Mason Turns Seven

February 21, 2015

Every year on Mason's birthday starting at age 3, I have asked him the same questions and see how his answers change over the years!

  • Age 3 is in Blue
  • Age 4 is in Grey
  • Age 6 is in Red
  • Age 7 is in Green

1. What is your favorite color? Blue, Red & White, Pink, Pink

2. What is your favorite toy? Garbage Truck, Bumblebee Transformer, Minecraft game, Nerf Guns

3. What is your favorite fruit? Oranges, Oranges, Grapes, Cantelope

4. What is your favorite cartoon? The Cat in the Hat, Octonauts, Minecraft, Bugs Bunny

5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? Kraft Dinner, Kraft Dinner/Pizza, Macaroni & Cheese (White Spot), Bacon Pizza

6. What is your favorite shirt? No Answer, Spiderman, Plaid, Star Wars

7. What is your favorite game? Going down a slide, Lego, Minecraft, Minecraft

8. What is your favorite snack? Squigglers, Fruit gummies, Cheestrings, Popcorn

9. What is your favorite animal?Moo Cow, Tiger, Lion, Lion

10. What is your favorite song? Bumble Bee, Transformers Theme Song, Break Free by Ariana Grande, Turn Down for What

11. What is your favorite book? Panda the Soldier by Oda Taro*, The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura MurrayCaptain Underpants, Wormworld Saga

 12. Who is your best friend? Ryan, Fionn, Zoey, Natalia

13. What is your favorite cereal?  Cheerios, Froot Loops, Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes

14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? 'Mow' the lawn, Going hiking to see waterfalls with Daddy, Play, Play with Kindergarteners

15. What is your favorite drink? Milk,  Milk, Milk, Milk

16. What is your favorite holiday? Hallowee'n, Christmas, Hallowe'en, Christmas

17. What friend do you like to take to bed with you at night? Baby (Cabbage Patch Doll), Mommy (lol), Mommy, Mommy

18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? Toast & Honey, Toast & Honey, Toast & Honey, Toast & Honey

19. What do you want for dinner? Pancakes, Pancakes, Mac & Cheese,  Pizza

20. What do you want to be when you grow up? Big Dinosaur, Fireman, Actor,  Police Officer

 

Monster Jam 2014

February 1, 2014

When I saw the ad for Monster Jam in December, I thought that it might be a cool thing for Mason to experience.   I couldn't really recall whether I had been to one in my youth so I assumed not.

I had a choice of going to the show in Vancouver or try to align our Disneyland trip and Monster Jam when it was in Anaheim.  I figured we had enough to do on our vacation so I deferred to going until we were back in town. 

I invited everyone at work who had a little dude (not saying little girls wouldn't want to go but I figured it wasn't as big of a deal to them).  Soon we had over 6 families all wanting to go so it ended up being a corporate event but paid out of our own pockets.

The tickets ended up being $42.85 (per seat, no cost reduction per age).  My coworker was nice enough to lend us ear protection for Mason from their event last year.

So the day arrived today and I was surprised the show was so late (7pm start).  So I picked Mason up from his Dad's just before six and headed straight downtown.  I shouldn't have been surprised by all the traffic, there was an accident and a police incident so that slowed us down a bit.

From my last experience at going to Roger's Arena, I figured out parking before we left the house.   The lot I chose was fairly close to BC Place and a heckuva lot cheaper.  $6.30 vs $20.00.  [535 Richards].   

We quickly walked to BC Place (after I had to figure out where we were lol, it was dark and I lost my bearings).  Once we got on West Georgia, every man & woman with their child(ren) were walking in hoards to the stadium.

There were ticket scalpers everywhere offering tickets and ear protection.  I also stopped at Shoppers Drug Mart hours earlier to buy my own ear plugs.  (2 pairs for $3.99 to 30 decibels),

Once we got inside, a quick pee stop and off to our seats where my coworkers were already settled.  From the minute we got into the arena, the engine noise was overwhelming and I immediately put on Mason's earmuffs.  As soon as we were seated, I put mine in and handed the spare pair to my coworker who didn't bring anything for herself.  

The show was about to start!

 *Jigsy's photo editor is down so I can't add any pics at this time*

We headed to the concession for some water (I was going to bring some but I didn't think they'd let me bring a water bottle in for some reason).  I was instantly brought back to overpriced California!  $4.50 for a bottle of Dasani or Gaterade!  and $3.00 for a small bag of chips.  Yikes!

