California Adventure Day Four

Day four was our last day in the LA area before heading to Anaheim for VidCon.  I didn’t have much planned for us besides visiting the Griffith Observatory.  The Observatory is a cross between a museum and a planetarium – with an awesome view.  It sits atop Mount Hollywood and you can see for miles. Best part about it – admission is free!

The weather was perfect and we got there early before the first planetarium show started so we had plenty of time to roam around the grounds and get some great pictures.

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Hollywood sign view

View up from a long trail behind the building

View up from a long trail behind the building

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The fight scene from “Rebel Without a Cause” was filmed on the front steps

Here’s our walk around the building:

 

The inside was just as impressive as the outside.

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Murals on the wall

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Ceiling of the entry way

We got tickets for two planetarium shows.  Channeling my inner nerd, I was beyond excited about this because I think the last time I was in a planetarium, I was in sixth grade!  The shows were really neat.  The guy who was narrating them looked and sounded just like he actor in the Cadillac commercials.  You know the one who says we parked a car on the moon and left the keys in it?  Yeah, that guy.

Lunch was at the on site cafe and after we successfully pissed off everyone behind us in line by ordering 3 burritos (one lady making them) we sat outside.  Here is where I experienced something I don’t think I will ever forget.  I had to use the restroom and entering the door before me was a lady with a baby and a boy who couldn’t have been more than 5.  They went into the large stall with the baby changer.  We were the only ones in there.  I hear the lady talking to the boy and she’s using the F word in every sentence, just casually like it was no big deal.  Then the boy said something as a whisper which I couldn’t hear to which she replied LOUDLY ” I don’t give a F! What the F is she gonna do?  I’ll tear her F-ing head off and feed it to her for lunch!” At this point I hope to God she’s not talking about me and decide I’d better finish up and get the hell out of there.  This lady had some serious issues to be cussing in front of a young boy like that.  Later on during lunch I see her leaving with another lady and I assume that is who she was talking about.

Our lunch view before the bathroom horror show

Our lunch view before the bathroom horror show

From lunch we decide we’ve seen everything and decide to make our way back to the car.  About halfway there, my daughter asked…what about the gift shop?  So we headed back and checked that out.  To the left of the gift shop was another exhibit area that we didn’t even know existed.  It was an entire area devoted to space and the planets.  I could feel my inner nerd tingling again so we had to go in.

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Not sure what this was

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After seeing the last few sights of the observatory it was time to head back.  We had been there all day, as it was now almost 4pm!  Time flies when you’re having fun.  We had to drive to Anaheim to check into our hotel for VidCon.  The LA traffic was horrid and a 30 mile ride took us about 4 hours!  We made a pit stop at the iconic Randy’s Donuts near the airport.

That's one big donut!

That’s one big donut!

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The donut itself…not that impressive unfortunately!  Finally made our way into Anaheim and downed some crabs at Joe’s Crab Shack before calling it a night!

Day Five – Disneyland and VidCon registration!

 

 

 

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California Adventure Day Three

I know, I’m a few days late on this.  The weekend was busy and I just didn’t have the energy!

Day three was our Long Beach / Queen Mary day.  I love all things paranormal and had heard of the “ghosts” aboard the ship.  I booked our tickets for entry onto the ship which included the Ghosts and Legends “tour”.  We got there early and entered the ship – the “tour” began at 11am.  I keep saying “tour” with quotation marks because it was not really a tour.  More about this after a few pictures:

Our Clan

Our Clan

BIG Boat!

BIG Boat!

I was really excited about the Ghosts and Legends “tour” until they started talking about special effects.  Whaaaat?  Noooo! I wanted to experience the underbelly of the boat (the old swimming pool, the boiler room) in all of its original glory.  Instead we got a staged Disney-like version of a haunted tour with special effects, sounds, lights etc… which really distracted from the history of those areas.  I was really disappointed.  I’m sure if there are really spirits living down there, they are pretty pissed off!

After that mess, we explored the common areas of the boat.  Outside was really beautiful and most of it has been restored to make it look good but most everything is original  The deck was quite impressive:

Ahoy Matey!

Ahoy Matey!

 

Thinking she's Kate Winslet.  Where Leo?

Thinking she’s Kate Winslet. Where Leo?

 

An old gun

An old gun

 

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Hello?

Hello?

After the deck we looked around inside a bit before lunch.

