Disneyland Day 1

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Our second day of our 3 day pass we headed to Disneyland. Our goal was to ride the rides we wanted and see the parades, figuring the next visit we’d try to meet characters.
We headed to autopia first since there wasn’t much of a line and we wanted a fast pass for Star tours, which was in that direction. We were hungry almost immediately after, so we went over to the Mexican restaurant next to Big Thunder Railroad. They did amazing with the gluten free food for me!
We convinced S to ride with me on Big Thunder​ after, even though she was scared. I told her that the worst case was that she hated it and it only lasted one minute of awful. That helped her a bit. But she still hated the ride.

I took a break with D while my husband and S ride star tours. I could NOT get him to sleep for anything. There was screaming, crying, kicking, protesting. I’d found a great spot next to the Matterhorn and submarine. I say there for about an hour and D would not sleep. So I got up and walked around; he fell asleep in about 15 minutes. Next time, no sitting: walking!
We watched the parade, which was my highlight of the day – the kids had so much fun seeing some of their favorite characters, and my daughter taught my son to wave at them. Both kids were having and yelling hello to everyone who passed by. It was a fun parade.

We rode the teacups, which we all loved, got dinner, wandered some more, and enjoyed the electric parade before heading home with some very very tired kids.

Disney California Adventure

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Although we live very close to Disneyland, only go once a year or every other year – it’s just way too expensive! Luckily, this year they offered the SoCal pass, which was a great deal. We finally had the chance to use our first day, and we went to CA adventure, which I’ve only been to once or twice. 

(Side rant: Honestly, Disneyland is just so much better! I have NO IDEA why they would build a California park IN California. It’s only like an hour to go to the real Hollywood or one of the piers. CA adventure would have done so much better in a different country! We could have had DisneySea like in Tokyo, but they passed on it. What a waste… DisneySea is amazing! /Rant)

Anyway, we hadn’t been since they built Cars Land. Ohmygosh, it’s amazing. It’s really like walking into the movie. The area isn’t that big, but they have all the stops in the move as well as the cars driving out to take pictures. My son was enthralled. That alone might be worth coming back – but not much else. 

There were a few fun things, but if you aren’t going on any of the big rides, eh, you could pass. The toy story ride was really fun but the line was crazy. Good thing we had fastpasses! It was fun meeting Elsa and Anna! We did see the show, but again, just eh. We had to wait a full hour for the hour long show, and while the performers were good, the production felt forced; the chorus was pushed in odd places, the pacing was rough, and some was really really cheesy. The guy who played Olaf was dynamite though. However, my daughter loved it, so it was worth the time.
We’ll be using our other two days at Disneyland, which I know really well, so I’m looking forward to that!

Baby’s Room!

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I’m so very excited to show you our baby’s room. I was trying to figure out how I was going to decorate his room. I wanted something that would grow with him – not a “nursery.” I ended up thinking how cool a space theme would be, but too much was too cartoony. I finally found black and white realistic planets, then decided how neat it would be to have spaceships from our favorite series! Then, of course, we needed to add some scripture. Once I got the miscellaneous stars, I decided it would fun to make constellations instead of just randomly place them. I love the way everything turned out! (Plus, I got to support six different etsy sellers!) Click on the pictures to see a larger version.

Work Party at the Ranch

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This weekend we headed up to the area I grew up in – a tiny community with 73 houses and about 300 residents for my husband’s work party. Instead of renting out a place, they host the party at the boss’s house every year because they just have a really cool house, and even with all the neat stuff they rent for the party (bounce houses, dunk tank, pony rides, catering), it’s still cheaper.

So after the memorial (see Kaleigh), we headed on our adventure – about 1.5 hour drive. We arrived a bit late, but just in time for the egg toss. We made it pretty far into the contest – maybe 4th out of 10 teams? – and luckily, no egg on either of us. We enjoyed some soft serve, got some delicious BBQ ribs and biscuit (and other yummy food), and took our daughter on the bounce house obstacle course for at least 20 minutes. Then we sat and enjoyed watching the associates and secretaries throw balls at the dunk tank in order to dunk the senior partner. (Last year he wore a full suit in the dunk tank, which was awesome, but this year it was just too hot.)

