All Things Pumpkin Patch.

Last weekend, Alex, Bella and I went to Lattin Farms...yes, the same place where we took Bella on her birthday to see her black and white cows. They had a wonderful little Pumpkin Patch going on.

And as you can tell, we had a blast. The two of them rode on the Cow Train (see above). Posed willingly in the cutouts.

Best of all, we hunted for the perfect Halloween jack-o-lantern pumpkins in their huge fields.

Bella was very excited to find a "Daddy's Head" shaped pumpkin.

Alex helped me haul our load back to the hay wagon and ultimately the parking lot.

Here are our 2008 pumpkins, folks.

Kata was not feeling well. So she stayed home with Ken watching sports, what else? But the three of us enjoyed our outing and especially the cookies and the pumpkin bread we brought home.

Wonder what those jack-o-lanterns will look like. Well, stayed tuned.

Wishing you a creatively spooky moment.


All Things Happily Ever After.

On our last day in Disneyland, we woke up to a spectacular sunrise. I knew it was a combination of a Low Weather Front and LA Smog...but dang, it was beautiful.

That day, we decided it was time to ride our favorite rides one more time...Splash Mountain's definitely one of them. This time Bella went on it...she's exactly 40-inches in height but every one of Disney's rides seems to have a slightly different measuring device so to bolster her height and make certain she gets on the ride, we stuffed a few folded napkins in the heels of her shoes. Yes, we're Those Kind of Parents.

What do you think was the first thing she did when she saw a Disney Cast Member as we were about to board the ride?? With her diction never clearer, "I have napkins in the heels of my shoes." We laughed it off and made a joke and fortunately the CM didn't catch on. So down we went, first Ken with Bella and Alex (see them in the back?).

And then Kata and I (see us in the back again?). Yes, my girl and I are holding on for dear life.

And a snap with Mickey. Note Bella's pose?!?!?

It was definitely time to head home. But we had memories of our magical mornings, contagiously silly afternoons and exhausting but full of excitment evenings.

And as we left the castle, we saw a shooting star - yup, really. Of course, we closed our eyes and wished upon it. No, we won't share our wish but given the state of the economy and our rapidly dwindling 401K balances, a wish may be the only way to make our dream come true.

Here's hoping you see your own shooting star tonight. Quick close your eyes and make a wish!


All Things May the Force Be With You.

For those of you who have known me for a while, i.e. decades...well, my love of All Things Star Wars will not come as a surprise. Last time we were in Disneyland, they had this show called the Jedi Training Academy where children were picked out of audience for a chance to battle with none other than - Darth Vader. It was exciting and brilliant and Kata was too young and Alex was too intimidated by the very realistic Sith Lord.

So fast forward two years and we're sitting waiting for the show and I ask both Alex and Kata if they want to try and they say in unison "sure." What?? No way!!! My Geek Gene has finally kicked into hyperdrive.

Well, there is a Jedi Master - this one assuming the role of a young-ish Obi-Wan. And as my two younglings are holding their hands up, Kata decides she's had enough of waiting to be picked and she just marches on into the wardrobe line. Jedi Master says, "I like the tenacity in that princess, so she may stay."

Alex was literally besides himself. How could his ::younger:: sister get picked?? But his Mama had armed him with a Jedi Academy t-shirt...and that and his quiet little hand in the air one him a comment of "The youngling with the Jedi shirt, I feel the Force is strong in him."

The audience and younglings all dressed in their robes and brandishing their lightsabers were quickly informed that there had been an attack and while the Rebel Forces were on their way, we may have to defend ourselves for a while. Basically, they got to learn some cool choreography before they faced the Dark Side.

And then before I could exhale properly, my Alex was up against none other than Vader himself.

And my oldest executed his moves beautifully, his lightsaber clashing with Vader's in giddy choreographed madness.

He did his duck perfectly, so Darth Vader could swing a saber above his head and miss, of course.

And then it was Kata's turn. Now to be fair, she hasn't watched Star Wars with the fervor of her mother and older brother. But she knew the plot line. And my goodness, all that ballet practice?

As an aside, yes, Darth Maul was there too. But my kids, being "special" (or so I'd like to think) got to fight Vader - the real Sith Lord, thank you very much.

Jedi Master was there to help her at every turn. She just couldn't get the choreography.

And then when her turn came to duck for the final swing over her head by Vader. She bowed. My baby girl bowed to the Dark Side. There's always one in the family, folks. And we've clearly identified ours.