Creepy old hallway

Creepy old hallway

 

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Original controls

Of course by this time everyone was starving so good thing the Queen Mary is also a hotel with a restaurant on board.  Lunch was pricey but good and it was nice to rest our feet for a bit.  Overall, I would say that the Queen Mary is a very over-rated tourist attraction.  It would be nice to spend a nite or two on board but I really felt like I spent over $200 to walk around a hotel for a few hours.  Good to see once, but we won’t be doing it again.

Our son had been bugging us about going to Venice beach because he’s into skateboarding and there was a skatepark he had heard about there.  I was a bit apprehensive because according to Tripadvisor – Venice Beach is a s***-hole.  We got there quickly and after paying another gazillion dollars to park our car, we checked the place out.  Yep – Venice Beach definitely does have a certain “flavor”.  Somewhere in between 10- days- without -a -shower body odor, soured milk and dog poo.  No it did not smell good and no I would never eat at any of the places that line the boardwalk.  But, it didn’t feel unsafe as many of the Tripadvisor posters had mentioned.  We were there in the middle of the day so I’m sure that added to the comfort factor.

 

The skate park was really cool however and we spent some time watching kids with some pretty great skills on their boards.  One boy couldn’t have been more than 8 years old and he was killing it in the bowl (like a big empty swimming pool).  Being a mom I was tense every time he would drop in and fly out but he had it totally under control.  Mark my words, we will see this kid again some day – X Games, Olympics…something.  He was amazing. I don’t know if you can see him real good in this short video but he’s the one with the long blond hair. There are a few more clips on my YouTube channel.


We walked down the boardwalk a bit, bought my son a retro-style skateboard at the skate shop and then headed back up the coast.

The kids wanted to see surfers so we drove into Malibu to spend some time at Surfrider beach. The water was coooold!  I don’t know how some of those surfers could be out there without wet suits on.

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The seagulls in Malibu must eat really good because they are giants.  I’ve never seen such huge seagulls!

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We watched this one gull stalk a lady’s bag of Fritos as she was sunning.  He would wait until she closed her eyes…then creep over and try to steal the bag.  She was getting quite frustrated and thought it would be a good idea to hide the Fritos in her bag.  Not deterred in the least…that was one determined gull!  He waited for her to close her eyes and then went for the bag.  This went on for a while and I couldn’t help but laugh and cheer the gull on!  Who brings Fritos to the beach anyway and not share??

The offending seagull

The offending, Frito loving seagull

We stayed in Malibu until the sun went down and began our drive back into Thousand Oaks.  We ended the night with a dinner at the local Olive Garden.

Next up…The Griffith Observatory and lovely CA traffic!

 

California Adventure Day Two

This day I had planned for us to go into the Hollywood area and do some sight seeing.  We got up early and after a nice (and free) breakfast in the hotel we headed out to Hollywood.  On the way there we drove through the ta-ta area of Beverly Hills:

 

Arriving into Hollywood, we parked right across from Hollywood High school:

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First on the agenda was the Hollywood Museum but they weren’t going to open for about an hour so we wandered down Sunset and came across the coolest store ever built:

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It was certainly the biggest candy store I had ever seen and there were a couple of really cool rooms that had different themes.  My favorite:

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Disclaimer: No humans were harmed in the making of this blog

Warning!

Warning!

 

Being the Walking Dead fan that I am, I had to check out the goods:

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I don’t even know how they were able to collect this and put it in a jar…

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Now we know, zombie brains are small

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Paying homage to the best show ever

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Might be a good disguise in the event of the zombie apocalypse…

The boys made a pit stop:

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The “gross” room

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When you gotta go you gotta go

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The best ideas are thought up while in this position….

There was even a gas station inside:

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And a Wonka section of course:

 

Holy Wonka!

Holy Wonka!

And this creepy baby thing:

No thanks!

No thanks!

By the time we were done navigating our way through the largest candy store ever, the Hollywood Museum opened up.

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Marilyn guards the front door

Marilyn guards the front door

 

Apparently this was the old Max Factor building where the stars like Lucille Ball and Marilyn Monroe would go to get made up before a shoot.  It is filled with years and years of movie memorabilia – which was a big hit for our move loving family.  It was three floors full of movie making goodness.  Here are some of my favorites:

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Costumes from Sweeny Todd

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We all know this guy

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Effie’s dress from the Hunger Games

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I’m dating myself here, but this is Pee-Wee’s bicycle from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure

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Prop for the long distance shots of “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World”

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Dexter!!