After that, we wandered around a bit more. At this point, my daughter made friends with one of the little girls – a niece of one of the attorneys, I think. Their initial conversation after introductions went like this:

  • I’m four!
  • I’m five!
  • I’m going to be five!
  • I’m going to be six!
  • After I’m five I’m going to be six like you!
  • Well, then I’ll be…

And the other girl was then interrupted by her grandma, who told her she wasn’t six, she was five. I explained their conversation and we all laughed. The girls decided they wanted to go play with the chicks some more (I forgot to mention those!), so I asked to take them and watch them.

A little side note here. We don’t live on a farm, but my parents do, and I grew up in the country. My daughter visits my parents. Around Easter, my mom got us about a dozen chicks to have for a bit. We took them to my daughter’s preschool and to Cubbies (Awana) – and I thus became known as the Chicken Lady. The chicks lived with us for 2 weeks (in the garage) before going back to live with Grandma. My daughter knows how to catch, hold, carry, pick up, and care for chicks, and has for a while. Those chicks are now full grown and laying eggs, by the way. Side note over.

IMG_5289Anyway, back to the chicks. So I take the two new best friends to see the chicks. It was like a hot box in their little room (they like the heat when small). My daughter starts giggling, chasing the chicks around, picking them up, handing them to me, passing them to her new friend (who is afraid to hold them), and trying to find the one special gray one. The other little girl (city folk) was worried the chick would “bite” her or that the claws would scratch her. She was scared to pet one, let alone try to pick one up, despite reassurances that it was fine.

After a few minutes of the three of us with the chicks, the girl’s grandma joined us. Within about ten seconds, she started worrying about my daughter and how she was behaving around the chicks:

“Let’s be careful!”
“Be gentle!”
“Watch where we’re stepping!”
“Oh, oh, oh, go slowly!”
“I don’t know if you should…”

Now these comments could have been directed towards her granddaughter, but she was walking around like she was in a minefield, and certainly wasn’t picking up the chicks unless my daughter was throwing* them at her (accompanied by me saying, “You know, she may not want to hold one,” “Ask first,” or “let her get her own.”).

After about a minute in there with us, poor grandma looked like she was about to faint. She took the other little girl out – because of the heat. Now it’s entirely possible that the heat could have been the reason, but it’s equally possible she just couldn’t handle my demon child torturing those poor chicks while this mom stood idly by. I could have explained that my kid knew what she was doing, I suppose, but the grandma was so politely corrective, and didn’t really ask, and left so quickly – there just wasn’t time. Ah, well, I guess she’ll never know.

We stayed a bit later and chatted, then headed home for a lovely sunset drive down the mountains. What a beautiful, fun day.

*I don’t literally mean throwing.

Air’s Birthday

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Tuesday was one of our student’s birthdays. Somehow we managed to get a student with a birthday both last year as well as this year (and we love it!). Last year we threw Nancy a birthday party with all the students – complete with cake, presents, pin the tail on the donkey, and a pinata. She cried and told us she’d never EVER had a birthday party before.

Pinata

Not Air – Another student

This year the director of the program wanted to do a birthday party with the students during class time, so we gave Air the choice to do something with family (us) or with her friends. She decided to stick with family. So – on my crazy Tuesday – I drove my daughter to my friend’s VBS, then drove back home, gathered some supplies, then ran to church (where the Chinese students have their classes).  I met the teacher and she and I spent an hour decorating the gym for the party. Air walked in with the other students to her surprise party and my daughter putting a crown on her head. We sang happy birthday, played basketball themed games (she named herself Air after Air Jordan), and hit the pinata. She was incredibly happy.

Birthday Party

From there, I drove my 3 girls (my daughter, Air and April) to meet my husband for dinner at Chili’s. After dinner, the waiters came and sang Happy Birthday to Air, and she was so surprised and a bit embarrassed. Many of the patrons of the restaurant clapped – it was wonderful!

