Category Archives: Family

A Sunday Afternoon at the Train Park

image6If you are a parent in the Phoenix area and haven’t had the opportunity to take them to the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale, you are really missing out on a special treat.

We always manage to have a wonderful time whenever we make the time to bring our boys. The park, located near the very lush McCormick Ranch area, has so much to offer in the way of family togetherness & enjoyment.  It’s an idyllic place to go to just enjoy your family and take in the niceness of everything that’s around you.

Let’s start with the trains of course! Scattered around the park are real-life size train cars, which appeal to the eye and remind us of a simpler time when people used to travel long distances by rail. The boys love to gawk at how large they are, and they always prompt lots of different questions.

Then there is the grounds, which are well-manicured, tidy, and expansive. The grass is gorgeous and there is plenty to walk around and see. Scottsdale really spends good money to make sure the park is looking at its best at all times, and visitors appreciate it.

image2 (2)And then there’s the carousel. Singing its mostly Disney tunes, during the carousel ride time seems to stand still and all you want to do is watch your children & hope they can stay this small forever. If the parents aren’t on the carousel with their kids, they are standing over on the side taking pictures or video to capture the moment.

If you’re in need of refreshment, you can head on over to the snack bar building. From hot dogs to ice cream, the shop has lots of reasonably-priced treats to offer, as well as merchandise like Thomas the Train products.

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Their newest addition seems  to be the model train building, located in the northeast portion of the train park. Here you can look at all of the miniature trains that zoom around the tracks amongst various types of terrain and locations, both past and present.

There’s a massive playground area, which is ideal for letting the kids play and burning off all kinds of energy so they tucker out later. A kid couldn’t possibly be bored here, as there are just too many things to do.

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Last but not least is the ride-on train, probably the park’s most popular feature. You can ride in a mini-sized train (and stick the kids in the caboose if you like) and be whisked around the entire park and through a dark tunnel. During Christmas time, there is a spectacular visual feast when they gussy up for the season with colorful lights and impressive decorations.



Every time we go we wonder why we don’t visit more often – we always seem to return home with smiles on our faces.

Have you visited the train park in Scottsdale? What is your favorite part?

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My Wedding Engagement Story

Ah, what it was like to be kids once
Ah, what it was like to be kids once

My wife and I have been married for 16 glorious years as of this June 6th (yes, we married on D-Day). From time-to-time we get asked about our engagement story, so I thought it appropriate to share here on my blog for your enjoyment. The date was October 15,1997

Here’s how I planned it:

My wife worked at a church in Glendale and she lived in Mesa, so she would be arriving around 9pm at my house in Peoria. My plan was to hide in her car trunk at the church, with a note for on the door to get in and put on the blindfold I had provided her. Then I would hop out of the trunk, get in the driver’s seat, and drive her to Sahuaro Ranch Park, a beautiful park in Glendale. Once we got there I would escort her to a gazebo surrounded by flowers and get down on one knee – the whole 9 yards.

Here’s how it ACTUALLY went down:

She arrived early and sick! At 7:45 after leaving work early she knocks on the door because she wasn’t feeling well (which rarely happens by the way!) I answer the door in my dress pants, shirt, and tie and we both have a look of shock on our faces. Mine being: what are you doing here? And hers being – what are you still doing in work clothes? (I was interning at Merrill Lynch).

We went in to the house where my equally surprised stepmom greeted her. I change back into more appropriate at-home attire and we decide to watch a movie. Funny enough, the title of the film was “Indecent Proposal”. Once the movie ended it was time for her to grab another tissue from the Kleenex box for her cold. Little did she know that I had put the ring box directly behind the upsprouted tissue, which was revealed once she pulled it up.

Tia started crying more once she realized what I had been trying to do.  The ending is like I planned: me  on one knee and she said yes!

I think our engagement story ended up exactly as it should have. We love to get dressed up and have special times together, but the trueness of our relationship is when we are just comfortably hanging out at home, with our absolute selves (and usually watching a movie).