When an hour passed, Mason started to get restless and want to leave.  The trucks were in a competition and were racing around in circles more than anything, getting some air. I was thinking it was more of a 'crunch' old vehicles kind of show so I didn't blame him for being bored :(  Finally with about 1/2 hour to go, my team and I decided to leave and back home we went.  By the time we got home it was almost 10pm which is incredibly late for the little gaffers.  

All in all, it was a $104 night and we probably wouldn't go again.

Disneyland - Budget Review

January 28, 2014

I booked our flights on November 21st so I had exactly 2 months to plan & save for this trip.  My initial budget was based on pie in the sky #'s:

Here is a overview of the assumed costs:

  1. Flight & Hotel (best if you can get a package) $662.20 + est $1050
  2. Food etc $250
  3. Disneyland park tickets $550
  4. Souvenirs etc $100
  5. Transportation est $50
  6. Other excursions LegoLand $162.00 tickets only

Total Cost: $2824.00

Revised:

  1. Flight  - $662.20
  2. VBRO - $850.00
  3. Food - $300.00
  4. DL Park Tix - $525.00
  5. Souvenirs & Extras- $300
  6. Transportation - $100

Total Cost $2732

Actual: (CDN)

  1. Flight  - $662.20
  2. VBRO - $850.00
  3. DL Tickets $525.00
  4. Groceries $138.61
  5. LegoLand Tickets - $107.06
  6. LegoLand Shuttle - $48.85 (Return for 1 person, Mason was free)
  7. Airport Shuttle - $82.64 (one way for 6 people)
  8. Notary Document -$32.48
  9. Wrist Bands - $12.08 (In case Mason went missing, they had his name and my phone # on them)
  10. Exchange Rate for $120 - $15.11
  11. Airport food (Breakfast & Snacks) - $19.00
  12. Cash Tips - $23.75
  13. Dining Out - $187.16
  14. Gifts - $116.89 (Including replacement sunglasses for me since I left mine at home, a caricature for Mason, etc)
  15. Park n Fly - $89.52 (1 week + 1 day)

Total Cost - $2940.97

Well there you have it, one week at Disneyland for just under $3k for Mason and I. Obviously this price was a bit lower because of my amazing budgeting skills and sharing a suite with our good friends, the Mennie's.  I only took $268 USD cash with me and overspent by $76.08CDN (which went on my MasterCard).   

We are home safe and sound and exhausted, no day off tomorrow.  Right back to work & school.

Disneyland Learning

January 28, 2014

We are now on day #5 and have used 3 out of 4 days of our Park Hopper passes.  We had a nice 'day in' yesterday which was a good move since it was a beautiful warm and sunny day.  The weather today took a dip and was on the chillier side.  I'd say watching the weather reports was completely useless since the temps have gone up and down day by day and aren't even close to being accurate.  Since we spent the day at Disneyland and did repeat rides, I thought I would dedicate this blog to sharing what I've learned if you are planning on a DL trip in the near future.

  • For the most part the park is non smoking but you see the odd (idiot) walking around smoking.  I also noticed 1 designed smoking section by the New Orleans area
  • Fast pass are a great idea for avoiding long lineups but should be acquired when you are first onsite to ensure you get a timestamp that is not too far off.  We haven't tried the Indiana Jones ride yet and when I got the FP at 3:30 the FP time is 6:50 to 7:50 so that's while to wait or go 'home' and come back
  • Avoid DL on the weekends.  You tend to lose track of time and obviously the weekend will be busier.  Our wait times went from 10+ mins tops to 30-50 minutes.  Ack!
  • Lunch @ Daisy's Diner (Toon Town).  The pizza''s are &7.49 but you get an entire pizza:.   The dough was nice but the pizza sauce was different.
  • Lunch @ Redd Rockett's Pizza Port (Tomorrowland).  You get one slice for $6.49 but the pizza was tasty.  Also, if you love mousse, I highly recommend the Chocolate Parfait.  It was pricey at $5.19 but it was delicious!!!

