Monday, July 1, 2019

A Magical Month

Good Monday morning.

Did you miss me? I missed you. I hope June treated you well. We had an exceptionally busy June.

It's difficult to know how or where to begin this morning. Having not blogged for a month, I have a lot of thoughts & a whole lot of pictures with which to work this morning. I have to stay focused. 

If you have no contact with any of my social media accounts I suppose it is possible you may not know we took the kids to California in June. I apologize for today's cheesy blog title, but when you're blogging about Disneyland there's really no way to go but total cheese. 

Last I blogged I told you I was taking the month of June off. I did just that, & I didn't hate the time away from my keyboard. It took me a week or more to get us packed & ready to travel to California. I know that may sound extreme, but I was responsible for three of the four people making the trip as well as making arrangements for the two dogs. It was the first time the kids had flown, & I had to think through a lot of details concerning packing Reagan's insulin & all the other paraphernalia that travels with her everywhere she goes. We got a note from Reagan's doctor that basically said, "Yeah, please let them carry all this insulin & all these needles on the plane with them, thanks so much." Despite my concerns the whole flying experience went well. The TSA squad didn't seem concerned that I was boarding with the plane with a ton of syringes (which I carry in case something happens to the pump) & an armful of raisins in case of lows.

We spent a week & a half in California, & then last Monday, having been back home a mere two days, we rose early & drove to Jackson to see Reagan's endocrinologist. Last week was actually much busier than I'd have preferred. We saw the endocrinologist, we had to go to the grocery store, we saw the new Toy Story movie, the kids got a haircut, we attended a birthday party for a cousin, Trey & I went to a murder-mystery dinner theater with friends, & we even made it to Bible class last Wednesday night. I remain sad I wasn't able to stay in the bed all last week. It's my hope this week I can spend a few days in the house in my pajamas & finally put away all the laundry I've been washing nonstop since our return.

You should know that every day since our return I've contemplated taking 90% of what we own to Goodwill &/or various local thrift stores so we can deep clean the house & then sit around listening to our voices echo in our clutter-free home. I spend way too much time dealing with the stuff we own. You might say the stuff owns us. 

Today I plan to share the highlights of June with you, namely Henry's birthday & our trip. I have a whole lot of photos. I shared a great many pictures online while we were traveling, but believe it or not there are still a lot more you've not seen.

What I won't discuss (any further) today is my above mentioned (currently all-consuming) desire to clean out our house, nor will I discuss the most excellent book I'm currently reading, A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers. It's the first book in Ms. Rivers's three-book Mark of the Lion series. The book club meets tomorrow night to discuss A Voice in the Wind, & while we currently don't have plans to read the rest of the series as a group I will likely do so very soon.

I just want you to know that in the middle of all our traveling & all the laundry I've done since we returned home I began reading something amazing. At some point all my thoughts & feelings about this series will surface & hopefully manifest themselves in a coherent fashion on this blog. 

Prior to our trip Henry turned six on June 6. It seems a year has passed since that day.

I took these on his last night as a five year old.

A small treat on his birthday when we went to pick up the (much larger) cupcakes for later:

In his personalized Birthday Boy Mario shirt I ordered him: 

We had a Mario-themed party for him featuring his grandparents, cousins, some cupcakes, a great many Mario-related gifts, & some swimming. My mom took better pictures than I did, but you're stuck with the ones I took for now.

And now the deluge of California pictures. 

California: Day 1, Travel

We flew from Monroe to Dallas & then from Dallas to the John Wayne Airport in California. The plane we were on during the longer leg of the trip was equipped with screens the kids loved because they could watch a movie of their choice or play games. I mainly sat there contemplating that we were 33,000 feet in the air & it was fifty degrees below zero outside the plane. I mean, thank goodness for that plane, you know. I didn't dwell too much on all of that info.

I think I took this one of Henry once we finally made it to the hotel. We gained two hours on the flight out, so even though it was mid-afternoon when we arrived in California we were starving

We ate a quick dinner at a burger place near the hotel the first night. I took this of the kids on our way out; Henry said she looked creepy, & Reagan didn't understand why her underwear is visible. 