Go cartsAfter dinner we drove to Boomers. We had found a great discount through groupon for unlimited rides/miniature golf, so we played for a few hours until they closed. The girls – including my 4 year old – LOVED the speedway. They all went one time, then we played miniature golf, which does not exist in China. They were pretty good and had a great time. Air kept saying she had a wonderful day – that it was one of the best days of her life. I am so glad that we got to experience such a special time with her!     IMG_3706IMG_3729

 

 

 

Mariachi, Church, and Family Farm

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MariachiOn the second Saturday we had our students, we let them sleep in because they were totally exhausted. By about 11 am, we decided we had better wake them up. I made pancakes, bacon and eggs, which turned into more of a brunch, but was still good. (By the way this mix is great if you are gluten free. I make regular pancakes for everyone else though.) After that, we asked the girls what they wanted to do, but the only thing they really wanted was to go shopping. My husband took them so I could get some stamping done, and when they got back, we all headed to dinner at a Mexican restaurant. We had asked a friend who recommended a place with great mariachi music, and it was a lot of fun! The music was great and the food was pretty good too (especially since I was limited in my selection).

donutsSunday morning I headed out and picked up donuts (unfortunately, no Dunkin Donuts nearby for me to grab GF donuts), and headed home. When we all sat down for breakfast before church, I asked the girls what they knew about Christianity and the religion, since I knew church the week before had been confusing. (We had given them a bilingual Bible and helped them flip through it to find the verses during the sermon, but the sermon moved very quickly and covered a lot of topics the prior week.) The discussion was great, but I don’t have time to cover it now – look for it in a later post (edit: the cupcake post!). We got to church and sang songs (they really moved Air, who was holding back tears, but couldn’t explain why). The sermon was dead on with what we had explained and I saw them both nodding in understanding, so I was very glad we had had that prepping conversation.

After church we grabbed a quick lunch at El Pollo Loco, then went to visit my parents. My parents live about 1.5 hours away, but they have animals and property, so we thought it’d be a fun trip – and it was. The girls all slept on the way out there. I tried to wake up my daughter with her name, with shaking her, with saying, “wake up,” but she refused to move until I said, “Grammy’s farm” – then she was WIDE AWAKE, and therefore Air and April were too.

donkeyWe pulled up to their house to a chorus of “wow, wow, wow” from the backseat. We said hello to everyone as soon as we got out of the car and quickly changed my daughter into her bathing suit so that she could swim in the pond, and we all covered ourselves in sunscreen. The girls and I went to see the animals with my dad. The girls kept laughing and taking pictures – they had a wonderful time, and the animals loved the attention. My mom joined us, and we went into the chicken area so my daughter could collect the eggs. I caught a chicken for the girls to hold, and I showed them how you can put it to sleep (one of my favorite farm tricks). We then headed over to talk with my grandparents, who had driven up, and watch my brother play with my daughter. The girls decided they wanted to swim, so we went up and changed into swim suits and got into the pond (with the fish). About this time, we got a phone call from my other brother, who decided to come up with his wife as well – so my entire family was there (minus aunts/uncles/cousins). We swam for a bit, then headed up to the house for a yummy dinner of tri-tip, chicken, fruits and veggies. After that, we watched the sunset, and walked around as my dad fed the animals, then sat around talking for a while We headed home after the sun had totally set and the sky was clear enough to see all the stars. The girls talked for a bit about what a great time they had, then fell asleep on the drive home. It was a wonderful weekend.

swimming in the pondchicken   IMG_3547

animals

Visiting UCLA with the Chinese Students

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Janss StepsOne of the most fun things I’ve gotten to do with the students this year is take a trip to UCLA. They are required to visit a bunch of different kinds of places for their program – Police, Fire Dept, volunteer, medical, and schools, for example. They were headed to UCLA, but couldn’t get a tour, so they were going to walk around and do a self-guided tour – only no one had really been there before! Since UCLA is the school I graduated from, I was delighted to offer to go and walk around with them.
 
After a bunch of traffic, we finally made it. We got out of the car, gathered at the Bruin Bear, where I told them to meet if they got lost (but no one was getting lost, right? RIGHT?) and then made a quick run to the bathroom. From there we sat down and I gave them a brief intro of UCLA – I did a bunch of research so I had all my facts and figures down and could actually give them an informative tour. However, straight information is no fun. What *IS* fun is telling people the urban legands of UCLA that incoming freshman are told.
 
Statue GardenSo, I told the students that I was going to tell them a lot of things about UCLA and that some of the stories would be true and some would be lies – and that they needed to figure out which were which. If they asked me, I’d tell them. (I ended up discussing it with my students the next day, so hopefully they passed the info on the the other students.)
 
