Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Thanksgiving, Part 1: There and Back Again

I love California.

I love Southern California, to be more specific.
I love it a lot.

So you can imagine my excitement when it was decided that we would spend Thanksgiving in good ol' SoCal.

Not only did this mean good California weather (of which I am most definitely a fan), close proximity to the ocean (LOVE), and Disneyland (double love!), but it also offered a chance to take a couple trips down Memory Lane.

It's been a long time.
Excepting the yearly music trips to Anaheim all through my high school career, I haven't seen Redlands, CA, in over 10 years.

First thing we saw after finding the rental car and the hotel.

How much I would give to live in one of the houses
that line the streets that lead to this....

'Tuney and I found the remnants of what must have been the Little Mermaid's birthday party


Sunday afternoon, we took a little time to find the old haunts and reminisce for a while.
Our first Redlands house, on Dearborn Street.
In between the nice old man who loved old cars
and the totally cool couple (he had a long, black ponytail) who owned two really big dogs.

In front of the bitter old feller who called the cops on us 3 times one night because our
brand new puppy was barking.

With the TV room in that corner window you can see there, where I remember watching
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" on Christmas Eve
and "America's Funniest Home Videos" on weekends.

The Padua house.

There used to be nasty "rat"-trees lining that front side of the house.

Where that medium-size excuse of a tree is now, there used to be a bigger one, with long, sloping, reaching, twisting branches that were perfect for climbing on and sleeping in.

This was the house with the squishy church doors that divided my room from my brother's.
With the fireplace and colored-brick hearth we so rarely used.
Where I had seashells painted on the walls of my room,
and sang Eagles hits into Big Pops popsicles.

Where the avocado tree from next door reached in just far enough
and the dad-made fort in the backyard was just high enough.

This house was only a few numbers down from where Sterling the schnauzer lived.
The site of the now-infamous mandarin orange incident.
(....More about that at a later date....)

Where we made berry-soup with the needles and nasty, stain-prone blue berries from the rat-trees.
Where we owned our very first, ancient computer.
Where we had taco-eating contests and fell asleep to Disney movies after long days at
'Pharaoh's Lost Kingdom' or the beach.

The front lawn, where I remember standing one night with my mom, blinking as the beams of a helicopter searchlight swept across our street, looking for the man who was running up and down our road.

The back yard, near the fence, where I remember seeing glittery eyes and hearing the disgruntled grumbles of the possums that frequented our home.

The garage, where I remember storing all of our boxed up things before we left that house to move on to the next, great adventure.

Our church building.
They don't make them this pretty in Idaho.
Just sayin'.

My first elementary school.
The good ol' Crafton Cougars.

The flagpole, where we had a flag raising ceremony every morning.
After the National Anthem, we'd sing things like the Pizza Hut/KFC/McDonald's song
and 'Yankee Doodle Dandy.'

This little area, where I'd wait under those huge trees for mom to come pick me up.
Where I met the local weatherman, who signed a copy of his book for me.

A couple of the classroom buildings.
The best was on a rainy day, walking under the covers to class, shielded from the rain,
but still able to smell it, to see the gray sky, and to feel the cool air.

Redlands Temple

Though it was built after we'd left, it's still my favorite temple.
Would love to go inside it one day.

The coolest library ever.

Stained-glass windows
and story-time on the rug in the kids' section

This is what hometown libraries are supposed to be like.
Yeah, I'm looking at you, southeastern Idaho.

Spending most of the day visiting familiar places was pretty amazing,
but being able to spend some time visitng with familiar faces was even more special.

On a split-second decision, we headed to Corona and,
with a little help from Google,
and the rented car's GPS,
we were able to find Uncle Tom's house.

Ok. He's not really my uncle.
Tom was my dad's best friend in med school.
And, though they've kept in contact over the years,
--holiday cards & letters, emails, birthday phone calls--
it had been over 13 years since they had seen each other in person.

