Saturday, December 31, 2011

Atlanta...7: it's finally game day

We almost forgot the whole reason we were in Atlanta in the first place: to see the Hoos play in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl!  We brought our gear and are all fired up.

The day started with a parade - right outside our hotel.  We got great front row (or is it curbside?) seats in the sun with lots of our friends to watch.  Drew loved his first parade - he never got scared even once!  Not when we got covered in confetti from VERY close range, not when the little cars were zooming around and honking, not when the dogs walked right up and sniffed him, not when the numerous marching bands went by beating on their drums and blowing their horns like crazy.  It was the perfect parade - not too long, not too short.  Well done, Atlanta!

The parade was kicked off by a couple hundred Harleys, followed by a dozen or so cows.  And cows on motorcycles.  Then more cows.  Remind me again who sponsored this bowl game and parade? 

We'll be finding confetti in places that shall not be named for months!  Too fun!
The biggest little red wagon we've ever seen!  It was bigger than our Explorer!

The scores of firetrucks were a big hit with the kids.
It's not a parade without a couple princesses.  Miss Atlanta, Miss Georgia, Miss Teen Atlanta... there were about 5 of them.  I don't know if you can tell from this photo, but Evan truly loved them all.  This one was special though: he got up the courage to yell, "I love you" at the car as she drove by.  Yep, Mr. Smooth.  

"Mommy, is that another princess coming?"
"Nope buddy, just another cow."

The best part of the late game was we could watch the parade, have lunch, have a HUGE nap, and be on perfect time for the game.  While Mike went to the stadium early to work, the boys and I hopped back on the team-guest buses and were driven right to the game in style.  After a tedious yet perfect and very impressive parking job by the bus driver, we headed to our seats.  It was kind of strange having Auburn in the same colors as Virginia - at first glance you didn't know which fans were "friendlies."  It was pretty neat being in a dome for a game though - the noise was excellent and the weather was perfect. 

The beginning of the game was great!  In case we hadn't gotten enough dose of cows, Chik-Fil-A dropped what must have been thousands of stuffed cows in parachutes from the ceiling as part of pre-game festivities.  It was a lot like their commercials where the cows parachute into the game and land on the hot dog vendor. It was actually quite a sight to see.  Then UVA got off to a great start to the game... to bad the end didn't stay that way. 
Evan made up for his disappointment with a blue snow cone.  Yum!  And Drew decided he'd had quite enough excitement (it was way past his bed time after all) and simply slept. 


Here are just a tiny sampling of the cows that came home with us - we got them in the hotel, at the bowl-sponsored meals, during the gameday parade, and at the game.  I think we left at the hotel nearly twice as many as are in the picture, in the hopes that hotel staff would have kids to enjoy them.  
Evan nearly made it to midnight (though not really on purpose), but fell asleep shortly before, and we didn't make it much longer.  We weren't near enough to the dropping of the giant peach at Underground Atlanta, but we heard plenty of fireworks and fun outside the windows.  Naughty By Nature (yep, that blast from the past!) was playing a New Year's Eve concert in the hotel's ballrooms, and we saw plenty of people around, but didn't actually hear the concert (bummer).

Then, all too soon, it was time to go home,  Our flight left bright and early the morning of the 1st. The boys were again fantastic on the flight, and the trip was uneventful.  Vacation was great, though coming home is definitely good too.  It was an excellent way to cap off 2011- here's to a great 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Atlanta...6: a suprise visitor

Auntie Chrissy drove all the way from Nashville to Atlanta to see us!  She was only here for Saturday and Sunday, but the boys (and us too!) loved having her around.  We played, ate, napped, chased, and generally  had a great time.  Thanks for coming down!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Atlanta...5: a whole lotta fish

Aquarium day!  We started bright and early in an (somewhat vain) attempt to avoid the crowds.  We were definitely the early ones in, but the masses were right behind us.  It wasn't as bad as I expected though, and maybe that was because we waited a couple days and didn't go to Atlanta's biggest attraction first.  Who knows.  Regardless, we had a blast.  Evan again didn't make it home before absolutely crashing in the stroller, and all of us were wishing we were in his shoes.

