In a covered wagon at Sutter’s Fort
We did not travel by covered wagon. We took the standard minivan. It was Spring Break this past week, and as usual for my work, I had to request all of my vacation weeks in October of last year. This was one of them. However, we had no plans because we kept waiting to figure out whether or not Justin was available and what he might be able to do. Last Fall we thought we might try to visit Argentina over Spring Break, but as of last week we still had no idea what we were doing. Justin was trying to decide if he was going to stay with his job or take a new job that has been actively recruiting him.
Soren learned how to jack up a wagon to repair a wheel
Justin told me last Friday, once school was already out, that we should go ahead and make plans to go somewhere without him. So I spent the next few days trying and failing to secure reservations somewhere near enough that he could join us if he got a day off or two, but far enough away that it would be interesting and seem like a vacation.
The obligatory lunch stop at Fenton’s on the way to Sacramento
After a few days of not being able to make plans, and getting more concerned about not being able to do anything, Justin said he definitely wouldn’t be able to join us, and I changed my search terms to not include space for him and we got a place with 2 beds. With Hawaii and now this, it seems like last-minute vacations are our new reality, and what I would call a First-World problem–something that would be very petty to complain about.
At the Nimbus Fish Hatchery
I had about an hour all told to come up with some ideas of things to do and to bookmark websites and open hours and directions before we left, and I had a loose schedule in my mind. I was mostly going to play it by ear. The first day we got there we went to the Fish Hatchery, because it was free and it was pretty close to closing time for just about everything. The kids LOVED it.
Since we were there close to closing time the first day, we were fortunate enough to receive the bounty of free giant cups of fish food. The kids were not the only ones who were delighted to see the fish thrash around every pellet that hit the water. I was fascinated.
The kids pretending to be fish swimming down the railing
Soren kept dumping a bunch of food in at once and then running out of food and looking for lone pellets on the ground. He would hold them up over the water, hoping that a fish would leap out and eat from his hand.
At one point, a lady came by with extra food and offered it to him. He said thank you, and she nodded and smiled and said, “Yes, isn’t it great eating the fish?” He agreed, and then a moment later did a double-take and asked me, “Mom, did she say eating the fish instead of feeding the fish?”
Soren at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery
They all loved the fish hatchery so much we went there again the next morning, since we’d gotten there late and hadn’t gotten much time in the Visitor Center. However, when we went back, we still didn’t spend a whole lot of time inside, and instead went out and fed the fish again. It became a bit of a joke the whole time we were in Sacramento. Every time the kids asked me where we were going, I told them “Fish Hatchery!” and Claire would make a funny face and Soren would get all excited.
Claire and Ronin in the mouth of a fish
The next day, we had a full day of Funderland and Fairytale Town, both of which were in the gigantic Land Park near the place we were staying. It was wonderful to be in a quiet residential area so close to a gigantic park, but also close to downtown and Old Town Sacramento. The only downside was that the fish hatchery was about 25 minutes away.
The front yard of the house where we stayed – the boys were chasing bugs
Funderland was a small amusement park designed for the younger crowd. It didn’t have anything too scary and wasn’t full of rowdy teenagers.
Soren was very proud of himself that he finally rode a roller-coaster (the “Dragon Ride”) without yelling for it to stop and that he loved it enough to go on it three times in a row. Claire helped convince him and she was equally thrilled that she coached him through it.
Everyone got to ride a horse, and they took turns leading it around
They spent a lot of time in front of a fun-house mirror. I won’t bore you with the all of the details, but I can tell you that I have some videos from that mirror that sends the kids rolling on the floor with fits of laughter. “Look at my arms!” “I was just a ball of hair!”
Fun-house mirror at Funderland
Across a grassy field from Funderland was Fairytale Town. You would think that my 8-year-olds would be growing out of this sort of thing, or not be quite as interested because they have so much access to Children’s Fairyland here. Maybe it’s because they have backstage access to Fairyland and know that there is a lot more complexity to these kinds of places than meets the eye that they still found it very interesting. Maybe they wanted to compare and contrast. Or maybe they just liked being able to run and climb on different types of things.
