• The Traveling Family
  • When you want to feel better: The Great Arizona Road Trip

    Really I should update you on how my last AC treatment went.  Here’s the short version.  I am currently on a dairy goat farm in Hereford, AZ.   

    Shameless Plug: If you are ever in the southern Arizona area (think Tombstone) you need to pay a visit to the farm.  It’s called Black Market Marvel.  Katie may or may not have soap that day, but she’ll certainly give you a tour, you can meet the goats and she’ll tell you about their lap pool*.

    The chemo was fine.  My mom stayed with me because Derek was out of town.  I was put on a new anti-nausea med that works so much better.  I was able to do things and get out and about during my down days.  I only had one day where life was difficult.

    So how did we get to Arizona?  A while ago I was talking to my cousin and on the spur of the moment I said I was going to come visit this summer.  She agreed that it should happen.  With much coordination between my chemo schedule and Derek’s work schedule we found exactly 8 days where we could drive to Hereford and back and spend 3 days with Katie and Juan.  It also included a stop at the Grand Canyon and a night in Las Vegas.  It would be during my “good” week so we made it happen.  The only catch was that we had to get to Hereford in 2 days.

    We love a road trip.  We’ve taken many road trips in our time, but only 1 in history compares to this particular road trip.  In September, 2014 we made an epic journey to Kansas City in 2 days**.  This time we were driving to a town 5 minutes from the Mexican border.  We set off at 5:30 a.m. on Friday and drove all the way to Salt Lake City.  It was a long 15 hours in the car with very few stops.  Saturday would prove to be even longer.

    Somehow there was a miscommuncation between me and Katie and she thought we were arriving on Sunday.  I said Saturday.  She was panicked that her house was a mess and I told her I didn’t care.  However, we were at such a place that we could make a slight detour and give her a few more hours.  We’d originally intended to be to the farm by 7:00.

    The detour was to Bryce Canyon.  We happened to be driving down Highway 89 and Bryce Canyon happened to be 20 miles off the highway.  Derek couldn’t resist the opportunity to show the boy one of our favorite sights.  Besides, it gave Katie a little extra time, right?

    Bryce Canyon it is!

    We’d visited Bryce when we lived in Las Vegas.  It is truly spectacular and if you are ever in the souther Utah area you must visit.  Seriously!

    It was very worth the delay even if we didn’t arrive to the farm until 10:30 that night.  A fantastic 16 hours in the car!  When calculating the detour we didn’t factor in slow moving motor homes and trucks.  We also didn’t factor in a rain storm just outside of Tucson that made us pull over to the side of the road.

    Once in Hereford we’ve had a lovely time!  I haven’t spent much time with my cousin, Katie, in my life.  She’s 10ish years younger than me and she’s always lived out of state as an adult.  It wasn’t until the past few years that we began communicating and becoming friends.  It was only natural to want to go visit.

    She has the most adorable boys.  The oldest is Oleg’s age and the younger two are four and two.  The youngest, Virgil, is about the cutest stinking thing you’ve ever seen.

    Sunday we took a tour through Bisbee, AZ.  I didn’t take many photos through the town, but I’d suggest if a visit if you’re in the area.  Heck!  I’d suggest a trip there.  It is a cute little town build in a canyon.  The old courthouse there is where the trial of Wyatt Earp took place.  Skip Tombstone and head to Bisbee instead.  In the evening we chatted and had a very nice time.

    Monday we took a drive up into the mountains and out to the original homestead in the area.  The terrain and sights are beautiful here.  You’d think of this as “out in the middle of the desert,” but really it’s high desert and gorgeous.  The weather has been perfect with the ocassional monsoon rain rolling through.  Last night’s sunset was marvelous.  Katie taught me how to make goat milk soap and again, we chatted and had a lovely evening.

    We have another day on the farm today and then we’re headed to Vegas.  All in all this trip has been just the thing I’ve needed.  I needed to get out of the house.  I needed a summer vacation.


    *There is no lap pool.  It’s an inside joke.

    **There was also that one time that we ended up driving from Monterey to Tacoma, by accident.  That’s a whole different story.

  • The Cancer
  • Cancer Doesn’t Exist in Bali

    Last year Christmas was sort of awful.  Not so much the actual Christmas Day thing, but the weeks leading up to it.  Things rapidly started going downhill on November 8th… if you know what I mean.  From there, we had a major bird massacre that involved a spontaneous chicken death on Thanksgiving Day and then a duck/chicken vs. raccoon attack 2 weeks later.  Needless to say the raccoon won that one.  I ended up having to “euthanize” one chicken at 3 a.m.  The week before the bird attack we received news that Derek’s uncle suddenly passed away.  The day the 2nd & 3rd ducks were killed we found out that a very close family friend also suddenly passed away.  Within the span of 3 minutes I discovered 2 dead duck bodies, found out a family friend died and my sister vaguebooked on Facebook that my dad was taken to the ER that night.  I call my sister out only because it is part of the story.  Good news was my dad only had kidney stones and he’s fine.