We went on our little "aquarium adventure" with Connor and his mom.  Like the adults, the boys were completely enthralled with just about everything... though a couple of the jellyfish and other random creatures got an "eeeww - let's move on!" So here you go - a nice long post with tons of photos because I couldn't choose!

There were several places where you were encouraged to touch the fish/animals/creatures.  Unfortunately most of the tanks were made for adults or very big kids to lean over - I think we nearly dropped Evan in a tank or two trying to get his little arm far enough down to touch something.  Here's a stingray spot.  The second tank had starfish and spiky thingies, but Evan wasn't interested in touching the things that didn't move. 

On to the big cool tanks with glow in the dark fish, sea turtles, sea dragons, and crazy spiky fish.   


 As cool as it always is for me to be so very close to these amazing creatures, I kept thinking how totally awesome and new this was for Evan.  He's never been to an aquarium before, and his look of wonder as his face was pressed against the glass was precious.  (He told a very detailed story to his teacher when we returned home about being in the aquarium and how the sharks almost ate him... I guess sometimes they were a little TOO close!)
The aquarium did a nice job of alternating: letting you see some super cool stuff, then sneaking in some of the less-popular exhibits, then dropping you into another oh-so-cool one.  Next up: tiny fish from I can't remember where, jellyfish, funky bass-like fish, and these strange eels/worms that stayed anchored under the sand but extended really tall and waved in the current. 

The Georgia Aquarium boasts the world's largest underwater habitat, meaning one ecosystem that hosts a number of different species.  There were plenty of different places to view it - one entire side of the lunch room/ballroom (how cool to have a wedding there!!) was a glass into the habitat, and there is a tunnel literally through the water where you stand on a slow flat escalator watching the fish swim around you.  From their website: "The Ocean Voyager exhibit was specially designed to house whale sharks, the largest fish species in the world. Schools of jacks, squadrons of small and large stingrays, manta rays, guitarfish, enormous goliath grouper, and sharks all ply the waters of this ocean habitat containing more than six million gallons of saltwater. [There are] 4,574 square feet of viewing windows and a 100-foot-long underwater tunnel..."  It was truly amazing. 


Then it was off to the cold-water section. A huge family of penguins hopped on rocks and dove through the and sat on nests and played with toys.  There was another tunnel - significantly smaller and definitely for the under-30 set but still quite cool.  Drew woke up from a nap in the Bjorn to watch the penguins - he giggled and thought they were pretty neat.  After that were the otters, who were just as playful as the penguins.  A keeper dropped a big bucket of ice on the floor for the otters, and Evan and Connor loved watching them take chunks of ice in their flippers and tossing it around like a ball. 

Then to another massive wall of windows where four beluga whales live.  Huge and graceful, they seemed to enjoy performing for us.  Evan was enthralled by the people-legs in the corner of the exhibit.  If you choose to pay the price, you can get in wetsuits and stand in the whale tank and feed and pet them.  As interested as he was, I don't think Evan's quite ready for that adventure yet, but maybe some day!  This exhibit also looked out onto another lunch room, so we braved the cafeteria prices and lunched with the whales.  Guess we won't be able to say that too often!  
The last exhibit was creatures of the Great Barrier Reef.  As expected, the colors were incredible and of course the photos don't do it justice.  There was a wave-pool action happening too, so every minute or so there would be a big wave that would shake everyone up, just like the real tides do.  Fascinating.  Evan got quite interested in the computer nearby, and we spent some time investigating the stories of many of the fish in the exhibit. 

It was another great day on vacation.  Why can't every day be like this??  Do we really have to go home?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Atlanta...4 drew photoshoot

Drew was just too cute hanging out in the big hotel bed, so we did a little impromptu photoshoot.  Someone get this kid a modeling contract, please? 

Do I look like a quarterback?