Cheese Stands Alone was a big hit
The giant block of cheese was very slippery, hard to climb up, and was a kid magnet. They also walked the crooked mile about 50 times. They were very proud of themselves for walking 50 miles. I had them check their pedometers just to be sure. Ronin apparently has found a way to game his so that it doesn’t reset every day and his was displaying that he had already walked 30K steps that day, shortly after noon. It did look like he’d walked a lot.
I still get the notice every day at midnight with an accurate count of their steps (zero if they don’t wear their watches), but Ronin’s watch shows that his exercise is very impressive. If only he knew that hiking 13 miles on a Sunday and being eager to do more to beat his record is pretty darn impressive in and of itself, he might not be so eager to fake out his watch.
Checking their pedometers after walking the crooked mile
We stayed until Fairytale Town closed that day. If we were in the park after it closed at 4 PM, we were allowed to stay until 5 PM. We ran around after it was nearly empty and watched a film crew set up to film a little girl in Cinderella’s carriage. All three kids slid down the slide at Owl’s House by the 100-Acre Wood in every way they could–upside-down, backwards, and standing up. Soren called me when he got lost and said things like “Where are you? I’m over by the castle” or “I’m at the tepee” or “I’m climbing Jack’s beanstalk.”
They told me they explored every inch of it, but later on Soren found out there was a pirate ship he hadn’t seen and he is still lamenting the fact that he didn’t play on it. I saw it probably half a dozen times. He is still upset and wanted to go back a number of times. Claire, on the other hand, wanted to leave Fairytale Town and go back to Funderland and ride on the rides again, without the rest of us. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t do it, but even if I had let her, they didn’t let kids in without adults (or vice versa).
She became amazingly upset and worst-case scenario’d everything for a while. I asked her to sit on the grass and calm down before trying to talk more, but she followed me around and said things like, “So you’re saying you’ll never ever let me ride on a roller coaster again?” “So I’ll never come back to Sacramento ever?” “So I guess I’m never going to have fun in my entire life?” “I guess you just don’t care about me having any fun at all ever!” Soren and Ronin tried to talk to her, as had I at the beginning, and nothing we did made her feel better.
The only thing that did help calm her down was, as I told her at the beginning, taking a little time to herself and a little time away from the urgency of the issue. I was incredibly sympathetic (as I was to Soren with his pirate ship incident), and I gave her hugs and understanding, but I have learned that talking to her when she gets worked up like this only prolongs her agony and mine, since she is not able to have a rational discussion.
Soren at the State Capitol in Sacramento — he loved this brochure and wanted a picture of it
Claire did feel better, as I mentioned, after a short time by herself to calm down. We had a decent evening and I braved going out to dinner with all of them before going back to get them ready for bed. The next day we went to Sutter’s Fort, which I thought was fantastic but ended up being very disappointing for the kids. The pictures from that part of our trip are up at the beginning of this post, and although the fort and activities were fascinating, my kids were a little left out because there were a ton of 4th grade field trips and overnight camping trips that day, with all kinds of kids in period costumes learning how to card wool and make bread and churn butter and rope cattle, and ours weren’t allowed to participate at all. Liability. Pooh.
So on any other day we could have gone around looking at all of the displays and learned about a bunch of stuff, but on this day we saw kids doing things we couldn’t do. Claire especially languished and pouted. I loved seeing all of the kids in the costumes, though, and my fingers itched to sew some and see them dressed up. I mentioned this, and they all perked up and said that it would be nice if they could just sneak into one of the school groups.
Dome at the capitol
We went to the California State Capitol after Sutter’s Fort. It was beautiful. The children were a little blasé about it, since they’d already seen the one in Wisconsin. Seen one dome, seen them all. The guy at the information desk was surprised that they’d seen another one before ours, even though we were from California. There were some neat displays from every county in the corridor. Our county (Alameda) was broken, appropriately enough. All 3 kids knew what county we lived in without prompting.