We planned on stopping by for only a little while--an hour, tops--since we arrived so unexpectedly.

We were there for over 5 hours.
There's a reason I--still to this day--call him "Uncle" Tom.
We spent the whole afternoon and evening with Tom and Carrin and their four beautiful kids.
We played video games, we watched movies, we ate pizza, we laughed (a lot),
and, most importantly,
we talked.

Do you know how rare friendship like this is?
It's the stuff of legends.

I hope to be a part of a friendship that can spend 13 years apart,
then spend over 5 hours talking like it's been only 5 minutes.

The Minahans are definitely family.
It was great to hear and tell stories;
It was heart-warming to see The Littles and the Minahan clan become best buddies so quick;
but, honestly, one of my favorite parts of this story was watching the interaction.

It's hard to describe how nice it is
to see people love the people you love
as they should be loved.

To put it more succinctly,
with all the crummy people we've had the


of meeting, to see people whom my parents love
treat ma & pa the way they deserve
was truly awesome.

The last time I saw Tom,
I was dancing under the twinkle-lights at his and Carrin's wedding.
But no matter how old I am, he will always be
Uncle Tom.

The guy who took us deep-sea fishing and sailing,
and alternated answering the phone with babbling Spanish
and mooing like a cow.
We are so grateful for the Minahans.
Hopefully it won't be another 13 years before we see each other in person again.

All right, all right, all right.
Enough sentimentality.
Now the real reason I love California.

I know, I know, I'm incorrigible.
What can I say?
I got started young :)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving, Part 2: DiSnEY!

I am a perfect example of why Disney makes so much money.

I am pretty sure that when the bigwigs at Disney sit around their boardroom table (shaped like Mickey Mouse, of course) and muse over how they can manipulate more money out of Disney-holics, diehard fans, and your average-everyday-sap,
they have my picture
on a slideshow presentation
with a big red arrow
proclaiming: "TARGET AUDIENCE."

More than 99.9% sure, guys.

Because, unfortunately, it is all too true.
I would pay a lot for a moment of Disney Magic.

I got a little teary during the World of Color.
I got goosebumps during the fireworks.
I had a big, idiot grin on my face through the entire parade.

I wait in 90 minute-long lines for a 5 minute Peter Pan ride.
I am more excited to see the characters around the park than most children are.
I fly elephants and spend 15 minutes listening to "It's a Small World" because that's just what you do at Disneyland.
I giggled all the way through the Jungle Cruise guide's puns.

I believe in the Disney Spirit.
That means no being grouchy or cynical while at The Happiest Place on Earth.

I love the giant, swirly, colored lollipops (that you don't ever really eat, because 1: they're not always that tasty & 2: how could you possibly find all the time required to down those suckers??)

If I had my way, I'd buy every Disney character hot chocolate mug.
I'd watch the fireworks every single night.
I'd eat about a billion churros everyday.
A million Mickey Mouse-shaped pretzels.

And I would most definitely buy several balloon-within-a-balloon balloons every day.

In other words?
Best. Thanksgiving. Ever.

Thanksgiving break.
In Disneyland.
With my family.
And my mom's sister's family.

It was the first time The Littles (after the gap siblings) had ever been to Disneyland.
It was the first time any of my cousins had ever been to Disneyland.

It was so fun to watch them all experience it for the first time.

I don't care who you are, your first visit to Disneyland, especially as a kid, is magical.

(I did warn you.)

I'm amazed by those kids sometimes.
I watched my 5 year old brother and 7 year old sister ride not only things like Space Mountain, but also things like the Tower of Terror

And the roller coaster, California Screamin'
Yeah. It goes really fast. And loops.

Not only did they brave these terrors that I never would have dreamed of attempting until I was at least 15, they LIKED them. A lot.
Their favorite ride of the whole trip?
California Screamin'.
I'm tellin' ya, this next generation.....