With that warning, we headed off for a 2 hour tour of campus with the fascinating details of psych experiments, WWII bomb shelters, pools on roofs, helicopters moving buildings, and bodies buried under staircases. We had a great time – even if there was a ton of walking. The students seemed to enjoy themselves and really appreciate the beauty of the campus. I got to take my daughter, who was very well behaved (and thusly rewarded with a visit to the candy store at the end of the tour). It was a fun day.
 
Bruin Bear

OC Fair with Chinese Students

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Fair foodLast year our favorite activity with our visiting students was going to the County Fair, so we knew we had to go again this year. (We go every year, but it’s super fun with people who have never been to something like that before.) We got there on Saturday around noon, so we walked around for just a little bit, then we got lunch. The girls were absolutely fascinated with the food. We explained that fair food is completely different than real American food. It took them forever to decide, but they finally settled on food (and by that time, my husband and daughter were already done eating). I had a bit of a hard time this year since I’ve gone gluten free, but it was actually really nice – it was the first time I left the fair without feeling overstuffed. For lunch I ended up with a giant sausage with onions and peppers (no bun) and had the turkey leg for dinner. No junk (comparatively); however, I did miss trying the one random junk thing we usually get – last year we tried fried oreos, the year before we tried the fried koolaid, then before that the Klondike bar (we have yet to try the cookie dough or avocado). Anyway, no crazy foods for me anymore (my stomach thanks me).

IMG_3045But I digress. After lunch, my husband took our daughter to go on the kid rides, and I walked around with the girls. We did a bit of shopping (I love fair shopping – such unique products!) – they both bough a pair of earspirals (my SIL and BIL bought me a pair a few years ago and I simply LOVE them), then we moved onto the craft area. We took a look at all the cakes, table settings, blankets, woodworking, photos, paintings, etc – some made by kids, some made by adults. I always love looking at the table settings and the woodwork, but this year I especially loved the “Green Crafts” section. These were crafts or projects that needed to be made from (supposedly) recycled materials. In truth, there was a lot of new materials made to look used – duct tape, plastic spoons, cotton balls, etc. (So many things I have seen on pinterest; I saw 5 spoon mirrors.) Anyway, the most awesome was a duct tape dress and tux (left). Seriously, everything was made from duct tape – including the boutonniere, the corsage, and the purse. Better than that, there was a photo attached of the girl who made them with her boyfriend wearing them (to prom or something)! It was fantastic. We had a great time in those buildings, then we moved on.

pig racesNext, we met up with my husband and daughter at a kids’ magic show. I was all set to enjoy it, but I was just thoroughly insulted. The guy asked for a “beautiful girl” volunteer and “an ugly – just kidding – average looking boy.” Once he got them up to the front on his tiny stage, he told them that “one was going to be the wonderful, amazing, fantastic magician, and the other was going to be the lovely assistant.” Then he turned to the girl and said, “So you get to be the lovely assistant. You stand there… and be lovely. Look, you’re done.” And then he turned to the boy and told him he needed to wear cool clothes (and used a bunch of ridiculous props here which embarrassed the kid to the point of making the poor boy cry and needing to get a new volunteer), and that the boy, in his cool clothes, got to do the awesome magic and be popular with everyone. I did not like one bit of his show. I thought it was sexist, hurtful to kids, and just obnoxious. Thankfully, we headed to the pig races after that, which are always fun. We then grabbed some dinner and watched the hypnotist (Mark Yuzuik), who has always been one of our favorite acts at the fair.

flag skydivingThen we took the girls to the finale of the night – bull riding. We didn’t prep them at all, so they had no idea what to expect. First, there was a skydiver with the American flag. As he was coming down, the announcer thanked the service men and women, and everyone cheered. Then the flag landed (see below) and everyone stood for the national anthem. From there, the first bull was let go, and the girl’s jaws just dropped. We let them see 2, then I turned to them and explained what was going on. At first they were very confused, but as they saw more and more, they began to cheer and get really loud and started to really enjoy it. By the end they were cheering louder than many of the other people surrounding us. At the end of the show, there was motorcycle jumping (they even did flips!). Then we took the girls to the corner where the pens were, and we were able to meet one of the cowboys.