We spent a good two hours in here at least, it was well worth every minute!  The museum is connected to Mel’s Diner so after we were done we got a jump on the lunch crowd and got a table.

20140622_093419 Food was good.  Expensive but good. By the time we left there were about 50 people waiting to get in.  Mel’s is kind of a Hollywood icon I guess.

Next on our “tour” was Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  Which I think is now Egyptian or something because it says so.

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This is where they used to roll out the red carpet

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See, I wasn’t kidding

Of course we had to take the obligatory tourist photos in front of the building:

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Note my USA jersey…it was game day vs. Portugal

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And of course checked out the footprints:

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I took a million of these pictures so here’s two

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For those of you just itching to see about a hundred stars on the walk of fame –  I took this just for you:

 

Walking back down Sunset you can see the Hollywood Sign

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See, it’s waaaaay back there

After our Hollywood romp, my husband was growing restless because we had passed lunch and the USA game was approaching…yet we didn’t know where we would stop and watch it.  We decided to go down to Santa Monica and see if we could find a place.

Parking at the Santa Monica Pier was interesting.  After paying another gazillion dollars for a few hours access, we drove into this little parking garage, wedged our minivan into the smallest spot possible between another car and a brick wall – and handed our keys over to the valet who said “you pick up your car over there” and pointed across the street at yet another parking garage.

The pier was packed!  I’ve never seen so many people crammed into one space (well, I see that later in the trip but that’s another day).  Here’s our walk from the parking area down to the boardwalk:

The water was freezing so the hopes my kids had of swimming did not become reality (they are used to FL beaches).  We didn’t do the amusement park area but walked all the way down to the end.

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At some point my son’s flip flop had a blow out (no he didn’t step on a pop top thank goodness) and we had to buy a new pair.  One pair of $8 Santa Monica flip flops coming right up!  I’ve never seen a kid get so mad at shoes before.  I’m thankful that little shop was there!

By this time, I had another man in my life getting a bit grumpy.  Game was about to start and nowhere in sight to watch it.  We had surrendered to the fact we would have to load up the WatchESPN app on the iphone and listen to it on the drive back but then I saw a little restaurant across the way.  I said “what about there?” There was a sign out front that read “Watch World Cup Here!” It was about 10 minutes until kickoff and as we walked through the door the owner greeted us with “Are you here to watch the game or eat?” We responded in unison “Watch the game”.

He seated us right in front of the big screen TV!  To our surprise there was not many people in there yet.  A few at the bar, but there were 6 of us and the table was for…get this – exactly 6 people!  God really wanted us to be able to watch this game.  Over the course of those 2 hours, even though we had eaten lunch just a few hours before, we ate…and ate…and ate….and watched the USA tie Portugal. *sigh* By the end of the game the place was hoppin but we made our exit.  The food was excellent and the hosts gracious.  We can’t thank them enough for such a great time!

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Intense

With full bellies we waddled back to our car…which was again, across the street…and made our way out of town.  Somewhere along the way someone in the car  thought it would be a good idea to take Mulholland Dr up the mountain in a quest to reach the Hollywood sign.  I think it might have been the driver…my husband.  Before long we were literally hanging off the edge of the mountain (ok not literally but it felt like it) and I was holding back my stomach from spontaneously leaping out of my body completely on it’s own accord.  We have to be getting closer….we have to be…were the words we were repeating, as we could see the sign but couldn’t quite get there.  As we drove higher and higher….

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Nothing but a steep drop off to the side of the car!

Needless to say we never made it.  We followed every tour bus we saw until finally we asked this guy how to get to the base of the sign.  The directions went something like this “Take that street until it curves right, then left…take a right and then at the next curve take a left…take another left…then go a little ways and take a right…then another left and an immediate left…yada yada” My husband was just nodding his head.  I was thinking “Are you serious right now??” We decided to just make due with the overlook area and saw it from a distance:

 

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This was as close as we were gonna get

Making our way back down Mulholland (thank goodness) we ran into a traffic jam because something was going on at the Hollywood Bowl.