For what it's worth Jedi Master gave her a "Good effort, princess, you confused him with your freestyle moves." Nope, we know the real truth.

As for Bella, she got to ride the Teacups. It was one of her favorite rides. No Dark Side. No Sith Lords. Just happy spinning teacups. Love that about Disney - there's something for all of us in the Happiest Place on Earth.

Wishing you a moment where you turn and face the Dark Side - fight or bow down to it...you decide...or hey, just take a spin on an imaginary teacup...that will work as well.


All Things Bippity Boppity Boo.

The next day was much better than the first. For one, Ken discovered that the Best Part of the Trip for him was the fact that we got into the closest parking lot, the coveted Timon Lot, and he parked in the second lane, eighth spot.

We were so close to the park that it was an easy stroll. In fact, he loved that spot so much that he threatened to leave the car there overnight just so we wouldn't lose that spot again and be relegated to the dreaded Mickey & Friends garage from which we had a good mile trek to the main gate and yes, I am talking one way.

This time when we arrived, we were greeted by the Disneyland band and the Mad Hatter, Alice and Peter Pan. Bella happily followed the Mad Hatter to complete a frantic preschooler chorus line. I'll be sure to reign in her tendencies to follow crazy haired, older men into predictable dance sequences before she turns thirteen.

But we were headed to Disneyland's California Adventure, the park across from the more fabled Disneyland itself. Note the candy corn letters. Yes, yes, it's just for Halloween.

So, of course, we had to pose. The kids picked the letter L, all by themselves. We normally go for the more obvious R, given our last name. But it was L this time. And seeing as Love, Laugh and Loser Trip all begin with L, I felt more comfortable with their choice.

We were there to have lunch with the Princesses but first we had to enjoy a carousel ride. The animals were so incredibly detailed and simply gorgeous as was the park itself.

And then, we headed back for our lunch. The girls were super excited. The boys, decidedly less so.

As we waited, the girls' enthusiasm just bubbled forth. Look at their faces,dreaming of the very princesses they would soon meet.

And as we were invited into the Lobby of Ariel's Grotto, guess who was there to greet all her guests for the 1:00 seating? The Mermaid Princess herself. Note Kata's expression, Ariel's still her favorite. And Bella's stunned look. And of course, our Princes much less delighted semi-smirk.

The Best Part of the Trip for me can be summarized in this little glass. My oh my, they serve cocktails at Ariel's Grotto. Who knew? And let me tell you, folks, a fresh raspberry mojito improved this mama's perspective tremendously. In fact, I should have ordered another just to level off the mood swings caused by the very effort of travelling with three small children.

And then, quicker than you can say "horse drawn carriage," the royal ones made their appearance.

We dutifully asked them our prepared questions -

Q. What books are you reading, Belle?
A. Oh, I am in the middle of Little Women. I just love the romance, don't you?

Q. Do you prefer the blue dress or the pink one, Princess Aurora?
A. My, I really like the pink. But the blue one is nice too. It just depends on the fairies' mood. Have you seen the half-blue half-pink dress in the shop, isn't it silly?

That's when Ken missed a Golden Opportunity. He was going to ask Cinderella to hold out his Nevada Wolf Pack hat for a picture which he could send to their basketball coach. I know you get it...a Cinderella Team??

And after the excitement of the princesses, we got to experience a Milestone Moment. As Ken dashed away to call our friends who were trying hard to meet up with us, the kids and I decided to do a little ride. Unfortunately, as we encountered over and over again, our little Bella was a smidge too short to go on the ride. But, the Disney Cast Member quickly pointed out that Alex was tall enough to take Kata on the ride by himself.

In a virtual blink of an eye, our first-born was suddenly old enough to assume responsibility for his youger sister. I cannot even begin to describe that Motherly Pride Moment. I began to project all sorts of other moments - driving the girls to school, dancing with them at their weddings...yes, fueled by one mojito, I was lulled into a sentimental moment.

And the Best Part for Bella, well, for the her pain of being just a tad too short, she got a lolly. Oh I know, we're setting up all sorts of Future Therapy Moments here. You know that all my kids are already well versed in the Therapy Saving Mantra of - "They did the best they could with what they knew at the time. How does that make you feel, now?"

Wishing you a Best Part Moment...maybe it's an open parking space, or a much needed drink, or the chance to take on a new role or even something simple like a sugary treat. Trust me, they are all Therapy Saving Moments.


All Things We Made It.

Well, no one said it would be easy. Let's review what happened before we left...ah, a freak, early snowstorm...one that, no one I run into, remembers occurring this early.

