Traveling With Kids – San Diego Seaworld – Cirque Du Dolphin

Cirque Du Dolphin

IMG_3628 (800x600)Is it possible to bugger up a dolphin show?  I would have thought, no, no it’s not. I mean, hey, dolphins are graceful, gentle, sublime, highly social, and seem to have a great sense of humour. Exactly all the things I am not. So  it should have been enough just to watch dolphins. Apparently, it wasn’t.

IMG_3630For some reason Sealand decided it needed to add a sort of cirque du soleil thing. All well and good, but I came to see the cute dolphins. So did the boys. So did the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world.

The oldest was completely mystified. There was a women in a funny costume, sometimes she swam with the dolphins, sometimes she danced on stage. There were people climbing up to a diving board and diving off, climbing up and diving off, climbing…. up and diving… off. And there was a bird flying around.

I dunno why.

Here’s what they say, “Dolphins fly, birds dive and spirits leap in Blue Horizons® — a visionary sea-and-sky spectacular from SeaWorld. Soaring birds, playful dolphins and thrilling aerialists fuse the vibrant energy of two fascinating worlds into a mesmerizing display of dance, flight, color and entertainment.”


There was a story there, I think.

IMG_3648 (800x600)Maybe it was the sun. Maybe the seats were too hard and compressed my brain, but I didn’t get it. I would have been happy, HAPPY, to see 23 minutes of dolphin fun. Instead, the show was colorful and acrobatic and the people doing it very talented, but as we marched out, we all shrugged.


The youngest looked like he wanted to be climb up on one of those diving boards. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world yawned.

Adding cirque du soleil elements was like mixing cheese-whiz and a fine steak in a blender, like changing the classic mustang to the abomination of 1979, like adding Jar-jar to the Star Wars universe.

But I did love seeing the dolphins.

They are truly incredible creatures.

On to something way more fun.

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Traveling With Kids – San Diego Seaworld – Showtime


IMG_3605“The Whales Fly”

Seeing Seaworld is as much about balancing off what you do between the shows as anything. Like a hyper intermission filled with madly running around and screaming and water and sharks. But there are set times that the dolphins or killer whales come out to play. Crowds gather. Good seats are taken. Snack vendors magically appear. So we had to get there on time.

First up, the famous whale show. The Shamu Show. Apparently, that’s just the name of the show as none of the killer whales, (and there are 10 of them), are actually called Shamu. Sort of like the how Dread Pirate Roberts name just got transfered from pirate to pirate to handsome, farmer in love with a pretty girl.

Besides, who would go see a show named the Corky show? I would expect puppets and a guest appearance by Tom Hanks. So there’s a good reason they kept the name.

We decided to see the main show. There were other options. Shamu up and close. Dine with Shamu. Swim with Shamu and see if you can avoid getting eaten. All of these things seemed like a bad idea. They’re not called cuddle whales. So, yeah, main show.

We sat up high so as not to get splashed. They had the splash zones clearly marked, and not only marked, but the park guides told everyone coming in that the splash zones were, well, very splashy. Then, later, they made an announcement. Three in fact. If you’re in the splash zones, you’ll get wet.

For some reason, this came as a big surprise to some people. I think it’s the same idiots who put a hot cup of coffee in their lap and when it spills scalding hot liquid on their family jewels, sue everyone in sight.

IMG_0448 (800x600)Anyway, we were safe. Safer than safe. We were rows and rows away from the last splash zone set of seats. So high up that the air was thin and I think we could have touched the sky. I told the oldest we could and he gave me that look again. Like I’m having a stroke.

Now, let me ask you. Was the youngest more excited about the whales or the fact he could get cotton candy? You probably know the answer. However, the oldest was very concerned that the whales might not be treated properly as much as anything and wasn’t entirely convinced these animals should be in a tank giving performances.

One of these things I could solve. I got the youngest cotton candy. The other, well, harder to solve. He may be right. But these animals are treated well, they don’t have to worry about starving to death and the trainers really love them. I hoped to open up a bit of conversation about the whales, but it died as the show began.

The announcer asked the crowd to thank all the veterans in the crowd. For them to stand.

Being me and completely mishearing what was said, I stood.  Me and about 50 other men (and a few women).