    All of this happened about 3 weeks before Christmas.

    The three of us walked around in a funk for quite a while.  We wanted to run away.  

    While permanent expatriation is not an option for us (especially not now), temporarily running away was a viable solution.  We did some searching and maths and discovered that it would be the same cost to go to Bali, Indonesia as it would be to spend a week in Disneyland.

    It was a big duh.

    Derek booked the tickets and we waited.

    We were scheduled to fly out at midnight on February 19.  I found out I had cancer on February 15.  That’s 3 days people.  

    Derek tried to tell me that we’d have to wait to see if we would still be able to go on the trip.  I told him, “screw you.  I’m going to Bali.  Cancer can suck it.”  So I got on the plane and I took the guys with me.

    Before leaving we convinced the boy that cancer doesn’t exist in Bali.  We had him snowed.  Really, we just agreed that we would run away and ignore the fact that mom had cancer.  So we did.

    We traveled during mid-Winter break.  We only had 1 week to get there, see stuff, get home, get over jet lag and go back to work.  We flew Xiamen Airlines, Vancouver BC to Xiamen, China.  We had a 12 hour layover where we were able to visit Gulangyu Island and then were off to Bali.  We arrived at 11:20 p.m. on Monday and were scheduled to leave at midnight on Saturday.  That gave us basically 4 full days in Bali.

    Day 1

    We tried to sleep in.  We started the morning with tea and breakfast on our own private patio over looking the pool.  It was hot, humid and amazeballs.

    From there we ventured off into town to do some sightseeing.  The town of Ubud is beautiful!  It is up in the hills and the greenery is spectacular.  The shades of green are more pronounced in El Salvador, but this was just as beautiful.  We made it down the street to the Sacred Monkey Forest, home to over 600 Balinese Long-tailed monkeys.

    We fed the monkeys, walked through the forest and one cheeky little bugger tried to steal my water bottle.  It was totally worth it.

    The rest of the day was spent shopping, wandering around the city and swimming at the pool.  The whole point of the trip was relaxation.

    Day 2

    We planned to spend a day and a half in Ubud and then transfer to Sanur for the beach.  In hindsight we should have stayed in Ubud the whole time, but who knew.  We hired a driver to pick us up at 3:00 to take us to Sanur so we had time in the morning to explore.  I’d found a tip about a great little walk to a village that had a cafe. I had written down the directions and I’m so glad I did.  We might have been able to follow some signs, but highly unlikely.  The walk was out to the Campuhan Ridge and it was incredible.

    Along the way we passed a temple, walked along a narrow path on the top of the ridge and ended at a little artist’s village. Near the end of the village is a place called the Karsa Kafe where we had a lunch.  Given the choice I’d never leave the little cabana we spent the morning in.

    We met our driver at 3 and he took us to a agrotourism place that did coffee tours/tasting.  We were able to try the famous Luwak Coffee.  I’ll just let you google that one.

    We ended the day with Indian food (of doom) and passed out by 8:30 which is exactly why we elected to see the “geriatric crowd beach” as opposed to the drunk Australian beach.  12 year old in tow and all.

    Day 3

    This is where the trip took a nose dive.  We believe the aforementioned Indian food of doom may have been contaminated.  The boy thought it was too spicy so he didn’t eat it.  I don’t eat chicken after the “euthanized” chicken at 3 a.m.  The boy had ordered butter chicken and the husband ate it.    He then proceeded to spend all of Thursday in the hotel and most of Friday.

    Not to let a sick person ruin our vacation, we left Derek’s ass in the hotel room and we went to the pool.  We also walked along the beachfront and made many trips to the VERY air conditioned grocery store.

    Sadly, I did not take advantage of that swim up bar.  A choice I now regret.

    Day 4

    Many trips to the pharmacy and grocery store later, the boy and I once again left the husband’s butt in bed and went to the beach.  We had breakfast beachside and then took a dip in the water.

    The hotel graciously let us check out at 9 p.m. So the husband could sleep more.  We eventually got him up and out a little bit.  He did go out to lunch and dinner with us.

    Day 5

    As I mentioned, the flight left Bali at midnight.  We had another layover in Xiamen, China.  This one was 16 hours.  I was not about to spend that time in the airport and Derek was not about to spend it trekking all over the city.  He rented a room in a travel hotel and it was the best $50 we ever spent.  We napped then went out to do some shopping and find lunch.  We then napped again and showered and it was time to come home.

    That is the very quick version of our trip.  

    Would I go back?  Oh goodness yes.  I would stay for a month if I could and stay the whole time in Ubud.  I loved it there.  

    Coming home was a bit of a shock in that I had to step back into that cancer patient role.  However, even thinking about the trip makes me happy (even with the sick husband).  I was able to let go.  I could be a normal person for just a few days.  I will never have that chance again.