Married friends – what was your engagement story like?  Please comment below!

10 Tips for Family Road Trips


Just got back from a 10-day road trip with my wife and 2 boys, aged 10 and 4. Although it was a really fun and enjoyable trip, we had our moments of high stress and anxiety.  Thought I’d whip up a post to share our experiences and hopefully provide a little wisdom to help those of you that are thinking about a road trip with your kids.

Everybody knows to take snacks, toys, and entertainment, but these are the things we found especially helpful this time around.

Some of the advice you may have to take with a grain of salt, say, if you have girls, or perhaps kids of different ages. But by & large, I’m hopeful that most of the points will be fairly universal in nature and will make sure your next road trip isn’t the last one your family will ever do!

1.  Space out the kids!

Driving a vehicle with multiple rows? If you can, space the kids on separate rows. Now I’m sure this’ll ruffle some feathers of parenting experts, but in our family, the boys get along so well that they manage to annoy each other incessantly. This is probably more important if the kids are not very close in age, and may have more of a tendency to fight if forced to sit in a fixed position for a long period of time.

If you have oodles of children this becomes more of a strategic placement issue – put the peacemakers between the arguers. This will understandably be more of a challenge, but I believe giving kids space in the vehicle will help keep them more well-behaved.

2. Earplugs are your (or the kids’) friend

Yes, I love my boys, but sometimes being in the passenger seat (not the driver’s seat because this would be dangerous), I just want to ratchet my chair back a little and nod off uninterrupted. Earplugs help to alleviate the high-pitched voices that come from the little people in the vehicle.

For kids, if you’ve got a reader, maybe that child wants to use earplugs so they can have a more peaceful environment.

3. Bribery works

With everyone is such close proximity, we suspend traditional no bribery parenting rules.  From 1st dibs on the iPod , to whether or not we go out for ice cream later, the fun stuff you want to do (and were already planning to do) easily becomes a reward for good behavior in the car or hotel.

4.  Pringles snack-sized container

Let’s face it – kids are smaller than us and thus, their bladders are smaller. So they are going to want to go to the bathroom more frequently. Stopping at a rest area every 30 minutes isn’t the most practical nor is there necessarily one available every time you need one, so what do you do?

We stop the caravan, get the kids out of their seats, and help facilitate a bladder-emptying session in an empty snack-sized Pringles container (in this case) while they remain in the vehicle. This could be whatever you have on-hand, but I’m just tellin’ ya, not a bad idea!

Of course, pull off to the side of the road safely and don’t flaunt what you are doing to traffic that may pass you.

5. Swap out drivers

Of course this will only work if you have at least one other driver in the family. What works best for us is to have each spouse drive equal (or close to equal) increments on the road. Instead of having one spouse do most of the driving, which usually burns them out, we like our drivers fresh and alert.

Try to change maybe every 90 minutes or so. This also lets the non-driving person do something they enjoy that’s a little less intensive, like browse the internet on their phone, read a little, or enjoy a snack.

6. Going to a beach?

Expect to have a sandy car. There’s not really any way around this. Even if you do a thorough job of rinsing off under the shower at the beach, sand grains will somehow find a way in to your vehicle.

Don’t sweat the small stuff – when you get back home just count on a  good car wash and vacuum of the interior.

7.  It’s NOTHING like a vacation without kids

You could go to the same place, do the same activities, eat the same food, but the experience with kids is a 180 degree difference entirely, especially if your kids are smaller or medium-sized.

This is because they typically need a lot of maintenance and attention, and since they aren’t oriented to new areas yet, may experience anxiety, confusion, or just have a lot of questions to ask.

We have the brainiest 10-year old on Earth (don’t we all?) , and he likes to ask 10,000 questions. Most of the questions we have no idea how to answer, but by golly, we sure try.

Approach your vacation with adjusted expectations.

8. Hotel Pool is a God-send

From the tiny 2 1/2-star Best Western to the 4-star beachfront fancy pants hotel, almost every place has a pool these days. When you’ve been traveling in the car for multiple hours at a time and everybody’s a little frayed around the edges, nothing “chills out” the whole gang like a dip in pool. That super-stressful time between check-in and dinner can be alleviated with some family splash time.