California: Day 2, Universal Studios 

Here's Reagan enjoying the first of many breakfasts we ate in the hotel lobby. At first the free breakfast sounds exciting (minus Trey's explanation that it isn't actually free). After a few days the excitement wears off, & you're so sick of having to put clothes on & get in an elevator so you can eat breakfast with strangers who hog the waffle machine. 

Anyway, on Day 1 we were excited about the "free" breakfast & excited to be heading to Universal Studios. 

Our hotel was in Buena Park, so we had to deal with Los Angeles traffic to reach Universal Studios. I of course took some photos. I cannot stress enough how ridiculously awful the traffic in Los Angeles is. Universal Studios doesn't open until ten am, so we were not even in rush hour traffic & it was *so horrible.* 

The highlight of Universal for me was absolutely The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. If you are a Harry Potter fan, at some point in your life you need to make your way to Universal Studios in Hollywood or Orlando & see what they've done. It's truly incredible. 

The Studio Tour was, I think, Trey's favorite part of Universal. 

That evening we made our first visit to a Cheesecake Factory. 

California: Day 3, Deposition + Mom's Debilitating Injury 

The reason we ended up in California in the first place was a deposition Trey was slated to take in Los Angeles. He braved the traffic again that morning while the kids & I slept late & again partook of the breakfast spread downstairs. We all ate a late post-deposition lunch at (yes, another) Cheesecake Factory & then headed back into the heart of the beast to check off all the things Trey wanted to do in Los Angeles. 

We drove back to Los Angeles to go to the Petersen Automotive Museum & Griffith Observatory. The goal was to knock those two out & then not return to Los Angeles again for the duration of the trip. We met our goal, but not without a few casualties along the way. 

The Petersen Museum was neat. Even the kids seemed to have a good time despite being in a museum in which they were expected to be quiet & not touch the expensive stuff on display. 

We were pushing our luck attempting to get through traffic & make it up to Griffith Observatory & get back down before dark. I wasn't paying a lot of attention, but Trey said it appeared they'd roped off the road that allows cars to drive up to the observatory & park within a reasonable distance. What this meant was that we parked in a lot about a mile away from our destination; Trey thought the mile hike up would be a fun family bonding event. When we got out of the car to begin the hike up we literally saw a coyote. A coyote walked right past the entrance to the path we needed to take. I am serious. It wasn't a large coyote, but we had no weapons on us since we were in California, so I had a bad feeling about things.

The kids complained a great deal on the hike up (it was a steep climb) but still managed to find time & energy to throw rocks at each other & get way too close to the steep edge of the path several times. 

It is truly beautiful at the top, & had I not sustained an injury on the way down I'd likely say the hike up & back was worth it (we never saw another coyote or any other wildlife).

Due to the sun it's difficult to make it out but that's the Hollywood sign in the hills behind the kids.

I took this one below with my phone. I think I might print it & frame it. Not bad, huh?

On the way back down to our car I slipped on the (very slippery) dirt on the (steep & winding) hillside & did some serious damage to my left foot. I think I was turing to holler at Henry to get away from the edge, & my foot slipped into a small divet likely formed by water running down the hill or some other such thing. Anyway, it hurt a lot. I thought for a second I'd broken it. Trey & some stranger helped me get up, & once I was able to put weight on it I hobbled pathetically back down to our car. 

I was pretty certain it was a sprain, so not a life-altering thing, but the timing was of course horrible. We were slated to go to Knott's Berry Farm the next day & still had three days of Disney ahead. 

Trey stopped at a Walgreens & got me a brace you will see featured in several photos. Knott's Berry Farm was probably the hardest day for me as it was the day after my fall. I made it in the brace, but it was not the most pleasant experience. I am sure I'd have been tired after our trip even if I'd not hurt my foot, but let me tell you something they may not tell you in medical school: Spending four days at various theme parks immediately after spraining your ankle is not recommended. I realized after Knott's Berry Farm that the rest of my body compensated for the foot/ankle as I was so tired & so sore all over. 