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Not sure who it was that drew such a crowd

By the time we got back into Thousand Oaks, where our hotel was we were tired.  Because we stuffed ourselves silly while at Santa Monica…I can’t even remember if we had dinner that night!  I don’t think we did.  I think we all go back and crashed.  My kids are still giving me grief that we didn’t make it all the way to the sign!

Day three coming next….The Queen Mary and Malibu!

Lazy Sunday

Happy Sunday friends!  Hope you are getting some relaxation in today.  I woke up late and found myself addicted to this show “The Haunted” on the Destination America channel.  That’s some creepy stuff!  The lady on the show said “then the voice said…you are all gonna die…” and at that exact moment my dogs leaped up and started barking crazy while running around the house.  I thought to myself….that’s it, I better find something constructive to do!  So instead of tackling this mountain of laundry I need to do, here I am writing a blog post.

I wasn’t sure what to write about today because not much has been going on but I thought I might tell you about the couple of “adventures” we have planned for the fam within the next upcoming months.  My husband and I couldn’t go to long without our Vegas fix so we have another trip planned in May too celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary.  We scored a great deal on a room at the Mirage with our players club benefits.  I’m sure I’ll have a fun trip report to post when we get back.  Could this possibly be the trip where we win the BIG ONE?  I guess we shall see….

Then, in June we are spending our family vacation at Disney World once again.  This will make our 7th or 8th trip since 2003. It could possibly be our last for a while since the kids are getting older and I see visions of exuberant expenses due to having two teenagers so I seriously doubt we will be able to afford it after this year.  Not to mention, Disney’s prices have gone up and their discounts have gone down.  A sign of the times I guess.

I just recently started working for an upscale hotel chain.  We have an awesome hotel in downtown Boston.  Because of my son’s love for the Xbox game Assassin’s Creed where the setting is in the old Paul Revere days of Boston’s history, we are planning a weekend in August to show him the sights.  I’m most looking forward to eating at Faneuil Hall and staying at this hotel that is supposedly haunted….

Lastly (so far) In September, Mumford and Sons are coming to a city in Oklahoma about 3 hours from here for a stopover on their “Gentlemen of the Road” tour.  I will be attending this 1.5 day music festival with my niece and I will be camping for the first time in my life.  I would camp out in the middle of the arctic tundra with no clothes on for a chance to see Mumford and Sons live but I won’t lie and say I’m looking forward to that part of it….it will be an experience.  I’m still trying to find out how I can keep my electronics charged the whole time so I can have pictures and video to share when we get back.

So there you have it.  The Dockfam travel schedule for this year.  I’ll be sure to take lots of pics and if you go ahead and add me on Instagram and YouTube, you will see my pics and videos there.  I put all of our vacation videos on YouTube and I’m trying to be better about Instagram sharing.  And if you add me, I will follow you back.

Have a great lazy Sunday and I’ll be back soon!

Muppet Friday?

No not exactly but I just found something on one of my favorite blogs “The Muppet Mindset” that brought the fondest of memories to mind.  It is a post about the 1996 Christmas special – “The Christmas Toy”.  Read the post here.

I don’t know about you, but as a kid I truly and honestly believed that my stuffed animals came “alive” at night or whenever I was not in the room.  I often wondered about the kinds of games they played and the fun that they had during their special time.  Call me crazy, but that was one of the wonders of childhood!

If you haven’t had the chance to see this…. if you have kids — or not — do yourself a favor and watch it.  It will warm your heart and brighten any bad day this Christmas season.  Amazon has it for just over $6.50.  Just one more gem from Jim Henson….it’s definitely worth it!

A Howlin’ Good Time…blah, blah blah!

Suit of Armor: Sir, sir, we have an urgent plumbing issue.
Dracula: Plumbing?
Suit of Armor: There is a clogged toilet in room 348.
Bigfoot: (makes sighing noise)
Dracula: It’s okay, we all get stomach aches, Mr. Bigfoot.

I have to tell you…this movie had me crying.  Crying from laughing so hard!  I successfully embarrassed my 14 year old, as I wiped tears from my face and he leaned over to tell me “I’m going to call daddy to come pick me up….oh my gawd….nobody else is laughing…please stop!”  I couldn’t stop…and I caught him chuckling a few times too.  When we left the theater my stomach hurt and my mascara was ruined.

