Finn’s new venture is flag football and his first games were this past weekend. It’s a pretty laid back league — they had practices on the two previous Sundays and from here on out they play two short games every Sunday. Except Super Bowl Sunday, of course. He had a great time last weekend; they lost the first game but bounced back to win the second. Here are some action shots.
Finn really seems to be enjoying himself and it’s a nice bunch of people!
On Saturday we went to our first American Hockey League game and it was really fun! The league moved all of the California NHL teams’ AHL affiliates out to California this season, so it was only a matter of time before we got to a game. It’s just one rung down from the NHL so it’s good hockey, but the games are much cheaper than an NHL game and we got great seats. The Kings’ affiliate is called the Ontario Reign and the Sharks’ is called the Barracuda. They apparently go by the nickname “Cuda” which was just the first of many things that made me laugh that night.
The best laugh came from two of the banners hanging from the rafters.
OK, I’ll give you Pacific Division champs, that’s legit. But “regular season” champs? No. Just no.
Anyway, a good time was had by all. Finn enjoyed all but the last couple of tense minutes in the one-goal Reign win.
Ezra appeared to be more interested in the snacks …
… but was very enthusiastic and positive after the game. It was super fun to see some good hockey that close up, especially since our team won.
A couple of weekends ago, Jerri and the kids were headed south from Sacramento back to Altadena, and we managed to hook up for a much needed breakfast with friends. We had some good food and got caught up on all the important stuff (field trips, projects, video games, school selection, remodeling projects, internet balloons, etc.). I snapped a couple of shots of the kids.
Even though we had no good answer to Charlie’s question, “Why can’t they just come home with us?” we said our goodbyes. Our plan for the rest of the day was to continue driving east toward Mariposa to try our hand at rockhounding. As Finn would say, “It’s like mining.” It was a longer drive than I anticipated, but the countryside is lovely and there wasn’t any traffic so it was quite pleasant. Our first stop was Coulterville, which was in the guidebook as having good samples of mariposite. The guidebook was correct, and we set off with some tools to try to chip away at some by the side of the road.
After a little while (and not much success — it’s really hard!) we moved to the other side of the road. It was much prettier because of the stream running through, and there were good samples of mariposite.
They managed to collect quite a bit.
Finn liked washing duty.
After we’d collected all the rocks that would fit in the car, we took a quick look around Coulterville, a gold rush town that looks like not much has changed since 1850.
Unfortunately the museum was closed, but Finn did have some fun with the mining cart out front.
We then decided we’d drive the 45 minutes over to Mariposa since we were already so far east (nearly to Yosemite!). Along the drive we stopped a couple of times. First was to do some additional rockhounding, this time the rock was serpentine. I have no pictures from this stop because I was so tired I took a nap while the boys mined.
Our next pit stop yielded this gorgeous view.
I am always astounded at just how beautiful California is.
Mariposa has a museum that the guidebook said was great, but sadly we didn’t make it before closing time. So, we just ate dinner at a local burger joint and headed back home. The sky was so spectacular on the drive home that I made Bruce take a picture. Through-the-windshield shots are never very good, but you get the idea.
It turned out to be a very long day — we got home after 8:00 pm — but a fun adventure.
We had a quiet, but very late, New Year’s Eve celebration at our house with Baris and Alexandra. It included good food and conversation, as well as a couple of rounds of Exploding Kittens. The boys wanted to try to stay up until midnight, which they (and we) did. I am not in the habit of late nights anymore and this one did me in for the next day. It kind of did us all in, actually.
We managed to get out at my insistence for a short hike at Foothills Park. It was a glorious, but chilly, day.
The hike took less than an hour and wasn’t even two miles, but the scenery was lovely. A little muddy in spots, but lovely.
We saw some interesting fungi on the trail.
And a whole bunch of deer.
We took a few not-so-great photos at the end. The bright sun made it hard to look up let alone smile.
After we got home from the hike we all collapsed. Even the boys took a nap — almost two hours — and that never happens. We had leftovers for dinner and had a surprisingly early bedtime. The Moisions are party animals.
