Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pumpkin Painter

Instead of carving pumpkins, I thought Lana would enjoy painting more.

I was right.
Lana had a blast and made a huge mess.

We started with a little bit of blue paint.

She liked that well enough, so we added some yellow.


Then to add the perfect finishing touch, she covered the entire pumpkin (and her hands, face and hair) in pink.

I may be biased, but I do believe we have a talented little artist in our midst.

It's a Masterpiece!
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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Haunted Palouse Flashback

Photo Courtesy of

We only live a few miles from the small town of Palouse, Washington and lately we've been hearing and seeing all the advertisements for Haunted Palouse, a town-wide Halloween attraction with two full haunted houses. The proceeds raised go to support community programs and scholarships. We're not going this year and probably won't go for a few years yet, but I clearly remember a visit to Palouse four years ago.

Dan and I had been dating for about four months and he drove across the state to spend the weekend with me. My brother, Kasey, was a junior at the University of Idaho and he had just started seeing the lovely Christina. Kasey and I planned a double-date for the four of us to go to Haunted Palouse. I thought it would be fun for all of us to get a little spooked and I wanted to see if Kasey's date was indeed good enough for my little brother. I shouldn't have worried about Christina not meeting my high standards. She was everything anyone could have wanted, wrapped up in an adorable package. What I should have worried about was chickening out, or worse yet, Kasey chickening out.

While waiting in line for the first haunted house, we got our first glimpse of how easily terrified Kasey can get. We were just standing there and saw some characters in costumes and masks walking around. Kasey tensed up and tried to tuck himself deeper into the crowd, but apparently his fear could be sensed and sure enough, a scary masked man picked Kasey out and stood behind him. Every time Kasey tried to move away, he'd get followed. Kasey even tried ignoring the ghoul and deliberately looked the other way, but as soon as he looked up, the scary ghoul would be there. We left the masked man behind when we went into the first house. Dan was strong and brave and took the lead, holding tightly to my hand. Christina was after me and Kasey was last.

The townspeople of Palouse do a great job and the haunted house was thoroughly frightening. We walked through, jumping and screaming and having a great time. At the second haunted house, Kasey decided to go first, followed by Christina, then me. and Dan would be last. This arrangement only worked until the first fright, at which point Kasey instinctively went into survival-mode and hid behind his date, actually pushing her in front of him. Christina was brave though, and soldiered on, but instead of holding onto Kasey's hand, she held mine. We went through most of the haunted house that way. I was hesitant, but I didn't ever throw Christina to the spooks.

After we survived the second haunted house, we all couldn't help but poke a bit of fun at Kasey. I mean really, who pushes their date in front of them, toward the scary creatures of the dark? Kasey had the perfect opportunity to show off his toughness for this girl he really liked, and instead he not-so-metaphorically threw her to the wolves.

Well, I am happy to report that Christina did not hold the Haunted Palouse incident against my brother. In fact, he must have impressed her greatly with traits other than bravery in a haunted house because they've been married for over a year. We can all laugh about this memory now, but I am fairly certain Kasey has not taken his wife in any haunted houses since.

Here is an open invitation to you two, Kasey and Christina. Whenever you want to come visit in October, Dan and I will happily take you to Haunted Palouse again. Partly because it's nice to support a good cause, partly because it's a fun date night, and mostly because we like a good laugh : )

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Notes from the Zoo

Are you feeling like I'm that annoying co-worker who keeps showing you vacation pictures weeks after their return? Well, too bad. It was a trip worthy of several posts, but this is the last one, I promise.

On our last day in California, we all piled in a large van and drove the 90 miles south to San Diego to go to the world famous San Diego Zoo. We'd been there before, 20 years ago, and were excited to return.
(click on the photos to see them larger)

The San Diego Zoo is fabulous. I think it's the largest in the country and it definitely takes several hours to walk through the park. It's also rather hilly, so we got to push Lana's stroller up and down hills a good portion of the day.
There are all kinds of neat exhibits; pretty much everything imaginable. Most impressive was the large elephant area, along with the animals of Africa exhibit.

Lana liked the Polar Bears and getting the chance to run free when permitted. Dan raised birds for years and enjoyed all the exotic avian species on display. I thought the Giant Panda was pretty cool. There were some great little play areas for the kids to run around on and Clint and Sandy thought it was fun to play on the large statues.

On the drive home, we got to experience a true southern California commute, complete with bumper-to-bumper traffic and two tired, screaming babies. Both Grant and Lana were not happy and they let all of us know it. I think they screamed for an hour straight (although it felt longer). At one point, Sandy looked back at Lana and said, "Lana, could you please STOP!" Jen was quick to shush Sandy, but the rest of us just laughed. If only asking politely would do it, dear Sandy, we'd have asked that a long time ago.

