Friday, February 29, 2008

Disney Tip #4 - Become a Jedi

Disneyland has a wonderful show for Star Wars fans called “Jedi Training Academy.” In the show, about 20 kids are pulled from the audience to don brown, hooded Jedi robes and learn fancy, schmancy light saber moves with real practice light sabers.

When we visited Disneyland a year ago and attended the Jedi Training Academy show, our boys jumped and screamed and shouted and flailed their arms wildly in the air, but were not selected. We noticed that some of the kids who were selected were holding up signs with catchy Star Wars related phrases on them.

This year, we actually brought some poster board with us, and using some Crayola markers, I made a couple signs the night before our last day at Disneyland. I thought long and hard about the clever phrases I would use to grab the attention of the Jedi Master and created signs that I felt were visually appealing.

We carried the signs around for half of the day since the shows kept getting canceled due to rain. (Since the show is outside, they don’t perform if there is rain, but if a show is canceled, the characters will come out for a meet and greet, so it’s a great chance for a photo op with Darth Vader and a Storm Trooper or two.)

Finally, our time had come. I mean, the kids time had come, because really, this is about the kids right? The show begins, the Jedi Master appears and he selects first from the audience…..”The two boys with the signs!”

Ethan and Jonah were thrilled to be chosen and Robert and I were also pretty excited. I did think Jedi Master could have mentioned something about my sign’s catchy slogans and professional look, but whatever.

Jonah got a spot right in the center of the stage and was the second kid to fight Darth Vader. I think they wanted him to be first, but he was a little shy. I think I would have been shy. Darth Vader was about 7 feet tall!

Overall, the boys had a great time and ended up with two very special looking certificates stating that they had learned the ways of the force. Robert was our photographer and was not in the best location to get super shots, but he did a great job anyway.

If you are interested in having your kid selected for the Jedi Training Academy, internet sources say that kids in costume are chosen first, then kids holding signs, and finally kids with clever t-shirts. Basically, anything that makes your kid easy to identify from a crowd (face painting works too.)

Disney Tip #3 - Keep Your Eyes Open

This year, 2008, is Disneyland’s “Year of a Million Dreams.” Of course 2007 was also Disneyland’s “Year of a Million Dreams,” so it’s completely possible that 2009 and maybe 2010 will be years of a Million Dreams too. Disney is fulfilling these million dreams in a variety of different ways.

Before we left on our trip, a friend tipped us off to watch for a Disney cast member, dressed in white, standing at the exit of a ride. It could be any ride, at either park, most likely first thing in the morning.

If you see this white-clad cast member, approach him or her and he or she will reward you with a super-nifty lanyard containing fast passes for every fast pass ride in both Disneyland AND California Adventure.

This is exactly what happened to Ethan and Robert when the rode the Matterhorn very first thing Wednesday morning. Ethan came running up to us fools waiting in line for the Nemo ride to show us his prize.

For Robert and Ethan, this truly was a dream fulfilled. Robert had been eager to maximize our Disney experience by minimizing the time we waited in line. He was always thinking ahead and picking up Fast Passes for rides like Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, Space Mountain, and Soarin’ Over California.

Now, he and Ethan could run around the park and ride all the best rides with out having to wait in line! However, you can’t have your awesome collection of fast passes and use them too. To our fast pass holders, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to “waste” a fast pass on a ride where there was only a 15 minute wait in the regular line and since Wednesday was the least busy day of all our days at Disneyland most of the ride lines were 15 minutes or shorter.

So, Ethan and Robert came home with a pretty cool souvenir (only 3 or 4 fast passes used) and a great memory of having a dream fulfilled.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Disney Tip #2 – Watch the Parade

Make sure you get a good spot for Disney’s Parade of Dreams featuring seven elaborate floats and over one hundred performers. The parade starts from the Small World area and makes its way down Main Street. If there are two parades during the day, the 2nd one will reverse this direction.

We positioned ourselves right across from the fire station on Main Street by the entrance which happened to be the END of the parade route because there was only one showing of the parade that day.

