Tuesday, October 20, 2009


The boys get very excited about pumpkins. Oliver lights up when he spots one, squealing, "Pucky!" He was thrilled when, two weeks ago, we brought home a couple of plastic jack-o-lantern trick-or-treat buckets from Mega Lo Mart. But last night we finally let him and X loose in the "pumpkin patch" in front of Macey's. Loved it. We came home with four choice specimens--each with a good "handle" (the requisite stem that tops every pumpkin purchased by any of Marsh's progeny). This morning both boys shouted, "Puckies!" as they rocked and smacked their heavy harvest. Tonight we had fun poking plastic facial features into one of the pumpkins as well as a squash that has been rolling around our kitchen. The boys began by kissing the pumpkin. We ended the evening eating orange, pumpkin-shaped sugar cookies. Prepared by Nestle Tollhouse, slapped onto the baking sheet by toddlers' hands, and baked in our oven, they were delightfully mediocre. The entire evening was a slice of heaven.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Family Vacation

September 30, 2009

I’ve started a journal several times, and blah blah blah….. here it goes again.
I’m writing tonight primarily out of a sense of gratitude and overall happiness. Here, in Newport Beach at the Newport Coast Villas as summer gives way to fall back in Salt Lake (one report said it might snow there tonight,) we are here doing our best to prevent winter from coming. The place of eternal summer, Southern California, has become a healing escape for us. Already a tradition for our tiny family, this is Oliver’s third trip with us in two years, and Lennox’s second in less than one.

This year we have come to meet up with my family Mom, Dad, Nicole, Ryan, and their two boys Jackson (4), and Henry (2). I’m sure Nicole and Ryan are bound for more children, but at the moment it’s fun to be the parents of two little boys a pair. Today at Disneyland, all four boys wore their red “toy-story” t-shirts to completely eliminate any question as to whether the boys were related.

This trip did not start well. Not at all well. The previous ten days before departure our home was filled with influenza. Poop, vomit, poop, vomit, and so on and so forth. Started by Lennox and followed by Oliver, then Cambry, and finally Saturday, the day of our flight, me. Our flight was to leave at 4:50 p.m., and at 10:00 a.m. I was throwing up my shoes into the scrub oak in the back yard, something I am sure our Wheaton Terrier, Maudie, has been exploring since we left.
Anyhow, we decided to make the attempt hoping and praying that all would be well through the flight, and feeling optimistic that since our family had been suffering so long already, the worst must be behind us. With Grandma Lora and Grandpa Joe coming along to help, we boarded the plane and took off. And guess what…everything was perfect. Not a cry, whimper, poopy diaper, barf… nothing. I was a little green and sweaty, but the boys were fabulous. Sat still, ate their animal crackers, and sucked on some lollipops provided by mom to help with the ear popping from the altitude.

Then we landed. Goodbye smooth travel. My dad and I went to pick up our rental cars and left the boys with Mom and Cambry. When we came back to retrieve the family we found Oliver in the diaper-changing position on a bench near the baggage terminal. But the smell and scene surrounding Oliver let us know immediately this was no ordinary diaper change. Up his back, through the bench, on the ground, all over clothing, and as Cambry later described “the consistency of Jamba Juice.” I am sure the situation technically required a HAZMAT team. If the baggage claim hadn’t been outdoors, I am sure the area would have been shut down for at least two or more hours.

So we cleaned up. Mostly.
We loaded the cars and we headed for our villa, Grandma and Grandpa headed for Disney. About ten or maybe eleven minutes into our drive, Lennox happened. Barf. Barf. More Barf. Remember the lollipops from the plane? They liquefy into quite an unpleasant state when regurgitated. Especially when mixed with bananas, cookies, still unidentified pink and blue stuff, and a lot of dried blueberries. The pleasant new car smell we had commented on only minutes before was gone forever.

