Monday, August 12, 2013

Georgia Trip

At the end of February Charlie had to go to Atlanta for work.  We love Atlanta and I've tagged along on several of Charlie's business trips there since we've been married.  This time Charlie had two big trips (Atlanta & Chicago) scheduled back to back and was going to be away for two weeks, so we planned for the boys and I to go with him to Atlanta.  Unfortunately, Isaac and Luke both got really sick right before our trip.  Isaac had it first and was mostly better before we left, but Luke was still running a fever.  I was really torn about whether we should cancel or not, but ultimately we decided to go.

Though most trips are essentially about the destination, when you are traveling with young children, the journey portion is also a big part of the experience.  Isaac wanted to bring his little stuffed dachshund (which he named Hundley, after the dachshund on Curious George) with him on our trip, and insisted that Hundley could not ride in his suitcase but needed to be with him all of the time.  This resulted in the dog almost being left behind at least a dozen times.

It actually worked to our advantage that Luke was not feeling his best on the flight.  Though he had to wiggle around a lot before he got "comfortable" (if that's what you would call this position), he ended up sleeping for a good portion of both legs of the flight.

It didn't take long after arriving to start seeing some telltale signs of Atlanta culture.  Isaac was the first to spot this car parked outside of the restaurant after dinner.  The photo quality is terrible but I still find this picture funny.  Isaac thought those rims were so cool! 

We got a good nights sleep but were up and on the road first thing the next morning.  Though this was a business trip for Charlie he did plan an extra day so that we could go down and see his brother Kelly and his family in Warner Robins, where he is currently stationed with the Air Force.  It was about a two hour drive from where we were staying and apparently the boys were tired.  I was shocked to look back and see Isaac asleep.  It must have been the combination of jet lag and the cold he was still getting over, but it made for a very peaceful drive. 

Kelly & Cassi have two little girls but it had been so long since we'd seen their family, that we'd never even met our nieces!  So this visit was long overdue.  As an added bonus, Karl & Janelle planned a trip out to Georgia to visit Kelly's family during the same dates that we were there.  

When we first arrived Cassi gave us a tour of their beautiful home.  (It made Charlie & I question once again why we are still living in a condo in such an expensive area!)  Isaac was most excited to see their cat, Greycoat, but she was hiding out under the bed during most of our visit.  We sat around chatting and catching up while the kids played.  Poor Luke was not feeling well and was pretty clinging throughout the entire trip.  

After baby Eve woke up from her nap we all headed over to Monkey Joes, the local bounce house place.  Despite Luke not feeling well, he still loved going on the big slide over and over again with Mom or Dad.  All of the kids had a great time.  Isaac disappeared into the obstacle course things and we barely saw him.  Kelly met up with us there after he got off of work.  

This is my cute niece Daphne.  She was cracking me up with her spunky little personality.  She sure made me wish that we didn't live so far away.  

Here's Janelle with baby Eve in her Pheonix Suns outfit.  There are some big basketball fans in the Wood family.

Cassi, Kelly, and little Eve.

We went back to Kelly & Cassi's house for a yummy dinner.  I managed to get Luke to lay down and take a nap in Daphne's room so that he could survive the rest of the evening. 

For dessert we headed out to a local frozen yogurt shop.  Kelly stayed home with Eve since her bedtime is something crazy like 6:30.  The rest of us enjoyed piling our cups high with creamy deliciousness and a smorgasbord of toppings.  

Here's the girl's table.

And the boys.

On this trip we came to the conclusion that Isaac doesn't actually like ice cream (or fro yo), he really just likes smothering it with M&M's and rainbow sprinkles and then eating all of the toppings off.  

We hit the road after dessert and headed back up to Atlanta since Charlie had to work all of the next day.  The boys slept amazingly well on this trip.  We didn't really bother adjusting to the East coast time since we were out late most nights.  With them both being sick, plus comfy hotel beds and black out drapes, the three of us got plenty of sleep.  This was the scene the next morning at about 10:00 am:

Luke started out each night in a crib but per our typical hotel routine, he'd come join Charlie and I in the early morning hours.  Anyway, we had time to kill that morning.  Kelly & Cassi's family and Karl & Janelle were driving up from Warner Robbins, but they had gotten a late start too.  The boys and I went to see animals at Petsmart and got some lunch.  Petsmart was having a dog adoption event that day.  They had two little dachshunds and I think if we had been at home in Irvine, those little dogs just might have come home with us.  