  • I'm not sure if it's a 'Canadian' thing but Californian's are not huge on recycling.  Sure you can deposit your bottles and cans but nothing else.  I just Googled this topic and it says they have recycling bins but I didn't see any (other than drink containers).  The site said that garbage is sorted but only for bottles and cans.  They should offer a lot more
  • As I learned during my first trip to Vegas, there is no dress code in Disneyland!  You can't help but spend hours people watching and the outfits did nothing less than surprise me.  You had 'barely there' ripped jeans or hot pants all the way to full winter parkas.  I was super confused. I initially scoffed at the hoodies and sweatshirts but realized this still is 'winter' here and the breeze does make it chilly.  Before you pack your puffy jacket, all you need is a long sleeve cover up or light jacket for the cool evenings.  You'd be surprised that a 26+ afternoon will quickly drop to 10 (exaggerated) within an hour or two (especially in shade) and some of the rides are a/c'd so even colder!
  • Avoid long lineups and use the Disneyland Apps that offer real time line ups etc.  There is NO Wifi in Disneyland Park (There are some hot spots in Downtown Disney however) so you'd need US cell service.  I did try to get service through Fido but they only offered 1 month plans at $40 and it was just too costly for one week
  • The condo we are staying at does not have a phone nor do we have phones to call long distance.  However if you are a Gmail user, you can call the US & Canada for ƒree!   Simply log into Gmail and start typing a phone # into the white text box 'name, email, number'

 

  • Don't forget your travel benefits documentation (and login to your benefits providers website).  If you have extended benefits, you will usually have travel insurance (unless you brought it separately).  An unexpected illness or accident will end up costing you time & money.  Ensure you have a credit card or extra cash for a cab ride to a clinic (some are 24 hrs) but aren't exactly near DL.  A $50 cab ride from our resort.  The clinic also charges upfront for the dr visit and then you are reimbursed by your benefits company when you return to Canada.  The visit will cost upwards of $130 + any medicine you need (another cab ride to a pharmacy
  • If you suffer from seasonal allergies, don't forget your allergy meds!
  • We discovered at the end of our trip that the complex we rented does not recycle.  Super disappointed that it will end up in the trash! Bad! Bad! Bad!

Well we are now done our little vacation, it's time to pack up and mosey on back to the airport! Hope you enjoyed the series of blogs and feel free to comment if you have any questions!

 

LEGOLAND California Park

January 25, 2014

Besides the wonderful world of Disney, I also wanted to plan a day trip for Mason and I to go on and after doing a bit of research I decided that LEGOLAND was the best option.  For those that aren't familiar with it, it is not in Anaheim but an hour a bit out in Carlsbad, CA.  

Before I bought the tickets, I first had to figure out how I was going to get there.  Two options:

  1. Rental Car
  2. Bus

Since I didn't really need a car aside from that one day, I opted to bus since it wasn't a long drive.  First stop, Greyline.  I opted to buy just transportation because I had a promo code for LEGOLAND admission. Unfortunately the deal I received (Kids admitted free) was a limited time offer but you can Google 'Legoland California promo code' or try http://www.retailmenot.com/ and other deal sites for codes.

  • Bus price $48.85
  • LL Admission $107.06 + Parkhopper ticket for SeaLife

There is a range of hotels to be picked up from so we just walked down the street to the Holiday Inn.  We had to be there for 8:25am so we left early.  The bus driver came in and loaded us onto the giant bus and we were the only ones on it!  We then drove to the depot where we waited for our main bus.  I guess by 9am it showed up and only 3 other families joined us.  Our Bus Driver introduced himself as a Mexican with an Italian name 'Guido' and had quite the sense of humour.  Mason and I opted to sit in the front to have a great view.   Mason was entertained with his Tablet and I chatted with the driver.

Once we arrived, we were told to be back for 5:30pm.  That's a long day! 

I took a zillion pictures, if you are a friend or family, you can see the album on Facebook. If not, you can uh Google images Legoland and check out the other tourist pictures lol.

As we entered the park, we walked past a Noodle house (Wok n Bowl Ramen) which was designated as my lunch.  Mason loved the water park and the water shooter guns and I had to pull him away to keep walking.  The large scale sculptures were amazing and made of over 200k pieces.  

Some of the highlights:

  • They had ample garbage & recycling bins
  • Complimentary tampons in the washrooms
  • LOTS of rides for Mason's age, some were parent accompanied others the kids could go on alone

There wasn't a lot of downsides but for the price of admission, I was surprised on the upkeep of the attractions, chipped/faded paint and the landscaping was atrocious.  You'd think they'd have a crew refreshing the park.  Maybe they are doing that later but I wasn't impressed.