We stopped in a somewhat bad part of town (“Look, Honey! The map says we aren’t too far from Compton!”) in a McDonald’s parking lot. Thank you Mcdonald’s for always being around the next corner. Whether I have to really use the bathroom in Paris (ooo et toe-let?), or just clean up the car-turned-bathroom my kids just fashioned, there has always been a McDonald’s when I needed one. So we cleaned up, got back on the road and five minutes later…barf. How Lennox had anymore to throw up will always be a mystery… I didn’t know it was possible to actually evacuate your entire body weight.

So we finally arrived at the villa. Beautiful as always, ocean view, lots of space, and can’t wait to settle in. We got unloaded, somewhat cleaned up, and started to think about the next week ahead of us. “Jooos Daddy?” says Oliver. “O.k. Buddy” I said. And after one swig of the watered down Powerade…. YACK! Oliver unloaded everything he had in him. At this point I started to cry a little on the inside. It looked like a very very long week was ahead.

But the reason I am inspired to write, is because despite our ominous start to this vacation, it has actually turned out splendid. The next day, Sunday, we took it easy and got our stomachs back in order. Since then we’ve been all systems go.

Our first day at Disneyland was more or less to cut our teeth on doing Disney with toddlers. This is not something I would recommend. Millions do it of course, but that’s exactly the reason I don’t recommend it. There are so many attempting to attend Disneyland with toddlers that it really is a bit of a fiasco. The Monday we were there was Yom Kippur (we were told), and the huge numbers of strollers fighting for sidewalk space was terrifying. Imagine Hitchcock’s The Bird’s only with herds of strollers instead of the terrorizing flocks. But I digress. We had fun anyway and took the boys on Small-World, Dumbo, the Carousel, and had some overpriced and very bland pizza. Two slices and a medium sized beverage = $17.50. Nice. We called it a day at about 6:00. By the time we hit the on-ramp the boys were asleep.

Golf on Tuesday at the ocean side Monarch Beach was divine. I got a great hook-up from our next door neighbor Steve Gallenson who is also vacationing here coincidentally. His son-in law Adam used to be a superintendant at a golf course and managed to get us a professional courtesy rate that saved us over a hundred bucks each. The weather was perfect and Steve, Adam, and their cousin/nephew Todd were all fantastic partners. We stopped at Ruby’s diner on highway 1 for some great burgers on the way home.

But today, Wednesday, is why I am really writing. Another day at Disney, only today was everything we could have hoped for and more. We started the day at Goofy’s Kitchen for their “character breakfast.” I wasn’t so sure this was a good idea because taking our two boys to any restaurant including my own usually ends in one of them crying, or at least being shot dirty looks from the surrounding tables. But this was perfect. A delightful buffet of breakfast foods perfect for the tiny hands and fickle appetites of little people… I mean children, but also for adults. Fruit, cereal, omelets, gummy worms in Oreos, hot dogs, peanut butter pizza, smoked salmon, ice cream, it really ran the spectrum. And it was good. The boys were so happy to have so many different things to eat placed in front of them one after the other. Lennox was shoving strawberries into his mouth complete with stems and all. Oliver was thrilled with bacon, jello, oj, eggies, fruit loops. I realize none of those food items sound particularly gourmet, but just having the variety, not having to wait for it to arrive, not caring if they didn’t like it, just get something else… this was kid (and parent) heaven. On top of all the food variety were the Disney characters. We had Goofy, Pluto, Dale, Princess Jasmine, Baloo, all come to visit. Both boys were all smiles, which was a relief since Oliver started off our Monday at Disney being terrified of the car valets in flat-caps and knickers. Halfway through breakfast chef goofy came out and had all the kids in the restaurant gather and help him “bake a cake.” He handed out pretend shakers of sugar that Lennox and Oliver danced with and shook wildly, grinning the whole time the music played.

After breakfast we ventured to California Disney, or Disney California, and explored their toddler’s attractions. We rode lady bugs, caterpillars, drove bumper cars and played in the fountain. We succeeded in getting three of the four boys to sleep while the adults took turns on the “Soar over California” ride that was really a neat simulator type ride honoring the airplane history of California.