This was odd, thought I.  Shouldn’t more be standing to salute the soldiers and sailors and airmen and marines?

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world tugged on my shirt. “What’re you doing?”

“Applauding the servicemen and women.”

“You only stand if you’re one of them.”

Oh hell!

I don’t think I ever sat down so fast.

I felt so embarrassed.

Then the show started. The whales began by circling the tank, jumping in the air, then soaking everyone. I mean, SOAKING them. Like the teenagers at legoland had done. I feared they were out to soak me for pretending to be a serviceman.

IMG_0486 (800x600)Howevrer, more than a few people, somehow shocked that sitting so close to the tank would get them wet, ran for their lives like they were being sprayed with acid. Others, those that knew what to expect, laughed and giggled and shouted as water cascaded on top of them. Even a few adults.

Personally, I think the whales like this part. Personally I think they’re hoping the chubby, red-haired kid who threw a hot dog in the water will be splashed into the tank so they could take him for a long dive underwater.

Yes, some people are jerks, some kids in need of serious parental supervision, but by and large, we’re all well-behaved. We clap when we should clap. We go oooooh and awe when it’s appropriate. We eat lots of snacks that cost as much as a dinner at Denny’s.

I love seeing the whales, though. They are magnificent creatures. The youngest stops tearing at his cotton candy to watch them. The oldest seems to be looking at them to make sure they’re not being abused in any way. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world hugs them both while pointing out the best tricks.

IMG_3583 (800x450)When it’s over, I half expect the whale, at some point, to pull himself out of the water and shout, are you not entertained?

But no.

Nothing bad happens. No one is eaten. None of the whales are hurt or abused. No one drowns. One camera may be a write-off after being soaked, but we’re all good.

We are entertained.

And maybe, just maybe, we’re all more connected to another living creature. Maybe we’ll think about them when someone brings up drift nets or oil spills or harvesting them for whatever parts we think we may need.

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Traveling With Kids – San Diego Seaworld – Flash Adventures

 How Many Adventures Can We Have in A Few Hours?

When there is so much to do and so many adventures, how do talk about all of them without boring everyone to death?

Answer, you can’t.

But let me summarize as best I can. Like a quick montage in a movie. Or remembering a drunken night.

The First Ride

The First Ride

After the seals, the boys go on the octopus-like ride. No lines. They literally run on. Twice.

Giggles are heard. Oldest loves every minute of it. Youngest not wanting to show he is a bit, you know, not scared, totally not scare, nuh-huh, nope.



Flash to the shark tanks. Sharks! There’s an upstairs where you can see the sharks in the pool. It smells very salty and fishie. No big surprise, I guess. The oldest knows more about sharks than the guides. He explains how to spot a tiger shark from a reef shark, what the difference is between a white tip and a black tip shark (you may be able to guess this one,) and what food they should be feeding all of them (and surprisingly it’s not ‘his brother’.) It’s really impressive.

IMG_0389 (800x600)A walkway leads down below. It’s dark. The walls look like clay. The walls have teeth in them. The oldest LOVES the teeth embedded in the wall. Especially the megalodon teeth. He forgets to hide the fact that he’s having fun. He smiles and talks about the teeth with animated authority.

Then we’re deep underwater. It’s dark. There’s a moving sidewalk that doesn’t move. No need. Not a lot of people here. The youngest, with eyes wide and mouth open, gets to walk through a tunnel while shark glide by overhead and beside him. He stops, transfixed as entire tour groups try to move around him. The oldest explains to me why one shark can be still and not die. I’d heard that if I shark stops moving, it suffocates. Not so.

None of the sharks attack. I am disappointed. The boys could have spent hours in that tunnel. The want to be sharks. They want one as a pet. The oldest wants to genetically engineer one that will talk with him.

IMG_0397 (800x600)I ask the oldest if he wants to take pictures for his dad. He’s not interested in taking pictures, in creating a visual history, (that’s my thing), but the idea sparks something in him. He loves doing things for others. So… pictures for his dad, a great idea. First, about 20 shark pictures. The, he wants one of him and his brother in front of, yes, you guessed it the megalodon.

Then to turtles. Not as menacing as sharks. A big slower. An old one has a huge bite out of his shell. I wonder what story he would tell. I ask the oldest if the turtle maybe swam into the shark tank. He looks at me like I’m having a stroke.