We spent the last couple of days of the trip on the mainland after saying goodbye to Jamma on December 27th and flying over to municipal airport. We’d booked a rental car for our first foray into driving on the mainland by ourselves. This Honda CRV was our trusty steed for the next two days.
We had a two hour drive from Belize City to our hotel for the first night, Cahal Pech Village Resort. We stopped about halfway there for lunch at Amigo’s, a place we’d been to a few times before. It looked exactly the same. There’s never been a crowd when we’ve been there, but we assume all those tables are to accommodate large numbers of people from cruise ships.
We made it to the hotel about 2:00, which should have been check in time, but they were running a little late. So we waited around (for over an hour!) until they finally had our room ready. The grounds are wonderful — high up on the hill so that you can see the valley below, and lots of little casitas as accommodations.
Our room, however, wasn’t great — it had a broken lock and was just kind of crappy. Oh, and it had an overwhelming smell of pot. Overwhelming. It would have been funny if it weren’t so smelly. We complained to the front desk and they fixed the lock and “freshened up the room” since they didn’t have anywhere else to put us. It was marginally better and was fine for one night. It did have a hammock.
While the room was being “freshened” we walked a short ways down to the Mayan ruin that the resort is named for. It’s one of the smaller ruin sites and we’d visited it last time we were in Belize. We hired a guide who showed us around. Here are some photos.
I love all the arches in their buildings.
As always, we climbed up a pretty steep incline … and it’s always the way back down that’s the scariest.
When we finished our visit we bought a few souvenirs at their little gift shop and then went back to the hotel for dinner. After dinner we broke out Exploding Kittens again and had a grand old time.
After a pretty good night’s sleep we enjoyed breakfast at the buffet and then spent some time at the pool. I snapped another shot of the view on the way to the pool — so lovely.
The boys really enjoyed the pool.
When it was time to check out, we packed up and drove down the hill to our next destination, the Green Iguana Conservation Project at the San Ignacio Resort Hotel.
We got a great tour there — very informative and hands on. Ezra made a new friend.
So did Bruce.
Finn and I preferred to keep them at arm’s length, but enjoyed feeding them.
Lots of iguanas!
Once we were done with the iguanas, we had lunch at the hotel and started our drive to our next destination. Along the way I shot a short video of the Belizean road.
Our hotel for the night was called Cheers. We’d never been there before, but it’s sort of a jack-of-all-trades restaurant, farm, and hotel with three little cabanas they rent out. We got this one.
It was small but nice (except for the no hot water thing) and the owners and staff were all really friendly. They even have a little playground off to the side of the restaurant. Of course, Ezra hit the swing.
After a restful afternoon and an early dinner at Cheers, we went to the Belize Zoo for a night tour. It was great to see some of the nocturnal animals being more active than they are during the day. I had a heck of a time getting any good photos, but it was a great experience. Here are a few photos.
The main attraction for me is the black jaguar, Lucky Boy, who we saw last time when he had only been at the zoo for a few months after his rescue. He looks great. And totally fierce.
Ezra took this shot.
Between his dark coat and the fence, night shots are nearly impossible. Some of the other cats were easier to photograph.
The owls were also up.
After the zoo tour we went back to our cabana and slept well. In the morning we got a tour of the Cheers farm from the owner Chrissy. The baby pigs were a favorite.
There were also goats.
And lots and lots of fowl — chickens, turkeys, guineas, ducks …
They had an old school bus repurposed as their house.
After the farm tour we went back to the zoo to see the daytime animals, like the scarlet macaw.
The harpy eagle.
And Lucky Boy in all his glory. It’s so wonderful to see how well he’s recovered.
We stopped to watch the spider monkeys for a while.
And then we were done. We went back to Cheers to have one last meal and pack up our things. We made it to the airport on time and returned the rental car. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed, which we knew, but it kept getting more and more delayed. By the time we finally left, we held out little hope that we would make our connection in Houston. However, as luck would have it, that flight was delayed as well so we actually made it through customs and the luggage shuffle and ended up having to wait for the second flight. We finally made it home about 3:00 am. Our house was freezing and the kids were so tired they couldn’t see straight, but we had several days to rest up before school and work started up again.