9. DVD Player

I never thought we’d be one of those families that had a DVD player in their vehicle. Time change – roll with the punches. We purposefully don’t use ours during any outing other than vacation time.  When we need to concentrate on driving through a new town, or one parents just wants a nap (see point 2), nothing quiets the vehicle quite like a favorite movie. For the record, we’ve played Frozen, The Lego Movie, and Wreck-It Ralph about 2,178 times.

10. Be Flexible 

We originally planned on driving from Phoenix to San Diego to San Francisco to Yosemite National Park to Provo and back to Phoenix.

Boy, that was ambitious!

Once we got to Yosemite we decided to revamp our travel plans? Why you ask? Because we were all burning out from road time. After three 6-hour car days, we couldn’t imagine 2 more plus a 11-hour drive home.

From Yosemite we drove back to San Diego, stayed another 2 nights, and were happy campers, literally.

Hope these tips were helpful.  What are your best travel tips for road trips with kids?  Please leave a comment below!








Family Vacation Part 7 – Returning to San Diego


After much debating about whether to proceed to Provo, Utah or Flagstaff, AZ (both GREAT 4th of July towns by the way), we decided to conclude our family vacation back in San Diego.

The primary reason revolving around the driving time. By going back down to San Diego, we concluded that we’d save a good 5-7 hours of actual driving time on the road. We could see that the amount of driving we had been doing had started to take its toll on the boys and myself. Tia thrives on this kind of stuff and wasn’t quite as affected.

So in the family’s best interest we headed back down to San Diego, a place we knew wouldn’t disappoint, and sure enough, it didn’t.

Before our final destination, however, we needed to have an overnight hotel stay somewhere in-between. It happened to be Bakersfield, CA. Not the most interesting of towns, but we stayed at the Courtyard Marriott (review here)  in a decent area, had access to a pool, and managed just fine.

The next day we were fortunate enough to hit rush-hour traffic in the Los Angeles area (sense the sarcasm). I’ll never look at traffic the same way again. What should have been a 3 1/2 hour drive to San Diego turned into about 6. I kid you not. And oh, the traffic patterns drove me bonkers! Would be going 40 mph for awhile, the all of a sudden had to slam on the brakes because everyone else in front of us did. Once we started getting a move on again in a comfortable rhythm, we were surprised that never was there a car accident. Why do Californians all of a sudden seem to hit the brakes at once? Something I’ll never understand.

And then the law that ok’s motorcycles to speed in-between cars. This is illegal in Arizona, so when it happened to us about 20 times during the duration of our time in California, you can imagine how surprised we were to see it happen so much.

So we arrive at our hotel in San Diego – the Manchester Grand Hyatt( click here for review). We have stayed here at least 3 other times in the past, and been highly satisfied. The first being a company trip we won when I was active with Primerica Financial Services, probably 10 years ago. During that time we didn’t have 2 nickels to rub together, and I remember struggling to make the decision to buy my wife an $18 souvenir in the gift shop of the hotel. How times have changed.

Old jail across the street from the Manchester Grand Hyatt
Old jail across the street from the Manchester Grand Hyatt

So we arrive, check-in, and decide to get out to see what we could see in the area. Hit up this restaurant called Pizzeria Mozza (click here for Yelp review) and were very happy with their product & service. The pizza was too fancy for Miller however, who didn’t like “very good” pizza, only “pretty good” pizza.

Waiting line at Donut Bar
Waiting line at Donut Bar

The next day we got up and had to get over to this place we had been hearing so much about, the Donut Bar (review here).Took a cab since it was a mile from our hotel and ended up waiting a good 30 minutes, probably because it was the 4th of July and no one was working. After questioning whether we had made the right decision, our fears were removed when we got in the store and consumed some of the yummiest donuts known to mankind.