After the motorcycles and bull riding, we headed home. The girls had an awesome time, but it was a really exhausting day.

American Flag

bull-riding   cowboy

 

Visiting Chinese Students

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Once again, our family is hosting two girls from China. We did this last year and had an absolute blast! Connie and Nancy*, our students last year, were so wonderful and so much fun we just didn’t want them to leave. By the end of their 2 week stay they really were a part of the family – they were doing dishes and reading my daughter her bedtime story. We went to dinner, went to a show, and experienced American culture – we are so excited to get the chance to do it all over again this year!

Air and April arrived late Thursday night. Air loves basketball and is incredibly outgoing. You would know her what she thinks the minute you meet her. She got her name from Air Jordan. April is more of an introvert – a reader, and a bit of a mystery. Her name came from her birth month. Absolutely fascinating to me – April has a younger sister. I didn’t know that was possible in China with the one child law, but I recently found out (before they came), that more than one child is possible, provided you pay the government a fine.

Their classes are incredibly fun and interesting. In a two week packed schedule, they have a bit of in-class time (which is located at our church), then they have a bunch of field trips. They visit Chapman, UCLA, Disneyland, Hollywood, a fire station, library, police dept, senior center, and much more. It’s a really neat program. At the end, they need to prepare a report then present it to the class. Weekends they have free with their host family (as well as breakfasts and dinners).

My Mulan Bookmark

My Mulan Bookmark

We are looking forward to the weeks ahead with them – visiting new places, trying new foods, exchanging cultural experiences, and bonding as a family. (When they arrived, they brought us some wonderful gifts – bookmarks, key chains, coasters, a cool paper cutting, and a god luck charm for my daughter. They were well thought out gifts – very like the girls they came from.)

*Chinese students often have an English name when they have class or when they visit. Last year Nancy’s real name was Nan (so Nancy was close). Connie didn’t have an English name, so we got to choose one for her. We talked about her personality and characteristics, and chose Constance for her, with the nickname Connie – it fit her perfectly.

VeggieTales – MacLarry and the Stinky Cheese Battle

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Food   Coloring table

balloon gameOne of the things I have yet to mention on my blog is that I am a VeggieTale Ambassador. This basically means that I get to throw VeggieTale parties every few months at my church (and wherever else I want to). I basically get a movie kit in the mail, which includes posters, stickers, ideas, coloring pages, and the movie (of course!), and I am required to do an event with at least 50 people.

The most recent movie was MacLarry, and we decided to use the party as a wrap up to this year’s VBS. We always to music, food, a coloring table, and 2-3 crafts or games for 45 or so minutes before starting the movie. This time, because so much of the story is about practical jokes, I found pom pom shooters (tutorial here) and balloon paddle ball (tutorial here – we used Popsicle stick instead).  I found instructions for this really neat celtic knotted heart, which I put out for the adults and teenagers to try. I also found a cute Scottish/English dictionary to print on a single page, but I can’t seem to locate it at the moment. The coloring table (above) had coloring (duh), the knot (we used yarn), and the dictionary. The pom pom shooter table was across the room. I took a trip to Dollar Tree and bought HUNDREDS of pom poms. Why? Because I didn’t want the kids to run out and start shooting popcorn or carrots across the room (the plan worked, by the way – no flying food). The balloon game was a big hit too – my husband blew up like 30+ balloons and put them in the baskets in the corner, and the kids colored paper plates, then had them glued to popsicle sticks (an adult watched the glue gun). Then they bounced the balloons back and forth. After 45 mins or so of games, we all got some more food, and sat down to watch the movie. When it was over, we did our raffle, I reminded them that “God made you special and He loves you very much!” and sent them home. It was a ton of fun.

Before I close this post, I want to make special note of our decorations. At one point in the story, there is a water balloon/pie fight. I made a bunch of paper pies and balloons, and my friend Ginger put them up. She did amazingly, especially for not being able to see very well.

VeggieTales Premiere

I’d also like to point out my peas. During the movie they get bad haircuts, so I gave my cutouts bad haircuts as well (though they could have been positioned a bit better in some cases.) Enjoy! ‘Til the next VT event. 🙂

veggietale pea 1   veggietale pea 2

veggietale pea 3        veggietale pea 4