When it came time to have lunch, I bought my main + chips & a drink for Mason.  Then we had to walk 8 mins in another direction to get his lunch (all the food kiosks are spread all over the resort, they aren't in the same place).  Cost - $16.36 and then off to Pizza Mania to get Mason a meal.  Well an individual pizza is just as expensive as the meal so he ended up getting more chips and apple juice (organic no less) at a cost of $9.96 CDN.  Oops.  

After we ate, we explored the rest of the park and went on the rides a few more times.  One note, I'm not sure if it's just the time of year but there were very little lineups for any ride during the first couple of hours.  The weather wasn't extremely warm so maybe that was a deterrent?  Oh, and there is NO wifi.  A lot of parents were complaining.  I would have PAID to have wifi since there were so many areas where kids could run around (playgrounds) etc and parents were just sitting and staring.  

By 2pm we were done and we still had SeaLife to go through.  So we exited out the front (not realizing that the two are joined) and headed over.  The building looks a lot smaller than it is.  It was set up the usual aquarium way and we wandered down pathways of fish & sea life.  We walked past a theatre which I forced Mason to sit through 3 showings because my feet were killing me (I'm sure his was too, I didn't bring the stroller!) and we had a TON of time to kill.  Next was a puppet show which Mason thoroughly enjoyed.  

Once we went through SeaLife twice..I was SO ready to go home.  It was only 2:30! wahh.  We were in the middle of nowhere so I wasn't able to leave.  We didn't get exit hand stamps but I pleaded with the cashier at LegoLand to let us back in which he obliged.  Now we had a ton of time to wander again and again and eventually it was time to head back to the bus.

I had quite the conversation with Guido on the way home, talking bout every topic possible.  He was quite the guy.   Mason was lucky enough to have battery power on his Tablet for about 90% of the way home.  We hit rush hour and it finally died but he was super patient.  We didn't get back to the townhouse until just after 7.  

I wavered back and forth to contemplate whether the trip to Legoland was worth it. I would probably do it again but drive so I and more flexibility on when to leave.  I'd say that any kid over the age of 7 may be bored so younger than that and over 36" would be perfect.  

 

Downtown Disney

January 25, 2014

Since we arrived late afternoon in Anaheim, we didm't want to use up a full Disneyland pass (My friends bought a 5 day, we had a 4 day park hopper) they suggested we take a walk through Downtown Disney.  Back in 1990, this didn't exist so it was a new experience for Mason and I.

We were thrilled to discover a double stroller in the closet so that was for our Friends' kids and we used their single stroller for Mason.  Mason hasn't had a stroller in years and I think even at 1.5 his Dad and I made him walk everywhere.  This environment is a different story.  It's not odd to see a large child in a stroller and no one judges!  The fact that you are literally walking for 8+ hrs as an adult is rough, let alone little peoples.

So we left our townhouse to walk to Disneyland.  This was one of the 'cons' of stating a bit further away than say the other hotels.  However where this group of townhouses is located, it's very close to the park.

8 minute walk!

The only downside is that there is not a cross walk across the 4 lane street.  There is a divider which makes it a bit more safe but you literally have to wait for all cars to pass (no one bothers to stop here..tsk tsk) and then cross to the median and then wait again.  

Once we walked down Magic way, there are two entrances to Downtown Disney, one via the Disneyland Hotel (we went through their lobby) or simply keep going straight and turn left on S West St.  

As you progress along, you first encounter the vendors on both sides of the path.  Selling anything from t-shirts, to face painting/caricatures, sunglasses (my first stop) to churro's/popcorn.  Then once you get into the 'downtown' you'll see more restaurants and then shops.

The Rainforest Cafe is the first restaurant we encountered and we decided to eat early.  The restaurant is an experience in itself.  It's decked out in jungle theme (although all the plant life appeared to be fake) there are robot monkey's in the trees that start squeaking prior to a 'rainfall' that occurs every 15-20 mins where the lights flicker and/ you can hear rain and thunder.  The kids enjoyed it.  We wandered their gift shop/store? while waiting for our name to be called which took up a lot of time.  Once we got seated, it was time to order. The menu was pretty extensive and reasonably priced.  By the time we were served, it was pretty much 5pm!  Perfect timing.