  • Elle's World
  • Adventurecation: Part 4

    Saturday was day 3 of the themeparkpalooza.  The child woke up in yet another foul mood and I’d had enough of it.  At the time he thought of nothing but himself.  Part of that was because the last time we were in Disney it was all about him.  However this time there were 7 other people he needed to think about.  That’s a tall order for a 6 year old.  I knew that, but it was no reason for him to be such a crap head.  He and I got into it that morning about his behavior.  I laid down the law and said that the behavior would not be tolerated, we would not go to Disney until he calmed down (there was much screaming and gnashing of teeth) and eventually I locked myself in the bathroom.  Once he calmed down I said that if he pulled that again we would leave Disneyland.  There were no warnings this time.  I’d had enough.

    Saturday morning we had reservations at Goofy’s Kitchen for breakfast.  I’d read wonderful things about how the chefs will go out of their way to cater to ceiliacs.  We had informed the kitchen prior to our arrival and they were ready for us.  I was able to have the best gluten free Mickey waffles and they even got me fresh sausage that hadn’t been in the pan with the bread that soaks up the grease.  The only disappointing thing was that there were only 4 characters at the breakfast.  When we did the Minnie breakfast we saw at least 7-10.  The lack of characters made the kids sad, but the boy was able to eat his weight in food.  I was also able to pocket a few bananas for a food emergency.

    After breakfast, as promised, we went straight to Toon Town.  Oh how I loathe Toon Town.  It is crowded, hot and boring.  The best part was we decided to ride the Gadget Go Coaster.  Once again I had to coax the child onto the ride.  He rode with his father, B elected to ride with her dad which left me and Gretchen to ride together.  When it was our turn to ride Gretchen and I looked at this thing and wondered how the hell we were both going to fit into the seat.  They are very small seats made for 2 kids or an adult and a small child.  It certainly was not made for two grown adults.  Somehow we managed to cram our asses into the seat.  About half way up the first hill we looked at each other and said, “How are we going to get out of this thing?”  We then proceeded to laugh our asses off the rest of the 20 second ride.  We didn’t laugh them off quite enough because at the end we were certain that we would just keep riding the ride all day long because they wouldn’t be able to get us out.  Fortunately we got out, not sure how.

    After lunch the family decided that we were going to ride the Haunted Mansion.  Yet again the boy freaked out about not wanting to ride it.  Instead of nicely saying that he didn’t want to ride it he pitched a fit about nothing demanding that we go back to Toon Town and then demanding that we ride Pirates instead.  I kindly informed him that we would ride Pirates after the Haunted Mansion, but it was B’s turn to pick and this is what we were doing.  Once again, it’s not all about you child.  This was the moment that the child decided to pitch a royal fit as we were walking into Adventureland.  Remember my threat earlier in the day?  The one that said if he was a crab we would leave the park.  That was the moment that I became “that mom.”  I informed him that we were leaving.  I walked over to the family and said, “Oleg is choosing to throw a fit so we are now going to go sit outside the park.  I’ll text you when we are ready to come back in.”  I held tightly to my son’s hand and walked away.  He then turned into a cartoon character yanking my arm and not walking as I pulled him down the sidewalk.  As we walked down Main Street he was blaming me for his behavior, telling me that I was ruining his vacation.  I marched him out of Disneyland and over to a bench where he continued to cry and berate me.  Want to get the best photo of the gates of Disneyland?  You have to do it in the middle of the afternoon.  Look.

    However, if you’re sitting outside the gates of Disneyland in the middle of the afternoon this is probably what’s on the other side of you.

    A good 20-30 minutes later and a lot of me trying different tactics to make the child understand his actions I finally found one that stuck.  I asked him to really think about his behavior and when he was ready to calmly talk to me about it and apologize I would talk to him.  I then handed him a bag of cashews and ignored him.  5 minutes later he looked at me and said, “mom, I’m ready to apologize.”  He explained his actions, said he was sorry and politely asked if he could go back to Disneyland.  I agreed and we walked hand-in-hand back through the gates.  While we were walking he looked up at me and said, “Mom, I’m going to be more respectful now.”  My heart just about melted.  I was so proud of him for recognizing his actions, acknowledging them and apologizing.  I told him that we would do something special because he showed me that he could be so kind.  Part of me was thinking that I really shouldn’t reward his behavior, but I wanted to reward the good behavior.  I gave him the option.  He could ride Pirates (the previous deal was he couldn’t ride Pirates unless he rode the Haunted Mansion because that was just his way of getting what he wanted).  So he could ride Pirates or we could go to the Mad Hatter and he could pick out a new ear hat.  He chose ear hat.  My boy and I went to the ear hat store, picked out a new ear hat for him and had his name embroidered on the back.  I told him that this was an anti-crabby hat.  As long as he was wearing Mickey ears he couldn’t be crabby.  Why oh why didn’t I think of that sooner?  The child was perfectly behaved the rest of the time in Disneyland.