A few highlights of the trip?
The opening of Pirates of the Caribbean on Thanksgiving Day--it had been closed since Labor Day for remodeling. THANKSGIVING PRESENT, anyone? :)
The ride attendant who asked us if we wanted to ride Matterhorn twice IN A ROW for absolutely no reason.
NOT having anyone throw up after the Teacups.
Actually hearing the kids' minds explode continually.
The Toy Story Mania ride in California Adventure.
So. Fun.
Probably one of the best rides we did.

Do you know one of the best ways to add a little more magic to Disneyland?

Add a little Christmas :)

I have never experienced Disney during the holiday season, but taking into account how big of a sap I am, is it any surprise how much I love it??

Everything was decorated...
The characters were all dressed in their holiday best..
Christmas songs were playing over the speakers..

Taken just after the fireworks.
I don't know. I love this picture. There's just something about big crowds and Christmas lights...

They had some pretty awesome T-Shirts

And of course, when in Disneyland, trying on hats is an absolute must.



"I'm a Wizard-Pirate!!"


I'm all about the sentimental.


I like thrill rides.
I'll ride haunted elevators.
I'll scream my way through space.
I'll adventure with Indy,
and yell at yetis.

But I love the sentimental stuff even more.
That's what Disneyland is about for me.

It's about flying Dumbo
and walking through the castle.
It's meeting Mickey and posing with princesses.
'Finding Nemo' and 'Winnie the Pooh'

It's the "World of Color"

And fireworks

And the best parts of the parade:

But, hands-down, my absolute favorite place in the whole Disneyland/California Adventure complex is here

If you're looking for it,
in the Hollywood section of California Adventure,
you can find the the Animation Studios building.

The main room is huge, with lowered lights,
and movie screens of different sizes stretched from wall to wall,
playing clips from all the best Disney movies.

But don't be sucked in-- for too long ;) --because if you find your way downstairs,
and pass through the Sorcerer's Workshop,
you can find this

The Beast's Library.

It's a small room.
Too many people in there, and it can feel kind of crowded.

But it can also feel...

(Do I even need to give SAP ALERTs anymore?
I mean,
we're on the same page

There are big, open book-screens where you can find your true Disney persona.
A fireplace, with the rose and the painting above it.
And the music, that changes from sad and lonely

to Happily Ever After-y

And with the music changes the lights, rose, and portrait.

It's all about sentimentality, people.
The Disney Spirit.

Because, honestly?
If you lose the Disney Spirit, you start remembering that you've been up since 7am.
After spending 16 hours in the park the day before.
And going to bed around 2am.

That you're standing in a 50 minute line for a 7 minute ride.
That you just got shoved into a sweaty park-goer by another sweaty Disney-enthusiast.

You start wishing you could go back to the numb-feet phase,
cuz right now they hurt so bad you'd give ol' Mickey himself a good knuckle-sandwich
just for a shady spot of sidewalk to collapse on.

The Disney Spirit, y'all.
It works miracles.

Cuz if you fully immerse yourself in it,
you can run 16-hour days,
trekking hundreds of miles around a packed theme park.

You can forget your feet for a while.
(that's a blessing sometimes, trust me)

You can trick your migraine-warped brain into having fun by watching a bunch of young Jedis defeat Darth Vader AND Darth Maul.

You can even have fun while standing in a 50-minute line.

Up your dose of Spirit just a bit, and you can find magic and sentimental goosebumps all over.
In the post-firework snow that smells like pumpkin pie.
In the belly of a submarine as you explore Nemo's world.
As you stroll the California Adventure "boardwalk" after dark.
When seeing Mickey and the Gang in REAL LIFE!!!

Three days spent in the Happiest Place on Earth.
Three days of laughing
and screaming;
some crying,
a few stumbles,
a couple of headaches,
bruised feet,
and smiles.

How was your Thanksgiving? :)

I think I actually depleted my sap-supply.
Better go watch Beauty & the Beast, quick!



I'm pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of times I've been to Idaho's capital. Counting occasions and not separate...