We waited back at the hotel for everyone to arrive.  Isaac was getting bored and wanted to wait outside our room where he could have a better view.  Our hotel had a big open courtyard and tall glass elevators.  Isaac thought it was so cool to watch them go up and down and he got so excited when I pointed out Grandma & Grandpa coming up!  

Once we were all together we decided to go see the Atlanta temple, which was just minutes from our hotel.  We spent some time walking around the beautiful grounds and let the kids play on the grass for a bit.  

Daphne and Isaac became quick friends and had fun exploring together.  Here they are hugging it out in the temple parking lot. 

The weather was a little too cold and wet for a park or anything and we weren't quite sure what to do next.  We tried the mall for a few minutes but it was much too crowded and none of our kids are patient shoppers, so we quickly decided it was a bad idea and turned around and left.  We ended up back at Petsmart for a bit and then just hung out at the hotel while Eve took a nap and we waited for Charlie to finish work.  

Once Charlie was back we all caravanned to dinner at The Flying Biscuit.  The service was so sloooooow, but the food was yummy.  Charlie & I love good Southern comfort food and I think I always gain a few pounds when we go to Atlanta.

The next day was Sunday and I was on my own with the boys.  Charlie was doing a trade show in downtown Atlanta.  Isaac, Luke, and I had another lazy morning of sleeping in before heading downtown for the day.  We had a rental car but I decided to take the boys on the MARTA because what little boy doesn't like a train, right?  It was only about a 20 minute ride into the city, but they both loved it.  Looking back at these photos I am reminded of how Luke was really not himself and still not feeling well at this point.  (Also, he really needed a haircut but because he & Isaac were both sick before the trip, we never got a chance to get one.)  Anyway, I feel kinda bad for dragging him all over the place.  

My plan was for us to go to the Centennial Olympic Park.  It didn't start out so well.  Isaac had a major bad attitude because he saw a bunch of kids riding bikes and skate boards and was mad because he didn't have anything to ride.  And Luke was tired of riding in his stroller and instead wanted to get out and push the stroller - down staircases, into bushes, and into the water feature.  

After walking a little ways we found another waterfall and a stream, this time with rocks to climb on so the mood started to improve a bit.  

And finally we discovered the playground area.  Now everyone was happy!  We spent a long time going back and forth between the two play structures.  Luke stuck close to me while Isaac ran and played with some of the older kids.  

There was some fun equipment there that we don't have at our parks back home.  Isaac thought these spinning chairs were hilarious.  They turned surprisingly fast and Isaac fell off a few times, but kept jumping right back on for more.

When the boys finally tired of the park we set out to go find a snack.  We only had to walk about four blocks but Isaac was feeling worn out and didn't want to walk anymore.  The area we were walking in had a few small hills and Isaac was certain that he just could not make it to the top.  Luke on the other hand, was arching his back and whining to get out of the stroller.  Eventually I decided that this was not a battle worth fighting so I gave them both what they wanted.  Luke seemed a little confused about why on earth Isaac was riding in the stroller.  

We finally made it to a donut shop where we could stop and recharge.  Isaac was convinced that the Powerade would give him enough "power" to continue walking.  

It was close to 5:00 so we waited to meet up with Charlie at the MARTA station and rode back to our hotel together.  

We ended out the day with dinner at the OK Cafe.  Why don't we have restaurants like this in Irvine?  This place is another favorite of ours.  I had only ever been for breakfast, but dinner was just as good.  We started out our meal with an appetizer of fried pickles.  

Dinner for me was fried chicken, macaroni & cheese, and a Waldorf salad while Charlie had pot roast with mashed potatoes and corn.  Everything was fantastic.  

Monday morning we were back to relaxing in the hotel (except for Charlie who was back at work).  The boys watched a movie and ate snacks while I got ready and wasted time on the internet.  There was an LA Fitness right next to our hotel and I had planned to go every morning, but since Luke was still running a fever I was not about to leave him in the kids club.  

