Sunday, February 9, 2014

Thanksgiving - Banks Family Reunion Part I

This year for Thanksgiving, we had a fun family reunion with Jason’s mom’s side. We were so lucky to enjoy a beach vacation in Oxnard, California. We stayed at an awesome Embassy Suites right on the beach. Nancy has two brothers. One brother is married with two sons (neither of which are married), and the other brother is not married. And then there was Grandpa that means the Gruber side of the family made up the majority of the group! It was a blast!

Here is the trip break-down:

Jason, Charlie, Karl, George, Nancy, and I left Tuesday morning on our adventure. We all rode together in George and Nancy’s Yucan. For Charlie’s sake, they decided to split up the drive. We spent the first night in Las Vegas. The first day of driving went very well. We had lots of snacks, drinks, and entertainment. Karl brought a library of audiobooks for us to choose from. We ended up picking a Clive Cussler book (The Tomb) that was playing almost the entire drive to and from California. Charlie did awesome! I was super nervous. You never know how he is going to do on a long drive in the car. Perhaps the countless bathroom breaks we took helped his spirits. He was especially good considering he never took a nap! He would not fall asleep on any of the long legs! I was counting on that two hours each day for my own napping, but it didn’t happen. I think the fact that we were sitting right next to his car seat made him too excited. We kept him busy with toys and snacks. Grandma brought some toys and snacks of her own to share with Charlie, and that was super nice and super helpful! The real life-saver was Finding Nemo on the iPad. Whenever he got restless or cranky, it was pretty much a sure-fire way to calm him down and get him happy again.

One of the many stops at McDonalds

Keeping Charlie entertained

Once in Vegas, we checked in at the Las Vegas Hotel. Our Vegas accommodations were all thanks to Karl. He did the research and deal finding. He got us some great deals! The Las Vegas Hotel parking lot practically seemed deserted, but that was just fine with us. It turned out to be really nice. Can I just say that I LOVE that hotels provide pack-n-plays for kids? That is so great!

Once we were checked in, we grabbed some dinner at an authentic Mexican food place. And I mean authentic! We were the only white people in there! And five minutes after arriving (we must have hit their busy time), the place was swamped with people! Apparently this is where the Hispanic community comes to get dinner. I needed some help translating the menu, but the food was fabulous. We were very pleased! After dinner, we headed to the Bellagio to see the lobby area and the fountain show. We definitely pushed Charlie to his limits, but he was a good sport. The inside garden area of the Bellagio was fantastic! They had it all decked out in their fall decor. It was quite a site! I loved it! We watched the fountain show twice, due to some slow movers in our party. Charlie was actually scared of the show. We were right along the edge of the show, so whenever the water would shoot out, it would make this loud noise that freaked him out. Basically, I had to carry him so his head was facing away from the show and walk/dance down the sidewalk to the music. By the time we made it back to the hotel, we were pooped.

Just gorgeous in there!

Charlie's "happy place" during the water show

Charlie zonked on Karl's shoulder

The next morning, we had a buffet breakfast at the Golden Coast. It is a cheaper buffet, so I wasn’t expecting much, but it was awesome! It had everything you could want and more. So delicious. A great start to a long driving day. I have to give a shout out to George, because he practically drove the entire way, every day. Jason stepped in once or twice, but George was pretty set on being the driver. The Grubers are always so thoughtful that way!

Breakfast at the Golden Coast

Finally, we pulled up to the Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach! The last couple hours of the drive seemed to drag on, as we hit some California traffic. When he got there, some of the other families had already arrived. We greeted the cousins at the pool. Excitement was very high to say the least! After we unloaded our things in our rooms, we met up with the others on the beach. It was chilly, but bearable. Especially since we were so excited to finally be there, and to show Charlie the beach for the first time! What was crazy though was the sudden haze that took over the beach! As we were walking towards the others who were already there, we could barely see them through the fog! Once we were near the shore, we could barely see the water! It was crazy. The others said it was clear as could be just minutes before we showed up! So nuts that the haze could come and go so quickly!

Together at last!

A look at the larger pool

The gate out to the beach

A look at the beach right before the haze blew in

Here it is

A look from the beach to the resort

After a short time at the beach, and a quick jump back in the hot tub, we all headed back to the rooms to get dressed for dinner. I do have to say that the resort was just beautiful! The amenities were fabulous and the view from our balcony was gorgeous! We could see right to the ocean.

Charlie doing awesome in the water! We were shocked!

View from the balcony

For dinner, we all met up at a pizza restaurant. It ended up being really good! The challenge was keeping all of the kids entertained while we waited for a dozen pizzas! Alli wins the experienced mother award as she whipped out the iPad. That saved the day! It calmed everyone down and kept them occupied until dinner arrived.

At the pizza place

After all of the kids were put to bed, the Gruber siblings busted out their video monitors and cell phones, and we congregated in Alli’s hotel room. Those who had video monitors that would reach far enough used those to keep an eye on their sleeping kids, while the others used a phone to phone method (leaving one phone behind while it held a call with another phone with the adults...thus being able to hear what was going on). It worked out pretty well and allowed us to spend a few hours chatting, snacking, and playing some games. The game of choice this trip was a celebrity game that Karl introduced to us. Everyone writes down five names, they are all put in a bowl, and both teams take turns drawing out names and getting their teammates to guess the names. The first round you can use as many words as you would like, the second round you can only use two words, and the third round you have to act them out. We had a blast playing it!

The sleeping arrangements for Max's kids be continued...

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