Saturday, April 5, 2008

Operation: Santa Barbara

Marshall ended up having the week off, so we decided to take a mini vacation. During the planning stage, Marshall told me he wanted to keep the vacation part a secret from the kids. We agreed we’d start with a trip to the Santa Barbara Zoo, and then we’d wait until we were leaving the zoo (and normally on our way home) to tell the kids we were staying in Santa Barbara for the next couple of days.

It’s not easy packing for a family of 5 and keeping it a secret from the kids... especially our 8 year old. We’ve been trying to pull things over on him for years now, so he’s used to it and rarely gets surprised. Anything out of the ordinary, and he picks up on it and starts to suspect something’s up. You really got a keep a poker face if you’re planning something around him. A nervous smile or twitch and the gig is up.

So I pulled a few outfits from the kids’ rooms when they were in the family room the night before. I kept our luggage hidden in our bedroom. Of course there’s the usual comfort items (sheepskin & stuffed animals) our kids must always have in their beds in order to sleep. I snagged those things after they woke up the next morning and were watching cartoons. Then I had Haven go outside to feed the animals (his normal chore). When he was outside, I motioned for Marshall that the coast was clear for him to take the packed bag from our bedroom to the minivan. It was like we were pulling off some sort of heist.

I then went outside while Haven was feeding the animals. (with our 2 night/3 day vacation, we were really going to only be away from the house one full day, so we figured the animals could do fine one day without us if we left them with extra food and water) So I said to Haven, “Gee the animals look a little hungry and thirsty. Maybe we should leave them with extra food and water since we’ll be gone at the zoo all day.” I thought if there was one thing to give away the whole trip, it would be that little bit about leaving the animals extra food and water, and though he was a little confused, he bought it.

With everything complete, we got in the minivan and headed for the Santa Barbara Zoo. We just love the SB Zoo. Even though we have a membership to the LA Zoo, we end up making the 1 and 1/2 hour drive to the SB Zoo as often as we can. The boys were even more interested in the reptile house this time and were eager to see as many snakes as they could. Hmmmm. I wonder why? We had a great time. Haven and Marshall took as many pictures as they could and Seamus’ day was made by riding the miniature train around the park. Marlie enjoyed saying hello and goodbye to every animal we saw. As is the tradition, we usually let the kids pick one toy at the gift shop when we leave. Both boys picked snake toys. Seamus picked a rubber coral snake, which he promptly named, “Red Poopy Snake”.
So, as we were walking in the parking lot, toward our minivan...

Haven:Let’s go home, my feet are tired.”

Marshall:But wouldn’t it be closer to just go to our hotel?

Haven:What? We don’t have a hotel. What are you talking about?

Marshall: Yes we do. We’re staying tonight and tomorrow night in Santa Barbara.”

As Haven realized we weren’t joking, and as the younger kids caught on, there was lots of cheering. So we went to our hotel, which was within walking distance of the Zoo. The hotel was very nice and we got one big (ocean view) room for the whole family, which while not so fun for the parents, is super fun for the kids. And let me just say that while our hotel was very nice... Marshall’s parents have officially ruined us by treating us to the ultra luxurious vacation last November. Even Haven was wondering where the jacuzzi bathtub, flat screen TV’s and fire pit were in our hotel room. We feel your pain, Haven. Really we do.

And so our Santa Barbara mini-vacation included scenic drives, hanging out on State Street, and visiting the Mission. (which Seamus insisted on calling a “castle”) We decided to end our vacation the same way we started it... with another trip to the zoo. So after we checked out of the hotel Friday morning, we headed back to the zoo. Marshall was eager to take more pictures and the kids and I wanted to see the animals again.

It was a wonderful time and I’m glad we were able to pull off the surprise. I’m sure we’ll never ever be able to pull this kind of surprise over on Haven again.

And if you’re wondering about Gemina (the crooked-necked giraffe), she was one of our favorite things about the Santa Barbara Zoo. She died of old age in January and the Giraffe exhibit is just not the same without her. Cause let’s face it. Everyone loves a freak show a miracle of nature.

Be sure to check Marshall’s blog in the coming days as he posts his photos from the trip.
Here are some of my favorite photos from the trip...

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