A day at the zoo was a great way to end our wonderful vacation. We had jam-packed our days full of fun and family togetherness and really did get the most out of our vacation days. If you're planning a similar trip, I highly recommend it. Let me know and I'll tell you some of the tricks that worked (and didn't work so well) for us.
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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Disneyland Adventure, Part 3

Day three was just as exciting as days one and two, so get comfortable, we've got a lot to cover.

Thursday morning was a perfect, sunny Southern California morning, complete with long lines at the entrance gate. We had early-entry passes and thought the extra hour would ensure no crowds, but I guess everyone had the same passes. Walking in that morning, I was amused by every one's excited, yet already exhausted expressions.

On the third and final day of our Disneyland portion of the vacation, we decided to make sure to hit the remaining attractions that we wanted to see.

At the top of that list was Nemo's Undersea Adventure, a submarine ride through the story of the movie, Finding Nemo. It was super cute and neat for all ages, even Lana liked peering out her little porthole and taking in the sites. I think it's the longest ride we went on, clocking in at about 12 minutes. Next up was Autopia, where riders got the opportunity to drive the cars of the FUTURE! Well, apparently the cars of the future are slow and on a track. Clint really liked it though and proudly showed off his driver's license. He drove with Dan, who after the ride wished Scott and Jen good luck with Clint's driving future.

Jen took Sandy over to the tea cups and Sandy sure enjoyed herself, although Jen looked a bit green toward the end. Even though it's a Disneyland Classic, the rest of us stayed far, far away from that potentially vomit-inducing ride.

We trooped across the park to take in Indiana Jones again (it's just as cool the second time) and took Lana to the show at the Enchanted Tiki Room. It was cheesy and corny and once Lana got settled down, she loved it. It's a pretty fun show for little kids and a nice break from pushing through the crowds. We decided to make one last stop at Disneyland before heading over to Disney's California Adventure for the rest of the day.

Yes, Lana finally got her turn at the Mad Hatter shoppe for her official mouse ears.She's an adorable Minnie Mouse, but she wouldn't leave her ears on for more than a few seconds.

Over at DCA we hit the Grizzly Rapids, a fun river-raft style ride that definitely will get you wet.

We also went on the Monsters Inc. ride which was done really well and made especially for little kids. Imagine Lana's delight when she got the chance to meet the star of Monsters Inc, Sully himself. She loved that big blue monster and he was so good and sweet to her.Most of the adults went on California Screamin', an awesome roller coaster complete with sound effects and Mickey's Big Wheel, a ginormous Ferris wheel that overlooks the entire park.

That night, every one, sans me and Lana, went back to re-fill their cup of Disneyland fun. Rides were ridden again and fun and merriment had. Lana needed to catch up on her rest. I laid her down at 8:00 and she was softly snoring by 8:05. My head hit the pillow at 8:30 and I was alseep (not snoring, ladies don't snore, we breathe deeply) by 8:33. Dan woke me when he came in, telling me how drenched and cold he was from riding Splash Mountain again.

This trip was about having fun together as a family, but it was also about grandparents enjoying their grandkids. Lana, Grant, Clint and Sandy have no idea all the planning, travel preparations, reservations and work that went into their Dinseyland adventure, but they definitely know how much their grandparents love them.My Mom and Dad are great grandparents and I know they loved tromping around Disneyland with their grandkids. They got to really see how excitable and enthusiastic Clint can be, how talkative and curious Sandy can get, how independent and headstrong Lana can be, and how sweet and content little Grant is.

Oh, and don't think that just because we're done with Dinseyland, we're done with the vacation. Stick around for notes from the zoo, coming next....

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Disneyland Adventure, Part 2

Okay, so reading over part one, I'm pretty sure I mixed up a few things from our first and second days, and I'm probably going to mix up things from the second and third days too. Oh well, regardless of the day, it was all fun. What I know for sure of the second day was that we all started out in our rain ponchos and prepared ourselves for a rain-filled day at Disneyland. Dan and I took Lana over to Fantasyland and Toontown so Lana could enjoy some rides made especially for the wee ones. I think I was more excited than she was to ride the carousel and the flying Dumbos. Of course we rode It's a Small World, which was a nice respite from the rain, but we paid for it by having that song stuck in our heads the rest of the day. Mickey's House is in Toontown and there we met Minnie, Pluto and Goofy. Lana ran out of steam before we could get to Mickey Mouse himself. Eventually Lana took a nap in her poncho-wrapped stroller and Dan and I got to enjoy some "big kid" rides. We went on Space Mountain, a super fast roller coaster through the galaxy, Splash Mountain, a great log ride that is guaranteed to get you soaked, and Big Thunder Railroad, a neat cross between a train and a roller coaster. Sometime in there we also went on the Matterhorn. I rode with my 3-year old niece, Sandy, and she tried so hard to be brave, even though the ride scared her. I thought it was great though, and so did the other adults.