Anyway, it was nice to take it easy every day and not feel like we had to rush any where.  But we did have some fun plans for Monday.  We grabbed an early lunch before heading back downtown to the Georgia Aquarium. 

I took Isaac to the Georgia Aquarium four years ago when he was about the age that Luke is now.  It is one of the largest Aquariums in the world and is quite impressive.  I remember really enjoying it last time that we went and I was excited to go back. 

Our first stop was one of the big touch pools filled with stingrays and little baby tiger sharks.  The rock wall surrounding the pool made it too deep for Luke to really reach his arms down in there, but Isaac thought it was awesome.  

We moved on to the next area with all of the fresh water animals.  It was a tough to get good pictures because the boys were going at two different speeds.  Isaac wanted to stop and look at everything and read all of the signs with information about each animal.  Luke just wanted to run from one exhibit to the next with little regard for what was in each tank.  I rarely had the time or the extra hands to pull out my good camera before Luke would take off again, so most of these pictures were taken with my iphone and the quality is not that great.  I did get Luke to hold still next to the albino alligators.  These were probably his favorite thing that we saw.  

Isaac was excited to see the piranhas.  He likes them because they are dangerous.  Both boys liked this tank with a tunnel that ran through the middle of it and a few portholes to peek out of.  

The Ocean Voyager section of the aquarium is easily the most impressive.  It is a massive tank filled with thousands of fish, a couple of huge manta rays, and four whale sharks!  The whale shark is the largest fish species in the world and the Georgia Aquarium is the only one in the country that has them. The viewing room for the tank is accessed through a 100 ft long tunnel with a moving walkway.  The tunnel alone is impressive and provides some amazing views.   

But the view from inside the theater is simply breathtaking.  I think I could sit in that room for hours just marveling at this tank.  The room is almost completely dark and it gives the feeling of really being underwater in the ocean.  The whale sharks seem enormous and are fascinating to watch, but the variety of other creatures that swim by is captivating too.  I'm sure these photos don't do it justice, but I think a visit to the Georgia Aquarium would be worth it for this tank alone.  

My other favorite spot in the Aquarium is in the Tropical Diver section.  The long hallways leading up to the main tank are filled with a variety of brightly colored fish and other creatures.  Isaac liked these crazy looking worm things that were sticking out from the sand in the bottom of this tank.  

The exhibit leads into a wide open room with a beautiful floor to ceiling tank that houses a tropical coral reef.  I love this spot because the natural sunlight comes in through the ceiling to brighten and warm the room.  The tank is a rainbow of colors and is both stunning and peaceful.  It was hard to really capture the beauty of it with a photo, but this panorama shot at least gives a glimpse of the setting.

They also had these cool interactive touch screen guides that gave the names and information about each variety of fish in the tank.  

There was so much to see and do.  Our admission included tickets to the dolphin show, which was a little cheesy, but entertaining.  We toured a huge frog exhibit, watched the otters during feeding time, saw beluga whales, and a thousand different kinds of fish.  Isaac loved the giant crabs but the photo didn't really turn out.  We stayed until closing time so at the end it emptied out quite a bit and we went back through some of our favorite spots.  Isaac & Luke both wanted to "drive" these coin machines that stamped souvenir pennies.  

We had a great time and I am looking forward to going back someday when Luke is older and we can view everything at a little more leisurely pace.  Luke was asleep before we even left the parking garage. 

We planned to stay until closing so that we'd be in the city when Charlie finished with work for the day.  We picked him up from the convention center and then headed to dinner.  We found The Colonnade on the first trip we took to Georgia together several years ago.  I think a hotel concierge recommended it to us, and now we always go back.  It is in a terrible part of town and has the strangest crowd of people,  but the food still makes it worth a visit.  

Even with Luke being sick and Charlie working most of the time, we still managed to have a lot of fun.  I was glad that I didn't cancel it.  Actually, it was probably easier to give Luke the extra love and attention that he needed because I didn't have to worry about all of the everyday stuff back home.  And the journey home provided another long day with nothing to do but sit and hold my sweet sleepy baby.