  • Elle's World
  • Adventurecation: Part 3

    Right… I was telling you about our adventurecation.  I got distracted with work.  When we left off we had spent our first day at Disneyland.

    Day 2 was spent at California Adventure.  One of the trusty sister-in-laws wanted to see one of her girlfriends from middle school.  It just so happened that they were both going to be at Disney on the same day.  They found a 20 minute window of time where they could meet up.  It just so happened that it was outside Ariel’s Grotto in California Adventure.  We all tagged along just for fun.

    After the meet and greet we spent the day toodling around California Adventure trying to stave off the crab monster, affectionately known as my child.  I had packed snacks, we fed him treats, we took him on rides.  No amount of entertainment or food would make this child happy.  He wanted to see Toon Town.  Problem was, Toon Town was about as far away from where we were at the moment.  We promised the child that first thing the next day we would see Toon Town.  He begrudgingly agreed.  Needless to say if I don’t go back to California Adventure again I would be ok with that.

    The “highlight” of the day came when we had somehow talked the child into riding Grizzly River Run.  It is the giant tube ride that gets you wet.  It isn’t a roller coaster per say, but a bounce about fun on a hot day ride.  We had bee-lined straight for the fast pass line when we got to the park and our return was right before lunch time.  When it was time to get on the ride our line was very short because of the fast pass and the whole time the child was bouncy and mostly happy.  We could see a bit of fear in his eyes.  Of course it is the same look he had when I tried to get him to go on a playground slide.  Eventually I just had to push him down.  The child is so overly cautious he would sit in his room all day if you didn’t make him do something.  This was another one of those moments*.  We knew he would have fun so we coaxed him onto the ride.  B was also cautious, but she became my buddy when it came to rides.  She and I rode most all of the rides together.  So we get on the ride and in order to fill the tube a cast member puts a single rider in with us.  The kid must have been about 16 or 17 years old, if that.  We go up the first lift hill and the whole time the child is worrying himself into old age.  “I don’t want to go down a hill.”  “I don’t want to go down backwards.”  It was driving us nuts.  First hill done, WHEEEE!  “That was fun!”  GAH!  We bounce about down this river thing, round a corner and come to the “big hill.”  The tube goes into a set of gates and then it drops you over the edge.  There was another tube in the gates and we bounced into the gates, then the tube behind us bounced into us and the tube behind that…  There were about 8 tubes stacked up at this set of gates.  So we’re just about hanging off the edge of this hill and going no where.  The ride’s pre-recorded message that makes it seem like part of the ride comes on to say there’s been a delay.  All the while the child starts to worry.  And worry… And worry.  Everyone in the boat is trying to reassure him that it’s going to be fine.  Unfortunately, it got to the point that no amount of reasoning with this child was going to work.  We were on the ride, there was no way out except down the hill.  Of course we were stuck so we were all trapped with the crying.  After about 20 minutes the ride started going again and the tube in the gates was pitched over the edge which meant we were next.  Oh the crying.  We get pushed into the gates and pitched over the edge while the child is yelling, “I DON’T WAN…WHEEEEE!”  We get to the bottom and he says, “That was fun, I don’t know what I was afraid of.”  Had it not been for the seatbelt restraining me I would have reached across the tube and pulled a Homer Simpson on this child.  I guess this is the point where I should mention that just the day before he rode Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and squeed the whole time.

    The purpose of the whole trip was a family reunion.  We left California Adventure a little early so the kids could swim (I napped) and we could get ready for the reunion.  We had a lovely time with the family.  Derek’s aunt tried to make a point to have food that we all could eat.  Derek’s cousin is a vegetarian, B is very particular in her eating habits and I don’t eat dairy or gluten.  It was a tall order.  Luckily there was plenty for all of us.  We had a great evening and all fell into bed when we got back to the hotel… despite that nap.


    *please don’t think that I would ever make my child do something that truly would be scary for a 6 year old or something that could possibly hurt him.  I am not that kind of parent and I do know my child better than you do.

  • Elle's World
  • Adventurecation: Part 2

    After not sleeping and freezing our asses off all night we gave up and got moving.  The original plan was to get up at 6:30 to be on the road by 7:30, but we were up at 5:30 and out the “door” at 6:15.  Because I couldn’t wash my face or brush my teeth I was already feeling not so hot.  We also couldn’t make coffee because we didn’t bring our camping stove with us and weren’t about to try building a fire to heat water.  We set off down the mountain road (sans clean teeth or coffee).  This is the point where we were able to see the giant forest, while the child had his nose once again buried in a movie.  Somehow he was unimpressed.  Half way down I was starting to get rather motion sick and Derek asked me if it was better if I drove.  Aw hell no.  There was no way I was going to drive down that mountain.  We made it out and beelined for the closest Starbucks.  Praise you GPS*.