IMG_0423 (800x599)The youngest wants to take pictures of the turtles for his dad. He takes, well, about a thousand. Most, but not all, blurry. It’s hard to shoot in low light, harder still when you’re literally running around, and even harder when you refuse to listen to a wise new parent who has all sorts of great advice on how to take good pictures (even if, he himself, is completely unable to do so.)

The turtles are cute. But slow = boring. However, just as we are about to leave, we find a video game. We play small turtles trying to make their way to spawn on a beach. Evil, massive drift nets, oil pollution and sharks!!!! Try to stop us. We dive, we swim fast, we shoot upwards, at least one of us is eaten, at least one of us is captured by a drift net, but a few, a lucky few, make it to the end. The youngest spawns the most. For some reason, this does not surprise me. I expect this will be his future. 10 crazy-ass little ones of his own. Ha!

Outside, we wander past strollers lined up like soldiers on parade. Double strollers, umbrella strollers, high tech strollers with radar (or something that looked like it), strollers with coffee holders (oh what a good idea that is) and strollers with bags of diapers and wetwipes and toys and blankets. I’m glad, super glad, that I’ve entered this family at this point in the boys’ life. Stroller-aged kids look like a LOT more work. Plus, you know, strollers!

Now, if I was being wheeled around in one, that would be a whole different matter.

IMG_2194 (598x800)We go on to feel up manta rays in a pool.  I ask, what do they feel like? “They feel soft”, says the oldest. “They feel all raspy and rough,” says the youngest. Sometimes I think if you asked them what color the sky was, one would say blue and the other would say, white.

The youngest measures himself against a full grown ray. I refuse, having seen how close I am to a gorilla.

We eat almost too late. Everyone is getting the hangries. Hunger plus angry. Not a word I invented, but one I will promote. HANGRIES. We line up. We wait. We eat. No one is murdered despite the fact we have to wait a wee bit for fish and chips

Sitting down, that evil red-eyed bird appears and keeps an eye on the oldest. He’s sure it’s been stalking him. I can’t say he was wrong. I was kinda spooky. The oldest eats his food in record time.

But the real treats were yet to come.

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Traveling With Kids – San Diego Seaworld – The Great Fish Throw

Fishie Adventures

Seaworld looked like it would be fun the moment we went inside, but would it live up to the hype?

See, you can touch the sharks

We stood in the entranceway a bit like a pack of deer in the headlights. So many things to do, and so many little feet wanting to run in every direction at once.

But it was a glorious morning. Sunny. A bit windy. Birds flew overhead looking for dropped crumbs. Kids shrieked in excitement. Mom’s yelled at their unruly ones to be less, well, unruly.

Now, one thing we decided to do in every park we’ve seen is set a rally point. You know, in case we become separated for some strange reason. You’d think becoming separated would be hard, at least I did, but all it takes is for eyes to lock on something, feet to move in a direction that is not the family direction and if everyone else is looking at their own stuff and continuing on, whammo, bingo-bongo, someone’s not there.

Sadly, that someone is usually me.

Oh, I know you were thinking it would be the youngest, but no, it’s me. One minute I’m all marching alongside everyone, then the next, “squirrel!” and off I go.

So today we chose the big-ass tower thingee, called the skytower. It’s hard to miss. It’s a tower.

seaworldsd2008mapThat set, we decided on a ride first. We had a map. We had food in our bellies. We were good to go.

First distraction.  We needed sunglasses.

We’d lost only one pair so far, which, I think, is a world record for a family of 4, so we decided that the first thing we’d do is go in search of new ones. The youngest found a barrel of swords (why swords would be in seaworld, I have no idea) and hacked and slashed imaginary enemies while I made sure he didn’t hack OR slashed any real people. But we failed to find any sunglasses at first.

Hard to believe, I know. There were plastic sharks and t-shirts and knacks and knicks and shoes and glass balls that the youngest desperately wanted to touch (and, I fear, throw at his brother), but no sunglasses.