Donut Bar options
Donut Bar options

Next we catch a cab back  to our hotel and decide to cruise around Seaport Village, an outdoor shopping and dining experience on the water. Being the attraction that it is, lots and lots of people were out for the holiday and we had a marvelous time strolling, people watching, walking by all the shops and vendors who had tables set up in the grassy area on the east side including card reading, rock stacking, sales of art, and so on.

My wife Tia & Miller on the merry-go-round at Seaport Village
My wife Tia & Miller on the merry-go-round at Seaport Village

You’d think I would be tired by now, but no, the fun continues. Oh, did I mention that this is all happening during the time that the Little People of America are having a conference in the hotel? Yes, indeed. My sons ask lots of questions about little people and we do the best we can to answer them, while teaching them proper etiquette as well. It was truly an educational experience for both the parents & the kids.

The 4th floor pool of the Hyatt is a subject in and of itself. We come out ready to swim and the area is surrounded with lounge chairs, fire pits, servers, games for kids to play, and lots of cool desk space. And did I mention the amazing views of the bay!! We absolutely loved the setup. Kind of like a large-scale party, only without all the college students. Haha. After not too long later, since I have fairly sensitive skin and a month prior had a layer of basal cell carcinoma removed, I head back to my hotel room to charge my cell phone, since it was ready to die. This also give me a chance to “recharge” my personal batteries, since I am after all, an introvert at heart.

Catching up on some internet & email, Tia keeps me posted as to what is happening with the kids. I head back to the pool area, refreshed and ready to take on the world, and sweetheart that she is, has already ordered dinner for me, which I promptly delve in to.

That night is the 4th of July fireworks – the moment we had been waiting for. And what better way to experience them than in our own private hotel room overlooking the bay! Up on the 23rd floor, we watched, photographed, and filmed the show, and I gotta tell you – it was really a blast! Didn’t deal with traffic or crowds ,but it was fun watching them make their way out of the area after the show ended.


The next (and last) day we ate breakfast at the hotel’s buffet restaurant, called Lael’s*. What a treat this was! And then it was time to check-out and head back home to Chandler, Arizona.

Until we meet again San Diego! Although next time we’re going to get out on on a boat….

Coates family at Seaport Village
Coates family at Seaport Village

Have you seen to San Diego recently? Please share your experience below!

Family Vacation Part 6 – A Deeper Look at Yosemite National Park

994453_10204425976119238_6363276288437686513_nToday my family drove from Sonora, CA to the Yosemite National Park.

At first glance it reminded me a lot of Flagstaff, AZ. There were trees everywhere and it was so lush and beautiful, but deep down I wanted more. As we got further in to the park I started getting my wish.

Grand views of hundreds of pine trees below the road we were traveling inspired an immediate “wow” response. It was like a small Grand Canyon of God’s greenery before us as we kept on driving. Seeing huge mountainous rock formations that dwarfed even the tallest person made me realize how small we really are.


As we made our way through the 1,190 square mile park we started making observations. It was incredible how many people flock here from all over. We saw hundreds of people doing everything from hiking, to biking, to setting up a camp site, to fishing. And every one of them looked like they were having a good time.


Any why wouldn’t they? They were disconnected from their usual environment, on vacation with their families, creating memories. Although we only took a couple of hours at the park while passing through to our next destination, I’ve heard it’s common for people to spend an entire week in the area.

While I confess that I was a little short-fused that I couldn’t get decent cell phone coverage for the duration, it would have been nice had we isolated there for maybe a day or 2 and instead of connecting with electronics, connected with nature.


People were dressed to the 9’s for the great outdoors. Hiking short and shorts, bikes with baby carriers, hats, & sunglasses were among some of the accessories spotted.

I find most people have a “draw” to a certain type of natural environment. For example, my wife Tia is drawn to the water (specifically the ocean). She blames it on her Pisces nature, but when she is before a great body of water, she feels a calming presence and connectedness to a higher power.