After dinner we continued to explore Downtown Disney and headed into the Lego Store.

 

VBRO'ing in California

January 25, 2014

Because I was travelling with another family (Mom & Dad, 6 yr old & 1.5 yr old), we opted to stay in a VBRO (Vacation Rental By Owner).  We had outweighed the pros vs cons:

Hotel - Pro

  • Possibly closer to Disneyland
  • Onsite amenities (restaurant, gift shop, etc)

Hotel - Con

  • Lack of availability
  • Costly
  • Lack of space/privacy for two families
  • Dining out cost increase

VBRO - Pro

  • Functions as a house
  • Full kitchen
  • 3 bedrooms + 1.5 bath
  • Dishwasher & W/D
  • Ability to get groceries and cook

Some hotel cost considerations: (Based on 3 adults and 3 children)

  1. Disneyland Hotel - $5419 inc Tax (2 rooms, no suite)
  2. Howard Johnson -  $1996USD inc Tax  (2 rooms, no suite)
  3. VBRO -  $1502 inc Tax (Full house)

I picked an expensive hotel first as I was curious to see just how much the rooms were per night.  Originally the price was $500+ but they were on 'sale' for $332/night.  I'm sure they are gorgeous rooms but really all you are getting is a bed and a bathroom for that price + the luxury of not walking far to Disneyland.  I don't think it's worth the extra cost, personally.

So it seemed a no brainer that we go with the VBRO.  We also opted for the insurance just in case and a fee was included in that for registration.

So once we arrived, we saw a huge complex of townhouses that was built in the mid 70's but our suite had been fully renovated last year.   Nice hardwood floors, comfy couch and a big screen tv.  Free wifi and fully stocked kitchen including tupperware!  The upstairs had tons of cupboards in the bathroom and lots of towels and huge closets with dressers.  The master has a weird 'hallway' which was good to house the playpen.  There are two decks, one empty (would be perfect for a hot tub!) and the other has a very nice patio set with small bbq.  Ultimately there are 3 bedrooms but the ad says it sleeps 11.  Master = 2, 2nd bedroom = 2, kid room (3 (has a bunk with a trundle) and a queen sofa bed with a chaise which would 'sleep' a child (don't think an adult would be comfy).  I'd say 9 adults comfortably if they shared beds :)

The things we appreciated most were the dishwasher and washer dryer but the owners have included all the amenities right down to a double stroller in the closet.

Extremely convenient!

 

About a week prior to our departure, I did some Internet research to find out the closest grocery store that had free delivery.  It happened to be Von's (subsidiary of Safeway).  Now this was an awesome idea (I take full credit).  All I did was log on: http://shop.safeway.com/ecom/home and create a free account.  I created a grocery list of food for Mason & I for a week (with a few dining out experiences considered).

  • 1 litre of milk
  • 18 litres of purified water (I can't stand tap water so this was a necessity)
  • Cheese sticks
  • Apple sauce
  • Snacks (twinkies, ice cream bars, chocolate bars)
  • Spaghetti sauce & pasta
  • Veggies (Carrots, broccoli, cucumber, asparagus & cauliflower)
  • Fruit (Strawberries, apples)
  • 1 dozen eggs
  • Cheese slices (grilled cheese)
  • Loaf of bread
  • Drinks for mommy (Vitamin water)
  • Prepackaged salad kits x 2
  • Can of soup
  • Portioned almonds
  • Fishy crackers
  • Waffles
  • Butter
  • Yogurt
  • Quiona (it's cheaper here)
  • Apple sauce
  • Kraft Dinner instant
  • Microwavable noodle dish

So now we are on day 4 and have today and two more 'full' days left in Anaheim.  In hindsight, I would have modified the order:

One 9 litre of water would have been enough (or I'm just not consuming enough).  Would have skipped the grilled cheese.  The waffles were great (I forgot the syrup so our friends had to get it on their trip to the grocery store (which was about a $15.00 cab ride return). The quick meals for Mommy were also great for lunch or dinner.

Here is an important note!  When creating an account in America and it asks for your Zip Code, do the following!!

Take the digits OUT of your Postal code and add two zero's.  

Example - V2C 3L3 = 23300.  This worked on the website and sure enough my order was delivered just after 8.  I didn't know if I was to tip the driver? He didn't seem to expect it and I treated it as if it was Fedex dropping off a package.  I took all the groceries in myself.  

