A Holiday at Disneyland Resort

Even though we live in Southern California, we don’t have annual passes to Disneyland. I’ve never been a huge amusement park fan, and Stewart is not fond of crowds. The first time I took him to New York City he made a disgusted noise and said “This place is one giant Costco!” Reading between the lines, you can assume he’s not fond of Costco, either.

Because of this, we rarely take our children to amusement parks, and therefore those days have been like holidays for us. Now through January 6, 2013 at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the parks are decorated for the winter holidays of Christmas and Hanukah, and the whole holiday experience is heightened to the max. So when we visited Disneyland and California Adventure for the first time in 2 years, it was like a kickoff to the holiday season in mid-November.

The first attraction we hit was Cars Land, because that didn’t exist the last time we visited.  Brady and Kyle have seen both Cars movies, and they enjoyed seeing the characters and landscape they know recreated in real life.

Waiting in line for Radiator Springs Racers.  Someone is really excited.

The ride is basically a racetrack.  You and three other people race against another car on a set track, and it’s more fun than a roller coaster. Kyle, who hates roller coasters, didn’t think so at all, but Brady thought it was “awesome.”

Brady said “It’s not even near Christmas! Why is there a Christmas tree?”  I explained that some people love Christmas so much they like to get into the spirit very early.  I appreciated that the Christmas trees in Cars Land are decorated with hub caps and other automotive ornaments.

The pill-bug-themed bumper cars in a bug’s land were much more Kyle’s speed.

It didn’t matter that it was a chilly day in November that threatened rain.  Where there is a water feature, my kids will play in it.  A bug’s land is home to the largest holiday decorations in the park (pictured at top).

This is the tree adorning the new Carthay Circle near the entrance to California Adventure.  Roving bands of singers and dancers would stop as we were walking and perform what seemed like impromptu little shows.  Brady was very taken by them.

Same thing happened in Disneyland, and we had to stop to appreciate the barbershop quartet’s version of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” on Main Street.

Once inside Disneyland we had to go on Buzz Lightyear’s ride in Tomorrowland.  It’s our children’s favorite ride.  I will confess, it’s mine too.  It’s fun to shoot Zurg!  Then we had an appointment to view the Christmas Fantasy parade* from a promenade outside the ride “It’s a Small World.”  Kyle met up with a few friends and sat on a wall to watch, while Brady got the best vantage point he could find and stood there transfixed from the very first float to the very last.  Every time one passed by, he turned to look toward the origin of the parade and his face lit up as he discovered “There’s more!”  It was a procession of princesses and princes and favorite Disney characters dressed in their holiday finest and dancers careening about on roller skates dresses as snowflakes or reindeer and he loved the whole thing.

As Disney veterans know, it’s very difficult to visit every area of the park in just one day, and that’s all we had, so we made a point to try things we haven’t seen before, like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride which is nice for parents because we can sit in a boat and float along.  For Kyle, who hates anything resembling a hill of any sort, it was a mixed bag.  He enjoyed the pirate scenes inside the ride, but didn’t like the very minor waterfall that the boat had to go down to get there.  We also took advantage of the Disneyland Railroad, which takes you around the perimeter of the park, and can be a great way to get from one end to the other without weaving a family of four through the crowds.

We were hosted by Disneyland Parks for this adventure, so we had the added perk of a place to stay on the premises – The Grand Californian hotel has an entrance right from California Adventure.  After dark, Brady and I ventured out on our own, leaving the tuckered-out Stewart and Kyle behind in the hotel room.  I have to admit, it was much easier for me and Brady to navigate the parks that way, because we are both quick.  In fact, Brady is so quick at amusement parks that the idea of visiting one with him gives me heartburn days in advance.  But with just him to watch, I had a much better time.  From 8:45 to 10:30PM, we did the following:

-Caught the tail end of Disneyland’s famous fireworks show, but missed the wonderful snowfall at the end.  This happens every night at the park at 8:45PM during the holiday season.

-Took the Disneyland Railroad to New Orleans and visited the Haunted Mansion, which is transformed into a Nightmare Before Christmas wonderland for the season.

-Watch the amazing Fantasmic show from the edge of New Orleans Square.  Brady saw the lights and music as soon as we exited the Haunted Mansion, and he made a beeline for the water’s edge.  Fortunately, he got a great unobstructed spot.  Unfortunately, it was in the smoking area.  I didn’t even realize Disneyland still had smoking areas.  But fortunately the show was mesmerizing and finished up with a live-action Captain Hook vs. Peter Pan duel.