For some time I have wondered what kind of setting that might be for me. In some ways Yosemite reminded me of going to the Coates family cabin in Prescott, up in the woods away from civilization. While I do feel a sense of tranquility in this type of environment, I don’t know if that heightened sense comes over me the same way it does my wife at the beach.


Whenever I’m snow skiing, sometimes I get a glimpse of this kind of feeling shooshing down the slopes or looking at a snow-capped peak from a distance.


Maybe I’m putting too much pressure on the subject, but perhaps it is the plains (maybe somewhere in the Midwest) that would create that same feeling.

Where do you feel most at peace? Maybe it’s at your home, a favorite building, near a mountainous region, or just being with your closest friend. Please share below – I’d love to hear from you.



Family Vacation Part 5 – San Francisco: Exploring Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, and Ghirardelli Square


Today we woke up ready for adventure!

Being well-rested we felt confident enough to tackle the areas of Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and Chinatown in San Francisco.

As we walked from our hotel, the Sir Francis Drake (full TripAdvisor review here), we noticed that almost literally, there is a Starbucks on every corner in San Francisco.

We had a light snack in our room for breakfast, so were on the hunt for  something a little more substantial.

Entrance to Chinatown
Entrance to Chinatown

As we walked towards Chinatown, we tried to figure out which street that sloped upwards was less severe. They all seemed pretty steep, so, we kept walking through Chinatown.

On the way to grab a bit we passed Zoltar, the famous carnival 10383882_10204411212190149_4219707365042116805_nexhibit from the movie Big, where you put money in and Zoltar sends you your fortune.   The highlight of mine was “you change your sky, not your mind”, and wonders what deeply-held beliefs I may be clinging to. I couldn’t arrive at an answer.

We stopped at a Chinese pastry shop and I tried the moon cake, a doughy-sweet and very heavy-tasting pastry I thought we decent, but didn’t hold a candle to a traditional donut.


Outside of the shop was an old man playing some kind of instrument I couldn’t identify. I asked him and the cashier who sold me the pastry, but to no avail. The language barrier didn’t allow us to communicate in that manner.


Our next experience was on the trolley. Do you call it a ‘trolley’ or a ‘cable car’? Anyhow, we did that down to Fisherman’s Wharf, and I caught an opportune photo of Miller en-route.

Miller wasn’t crazy about having to sit next to people he didn’t know, and his face during that portion of the ride reflected that feeling. We had a brief chat with him after exiting the trolley about his facial expressions around strangers, and then moved on.


During this time I really started to appreciate not having a schedule or itinerary on this day. Just strolling, doing as we pleased, not having any kind of agenda, just seeing what the day held.


Then it was over to lunch. We opted for Alioto’s Restaurant (full Yelp review here) and then headed over to Ghirardelli Square, but not 10453438_10204411217990294_6801203813580011250_nbefore having a leisurely stroll, looking at a couple of huge ships, snapping a few photos, and enjoying each other’s company.

While there we ate some of their delicious ice cream, although I was surprised that Ghirardelli Cheesecake could not be ordered there. I had grown to love that after working at the Olive Garden for so many years during college.


After that we came back to the hotel, and Toby made the comment that it was his first taxi-cab ride. We opted to avoid the trolley since the lines were so long, and ended up being pleased with the decision, as the cab ride was a mere $10 – saving us probably 30 minutes at least.

Have you been to the Chinatown, Fisherman’s Wharf, or Ghirardelli Square areas of San Francisco? Please leave your comments below about your experience. Look forward to hearing from you! 


Family Vacation Part 3 – Legoland California Resort (A Review of the Park)


On Friday I took the family to the Legoland California Resort in Carlsbad, CA. Toby is 10 and Miller is 4 so we figured these are the perfect ages to get them introduce to the park. That, and they are pretty big Lego fans, especially the older one.

Please note that we did not get to all of the features/rides/experiences at Legoland, and thus I suggest you treat this as a partial review. I will only be discussing components of the park that we personally had experience with.