Directly across from Disneyland Park is another theme park, Disney's California Adventure. Since our tickets were good for both parks, we headed over to DCA for the afternoon. The rain had finally stopped and the sun came out, but all the wimps had already headed home, so we didn't have to hardly wait in line for anything. Soaring Over California is a definite highlight of DCA. It's an IMAX-type experience that showcases the best of beautiful California. A Bug's Land is an entire corner of the park dedicated to attractions inspired by the adorable Pixar movie, A Bug's Life. It's especially great for the littles and Dan and I had fun taking Lana and Sandy on different rides. Honestly, most of the rides in the A Bug's Land are pretty lame-o for adults, but they are bright and colorful and very kid-friendly, so Sandy and Lana thoroughly enjoyed themselves. One attraction of A Bug's Land that was really neat for everyone was the 3-D interactive movie, It's Tough to be a Bug. It was funny, educational, entertaining and a very cool 3-D visual experience.

One ride at DCA that most certainly isn't for the wee ones is the infamous Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The name should tell you everything; stay away, stay far, far away. Well, we didn't stay away, all of us tall enough, including my 5-year old nephew, Clint, took our chances on the tower. It's an impeccably put-together 'drop' style ride where strapped-in riders (hostages?) go up several feet, then drop very, very quickly, then go up again, then back down. At one point an automatic camera took all our pictures and sure enough, the look on my face was one of sheer horror. I chose not to buy the photograph for fear of it haunting my dreams. Okay, so perhaps I am being a bit melodramatic, but dang, that ride scared me and no, I did not go on it again.

That night we had tickets to the World of Color show. I'd heard it was a neat water and light show, similar to the fountain show at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. Dan and I have seen the Vegas show and therefore weren't really expecting to be impressed by what Disney had to offer. We should have expected Disney to raise the bar of what a fountain show could be. It was absolutely amazing. Fountains and lights and fire and Disney movies and music all put together in a stunningly gorgeous presentation. If you have the chance to see World of Color, do it. I'm sure you'll love it as much as we did.

Highlights, Day 2:
Dan and Shelle - Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Soaring Over California. These are all can't-miss attractions and certainly worth waiting in line for (although if you don't have to, all the better).
Lana - the rides in A Bug's Land. They are made for 1-4 year-olds, so Lana fit right in.

Stay tuned, more to come......

Sunday, October 10, 2010

DisneyLand Adventure, Part 1

A week's worth of travel, rides, attractions, rain and revelry can't be summarized easily or quickly, so I'll be taking a few posts to get to everything. To get started, let me say this - We had a wonderful time. I can't say enough good things about Disneyland and how absolutely perfect it is for kids. Oh yeah, and the adults had a great time too. This trip is one my mom has been wanting to take for years. She finally decided about 6 months ago to make her dream a reality. She and my dad arranged for all three of their kids and spouses (we're sad Christina couldn't come, but medical school isn't very Disney friendly) and all the grandkids to fly to Anaheim for a week of family fun and togetherness.

Have you ever been to Disneyland? I have, when I was six and Dan went when he was four. We were definitely overdue and very excited for Lana to get this experience. We got there Tuesday morning just as the park was opening and we came into the courtyard at Main Street USA. At City Hall all the first-timers got a special pin. The air was filled with happy music and kids were laughing and smiling all around. I felt a little cheesy getting so caught up in the atmosphere until I caught my sister, Jen's eye and she was just as giddy as I was.

We saw a group of kids gathering near the center of the courtyard and quickly figured out why. There was the lovely Minnie Mouse, greeting little ones and posing for pictures. We hopped in line and Lana officially met her first Disney celebrity.

My parents took Clint and Sandy over to the Mad Hatter shoppe for their official mouse ears. Clint proudly wore his most of the trip (even on the airplane ride home) and Sandy was a "pwetty pwetty pwincess" in her pink ears and tiara.

Once we took the requisite family pictures (all the family from my Mom's side were there too. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and kids.) we headed for the rides. The Jungle Cruise was a fun, easy way to get started and even the babies could ride. Indiana Jones was fast and action-packed and one of my top-two rides, and Pirates of the Caribbean is a pleasant boat ride through pirate-infested waters. Next up was Tarzan's Treehouse which was great for the kids to climb and run through. We made our way through the Haunted Mansion and took a ferry over to Tom Sawyer Island. The island was great for everyone to relax and explore for a bit. Lana liked the wobbly suspension bridge, but didn't like to hold Dan's hand as they walked across.

We hit other rides in Adventure Land and Frontier Land before heading over to Fantasy Land. The weather was certainly less than cooperative and it rained on us pretty hard, but that made the lines short, so we got to a lot of rides.

Highlights of Disney Land, Day 1:
Shelle and Dan - Indiana Jones - awesome ride, very short line, but worth it even if the line is long.
Lana - Winnie the Pooh- very colorful ride with happy music, perfect for the little ones.

More posts about or trip to follow....