-Brady shot a rifle at a shooting range in Frontierland.  He loved it, but I quickly ran out of quarters.

-Took pictures in the main square

-Rode the rockets at Tomorrowland

-Rode the monorail back to Downtown Disney, and walked back up to our hotel room.

After I had tucked him into bed where he quickly joined his sleeping brother and father, I got myself one of these and relaxed in a Mission-style rocking chair by the fire in the lobby:

Ultimate Long Island Iced Tea

Disneyland Resort has a lot of special holiday features that we didn’t even see, including a crafting area for kids, photo opportunities with favorite characters and Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a three-day Three Kings Celebration planned for Jan. 4-6.  See the Disneyland website for more details, and make sure to grab a schedule at the gate when you visit the park, because showtimes change daily.

I hope you come back before then, but in case you don’t, Merry Early Christmas to you, courtesy of Disneyland Parks!

My family and I were guests of Disneyland Park for a day and one night.  All opinions and magical experiences are my own.

 *parade photo credit Paul Hiffenmeyer/Disney
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Songs That Stab Me in the Heart: “Fix You” by Coldplay

Okay, yes, I know what you’re thinking.  It’s Coldplay.  Whatever, KTP – manipulative and obvious, and I’m never going to take you seriously again.

Hear me out.

Chris Martin’s singing is indeed cringeworthy at the beginning of this song, like at that point in his career he was like “I’m just gonna wing this because people will buy it anyway because I am the golden god of pop music,” but if you wait, if you give it a minute, and the only reason I ever did was because my friend Desiree popped this video onto my Facebook wall one day – I can’t even remember why, I must have been whining about something or another via IM because that is how we communicate best – so I felt it was the least I could do to actually get through the whole damn song.  And well then.  At 4:16 Martin’s voice calms the fuck down and he brings out the husky man-voice I like of his and then there it is.  Stabby stab stab!

Because the lyrics:

Lights will guide you home
and ignite your bones
and I will try to fix you

Just hearing him sing those words makes you think everything’s going to be okay, everything’s going to be just fine, and he will cradle you in his strong arms and wipe your tears away and you will wake up in the morning to a sunshiny day and freshly baked cinnamon buns.

But the truth is a man can’t fix you.  And a woman can’t fix a man.  The world is such a big messy place.  Everyone knows (at least everyone at my age, honey) that when you fall in love with a guy and then you realize that guy is very damaged, you can’t fix him.  You can’t find a broken guy and fix him.  I’ve tried it.  It totally doesn’t work.  You have to make sure you’re whole yourself, and if you get it in your head that this beautiful man could be happy if only you could fix him, well, you’re the one who needs fixing.  Because if you are whole and a broken, beautiful man comes along and his words stab you in the heart and make you want to fix him you will STOP because you will know better.

You will know better.  You lucky, strong, lonely woman.

*Here is a youtube video that has the studio recording of the song, and the husky low voice comes in at 4:25. It’s easier to hear without the massive live audience of the first clip, but there’s also something beautiful about the mass hysteria that laces that first clip, singing along as he brings it down. Whatever, I don’t know. Where’s my wine?

**Somehow this is a Thanksgiving post, wherein I am giving thanks for everything I have even though yeah I will say it, I’m sad for all the things I have lost. All the things.

Wordless Wednesday: Making Things For the Web

Not sure how I got into the habit of posting infographics here on Wednesdays, but go with me here. This isn’t exactly wordless, but they aren’t MY words, so I think it counts. From The Oatmeal – click the image below to see the entire hilarious and oh-so-true comic.

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O You! Says I’m Living My Best Life

I’m trying to live my best life.  It’s the only one I’ve got, right?

I’m an Oprah fan. Yes, I said it. I’m not over the top about it. I watched her show, I’ve tried to watch things on the OWN network, I wrote a piece about one of its programs on MomsLA.com. I’ve never purchased her magazine, though, and I tried but didn’t really get into Oprah’s Life Class.  But still, there are 11 pages of blog posts that reference Oprah here on this blog alone.

I’m a much bigger fan of Suze Orman, though, and also Peter Walsh, who came to town to participate in what I liked to think of as “Oprahcon” – O Magazine’s O You! event at the LA Convention Center last month. Once I arrived and experienced the event, I realized that more than a conference, it was like an old school tent revival, with Oprah as the main event preacher. And that was just fine, because it was entertaining, inspiring, and even educational.