I’m a fan of old monster movies and legends and this cartoon plays upon all of the typical stereotypes in a totally hilarious way.  There were some jokes that the kids didn’t get but the adults did.  Basically, Dracula’s wife met an untimely demise at the hands of humans when their daughter was a baby.  Dracula vows to protect her “forever” and builds the Hotel Transylvania: A place where monsters and ghouls of all kinds can enjoy themselves free from the dangers of humans.  Drac throws a party for his daughter a party for her 118th birthday and chaos ensues when a young man, backpacking through the woods, finds the hotel and falls for Drac’s (that’s what they call him – Drac) daughter.  She falls for him right back….will it ever work out between vamp and human??  Go watch it.  It’s not a Twilight movie……it’s soooo much better.

Adam Sandler plays Dracula (which you pick up on right away from the first scene when he’s singing his daughter Mavis, a song) and Selena Gomez does the voice of Mavis.  More stars join the cast, which I didn’t know until the credits but Dracula’s monster friends were voiced by the talents of Kevin James, Steve Buschemi, Ceelo Green, Molly Shannon and more. Adam Sandler’s daughter and wife even have a few lines here and there.

If you want to know which part brought on the tears…the scenes in which the monsters are playing bingo and the invisible man is playing charades.  I thought I was going to die….”glasses!…..glasses!”   This movie fit my sense of humor perfectly.  I’m definitely buying the blu-ray when it comes out.

 

Hotel Transylvania looks like a rockin’ fun place and I wouldn’t mind staying the night there!  I think Drac will want everyone to know however…..he doesn’t say “BLAH, BLAH BLAH” !!

A Little Over Protective with a Side of Paranoia

from sodahead.com

I have to share with you what I observed on Friday and the revelation that it brought me to….

On Friday evening the local high school (where my kids will attend in a few years) was having a big home game. I had encouraged my son to go because they wanted all the future football players to be present on the crowd. After a long week of games and homework…he wasn’t having any of that so my tired kiddo stayed home. However…I had already bought the tickets so I decided to take my daughter who was very eager to go. I thought this was strange because my daughter could really care less about football.

We get to the game and shortly after sitting down a “young man” with semi-baggy short, a faux hawk and some funny looking plastic glasses (given to the kids at a party earlier in the day) seems very interested in sitting next to my daughter. Amber quickly brushes me off and they go to sit together on the bench in front of us. I just looked over at my mom and mouthed the words “Here we go…” with an eye roll.  Obviously she must’ve planned this with her “friend” from school because we could see he was expecting her to be there.  Now I can see where tis new found interest in football had come from!

My daughter is not even 12 yet….her father and I have warned her that there will NOT be any dating before at least 16 so she should just forget the word “boyfriend” until then. It seems that kids are SO advanced these days. she told me….”well, his parents let him date.”  I thought…oh sure…that’s just wonderful.  As I’m trying to enjoy the few “innocent” years my daughter has left….I’m being rushed because she tries to act so much older than she is.  I look back to when I was that age and things then were so different.  I think I was still playing with barbies, care bears and pound puppies (showing my age) when I was 11.

My daughter was very upset with me because I wouldn’t let her hang out under the bleachers with other kids her age during the game. Let me explain this to you – it was very crowded with adults and kids alike…no security there and even though we live in a nice area, it doesn’t mean predators aren’t hanging out in places like this to find their next victim. Am I crazy?  Halfway into the 2nd quarter I needed to use the restroom and was shocked to find how many kids…most looked even younger than middle school…were running around down there by themselves. Where are their parents??? I thought. Anyone could grab any kid at any moment and no one would be the wiser. Predators are smart….they are calculating and they know how not to get caught.

Then, on Saturday night I brought my son and his friend to the movie theater. I drove them and dropped them off right in front, and watched them go in. When the movie was over I pulled up to the door early and waited for them to come out. As I’m sitting there I see a group of really, really young kids….maybe 8-10 years old with NO adults to be seen. They were waiting to be picked up. It was almost 11pm at night and they are just hanging outside the theater. It amazes me that parents let their kids do this. Don’t they realize anything could happen?

This is when the revelation occurred to me. I have become my mother. My mom was very protective of me as a child and even a bit paranoid….she still is. But, you know….I was always safe and I think I had a good upbringing because of it. My kids might hate me now for all the times I say NO when their friends’ parents say yes but they will thank me when they are older and wiser.

In the meantime I’m going to try not to watch so much CSI reruns….