We had a mini Christmas the next morning and the boys were thrilled to open the rest of their presents.
Christmas Eve! The timing of this holiday was very disorienting, I have to say. After rushing to get all of the presents bought and shipped, Christmas cards mailed, and all our stuff packed, it seemed like we should have been right at Christmas upon our arrival in Belize. But in reality we had a week to go, so finally, finally Christmas Eve arrived.
I had to laugh at Ezra, upon opening the last day of his Trader Joe’s chocolate advent calendar, it became clear that he had saved all of the days’ chocolates. As I’ve said before, that boy would definitely pass the marshmallow test.
He proceeded to eat them all in one sitting.
After breakfast we embarked on our snorkeling trip. We had a general plan but were leaving the specifics up in the air because it was windy and the sea was pretty choppy. We weren’t sure how we’d all do in the boat (mostly Finn and I, the long suffering motion sickies) or if the sea would be too stirred up for good snorkeling. We had a new boat captain, Sergio, who took us north looking for a good spot. He found a pretty good one but the ride had taken a while and Finn and I weren’t feeling so good. Finn was worse and I knew from personal experience that we just needed to get him off the boat. At this point the boat was just sitting in the water bobbing up and down, the worst possible scenario after the ride.
Finally, we all got out. Bruce, Ezra and I snorkeled around with Sergio. Finn hung onto the circle and got towed around. As I thought, he felt much better once he was in the water.
Because I actually participate in the snorkeling, I end up with few pictures. I have a few from when we got back on the boat.
After the first stop, we went for a break and lunch at Tranquility Bay Resort.
We had a little time to kill before they opened for lunch, so we took a walk up the beach.
There were some free coconuts, which is kind of funny because the whole island is filled with free coconuts.
And there was this boat on a deserted property that had apparently been there so long that a tree had grown in it.
After lunch we decided to try another snorkeling spot and headed to Mexico Rocks. I wasn’t very encouraged because the first spot had been just OK due to the water being so murky. But in the end I was very glad we tried the second time — the water was much clearer, there was more of the reef to see, and we finally convinced Finn to put on his mask and snorkel. Even Jamma got in the water. We all had a great time!
And Finn got to drive the boat.
Once back from snorkeling, our task was to make Coconut Bannings. We were missing our Christmas Eve celebration with the Bannings, and in the grand tradition of Paperplate Bruce, we had decided that we needed some stand-ins. The boys collected coconuts and all sorts of decorative items from the property, and we all made our counterpart. Here’s Ezra with his Ruby.
And here’s all four of them: Rob and Cari on top, Ruby and Chapin on the bottom.
Later, just as we were getting ready to cook dinner, the power went out. And stayed out. For about four hours, and then off and on all night. So, our non-traditional Christmas Eve continued with chips and salsa for dinner and reading by iPad light.
In the morning the boys were understandably anxious to head up stairs and see if “Santa” made it to Belize. They not-so-patiently waited on the stairs for all of the adults to get out of bed.
When they did get upstairs, they didn’t really know where to look for their presents and ended up missing them completely. Finally, they found the iPad (Ezra) and the computer (Finn) sitting neatly on the table and they were pretty excited. They didn’t have much to open as we’d only brought a few presents with us — games from Jamma, new Google t-shirts, and stockings. Here’s everyone having a look at their stocking stuffers.
The boys spent most of the day enjoying unlimited screen time on their new electronics, with intermittent breaks for swimming with the neighbor kids.
In the late afternoon we enjoyed Christmas dinner — turkey, mashed potatoes, carrots, coleslaw, and pumpkin pie.
After a few rousing games of Exploding Kittens and King of Tokyo we went out to the dock to check out the Christmas full moon.
The next day we had to go to town to return the golf cart, so we stopped at Estel’s for breakfast on the beach. Here’s Ezra showing off his giant fry jacks.