We arrived around 10:15 am and promptly mapped out our route for the day.  Our first impressions were very positive – colorful, well-decorated entrance, a beautiful courtyard/entry area, and all the right things you need when you enter an amusement park, like stroller facilities, the big Lego store, and somewhere to buy something to eat & drink.

First thing we did was to buy our younger son a Lego hat from the big Lego shop, since he accidentally left his in the van that transported us from our hotel – it was $15. Gotta stay sun protected since you are outdoors all day.

Lego Movie ExperienceLego Movie Experience

We proceeded in a northwesterly direction and came upon the Lego Movie Experience. This exhibit alone was a top-notch experience. Imagine yourself walking around the dad’s basement in The Lego Movie, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. It had everything from Lord Business’ supertall ominous building (the Octan Tower), to Star Wars, to the Old West. I wished that they would have given the Clock Cuckoo Land exhibit more space and attention, however. Probably took at least a dozen pictures here. Outside we were able to get pictures with a life-sized Wyldstyle and Emmet.

Water WorksWater Works

After that we stumbled upon Water Works interactive music feature.  This was actually one of the main highlights for me personally. You and your kids can hop around and trigger musical instruments to play a delightful medley of sounds fit to dance to, and believe me, our little guy did exactly that.


Kid Power Towers

Kid Power Towers

Next we were off to the Kid Power Towers. Did this with my 10-year old and we waited about 10-15 minutes in line. It’s similar to one of those rides in say, Zombieland, where the characters are attached to a cylindrical-shaped vertical structure and thrust up in to the air. Wasn’t that extreme though, what happens is that you pull yourself up to the top by pulling on a rope, and have the ability to let yourself come back down a few inches at a time. Lasted maybe 5 minutes or so and was an enjoyable and fun experience where you could get a bird’s-eye view of the park.

Sky Cruiser

Here’s my biggest complaint of the entire day. The wait-time at Sky Cruiser was ridiculous! We clocked it at 53 minutes. Seriously?! The only reason I followed through was because my 4-yr old was begging me. What helped was that while parents waited in line, the kids could enter a Lego play area, and keep themselves occupied. The ride was nice and fun, but only lasted maybe 3-4 minutes, literally. The wait time on this ride was a real downer.

Lego Club House Lego Club

Liked this one – it’s a place similar to The Lego Store where kids can go and build Legos out of a bucket, hang out, and do their own thing. My boys loved it, but because lunch was quickly approaching we weren’t able to spend very much time here.

Fun Town Hot Dogs

Ate lunch here, and of course, the entree was hot dogs. Pretty good – we ordered 2 hot dogs for the adults, an adult-sized beverage, and 2 “kid packs”, that included a hot dog, chips, and a drink. $29 was definitely a fair price considering Legoland has a monopoly here.

Fun Town Police & Fire Academy

We had a blast here! Only waited about 10 minutes to get on. It’s actually a race between you and 3 other families. You get on a police or fire vehicle, “pump” your way to the scene of the fire, get out and spray water at the fire until the bell sounds, and then back to your vehicle and speed back to where you started. We finished 2nd out of 4, but were curious how another family beat us that didn’t seem to be pumping their vehicle as hard. Oh well, it was a lot of fun.

Fun Town Stage Performance

As we were walking to our next venue, we had the opportunity to listen to a group of young girls performing the song “Roar” by Katie Perry. My wife is a trained musician, and listened intently for the quality of the vocals. First of all, one of the main soloist performers was out of breath, which could supposedly be expected when you are both singing and dancing. But it wasn’t just that. The other performers were not in the same key with each other or the background music.

Miniland USA

Star Wars - the Hoth System
Star Wars – the Hoth System

Miniland USA was by far one of the best parts of the entire park for me personally. The amount of Legos used and attention to detail, and expansiveness of these displays boggles the mind. I found myself standing in front of many of these exhibits for minutes at a time. An absolutely incredible visual experience. Legoland Miniland USA

Most notable was the entire Star Wars section, Las Vegas, New York, and Washington DC. Legoland gets extra points from me on these ones

Caricature Artists

Our boys, Miler (4) and Toby (10)
Our boys, Miler (4) and Toby (10)

Throughout the park there are places where an artist will paint a caricature of you, your kids, or your entire family. We had our boys drawn as Lego people and surprisingly they sat still for a good 10-15 minutes while it was being done.. The artist did a wonderful job capturing some of their most unique facial features. We also had it framed. Cost about $70 and the company is called Kaman’s Art Shoppes. I was happy to pay the fee.