In reviewing their order sheet, it was just a print out of an actual receipt so it was very hard to decipher what I had bought.  I saved a copy of the original order from online so I was able to cross reference which was good cause they forgot one item.  I'm still waiting for a response from their customer service for a credit.  And two items that I requested were not available.

This was a PAINLESS process and so convenient.  Delivery was free (there are tons of online coupons for  free delivery + freebies (I got an extra case of bottled water complimentary!)  Just ensure you order your groceries in advance!  And go through a mental list of what you normally buy at home.  I forgot to get honey (which Mason has on toast every.single.day) but I didn't want to buy an entire container of honey just for a week (even though he'd probably consume it!)  There was already ketchup in our fridge, so glad we skipped that.  My friends also bought mayo (which I don't eat) and salad dressing (my mini salad kits came with dressing).  So all in all, we have a lot of veggies to eat up in the next few days!)

The weather was warm during the week but the sky wasn't exactly screaming blue and sunny.  This was probably a blessing in disguise with Mason and I both having fair skin.  Today was a 'rest' day as we have been to the park every single day.  I wanted some R&R and a chance to read my book and laze by the pool!

Here is Mason by the kiddie pool:

The pool is gated and locked 24/7, a FOB is required to enter and leave.  There are open showers and bathrooms onsite as well as a games room but I didn't peak in so I'm not sure what's in there.  There are 3 pools (Adult, main & kids) and a hot tub.  Now I guess because we aren't summer, the pools are not heated.  They are at ice cube temperature which was a bit disappointing since it's so warm out.  The hot tub on the other hand is actually hot, like relaxing Mommy bath tub temperature, almost too hot for the kiddies but they were okay.  

After a few hours and no one joining us at all, we moved along to the kids playground (also gated and locked).  The first thing I noticed was the ground cover which was black bits..of recycled tire.  It was very spongy. I've heard of this idea probably over 15 years ago, wonder why it never took off in Canada? Maybe the tire is too hard when it's cold? Again we were the only ones here but the thing I like about this FOB land of fun is that the gate is LOCKED.  No one (aka Mason) can get out and no creepy guys can get in.  I applaud this secure area.

If you are interested in renting a VBRO in Disneyland, here is the link and feel free to leave a comment if you want more information! This suite is listed on the VBRO site and is distinguishable from the pictures.  Tell them I sent you!

D Day!

January 22, 2014

D is for Disneyland and we were all ready to go! Well by we I mean me, since Mason still had no clue that we were going!  We left the house just before 8 which was right on time.  I carried on like we were going to daycare and our suitcases were hidden in the trunk.

At 8:00am, my friend Ludy called me to pretend that she needed a ride from the airport.  I asked Mason if it was okay if we 'skipped' school and hung out with our friends instead.  He was quite excited:

 

 We arrived at Park n Fly just before nine and the process to get us checked in was pretty simple.  Mason did question why we had luggage in the trunk :) I told him our friends were borrowing it lol.  

We got inside and met up with our friends and finally it was time to announce the surprise.

Disclaimer: This isn't how I thought it would be.  Ironically it was the same reaction my Brother had back in 1990 when my Parents announced we were going too!

 

After it was all said and down I forgot the Goofy hat that I brought along for him to wear lol.

Okay so we are off to check in and head to the gate!

 

Waiting patiently.  I have to say that normally breakfast at YVR can really drain the bank but I was impressed with Tim Horton's.  The prices are not inflated and we got a decent breakfast (BELT bagel + milk + donut) for $5.00!

Finally it was time to head to the plane!

 

We didn't get to sit with our friends but had good seats near the front of the plane.  Surprised we were not on a full flight and lucky us, the 3rd seat was empty!!  

I was set up for travelling with a 5 year old:

  • Tablet & headphones
  • Insulated lunch bag with crackers, Kraft Dinner (instant) & fruit and water
  • Blanket

So first off, I packed his lunch with two plastic ice packs and they were seized.  Oh well, they were cheap.

 Here is Masey all settled in!