Anyway, I lived & even thrived despite my initial concerns (I cried a little bit) that our trip was ruined & I'd miss out on seeing my kids experience Disney.

Without further ado . . . 

California: Day 4, Knott's Berry Farm

Knott's Berry Farm is similar to Six Flags. The kids loved it. Reagan was tall enough to ride everything, & Henry was only excluded by height from a few rides. I didn't take many pictures as I was concentrating on walking & staying on my feet. One of my greatest fears was that someone would bump me & I'd be unable to steady myself with my one good foot & would fall & further injure myself. I now truly understand better why people who are, for whatever reason, unsteady on their feet don't like being in a crowd. 

California: Day 5, mall  

Our Disney tickets were not date-specific, so the day after Knott's Berry Farm we didn't do much. Henry was excited because he got a new Mario toy at the mall where we ate lunch. You can see the exhaustion on my face. 

California: Days 6-8, Disneyland

So, Disney. If you didn't know, Disneyland has two parks, the original park & their California Adventure Park. We did a day at each park & then had the option to return to one of the parks on our third day. We opted to return to the original park.

I'll try & keep my Disney spiel brief as this is long enough as it is. I was so impressed with Disney. Disney is the Chick-fil-A of theme parks. Every employee seemed genuinely excited to be there. It was clean everywhere, even in the restrooms. They have & maintain high standards for their employees & their facilities, & it's no wonder people are throwing money at them. 

Disney Day 1: The Original Disneyland Park 

A brief aside from all the happiness: the only straws inside Disneyland are paper straws, & paper straws are horrible. I don't know how these are supposed to be better for the environment given that you need three of them to finish your drink they disintegrate so quickly.

We surprised Reagan with an appointment at the Bippity Boppity Boutique.

These next pictures were taken by a Disney photographer. One of the many neat things they do is have photographers set up all over the park in picturesque spots. They'll take your family photos, scan  their app on your phone (you must use the app if you go), & send you the pictures later. No, they don't charge for this photo service, but as Trey & I explained to the children, "We paid for it."

They really took some great pictures over the course of our three days there. 

(The photographer insisted we do this)

Disney Day II: California Adventure Park

The second morning we arrived at the Disneyland parking garage the line for the tram was long, so we decided to walk the short distance to the parks. These were taken outside a Lego store in Downtown Disney right before we entered California Adventure Park. They've dedicated a lot of the California Park to their newer films like the Cars movies & the Incredibles. 

(You may notice Reagan's wearing a jacket. It was cool to the point of being cold in the mornings & evenings, which is one reason you might want to consider Disneyland over Disney World if you opt to go in the middle of June. I went entire days without sweating). 

The kids love these next two photos. The photographer kept making odd requests of them that we later understood. 

Okay, here's the deal with this next slew of pictures. Spread throughout both parks are some amazing rides that essentially walk you through the story of some of Disney's classic films. These rides are all phenomenal even if you're an adult; the attention to detail is just unbelievable. My favorite, of course, is The Little Mermaid. You sit in a large clam shell & are whisked through the major scenes in the film. 

We met several princesses in the original park, but Anna & Elsa apparently hang out in the California Adventure Park. These men & women who play Disney characters in the parks are wonderful. They stay in character at all times. It's enough to make an adult believe in the magic.

Disney, Day Two ended with dinner at Brennan's (yes, like the one in New Orleans) in Downtown Disney. We of course concluded the meal with a Bananas Foster. You burn somewhere in the neighborhood of ten thousand calories a day at Disney, so we felt we'd earned a dessert.

Disney Day 3: Return to The Original Disneyland Park 

On our third & final day at Disney we went back to the original park & returned to several of our favorite rides (Space Mountain, Runaway Mine Train) & also visited a lot of things we didn't get to on our first attempt like dropping in on Mickey in his house. 

California: Day 9 - - - > Not pictured. 