No worries, there were plenty of little shops in Seaworld, so we began to march again towards the first ride…

Only to get distracted again by sharks in a pool. That we could touch. Wee little ones. I think I said, OMG, look, sharks we can touch in a pool!!! Luckily, everyone came with me. But, unluckily, none of us got to touch one. They were too fast, too far away sometimes and at least one of us, not mentioning any names, was pretty sure the sharks would take a bite out of them.

A little disappointed, the boys got bored really quickly, so we left the sharks to eat other little children and strode off.

We made our way to a ride first. A simple one. Sort of like the old octopus rides we’d go on a local fairs.

The park had wide lanes, unlike legoland, and though every park seems to be unable to make a straight line to anything, the lack of crowds, the massive space we could walk around in, made it feel, I dunno, more friendly. Maybe it was the sun being out, or the smell of popcorn and hotdogs and something fishie. Maybe it was just that I had pancakes for breakfast. Who knows?

But as we made our way to the first ride, we heard barking.


I immediately went all ‘squirrel!” and detoured towards them. The family heard me shout, “Seals!” and followed me. It was feeding time and the seals were barking or slapping the water or just looking darned adorable, waiting to be fed.

But here’s the cool thing. It wasn’t the trainers feeding them. It was the seaworld-goers. Us.

I dunno who started to jump up and down first, me or the youngest. We had to feed the seals! We had to.

So I went and bought two orders of fish please, hold the fries and tarter sauce. For $5 we got 5 little fish. I wanna say they were sardines, but I know about as much about fish as I know about why people like watching golf. The oldest, however, had no desire to throw anything and the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world, refused to wander around smelling like fish all day.

The youngest and I didn’t care. We love throwing things and, to be honest, we don’t care that we would smell like fish.

IMG_0349 (800x600) (2)We looked at the seals, chose one that looked the cutest, bobbing up and down in the water, his big eyes on us, his head wagging back and forth like a happy, puppy dog tail, and the youngest tossed him a fish. We chose one who was barking, one who was clapping and tried to throw one who had a great scar on his eye who sat on a rock in the middle of the pool. The youngest missed his first throw, the fish snapped up by a smart seal who circled the rock waiting for people to miss. The second throw missed too and I began to worry the youngest didn’t have the coordination or strength yet to make the throw.

Hey, it wasn’t easy for a little guy. He  had to clear the glass, had to arc it over all the other seals, avoid the fish-stealing birds and hit a pretty small target 15 feet away.

I gave the youngest my fish. I told him he could do it. I told him to keep his eye on the seal. Don’t worry about the glass or the distance. Just see that seal and throw the fish.

The youngest threw with all his might and with the seriousness of a major league pitcher. I want to say the entire crowd watched, but I doubt that was true. Certainly the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world and the oldest watched the fish arc over the glass, soar through the air and nearly smack the seal in the face before he jerked his head and gulped it down.

We cheered.

The last fish he gave based on which one barked the loudest, then we washed up, washed up again for good measure, and strode off to the first ride, the youngest so happy to tell us how he did it.

“Joe, did you know that if I got my arm all the way back and threw, it went farther?”

“Mommy, did you see me feed that seal with the one eye?”

“Joe, did you know I did the best throw there?”

It was a great way to start our adventure in Seaworld.

It was, however, nowhere near the coolest thing we did.

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Traveling With Kids – San Diego – Seaworld – An Odd Entrance

They Even Made Getting In Interesting

IMG_0608With good weather so rare, we decided we had to go to SeaWorld, right? There would be water there, I’m pretty sure. Some splashing. Maybe some wet rides. All good things on a warm, sunny day.

The only question was, how long would it last? The sun, that is.

We parked in the preferred space cuz I like to feel special. The guy who took my parking money told me to put on my flashing lights so the parking attendants would know I’m special. Good, because when I drive 50 min with my flashing lights on at home, everyone pretty much assumes I’m special as well. It’s why they honk at me.

Anyway, when he said it, I had no idea where the flashing light thingee was in the car. I must have looked at him with a mixture of confusion and terror that sometimes gets misinterpreted as constipation. But in this case, he knew the problem immediately and pointed to the button in the center of my dashboard. I wouldn’t have been able to find it if they said they’d shoot one of the kids if I didn’t. But he found it right away. I guess he knows his Galants.

So I drove through the parking lot with my flashing lights on thinking it may be some kind of joke.