Later we hit the “Tower of Terror” and Cambry and I loved the size and scope of the hotel with all the details and clever things the Disney folks came up with to add to the experience. The hotel lobby and boiler room was just as neat as the ride itself. The boys of course stayed with the grandfolks while we rode some of the grown up stuff.

We also went to a cool animation-movie thing with Crush from Nemo, but Oliver got tired of being “inside” so mommy had to take him out while the rest of us stayed and laughed at the turtles funny jokes. We think Oliver doesn’t like to be in a place without windows too long. He doesn’t much care for elevators either.

Oliver went to nap with Grandpa for a while and Cambry and I and Lennox went to a Mexican restaurant at Downtown Disney that we had liked last year. Unfortunately the waitress was a crank and the food was overpriced. We spent $40.00 to split a burrito, some guacamole, and a margarita. The food was o.k. but come on, its rice and beans people.

After we changed a few diapers back at the room, the four of us headed for the real Disneyland. We took the boys to the haunted mansion that was all decorated with the “Nightmare before Christmas” for their Halloween festivities. I was nervous they would be scarred, but we gave them each a Mickey Mouse sucker and they were both enthralled. It was the longest I have seen Lennox pay attention to one thing in his life. His eyes were glued to all the fun. By the time we were done, the suckers had pretty much made the boys sticky from head to toe.

Cam and I took turns on Splash Mountain. Cam got soaked, I did not. I learned some pretty skillful maneuvers pushing two strollers at once and got a couple of comments from people passing while Cam was on the ride. We got some “BBQ” from the Bengal BBQ, and we learned that Oliver loves Cheetos, but not really BBQ. He also loves orange Fanta, so it was a pretty orange meal all around.

By now it was getting dark, so Cam did one more on “Indiana Jones” and we started toward the exit. We stopped in the gift shop for a briar bear/rabbit/fox souvenir but mysteriously there are none to be found. We said goodbye to Mickey and headed toward the car but not before stopping for one more frozen lemonade and a Wetzel’s Pretzel cheese dog. Some of mine and Cam’s favorite foods are found in downtown Disney within 100 feet of each other. A Wetzel’s Pretzel and Frozen Lemonade, and a Supreme Chocolate Chip Cookie from the candy shop. We are nutritious I know.

As we approached the car I was nervous that it was going to cost us $40.00 to get out of the lot. We had parked in a kind of premium parking lot due to the Goofy’s Kitchen Breakfast in the hotel that morning. The rates were six dollars an hour and we had been there all day. But when we got to the gate – the light was green and the attendant was gone for the day. Hooray! Free Parking! Just as we pulled out the fireworks started up and Oliver from the back seat with glee shouted “Pop!”… “Pop!” “Hot!”……. “Pop!”

The ride home tonight was much different than Monday night. Oliver and Lennox laughed most of the 20 miles, teasing each other and “talking” about their day. We had races to the elevator in the parking lot at the villa and played peek a boo in the courtyard. At one point when we weren’t looking Oliver pushed the elevator button again, and he and lennox got on and the door shut behind them. We didn’t know where they had gone until the door slid open again and they came out in a pile laughing at us. When we finally got back to the room Oliver didn’t want to come in the door because I think he knew that meant our day was finally over. He cried for a second, until he heard the bath.

Well thanks Disney. You took great memories from my childhood, mixed them up with great new memories of my kids in their childhood, and now I really am a sucker for Disney.
But really, what I want to remember is how much I love my family and how much adoration for them I have after spending this week together. Cambry is a stellar mom to our boys. Our boys are the most wonderful thing I can imagine. And I get to be the dad. To be the dad and a husband for this crew is such a privilege. To have time and means to go on a family vacation like this is truly a gift. I am so grateful to have been a part of and a witness to the miracles that have occurred in our lives over the last couple of years. I am positive that Heavenly Father put this little family together. I am so grateful to Him for that. I am a lucky lucky man. Can’t wait till next year.

- Brent