When it came to eating, I did a combination of pre-packed food and purchase.  Let's talk about my genius idea to bring instant KD.  I asked the Flight Attendant to provide some hot water to add to my noodles.  The one thing I didn't take in consideration was the microwave part, which we didn't have.  So the water did cook the noodles however they collapsed and when I drained the water, the KD turned into flat soupy noodles which were definitely not edible.  Ugh.  So I dropped $12.00 for a meal combo.  Turkey & Brie sandwich for me (which was very good but heavy on the mayo) with pita chips and hummus and a bottle of water.  Well worth the price if you are starving!

The flight went relatively well and no issues.  Upon landing Mason had some issues with equalizing his ears but it was only temporary.

Here are a few pictures of the flight:

 

Once we landed, we headed for the baggage carousel and were surprised to see that some of our luggage was already there!  Ryan asked if I had called the shuttle to confirm our booking.  Uh I didn't know I was supposed to? (I guess I skimmed over those details) and we also needed to call them once we were ready to be picked up.  The problem? None of us had a US phone or quarters to use a pay phone.  I ended up breaking a bill and was surprised to see pay phones here cost 50 cents!  Luckily the shuttle had a 1-800#.  A quick call and the dispatcher said they'd be onsite within 10 mins.  Awesome.  Our private van showed up soon and was equipped with 2 car seats and a booster.  The total cost was $75 (one way) + tip.  This is the company we used. http://www.transtarshuttle.com

ˆDisclaimer: By providing the above URL does not warranty any guarantee that you will have the same enjoyable experience and I cannot be held legally responsible if something is to go awry.

Read on to the next post to hear about our new 'home' for the week!

Disneyland Booked!

December 30, 2013

Our trip is less than 23 days away and we I am getting so excited.  I say *I* because Mason has no clue we are going.  I've managed to keep it a secret, despite some slips in conversation.  

I've been busy as a bee researching and booking; here is a rundown:

  1. Flights  $662.20
  2. Hotel.  $850.00 So after much deliberating, we decided to book through VBRO as Mason and I are travelling with another family and instead of squishing us into a hotel room, we opted for a lovely 1500 sq foot townhouse just minutes from DL.  The cost shared between two families worked out to be $120 including tax for a week which is just below what I'd pay for at a hotel BUT I am getting:
  • space!
  • separate bedroom for Mason
  • washer/dryer
  • access to 6 pools 
  • full kitchen
  • save money on dining out as we can buy groceries and eat in

3.  DL Tickets - $525 (not including tax) We are opting for the 4 day pass and will buy them from a travel agent as there is a $25.00 discount.  I've scoured the net and there doesn't seem to be a way to get a better reduction in price other than if you are a CA resident or through the Army.

4.  Food.  $300 - I had a hard time budgeting for food because I have no idea what I'm going to spend and how much we are going to eat in vs dine out.  I've heard that food prices are inflated so I wanted to be sure I had enough to cover it.  I used Google Map to check out where our townhouse was in proximity to the local grocers.  Since we don't have a rental car, our option is taxi or walking.  Another option is to find a grocery store that delivers and share the cost between the two families.  This ensure healthy meals and having snacks to go.

5.  Excursion - LegoLand! $107.06 (Including tax).  So if you go onto the LegoLand website, you'll see the tickets are much higher on their website.  I never book anything online without searching for a promo code first.  And boy did I find one, child admission free!! That was a $90.00 savings!  I would have loved to share the link with you but it looks it expired on the 21st of this month.  Retailmenot.ca is a great site for promo codes.  I also needed to figure out how Mason and I were getting to Carlsbad which is where Legoland is located (about an hour drive).  Two options were rental car or bus.  I hummed and hawed about renting a car which would give us a lot of mobility but being so close to DL, I figured we didn't really need a car.  So I opted for bus.  Grayhound offers day trips to many tourist attractions.  They will pick us up at the closest hotel (a 6 min walk from our townhouse) and the cost was only for me (kids are free).  I also found a promo code for 5% off.  Total = $48.85USD. return trip.

6.  Transportation - $100.  This refers to the taxi from airport to townhouse and return.  I emailed *every* taxi company in Anaheim trying to get the best price and the rates varied.  Highest was $180 return (not including tip) and the lowest was $75.00 for 6 of us including a car seat and two boosters.  The company is Transtar Shuttle Service.  I am going to commend them on their rapid response to my emails and answering all my questions.  Great customer service. 

