berries are coming!

So it’s spring here is Portland. The winter rain as given way to the spring rain. And with it comes the new yearly task of keeping up with the neighbors.

Last year we tried a vegetable garden in our back yard and there just was not  enough sunlight  getting to the back yard area. So this year we are trying to set up the yard so that we have to do as little to it in the future, yet still look cool and groovy. To this end, we spent that last two weekends cutting up the front and back yard.

The old owners of the house had rose bushes scattered all over the yard. We moved them all to the front and in the back built a rose trellis for the 4 climbing roses we found.

In the front yard we cut out a corner of the yard and put in a little bark dust garden with some cute low bushes. We used a neat black trim for the front and loved it so much we are planning to force Sam to install it on all the borders over the next few weekends.

The blueberries and raspberries are coming in great this year. If fact we planted 3 new yellow fall bearing raspberries so next year we should have berries all summer and fall. We also planned nasty weed called rhubarb, which can be made into Joshua’s favorite type of pie.

Joshua has big plans now for the back yard and keeps talking about a pond…..

Disneyland 2009 Trip

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Day one. We flew down on Alaksa air to Longbeach airport on Monday March 30th.  The airport (longbeach) was very small, old, and a little scary, but we saved $100.00 per person on our tickets by choosing LGB. We had a small gang of people with us this time, Joshua, Me, Sam, our friend Scott and his partner Michel. Michel also invited his friend James to come with us as well as unexpected surprise.
The shuttle that was supposed to pick us up was late. If fact when it did show up to get us they boarded us and then tried to de-board us as they had other people to pick up. After waiting 20 minutes for the shuttle we kindly refused to de-board. So we will be sending a nice letter to Prime Shuttle.

We got to our hotel about 11am. We stayed at the Fairfield hotel directly across the street from Disneyland. We spent the day in Disneyland and California adventure. This was Sam’s first trip to California Adventure and he just loved the Bugs life 3-d movie! We lost Michel and James about 30 minutes into the park and spent the rest of the day with Sam and Scott. For dinner, the four of us ate at Tortilla Joe’s in Downtown Disney. After dinner we found Michel and James, just in time to head back to the hotel and get some sleep.

Day Two was our big trip to San Diego. Sam, Josh, and I all woke up early and walked down thru Downtown Disney to the Alamo car rental location and picked up our rental car for the day. We then proceeded to drive for 2 hours to San Diego. Check out the view point photos we have posted. Thousands of mating squirrels, no really, they were everywhere, it was somewhat biblical. We had breakfast alone the way at a Denny’s like place in Oceanside.

Once we found the Zoo, (adventure) We spent the morning with Joshua’s Aunt and Uncle and met Joshua’s cousin Grace, who is adorable! Around lunchtime, Sam decided to join his Aunt, Uncle, and cousin and they headed home. Joshua and I spent the rest of the day in the Zoo alone. We had a great lunch in Albert’s restaurant and I got to see the Pandas! (check out our photos)

After the zoo, we headed over to pick Sam up and have dinner at the Aunt and Uncles house. We were both dead tired, so Joshua’s Aunt put me on a slant board. After my nap, we had a great dinner of fish tacos. The fish was gladly provided by Cousin Adrian (who likes to skip school to fish). After dinner, we drove the long trip back north to our hotel in Anaheim.

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Day 3 was our full day in the parks. We got up early again for the 8:00 early park admission only to find out that on Wednesdays they do not do the early morning entrance. So we got out of line and had breakfast at the little café off Downtown Disney. James and Sam both slept in so it was just the four of us.
Later that morning, Sam joined us for lunch at the Blue Bayou, which was wonderful!

After lunch James and Michel headed off alone, again, leaving just the four of us.
That evening Josh and I broke off from the group and had a private anniversary dinner alone at Napa Rose inside the Grand Californian hotel.  We ended the evening watching the fireworks over Disneyland from a great spot by the castle. Scott and Michel headed to bed but Josh, Sam and I stayed late (until 11pm) and road Space Mt & the new Nemo Sub ride, which is not as cool as the old sub ride, but still very very cool.

Thursday was our final day in the parks. It was also extra magic hours. So we got up early again, checked out of the hotel, then checked our luggage into baggage check and hit the park at 8am. I think we did every ride in the park with the exception of big thunder mountain. Which of some reason never made it on our radar.

At 2:00pm we walked over to our hotel unchecked our bags and took the shuttle back to Longbeach Airport (which was on time ). The flight home was uneventful other then Joshua gave me the green light to start  planing for Disney world.

So anyone want to come along?