Ronin and Soren passing from Marin to Madera County
There was a big press conference and a rally outside when we were there, and a senator speaking about increasing the minimum wage to $15 per hour. We watched it for a while and saw people holding signs and heard all the excitement. This is government in action! Since we were on the outskirts of all of the activity, though, they mostly got distracted by the random people who still smoke (“Cough, cough, Mom, this is awful, why do people have to smoke? Can we go somewhere else?”).
Pioneer Park – where street level used to be in Sacramento
We next went to Old Town Sacramento. A lot of the buildings had been lovingly restored, and there was a paddle wheel ship in the river and an old one-room schoolhouse. Pioneer Park was a small area that showed the original street level. Beginning in the 1860s, Sacramento started raising the streets so it wouldn’t have to endure the seasonal flooding from the nearby Sacramento River, some of which could be devastating. Soren loved it. Ronin read the plaques. Claire was disappointed that Pioneer Park wasn’t really a park.
They spent some time in school, even when they weren’t in school
At one end of the cobblestone street, we found a little yard with some swings, a pump for water, and a one-room schoolhouse. Soren ran inside and immediately sat down and began practicing his sums on the slate. There was a docent inside who looked almost like Soren’s kindergarten teacher, and the list of punishments for infractions (“4 lashes for boys and girls playing together”) is a little harsher than what Soren’s been dealing with in his class.
We have had a few meetings with the principal of our real school about not taking away Soren’s food as punishment, and not taking away his recess time to spend time writing sentences such as “I will not be disrespectful to my teacher.” Or having him spend recess or circle time inside to rewrite his homework paragraphs to make them neater and easier to understand. Especially since he is not disrespectful and because he really does want to please. His biggest issue, aside from handwriting, is impulsiveness.
Okay, I keep wandering away from our trip. This is what happens when I don’t update for a long time. I keep meaning to, and I have lots of stuff to talk about, but I’m trying to stay on top of the laundry, just finished putting on our Spring Conference, haven’t quite finished our taxes yet, and Justin has been coming home later and later all the time with his job, which has been getting more intense. He loves it, and he is very valued, but it leaves him with very little time at home.
Soren at the California State Railroad Museum
The final day in Sacramento I got breakfast for the kids in our rental house and made sure it was completely tidy before we left. I packed up the car and we went to the Railroad Museum, which was the last thing on my list of places to visit. I actually had a few more items on my list if we ran out of things to do or had more days, but I knew that this one museum was worth going to Sacramento for even if we weren’t going to visit any other place. In fact, I had occasionally thought about taking the train from Oakland to Sacramento during some of the summer fare sales just for that reason.
Shortly after we arrived, Claire got very anxious to leave and said she was hungry and wanted to go home and see Justin and couldn’t stay any longer and was bored and when were we going to eat and how soon were we going to leave and were we going to stay all day and where were we going to have lunch and do we have to stay here and… you get the picture. We ended up leaving within about 30 minutes. Didn’t see much of anything. It was very disappointing. We ate lunch and didn’t go back to see the trains. We drove straight home. I did six loads of laundry in the first 24 hours after I got back.
Soren taking a break after playing at Land Park
So, the vacation went really well in general, and I thought we were all having generally a good time and enjoying ourselves, but it ended on a little bit of a down note. Maybe we packed too much stuff into the days. What seemed to be difficult for the kids was leaving something they really enjoyed to go on to something else, or wanting to go back to something when the other kids wanted to stay and play longer. Basically, dealing with not being able to do exactly what they wanted to do all the time because other people were involved. There was an extra note of desperation for them, because this wasn’t a place we could just try to visit next week if they couldn’t see everything now. I did try to ensure extra down time and an earlier evening the second night we were there, but I’m not sure that was the issue.
Justin said I had no idea what he’d been through while we were gone. I told him he was right.