Disneyland Road Trip 2013

When we moved from New York to Ontario, we left behind a great babysitter — and in fact, a great pool of babysitters. We prayed that God would provide one just as good back home. God answered that prayer with an 11-year old girl, with a big smile and a bigger heart, who introduced us to her wonderful family.
But it wasn’t just one babysitter — she had a little sister. And although they both grew up just as fast as our own kids, and their social and sports calendars kept getting more full, they always found time to spend with Ben, Abi and later Eli. We were so grateful for their contribution in the lives of our little ones — and especially grateful that the girls could rarely be convinced to take money for their time. Most babysitters are little mercenaries!!
So when we decided we were going to take the kids to Disneyland, it was obvious to us that some of our favorite people should come along — and help wrangle our little monsters!
So we saved up our SkyMiles and flew the two sisters to us. After a brief tour of Seattle, and a less brief shopping trip to Target, we loaded everyone into the mini-van, hooked up Netflix to the van’s TV, and started driving to California. We drove hard on the way there, stopping in Sacramento the first night, then pushing on to Hollywood before LA rush hour. We spent the afternoon doing the tourist thing, then escaped to Anaheim to rest up for two days of theme park fun.
(Two days for everyone else — Ben, either from excitement or some other psychosomatic trigger, barfed all over the hotel room that night, so he and I spent half a day in the hotel, doing school work and making sure he was OK.)
Jon's Lumia 920_20130314_007
Disneyland was awesome. I’ve been to theme parks, but Disney has it down to a science. Fastpass works great, the lines (on the few occasions we stood in them more than 15 minutes) were smooth and often entertaining, and fun rides were available for all ages. Ben loved Tower of Terror, Abi rode the Little Mermaid twice, and Eli even got to go on some great ones. Thursday night we stayed up late, road the amazing Cars ride, and watched the fireworks.
As always, having our favorite babysitters along made things much easier, and let us split up and try different things. We were sad when the two days were up, and we had to say good-bye to them at LAX, so they could be home before their March Break was over. We spent the next 3 days making our way up the coast on 101, stopping where we felt like it. We explored the cheesy Confusion Hill, ran across a very cold beach to put our feet in the Pacific, were humbled by massive Redwood trees, drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and had BLT’s on the other side, wound through hair raising winding forest roads, and ate far too much McDonald’s.
Jon's Lumia 920_20130316_024
We got home Sunday night, and were back at school and work the next day. It was an awesome family vacation, and we were so blessed that we got to share part of it with two very special people in our lives.
Way more pics on the sidebar and on Flickr

An Ode to my Car

After getting hit by a car, I was no longer able to drive a manual transmission vehicle… and I was no longer allowed to drive a motorcycle. God provided a very nice, very well priced high-end sport sedan. It’s a 2007 Saab 9-3 2.0t, and it is beautiful.
My Saab and I have literally travelled across the continent, I’ve learned its personality and its adapted to mine. I’ve had it stripped down to the metal on both the front and back ends, and I’ve pulled apart the dashboard a number of times. I’ve upgraded it personally and learned a lot while doing it.
I like that its quirky, I like that some of its quirks were put there by me, and I like that very few people on the road have the same car as me — and that I can pass most of them like they’re standing still.
2007 Saab 9-3
Sadly, while Saab was once selling briskly in the US, this is a European car, made for European markets with Canadian allowances — this particular car was not designed to meet US specifications. And although they’ll acknowledge that Canadian regulations are more stringent than their own, the folks working the border still won’t let me import it. And I’ve tried everything.
So with 4 months left before the tags and my Ontario driver’s license expire, and no way to get insurance on the car beyond that date, I made the tough decision to buy a replacement. Which means we currently (and ridiculously) have 4 cars.
We’re working out a plan for the Audi back home in Ontario, and an old friend and I will be road tripping up to Calgary to leave my faithful stallion behind for sale there.
So what do you replace the car you love with? A newer, faster version of the same car!
Unfortunately, this arrangement means a (hopefully) temporary dip back into debt (for one of those 4 cars!), as the new vehicle has to be financed. Fortunately, we were able to do this using only US funds and US credit — an achievement we’ve been working toward since we moved. When the other two cars are sold, we’ll pay off most of that loan, and service the comfortable monthly payment for another few months to build our credit rating some more.
This isn’t quite how we wanted things to go, but having this in the driveway helps with the cognitive dissonance…
2009 Saab 9-3 Aero
Meet my 2009 Saab 9-3 Aero XWD: 280 horses in a 2.8 liter V6 turbo-charged engine. Originally retailing for $46,000 it was a pretty decent buy at $20,500. It sounds and feels more throaty and powerful than my old Saab, takes off even quicker, and has improved maneuverability and control due to the pre-emptive cross-wheel drive system. It has every feature I added to my last car, and a couple more, and although it’s got a few cosmetic issues I can tinker with, it has the distinct advantage of being legal to drive in the State of Washington.
Although I spent a lot of time leaning toward a newer, slightly cheaper and bigger 9-5, and a little bit of time thinking about an Audi A3, I decided the car I know how to troubleshoot and fix (and have spare parts for in the garage) was the better choice. Hopefully this Saab treats me as well as the last!