Wanna fly somewhere for free?
Then marry a handyman like I did. When word got out that my husband built us a new roof and added a bedroom onto our house with his own two hands, people in our neighborhood began soliciting his services. A couple of months ago he helped some neighbors completely remodel their bathroom (since he had so much free time between working two jobs, going to school full-time, working to get a paper published, serving in callings, and you know, being a husband and dad), and in exchange they offered to give us some free buddy passes to go on a little trip. We have been trying to plan the perfect vacation for a couple of months now, but with J's schedule it is a tough time to get away for very long. So we finally just decided to go somewhere easy and spend as little money as possible. It kind of became a funny joke to try and figure out ways that we could get a completely free trip out of it, and guess what? We got pretty dang close. It was awesome. And it was totally a vacation, relaxing and enjoyable, but without the stress of spending crazy amounts of money. We flew on JetBlue (highly recommend, by the way-- in the era of airlines cutting out EVERYTHING and trying to get every last penny out of you, JetBlue was so impressive and their customer service was impeccable), and Baby G loved that he got his own seat and could watch cartoons on his own little TV (see picture above).
A huge way to cut costs on vacation? Go where you know someone and can stay in their house, have them drive you around to all the places you want to go, and eat their food :).
Poor Uncle Steve.
J's uncle, Steve, lives in Thousand Oaks, and we were flying into Long Beach, so we decided to just bunk up with him and make a family affair out of it. Steve was so awesome and we really do owe him big time. He and Baby G became fast friends, and for some reason Baby G insisted on calling him "Steven." We always just call him Steve, and I don't even know where Baby G would've heard "Steven," but it cracked us up. Steve took us to some really cool places that we would've never seen had we not been with someone who lived there. The first day we went to this beautiful park right near Hollywood. It was so green and had so many different kinds of amazing trees all through it. We had fun just playing frisbee and football, and using Steve's tree identification book to try and figure out what kind of trees were there.
Baby G liked sliding down this crazy tree.
Another perk to having someone else with you on a family vacation?
You can have them take pictures so you can all be in them.
Isn't that tree awesome?
J and Steve spent hours engaging in testosterone driven activities like chucking footballs at each other as hard as they possibly could to see if they could catch them. They couldn't. They also hurled rocks at things on the beach to see who could get closer to a certain spot. Hours of entertainment, I tell you. I participated in one of these activities, but mostly I just let them be men and do their thing. Someone had to be the responsible parent :). Notice the blurred football flying through the air in this picture.
A little hike up from the park is the batcave from the old Batman TV series. Baby G was in love with it because of all the rocks inside that he could throw.
I figured I should get a picture of the Hollywood sign just because I really was surprised to find this beautiful, secluded spot right there.
More manly activities-- Steve taught us to play Call of Duty on the PS3 (or maybe it was something else, but a Nintendo-like box nonetheless). I wanted Mario Cart, but that wasn't an option. War games, shooting alien games, or hi-jacking car games were the choices. You would be proud to know that I totally held my own, and even beat them a couple of times.
Holy cow, Baby G is the next Tiger Woods. You've never seen a happier baby than him with a golf club and ball. I, on the other hand, am not the next Tiger Woods. I mostly just embarrassed myself on the driving range, but at least I didn't snap Steve's driver in half like my husband did. True story.
We went to the beach on a couple of the days. It was too chilly to do the whole swimsuit thing, but we had fun playing in the sand, throwing rocks, and watching a young couple make out.
See Baby G's sweet little smile?
This is why he is smiling. He had been plotting this sand ambush for weeks, I'm sure.
Scary, steep, slivery stairs (do you like alliteration?). I like the sand on his little bum.
We had kind of toyed around with the idea of going to Disneyland while we were there, but had decided that since we had just been to DisneyWorld in January we would just save the money. But an anonymous donor (you get more blessings if you are anonymous, you know) generously offered to pay for us to go, and since Steve hadn't been in like 40 years (really), we decided to do it. It was so much fun, and we were so glad we went. Baby G still loved the characters and wanted to hug them all.
The family on Tom Sawyer's Island (which is now Pirates Lair or something like that).
The highlight for Baby G was the playground in ToonTown. He loved this pumpkin, and I loved this picture except for the stranger in the background so I blacked her out :).
More ToonTown playground.
Such a beautiful, happy, fun day.
I adore this picture of Baby G and Steve. We were riding the tram back to our car from Disneyland and Baby G just cuddled up on Steve's chest. I was glad I saw it and could take a picture. I sent this picture along with a thank-you note to Steve-- that's why the writing is on it.
On our last day we ventured into Ventura (get it?) so Steve could fix a friend's sprinkler. We went down to the boardwalk and beach while we waited for him, and Baby G must've thrown 6 dozen rocks into the ocean. Seriously, his little arm had to have gotten sore. When he needed a break from throwing rocks he would come over to J or me and say, "Mommy, daddy, spin you!" and then we would do this:
Such a fun trip, and guess how much money we spent? Less than $75.00. And $35.00 of that was on parking at the airport. If you know me well you know that I LOVE a bargain, and truly, this may be the best bargain I've ever scored. We are so grateful for the people who made it possible, especially Uncle Steve. I am sure he has thoroughly enjoyed having his clean, quiet house back, but we just might have to make this a tradition :).