7.  Extra's - Souvenirs, girls night out & ???.  You need to have a cash surplus for 'those things' that happen unexpectedly.  I budgeted an extra $300.  If I don't spend it, I'll bring it home :)

Total cost $2718.11.  Total saved $2720.00

Okay so I booked the flights end of November, how the heck was I able to save us so much money for this trip?  Keep in mind I am on a single income (full time) and not rich by any means.

  • First off, I saved $1000 from my last tax return (I didn't touch it, was sooo tempted to to though). 
  • I sold anything I didn't need anymore through Buy & Sell groups through Facebook and Craigslist.
  • I took future money from my January budget set for food & gas which I wouldn't need for the week I was in California
  • I also received small gifts (USD) from relatives towards the cost of the trip.

Now all that's left to do is countdown the days!  The plan is to pretend I'm dropping Mason off at daycare but head straight to the airport.  More than likely he'll ask where we are going, I'll tell him we have to pick up our friends at the airport.  Once we are ready to check in, I'll spill the beans and then watch in delight as he jumps up and down with his friend Reina.  I will record it too :)

Mommy Scrooge

December 19, 2013

It's less than a week until Christmas and all the chatter about what my parent friends have bought for their kids has been circling around my social network as well as at work.  Up until this year, Mason didn't really have preference over toys, sure there were ones he played with more than others but usually it was things he'd find around the house (kitchen gadgets and stuff he'd want to play with like screwdrivers, which I'd take away).  

Birthdays were easy, we had more control over the gift giving since family would spoil him.  But for me, I never wanted him to be focused on the gifts.  Birthdays were a celebration of birth and we'd have a fun playdate with all his little friends would be there.  It was an ordinary day really except complimented by a ton of stuff I organized (the venue, food, decorating, and of course the cake/cupcakes which I spent hours toiling over to ensure perfection).  3 out of 4 of Mason's birthdays were gift-less, meaning we asked for donations to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank in lieu of gifts.  That doesn't mean he went without, he received presents from his Grandparents, Aunts & Uncles etc.

With Mason having two separate households, he has 2 of everything including play things.  Combined, I'm sure there is enough for at least 8 kids, most of which, he doesn't play with!  His toy of choice is technology, mostly his Nexus Tablet (which he affectionately calls 'Tabby').  The odd duplo comes out and the themed lego sets are only set up by *me* and then he ignores them.  All these toys (new & used) adds up, so I'm left with..

Does he really need more?

I wasn't really planning on getting him anything big, I already knew what his Dad was buying him and then my Parents.  Not to mention that he's getting a HUGE present for his 5th birthday - a trip to Disneyland.  But guilt got to me and I ordered him a Magformer set which I know he is going to love.  

So fast forward to now and now the conversation is on stockings.  Stockings!? For years they have been hung but remained empty.  I think my parents stopped stuffing them when we moved out.  So that's over 18 years ago.  Okay so yes, I should fill one of those.  I purchased these little chocolate wafers covered in sprinkles, which he's going to love.  Umm what else? I have no idea what to fill it with.  Candy is out of the question because a) he's not too big into sweets and b) when he gets into them he's like a Tasmanian devil and then I regret the sugar overload and c) I usually nibble on them when he's at his Dad's.  I want to avoid the cheap plastic dollar store toys because I know he'll lose interest and again, a waste of money.

So then I have a conversation with Mom who clearly thinks I'm depriving my child of the Christmas morning experience of running to the tree to see boxes and boxes of gifts.  I remember back to the 80's when my Brother and I would rush downstairs, sans parents - dump out our stockings, review the goodies, fill the stocking back up, hang it and then run upstairs to wake our parents to ask if we could open our stockings.  Then we'd race downstairs again and pile 'our' presents in two ginormous piles (to compare of course).  As we got older, the pile got smaller and of course the rush to the tree was diminished by lazy teenaged hormones who would rather sleep til noon and then wake up.  As an Adult, I cherished the family time than the gifts.  Not to mention giving them, which made me way more happy than receiving.

So this is my last kid free night until 2014 and tonight is the night to go in search of a few extras for under the tree so my kid isn't traumatized by his cheapo Mommy.  I've even posted a request for ideas for toys & stocking stuffers from my Mommy Facebook groups in hopes that I can find quality gifts that aren't going to drain the savings I need for Disneyland.

I'm curious to know what my Internet parent friends think of this topic and whether they go 'all out' or are cutting back?

OR

 

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