It wasn’t.

We parked right beside all the handicap spots. In ‘the special’ spots.


IMG_0340We got out, warm sun on our faces, and went to stand in line to have our bags searched. Detecting no bombs, alcohol or non-organic, fair trade coffee grown on the shady sides of mountains in politically incorrect countries, we were let through.

Then we came to the gate. Now, normally, you hand someone your pass or, in my case, the printed tickets, and they take care of everything. Why? Cuz they kinda, usually, know what they’re doing.

Not here. We had to scan the tickets ourselves which everyone seemed to have a problem with so the attendant would usually take over and scan it for us. Then we had to have our fingers scanned.

Why? I’m not sure. If someone stole Shamu did they want a record of the finger prints? Or were they looking for certain people like pedifiles or people who littered? Or was it a way of matching up missing people.

Either way, it was odd and took a long time.

Basically here’s what happened. We came up. Looked at the attendant, expecting him to take the tickets. He pointed to the scanner. Oh, says I, we have to do this our selves. I see. (Sometimes I can be captain obvious.) So I try to scan the ticket. It fails to be read. I try again. The little red light does not turn into a little green light. So I try again. Fail. The attendant takes the ticket and scans it. First time.

Then I go to scan the second one but wait, there’s a message that says I have to press finger on finger pad.

What finger pad?

I look and see it and put my finger on it like anyone who’s told to do something by an electronic message kinda just does it.


I move my finger around until another little red light goes green.

This process is repeated three more times, though the youngest did not have to have his finger scanned. Silly them, if they had to worry about anyone jumping in the shark tank or wanting to ride a turtle, it would be him. I suspect in years to come, he will be on many ‘banned’ lists.

Everyone kinda photobombed this one.

Everyone kinda photobombed this one.

But we got it done about as fast as everyone else which is to say, not fast at all. There weren’t massive crowds, but I just know that when they come and come they will, I think that whole process will be a nightmare. Better to have someone take the tickets, grab you finger, jam it into the finger scanner and have you on your way.

Just my thoughts.

No matter, really.

We were in.

Now what to do first?


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Traveling With Kids – San Diego – IHOP Super Powers

Breakfast of Champions and Super Heroes.

There was something odd in the sky today. Kinda round. Yellow-orange. Surrounded by blue sky. I think primitive cultures called it the sun. It was not something I have seen for a while in San Diego.

That made it a perfect day for Seaworld.

But first, remember the #1 rule? Food!!!IMG_0339

So we went to eat at IHOP.

It isn’t as easy to find a place to eat with the boys in tow. Or cheap. If there’s a place that offers kids eat free or kids will be made to wash dishes if they don’t eat what they order, then I’m so there. As it was, we thought the IHOP would be a safe bet.

It was.

The boys got to choose if they wanted pancakes, how their eggs were cooked, if they wanted sausages or bacon, if they wanted brown bread or white, if they wanted juice or milk. Now it’s not like they couldn’t have starbucksdone that at the other restaurants, but here it was easy to point on the menu while the waitress took notes. The loved the power. Soon they’ll be at starbucks ordering a drink, “grande skinny half soy, half skim, iced half mocha, half green tea, no ice, double whip, caramel topping in a ventii cup.”

One of the coolest things about eating here (or not, depending on your POV), was that they put a calorie count on all the food. Pancakes and sausages and 1 cup of syrup was like a billion calories. Who knew?

While we ate, the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world tried to arrange to meet a friend from her childhood, a friend that shared a fence with her for years, who knew her through good times and bad, a friend who she hadn’t seen again for a very long while (aka our spy).

Unfortunately, his family had been battling a cold and it was looking dicey that we would be able to all get together. However, today, it looked like he might get a free moment.

While she tried to connect with him, the boys and I worked on something vital to our existence.

Super powers.

What super powers did we have. Not which ones we wanted, which we had.

super powersThe youngest has the ability for his sleeve to find any spill on the table. Even spills he, himself, did not make.

The oldest has the ability hide all interest in all things. Every so often a smile creeps out, but it’s quickly covered up with a shrug even the French would be proud of.

The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world has the ability to look pretty even at 10am in a pancake house.

I have the ability to make any lineup I’m in the slowest line. Proven time and time and time again.