Thousands of people swarmed the convention center that day, some of them standing in line for hours before the doors opened. The sponsors of the event set up interactive experience booths in a big hall, and speaker sessions took place off to the side, with a main auditorium for the opening speeches and Oprah’s closing sermon. I mean speech.

I attended as a guest of Oral B, the oral care product company, which was a sponsor of the event because they support living your best life through dental care. And while that seems like a stretch, I went into this with a very open mind. Dr. Jonathan Levine, renowned dental care expert and a spokesperson for Oral B, sat down with me for a few minutes to talk about why those two things go together very well.

Dr. Levine told me that the number one reason adults go to see a dentist is to improve their smiles, but what most people don’t realize is that your overall health is inextricably connected to proper dental care. Recent developments in technology and practices have helped forward-thinking dentists provide screenings that can detect problems in your body that you would never imagine. Stewart and I go to a pretty modern dental office and every time I go my hygienist Kerri pulls out some new fancy test, and she always checks my blood pressure. What’s awesome about this is that, as Dr. Levine pointed out, people see their dentist twice a year, far more often than they might visit their internist, so it’s wise for the dental office to take advantage of that frequency.

While my dentist is really interested in keeping the most advanced equipment in her office, not all of them are. Levine says that as group dental practices grow in number with younger dentists getting on board all the time, the prevalence of this school of thought will rise and patients will benefit. But in the meantime, he considers it a professional duty as he visits places all over the country and the world – he is a regular guest on Oprah’s anointed Dr. Oz’s show – to educate his peers and patients about the need for dentists to communicate among themselves and with internists.

Levine also founded Glo Good, a special charity that aims to bring better oral care to underserved populations around the world by providing equipment and training to those communities. Levine has focused on smile improvement in his career, and he has developed teeth whitening products, whose sale benefits the charity, among many other advancements to help people get better smiles.

With Oral B, Levine helps spread the message about the Oral Health Challenge – the idea that it’s important to have a healthy mouth. We tell our kids that all the time – brush in the morning and at night, right? But it’s important for us to remember that we need to keep our mouths healthy as adults, too. Some very friendly superstar hygienists at the Oral B booth at O You! were handing out special Oral B power toothbrushes to the attendees, and we got to be photographed with special messages to our favorite hygienists back home:

To emphasize the idea that oral health and overall health are so connected, Oral B also had a yoga instructor taking guests through basic stretches and moves to get their blood circulating.  Similar booths were set up all over the main expo-ish area by the other sponsors. The O You! team itself had set up this cool chalkboard cube for people to write six words that describe their lives. I couldn’t think of my own so I just stood there and smiled, and threw it out to Twitter.

That up there was from @alexishinde

Aside from those brand booths, the speeches were the main events. There weren’t too many to choose from, which I thought was great because that meant whatever I chose, I wasn’t missing much. I heard the talks from: Suze Orman, Martha Beck, Laura Berman, Peter Walsh, Iyanla Vanzant, and of course, Oprah Winfrey. The frenzy in the giant room when she took the stage was like nothing I have ever seen. She even opened up the session to questions at the end of her talk, which could have been an invitation for disaster, and it kind of was for a second. Remember Crying Girl on American Idol a couple of years ago? Yeah, that totally happened here.

I was struck by the free form of the talks that each member of Oprah’s court gave. Suze Orman confessed that she had no plan for what she was going to say. The others seemed a tiny bit more organized, but there wasn’t much in the way of notes or presentations. That didn’t matter. Everything I heard made sense to me on that particular day in my life. Even the fact that I was there at all was a consequence of a serendipitous alignment of conditions.

The next day I told my friends that I was feeling an Oprah hangover. The event was basically an entire day of looking at myself and my life and assessing what’s what and “calling a thing a thing,” as Vanzant would say. That’s basically what I’ve been doing for the last few months now: attempting to be kinder to myself, clearing my full plate, making room for the next big thing, aligning my priorities, blah blah.  I came away from the O You! experience with a new commitment to flossing (and I’m not even being sarcastic about that), plus a nice confirmation that I am doing the right thing for myself right now.

I mean, if Oprah and her friends say so, then it must be true.

Now here are some more pictures:

Attendees leaving the event, getting in line for the fabulous gift bag

With Peter Walsh, design and de-cluttering expert, TV host, and author

The Girod family – mom and three daughters – who traveled from Oregon and wore those shirts on purpose. Adorable.

The giant main stage area

Ms. Suze Orman smacking it down.

The experience and opinions about O You! are my own.  I was a guest of Oral B who provided my ticket and transportation.

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