The kids were transfixed by the many performers, especially the stilt walkers and the characters from the Lion King float. The parade stopped when the Pinocchio float was right in front of us. We had a great view of the Russian dancers jumping and flipping on their trampoline.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Disney Tip #1 - Skip Nemo

I know it will be hard to pass up the Finding Nemo Submarine Ride when you see the super long line that doesn’t seem to let up all day. You will wonder why this line is longer than any other ride in Disneyland (except maybe the Rockets and Dumbo rides) and will incorrectly assume that it must be because the ride is awesome.

Even if somebody trusted, like your mother, tells you to skip it, you will disregard the advice because clearly thousands of people who wait an hour or more to get on those cheerful, yellow submarines can’t all be wrong.

So, stand in line. In fact, arrive at the Disneyland gates 30 minutes before opening, then run directly to the Nemo ride so you can ride it before the line gets long (you will still wait one hour). You might choose to let your older child ride the nearby Matterhorn while you “hold” his place in line. Just remember, you have to stand next to the people he will cut in front of for another 45 minutes.

Finally, on the ride you will start to question your decision to wait in line. You will look at your kids faces to get some kind of confirmation that they are having a magical experience, that it was worth the wait. You will see them staring through the little portholes with blank looks. They are looking for the magic.

The first part of the ride has a few underwater marvels such as sunken Easter Island-type monoliths and a diver (not real) who’s mask bears the name “P. Sherman” and an actual address which you might be able to read if you are at the right angle for the right amount of time. Check out this video to see for yourself.

After you go through the waterfall, the “Nemo” part of the ride begins. This is where you might feel a little let down. You actually watch, on a series of underwater screens, clips from the Finding Nemo movie. The clips are put together to create a slightly different story which includes the submarine getting swallowed by a whale (I can’t remember if that was before or after we were blown up in an underwater minefield left over from the original Disney submarine ride).

Before you know it, the ride is over and you are back on land. Try not to look at the saps still standing in line with too much pity as you walk by, especially the ones who are close to the front and have been waiting an hour. It will probably make them feel bad.

Monday, February 25, 2008

For Your Information

My good buddy "J" tagged me to do this revealing blogger activity.

Ten Years Ago
I was pregnant and barfing my brains out and completely miserable. I swore I would never have more than one child and wondered if I would ever feel like my normal self again. Actually, I'd long forgotten what my "normal" self felt like. I laid on the couch and watched daytime TV and considered calling the depression hot line because I could answer "yes" to all 6 questions.

Five Places I've Visited
I've always wanted to go back to Lugano, Switzerland. I spent one night there and thought it was absolutely beautiful. I would have listed Como, Italy, but I didn't visit there...I only drove by at high speeds with my dad, grandma and grandpa during an automobile tour of Europe in which half of the people were too old to actually get out of the car and walk anywhere.

New York City--when I first arrived, I knew that I would never leave. After three months I couldn't wait to get back to Utah. So I guess I was wrong.

Moran State Park, Orcas Island, Washington--we camped here when we lived on San Juan Island and I've always wanted to go back. Anyone want to make it a group camp out?

Disneyland--I was just there a week ago! Good times.

Homer, Alaska--The halibut capital of the world, a hundred miles from a Wal-Mart, located in the banana belt of Alaska.

Five Things on my To-Do List
1. Order sugar snap pea seeds from seed catalog, plant pea seeds in garden
2. Pull up all the pavers in the back yard, organize and reorganize them into groovy, mosaic-type path-ways.
3. Make Ethan an appointment with the orthodontist for an evaluation.
4. Get quotes from cement people and yard grading people.
5. Write, edit, write.

I Enjoy...
(This will come as no surprise to most) Reading, writing, checking blogs, requesting books through the library, getting book recommendations.

Five Things You May Not Know About Me
1. I wish I never got my ears pierced (just one hole each, but I never use them, so what's the point?)
2. I'm still in love with the white leather fringe boots I wore in high school, even though I don't have them anymore.
3. I'm not bothered by long periods of solitude.
4. I have no plans to ever attend a high school reunion.
5. I sometimes throw away pennies.