Coast CruiseMount Rushmore

This is a must-do in my opinion. Had a little bit of the feel of the “Jungle Cruise” at Disneyland, but with Legos, of course. It seems there are Lego creations that you can only see well if you go on the cruise, which makes it somewhat exclusive. We got right on and were very happy with our tour guide, the sound system, and the incredible Lego creations we were able to observe.

Dino Score Games

My son bought a bucket of ping-pong balls for $10 and the family shared in trying to get a ball in those hard plastic dishes that float around water for a prize. We won 1 medium stuffed animal and 1 small one. It was fun.

Matthew Coates Basketball Minion

I played the basketball game and was given 4 balls/chances for $10. I made the 2nd shot and won a really cool plush Minion (about 3′ high) from Despicable Me.

The Big Shop

Once you finish at the park this is one of those “must do” places where you buy your kid something to take home. Options galore, well-staffed, and lots of great eye candy.

Final Items & Notes

We were there 4 1/2 hours total, and all pretty exhausted when it was over. We aren’t one of those families that can stay an at amusement park for 8 hours. We did what we wanted to do then left happy, not worn down and ready to hit our beds.

One of the things my wife did was to write our cell phone numbers on our kids’ tummies. This way if they get lost they could show them to the park authorities and we would be contacted.

The water fountains are really low-flow and we were a little agitated when we tried refilling our water bottles.

The restroom facilities are state-of-the-art and kept in tip-top shape. They even have short sinks for little guys & gals.

I refuse to pay $3.62 for a 20-ounce Powerade, but that’s just me

It was a lot of fun watching Miller put together his first Lego set ever. We’ll be back.

Overall Legoland California Resort rating 7.5 out of 10 stars.

Have you been to Legoland? Please feel free to leave your comments about the park below. I’d love to hear from you!








Family Vacation Part 2 – Arriving in San Diego: Beach/Surf Lesson Day

Toby & I

We arrived in San Diego around 11 A.M. and were pretty hungry from the trip. We ate at a wonderful restaurant called The Fishery (Yelp review here). Toward the end of the meal our bill arrived and Toby and I got into talking about the amount owed & tipping.

Miller spills the pepper.
Miller spills the pepper.

He recalled and brought up that I used to wait tables at The Olive Garden. I shared with him that servers don’t get paid very much for their time (usually half of minimum wage), and it’s important to tip generously, which I did.

After that we drove a few blocks down to Pacific Beach, where the rest of our afternoon would unfold.

House we saw walking from the beach to the surf lesson office.

The highlight of the afternoon were surfing lessons. Toby & I opted to try and learn the inner-peace of bonding with the ocean, and as how most new things go, ended up struggling to stand up properly on the surf board.  We got our surfing lesson from the San Diego Surf School (full Yelp review here).

The office of the surf school was a few blocks from the beach, so I had a nice, slow walk with Toby and we chatted a little about life, the houses on the block, and the cool bananas he found growing at at one of them.   photo-8


He was pretty excited about finding bananas growing in California. Needless to say, the walk to and from the office was memorable for me. As a dad, one of those moments where time just seems to slow down and nothing else is going on in the world besides you spending quality time with your child.

Surf lesson


Our instructor taught us the basics of surfing properly: laying tummy-down on your surf board with your feet/toes touching the very back of the board. photo-12From there you paddle when the waves hit you with closed-fingered hands, then you prop yourself up with your hands on the side of the surf board (not grasping the sides, but palms down pressing up your body weight). Then from there in one motion you prop up your entire body weight and “hop” your legs into position.