We came up with other ones like the youngest’s ability to snort milk out his nose if he giggles too much while drinking milk, to the oldest’s ability to be the fastest mouse clicker on the face of the planet.

However, the funniest moment of the morning was when the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world had looked up at me, with a bit of cheese hanging off her lower lip. Being me and being tragically flawed, I laughed. I mean, it looked funny. She still looked pretty, but it was funny.

“I have cheese hanging off my lip, don’t I?” she asked.

I giggled.

She glared at me. “Were you going to tell me?”

“After I finished giggling.”

“So you’d let me walk out with a giant cheese strand dangling from my lip?”

“No. At some point I would have stopped giggling and told you. It might have been in Seaworld though.”

She glared at me.

It looked like we weren’t going to be able to meet her friend, our spy, today.

No matter, it was going to be a great day.

How could it not?

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Traveling With Kids – San Diego – Hilton Doubletree Hotel

How I wake up in My New Life

In my old life, I used to wake up like this…

Actual untouched picture of me in bed.

Actual untouched picture of me in bed.

I’d roll over, look at the clock. It could be 7 or 8. I’d think to myself, self, should I just shut my eyes and go back to sleep or is the day full of so much awesomeness that I have to leap out of bed? Most days, you can guess which choice I made. I’d lie lazily in bed, sometimes sleeping, sometimes in that state that is not quite awake. Sometimes I’d read. Or listen to the news. Or check on facebook. Or see if they’d invented the flying car yet.

By 10, usually, I’d be up. No rush. Just another day in the life of justjoe.

Now, it’s somewhat different.

The youngest pads over to the bed at 7am. “Mommy. My leg doesn’t hurt anymore.”

It’s  very important news for the youngest to deliver. At 7am. Had he waited until, say 8, he might have forgotten to tell us.

My eyes creak open. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world rolls over. Mumbles something. I do not think she uses a single swear word. I think she says, “Johnny, is that you?”

The youngest pokes his mom. “My leg doesn’t hurt anymore.” Cuz like, clearly, we didn’t hear him the first time.

So, 7am. We’re up. Somehow, some way, the youngest managed to get a burn on his knee. A good burn. But from what? What could be hot enough that we saw yesterday that would give him a burn? (spoiler, we figured out that it was the carpet in the Ripley’s display that he hid in and giggled.) But it was good news that it didn’t hurt.

Splish-splash, baby

Splish-splash, baby

Outside, it’s exactly the opposite of what was predicted. It’s sunny. Who knows how long that’ll last but we’re off to Seaworld. We need to take advantage of the good weather. My guess is Seaworld has water and if I’m going to get wet, I want it to be warm outside. I’m starting to have nightmares about shivering in the cold while teenagers drench me in water.

But there’s a lot of challenges today. I’m behind on my writing. Way behind. I need to crave out time somehow. The Prettiest-girl-in-the-world has caught a cold. Her nose is red. The youngest wants to do water rides. Lots and lots of water rides. He actually has no idea of what rides Seaworld has, but he’s pretty sure there will be splashie ones.  The oldest is wishing meglodon was at Seaworld. He wants to see people eaten, I think.

Since it’ll be a full day, we  try to get out as quickly as possible.

In my old life, it was brush teeth, shave, wet hair down, then style, look at self in mirror and say, “Wow, you do look like Johnny Depp?” then I’d turn on the lights, and head out. 5 mins top. 10 if I had a shower. Now…

Now you’ll hear me saying things, like “Teeth brushing, not toothbrush eating. Hurry up”

“Of course you have to wear underwear.” (And no, I never say this to the Prettiest-girl-in-the-world.)

“Wait, how did you get pizza sauce on a shirt we just bought yesterday?”

“Come on, let’s hurry, let’s get it in gear, let’s get going, vroom, vroom, vroom, we gotta a full day, hurry, hurry, hurry, fast, fast, fast, move it, move it, move it, ah, cutie.”

Ready to go? All parts protected from the sun?

Ready to go? All parts protected from the sun?

It’s a process, let me tell you. Armies move faster than 2 boys getting ready. Glaciers move faster.

But, by 9, we are good to go. Time for breakfast and Seaworld.

Now, in my old life, breakfast would be all….

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