Now, I'm supposed to tag 3-10 people (I'm not sure of the exact amount) to carry on this activity. (Keep it going or bad luck will come to you, blah, blah, blah.) So I choose Darcy, Betsy and Catherine and Angela. I'm also tagging Corrin because girl, there are tumbleweeds rolling through your blog. I totally made up the part about bad luck, so if you don't want to do it, I'm sure your luck will not be affected.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Oh how I wish the writer's strike could have lasted long enough to undermine the Oscars. Unfortunately, I am now facing headlines like this: "The Hot Oscar Accessory: Baby Bumps."

The article with the aforementioned headline started off thusly: "The hottest accessory on this year's Oscar red carpet was carried beneath the designer gowns. Nicole Kidman, Jessica Alba and most noticeably Cate Blanchett brought baby bumps to the Academy Awards."

Claire's comment on my post "That Really Ticks Me Off" pegged this one.

I'm so annoyed.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Still Recovering

I am not sure where to start. I haven’t blogged for a week and have so much to say. But where do I start?

I have some really interesting comments to make about driving in Southern California and how many miles it takes to move across 5 lanes of traffic to make your exit. And passing! I have a lot to say about passing and spending time in the fast lane.

I have a lot of thoughts on who Disneyland is really for. We treated Disneyland like a very important job: We left our condo 30 minutes before Disneyland opened and were there almost until closing every day. We left the park once for dinner on one of the days, but other than that, we never left. We pushed the kids so that they would have happy memories and not miss one thing! Whose dreams were we really fulfilling?

I would also like to write about a major milestone we hit during our trip. Our car turned 100,000 miles and we were there to witness it. Very exciting stuff.

However, the house could really use a little attention. There is literally no food in the fridge except the gallon of milk I bought last night so we could have cold cereal this morning. It’s a beautiful sunny day and there are things to be done, so I’m going to call this good and maybe or maybe not write of these things later.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Pencils Down!

A couple years ago, a friend’s parents were on a mission in Samoa. Before Christmas, they wrote and asked their family to gather supplies to send to help the Samoan people. I can’t remember what most of the items were, but I remember that one item was pencils. They explained that very few people had pencils in the area of Samoa in which they were living.

This actually surprised me because in my house, pencils are so abundant, I wonder if they are not secretly hooking up and starting families of their own in different corners of the house. I’m pretty sure there is a family of pencils living under my couch and vacationing in the couch cushions.

It seems that pencils are a common gift around the holidays. Just yesterday it was Valentine’s Day and each of the kids brought home at least one Valentine-themed pencil.

Free pencils are particularly annoying because no matter how many pencils we have in the house, my kids can not pass up a free one. The library recently opened a new branch about a ½ mile from our house and for the first few months they had free pencils. Every time we went, each of my kids had to get their own free pencil. The pencil then went into the library bag, where it stayed.

The kids did not care about the pencil, but because it was free, they wanted it. I guess grown ups can be that way about pencils too, and lots of other things.

A few library visits later, the gravitational force of the free pencils sucked my kids in. “We don’t need any more pencils,” I said, thinking of the 10 I’d picked up off the floor in the last 2 hours alone.

“Yes we do!” They pleaded.

Luckily, the free pencils from our last visit were still in the bag. I reached in and grabbed the pencils. “Look!” I said, “we already have free pencils.” I shook my pencil-filled fist at my kids like the piece of damning evidence it was.

They shuffled out of the library, heads down, clearly depressed at the fact that they wouldn’t be adding to the household pencil population.

Every once in a while, I throw pencils away because I get so tired of picking them up. Of course I don’t throw them away with out thinking of the Samoans who don’t have pencils. If I had the right contact person, I might actually package up my pencils and send them to needy Samoans instead of throwing them away.