As a result of that snow, we left not at 2 am as we originally planned but more like 7:30 am because I was determined to not face Donner Pass skidding around on black ice. And guess what?? There was no black ice. And also no snow. It had ::melted:: by the time we hit the pass roughly an hour and a half later. Needless to say, Mr. R was not pleased at appeasing his wife of fifteen years. Ahem.

We drove on into the, now, daylight with our kids' DVD players blasting whatever appropriately themed Disney movie they had agreed upon and with Ken and I being appropriately quiet in the front seats. Still slightly miffed at each other. Hmmm.

And yes, as foreshadowed, things went downhill from there. Now let me pause for a second, because, I kept telling Ken that yes, one day we would laugh at this and that day is here but back a few days ago...there was absolutely no laughing.

So we rolled along...and at one point, I glanced over at Bella and I noted that she looked a little not-so-very-well. Then I asked the question that should have remained unspoken, "Bella, honey, do you feel okay?" Those of you who are parents know her response already. Yes, she absolutely spewed out the entire contents of her stomach.

Never one to be ignored, the one that inherited my carsick tendencies, Kata, started screaming, "I am going to barf, too."

I begged Ken to swerve off into the nearest exit or even the side of the road, and again, he listened to his beloved partner. Except our nearest exit ramp was not near anything. Ever been on I-5?? There are a "few" ramps that lead to nowhere. We chose such a one.

We stood in the midst of Nowhere and cleaned up poor Bella and the car. And twenty five minutes later as Ken started the engine, we heard the deathly click-click-click. Yeah, battery - buh-bye.

We looked around trying to remember the name of the Exit to Nowhere. No such luck. Ken prepared himself for the inevitable walk up the exit ramp to locate a marker and I started fiddling with the iPhone GPS app. But somehow as we tried the car one more time, it started.

Yes, we had accidentally drained our very own battery because we forgot to take the key out of the ignition and we left the darn DVD players running. Please note that these players should come with a Warning for Exhausted Parents.

Somehow with one more pit stop and a long negotiation through the maze of L.A. rush hour traffic (which for those of you keeping track, we would have avoided if we left at the originally scheduled departure time), we finally pulled into Disneyland.

Sure it was late, and the park was only going to be open for a few hours, but hey, we're troopers - we went on in...note the happy exhaustion on Ken's face. This was the man who got us there on his one and only mantra - Never Again.

But we were all excited and completely worn out.

And then look who greeted us upon entry???

Suddenly, we remembered that we're at the Happiest Place On Earth, dang it...and right then we made the commitment that we're going to be happy if it killed us all.

The kids had no trouble adapting to the new - We Will Be Happy No Matter What Happens On This Godforsaken Vacation concept.

But as we approached the castle...even Ken and I warmed up to the idea of Happiness Within These Walls.

See Ken's pushing the stroller with a happy fervor known only to dads who have survived an eleven hour car trip with their beloved family? That's him with the blue backpack.

We were determined to ride Peter Pan as our first ride. The kids love the movie, the ride and hey, we all met the height requirement (for the non-Disney fans...there is none).

But beyond the magic castle walls, stood an inexplicably long line. Nonetheless, we happily waited forty five minutes for the pixie dust to be sprinkled. And as we reached the very front of the line, a smiling Disney cast member held out her hand in the international "stop" greeting and looked at Ken while saying, "The ride is experiencing mechanical failure, we will have to stop it for approximately twenty five minutes."

Ken muttered words I haven't heard him conjugate more than a half a dozen times. Concept Happiness meet Profanity Stream.

Now it's your turn. So here's wishing you a moment where a rough patch turns into hilarity. There is humor in there somewhere, look and you will find it.

On a side note, due to the sheer volume of photos (at last count about 500+...and er, no I won't post them all...Girl Scouts Honor)...I am going to break up our trip into four or five daily posts. So look for the magic to continue.


All Things Going, Going, Gone.

And so we're off...during a freakish early October Snowstorm that produced two inches of snow on the valley floor here in Reno. And yes, we had to go out there and taste it. It's the first snowfall after all. (Aside - Notice how good Kata's still being about wearing her patch for her lazy eye!)

Yeah, we couldn't have it any other way, could we?? A little drama. And yes, we're driving, as I said in the prior post. Wish us luck.

We'll see y'all in approximately a week!! Here's to a little sunshine in the Happiest Place on Earth.

Wishing you a little sprinkling of magic this week - like our very early snowfall.