    We brushed out teeth, had a little coffee and shoved some food into the child’s face and set off towards the happiest place on Earth.  I say praise you to the GPS because in an 11 day road trip it never got us lost and was quite accurate on calculating time.  However, it did take us on some interesting roads.  For the most part we drove backroads from Visalia, CA to Bakersfield, CA.  It was slightly serene driving through vast farmland.  That is until we started in on the oil rig farms.  Nothing like fossil fuel farms to make you weep just a little (as we’re driving a small SUV).  Oh the irony.

    Then, once we got into LA, it kept recalculating for traffic and we kept following the fastest route.  At one point we were in Glendale and then back on the freeway headed toward east LA.  At that point we decided we were going to invent a new and improved GPS with an “anti-ghetto” feature.  We could make millions.

    We made it to Anaheim without getting shot 15 minutes ahead of our original time estimate and about 45 minutes ahead of the rest of the family (who were coming from Sacramento that day).

    We grabbed a quick snack and headed into Disneyland.  We were nearly greeted at the gate by Princess Ariel which delighted the 9 year old niece.  In honor of Mom we rode the train around the park, but before we did we snapped photos while waiting.

    Derek and the trusty brother-in-law are a force to be reckoned with when they get together.  It is a constant stream of bad jokes.

    Two nights before we had watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Derek was just acting the part.

    Of course his son was not to be outdone.

    Prior to leaving the hotel I told the trusty family that the child has been eating everything in sight.  If for some reason he gets cranky just shove food in his face.  It was a great plan, everyone was briefed, it was all going to be fine.  It was fine up until the point where we were waiting in line to ride Pirates of the Caribbean and the boy started to panic and his mother forgot to load her bag with snacks.  Not only was the child hungry (we had dinner reservations for 10 minutes later), but he was scared to ride the ride.  The ride that he asked to ride.  The ride that he rode 3 times in a row back in October.  So we did what we always do when we know he’s going to have fun but pitching a fit about it.  We shoved him on the ride and lo and behold he had fun.  Shocking.

    We made it to the restaurant (The Blue Bayou) at our reservation time only to be told they thought we would be there 20 minutes earlier.  There was some confusion about what time the reservation was made for.  Needless to say they still seated us and I was able to have a wonderful gluten free dinner complete with rolls.  Oh how I miss rolls with dinner.

    It was a short day at Disney, but enough to get the kids excited about the next few days to come.  It only gets better from here… or does it.


    *The GPS and my phone were our best friends on the trip.

  • Elle's World
  • Adventurecation: Part 1

    Thank you all for advice.   We figured out the issue.  We think he’s getting 6 year molars.  If you remember molars and our family don’t mix.  Let’s move on shall we?

    At the asscrack of dawn on August 2nd we set out for what we later dubbed Adventurecation.  The plan was for it to be an 11 night road trip that took us through Sequoia National Park to Disneyland to San Diego and back up the California coast.  This wasn’t the vacation we originally intended last year.  We went to Disneyland last Fall for the boy’s birthday.  However, a week after booking the previous Disney trip Derek’s aunt organized a family reunion.  Thing was… they live in Southern California.  About 15 minutes from Disneyland to be exact.  We figured that if we were going back to Disney, and driving this time, we would take our time and make the most of it.  It sounded like a good plan.  For the most part it was… except for that time that I wanted to jump out of the car in Vacaville, CA.

    We were up late on the 1st preparing for an early departure the next morning.  I had a carefully orchestrated plan of packing and loading the car and being in bed by 9:00 so I wasn’t a complete and utter crank at 3:30 a.m..  By the way, whomever invented 3:30 in the morning should be shot.  Apparently writing things down on a piece of paper wasn’t good enough for the organizational overloards because at about 5:00 my husband came home and promptly started taking the front part of my car apart.  What the hell?!  Those organizational overloards gave us the big middle finger and a headlight had burned out.  Hey we still had one.  Wasn’t that good enough?  Dammit, I should have made an Excel spreadsheet.

    We get the car packed, fall into bed only for the alarm to go off at 3:30 a.m..  I really have to find that guy and kick him in the nuts.  At 4:15 we get the kid out of bed, throw some clothes on him, stuff him in the car and off we go… only to make potty stops every hour until south of Portland.

    The first day’s plan was to drive to Sacramento and stay the night with Derek’s sister. Plan accomplished.  We rolled into Sac-town at about 5:00.  So far so good.  The next morning was the first in Adventurecation.  We made it to Sequoia relatively early in the day (3:00 in the afternoon).  The northern part of the park is beautiful and the child had his nose buried in an iPod.  I made him take off the headphones and put away the iPod because gosh darn it we drove all this way so HE could see really big trees and he was going to enjoy it.  Never mind the really really big trees are in the southern part of the park, but we are going to enjoy this family road trip moment.