What? I might.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Happy Valentine's Day (almost)

The four most important words in any marriage..."I'll do the dishes."
-- Anonymous

I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life.
--Rita Rudner

To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer. To suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy then is to suffer. But suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy one must love, or love to suffer, or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down.
--Woody Allen

Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.
--Charlie Brown

Monday, February 11, 2008

That Really Ticks Me Off

I think I’m pretty easy going. I often let other drivers get in ahead of me when merging. I think I’m also pretty good about giving people the benefit of the doubt when they do something stupid.

Yesterday Jonah spit at Ethan in the car…the car I spent the better part of Saturday cleaning for our upcoming trip to Disneyland. I did a little freak out, but overall, accepted Jonah’s excuse that he didn’t know there was a rule about not spitting at your brother in the car. (I was literally dumbfounded by his logic).

But there is something that makes me rage with anger—silent, internalized, passive aggressive anger. The thing that drives me insane is just two, four-letter words. These two words assault me as I stand in line at the grocery store. The words, by themselves, are not stupid, vulgar or annoying, but when put together they make me want to scream. The words are:

Baby Bump.


It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what gets me about the phrase. It turns a woman’s pregnancy into another body part. Like a zit or cottage cheese thighs or a bad haircut, Celebrity Jane now has a baby bump!

More than that, I hate that if one of these celebrities has anything other than a perfectly flat, NAY, concave stomach, she’s accused of having a “baby bump.” But because it’s called a “Baby Bump,” and that sounds so cute, these magazines can get away with being insensitive clods.

What is it about these magazines gives them the right to point out every bodily change or anomaly in people who have careers in entertainment. And what is it about the general public that makes them care?

Call it a pregnancy, or say “she’s expecting.” “A bun in the oven” would even be preferable to “baby bump,” although I can easily see how that phrase might have been equally annoying when it was coined back in the 50’s.

This recent euphemism is almost as bad as when cinnamon rolls turned into “sticky buns” back in the 90’s. Ugh, give me a break! “Cinnamon roll” sounds WAY more appetizing than “sticky bun.” On the other hand, “sticky bun” would be right at home as a headline on one of those grocery store rags: Star's Bad Bikini Bods--cottage cheese thighs, botched boob jobs and sticky buns.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Smekday Questions Answered

A few of you were wondering about the book "The True Meaning of Smekday" by Adam Rex. I just finished reading it and can now tell you a little more about it.

Eleven year old Gratuity Tucci has been given the class assignment of writting an essay titled "The True Meaning of Smekday" to be placed in a national time capsule. The book is basically broken up into 3 sections. The first section contains her first attempt at the essay which recieves a C+ and a strong suggestion from her teacher to try again.

The second section contains an essay that is actually selected to be in the time capsule. The letter confirming Gratutity's selection also comes with a suggestion that she write the "rest of the story."

The third section of the book is the rest of the story.

Earth has been invaded by the Boov who were looking for a new planet after theirs was invaded by the "Takers." The Boov consider humans savages and use whatever means necessary to bring them a "better" way of life. They offer all US humans the state of Florida, then change their mind and select Arizona.

Gratuity begins her journey by car to Florida on the appointed "Moving Day" with her cat Pig in tow, and runs into a Boov named J. Lo. Fate makes them traveling companions and they make their way to Florida. Once in Florida, Gratuity learns that the moving place has been changed and she and J. Lo begin their journey to Arizona.

Along the way they meet some interesting folks in Orlando, Florida (at Happy Mouse Kingdom) and Roswell, New Mexico. They also learn that Earth is now in the midst of another invasion by the same aliens who took over the Boov planet, the Takers (Also known as the Gorg.) Page 183 contains a lovely illustration titled "8 Things You Always Wanted to Know About the Gorg But Were Afraid to Ask the Gorg Because the Gorg Might Punch You In the Face," which is very instructive. (Thing #3 says the Gorg smell like a bouquet of lilacs sprinkled with cinnamon and burried under a shoulder-high pile of rancid dogmeat.)

Together Gratuity and J. Lo attempt to save the world (I don't want to give anything away) from a seemingly undefeatable alien foe.

