I was so completely exhausted today that after a few hugs, I straightened up the house, went to sleep at noon and didn't wake up again until 6pm. It has been a full and cherished week of fun-filled vacation.

Eva, Roger and family arrived on Saturday morning after driving overnight. Mark and I took Sade, Aubri, and Marissa on a little adventure so that the tired could nap. We went to the La Brea Tar Pits and showed the kids the Methane and Tar seeping up into the pools at the park, peered over the edge of archaeological dig pits, and played around. Then, we went to the grocery store and played on the moving walkway while Mark bought his secret "Mark's-My-Favorite-Uncle" weapon.... candy for breakfast. When we got home the kids found and played with some snails from our garden. Roger and Eva were awake... so it was off to the beach. A lucky break - a beach umbrella at a moving sale - so we had shade. We went to the beach at the Santa Monica Pier. The waves were great, the cool ocean refreshing, and fun was had by all. Sade and Roger were hitting the big waves. Aubri and Marissa were hitting waves up to their necks when they weren't digging amazing holes. We had a "sandwich-hold-the-sand" picnic. Roger thought the black guy in the lounger behind us was Denzel Washington. It became apparent to me that this family bonds in a special way under the common love of the beach. As Sade said, "this is a multiple day thing" despite his seven-degree sunburn. Then we went to the Los Angeles Contemporary Art Museum where we went through ancient Europe, the East, and a special Dan Flavin exhibit of colored light bulbs (which the kids loved a lot.) We made some yummy spaghetti for dinner.
Has it only been one day?

On Sunday, we went to China Town, bought some fun souvenirs (Sade got a pair of balls and the girls got matching china doll dresses and shoes and fans and trinkets,) drank freshly squeezed sugar cane (gross, never do that,) and rode a creepy robot coin-op ride. We had a cold antipasto salad on the road and off we went to the beach. We wanted to go to Venice Beach, but I didn't get a map, so we went to South Santa Monica on accident. W wanted to get a boogie-board for today. When we couldn't find one at the store on the way, Sade and I walked from shop to shop along the walk looking for one until we got to the pier (where we beached the previous day.) We bought flip-flops for the walk home and a cool beach ball along with the boogie-board. Along the way, we saw a lot of performers... some acrobats and jugglers, a lady with a harp, a bicycle hot-rod club (one guy's bike seat was taller than my head,) a guy with a turban on roller blades playing an electric guitar, and a car decorated like the ocean with a working waterfall down the front. They boogie-boarded for as long as the sun allowed when we finally got back. Even Aubri was a natural with it. We would need to come back again, and get another board. When we got home, we ordered Thai food delivery and made hot dogs for those who didn't dig it.
Has it only been two days?

On Monday, after we picked up our discounted Disneyland tickets, I took Marissa and had a lazy morning while Mark took everyone else on a driving tour of the highlights of Los Angeles. They went to a lookout point on Mullholland Drive, drove the Sunset Strip, went through Beverly Hills, Boy's Town, and more. He rivals the professional tour guide. We grilled hamburgers and hotdogs for lunch. Afterward? Beach, baby. Second boogie-board. Making a sand mermaid tail for Aubri, a princess dress for Marissa, a turtle body for Aubri, a hot tub for Marissa. We ordered Dominoes for dinner. That really hit the spot.
Has it only been three days?

We tried to get a somewhat early start Tuesday to get to Disneyland early. I've been to Disneyland a few times recently, so there was no explanation for my surge of excitement and energy as we walked up to the gates. I knew we would have a good time. We went on the Matterhorn first. Marissa made the height requirement just barely, but it scared the pants off of her. I got Teacup duty. The park was packed for the premiere of High School Musical 2. The cast of the movie was there in a special parade. Eva and Marissa saw Zac Efron, etc and then hit Toon Town while the rest of us hit Splash Mtn and Big Thunder Mtn. We met back up for a picnic we left in the van. Big old Kaiser roll sandwiches with every fixing we would think of. Mmmm and cookies for desert. After lunch, we went to California Adventure. Roger and I are coaster junkies... so we had to go on the big one. The line was a little long, but it was so worth it. I cannot describe how happy and giggly and wonderful I feel during and directly after a good coaster. Roger was giggling because I was giggling. And the line to the one that shoots you straight up was non-existent, so we giggled some more. It was a hot day. When we met back up with Eva and the kids, they were playing in fountains. We walked back over to Disneyland and got a good bench for Eva, Marissa (sound asleep) and I to rest on and save for the parade. I don't think I ever saw the parade before. It was really awesome. We hit a couple more rides after that and then Taco Bell on the way home.
Has it only been four days?

It's only Wednesday. Breakfast is blueberry muffins, mandarin oranges, and yogurt in the park and play in the playground. We go shopping at The Grove. Sade gets some envious books. We see a cool fountain and a trolley. We overdose on ice cream for lunch and wander at the magnificent Lake Shrine gardens, seeing big fish, swan, Ghandi's Ashes, and tour the museum. Then, Venice Beach. This place is what I would expect to see if I went to Mexico for a carnival. There were a lot of artists, musicians, and some jugglers. A crew of break dancing acrobats did a nice show, including a four-man tower with the bottom guy doing a no-hands backbend. When we hit the beach, we all agree that Santa Monica's beaches are nicer. A schizophrenic homeless person won't leave us alone - so I demonstrate my security guard honed skills and get him to move along. We go on to make an amazing sand castle. It is a master piece. I made us Chicken Fajita Burritos for dinner when we get home.
It has only been five days, but it feels like we're well into the second week.

We proclaim Thursday as the lazy day. I make us pancakes for breakfast. We have a chess tourney. The girls put on their china dresses, so we watch kung-fu movies. (Aubri is a big kung fu fan.) After lunch, we walk The Hollywood Walk of Fame. We find Snow White's star. She is Marissa's favorite princess. We see where the cast of Harry Potter put their hands, feet, and wands into the cement at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre. We rented some movies and had a movie/chess night. I made an Enchilada Casserole and we went on a nighttime walk around the neighborhood. It should be mentioned that in any free time between activities and during meals, chess is going on. It started on our first Thompson-McCowen shared vacation in Mexico... a chess rivalry unparalleled. Mark, Sade, and Roger are good matches and play sophisticated games. Sade has been working on his game with Roger since Mexico, in order to beat Mark fair and square. He's good, so Mark plays his best game against him. And today, Sade took him down in an honest win. Mark also gave Sade some tips and maneuvers to improve each stage of his game and today, Roger started losing consistently to Sade. A common phrase around the house was "good game."
It has been six days. Tomorrow will be the last.

So we ate Turtle Brownies for Breakfast. Mark and Sade resumed the chess war while Roger, Eva and I walked to a cool paper store, Pulp, and book store, Illiterature, across the street. Then, we dropped Roger and Eva at the famous Getty Museum while Mark and I took the kids to Malibu Beach. Mark and Sade sat in the shade while us girls played in the surf and went exploring the beach for treasures. This beach was steeper, so the waves appeared to be bigger than they were, giving the littler ones a better wave to ride without putting them in the water above their knees. We met back up and did movies and hamburgers back at the house.
It has only been seven days. It felt like a month of wonderful.

We woke up early, packed the van and said goodbye. I miss everybody already.

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