Happy New Year! 

Hope you had a wonderful holiday season! We have been fortunate to spend time with family and friends, near and far. 

Right before Christmas, we drove to Los Angeles for a much-needed vacation to the happiest place on earth… Disneyland! Because of the new movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there was so much excitement in the air. I tried to cosplay as a StormTrooper but was quickly shot down by security, no pun intended. Evidently their rules had changed in the last 48 hours to a ban on cosplay for adults. 

   
 
I was able to quickly get these pics before I got kicked out! No, I didn’t get kicked out though I wonder if the kids will say to each other, decades later, “Remember the time we went to Disneyland and Mom almost got removed from the park?” 

Noticeably absent from the pics is my husband R, partly to save money but mostly because he just can’t handle the crowds anymore. He expressed his dismay and believes that he is getting worse but really… Everyone hates crowds! Even I have to take a break from it all and return to our hotel room to take a breather. My happiness and adrenaline level probably outweigh my disdain for crowds. Maybe one day he’ll join us but it’s not something I push or make a big deal over.

While I love seeing my family on Christmas, I hate traveling so we opted to stay home. We went to church on Christmas Eve so I could assist with the CFF classes when they performed during mass. 

  
At the Grand Californian Resort in Anaheim, CA

The spirit of giving is very much alive in our home. L, at only 8 years old, gave all of us handmade Christmas cards. A, who’s 10, used her own money to buy all of us chocolate bars even though they still had plenty left over from Halloween. She even bought cat toys for our old tabby and a chew toy for our dogs to share. And while the boy didn’t give us anything to open, his kind manner sets the tone for his younger sisters. For that we are grateful. 

Our New Year’s celebrations have always been low key as we’ve found the older we get, the less alcohol we consume. We actually stayed up until midnight with family and friends, a first for the two younger kids.  

   
On Monday the girls go back to school. They’ve been off since Thanksgiving break so I can imagine how difficult it will be to wake up… Even more so for R and I though! We’re going to have to be more awake than them to wake them up!

The boy and I go back on Tuesday. I’ll make sure I have my coffee machine ready then.

In the meantime, happy new year from all of us, wherever you may be. Here’s to a prosperous and blessed 2016!

   
    
 

Less is More… At The Happiest Place on Earth!

For the first time in our marriage, I feel like this Christmas is the Christmas I’ve been waiting for forever. R is finally retired, finally home. It doesn’t matter to me that I’m almost a size fluffier than last year. It doesn’t matter to me that we don’t have a lot to give to our families.

This Christmas is OUR Christmas.

R and I have spent many evenings talking about Christmas present planning and how our kids will probably end up with less than previous years. And to be completely honest, I don’t care.

That sounds totally insensitive but hear me out.

Our kids don’t need THINGS. Our kids need OUR TIME.

Our kids need US.

I think our kids get it. They’ve been without Daddy for so long that it puts everything else into perspective. Their wishlists are much shorter. They want to DO STUFF with Daddy, whether it’s baking lemon bars from scratch or having “just Daddy” bring the kid to karate. They want to spend hours with Daddy in front of the TV playing Minecraft. They want Daddy to eat popcorn, drink hot chocolate, and watch their favorite Youtube videos and movies. Simple things that our kids have been denied for so many years are worth far more than anything I could buy.

And yet, here I am updating my blog {that I have sadly neglected} from THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH. Trust me, we have scrimped and saved for this trip for a while not to mention the huge military discounts and tickets that have made an otherwise extravagant vacation a lot more affordable.

Tomorrow M turns 12 years old. It wasn’t too long ago that R and I were talking about his future retirement date, the year when that tiny baby born in Georgia twelve years ago would be in sixth grade. That seemed like so far off in the future. Who could imagine that a tiny seven pound, four ounce baby would grow so quickly?

We didn’t.

This year will be the last year our kids are on the same academic schedule. He goes into junior high and there will be at least three months during the year when he will be at school while the girls are off.

This trip is giving us a little more time with him, with us as a family.

During our six hour trek, we got a flat tire on the Grapevine, a mountainous section of Highway 5. For some reason, I didn’t feel like driving like I usually do. And maybe this is why.