And Finn making quick work of his pancakes.
One last bit of goofing around in the golf cart …
… a few souvenirs purchased, and we were on the water taxi headed back to Jamma’s so we could pack for our departure the next day.
On Tuesday, December 22nd we decided to take a day trip to Caye Caulker. We’d only been there as a stopover from the mainland to Ambergris Caye and then we’d only seen their tiny airstrip. We’d heard great things — that it’s a smaller, mellower island and the town is reminiscent of San Pedro fifteen years ago. It’s easy to get to by ferry, so we drove the golf cart into town to catch the boat. We had Jamma with us, so I was in back with the boys and took a few photos. Here’s the new road I wrote about before. Such an improvement!
And here are a couple more random shots from the drive.
The ferry ride was pretty good — a little tough for those of us who suffer from motion sickness but not too bad. The first thing we did when we got to Caye Caulker was find a store and buy some water. We were parched! Then we rented bikes and rode around town for about twenty minutes.
It was a little early for lunch but we went anyway, choosing to dine at the Lazy Lizard at the Split. It was a beautiful spot. We ate upstairs, but here’s our view including the sunbathers down below.
After lunch we got back on the bikes and went for a ride. We were told that there was a path that went all the way around the island so we tried to find that. Unfortunately, we either didn’t find it or we found it and it was too muddy and overgrown to cycle through. But we went for quite a while anyway and had a nice ride.
I think this was where we finally decided to throw in the towel and turn around.
By the end of the ride, we were very, very hot and sweaty and couldn’t wait to change into our suits and get in the water. We went back to the Split and I took a quick dip before sitting out with the stuff while the boys swam and snorkeled. Here are some pictures from my perch. Ezra snorkeled a lot.
The current was too strong for Finn, so Bruce rented an inner tube for him. He loved it.
Who wouldn’t love getting pushed around by your dad for an hour?
Ezra came out of the water after a while to enjoy his favorite drink.
After we were done swimming, we hit the little ice cream shop next door, returned the bikes, and headed to the dock to catch the ferry back to San Pedro. I took a few shots from the dock, which Google Photos helpfully stitched together for me as a nice panoramic.
That evening I tried to get some photos of Jamma’s Christmas lights. I’m not a very good night time photographer, but you get the idea.
She’d also decorated one of the palm trees and it looked awesome.
The next morning I went on my one and only walk. Between the weather and my laziness I just hadn’t gotten out. It was a super windy day but the sunrise was as beautiful as always.
I tried going north first because my path south was blocked due to beach erosion and a tide that seemed higher than I’d seen it before. However, I only got about a quarter of a mile before my path was blocked north, too. I headed back south, resigned to walk on the hot and breezeless road. We saw lots of people walking and jogging on the road and Bruce commented on how they all looked miserable. After a few minutes on the road, I just couldn’t do it and headed back to the beach. I got this shot going south. Like I said, it was really windy.
Sadly, this nice path quickly faded out so I only got a short walk. Two miles is better than no miles, but still it’s a bummer that it’s not easier to take a walk on the beach.
That night Bruce and I had date night at a new restaurant called Rain. It was just down the road at the Grand Caribe resort. The food was pretty good, but the view is the main selling point. Here’s a panoramic from our vantage point. Interesting how narrow the island is here — you can see both the sea and the lagoon sides.
We were, as usual, home early from our date, especially so considering our dinner reservations were at 5:00 so we could catch the sunset. (Unfortunately, it was too cloudy for any sunlight to pop through). We didn’t mind being early birds, since the next day was Christmas Eve and we had a snorkeling trip to prepare for.
On Sunday the 20th we set out in our golf cart for a new adventure — a drive to the “Secret Beach.” OK, so it’s not so secret anymore, thanks, in part, to a huge sign directing people there from the main road. But since we were still battling intermittent storms, it was not over-crowded on the day we went. The road, however, was a mess thanks to the recent rains, but we eventually found our way.