We thought we would be flying home on this day, but as it turns out our plane tickets were for the next day, so we slept late, roamed around another mall, & ate at our third & final Cheesecake Factory. I guess I didn't take even one photo on this day as I can't find any on my phone. I was weary & beyond ready to head home . . . but I did find a great purse at a Nordstrom Rack. I bought my first Hobo purse, & maybe one day I'll get around to sharing a photo of it with you. 

California: Day 10, Home!

I took this when we landed in Monroe. 

Before I share a few thoughts about our trip, I will tell you that last Monday we hit the road again to visit Reagan's doctor. Reagan's A1C was a 7.6. It's not our finest, but I was expecting worse given we were coming off a long vacation that included three visits to the Cheesecake Factory. We did do an absolutely incredible amount of walking, so maybe that helped the A1C. 

I had so many thoughts while we were traveling. By now I've likely forgotten some of them. I didn't travel with my laptop because it would have been one more thing to slow us down when going through airport security, & I also didn't take it because I suspected I'd be short on time & energy to sit & write (I was correct on both counts). 

Since I've already shared my thoughts on Disney, I suppose there are two other thought trains I'll briefly address: the public at large & California.

Everywhere we went there were people. Airports, malls, restaurants, & theme parks are always going to be teeming with people. Sloppy is the first word that comes to mind when I think of the majority of people we saw. There are two factors contributing to America's general sloppiness as I see it.

First, we are a little overweight, America. It's so disheartening to see young children waddling along behind their overweight parents. It was equally disheartening to see how many people were touring the various parks we visited on motorized scooters I highly suspect they were using in lieu of their legs simply because they are so overweight. It broke my heart. Weight is a highly personal issue, & I don't think there is one answer that will solve this problem for everyone, but when you see it on a grand scale day after day it is so discouraging.

The second factor contributing to our unkempt appearance is driven, I believe, by a desire many have to stand out, to set themselves apart as unique. In order to stand out, people, both young & old, tattoo themselves, wear clothing that boasts foul language &/or doesn't properly fit, & cut &/or dye their hair in ways I'd not advise. Are people free to express themselves in these ways? Sure, this is America. I am not their mom or their preacher or their wife. At one point Trey & I turned to each other & remarked that we are now the rebels. We are the ones who stand out in a sea of tattoo sleeves & hot pink hair. You want to stand out in a crowd today? Go with your natural hair color. Wear clothes that fit. Resist the urge to get that tenth tattoo. You will often find yourself the odd man out. Ward & June Cleaver are the new rebels, y'all.

Regarding the state of California, while we were there Trey remarked that everything about California that is out of man's control is wonderful. It's a beautiful state, & the weather there is notably more pleasant than the weather in Louisiana. I thought often of the Garden of Eden. God gave man a paradise, & man proceeded to sully it, to stain it with sin. You can't drive far in any big city without seeing a homeless person, a homeless encampment, &/or a Planned Parenthood. The Planned Parenthood buildings upset me greatly. I live in Louisiana, & we have our problems, but we do not have Planned Parenthoods dotting our state, & for that I am so thankful. I thought often of Walt Disney's words I've quoted above: 

Our greatest natural resource is the minds of our children. 

How sad & ironic that just beyond the gates of the little family paradise Walt Disney created are Planned Parenthoods. Disneyland itself is an interesting juxtaposition to the rest of the state. In the same way I often wish the people in charge at Chick-fil-A could run the federal government, I wish those who keep Disneyland running smoothly, cleanly, & efficiently could give some advice to those in charge in California.

I have been reading a good bit about Walt Disney since the trip. What an incredible visionary he was, & what a gift he gave America & her children. I am thankful we had the opportunity to take this trip. I am thankful to be home. I am thankful to live in Louisiana. I am thankful for our founding fathers who saw the wisdom in a loose alliance between sovereign states. I don't ever want to live in a state that resembles modern-day California, & that is one of many reasons I yell about the Feds. I don't want Planned Parenthoods on every corner as I drive through town, & I don't want to face a whole host of other issues currently facing many California residents.

It's good to be back behind my keyboard. I hope you have a great week & a relaxing 4th of July. 


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