    We made it to the campground and after yet another potty stop at the visitor’s center we were ready to check in.  The park ranger informed us that we were staying in a very active bear area.  I was aware of  bear activity considering one of the highlights of the campground are individual bear boxes.  She briefed us of all proper bear protocol.  There were things like clear every scrap of food out of your car and put it in the bear box.  All toiletries must be removed from the car and put in the bear box.  Remove the child’s car seat from the car and set it outside of the car.  Don’t wash dishes, brush your teeth or wash your hands at the faucet at your site.  All grey water must be dumped in the bathroom, but oh we should probably mention that the restroom near your site is under construction so you have to hike your grey water down the hill to the other bathroom to dump it.  And if you need to use the bathroom there are two porta-potties nearby.  Have a nice time and don’t get eaten by bears.

    Determined to not be scared of bears we followed every last bit of her advice and I strongly warned the boys that they were to not get a single dish dirty.  That worked out well.

    Once we had camp set up we were off to see “the big tree.”  The scenery was beautiful.  There is something about being in the woods that is magical to me.  I love it.  We walked down the path to the General Sherman tree and holy hell is it ever huge.  The last time I saw it was about 17 or 18 year ago.  They’ve made considerable improvements to the park and we had a nice time.  It wasn’t too busy and we were able to get a shot of the boy with the biggest tree in the world.

    After not quite a national lampoons moment at the General Sherman tree we headed back to the campground for dinner.  We also discovered that there was a beautiful river that ran through the campground.  We hurried through dinner so the child could explore the rocks and water.  That was the point where I said I could stay there forever.  Part of me wish we had.  crawling on large rocks in the middle of a river brings back childhood memories that are so precious to me.  One night in Sequoia was not nearly enough.

    The boys made a quick potty stop and I took a moment to do one of my favorite activities.  I built a small cairn in the middle of the river.

    That night we put the boy to bed in the tent and we watched an episode of Mad Men on my laptop (not exactly roughing it).  A few minutes into the show we heard, “Dad, Daaad,” from the boy.  He informed his father that the nearby waterfall was keeping him awake.  Sorry buddy, can’t turn that off, and he told him to go to sleep.  After our show we got ready for bed and as I walked to the porta-potty I looked up and saw the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life.  Every star in the sky was shining against a deep black sky.  I’ve never seen so many stars in my life.  Derek came back and said, “did you see it?”  See what?  The Milky Way.  Sure enough.  With that we crawled into the tent only to not sleep because the ground was hard and wow that waterfall really was loud.  Did I mention it was cold in the mountains?

  • Elle's World
  • Disney Tips for the Brave

    I realize it has been almost a week since we’ve been home from Disneyland and I’ve complained about our trip home, but never really mentioned the trip in general.  The trusty husband and I have made many trips to Disneyland in the past and this was our second as a family of 3.  Let’s not discuss the first one.  I didn’t really write about it to begin with.

    So, our first trip to Disneyland as a family…

    First I have to say that if you ever have the chance to visit Disneyland at Halloween time please do so.  The weather may be slightly iffy, but it is worth it.  I won’t say it is less crowded.  It’s not.  I’m convinced that Disneyland is never not crowded.

    They dress the park up for the season and the Haunted House like the Nightmare Before Christmas.  It is a hoot.  It is also one of the only times you’ll get to see the villain characters.  If you are a big villain fan, like me, you’ll love it.  Besides, you get wonderful photos.

    Gideon was one of my favorite characters at the park.  He interacted with us as opposed to just posing for a photo.  The child was less certain about the villains, but we loved it.  (We missed Cruella, Frollo and Honest John, but did see The Queen and Gideon)

    The other fun part is that the main characters are dressed up in their Halloween finest.  Mickey was a (not so scary) vampire, Minnie was a witch, Goofy was a skeleton and Donald was a pumpkin. This was the best photo I could get of the boy and Donald.  The duck was more interested in eating the ballon.

    So tips and tricks about navigating Disneyland with little ones in tow.  It depends on if you like to plan or not.  We are not big planners.  We basically buy plane tickets, show up and do whatever feels good at the moment.  This trip was no exception.  So here goes.

    1. Don’t go to Disneyland 3 days after your mother-in-law has brain surgery.  While our family was ok with the situation and we had siblings at home to take care of things the stress caused a momentary lapse of reason thus resulting in me forgetting to pack important things.  The good news is that if you forget something there is a Target somewhat nearby that you can pick up what you left behind.

    2. You will notice at Target that they sell wine.  You may think to yourself that you will save some money by purchasing wine at said Target and forgo your evening drink at a restaurant.  This sounds like a great plan.  However, at the end of a long day of walking and potential child meltdowns you will pay the $45 for a glass of wine at the restaurant and then go back to your hotel and drink the wine there and spend a week of a family vacation in a drunken stupor.  It totally wouldn’t know about that.

    3. If you think the wine thing sounds like a great tip, bring your own corkscrew or be prepared to purchase one at Target.  There are exactly 2 bottles of screw top wine available at the Target.  I tried both.  Neither are great.

    4. Carry an umbrella with you at all times.  If you don’t it will rain.  If you carry the umbrella you will ensure that the weather will be perfect.