The Secret Beach is basically a couple of docks on the back side of the island that were the beginning of a housing development for locals. Apparently, lots were sold but only a couple of houses have been built. There is no power to that side of the island, so there are many challenges. For now, it serves as a place to hang out, swim, and have a casual lunch from the food trucks that show up.
We did some swimming and snorkeling and enjoyed the sunshine in between the rains.
That night we had the Santa talk with Finn. He’d been questioning if Santa was real for a few weeks, talking with friends at school (both skeptics and believers) and seemed to be a bit tortured by trying to figure out the truth. I’d found this book about how Santa came about and why families choose to continue the Santa story, so we sat down and read the book together. Bruce did the reading.
He ended up having some sort of bloody nose thing going on, so it wasn’t the most serious of family book readings.
But it was entertaining and the meaning of Christmas giving came through. Finn was a bit upset to learn the truth, but recovered quickly and is looking forward to next Christmas when he can participate in being Santa.
Back in California, our Pasadena friends were preparing to hike up to Echo Mountain with a large group organized by the Friends of Echo Mountain. The idea was for everyone to wear some lights and, thus, light up the trail. It sounded like a great event and I was a bit bummed that we couldn’t participate. Thankfully, Cari and Rob had an idea to bring us with them — they created us out of LEGO and stowed us in their backpacks. My LEGO doppelgänger was prepared with a cell phone (a 1990s model) and a light.
And Bruce’s was, well, typical Bruce. I love the smirk.
Here’s a photo from another Flickr user who photographed the event. It looks spectacular!
On Monday the 21st we were starting to see better weather and the kids spent a lot of time snorkeling in the pool. Ezra cracked me up with the way he walked around in his flippers.
And there was actual relaxing going on. Much deserved after a few hectic months at Google.
In the evening we took the golf cart into town to have dinner and watch the boat parade, which had been postponed due to rain. I caught a good shot of the sunset.
We had dinner at a place called Hurricanes.
And we watched the lit up boats float by. This is really the only decent shot I got but the parade was fun to watch.
San Pedro was all done up for the holidays.
Pardon the blurry shot; it’s the best I could do from the back of the golf cart!
We decided to do something a *little* different for Christmas this year — skip the cold weather and head for the tropics! We haven’t been to Belize to see Jamma in almost two and a half years, so we skipped the last day of school before winter break and started our long journey on the evening of December 17th. Our first flight (San Francisco to Houston) went well, mostly thanks to handheld devices.
We overnighted in Houston and caught a 10:00 am flight to Belize City on December 18th. After what felt like a hundred years’ wait in the customs line, we finally made it to the other side and were greeted by Jamma in a Santa hat. Our driver, John, took us to get some lunch (and our first real-sugar Fantas of the trip) and then on to the municipal airport. Here’s a pretty good shot of the Moision boys as we waited for our little flight to Ambergris Caye.
And here’s the obligatory shot out the window of the small plane on the way to the Caye.
Next up was a water taxi to take us to Jamma’s house. Ezra and Finn were in their happy place.
Our dock was a welcome sight.
It took about two seconds for the boys to get in the pool.
The next day started off with torrential rains. Hard to capture in a photo, but it was really coming down. There is nothing quite like a tropical storm.
Luckily it cleared up a bit and we took the boat into town to run some errands and rent a golf cart for the week.
We stopped at Wild Mango for lunch where the boys enjoyed giant (delicious) smoothies.
This was our view from the restaurant.
On the drive back to Jamma’s house, we were surprised by the newly-paved road. What a difference concrete makes to a four+ mile commute! There were also many new restaurants and two new small grocery stores along the route. It hardly looked familiar at all!
On December 16th I helped chaperone Finn and the rest of the Fairmeadow third graders on their ice skating field trip to the Winter Lodge in Palo Alto. I’d never been there before, and I haven’t ice skated in ages. I wasn’t really planning to skate, but when your 8-year-old asks you to skate with him, you do it. Despite wobbly ankles and not-so-great rental skates, it was a super fun time! Here are some photos.