Video of me attempting to surf

Video of Toby attempting to surf

Easier said that done. This guy, who lifts weights 3 times a week, goes to gentle yoga once a week, and has a weekly tennis match, struggled with the last part all day long. I actually excelled at the pop-up, but failed time and time again getting my feet far enough apart on the board to maintain any kind of balance. In fact, I recall a lot of grunting sounds after pushing up from laying flat to trying to manuever myself into proper standing position. What’s the secret?

photo-13Needless to say, I was proud to watch Toby keep trying over and over, having a great attitude throughout the entire lesson. Not once did he great frustrated with falling. At the end of the day, we were both tired, but were also feeling fulfilled that we had a new experience, something that I’m hopeful we’ll both remember for the rest of our lives.

Will I pursue surfing avidly? Probably not. I can tell you that I did manage to stand up for about 2 1/2 waves though. But I do see the draw of the sport/activity, being one with the waves, and a certain inner-peace that could be draw as a result of mastering it.

Panoramic video of the beach

We are staying at the Carlsbad by the Sea Resort (full review here, photo-11after we check out on Saturday) The evening consisted of Carlsbad Premium Outlets, which are directly across the street from us, so we walked over. We ate at a restaurant called Blaze Pizza, man oh man, all I have to say about that place is, go there! Tasty thin-crust pizza with all the right ingredients and seasoning. Afterwards we strolled the plaza, with my boys having to stop at every Ipod & iPhone cover vendor we passed (boys these days with technology, huh?), had the incredible Brownie ice cream from the legendary Haagan-Daas, and ate a super-tasty vanilla cupcake  with cream cheese frosting from CB’s Cupcakes.

photo-3Have you visited San Diego or Carlsbad as a tourist or are a resident? Would love your comments about the area below! photo-4




Family Vacation Part 1 – Leaving for San Diego




On Thursday, Tia & I woke up around 4am to get ready to head to San Diego, CA for our family vacation. This is one of 4 destinations we will be at, and certain the most popular summer destination for Arizona vacationers, as it is only 5-6 hours away and has so much to offer.

As usual, Tia is the person that *fully* prepares and packs for our trips. She is the master packer, carefully placing each and every item in our luggage, to the envy of most world-traveling business executives. That’s my love, the stay-at-home mom (and I don’t mean this in a derogatory sense).

I have a little more patience level getting out the door than she does. She is very concerned about making it to San Diego around a specific time, where in my mind I’m on vacation and there really isn’t a a hurry – kind of like “we’ll get there when we get there”. As you can imagine this usually creates a little bit of marital conflict, but nothing we can’t work through.

Tia usually cuts my hair, well, shaves with a #3 blade, to be more exact, and I asked her to do so this morning since it was getting a little long (for me), and would be nice to feel the ocean breeze going through it on our trip. Toby, our 10-year old son, wakes up around this time, finds my hair on floor, and jokes about gluing to himself and creating his own chest hair. Understandably, the mood lightens and we all have a good laugh.

One of the interesting things I found out about our newly-adoped kitty-cat Linley that morning is that my wife likes to leave the TV on when we leave the house for more than a few hours at a time. Channel 70, The Home Shopping Network, to be exact. Now why would a cat want to watch this channel? Must be for the great deals, apparently.

In we all hop to our 9-year old silver Dodge Caravan and start our journey (don’t worry, we didn’t forget Miller), and of course mommy wants the kids to sleep at least for the first couple of hours, but to no avail. The kids are sleepily-excited and start talking and want to watch a movie. Since we have an older vehicle, it doesn’t have the built-in movie screens the cars of today have, so we have wires everywhere since we installed our own. Pretty. Commence “The Lego Movie” , which I like to think of as “Frozen for boys”.


During the trips somehow dying comes up with Miller (our 4-year old), and he tells us that he doesn’t want to die. I explain that all people die, that are bodies are temporary, and someday we will go to live with Jesus in Heaven.  To which Miller replies “Oh, we can’t walk there. It’s way very far away.” Nope, definitely not!