There are a whole lot of levels to this book. I read somewhere that it has similarities to Huckleberry Finn, and I agree with that. However, "The True Meaning of Smekday" has more pictures than HF and a lot more laughs.

If you want to know more about "The True Meaning of Smekday" you can check out these sites:

An illustrated list by J. Lo titled, "Gratuity and J. Lo Present 10 Reasons to read The True Meaning of Smekday." (Good stuff!)

Adam Rex's (the author) Smekday website.

A short book review by The Book Club Shelf.

Adam Rex's regular website.

Friday, February 8, 2008

What do you think?

Is it too distracting to have this funky background? I'd like to change items in the foreground too, thing at a time. I'm taking "HTML for the Technically Challenged" from Living Room University.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Under the Bed

I asked Ethan to clean his room last night before bed, then again this morning. He ran upstairs and down again in a suspiciously small amount of time so I went to inspect. Ethan's cleaning method had been to shove everything underneath his bed so that it was slightly less visible. I was tired of asking him to clean his room, so decided to do it myself and give him another job in exchange.

Here is what I found under his bed:

1 dirty sock
4 gum wrappers
2 permission slips for school
24 "cootie catchers" stacked 4 inches high
5 origami fish
his spelling list from last week
7 other unidentifiable origami creations
a thing of scotch tape
the outstanding bill for his piano lessons
all 5 of his piano books
a blue patch silly putty that fused to the carpet
a box of Sponge Bob Square pants Legos
a box of Dragon Legos
4 pencils (one mechanical)
2 Pokemon cards
A Nintendo DS car charger
Headphones for Nintendo DS
An empty case for a Nintendo game cartridge
A Palm Pilot

Just for the record, this represents a 3 day's accumulation of stuff. Monday it was clean enough under the bed for me to vacuum there. I know...pretty impressive.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What I'm Reading Now

I feel the need for a short post, so here is a little video that kind of might go along with the book I'm about to read. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bye-Bye Boots

Regular readers of this blog may remember that I’m in search of an elusive beast known as the “swanky boots.” I’m too cheap to pay full price for swanky boots in the fall, too tall to buy anything with more than a 2 inch heel, and too ignorant to fully understand how a good boot is supposed to fit and these issues have riddled my quest with obstacles.

Last Saturday I went in search of new bedding to replace the bedding I got for my birthday and had to return because it was the wrong size. As I walked into Macy’s I decided to take a detour past the shoe section. Suddenly I remembered my boot quest and thought I could substitute boots for bedding. Plus, all the boots were on extreme markdown, so I could substitute boots, new skirt, top and jacket for bedding, which made the idea even more appealing.

I found these boots. They were the 3rd ones I tried on. Not too high and not too low, they seemed to be perfect. AND, they were 40% off! I asked the sales lady if the boots were supposed to have a tighter fit around the calf. These boots had a good inch and a half of space between the top of the boot and my leg. The sales lady assured me that was exactly how they were supposed to fit, but something felt wrong.

I got home, tried on the boots and e-mailed a picture to several friends and family members. The popular opinion (aside from “don’t listen to mom, she doesn’t know what she is talking about) was that the boots needed to be returned.

So, bye-bye boots. My boot quest will have to end for this season. Frankly I’m becoming slightly disinterested in boots as we move towards spring and besides, I used the extra cash to buy a new pair of black, kitten heeled pumps.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Not Twins

Believe it or not, people ask me all the time if Isaac and Jonah are twins. For the record, Isaac and Jonah are 20 months apart. Also for the record, I don’t normally dress them alike, but sometimes I just can’t resist. I bought these two sweater vests on sale from Hanna Andersson for the boys to wear to church.

I think my idea of matching boys became more of a motherhood fantasy because I clung to it even when Jonah told me he would NEVER wear his sweater vest the same day Isaac did because it would be embarrassing. (My cousin Claire recently had a different motherhood fantasy fulfilled and you can read about it here.)

I became determined to get Jonah and Isaac to wear their sweater vests at least once on the same day. I begged, I pleaded, and I used guilt! (Jonah, remember how you didn’t get me a birthday present last week? Well, this could be it!)