Maybe I would have reacted foolishly or would have been driving too fast. I can feel my anxiety spike just thinking about it. Stuck on the most dangerous part of the freeway. I can’t even tell you how many times I held my breath for fear that a huge 18-wheeler would slam into us or the kind tow truck driver whilst he put the spare on our vehicle. Had R tried to do it himself, we wouldn’t have known that the spare needed air or even that we were missing some parts to even change the tire! Add to that that the flat was on the left side of the car? Uh, yeah. I was pretty adamant that we leave this sort of thing to a professional. I almost lost R three years ago; I was not about to ponder that again.

Luckily a passing CHP officer called a tow truck for us and we were on our way. We took it easy driving through the mountains, even stopping to play in the snow. I later found out that the entire freeway was closed the day before because of the weather!

20131208-232901.jpg

20131208-232915.jpg

20131208-232925.jpg

20131208-232936.jpg

20131208-232943.jpg

20131208-232948.jpg

20131208-232953.jpg

Needless to say, we were exhausted by the time we reached the hotel. R had an extremely difficult time getting out of the car and needed to use his cane yet when I suggested we just use valet instead of self-parking and a bell hop instead of carrying everything ourselves, he refused. And as his wife and BFF, I can’t make him do or admit anything. Only be there if he needs something or changes his mind, something I am still learning. We ordered Domino’s pizza and enjoyed this evening’s fireworks show from our room.

We have all the time in the world.

20131208-233529.jpg

20131208-233534.jpg

20131208-233546.jpg

20131208-233556.jpg

The Marine Mammal Conservation, Part 2

In May we visited the Marine Mammal Center in the Bay Area where sick or injured marine mammals found along the California coast are sent to recover. Last week we visited again and brought along a special guest… Daddy!

Our son M decided that the two hour drive was too long so he stayed with grandma getting spoiled with her sole attention and endless amounts of cookies and chips. After all, that’s what grandmas are for, right?

Along the way, we stopped at Travis AFB to pick up tickets to {a secret destination to be revealed in a future post!}. We saw far more deer at the MMC than marine mammals which is bittersweet; on one hand we wanted to see and hear seals and sea lions yet on the other, this means that far more seals are healthier! This certainly won’t be our last visit. I am so happy that our children, especially A, are concerned for the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants.

20131208-224736.jpg

20131208-224747.jpg

20131208-224757.jpg

20131208-224809.jpg

20131208-224825.jpg

20131208-224834.jpg

20131208-224844.jpg

20131208-224852.jpg

20131208-224900.jpg

20131208-224908.jpg

20131208-224926.jpg

20131208-224937.jpg

20131208-224946.jpg

20131208-225001.jpg

20131208-225013.jpg

20131208-225022.jpg

20131208-225031.jpg

The Bully Transcendence

The past twenty-four hours has allowed me to think about what kids may be encountering at schools.

I am baffled.

I look back at my own childhood with rose-colored glasses that hindsight offers and I don’t recall anything of this magnitude. There may have been the occasional bully or two but I just learned to avoid them or maybe I learned to avoid trouble altogether.

My husband doesn’t recall his own childhood with my fondness. He has said he was in fights every day and that’s just what they did at his elementary school.

I was baffled.

I don’t recall bullying at my high school. I remember cliques but not to the point of The Breakfast Club

20120516-100104.jpg
Source

or Mean Girls.

20120516-095855.jpg
Source

There weren’t Slushees thrown like on Glee.

20120516-095648.jpg
Source

Maybe there was all of this and I just didn’t see it.

Whatever the case may be, my heart goes out to kids who are dealing with bullying, who are helpless victims, and who just want to get through the day.

Then I came to a rather shocking conclusion: AREN’T WE ALL BULLIES?

We laugh when we see pics from the People of Wal-Mart site. We stare when we see someone’s outfit is out of the ordinary; we may even giggle when they walk away. Some may even not even wait.

Isn’t THAT bullying?

Case in point: Three weeks ago we are at Disneyland, the happiest place on Earth. My daughter A and I are waiting outside of Pirates of the Carribean ride because this year she deemed it to frightening. While we were waiting for my husband and the other two kids, a woman walked by with her family. I didn’t even notice her until a man next to me leaned over to his wife or daughter and pointed.

She was a larger woman in a couple of layered tanks, facial piercings, and maybe even brightly dyed hair. Maybe she stuck out a bit since I did notice that Disneyland attracts a conservative crowd. I don’t know. I really didn’t care.

I did care though when she walked by, the man standing next to me whipped out his camera, took a picture of her, and said, “Got it!” to the woman next to him. They laughed.