    5. A hotel within walking distance (right across the street from the park) is a great idea… in theory.  The nicer hotels are a short bus ride away, which will cost you a little more in hotel prices and bus fare.  The trade-off is that you aren’t right. across. the. street.  Where they do fireworks.  You can still hear the fireworks from the further away hotels.  It just won’t wake you up from your drunken stupor.

    6. While you are at Target contemplating between screw top #1 and screw top #2 (go with #2) pick up some snacks.  You can bring food into the park and you will need emergency granola bars to stave off the cranky unless you like to pay $2 for a banana.

    7. You might think your 6 year old child would enjoy Space Mountain all duded up for Halloween… I assure you he will not.

    8.  It’s A Small World still makes you stabby.  Only now it makes you stabby in bright neon colors.

    9. Don’t expect to pay under $30 for any meal.  And by all means don’t expect that meal to be hot… or taste good.

    10. Don’t visit one of those “ride planner” websites.  That’s just silly.  Have fun and go with the flow.  It is great in theory to plan out every moment of your Disneyland experience, but you might miss something like a show put on by the fire brigade or listening to the strolling pirates while having lunch outdoors at Cafe Orleans.

    If you want real tips on Disneyland email me.  I have many of them including what not to miss and what to skip.

  • Elle's World
  • A brief interlude

    Alternate title… who knew that could happen?

    About 2 months ago Derek and I booked a trip to Disneyland for Oleg’s 6th birthday.  The plan was to leave on the 18th and return on the 23rd of October.  The plane tickets and hotel were paid for and the Disney tickets were already purchased.  5 days before we were supposed to leave Derek’s mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  We fretted all weekend long about how we could reschedule the trip.  Wonderful things happen and mom came through surgery with flying colors, is doing well and Derek’s sister is there.  Dad gave us his approval to take the trip.

    Yesterday we spent the day traveling to Southern California for our great Disney adventure.  The whole day I kept remembering things I had forgotten to pack.  I forgot socks for the boy, the shampoo I made a point to purchase the day before we left, hair spray, my allergy medication, my curling iron and/or flat iron and a few other things.  Derek looked at me and said, “what’s wrong with you?”  Gee, I wonder.

    Not to be deterred by the bumpy start to our trip we were determined to have fun.

    The weather forecast this morning didn’t look that stellar.  I left Washington in search of sunny warm weather.  Yeah… not so much.

    We ran errands to have breakfast and pick up a few of the things I had forgotten the off to the happiest place on earth.  The first rid was Pirates at the request of the child.  When we got off the ride it was pouring outside.  I have never seen so many poncho clad tourists in my life.  Tomorrow doesn’t look much better.  So bad in fact that I purchased umbrellas.  I will not let this rain ruin my Disney vacation.

  • Elle's World
  • We will have fun and we will like it

    Yesterday we decided to have a family outing. ?We haven’t done that in a very long time and there was a new exhibit that opened on Saturday at the Pacific Science Center. ?I informed the husband that we would be going and at breakfast I had a conversation with the child about this being a good day and there would be no screaming, whining or talking back.

    As an aside: Every day, for the past I can’t remember how long, has included some form of the above malady.

    The child agreed that it would be a good day and after we had all gotten ready for the day we set off in search of a fun family outing.

    The first agenda item was to do a little shopping. ?That was successful since we walked out of all 3 stores we entered with nothing. ?From the Westlake area we walked down Pike to the new Hard Rock Cafe. ?I love the Hard Rock. ?If I’m visiting a city and there is a Hard Rock in the area I’ll be there. ?We had a great lunch, a well behaved child and Derek took some photos. ?Despite having to turn the ISO way up on the camera this shot of me turned out quite good. ?I love how you can see the reflection of Derek taking the photo. ?This is one of the only un-photoshopped photos of me.


    After our lunch we waded our way past Pike’s Place Market (one of my least favorite places in Seattle) to Sur La Table to look for a candy thermometer. ?Both of mine died this year and I wanted a nice high end one that would last more than one candy season. ?No luck.

    That was enough of downtown so we hopped on the Monorail to the Science Center. ?I am not exactly sure what I was thinking trying to go to a brand new exhibit on the weekend. ?I though that maybe because it was Sunday that it wouldn’t be overly busy. ?Oh holy nerdy hell. ?The place was packed with rube-a-licious rat-tailed kids (I thought that fad died in the early 90s) trying to solve the puzzles and hogging all of the stations. ?However, we did our usual run through the butterfly house where sweated off 15 pounds and snapped 1 good photo.


    After running around the crowded Science Center for a few hours, in cashmere socks (what the hell was I thinking) and mules and having not recovered from the butterfly house sweat-a-thon I was thirsty. ?I talked the boys into stopping for a snack and something to drink. ?I purchased a cookie the size of a small child and a lemonade the size of my head with enough sugar to send a small third world nation into diabetic shock. ?We found a bench to enjoy our snack.


    Please note the furrowed brow on my face. ?This is either because I didn’t have my sunglasses on or foreshadowing of impending doom. ?I’m going to go with the latter.