Finally I asked Jonah what it would take. “I will buy you a snack, anything you want!” I pleaded.

Jonah, however, was not interested in food, he was interested in money. “Two dollars,” He said.

A bargain! I thought, but I couldn’t let Isaac out of this deal empty handed and I wasn’t about to give him an extra two dollars. The sweater vests only cost $12, for crying out loud! I asked Jonah if I could give him one dollar and Isaac the other dollar and he agreed.

Sunday morning I told them since this would be the only day they would dress the same, I was owed a nice, loving brother picture. Jonah definitely put up a stink and declared that the picture was NOT part of the original deal.

“You better not put this picture in my scrapbook.” Jonah said.

“No! Of course not! This picture won’t go in your scrapbook, don’t even worry about it.” I assured him.

Jonah then followed up with, “And you better not put it on your blog!”


I laughed and told him that I paid a dollar and I could put it on my blog if I wanted to.

In the first set of pictures I took before church, Jonah insisted on putting his arm around Isaac and Isaac insisted on having nothing to do with Jonah’s arm. In a freak accident, while Isaac was trying to avoid Jonah’s arm, the vacuum cleaner handle disengaged and swung down, hitting Isaac SMACK on the back of the head. That pretty much ended that photo session.

After church I was still pretty much working with monkeys. Just one good picture and the motherhood fantasy would be complete! “PLEASE,” I begged, “just one nice picture.”

This was the best one. This was the only one where both were smiling. You will notice, however, that Isaac’s finger seems to be stuck in his pocket. Somehow, he got his finger down in a hole and couldn’t get it out. But at least he was smiling.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Kung Hei Fat Choi

Congratulations and be prosperous. It’s a rainy Oregon day, just how I like it. I thought I’d try to make home made fortune cookies to bring to a Chinese New Year party our neighbors have invited us to on Sunday after church. I bought some factory made fortune cookies at the store, just in case mine didn’t turn out. However, I think my cookies turned out pretty good.

I surveyed everyone here at home for ideas for fortunes. Some of the suggestions were “You like ice cream,” and “We wish you a merry Christmas.” So I made up a few of my own fortunes with the help of Google. I don’t want to give everything away, plus I didn’t save the document, so here are a few of the fortunes I can remember:

Giants 21, Patriots 17

You are unique, just like everyone else.

You will find luck on Flag Day.

You will soon eat a cookie.

I followed the recipe exactly, including sifting the dry ingredients. I made the cookies 4 at a time which was just about right. By the time I got to the fourth cookie, it had started to cool every so slightly and was almost too stiff to fold. So I worked quickly and in batches of 4 cookies. This recipe makes 16 cookies.

2 large egg whites
½ tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract
3 TB vegetable oil
½ cup flour
½ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp. corn starch
¼ tsp. salt
3 tsp. water

1. Write fortunes on 3 ½ by ½ inch pieces of paper. Preheat oven to 300. Grease baking sheets.

2. Lightly beat egg white, vanilla extract, almond extract and vegetable oil until frothy, but not stiff.

3. Sift the flour, sugar, cornstarch and salt into a separate bowl. Stir the water into flour mixture.

4. Add flour mix into the egg white mixture and stir until you have a smooth batter. The batter should not be runny, but should drop easily off a wooden spoon.

5. Place level tablespoons of batter onto the cookie sheet, spacing them at least 3 inches apart. Gently tilt the baking sheet back and forth and from side to side so that each tablespoon of batter forms into a 4 inch circle.

6. Bake until the outer ½ inch of each cookie turns golden brown and they are easy to remove from the baking sheet with a spatula (14-15 minutes).

7. Working quickly, remove the cookie with a spatula and flip it over in your hand. Place a fortune in the middle of a cookie. Fold the cookie in half, and then gently pull the edges downward over the rim of a glass or the edge of a muffin tin. Place the finished cookie in the cup of the muffin tin so that it keeps its shape. Continue quickly with the rest of the cookies.