I couldn’t believe it. What the hell? What was next? Uploading the picture to Facebook so his friends can point and laugh at the freak walking around in Disneyland?

There was nothing remarkable about this man. He wasn’t paparazzi. He wasn’t a celebrity. He was just a man with a camera who wanted to laugh at someone else because she was different.

He was an asshole.

I really wanted to say something but would I have been next? Would I have been “too brown”, “too chubby”, “too many gray hairs”, “part of a token interracial couple”? What would I have said?

“Excuse me, sir. Your BULLY is showing.”

I sent out an email to my son M’s teacher about what I heard and the advice I gave to him the other night. I wrote that I did not expect any action from her, only that she be aware about the conversation on the playground.

Mostly because I wanted to wait and see.

Call me crazy but I think things might be changing. Hear me out.

Last night I asked my son if his friends talked about that “stuff” again. Yes, I read parenting books. I was trying to be non-threatening, creating a path of communication should he decide to converse with me.

Him: Yeah, we did.

Me: (Silence)

Him: Well, that kid wasn’t in school today.

Me: Hmmm… [This invites kids to give more information without being overbearing. Thank you, Faber and Mazlish from How to Talk to Your Kids So They Will Listen and How to Listen So Your Kids Will Talk.]

Him: Yeah, we decided that that wasn’t true.

Me: Really?

Him: Yeah, I mean. Who cares how you look at your nails? My other friend got really mad about that too.

Me: (Silence)

Him: He thought that was dumb.

Me: (Nodding)

Him: And plus, who cares? Right? Who cares if someone is gay? If they’re gay, they’re gay. Who cares?

Me: (Recognizing quotes from my husband and me, trying to suppress a grin this big is like trying to hug the sun.) Cool.

Churro Madness

Perk of subbing for a teacher who is an advisor of a club that is fundraising: FREE CHURRO.

We paid $3.50 for a churro at Disneyland. That old saying is true. We should have taken a picture; it would have lasted longer.

But who could resist that cinnamon and sugar goodness that was eaten as soon as the kids held it in their hands? R and I did.

What?

Yup, R and I bought a churro for each kid but he and I did not partake for very different reasons. He was trying to cut his sugar and calorie intake; I knew L wouldn’t eat all of hers.

Today I joked about getting a free churro if I allowed the club to sell churros to the students. Kidding, of course. Fortunately, they weren’t.

20120427-135429.jpg

The Rare Splurge

When I was a kid, I remember trips to Disneyland included the rice cooker. Yes, we brought the rice cooker, leftovers, and bags and bags of fruit. Don’t get me wrong. We still had treats and probably a meal at the happiest place on earth but most of the food came from home.

And what a brilliant idea that was. I did not bring our rice cooker this week but I packed Pop Tarts, chips, protein bars, and bought fruit from a stand on the side of the road.

We bought our 3 day park hopper passes for $99 and staying at the Disneyland Hotel for three nights was at a great military discount. R and I did not even want to eat at the Rainforest Cafe because instead of a breathtaking recreation of a rainforest and lavish aquariums, we saw dollar signs. But we did anyway. M had heard about the Rainforest Cafe from a friend and once the girls saw the inside of the restaurant, it was all over.

And once we saw the looks on the kids’ faces, it was all over for us too. That was the theme for our vacation.

We are not fancy schamncy folks. We do not go out to eat often and when we do, it is usually a fast food joint. I admit I do love pretty things and purses with the letter C embossed everywhere, but those treats are few and far between. Even when it came time to souvenir shopping, the kids chose one each.

We splurged for our vacation, a small price to pay for living frugally the rest of the year and a quiet celebration of R’s accident two years ago that quite frankly, was a blessing in disguise.

20120427-100711.jpg

20120427-100725.jpg

20120427-100736.jpg

20120427-100746.jpg

20120427-100757.jpg

20120427-100807.jpg

Surprise!

The boy knew. The girls didn’t; we were taking the long way to another church.

But we weren’t.

We are at the happiest place on earth. Fitting that our vacation begins exactly two years after R’s accident. Yup, he’s here too. Flew in yesterday. Long drive today.

I am so excited I think I’m going to throw up.

20120422-214426.jpg

20120422-214444.jpg

20120422-214453.jpg

20120422-214500.jpg

20120422-214514.jpg

20120422-214529.jpg

20120422-214544.jpg

20120422-214556.jpg

20120422-214613.jpg

20120422-214632.jpg

20120422-215343.jpg