    The child handed me the cookie remains and then informed his father that he wanted to ride the carnival rides. ?It should be noted that the cookie and lemonade cost a small fortune and in order to pay for the rides we would have needed to take out a second mortgage on our house. ?It was the cookie or the rides kid. ?At this point the child started screaming. ?Did I mention that the bench we were sitting on was right at the bottom of the Space Needle? ?It was, see.


    That meant that hundreds of people were walking by to visit the famous Seattle landmark… also staring at the screaming child. ?He started in on, “you aren’t letting me have any fun.” ?When we explained that the rides cost money and that we didn’t have it to spend (also note he has never ridden any of these rides because they are so damn expensive) he progressed to screaming at the top of his lungs, “I WANT MONEY!!” ?At that point I got up and sat at another bench. ?A few minutes later I moved benches again because I could still hear him. ?Ten minutes later they boys came walking over and we agreed to leave. ?This is where the day took a nose dive. ?Oh, you thought a screaming child in the middle of a busy park was bad? ?Think again buddy.

    In order to get from the Science Center back to downtown we needed to take the monorail (the mode of transportation that got us to the Science Center). ?However, the monorail is the single least reliable mode of transportation in all of Seattle. ?It’s like traveling to Paris and thinking that public transport will be your go-to get around town mode. ?Of course the monorail was out of service. ?The lady informed us that it was closed for at least the next hour. ?That meant it was closed until at least June of 2012. ?This left walking (or a cab, in which I would have to sell a kidney). ?Walk it was. ?Only not if you are 5. ?The 5 year old decided that he needed to scream about that too. ?Our options were sit around the Science Center for an hour and listen to the child scream some more about not being able to ride the rides or walk to downtown carrying the said screaming child. ?We voted for option B. ?Halfway to downtown the monorail whizzed by us. ?A few minutes later we strolled past the monorail sitting on the track above us (sans people because they were testing it… unsuccessfully). ?Of course the child again started to whine and cry that he wanted to ride the monorail. ?I suggested we walk back all the way we came, wait for an hour and still have to walk to downtown because odds are, they aren’t going to fix it. ?He almost went for it. ?It should be said that the distance between the Space Needle and downtown Seattle is only about a mile.

    What started out as a lovely family day went south. ?I blame lack of food and too much excitement. ?Just when I think that we can handle a day like that I am reminded what it takes to pull such an endeavor off. ?Next time bring snacks and institute mandatory rest periods.

    Despite it ending on a bad note I did go through the photos and found this one. ?He’s just too cute to resist. ?Look at those freckles.


    It should also be noted that I slept in the car the whole way home.

  • Elle's World
  • 30 days and counting and some photos

    We think the child’s poo issues are on the road to recovery. ?We still aren’t sure about his ability to ever have dairy again. ?Because of my own food related woes I don’t wish that on anyone. ?What I can say is that he’s been over a week accident free. ?This is a very very good thing.

    Moving on…

    Did I mention that I’m going to China for 15 days this summer? ?I may have mentioned it briefly, but haven’t gone into depth about it. ?On July 14th me and a friend are taking a group of 3 teenage girls to China. ?We are traveling with 2 other groups with an organization called ChinaConnect. ?Up until now this whole trip has been one of those in the distant future things. ?However, I leave in 30 days. ?That is one month and after today it will be LESS than a month. ?Did I mention it was 15 days? ?And the boys aren’t going? ?I waffle between simply giddy and freaking the hell out. ?I haven’t been out of the country in almost 4 years, I know about 5 words/phrases in Chinese (and one of them is NOT where is the bathroom) and I’m going with youth so I cannot drink the whole time. ?15 days? ?I can manage.

    In all honesty I’m very excited to go on the trip. ?The kids we are taking are 3 amazing girls and the friend I’m going with is a very good one. ?I’m quite glad I’m going with her. ?This is the first long term youth trip we’ve done just the two of us. ?Usually Derek is with us. ?It is going to be an adventure that is for sure. ?Her job is to find the “safe” toilets in the places we visit and my job is to be the first one to go into them. ?Hey, I’ve peed on the ground in Mexico, I’m not proud.


    In other life news… yeah, there is nothing.

    Ok, maybe something.

    The weed issue in our front yard had gotten so bad that Derek is now considering hiring a landscaper to come out and take care of it all. ?As in, she came to our house (at some point, we weren’t home) to look at it and she’ll give me a quote on Tuesday. ?Derek’s response was, “and I’ll turn around and write her a check.” ?And then I blacked out for a minute. ?My husband does not part easily with money for a project he can do himself. ?Back of our house fell off… we can fix that. ?We’ll see what the quote comes in at.


    Now here, have some photos.


    The boy thought he’s stick butter cups in his hat. ?Then mom and I made him wear it like g-money.


    I can’t believe how big my girl is getting.


    We have a hard time remembering she’s just an 8 month old puppy.